Dec 28, 2011

10 Days in Vietnam...planes, trains and automobiles!

Wonders of Sapa...Hmong Woman and me
I am not the sort of person that orders a hamburger when I travel.  Honestly, I have never liked them anyway so why not experience the food that local people are eating?  But this morning I am questioning that decision.

Day before yesterday we decided to take a boat excursion so the family could snorkel and everyone could fish for their lunch.  The wind blew but it didn't seem to dampen anyones spirits as we baited hooks to fish then donned snorkel masks to leap off the boat and paddle around rock to see Angle Fish in Vietnam waters south to Phu Quoc Island.

The fish was cooked in the kitchen of the boat by a woman that cleaned up after we had eaten  (Note:  I was sick last night!)  But it was worth the experience and everyone seems to be just fine.....

I also am all about the details...a prison on Phu Quoc Island held captured Viet Cong for the French and then the Americans.  We drove by the prison walls and the memorial site when the Vietnamese prisoners were held.  Many died during those years.  In fact the prison yard is visible from the road.  It made me feel very sad.

Did you know that in Vietnam they have a  floor 13.  I didn't notice if any numbers were missing because their "bad luck #" is different from ours.  Hotels here have casinos and the Grand Hotel where we are staying has a beautiful elevator to take gamblers to the tables.

People live on the fish farms that keep a price catch ready for the right boat to come and purchase them.  We cannot even imagine the living conditions where children are raised and adults spend all of there lives.  The people are cheerful and laugh with each smile.  Americans are treated with respect and here in Ho Chi Min City we are not assaulted on the streets by vendors.  We drove by the American Embassy that stands as a monument to the "American War" with the helipads preserved so that tourist can see.

This journey from Shanghai to Hanoi,  Hanoi north to Sapa, Sapa south to Hanoi, Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon), HCMC to Phu Quoc, Phu Quoc to HCMC, and finally back to Shanghai has been one of the most amazing of my lifetime.  It has brought new meaning to "planes, trains and automobiles" because we have traveled in them all.  I honestly can say I am writing From Vietnam with Love.

Hanoi Street Scene

Phu Quoc Harbor 

Sapa Tour Guide (Su, was featured on Luke Nguyen Vietman Cooking Show) 

Amelia goes Snorkeling 

Beach hopping on Phu Quoc
b+


Dec 27, 2011

Grandchildren, Vietnam and Swimming!

Remember...it is always safety first!!!!

Trader Joe's Perfect Dripless Candle Discontinued

I know you have been looking for these candles but were disappointed when arriving at the store.  Here is the letter I received from costomer relations at Trader Joe's. (Previous article)


 Barbara, 
1. Our Trader Joe's Danish Dripless Candles have been discontinued due to slow sales in all of our stores. Our TJ'S White Danish Candles were only available in specific Midwest and East Coast stores due to a limited amount of stock found in our warehouse.
2. These products are specifically manufactured for us, therefore they are not available under any other name at any other retailer.
3. Trader Joe's and it's private labeled products are privately owned, therefore we follow a very strict disclosure policy along side our suppliers. Due to this policy, we do not disclose any of our supplier information.
Many thanks,
 
Nicki K.Customer RelationsTrader Joe's

Dec 25, 2011

A day on an Island...Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Yes, I am here...family photo taken at Christmas Eve Dinner on the beach!

I want to let you in on a secret…writing about our travels here Vietnam and in China can be very difficult.  In some cases, a VPN service is necessary to do some of the most innocent things.  For example, access to Facebook and Twitter or even 4Square can be blocked because someone has abused the privilege of connecting with the world.  In the United States, we call that freedom of speech but out here in the rest of the world it doesn’t work that way.  What is is!

I am writing now on a word processing program because the internet service here in our resort is “sketchy” this morning.  I don’t know if it is the ocean breeze or the fact that the guys are connected to the net so they can watch Green Bay play Chicago.  Anything is possible.

Night before last we had dinner on the beach with the owner of the resort, his wife and son along with residence from 20 other rooms. It was a gala affair.  

We took a taxi out to the night market last night and ate dinner cooked on charcoal grills in restaurants set up each evening, taken down at the end of the day and reassembled on the next evening.  The cycle goes on every day of the year.  Fishing boats dock in the river and scooters fly over a bridge that lowers into the water so the boats can pass.  Back streets empty when dark falls and even the ridgeback dogs that run wild on the island take a rest.  
Dinner at the night market.
Here on Phu Quoc there are no beach vendors save one lady that comes by with a basket of fruit in the morning.  The squid fishermen fish from boats at night with huge spot lights but it appears that they need very calm waters or the squid migrate because we have not seen them for several evening.  

We are savoring the quiet breezes and leisurely pace of this secluded place.  Cassia Cottages provides an experience worth the flight around the world.  I think of home and family left behind at this holiday season but we will share our stories after New Years.

I haven’t come up with my goal for 2012 yet but trust me, in this life of retirement, goals are more important than ever.  Life could slip away and we would have nothing to show for it.

Be well.

b
Life on a boat in Vietnam
A Bridge that goes down so boats can pass.


Traveling with Grandchildren in the Far East!

We are now on Phu Quoc Island just off the island of Vietnam and Cambodia.  My husband and I are traveling with our son's family and his friend.  We had 4 children in tow....10, 8, 4 and 4.  We are staying a resort called Cassia Cottages.  There is no TV nor is there a "recreational director" to amuse the children.   This resort is rated #2 on Trip Advisor for the island.  I can see why.   Everything is really, really perfect!

I am not as experienced at this type of travel as my son's family is so I did expected there to be some difficulties.  Food choices, things for children to keep them happy and a general need for entertainment seemed to lurk as possible obstacles to be over come.  As it turns out, there are no problems.  The reason may be that these people know how to pull this off without a hitch.  Here are some things that I have observed.

  • Sharing a two bedroom suite with another family makes things very affordable
  • An ipad for each child fills enough of the time that they do not miss TV.
  • Food is very tasty and everyplace we have visited from Sapa to Phu Quoc has American things on the menu.
  • Trading off for "child care" time between our group allows everyone some "adult time".
  • Trip Advisor provided information about "family friendly" resorts.
  • Food here is so cheap that we have eaten exotic food without wincing when we looked at the tap.
  • Children are very strong, resilient and willing to partake in adventures.  These children walked through the rice paddies in Sapa for 6+ k and didn't miss a beat.  
  • People here love children so even children that are noisy are not a problem
We celebrated Christmas morning with a cup of green tea.  The children opened stocking filled with simple things like bubble bath, M&Ms and playdough.  They were such a simple beautiful things and they were thrilled.  

Merry Christmas everyone.  I hope your day is as joyful as ours has been.

b

5 Great Ideas for Holiday Fun with Grandchildren


The winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year not for the lights, the presents, or even
the copious amounts of food that are hallmarks of the season; they are truly wonderful because of the
time you get to spend with your family. And if you’re going to have some time with your grandkids this year, you may be racking your brains to come up with some activities that will keep them entertained.

So here are just a few ideas that will help you to connect with your grandchildren and make some
wonderful holiday memories.

1. Outdoor fun. You don’t necessarily have to labor at building a snowman or taking your
grandkids skiing in order to enjoy the brisk weather. Take a stroll at twilight to check out the
holiday lights and decorations in your neighborhood or consider some good old fashioned
caroling to get everyone in the spirit of the season. Then come home for some hot cocoa by the
fire!
2. Holiday crafts. If you have some time on your hands, you and the kids can spend it creating
seasonal crafts to decorate your home. You may have some ideas on your own, but if you need
a little inspiration, look to nature. An outdoor hike in the park could result in some fantastic
finds, like fallen branches and pinecones or interesting rocks that you and the kids can bring
home and decorate. Use ribbons, pipe cleaners, paint, and glitter to make them sparkle and
then arrange them in a pretty bowl for a centerpiece or a mantle decoration. Of course, you can
also find tons of great ideas for holiday crafts and décor online.
3. Cooking classes. Your grandchildren probably have some favorites when it comes to seasonal
dishes and desserts. Use your time with them to teach them the secret family recipes they
love, from scratch. You’ll pass on some treasured knowledge, teach them a useful skill that they
can take with them when they return home, and have some fun times and amazing food in the
process.
4. Pull out the board games. When you’re stuck indoors because it’s snowing and blowing outside,
a good way to keep everyone entertained is by dusting off the old board games. But if you’re
worried that modern kids won’t be keen to play classics like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Mystery
Date, head to your local toy store (or Amazon) for some fun new board games like Pictureka (a
picture spotting game), Apples to Apples (a word matching game), Once Upon a Time (a story-
telling game), or Bananagrams (like Scrabble, but in a cool banana bag). You could even get
cooperative games like Forbidden Island or The Secret Door so that a collective effort wins the
game (and competition doesn’t spoil the fun).
5. Try video games. Modern video games may be a little outside your wheelhouse, but if you have
your grandkids bring their game station and a few multiplayer games, you could engage in an
activity that you know the kids love and give them the opportunity to teach you something new,
giving you another chance to connect at their level. Who knows? You might end up loving it!

Evan Fischer is a contributing writer for Comfort Life, a site dedicated to helping seniors find the best
retirement homes Canada .

Dec 22, 2011

10 Things about travel in Vietnam..2011

Cassia Cottages
FYI:
  1. Do not worry about not speaking the Language
  2. Taxi service is very good and not a problem.
  3. You do not need to be fearful for your safety.
  4. The cost for food is ridiculously low.
  5. The food is delicious but if you want to pretend you are back home, you can probably order food just like mom cooks.
  6. If you suffer from celiac disease this is the perfect place for you.  Food can be very salty so ask for no salt if you need to.
  7. Travel with hand cleaner even though the accommodations are very clean.
  8. Drink lots of water before and after the plane flight.
  9. Carry small packs of kleenex...and do not put toilet paper or kleenex in the toilet.
  10. Always bargain with the people on the street and remember that store owners have a set price. Offer half what they ask but you will pay 1/3 less usually.  If you cannot afford the price just walk away but remember that if you touch an item or look closely, the vendor will think you are going to buy.  Expect to be beckoned in to the stall...get over the fact that you are not used to the practice.  You are not in Kansas anymore!
We are on Pho Quoc, an island off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia.  We are staying in a resort called Cassia Cottages on a beach lined with other small resorts. We did not make arrangements for this vacation so I wondered about the process of making our stay in Vietnam happen. How do you find the perfect resort? I asked my daughter-in-law.  She then told me about the website she used for this particular trip called Trip Adviser.  


She used this website for the hotels in Hanoi, Sapa and Phu Quoc.  The hotels are ranked by people that have stayed in them so finding something that meets your requirements is just not that hard.  When you read the comments related to the resort you think might interest you, they are separated by family, couples or business.  This will give you a very clear vision of how people like you see the resort.  For example in Hanoi we stayed in Hanoi Gecko with bigger rooms so that we could put three beds in the rooms that needed them.  The owner actually went out and borrowed what he did not have.  In Sapa we stayed in Sapa Rooms but arrangements for our train trip was made through  Six on Sixteen, a Sapa Rooms sister hotel in Hanoi.  We stored extra luggage their when we traveled to Sapa and they opened the hotel early so we could wait in comfort for our plane flight out to Ho Chi Min City.

The small hotels and resorts are run in a very personal way.  The Six on Sixteen in Hanoi and Sapa Rooms are owned and run by an anthropologist/business man.  Amanda contacted him daily for a long time.  The personal care we received from him was amazing.  He is in the business of running hotels that give back to the Hmong people living in the Sapa region.  On Christmas day he will host a dinner for locals people and the guests in the hotel will wait tables and contribute to the meals.

We flew Vietnam Airlines directly from Shanghai, then from Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City and added a short hop over to the island.  Service was okay in all the cases.  I would advise you to eat before boarding the planes.  The food is marginal at best!  Really, looking inside the sandwich at the gray meat will give you a subject for conversation for quite a while.

More tomorrow.  The ocean is calling my name!

b

Phu Quoc fishing boat

Vietnam...Selling to the Tourist from Hanoi to Sapa

Recently dyed fabric hung to dry.
Well, campers, out here where the rubber meets the road things are always happening.  You can read the travel books about Vietnam till the cows come home but until you have actually have the shoe shine man take your shoes away from you you don't know a thing.

Hanoi
I have aways found that no meant no in most languages. However, in the far east, the shoe shine guys are polishing your shoes as you walk down the street...even in China. No has no meaning for them.  I have pulled my foot away many a time and have even walked around with shoe polish all over my shoe because I escaped.  But this time I did not get away.  My shoes were polished, repaired and even resoled as I looked on helplessly.   My feet were slipped into slippers and I leaned against a building waiting for the guy to finish.  When the calculator came out and the price was quoted I gasped but nothing we said would make him go away.  It seemed even worse because the Dong is 21,000 to each $1. I told my family they would need to bury me in those shoes because they were so valuable!

Sapa
Live on the street in Sapa is much the same.  The indigenous people of the Sapa region are call the Hmong people.  They are a separate culture from the Vietnamese and treated as less valuable citizens in the country.  The government educates them to a lesser degree and their role on the streets of Sapa is much different from the role of a business person selling from a store. When speaking to them one on one, I realized they do not think of themselves as "Vietnamese" at all.  They are a very cheerful people leading a difficult life.  Tourist are not an easy sell in many cases but they are managing to survive. They have learned to sell their wears using the "dripping water torture".  It seems that they are very successful at wearing tourists down so they will buy what they do not know they want.

We were staying in a boutique hotel called Sapa Rooms.  We could lounge inside a heated restaurant area with windows looking out in every direction.  One felt a bit like a caged animal as the Hmong women stood in groups and watched our every move.  I could only smile as they descended on everyone that stepped out the door.  We discovered right away that timing was everything in this dance with the Hmong women.  Escaping was not easy!

It was a shock to us for the first few hours.  Of course, as with most of the places we visit, it takes us a day or two to get the hang of things.  In this case we only stayed for two night and one of the days we told that long walk I talked about in a previous post.

Dyed fabric ready to sell.
Dye vats.
I did manage to get some beautiful blue textiles and a piece of the native garb they women wear from our guide's mother and another vendor in the same section of the market place.  The people harvest, prepare the hemp thread, weave the fabric and dye it a beautiful indigo blue.  Women's hand's are permanently colored from the dye.  On our hike we saw dye vats and the fabric hung to dry outside the huts.  Was I awed by the beauty and uniqueness of this world.  You bet I was.  In the real world when you walk the trail, smell the air and here the gentle hopeful voice almost begging you to share your wealth, you just have to be humbled and amazed.

We are now on the island of Phu Qoc in the Sea of Thailand just south of Cambodia.  I will post more tomorrow.  We are well, the food is wonderful and we are loving this vacation.

b


Dec 19, 2011

Travel Viet Nam...Getting to Sapa



We are here in Sapa, Vietnam with our family and their friends. It has been foggy and cool since we arrive at 5 am Sunday morning. We came from Hanoi on the train and traveled overnight in a sleeper car. It was a very basic train ride with 4 berths per room and extremely hard beds. We slept in our clothes and partied in the halls until we could no longer stand. We are traveling in a group of ten people. Just normal stuff, you know how it is!

This is not easy...train travel is what it has always been.  But, in this case it was the only way to get from there to here.  In our group, I was the only one that had never actually had a sleeping berth on the train.  I have learned that traveling at night on the train is hard.  But, in the end we managed a few hours of rest.  

After we were rousted from a deep sleep at around 4:45 am and struggled to let our legs to move, a porter yelled through the car door "GET OFF THE TRAIN NOW".  So we did.  Our group loaded onto a van and then traveled through the dark for an hour from the station to our Hotel in Sapa.  The day was very cold and wet and our rooms were not available until 11:00 am.  I kept thinking we were in a time/space continuum and time traveled at a snails pace here at the base of the Hoang Lien Son Mountains.  The children hung out in an upstairs lounge and we slept on pillowed chairs covered with pillows and blankets.  

Sapa lies northwest of Hanoi in the eastern extremities of the Himalayas.  
The Hoang Lien Son range of mountains dominates the district, which is at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. This range includes Vietnam’s highest peak, Fansipan, at a high of 3142m above sea level and a vast area covered by thick forest, rich in wildlife. The town of Sapa lies at the attitude of about 1,600m. The climate is moderate, cool in summer, foggy and cold in winter with occasional snowfall.


View into the valley.

Yesterday we trekked out to a region called Cat Cat into the gorge past rice paddies, terraces landscapes, as black Vietnamese pigs foraged and water buffalo wandered about. It was all very picturesque. 

Here is where the reality of travel when you are 70 and not a physically fit as you think you are gives you a wake up call.  This trek took us 2 kilometers down, on steps, rocks and mud every step of the way.  Straight down, down, down.  My grandchildren and our friends children range in age from 4 to 10. They did not have a problem but I did!  I will question my ability to do this sort of thing from now on.  I know that my decisions have an affect on those around me and there will be a lot of occasion when the question will "If I do this will the people with me want to push me over a cliff before we get home?" In This particular case, I think the answer may have been "well maybe!".

So here is what I have learned...I don't need much sleep, I do not suffer from jet lag, I can eat just about anything but don't ask me to climb up or down mountains!  I should not do that!

More later!  

b

Many Steps Down
Village Dwelling
Have a wonderful day.

Dec 16, 2011

Good Morning Viet Nam!

I don't know if this is normal but in this neighborhood everyone is jarred awake at 7:00 am.  Loud music plays over speakers that hang over the streets and alleyways so communication with the citizens is always possible...I think. My daughter-in-law says they do this in Japan too.  Music, followed by morning announcement greets each day.  Who knew!

We are staying in the Hanoi Gecko Hotel in the heart of the city near Hoan Bien Lake.  Small hotels, hostels surround the area and vendors, restaurant owners live and work on the street.  Everything you have ever seen or heard about this city is true...then multiply it by ten and you are almost there.

Hanoi at night taken from restaurant balcony where we ate.

View from our bedroom window

Hotel Gecko is down this small ally
The core of the city here feels very small.  I don't know if there are other areas like this or not.  Traffic does not adhere to any rules that I can see.  A teaming mass of humanity moves at a snails pace in a small space.  There is no center line and driving on the left or right side of the road is okay.  Everyone just takes the path of least resistance.  Did I mention that I love it!  This make me feel alive.

We arrived in Hanoi last night after dark.  It was a 3 hr 45 min flight directly from Shanghai on Viet Nam Airways.  We learned that if you want to get the best deal on a taxi, you let the driver talk to the hotel owner.  He will negotiate the fee for you, or at least that is what happened for us.

We will shop today and then board a train this evening for an overnight train ride to Sa Pa.  More tomorrow (I hope).

b

Note:  The internet is free fast and does not appear to be firewalled to the max!

Dec 15, 2011

A Day In China...Yes, bigger is better in Shanghai!

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Both of these skyscrapers were the tallest in the world at one point! They are located on the Pudong side of the Huangpu River.   Air quality was very bad on this day so even though they were relatively close they are shrouded in smog. The World Finance Center (4th) is in the background and Jin Mao Tower (13th) in the front.  We have eaten at the Grand Cafe located in the Hyatt Regency at the top of the Jin Mau Tower.  The view of the Pearl Tower is spectacular in the evening.  As I recall, on a clear night you can the Yuan Gardens lit at night too.  A third skyscraper called the Shanghai Tower barely visible on the right of the picture will loom over the other two.  It is in the early stages of construction but it could be the tallest building in the near future. 
But this hulking Pearl Tower just blows me away. It seems so huge, especially when you stand at the base.  A normal camera cannot capture the whole thing.  (Pudong Area) Notice the cars in the foreground.
Until I see a boat making it's way up the canal near a country road! (West of Shanghai)

Have a wonderful day!

Dec 14, 2011

A A Day in China: A glimpse at the two sides of China!

 Oh my gosh...there really are two sides to China...a real working man's China and a luxurious expat/successful citizen China. I know, you heard that before, but this is the way it is out here where the rubber meets the road!  The choice you can make as an expat will be which China do you want to live in or are you wise enough to stand with one foot in both?  I, personally, prefer to straddle the line between the two.
Glasses Market
Yesterday, for example, we got on the subway system here in Pudong (eastside of Shanghai) at the Science and Technology museum terminal.  We traveled across Shanghai, changed train lines, were pushed and instructed by local people to finally arrive at the Chinese glasses market.  A market for eye glasses and opticians filled one floor of a very large building.  YEH 3 Optical (?) has every kind, color, quality of eye glasses you could ever want...and I mean every kind!  We wander through the vendors and selected one for no logical reason.  For us the idea that no one rushed out to grab our arm may have been the tipping point.

My daughter-in-law and I selected glasses.  Sunglasses for me and reading glasses for her.  After bargaining with the vendor we settled on a price...280 rmb for two complete pair AND they were to be ready in 30 minutes.  Now, in US Dollars that works out to be less than $50 for two pairs.  Can you believe that?

This was not a basement operation in a dark alley  This was a huge market for the Chinese people, the working living real people.  I am still just gobsmacked over it.  We were offered upgraded "U.S.A." lenses.  My daughter-in-law had the reflective coating placed on hers.  But better yet, they fit and work like the glasses I bought in the states.  I did a little math in my head and realized that, if I were to buy several pairs of glasses, I could pay for an airplane ticket to visit my family with the money saved by shopping in this market.

Because the average income for a working citizen is very small, their market prices reflect what they can afford.  It is all relative.

Nanjing Lu at night
On the other side of the coin, there is that expat/wealthy world.  We traveled across the city back to Pudong so my son and his wife could see the dentist.  We were greeted in a beautifully appointed office, cleaner that anything I had ever seen.  A technician cleaned their teeth and a French dentists examined for problems.  Their insurance paid for the visit.

We picked up our car at the subway and traveled to a spa where we had hair cuts.  Mine was one of the best I have every had.  We luxuriated as one young man washed your hair and gave you a head massage, another cut and styled the hair and a third dried the hair.  Another stop took us to the Dragon Fly spa where my daughter-in-law has a membership.  We had a facial wax.

A cocktail at a Mexican restaurant across the street was followed by a taxi ride to People Square and a walk down Nanjing Lu to savor the evening air and the sparkling lights. A short taxi ride took us to the Bund and dinner at the latest Lost Heaven location just across the street from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  We wandered over to the hotel after a dinner in a most beautiful restaurant that served authentic Yunnan cuisine.
My son and I... Waldorf Astoria Christmas Tree

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel is one of those legendary spots that reflects an era of understated elegance.  The Long Bar, our next stop, is one of just a few bars with that name around the world.  Here the very influential mix with the likes of us and all are treated to wonderful service.  My after dinner drink was a liqueur with "Vanilla" and "Madagascar" in the name.

So there you have it...a day straddling the line between the two cultures of China.  We are very lucky that we have been given the privilege of experiencing both.

Waldorf Long Bar Lounge/Pub
Have a wonderful day.


b
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Dec 12, 2011

A Day in China...getting around in Shanghai

The first day we arrived here in Pudong (east Shanghai) we went to out granddaughter school for special Christmas events and a writer's workshop in the 2nd grade.  One of the delightful sidelights for these school visits is listening to expat teachers talk about their homes, families and their experiences here in China.  I love to see what they do when they are not being a "teacher".

One young teacher told about her father visiting recently.  She said he was  afraid to leave the Shanghai links here where our son lives.  He had gone out the wrong gate one day and was faced with guards that did not speak English.  They would not let him back in.  It frightened him to be locked out.  You have to understand what that would be like.

Pearl Tower...a landmark so we won't get lost! (photo by b)
The links provides shuttle to several stops over here on the east side of the Shanghai metro area.  A grocery store, park, metro station are jumping off places for what you would like to do.  We were given this similar experience when we were here several years ago.  However, since the subway system has expanded by several fold in those years, the shuttle only makes three stops now.  If, for example, we wanted to go to the city for the day, we would stop at the metro station and hop on the Green Line and get off on Nanjin Lu or even the People's Square.  From there we could walk around the very center of the city keeping tall buildings as markers for our location.  As long as we can walk we are always able to get around. 

If we were staying somewhere else, the first place we would locate would be a metro station.  This wonderful transportation system will take you anywhere you need to go.

Taxi's are always available so, if we decide to use one, we will carry business cards with the address on Chinese. Even travel books have the locations written in Chinese in the back of the book.  Just get us to a metro station and we will be fine. 

Afraid?  Well yes, it is a little intimidating and my heart is in my throat a lot of the time. I am very lucky my husband is up for the adventure too.  But here in China we feel safe.  Unlike Bangkok, for example, the charlatans do not lurk between buildings or in dark alleys. 

Be well and stay posted.

b

A Day in China...It's the "people's" road!

Note:  This is the third time I have spent an extended period of time in and around the Shanghai area.  In this city that claims to be the largest in the world, the wonders would never end, at least not for me.  

It is the "people's road" I remind myself.  I get the feeling that in this communist country, the population has learned to ignore or disregard anyone that would try to hold the upper hand.  They walk down the middle of the road with total disregard for their safety slowing traffic to a stand still with an attitude that says we are sharing the "people's road".  Not even a big truck is better that a small person...we are all equal!  

Country Road/Rice Drying

Rice drying on the street in the village

The full meaning of this way of thinking hit me yesterday when we were driving in a rural area west of Shanghai.  As we turned on a wide boulevard paved with concrete, we were faced with two lanes covered with rice drying in the sun.  Farmers camped on the road to guard their harvest and people raked the rice by hand or pulled ancient wooden rakes behind their vans.  As far as the eye could see golden rice lay in the sun.  Even in the middle of a small village the rice dried near the center line and cars shared the road with the farmers, pedestrians and traffic. 

I keep thinking "WHO KNEW!!!"  Greetings from China. 

b

Dec 11, 2011

A Day in China...communication is not easy!


Shanghai World Financial CenterShanghai This is not as easy as it was six years ago when I wrote my very first blog post! We are in China again and the bigger the access to the Internet gets the harder it is to communicate with people that live outside the country. That is just the way it is. We arrived here in Shanghai last Thursday late in the afternoon. The air quality may be so bad that the private school my grandchildren attend might limit recess to the indoors. The temperature lingers at around 40 f. It is Sunday here. We went downtown for brunch at the Westin where we ate as opera and chamber music floated across the room of 200 expats. When we stepped outdoors and loaded on the van, women carrying Louis Vinton bags stood waiting for taxis. When we left the hotel we pulled onto street with clothes drying on poles outside windows. The juxtaposition of the extreme modern and ancient still amazes me.  Driving down that same street I clicked photos as fast as I could so I could look at them again to see the World Finance Center appear over on the east side of the Nanpu River.  That building was the tallest building in the world up until one just a few meters taller was built in Dubai.

This is the third time we have been in Shanghai...it will always take my breath away!

Life in China!

Dec 4, 2011

10 Easy Smartphone/iphone Apps I use for Traveling!


AroundMe
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Traveling using your iphone or Android apps can make all the difference.  You can struggle to get the information you need or you can get smart and make your smart phone work for you. You can get along without them but it will not be as easy.  Really!
  1. Google Maps  Even though we have a Garmain for our car, I still find myself going to this wonderful app on my iphone.  I can find my location, enlarge the map to see the streets nearby and get directions along with the map showing my location in relationship to my destination.  I can even type the name of a store like Safeway along with the name of the city I am and it will show me all my available choices in relationship to where I am located at the moment.  We have gotten very dependent on this tool.
  2. AroundMe  Have you even just wanted to get some food but couldn't seem to located the restaurants nearby?  Here is just what you need.  You click on the app and find the category your are looking for (gas, food, groceries, hospitals).  Your phone locates where you are and then gives you a list along with how far you are from the business.  You can click on the map and it will tell you where it is, the phone number and even let you click "route" and take you there turn by turn.  We have used this tool for several years.