Archive for the Category »Family Travel Blogs «


We just returned home from a month-long European Vacation.

I actually had grand plans for my blog. I was going to do a travel blog in each of the cities. But…here comes the excuse:

Who knew that when you storm through Europe city by city, you are just so exhausted by the end of the day, all you want is to lay your head upon a pillow and hug your blanket. No kidding!

So I flopped on the grand European travel blogs. But here are some pictures to share from our trip.

Paris - still my favorate city in the whole world.


Copenhagen - Rosenborg Castle


Krakow - Wawel Castle

Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum

Prague - Charles Bridge


Vienna - St Stephen's Cathedral

Santorini, Greece

Santorini Sunset

Athens - The Parthenon and the Acropolis

That's us!

Now I must go back and tend to my fierce battle with loads of laundry.

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I don’t know about you. But I hate making a call to any big corporation’s 1-800-Customer Service line. They all seem to have this exceptional ability to suck out any positive energy I have, leaving me livid by the end of the call, and ruining the rest of my day.

I had to call Capital One, my VISA card company this morning. I had no reason to sweat this call. I had a very simple request. A request they have been known to enjoy performing. I wanted a new VISA card.

I cheerfully dialed the 800 number on the back of my card. First, their machine picked up and played a series of phone maze with me. I played along nicely and correctly, and was rewarded with a member of my own species on the other line.

I answered all of Tracy’s security questions, and got to state the reason for my call.

“My family will be traveling to Europe this summer. I found out that many of the businesses there can only process credit cards with smart chips on them. So, I need to get this card replaced with a new one with smart chip.” me.

Smart Chip Credit Card for travel aboard

“Oh, that’s great. We are in the process of replacing all our customers’ credit cards with smart chips.” Tracy.

See! An easy call. I happily interrupted, “ All my other credit cards and ATM cards have been recently replaced with smart chip ones. This is the only card I have left without it.”

Tracy, “Yes, yours will be coming in the mail soon. Any time between now until the end of this year.”

“But I need to use the new smart chip card this summer. So, I need you to send me this new card now.” me, still happy.

“Oh, I am sorry. I can’t just send these cards to you. It is all been processed by a system, and I can only tell you that you will received yours before the end of the year.” Tracy stated in that deliberate even paced polite tone that I have come to dread.

I think that deliberate polite tone in a live person is not better than speaking with a robot. I was against having my day ruined by Tracy, so I asked to speak with a supervisor.

Brian came to the line after a few minutes and identified himself as the supervisor. He stated the same message as Tracy about smart chip cards.

“You are seriously telling me that you can not send me new cards?!!” me, in total disbelief, and no longer happy.

What kind of twisted company is this…

This is one of the companies that have been terrorizing my mailbox and spam folder almost daily with new credit card offerings. Now, I personally call them to send me one, and they refuse!

“I can send replacement new cards, but the smart chipped ones are done by our system.” Brian.

“…” I was speechless.

“If your new card doesn’t arrive in time, you can still take this card to Europe. VISA and Mastercard have contracts with the merchants to honor the old cards until the end of the year.” Brian.

“That is not true. I have tried to purchase train tickets with local operators in Europe with this card, and I have already been declined multiple times. This is why I called you.” me.

I learned from a travel forum that many European merchant processors can only process credit cards with smart chips.

“That is against VISA rules. When this happens on your trip, you can write down these business names, and report them to VISA when you come home.” Brian.

“That does not help me. When I take VISA on a vacation, I just want to use it to pay for things. I don’t want to go to Europe to write down all the businesses that are in violation of some rules, and report them.” me.

“Okay, I understand.” Brian.


“I always thought that you are in the business to send people your credit cards. Just tell me why you can not send me my smart chipped card now, because you are about to send me anyway.” me.

“Well…” Brian, then finally, “We have millions of customers. So, I can’t just pull you out of the line.”

Ha, ha, ha… I had to laugh.

I always felt insignificant when dialing these 800 numbers. I was thrilled to finally have my feelings validated.

“Okay Brian. I don’t have millions of cards, but I do have 8 other credit cards (already with smart chips). I will just take one of my other cards on the trip.” me.

“Thank you for your help today.” I tapped the end call icon.

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The Norwegian Dawn, that is.

Norwegian Dawn

Ladies and gentlemen, I survived my first cruise.

I have always shunned cruises.

The very idea of being trapped in a boat with thousands of people in the middle of the sea made me queasy. Its notorious amount of food and nonstop feeding frenzy has to be a health hazard. Thousands of overfed cruise passengers disembarking onto the port has always prompted me to turn around and get away fast.

But for one week, I became the cruise tourist I have always feared. I even played the part well.

I ate indiscriminately from morning to bedtime. Hey, if they kept the buffet open until midnight, it meant I should feed myself just before going to bed.

Buffet spread

I yelled, screamed, and clapped whenever prompted to do so by their hyper-energetic cruise entertainers.

Pool deck white party

I danced too.

Dancing the night away

I participated in day excursions in beautiful settings heavily burdened by commercialization.

The set up on Playa Mia

Cave tubing

The locals armed with goods and food greeted us with extraordinary high price tags, I paid and smiled at them.

Local Gift shop

I got back on the boat, stole a peaceful moment in the comfort of my own balcony, and took in the beauty of the local scenery one last time before sailing away.

Roatan Island

Cozumel port

Ship sailed.

Leaving port

I went to get more food.

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There is an unpleasant place called “Mùdì (Mùdì=墓地=burial plot)” in Chinese, best pronounced as “Moo” by the likes of my 80 year-old father, and best heard as “Mall” by the likes of his 75 year-old Chinese friend visiting from New Zealand.

Auntie Tan had been a special visitor. She is not only the widower of my father’s best friend from China, she was also our neighbor when we lived in China over 30 years ago. Her second son was my classmate, and her daughter was my sister’s best friend in grade school. We go a long, long way back.

Auntie Tan lives in New Zealand with her daughter, and was here on a solo trip to fulfill her long cherished dream of seeing America.

Last Friday, I took a day off of work, and took Auntie Tan and my father to Monterey Bay for a day trip.

We had sat down in a fancy sea-view restaurant for lunch when my father left us briefly for the men’s room.

Our Sea-View restaurant.

I asked Auntie Tan if my dad took her anywhere interesting during her week long stay in Los Angeles.

“Ah! Only TOO interesting.” Auntie Tan, and proceeded to tell me about a most fascinating misadventure with my father.

A true story told by Auntie TanThe conversation was all in Chinese, with the exception of a few English words, such as “Mall”.

I was telling your father how after living in New Zealand for 12 years, I really consider New Zealand home now, and have decided to be buried in New Zealand after I die.

A few minutes later…

Your father said to me, “We have Moo here. My Moo is the world’s 5th largest!!”

I told your father, “I didn’t know you have the world’s 5th largest Mall here. My daughter didn’t tell me.”

Your dad said, “Your daughter wouldn’t know that!”

And then, he asked, “Do you want to go see it?!”

“Yes! I want to go see the big Mall.”

So, we got in the car to go see the Mall.

Along the way, I said, “Why is it that on the way to such big Mall, there are hardly any cars or people among us?”

Your father explained, “Today is not any holiday, you will see very few people there.”

I thought to myself, even in New Zealand, we always have people at the Mall.

Then an open lawn with beautiful huge garden came into view directly ahead.

I grew even more puzzled. “Shouldn’t there be tall buildings at the Mall.”

Your dad said, “Why would Moo have buildings?!! We don’t bury our dead people in the buildings, we bury them under the earth.”

Your dad gave me a tour of his American cemetery.

Ha, ha, ha, only someone like my father would think it fit to give his old friend a tour of his future eternal home.

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No first time visitors to the Big Island can properly visit the island without a rendezvous to Madam Pele’s Volcano. We are proper tourists, and arranged to spend two nights near the volcano.

A live volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii

When we left the sunny Kohala Coast, and into the roam of Hilo, we were immediately greeted by darkening skies, powerful angry sea, and sheets of slapping rain.

Hilo coast

Well, if you are willing to brave the rain, Hilo will generously reward you with gorgeous lush tropical greenery…

Green Hilo

Akaka Falls

Rainbow Falls, except there was no sun to make the rainbow

This massive tree really wow'ed us

Canopy tree road

Local family having fun in this Hilo beach

That night, after dinner, we drove into the Volcano National Park to peak at the live volcano. Wow, RED GLOW, yup, there was hot lava burning underneath us.

Nighttime red glow can be seen in the distance from inside the museum

During the day, you can only see the aftermath of Goddess Pele’s handy work.

Earth's burned crust

New life on Lava

Where the lave met the sea


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Aloha everybody! From the Island of Maui.

We have just wrapped up our visit to the Big Island of Hawaii. I loved how peaceful,

Mountain road near Kona


Beach inside the Mauna Lani Resort

and laid-back this island is.

Laid-back Cat at the Kona Coffee Plantation

My husband and I had visited the Big Island about 15 years ago before we had kids, and it was only for 3 days. So, this was practically our first time on the island of Hawai’i.

Surrounded by the island’s beauty, my index finger got a great deal of workout clicking away on my Nikon camera, and I flooded my memory card with new pictures.

I tried really hard to filter and re-filter my pictures, but I am afraid that I still ended up with too many of them to show you. Well, you might enjoy these:

Lava field trail to the beach in the Mauna Lani Resort.

Lava field trail

Ancient Fish Pond in the Mauna Lani Resort.

Fish Pond

A very large puffer fish. The Big Island offers some of the best snorkeling of all the Hawaiian islands.

Puffer fish

Big Island often has beautiful sunsets.


Some romantic soul made good use of the black sand beach. She probably said yes…

Black sand beach

Kealakekua Bay, A.K.A. Captain Cook’s Monument.

Beautiful waters of the B.I.

Coconuts galore.

Coconuts trees

Red sugar cane.

Sugar Cane

These red bananas fascinated me. I had never seen bananas in this color before.

Red Bananas?

Great news! Next time your doctor tells you to eat more fruit and vegetable, go home and drink more coffee! As it turned out, the coffee beans aren’t beans at all. They are fruits of these trees!

100% Kona Coffee

Hibiscus flowers bloomed everywhere.

Hawaiian flower

Big Island’ alarm clock.

Handsome rooster

Glorious sunset.


Come back soon, I will share more pictures from the Hilo side of the Big Island.

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Summer is best enjoyed with fun and sun. On Monday, I took the kids to the Santa Cruz Board Walk to commence the beginning of our summer.

Santa Cruz Board Walk on the Beach

Upon arrival, we walked up and down the board walk, trying to decide what to eat.

Lots of food vendors along the board walk

Our lunch was junk food galore! The kids were smiling ear to ear enjoying a rare meal that is completely out of the boundary of a healthy meal.

After lunch, the kids went straight for the stomach turning rides. I was impressed with they did not end up experiencing their meal in reverse.

The Cyclone right after lunch

More rides!

In just 2 to 3 hours, they have used up the handful of ride tickets I gave them. So, I lead them onto the sand towards the beach. The beach is free.

Santa Cruz Beach

“Hey! We didn’t bring our bathing suits. Try to stay out of the water, so you don’t get wet.” me.

The kids run towards the water and met the approaching waves. They were soon wet and gleaning with laughter.

I joined them. It’s the summer. Let’s have fun.

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Over Memorial Day weekend, the four of us drove the 4 hours and arrived at Yosemite National Park.

Half Dome - Yosemite

We came here for a highly anticipated day hike. We plotted to hike the 2.5 mile Mist Trail over two huge waterfalls, with an elevation gain of 3000 feet. Then we would take the longer but flatter 4.2 miles John Muir Trail back.

We got up at 6:20AM Sunday morning, ate a big meal, parked our car at the Curry Village, and took the shuttle to the start of the trail.

As soon as we got off the bus, the kids couldn’t contain their excitement, and run towards the trail head.

Kids running towards the trail head

“Kids! Save your energy for the uphill hike.” I shouted after them.

Soon, we were ascending on a flight of 600 steep and huge granite stairs alongside the Vernal Fall.

Vernal Fall

This trail is called the Mist Trail for a very good reason. The section of the trail that lay next to the fall is soaking wet from the fall’s powerful mist. And guess what else the mist makes when splashed against the sunlight?

The brightest rainbows you will ever see!

Mist Trail Rainbow

Soon, we reached the top of the fall.

Top of the Vernal Fall

A roaring emerald hued rushing stream that drains into the Vernal Fall quickly reminded us that there is still an even bigger Nevada Fall further up waiting for us to conquer.

Yosemite Stream

Soon we embarked on an even steeper path towards the Nevada Fall.

Rocky path towards the Nevada Fall

Did I mention the Mist Trail is 2.5 miles going up and up?

Hike up alongside the Nevada Fall on the Mist Trail

Finally, just after 12PM, we arrived at the top of the Nevada Fall. And we took in the powerful Yosemite Granite cliff views from the top.

Top of Nevada Fall-Yosemite

After a much necessary and unapptizing lunch, we rested a while on the top, and started to head down towards the valley on the John Muir trail.

The John Muir trail is quite a bit longer, but much flatter than the Mist Trail, and it offers a different view of the falls and the surrounding Yosemite National Park.

Nevada Fall from the John Muir trail

After a 2.5 mile steep ascend, hiking down on the John Muir, it felt as if my knees were about to buckle. But my baby was still bursting with energy. The kid practically danced and bounced her way down.

Kids doing the day hike with ease

We got back down to the Valley by 2:30PM. We still had half an afternoon to spare!

A hot shower and a nap sounded about right.

The beautiful Yosemite

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I bought a Nikon with a big lens, and took a photography class to learn how to use it just days before our flight to South Africa. That was a great investment!

I took couple hundred pictures a day, about half are my favorite. By now, I think I am professional…

Me, the photographer

I promise this will be my last South Africa post. I had to share a few of my favorite safari shots. I hope you will “OOH” and “AAH” over them.

1. My most prized lion shot.

Lion - Londolozi Game Reserve

2. My favorite flying bird shot.

Soft landing at Chobe National Park

3. My favorite standing bird shot.

Bird of Eden, Knysna, South Africa

4. My most cooperative animal.

Thanks for posing!

5. The best mother and child pose.

Zebras at Kruger National Park

6. The cutest.

Cubs at the Londolozi Game Reserve

7. The prettiest.

Do not eat. They are poisonous.

8. The mightiest

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

It took me DAYS to select these 8 pictures to share with you. Did I mention that I took couple hundreds of pictures a day…

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Tomorrow is my kids first day of school. I woke this morning and suddenly grew worried that my kids had too much fun this summer, and had done nothing in any shape or form to keep their brains sharpened for their fast approaching academic life.

“When was the last time you wrote a paper?” I asked my middle schooler.

“I don’t remember.” kid.

“Write me something today.” I ordered.

“WHAT?!” kid.

“I am giving you a writing assignment. It is a good way to prepare your brain for school tomorrow. So, write me something, anything.” me.

And below is what was turned in just before dinner time today:

The Great Impala Poop Adventure


The day started out innocent enough. We went on our morning game drive at the Londolozi Game Reserve and saw many animals, like zebras, giraffes, elephants. In the afternoon drive things got even better, because our ranger found this really cool porcupine quill and I, Queen Bean, got to keep it. I wanted more to give to my friends, too. It was shortly after that that my troubles began.

Bush Picnic

We had just stopped for our food break when our ranger pointed to a pile of impala poop and said, “There is a childrens game where you put a pellet of impala poop in your mouth and spit it as far as you can past lines drawn on the ground. More point for farther spitting.”

“Nope.” My sister and I didn’t even give it a second thought

“If you do it, I’ll get you more porcupine quills, queenbean,” he told me.

Porcupine quill

BLACKMAIL! I ended up standing about ten feet from a line drawn in the sand with a handful of poop. I was to take a running start and stop at the line, then spit the poop as far as I could to make either 100, 200, 300, or 400 points.

I reluctantly put the poo in my mouth. euuuuuuugh. Took a running start, stopped at the line and SPITTED IT THE HELL OUT. It landed at my feet.

However, being the extremely determined queen I am, I continued to spit the poop until I had a hundred points. Oh sweet victory.

The next day I was presented with another porcupine quill. But GET THIS. My sister also received two porcupine quills, and SHE didn’t have to put poop in her mouth for it. I had a very bad day.

~Queen Beannn.

This is a true story from one of our many game drives in South Africa. This silly child who is the pickiest eater I know, had popped dried up impala poops into her mouth one after another to play this African bush game to earn points for porcupine quills. Too bad, all the pictures from the impala poop game came out terribly blurry because I was laughing so hard.

Obviously she is still alive.

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