Archive for » July, 2010 «

My cousin and his daugter came to pick us up right after breakfast. He drove us to the beautiful countryside of Hangzhou surrounded by mountains. Somewhere within these mountains were amazing caves.

Hangzhou Countryside by the Mountains

A small boat transported us deep inside a cave. After a 10 to 15 minute ride, we went on foot to explore the rest of the huge cave. The staff inside the cave gave us water proof tall boots and hard hats to wear.

Boat ride inside the cave

This cave is surrounded by cool crystal clear running water. We got to see some breathtaking waterfalls inside the cave. We were in awe with mother nature’s secretive beauty.

Waterfall inside the cave

Another waterfall inside the cave

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Well, it is quite easy if you are on Westlake, Hangzhou.

Westlake, Hangzhou, China

We devoted an entire day worshipping the lake on and around it all. First, we enjoyed a lakeview breakfast buffet offered at our hotel, where I had coffee and tea, porridge, steamed meat buns, and very green looking local vegetables. The kids had milk and quite a few sides of buttered bread, and hubby wanted to try all kinds of food, so he piled on a mountain of food onto his plate.

After our breakfast, we went to walk around the lake carrying our full tummies. A local boat man talked us into boarding his small private boat for a ride. We spent most of the morning on his boat, relaxing and enjoying the boat ride, and being carried to an inner islet for a visit, before finally being brought back to near our hotel.

Enjoying Westlake from a boat

Then we were hungry, so we ate lunch at a local restaurant, and it seems the food does not disappoint here. Except the restaurant made us pay for our napkins.

After lunch, we were determinted to walk the section of the lake that is the most beautiful. Apparently, everybody else had the same idea, and the path was covered with people. Luckily, most people do not walk the entire length of the never ending path, so gradully the crowd easied, and we shared the long tree-lined thin walking path along the lake with a deserving few.

Westlake walking path

When we finally arrived at the other main section of the lake, the crowds of people slowly surfaced again, and we had had enough of walking by then, and hopped on an open-air lake circulating tram to enjoy the lake with far less energy.

By then it was 5PM, we were exhausted. So we found a small coffee shop by the lake to re-fuel. The kids shared an ice cream sundae, hubby had a cheese cake, and check out the lovely cup of coffee they made me.

From a coffee shop by the lake

After this short stop, we were ready for more.

We had dinner with my cousin, his wife, and their young daughter. My cousin is very good at ordering food at restaurants, I loved everything, and ate too much again. The kids hardly ate anything–they don’t like unfamiliar food.

After dinner, we went to a night market together. It seemed so unusual that on a Monday night, the night market can still be so lively, and full of people, with local vendors kept busy and smiling, because they are making money.

After we got back at our hotel, it was around 10PM. We decided to take another night walk rather than going to bed. We were immediately glad that we did, the sidewalk by the lake was full of people sitting with friends, young lovers walking hand in hand, families relaxing together, and young children still out late playing and acting crazy.

We heard disco music in the middle of all this, and found ourselves in front of a group of people dancing together, they were men, women, young and old. But most of them are middle aged. They weren’t dancing with each other, they were ALL dancing together doing this incredibly synchronized routine. It looked fun. I was thinking about joining them, but I didn’t want to be the only one messying up this dance troop’s routine. Perhaps tomorrow night, I will find them, and join their dance.

Group dancing at Westlake

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Westlake View from our hotel-Hangzhou, China

We took a direct flight from Taipei to Hangzhou, China earlier today. We checked into a hotel right by the waters of famous Westlake. This is the view from one of our hotel room windows. Very beautiful here…

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I seriously underestimated the frail and thin looking middle aged masseuse in her light pink uniform, when I told her that I prefer heavy handed massages. I spent most of my massage session under her wondering when it would be over. My friend booked me for a two hour full-body message at one of her favorite spas in Taipei.

I had good reason for enduring my masseuse for two hours without once begging for mercy. Back at home, I often paid more for a deep tissue message because I considered the Swedish massage too mild. This had me associate pain with value in massages, and this frail looking lady gave me a great deal of pain for the same amount of money. I kept thinking that I was getting a great bargain.

I knew something was not right when I could feel her elbows on my back and her knees on my buttocks. Ouch…ouch…ouch. Luckily I gave birth before, and suddenly I recalled the special breathing technique used during delivery. I breathed laboriously in a quiet way to avoid causing a commotion.

Her elbows and knees dealt the worst blows, whenever I could feel them on any part of my body, I shrieked in fear in anticipation of sharp pain. To my surprise, the worst pain was felt on my buttocks whenever her knees are applied. I had not expected the most naturally padded part of the body to be so weak. Of course, my behind is new to this experience–back at home, what is between the tail bone and legs is off limits.

When I had to turn around to face up, I was happy that she brought a towel to cover my entire mid section. At least, they are off limits here too. Wrong! Apparently, I am much too sheltered by my previous massage experience, on HER bed, the breasts are just regular muscles, and they each received a good 10 minutes of rough handling. Two hours is way too long for a massage…

After my session, I was happy to just be in the spa area again. I went in to soak in their big Jacuzzi bath to nurse my body for a long time.

Today, my body felt as if I spent the previous day fighting someone. But… I paid just over $70 for the 2 hour massage, a 20min Back scrap, lunch, and the use of all the spa facility. What a sweet deal! I could totally do this all over again.

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My friend and I dropped off our three kids to their first day of a week-long camp somewhere in the middle of Taipei earlier today. We got to stay and observe the opening ceremony. From the back, I was anxious to see if my children were happy and can keep up with the rest of the local campers.

The opening ceremony was high energy and awfully loud thanks to their exceptionally powerful microphones. It was fun to see most of the kids going alone with decent enthusiasm while learning their camp song. My children’s participation was more guarded and hesitant.

Taipei Summer Camp Opening Ceremony

At the end of the opening ceremony, the children were called into their groups and formed a line to go to their individual classrooms. My children and their young friend just sat there, until my friend charged down to where they were, and instructed them to follow one of the groups.

As they slowly walked at the end of the line to their classroom, I walked up next to my baby, and explained some of the camp rules I overheard during the opening ceremony in English. My friend and I lingered outside of their classroom as long as we could until we had to leave. I left un-assured that they are excited to be left there, but hopeful that they will be as their day unfolds.

I have always entertained the idea of sending them to a Chinese camp in Taiwan or China as a way to force my children to speak Chinese. Both of my kids have attended Chinese school since Kindergarten. To their Chinese school’s credit, the kids were able to master their challenging Chinese curriculum during their class, do their 30 minute long daily Chinese homework during the week without much drama, and even earn A or B grades on their intimidating Chinese tests. However, all of these only amount to a shocking mockery that my children completely lack rudimentary conversational skills in Chinese.

I am finally putting my theory to the test, that the ability to speak perfect and natural Chinese is in fact locked somewhere inside my kids, and it only needs a little help–such as pushing them into a group of kids who won’t speak English to them–to unleash the Chinese verbal skills out of them like flood waters. My theory also demands quick results. So, they are in this camp for one week. When I go pick them up on Friday, they will be politely asking for water or ice cream in complete sentence in Chinese.

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We just finished packing for our overseas flight tomorrow. We are ready for our 3-week-long family vacation to Taiwan and China. This will be the kids’ first trip to Asia.

My husband and I both love to travel, and we have plans for our children to embrace this passion too. Earlier today, I offered a bit of guidance to my children to ready them to be world travelers. And lesson number one is to travel light. This enables the traveler to easily move about, and have less things to pack and unpack, and have more time to enjoy the sites, taste the local food, and soak in the local culture. I told them that cool travelers leave the comforts of home behind, and are unconcerned with apparel while on the road. Travelers that must bring along huge suitcases are cheesy tourists.

I decided to allow my children to decide on their own traveling clothes. I gave them instructions to select 3 pairs of pants, 4 tops, and issued more tips that included selecting travel clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for hot weather. This was easy task, they went and came back in just a few minutes. They both came back with shorts, and t-shirts.

“Hum…the shorts are fine. But I have to veto all the t-shirts,” I said, as I quickly gathered the t-shirts, and head back to their closets.

“Why?!” the kids followed me into their rooms.

“T-shirts are too boring!” as I put the rejects back, and started to pull out more interesting tops.

“Is this going to make us look like cheesy tourist?” my baby became concerned sensing evidence of cheesiness.

“Oh! Young travelers are allowed to look cute!”

I am grateful to still be allowed to make up the rules as I go.

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Cut up plastic soft drink can holder

Cut up plastic soft drink can holder

Ever since I saw the movie “Happy Feet,” I got into this habit of cutting all the circles of the plastic things that hold the soft drink cans together, before tossing it into our recycling bin.

This is necessary in case this obscure plastic circle chain is unleashed to the south pole, only to become tangled onto an innocent looking penguin’s neck, which ordains this innocent looking penguin as a god send, which summons all his mundane fellow penguins to worship him, which causes this innocent looking penguin to grew lazy and fat, ultimately chokes this poor penguin to a slow and suffocating demise.

Chocking fat pengium

Chocking fat pengium

Watching cartoons makes me a better person than going to church. I urge all of you to practice this act of compassion.

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A couple of weekends ago, we went to Seattle, WA to attend a family wedding. While we sat waiting for our lunch to arrive inside a restaurant with large windows, I couldn’t help noticing a prominent ice caped peak above some clouds in the distance. This famous Washington State landmark is the volcanic Mount Rainier. I became inspired, and talked my family into visiting the park the next day for a closer look.

Mt. Rainier is beautiful. I had expected a Lake Tahoe like scenery, but Mt. Rainier is host to a much more diverse and dense vegetation, and with abundant rainfall, it is much more green. Melting glaciers create cascading water throughout the park, and form gigantic waterfalls that dot the major hiking trails.

We had not come prepared–dressed comfortably for spending the day inside our rental car. But we decided on a mile-long hike anyway to see one of their waterfalls. Soon we discovered that the short hiking trail we choose included some painful terrain, and was very steep. We looked totally out of place in our slipper-like shoes among backpacking hikers here and there. Every time, we contemplated on giving up and turning back, some friendly hikers on their way down would tell us that it is not far up ahead, and it will be worth the trouble. Although, there was one hiker that was not as encouraging.

We came upon a section of the trail where there was a long and huge metal tube oddly out of place in the middle of this nature wonderland.

Metal tube on the hiking trail

Puzzled by its presence, I stopped in my tracks to think out loud and out of breath, “What is this huge metal thing doing here?”

A hiker on his way down and heard me talking to myself. Without stopping or looking up, he pointed back up, and said, “That’s for the big fake waterfall you will see up ahead.”

Mt Rainier waterfall

I love waterfalls, where can we buy more of these huge metal tubes…

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