Biking trip to Fujian China

Lyndon and I signed up for a weekend bike trip in China. To give you a background on what we did,  this was the  write up from AWA in Blue and what really happened in black

Designed as a weekend getaway to cycle through Fujian’s famed tea fields and Tulou Roundhouses.  Tea lovers (Yum)and NON-hardcore cyclists (16 of us except for Gail and Allison who were beasts on the bikes ) are encouraged to join.  There are hills (one was 4km uphill  switch backs and another was about 30 minutes uphill.  Many rolling hills which seemed to be more uphill than down or flat. Most of us walked our bikes up at least some of the hills. I was very impressed by anyone who was able to keep biking all the way.  Fred I won’t mention his age but just know that he proved age was just a number.), hedged with seasonal crops ( tea, bamboo, tobacco, pomelo) , most famously Fujian’s Iron Goddess tea bushes that provide us our happy excuse to stop and taste both the landscape and Tulou hospitality, in a teacup. ( some delicious teas but more importantly  a place to get off the bike and rest your butt muscles)

It’s a popular myth that the Tulou were mistaken in satellite photos for missile silos by the CIA in the early 1980’s.  The Fujian Tulou it turns out are far more interesting:  multi-storied Feng Shui aligned, rammed with earth fortresses built from the 13th Century onward to protect the “newly” arrived Hakka Clans and their rich culture.  46 Tulou in nine clusters are now UNESCO listed World Cultural Heritage properties.  Many Tulou escaped nomination, and the subsequent tourist hordes – and it is mostly these remote Tulou that make the bike ride. ( One area had a Catholic church and was an entire Catholic community, many had pictures of Mao painted on the sides to show support during the cultural revolution, cool wells, lovely old Chinese men and women who were so proud of their homes, roosters, pigs, cute puppies, and Buddhist shrines)

You will support heritage conservation by staying in two lesser known Tulou with two very different conservation strategies.

There are some challenging hills,( undulating was the word of the day)  but the cycling is not rushed.( there was a van and truck always following so if you could not make it they were there for support and walking with the bike was always an option)  In total you will cycle approximately 90 km of both beautifully paved country back roads, and tiny village pathways. ( when we did finally have downhill rides they were extremely steep too and some places had very rocky pavement.  Always a challenge!)

You will be staying in clean basic traditional Tulou guesthouses with personality. 

One is in a UNESCO listed Five Phoenix Design Tulou, ( some rooms had bathrooms attached others did not. There was a wedding in the village and fireworks at 3:30 in the morning followed by roosters at 5:00) the other is in a genuine Tulou roundhouse that is not a hotel but has a few renovated rooms for guests and architecture students. The accommodation is designed to not disrupt the daily lives of the residents, so there are no typical accommodation services. Rooms are comfortable and clean, and whilst basic, the views and experience are unforgettable ( some had a ” prison” toilet in them  This basically meant a toilet /sink combo sitting in the room.  The actual bathroom down the hall was best to use. We had one designated a ladies and the other designated as a men’s. No towels supplied so BYOT.  Some of the beds were antique styled.  I think most of us really liked the second night better even though it was a bit more “rustic” ) ). 

Both are homestay style rather than hotels. Bedding is supplied and hot water showers available – though not in your rooms. 

Traffic was expected to  be bad on Sunday so we left a little early .  As luck would have it there was no traffic and we got to the airport in under 3 hours.  We had come straight from biking so we found bathrooms to change in.  We could not check in until 2 hours before the flight so we had to hang out at the one coffee shop for a  few hours.   We shared pictures, played cards, drank some beer and built pyramids with the cans.  Once we checked in we had enough people with privileges that we all got into the Cathay lounge.  A hot shower was a very welcoming sight.  The massage chairs were a hit too.   Our flight was delayed a bit but at least we had a comfortable place to hang out, charge phones, eat and drink. Once we landed in HK it took forever to get off the plane. By the time we got home it was after midnight.  An exhausting day but a trip well worth the exhaustion. I loved meeting new people and made some amazing new friendships.   I will post pictures as soon as I upgrade space on the blog .

 

 

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Sarah’s Visit

Michael left on April 3, and April 6-8 was the Hong Kong 7’s. This is a huge rugby tournament held in HK every year. Lyndon went Friday night and I joined him Saturday and Sunday. It was lots of fun with people in crazy costumes and fast paced action. It is definitely something to do if you are living in HK.  The following week was supposed to be the calm before Sarah came but I tutored, subbed and had an art gallery tour/tea before she got here on Friday.

There was no rest for the weary as we got up on Saturday and went to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery.  As you walk up to the top there are literally hundreds of gold Buddha statues ( about 3 feet tall) sitting along the walkway on both sides.  Each one is different in their own unique way. When you reach the top their are some buildings to go in and see,  a pagoda, more statues, and the temple with thousands of buddhas arranged along the walls.  I kept telling Lyndon and Sarah that there were monkeys there but that day we did not see any.

 

That night we had a galloping gourmet dinner and Sarah went as well.  It was fun for her to meet some of our friends and have a different perspective on our life in HK. On Sunday, after mass, Lyndon had to leave to go to the US so Sarah and I did more exploring.   We went to the Chi Lin Nunnery. It is a beautiful Buddhist temple complex which was built as a retreat for Buddhist nuns.  It was built  entirely out of Cypress wood and uses no nails.  It is currently the world’s largest hand-made wooden building.

After that we crossed the street to the Nan Lian Garden.  It is actually a very beautiful and peaceful garden. I was very impressed.  Everyone told us to go to the vegetarian restaurant there but we did not need to eat a meal at that time.  Maybe next time!

****More pictures to come*****

It was turning out to be a sunny day after a lot of morning rain so we decided to keep going.  I took her to the flower market and bird market. Actually tried the bird market but it was closed due to a bird virus.   As we were meandering through the streets we came across a shop selling flavored pappadams.  OMG they were delicious. I have bought more to bring home. Then we went to the goldfish market which I have never really walked through. I came across a bike shop and needed padded bike shorts so it was a very successful afternoon.

Monday morning was a bright and early start to go to the airport. We were heading to Phuket for three days.  This was designed to be a relaxing three days at the beach.  The weather was perfect ( hot and sunny) . We relaxed, did sunset yoga, I biked, we got massages, and took a night trip to Patang Beach.  We won’t go into details about that car ride but just know motion sickness runs in the family and Sarah is known for not doing well on curvy roads.  Wednesday afternoon we came back to HK.

On Thursday we went to Ocean Park. I had never been there and so it was a great excuse to give it a try.  It is a unique combination of rides, animals , aquarium and shows.   It has been around for over 40 years. It is one of the largest amusement parks in Asia. Knowing Sarah’s aversion to motion ( me too) I was wondering how it would go but we enjoyed MANY rides ( even multiple times) and survived.  We really enjoyed the animal exhibits.  The penguins, walruses, and pandas were some of our favorites.

Friday afternoon Sarah was heading back to the US to be in a wedding in California so we were going to have an easy day. Unfortunately, Friday morning we got the horrible news that Nana ( Lyndon’s mother) had died suddenly from a blood infection.  There was much to do in planning to get to India.  Lyndon was in the US and had to travel to India. I had to get an emergency visa. The kids looked into getting emergency visas too but it just wasn’t going to work.  SO after getting Sarah to the airport on Friday I had to head to the airport on Saturday.

Even though it was a sad ending, I loved our time with Sarah and look forward to more visitors.

 

Michael’s visit/Easter

I have been subbing at HKIS all of March except for the days I went to Australia so it has kept me busy. Lyndon has been gone since last Friday and will get in on Friday. The best thing to look forward to is that Michael is coming for Easter, He gets here on Wednesday!

So I wrote that a few weeks ago, now that visit has come and gone . We had a great time with Michael visiting. We kept him busy so that he would not get too sleepy with his jet lag!

He arrived on Wednesday morning. I was teaching so he had to get to the apartment by himself.  That included exchanging money at the airport, catching the Airport Express train, taking a taxi from HK station and then getting into the apartment.  Good job!  When I got home we fixed dinner and went off to the races!  On Wednesday night, Happy Valley Racecourse has their  horse races. I have never been so it was a learning adventure for us both. We did make one bet (Alma Baby) but did not win anything.  He was very tired so we did not stay long.

On Thursday I had to sub again so he was on his own for the day.  After school we headed over to Stanley to shop around, sit on the rocks, and just wander in the beautiful weather. We picked up ingredients to make Indian food and mango sticky rice.  As you will see the theme is Michael wanting some home cooking.

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On Friday, Lyndon was arriving and we knew he would be tired.  We worked out some and then went to the beach to hang out for about an hour or so.  That afternoon we took a ferry to Lamma Island. We hiked the Family trail from one end to the other.  Then we had some delicious seafood at the Rainbow Seafood restaurant before taking the ferry back to Aberdeen.

 

Saturday we planned another hike. This was to Rhino rock in Stanley.  It is not a hard or long hike but requires a lot of climbing.  It had some absolutely beautiful views and a rock that looks like a rhino.   We climbed down the steep slopes back to Stanley and St Stephen’s Beach.  It was a relaxing end to the hike.  We came back home and made dinner (White Lightning chilli)and rested our weary bodies.

Sunday was Easter.  We woke up and had cheese grits, eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Much bigger breakfast than we usually have.  Then we went to mass.  Afterwards we went into Taikoo so Lyndon could drop off some things at work.  Then we went for ramen. It is a different form of ramen but delicious all the same.  Then Lyndon and Michael went to see Black Panther I came home to get the next meal ready  (Yes I am full just typing this)  Not your typical Easter fare but pot roast it was!

On Monday we had time for one more hike. This time we went to the Sha Tin area to climb to Lion Rock and Amah Rock. It is a difficult climb  but we were  rewarded with scenic landscapes.  That night we went to one of our favorite restaurants, 22 Ship.

 

( a couple better pictures of lion rock to come)

Tuesday morning we got up to work out and hang at the beach a little more. Then we grabbed some breakfast at the beach. Michael had to come home and pack before heading out around 11:30. It was such a quick short trip but I am so glad he was able to come.  He may have a different story to tell since his flight form Dallas to Dayton was cancelled and he had to fly to Cincinnati then drive back an hour or so . He got home at 2:15 am and had class the next morning at 8:00. All in all door to door it was about 27 hours 😦

So now my next person to look forward to coming is Sarah – next Friday!!

 

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is on most people’s bucket list. We were fortunate enough to go visit Port Douglas and the GBR.  It is being affected by the environment so much with global warming, bleaching and dying off of the coral that it is one of those places you need to see while you can.   The Great Barrier Reef is a 2,300 km long ecosystem. It can be seen from outer  space.  It is home to hundreds of types of fish and coral.  It is made up of thousands  of reefs and small islands.  When snorkeling you must be very careful not to touch anything in order to protect all the species of coral and fish.  We had planned our long weekend attached to a few days Lyndon had to be in Sydney.  We were receiving severe weather texts the day before. It was not looking good.  When we arrived on Friday there was TORRENTIAL rain. They actually said roads were shut down and there was flooding in the area.  It was not looking good for the next day and our sail and snorkeling trip.  The rain and wind raged all night long.

The next morning the sun was starting to peak through. Maybe not too bad after all.  I grabbed sun glasses and sunscreen just in case.  (Thank goodness I did)  The boat ride was about an hour out of the port. It was a big catamaran/sailboat.  There were about 25 people on the boat and 3 staff.   I had taken Dramamine since I knew I was not great on the water.  SO glad I did. It was very rough sailing.  Many others on the boat felt sick as well. I held it together with lots of focusing out into the distance.

Once we got out to the reef area we went to a little island (the Low Isles) .  They had to take us to the island by a smaller boat. This is where we were going to snorkel.  We had to wear a wet suit to protect ourselves from the possibility of jellyfish.  They covered our entire body but surprisingly were not hot or uncomfortable.  We set off for snorkeling from the island and began seeing fish and coral right away. Some of the most interesting things were  the giant clams and different colored corals.  Some people saw some huge fish, I did not.  I only lasted out in the water for awhile before feeling nauseous.  Lyndon stayed out much longer.  Once everyone came in from snorkeling we took a walking tour of the island. It is home to MANY birds. One bird sounded like R2D2.  There was a lighthouse there and a home for the caretakers of the island.  They made it very clear that you could not  take any shells or rocks from the island in order to keep it protected.  After the island tour we went back to the boat and had lunch. Afterwards some of us went on the glass bottom boat (me) while others snorkeled some more (Lyndon).  We headed back home, into a few clouds but stayed mostly dry. The sun had stayed out most of the day so I was glad I had grabbed the sunglasses and sunscreen!

When we got back to the resort I went for a walk to the beach . It is a very pretty location that was a nature reserve.  There were many paths and trails to explore but we did not have  a lot of time. I got in a quick walk before we headed back into town for dinner.  We went to a place called The Watergate. It really was one of the best meals I have had.

The next morning I got up early to get another walk in.  I was heading around a corner to check out the pond full of frogs ( you could hear them so loudly) and there were two wallabies standing there. One bounced off but the other one was staring at me. I did not know if they were aggressive or not so I snapped a picture and left ( they are not). I did not get to the pond but oh well.  The wallaby had a baby in its pouch! So cute.

After the walk and breakfast we had to head to the airport.We got to Sydney in the afternoon and to the hotel by 5:00. The Sheraton was right across from church so we were able to make it to 6:00 mass. The cathedral is absolutely beautiful. When we were there 10 years ago it was under renovation so we did not get to see its true beauty.  We then went to the pier for dinner. That night we got a call saying my flight was cancelled but they were getting me on a later flight. So instead of leaving at 6:30 in the morning I did not have to leave until 12:45.  I took advantage of this and took a 3 hour walk around Sydney.  It is such  a pretty city!

 

 

Chinese New Year Boracay Phillipines

This year for Chinese New Year we went to Boracay in the Phillipines.  The trip was very long for a location that is really only a few hours away. We flew to Manilla, then to Caticlan.  After that we had to take a short bus ride to the port to take a ferry to Boracay.. From there we took a taxi to the hotel.  All in all it took about 8 hours.   We enjoyed our stay, relaxing on the beach, sipping drinks under an umbrella, running on the beach and even parasailing.  The weather was not supposed to be great but it actually was very nice. The beach was beautiful and the water was a perfect temperature.  The island is very picturesque but very touristy as well. There were sand artists everywhere.  One night we went to a restaurant called the Spider Web. It was in an old house that was converted into a hotel and restaurant.  And yes many spider webs!  It was situated for beautiful sunset views, so very crowded.  We had to share a table with another couple which was fine. We struck up a conversation and it happened to be that the man was Andrew Nicholson, a former NBA player and now a Chinese League player. He played at ST Bonaventure in college and was a physics major. I asked what he would have done if not played basketball and he said he had wanted to be a doctor. Pretty smart guy.  He and his girlfriend were very nice and we had an enjoyable evening ( and a beautiful sunset). The biggest drawback was once again it took forever to get home. Door to door was 12 hours!

Misc February

We were  able to join in many fun activities during the month of February as well as travelling during Chinese New Year. There was an exhibit of Chanel history , clothing, jewelry, etc.  I did a glass blowing class and made two flowers.  (with lots of help)

I attended a paper sculpture exhibit in Harbor City. Our galloping gourmet group went to an Israeli restaurant on Lamma Island. The food was incredible.  I went to a cooking class that focused on Fish.  We went on  a junk boat dinner cruise.  And we enjoyed an invigorating ( ie. exhausting ) hike of Jardine’s Lookout and Mount Butler .

February 1, 2018 Dapeng Fortress

Today we went to the Dapeng Fortress  outside of Shenzen China. It is a fortress built in 1394 to protect the area from pirates . Once the pirates were no longer a threat and the British had Hong Kong, the fortress was no longer necessary. Today it is an historical village filled with cute alleys, courtyards and streets. There are many unique shops, coffee houses, and cafes. We went through a museum that was run by a local man. It is not an official government museum and the items were just collections of “things” collected over the years. They depicted life of the normal Chinese life . Some of the ladies on the trip joined in on the fun of drinking with the locals.   We learned the history of the village , ate lunch and then stopped in a kitchen to make traditional rice cookies. They showed us how they browned the rice, ground it into flour, added syrup to make the batter, mixed to the right consistency, pressed into molds, pounded them, then baked on the fire. We were able to take part in all the steps.  Unfortunately in my opinion the cookies were hard and dry. After that we went to an artist’s show/studio where we had a quick lesson in ink calligraphy art.  We painted plum blossoms on silk fans.  OK they were  not the best but it was fun.  It was a cold day and long rides on the bus but I really enjoyed it all. The other AWA ladies were so nice and fun. It is always a great way to make new friends while learning something new.

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