Friday, April 14, 2017

Hiking on the Road to Shu

I discovered, on the YouTube, Hope Justman and her romance with the Road to Shu.  The episode was so enchanting that I called her last year to express interest in joining the tour she will lead in 2017.  Then Tom expressed interest in joining too.  Unfortunately the hikes would be a bit too difficult for Janice to join us.  So Tom and I started the journey together.  This is the first time ever that Tom and I traveled together without other siblings and spouses.  We were on the tour from March 13 to April 2. Tom and I then took a train to Qefu for a couple of days' visit.

Tom babysat me when I was very young.  As a teenager, he always wanted to hand me back to an adult so that he could go play basketball.
The four siblings took a picture together when I was five.  At that age, I looked at my two elder brothers as tall and scary guys.
Then I grew up and came to the United States.  The years in US has changed me, and Tom and I grew closer as years went by.  I still respect and admire him as my big brother, but I also felt more affectionate and more as a friend toward him now.  I am able to tease him, debate with him, and show my love to him.

And we enjoyed traveling together, even in the absence of other family members.

Our leader Hope is an intriguing and understanding kindred spirit.  She made the journey spontaneous and interesting.  Tom also taught her how to play Cheung Cards.
 Being interviewed by a reporter:

With a farmer friend:
Ordering dishes with Luping:
What did Mr. Chan say?
Opening the "beggar's chicken" for our picnic:

Sneaking on a photo oppotunity:
Inside a cave home:
Enjoying a foot message with Ginny and Steve in Cheng Shen (Dry village with dry's po yen ze)

 I enjoyed our fellow travelers too.

From left to right: Jim, Luping, Molly, Ginny, Barb, Larry, Hope, and Tyler.  Not the entire team as some wondered off to other places.

Molly and Tyler .  This is their first trip to China.
Ginny and Mary who have been friends before the trip.  Ginny's husband Phil unfortunately did not join much of the hikes due to his injured ankles. Mary's husband Steve loves to take pictures.
Steve found some nice objects on the trail to take pictures.
Phil joined us on a visit to Zhang Liang's Temple:

Jim used to be Barb's boss.  Barb and Larry are newly wed; 
Larry, Barbie and I did an extra hike together with Miss Li being our guide:
Miss Li provided me with another extra hike from Cypress Tree # 363 to Tree #1 (in PuAn). 
 A picture of me and Ms. Li taken by Hope:

Of course, the flagstones, cypress trees, and rape flowers were absolute highlights of the scenery. I was also constantly reminded by the stories and characters from the history: the three kingdoms, the Han, the Qin, the Tong.....


I wish that I could do more serious hiking in Jing Man Guan:  Perhaps there is a next time?!

What a trip!  Although the group also visited ChengDu and Xian (which I had been previously) in the beginning and at the end of our tour respectively, the two cities were no comparison to the places we visited in between.  This journey left me much to remember, especially the aspect of learning more about myself.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Visiting Maria's Farm

I have been looking forward to a visit of Maria's farm.  Dean and Maria picked me up at the LA port, and drove directly to farm.  It was quite fun.  I enjoyed listening to Maria's enthusiastic descriptions on various projects of hers.  And I am delighted to see Dean happy harvesting some fruits.  However, I was rather so under the weather.  I stayed in their home and tried to nurse my cold.  Even though I spent some time with Deana's family, regrettably I did not take any pictures at all.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

15 Days Panama Canal Voyage on Island Princess

Late last year Gail asked me to join her on a princess cruise across Panama Canal.  I am not much an ocean cruise enthusiastic, but thought that I ought to visit Panama Canal at least once.  So I said yes and felt that to escape winter in December is not too bad either.  So ought we went from January 19 to Feb 3, and from Port Everglades to Los Angels.  Along the way, we made stops at Aruba; Catagena, Columbia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; Huatulta, Mexico; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  The weather was warm, the food was great, and the shows are entertaining, although the at sea times were boring.

We visited the natural bridge, the light house (just the outside), and the beach.  They call themselves "the happy island".  But if you do not care for the water sports, this is a pretty boring place.

This is a far more interesting and colorful stop for me.  The port:
 We first visited the fort.  Gail resigned in waiting at the street level, while I climbed to the top.  We then went shopping and walked about the old town

 Hats were sold everywhere:

 We got to see a local dance:
Across the Canal:

Then it was time to across the Panama Canal. I got up early and saw the sunrise.
The crossing was not too dramatic.  It took $432,000 in total for the ship to go across.  Watched the documentary and indeed respect the people who were involved in the project building this canal!


We docked by the long board walk, and saw the nice beach stretched long.....

Shops were just close by to the dock.  one has to walk by them to reach the beach
Gail negotiated for $5 each to get on this boat to go dolphin watching for 30 minutes.

 But walking back to shore across the dry sand was VERY hot without the shoes!
We then did a little stroll and visited a local "Cathedral de Puntarenas"  A very nice simple stone church:

San Juan del Sur:
Approaching the shore:
But one has to ride on a smaller boat to get to the shore:

Gail negotiated a taxi driver to take us to Riva (a small town with colorful houses), which is about 20 miles away.  The driver could only speak Spanish, and Gail translated for me.  We learned the hard life of him.  He was sent to the civil war when he was only a teenager, and hence missed school.  He is working so hard now to support his family. He and his wife now have a farm that they try to grow vegetables and tend cows.  A pretty honest man with a hard life. He appreciates the current government who is trying to improve the life of ordinary people.  I have heard these kind of stories in other parts of central and south America, as well as in China.  Most of the people are struggling to make a living.  Make me more grateful for what I have in my life.

We visited a church and a park across the church, and a street market in Riva.  Gail felt uncomfortable when we were on the street market.  Many local men looked at us rather in an unfriendly way.
Before we arrived Riva, we made a stop to look at the largest lake with volcano mountains in the distance.  The lake had strong waves, and the government has built wind mills for energy.

Street scenes in Riva:

The church and the park across the church.  You have to pay $1 person to go inside the church, while the park is open to the public.:

The driver then dropped us off at a restaurant his son works.  We had some snacks and watched people and the beach:

I bought some lovely woodwork from this woman who set up a stand by the beach:
This horse drawn carriage is just as charming as the ones in big US or Canada cities:

The main activity we had in Huatulco was to visit the archaeological site  Copalita:

 While walking on the site, we did a little climb to see the coast

 Then the tour guide took us to see the museum, where some artifacts were exhibited.  He said that the good ones were long taken by the Spanish and portages folks.

We had a bit leisure time before heading back to the ship.  Gail bought some items for gifts from a young woman carrying her baby on her back. And we enjoyed a meal in a restaurant right be the waterfront.

Then we said good-bye to Huatulco:
Puerto Vallarta:

We did a city tour which let us see the water front, the Guadalupe church, the tequila factory, a bit Mexico dancing and horse show, and a shop of hand tile painting.  A very colorful and touristy day.
 The welcoming band:
 Riding to the city:

 The waterfront is quite interesting.  I wish I could be able to stay longer.  The sculptures are fun to look at.


 The Guadeloupe Church:

 The hand painted tiles re so beautiful:
The tequila factory and entertainment for lunch:

I learned about the art and passion of Frida Kahlo from Gail.  Her life was so tragic though.
The cruise ended after two days at sea before docking at Los Angels.  Gail and I then went separate ways.  When on board, we certainly enjoyed together much good food, the wonderful service of our waitress from Bruzil, the shows, and the lovely string quartets!