Posts Tagged With: great memories

Travel Theme: Dancing

Ailsa over at where’s my backpack has asked us to post some photos on dancing. I immediately thought about Cuba. The passion and love for dance is a cultural thing which is awesome to witness and join in on. My best memory was when we went to Cuba and during dinner the band struck up some music and suddenly the staff walked away from their duties and started to dance. It quickly became a dance party (after the shock of some dinners) with most tourists and the staff laughing, cheering and dancing all together. As quickly as it all started they returned to work. I don’t have any photos of this fun phenomenon, but here are a few others from Cuba.

Cuba -Day show put on by the resort staff.

Cuba -Day show put on by the resort staff.

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Tropicana – Havana, Cuba

What better example of Cuban dance and love of music than the infamous Tropicana in Havana?

Don’t forget to check out Ailsa’s page to see more examples or take part in the challenges. Everyone is welcome 🙂

Stay tuned…. next week there will be more.

 

Categories: Culture, Photography, post a week, travel, unique experiences, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hell of a Hike: The Forbidden City

This is part 3 of our recent trip to Beijing.

After 2 early starts and many miles put on our tired and weary feet we had a later start to our day as we planned to do a self guided tour of the Forbidden City. After another breakfast of coffee and pastry from the bakery next door we set off to the metro stop which was conveniently right in front of our hotel. After our walk to Tian ‘anmen Square, the long way round on Friday, we decided the metro was a better option. The Beijing Metro is extensive and covers large ground. 2 RMB (about 30 cents) to most stops is a super cheap way to travel.

After 2 short stops we arrived at our destination and when we excited the subway, police and security were blocking access to Tian ‘amen Square . We assumed it was due to the large crowds that were already congregating there. We were on the opposite side to the Forbidden City, so back in the metro we exited on the opposite side of the road and joined the crowds pushing towards the entrance. We hoped we wouldn’t be held back here.  Surprisingly the crowds moved quickly and we were inside the grounds. Queues were in different locations and we were not sure exactly where to wait to buy our admission tickets. No one was barring our entrance, so we pushed on through various gates after snapping a few photos. Finally we came to a location where tickets were being presented. With broken English a fellow directed us where to go. Many agent windows were open and the process was slow going. Luckily a gentleman came and pointed to an empty wicket and with some hesitation we moved forward. Luckily a new window opened and we got our tickets within minutes and were inside the next set of grounds.

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During the Ming and Qing Dynasties the Forbidden City was home for 24 Emperors.  It is relatively new (1368-1644) not as old or ancient as I would have thought. Our guide, Jason,  from the previous day said most palaces were moved or built a new with each Emperor, so only 1 other is still in existence today. An Imperial Palace housing numerous Emperors over generations was usual. The Forbidden  Palace grounds  contain over 8 700 rooms. The moat which is 52m wide is backed by a thick stone wall which stretches 10m high which provided further protection. Today it only keeps tourists out and allows entrances and exits through its 4 main gates.

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Part of the moat inside the city walls. Only beautiful stone work walls here on the inside.

Today was a disappointing day as the pollution, fog and smog made for a cloudy dull day. The brilliant reds, greens and yellows were lost in this dullness that enveloped everything. It was barely above 5˚c, not the sunny high of 15˚c that was predicted. Best to keep moving. I am not sure what I expected but the many buildings all looked similar and none allowed entrance inside. An opening over a railing allowed you a peek inside if you could stand the crowds jostling and vying for position to get a look. Never mind stopping to pose for a photo because you would be taking someone else’s profile or back of their head. Rarely will people stop and wait as you take a photo, often they walk through your shot oblivious to what you are doing. The sparsely decorated rooms were not much to see. Some were covered with plastic coverings or layers of polluted dust. Such a shame to let a large part of history fade away. I guess I expected more opulence and splendor since it was forbidden to most commoners in the day. The wind picked up and despite my many layers, gloves, hat and scarf I was chilled and starting to feel miserable. This only added to the feeling of an anti-climax and we questioned this is it? Additionally, knowing now we will leave China next year added to my sadness. Slowly our plans and excitement around Asia is coming to an end  as so many things are getting crossed off our “Must See List”. The anticipation and feeling of ample time is turning to a feeling of loss and sadness to an interesting place that has been home and sooner than later will only be a collection of memories and photographs.

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Tour guides, who approached us outside the main gates and audio tours were available, but we decided to do it at our own pace. The local guides are not hired by the location, so we were leery of how authentic and true their information may be. Not to mention you must wonder if they will scam you later for a large price than agreed on. We may have taken the audio tour, but to be honest we didn’t seek it out and we didn’t notice a place where this was available. With our limited Chinese we decided not to ask, but instead use the well posted signs around the City in convenient locations that explained briefly what we were looking at in Mandarin and English.

Inside one of the many Forbidden City Rooms

Inside one of the many Forbidden City Rooms

The most surprising thing I learned was of the large stone wall and moat that ran around the Forbidden City. Little of the city wall is left today, but the similar style of wall  is still visible here. The moat, still filled with water, can be seen just after you enter near the Tian’anmen square gate. Moats seem more medieval Europe than Chinese, so it was something that really caught my attention.  Our tour guide from our Great Wall Tour told us that today’s Tian’anmen Square used to be part of the Forbidden City, the Emperor’s front yard, he explained. The gardens in the rear of the palace are the only ones left today. The square was built after a model of the Soviet squares in  Russia something that is not normally seen in Chinese city planning. Tian’anmen Square means Gate of Heavenly Peace and according to Wikipedia was destroyed during heavy fighting during a former dynasty. The name of the former gate was used to name the square Tian’anmen.

Stay tuned for more… next time the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, post a week, teaching overseas, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Beijing: Hell of a Hike -The Great Wall

Saturday morning the alarm went off way too early and woke us for our next Beijing adventure. This was the day we were heading out to the Great Wall. Bleary eyed and sore from the rock hard bed we got dressed and ready for the tour we booked with the Grey Line tour desk that was located in our hotel lobby. We grabbed some baked goods and coffee for a breakfast on the bus from a great bakery beside the hotel, Xinqiao Sapporo Bakery. Their croissants were excellent. We rushed to make it to check in just in time to find the bus had not yet arrived. A few minutes late the bus arrived and we loaded onto the coach and waited to leave.

The tour guide informed us we would be getting dropped off at another hotel and going with a different guide. Our first stop on the tour was the Olympic Park. From a raised platform we has some great views of the Water Cube, an interesting building that looks like someone blew a bunch of bubbles. The glass is iridescent and bulges out in small 3 dimensional sections.  The way the light plays off the glass really added to the effect. The Bird’s Nest was a tangle of patterns. The few minutes to snap a few photos wasn’t enough to really appreciate the complexes. If we had more time in Beijing this would have been a place to go back to explore at leisure.

Traffic in Beijing like any big city is busy. Saturday there are no restrictions and all cars are allowed access to highways. With today being a warmer, sunny day many people were escaping the city. We crawled along to our next stop which was a tourist trap to show a variety of jade cutting and designs. The short tour ended in a large over priced show room where they sold everything from jewellery, knick knacks and larger statue style pieces. Back on the bus our next destination was the wall. It was creeping up on mid day and the anticipation and reason for the trip was starting to build as I kept thinking “are we there yet?”

Another turn off the highway and the mountains came into view. We strained our eyes wondering if this was the wall… not yet, but we were getting closer. After we went through a small village and started to twist, turn and climb we came to the parking area where we were let off to the entrance of Mutianyu. A steep climb past many vendors selling everything for a ‘dollar’ brought us to the entrance to the cable car. A steep ride up brought the breathtaking views of the wall perched along the ridge finally into view. Jason, our guide, left us at Tower 14 and told us to return in two hours.

First Views of the Wall

First Views of the Wall

Surprisingly out of breath we started the trek on the wall. Uneven and broken stones paved the way to a misty view with dotted towers in the distance. After a narrow climb through the crowds we set off onto the rolling path that stretched out before us. Tower 20 was the goal; a steep climb straight up. Each twist and turn brought in a new view which my 200+ photographs can attest to. Some towers allowed a bird’s eye view from high above that is you could make the awkward and precarious climb. Mutianyu is said to be the most picturesque section of the wall and it certainly lived up to that claim with steep mountains, deep valleys and stepped terraces. The landscape was still dusty brown with spring coming later to this elevation. Small patches of snow clung onto the shade in a few shadows along the wall, more evidence that spring had not yet arrived.

Breathtaking Views

Breathtaking Views

The steps were wide and shallow, not what I expected. It made walking difficult since it didn’t fit your usual stride. Flat sections were welcomed, but slippery and hard on the calves on the way down. The elevation made even the slightest exertion seem difficult. The steep climb kept getting closer. After about tower 16 the crowds thinned and I had the wall mostly to myself. John had run ahead to ensure he had time to reach the top of tower 20 in the short time we had. Looking around it seemed so surreal that I was here, a place of history and where few people may ever have the luxury to visit. I pressed on and started the climb up to tower 20. Low walls on the sides and the elevation started to make me feel light headed and dizzy. I easily could have made it up, but feared the decent with a dizzy head and no railings to help support me for the return. Checking the time I knew I wouldn’t make it to the top gate and I was forced to head back. I made it a quarter or third of the way up. I returned to our meeting place and waited for John. Just in the nick of time John came running back. He made it to gate 23 which, is crumbling away. According to our guide Jason, many parts of the wall are now allowed to crumble since it is not needed for security and too hard to manage and maintain. Enough places are preserved to support the tourists, so the majority of the wall is now off-limits or unsafe for visitors. John made it to this limit which he described as amazing.

Here are some Great Wall Facts:

Chinese Name: 长城/万里长城
Chinese Pinyin: Cháng Chéng/Wàn Lǐ Cháng Chéng
Length: 8,851.8 km (5,500 miles)
Construction Period: About 2,000 years from the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC) to Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)  This section is 7-8.5 m high (23-26 ft).                                                                                                                                                               From: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china_great_wall/

We really lucked out with great sunny weather. The day before and day after our trip was cold, damp and very smoggy. We certainly would have missed the amazing views and scenery if we had come another day. We headed back to the city tired and worn out. One more stop at a tea factory where they quickly showed us a tea ceremony and then allowed us to taste many teas. Most time was spent encouraging us to buy. We stumbled tired and exhausted back to the bus after  a long and most amazing day. We will sleep well tonight —even on the rock hard beds.

Stay tuned for more… next time the Forbidden City.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, travel, Uncategorized, unique experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

Forward… one step in front of the other….

moving, slowly through time and space.

Where will it take you?

Is the path destiny or can you choose the direction?

Work, family, life pulling you in so many directions.

Can you move forward while everything else stands still?

I have changed and I have grown

Will I fit where I once did?

Forward… one step in front in the other….

slowly moving until I get there.

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Looking through my photos I couldn’t find what I was looking for to show me moving forward. I thought about my passport and without it I couldn’t have moved forward. Travel has opened doors and given me opportunities I would have never had otherwise. My passport will always allow me to move forward…

What helps you move forward?

Check out more examples of the theme forward at the word press site here.

 

Categories: Photography, post a week, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , ,

Snow Shanghai Style

This week it snowed in Shanghai! Snow is a rare occurrence with our location about comparable to the latitude of Texas in the United States. Winters are usually mild, but feel colder due to the high humidity which translates into dampness that chills you to the bone! The first year I was here we had 2 small snowfalls one in December and the other January. Last year during Chinese New Year it was a biting cold with snow flurries, but nothing on the ground. This winter was cold and came a bit earlier than usual. I expected snow, but I never saw any. In early January just before we all returned to work there was snow, but I can’t speak of amounts since I missed it. The day we returned to work it did snow, and a few flurries filled the air and mere skiff covered the ground. It was short lived though.

Have you ever seen snow on a palm tree before?

Have you ever seen snow on a palm tree before?

While I was away on Chinese New Year holiday this year  it snowed again. Most of us were long gone to other holiday destinations, but a few teachers who stayed behind said it was a good amount for Shanghai and it left 2 maybe 3 cm of the white stuff on the ground. This week it snowed with another 2-4 cm of slushy white snow covering the ground. Reports were saying snow was in the forecast, but because it is so rare it is one of those “seeing is believing” things. I awoke very early Tuesday morning thanks to jet lag and peeked out the window. Everything was wet and it appeared it had rained. In the distance the highway, which is usually visible on clear days, was blurry. I thought there was something on the window or my glasses. When I moved I knew it wasn’t me, but something outside. It must be snow! Sure enough it started to move towards me and the usual landmarks slowly became blotted out. In the street lamps I could see the heavy wet stuff coming down hard. My first thought… snow day???

The slightest snow often causes delays and school or bus cancellations, but no phone calls. School was still on. I kept

Wet Slushy Snow Covering the Flowers

Wet Slushy Snow Covering the Flowers

watching as the snow started to cover cars and trees. Deciding not to take my electric scooter I went to catch our staff bus. It was a slushy, slippery mess outside. The flakes were big and fluffy though and it looked beautiful falling down, like feathers in the sky. I snapped a few shots, but my memory card beeped at me to announce it was full. Oh no of all days! The children were super excited about the snow, but we had indoor recess due to how wet it was. No one here comes dressed for snow, so no boots never mind  a snow suit in sight, so we had to enjoy the snow through the windows. By 10 AM the snow had stopped and by noon it was only a memory as most of it was all melted. The children were excited if they found a small pile of slush clinging to existence a little longer than the rest.

What was the weather like where you were this week?

Stay tuned for more 🙂

 

Categories: Chinese Adventures, everyday occurances, post a week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

Kiss 😡

My nephews were getting their Valentine Cards ready and I told the youngest to put hugs and kisses on his card to his teacher. He is in Junior Kindergarten, so without a second thought he put the little X’s and O’s on the card.

He said “I want to make some more X’s”

I said “Oh more hugs?”

My brother and husband looked at me funny and said “What??? I thought X’s were kisses?”

I explained that I thought a hug was an X because you crossed your arms around someone… that looks like an X. An O then must be a kiss since your mouth makes an O shape when you kiss. They thought it was hysterical.

What do you think and X and O stand for? A hug or a kiss?

To my husband who is halfway around the world.

To my husband who is halfway around the world.

See more examples of KISS or join in the challenge over at Word Press 🙂

Stay tuned for more next week… or follow me at twitter @Rocse1.

 

 

Categories: Photography, post a week, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Travel Theme: Gaudy

Due to travelling back to Canada for Chinese New Year I missed out on posting on the theme walls and unique. With my computer and external hard drive back in Shanghai I thought I would miss out on this theme too, but found a little treasure tucked away on a USB I happened to have with me.

We haven’t been able to travel much this year with John returning back to Canada in November. His step mom has found out she has stage 3 ovarian cancer and he came back to help out his family as much as he could. I have made the long trips back for Christmas and now Chinese New Year to be with family and John. However we did have a last-minute (short) trip to Seoul, South Korea for the recent October holiday.

When we were in Korea it was Korean Thanksgiving. People were off work, shops and banks were closed and special events like a night parade with outdoor concerts were part of the festivities. John and I went out to explore the night when we saw this fellow all dressed in a gaudy, shiny, white,  paten leather (or vinyl) suit. He was driving a motorcycle or electric scooter which was decked out in silver and white heart-shaped balloons. It was also spewing bubbles! I am not sure what he was advertising or doing, but with the heart shapes and bubbles we thought he was spreading joy and love. It made us laugh. It was certainly unique and gaudy, but made us happy. Events like these make great travelling stories and memories to last a life time.

The White Love Devil?

The White Love Devil?

We saw him driving around and didn’t think we would get a photo. He drove by a few times too fast, or too far away. We happened luck out and snap this photo, which he happily posed for when his bubble machine got clogged up and he stopped at an intersection to fix it. We quickly ran over before he sped off into the night once again.

Looking at his horns and hearts I wonder… is this the White Love Devil? Just in time for Valentine’s Day. 🙂

Is this gaudy enough for you? If not check out Alisa’s page where you can find hundreds of other posts with examples.

 

Categories: Culture, Photography, post a week, strange adventure, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Penny for Your Thoughts

Penny, Canadian 1858-2013

Yesterday after a long battle the Canadian penny was laid to rest. The Canadian penny is predeceased by the Australian (1911-1964), New Zealand (1940-1989) and Irish (1928-2000) pennies. The American penny (1793- ) and the British penny live on. The Canadian penny was dressed with Queen Elizabeth on her head’s side and Canadian Maple Leaf or Leaves on her tail. Penny was older than Canada the country herself (1867). The shiny copper colour, sometimes faded and tarnished, will be missed in pockets, under sofa cushions and in the ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ dishes across the country.

Even Google got into the action with a doodle for the day.

Even Google got into the action with a doodle for the day.

After debate and many thoughts the Canadian Government decided to lay the penny to rest since it was smarter to stop making it with the cost of making a penny being more that it was worth (1.6 cents if you are wondering). The last penny was minted last year and they will now slowly be phased out of circulation. Vendors can now decide to accept them or not after Monday February 4th, 2013. Cash registers will be programmed to round up or down to the closest 5 (or 10) cents. The recommendation is 1-2 cents round down, but who are we kidding? Do you think shops will actually round down? Well according to the news last night a few stores had.

Yesterday I went to 2 places and each time had to use pennies. (I arrived in Canada early Sunday evening from Shanghai). They were gladly accepted and my order was not rounded up nor down to the nearest 5 cents. The news reported last night not all cash registers have been programmed to do so just yet, so it may be a slow process. Charites are cashing in and collecting all the pennies they can according to many news reports. In addition, the news last summer reported many people were  holding onto a precious few. The now discontinued penny has become a memento and something to show the children and grandchildren to marvel over in years to come.

The Penny rotated showing both sides. Funnily enough it is a 2013 penny, which is non-existant and will never be minted.

The Penny rotated showing both sides. Funnily enough it is a 2013 penny, which is non-existant and will never be minted.

As we grow old we may find it harder to give up on all things familiar as technology and advancements force us to make changes we may not like or be ready to accept. Now as many Canadians ask  ‘where were you?’ or ‘what were you doing when the penny died?’ we need to come up with a new phrase since a ‘penny for your thoughts’ no longer will have meaning. Any ideas? Pennies are were great for making wishes, what will we use now? What about finding pennies for good luck? I guess they will be an even luckier find now.   Now that the penny is gone sights are set on removing the nickel. The penny’s production will save an estimated 11 million dollars a year according the CBC.ca article. Nothing in the article or news reports has  stated what the spending will be used on instead. Hopefully Penny’s passing will be used for good and bring life to a much required area of need.

Collection of pennies from my purse

Collection of pennies from my purse

Penny for your thoughts…?

Stay tuned…

Categories: post a week | Tags: , , , , ,

Art Street: Shanghai

Shanghai seems to have a street or market for everything. At Science and Technology is the fake market where you can buy designer clothes, bags, watches that can fool even the best trained eye. There is also an electronics market that sells all brands of computers, phones and cameras plus more. I have even been to a glasses market that has 2 or more floors of vendors selling glasses… talk about overwhelming! It is worth going to though and for the price of 1 lens in Canada I got two pairs of glasses (frames AND lenses) all made in an hour! That was worth the trip across the city through a maze of streets and subway changes.

Art Street Shanghai

Art Street Shanghai

In September, a small group of us went to Art Street where copied or original art can be purchased. Some pieces are super cheap! The street was long and narrow and we arrived as most vendors were just setting up shop for the day. Funny how in most cities you avoid narrow alleys, but here we seek them out! Paintings were displayed outside of shops no larger than a guest bathroom and just as tight to move around. Piles of paintings 10-20 deep lined the walls in a variety of sizes and designs. Some were better than others, but looking to bring colour to your school apartment plain and boring  white walls it was worth a look. However, John and I didn’t go to buy, but for the experience.

One of the many fantastic painters on Art Street.

One of the many fantastic painters on Art Street.

We quickly saw all we could see and were at the end of the small alley. A sign in Chinese pointed up a narrow outdoor staircase, so we decided to have a look. Above the street was more shops with not only paintings, but fabulous furniture hand carved and in many designs. Upholstery was also offered here.

Who knew Mona Lisa was in Shanghai?

Who knew Mona Lisa was in Shanghai?

Back downstairs more vendors had arrived and started to paint. It was interesting to watch as they carefully copied a small  picture from a book onto canvas. The detail was incredible…. We watched each carefully laid stroke and colour to become a part of a work of art. Some vendors even copy photos! Amazing…

Often the workers bring their small children to work. Watching them play beside the beautiful elephant carvings was a great opprotunity for a qucik shot.

Often the workers bring their small children to work. Watching them play beside the beautiful elephant carvings was a great opportunity for a quick shot.

Just wandering the simple streets and watching the people made me realise why we are still here and love Shanghai. You never know what you are going to see… there is always something new to discover and the reward of finding it brings joy and builds many happy memories that we will forever cherish of our time when we once lived in China. Something I still have to remind myself…. a girl from a small 3 stop light town left the comforts of all things familiar and is living in the bright lights and big city of Shanghai! This is me… pinch me am I still dreaming?

Me trying to be artistic :)

Me trying to be artistic 🙂

Makes me think of meeting some of my old teachers and classmates at a reunion… they would be shocked to know the quiet shy girl they once knew  is living abroad. What do you think someone would find unbelievable about you?

 

Stay tuned… Immie has awarded me Blog of 2012 and I will post on that shortly…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, everyday occurances, Photography, post a week | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette, Couples & Smiles

This week the three photo challenges can fit together with the right photos, so lets give it a go.

WordPress has set the theme “silhouette”, Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack “couples” and Island Traveller “smiles”. Click the links to join the challenges, or to see more for each theme.

Taking pictures of shadows is always fun and they can look like the silly mirrors from the fun house where you are tall and unnaturally thin, as your limbs are stretched out long and spindly. My husband and I pose together for a silhouetted kiss. Each day he brings a smile to my face and having a wonderful vacation brings smiles to us both as we recall the good times.

This pair of tall silhouetted wooden posts in Seoul had funny faces and goofy smiles. They made me laugh as I wondered what they were all about.

I have been saving this picture up for a while knowing at some point a photo challenge would come along it would be perfect for. This summer in Cuba I spotted this lizard inside a plastic light cover and its silhouette against the yellowish light turned out just right. It isn’t a couple, but if you read my post titled Cuban Critters you know the lizard stories that made us laugh and smile.


For those of you who don’t know I have been nominated for a Canadian Top Blog through the  Jonathan Kleiman – Toronto Law  web site. I am up for round 1 and voting ends Nov. 1. I’d appreciate your time to check it out and vote for me to move on to the next phase. I am in the  Best Travel and Expat Blog category which is on the right bottom corner (last one). Click that box/bar to open the list of nominees. You get one vote, so be careful as I am listed twice, but one of them is ME and the other has my name and someone else’s link. I am Canadian Travel Bugs’s Blog with the http: Canadian Travel Bugs…. (the other one is CTB http first and a different website). You can do that here. Thanks so much to my readers,  followers and your support. Thanks for voting 🙂

As always stay tuned… there is always more.

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