Tantalizing Tasmania

The second leg of our Australian trip took us to Tasmania. By far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The land is gorgeous. The people friendly. The culture fascinating. And the food delicious. Tasmania was a joy.

Day 1

Our flight from Melbourne landed in Hobart without any problem and we were soon on our way in our baby blue Toyota Corolla to our hotel apartment in the Battery Point neighborhood of Hobart.

It was a quick journey to the hotel and we were soon in our lovely apartment. Once we had settled in we decided to go for a late afternoon walk around the harbor.

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We first walked around Salamanca Place, which is a neat area of restaurants, pubs, and local stores. We weaved our way through the different buildings and wandered around the different stores. From there we walked along the harbor. We saw a seal outside a floating restaurant and market waiting for one of the fishmongers to give it fish scraps. It was interesting to see the seal hold back the seagulls who also wanted some fish. After watching the seal for a bit, Jun and I went to a floating ice cream parlor and bought some delicious Tasmanian ice cream. We continued our walk around the harbor. We soon grew tired and decided to buy some food from one of the floating restaurants and bring it back to our apartment.

We had a delicious meal and a quiet evening. It was a nice way to start our stay in Tasmania.

Day 2

On our second day we went and explored the area north of the harbor in Hobart. We had brunch at the Picnic Café and was happy with our delicious savory waffles.

Once we were fully charged we continued to walk around the area. We then walked through the Queens Domain to get to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. These gardens were gorgeous. There were tulips, orchids, and a lot of native flora, such as banksia and waratah. We had a nice time walking around the gardens. Even when it rained for a bit, it was nice to sit in one of the lookouts and enjoy the gentle rain falling over us. It was a tranquil retreat.

After the rain had stopped, we walked around the gardens a bit more before we went back to central Hobart. From there we again went to Salamanca Place and went up Kelly’s Steps to Battery Point. We walked along Hampstead Road and saw some neat bakeries, stores, and restaurants. We saw an Indian restaurant that we decided we would try later that day.

We went back to the apartment and decided to take a drive up to Mount Wellington to see if we could get up to the summit. Unfortunately, we were only able to go midway to the Springs due to inclement weather. From where we were it was snowing! We walked a bit around that area before we went back down to the apartment.

Once back we rested for a bit and went to have dinner at Magic Curries. The food there was amazing and the family running it was lovely. It was a nice way to end our day.

Day 3

Today had us driving out of the city to Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula. Port Arthur Historic Site was the top place I wanted to visit in Tasmania. When I was working on my first master’s thesis, I did a lot of research on Port Arthur and it was great to actually visit the site.

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The drive to the Tasman Peninsula was simply beautiful. It was a quiet drive and we really enjoyed the journey there. Once we got to the site we spent a few hours exploring the area. It was fascinating to learn more about transporting and the convict history of Australia. The area was beautifully maintained and showed a lot of nuance in how the site has been interpreted.

After having explored the area we soon traveled to the Tasman Arch and the Devils Kitchen. The Tasman Arch was quite impressive. From there we went to see the Tessellated Pavement a little north of this area. This second area was really beautiful and interesting. The local geology had created natural groves into the rock that made it look like a brick laid road. There was also quite a variety of sea life there. Some of them were weird and creepy.

After spending an enjoyable time there, we soon were on our way back to Hobart. When we got back Jun and I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Blue Eye Seafood. The meal was delicious and a perfect way to end the day.

Day 4

Today was a mix of different things. Our first destination took us to Mount Field National Park. The drive through the Derwent Valley was absolutely gorgeous. The spring weather made the surrounding area seem vibrant and alive with renewed energy. It was a great way to start the day.

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When we got to the national park, we quickly got started with the hike around the lower areas. We first went to Russell Falls. The waterfall was beautiful and was surrounded by some wonderful trees. From there we went up to Horseshoe Falls, which was equally nice. We then continued our hike up to the tall Eucalyptus regnans trees. These trees are second in height only to the California redwoods. We then continued our hike towards Lady Barron Falls. From there we went back down towards the visitor center. Mount Field National Park was a nice way to start the day.

By the time we were done we were ready for lunch. We went to the nearby town of Westerway and ate at the Possum Shed Café. It was situated next to the Tyenna River and had a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. Once we were content, we were soon on our way to our next destination.

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Being in Australia, we decided to go to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary to see indigenous animals. The first thing we got to do there was to see and feed kangaroos. We were a bit hesitant at first, but then warmed up to the idea of being so close to them. We also were able to see Tasmanian devils, a variety of local beds, and more sleeping koalas. It was a nice getting to see so many different varieties of animals.

From there we took a quick drive to the historic village of Richmond . We walked around the village and visited the old Richmond Gaol, ate some ice cream, and went to some of the shops in the village. We also saw the oldest bridge in Australia still in use. By the time we had gone around the village, Jun and I were ready to head back to Hobart.

When we got back we rested for a bit before going out to dinner and calling it a day.

Day 5

Our last full day in Tasmania. We took a drive south towards Tahune Forest Reserve where we planned on visiting Tahune Adventures. The main attraction there is a steel canopy walkway that allows people to walk amongst the tree canopy. It was really neat to get to walk around the trees and see the surrounding area. It was breathtaking. As there weren’t a lot of people there as well, it was quite serene.

After the canopy walk we continued to hike the area around the river. That was also nice and we got to see a lot of the local flora. I especially liked seeing the different ferns there.

We then decided to go back to Hobart and have afternoon tea at Jackman & McRoss. It was a nice treat.

From there we decided to go back up Mount Wellington and try to reach the pinnacle. The weather, fortunately, cooperated with us and we were able to take the scary drive up there. It was worth it. The views from the top were amazing. You could see the city below us. And we were at the same elevation as many clouds. It was really a sight to behold.

Once we were done enjoying the view. We drove back to our hotel and had a lovely dinner at Mezethes Greek Taverna. The food there was amazing. And that was a fine way to end our day.

Day 6

Our last day in Tasmania and Australia.

The first thing we did after finishing packing and checking out was to walk down to the Salamanca Saturday Market. That was really neat. There were a variety of things to see, eat, and buy. It was really fun. We ended up buying a few souvenirs as well.

From there we went to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). The museum is built next to a winery and had spectacular views. The collections at the museum were really interesting. And the interior was designed in a way that created an interactive environment. Jun and I agreed that it was a stimulating way to design a museum. It was a great way for us to end our trip.

Sadly, from the museum we had to go to the airport. We ended up having an effortless travel experience. It was just a long travel experience of going from Hobart to Melbourne to Hong Kong to Shenzhen and finally to Guangzhou.

Overall, the trip was wonderful and we were happy that we had been able to spend two memorable weeks in Australia.

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Vivacious Victoria

Two years together! Two celebrate our second wedding anniversary, Jun and I decided to go to Australia. We chose to go to Victoria and Tasmania for two weeks.

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Our first week was spent in Victoria. We based ourselves in Melbourne and went around the surrounding area. It was a wonderful time there. We essentially fell in love with Melbourne!

Day 1

We arrived early in the morning and went through immigration without any problems. But when it came to getting our baggage we ended up losing one of our bags. So we had to go make a claim to see if our bag could be found. Fortunately the airline—Cathay Pacific—did find the bag and sent it to our hotel later that day. But it was strange since it was a direct flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne. Once the claim was made we went out to Hertz to get our car. We received a really nice Hyundai and were soon ready to head into Carlton to our hotel. I was a bit nervous about driving on the left side of the road, but it ended up being easy.

Once we found the hotel we were able to check-in and park the car, but had to wait for our room to be ready for later that afternoon. Jun and I decided to walk around central Melbourne and explore the area. We were both half-asleep from the overnight flight, but we enjoyed going around the city. Our favorite place was Victoria Market. It was a neat place with such a hodgepodge of things to see and buy. By mid-afternoon we were ready for a nap and went back to the hotel and went straight to our room for a shower and a nap.

When we woke up we were only up to going out for a walk to find some food to eat at our hotel. After finishing up eating we went to bed.

Day 2

On our second day in Melbourne we spent most of the day at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens were gorgeous and had a spectacular variety of plants.

We decided to walk towards the gardens from our hotel. We walked around Carlton Gardens and went down towards Flinders Station towards the Royal Botanical Gardens. While on the walk we found one of the alley lanes with graffiti art in Melbourne. It was an interesting mix of styles and was a really neat sight.

From there the walk to the gardens was nice and relaxing and we were able to spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon there. We also stopped by the Shrine of Remembrance as it was next to the gardens.

Then we spend the rest of the afternoon doing some shopping. The last thing we did that day was to go to the state library. The library was really nice. The main reading room was neat. After that we went to dinner and called it a day.

Day 3

We had a road trip to Grampians National Park! The drive was beautiful and the park was amazing. We took a hike towards Pinnacle Lookout. The walk was amazing. There were incredible sights of the surrounding area. The closer we got to the lookout the rockier it got. We had to cross these large slabs of rocks. And went we got up to Pinnacle Lookout the sight from there was beautiful! It was wonderful.

On the way back we went a different route and saw the lake on the other side of the trail. This second trail had only Jun and I on it and we got to spend some wonderful moments in such a serene environment. Soon we were ready to go back to Melbourne.

The drive back was equally nice. On the drive back Jun was doing research on where we should have dinner, and he found an Armenian restaurant not far from our hotel. So we ended up having Armenian food! It was quite delicious and made me nostalgic for my time in Armenia.

The Armenian food was a great way to end the day!

Day 4

This day was one of animals. We drove down to Phillips Island where we saw koalas, wallabies, and little penguins.

We first went to the Koala Conservation Centre on the island. The place was really nicely kept. And it was fun trying to find the koalas sleeping in the trees. They were of course sleeping since they sleep for about 20 hours a day! Jun and I had fun trying to find them in the different trees. They were so cute. I really enjoyed just walking around to find the koalas.

From the centre we had an amazing lunch by the sea at The Cape Kitchen. The food there was delicious, and the view from the restaurant was breathtaking. We enjoyed it so much that we took a quick walk around the grounds before we left.

After lunch we went to Churchill Island Heritage Farm where we got to see what a historic Australian farm was like. It was a really neat place. And we got to see a variety of animals there. The most amazing animals there were the wallabies. They were more active than the koalas!

When we were done with the farm we drove towards the Nobbies and explored the natural habitat of little penguins. While it was gorgeous there, it was so cold and windy. I left my jacket in the car, and hallway in our walk along the boardwalk I was regretting my decision. Besides being cold in the sea breeze it was really beautiful. We also got to see the little penguin burrows along the cliff. There were also geese and rabbits in the fields as well. After the walk we found a café where we got some hot chocolate that was a nice relief!

By the time we were done with our drinks it was time to go to Penguin Parade to end our day learning about little penguins. We chose a guided tour and it was amazing! Our guide taught us a lot about the penguins and pointed out how the little penguins lived. It was really cool to see them come out of the water and head back to their burrows. They were so cute. And it was really neat to see them go through their rituals. We had such a wonderful time there.

By then it was late and we had to drive back to Melbourne. When we got back we had an adventure trying to navigate the city to get back to the hotel. After figuring out the streets of Melbourne at night we finally found our way back to the Eminence and went to bed.

Day 5

Having driven long distances for the previous two days, we decided to stay in Melbourne. More like I insisted that I needed a break from driving and convinced Jun to spend the day in the city. It was worth it though. We slept in and then went out to have brunch at Victoria Market. After a nice meal at Victoria Café we bought some seafood at the market for dinner that night. We returned to the hotel to drop of the seafood and then went to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol.

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The goal was really interesting. There was a play about Ned Kelly that was informative. There were a lot of interesting facts about the prison system in Melbourne—both historic and contemporary. We also got to experience what it was like to be arrested in Melbourne in the 1990s in a very interactive experience.

Once we were done with the museum we went for a walk along the Yarra River. And from there we went back to the hotel to cook our mussels and shrimp. It was an amazing dinner.

The final thing we did was to go the IMAX theatre near our hotel to watch Venom on a really large scene. The movie was actually fun. When it was over we went back to the hotel for the night.

Day 6

Our last full day in Melbourne and we took a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. We actually started by going backwards. We first drove to around the Twelve Apostles. We visited Loch Ard Gorge and London Arch in addition to the Twelve Apostles. All of them were amazing. They were gorgeous natural formations and we were glad we took the time to drive out there to see them.

For the rest of the afternoon we drove along the Great Ocean Road and stopped at different places to admire the view along the road. To be honest driving along the road was exhausting as there were a lot of curves along the road. The views, however, made up for the driving.

By early evening we had returned to Melbourne and had a nice dinner at a Chinese bistro near our hotel. The rest of the evening had us packing and getting ready for the second leg of our trip.

Day 7

We woke up early and checked out of the hotel. Then we went to the airport and returned the car. We checked in with Qantas for our trip to Hobart. Everything went really smoothly and we were soon on our way to Tasmania.

The first part of our trip had been amazing. Melbourne was so wonderful! Jun and I agreed that we could easily live in this city.

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Singapore Time

While we were in Japan my brother kept mentioning all the food he was going to eat in Singapore when he and my mom went there after Japan. Having listened him mention chicken rice, laksa, and satay made me want to go to Singapore and eat those foods. I hadn’t been back to Singapore in a few years and Jun had never been, so we thought that as a nice treat for us at the end of our summer we would take a trip to Singapore.

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Our trip started at Futian station on a Friday evening. I met Jun there, who had to take the train down from Guangzhou. From Futian station we took the metro to the airport. Everything was going well at the airport until our flight was delayed. It wasn’t a serious issue since we were going to arrive early in Singapore and had planned on staying at the airport until later in the morning. It was more of a nuisance than anything else. Fortunately our flight left around 2:00 in the morning and we were on our way.

Day 1

When we arrived it was still early; Jun and I weren’t sure if we would be able to check-in early at our hotel. We decided to take a shower at the airport just in case. After we were both clean, we left the airport and went straight to our hotel.

Luckily for us our hotel—the Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay—did allow us to check-in early and even have breakfast. They were really nice at that hotel. We went to our room and dropped our stuff off and went back down to have breakfast. Afterwards we went back to the room to take a nap.

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When we woke we noticed we still had a few hours before we were going to meet up with some of my family friends for lunch. Jun and I then decided to take a walk around the area. We first went to Clarke Quay and walked through it to go to Fort Canning Park. Fort Canning has been used for many things over the years, but is now a park with numerous attractions. It was a nice walk that helped us wake up a bit.

Soon we had to go back to the hotel to meet up with my friends. When they got to the hotel they drove us to Sentosa for lunch. We had a nice Western lunch at Chili’s and caught up on everything since the last time we saw each other.

After lunch Jun and I went to Bugis to do a bit of shopping. There’s been a Timbuk2 bag that I’ve been wanting to buy for the longest time, but they have so few outlets in the world. Shipping it to China would be expensive. Fortunately I was able to buy it in Singapore!

Afterwards Jun and I walked around the Kampong Glam neighborhood. It was nice to see the mosque there. It was beautiful. The street art in the area was also interesting and wild. It was a nice way to end the afternoon.

Afterwards Jun and I went around the downtown district before going to have dinner at Momma Kong’s, a crab restaurant in Chinatown. This dish was the one I had really wanted to eat in Singapore. The chili crab we had was amazing and delicious. It was a great way for us to end the day.

Day 2

We had a late start to the morning. We were meeting with another family friend for lunch, so Jun and I decided to take a leisurely walk around the hotel before she and her husband arrived to pick us up.

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Our friends took us to PeraMakan, a really nice Peranakan restaurant at the Keppel Club that was amazing. It was nice catching up with them. They also gave us some great suggestions on what we could do and see in Singapore, as well as what we could eat.

After lunch they drove us to Chinatown so we could go around the area. Jun and I walked through the side streets and went to some temples and saw some neat street art. We also found this great bakery, KELE, which has some nice pineapple-based treats. We tried a few different types of desserts; we ended up buying a tin of pandan-pineapple cakes. They were really good.

After Chinatown Jun and I went to the Kinokuniya bookstore on Orchard Road so I could get a copy of Amanda Koe Lee’s Ministry of Moral Panic. I ended buying another book and could have bought more. I just didn’t have enough space in my bag.

After the bookstore Jun and I decided to watch Crazy Rich Asians. We found a movie theater near us and were lucky enough to be able to get seats for the next movie. The movie itself was enjoyable, although it did diverge from the book in interesting ways. Overall, though, it was a fun movie.

From there Jun and I tried to find a chicken rice restaurant that our friends recommended, but couldn’t find it. We ended up eating at Makansutra Gluttons Bay, which ended up being equally enjoyable.

After dinner we took a walk around the bay towards the Marina Bay Sands. It was a lovely walk and a nice way to end a long, happy day.

Day 3

This day started with us taking a walk around our hotel. We went back to Fort Canning Park and found this really neat underground passage.

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After the park we went straight to the Gardens by the Bay. We first went to the Flower Dome and saw a variety of flowers from everywhere. They also had an interesting mix of sunflowers with a Wizard of Oz theme and orchids with a Peranakan theme. It was eclectic, but it was fun. After the Flower Dome we walked to the Marina Barrage and back to the Supertree Grove. The gardens were really beautiful, and a great way to start the day.

From there we went to Little India to meet one of Jun’s friends. We ended up eating lunch at Amaravati, a lovely Indian restaurant. The food there was wonderful and delicious. After lunch we went around Little India and enjoyed seeing the area.

From there we went to Orchard Road to meet up with the friends we met on our first day for dinner at Marchê. It was a nice dinner and we were happy that we got to see them one last time before we left the next day.

Jun and I took a walk along the street after dinner. Then we went back to the hotel.

Day 4

Our last day in Singapore had Jun and I wake up early so we could go on a hike in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The area is nicely maintained and was a nice change of pace to the rest of Singapore. Besides a few other people going around the reserve, it was simply quiet there. It was wonderful! We also found our way to the TreeTop Walk that was in the reserve. That was a neat area where we could see different parts of the reserve from a high vantage point. On our way back to the entrance we also got to see a troop of monkeys going about their business in the park. That was a pleasant surprise.

After our hike we went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and checked out.

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We then went straight to the airport where we spent most of the afternoon. We did some shopping, saw the butterfly garden, the sunflower garden, the orchid garden, ate some Malay food, and then almost lost our passports! It was my fault; I had placed it on a cart and forgot to pick it back up before we went to see the butterflies. Fortunately, we remembered them and quickly went back and got them before someone else found them. Besides that one incident, our trip back to Shenzhen went smoothly and effortlessly.

Overall, our trip to Singapore was wonderful! We wish we were still there.

A Shantou Weekend

Last year when we went to Chaozhou, we saw that the train station was actually between two cities: Chaozhou and Shantou. Since we had already been to Chaozhou, Jun and I thought it would be nice to go to Shantou this year. So in the middle of August we took the train from Shenzhen and went to the eastern part of Guangdong once again.

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After taking the bus from the train station to the central district of Shantou, Jun and I checked-in at the Shantou International Hotel. This was by far one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The staff was friendly, and our room was spacious and comfortable. And as a nice surprise, the hotel staff delivered a complimentary local dessert in the early evening for us to enjoy. Unfortunately, neither Jun or I actually liked the dessert. The thought, however, was nice.

After having cleaned up a bit, Jun and I then went to have lunch at a beef hot pot place that is popular in the region. The food was quite good and made us ready for an afternoon of exploration.

After lunch we walked to Zhongshan Park. As we went around the park Jun noticed that it kind of had everything you could possibly want in a park in a condensed form. There was a small zoo, a roller-skate rink, a museum, a botanical garden, a lake area with boats, and plenty of space to rest and enjoy the day. It was nice to walk around the park and see the different things that made it unique.

After that we walked towards the old city center. Currently they are redeveloping the area; entire neighborhoods are construction zones. We were still able to see what the architecture looks like, and it had a nice mix of Western and Eastern influences. You could clearly see this dichotomy in the Small Pavilion Park that had a Chinese structure in the middle of a square that was surrounded by more Western-style buildings. It was an interesting area. When they are finished with the construction it should be a nice area to visit.

From there we went to 1860 Creative Park near the waterfront. This area used to be a middle school in Shantou that was converted into the creative park. There were some interesting aspects to it. There’s a mix of offices and abandoned school room that leaves a vibe of creative abandonment to the place.

Once we were done going around 1860 we went to Xidi Park. It’s a small park next to the waterfront with some nice landscaping.

From there we took a leisurely walk along the shore towards Qilu Battery in Shipaotai Park. The old fort was really neat and a quiet place to explore. As Jun was taking pictures, however, a young boy started to make fun of him by emulating the poses Jun was using to take pictures. I saw the boy from a distance. When he came closer to me I put my arm around him and he started to panic. He began to speak to me in Chinese by saying he was sorry. I told him in English that I wasn’t the one he needed to apologize and I frog-walked him to Jun to apologize. He was so confused that he was apologizing in Chinese and English. I told him to be nice and that being rude to other people could be detrimental to him. Someone less kind could hurt him if he was not careful. At that point I let him go and he ran away to his friends looking mortified.

The rest of our time at the Qilu was uneventful. We soon had to leave because the park was closing. We decided to go back to the hotel to clean up before we went to dinner.

Dinner that night involved seafood where we chose which fish we wanted to eat. It was quite delicious and affordable. Afterwards we got dessert and went back to the hotel for the night.

Day 2

The next day we went to a village on the outskirts of Shantou. The highlight of the visit was exploring and appreciating the Chen Cihong Former Residence. The structure consists of many halls and rooms built by a wealthy family in 1910. It was the home for the Chen clan for many generations before it was converted into a historic museum. The structures are an interesting mix of Western and Eastern influences that creates a unique place. It was really fascinating to see the different ornamentations in each room. Much care must have been needed to maintain such an intricate and complex structure for a family to have lived there.

When we were done with that area we went to visit a temple on Tashan near the village. It was a nice, quiet area with beautiful buildings in the upper part of the mountain. But after a while Jun and I were ready for lunch and took a car back to central Shantou.

For our last meal we had steamed seafood. It was really neat to pick out the different seafood we wanted and then to steam it at our table for us to eat. That was a nice way to end our trip. From there we took the bus to the train station and then the train back to Shenzhen.

Overall, it was a nice visit to Shantou. It was quite a unique and different city in comparison to those of the Pearl River Delta. It was definitely a great weekend retreat that Jun and I both needed.

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Village Tranquility

After the more ad-hoc nature of last week’s trip to Huizhou, Jun and I decided to be more organized with our outing this week. On Friday we decided to go to Nanshe Village in Dongguan. Jun booked us train tickets to go there and figured out the fastest route to get there from the train station. Everything was set. But no matter how much you may plan for an incident-free excursion, the unexpected may arise and alter plans.

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On the day of our trip to the village everything went according to plan. We took the train from Shenzhen to Dongguan without any issue. Then we took a taxi to the village also without issue.

The village itself is quite remarkable. There are parts of it that have been preserved, but there are also other parts that have not. These areas I found quite interesting. The type of building materials used for these traditional Lingnan architecture is quite different from modern materials. Instead of using concrete as the main building materials, wood and bricks were more prevalent in the past. As a result there’s a more refined and unique look to the buildings instead of the generic style prevalent in modern Chinese architecture. Outside of the signature skyscrapers, most modern buildings in one Chinese city looks similar to buildings in any other Chinese city. It was thus nice to see the subtle differences in the architectural styles at Nanshe.

As we first started to walk around the village we kept hearing music being played not far from the entrance. I thought it was music being played over loudspeakers to create a mood of old times. But as we went closer to it we saw there was a Cantonese opera performance. That was nice surprise to see and hear.

As we continued to walk around the village we saw some really beautiful areas with interesting buildings and small gardens. Other areas were in disrepair, but they had glimpses of what the building used to look like with different ornamentations hidden under the wild foliage. Overall, the feeling of the place was quite calming and enjoyable.

After a few hours at the village, Jun and I decided we were ready to go back to Shenzhen. We traveled back to the train station and got ready for the ride back. We boarded the train and everything was going well; we were making plans for what we were going to do for the rest of the afternoon.

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Then things went awry. As soon as we entered central Shenzhen our train stopped. We thought it was going to be a temporary stop and then we would be on our way. To our surprise our short stop turned out to be a four hour wait! Apparently the station that we had passed—Zhangmutou—had lost power. As a result all trains in both directions that traveled through that station had to be stopped. We couldn’t move into Shenzhen station until the trains there could leave. As a result we had a nice four hour wait for a 45 minute trip. Finally in the early evening our trained started to move, and ten minutes later we were at the station. We were only ten minutes away from the station! As soon as we left the station we set off for home as quickly as we could.

While the end of our outing to Nanshe was unwanted, our actual time visiting the village was enjoyable.

Escape to Huizhou

Rain. Sun. Humidity. The three characteristics of Guangdong in the summer. While it creates an environment that makes a person feel uncomfortable and makes you want to stay inside, Jun and I have not let it deter us from enjoying the time we have together this summer. Summer is the one time of the year where we consistently have two free days to do things with each other!

On our first real weekend we decided to go to Huizhou for a daytrip. We woke up on Saturday morning and decided to go to Huizhou on a whim. Jun booked the tickets and we were soon on our way to Shenzhen North Station. That station is ridiculous. As we needed to pick up our tickets, we had to wait in a line to get them. The line we chose—really all the lines—was ridiculously long. Fortunately, we were able to get our tickets before our train left. We made it with a few minutes to spare.

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When we got to Huizhou we had to transfer to a bus to get to Huizhou’s West Lake. By the time we got to West Lake we were ready for lunch. But as we were looking for a restaurant we ended up at Fenghu Academy. This academy had been a school on the banks of West Lake in centuries past. Since we were there Jun and I decided to visit the place. While we were there it started to rain heavily. We were a bit fretful that the rain would continue throughout the afternoon. We found a spot to sit and waited out the rain. Fortunately, the rain did stop and we soon started to continue our visit around the academy.

From there we did end up finding a nice restaurant with typical Cantonese cuisine. It was a scrumptious lunch and we treated ourselves to some frappuccinos afterwards.

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With our drinks we were ready to continue our visit around West Lake. We first went to the Sizhou Tower and walked around it. From there we went to the Dongpo Memorial Hall that commemorated the man who helped design the lake. After we had walked around the memorial, we went across the lake on the Jiuqu Bridge. That was a nice experience as we were able to see the lake from different angles. There were a number of islands that we visited as we crossed the bridge.

We finally ended up Yuanmiao Ancient Taoist Temple as the last stop of our trip to West Lake. The temple was a nice, calming place before we had to go head back to Shenzhen. It was needed as the train ride was noisy and smoky. Jun and I were glad to be able to get off the train and go to a nice dinner.

Overall, it was a nice trip to Huizhou. In the future we might go back to see what else that city has to offer.

Japanese Joy

After having anticipated our summer vacation for months, it had finally arrived! Last year my mom mentioned that she wanted to visit Japan and if we would like to go with her. Of course we said yes. After we agreed to go my brother and godmother decided to come as well. So the trip would be a family vacation.

We started our trip with a few days in Hong Kong. It was a nice diversion away from the mainland and we got to have a relaxing time by ourselves before going to Japan. We visited a wetland park, a really neat museum in Central, and had some really nice food.

Day 1

While Hong Kong was nice, we were excited to go to Japan. And everything was going nicely until after we had boarded our flight. Shortly after they had closed the doors, the captain announced that our flight would be delayed because of an earthquake in Osaka. We were a bit shocked and worried since my godmother, Mom, and brother were arriving before us. We weren’t sure if they were effected and couldn’t reach them.

After some time our flight was cleared to take off and we were soon on our way to Osaka. When we got there everything was business as usual. Immigration and customs went quickly and efficiently, and then we went looking for the others. Walking to the Starbucks that we agreed as our meeting point I heard a familiar voice. My mom was there! We hugged and chatted before we got down to business of what we needed to do before we could leave for the hotel. First we needed to get money and Jun wanted to get a sim card. Once we were done with that we decided to take a taxi. There, however, were no taxis to be found; we ended up taking a limousine bus. The ride was quick and dropped us at the train station we needed for the train that would take us to where our hotel was located. After figuring out which train line we needed we arrived at Juso and walked to the hotel. Check-in was quick and we were soon in our room!

After freshening up for a bit we ended up taking a walk around the place to get a feel of it and to snack on some of the local foods. After awhile we were ready to head back for a good night’s sleep.

Day 2

Our first full day in Osaka started early. Like 3:00 in the morning early. My mom was having a difficult time adjusting to the time difference and got bored. She ended up waking us all early. As a result we decided to have an early start in exploring Osaka.

We first went to Osaka Station to get ICOCA cards for local transportation and to get some breakfast. Once we had finished all of that we decided to visit Osaka Castle. We took the JR Loop train to get to the park. It was easy to navigate from the station to the castle. The surrounding park was quite nice and it was a nice stroll going through the park to get to the castle.

At the castle we found out that the elevators were not in operation due to the earthquake and were being checked. We would need to go up to the top using the stairs. Fortunately each floor had different displays about the city and the castle so we could rest a bit before continuing to go up. When we did get to the top we were rewarded with really nice views of the city, and the breeze up there was nice as well.

After the castle we continued to go around the park, but we soon decided to look for a place for lunch. After consulting with different apps we settled on an udon place nearby. The food was delicious and it was fun trying to figure out how to order at the noodle shop. But we persisted and we were rewarded with a nice lunch.

After lunch we then went to Shitennōji Temple. When we got there it started to rain, so we had a quick visit around the temple. It was a really nice temple. We were amazed at the number of turtles in the water features at the temple. But because of the rain we didn’t stay long here.

With it raining we decided to do some shopping in Umeda and see what there was to see. Apparently there was a lot to see!

At that time we decided it was getting late and we went back to the hotel and relaxed before going to sleep.

Day 3

Another rainy day and we decided that it would be best to try to do things inside. The first place we went was to visit Kaiyukan aquarium. It was a great experience. There was such a diverse range of marine life that you could see from all over the world. The central tank was awesome and you could view it from different angles as the aquarium went around it. And there were penguins! It was neat to see the emperor penguins. We even got to see some of the nesting pairs. It was a nice way to spend the morning.

After leaving the aquarium we went in search of a place for lunch. We ended up having sushi at a nice restaurant close to the aquarium. Then we also had some matcha desserts as well.

As it was still raining we decided to go to Shinsaibashi and Dōtonbori. These are shopping areas in Osaka. They are also covered shopping arcades and we could do some shopping and explore the area without getting wet.

We then went back to Osaka Station for dinner at a small restaurant that served beef in bento boxes. It was again a nice dinner.

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Day 4

On this day we started using our JR Rail Pass to visit different parts of the surrounding area. We decided our first trip would be to go to Kyoto.

When we got there we quickly boarded another train to visit Fushimi Inari-taisha. This temple complex is dedicated to Inari, the Japanese fox goddess. It’s an amazing place and is full of red torii (gates) that go around the temple complex. With the recent rains the air around the grounds was crisp and left a mythical feel to it. It was a joy to walk around the temple.

From there we walked down a side street with a number of street vendors selling all kinds of Japanese delicacies. We ended up having lunch trying different types of food.

Then we went to visit the Imperial Palace in Kyoto and got to explore around the grounds. It was a stark contrast to the modern architecture of the palace in Tokyo. The gardens at the palace were particularly beautiful.

From there we then went to Arashiyama so we could see the bamboo forest and Tenryū-ji. It was a beautiful area and the gardens were gorgeous. We then did some shopping at the small stores in the area. I also got to have sakura-flavored ice cream that I had been craving for since the last time I was in Japan. It was so good too! The last thing we did there was to see the monkeys at Iwatayama Monkey Park. As it was a bit of climb to see them, Michael, Jun, and I were the only ones who went up. It was neat to see the monkeys walking around freely.

Afterwards we went back to the train station and went back to Osaka for the night.

Day 5

On this day we took the train to Himeji to see the amazing castle there. It was quite easy to find the place as it dominated the skyline. The castle was amazing and it was fun to walk around. There weren’t too many people there so it was nice to just enjoy exploring the castle. We were also able to visit a garden nearby. It was nice, but nothing too special in terms of flowers or layout.

Afterwards we went to this really nice udon restaurant where we could see them make the noodles that we were eating. It was so delicious. We all left happy.

From Himeji we next went to Kobe for a few hours to explore the old European enclave near Shin-Kobe station. It was interesting to see the European buildings in Japan. There were a number of snack places that I think most of us enjoyed more than the buildings. There was one place that sold chocolate brownies that were really delicious.

As it was getting late in the day we decided to take the Shinkansen back to Osaka and find a place to eat dinner there. We ended up at a weird place where everyone had to order something; anything was fine but you had to order at least one thing. It was strange.

Day 6

The rain came back, but we didn’t let it stop us. This day had us go to Nara. Nara was really neat and we got to see deer roaming Nara Park in the rain. That was the highlight of this day. When we got to Nara it really started to rain and we ended up taking shelter in a covered arcade where we wandered through different stores and had lunch at a really nice curry place.

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While we had hoped the rain would abate, it didn’t and we decided to just go and explore the park in the rain anyway. It ended up being fun. As we walked around the park we got to see deer just walking around chasing people who dared to buy food to give them. We also went through some temples that were made ethereal in the rain.

As we were walking back to the train station we did some shopping and found an amazing ice cream place that had some great matcha and French vanilla soft serve in really tasty cones. It ended up being a nice way to end up our time in Nara.

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On the way back to Osaka the others decided that they wanted to go to Tokyo just to say they had been there. So when we got to Osaka station we booked tickets on the Shinkansen to go to Tokyo the next day. Once that was settled we went back to Juso to have sushi for dinner and go to bed.

Day 7

We got up early and headed to Shin-Osaka station for the train to Tokyo. Once we settled in we enjoyed the quiet journey to Tokyo by mostly taking a nap.

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When we got to Tokyo we first went to find a pharmacy for Mom who needed some cough medicine as the rain from the previous day and the lack to sleep finally caught up to her. We quickly found a pharmacy and Mom was able to take the medicine she needed. Afterwards we walked to the grounds around the Imperial Palace to see it. Then we walked to Ginza so they could see the shopping district. We ended up having Chinese food at a decent restaurant in the area. We walked around Ginza and did some shopping.

From Ginza we took a train to see Meiji Temple. We ended up taking the long route to the temple, but it was a nice walk through a residential area of Tokyo so it wasn’t all bad. And then we walked into Yoyogi Park that was more like a forest. It was interesting to leave the city behind and to visit the park and the temple. It was a bit busy, but not too bad that it was not enjoyable.

Aftewards we went back to Tokyo station to get ready to go back to Osaka. We first went and found some food to eat on the train ride back. And we also got to see a Kit-Kat boutique. That was neat. Kit-Kat’s come in different flavors in Japan and are a common gift to give students as the name sounds like a Japanese phrase wishing good fortune. While we didn’t buy any here, Jun and I did buy some matcha and banana Kit-Kats at the airport on our way back. Both were quite good and I would like to try other flavors as well.

Once we borded the train ride back to Tokyo we ate our dinners and just relaxed. I did end up sitting next to an interesting gentleman who could not sit still and every ten minutes would go wander around the train before coming back. He did, however, have an interesting book of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un on the cover in strange poses. If only I knew Japanese!

Day 8

Our last day in Osaka and we decided to take it easy and explore some of the older parts of the city. We first went to Tsūtenkaku and walked around the area. That was a neat little area. And then we went to explore the area around Hōzenji Temple. That was also interesting. There was a Fudo Myo-o statue covered in moss because people over the years had thrown water on it to purify themselves. All the water pouring eventually led to moss growing on the statue.

Because we had seen a lot in our week here, we really weren’t interested in seeing different sites and ended up spending the afternoon doing some shopping. Jun ended up buying a really cute Pikachu! And then we ended the day with our last dinner together by having a nice sushi dinner.

Day 9

Mom, Michael, and Gaye had to leave early so they could catch their flight. So Jun and I said goodbye to them and wished them a safe journey. Jun and I got a few more hours of sleep before we went ourselves to the airport. We took the train one last time and had quite an easy experience checking in and going through immigration. We ate lunch and then boarded our flight back to Hong Kong. It was much more relaxing and easy than our trip to Japan.

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From the airport in Hong Kong we then made our way back to Shenzhen.

Overall, it was a great trip. I was really happy that I was able to see my mom, brother, and godmother. It was like the trips we took when we were kids!