Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Back in Seattle!

Well it feels like the 10 months has gone by super fast.  Yet, it is easy to sift back through the memories of each and every place we have been.  Two of our friends (Tracy and Roxana) threw us a welcome back/Halloween party which was a lot of fun.  A bunch of our friends stopped by to see us which was really nice. 

It seems quite strange to be back in Seattle.  My pockets seem to be suddenly full with things like a wallet, a cellphone, keys and other odd ball things like the post-it note that has my phone and address written down on it.  Today I was driving around, running some errands, and things seemed to be so similar to 10 months ago…well, everything IS feeling a little mundane which makes me all the more happy that we vacated Seattle for our little adventure. 

Just to let you know, we aren’t quite done with the blog yet.  We are going to try and post some videos (which were too hard to upload in a lot of countries), some top ten lists and maybe some thoughts on traveling for that extended periods of time.

I have to say, it was nice to get back and find out that 1) my car was working (thanks Ryan) and 2) our storage unit was not broken into. 

Stay tuned and thanks everyone for reading!

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October 29, 2007 Posted by | Misc, Travel, Urban | 4 Comments

More trip photos!

Francie uploaded some more of her pictures to Flickr and I wanted to post some here.  These are from the batch she got developed in Bangkok.  You can see all of them here.

Greg and the one year old Pandas.
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Camping in Tibet.
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5,300 meters up at a glacier in Tibet.
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Me jumping for joy that the hike is over!
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Kids playing in a park in XiÁn.
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Signs in Hong Kong.
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View of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as we walk down from ‘The Peak’.
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Francie at the main square in Macau.
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Francie screwing around while on the clock at Wolong Panda Research Center.
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Cute Panda pic
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Dried fruits and nuts for sale in the Muslim Quarter–XiÁn, China. I found out that you can only eat so much dried pineapple.
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Two little girls at the Great Mosque in XiÁn, China.
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Slide no workie.
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Figures unearthed from a Tomb in XiÁn, China.
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What this Panda really wants is a Thomas the Train. Balls are boring. 😉
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Suggest your own caption
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Goats in Tibet
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I think I need a thicker coat!
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Ok.  Maybe we will post from Fiji!  Maybe we will just work on that tan!

October 20, 2007 Posted by | China, Hong Kong, Nature, Panda, Photography, Sichuan, Tibet, Travel, Urban, Wildlife, Wolong | 2 Comments

36 Hours in Sydney

You know on the New York Times how they always have that Travel column called “36 Hours in” (fill in the blank).  Well, we had 36 hours in Sydney and we actually used this as a reference (and good old Brendan)!

It has really been great to be in a country where the people *sort of* speak English and there are nice toilets everywhere!  Damn, I love a good sit down toilet.

I do have to say though that I have really been blown away by the seafood.  Which is pretty amazing considering I have been hanging out on islands having 5 pound lobsters and fresh snapper and coral trout.  Francie and I went to the Sydney Fish Market which, I am sad to say, kicks Seattle’s Pike Place Market’s ass.  We had a lot of shashmi and oysters and other things that live in the sea.

Here are some pics from the Sydney Fish Market.

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We also took Brendan’s suggestion and rode a ferry around park of the Harbor.  Here are some of those pictures.

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We went to the aquarium which was a little disappointing but they did have a platypus. 

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This octopus doesn’t want you to touch his toy.
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The Jellies…
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Finally we had a wonderful meal on Bondi beach at Ravesi’s.  Great great ravioli.

Got to run and catch the plane to New Zealand.

October 10, 2007 Posted by | Australia, Travel, Urban | 4 Comments

Posh Night at the Movies

We went to see another movie last night – The Bourne Ultimatum.  I happened to notice that it was also playing at the theatre where we saw The Brave One the other night.   Even though we didn’t know the showtimes we just hopped a cab and went straight to the theatre after dinner.  We bought the tickets and they were about twice as much as the tickets we got the night before…  hmmm… maybe it is because it is a Friday night? 

As soon as we walked into the row of theatres a very nicely dressed lady comes up to us, welcomes us and offers to show us to our seats.  Strange…  We walk into the theatre and it has a handful of well spaced “love seat” electronic lazy boy type recliners.  We sit down and the hostess brings us silk blankets and pillows.  Greg’s first reaction is “I wonder if we can order cocktails!”.  Turns out this movie was playing in one of the “Ultra Screen” theatres.  It was awesome.  Yet another cool thing in Bangkok.

The movie was great.  I wasn’t expecting too much because by the 3rd movie in a series sometimes it all becomes really contrived.  There is an awesome scene where Jason rides a motorcycle up and down stairs in Tangiers, followed by some roof hopping and a kick-ass fist fight.  I want to learn how to jump off a roof, through someone’s window in the adjacent building, and land so I don’t hurt myself.  Do you know someone who can teach me that? 😉

September 14, 2007 Posted by | Bangkok, Thailand, Travel, Urban | 1 Comment

Return to Bangkok

I was so excited to return to Bangkok.  I think I was partly just exhausted with China but I have also grown to really enjoy this city. 

It is a little rainy now (more so than in Jan and May) but doesn’t seem quite as hot.  Plus it seems things are just a little less crowded.  We stay at the Merry V Guesthouse on Soi Rambuttri (in the back building) which is pretty sweet and still only $14 with AC. 

The first thing I did was head out front of Merry V and purchased my dinner of grilled chicken, pad thai and banana shake.  All for about $2.00.  I think the first thing Francie did was head out of the Merry V and play with the neighborhood dogs.

Pad Thai, Chicken, Banana Shake

It was a little crazy ordering food because I walked up to the little Thai vendor and tried to use my words…my Thai words.  And they just didn’t come.  I could barely get out “Pad Thai” but without asking for ‘Nit noy’ cabbage and all that about making it extra hot. 

It was a rather pathetic attempt for using thai when I could have just used english.  I find that I want to tell everyone hello and thanks in Mandarin and not in Thai.  I can hardly even remember my numbers  😦  About the only thing I can remember wth certainly is ‘don’t want’ and ‘how much?’.  Of course, asking how much in Thai always result in being told how much in Thai.  😦

After some dinner we strolled over to the main Bangkok tourist street called Khao San Rd to get some new flip flops for me (I bought some phoney Birkenstocks for $4.00).  Khao San Rd is pretty crazy with westerners drinking and many, many people trying to sell you things.  This is where you can get your ipod loaded with any album in the world or have a movie dropped on your HD (either computer or iPod) for $3.  Walking down the street it is super easy to forget that this country had a coup a year ago and still has a military junta–however benign. 

Khao San Rd is always blurry!
Koh San Road

The next day Francie and I got up bright and early to run some errands.  We hopped on a river taxi/bus which is one of the quickest ways to get around Bangkok.  The guy standing on the side (in the helmet) is selling tickets.

River Bus

We took this boat to a river stop downtown and then hopped on the skytrain to drop off Francie’s film (all 23 rolls).

Thailand Skytrain

We then went to one of the very cool (as in, air conditioned) malls to browse…not buy…and decided to see the new Jodie Foster movie ‘The Brave One’.  This was Francie’s first movie since we were in Hong Kong three months ago (and a little better than Ocean 13).  After which we hopped on a tuk tuk for a quick ride home.

With Flash
Tuk Tuk

Without flash
Tuk Tuk

The end. 

September 13, 2007 Posted by | Thailand, Travel, Urban | Leave a comment

Article on China’s pollution

The New York Times had an article today on China’s pollution problem. It is a great read. This topic always comes up when we meet other travelers and it is truly scary. When Francie and I were in Beijing we quickly had cold like symptoms because of the air pollution.

Scary facts from the article:

Only 1% of the half billion Chinese people living in cities breath air considered ‘safe’.

Forbidden City

Two-thirds of China’s electricity comes from power plants fed by coal.

Pile of Coal for Christmas

It is easy to dismiss this as a Chinese problem only but one thing to remember about OUR contribution to this crisis is that many of the things we (westerners) buy are manufactured in China. China manufactures many of the goods we want and these non-environmental friendly factories contribute to a lot of the pollution. Of course, the Chinese can make factories more environmentally friendly but is the world ready to pay higher prices for their big screen TV?

I wish everyone could spend a week in Beijing. It really makes the environmental issues we face very real.

August 26, 2007 Posted by | China, Misc, Urban | Leave a comment

The Loft Hostel in Chengdu

We have been staying at The Loft Hostel in Chengdu. This is actually the third time we have stayed here and we really want to recommend it. It is probably our favorite lodging in all of China. Super hip and reasonably priced it has everything you need like this great common area.

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Some of the advantages in staying here are:

–Friendly, helpful staff.
–Great Chinese Neighborhood.
–Good western food nearby-downstairs Cafe Copenhagen and 2 doors down Cafe Dodo.
–Great Chinese food up and down the street.
–Free internet and a good internet cafe down the street (2.5 RMB/hour).
–Easy international calls and faxes.
–Common room with pool table, TV, lots of couches and Bar.
–Cheap laundry.

And of course the rooms. They are hip and clean and everything works. We pay 180 RMB ($23 USD) for a double with private bath. There are also doubles with shared bath (RMB 120), Single rooms (100 RMB) or dorm rooms. Here are some pics of our room:

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August 21, 2007 Posted by | Chengdu, China, Urban | Leave a comment

Western Food in Chengdu

Greg & I just spent the last 5 days in Chengdu pigging out after 2 weeks of noodle soup in Wolong. It turns out that Chengdu actually has some really great western food restaurants if that is what you’re craving.

The best:
Del Mar Mediterranean Restaurant
10 Tongzilin Donglu
028-8515-9325
We found out about this place from Chengdoo magazine (a great resource for restaurant and bar information). It’s run by the same people who own Grandma’s Kitchen. Surprisingly it’s not that much more expensive than a typical Chengdu western food cafe, but the food is much better. The pasta is particularly good. So is the chocolate cheesecake.

Grandmas Kitchen
73/75 Kehua Beilu
This place is in the lonely planet. It was better than i expected and the wait staff is super nice. Their desserts are some of the best I’ve had in China.

Mutt’s Nutts @ Dave’s Oasis
This place had by far the best pizza of all the places we tried pizza (better than highfly cafe). Go there for the pizza. I don’t remember the address but they are listed in Chengdoo magazine.

Dodo’s Cafe
12 Xiaotongxiang St.
This place is just a few doors down from Cafe Copenhagen & The Loft hostel. It is very cozy and comfortable, the staff is really nice, and the food is way better (in my opinion) than Cafe Copenhagen. For a healthful lunch, order the mixed salad and a farmer’s sandwich.

Peter’s Tex-Mex
117 Kehua Beilu
This place is also in Lonely planet. It was good although each dish was a little different than how it is supposed to taste if you are in Texas. But it still satisfied our flour tortilla and cheese cravings 😉

August 14, 2007 Posted by | Chengdu, China, Travel, Urban | 2 Comments

Adventure Taxi rides in Chengdu

Last night Greg & took a taxi to a different area of Chengdu for dinner and then back to our guesthouse.   Sounds pretty straightforward right?  Um, actually No!  Taxi rides in Asia are totally underrated as an adventure travel activity, IMO ;-).  Here is how our sweet ride went:

Hail the taxi.  Show driver the restaurant name and address which we have written down in Chinese characters.  He nods (indicating he knows where it is, we think) and off we go.

After only a few minutes, driver pulls over to side of road, gets out, and goes into a store.  Hmm.  He comes back out with a package of cigarettes.   Ok, no problem, now we understand. 

We drive for quite awhile.  Driver starts to go very slow and squint at streetsigns.  At an intersection he gestures to us to ask which way to go.  I have no idea where we are or how to get where we’re going so I just repeat the address in Chinese.  He turns right, then changes his mind and does a u-turn.

Driver stops, rolls down window, and asks a street sweeper for directions.  Sweeper gestures with broom to indicate the direction in which to drive. 

We drive one more block and pull over again.  Driver exits the car and has a discussion with a security guard that includes lots of pointing.  

After a few more blocks and a few more turns we pull over again and driver asks yet another street sweeper for directions.  This sweeper uses his broom to draw an imaginary map on the ground.  I think this is a good sign… 

My hopes are shortlived because after another block or two we pull over again.  Driver exits the car and asks a pedestrian for directions.  At this point I think that Greg and I offered to just get out of the taxi and try to find the street by walking around.  

We drive again for a few blocks, but this time we find the right street!  Driver turns right, then yells out the window at another pedestrian who points behind us, so we do a u-turn and a minute later arrive at the restaurant! 

I have to give our taxi driver props because even though he didn’t know where the place was, he was resourceful and persistent in getting us to the right spot and didn’t just shrug his shoulders and drop us off in the middle of nowhere (which has happened on other occasions).

The taxi ride home was not quite as exciting, except for the 8 times that our driver drove in the lane of oncoming traffic in order to pass other cars.  One of the times he did this it was to pass cars that were stopped because they were waiting at the red light directly ahead of us.  Sweet.

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Chengdu, China, Travel, Urban | 3 Comments

Problems in China – just how bad are they?

China has lots of challenging issues to face, which have become more salient to me after actually being here; e.g. I could read everyday in the newspaper about how there are horrendous pollution problems, but it wouldn’t really hit me till I saw it for myself. And now I have! If you’re interested in news about China’s “dark side”, this is a good website to peruse: www.waysthataredark.com.

Also check out this hilarious account of a day in the life of a Brit living in Beijing.

July 23, 2007 Posted by | China, Rural, Travel, Urban, Wildlife | Leave a comment