Category Archives: Travel

China in Summary

Well, a week later I’m finally adjusting to the normal timezone of every day life. Its a little ridiculous that its taken so long to get back into a normal schedule. However, today I’m finally finding enough energy to not only upload my photos from China, but also attempt to write this.

While reviewing my photos from the trip, I must admit that I’m a little disappointed. First, compared to the 900+ photos that I got in Singapore, my little 40 photo collection is embarrassing. Plus, there really aren’t to many photos worth sharing. As usual, all photos will be uploaded via Flickr for your viewing enjoyment, but below are those I considered “share worthy.”

Welcome sign at JK - such a fun surprise

"Smashed weed tea" - not the best photo, but memorable anyway 🙂

This is me walking around downtown Shanghai. Apparently its a "famous" shopping area but for the life of me I can't remember what it was called

View of the amazing buildings just over the river (but oh, we took the Bund tourist tunnel ride to the other side, don't worry)

This is that very impressive insurance building that I got yelled at by a man carrying a machine gun for photographing... neat building but not risk-my-life impressive

The sky was so full of smog even the sun was having a hard time coming through

That was about it for Shanghai. Unfortunately too I wasn’t in Hong Kong long enough to get ANY photos. Which is a huge bummer, because out of all the places I got to see, I really think I would have enjoyed Hong Kong.

Next stop was Taipei. After the very dramatic experience getting there, I did have one free day after a series of (very successful) meetings and did the tourist thing. The morning started with a nice walk – I figured if I walked far enough I might see something cool. Wrong. I walked in one direction for over an hour and all I found was some cool tree in a park. So I turned around. However, it was the election in Taiwan on that very day, so it was interesting to see all of the political parades, fireworks, music playing in the streets (coming from trucks just driving around for the sole purpose, I can only assume, of playing loud music for all to enjoy).

Next up was the Museum – not sure what was expected but it ended up being a massive sea of tourist groups listening to headsets and making me trip over my own feet throughout three massive floors. I will admit that seeing some of the art was interesting, but I would never recommend it as a “must-see” for anyone visiting Taipei.

National Palace Museum - Taipei

Next up was the Taipei 101 – the only building in the world to maintain the title as the worlds tallest building for five consecutive years. It sounded interesting, but the sky was so foggy it was pretty much a wasted trip unfortunately. After the obscenely long lines and paying way too much for an observatory ticket, there was really nothing to see due to the smog and bad weather. Plus they have some sort of jewelry made out of coral that they were proud of enough to take up three full floors just to put it all on display. I managed to get lost (again) trying to find my way out, got a little mad and sat down for a while to watch all the middle aged people awe over the would-be view from the 89th floor (yes, although it is in fact 101 floors, you can’t actually go to the top). Here is a photo from ground level:

This was the best shot I got from the top - but its still hard to see much.

However, despite the disappointing stops, all was not lost – the evening ended with the best meal I had during the entire trip… at a Japanese restaurant. Yes, I admit, although I thoroughly enjoy my Chinese takeout meals here at home, REAL Chinese food isn’t really that exciting or appealing to me, with the exception of one meal that I had in Taipei – but I don’t even know if that could be considered real Chinese food either. Regardless, the Japanese restaurant was amazing – I had the best tuna sashimi of my life, kimchi – which is one of my favorite things in the world (although that’s Korean, not Japanese…), some sort of beef dish that was delicious, and a number of other things that really was the perfect ending to a somewhat decent day 🙂

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed in my first trip to China. Although, I think this might be due to having a lack of “local inspiration” to guide me through & show me the best food, the best things to see, and the real non-touristy experiences that I always crave. It is inevitable that I will be traveling to China again, and have prepared myself in advance by requesting guides with those I meet with for one full day, so I hope that my next visit goes more smoothly.

 

 

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Something a Little Less Dramatic

Well, after all the chaos this trip has held for me, it’s certainly been a fun experience. My schedule has been so busy though I’ve unfortunately not had many opportunities to explore outside office buildings. However, last night I did walk around a little, just on the streets near the hotel. There was a small night market in an ally about a quarter mile away that was really neat to see. Taipei is apparently famous for its night markets, which consist of many street food vendors and an obscene amount of shopping. Tonight I’ll likely venture out to a larger market since I have the entire day at my disposal.

With that in mind, Taipei is home to the worlds smallest miniskirts. Although I think it is also home to the worlds thinnest women, so perhaps the skirts make sense. There is no way I could (or would) squeeze my big American butt into one if those skirts, so shopping is basically ruled out for me.

The food carts are neat, and while I love seeing different types of food, my palate is more apt to trying things that actually LOOK appetizing rather than trying something simply because it’s different. Having said that, the following things do NOT look appetizing:

1. Hearts, or any organ for that matter.
2. Eyes. Gross.
3. Stomachs or anything that is part of, or near the digestive tract.
4. Appendages. I have no desire to eat a foot, ear, tail or hoof.
5. Bugs. Need I say more?

Oddly, that seems to leave next to nothing for me to try. I did have some sushi and fruits last night that were pretty good, but am no where near as adventurous as Robert.

Near the hotel was a really amazing temple that I managed to get a couple photos of with my phone:

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I wanted to get some photos inside, but there were people praying and I didn’t want to be disrespectful.

That was about it – I spent about 2 hours in the hotel bar drinking wine and listening to a woman play the piano and sing tacky show tubes (all the whole laughing to myself as I was constantly reminded of the Christmas carols at the Chinese restaurant in “A Christmas Story”) before going to bed.

All in all it was a good day – our meeting was successful and has made me very excited about what 2012 holds for us and now I just want to relax & enjoy my short amount of time left here.

More to come soon 🙂

My Recollection of an ALMOST Kidnapping…

Well, perhaps that is a mild overreaction, but hear me out…

I arrived at the Taipei airport around 11pm without a cent to my name. I tried to find help at the numerous information stands, but no one knew enough English to be of much assistance. Finally I fell to the conclusion that transportation without cash was not an option. In desperation, I called to the hotel and asked if they could arrange a driver to pick me up & bill it to my room. After being transferred a few times a man told me that a driver would be there within 30 minutes to pick me up. Awesome, right?

Well before I had a chance to feel relieved, things started to seem a little strange. First, an international number kept calling my phone & then hanging up. I brushed it off as bad service and called back – the driver who was supposed to meet me in the lobby wasn’t there but claimed to be out in the front of the airport & gave me his license plate number, saying he was out there waiting for me. But he wasn’t there, so I called again, but this time he was still on his way…. Odd.

After a few more minutes this gorgeous black Mercedes pulls up and a younger man wearing a very nice black suit and sunglasses (mind you, it’s almost midnight) gets out, asks my name and takes my bags. He opens the door for me without saying a word, hands me a bottle of water ad started driving. After about 15 minutes I asked how far away the hotel was, as I was under the impression it was only 5 minutes away. He didn’t answer, so I asked again. This time he grabbed his cell phone and started talking to someone on the other end for a few minutes before handing me his phone. The man on the other end did not introduce himself but only said “you will arrive in 45 minutes” in what seemed like a very creepy tone. Right about now did my very over active imagination start to run wild and instantly I was convinced that I was being abducted and would inevitably be sold on the black market as some opium drugged sex slave. My heart was racing and the driver was going so fast I thought there was a chance I would die in a car crash before I’d ever have to punch some drug lord in the neck. The driver kept taking many very short phone calls, saying only a word or two before hanging up, and kept changing the settings on his GPS.

My backpack and suitcase were in the trunk, and thanks to TSA I had nothing that even closely resembled a weapon, but dug through my purse nonetheless. I settled on a pen, thinking I could probably stab someone in the throat and possibly run. I zipped my cell phone in my pocket so it wouldn’t fall out after first writing down the license plate number and the drivers name (or what the possibly-fake placard claimed his name was).

I kept trying to calm myself down, thinking back if I may have over exaggerated the situation, but really, despite my crazy tendencies, I think they were just. I was alone in a strange city and some crazy man was speeding down the road while NOT talking to me. To make matters worse, he took a back way to the hotel, driving through some ally that only confirmed my fears that something really bad was about to happen.

Thank god we pulled up to the hotel right at that very second, as I was contemplating some super stunt move that included a very heroic dive out of the speeding car.

We were at the hotel (the RIGHT hotel), and two very nice gentlemen helped me out of the car as the driver grabbed my bags and took them into the hotel. He smiled and handed me his business card (a legitimate business card…) and told me to call if I needed a ride back to the airport.

So…
I guess the combination of too many crime drama books, my addiction to CSI and the terrible documentaries I’ve watched on tv have destroyed my trust in humanity. Instead of viewing this as something so wonderful (that these complete strangers all went out of their way to get me safely to the hotel), I instead jumped to the worst possible scenario. In hindsight though, the whole thing was a little odd, and while my instincts were wayyyyyy off this time, I guess that’s better than being so naive and thinking all are trustworthy. That being said, I feel very bad for thinking such terrible thoughts about my nice driver and his gorgeous car 🙂

Everyone I’ve encountered here in Taipei has been so incredibly kind and accommodating and I hope in the future I will be more open to the kindness of strangers rather than assuming they are something far worse.

An Unintentional Adventure: Hong Kong

Well, it’s now 6:30pm and I’m sitting on the floor in the Hong Kong airport…alone. To make matters worse, there is a creepy man that looks like the big teeth guy on Theres Something About Mary who keeps rubbing ointment on his fingers.

A safe is in fact a safe place, naturally. But with any safe place, you must always remember that something is stored there in the first place. After about an hours worth of metro stops and a near finished ride on the Maglev train, Robert only then realized that his passport was safely stored in the safe back in the hotel we checked out of about two hours prior. I wanted to panic at that moment, but instead found myself hiding so I could discretely laugh. For such a world traveller it really is quite amusing that he’d leave behind the one thing that couldn’t be retrieved later on. Needless to say, there were no later flights – all airlines were full from Shanghai to Hong Kong. So I went on alone so I wouldn’t miss my meeting. After a 45 minute wait in the customs line I realized that I had given all my money to Robert to exchange into HKD. So, I’m flying somewhere I’ve never been to meet a person I’ve never met, and I have no money. Fabulous!

I lucked out though – the duty free magazine had round trip Airport Express passes to Kowloon Station available – the very place I was heading. And they also accepted American Express, so double luck for me. I made it to my meeting solo, had a nice lunch with a new distributor, and headed back to the airport on schedule only to find my flight has been delayed twice now.

And that brings us to now…sitting in a terminal bored to death while constantly changing gates since Cathay Air likes to keep us guessing. Good times. Eventually I will make it to Taipei and hopefully luck is on my side again since I have no clue how I’m going to find my way to the hotel.

I’m a little sad I didn’t get to actually SEE Hong Kong. The 30 minute train ride was amazing and I can truly say that it was 10x more beautiful than anything I saw in Shanghai. China isn’t high on my repeat travel list but after a glimpse of Hong Kong I do believe I’d like to return to this area.

Tomorrow is a very important day – a big meeting that holds much possibility for us. I hope I can find someone who speaks English in Taipei who can point me in the right direction so I just might get a good nights sleep tonight. Or maybe I’ll sprawl out on the seats here in the terminal like the 5,000 others waiting for their flight.

Think happy thoughts for me as my travels continue – my passport is starting to look pretty darn cool with all these fancy stamps but it’s all useless if I can’t make it home to show off 😉

Willy Wonka Was Born in Shanghai

Or at least the crazy idea for that creepy tunnel in the original Willy Wonka movie was 🙂 Yesterday I had a bit of time to be a tourist & took full advantage by doing the most tacky thing I’ve ever paid for: the Bund Tourist Sightseeing Tunnel. I imagine this is what it would be like if Willy Wonka took acid.

For a mild taste of this experience and your viewing pleasure:


(apparently Apple doesn’t allow embedding either – I apologize, but I encourage you to click on this link – the surprise inflatable people & super cool star wars sounds are well worth 3 minutes of your time).

However I also got to walk around downtown Shanghai, in the freezing cold wind, and see some really amazing architecture. I’ll share photos in a few days since I can’t connect my camera to the iPad. I even got yelled at by some creepy looking guards for taking a picture of an insurance building (it looked cool). It’s ok to pee on said insurance building but don’t dare take a photo of it.

We had lunch in a distant restaurant, ordering only by pointing at pictures on the menu since no one spoke English & the menu was in Chinese with very odd, incorrect translations. For example, the following dish was called “Jew’s Ear” – which I highly doubt was an accurate translation:

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This was either some really messed up fungus or something else I don’t want to know, but it was actually really good despite the slimy texture. I’m trying very hard to open my mind to new culinary experiences, but it’s all baby steps for me 🙂

The day ended with an extremely awkward massage in some back ally parlor full of people who didn’t speak a word of English. I was too freaked out about the thought of a possible awkward moment where I must explain I really didn’t actually want to hire a prostitute and wondering if a communist country has a sex trafficking problem to even mildly enjoy the massage. Thanks, Robert, for that memorable moment.

On the plus side, I slept wonderfully last night and I think I’m starting to adjust nicely to the time change.

More to come soon!

Day 2- A long but memorable day

I realized today that I have no way to transfer photos from my camera to the iPad, so that will all have to be shared at a later date.

Today was a very busy day – my first meeting was at 9:30am and I didn’t get home (“home”) until 11:30pm! Not all was business though, there was a whole lot of food & getting lost involved during that time frame.

My day began while sharing breakfast with a grumpy German man who refused to accept that someone my age could be in a position to travel to China on business. Good morning to you too, sir. But the day took a great turn after my horrible (and I mean HORRIBLE) instant coffee was replaced with a delicious latte. The driver picked me up at 9:30 and drove 1 1/2 hours to my first meeting that lasted through both lunch and dinner. It would be a lie if I said the day was dull though – we ate at a fantastic local organic restaurant that grew/raised everything they prepared. I tried black rice juice for the first time as well as a fermented drink made of the leftover fruits & vegetables from their farm (which was oddly delicious). It was really wonderful to finally have the opportunity to meet those I talk with so frequently each day.

Later I had another meeting, and although I was so full we ate yet again. I tried some dish made with the connective tissue between the leg joints on a pig. Gross. But at least I tried I guess. I chickened out on the duck tongues. They actually looked like tongues & my stomach just couldn’t handle that lol.

A 2 hour cab ride later I finally made it back to the hotel. Unfortunately I’m not tired enough to fall asleep even though it’s the middle of the night. Tomorrow will be a little more relaxed – only 1 afternoon meeting on the agenda so hopefully I’ll have a chance to get out & see some of the city.

More to come 🙂

Shanghai – The Arrival

I like to think that I’m open to new experiences and cultures – that I’m “immune” to culture shock. Let me tell you that’s clearly a delusion. I arrived in Shanghai yesterday evening after a 14hr plane ride (much shorter than I expected!!) and immediately noticed the crazy amount of people coming from every direction. It’s really something to witness, but being caught in a swarm of people rushing to get somewhere was a little nerve wracking. Somehow we made our way to the train – I’m not quite sure how, and was then thrown immediately into yet another new experience – the Chinese subways. I saw a YouTube video a while back where people were cramming into every square inch of the subway. It made me laugh at the time but experiencing that is a trip. I was terrified I’d miss the correct stop simply due to the fact that I couldn’t get past the 2000 people standing on top of me!

But, for better or worse, I made it to the hotel in one piece. I have a headache that could knock me over and it smells like fish in the hotel but I’m still looking forward to what today holds. I just “enjoyed” the worst cup of coffee in my life – heading out for a new adventure now. Hope to have some pics to share by this time tomorrow!

Giving LA A Second Chance

Well, today didn’t exactly start out on the right foot and despite the fact that I was equipped with a map, gps, AND instructions from the rental car guy, I still managed to get lost in LA. Again.

Strike 2, LA.

That being said, I eventually found my way to Santa Monica & the day quickly turned into something exciting and memorable.

The photo shoot went great, without a single hiccup, and it was really wonderful to meet these people I talk with so many times a day. Plus I got to feel über important, flying out to LA for a photo shoot ;).

We enjoyed a nice lunch in a ridiculously loud restaurant, I got to see some homeless man flexing his guns for a dime, and wrapped up our meeting being hit on by a guy in Starbucks who so generously offered to let me go ahead of him in the bathroom line. And I quote “you won’t want to go in there after me anyway.”

Who said chivalry is dead?

Now I’m enjoying a quiet afternoon soaking up the sun, sitting on a park bench by the beach. Not a bad way to end my day and de-stress before I head back to take on the LA airport again. Not that I was really stressed to begin with.

Oh – I almost forgot to mention the lady who attached a cat bed to her walker!! California is packed with ingenious people:

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All in all I think LA has redeemed itself. Plus when I got lost I actually got to see the Hollywood sign – pretty cool!!

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Day 8: A Sad Goodbye

Unfortunately the end of our trip came too quickly – despite all of the fun we had while in Singapore, it inevitably had to come to an end. We spent the last day of our trip being lazy, walking around the malls and watching Matthew feed the fish at a koi pond.

We are home now, after a long flight from Singapore to Tokyo, then to Houston and finally home to Denver. It felt good to be home at first, but after less than 24 hours I’m already thinking about another trip. What can I say, being home is so boring 🙂

 

Day 7: Pulau Ubin & Clark Quay

Day 7 is, hands down, the best day we had during our trip to Singapore. Pulau Ubin is the second largest offshore island which site in the Johor Strait between Changi and the mouth of the Johor River. The island is a Malay and Chinese community that, according to my travel guide, hasn’t changed much since the 1960’s. Only about 200 people live on the island and is the the site of a traditional Malay fishing village. We took a small boat from Singapore to Pulau Ubin and then rented some old bikes to ride throughout the island. It was HOT to say the least, and I left with about 1000 bug bites, but it was well worth it just being able to see something so beautiful and basically untouched by the modern world. Singapore is so advanced and so architecturally developed, whereas Pulau Ubin is exactly the opposite. The homes and buildings are small, repaired with anything and everything that can be found, the main food source is anything that can be caught from the sea, and no one was wearing designer brands (very unlike Singapore, where everyone seems to have, at the very least, a designer handbag…men included).  I could have spent days there, just walking around and eating delicious food. Whenever we go back to Singapore, we will make it a point to go back to Pulau Ubin.

That night we went to Clark Quay (pronounced “Key”), which is right on the Singapore River and is completely covered by these massive umbrellas and is lined with bars and restaurants. The music was extremely loud & lasted well into the night – we stopped for dinner before spending the night at the Swissotel right there in Clark Quay.