Thursday, December 11, 2014

On The Go In Asia

From Mid-October to early November of 2014, Kay and I traveled to Asia for three and half weeks. The main purpose of this trip was to visit relatives in Jiangmen located in southern China about 2 hours drive from the South China Sea, and to meet her brother's new wife. It has been 10 years since Kay last visited and it would be a first for me. My pictures are divided into five groups; Hong Kong Part 1, Jiangmen, Hong Kong Part 2, Macau, and Singapore.

Hong Kong Part 1: The first leg of our trip to Asia began with a non-stop flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Before going into mainland China, Kay and I decided to spend four nights on our own exploring the sights in Hong Kong. My last trip to this area was in 1992. Needless to say that China, which now includes Hong Kong and Macau as Special Administrative Regions, has experienced an economic explosion since 1992. As a result, on going construction, be it high rise buildings or roadways, can be seen throughout the regions we visited. Living with a crowd is the norm here which certainly makes me appreciate, ever more, the luxury of space that I have at home. Here's a few favorite pictures from Hong Kong Part 1. To see all the pictures in Picasa, click on the link at the lower right of the last picture.

From Hong Kong, Part 1

Jiangmen: We were picked up by Kay's brother and his wife in Jiangmen after catching the early morning ferry from Hong Kong, about a 3-hour ride. Our hotel, where we spent the next 9 nights, was within easy walking distance to most of the relative's homes and nicely situated across the street from the city's central park, the Donghu. This beautiful flowery park with two lakes, a large open plaza, and three hilly knolls, along with numerous hidden pathways and enclaves, is a popular gathering place for community activities throughout the day and evening hours. Besides normal activities like walking and jogging, there is group exercise, jazzercise, tai chi, kung fu, singing, fan dancing and ballroom dancing just to name a few. Add special events during weekends such Chinese opera on the open air stage and colorful light and fountain displays, and this is a very entertaining place. While in Jiangmen, it was all about being with family with big meals out and in along with side trips to local sights. Here's a few favorite pictures from Jiangmen. To see all the pictures in Picasa, click on the link at the lower right of the last picture.

From Jiangmen

Hong Kong Part 2: Kay and I returned to Hong Kong along with her brother and his wife, using the bus which was less expensive and more scenic giving us a bird's eye view of the phenomenal growth occurring in China. We, two couples, rented adjacent apartments near the Jordan MTR Station on Austin Avenue within the Tsim Sha Tsui District. Part of our plans in Hong Kong included a visit of cousins from Kay's father's side, who live in the Tuen Mun District within the northwestern region of Hong Kong, a 45 minute subway from our apartment. We also visited the Stanley area and Repulse Bay on the southside of Hong Kong island, where the coastal waters felt absolutely wonderful, but yours truly did not bring swim shorts. Here's a few favorite pictures from Hong Kong Part 2. To see all the pictures in Picasa, click on the link at the lower right of the last picture.

From Hong Kong, Part 2

Macau: While in Hong Kong, the four of us, Kay's brother, his wife, Kay and I, did an overnighter to Macau staying at the Hotel Royal close to the old town. Like Hong Kong, Macau has been a Special Adminstrative Region of China since 1999. The primary attraction for the tourist, besides gambling, appears to be Macau's lavish hotels and casinos, reminiscent of the best in Las Vegas, Nevada. I should also mention that the seafood buffet at the Sands was outstanding. Yes, you can eat for two hours! During our visit, parts of Macau's roadways were undergoing transformation for the 2014 Grand Prix motor racing event. Here's a few favorite pictures from Macau. To see all the pictures in Picasa, click on the link at the lower right of the last picture.

From Macau

Singapore: The final leg of our Asia trip was a week in Singapore staying in an apartment rented from Somerset Orchard, off of Orchard Road, one of the main shopping boulevards on this small island country. Besides the oppportuntiy for us to visit new places like Singapore, a highlight of our stay was reuniting with Singaporean friends we met in 2012 on Jeju Island in South Korea. They showed us great places off the tourist route in addition to the more popular destinations within Singapore. Here's a few favorite pictures from Singapore. To see all the pictures in Picasa, click on the link at the lower right of the last picture.

From Singapore

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chihuly in Tacoma

The glass works of Chihuly is on public display in downtown Tacoma, Washington, his hometown, within the historic Union Station and on the Bridge of Glass next to Tacoma's Museum of Glass. It was well worth the stop during the trip home from Seattle after our Alaskan Cruise. Chihuly's glass art goes from small works displayed on pedestals, to chandeliers hanging from ceilings, to larger than life conceptual displays that envelop the space around us, be it indoors filling entire rooms and outdoors in natural settings. Chihuly broke conceptual barriers with his over the top glass displays and pushed glass art to new visual levels, which I consider magical, thrusting glass art to the forefront of public consciousness alongside other art forms. So how's that for a statement of endorsement :-)))). Below are a few pictures. To see the full set in Picasa, click on the link at the bottom right of this post.

From Chihuly in Tacoma

Alaskan Cruise 2014

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we decided to take a 7-day Alaskan Cruise out of Seattle, our first cruising experience and probably not our last given the right situation. Our itinerary included stops at Ketchikan, the Tracy Arms Fjord, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, a standard route for hundreds of cruise ships that sail the Inland Passage over the summer. The Alaskan Cruise season begins around May and ends sometime in September. Some "Ports of Call" such as Juneau, Skagway, etc., will accommodate as such five cruise ships a day through out the peak summer season, which means upwards of about 12,000 tourist shopping, eating, and sightseeing in their towns. Needless to say, the tourist industry keeps these towns afloat. Locals welcome the tourist, but relish their laid back small town lifestyle after the summer season.

Our 15 level cruise ship, which accommodated 2,880 guest along with 1,200 crew members, was outstanding. Perhaps not 5 star, but definitely a four! It's basically a small town afloating the sea offering all the services you would for need for a week such as restaurants, spas, casino, fitness center, pools, theater, movies, lounges, dancing, etc. The food at the buffet was good overall and I was always able to find something that I liked enough to get seconds. Our dinners in the formal dining room with set seatings, were outstanding overall with only a few missteps by the chefs, and was my preference over the buffet. Kay wondered whether or not I would like cruising, and I say everything has it's place. I enjoyed my week and would consider another. I worried that 2,880 people on a ship would feel crowded, but that was not the case. There was plenty of room and always a hidden enclave to be had if you didn't want to see anyone. Certain places would be crowded such as the buffet at lunchtime, the fitness room in the morning, or the elevators, which we would avoid by using the stairs. After all, we could use the exercise to counter all our eating. Loved the experience! Below are a few pictures. To see the full set in Picasa, click on the link at the bottom right of this post.

From Alaskan Cruise 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Library is a massive angular structure that stands out amongst it's sourroundings making a statement that can't be eschewed by passersby. For me, it's exterior finish could use more variety with some brighter accents perhaps. From afar, the entry appears rather small and understated in relation to the overall size of the building, but the overhanging frame and glass exterior wall does create interest while entering. The main entry level is spacious with an open air chamber that reaches all the upper levels and allows views to the lower floors from above. With outside views from every floor and in every direction, the structure's glass exterior finish allows patrons inside to stay connected to the natural world, be it the time of day or weather, as well as to activities on the streets. The interior is clean and modern in design and color, as well as functional. For modernism, the top upper level uses matt stainless steel as the floor tile, however, the material which lacks a hard finish, is showing it's wear with lots of scratches and marks. There are lots of rooms, workstations, table space, nooks and crannies throughout the building with seating everywhere. When we visited, the library was very busy with people all around, a testament to it's good interior design and user friendly space. As with many massive modern angular buildings of it's kind, I think it's a love it or hate it situation. That's my 2 cents worth. Below are a few pictures. To see the full set in Picasa, click on the link at the bottom right of this post.

From The Seattle Public Library

The Pacific Northwest 2014: Portland and Seattle

As a prelude to our first cruise experience, a one week Alaskan Cruise departing out of Seattle, Kay and I decide to drive north early to explore Portland and Seattle, two great cities of the Pacific Northwest, which we last visited back in the 1990's. Over the years since, Portland has been sited repeatedly as the ideal model for a bicycle friendly city so for me, being a bike nut, it was a must see. We also have two nieces currently residing in Seattle so we wanted time to visit and to explore the city. One lasting memory from our previous visit to Seattle was a prime rib dinner, the most tender I've ever eaten, served at the Metropolitan Grill. Unfortunately, it was not as good this time around. Perhaps my taste for meat has changed with age! To conclude, we had a great time exploring the two cities and visiting with our nieces. Portland and Seattle are both wonderful metropolitan cities, each imparting it's own unique character. Portland has a more laid back friendly earthy feel and I would describe as a major city without a significant skyline, while Seattle has all the height, high polish and shine of a major city along with the fast pace that goes with it. One of our highlights in Seattle, was the Chihuly exhibit at the Space Needle. We enjoyed Chihuly's outdoor garden exhibit so much that we went twice, once during the day time and then after dark which was quite magical. Below are a few pictures. To see the full set in Picasa, click on the link at the bottom right of this post.

From The Pacific Northwest 2014: Portland and Seattle

Monday, November 17, 2014

Test Post using BlogPress

Test post using the BlogPress App on my mobile phone for easier future postings while traveling. If you want to use large, 800 x 600, thumbnail pictures with your post, as seen here, you have to use Flickr as your default picture storage location. So far, so good for BlogPress. Now, how about these bike tires; is this the future? What a great game changer if these tires really work like tires with air. I'm hoping so.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hiking the Eastern Sierra 2014

In early September, a group of us, 16 in total, did three days of hiking and exploring in the Eastern Sierra staying at the Glacier Lodge located 10 miles west of Big Pine off Highway 395. Our activities, which did not involve bicycles, included a 13 mile hike to glacier lakes, exploring the Alabama Hills at the base of Whitney Portal, hiking to the top of Mount Barcroft at 13,000 feet elevation, and visiting the Schulman Grove for a magical photographic session at sunset. In addition, I also decided to add in some motorcycling, a new passion for me, by riding to Glacier Lodge from my home by way of Yosemite National Park, a stunning visual route with lots of winding roads. The round trip from home was about 600 miles with approximately 9 hours of ride time each way, rest stops included. What a great way to spend five days. My thanks to Rich for organizing the trip. Click on the link below the pictures to see all the pictures in Picasa.

From Hiking the Eastern Sierra