Monday, December 29, 2014

Streets of Jiangmen

Here's a video of the streets of Jiangmen, mainland China, with its multitude of the vehicles and motor scooters lock in their daily street dance.

The Fountain of Wealth in Singapore

Here's a video of the Fountain of Wealth in Singapore, once the largest fountain in the world. Every two hours the full fountain is on display and visitors must exit fountain centre. Visitors often throw coins into the mini fountain at the centre and walk around it three time for good luck. At night, the fountain is the setting for laser performances, as well as live music and laser message dedications which we did not see.

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 opportuntiy 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 as 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. I also added in some motorcycling, a new passion for me, 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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

North to Alaska

First, I want to give Stew kudos and a big "Thank You" for a great tour. It was his idea, planning, organization, work, energy, enthusiasm and leadership that made this trip possible. Thank you for inviting me. Most memorable for me will be the awesome landscape, the group camaraderie, the friendliness of locals and travelers, and the wildlife. Most of the population in this region is centered around the major towns and cities, so we experienced minimal traffic for most of our tour which was a real treat for us Californians.

Our trip started with three nights in Juneau, followed by a ferry to Skagway where our group of nine met up with Stew and Jim who spent 5 days driving the truck containing all our bikes and equipment. The truck, with shared driving which also serves as a rest day, would be our sag vehicle during the 12-day tour carrying our luggage and essential road supplies, mainly food and water. From Skagway, most of us caught the scenic narrow track train up White Pass to the outpost station of Fraser where the riding began. Our bike route traveled through British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska ending in Anchorage with an 100-mile bus shuttle ride on the 13th day. In total, we rode about 693 miles over 12 days with 27,771 feet of elevation gain. Although the weather was ever changing from sunny to rainy and everything between, which had me constantly adjusting my clothing for comfort, it was decent and not extreme until our last day of riding when a 2 day cold storm front arrived. We survived and it was memorable. Thanks Stew, it was a great tour.

Kay joined me in Anchorage and my travels in Alaska continued for another week with trips by vehicle to Seward on Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, and north to Denali National Park and Fairbanks. Click on the link below the subsequent picture to see all the pictures in Picasa; the pre-tour activities, the bike tour, and my post tour activities. It's pictorial journal, so there are a lot of pictures.

From North to Alaska

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New York, New York: The Complete Photo Journal

During May 2014, Kay and I spent 11 nights in New York City staying in an old, small, funky studio apartment in the East Village neighborhood rented through Air BnB. Per Wikipedia: "East Village, which is bordered by Greenwich Village to the west, to the north by Gramercy Park and Stuyvesant Town, to the south by the Lower East Side, and to the east by the East River, is known for its ethnic diversity, vibrant nightlife, unique artistic sense, and considered the center of counterculture in New York City". Definitions aside, Kay and I loved staying in the neighborhood which is nicely located for walking and easy access to all the major sights via the subway. This is our first trip the New York City together and the energy of the city with its life out on the streets is electrifying. We took in all the major sights but also enjoyed just hanging in our adopted neighborhood surrounded by markets, shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs which generally attracted a younger crowd. Click on the link below the subsequent picture to see all my pictures in Picasa. It's pictorial journal, so there are a lot of pictures.

From New York, New York: The Complete Photo Journal

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reporting from New York City

I'm happy to say that we survived our Saturday 2-boroughs bike tour of NYC through the weekend crowds, tourist by the bus loads and eternal city traffic, on our rickety rented tandem from Blazing Saddles. I do have to admit, however, that my survival instincts did kick in when the bike lanes disappeared around 5th Avenue and I decided that I wanted to live, so we walked.

From just below the Brooklyn Bridge, we rode north crossing the East River to Brooklyn on the Williamsburg Bridge and lunched along Myrtle Street, a gritty, sometimes unnerving neighborhood, mixed with some trendy and the distinctively dressed Hasidic Jewish. Lunch at Putnam was great. Then it's was back to Manhattan over the Manhattan Bridge via downtown Brooklyn, through Chinatown and south toward Battery Park, walking whenever the crowds created an impasse. The entire west side shoreline of Manhattan has been developed between it's promenades, marinas, piers and parks, with multi-use pathways north to Central Park and beyond. It was slow going at times but also some of the fastest sections. We eventually found our way to Central Park through quiet stately neighborhoods and joined the large weekend crowds enjoying the park. For safety purposes, cycling in the park is a one-way counter clockwise affair on designated routes only. My misdirection, heavy traffic, and hordes shoppers forced us to walk from 5th Avenue and 59th Street until we found our next bike lane on 2nd Avenue. Our fast ride with the 2nd Avenue traffic took us through our own adopted neighborhood, the East Village, back downtown and along the East River to the end of our tour.

Bike touring is great way to see and experience NYC, and we lived to talk about it. Bicycling is a part of NYC life and growing, but you have to get accustomed to the character of it's traffic. I see bicyclist riding the busiest of streets through the heaviest traffic. I guess you have to be in a New York State of Mind. Below is a link to a few picture in Picasa.

From New York City

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Taste of South Florida

For Winter 2014, Kay and I decided to forego San Diego and visit South Florida, a region that has been in our sights for a number of years. For me, it was also a great opportunity to finally visit Key West and the Everglades National Park, places I had long heard of. Starting in Ft. Lauderdale, we traveled south through Miami, then along the Florida Keys to Key West. We spent 3 nights each in Ft. Lauderdale, Coconut Grove, and Key West. Next, we explored the Everglades National Park spending 3 nights in Florida City. We drove most of the roadways within the national park, the third-largest in the lower states at 1,508,538 acres, visiting all the major visitor centers. We wanted to see alligators and gators we saw, lots of them. Spotting the shy elusive Manatee, a one-time sighting, was an extra treat and I added a number of new birds to my non-existent life list. From there we headed for the west coast of Florida, viewed by some locals as the second west coast of the U.S., spending one night in Ft. Meyers before stopping in Siesta Key, just south of Sarasota, for a week. It was nice to stay put for the week, meeting up with Kay's resident friend, Dean, and to hang with Dennis and Debbie, Californian Friends who joined us during our stay in Siesta Key. We concluded our trip with a night's stay in St. Petersburg visiting their recently built Dali Museum, designed by architect Yann Weymouth, before flying home out of Tampa Bay. We had a great time exploring South Florida despite the less than perfect weather. There is definitely a different feel between Florida's east coast with its higher population density and the wide open development of the west coast, but don't be surprised if you hear a lot of foreign languages on either coast. A playground for the top one percent and a haven for winter snow-birders, both human and avian, South Florida is worth a visit for its coastal beauty and unique watery ecosystem. I didn't do a good job with my pictures showing you the wealth that resides around South Florida with its many grand homes, over-the-top yachts, and exotic cars; but trust me, it's there. My total bird count on this trip is 76 species. To see my photographs from the trip along with some narrative, click on the link below the picture.
From South Florida 2014