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HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Canada 2015 - Clan Reunion

September 2015

The event that brought everyone together...
Xe&J Tie the Knot!

And here's the fam, doing our thing
Canada 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Okinawa for Rich's birthday, May 2015

Although a month has passed since our trip to Japan (can someone stop the Earth from rotating so darn quickly?), impressions of Okinawa are still fresh in my mind. Here they are, along with the photos of our weekend jaunt in May across the East China Sea.

We arrived in the Naha airport in the early afternoon on Saturday and found out everything we wanted to know from a super helpful woman at the airport visitor center. Most importantly, she narrowed down for us all those coastline options to one beach in the south that’s mostly enjoyed by locals. She had the bus schedules and a map of where to catch our bus, since the main terminal was under construction. She also helpfully dissuaded us from going to the Okinawa aquarium – famous as it is, it would take 3 hours of bumping along on a bus, one way. Yuck. And we really only had 1.5 days to take it all in!

the many lion-dog guardians of entryways of Okinawa
I think Rich’s description of Okinawa as “old-school futuristic” hits the nail on the head. Naha, the capital, feels like a place that was once ahead of its time, but froze at that point in its development. 

Monorail tracks stretching into the distance
Exhibit A: the monorail (monorail, MONORAIL! hehe) that runs – at most – 4 times an hour and moves at a quaintly slow pace. It was entirely way too packed for any more people to squeeze in on Sunday afternoon. Imagine the groans of a whole platform full of hopeful passengers, some with suitcases and obviously heading to the airport, as our train pulled up, crammed with people like sardines in a can. Everyone seemed to take it in stride, though. We had bought 48-hour monorail passes and certainly got our money’s worth, even with the conservative amount of traveling that we did in our time there.

This is not our hotel... haha... but a UNESCO-protected
ancient gate outside of the castle
But backing up to Saturday afternoon. We checked into the conveniently named Okinawa Hotel, which turned out to be a great choice. We’d booked it for its bargain price and a few good reviews, mostly recommending its quiet location that’s still close to the main artery – Kokusai Dori, or International Street. The hotel was – just like most of the city – kind of homey and old-fashioned, but the service was impeccable, everything was clean, they had a small onsen (hot soaking pools) section and didn’t charge us extra for using the AC (I’d read in several other reviews, mostly of small B&Bs, that the AC was hooked up to a coin box you had to feed at expensive rates).

another (restored) gate at the castle
We dropped off our stuff and struck out for Shuri Castle – “a must-see” seat of the local government in days gone by. We loosely followed this helpful walking tour, although at some point realized we didn’t have it in us to do the entire lengthy stroll. We poked around the afore-mentioned International Street in the evening and it seemed primarily gaudy and touristy, but Rich did manage to lead us to the second floor of Makishi Public Market where seafood restaurants were still going strong.

Although Sunday had originally called for rain earlier that week, by the time we landed the skies promised to stay blue and sunny, so Sunday morning we got up early, enjoyed a fab breakfast buffet at the hotel and got on a bus heading to Mibaru Beach. 

Clockwise from left: salmon, veg and pickles, natto, rice and Japanese curry sauce,
miso soup, seaweed, congee and yogurt with fruit.

Just like the rest of the city, it was calm and semi-deserted. The tide was waaaay out when we arrived, so we had to walk and walk and walk to any swimmable depth, but that also meant that as the water came back in, it was warm as a bathtub. We stayed out there for ages. There were also an army of hermit crabs keeping us company in the little cove we chose as base camp. My main impression of the seaside there was the super clear water! It was so clean and pristine. I never thought of Japan as a tropical paradise, but I’d have to describe Mibaru Beach as something akin to that.

We spent ages looking for a place to eat when we got back to town. After much on-foot effort, we gave up finding the port where the tourism lady recommended we get fresh sushi. But, we did eventually find a traditional restaurant where we had Okinawan specialties like fried noodles, “sea grapes” seaweed (yum!), braised pork belly and some random deep-fried stuff.

That’s about the highlights of the trip. I hope we can return one day with more time and an international driving permit so we can rent a car (they seem to be very strict about that). Another possibility is that we’ll go to one of the outlying islands, which are even more tropically luscious. Ishigaki is a possibility; it’s even closer to Taiwan and barely developed. A friend of a friend said it was amazingly natural, and they just rode around on bikes. 

Sayōnara for now, Land of the Rising Sun! 

See all of the photos here: 

Monday, June 15, 2015

On Thoughts – Living in Turbulent Times

Our minds can rage like tempests at open sea, dark clouds of confusion obscuring the light, gales of emotion knocking us off our feet. The waves rise up ready to swallow us: rage, anxiety, dread crashing down on us, one after the other, until we’ve gulped too much fear and the end seems near. Our fingers gripping the illusory railing finally go limp and we plunge overboard…

… and sink deeper into stillness. The ocean’s depths are the blissfully calm waters of our innermost minds, welcoming us home. Silence ― rich with possibility, containing all within itself ― surrounds us.

Let us pause here. This is the place of peace and power. This is where we return each time we take a deep breath. This is where our small selves have dissolved into the cosmos, unfurled finally from the constricting views we’ve cinched tight around who we think we are.

Next time the storm comes, you can close your eyes and return here.

Peace is a choice.
With a silent prayer, riding on the breath,

choose peace.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bali! - Chinese New Year 2015

Though most people who read this blog have already seen our Bali photos, I thought a short write-up on what all we experienced was in order.

Looking back on it a month later, the trip feels a bit surreal. I find this true for all travel, because it plucks you out of everyday routine, which allows for more wiggle room in terms of who you are and how you are in the world. Of course, the exotic locale (an obvious change in climate/scenery/food/language, etc.) only added to the surreal feeling. Same for my head cold, which had really bloomed into full-blown status by the time we finally got out of our taxi after an hour of intense traffic along Bali’s congested highway from the airport. Still, I was determined to make the most of our holiday (and I hope didn’t whine too much about being sick ;)

Bali really is a dream – the nature is just so vibrant and lush. Ubud has a palpable sense of art interwoven with spirit and we ate and lived like kings, because it’s so affordable – much higher quality for your money compared to Taiwan. The food was fresh, mostly local, often organic and always delicious. We stayed at Swasti Eco Cottages (highly recommend) in a bungalow and then moved to a gorgeous Javanese house (actually deconstructed in Java, transported to Bali, restored and rebuilt there by our super-nice Air BnB host and artist Made).

Because the climate is tropical year-round, dwellings just need to provide shelter and our first one didn’t have any glass in the windows – just shutters for light and privacy. Nature really comes to you – both of our places were visited by some small animals (cats? lizards?) who apparently wanted to leave us the gift of their poop. Ha. Nothing too gross and certainly better than finding big spiders.

We saw lots of monkeys, which was always entertaining. The Monkey Forest in the middle of Ubud is their sanctuary and handlers/caretakers casually stroll around, some egging on tourists to get a monkey to climb on them by offering a bit of food. They do seem insatiably voracious and mischievous. One was gnawing on a business card that a young Chinese couple somehow lost to its grip. Another grabbed someone’s water bottle and was dousing passers-by from a high perch. Another was grabbing and chewing on a guy’s T-shirt. Our favorite was the monkey that climbed on a girl’s head to get a banana she was holding and then just sprawled on its belly, still on top of the girl’s head, to munch the fruit like it was the most natural thing in the world. I should have taken more photos.
It’s the end of the wet season and we got poured on big-time on several days. Again, it’s warm, so not that big of a deal, but we waited it out a few times, watching the torrents literally engulf the downhill roads in a foot or so of water. We also bought a double-person raincoat for riding the scooter. It’s our romantic souvenir – two hoods on a single poncho. <3 o:p="">

All in all, I can see why everyone falls in love with Bali. I’m glad we were in Ubud at the end of the low season, as it must be a zoo during the tourist rush. I hope we get to go back with more time on our hands to explore the rest of Bali and I wish everyone the same. Thank you again to my sweet love Rich for this fantabulous 10-year-anniversary gift. What a sweetie, that guy!

Here is the full photo album:
Bali!! CNY 2015

P.S. – amusement is in the details –
Our flight back was with Philippines Air and I just wanted to share some strange, (archaic-colonial?) use of English from the crew announcements and airport signs:

“Please accomplish your landing cards.” à fill out
“Passengers may avail themselves of the free shuttle to Terminal 2.”
“You must divest yourself of electronics prior to going through the security check.”

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Our trip to Kenting for the NYE break

Rich and I spent January 1-4, 2015 in the south of Taiwan. It was really windy-blowy the first few days, but in the 20s and our last day we spent lounging around on the beach, even hiding out from the sun under an umbrella.

Here is a small collection of our photos. Excuse the low quality of our mobile phones.

Kenting Jan 2015

We only took one video - me being silly as I tried to battle the wind to stand up straight for a photo. Little did I know that Rich was filming the whole time. Ha.