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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot!

On Thursday evening Dave and I officially declared it hot enough to turn on our central air.  This in itself is worthy of a photo of the day.  We live close enough to the lake and spend enough time in our basement that AC is rarely needed in our house.

However, what makes this even more worthy of photo of the day honors is that when we finally decided to turn it on, much to our chagrin, it was dead.  Our late 1970’s air conditioning beast has officially become nothing more than scrap metal.  While not unexpected, the timing was unfortunate. 

R.I.P. General Electric AC (does GE even make residential units anymore?), June 28, 2012:

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Excellent Adventure (Part Two): Thailand… Where Adventure Really Happened

After our days in China and Hong Kong we took a short trip to Bangkok, Thailand for a change of pace and scenery.  I think we experienced the full spectrum of this country in just 2.5 days.  Parties, delicious Thai food, the rainforest, and Buddhist monasteries, it was a full schedule. 

June 12, 2012:  Soi Cowboy

 

I’m going to keep the details of our night out in Bangkok to myself.  Just know that everything in The Hangover 2 is true and I now have firsthand experience of a large percentage of the activities in the movie (note:  no tattoo on my face). 

June 13, 2012:  Khao Yai National Park and Heo Suwat waterfall

 

This day in Thailand was by far our most adventurous day (this next section is a lot to read, but trust me, it’s worth it).  We visited Khao Yai National Park, which is essentially Thailand’s equivalent of Yosemite.  This part of Asia has the world’s oldest rainforest, it even survived the Ice Age.  The park has wild elephants, tigers, gibbons, barking deer, etc.  I felt like I was in a movie walking through the park.  Here is the adventure part… 

You drive into the park and up through a winding mountain road through the rainforest, it’s breathtaking.  The other part that took our breath away is when we passed a sign that read, “Beware:  Cobra Crossing.”  Dave and I shared a collective “What?!?!” that made our driver, who barely spoke English, laugh pretty hard.  No one mentioned anything about cobras when we were planning this day trip.  We made a quick stop at the visitors’ center to get a map of some hiking trails.  The ranger at the station shared with us that there were only two trails we were allowed to hike without a guide.  One was a loop trail right behind the visitors center, the other was the trail to the waterfall.  She said both were paved and not long.  Oh, and as we were turning to leave she says, “You have leech socks?”  Excuse me?  Leech socks?  “You know, the bloodsuckers.”  No, we didn’t have leech socks, but we could buy them from the gift shop.  The ranger said we should try the first trail and if it was ok we didn’t have to buy them.  Sounds reasonable, right?

Trail number one was a breeze.  It took us half the time we were told to expect and was fully paved.  Leech factor  = nonexistent.  Onto trail number two!  For this trail our driver had to drop us off at a campsite and then he drove ahead to the next campsite where the trail ended.  He would meet us there in two hours.  The trail started out beautiful.  It wasn’t paved, but there were big stones we could walk on and it was wide and not muddy (no leeches).  We were cruising, enjoying the scenery, taking pictures, exclaiming, “Wow, we are in the rainforest!”  It was something out of a travel book.  Until our first small problem, a mud pit/river in the middle of the trail.  It was too wide to jump across and no way around.  The alarmist in me is saying things like, “Dave, this looks like quicksand.  The kind where you put one foot in and the suction has you.”  I’m not even thinking about leeches at this point.  The engineers in us get creative, we find some sticks and leaves and Dave is able to make his way across with some careful steps and big jumps and then pull me over after him.  Whew!  Crisis number one is averted.

At this point the trail is narrowing, we are doing some serious bush whacking and I am starting to worry that as I am climbing over logs, pushing back leaves, and climbing through vines that I am unexpectedly going to reach out an touch a cobra, have a large poisonous spider land on me, or get bit by some other exotic bug or animal.  Then crisis number two hits.  We are walking along the river bed and signs start to appear that say, “Beware Crocodile.”  WHAT!?!?!  Not just one sign either, I would estimate 20-30 signs over the course of a kilometer on the trail.  No more time for pictures or enjoying the scenery, I am on a mission to get out of the jungle and break into a jog/walk.

Hmmmm… time for crisis number three?  Yes.  “Dave, I’m not sure if we are on the trail anymore.”  Yes, that’s right, we are freestylin’ our own hike through the jungle, time to backtrack.  Take a left instead of a right, walk awhile, no, this isn’t the trail either.  We are likely following animal trails that have been worn along the river.  Luckily Dave says, “Awhile back I saw a log over the river with a rope, I wonder if we were supposed to cross that.”  Yes, that’s correct, we had to Indiana Jones style cross a log over a muddy, crocodile infested river to stay on the trail. 

After the river crossing the end is truly in sight.  I hear a car, so we are close to civilization and I am in a full jog at this point.  Then I see the campsite and am running to our driver.  Wait, crisis number four still needs to occur.  You didn’t think we were going to make it out without being attacked by leeches did you?  The black little worms had worked their way into our shoes and under our socks and were biting our feet.  Dave noticed first as we got to the end of the trail.  Please picture and appreciate for a moment me screaming and freaking out as I am pulling leeches off my feet and have blood dripping off my body. 

To top it all off we hiked this entire trail to see the waterfall.  Well, little did we know that you could actually drive to the waterfall and not need to hike the trail at all.  That doesn’t make for a great story though. 

June 13, 2012:  Elephant Riding

 

Once again we get to appreciate the lack of safety regulations outside the U.S.  After our jungle hike we stopped along the roadside and hopped on an elephant.  We rode this gentle giant through the rainforest and through the water up a river.  I sat “safely” in a basket on the elephant’s back.  You will notice Dave perched atop the elephants head!  Yes, he rode on an elephants head in a river and through the rainforest in Thailand!

June 14, 2012:  Wat Pho

 

No trip to Thailand is complete without seeing some Buddhas.  This is Wat Pho, the reclining Buddha. 

June 15, 2012:  Last night, back to the city

 

We had an amazing trip and finished it off with a night in the city in Hong Kong.  It’s always sad to end a trip like this.  We have great memories we will be reliving for the rest of our lives.

Photo of the Day: Foodie Style

After the last two weeks I think I have earned my “Intestinal Warrior” badge.  Nothing was off limits… pig throat, cow stomach, frog, baby chickens, chicken feet, grasshoppers, beetles, and the spiciest Thai food we could find.  It was delicious!  Now, there are definitely some foods that I won’t be actively seeking out in the future (the cow stomach isn’t something I would regularly add to our family’s menu).  I pushed the limits and didn’t get sick.  Even the water didn’t bring me down.

June 2, 2012:  Vegetables that actually taste good

One thing I learned quickly in China is that all vegetables there are delicious.  In fact, if people in the U.S. learned how to cook vegetables like the Chinese do we would actually eat vegetables at every meal.  I don’t even know what this vegetable is, something green that looks like grass and doesn’t have a literal English translation.  My translation…  Chinese Grass = Delicious!

June 2, 2012:  Spicy Fish

Once again I’m not sure what kind of fish this is, but this spicy dish was amazing.  I think presentation is half the battle, and this restaurant definitely won.  This style is from the Hunan province in southern China.  They like it HOT there.

June 3, 2012:  Beijing Duck

One thing I learned on this trip is that Peking duck is actually a mispronunciation of the dish Beijing duck.  We had Beijing duck two ways.  First they bring the full duck to the table and cut off the skin and some meat.  You take this skin/meat and make these delicious little duck fajitas while the restaurant takes the remaining duck into the back and does some stir fry magic to it and brings it back all spiced up to eat separately.

June 4, 2012:  Hot Pot!

Chinese hot pot is probably our favorite dish.  The pot in the center of the table is this extremely spicy broth that boils your food.  We ate some of our most adventurous items when we ate hot pot.  This is where the cow stomach, pig throat, and fish heads were enjoyed.  Lamb, beef, rice noodles, potato, and a variety of grass-like vegetables were also devoured.  If you like very spicy food, give us a call.  We brought back a lot of hot pot and would love to have a hot pot luck with you!

June 6, 2012:  Can’t get enough Lamb!

Another thing I discovered on this trip is that I love lamb.  The first time I had it was our first night in China at a Chinese street barbecue restaurant.  Chinese barbecue was also a favorite.  Once again the Chinese have discovered how to make vegetables so delicious you can’t stop eating them.

June 7, 2012:  High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel

We took a break this day from the hot, spicy, meat loving, vegetable eating fun of China.  We headed to Hong Kong, skipped lunch, and enjoyed high tea at the Peninsula Hotel.  That tower of treats next to me is my equivalent of an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet.  The caramel tea wasn’t bad either.

June 8, 2012:  I love dumplings!

Dumplings, any shape, any size, I love them all!

June 9, 2012:  Dim Sum and Chicken Feet

Before and after every meal in China it seemed like I was asking my brother, “Is this dim sum?”  We officially ate dim sum on this day, including the chicken feet and baby chickens.

June 12, 2012:  Mango Sticky Rice

Here I am at a restaurant called “Cabbages and Condoms” in Bangkok, Thailand.  The restaurant is part of a non-profit that distributes contraception throughout Thailand.  They even deliver condoms to the table for every person with your check.  I love Thai food, the spicier the better.  Dave and I were even complimented by a restaurant owner at a Thai restaurant when we were eating “food from the region with the hottest spice” on how well we could handle it.  However, the highlight of this meal was the mango sticky rice.  If anyone out there knows how to make sticky rice, call me asap.  I’m in withdrawal.

June 12, 2012:  Eating Bugs

After a night out on Soi Cowboy I enjoyed a 2 a.m. bug snack.  Bugs really aren’t bad.  They are like popcorn that has been cooked in oil and dusted with spice.  The grasshoppers and crickets were good.  I ate this beetle and it was literally hard to swallow.  The bigger the bug, the harder the shell and it scrapes a little on the way down.  You also need to be with a close friend who you trust to tell you if you have any antennae or legs stuck in your teeth.

June 13, 2012:  Coconut Juice Box

You can buy a coconut almost anywhere on the streets of Bangkok.  The street food stand will cut the top off, hand you a straw and you have a traveling coconut juice box to enjoy!

June 14, 2012:  Magic Conveyer Belt of Sushi

Our last night of vacation we went to a sushi restaurant in Hong Kong and luck must have been on our side.  First, we showed up and the line to the restaurant was creeping around the block.  Little did we know but we had arrived for their late-night sushi special, everything was half price!  We also got the last spot at the sushi bar.  This isn’t your average sushi bar either.  There is a conveyer belt that goes around the bar that is filled with plates of sushi.  You select the plates that you want and when you are done the waitress tallies up your final bill based on the color of the plates that you selected.  We spent a total of $20 (U.S.) and got 12 sushi rolls and tea.  $20 and 12 rolls!!!

After this trip I’ll be sportin’ my elastic waistband pants for the next few weeks until I can work off all the deliciousness that Asia had to offer.

Dave and Becca’s Excellent Adventure (Part One)

Dave and I just returned from an amazing trip to China, Hong Kong, and Thailand to visit my brother Tom.  It was an trip of a lifetime (Thank you Tom!).  The whole trip was one adventure after another.  Luckily we had Tom and other friends and hosts to help us through.  Here is the abridged version of the trip, photo of the day style.  This is a long blog, so here is a quick taste of what you’ll be reading about… Chinese spas, hitchhiking, and government dinners.  Trust me, it’s worth the read.

June 3, 2012:  Great Wall

We started our trip in Beijing and since no trip to China is complete without a visit to the Great Wall we spent one of our first days there.  We visited the Mutianyu section and hiked from end-to-end.  Great Wall hiking is not your average stroll.  I think I’m in pretty good shape and it took me 180 minutes of full body and foot/calf massages to recover.  The best part is that after you hike the wall you can take a toboggan ride down the mountain.  Sometimes the lack of regulations in foreign countries scares me, other times I full appreciate it.  In this case it was great!  Rushing down a mountain in a tiny metal toboggan at high speeds without a seatbelt is surprisingly fun, you forget about the danger pretty quickly. 

June 3, 2012:  2008 Olympic Park

Alright, I’m breaking my photo of the “day” rules here and posting multiple photos from the same day.  On the way back from the wall we made a stop at the Olympic park from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  The Beijing Olympics were my favorite games so this was a highlight of the trip.  This picture is from the Water Cube, half the cube has been turned into a giant indoor water park.  The swimming and diving area has been preserved just as it was during the ’08 Olympics, amazing!

June 3, 2012:  Great Wall Recovery Massage

This was our first of many massages in China.  Going to the Chinese spa was one of the top three highlights of our trip.  Where else can you get four full body massages, three foot/calf massages, a foot scrape (don’t ask), an all-you-can-eat fruit and ice cream buffet, and beverage bar for under $100? 

June 8, 2012:  Hong Kong Geopark Hike

Hong Kong is known for its amazing skyline and big city highlights but in just minutes you can be outside the city and in some of the best hiking and nature Asia has to offer.  We spent a day hiking in a Geopark along the seaside.  This picture doesn’t do the park justice.  There were giant, red lava boulders that led down to the aquamarine water in the bay. 

Our real adventure came after the hike.  To get to this location we had to hike in, take two buses, a train, and a taxi.  If you time it right it’s relatively quick, if you miss the bus you are in for a loooooong wait.  So, while sitting at the bus stop after missing the bus by five minutes we had a friendly man from Asia, Felix, come up to us and offer us a ride.  While initially apprehensive we agreed.  Why not?  His English was good, he had a nice car, he looked like a respectable citizen of Hong Kong.  It wasn’t until about halfway through the ride when Felix said, “I did my first hitchhiking in Turkey” that it occurred to me that we were hitchhiking!  Hitchhiking is pretty far off the risk scale I like to operate within, much less hitchhiking in a foreign country.  Luckily Felix was a safe ride.  He gave us his business card, “Senior Account Executive” for a financial company on Hong Kong Island.  If you are going to hitchhike, find someone with a business card that says that.

June 10, 2012:  Dinner and Baijiu with the SFDA

Doing business in China is all about the relationships.  We were invited out one night for dinner with the SFDA officials (Chinese Food and Drug Administration) for the province my brother lives in.  One major requirement of these dinners is drinking Baijiu, shots of Baijiu to be precise.  This is very common in China, particularly for men.  Baijiu is 120 proof so after your first sip you might ask yourself, “Am I going to die?”  The SFDA officials brought the bottle (luckily only one bottle for four people, usually it’s one bottle per person).  Dave participated in the fun.  They toasted everything, “To China!” “To Health!” “To the USA!” “To New Friends!”  Before everyone drinks we also give the standard celebratory salute, “Ganbei!” or “Empty Glass!”

That was our last night in China and a great way to celebrate, “Ganbei!”

Stay tuned for part two, Thailand!

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