Yangon, Myanmar...

Yangon, Myanmar...
Relaxing in the Skyline Bistro on the 20th floor of the Pagoda Tower, Yangon, Myanmar [January 2012]

Sunday, October 29, 2017

China's Capital Cities: Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai

Took a whirlwind 8 night tour to China in October. Flew Cathay Pacific non-stop from Boston to Hong Kong [15+ hours], three hour layover and a short 2 hour flight to Beijing. My first impression in the hour and a half taxi to the hotel: 'dark, dreary, dank, dirty, dusty and dull'. My view upon arrival and check in at the Quianmen Jianguo Hotel was: 'grandeur with a patina of forlorn awaiting the return of a previous era'. but after emerging from the hotel on the sunny morning of the next day and some glorious days to follow it became: 'a jewel box of treasures covered with a layer of smog'!

Dinner the first evening [and most every meal from then on] was family style with the ubiquitous lazy susan in the middle of a round table set for eight. The breakfasts here in Beijing and also in each hotel thereafter were excellent with a variety of cuisines. My favorite meal here was in the Hutong area neighborhood in Old Beijing. These were old residential neighborhoods with courtyard homes situated in small lanes and alleys that are rapidly disappearing due to urban development. The twenty-four of us were served a family meal prepared with a great amount of pride from vegetables and meat bought that day in market. There were three generations living in this tiny cottage but we seemed to fit in as a new family.

We visited the Temple of Heaven and the 250-acre Forbidden City. This area was so huge, the world's largest palace complex. I don't know where one ended and the other started. We walked for what seemed to be hours peering into ancient history so very recently opened to the general public. There were hordes of people enjoying the views and reliving the lives of ancient Emperors. That evening we enjoyed the famous Peking Duck in a nearby restaurant.

Tiananmen Square was immense. The history was alive in our minds but hidden in the present telling of the story. This was the day that the president, was to be installed, Xi Jinping, installed. The decorations for this special day were in full display.

Then on to the Great Wall! We traveled by bus for several hours to reach one of the many entrances to the wall. The green mountain range on the way was the introduction to the immense 3000 mile structure that took 2000 years to build. I chose 'the easier' route to walk to the first watch tower and this took just under an hour to get their and retrace my steps back. Since the walk traces the topography of the terrain  it can be flat or steep, level or stairs, but always crowded. The view from the watch tower was amazing as you looked across way and could see up to three or four watch towers in the distance. The air was cool and autumn-like and was so exhilarating! After descending, I stopped with a friend for a huge pot of Jasmine Silver Tea, my new delight. A buffet lunch followed our trek and the chef preparing the 'pulled noodles' was a delight.

The next day after a visit to the Summer Palace we left Beijing on the High-Speed bullet train to Xi'an. The grounds of the Summer Palace are beautiful and the artificial lake was filled with lotus blossoms. The ride to the island on the dragon boat was a peaceful end to our hectic Beijing stay. The train was also so peaceful that it was disconcerting to realize it was traveling over 150 miles per hour. There was not a sway or bump along the way. It took hours for our ride to Xi'an but it was a good time to rest. We checked into the Grand Nobel Hotel, the most modern of our stay.

That first morning in our new city we attended a lecture on Chinese History in a section of the Xi'an University. What we thought would be a boring morning turned out to be a highlight of the trip. The lecturer was marvelous and she was so interesting that the morning flew by. That afternoon we visited the Hui Muslim market and were suddenly immersed in a sea of humanity buying and/or selling anything one needed now or in the future. The produce was beautiful and the yellow pomegranates were memorable.

Among the highlights of this part of the day was a visit to the grounds of the Great Mosque. Xi'an was a hub of the Silk Route in ancient times. The grounds of the mosque were steps away from the market mania and relaxed us for the rest of the day.

Thursday's visit to the Qin Emperor's Terra Cotta Warriors was something I will always remember. This huge tomb site containing an army of life size terra cotta figures was one of the most outstanding archeological discoveries of the 20th century. There are about 8000 figures on display in rows and rows with a number of statues yet to be unearthed. We were able to view the three huge pits filled with soldiers, cavalry, archers, their weapons, horses and chariots. Such a day filled with history, art and exhausted travelers.

After dinner we relaxed at a concert of ancient by members of the Xi'an Music Institute.

Early check out in the morning for our flight to Shanghai. Our flight to Shanghai was delayed by several hours due to snow in Moscow, the starting point of our aircraft. The airline fed us a hot meal and then gave each of us 200rmb [$30] for the inconvenience of the delay. This made the our Shanghai stay even shorter! This is city to which I need to return. The Astor House Hotel was like living in London as it reeked of colonial Britain. The rooms were huge with high ceilings and half-timbering. Breakfasts were especially delightful in the breakfast room with crystal chandeliers.

Visited the Yu Gardens dedicated to the late wife of Mister Yu. This park was complete with castle and moat, koi pond, zig zag bridges and hidden alcoves with lots of visitors. The park in front was filled with artisans and many places to eat.

I went with a group to have an iced tea in a Starbucks! That evening we attended the fantastic Shanghai acrobat show. This rivaled anything of it's ilk that I have ever seen. Our last night there we spent on the Bund of the Huangpu River which separates Old Shanghai from the Pudong [new] area. This is where all the new skyscrapers sit and each was lit in a splendid showing of modern architecture. What a wonderful way to spend a night celebrating the end of marvelous venture into ancient Asia.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hawai'i 2016/17

Spent two weeks in Aiea, Hawai'i at the home of very dear friends. We met at the airport in Honolulu back in 1963. We then proceeded to be together for four years on Chuuk where we worked for the United Nations/Department of Interior. Our lives intersected many times after that and I remain friends for them still now [my wife, Jean, passed away in 2005].

They have a beautiful home in Aiea Heights on Oahu where I stayed in their teahouse/guesthouse. 

There are flowers everywhere and the walk down to the main house reminds me of the little time I spent in Kyoto.

There were several rainy mornings so I didn't get in my morning walk up to the heaiu, the sacred Hawai'ian burial ground. One morning there was quite a wind but I made it back home dry and hungry for breakfast.

There house is filled with art and I share several of the artists in my collection. One of my favorites is John Young. This is a portrait of their two children done by him many years ago.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Marché aux Place d'Aligre

Spent an early morning adventure at one of the best neighborhood markets in Paris at Place d'Aligre The variety of fruits and vegetables was amazing but more impressive even was the quality. There was a whole section of BIO [organic] items.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Arcades of Havana, Cuba

This slideshow: 'The Arcades of La Habana' makes me want to go back. Take a look at the beautiful architecture.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

PARIS Birthday Trip

I will be spending a week in Paris to celebrate my 79th birthday during the first week of September and will be staying in the Marais for the first time...

a visit to le Marais on a previous trip...
Have reservations at Les Jardins du Marais hotel for the week. Will use that as my base for exploring that part of the city...

restaurant at the hotel...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Village Tour

Took friends from Hawai'i to see some of the sights of Greenwich Village. One of them had worked with us in Truk and had heard my stories of attending NYU and living in the Silver Towers there. Wanted to show off my old neighborhood.

Bust of Sylvette
The bust of Sylvette by Picasso and constructed by Paul Nesjar started in 1968 and was not finished by the time I left for Guam in June of that year. We were able to watch the whole construction/installation during that year however.

We lived here on the 18th floor of the I.M. Pei building.

Then it was off to lunch at Jane Restaurant for a delicious early dinner. The review is on the Mofongoman blog.

Monday, April 25, 2016

return to CUBA

After visiting in 2010, 2011 and 2012, I wanted to see Cuba again before the BIG changes happened. There were some changes and happily some things were just the same.

the old cars...
WiFi in every plaza...
the water...
the little kids and their music...
street art...
the flowers...

the mountains...
the calesas in old Havana...

and the ever present flight back home...