Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tasty Taiwan

Marvelous Mango Dessert
We travel to Taiwan for business (Ken) and pleasure (Jeanie).  Jeanie went to Taiwan on an educational mission 22 years ago.  Wow, have things changed since then!  Taipei is an accessible city with fast trains, excellent subways, and drivers that actually give pedestrians the right away!
Apple, Jeanie, Ken
at Taiwan's most famous restaurant:
Din Tai Fung

Note:  There's a Din Tai Fung
in Seattle!

Some say that Taiwan is the best of China.  The food, culture, history, and sights are impressive.  Taiwan is clean, orderly, and convenient.
Our flight is under two hours from Shanghai to Taipei.

Apple at her family-owned restaurant
We visit with our friend  Apple, who is is visiting her parents in Taipei when we arrive.  She and her husband, Neil, are friends from Washington.  Neil works with Ken at Intel, Dupont.

Jeanie in front of the original
Din Tai Fung and
its delicious dumpling

We enjoy Japanese style hotpot with new friends:  Lisa, Rick, Andrea

Jeanie enjoys the green tea plantations
In addition to great food, the culture and history of Taiwan are unique.  In 1949, the Kuomintang army (KMT), led by Chiang Kai-Shek, lost control of mainland China and fled to Taiwan.  Before that, Japan had a strong influence in Taiwan.  Taiwan imported rice and green tea to Japan.
The gates into Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Jeanie at the Memorial Grounds

The Sights:
Rick,  Lisa,  Andrea  
 Rick, who works at the Intel in Taipei, takes us on a beautiful hike just 45 minutes north of the city to Yang Ming Shan. We are happy to have his wife, Lisa, and his daughter, Andrea, join us.

View of Taipei City from Yang Ming Shan
Hiking at Yang Ming Shan

Andrea enjoys the grass

Mother and daughter;
 the ancient art of calligraphy
Apple takes Jeanie on a great tour
of the Geo-Park along the north
shore of Taiwan
Jeanie stands at the Pacific Ocean on the northeast coast of Taiwan  
Taipei 101, yep,
101 floors!!
Good night, Taiwan

Well, Blog Readers,
we approach the end of our China blog as we leave China in three days, on November 30, 2013.

We aren't quite finished however.  We will embark on  Ken's eight week sabbatical adventure which we will post and entitle:

The Long Way Home  

Finally, we are thankful for God, family and friends.  We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.     1 Thessalonians 5:18

Friday, November 15, 2013

Colorful Jiuzhaigou

Jiu-zhai-gou National Park, Sichuan Province
Fantastic fall colors in late October
We finish our China travel with a WOW experience.  One hour northwest by plane from the Xi'an Warriors, we fly to our last mainland China journey.  We officially leave China on November 30.

We enjoy meeting up with Jensen,
one of Ken's work colleagues
Our only panda sighting
A World Heritage Site,this national park is just the place to hike our final steps,  marvel at Chinese beauty, and enjoy the Tibetan culture in Northern Sichuan Province.

The park organization is efficient.  Take the bus up one of the two stunning valleys and hike back down or hop on the bus at any stop.
Magnificent waterfalls

We encounter snow on the upper trails
Mountain goats on trail
Tibetan influence in park
One of Ken's favorite meals in China:
  roasted yak, wild mushrooms
 Tibetan mash potatoes and gravy
Colorful valley

Grassland valley

Where's Jeanie?  

Walking paths throughout the park

The paths traverse waterways

Amazing lake colors

Clear and calm waters

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul."  Psalm 23: 1-3

Next Time:  Taiwan

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Warriors of Xi'an

Drum Tower in Xi'an

We travel to Xi'an in Shaanxi Province, 2.5 hour flight northwest of Shanghai, to visit the warriors, ride bikes around the City Walls,
Where's Jeanie?
Xi'an City Walls built in 1370
 and enjoy the Muslim Quarter.  Muslims have been in Xian since the 7th Century. The Silk Road started in Xi'an. It is a vibrant mix of cultures and religions.
Jeanie in front of Xi'an City Wall
Ken at the the wall
 90 minutes to bike around it
Muslim Quarter
 narrow lanes of food and shops
Xi'an Architecture
In a building the size of an aircraft hanger,
6,000 life-size warriors are contained, 2,000 are displayed

Xi'an's terracotta warriors are called the 8th Wonder of the World.  This is one of the most famous archaeological finds in the world.  And the amazing thing is that this 200-year- before-Christ-army-of -warriors was only discovered in 1974 by some farmers who were trying to dig a well!

No two faces are alike
Archaeologists are still uncovering pieces
Warriors created to guard
Emperor Qin's tomb

Emperor Qin had the warriors, horses and chariots created as he probably believed that was going to rule in death as he did in life. (He died in 210 B.C.) The First Emperor Qin ruled for 36 years, and although he unified China and created an efficient government: standardized measurements, money, and built about 4,000 miles of roads and canals, he enslaved thousands of people.

Horses, and 35 wooden chariots were found
 chariots have since disintegrated

These bronze horses and chariot were discovered 20 meters west of Emperor Qin's tomb
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the Lord our God."  Psalm 20:7

Next Up: Colorful Jiuzhaigou

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hello Vietnam

The vivid colors of Vietnam
During China's National Holiday or Golden Week, we travel to Vietnam to see the places and meet the people of an infamous, yet fascinating country.
Roof dragon on Temple of Literature in Hanoi

We fly to Hanoi from Shanghai, 3.5 hours.  We hear Hanoi is what China was about 25 years ago.  No subway, just motorbikes, taxis, and few private automobiles on the road.
French Opera House in Hanoi City

Ken at Hoa Lan Prison, ironically named
Hanoi Hilton
American pilots were incarcerated,
John McCain's flight suit is on
We never thought we'd ride one
of these, but it was fun!

 Hanoi is the northern capital city of Vietnam.  This is a dynamic city. We stay two nights and are overwhelmed with sights, smells and a people who are genuinely pleased to welcome foreigners into their city.

Jeanie doing morning Tai Chi on the Junk
We then take a bus west towards Halong Bay; roads are slow with construction.  We arrive 4 hours later, and embark on our sailing cruise ship called the Treasure Junk.  This is a serious splurge for us and we love it!  Exquisite French cuisine, relax time on the ship and, for the first time all year, we KAYAK!!

Treasure Junk, Halong Bay
Incredible kayaking
Halong Bay floating fishing village

Paddling the South China Sea

 Warm water swim as the sun goes down on Halong Bay

Hoi An along the Thu Bon River
After our two day cruise, we fly to the middle of Vietnam along the coast to Hoi An, an atmospheric World Heritage Site.   Hoi An has an incredible legacy of Japanese and Chinese architecture, tea houses and temples.  The food is delicious.  We spend time on a beautiful, yet vacant beach.  This is the area called China Beach, once an R&R hang out for U.S. Soldiers.

Fishing along the Thu Bon River

Fresh markets line the streets
Yummy food

 China Beach, Vietnam
Hoi An Old Village
Cultural Center concert in Hoi An

Ho Chi Minh City
We fly south to Ho Chi Minh City, or the former Saigon.  Many locals still refer to their city as Saigon.  We enjoy the French colonial architecture and the modern buzz of this city.  We are moved deeply by the war museum.

Notre Dame Church in the background
Intercontinental Hotel in the foreground as seen in the
 movie The Quiet American

City Hall in Ho Chi Minh City

Ken with US tank & helicopter at War Remnant Museum
Vietnam has a lot to offer. We barely touch the surface. We are grateful to experience a bit of Vietnam, and have a new awareness of the hardship so many experienced during the war.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  Romans 12:18

Next Up:  The Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an