January 13, 2013

ski days

Ski Days

Went on an amazing two day ski trip with daddio! A million thank yous for a fabulously relaxing and yet exhilarating trip. Loved it!

July 24, 2011

day one and two: getting there

Emirates Staffmeeting
Nk Wheelies

SFO to Dubai via Emirates Air I was seated in the bulkhead with three babies in my same row plus I am next to my wounded traveling companion. Oye. Then came the bassinets. They placed one right in front of me. The positioning blocked the individual pull up tv screen. I'm thinking a 15 hour flight with no movies — no way! I abandoned my seat. What a great decision. I'll have you know I throughly enjoyed the films on this flight, I watched The Tourist, Morning Glory, and Limitless. No work was done. Checking in to Dubai's airport hotel was a genius idea. It was a seven hour layover and those three hours of sleep saved me. Another film to add to my watched list is the tear jerker, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. Five hours later we arrived in Dhaka at 9 am. Miraculously, I was able to stay awake that whole next day, I fell asleep at 9 pm after watching a painful flick, Troy. I'm guessing it's by the guy who did Titanic it's got all the same bad tricks.
Dhaka Landing

Dhaka Airport

Once in Dhaka we met our first extortionist. It's the man who met us with the complimentary wheelchair from gate tried to squeeze us for "gifts" every five minutes. He repeatedly wanted twenty dollars and was most ungrateful for the five I gave him. He wouldn't drop it and made lots of nasty faces and wouldn't give up. This is most unpleasant when you are tired. Of course I don't backdown easily so I said tag along if you'd like but I'm done with the gifts. I'm very thankful we were met by our driver, Kashem, who whisked us away.

This is our Hotel which is in an expensive neighborhood I am told by our driver. I took a few shots from the passenger window on our route there. The traffic in Dhaka is ludicrous. It takes ages to go anywhere. It's also completely chaotic with walkers, bicyclists, rickshaws, cars, buses, trucks and other strays zig zagging at all times. Traffic fatality lists make the front page of the papers. Horns are honking at all times. Hawkers walk between vehicles trying to sell you goods through the windows. Beggars stand at the window too and sometimes paw like movie zombies. It's quite intense.

Dhaka Driveslow
Rickshaw-Onroad
Dhaka Trafficwomen
Dhaka Trafficsales
Dhaka Buswindow
Dhaka Streetart

The rest of the day was spent in the hotel resting and gearing up for work. All is well other than an on-going quarrel with the remote control for my air conditioner and getting used to the faint smell of urine which was I was warned by the bell boy that this halls air wasn't as fresh as the other. I was woken up this morning at 4:20 by the morning prayer. This led me to he web to learn a little more about Islam. Today I am most intrigued by the concept of ihsan, which means perfection in arabic and translates in meaning to do beautiful things. It represents inner faith in deed and action. Nice. I'll be meditating on that one at each of the five prayer calls throughout my first Monday.

June 17, 2011

safari west

Safari West-1
Safari Family1-1
Safari Family-1
Safari Africanbird
Safari Antelope
Safari Cat
Safari Cows
Safari Duck
Safari Flamingoes
Safari Giraffe
Safari Parrot
Safari Parrot2
Safari Tortoise
Safari Zebra2
Safari Zebra
Safari MaxSafari Kids

We had a super fun sleep over at Safari West. We stayed in the tent cabin No. 10 which had a great view of the canyon which I enjoyed at sunrise. It was too high up to see any animals, well maybe the flamingoes. However we could hear the animals — all night long! I was the only one kept awake by the raucous. The bbq dinner was pretty good, the kids loved the marshmallow roast and later the feeding of the catfish (ewe giant chunks of raw chicken!) We all enjoyed sitting on the benches in front of the lemur monkeys and watching them play. The next morning we took the 9am safari tour. Our guide, Richard, was fantastic! He's an ex substitute school teacher and was not only knowledgable about the place and animals, but also incredibly tolerant and accepting of children and all their antics. Vivienne struggled on the tour because she got hungry and food was supposedly not allowed. Richard had told the other families they could bring some snacks so my kids were audibly upset and frustrated that we didn't have any! Fortunately after much indirect but loud complaining by my kids, the other families shared theirs which was very helpful. They probably wanted to enjoy the journey in peace and quiet! At first we sat in the back of the tour truck, about half way through we switched and sat on the top. It was incredibly thrilling and bit scary to be up there! I recommend sitting on top. It was well worth it since the excitement and fright was quite memorable. You can see the wide variety of African animals we saw in the photos above. There were more too like monkeys and small cats, but I only photographed what I could see without a fence or cage interfering. In short — you should go, it's a good time!

June 9, 2011

cheap treasures

Sunflower Mao
Communist Leaders
Communist Revolution

While in Beijing last May, I found these very old, mass produced Mao posters (more here). These are in no way valuable other than that they represent and old era. The thin newsprint paper they are printed on is yellowing and decaying by the second. However, I love the bold designs, the two color screen printing and the demagoguery that these propaganda prints convey. I do have a soft spot for communist ideology, just not in practice.

According to Pierre of Mao Post, my posters are not authentic. He wrote me via email:
Regarding the posters you bought in Beijing, they are recents interpretations of the propaganda posters. That is, they were done by artists for commercial purposes - but not officially by the Chinese propaganda. Still they are nice looking posters. Yes, I guess the paper looks old, but this is an easy trick for the printers of these posters. If these posters were authentic they would have cost, say, at least 1,000 RMB each.

The one with Mao says "700 millions people, 700 milllions soldiers."
Communist Nook

Here they are, hung together, in the tiny hallway toward our bedroom.

August 31, 2009

manana man

sorry for the long delay. . . life's been getting in the way of my blogging funsies.
Vivi Foundumbrella
Viv Ohwaving
I'm so in love with Vivi's shirt (target!) I wish I had magic make it bigger potion so I could wear it. She's seen here in the SFO airport playing with a found umbrella while we waited for the every fabulous aunnie and yaya to fetch us (a million thank yous). This girl was so easy to travel with. She was a rock star— dancing included.
Mexico Max-1
Here's Max in his new Mexico soccer uniform that daddy bought him while searching for medicine at wallmart — long story. . . which I will go into later when I have more time and photos. All our trip picks are on a different camera and me not know where the cord is and hubby is on a plane to Phoenix. ouch more hot weather and plane rides, poor guy.
Jaewon Maxmexico
That's Max with his preschool buddy Jaewon at the lunch table near the pool. We stayed at the Sol Melia Puerto Vallarta, which I highly recommend if you are traveling with kids and want an easy breezy relaxing vacation. The all inclusive (food and booze!) set up with lots of activities like, shooting, archery, volleyball both beach and pool, tennis, ping pong, foosball, uber large chess boards, bingo, kids pool games like water balloon tosses and frisbee tournaments plus babysitting in the baby rock club, a playground, nightly entertainment shows and PV's largest swimming pool — seriously this place has it all. Totally worth it, and it was actually very affordable. The staff was friendly, helpful and enjoyable to be around. Lots of good things to say about the Melia. Of course they could work on making the food better and changing up the offerings because the same old buffet options get tired quickly but it's tough to serve that many guests in sweltering heat — i get it. Ok more deets to come when I have photos. . . stay tuned.

November 16, 2008

a weekend away

Smi Fountain
Smi Headboard
We had a lovely, really, truly, deeply, relaxing weekend far away from our real life. We spent it at the Sonoma Mission Inn, ahhhh. I indulged in a massage and facial (thank you Sherry!!) and we ate really well at Sante, the poolside cafe, the Big 3 and the Girl and Fig. Plus the weather was marvelously warm and the fall colors were stunning. Thank you to Maga, Paga, Aunnie & Yaya for taking care of our little ones so that we could rejuvenate.
Bouchon Exterior
Bouchon Menu
Our lunch at Bouchon in Yountville was the most amazing meal of the weekend (though Big 3's french toast is a close second). We were seated in a romantic corner table where we could watch the entire restaurant bustle. I love the red velvet booth seating and parisian brassiere details. We shared a frisse salad with poached egg and lardon with a mustard dressing and washed it down with local bubbles by Domain Chandon. Next, I had the lobster roll special served on a brioche bun with frites and Mr. C had the earthy "tastes like fall" Boudin Noir. For dessert we had the bouchon corked shaped chocolate brownies with peanut butter ice cream and peanut brittle shards. Somehow we managed to roll ourselves home afterward.

August 29, 2008

arata pumpkin farm

Arata Pumpkin Farm
Maze Above
Gorilla Max
Haymaze Thisway
Max Maze
On our way home we stopped by Arata Pumpkin Farm to check out the life-size hay maze. The farm felt like the set of a horror flick with run down unused stuffs scattered about and only one whack job guy working there — and not a pumpkin to be seen. I kept thinking "all work and no play" while seeing the hedge maze from the Shining in my mind. Huh. Anyway, for $5 each (he wanted to charge full price for baby Vivi in a carrier, but I pushed back! He still charged for our 3 year old!) we entered the maze. It's not an easy maze, I'll give them that. We spent about 45 minutes and only got half way. Turns out I was the best leader, but we couldn't finish because we all got too hungry, too hot, too tired and all that goes along with the monotony of going back and forth trying each outcome. But let me just say, this is the perfect activity for a group of say 12 year old boys!

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August 28, 2008

pigeon point lighthouse

Pigeon Distance
Pigeon View
Pigeon Point

harley farms

Pointing Goat
The signage pointing the way to Harley Farms is subtle, engaging and lovingly made — it's simply  genius. Cheese Sign
Goat Parking
Pointing Finger
Happy Goat
Goat Face
Unlike Phipps Farm, Harley Farms is amazing. The place is clean, well organized, loving cared for and above all these are happy happy goats. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the goats lovingly groomed which really made me fall instantly for this farm. The owner and her staff were very sweet and helpful, but they were also busy packing up for the Slow Food Event taking place in San Francisco the next day, so sadly there wasn't much cheese for us to taste. However we did get to taste the Monet, and it was delicious.
Hayloft Tablesetting
Above the tasting room and cheese shop is an amazing room called the hay loft. It's a space anyone can rent and it would be an amazing place to throw a special party.
View Pescadero
A view of the town of Pescadero from Bean Hollow Road which is a nice detour that connects back to HWY 1.

strawberry fields forever

Swanton Scene
Swanton Berry
Swanton Store

The next morning we decided to go to a pick-it-yourself farm. Max really wanted ollalieberries, but it turns out those are only in season in June and July. Late August is strawberry picking season and fortunately we all love strawberries too. Swanton Berry Farm doesn't look too remarkable from the highway, but once you get into the store and walk to the field you'll love it. They give you a few boxes and tell you to enjoy the picking and, of course, sample as many as you'd like. We strolled out to the field and had such a good time tasting and picking. Max was loving it and got really into finding the berries with the most unusual shapes. Afterward we all had pink stained faces and fingers. We took home $15 dollars worth (they sell by weight) which was the equivalent to 16 baskets. We'd normally pay about $3 a basket for organic strawberries, so that's $48 worth of strawberries! Once we got home, Mr. C immediately turned them all into a delicious jam, which we had on his fresh made popovers the very next morning. Mmmmmm so good!

Swanton Tractors
Sunflower Bee
Strawberry Field
Berry Pickin Max
Max Thinking Picking
Picking Grin
Max Eating Berry
Perfect Strawberries

Vivi Shoving
Vivi Strawberry Face

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August 27, 2008

dinner at duarte's tavern

Duarts Tavern
Max Tries Fish
Olliaberry Baby
Many people told us to try the artichoke soup and fruit pies at Duarte's Tavern, both were delicious in an old time, classic recipe kinda way. Max was a daring eater and tried smelt —he loved it too. We all were totally mad for the olallieberry pie, but Vivi was most especially crazy!

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phipps farm, pescadero

Historic Pescadero
Landscape Pescadero
While the kids slept in the car we drove the coast highway. We tried to drive through to check out Ano Nuevo state park, but when you drive in it's about 100 yards to a dead end parking lot — you can't see anything special until you get out and start walking. Since we couldn't ditch the kids, this idea was a bust. We then drove up to Pescadero thinking we'd check out Phipps & Harley Farms once the kids woke up. Pescadero turns out to be a really quiet, sleepy little town — don't blink.
Phipps Sign
Grumpy Max
Phipps Nursery
White Parrot
Max woke up on the grumpy side of his car seat. It took him awhile to warm up to the idea of exploring the Phipps Country Store. Phipps is a weird place. It's out of touch, run down and pretty depressing on one hand, while on the other, it's exotic, bizarre and creepy. The white haired, hunched over, thin and tiny old woman working at the cash register was the only employee. She was hardly doing much, not that I blame her, but it left the property feeling even more abandoned than it looked.

There were some gorgeous birds, like this lovely white parrot who repeatedly performed flip tricks for us, but then there were some horrific birds pecking and eating a dead bird. Yikes! This was one of the most obvious moments when we started to realize just how bad it is at Phipps. Once you tour the rest of the farm you'll see many chickens, peacocks, geese and other birds— plus goats, sheep and pigs who are all living in a really neglectful environment. You can see the abuse in the animals ugly behavior and their shredded, scarred bodies. Many looked so bad I had to avert my eyes. I felt too pained to document it so you won't see images of the horror here, but heed my warning and skip Phipps when next you are in Pescadero.
Phipps Tractors
Phipps Oldtractor
Rusty Tractor
When you aren't horrified by the unhappily cages animals, you will find some neat old antique tractors scattered about the property.
Phipps Beans
Yellow Eyebean
Apparently Phipps is also well known for it's dried beans. They did have a large selection, but the store had the same run down and dirty feeling of the rest of property which really didn't inspire me to purchase anything. Instead I gave a donation to the animals — in the hopes they'll get fed.
Goat Shut
We left Phipps hoping to make it to Harley Farms, but they'd closed shop just a few minutes before we got there. Bummer, 'til tomorrow...

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costanoa coast

Ca Beach
Rocky Beach
Pelicans
After breakfast we strolled along the trail behind the Douglas cabins and crossed highway one and made our way down to the beach. The day was gorgeous and we were all alone on a lovely beach. There wasn't much tide-pooling to be found but we did find lots of sticks, seaweed and rocks so there was plenty to do right there. We also each took turns splashing our feet in the icy cold waves. Another family came along a little while later with two kids just about the same age as ours and we all had an impromptu playgroup. It was great fun!
Max Smile Beach
Sun Vivi
Cbeach Max
Portrait Max Beach

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August 26, 2008

camp costanoa

Costanoa Sign
Cosatanoa Trees
We arrived just after 4 pm. It was an easy drive, just slightly over an hour but you'd never know you were so close to San Francisco — the feel of Costanoa is as though it's miles away from civilization. It took me a few hours to slow down and warm up to the pace of the place and to settle into my experience. I had imagined it to be more pampering and fancy since we had chosen a lodge room rather than tent or cabin — plus there's a spa. Costanoa is a pretty basic California coastal place, it's rustic and straight-forward. Keep that in mind when visiting and bring what ever extras you need.
The Lodge
Lodge Room
We chose the no roughing it route and stayed in the lodge. After having thoroughly checked the place out, I think all the accommodations have their strengths and weakness. The tents are spartan but I kinda liked that about them. It'd be nice to treat the stay like a retreat and spend the time just reading or walking the many trails. Tents on the edges closest to the lodge were my favorite (Cypress) as they have the most trees and had chairs on the backside rather than chairs in the front facing the parking areas. The shared bathrooms are well crafted and clean plus each has a relaxing center hang out area with a fire going each night. The (Douglas Fir) cabins are much more spacious, protected, secluded, and have nice decks — some even have porch swings. Each cabin has two sides so it'd be ideal to rent the whole cabin with a friend or another family so you like your neighbors. The cabins don't have bathrooms so you have to walk to the shared facility. Check the map on the site carefully before booking.
Lodge Lawn
If choosing a lodge room ask to be facing the backside lawn as it has the nicest view. The room we had was very spartan but fine. The lighting was pretty bad, especially in the bathroom, but that's my biggest complaint. My husband's biggest complain would be no cell phone service and spotty free wireless. There was a mini bar, coffee maker, clock radio with cd player and the lobby has fresh filter water cooler. The bathroom was big enough for us to set up the pack-n-play for Vivi and it had a rolling barn style door so we could get her to sleep early, close the door, and still hang out in the room. The king size bed was pretty comfortable and given that we normally sleep three in a queen size it felt luxurious to have to much rolling over space. Our room was really close to the hot tub which Max visted often and we all enjoyed our morning sunrise view. We saw deer, quail, and bunnies while looking out the glass doors. We also enjoyed hanging out each night in front of the roaring fire and toasting smores. Max made "dates" with different girls he picked up during dinner. One girl he simply called "pretty girl" (that one family was eerily unfriendly) two others he met were Katrina and Zoe. After smores one night, which Max graciously hosted, he asked Katrina to join him in the "hot pool" (aka tub). I'm so not kidding. Max is a smooth operator.
Lifesize Chess
After almost every meal, Max insisted on exploring the life size chess game on the lawn behind the restaurant. There is also a quaint kids playground in the back where I pushed Vivi in a bucket swing. Max wasn't too into the playground, but he loved the chess set. In fact he loved it so much that if anyone tried to capture one of his pieces he broke down in tears. But by the end of our stay he finally started to enjoy capturing and succumbing — Katrina helped him get into and over it.
Max Cascade
When we ate at Cascade, Max wanted to sit by the fireplace when ever possible. The staff was very accommodating to his request. In fact, I read a lot of reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor and heard from a few friends that the restaurant was pretty bad and that the service was slow to terrible — so my expectations were very low. We only had one poorly serviced meal while most of the staff who helped us were either normal or even super nice. The food was just fine — it's on par with Chow or Home. The fresh banana bread is particularly good, the lattes were enjoyable and I really liked the pasta primavera (had it 2x). Also they give you coupons for $8 off per person per breakfast which makes it a no-brainer to eat on site. The restaurant is filled with families so it's super kid friendly. We met many many nice people while eating there. Reviewers also complained about the general store, but again I disagree with what I read. The store has a little bit of everything from foods and sundries to sand toys, kites, music and clothes and they stock nice high end quality items not cheezy stuffs.

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August 25, 2008

costanoa

Costanoa Webimage
We are off for a few days to nearby Costanoa — which they call an eco-adventure resort but I've been told it's pretty much fancy camping (or camping for wimps). I read about it originally here. Either way we are looking forward to retreating from "normal" life and enjoying some nature adventures of our own. We've got the new Bob Revolution for pushing Max long distances (it's amazing!) plus a kite — consider the fun already started!

I've gathered some recommendations of things to do while there:
Eat:
Duarte's Tavern
Davenport Roadhouse
Arcangeli Grocery Company/Norm's Market
Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos (wow amazing yelp reviews!)
Gazo's Grill

Visit:
Seashore & tidepools
Ano Nuevo State Reserve
Pigeon Lighthouse
Harley Farms Goat Dairy: tour and milk goats, sample goat cheese. Need reservations — weekends only.
Arata Pumpkin Farm
Phipps Country Store & Farm
Coastways Ranch (for olallieberries) and Swanton Berry Farm (organic strawberries)
Bonnydoon Vineyard: Wine tasting and picnic — other wineries for more of the same
Roaring Camp Railroads: Ride steam trains through the redwoods or take a beach train through Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Rancho Del Oso State Park and Nature & History Center

Study:
Marine Biology primer for preschoolers

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August 14, 2008

san juan batista

Sjb Graveyard
Sjb Ourlady

August 13, 2008

old mill

Madonna Oldmill
Old Mill Figurine
Old Mill Walls
Old Mill Chandelier
Annie Vivi Oldmill
One line of thinking was that Vivienne would love the waterfall and moving figurines, perhaps even the sound of the waterfall and motor would lull her to sleep...ha ha ha! The wall in Old Mill was picture book madness and Vivi couldn't tear her eyes away from it, not even for one second. We had to turn it off and keep it off and even then it was hard to keep her from wanting to bang, beat, eat, and crawl all over it. Aside from Vivi's issues, the rooms wallpaper kept little bunny and I in a glittering despair! Please make it stop!! Well, you must know that the Madonna Inn doesn't let up, not for one teeny tiny second — be prepared.

Old Mill aside, Julie cruise director - aka Auntie - and I had a marvelous time! We gossiped away the time on the long drives and even managed to read the manual and figure out how to fill the car up with oil when the warning light came on (!). We leisurely strolled the lovely tree lined streets of SLO and enjoyed all the trip advisor recommended dining places such as Tsurugi, Novo and Linnaea's. All in all a lovely time. xxoo

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san luis obispo mission

Slo Mission
Slo Mission Trees

August 12, 2008

paris violets

Paris Violets
Stain Glass Door
Paris Violets Bath
Paris Violet Bath2
Paris Lighting
Paris Violets Painting

I was actually charmed by this room (not including the iron lamps over the bedside tables). The light up paintings, the painted wall murals, the violet floral hand painted sink basins and the stain glass window were all low art but in the most fabulously heightened tacky way. Plus the purple carpet was a brilliant touch! The grinning Ms. Vivienne was right at home. I'd stay in Paris Violets again for sure.

Vivi Paris Violets2
Vivi Paris Violets
Vivi Paris Violets3
Vivi Paris Violet4

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madonna inn

Madonna Vacancy
Madonna Inn Stairs
Madonna Inn Stairs2
Madonna Inn Copper
Madonna Inn Dining
Madonna Inn Icebucket
Madonna Inn View
Little bunny and decided to jaunt off for a few days and enjoy some sisterly 'girls only' time. We headed down the coast to San Luis Obispo. We stayed at the Madonna Inn — a strange place indeed. The hotel features some insane "interior design" if you can call it that. I thought the whole place was wildly visually assaulting, but in an amusing disneyland kinda way. It's aged, run-down and in desperate need of updating while at the same time being very clean and well kept, a strange paradox.

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March 26, 2008

sweet birdhouses

Birdhouse6
Birdhouse2
Birdhouse8
Birdhouse5
Birdhouse7
Birdhouse3

Birdhouse1
Birdhouse4
No trip around the pond is complete without admiring the many birdhouses. Virginia certainly is the best place for a bird to call home.

March 25, 2008

'round the manor

Old Barn
Windmill
Pond Reflection
Cottage Window
Snow Bird-1

March 24, 2008

portrait of a lady

Auntie Gail-1

Oh those twinkling eyes combined with her deeply dimpled grinning cheeks and the perfect diamond that her teeth make when she smiles (you can't see it in this shot but it's in there) — it's my auntie Gail! I love this photo (she'll probably grimace!) because it has that late night, "we told all" knowing look. This is a truly special look that she gives only a few times per visit and only once we''ve caught up, kvetched, and then had that soulful nod of acknowledgment which says, "yes, this is it". She's amazing, truly one-of-a-kind, and she'll say it like it is then tell you to get over it, all while pointing out the proper etiquette of the situation — I aspire. And I need to call more often — I cherish you!

March 23, 2008

easter egg hunting

Bunny Ladder
The Easter Bunny managed to find us in Purcellville, Virginia—imagine that!
Easter Grin
Egg Hunting-1
Looking Jellybeans
The glorious looks of shear delight and surprise on Max's face were priceless. I adore seeing the light beam from his eyes. What's not to love about Easter eh? A basket filled with chocolates and jellybeans, plus we added some books and little toys, and a day filled with hunting for eggs filled with MORE jellybeans! Aunnie was forced to reenacted the egg hunt numerous times.

Giant Yawn
I love this photo. Aunnie looks (and feels) just like I did — tired but so happy. But she gets all the credit for the easter hunt success! Well done and many thank yous!

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March 22, 2008

egg dying day

Dipping Egg
Blue Egg
Drawingonegg
Egg Dye
Finished Eggs

Max thoroughly enjoyed the science of measuring, pouring, and fuzzy colored pill dropping as well as the art of egg dipping. The activity kept his attention for quite awhile which was impressive. The results were stunning. Sadly the weird spring weather forced us to choose an indoor plastic egg hunt, so these little masterpieces weren't hunted. However they did end up as delicious egg salad sandwiches, mmmm thank you Gail.

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July 28, 2007

big apple III

Breakfast Treats
Breakfast at Cafe Falai did not disappoint. Delicious yogurt with berries and candied almonds, the ever consistent Illy cafe coffee and the above donut-like pastry called bambolini filled with berries and custard. Mmmmmm. The environment is a chic white on white with more white experience.

Next we wandered around for more shopping. I found my new favorite black bag to replace the one I've been carrying for the last 5 years at Mayle. What a fabulous little boutique with very stylish and well made garments. I took the look book and found quite a few things I'd love to have for fall, but uh hem who am I kidding? I've got a baby to birth and then baby boot camp to survive?! Across the street is a funky toy store called DAILY 2.3.5 with wonderful tin toys and other great finds like a Brio Golden Gate bridge. Next I fell in love with all the gorgeous colors of both the housewares and the jewels from Dinosaur Designs. There were so many objects I admired and wanted. the color combos alone inspired me greatly.

Oilily Outfit

We walked by Oilily and they were having a "everything in this box is $3 sale" so I dug through and got the baby girl in my belly her first super girly pink flowery outfit and darling sea horse socks. So sweet and cute! So much for gender neutral. We had to return home with a gift for Max so after hitting Kid Robot and Evolution we finally settled on the more preschool appropriate choice of Scholastic and got Max an "I Spy" puzzle and book (he loves the ones he has).

Centovini
Twowines

We got hungry (again!) and stopped at Centovini for some cured meats, cheeses and shared a scrumptious bolognese pasta. This place is very classy inside without being pretentious (especially in comparison to the grandiose interior of Del Posto - which is far far bigger but they should hire Centovini's interior designer and I'd think it was perfect). We both loved the rubber tables - a brilliant surface. I'd recommend this place as a perfect date spot. Centovini's attached wine store also does not dismay. We picked up two bottles on our way to our friends loft for dinner that night (and what a wonderful dinner it was —thank you so much Michael & Stellah!)

Spun Wool

And during dinner Stellah surprised me with a very thoughtful gift. She knows I love yarn and knitting and she came across this un-dyed beautiful handspun wool and picked up two different hanks for me. So sweet, thank you darling! I need to research natural dying methods...quick searches show Fiber Arts links, and the Herb Society looks really informative, sheep to shawl as well, your history blog looks fascinating, one blog link led me to Procion, while Two Sheep goes into madder root dye, ok I could link on and on but this should get me started.

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July 27, 2007

big apple II

We had a nice breakfast (but spaced out bad waitress) at the trendy parisian wannabe cafe called Balthazar. The cinnamon pastry was best (we had the pain au chocolate and the brioche too) washed 'em down with lattes in big bowls. My granola with dried cherries was super yummy and the soft boiled eggs with soldier toast points made my hubby happy. We then wandered around around all day checking out store after store mostly in SOHO but sadly no purchases were made. (Saw plenty to buy, don't get me wrong, I jjust couldn't get over the first purchase hurdle) One favorite and unique store to (re)discover was Opening Ceremony.

Pinkberry

We ran into the frozen yogurt phenomenon called Pinkberry. A good friend raved about it so I really wanted to try. It does not disappoint. It tastes sour and tart like real yogurt but has just enough hinting of sweetness to be perfect —add toppings and you're in heaven (0 fat, 5 sugars, 6 carbs — no wonder the line is so long and filled with super models). Seriously, be prepared, the line is literally out the door but the people who work there are nice and handle the nightmare chaos in the tiny store.

Momofuko
Momofuku Inside
Momofuko2

At about 3pm we got hungry. We jumped in a cab taking the chance that we may not get a seat as we searched for the tiny restaurant Momofuko. The pork buns, grilled octopus salad, the Momofuko ramen plus the chicken over rice were all amazing. The beer was awesome too and label was so cute I had to take a picture. I'd go back in a heart beat and if I lived near there I'd eat it weekly. Super freakin' delicious.

Schillers
Cocoa Bar

We met a friend for a frosty beverage at Schiller's. Great drink menu including Pimms cups and a delicious homemade lemonade. It's a great hang out spot. We also wandering into cocoa bar and picked up a truffle or two and admired the simplicity and beauty of this cafe/bar concept. Why doesn't San Francisco have a cafe, chocolate and wine bar in one?

Bizazza

Then we headed back to our claustrophobic hotel suite for a little pre-dinner rest. It's funny I should complain about it 'cause it has stunning floor to ceiling windows and great views, but when the curtains are closed they are 3 inches from the end of the bed — and the bed is the only piece of furniture in the room. Plus there's only about the same width as an airplane aisle on the sides and the room's hallway. The bathroom door has to be closed to use the loo and sink. All the walls are a painfully blank and unimaginative white which really depresses me. Good thing the bathroom was floor to ceiling Bizazza tile and the shower was huge with two heads and big windows and I didn't run out of hot water. We'd actually stopped by the Bizazza show room earlier that day (image above) — I love those tiles! (We did our kitchen back splash with them)

Dinner was at 8:30 at Del Posto, The space is huge and there's lots to like about it and as much to dislike. While its grand, it also feels stuffy and I kept thinking it's like an old hotel lobby meets prom date spot. But for all my initial critical thinking dinner turned out to be amazing. We had the seven course chefs tasting and not a single dish disappointed, some like the shaved truffle pasta and kobe beef were simply heavenly. I particularly enjoyed the time to hang out with good friends and carry on a conversation that lasted hours. I can't believe I made it out to 1 am.

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July 26, 2007

big apple I

We arrived in the "bargain district" in the late afternoon via the controlled $45 taxi fare (so how come on the way back to the airport you have to pay the metered fare?) which was easy breezy enough. The Rivington hotel was nice enough, but what an odd 2nd floor reception area they have. It reminded me of the movie Being John Malkovich 'cause the ceiling is so low and the desk so big and terribly awkward in the space that the three very friendly men working there seem ridiculously cramped. The hotel itself has the vibe of the Standard in LA mixed with the Gansevoort NY but isn't as low down cool as the Standard or chic and refined like the Gansevoort. The restaurant and bar Thor gets insanely packed on friday and saturday nights and I could hear it for hours up on the 10th floor, urgh. Anyway, not trying to write a hotel review here — just ranting.

Deer Head
Freemans

After switching rooms (corner suite vs soaking tub and balcony) and decompressing we headed out for a walk and dinner. We wandered around and ended up eating at Freemans. It's a cool, hipster guy inspired spot. It serves comfy homey kind of foods in an awesome space I can only describe as carnivore lovers meet anthropologie's charm. The decor details are warm and rustic and I love that it's located at the end of an alley with strings of lights overhead reminiscent of a Cinema Paradiso outdoor scene. My favorite dish was the artichoke dip appetizer. Sadly the phone camera couldn't handle the low light but the result suits the experience.

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January 8, 2007

touring tulum

Ana Y Jose
Beach View
Outdoor Beds
Suite Estrella
Estrella Hammock

We stayed at Ana y Jose and it truly was a charming beach hotel. We had Suite Nube (right off the pool lower floor) and my parents had the utterly fabulous Suite Estrella (top floor, deck with view of beach, peaked thatched roof and hammock). We all were quite happy and really enjoyed our stay. I highly recommend it and can't wait to return one day.

Below are tips I was given before visiting and some opinion additions I put in, I hope you find them helpful. Please leave me a comment if you do.

GETTING THERE

We took Delta and had to lay over in Salt Lake City. Turns out Alaska Airlines just started a direct to Cancun flight, I recommend you take that. It was suggested to us that the easiest thing would be to rent a car at the Cancun airport. Driving in the Yucatan is very easy and hassle free. Tulum is about 1 ½ hours south of Cancun by car on the main coastal highway. Directions are very easy from the rental car pick up area. Most car rental services are available for an online or phone reservation before you go. Once you reach the town of Tulum, you will take the first left after the road to the Tulum ruins and follow it until you reach the beach road where you will have to turn either right or left. Ana y jose and many other hotels are to the right. However, some are to the left. There should be signage directing you which way to turn for your hotel. Some hotels may offer shuttle service from the airport and there is also bus service from Cancun. We opted to pay for our hotel to pick us up which I think is the most hassle free thing anyone could do. I love not having to think about how to get there after a long flight. We had the usual "you are now in Mexico" experience, as our driver brought a car too small to accommodate 4 adults, a child (in a car seat) and all our luggage. Mind you, my parents had big-ol-bags! They tried to talk us into leaving our bags at the airport and they'd bring them later that night after they pick up the guests who were coming in on a flight three hours later. Uh no way jose. Around and around we went, but it worked out in the end. We ended up renting a car and the two men caravanned behind us.

SIGHT SEEING & SNORKELING

I heard that the Mayan ruins at Tulum were worth a visit since there's an amazing view and only a short drive from Ana y Jose. But I was feeling far to happy just hanging out on the perfect beach. Another great day trip would have been Chichén Itzá. Founded in A.D. 495, this is one of world’s great archeological wonders and one of the most completely restored sites in the Yucatán. But again we couldn't muster the energy to wake up at the recommended hour of 6am, drive two hours and stay all day, it's tough with a napping toddler too. Could have been fun as an overnight trip with a stay at the renovated Hacienda, but we didn't want to pack up and move. So I am happy to report that we did make it to the ruins at Coba. Hopefully the phrase seen one ruin seen 'em all applies here?

One of the wonders of the Mayan Riviera is the many cenotes, carved from limestone and filled with water from underground rivers. You’ll notice signs for different cenotes as you come down the highway from Cancun. There are quite a few just minutes from Tulum. Bring your snorkel gear and have a refreshing freshwater swim. We rented snorkel gear from the stand across from the restaurant Zamas and snorkeled the Grand Cenote. It was fun but there's not that much to see under there beside the cave walls - the fish there are insignificant and ther are too many tourists in the small pools. It would have been much more satisfying to dive through the caves. Best part for me was seeing the bats flying through the air.

Just off the beaches at Tulum is one of the world’s most beautiful reefs. Snorkeling trips to the reef are offered at a small kiosk on the beach road, before you get to the Ana y Jose resort. Just drop by and make a reservation for a trip out to the reef. There is also a dive shop in Akumal (about 20 minutes back up the highway toward Cancun). Great snorkeling without a boat ride is available at Yakul lagoon, which just outside Akumal.

At the end of the beach road is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve we were recommend to take the tour given by Cesiak. Check out their site and make a reservation for a tour.

EATING

Ana y jose has an ok good restaurant, we liked it best for lunch and enjoyed the quesadillas and ceviches. THe margaritas aren't so good here so stick to the pinas or beers. The restaurant Zamas is just down the beach road This has the best spot for sunset cocktail and guacamole! If you make it up to Akumal, the seafood restaurant to the left of the parking lot is supposedly delicious and offers a selection of fish from the local fishermen.

For a delicious gourmet feast try Hechizo which is located on the beach road just outside the Biosphere. Drive through the Rancho San Erik gate and enter the restaurant. Reservations are a good idea. Hechizo (means enchantment) was by far my favorite experience, the decor and service are lovely. The landscaping is very romantic and secluded. I didn't order the best meal, apparently the scallops we to die for, but my watermelon goat cheese starter salad was divine and every dessert was perfect (e had them all!) and the drinks were perfect.

PACKING

Tulum is very casual so bring as little as possible! While we were there the days got up to about 90 and the nights down to 78, I never needed the sweater or coat I brought. The ocean swimming is wonderful, so bring a suit and best to bring a wrap and a towel so you can save the two towels the hotel gives you for bathing. The mosquitoes are not bad, but some repellant is helpful if you are a tasty morel (like little bunny!). Also it’s handy to have a flashlight or two along, as many grounds and the beach are not well lit. Some resorts only have electricity until midnight and a flashlight can come in handy. Be sure to bring sunscreen, but don’t wear it when you go snorkeling, as it damages the reef. Bring a light shirt to wear over your suit for snorkeling.

January 7, 2007

last day in the sunshine

Goodmorning Suite Nube

Good morning Suite Nube!

Chicken Satay
Lil Hustler

A little shark took over the table while we dined at Mezzanine (beautiful vibe, delicious thai food, and a hip hang out spot).

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January 5, 2007

another day in paradise

Paga Max
Crab

Djmax Zamas

January 4, 2007

Mexico Max

Mexico Max

Night dancing with the waves in Tulum.

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January 3, 2007

tulum in my mind

tulum.jpg

Taking a mini break to Mexico. Back in a week.

mayan_tulum.jpg

In Maya, Tulum means "Wall", it's aptly named as Tulum is a walled city; one of the very few the ancients ever built. Research suggests it was formerly called Zama or "to dawn" in its day. It seems "Tulum" is the name given the site following a visit by the explorers Stephens and Catherwood in 1841 (lithograph of Tulum's temple from 1844).

November 2, 2006

vancouver

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.Ursula K Le Guin

Knit Bench-1

Knit Bench Detail-2

Knit Bicycle

Daria Tavoularis

While wandering the streets of Vancouver I found a clothing store {will post shop name when I find the card} with a wonderful window display of knit art. A street bench, bicycle and street sign were all wrapped in knit fabric. Every little detail had been covered including the bicycle lock. There were also a few felted birds in the display. Love love love it. The shop girl said Daria didn't actually knit any of it but used fabric from the shop's products to sew it all together. The art school purest part of me wishes it had all been hand knit, but I suppose that really shouldn't matter. And using the shop's leftover material should be seen as an environmentally brilliant move on the part of the artist. So I've talked myself right out of a critique. Turns out Daria is from Vancouver too. I'm so glad I walked by.

Now let me get back to San Francisco...

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November 1, 2006

vancouver

Elixer Vancouver

Turns out our favorite breakfast spot, Diner, has an owner who has a flaky reputation. This explains why the restaurant has mysteriously been closed for the last two days even though the hours say it's only closed on Monday. Humphf. So we turned around yet again and ate at the Opus Hotel's spot Elixir. It is quite good and I highly recommend the scrumptious liege waffles.

Totem Poles

Lions Bridge

Fire Truck

Happy Face

We also went back to Stanley Park so we could play tourist, see the totem poles, check out the scenic views and let Max kick up the leaves and have some fall fun in the playground. It was quite chilly but we all had a great time.

Urban Fare

Too bad we didn't find this awesome grocery store earlier, as it's far better than Choices. Urban Fare has an amazing selection and a yummy eat in or take out restaurant. We had a quick bite of Italian roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and edamame salad. It was delicious.

Vijs Vancouver-1

Rangoli Vancover

Well, there are just some fabulous things one misses out on when they have children, wah wah. We tried to get into the "no reservation policy" restaurant Vijs and failed. We got there before they were open and then went for about a 2 block stroll. Next thing you know we get back and there was already an hour waiting list. That's a seriously popular restaurant! The owner came outside and told us to eat next door at Rangoli which is also his place. It's a modern cafe style eat in or take out. All the tiny tables are attached to the kitchen with these small glass tiled screens so you can catch glimpses of the gorgeous Indian women who are doing the cooking. Max was fascinated by them and they loved him back. He has a way with the ladies. The food is great, the people nice (as are most Canadians) and the take out looks great. I loved the packaging design and both places have stylish interiors.

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October 31, 2006

vancouver

Pumpkin Max

Happy Halloween everyone! Our little pumpkin is running around Vancouver looking so adorable. He's just learned "trick or treat" and has managed to start scoring candy. He's convinced that this is Candy Day and also it's the Pumpkin's birthday. I tried to sing the happy birthday song to the pumpkin, but he said no, no mommy not without a candle to blow out.

We experienced a big power outage this morning due to the heinous construction right below us. We heard the huge boom and then blackness fell. Max was so sad as it cut off Curious George on TV - this also made my getting ready time cut short. Turns out it effected a two block radius so we couldn't get our Agro coffee fix or eat at the super yummy Diner. We headed up to the Elbow Room. This funky little spot serves up big portions of ok fare but what's fun about it (if you're in the mood) is the major grumpy attitude they serve and are infamous for. The waiter ask what you'd like to drink, you say water, they tell you to get off your ass and get it yourself. Want a second cup of joe - same dealio.

Granville Street

Fingerless Mittens

Next we strolled and shopped along Robson Street. Nothing too special to see as it has all the same major stores most cities have. We did find a cute sweater and hat for Max at Zara and I got a little pair of fingerless gloves with a mitten pullover feature. I'm hoping they'll keep my fingers warm on the ghost train ride later tonight.

Ghost Train

Max had his first trick-or-treat experience cruising up and down the shops in Yaletown. Most of the stores were handing out candy between 3:30 and 6:00 pm. There were lots of kids between newborn and about seven or eight years old and Max was stunned. He also had his first real scare. A creepy man hiding behind a ghoulish mask was lurking about. At one point we were behind him and Max called him scary guy. I said yes he is scary guy and the man quickly turned got right in our faces and wiggled his fingers at us. Max burst into tears. Horrible to behold. He barely uttered a word the entire time and only said trick-or-treat twice and muttered a few thank you when we were far out of ear shot. He's never been like that before. However he quickly understood the concept of sweet candy and lollipops. A sugar monster has officially been born.

We got in the car just after 5pm to make the 6pm ghost train. It's only about 10 minutes away, but we didn't factor in Vancouver's rush hour. Uh oh. By 5:30 we'd only made it to the beginning of West Georgia and the traffic was intense. Hubby and I both had that parental holy crap moment. It had been such a struggle to get these tickets and Max was all pumped up on sugar and repeating pumpkin train over and over — we were hell bent to make it to the train ride. So imagine our elation to discover that West Georgia has an HOV car pool lane! Of course we had to share it with the buses and some really bad drivers, but we made it to Stanley Park in about 15 minutes. we ran to will call, got the tickets and jumped on the train, woo hoo! But here's the rub. We thought the super campy b-movie silliness was hilarious, but Max wasn't sure what to make of the whole thing and he was probably more scared than we realized.

Rodneys Vancouver

We dined on delicious fresh seafood at a very cool spot called Rodney's Oyster House. The staff was super friendly and comp'd us free appetizers and gave Max star treatment. A good time!

Hallows Bed

sweet dreams.

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October 30, 2006

vancouver

Baby Capuccino

We knocked off Agro Cafe again this morning. I say knocked off since I'm still feeling horribly guilty about our little devil toddler who knocked an african statue off the display shelf and broke it in two. It also hit his head on the way to the floor and of course scared him into hysterics. I feel extra terrible because I think the owner had probably hand carried it back from Africa where he'd obviously traveled to work with the fair trade coffee growers. In the cafe he has a slide show on the wall with all his trip photos proudly educating all about fair trade and African coffee farmers. What a bummer eh?! Urgh.

Granville Island

I was really looking forward to our journey across the bridge to the craft section of town. Granville Island has a big public market with lots of food stalls both prepared stuffs and groceries. It doesn't disappoint. There's lots to see, taste and buy. There's also a fabulous Kids Market with lots of specialty toys, books, music, stickers, stamps, clothes and more all just for kids. The building also has some coin operated rides and a little play area. The surrounding streets have lots of local stores and crafters from glass blowing, painters, printmaking and letterpress shops and even a handmade shoe shop. We also strolled by a cool looking design, art and media school. But I was so sad that there wasn't a great yarn shop. I talked to one local who said there used to be a woman spinning in the public market but she hadn't been around in ages. What a missed opportunity! I did see one silk yarn shop but they were making all their fabric on looms and there was also a shop selling really funky felted goods, but it's just not what I was looking for. I was also freezing as the temperature had dropped to 5C and really wanted to buy some wooly mittens, hat and a scarf. With seven months a year being between chilly and freezing I can't believe there isn't a fabulous knit shop in this artsy hood. Someone needs to open a yarn shop with lots of hand made knitted goodies, spinning and more, please.

Pumpkin Carving

Later, the ever remarkable Mr. Bun ran up to the local fancy market Choices and bought a pumpkin for Max. I drew four faces on paper for Max to choose from. Mr. Bun then carved it in less than 30 minutes and only using a wine opener knife, well done daddy. Max was of course was only fascinated with the lighting and then blowing out of the candle.

Tojos Vancouver

Dinner tonight was AMAZING. Seriously we had a lifetime wonderful meal at Tojo's {thank you Dan!}. I love this restaurant. It's so laid back and unassuming and then serves up the most artistically delicious combinations of Japanese food. WOW. We had the omakase "I'm in your hands" menu which was stunningly beautiful and delicious. Our sake was poured and served in chilled bamboo stalks. Our waitress Sachi was so sweet that Max fell instantly in love with her and never wanted her to leave the table. When asked "what kind of food would I eat if I could only have one choice?" The answer, Tojo's. So get yourself there.

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October 29, 2006

vancouver

Diner Vancouver

Diner Interior

We've already found the perfect breakfast spot and have been twice so far. It looks like they have a wonderful lunch and diner menu too and it's super kid friendly while not all dumbed down like a lot of "family friendly" spots. It's just around the corner from the Opus at 1269 Hamilton St. called simply Diner. The food is homestyle gourmet. The bodums of coffee and the very special cinnamon rolls are delicious.

Stanley Park

Big Leaf

Vancouver Aquarium-1

Crimson Ibis

Max Beluga

Then we headed to Stanley Park. It is truly a gorgeous park with water on most sides and views of the city and mountains. There are many paths to walk, run, ride and stroll and many attractions like the totems, the miniature railway, children's petting farm and the aquarium. We'd been told by many locals that the aquarium was great so we headed there. There are two big rooms filled with tanks of all sorts of underwater beauties. We also spied a big jellyfish exhibit that was opening soon, looked super cool. The amazon exhibit is a rare treat. As you cruise through the steamy jungle lots of animals are just roaming free like the crimson ibis above as well as turtles, sloths and other creatures. In tanks they had pythons, rainbow boas and more. Lastly we saw the beautiful white blubbery Beluga Whales. Max was thrilled and captivated.

Chambar Vancouver

We had a spectacular dinner at a beautiful Belgian restaurant called Chambar in the Gastown district. I highly recommend it. I had divine and extraordinarily large mussels in a vin blanc soup with frites and Mr. Bun had an authentic tangine of lamb and couscous with all the spice trimmings. The view out the back dining room windows is sparkling and the space, art and decor are industrial warm and tres chic.

Moonroof Max

Before we took off back to the "hotel in bancouver" as Max says, Max wanted to open the sun roof and have a look out. He gave us a glimpse into the future! He laughed and screamed with joy, hip hip hurray! I can only imagine the ruckus my little gremlin boy will be causing as he drives around drunk with his head out the sunroof someday!!

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October 28, 2006

vancouver

Science Happy

Telus Train

Today we hit the Telus Science World Museum. Must admit I was super disappointed because the bubble exhibit I'd been talking up to Max and he'd looking forward to was closed due to the ever popular human body exhibit. While the human body show seems cool to anyone who can read or better yet has body consciousness, it's not so good for our little bubble loving two year old. Good thing he's fairly easily distracted and they have some permanent exhibits which have some water making bubble effects— tricky but passable. We found the kiddie space on the 2nd floor just beyond the Eureka theater a great toddler spot.

Ransom Board

Komakino Gastown

Steam Clock

We toured Gastown by street light, which probably wasn't such a good idea. The neighborhood is quite sketchy. Seriously, it feels far more tense than our tenderloin. We even found a plaque calling it an historical "skid-row". Yes, that feels like the right label. We tried to stay on Water Street under the bright lights and near some open stores and restaurants. Highlights were the very very chic mens clothing store Komakino [hidden down a steep brick staircase, ring the bell. Look for the ransom type on the sandwich board, but only in the next six months as apparently this store moves around], a chic modernist furniture store called Inform, and the world's only steam clock which chimes on the the quarter hour and sings at the top of the hour.

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October 27, 2006

vancouver

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust

Opus Hotel

Opus Door

Oh Canada! We made it to Vancouver. We are enjoying the ever lovely boutique hotel Opus. We upgraded to the 4th floor SE corner suite overlooking the future Yaletown Station on Davie St. [Must admit I'm thinking a construction discount would be a nice touch.] The Hotel staff are very sweet and helpful I especially like all the cute doormen who are great with Max. They tolerate him pushing the handicap door opening buttons over and over and over. The Yaletown neighborhood is very charming with all the brick buildings, modernist lofts, old town streets with lots of cafes and nice shops which makes strolling quite enjoyable.

Maple Max

Swing Max

Vancouver Sunset

Agro Cafe

We took a long walk along the waterfront and came across many playgrounds. It's impressive to be in a neighborhood that's so kid friendly [dog too]. So far our only kid unfriendly complaint is the dinnertime dining. We're sure we've been turned away with "nothing available" or "come back in an hour and a half" because we walk up with a chatty toddler in a big ass stroller. Oh well. At least we enjoyed a beautiful sunset view of the Granville Market. And within the first 12 hours we found the perfect latte at Agro Cafe — it's just about as good as Blue Bottle and that's high praise.

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August 3, 2006

trip report

My women’s empowerment journey was awe inspiring. I think there are many truths for women [and so many are mothers!] world wide in the stories I will tell you. I hope you enjoy and are inspired to travel, learn more and possibly even give.

OUTSIDE SIAM REAP, CAMBODIA

Meeting Room

Council Leader

I went deep off the world grid and hours into the northern fields of Cambodia and met one of only three women provincial council leaders in the whole country. Her story of surviving the Khmer Rouge regime and being one of the only survivors left in her village who knew how to read was gut wrenching [she was interned at age 10]. She became the “go to” person for helping aid in any necessary reading — especially important documents like land deals and government legalities. It slowly became clear that she naturally held an important role and she desired to make it official. She easily won her seat on the provincial council but it took much longer to gain the trust of the people as the previous leader had tricked them out of the funds they had given to create a ground water well and he was never seen again. She decided to put up her own land and only ox as collateral so the people would trust her and invest again. If anything went wrong she would be homeless and have no assets. I think only a woman would have done this, don’t you?! It worked, she gained their trust and was able to get the village their first ground well. She’s gone on to do many wonderful things for her people, has been re-elected many times, and has joined forces with other female leaders to give training sessions on how to lead and best practices. She is a widow and mother of five and was proud while not at all arrogant to say she can do anything a man can, and even more. More lovely images from Cambodia here and here.

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA

Media Center

Media Founders

On-Air

While in Phnom Penh, Cambodia I met two women who founded their own media center/radio station [above center] which airs programs entirely dedicated to women's issues. Yes, this is the one and only station doing such a thing and it bumps up against government and other male agendas frequently. They’ve overcome many obstacles over years. Both women always knew they wanted to be journalists. One said that as a young girl she saw a woman journalist reporting while speaking into a microphone that she was holding and that image has motivated her for her whole life. The media center has a women’s exchange program which allows Cambodians and other world students an opportunity to learn how to become gender conscious journalists and producers. The station does a lot of work to engage the general public about women’s issues such as rape and domestic violence, women’s rights and legal access, and political participation. They have a giant antennae in the center of their parking lot which runs on oil from a tank, which is also in the parking lot, that they have filled weekly – truly grass roots. Go visit their website and learn more.

QUANG NINH, VIETNAM

Propaganda

Quang Ning

Trafficking-Victim

In Vietnam I traveled east many hours from Hanoi to Quang Ninh province 200 km from China’s border. There I met a woman helping trafficking victims repatriate, get legal aid, counseling, and possible employment. I learned so much about the horrors of human trafficking that I’m still reeling from this encounter. After hearing about this woman’s successes and struggles with her local women's union of which she is the leader, we traveled to meet one victim whom she had a typical afternoon appointment with. This young girl was tricked by a local person she knew, which is often the case and why trafficking is such a disturbingly deceitful practice. The trafficker promised her work just across the border in China in an administrative role. You have to realize that so many village women are extremely poor and there is no work in the their province so the idea of work, anywhere — no matter how far, is serious motivation as they and their family’s survival depends on it. She was lured across the border, held against her will, and forced into prostitution. She tried unsuccessfully to escape and was then beaten and trafficked even further inside China, so far inside that her captors believed none of their victims could ever find their way back. This made her captors lax and inattentive. She escaped and against all odds made it home. But in Vietnam if you don’t register with the government every six months you will no longer be recognized as a citizen. So she has no homeland. If a victim returns to their village, and they think about only 20% return [it’s impossible to to have accurate trafficking statistics], they are shunned and outcast by their neighbors – sometimes even by their family. The young girl I met was having horrible health problems and feared she had contracted some diseases for which she was unable to afford to even see a doctor for a diagnosis let alone receive medicine or care. The women’s union leader is helping her go through the legal system to get her citizenship restored, but they have to prove that she didn’t willingly leave Vietnam and as we know she did — a catch 22. She is also hoping that her rudimentary Chinese translation abilities may land her a job. That’s the positive. You can’t imagine the squalor and psychological pain she is living in, it was horrible and deeply saddening. In the photo above you see the back of her head, her parents, and children supporting her during the meeting. It was heart wrenching. Here's a link to more images and the next day in Hanoi, Vietnam.

VIENTIANE, LAOS

Shelter Bed

Shelter Kitchen

Shelter Guests

I visited the first, and so far only, women’s shelter in Laos about an hour outside Vientiane. As part of a comprehensive legal and judicial reform process in Laos, the Laos Women’s Union was given responsibility by the government for drafting the first laws related to women’s and children’s rights. By law, they are now required to have a women’s shelter for protection, counseling and to teach vocational skills in addition to now having laws stating that domestic abuse and trafficking are illegal [up until 2005 one couldn’t prosecute as it wasn’t illegal]. I went to the sewing and embroidery rooms to see the women at work. I bought a few of their pieces. One piece I bought took three months to make and sells for $20. The average person in Laos lives on $382. per year. Obviously most live in serious poverty. I met a few victims of domestic violence while there, including a new baby just born at the shelter. One of the shelter victim's [above] oldest male son [age seven] was taken by her husband, his second wife and her mother-in-law, and she may never see her son again. There’s no happy ending here as the shelter can not help this woman get her son back because there is no legal recourse for the first wife/mother. This mom feels she’s lucky to even be at the shelter and is resigned to lose a son. It broke my heart and brings tears to my eyes while I type this. Here are more images from my time in Laos.

ACEH, INDONESIA

Beautiful Batiks

Mother Child

Next I was off to Indonesia. Again I traveled so far, so deep into northern Aceh about an hour and half by car and then moped outside of Langsa which was five suicidal driving hours by car from Medan where I had flown into. I have to reiterate, it was sooooo far. I went by field after field of rice, down dirt roads that only ox, bicycles and the occasional moped drive down. An hour outside Langsa, I found myself holding onto the back of a paid moped driver our guide picked up at the last village that had a paved road. Oh, and I was wearing a skirt that day since it was 95 degrees and 100% humidity, swell eh, if only I’d known all the details the day had in store for me when dressing. I was so far out, but surprisingly not at the end of the road, when we stopped and were invited into a community room about ten feet off the ground, about 300 sq ft, with the windows open but there was no wind, no fan either – duh, no electricity. I was in the shade of the roof but swelling and suffering from the radical heat and humidity. The women I was meeting are Muslims and they are dressed in clothes covering their entire bodies including the traditional head coverings. I have to say it again — it was so f#@king HOT — and I am the only one sweating buckets. Ok enough of me and my problems. These 20 village women were amazing. They have each saved about $30 [272,000 rupiah] and pooled their money together to join a microcredit program. As we know, women are often responsible for the upbringing of the world’s children and the poverty of the women generally results in the physical and social underdevelopment of their children. Experience shows that women are a good credit risk, and that women invest their income toward the well being of their families. At the same time, women themselves benefit from the higher social status they achieve within the home when they are able to provide income. As it stands now, if one family member has a health problem the medical costs [often just simple procedures] will send them permanently into debt and into a desperate state of poverty. The women I met were wonderful, engaging and happy. They invited me to stay and learn Acehnese. They were so excited to learn I was the mother of a 21 month old and our motherhood commonality crossed all cultural boundaries. Amazing! My photos of these women are my favorite from the trip. I have a few more wonderful images to see.

SEOUL, KOREA

Korea Politician Leader

Korea Politician Protigee

Lastly I went to Seoul, Korea. I must admit that ending my travels in a developed – actually an over developed — city was very welcomed at this point. The bath, the food choices, corner store shopping, and ease of access to anything I needed was thrilling and comfortable. In Seoul I met a leading female politician [top], an elected assembly woman, who has done years of work recruiting women to become politicians. She is a serious mentor to most Korean women politicians. She said so many true and inspiring statements. But my favorite was when she said women make better politicians because they are natural care takers, as they are the mothers and wives, and that this makes them care deeply about the virtue of people. Caring about people is the main goal of a good politician. Women are also cleaner politicians [all that house work eh?] remaining clear of common scandals. We also met with a few of her protégées [bottom] who spoke about many women’s issues we are familiar with such as work life balance and child care. Korean women leaders still have a lot of work ahead, but I have to say I think they are farther along than the US in some ways as they have a female prime minister and a quota system to help women advance. We can learn a few things from them. To quote from the Korean Institute for Women in Politics...It is not desirable if the expansion of women in politics is so expedient and passive as to simply join the male-dominated paradigm or to have access to it. Women should change the past politics - which has been authoritarian, dominant and sometimes violent, based on male standards - into a new one that is serving for people, transparent and clean for the progress of quality life, based on love, service and devotion. Here are links to my days in Seoul: 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

A legal-eeeze post script: My views are my own, they do not reflect the views of my employer.

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August 2, 2006

Day Seventeen: Leaving Seoul

Seoul Airport

Happy to report that I'm on my way home. I have to route Seoul to LA, LA to SF. It'll take a bit longer with the layover etc. But I'm home about 18 hours earlier than scheduled, and every minute I'm early is worth the long flight. I can't wait for that movie reunion moment. xoxo

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August 1, 2006

Day Sixteen: Seoul

traditional_costume.jpg

married_couple-2.jpg

Is this a persons worst fear? A stranger, a benign tourist — me, takes your photograph. Within hours that image is on the world wide web. Welcome to modern life. Strange, odd and a little unnerving. I saw these two on the street, they were photographing each other. Apparently they are getting married tomorrow. They asked me to use their camera to take some pictures of them together. I did, but of course asked to take a few of my own. I had the feeling this whole spectacle was a prank. But at least you can see traditional Korean dress before it's gone, because I've been told the new generations refuse to wear it.

The majority of my day was spent photographing female politicians. I heard their stories about how they were inspired to enter politics and the challenges they face in recruiting more women to run for office. They have the same struggles all working mothers face — keeping your family happy and running smoothly while being successful at your job. Their paths are not an easy life, but they are inspirational and motivational as I think they have sacrificed much for the virtue of many. I'm so happy to be coming home tomorrow night. I lose a day while traveling. I leave at 7:30 pm and arrive at 6:30 pm the same day. I'll be flying against the earth's rotation. That's weird too.

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July 31, 2006

Day Fifteen: Seoul

Neon Characters

Girl Drawing

Flying Carpet

Green Tea

Red Stamps

Street Art

Tea Sign

Gallery Window

I think you can judge a country by it's political system, it's food, and it's art. Korea is impressive on all accounts. Clearly we Americans, who bill ourselves as the world leader, have much to learn from this newly democratic society. Now I'm no political expert, but today I learned that Korea has a parliamentary democracy where all four of their political parties have representation in parliament. Even the smallest party, the workers party sort of equivalent to our unions, have seats representing their interests based on their amount of votes in each election. They have a female prime minister and 13% of parliament are women. Nice. The food is great. it's varied, complex and they take pride in the preparation, service and enjoy long meals. But of course what I personally find most impressive it their love of the arts. There is so much public art along the streets, in subway stations, on the buses, and there are many galleries and museums honoring traditional arts as well as contemporary ones. Wow. This is quite a cultured civil society.

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July 30, 2006

Day Fourteen: Seoul

Subway Map

Seoul Subway

I started the day by learning the Seoul subway system. It's a color coded system, numbered, as well as labeled in Korean, English and Mandarin. There are 8 lines, each with a unique color and every stop has an associated number. Not every stop's number is marked, however, at each stop there is an arrow pointing you toward the next stop in each direction on that line. Of course you have to be strategic about making sure you get to a transfer point station so you can change lines and also make sure you are on the correct level. There are three levels within the subway system. Fortunately there is english on each station marker - or I'd be screwed and very very lost. The subway map in no way reflects real distances and that messed me up a bit too. It turns out that all stops within the downtown area are 900 won one way, and everywhere I wanted to go was within the downtown area. There are plenty of machines to buy tickets, though you'd have to know to only get a 900 won ticket since the machines are written entirely in Korean so you can't figure it out without seeking help. Fortunately they have some tourist information booths at certain stations. I only went the wrong way once, lucky me.

Ginseng Portrait

Seoul Police

First stop was Itaewon. This neighborhood was billed as "champagne shopping on a beer budget." Hardly! This street had shop after shop of endless yucky low end knock off crap and was a serious waste of time. Don't go! The coolest thing I saw on the street was this window displaying ginseng in jars and the cutest police station mascots ever — so not authoritarian!

Dongdaemun

Seoul Cityscape

Food Court

Fried Rice

Next I went to Dongdaemun. This is a shopping megaplex area. Every building - in every direction - is a shopping complex/mall. What a nightmare! The weather here is very hot, super humid, grey heavy, and sticky. It feels better to be in the air conditioning even if it's in a frighteningly intense and crowded mall so inside I went. At this point I was really hungry so I headed to the 9th floor food court in the Doosan Tower. Yikes! After cruising around the court I learned that you order from the center cashier station. They issue you a number and ticket and you wait until your number is displayed on the big digital overhead board. Then you head to the numbered section you ordered from and give them your ticket. I ordered a number 7 from section D — that translates to fried rice and noodles with wild mushrooms and beef. When you are done eating you return the tray to the same section area. After eating, I explored about seven floors of endless designer knock off shopping Blech. I tried to find stuff but most was too weird and just off enough to be all wrong. The few things I found for gifts were too small or bad craftsmanship. We all know I am picky, but I was shocked to be surrounded by so much and not like anything at all. Sadly, this was a fruitless day. My next free day will be spent visiting a museum or palace as I can't take anymore shopping.

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July 29, 2006

Day Thirteen: Seoul

Gyeongbokgung

Palace Gate

Doorway

Stone Faces

I started the day with free breakfast at my hotel residency the Somerset. It wasn't too bad and it's by far the best cup of coffee on the whole trip. Ah, civilization. I then set out to explore Seoul. I must admit that Seoul feels very overwhelming. It's super expensive and really spread out - like New York meets Los Angeles. You don't walk. Cabs are expensive and you'll likely sit in traffic. There are no bicycles. Apparently it's all about the subway. I took one look at the subway map and decided I'd tackle that tomorrow. Today I'd see whatever was walkable from the Somerset. Turns out I'm right between the two must see Palaces. I turned left and found Gyeongbokgung. I took a lovely stroll through the palace and it's grounds.

Diorama

Traditional Dress

Kimchi

At the far end I found the Korean Cultural Museum and took a long look in there. I loved all the dioramas depicting centuries of Korean life. They went into excruciating detail. There were elaborate depictions of every ceremony and life stage, it was wild - really trippy. Check out the above image of the process of making kimchi. There were about five dioramas showing every stage in the process including the special seasonal variations. That's some seriously important cabbage.

Insadog

Street Painting

Shopping Mall

Honey Threads

Street Vendor

Bakery Window

I spent the afternoon and evening wandering through Insadong. This is a wonderful walking only street with endless vendors and beautiful shops. There are tons of windows with people making a wide variety of treats from spicy meat on a stick to honey noodle candy and various frosty beverages. There are tons of restaurants, tea houses and other eateries, many located on the second or third floor overlooking Insadongs many wanderers. Korean stores are adorable and they take great pride in the way they display their wares. I am so impressed with all the fun shopping. The stores stay open very late. Some malls are even 24 hours. Koreans get drunk and go night shopping, its the latest sport —I kid you not. Koreans do not speak English. They don't want to try and could care less about you and your communication issues. I suppose that's fair since I'm here. It's not as though vendors or street signs in America are in multiple languages. If you want to talk with a Korean you have to learn how. So far only I've only slightly mastered thank you "Kam-sa-ham-nida". Doubt I'll get much more before I head home. I had an amazingly delicious dinner of kimchi soup, green onion with squid pancake and marinated spicy pork, I loved every bite and washed it down with a Cass beer "the sound of vitality." Ahhhh.

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July 27, 2006

Day Eleven & Twelve: Aceh to Medan; Singapore to Seoul

Indonesia Tutuk

Tempel Ban

Flat Tire

On the road into Medan we had a flat tire. We got lucky and pulled over at a random tire repair "tempel ban" within a block of realizing our problem. The tire was switched for the spare within about 15 minutes. How shockingly efficient. With all the surrounding chaos I would have guessed the flat would have set us back for much longer. We were safely returned to the hotel Medan within 4 hours of leaving Langsa. Upon driving up the hotel driveway we were stopped and a mirror was placed under the car to check for explosives. On the way into the hotel we were put through a metal detector and our luggage was scanned. That gave me a good sense of the life situation in "modern" Indonesia. Above is a photo of the common Indonesian tuktuk. Some have sun coverings, all are brightly painted, motorized, and have side cars — they remind me of the psychedelic 60s.

Singapore Airport

It's now been 36 hours since I left Aceh. I must admit to being very happy to be out of Indonesia. As I said before the people we met were very generous, kind, helpful and supportive of our work. To that end I am thankful. However, heading toward the developed world feels very welcomed and satisfying. My bath at the Singapore Meridian was one of the best I've ever had. And I have to stress again how wonderful the Singapore airport is, it has everything a weary traveler needs. There are english speaking information counters, comfortable lounges, worldly food, endless shopping, clean bathrooms, children's play areas, working escalators and travellators (what they call the moving walkway). I'm so impressed with Singapore's cleanliness, efficiency, and organization. Though after Indonesia, almost anywhere in the world would be an improvement. I still have a few hours to go before arriving in Seoul. Then a long weekend to rest and sight see. There's a good chance I'll be able to move my return up by a day or two. That will be a wonderful reward.

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July 26, 2006

Day Ten: Medan to Aceh

Sunrise Medan

Road To Aceh

Sunrise from my Medan hotel room window on the tenth floor. There are as many satellites as buildings. The four hour drive to Langsa was truly frightening. Our driver, Al, is very aggressive and so are most other drivers. We had three true near misses that made me gasp and close my eyes. The other misses only made my stomach jump up my throat. I had white knuckles the entire journey. Even the driver admitted "that was a close one" [a few different times]. God almighty. Driving on this road will make you pray whether you are religious or not.

Aceh Toilet

Lunch Langsa

From there we met our guide and went another 1.5 hours to a remote village in northeast Aceh. We found out that our contact's father had died the night before. He was hit by a truck while crossing the road after having stopped to check on his car which was having electrical problems. Visiting our village contact's home was a very sad occasion and I felt horrible being an invading westerner on such a tragic day. Her father was beloved by many. He was a very forward thinking, pro education and pro rights for muslim women. Because our contact couldn't take us into the field, our guide did her job instead. Next thing we know we are on the backs of mopeds going over bridges that look as though they will barely hold us. We are passing rice fields, cows and people on bicycles. We go farther into the aceh country side. So far off the world grid, I can't begin to paint the picture for you. It was soooooo far!

Kids Field

Window Women

Aceh Villagers

Friendly Face

Village Football

From there we are invited into the village women's micro-finance meeting. They fed us some crazy - oh my gawd don't ask what it was- freaky veggie curry, dried whole fish and rice. This entry needs smell-o-vision so you can truly understand the food, toilet, and heat. I need to talk about the heat. It's hot. So hot, I am sweating like crazy, turning red, puffy and dizzy. Words can't do justice to describe the swelter. It's so painful. The drugs I am taking aren't helping me with the heat issues. Both cipro & malarone have swirling head side effects. Right now I think Indonesia feels like a boat rocking in the harbor. By the end of the finance meeting I'd made smiley friends with many of the women. They laughed at me quite a bit and since I could take it I earned their respect. They invited me to stay and learn achenese. When they found out I had a 21 month old son, I became truly bonded and the camera no longer seemed an issue. These people are very warm, generous and kind. It's hard to believe that I spent the day in the heart of what was once the scariest rebel fighting area of the acehnese liberation struggle. What a full day of amazing experiences.

Dripping Celiing

Now if I can just live through the next 12 hours in my hell hotel. There's a frog in my bathroom. The ceiling is dripping. And not just a small drip either, it's a big disgusting leak dripping in multiple locations and the sound is irritating. The ceiling is also covered in mold and rust. The toilet doesn't work. They have a hose on the side so I can fill the toilet with water if I want to "flush". The 12 room hotel is full, I have the last available room. There are holes in the walls. The twin bed has a plastic covering on the head board. It's satin blue. I have one towel, it's blue and very old and not terribly clean. There's no toilet paper, kleenex or paper product of any kind. The mosquitoes are out in full force, but only a few are in my room [so I think]. I am wearing today's sweaty clothes to bed. I am covered in deet. It smells horrid. I'm just thankful there's electricity so I can charge my equipment, play iTunes, and write this posting. Missing home.

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July 25, 2006

Day Nine: Travel Day

Travel Stuff

I was on three flights today. Up at 6am, breakfast at 7. First flight on Thai air 10:30 to Bangkok. Next flight on FinnAir 2:40 to Singapore. The Singapore airport has to be the best I've seen — in the world. The design is aesthetically pleasing with lots of color variations, fabrics and fresh flowers. They have a take a number system so counter help is orderly. They have stunningly clean bathrooms and amenities. There's an indoor jungle gym for children. It's spacious and has shops conveniently located all over rather than in one terminal. If you have to get routed somewhere in Asia, chose Singapore. Good news, while waiting at the gate I was racially profiled as Finnish and bumped to business class. It was lovely. Those fins design a nice plane with lots of comfy perks. Next flight on Garuda Air 7:20 to Medan. I'm finally at my hotel and it's 9:00pm. That's a long day and I only saw the inside of airports. Not so funsies.

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July 24, 2006

Day Eight: Vientiane

Holding Mangostine

Mangoestine

I had my first mangosteen here in Laos. This fruit is so delicious. The outer skin is tough and thick and you have to stick both thumbs in quite hard to get it started. Once you've ripped a good hole you twist the top off from the bottom to reveal the white fleshy bits. It's tangy and sweet, light and chewy. It lives up to its queen of the tropical fruits title. [Here's a site where you can get mangosteen juice stateside]

Raw Materials

Laos Threads

Laos Pattern1

Laos Pattern2

I am so impressed by the gorgeous weavings done here in Laos. It takes one person about 3 months to finish one of the beautiful designs you see above. They use thin soft silky threads and turn them into these little masterpieces. Almost every local woman is wearing a traditional Laos designed skirt, there's obvious pride in the craft. Simply lovely. For three months work they make $20. The average person here lives on $382. per year.

That Luang

Luang Detail

Teenage Monks

Monk Portrait

I was able to get a bigger view of Vientiane today and see that it has some capital prowess. The hotel I'm staying at, the Tai-Pan [I don't recommend it as I feel like I'm in a 1970s dorm room] is right near the Mekong which is far from the city's government buildings and monuments, so I wasn't able to fully understand the city scale until I drove around. I ended the day at Pha That Luang Temple. The buildings are gorgeous and have so much rich gold detail it's almost too bright to behold. Some monks who were hanging out in front of a temple called out to me "hey woman, come up here". I did of course. They asked me typical tourist questions. But there was one [portrait above] who asked me to help him with his English study. He then asked me to define "What the hell are you doing here?" Holy hilarity! What a wise ass.

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July 23, 2006

Day Seven: Vientiane

Today was a personal record for flights from hell. I was seated next to a raging bitch. First it's important to know that she never said a word but was able to fully articulate herself. She was in my seat. When my arm was on the rest, she used my arm to rest hers. If my elbow was on the rest she used hers to push mine off. She read the paper fully out stretch. When the paper actually touched my face I crumpled it and pushed it toward her. She pulled the paper back and shifted, but only a bit. She was unavailable for eye contact and unresponsive to human communication. Just so you see the whole picture, she's local, in her early thirties, slim, relatively well dressed with some diamonds and a nice watch. Wow,who is this evil woman and why is she allowed in public? Urg. When we stood up to get off the plane she scratched my butt with her finger nails and pushed her head under the over overhead compartment [remember she's in my window seat] trying to coax me to move faster and push harder to get myself into the exit aisle. I'm just happy to say that this was a very short flight. I can only imagine the bad place this would have led us to, had this been a transcontinental flight. The other hellish aspect to this flight was the sinus pressure and congestion I am suffering from. Oh my god. At one point in the flight I was coughing so hard, tears are streaming down my cheek and I was sure my face would explode. The ceaseless changes in cabin pressure caused on-going ear, throat and nose issues the entire ascent and decent. Oh and just to make my day, my traveling associate let me know that he has issues with my germs, and would like me to be sure to cover my mouth while coughing [he even demonstrated!]. Oh for fucks sake, who are these people?! —Now let's get on to seeing Laos...

Laos Building

Laos Statue

After eating I walked around checking out the tiny town of Vientiane — which I can not believe is the capital of Laos. This is a sleepy town with little to do or see, especially compared to Hanoi. It's charming in that small island sort of way. My fried noodle with chicken lunch cost $1.50. It instantly became clear why there were a lot of stoned ex-pat backpackers crawling all over town. The "city" is really run down, no sidewalks, mostly dirt roads, every other building is in a state of disrepair, and the people seem quite poor. After walking for about 20 minutes I gave up. I just couldn't spend another afternoon in the sweltering heat. I went back to the Tai-Pan dorm like hotel and watched ridiculous movies on their one no-static channel all afternoon. Ah, more air conditioning. Freon and I are becoming fast friends.

Laos Sunset

Mekong Vendor

Before dinner at a random Italian place off the circle, I cruised the Mekong river bank. the sunset was lovely and there were all kinds of vendors cooking up fish and more. they also set up impromptu cafes where people sit and drink beer all evening. For me I was thinking, watching the sunset by a river = mosquitos. So off I went.

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July 22, 2006

Day Six: Hanoi by cyclo

Cyclo Guide

I believe today's temperature was 95 with 100 percent humidity. It felt like a 110 with a 150 percent humidity. It's so hot I can barely describe how difficult it was to be outside and how red, puffy and sweaty I was and felt. I couldn't even bring myself to lay in the shade by the pool, it's too hot for that even. But of course I had to leave the hotel at some point and see Hanoi. I'd kick myself if I didn't go have a look see. So I hopped on the cyclo you see above and this poor man peddled me all over Hanoi! He deserved every extra dollar I gave him.

Big Pagoda

Lotus

Gold Flower

First we cruised Ho Chi Man's mausoleum, which was closed so I only viewed the building and surrounding grounds. Next door is the One Pillar Pagoda which is said to resemble a lotus blossom. According to legend, in his dream, in 1049, the childless king saw a vision of a female Buddha. She led him to a shrine in the middle of a lotus pond [which is the site of the pagoda]. When he woke up, he found his wife was pregnant and later gave birth to a son. Yeah, lady Buddah.

Temple Knowledge

Temple Door

Confusionism

Next he peddled me to the Temple of Literature. This is a stunning attraction with traditional architecture and design details which I love. It's also a serious homage to knowledge and Confucianism. I was so hot after walking through the temple and grounds, I had to find some air conditioning. I walked down the street to the fancy silk shop called CocoSilk and stretched my decision making as long as I could. It's tough when you're being shadowed around the shop. I really don't like that. Then back to my sweet cyclo driver who pushed me all the way to St. Joseph's Church.

Street Hanoi-1

Chatty Guy

Lacquer Wares

From there I cruised around on foot. With the blazing heat pressuring me, my energy and enthusiasm were waning. I picked up some fresh pineapple from a street vendor and walked to Hoan Kiem Lake [which means lake of the returned sword - a King Arthur like story]. While enjoying the lake view and suffering in the midday swelter, I was sort of accosted by the guy above. Of course he was hitting me up for money. He wanted me to buy toothpicks made by blind men to raise money for the red cross. Uh huh. I asked him how long he was planning on sitting next to me. Turns out, it may have been all day. After we chit chatted longer than I'd like, I decided that if he wanted to give me a brief tourist education of the sites I had seen this day that I'd give him a dollar or two. While viewing the images on my digital camera back and in his finest broken english he explained as best he could the purpose of all. Too bad I didn't know that I should have touched one of the turtle's heads in the temple of knowledge — it brings good luck. It turned out to be a nice encounter, though it cost me. I couldn't tour anymore, so I asked my cyclo driver to wind our way through the old quarter maze and get me back to the cushy sofitel hotel. ahhh, air conditioning.

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July 21, 2006

Day Five: The road to Quang Ninh

Vn Ricepatty

Vn Bay

Vn Billboard

Vn Bicycle

Oh the horn honking in Hanoi! And the near fatal misses we experienced while our driver played a game of chicken with every car, truck, bus and moped on the road to Quang Ninh, my god. I'm happy to report I arrived back to the posh Sofitel in one piece, phew. I took lots of shot out the car window, not all fabulous but you get the idea what the countryside looks like. I'm sick as a dog and taking cipro. It's not kicking in as fast as I'd like so I'm lying low today. I hope to see some of hanoi this afternoon. Maybe a quick cyclo ride and some old district shopping. We're dining tonight at Bobby Chins. It's apparently THE place to be seen in Hanoi and he is a top chef constantly in the gossip scene for whom he's dating - you know "the modelizer". Means nothing to me, I just hope he can cook.

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Day Four: Siem Reap & Angkor Wat

Cb Kids

Our morning was busy with business, but this afternoon was a sheer delight — ok the idea of it was fabulous but in reality my super painful sore throat, the constricting humidity, and burning sunshine made it somewhat hellish, but I was determined to power through it. Thinking, when will I be in Cambodia again?? And look at the beautiful smiling children.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is a twelfth century ancestral wonder of the world let alone Cambodia. It brings to mind the ruins of Rome, and Ephasus. The amount of detail on almost every stone, including all the foundation stones, is unbelievable. Also consider that these temples were built one stone on top of the next — an architectural balancing feat. There are over a hundred temples in this forrest preserve.

Fried Crickets

By the way, I ate cricket today. Tasted like salty peanuts. Feeling proudly adventurous!

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July 19, 2006

Day Three: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Bicycle Girl

Hello Cow

I've had my eyes opened today. Not just because I feel better than yesterday, since I still feel like shit, but because I've just been given a crash course in Cambodian history through a first person account. I wanted to start crying as she told me her story of her family members who were killed, the ones who died of starvation, and how she was sent far away from her village to a punishing work camp where, on a good day, she lived on literally three grains of rice. She would sneak into the forest to find things to eat. She was never sure if the random forest finding would poison her to death or keep her alive. This went on for years. Everyone here has a story like this. She thinks she got off easy. You probably know more than me about the history? But I think having been here I am now required to research and read about the Khmer Rouge regime. Too many unfathomable horrors in this world.

Heritage Tree

Many moments during the long drive through the country I kept thinking about the millions of people who suffered, or those who survived but are still suffering a lifetime of repercussions. And then there's the poverty, a seemingly unending cycle of poverty, that these people are enduring. Somehow they keep on living, smiling and loving. The human spirit is amazing. Juxtapose all that with the gorgeous landscape with the brightest green rice fields, perfect white clouds on a bright blue sky. It looks like paradise — in the background.

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July 18, 2006

Day One/Two: Taipei & Phnom Penh

Sunrise Taipei

Orchids Taipei

Milk Ad-1

I enjoyed a delirious sunrise and four dollar cup of coffee while strolling around the Taipei airport on a three hour layover. I only slept a few hours on the 14 hour ride to Taipei and as I write this it's now 26 hours later, ouch.

Phnom Airport

Welcome to Cambodia! Every once in awhile I get a wave of dizziness that causes me to strain my eyes to keep balanced and upright. I feel like I may faint, but then I just concentrate on not falling over and pull it together. Serious jet lag. I'm just holding out for about two more hours. We've got someone taking us to dinner and as you know an escort makes dining in a foreign country sooooo much easier. Mmmmm, pan fried squid in a green pepper corn sauce, 'twas delicious. Silly to say but, food is better when you're in the proper latitude and longitude using local ingredients.

I'm staying at the Ruffles Royal in Phnom Penh. It's a pretty luxury hotel, especially by Cambodian standards. The gardens and swimming pool are gorgeous. Too bad I'm working or I'd be lounging about enjoying the amenities and luscious scenery.

Chaos Theory-1

I'm loving the traffic chaos. Drivers just go, in any direction and with no real attention to the lines painted on the road, though they do stop when the light changes. However I have only seen a few street lights or stop signs. There's five or more scooters per every bicycle, car, "tuk tuk", or truck on the road. Most scooters have one or two people but some have families of five and they are carrying baggage! It's like a crazy engineered visual ballet with everyone confidently holding their choreographed position. If anyone hesitates there'd be a huge pile up. Amazing but It seems to work out.

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