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Archive for September, 2007

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A Day Trip from San Francisco to See Old Park, Big Tree, and Small People

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Big Basin Redwoods State Park (see more photos here) is the oldest state park of California. It is a 18,000 acres of old growth forest in south of San Francisco. If you live in central California and want to see the big trees but don’t have time to visit Redwood National Park in the north or Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in the south, this state park is a nice 1-day trip destination. The park is actually extended to Pacific coast and the elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet. You can hike to the nice beach from the redwoods in 2 days, longer if you will hike back.
We visited the park on a usual Saturday. It is about 2-hours drive from south bay area, 20 miles away from Santa Cruz. The road to the park headquarter is very curvy and one-way. You are expected to stop on the roadside/turnout often when there is no rooms for the coming cars to stop. It is hard to explain the feeling when into the redwood forests, even just in the car. Everything is so big and misty and you will have the impulsion to stop and walk around.

Big Basin State Park, California

We hiked for about 4 hours on two trails, 1) easy Redwoods Loop trail on which you will see the mother and the father of the forest; 2)first part of Sequoia Trail on which you will see Sempervirens Falls and Founders Monument at Slippery Rock. We tried to look for the “icon’ of Big Basin banana slugs but weren’t successful.

Tips: 1) do a little research on the park website ; 2) Buy a map (25c), 2 groups of people were lost and asked us for direction.

Say “中秋节快乐“ to Your Chinese Friends! Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to You!

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Mid-Autumn Festival comes on Sept. 25 this year — Aug. 15 in Chinese calendar every year.

Mid-Autumn Festival is a day for family reunion. Chinese character for “Reunion” is the same as “round”, that’s why a moon cake is round-shape.

As a native Cantonese, I grew up eating moon cakes which are sweet in taste. Not until I was 18 and went to Shanghai for college; I didn’t know there is a kind of moon cake which is salty. Can you believe a CAKE is not SWEET?

Well, people in Shanghai area have been having “pork meat stuffed with puff skin“moon cakes for centuries, which is not SWEET. They taste very good!

traditional Cantonese style mooncake with lotus bean paste and salty egg yolk

Tradictional Cantonese Style Mooncake, lotus seed paste with salty egg yolk. (One with two yolks is Dulex!)
Su style mooncake with pork meat inside Su style mooncake with pork meat inside

Su (Means Suzhou) Style Mooncake, minced pork meat inside.
Haagendazs icecream mooncake

Localized Haagendazs Icecream Mooncake.

stir fry pond/river snail

Stir fry river/pond snail. Cantonese love to have this on Mid-Autumn Festivel. A family will sit together, eating the snail while “appreciating” the perfect moon of a year.

A survey: what’s your pain in planning a vacation?

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I made phone calls like crazy yesterday afternoon, trying to book hotel rooms for my coming vacation to Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China.

I have spent quite some time research what to do in our destinations during the weekend and was frustrated — since I got a lot of repeated but either useless or out-of-date (You know, everything changes so fast in China) information about the destinaion from search engine (google or baidu). Anyway, I finally set our itinerary and am ready to book hotel rooms. I found our most desired hotel was fully booked. Of course, I can still find a place, a nice place to stay if i am willing to pay RMB 600/night when I can get one for RMB 180 just 2 days’ ago.

In the whole planning process, I spent way too much time deciding where to go and what to do. I want to see the fall foliage, but people have different opinions about where and when. I hope I have a super computer or a super data mining machine to dig all relavant data out for me. Unfortunately, I don’t.

I would like to do a light survey about: what’s your most difficult part in planning a vacation? How do you solve it?

For me, it is to decide which few attraction points to see the most beautiful natural scences in limited time. I will:

1) search google and baidu (in Chinese),

2) go to forum and ask questions (but got almost 0 repsonds),

3) search for travel blogs in either English or Chinese (which need a lot of time to read and filter the information).

Understand China, Chinese and Shanghai (yes, it is difficult)

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

I read a review about Taiwanese Ang Lee’s new Venice Film Festival 2007 award winning movie from one my favorite magazine on Saturday. I then followed the movie and research the story, the writer of the story, the husband of the writer, and the characters in the story/movie and reviews about the writer during the weekend. I enjoyed doing this because I really like the writer and her books. She is Eileen Chang (张爱玲). Life weekEileen spent 30 years writing this 29-page short story which happened in 70 years’ ago.

The movie is rated as NC-17 in US. Ang Lee said Don’t expect much from ‘Lust, Caution’ to USA Today. He was talking about the box office performance; I think he was also talking about culture difference. I really doubt that people with Chinese culture background can understand it as the way Chang wanted to express. Can you undertand why it is a big deal? But maybe Chang took 30 years to make it for everyone. We will see.

Anyway, I would strongly recommend people who like Shanghai or want to understand Shanghai should go for the movie. Chang keeps every details through each single Chinese word, and Ang Lee repeated every detail about Shanghai in it. [Note: the woman on the magazine cover is the main original character in Lust, Caution from 1930s’; her name is Ruping Deng.]

I always wonder what do you see when you visit “ancient city/town” in Shanghai neighborhood, like Suzhou, Zhouzhuang, or Zhujiajiao.

Zhujiajiao, China

This is the hometown to NBA hero Yao Ming.

Zhujiajiao, Shanghai, China

A boat ride will be fun.

Zhujiajiao, Shanghai, China

Windor shopping.

My coming & dream travel destination: Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I am planning a trip to Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan province, the home to panda.

A quick overview about this place:

Jiuzhaigou Valley (Simplified Chinese: 九寨沟; Traditional Chinese: 九寨溝; Pinyin: Jiǔzhàigōu; lit. “Valley of Nine Villages”; Tibetan: Sicadêgu(gZi rTSa sDe dGu)) is a nature reserve in northern Sichuan province of China. It is known for its many multi-level waterfalls and colorful lakes, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. It belongs to the category V (Protected Landscape)in the IUCN system of protected area categorization.

more from wikipedia .

Fairy Pool

Our current itinerary is:

  • D1: fly from Shanghai to Chongqing at night, stay at a hotel [¥128/night, double bed] near the airport. [note: China national day holiday, aks Golden Week, is from Oct. 1 – 7. Our flight is on Oct 5. Chongqing is a less popular travel destination so we can get better price of the tickets. ¥ 600/person b4 tax.]
  • D2: fly from Chongqing to Jiuzhaigou – huanglong airport in the early morning. (first flight at 6:50am, arrive at 7:50 am. So we have a whole day to start with. ¥590/person b4 tax.]
  • D2: visit an acient town called “song pan”松潘 which is about 50 km south from the airport. Join a tour to visit a much less crowded valley called “mou ni gou” 牟尼沟. This place is only accessible by horse.
  • D2: Camp with the tour at the valley or go back to “song pan”松潘.
  • D3: Plan 1,back trip from 牟尼沟 to 松潘 if we stay in Valley for the night. Plan 2: Visit Fariy Pool, which is about 10-20km away from Jiuzhaigou Valley in the morning and go to jiuzhaigou downtown in the afternoon.
  • D3: Stay in jiuzhaigou downtown. Budge hotel rooms are around ¥150-200/night in peak season like Oct.
  • D4. D5: visit Jiuzhaigou. [Note: Usually, the ticket is allowed twice entrance to the park. But during Golden Week, the admission ticket is only allowed ONE time entrance. So we have to wait until Oct. 8.]
  • D6: Take a bus or rent a private car back to Chengdu. Plan to visit “home of panda” wolong 卧龙 on the way.
  • D7: Relax in Chengdu city and go hunt for some great Sichun food. Fly back to Shanghai at night. Ticket will be 50% more expensive!
Here is the best MAP resources i can find on the Web: (sorry, in Chinese only)

Sounds good, hum?  I will updat the other travel tips when we are back.

Go hiking in Hong Kong, have you ever think about that?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I love Hong Kong, since I can go shopping whenever I go out for food. Services in Hong Kong is probably the best in the world. So, I can enjoy great food, great services, great people, great stuff and great city view. Who won’t love Hong Kong?

But another reason I like Hong Kong is because I can go hiking, no just shopping, as well. We have hiked mostly in Sai Kong, one or twice in Hong Kong Island and Lautau.

Hong Kong hiking trail map

You can see from above map, hiking trails system in Hong Kong actually is quite well developed. The basic information is mostly maintained by the government but not easy to find on Internet. The tips, guides or reviews are mostly in Cantonese Chinese and are very limited too.

long ke wan, beach

This beach: Long Ke Wan beach is one of the most romantic secluded place Hong Kong. It is in the first stage of MacLehose trail. The only ways to get this beach are 1) hike over the mountain; 2) boat there and swim to the beach. Roz’s Hiking Page tells you the detailed direction to get here. Please be reminded that it is very time consuming get the start point if you don’t drive yourself.

A reward to your day hike: a seafood meal in Sai Kung downtown!

Ok, photo tour: (all photos were took on 2003 )

Long Ke wan Hong Kong

On the way to see the bay and beach.

beach of Long Ke wan Hong Kong

On the beach, we were the 3rd and 4th persons on this beach in that afternoon. The sand isn’t very good, but the view is fantastic!

the side of beach of Long Ke wan Hong Kong

coastline of Long Ke wan Hong Kong

The only way to see another beach behind this mountain is to hike over it. We didn’t do it.


A close look on the rock on the beach, and my foot.

Youtube Link about Long Ke Wan:

Hong Kong hiking trails

More Hotels on the Strip, Las Vegas NV (photo tour)

Friday, September 14th, 2007

A photo tour of the hotels on the strip at night. I like Las Vegas for its great food!
Excalibur hotel and casino

MGM hotel and casino, Las Vegas, NV

Paris hotel and casino, Las Vegas, NV

Monte Carlo hotel and casino, Las Vegas, NV

New York New York hotel and casino, Las Vegas, NV

The Bellagio hotel and casino, Las Vegas, NV

Strip, Las Vegas, NV

Hotel on The Strip, Las Vegas: Luxor Hotel and Casino

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

I watched Ocean’s 13 last night on DVD, and found the hotel in the movie is very cool. But after I goolged it today, I knew it is a fake hotel, and the real hotel in this movie is actually The Bellagio. I wasn’t impressed by the interior decoration of the Bank hotel, but the whole red “DNA” shape design is fantastic, and Ocean’s 13’s villa is very stylish.

hotels_on_the_strip.JPG look for the Red building.

We’ve been to Las Vegas once and had a great time there, though I don’t recommend the hotel – Luxor Hotel & Casino we stayed. Two reasons: 1) too far away from the strip though it is on the strip; 2)we stayed at the upgraded room in the tower which is a long way to the hotel front entrance and parking lot. But the rate is good, we paid about $80 a night during Christmas after applying promotion codes which are easy to find on the Net.
Ok, photo time!

Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas

Luxor hotel in day, Las Vegas

Luxor hotel inside, Las Vegas

Luxor hotel inside, Las Vegas

Do a Lahaina Vacation, When You Care Much about Eat, Shop and Walk…

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

I always tell my husband that I don’t need a beach vacation. Why? In my sense of a beach vacation, it is all about relaxing and relaxing. You go to the beach with your favorite book and stay there for a long afternoon. But I want to walk around, seeking and trying out local authentic food cooked with special seasons that I will never find in my home city. Otherwise, I am motivated to leave Shanghai, a great city I am enjoying Chinese food so much so far.

Well, I compromise sometimes, for places like Lahaina in Maui Island, Hawaii.


Can you believe there actually is a downtown in Lahaina? I am fine with the fact about this 1.5 mile downtown that you might find it a problem: crowded. Without the popularity, the charm of being busy and energetic but relaxing won’t exist. Strolling on Front Street, where you can park your car for FREE for 3 hours, you can DO a great Lahaina vacation:eat, shop, walk, and even boating (it used to be a whale port). The best parking opportunity is from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. when you have great chance to get a street-side stall.

A vacation in Lahaina will be made a perfect one if you stay in the resorts or hotels in north of Lahaina, say Ka’anapali. Ka’anapali beach is rated as a “real gem” by wizardpub, a travel guide book publisher specialized in Hawaii islands. Other fun activities (suggested by wizardpub guidebook) in west Maui include: snorkeling in the right side of Honolua Bay,seeing trees in Banyan Tree Park or having best banana bread at Last Stand in Kahakuloa.
Yalong Bay, Sanya, Hainan Province,China

Yalong Bay, Sanya, Hainan, China

beach on West Island_Sanya Hainan China

To the Lighthouse, Point Reyes National Seashore, California (pictures only)

Monday, September 10th, 2007
Point Reyes Lighthouse, California
South_North_Beach_Point_Reyes California
South & North Beach, Point Reyes, California
Coast Point Reyes California
Coast viewed from the lighthouse, Point Reyes, California
Grigo at south beach, point reyes california
This is me, Grigo in Oct 2005, @ a romantic beach