Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zig Zag

It seems like I should wrap up the A-Z blog challenge with some great thought but I feel like I've used up all my words in writing about Shanghai-Taipei-Hong Kong.

Well not all my words. Just all the words associated with my recent trip. I managed to stretch out two weeks of travel into a month's worth of blogging, and while I didn't post all of my 1000+ photos I did squeeze more than 250 into this challenge.

Z is for Zig Zag

'a course that proceeds by sharp turns in alternating directions'

Zig Zag Bridge, Shanghai China

Well that sounds pretty much like my blog everyday so how about a list of ten random zig zag thoughts to wrap up the A-Z?

1. I fretted a lot about the super long haul flights prior to my trip. I tried to commit them to prayer but more often than not it was fretting. We had two 15 hour flights plus two flights in country with checked luggage and pre-arranged airport pick ups. People spoke Mandarin, not English. Every single bit of this went off without a hitch. Why do I fret about stuff that may never happen?

2. The other side of the world feels like the other side of the world. There is a whole lot going on over there and we're a little bit oblivious to it from our side of the pond.

3. Travel is like opening a window just a crack. I want to push it open all the way. I want to see more.

4. The more you travel the more you realize how much of the world you will never see. There are not enough days in a year and years in a life to see all that I would love to see.

5. When it comes to traveling my hubs is a rock star.

6. I love the discipline of writing every day that the A-Z challenge presents. I might never have captured this trip with the level of detail I did had it not been for the A-Z.

7. There is something for everyone out there in the blogosphere. And I do mean everyone.

8. Writing two posts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays was a lot for me.

9. I enjoy having a theme for my A-Z posts. I'll bind these posts into their own little book and have a nice keepsake from our trip.

10. Hubs!! Where are we going next March? I'll be needing a theme for the 2013 A-Z blog challenge, ya know!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Here I go again...taking liberties with the letters, but it's Saturday and I don't normally blog on Saturdays. Plus my hubs just returned from a week in Argentina-Chile-Brazil and whenever he's on a flight landing stateside at o'dark thirty we go out to breakfast.

It's the law.

The A-Z challenge and the letter Y.
Or as some people would say-why?

Why is our pilot consulting a big ole paper map before boarding the plane? More than a little disconcerting to see since we were preparing to board that same plane.

For a fifteen hour flight home.

At least I hope we're going home.
He knows how to get there right?
He doesn't actually need to consult a paper map does he?
Can't planes practically fly themselves these days?

Just when you were thinking maybe you would like to travel with me.

Perhaps more worrisome was the fact that the agent behind the counter was doing all the pointing and talking.

I do not need to see stuff like this before I board a plane.
Hubs had to add that he's never seen it before and S and E agreed.

Ya know, I don't need to hear stuff like that either.
I'm certain there's a perfectly logical explanation.
There has to be, right?

In the meantime...

Business class.
Champagne, head phones, and a seat that goes alllllll the way back.

Wake me up when we get to New Jersey.
Or Timbuktu.
I might not like it but I sure wouldn't want to miss it either.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Birds and the Bees

Not those birds and bees.
Actual birds.
And flowers.
Which attract bees, so there ya go.

These last few letters in the A-Z blog challenge are why its called the A-Z blog Challenge. Today's post is brought to you by the letter X and since my theme has been my trip to China how about a little Mandarin?

Mind you, I don't speak Mandarin except for the word xie xie which means thank you. While that does begin with the letter x, it doesn't fit with today's post so it's google to the resuce...

X is for Xing Qu

Which in Mandarin means 'interest in something'.
I realize it's a stretch but won't all the letter x posts today be a stretch?

Flowers and birds.
Two things I have an interest in plus we visited the Flower Market and the Bird Market while in Hong Kong and I want to include that in my trip recap.

There's a lot of what they called 'themed street shopping' in Hong Kong which means you'll find the flower market on Flower Market Road. Essentially it's three blocks of store fronts selling gorgeous flowers. I loved the way they wrapped the individual rose buds in mesh before bundling them together.

Lots of shops selling orchids of every size, shape, color and beautiful!

This was one of our favorites and is called a tiger orchid-

As you near the end of the flower market you'll see the entrance to the Bird Market.

The bird market is exactly what it sounds like-an outdoor market selling birds along with everything you'd need to keep one in your home.

And I do mean everything.

I love birds in the wild but I'm not a big fan of birds as pets. They seem like creatures that belong in their natural habitat as opposed to living indoors. I was told that a lot of people in Hong Kong keep birds as pets because they don't require the living space a big dog would need. The market is mostly songbirds which are kept in these pretty bamboo cages...bird singing contests are popular here.

The market itself was interesting...I wish I had an audio file! Some of the cages were really beautiful and I loved the pretty little water dishes inside. Naturally I'd go to a bird market and fixate on the tiny pieces of pottery...I appreciate pretty pottery even if it belongs to a bird.

You'll also see sites like this one...

...clipping the wings. See, that's why I'm not a fan I think. I realize its a necessity if you don't want your pet to get loose but its a bird and weren't they born to fly? I had mixed feelings about the market, obviously, but a visit here is a unique experience...if you're in Hong Kong these two markets together are definitely worth a look...

Especially if shared with a friend.

Thanks for joining me in my little stroll thru the markets today. Or in keeping with the spirit of the challenge- xie xie!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Today I'm going to tell you a story. It might be my favorite story from our whole entire trip. It's not a big story or a long story (although I'll likely make it so) but it is a true story and one that brings a smile to my heart.

W is for what are the odds?

On the last day of March the hubs and I were sitting in a little burger restaurant in the middle of Hong Kong with our friends G and A. We'd been out walking and talking and had taken the mid-level escalators into the central part of town. These escalators are a must-see if you're ever in Hong Kong.

Did you know Hong Kong is incredibly steep and hilly? Honestly the women here must all have great legs because you literally have to climb a mountain to get anywhere. Maybe you knew this about Hong Kong but I didn't. Since it is so steep and hilly someone had the brilliant idea to put a series of escalators and moving sidewalks smack dab in the middle of the city.

Keep in mind Hong Kong is positively teeming with people so their escalator system helps with the flow of foot traffic up and down the slopes. The mid-level escalators run downhill from 6- 10 in the morning to help with commuters traveling to work and then switch to uphill mode from 10:30 until midnight. The system consists of 20 escalators and 3 moving sidewalks with a vertical climb that's close to 450 feet. They're the longest covered escalators in the world and if you rode from beginning to end it would take you about 25 minutes.

Super cool.
But nearly impossible to capture in a photograph.
So I didn't.

Besides helping commuters get around, the central escalators are also a pretty big tourist attraction. Running all along the street beside the escalators are restaurants, bars, and shops. It was in one such little burger place that we found ourselves on this sunny Sunday afternoon at the end of March.

The little burger place had a glass front that faced the central escalators so we planted ourselves on four stools in front of the window to watch the world go by. There are more than 8 million people living in this city so there is plenty to see. Hubs hopped outside to snap a few photos and we were enjoying our french fries and chit chat when A asks, "Hey, do you think there's anybody in this city that we know?" Hmmm...good question.

As we're mulling the thought over in our heads G points to the escalator platform outside our window and says, "Well do you know that guy because he definitely acts like he knows you?"

We glance over and see two tall men standing on the platform looking back at us. Hubs noticed the taller of the two first and while he was wracking his brain trying to decide if he knew this man thru work I shouted, "Oh my goodness-that's PJ!!" which of course is not his real name but that's what he'll be called here.

PJ just so happens to be one of my most favorite boy people in all the world. He went to high school in England with my girls and spent a lot of time with daughter1 especially. My girls knew whenever his name came up I could be counted on to start talking about the beauty of arranged marriages. Other mothers do that too, right?

He happened to be in Hong Kong for the weekend and I'm wondering what are the odds that in a city of more than 8 million people on the other side of the world we'd be sitting in that little restaurant, right in front of the window, at the exact moment he passed by and happened to look over? The odds have got to be something like a thousandmillionhundred to one don't you think?

Now I'm going to insert the super freaky crazy bit here and hope he doesn't read my blog. Because even to me it sounds a little nuts and I'm the one telling it.

We haven't seen PJ in more than five years nor have we been in touch with his family, BUT...about four days prior to seeing him on the street in Hong Kong I had a dream and he was in it. In my dream he was running around Hong Kong with daughter1. Daughter1 who at this very moment is probably wishing her mother didn't blog but hey, if I can't talk about the crazy here then tell me where I can. Because this was ca-razy.

I actually woke up from that dream and sent daughter1 a text message telling her about it in that 'haha guess what kind of crazy dream I had last night' sort of way. Four days later, and here we are...standing in the middle of Hong Kong catching up face to face.

There's a word they use in England that fits nicely here and that word is gobsmacked. It means astounded... flabbergasted. It comes from the word gob meaning mouth and smacked meaning clapping the hand over in surprise.

Yep. We were all gobsmacked.

Not so much so that we didn't get a picture but gobsmacked nonetheless.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Victoria Peak

If you're looking for the Wednesday Hodgepodge you'll find it here.

Let me put it this way-Hong Kong has a lot going on. Its a crazy busy city and a person could get a crick in their neck walking around here.

My word this city is high.

Which is why it was nice to get above it all and look down for a change. Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on the island proper but not the highest mountain in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong geography is slightly confusing, isn't it?

I went up to the top two different days while I was in town. Our first day in HK hubs and his colleague S went off to work so E and I rode the funicular railway up to the top of Victoria Peak. Have I mentioned how steep this city is? Once it started climbing our railroad car was almost vertical. But it is attached to a track and not hanging over a canyon by a thread so I'm game.

A funicular is also known as a cliff railway. Physics was never my best subject but essentially this means two cars are permanently attached to one another via a cable and this cable runs thru a pulley at the top of an incline. The two cars are counterbalanced so that one is going up while the other is coming down. Easy peasy. The Peak Tram opened in 1888 and was the first funicular in Asia.

All this to say, if you ever get to Hong Kong riding the funicular to the top of the mountain is a must-do. The views are stunning. When E and I went up the skies were a little bit hazy. Still, gorgeous. I read somewhere that Hong Kong has the world's largest number of skyscrapers and I think that must be true.

There's more going on up top than just the views. There's a mall of course because this is Hong Kong and in Hong Kong we shop. There are homes and apartments sprinkled here and there all the way up the mountain so it makes sense there'd be a small market, a petrol station, offices and a preschool. There's even a shout out to the Big Apple-

We did not sample so I cannot speak to the accuracy of 'New York' style.

There are lots of walking trails and paths around the mountain so E and I decided we'd take the scenic route and walk down. When I say down I mean straight down. Oh my achin' calves.

It took about an hour to walk down and we were mostly in the rain forest but every now and then we'd have to walk on the road aka take your chances with cars coming around blind curves, and you with no where to go but into the wall or over the side. Good times.

Actually it was.

How'd you like to be operating this crane perched on the literal edge of the mountain? It is high. HIGH! Really really HIGH! Yes I'm shouting. I'm just not sure the photos do it justice.

The hubs and I returned to the top of Victoria Peak with our friends G and A. We took a taxi up though because it was a holiday weekend in China and the queues for the funicular were ridicular. Ha.

We took pictures and laughed a lot. Earlier in the day we'd seen some models posing for a photo shoot-

Not to be outdone...they needed to re-create the shoot.

So fun having friends to hang out with high above the harbour.

The back side of the mountain leads to the wide open sea and the islands that comprise the rest of Hong Kong.

Shall I take your picture?


Hong Kong on the first day of April was kinda picture perfect.

Hodgepodge Hodgepodge Wherefore Art Thou-Vol 75

Maybe the cheesiest blog title in the history of the world but have I mentioned I'm also doing the A-Z challenge this month and those last few letters need mega brain cells? The letter X is looming people. In the meantime here are my answers to this week's Hodgepodge questions-

1. Shakespeare's birthday is celebrated on April 23rd...when did you last read Shakespeare? What's your favorite Shakespeare play?

Well I lived in England and Shakespeare's kind of a big deal there-ha! I've been to the Globe Theatre in London and I'm a fan. Daughter2 spent two days in Stratford-upon-Avon with her entire class when she was in grade 8. They saw a play, attended a wig workshop and watched stage fighting demonstrations. They also got into a little mischief but we won't mention that here. Hi daughter2!

I spent my 47th birthday with friends in Verona. We saw Romeo and Juliet-The Opera, in the Coliseum there. Under the stars. In Italian. Be still my heart.

My favorites are probably King Lear because it's so tragic, and The Merry Wives of Windsor because it's funny, but mostly because I'm partial to the burg in which its set.

2. What food(s) would you recommend a foreign visitor try when they visit your home country?

No matter where you travel in this world I think you need to sample the local cuisine. In Northern NJ that would probably mean a bagel with cream cheese. I've been a lot of places in this world and nobody does a bagel like NJ does a bagel. I'd also recommend a plate of sliced tomatoes, lightly salted. It's a known fact that NJ grows the worlds best tomatoes. Then, because I'm loyal to my South Jersey roots, let's also have a Philly cheese steak. Why would you ever eat one anywhere else?

I recently hosted an American style bbq for some of hubs co-workers who were in town for a meeting. 17 people from 9 countries so it was a full house. We cooked bbq ribs with lots of sides and had an ice cream cake and s'mores for dessert. The s'mores were a novelty and a real hit!

3. What's a lie you often tell yourself?

I'll start tomorrow.

4. What's something you're good at that might surprise us? Remember this is a family friendly blog!

Ping pong.

I owe it all to my brother. He's five years older than me and way more coordinated, but even so when we were growing up he'd ask me to play after dinner most evenings. He always beat me. Every once in a while I'd come close to beating him and then I'd realize he was playing right handed (he's a lefty!).

Playing with someone much better than you makes you better too.

5. Who is your favorite animal character from a book?

Wilbur. He was 'some pig'.

Charlotte's a close second. She had the brains and the talent but he was a pig and she was a spider so I gotta go with Wilbur in the #1 spot.

6. April showers bring May you have a green thumb?

Well, my hubs would say not really but it's not totally brown either. In my defense, it's a fairly large challenge keeping plants alive when you travel as much as we do.

7. Speaking of rainy days, which one of the following activities would you most want to spend time doing on a rainy day-

sort photos and create albums
bake cookies
read a good book
hold an all-day movie marathon
clean and organize closets, cupboards, or bookshelves
try a new recipe
fix something that needs fixing

I love to cook on rainy days so I'd likely try a new recipe. One of my favorite rainy day activities is missing from that list though, and that's napping. Rainy days are made for napping. So are sunny days.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Calling all pinners-My friend Mindee (Our Front Door) is hosting a fun little link party on her blog during the month of May. Essentially it's a Pinterest Post Party which means now is the time to dust off some of those supposedly amazing pins you've been collecting and 'just do it'.

Is there a recipe (or ten) you've pinned but haven't made? A home improvement project or paint technique you'd like to try but haven't gotten around to just yet? No time like the present...whatever your interest, go for it! Afterwards you write it all up as a post and then link your blog to the party at Our Front Door Tuesdays and Thursdays during the month of May.

Mindee will post details on her blog tomorrow so hop over there to get the official scoop.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Upchuck

If you're looking for the Wednesday Hodgepodge questions you'll find them here.

I was overdue for a catchy title.
That's kind of catchy isn't it?
Timely too since today's post involves a ferry ride without Dramamine.

Let's back up a bit.
All the way to England in fact.

In case anyone is new here today allow me to bring you up to speed. I'm an American as are my husband and children. We lived and worked in England for six+ years on a corporate assignment before repatriating back to the states in 2009. Rarely a day goes by that we don't think of or mention 'the other side of the pond'. We hold the years we spent in England close to our hearts and the friends we made there even closer.

G and A are two such friends and as is often the case with expat friends, they've also moved on. It just so happens they're living in China these days so they hopped a ferry over to Hong Kong to spend the weekend with us. Not the ferry referenced in my title...I'll get to that one in a minute.

The last time we saw G and A we were here-

An English Village Fayre.

Just a couple of weeks prior to the fayre we were together at a Cricket Match. Our friend G is serious about his Cricket.

We've sampled French champagne in France, shared countless breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, we've even belted out the lyrics to Oklahoma, karaoke style of course. That last bit was just the guys but still, I could go on....I would too, except I think I was supposed to be talking about Hong Kong.

When you're with friends the where doesn't really matter.

On our first day together in Hong Kong G suggested we go to the island of Cheung Chau. Remember how I told you yesterday Hong Kong has 263+ islands. Well, this is one of them.

Cheung Chau is a fishing village and that sounded like a nice way to spend the day. Except for that darn ferry. Ferries are not my friend and I know this yet, I continue to ride them. I make it a point to always take Dramamine when I ride a ferry but on this day I did not, hence my post title.

Hubs took the pictures here because my head would not stop spinning. Do you know what you don't want to smell when you're queasy from a ferry boat ride?

Dried fish.

Wet fish either for that matter.
Guess what there's plenty of in a fishing village?

We had lunch beside the water and by we I mean they. I had a lovely ice cold sprite which was a good thing because this was the scene beside our table.

He pulls the basket up out of the water and gives the fish to the lady with the machete.

The fish seem to know what's coming because they flip and flop a bit before she scales them with that same machete.

Then she uses it to cut the fish into pieces. Afterwards the guy at the restaurant walks about three steps to the water and collects the fish which he then cooks and feeds to the patrons.

That would be us.
Really just them because I think I mentioned I was still nursing an ice cold sprite.

We meandered a bit before getting back on the ferry. I was excited about the prospect of another trip by sea but we were on an island and there was really only one way off. I survived.

We cannot resist a good sign-

In case you're wondering Octopus is the name of the Hong Kong metro card. The wording made us all laugh and simultaneously pull out our cameras.

For now I'll leave you with this would seem that riding a ferry boat makes some people smile.

Or it could just be the company.