How right it is

I love flowers.  I take so many pictures of the blooms and colors, petals and leaves, bugs crawling their way to lunch.  What do I do in winter?  Flowers turn into snow.  Leafless trees hold that lonely beauty all their own.

In Hawaii, there were so many things to see.  On one hike, the guide said, “This is one place where you keep your camera ready the entire time.”  I was in the right place.

Enjoy some of my favorite sights from Hawaii.  Identification thanks to this website, http://wildlifeofhawaii.com/flowers/common-name/l/, and random Googling.

How right it is

to love flowers and the greenery

of pines and ivy and hawthorn hedges;

they have been with us

from the very beginning.

-Vincent Van Gogh

The last days

These are pictures of our last few days in Hawaii.  In the depths of winter, I will look at these and wish.

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
-Henry James

The Big Island

For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the plashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
Mark Twain

Lava, lava, beaches and more lava.  The Big Island is a gorgeous place.  I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Click for details or check out the references below.

 

References

TSA Video including Honokohau, MacKenzie, etc.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DQRyMA4PN8

The amazingly beautiful and free Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park  http://www.nps.gov/kaho/index.htm

Some words about the haunted MacKenzie State Park  http://beforeitsnews.com/science-and-technology/2013/04/haunted-hawaii-krg-investigates-mackenzie-state-park-2572430.html

Ahalanui Park and its volcanically heated pool  http://www.hawaiiislandlife.com/2011/03/ahalanui-park-big-island-hawaii/

Kalapana – Kilauea Lava Field  http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/history/1990Kalapana/

I Could Live There

You know those questions some people ask at dinners and parties – “If money was no object, what if?”.  I recently went to dinner where the conversation questions included “what superpower would you have”, “what would your everyday car be”, and “where would your primary home be”.  And though there was an attempt to ridicule each of my answers, I would still want to have C3PO’s communication ability, any car that didn’t use a lot of gas, and my primary home would be somewhere in the beautiful, blue-skied, BBQ-infused Carolinas.

Maybe my everyday home could be in Hawaii.  Yes, it would be a serious investment in sunscreen, but maybe I could become a test subject for Neutrogena.  I’d take a place on the ocean, in the mountains, or a place near Twin Falls on Maui where we took this hike.  My flower shots will come later, but until then, enjoy.

References:  Hike Maui  http://www.hikemaui.com/  When our awesome guide said, “This is the kind of hike where you keep your camera out the entire time,” I knew I was in the right place.  Hike Maui did a great job!

Wonder Forever

Happy 50th Anniversary to my in-laws!  Thanks to this admirable celebration of their love and family, we were (luckily) a part of a grand celebration in Hawaii.  It was the honeymoon they’d never had.  It was a vacation and an adventure like we’d never had.

Hawaii is one of those places on many lists – Most Beautiful, Dream Travel Locations, Romantic Honeymoons, Best Beaches, Volcanic Sights, and so many more.  It was certainly on our list.  As with so many places we have the chance to see, it remains on our list until we have the opportunity to experience its wonder again.

Enjoy the blue.  Enjoy the green. Appreciate just some of the wonder that is Hawaii.

The Sea, once it casts its spell,

holds one in its net of wonder forever.

– Jacques-Yves Cousteau

For more wonder, enjoy http://youtu.be/5DQRyMA4PN8 and our short clip of a blowhole on Oahu http://instagram.com/p/qD99qaBmtv/?modal=true.

References for your trip:

http://www.discoverhawaiitours.com/ – Ask for Moni.  She is a fantastic guide and an immediate friend.

USS Arizona Memorial – http://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm    http://www.bowfin.org/visit

Bike/Moped/Scooter Rental Honolulu – http://www.hawaiianstylerentals.com/  This site includes rental info as well as great maps for your tour.

Paradise Cove Luau – http://paradisecove.com/

Diamond Head  http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/index.cfm?park_id=15

Gu Gong

Where was an Emperor to live with his Empress and 14 concubines during the Qing Dynasty?  A little place in the middle of Shenyang did nicely.

The Shenyang Imperial Palace (Gu Gong  沈阳故宫) is more than 60,000 square meters, 300 rooms, and home to 40,000 relics from the Qing Dynasty and other royal families.  The main buildings were constructed in 1625 when Nurhachi was in power.  The site was completed in 1644 under his son, Hong Taiji (also referred to as Huang Taiji).   Shortly after, the capital moved to Beijing, though Qing emperors spent some time in Shenyang every year.  Qianlong expanded the palace in 1780.  It has been well-preserved and was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2004 as an extension of the much larger and only other existing palace in China, the Forbidden City in Beijing.

On a recent visit, I was fortunate enough to see the dragon robes on display, learn more about the external chimneys as a part of the advanced heating system of the time, and see a performance of the royal wedding of Hong Taiji to his favorite concubine, Harjol.

“Actually, a pretty nice little Saturday.”

Short videos of the wedding performance show can be seen here. http://youtu.be/wv5ARlFCeTQ  For more details, click on the photos.

 

Yes. Please.

There were quite a few authentic and traditional Chinese dishes we had to try when we went to Xi’an.  We did our very best to eat our way up and through the Muslim Quarter.  Some things, we had to try more than once or twice, just to give it a fair shake.

Rou jia mo is like a Chinese hamburger on a flatbread-type bun.  Every one of the 4 I tried (ha!) was fantastic, and the spicy vegetarian version (cai jia mo) was fantastic too.  Biang biang mian is a carbohydrate dream – wide, thick, long hand-pulled noodles in a sauce of varying spiciness.  Yang rou chuanr is a lamb skewer and at each stall, there are different spices available for you to add your own.  Cumin is a regular favorite.  There were sweet rice cakes, nutty candy, fried little potatoes, noodles, fruits and vegetables, drinks, nuts, breads and so much more.  Enjoy!

Build Yourself an Army

Is it only emperors who can build themselves an army?  My friend, the talented potter / highly educated chemist, can she build herself an army of ceramic cats to protect her from unseen forces?  If I buy enough souvenir Eiffel Towers and display them in organized columns, will they come to life and become my garde militaire?  Seems like reason enough to buy another Eiffel magnet.

Last month, I had the fortune to travel to Xi’an with friends.  It was a whirlwind weekend of seeing and tasting, laughing and thinking, being with people full of love.  It was a weekend of armies, history, emperors, relics, food and a little more food, and plenty of photos.

Xi’an, located in the heart of China in Shaanxi Province, was home to 11 dynasties over a period of 4,000 years.  Nearby is the Banpo site, home to a village in the Neolithic period, 6,000 years ago.  Xi’an was the farthest eastern destination of the Silk Road and the first capital of a unified China more than 2,200 years ago.   Today, it is home to 14km of intact city walls, pagodas, the Terracotta Army, and, in my opinion, one of the best history museums in the world.

In 1974, 3 peasant farmers were digging a well and came upon the tomb-guarding warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.  Little did those farmers know that there were three pits and more than 7,000 life-size soldiers, archers, officers, horses and chariots.  Each one was once colored with pigment and had a weapon, and they all have an individual expression on their face.  Huangdi knew how to build himself an army for his life after death.

The Shaanxi History Museum is an eye-opening experience.  Not only can you see the terracotta soldiers up close, but you can see thousands of relics from the varied history in this province.  On special exhibit while we were there were relics discovered inside two large pots.  Again, a Shaanxi farmer was digging for something and found Tang Dynasty treasures instead.  This museum is amazing and the displays are very well done.

I’m not sure I can choose just a few photos for this blog post.  Keep an eye out for more on the food in Xi’an.  Enjoy.

 

Close your eyes and clone yourself.

Build your heart an army.

To defend your innocence

while you do everything wrong.

Don’t be scared to walk alone.

Don’t be scared to like it.  

Worry, why should I care?

John Mayer – “Age of Worry“.

 

A Little More Winter

When a friend and I decided to visit the city of Harbin, China last month, T said it was because I wanted to experience a little more winter.  It has been a rather odd season in Shenyang.  January brought two to three days of 32F followed by two to three days of 15F followed by much of the same.  Weird.  I’d worn my lighter weight down coat for two months while so many were suffering a polar vortex in the US.  For Harbin, I pulled out the heavy duty Lands End coat and the trusty (original pair of) Merrell boots, a few layering items, some hand warmers and the camera, then S and I hopped on a train and headed out.

Located at 44 degrees North, Harbin, or Ha’erbin, China is famous for the annual Ice & Snow Festival, celebrating 30 years in 2014.  We began our tour with a stop at Sun Island Park for the Snow Sculpture Art Exposition.  Many artists create works of snow in this wooded park, the detail and size of which I find difficult to believe, and I’ve seen them twice in the last few years.  We spent the afternoon there, and were even treated to a special show.  You can check it out here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFgwynmz1yI.

We moved on to Ice and Snow World.  This year, there were many models of churches and church themes.  The largest monument was modeled after a church in Reykjavík.  There were Gothic archways and pagodas and more.  I am so glad we saw them in the afternoon sunlight and in the LED-filled evening hours.  The sculptures were gorgeous as well.  We went later in February and, with a “warm” winter, we could see some rounding edges on the various displays.  That didn’t take anything away from the view for me.

On Sunday, we hired a taxi to take us around the various sites, including the Siberian Tiger Park, the Temple of Bliss, the Pedestrian Street, then back to the train station.  We were lucky to have a beautiful weekend in Harbin, not too cold, but a nice, winter experience.  You can check out CNN’s coverage, http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/03/travel/harbin-ice-festival-2014/, and get my view too.  Enjoy.

Click on the photo for more details.

There, Then Here…

A month ago, we were just back from Thailand.  We started the trip with elephants, then worked in quite a few temples, meals, friends, sunshine, golf, taxis, boats and more.  We were very lucky to have this opportunity to see Thailand again, this time through different eyes.  We smiled while combing through photos again this weekend, and I hope you enjoy how the light tended to us on this adventure.

The title is from “Houses and People” by Angkarn Chanthathip 
Each spot   each spot kindles an image…
the seashore   the plain   the top of a mountain
the rice field   the roadside   the bleak grey twilight
there, then here, the light is tended…
 
Glistening splendour of life
each place   each direction   arrives in the city
the countryside   riversides   near far
never without houses and people
 
The forms of the houses are created by people
everywhere is old from the beginning
the dark ancient times are finished
go beyond the past until you reach the present
 
People build houses homes
their dreams are built from the light of their lives
the truth of all things is sustained
by that – foreverEach place is the dream of an image
reveals a truth stronger than
the heart of the darkest darkness
everywhere under the sky there is light

Glistening brilliance of life
the deep dark night   the traveller   the wide world
each place everywhere it breaks through
never without houses and people