Category Archives: travel

Oh the Places you can go on a Bicycle…..

riding through the jungles, villages and temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

riding through the jungles, villages and temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Choosing to get on a bike and ride can take you to places you could never imagine, whether it be through the villages of Cambodia, down the winding and twisting road of Pike’s Peak,  through the amazingly scenic Yellowstone National Park, past the rice paddies of Vietnam, or beautiful beaches of Boracay,

beautiful views from the top of the peak in Boracay, Philippines...rough ride to the top, but fun going down

beautiful views from the top of the peak in Boracay, Philippines…rough ride to the top, but fun going down

pedaling away from Buffalo

pedaling away from Buffalo, Yellowstone National Park


take the tram up the mountain if you desire, and enjoy the breathtaking views at the top and the amazing ride down, Pikes Peak, Colorado

it can leave you with a lifetime of happy memories and beautiful photos along the way. Hop on a bike today, See where you will go!  Don’t forget your Oklahoma Cycling Jersey when you set out on your adventure.  It is an awesome way to see the world and get some great exercise all in one package. Riding a bike is developing a lifestyle that can change yours forever. I must give thanks to my friend, Adam at Lee’s Bicycles in Tulsa, who hired me to work part time in his bike shop nearly 6 years ago. I knew nothing about bicycles and hadn’t ridden one in years. Who would have known that little part time job would take me all over the world on a bike. I have had the pleasure and opportunity to see and do so many things in the last couple of years, but adding to the adventures on a bicycle is more than I could have imagined. You don’t have to be a great cyclist, or even have the best carbon fiber frame, you just need  a sense of adventure and be willing to take on all life has to offer on two wheels.  Life is good, tell your friends…..get out and pedal today.

hop on for a spin, this bike belongs to one of the locals....Changdu, China

hop on for a spin, this bike belongs to one of the locals….Changdu, China

through the rice paddies

through the rice paddies, Dalat, Vietnam

past the coconut farms, where you can even stop for some coconut water

past the coconut farms where you can stop for some coconut water, Phuket Thailand

stop for a card game with the locals, they are always willing to teach you a game or two
stop for a card game with the locals, they are always willing to teach you a game or two, near Shanghai China

ride past a man walking his goats in Vietnam

ride past a man walking his goats in Vietnam

stop by one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Oklahoma
stop by one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Oklahoma

Mt Kinabalu

“It’s only about another 20 minutes to the top,” said the guy coming down the mountain, However, nearly an hour or so later, head splitting migraine, the sound and feeling of my heart pounding in my ears, and having thrown up along the way, I made it to the top of Mt Kinabalu!

The Summit, Mt Kinabalu

The Summit, Mt Kinabalu

Mt Kinabalu is in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Mt Kinabalu is 13,435 ft above sea level and is the tallest in Southeast Asia. IT is still growing at a rate of 5mm per year. It was a beautiful area in which to climb due to the wide climatic range beginning in the tropical rainforest at the entrance to the mountain climbing area, to temperate climate changes at higher altitudes.  Plants and animal species not found anywhere else in the world are fond on Mt Kinabalu.

“No technical skill is required,” as stated on the internet. It is one of the easiest mountains to climb, as far as easy mountain climbing goes. I didn’t even need to be an elite athlete to climb this mountain. I just needed the willpower to keep going up when my pounding head was telling me to immediately go the other way!

Anyway, donned with our backpacks of clothing, head lamps, water and snacks, we traversed our way up the mountain. There was an uneven amount of slippery rock, rock and wooden steps, and dirt paths dotted with boulders to jump over, or sit upon as we made our way, kilometer by kilometer, step by step, and  sometimes even breath by breath to the top.

Few climbers are overcome with nausea and vomiting, and I guess I fall into that category, because at mile marker 4km, things went downhill fast for me. The altitude was taking its toll. There was nothing I could do to relieve the pain in my head, the sickness in my stomach, or the elevated heart rate, which was steadily pounding away in my head. Having skied many times in the Rocky Mountains with similar mountain elevations, I didn’t think the altitude would bother me, evident as I didn’t take any type of medication with me on the climb.

Finally, we reached the top of the mountain where we were housed at a lodge with cafeteria and dorm type rooms shared by others. There was no hot water, so a freezing cold shower was my only option, which I took. Still feeling horribly sick, I crawled into the bunk bed and tried to go to sleep. It was impossible as sick as I was, luckily the bathroom was just across the hall from my room.

Sick from the altitude, swollen face, pounding head, but needed a photo at the top, above the clouds

Sick from the altitude, swollen face, pounding head, but needed a photo at the top, above the clouds

They provided us with dinner, which I tried to eat, but I wasn’t fortunate to keep it down. The next morning was the same as I tried to eat breakfast. Not a good way to start the day.

Meanwhile, others were sick with altitude sickness as well. Little did I know until later, another lady was receiving oxygen due to the thinning air at the top of the mountain. Had  I known that was an option, I may have tried that too. I was in desperate need of feeling better. It didn’t seem to help her though, so she was strapped onto a wooden plank and carried down the mountain at 1:30 am.

I can say our descent down the mountain around 9:30 am was a whole lot easier than the ascent. Once I made it to that same 4km marker that I met coming up, I was all of a sudden fine. I could breathe the fresh air and my head stopped pounding.

We made it to the bottom in a much shorter time than it took to reach the top and I was glad it was over. That could have really sucked if I had let it, but I think of the things in life that truly suck, like the death of loved ones, illnesses and such and I realize that was just a little effort, (ok, a lot of effort as it was physically exhausting) on my part and I was fortunate to be able to have had the experience.  It was a beautiful mountain to climb and as long as you are not prone to altitude sickness, you should give it a try if you are in the area.

Tour de Bund, Charity Ride 2012

The September Tour de Bund, Charity Bike Ride is nothing like I have ever seen before on any bike ride in America. It was however, a great fundraiser for an organization called Raleigh.

Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai provided water and snacks at the rest stop

I had registered for the ride but it was already full before I got my registration in. Apparently,  a rule in China states that if more than 99 people congregate in the same area, it is against the law.   So, they had to limit registrants.  Several of us who ride frequently with the SISU bike club in Shanghai were asked to be guides for the ride instead.

A guide?  Hmmmm, as I chuckled knowing I get lost pretty easily over here trying to read Chinese signs with their arrows pointing everywhere but the right way.  Guides for this ride were going to be responsible for 7.5 people each as we were told.  Each group would have 15 people and two guides, one lead and one sweeper.  I opted to be the sweeper thinking that might be safer for my 7.5 people.  However, the leader of my group was a colleague who had only been in China for 4 weeks.  So I wasn’t really certain I chose the correct guide position. But what the heck, it is always an adventure in China, no matter what you choose to do. If we get lost, we will eventually find our way to the finish line, courtesy of google maps on our I-phones, well I can’t  figure out the dots, but he will be able to guide us.

The guides met at a local coffee shop on our side of town on a beautiful Saturday morning to get an escort to the start line, which was a good thing because I did not remember how to get to the start line. WHEW, One less thing to have to think about, I can just follow the group. With about two miles to the start, my co-guide had a flat tire on his road bike. Did we have a tube or tire pump to fix it? NO. Was there anyone near who could help? NO.  So he ran along side his bike for the next couple of miles until we reached the start line where the TREK Bicycle employees were setting up their tents and providing support to riders along the route. I think they were surprised they had a flat to change so early in the morning before the ride even started.

As we waited for everyone to get registered Dale and I went to study the map.  I figured we ought to know where to go since we were the guides. There was a huge 3×6 foot map of the route.

We ARE the guides!!

We bent down and tried to remember the route from the pre-ride the week before, but not too much was coming back to either one of us.  We remembered we turned right at the chickens, and we passed the guy scooping eels in a bucket as we rode through the village, but that was about it.

One of the registrants noticed us looking at and studying the map. She was trying to reassure us that “everything was going to be ok and she wasn’t worried about it because after all, they are supplying guides for the ride.” We looked at each other and couldn’t help but laugh as we told her, “We ARE the guides!” Her mouth fell open and her eyes grew as big as baseballs!  We kept studying the map!

It was time for group 5 to start, which was us, 7 groups altogether.  Each group started a few minutes apart. We had about 24 people in our group, hmmmm, that’s a lot more than 7.5 people, and there was about a total of 180 people riding in all. So now not only do we not know the route, we are breaking the law with more than 100 people assembled in a group.  Of the 24 people in our group, two of them were children under the age of 12, which is another law breaker, as kids under 12 are not allowed to ride bicycles except for in their own compound.  Aye Yi Yi….what have i gotten myself into.

Well, the good news is that we lost our group of 22 adults and two kids, so it didn’t really look like we had more than 100

Cyclists waiting for van/motorcyle wreck to clear up. Using my expert guiding skills, I navigated the group around the van and continued on the ride.

people anyway. Dale had taken off with the faster group, while I was in the back with the slower ones. Some of the slower ones were not registered riders, so I did not have to wait on them so I continued on trying to catch up with the rest of group 5.  I stopped and helped a girl who was having problems with her brakes. Yes, my time at Lee’s/TREK Bicycles in Tulsa helped me get this girl back on the rode rolling freely.

This girl eventually joined group 6 so I kept rolling, finally passing the chickens and the eels, and catching up with Dale at the ferry. I asked him where our people were? He said he didn’t know.  I thought he had them, and he thought I had them. Neither of us had our people. We got on the ferry and hoped they were on the other side. We did find a couple of riders from group 5, so we gathered them up and continued on.

We made our way through the oncoming traffic of buses, motorcycles, taxis and so on along side the Bund, which is also a NO-NO in China. Bicycles are not allowed in this area. Finally arriving at the finish line with two people in our group, Dale and myself, we park our bikes with the valet and strolled into the Peninsula Hotel for nothing less than a feast!  There was so much delicious food, fruits, pastries, chocolates, salads, pastas, beef kabobs, pork, you name it,  and it was being served on real china, (I guess that is what they call their good dishes in China)  with real silverware,

Chefs serving delicious foods after the ride

no chopsticks!  The spread was amazing! As we strolled around sampling everything they had  to eat and drink, we saw the  final group leader come in and we figured all of our lost souls in group 5 had made it in as well, we hoped so anyway!

I wonder if they will want us as guides next year?

An Amazing Bike Tour!

Where does rubber come from? How do you know which coconut is a good one?  And most importantly, always remember to park your TREK mountain bike far enough away from the water so it does not fall into the sea! These were just a few questions that were answers and things we learned when we cycled through and around jungles, rubber tree farms, rice paddies, and fishing villages of Koh Yao Noi Island with Amazing Bike Tours.

With our eight bicycles attached to the top of the boat, we piled into a long wooden boat with some of the locals and headed to the island.  After about an hour we made our way off the boat, paid 5 baht to go to the bathroom (toilet paper not included) and we were off on our adventure.

We rode through a rubber tree farm and learned where rubber comes from.  It appears to be a lot of hard work for rubber tree farmers.  Our tour guide, Manup, explained that it is harvested at night when it is cooler so that the rubber flows easier. Each night, the farmers cut the bark again on all their trees which takes a few hours. Then they collect all the liquid rubber from the cups that are attached to the trees. After riding through the rubber tree farms, we headed to the rice paddies.  It is interesting to see how rice is planted and the hard work that goes into seeing that it is planted properly, and then harvested. Riding through the rice fields landed us on a little farm where we took a break and had some coconut water. The farmer picked just the right ones with plenty of coconut water inside for each of us.  Normally, a monkey can easily choose the right coconut, but since there were none available, we had to rely on the farmer’s expertise. I tried cutting the coconut, but it was not as easy as the farmer’s son made it look!

After our break, we rode to the pier noticing all the floating homes along the way. This is where we learned a valuable lesson!  DO NOT park your bike close to the water’s edge because when the wind blows your bike WILL fall in, consequently, the location of your pre-determined dive trip scheduled for the next day will be relocated, and you will be searching for a bike at the bottom of the sea instead of inspecting beautiful coral and fish!

Luckily, someone was close enough to grab the TREK mountain bike before it plunged to the depths of the Andaman sea. So the dive trip was saved!! After the bicycle rescue, we were treated to some tasty little sticky rice with fruit wrapped in bamboo leaves.  Well, this is my best description of what we were given.  Anyway, they were very good!

The bike ride continued along the coast where the scenery was breathtaking. We stopped for lunch at an outdoor hut where we lounged in hammocks and went for a swim after dining on some fabulous Thai food.

When the ride came to an end we met the boat, our bikes were loaded onto the top and we headed off to pick up some more of the locals before heading back to the main island.  Along the way, we stopped and picked up bags and bags of coconuts and live lobster, which needed transport to the main island. The coconut and lobster farmers paid the boat guy to take their goods to the island, and we were off once again.

With just a short ride back, we made it to the van just before it started raining. The ride was pretty easy so it is recommended for anybody who is up for an exciting, fun filled ride with good people. Our guide was very professional and James, the managing director of Amazing Bike Tours is extremely nice and works well with the public.

Though, I do wonder what would have happened had the bike gone into the sea!!!

Give Amazing Bike Tours a try, not only do they assist with booking  bike tours, they can arrange dive trips and elephant safaris as well. We did them all and loved each one.

Flight TG245

As I sit here watching JUST PLANE CRAZY, I reflect on a recent flight to Thailand and the excitement, for lack of a better word that unfolded during the flight.

Flight TG245 headed to Krabi, Thailand from Bangkok was on time and ready to land, despite how we got a late start due to the need to “get spare parts for the plane” as the pilot announced. (GET OFF THE PLANE)  Oh well, you can’t go wrong having spare parts if needed.  So I decided to stay put.

After a decent flight, the pilot announced we would be landing at Krabi Airport in about 10 minutes.  We began the descent, and then a turn, and then we were no longer descending! We could see on the monitor that things were not going according to plan. We were definitely not  descending, landing, or  flying toward Krabi anymore.

Hmmmmmm?  Hijacked? Nooooo.

Storm?  Maybe.

Needed MORE spare parts?  Good possibility!

Picked up the WRONG spare parts?

Maybe the pilot was going to come running from the cockpit telling passengers they were going to crash, or perhaps the underpaid flight attendants were going to pour beer on the passengers, then jump out of the emergency exit. Perhaps the air traffic-controllers in the tower had fallen asleep and the pilot couldn’t make contact, not that any of these things could possibly happen!  Many thoughts were rushing through my head as to why we were not receiving a message from the pilot or flight attendants. But whatever the reason, we had turned around.

I could see the “Let’s take action” momentum building among the passengers.

The tension and anxiety was building in the faces and posture of the passengers. People began to get up, while others were looking up and over their seats wondering what was going happening. As we continued our journey in the wrong direction anxious passengers wanted an explanation!  But none came.

A flight attendant ran down the aisle toward the cockpit, not a good sign, I thought to myself, but at least no beer in hand and he didn’t attempt to jump from the exit door. Minutes later, he came back down the aisle, while anxious passengers were stopping him to enquire about what was happening. The other attendants began visiting with the passengers seated at the exit doors. Not a good sign either! (SHOULD HAVE GOT OFF THE PLANE WHEN THEY TALKED ABOUT NEEDING SPARE PARTS!) Next, they began taking things down from the overhead bin.  Blankets?  Why do they need blankets? Curious.

Finally an announcement came from the pilot in a foreign language, of course.  I am not really sure there were any Thai people on the plane so speaking in English would have been more appropriate. We waited for him to translate. Finally in very broken English the long awaited announcement came. We were looking around at each other asking,”What did he say?” We gathered we were going to an airport with a longer runway because we didn’t have brakes for a safe landing at Krabi!


The lady in the center aisle across from us was having a nervous breakdown, and the lady on the other side of her was watching her with a careful eye, tears running down her face as well. The center aisle lady buried her face in a wet wash cloth provided by the flight attendant.  I guess if I had had children on the plane I would have been upset too, especially since we didn’t really know what was going on.

As the flight attendant made his way down the aisle, I stopped him for clarification.  I thought he said something was wrong with the wing, but not to worry. OH OK!  We don’t need that extra wing, I thought.  Besides, we had picked up spare parts before we left.  Maybe that was one of them.

Still not much clarification.

Somebody else said it was the hydraulic system, but regardless of what the diagnosis was, we needed a long runway to land.

Was it too much to wish for  “Captain Sully” to be flying our plane right then? After all, he had been deemed a hero for a successful crash landing into the river.

be familiar with your emergency landing instructions

doesn’t hurt to read the emergency landing instructions

I decided to pull the emergency landing directions out of the pocket of the seat in front of me and get a refresher course on how to get the life jacket to work, just in case! Then a funny smell appeared, somewhat like that of when your radiator overheats. It smelled hot. Oh, I forgot to mention the air condition was not operable during this flight.  I guess they forgot that spare part.

After about an hour the pilot announced that we would be beginning our descent into the Bangkok airport. We had returned from where we started. The plane began to descend.  There were some nervous people on flight TG245.  The landing gear came down with a thud, then we did too!

We found that long runway and skidded to a cockeyed stop somewhere in the middle of it.  Applause broke out among the passengers and the lady in the center aisle began to breathe again. My co passenger was disappointed that we didn’t even get to at least go down the slide.

We were met by some red trucks and I am hesitant to say fire engines, as they were just trucks with a small fire extinguisher in the back.  After a short time, we were escorted to the terminal by several more trucks.

escort to the terminal

The flight attendant announced that we would be on our way back to Krabi if they could locate a plane for us.  They would keep us posted.

Meanwhile, we take our belongings and head to the waiting area.  They offered us soda and water along with cheese and butter sandwiches while we waited. It wasn’t a long wait, thank goodness because cheese an butter sandwiches are disgusting! We got out our boarding passes and boarded the next Thai Airlines flight to Krabi, same seat, same flight attendants, and the same pilot, (don’t now about any spare parts). It was kind of like a déjà vu.

This time however, the flight attendants had to give the safety demonstration in person, as the pre recorded safety demo previously shown on the monitor was………. broken!  (GET OFF THE PLANE)

Oh Thai Airlines!!  Hire some maintenance people.  As the flight was finally coming to an end, the pilot announced we would be landing in just a few minutes. The landing gear came down with an even louder THUD than last time.  Startled, everyone looked around, but this time the pilot was quick to respond with, “The loud sound is normal, worry less.”

And we landed.

In the end, there was no compensation, and no double air miles, only cheese and butter sandwiches. But I guess we had a pilot with enough common sense to know there were hundreds of people on board for which he was responsible and decided the safest thing to do was turn around and find a long runway.

Spa, Spa…..Everywhere a Spa!

In less than 5 minutes I took pictures of at least eight spas as I walked down the streets of Shanghai.  They are everywhere, so if you are ever in need of a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure you are just minutes from them no matter where you are.  It is always an adventure when entering a spa.  They all serve fruit and a drink, some use elbows and knees, while others have tried to pick me up and roll me on their backs.  One even used a “cigar” to hold near my pressure points as a form of therapy.

It is hard to get a bad massage here, but getting your nails done is a bit of a different story.  Though several of the spas I have visited have done an OK job with my manicures and pedicures, none of them quite equal the Asian nail salons in America, or my friends Shelly and Shawna in Tulsa who both give terrific manicures, and both of whom my nails and I miss greatly!  Shellac nails here just don’t hold up to shellac nails in the states.

A simple foot massage in China doesn’t mean just a foot massage.  It includes your legs, neck, shoulders, head and back.  Often times the masseuse will be behind me in my chair digging her knees or elbows into my back.  There are many types of foot massages available such as chocolate or peppermint, perhaps even lemon.  Sometimes even Chinese medicine may be added to the water.

Add Chinese Medicine to your pedicure??

A full body massage can be up to 90 minutes or more and only cost 250RMB.  That is about $37.00.  There are many types of massages too, like massages to promote weight loss, athletic/sports massages, relaxing aromatic massages and I would imagine other types of massages are available too, where girls in short skirts stand in front of the “spa” to lure in men who may wander by.  A guy friend of mine did wander in one of those, (by accident, he said)  but that is a different story.

With the language barrier, it is sometimes difficult to convey just what type of massage I want.  A friend and I wandered in a massage spa after a long days walk around Changdu and asked for foot massages.  Before we knew it, they were escorting us to a pool and asking us to get in.  We said we didn’t want a swim, only a foot massage. We played Charades to demonstrate what we wanted.  They said, “Ok, Ok.”  They proceeded to give us pajamas and a locker for our clothes.  We didn’t know why we needed pajamas for a foot massage so I decided it was time to call for backup, a/k/a Chinese Translation.

I phoned a friend and asked him to tell them we only wanted a foot massage.  After a short discussion between the two of them on my phone, my friend asked, “Where are you?  Why does some man want you to spend the night there? You need to get out of there!”

I asked him again to speak with them and tell them we did not want to spend the night, only a foot massage.  Translation:  Successful.  They lead us downstairs to a really nice massage area with really nice big chairs each having their own TV for viewing.  We noticed there were people in pajamas down there, so I guess they were there for the night.  They all had hot tea and fruit at the little tables beside them.  Soon they brought fruit to our table along with a cold Coca Cola.  How is that for stereotyping?  I didn’t complain,  I much preferred a cold Coke to hot tea anyway.

Enjoying a chocolate foot massage without pajamas!

An hour and a half later, we were done and left wondering what it would have been like to spend the night there.  It was cheaper than the hotel.  Next time?  Definitely!!

Today’s massage was equally an experience.  I only went in for a full 60 minute body massage, but left with that and acrylic nails, French pedicure, an additional  30 minute foot massage, and a 70 minute facial that included Wellbox.  All for less than $100.00 US dollars.

Wellbox apparently is used in the states by many of the Hollywood Stars, or so they say. It is designed to stimulate the skin’s surface, generating deep biological responses.  The treatment consists of micro pulsations that boost the fibroblasts activity smoothing away lines and wrinkles, while toning and firming the face.  There is no pain, or heat just an odd feeling as the wand sucks on your neck and face.  It left me wondering whether I would have to wear turtlenecks and scarves this week to cover up any marks on my neck.  I guess I will know tomorrow!

I must say, after using Wellbox on ½ of my face I was handed a mirror and I was impressed.  It was amazing the difference I saw in the two sides of my face.  One side was definitely lifted and smoother.  If you haven’t experienced Wellbox, I would recommend giving it a go.  I will be back for four more sessions!  I wonder how long each treatment lasts before the sags and wrinkles re-develop? I wonder how many I have to do before any one else notices?  I wonder…..if I should buy a Wellbox unit for myself?  Stop by No. 7 Beauty Studio on Meihua Rd in Shanghai for your Wellbox experience and see what you think!  They even give you a “surprise” on your birthday!

Zhujiajiao, Ancient Water Town

The main source of transporation in Zhujiaiao is by boat, but you can Take a rickshaw ride after you exit the taxi to get to what is considered Shanghai’s Venice, Zhujiajiao.  It  is an ancient water town with a history of more than 1700 years.

Gondola Driver

This area is what I had thought China to be like, unlike the huge skyscrapers that I am growing accustomed to seeing in the Pudong area.

rickshaw rides to the ancient town

Bridges in this small town were built during Ming and Qing Dynasties. 36 different bridges are uniquely designed spanning the little town.  On the particular day that I was there, so were thousands of other people who were shoulder to shoulder on the bridges, and in the narrow alley ways.

Regardless of the number of people visiting Zhujiajiao this particular day, it was well worth the trip.  Small gondolas were crusing up and down the canal, powered by a single man standing on the back of the boat steering with a big wooden stick, or paddle.  A gondola ride was a great way to see the little town.

Many shops lined the alleyways where you could always get in some good bargaining.  Restaurants lined the canals where you could pick your own seafood out of the bucket in front of the restaurant if you so desired!! (Some of the fish were swimming upside down). Or, local vendors lined the streets with food on a stick, or food in a big pot, or food unidentifiable.  My friend Matt and I tried some random food from a couple of the vendors.  My choice was pretty good, not really sure what it was.

street food was pretty good

It seemed like pork wrapped in bamboo leaves and his was some unidentifiable rice looking thing in a bamboo leaf.  Well, maybe it was neither of these, but that is what it looked like.  We tried some bamboo too.  I can see why pandas like it so much.  It was quite juicy.

The population of this little town is about 60,000.  The village once prospered through clothing and rice businesses.  Today it thrives on tourism.  While taking a stroll through the ancient water town of

Gondolas cruising up and down the canal in Zhujiajiao

Zhujiajiao you can discover centuries old buildings of which are still home to many people today.  It is about an hour taxi ride from the Pudong area or you can catch a bus, (if you can find them) and learn about the ancient town of Zhujiajiao .

A Day in the Park

I love a day in the park in Shanghai.  My trip to Fuxing Park was probably the most enjoyable.  Fuxing Park is hailed as one of the top ten spots to visit if you are in Shanghai.  It is located in the French concession area and the park is filled with sycamore trees and beautiful flowers of all colors, shapes and sizes.

A fun day in Fuxing Park

If you get up early enough on a weekend morning and head to the park, you are sure to spend hours there just walking around enjoying the sights, the culture, and the elderly Chinese folks who spend time together playing  one of the most popular games at the park, Mahjong.  It is a card game of skill, strategy and played with a certain degree of chance.  It can be played in a fun gambling style too. Tables of 3-5 men are seen slamming cards down on the table and chatting about something.  I am not sure whether they discuss the card game, their lives, or maybe even talk about the Americans who are standing over their shoulder watching and trying to understand the game.  It doesn’t matter,  it is still fun to see them enjoying the day.

A friendly game of Mahjong on a Saturday morning in the park.

More often than not, there will be a group of 10-20 ladies dancing with swords or ribbons to the music they have wheeled in.  Possibly even some folks singing Chinese opera.  Elderly couples may be dancing to a waltz or trying to dance to some country music song.

Older folks may be practicing Tai Chi, or people of all ages may be getting in a popular game of badminton, without the net.  All of them seemingly having a great time in the park.

Matt giving the Chinese Yoyo a try.

A further stroll might lead you to an open grassy area with many Chinese playing with their Chinese yoyos. The yoyos are disks played on a string between two sticks.  If you can get it spinning fast enough it makes an amazing whistling sound.  If you stand around long enough someone is sure to let you give it a go.  The simplest way to get the yoyo going is to move both sticks up and down.  However, I found nothing simple about it.  I could not get the yoyo to do much of anything, but It was fun trying.

Many elderly men take their birds for a walk in the park, but always in a cage.  When I hear chirping, I immediately start looking for elderly men swinging their bird cages because most often that is where the chirping is coming from, not just random birds sitting in the trees or flying around. The beautiful sounds of chirping birds is a rare experience in Shanghai.

Keep on walking and you may stumble upon a guy writing beautiful Chinese calligraphy on the sidewalk with a liter bottle filled with water and a sponge on the end for writing.  And again, if you stand there long enough, he will happily let you enjoy the experience as well.

I may have written my name but I am not really quite sure.

Most often you will see many elderly people exercising in the park, among other things.  You may see them walking backwards, reaching back and slapping their backs, and the most curious sight to me was seeing them rub up against the trees.  That one I did not understand.  You might even catch an interesting pose on a park bench.

Striking a pose on the bench...

A crowd usually gathers round when a fair skinned person stops and talks to a Chinese person in the park.  Then, of course the photos start right after that.  That is fine because I will usually take some pics as well.  What goes around comes around, right?

If you want a day away from the so-called fast paced Shanghai lifestyle, or simply come to visit a friend in Shanghai, Fuxing Park would be a great place to spend the morning.

English Translations Gone Awry

Officials in Shanghai and the capitol city of Beijing have been working on cleaning up English translated signs since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.  Thousands of public signs, and hundreds of volunteers led an effort to clean up China’s English translated signs.  Some were fixed and rewritten, but oh so many were left unchanged.

grammatically correct, just a funny!

My favorite!

The English translation of these signs is known as Chinglish.  Often times reading these signs will leave expats scratching their heads wondering what the heck the sign is supposed to mean.  Many will walk away with a photo and a good laugh, much to the dismay of Chinese officials who want the signs to be useful, not comical.

A shelf to "put" your things on?

I have posted a few of my favorites.  It is quite fun just to walk around and spot the misinterpretations, whether it be at a park, the gym, or the grocery store.  I try to never leave home without a camera.  Though, the one time I was out without my camera, I saw a sign that I have not been able to find again.  It read, “Mind your Children.”  Oh my….how so many people mind their children!!!!  The interpretation, I believe, was supposed to be “Do not leave your child unattended.”  I guess good old fashioned parenting went out the door with this sign.

When two very different  languages collide, such as English and Chinese, you end up with some very interesting Chinglish!


China’s National Treasure

Though not a National Treasure ourselves, my American friend and I should have set up our own exhibit and made some money on the side as many of the locals wanted to have a picture taken with us.  We probably could have had our day paid for had we started charging for photos!

on exhibit at the research center

Pandas are China’s real national treasure.  The only time I had seen pandas were in the zoo in Washington D.C. when the USA had pandas on loan from China many years ago.  As cute as they were in DC, that was nothing compared to seeing the pandas up close and personal.

We started the day at 8 AM with a tour of the facility, followed by a cleaning of their indoor cages.  Our group of six, who all happened to be from the US, shoveled panda droppings and swept away bamboo shoots, followed by a hosing of the floor of the cage.  Yes, we paid to do this.

We were able to feed the pandas by sticking a sliced apple on the end of a stick and reaching it toward them.  They would either bite it off of the stick or reach and grab it with their paws and put them in their mouths.  I can even say we sampled some panda food.   It was the mid autumn festival holiday and mooncakes are all the rage over here, so the pandas couldn’t be left out of the celebration, so the nutritionist whipped up some mooncakes for them too.  These particular ones were made of corn, soy, and other items.  We also crushed vitamins and Caltrate pills into small granules to mix with Enfamil and powdered dog food to give to one of the finicky eaters.  We pushed other vitamins into sliced apples for the non finicky pandas.

After lunch, came the highlight of the day, holding the panda.  I was amazed at how heavy he was.  He was pretty solid, but after all, he is a bear.  The time we got to hold the panda and be photographed was a bit rushed, but fun just the same.  How often does one have the opportunity to snuggle with a cute little panda bear??

We took a tour of the nursery where several baby pandas were being cared for in incubators.  Some were pink newborns about as big as my palm, while a couple of others had their black and white fur and were about a foot long.  The center has imitated the bears natural habitat to make the best breeding and rearing facility possible.  The park covers 92 acres and is expanding

The park itself was beautiful.  Everywhere I looked I could spot a panda resting up high in a tree, or a couple of “teenagers” as they called them pushing each other out of the way to get to some bamboo shoots.  The park was covered with verdant bamboo, beautiful flowers, and a nice walking path around a lake filled with koi.

I would recommend a trip to the research center if you visit China.  For me, it was a beautiful and quiet get a way from the hustle and bustle and continual loudness of Shanghai.

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