Saturday, January 31, 2009


When we left the airport in Launceston (I call it Lonny for short, like the Tassies do), we had maybe an hour before the sun was really down. I didn't expect the rolling hills beauty that was placed before my eyes. The sunset had oranges and peaches in its color. Very nice.

I have wanted to go to Tasmania almost forever. Not that I researched and obsessed about it from 1988 on or the like, but I really thought this beautiful island was a place to go. It was on my “A” list in early 2006 when lisa and I started planning the itinerary for this year "away". I am not disappointed.

The following day we went to a place called Peron Dunes, about 10km down from our place in St. Helens. We were one of only three cars in the parking lot. After about a 300 meter walk through tight trails of scrub and small trees we were showcased with sand dunes in front of us. The earth beneath our feet crunched as we approached dunes, some tall, some short. Because there was no established trail, we had to leave markers so we wouldn't loose our way back. Soon it became silly to continue with shoes so we discarded our trotters and continued on knowing full well we better remember where the shoes were. More marshmallows (oops...twigs and brush) to guide us back. At any point we could have stopped and listened....nothing except the surf in the distance. Really, no planes, no buses, no cars, nothing!!! When was the last time you heard just nature? We progressed through the sand hearing the sound of crunching beneath our heals as we outweighed the sand under us. Scruunch, Scruunch, Scruunch.

Our first view of the Tasman Sea/South Pacific was wonderful. The waves weren't as high as in Coogee, but they were larger further out, somewhat like the waves on our beaches on our Atlantic coast. One big difference between here and America; I look from right to left for probably five kilometers both ways and see NOBODY. NOBODY!!! It was so serene, so placid, so calm. Only the visual of the waves breaking against the beautiful white sand and the ever present sound of those same waves. I stood there, hands at my side and enjoyed the wonder of it all. My God, this place is wonderful.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Land Under The Land Downunder

Okay. You know how Australia is known as “The Land Down Under”? Well Tasmania is the land under the land down under. For those of you who don't know what Tasmania is (hey! Some people don't), it is an island “belonging” to Australia. A lot of people think that Tasmania is a different country, and apparently it caused a big uproar when they were announcing the states of Australia in a cricket match or some kind of sport and excluded Tasmania. We also realized this when one of our waitresses' in Sydney didn't know if Tasmania used the AU dollar! Ah well. Let me tell you about Australia's green state.

Tasmania is not tiny. Compared to some other islands, it's big, but it hardly has any population. All the tourist sights are empty! There are towns in Tasmania, but usually very small, consisting of one main street. The other streets are just residential. That is because Tasmania is mostly made up of farm land and park land. There are lots of cows and sheep and you notice them a lot on the many miles you pass getting from one place to another. Since the towns, parks and attractions are all so far apart, it takes a very long time to get to your destination and back again. This makes it very hard to take day trips!

You know I was telling you about those one street towns? Well St. Helens (our home base) is like that. And since it's so tiny, it seems like everything is crammed in to one shop. Ex: There is a little shop that sells gourmet food, opens as a restaurant for breakfast and lunch, serves as an internet access point, a deli, etc. We actually went to that shop you know!! That's why the towns consist of one street, everything's crammed into one shop.

Tasmania is BEAUTIFUL! Not beautiful with high rise buildings and glitzy metropolitan subways. It's beautiful nature wise. That's why it's called the nature state. It's surrounded by mountains and has beautiful beaches. The towns are also cute and small. It makes you feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere.

Yesterday, we went up to Scottsdale and made a stop in Derby (two towns). It's a long road just to Derby! At the end of it they should give you a t-shirt that says, “The Road to Hana” or something like that for the twisty road that you just survived. We stopped in Derby to see the Tin Museum which is located where their old tin mine was. Derby is another one of those one street towns but unlike other small towns, this was devastated by a flood many years ago. The Tin Museum was interesting but small. It was a one room museum of what tin is, what it is used for, and stories about it. Then there was a small movie theatre about the tin mine that used to be here and how the flood swept through and destroyed it. After Derby, we drove up to Scottsdale to The Doll and Teddy Bear Cottage. Also a small museum, the DCB (abbreviation) is a three room exhibit. The first room has porcelain dolls that are life sized and very detailed. The second room is dedicated to teddy bears, and the third was porcelain dolls but they were dressed in only pink and white. It's like they were wearing lingerie!

Then we headed to the Bridestowe Lavender Farm. It was soooooooooooooooooooooooo pretty!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It seemed like endless fields of purple! We learned how Bridestowe made lavender oil and we walked through the fields. I also bought some lavender scented incense sticks. Our last place was the Forest Eco-Centre. The Forest Eco-Centre is mostly about the forests of Tasmania and other parts of Australia. Then we headed home.

So you see that we're getting very good sleep here as there's nothing to wake us up; and that it doesn't take long to circle around town; and that we're enjoying the island of nature!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


This past week we took a trip to the Blue a car. We usually choose to go with public transportation in order to enjoy the scenery while someone else does the driving. You know, “Go Greyhound” and leave the driving to us. However it was much CHEAPER (amazingly) and gave us more flexibility to rent a car and we wanted to spend the night up there as well.

Driving on the left hand side isn't hard. Turning is also OK with help from my pretty nav-lady lisa. It's that damn wiper stalk that gets hit every time I want to turn. US cars have the turn signal on the left stalk of the driving column; the Australian cars have it on the right. Aargh. Throughout our trip I wiped my windshield incessantly (and unnecessarily). Cleanest window in Australia!! In addition, the lanes are narrower here than in the States so you feel like you are always encroaching on your fellow drivers.

100 km later we are in the Blue Mountains. Quite lovely, as they would say. The green Jamison Valley seems miles down as you view it from the outlooks. These views are sometimes on the trail or sometimes, at a touristy overlook area such as the one where we experienced the famous “Three Sisters”. On the days we were there only a few fellow hikers were around. . Nice, not crowded. But one cannot sustain the One World One Trip team with nature alone. We need food.... and shopping!

Though only a “Wombat Crossing” sign, an Echidna stuffed animal and a Fairy Calendar were purchased, we all enjoyed the small quaint little shops. Katoomba must have a lot of readers because we saw a lot of used books stores. Even the thrift stores had a lot of books. But we have enough books right now. That we doesn't include Siena who has once again read herself out of books, having read four since this past Sunday. And restaurants...we had a really good meal (overstuffed ourselves) the night of our stay. Caesar Salad, “Rump” steak, cheese quesadilla, and a steak sandwich, plus enough “chips” (fries) to feed an army were eaten. After we left the restaurant we walked back to the hostel but found the Common Grounds Cafe first. It was too cute to pass up so we stopped in for a drink. Though the rest of town had light tourist traffic due to it being mid week, the Common Grounds Cafe was packed. Low lighting and lots of native woods, it exuded the Blue Mtns charm.

We walked backed to the Blue Mountains YHA where we spent the night. This was our first hostel experience and knew this one was a really nice example. It was a BIG older hostel, lovingly restored. A nice but somewhat sterile room with accommodations for a family of six and a clean good shower. Nothing fancy. The lounge and kitchen had people sitting about talking and fixing their food. Some played pool. Marty did what he wanted here....uploaded and edited pictures to KodakGallery. Our wireless internet connection at Coogee didn't work. We had to run to Internet Access places with a memory stick. Not at the YHA. We got three albums uploaded and one album edited. Now that's success!!! We have said it before, sometimes we judge the quality of the place by the strength of their internet connection. What have we become? Instead of worrying about the number of pics stored in cyberspace shouldn't I just say “NO WORRIES, MATE” like they continually say here.

We hiked more the second day. Again beautiful settings but.... I forgot the “BUT”. The flies. The Blue Mountains are close to the outback where there are large cattle stations. Apparently they drift from the lowlands inland our faces. I thought this was a made up story until we heard the same reason from a second collaborator. You are always swatting them. Someone said they could tell the tourists because they are always waving their hands. The locals just ignore them. Again YUCK!!! We decided near the end to avoid another face full and get into the car and “fly” back to SydneY.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


After a big event in my life is over, I often get the blues. You know what I mean, an event that required a lot of planning, a lot of time, a lot of energy. Then you finally have the event and afterwards you are left with a hole in your schedule and a hole in your heart. That's where I am now, feeling the aftermath of the planning and experiencing of this whole round the world adventure. But wait a minute I tell myself, it's not over. I am in Australia, the Land Down Under. I am half way around the world; a 16 hour time difference from EST in the US! The problem is, it doesn't feel that way!

Sydney is a great city, lots to do, easy to get around, beautiful beaches. But everything is in English. The people speak English, the signs are in English. Most people are white and everyone wears western clothes. I swear that there are more Thai restaurants in this city than there are in Thailand, but when you walk in, no one says Swadeekaew, the traditional Thai greeting. It doesn't feel like I'm home in Cincinnati, but instead, vacationing in let's say, California. It's nice here, don't get me wrong, it's just that I miss the strange and exotic.

I miss seeing the women of India in their bright and colorful sarees walking down the street. Or the women of Africa in their bold colored caftans and head wraps. I miss seeing signs in languages I can't read or hearing people speak in languages I can't understand. The enthusiasm of trying to learn at least a few words in a new language, and the success you feel when someone acknowledges your greeting and returns one to you. I miss riding in tuk-tuks which are a terribly uncomfortable ride but hey, they are different. You can get take away (take out to us Americans) here from most restaurants but it's not quite the same as eating some of the amazing street food that we had in Asia. I even miss being stared at and having people we don't know take our pictures. (I know that Avocet and Siena don't miss that)

Europe was “Western” as well but there was a language difference to each country that we went to and food differences as well. The architecture was old and beautiful and each city we visited had it's own version of European charm. Besides, Europe was at the beginning of our trip and everything was new and exciting. Plus, we han't been to Africa and Asia yet!

The scary thing is, as the world becomes more westernized (and it is, there is no doubt about that) where will we all go to experience something different? When a 10 year old Chinese kid can speak English as well as a 10 year old American kid, you know that soon, the whole world will be speaking English. Traditional dress will give way to Westernized clothes and Coca Cola won't be the only American product in people's kitchens.

For another six weeks we will be in Australia and New Zealand where the only thing stange and exotic will be the animals. I will have to find a way to get over my “Blues” and enjoy what each of these countries has to offer – I may never be back here again. After that, we move on to South America where everything will be in Spanish, people will look different and their culture will be unique. Then I will have three months to enjoy the differences until the “Real Blues” set in – the trip really will be over!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Koala Park Sanctuary

I (the miraculous me) had been planning a day in Sydney. Siena and I had showed much interest in seeing koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras and so on. So, when I was planning my day, I started looking at all the possible animal options, and here in New South Wales, they are endless. Finally, the Koala Park Sanctuary was picked.

We went out there on a Monday. Siena and I had packed a picnic lunch in case there wasn't a restaurant on the premisis. We left very early in the morning, 7:20 to be exact, as we had to take a bus, a train, and yet another bus to get there. We finally arrived at 9:30, enough time to see all the animals desired and all the presentations the park had to offer. We first headed towards the koalas, the park's main attraction. During the koala presentation, we learned that koalas are extremely lazy; 18 to 19 hours a day are used for sleeping!!! The rest are for eating. They only eat eucalyptus leaves, also known as gum leaves. The eucalyptus gives them enough hydration without their having to drink water. But the leaves are also hard on their digestive system which by the way is 4 meters long!

Next we saw a man sheering sheep and throwing boomerangs. The sheep looked very desperate to get away from the man and away from the sheep dogs too. When the man threw the boomerang, it accidentally got stuck in a tree and that was the end of the presentation.

Next, the famous wombat. We got to touch them. Suprisingly they are not as soft as they appear to be. Instead they are very coarse, most likely a trait needed for their borrowing skills lifestyle. Wombats, like kangaroos, are marsupials. Their pouches, however, are backwards!!! This is because when they dig, they don't want their babies to get dirt in their eyes. The wombats are actually distant cousins of koalas!!!

And for the last presentation, the fairy penguins. They are small, sleek and shy. We didn't see them at first, but when the food came, they thought it was irresistible and had to come out. You can see them in Sydney and Darling Harbor, just you might have to strain your eyes as they are very small.

Next, we bought food (honey nut cheerios) and went to feed the gray kangaroos. They are extremely cute, especially the joeys! We saw one mama with a joey in her pouch, but the head wasn't sticking out, the legs were!!! There were also two joeys outside a pouch, with dad. When I tried to feed them, the dad would nudge their heads aside and take the food for himself!!! What a food hog!

We left the park at about 2:30 to go back to Coogee. It was a long way there and back but we had a very fun day!!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


You're sitting in a restaurant in Italy. At the table next to you, the people are speaking English. You lean over and ask, "Where are you from?" and a conversation ensues.

You're walking down the street in Tanzania. You see another white person walking down the street. You stop and ask, "Where are you from?" and next thing you know, you are having dinner together.

You're sitting in the garden of a guesthouse in Thailand. People are white, some speaking English. You ask "Where are you from?" and you exchange travel itineraries to figure out where you might meet up next.

Our social life, outside of each other, (which, as you've heard before, gets a little boring) is meeting up with fellow travellers. We would meet tourists in restaurants, internet cafes, accomodations, on the street...pretty much anywhere. Throughout Europe, the identifiying factor was language - if you heard English, you most likely had a traveller on your hands. Throughout Africa, India, Thailand, Laos and China, we had two identifying factors: skin color/appearance and language. If you saw white - tourist (or expat) and if you heard English - tourist (or expat).

So, here we are in Australia and EVERYONE speaks English! And the majority of people are white! Our two previous identifying factors are null and void here. So how do we identify the tourists so we can have a conversation??? Answer, we CAN'T! We can talk to just about anyone who we meet, the thing is, natives really aren't in need of conversation - they have their friends, family and co-workers here. It's we tourists who are desperate for a chat.

Quick, send us emails, we are lonely here!!!!!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Beached Sharks Guide to the Beaches of Sydney

Dear Sharks,

Okay, okay, okay. I'm sorry for calling you beached sharks, as that's a term for whales, but you guys truly are lost. First, I will give you some advice: the lifeguards will not harm you. They're coming after you to save you!! Ah well. On to the subject. If you're tired of baking in the sun, I suggest you start learning about Sydney beaches.

Bondi Beach:

This delightful beach is sooooooooooooooooooooooo fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The waves start out small, and then as you get out, they get bigger and bigger. That's why it's a surfer beach. It's fun to ride the waves in like a human boogy board. Since the waves are so strong, you either have success with riding them in - or you go under water. Some waves are just like a wave pool, not very strong. If you get tired of swimming, you have tons of restaurants to choose from. You can also go shopping! The way we got to Bondi beach was by taking a beach walk. There is a path that goes from Coogee to Bondi. It's a beautiful walk and you get to see lots of other beaches on the way. It's a really hot walk though!! But that makes it all the better to go swimming after it!!!

Coogee Beach:

This beach is the most convenient beach to us as we're staying two minutes from it. They call Bondi a surfing beach but Coogee has bigger waves!! You go under water more in Coogee as the waves are stronger. They don't have much souvenir shopping, but if you're looking for a bikini then there are tons of places to shop for them (the Australians rarely wear one piece bathing suits)!! There is one place to go souvenir shopping though, and tons of places to eat. The only glitch about Coogee is that the water is much more affected by weather patterns. We found this out when it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and all of a sudden it started to rain. The waves were very rough that day and the day after,when it was cooler the waves were milder. It's a glitch because sometimes it's too rough and sometimes not rough enough.

Now that you beached sharks know all about beaches, work on trying to tell the lifeguards that you want to get back in the water fast.

Good luck!


Thursday, January 22, 2009


It's a great city like any other great city of the world: New York, San Francisco, London, Paris... It has more to do than you have time to do it in. It has museums (dozens), a sky tower, a zoo and other animal parks, markets and more markets, tourist attractions, great neighborhoods to explore...and if that's not enough, it has beaches – lots of beaches.

Wondering what we have been up to for the past week???? First stop, Sydney's iconic sights: The Harbour Bridge and The Sydney Opera House.

The Harbour Bridge is the largest steel arch in the world. Whether or not to build the bridge was in itself a debate for quite a few years. Once decided upon, it was an engineering marvel. Now it's one of those sights that help identify a city like the Eifel Tower of Paris. In addition to the six traffic lanes, there is also a footbridge so you can walk across the bridge. In addtion, there is a bridge museum in one of the pylons where you can learn more about the bridge as well as climb 200 stairs for a great view of Sydney Harbour. By the way, the pylons serve no structural purpose, they are strictly decorative.

Across the harbour from the bridge is the world famous Sydney Opera House. You've seen the picture a thousand times (and here's one more) but being there in person is amazing. It's an architecturally magnificent building that sits on an incredibly scenic piece of property complete with a sordid past. We took a one hour tour where we got to see two of the six theaters, the hallways, the open areas, the private rooms, the stupendous views, and hear the history of it's birth.

So many museums and so little time – we opted for the Australia Museum. Here we had the opportunity to witness the story of the Indiginous People of Australia and the injustices they endured. Many of these stories are not unlike our own stories in the US of the Native Americans and African Americans. We visited an exhibit called “Surviving Australia” which described some (but thankfully not all) of the risky wildlife encounters one might have with native Australian fauna. The Wildllife Photographer of the Year exhibit also happened to be in Sydney at the time and we got to see some amazing photos taken by professionals and amatures alike. It was a nice museum but in all honesty, I was a little disappointed. Oh well.

Saturday found us down at Paddington Market, a once a week craft market where people come from all over Sydney to sell their hand made (or not hand made) products. It was a cloudy day (our first) so it was a good way to pass the time. We also caught a new movie (at least new to us), Bedtime Stories, at the Ritz Movie Theater, a great old fashion movie theater. It was nice to be in a country where we could go to the movies in a language we could understand.

If that's not enough, stay tuned – everyone else needs something to blog about too!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


In our travels, when we picked out cities to visit it's been because they were either of historical or cultural significance or by their nature, exotic to us. Dubrovnik had its beauty. Moshi, Tanzania had the point of being an African city. Luang Prabang in Laos because it was, duh, in Laos. We picked the Sydney area of Australia out of default because this IS where you go in Australia. How many people visit Australia and say I stayed in Canberra (sorry Kevin), or Melbourne (sorry Vince) or even Perth? Nobody. You visit Sydney. Of course.

Our decision to plant ourselves in Coogee was also by default. I had a place reserved on Sydney Harbor but Barbara decided to break up with her “manfriend”, move to Melbourne and take her condo off the rental market. Same for Carol, whose place in the Northern Shores town of Narrabeen was pulled because her husband took a job in a different Province. So I had to scramble last May to have a place in this area during the “high” season of January 2009. The default place was in Coogee, on the shore, east of downtown Sydney. I expected a “default” type of place because it wasn't a “Harbor” neighborhood, or a place on the North Shore. No “default” here. Coogee has turned out to be a great community.

First off, it is a beach town. A small beach town. We are staying in an apartment building like many others here, probably built in the 1960s. We can see the Pacific in the distance from our balcony. These apartments were built years ago to house Coogeeites, not necessarily travelers from elsewhere. Ours is the only unit of six for rent for “holiday”. There are no new high hotels springing up to handle the tourists. It's a town built for locals but is somewhat filled with vacationers because of high season; probably not dissimilar from our beach towns on Cape Cod. It has that small town feel of regular small businesses, restaurants and some souvie shops. People seem to be speaking to each other in restaurants like they have known each other for awhile. The grocery store is one you walk in from the street without a large parking lot being present like our Krogers in the US. This place has the feel of Lake George in New York state with its old town charm. And it has Coogee beach.

Yes, the beach. If you listen closely to your computer with the sound turned up you can hear the waves. We aren't close enough to get this sound all the time but it's ever present as you near the beach. The beach here is doglegged into Coogee Bay with nice white sand bookended by large rock formations. There are also no rocks or pebbles in the water requiring water shoes. The waves here are big and powerful and will knock you down more times than not. We had a front go through the day before yesterday and some of the waves were eight footers. The expression Av, Si and I use is “My Gawd, it's a Pipe, it's a Pipe,” reminiscent of the surfing expression “Pipeline” mentioned in competitions from decades ago on ABC's “Wide World of Sports.” We of course say this in our brilliant Australian accents learned from watching “Crocodile Dundee”. What I really need are the cheap Thai and Chinese massages after being in the waves for a couple of hours. However, I do feel like I've taken off forty five years when I'm playing in the waves.

This was no default. This is where we were supposed to end up.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


After 7 months of traveling, we are now finally in the Land Down Under, Australia. In our minds, it was going to be kind of like being back in the US for a while, just the Southern Hemisphere version of it. This is not necessarily true. Yes, there are similarities, but also differences; and there are expectations unmet...

1. We both speak English, kind of sort of. We often have to ask people to repeat themselves, spell something out, or just smile and walk away and then ask each other, did anyone understand what they said? Often this is no different than when we would be in a non-English speaking country and the person who we were speaking to would speak English to us.

2. We use the dollar and they use the dollar. Part of a dollar is called cents in both places. It only cost $ .70 US to buy 1 Australian Dollar – we like that! It does however, take $2.50 Australian Dollars to buy an “American Candy Bar,” we don't like that.

3. We drive on the right side of the road, the Aussies drive on the wrong side; oops, I mean the left side. This requires you to look right first when crossing the street and it also means that on walkways, stairs and escalators, people hang to the left just like the traffic patterns.

4. All of their food products have nutritional labeling just like at home, however, they don't have a line for calories but instead have one for energy. Since I'm always looking for more energy, this works for me!

5. The ADA, American Disabilities Act, must have conveyed to the Australian Disabilities Act for this is the first country that we have been to in our 7 months of travels that has cared for their citizens with disabilities to the extent that the US has. Clearly, traveling here with a physical disability would be much easier than any of the other countries that we have been to on this trip.

6. Sydney is an international city and has people of all nationalities living here. Just like in the US, if you see someone who is Asian, Hispanic, Black, Indian etc. it doesn't mean that they are tourists; here in Sydney, there's a good chance they are Australians.

7. Here, public transportation is for everyone. Regardless of the time of day or the route, the buses are filled with people. In the US, in most cities, public transportation is for the indigent i.e. for those who can't afford cars.

8. Once we decided to take along a computer, we were curious to see where we would have Internet access in our accommodations and where we wouldn't. Certain places were obvious: Tanzania – no, India – no, Thailand – no, European countries – yes, Australia – yes. Well, we have had Internet access almost everywhere so far, but here we are, in Australia, and this blog is being written at the local Internet cafe. Go figure. Expectations are just another word for premeditated frustrations!

We thought about how easy things would be once we reached Australia. Some things are easier, but some things are not. We are still travelers in a foreign land and with that comes challenges regardless of where you go. Then again, we have challenges when at home too, just different.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


We surveyed the four participants of the One World One Trip team for their Top Ten (Plus Two) of China and the results are in:

12. The Chinese People
11. Bike riding in the countryside of Yangshuo
10. Hong Kong sites including the Star Ferry, Victoria Peak, the skyline of the city and the transportation system
9. Eating Dim Sum in Hong Kong
8. Souvenir shopping
7. The China Cafe including breakfast each day, their wonderful staff, their superb Chinese food and the awesome cheesecake
6. M.C. Blues Bar and Cafe
5. Yangshuo Town including it's beauty and charm
4. The Magnolia Hotel including their staff, their shower (best of the trip), and their heat (it was cold outside)
3. Yangshuo outdoor activities including hikes up to Moon Hill, Pan Tao Hill, Pagoda Hill and the Li River cruise
2. Buffalo Bar and Cafe


1. Ocean Park of Hong Kong and it's Pandas

Results of this country's survey were tabulated by Siena

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ocean Park - Hong Kong

“Fill in the blank" amusement park- a place for fun and games for everyone! People of all ages can enjoy our sights and rides! The best theme park in all of "fill in the blank.” Riiiiiiiiiiiightttttttttt. Everyone says that. It's the same motto for Disney World, Bush Gardens, Sea World and all the rest of the theme parks. But for Ocean Park, Hong Kong, the motto is true!

After a day of sight seeing in Hong Kong, we needed a break. I have to admit, my head was swimming with names like Peak Tramway, Victoria Peak, the longest escalator in the world, and other western names. We had heard about Ocean Park before, but never really thought about going there. Ocean Park, Hong Kong is an ocean park not because of its contents but because it's located right next to an ocean (the South China Sea). The park is also very hilly, can you imagine building an amusement park on the side of a mountain?

There are not as many rides as in Disney World, but the rides that they do have are fun. Not only are there rides, but also exhibits and shows. We saw a show where dolphins jump out of the water and the sea lions slide down slides.

We had a fun time there and it felt like we were somewhere in America – except that everyone was speaking Chinese!

Before we go on and describe what we did at Ocean Park, I would like to tell you about one of the things we saw that doesn't have to do with the ocean. These things, are pandas! First of all, I'm crazy about pandas!!!!!!! They're one of my favorite creatures on Earth. Before we went on the trip, when dad mentioned something about going to China, I thought it would be the coolest thing to see pandas in their native country. Well, at Ocean Park, there's a special exhibit for the pandas. Ocean Park has four pandas; everyone recieves pandas in two's these days and Ocean Park has received pandas twice! That means four different, adorable creatures, that look like black and white photos, and are muching on bamboo! We arrived at their dinner time. How those pandas eat! It's amazing they don't excrete a thousand times a day. Pandas will only eat the leaves of bamboo - not the stem. They are truly amazing!!


When you arrive, there are two sides to the park. One side is the 'younger kids' side, with rides like a small people's rocket device... If you want to go to the other side of the park, (the 'big kids' side) you must immediately take a cable car over. It is a very scenic ride. You see some buildings and some teeeennnny islands and the sky blue water. When you arrive at the other side, you can go to the aquarium, the jelly fish exhibition, or the rides. We went to the jelly fish area first. All the jelly fish are so cool! They swim around in their tanks very normally, yet they look like ballet dancers. In one room, there were lights in the tank to color the fish and there were mirrors on every wall, millions of millions of millions of jelly fish!

Afterwards, we walked through a Japanese garden to get to the aquarium. The aquarium has the largest single exhibition in the world. Four stories deep, the bottom of the tank is covered in rocks with corals of every shape and size. Each floor had something different to offer, the top was small fish, the second was larger fish with one roaming sea turtle, the third was stingrays and HUGE fish, and the last, was algae eaters and even larger stingrays and sharks. Upon exiting, we immediately proceeded toward the rides.

The first ride we saw (and rode on) was the giant swing. It's a merry – go – round but there are swings attached to the celling. Then, it rises up and spins around and tilts and you go along with it!!

Second, the Abyss. And it's just as scary as it sounds. You ride up, slowly but surely, until you can see all of the park and beyond. Then, just as quickly as it stops, it speeds down and you will absolutely fly out of your seat!!!

The Eagle was next. Like the Abyss, you go up, but this time it's in individual cars all attached to a large round circular thing. There are four circles. You go up, and the circle with your car spins and tilts and whirls.

And last but not least, the mine train roller coaster. It's a roller coaster, but because of the parks precarious position on the side of a mountain, it feels like you are going to drop into the water. It had three big drops; fun, terrifying and awesome all at the same time.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hong Kong - The 2nd Sleepless City

Everybody knows Hong Kong. It's in Asia, right? In Southern China? Well, not really China... they've got their own licence plates, money, flag, even their own language, they still speak Cantonese as a main language instead of Mandarin! Customs and immigration are also in the package as flights from the mainland to Hong Kong are considered international. You ask me why? From 1897 to 1998, Hong Kong was on a 100 year lease to Britain. It developed totally differently than mainland China and successfully too. So successful in fact, that China decided to let it be when they got it back in 1998! So they still have all of those things.

The main sights are Victoria Peak, The Star Ferry and The Sound and Light Show. We have done all of those things plus one, covered below. But there is much more to Hong Kong; gardens, malls, markets, amusement parks and much much more.

Victoria Peak is a large peak on the main island. You ride the Peak Tram up the mountain, go through a mall (urgggg), up to the top, and see the city from an enormous height. There are also restaurants up there, so most people eat, shop and see.

The Star Ferry is a HUGE attraction in Hong Kong, especially during the evening. During the day, the Star Ferry is mostly used as transportation. Ride on the top deck if the breeze is getting to you, it's inside. The bottom deck is better for wave watching (and cityscapes) however. Ride the bottom during the day in the warm sunlight and the top in the chilly evening. At night, people take the ferry at 8:00 around the harbor to see the well known light show and the lit up sky-scrapers.

There are many gardens in Hong Kong. The only one that we visited was the Nan Lian Gardens. Since the garden is in Oriental style, there is no playing, I-Pods , tripods, or any other “disruptions” to ruin it's serenity. They have a Buddhist temple there and a nunnery for the monks. In the center of the park stands a three story tower in the middle of a pond. Fish are there as they are a must with all Oriental gardens. There is also a vegetarian restaurant and a Chinese tea house where one may learn the art and history of tea drinking in China.

The nightly sound and light show is known throughout the world. And for a good reason, it's the largest sound and light show in the world!!! At 8:00, all the buildings forget their own agenda of lights. In unison, they change color. The AIG tower turns green, then the International Finance Center, then this one, then that one... And if you go to a certain spot, you can hear music at the same time!!!

So those are the attractions that we visited in Hong Kong. There are several more that are relatively well known but too bad because we didn't go to them. So if you go, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!