A Travellerspoint blog

Sweet "Sun" Diego

relaxation, work, friends, family, art, movies, cooking, dining, everything that appeals to my palate.

sunny 25 °C

With a little more adventurous spirit, visits by friends for the first time, and devout obeisance to the rule of being in the present, I enjoyed the best winter break ever during the past three weeks.

Christmas Day with Mom
We walked along the beautiful seashores of La Jolla cove, watched the seals sunbathing in the protected bay, and regaled the holiday with plentiful Mexican foods.
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Take a deep breath of freedom. Then fly me away.
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Seals “flopping” onto the beach, leaving dotted trails
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The loveliest woman in the world
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It is sunset
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Mmmm…
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Fried ice-cream – my ultimate indulgence

New Year Day with Mom
The sun shone with full radiance. Under an ocean blue sky, we hiked up the Iron Mountain with many fellow trekkers and canine friends.
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Not too far, not too close
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Take a break
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On the top of the world
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Romance in dusk

Wu Yue and His Friends Visiting
I was very excited that Wu Yue came to visit San Diego with his friends. This was the first time that I received friends in my new hometown. We had a delicious brunch at a popular local restaurant, The Mission, and spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beaches.
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Healthy choice – Zen Breakfast
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Sugary choice – French Bread
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Gorgeous Sunset

Gem and Her Family Visiting
Gem and her parents came down to visit. Gem stayed with us for approximately one week. Together, we made dumplins, danced hip-hop, prepared for her internship interview, watched Broadway, and explored several awesome eateries. She is more like a sister than anyone in my life.
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I cooked the dinner – Woohoo, first time playing the chef. Gem brought very refreshing and delectable fruit wines.
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At Extraordianry Desserts, we enjoyed three mouth-watering desserts – Ricotta Cake, Dulche De Leche Chocolate Cake, and Lava Bun.
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We toured around Little Italy.

Seafood by the beach
World’s Famous Fish Tacos!!!
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Fish Taco
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Lobster Taco

Surfing on the waves
Surfing is an exhilarating and exhausting sport. The challenge is still on. I will keep on trying until I could finally ride on a surging wave.
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Stance is great on land. But it becomes so difficult to push myself into this position in water.
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Falling is the beginning
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The coach is holding down the board, helping me to stablize
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Chilling after one hour of surfing exercise

Broadway with family
We watched Westside Story on Saturday night. Mom said that she did not yawn during the show and loved the dancing. =) My favorites are still Phantom of the Opera and Wicked.

Making art décor and painting doors for the new house
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Seagulls in Storm
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The Fiery Tides
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Amazing artwork by Ms. Mee Shim whose gallery we visited in Little Italy
Her translation of western-eastern cultural intersection, and nature-human synergy

An Audacious Evening with Tiffany
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Smash Burgers – fried pickles
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Fried Vegies
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Elegantly puffing
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First time – reveling in the mist lingering in the air
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The flying sparks from the coals

Posted by Ceci's Cre 14:47 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Into Shangrila

Da Li, Li Jiang, Shangrila, Friendship, New and Old Connections, Reflective Thinking

August 22, 2010 First Night in Da Li

On the last day of 2010, it is time for me to reminisce on the best trip I have ever taken this summer. Four months-a quarter of a year-have passed, but the feelings and memories are as fresh as lemon juice on a summer day.

My travel companion was my best friend in China, Leo. He traveled from Shanghai, while I departed from Beijing. We met in the airport of Kun Ming (昆明), the capital of Yunnan Province. When I landed, Leo had already bought the bus tickets to Da Li (大理). We devised our travel plans weeks in advance through numerous phone conversations. Considering we only had 8 days for the trip, we decided to bypass the metrapolitan capital to give ourselves more time in the more remote regions.

After 5 hours of smooth, uneventful bus ride, we reached the terminal in Da Li. When we came out of the gates, a gregarious taxi driver greeted us and offered to take us into the city for free. That was something unexpectedly good. We had a tingling of suspicion, as stories of swindlers and tricksters rang in our ears. While we weighted the situation in our heads, the taxi driver approached another middle-aged couple and made the same offer. Our eyes met with theirs, and we felt united in our common purpose and in the power of our company.

In the taxi, we drank in the passing sceneries. Voluminous gray clouds loomed ahead of us. We seemed to be charging into that tangled gray mess, like mission-bound warriors to save the besieged city. (fantasies fueled by my childhood love for Martial Arts books)

The taxi driver rambled on and on about his earlier job as an hotelier in Li Jiang (our next destination, which was famous for its traditional-styled architecture and leisurely pace of life). He sounded extremely authentic and gave us a handful of good travel tips. After a short search for a suitable hotel, he whirled us into a courtyard and pulled up in the parking lot. We looked around and recognized that this hotel was fashioned after the Bai ethnicity. He told us that he could get us great deals here, and indeed he gave us half the rate of what other tourists paid – 50 Yuan/night.

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White walls with Bai characteristic decor - a not-so-authentic replication.

A recurring theme of his witty chatter, he could be our tour guide for tomorrow’s excursion in Da Li. He told us it is absolutely necessary for us to climb to the summit of Cang Mountain, and paddle to the origin of the Er Lake.(仓山一定要上顶,洱海一定要看源头). However, most travel agencies did not offer this ideal travel plan. His cavalier style of speech and laid-back manners convinced us that he was the man. We sincerely requested him to be our guide, which he gladly consented.

A drizzle wrapped the city of Da Li is a chilling mist, when Leo and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. We tried the house special – Rose Liqueur, 30% alcohol content. We gingerly took a small sip, grimaced at the pungent taste, looked at each other’s distorted faces – then threw ourselves into laughter over our mutual intolerance.

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Our dinner

Lured by travel magazines about the bars here, we ambled around the cobblestone streets to check out the local night scene. The most popular was called Tang Dynasty. Leo got a beer and I got a glass of Baileys. This was the beginning of our journey. This freedom and total independence.
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August 23, 2010 The “Authenic” Travel Plan
We soon became disillusioned as we looked up at the sign “Tian Long Ba Bu,”colored with gaudy paint. This was far from the unconventional and authentic travel we had looked forward to. We were half way up the mountain, about to enter a cave where the eponymous popular drama was shot.
Our taxi-driver-turned-guide smiled apologetically and told us the rocks were too slippery for more ambitious climbing.
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No.1 Peak in the Cang Mountain? Where's the Guinness Record to prove it?
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Locks of promises, covering the safety chains down the mountain

The next part of our day was spent on a three-hour cruise on the Er Lake. As we have began to suspect, we never saw the origin of the lake as our “genuine” guide had promised. This reality that we have been fooled only dawned upon us in an elusive and amorphous form. We were unsure whether this discrepancy between his descriptions and reality was due to the rainy weather or due to malicious intentions.
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Taking a leap during a stop on an island
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The sea breeze combing through Leo's short hair, making it a good commercial for Pantene.

Our early morning visit to an ancient mansion, abandoned by once-the-richest household in the neighborhood for tea business, was the closest contact we had with the local colors.
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Dressed in Bai ethnic outfit - 风花雪月
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”The Three courses of tea“ (三道茶,一苦二甜三回味)We have drank more than 10 courses of tea by the end of the day. In Afghanistan, three cups of tea marks the transition from stranger to family. In Yunnan, the three courses of tea symbolize the cyclical nature of events in life - first bitterness, second sweetness, third and last savoring.

Aug 24, 2010 Fun Day in Li Jiang
The train ride from Da Li to Li Jiang was delayed by heavy rain. The “interminable” ride could be interpreted as a small fortune for us, we experienced one of the eighteen oddities of Yunnan – that cars are faster than trains. With some bittersweetness, we could all attest to its veracity. When we stepped off the train at past midnight, we found the friend of our trusted guide from Da Li faithfully waiting for us (we presumed he had been waiting for three hours because of our delayed train).

The car took us through a winding pathway to the top of the mountain. The view from the open veranda/balcony on the second level looked over hundreds of tiled rooftops. The night view mixed with the cool mountain breeze transfixed us with its beauty. We felt levitated above earthly cares.

In the morning, the hotelier, an acquaintance of our hotelier in Da Li, offered us a ride to the famous attraction – Cha Ma Gu Dao (a.k.a. the Silk Road). We grabbed an unforgettably yummy breakfast at an obscure local bakery. We had Ba Ba (粑粑), a type of baked bread that came in two flavors, salty and sweet.

We were slightly disappointed by the fact that the horses were lined up in order and we had no choice but to take the next one on the roster. Trifling discontents aside, we were excited to trace our ancestors’ footsteps and paid the 380 yuan ($55) happily.

The mountaintop view was breathtaking. The outlook we passed was called The Cliff of Star-Crossed Lovers (殉情崖), meant to be romantic and tragically alluring. We enjoyed a lengthy photo-taking session.
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What is yonder? Where is the next train taking me? (the brooding Leo)
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A moment to remember
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On the way down, the narrow trail became muddier and steeper. I decided to switch horses with the man of the couple that we were traveling with. His horse always lagged behind because it was constantly chewing on grass or drinking from the spring. I had the confidence to bring its unruly behavior to a stop. However, the horse refused to obey any command I gave. It turned around and began trotting in the opposite direction. For fear of falling of on this steep hill, I shouted for our guide for help. Finally, I heard his boots splashing through the mud. Only under his firm grip, my rebellious stallion began to behave. Our guide tied his horse to mine and resumed our journey down. The horse coming behind me kept on biting my horse’s rear. It gave us a good fit of laughter at their uncouth banter.
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The horse barely listens to anyone. Quick, snap. Photo Taken.

Next, we headed towards the old town that is second in fame to the old town of Li Jiang – Su He Gu Zhen (涑河古镇).
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I had the best vermicelli (鸡豆凉粉)for lunch, a popular regional dish. It was made of chickpeas.
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Woman from the Mo Suo tribe(摩梭人), who made handcrafted scarves. Their homeland is in Lu Gu Lake (泸沽湖), which would have been irresistible to our wanderlust. However we were there during the rain season. The roads leading to the secluded lake faced the danger of mudslide and falling boulders. The best season they said would be from March to May. That is our next plan, to see Lu Gu Lake and Yu Beng Village (雨崩村).
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Quaint clothing shop where I bought an embroidered winter coat for Grandma
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Gorgeous painting on leather

The day ended with a light drizzle and feverish expectations for tomorrow’s itinerary – beginning of our three-day journey into Shangrila.

Before going to sleep, we reached the shocking conclusion that surprised no one on an intuitive level – we had been cheated by the taxi driver in Da Li, then continued to be tricked by his accomplice in Li Jiang. The price we paid for horseback riding on the Silk Road was 3 times more than the regular price. What was more irritating? They took us on the side trail, not even the main path with the best views.

We realized that being swindled was the other side of the coin. The pristine beauty of nature versus the uncanny tricks of humankind.

Aug 25 - 27, 2010 Shangrila
Where do I begin? My pre-travel fantasies about a land too beautiful for words, or the unearthly paradise described in The Lost Horizon by James Hilton in 1933, or an untouched corner in the world that is gradually wearing down with the endless waves of visitors…

For everyone, Shangrila is a different experience. We do not need to formulate our travel with a list of things to do. However, I do think it is imperative that anyone wishing to see the real Shangrila go with a travel-exclusive zero-shopping group. It is probably slightly more expensive than shopping-included tours, but from the horrid stories I have heard about forceful buying, it is totally worth it.

For me, the most precious part of this journey was self-discovery. Standing on top of the mountain, listening to the whispers of the wind, I held three tall sticks of incense in my hands, and bent down to pay my respect for the Buddhas at Song Zan Lin Temple (松赞林寺). I felt a calling, from the past, from the heavens, from my deepest soul. I felt unified and at one with myself. On this day, at this special moment, I became Buddhist – more Buddhist than I ever was. I had prayed to the Buddhas for years and visited the temple annually with my grandma. But from now on, I would dedicate myself to learning more about the religion and to serving it in my particular way.
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The incense before the temple
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Putting on the Tibetan outfit
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Pu Da Cuo National Park (普达措国家公园), is another attraction that marked a beautiful impression in our memories. The bountifulness of the greenery, of all different shades of green, reminded me of Canada – the bike paths that I used to ride along for hours on end.
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I was not afraid of the Yaks, because secretly I had the "cow" characteristic - stubbornness
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Reflection in the water
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Nice open view of the valley
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Let me be a blade of grass in this ocean of verdant loveliness

August 28-29, 2010 Relaxation, Closer to Life
Our last two days in Li Jiang were lavished on sightseeing and enjoying the sensation of stillness in time. We changed our hotel to another that we found ourselves. We woke up late in the morning, walked around the meandering paths, regaled in local delights, and danced in some of the most highly rated clubs at night.
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Cozy cafe,look who's in the corner?
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Me and my mocha
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Delicoius lunch by the river
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Bells of promises
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He heard a girl's voice singing "Let's go check out that cafe!"
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The best free gift ever haha. guess what it really meant?
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Ah Oh! Caught in my pleasure moment with Yak yogurt

One interlude that changed this pattern was my untimely illness on our last night. Leo had met a riveting dancer in the club the day before and he had been waiting to see her again. I retired early to my room to sleep, however due to a combination of fatigue and high-altitude scarcity of oxygen, I tossed and turned in agony for hours. Finally at 11:30pmsih, I got out of bed and knocked on our hotelier’s door. He kindly accompanied me all the way to the nearest hospital and helped me get an IV therapy. Originally, he sat beside me and waited for me to finish to take me back. However, the flow lasted more than 2 hours, and he had to leave to tend to the hotel. I finally fell asleep, with the reassurance of my recovering health and the comfort of the oxygen mask.

One person that I need to give special thanks for is Carlos. He gave me tremendous emotional support through that trying night. I did not want to call Leo because I wanted him to have a good time and even the good fortune of making friends with the dancer girl. When I told Leo the next day about my unnoticed trip to the hospital, his worried and anxious remarks made me feel guilty of hiding my conditions. I would never hide something so serious ever again, from my dear travel companion.

We took the train at night from Li Jiang to Qun Ming. This would be one train ride forever emblazoned in my memory. Little did I know what true connection meant, until I shared these couple hours with Leo talking about ourselves and the joys and sorrows of our short pasts. I know now, this is sharing of vulnerabilities, one of the most powerful channels of connection and communication. I will always remember the laughter we had, the whispers we tried so hard to muffle with our cupped hands, the linking of our foreheads as we narrowed the distance between us so to bring our volume to a minimum. We were kids once more, with our hearts wide open, freely accepting and giving thoughts and feelings to each other.

Thank you Leo, Thank you Shangrila, Thank you the number of kindred spirits whom I came into contact. The journey is only a beginning to my lifelong quest for self-discovery and deep connections.
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Mocha, sitting lazily on the tabletop as the petals grow pink and fall from their stems
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My perspective has changed, morphed, and expanded

Posted by Ceci's Cre 20:30 Comments (0)

Shanghai Expo "No Borders"

A record of over 30 pavilions and a fun day in the alleys of Shanghai

28 °C

From Wednesday, June 10 to Sunday, June 13

NEW NAME

The biggest event of 2010 – Shanghai Expo, has already been opened for more than a month when I landed in Hongqiao Airport in Pudong on Wednesday night. Hiding from my easily irritated mother my peccadillo of missing the flight at 1:30pm, I arrived in Shanghai 7 hours later than planned. No matter. One of my dad’s best friends was waiting for me at the airport.
I finally reached the indicated Expo Village gate where I had arranged to meet my high school friend who was volunteering for the Expo. Grateful for her offer of hosting me for the first two nights, I waited patiently inside the security tent for her to come bring me in. The security guards looked stern and expressionless, despite my attempts to start conversation. The sound of my cell phone finally broke the stifling silence. I quickly answered with relief. My friend’s voice sounded in my ear – anxious and frustrated. She was shocked to learn that I was standing inside the tent and immediately ordered me to step outside and walk away. Bewildered, I turned my back to the guards and feigned composure as I lugged my baggage out into the rain. Cross the street, I finally spotted my friend but instead of a warm hug I was greeted with a fusillade of instructions – walk with me, don’t look back, keep walking, I’m giving you a pass, put it on … the riddles started to grow in my head. What was going on?
The answer was clearly printed on the pass she handed to me – the name was Wu Jiong Ju. Stop. I was going to play the impostor of an Expo worker. A conspiratorial smirk flashed across our faces. This was better than any adventure! I can’t help to feel thrilled by the prospect of forging someone’s identity for the next two days! It was gonna be fun!
After an interlude of anxiety, we finally made our way into the expo village. I met one of her roommates that night. I felt so good, so sleep-less. Tomorrow was going to a remarkable adventure!

Day 1
SAUDI ARABIA

At 8:30am, I stepped off the employee bus. Rejuvenated by my power sleep, I charged towards the first destination – Saudi Arabia. This pavilion was notoriously popular, generating lines that could run for 9 hours! No worries, I was definitely one of the first walking creatures around the expo land (the tourists are let in at 9am, and the pavilions open at 9:30am). Just when I was franticly searching for the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Pavilion, another girl, tall and dressed in beach attire, caught my eyes. We were looking for the same gate. Naturally, we became travel pals. She was a volunteer at the Singapore Pavilion, and I – an impostor carrying the same work pass. What hilarity!
The stoic security guards directed us to a break in the mile-long line dividers and told us to wait there. But when we reached the indicated point, another guard made us move further away. In the end, we finally found the start line, located 500 meters away! Huffing and puffing at the injustice, our patience was pushed to the edge when uniformed guards accosted us again – we have to wait until 9:30am to stand in line… The spectacular and catastrophic result was the mad rush, triggered by the 9:30am signal. Everyone catapulted from the sidewalks into the four narrow aisles, sprinting at top speed, pushing and shoving their neighbors. My Singaporean friend and I were caught in this overwhelming migratory dash. 10 minutes later, we finally settled down into a semi-orderly line. Our greatest surprise was our discovery that we had fallen about 100 meters behind from the head of the line (even though we were definitely one of the first to dash in). 1 hour later, we were guided up the spiral staircase of Saudi Arabia’s dome. The inside was not the awe-inspiring gold wall that the press had infinitely exaggerated. After a short introduction to the different cities of Saudi Arabia, we entered the legendary movie theatre. The 720-degree screen surrounded us, and our senses abandoned their defenses to drink in the sounds and the sights. Our feet did not move, but the moving belt conveyed us through a journey. We enjoyed a panoramic bird’s-eye view of the evolutionary changes taking place in this desert-surrounded jewel of civilization.
Overall, I could only say that the experience of the 720-degree movie was exotic but far from amazing. Would it worth 9 hours of wait? NO!

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Hai Bao – the Blue Saudi Arabian

TAIWAN
We availed ourselves upon the privilege of expo employees to obtain two coveted Fast Passes. Taiwan and China pavilions were the only ones, which required Fast Passes for entrance. With a slight feeling of guilt, we walked past other tourists who were bickering with the ushers about the unfairness of setting a small limit on the number of Fast Passes issued each day. Later, we found out that Shanghai Expo was expecting a total of 75, 000,000 visitors, 20% higher than the last Expo held in Japan. However, a tiny fraction, 700,000 tourists would be granted the ticket to experience the Taiwan Pavilion. We were one of the lucky ones.

The highlights of the Taiwan Pavilion were spread out in the three sections: the 720 degree movie that showed the four seasons and various facets of Taiwan, the interactive round that allowed us to light our Kong Ming lanterns with our own wishes written on the images of the lanterns, and the relaxing time that brought us to sit under an artistically woven tree to enjoy a small cup of Mountain Tea while watching a lovely performance.

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Taiwan’s Treasure Stone exhibited on the lantern lighting stage.
The white podium decorated with butterflies was the lantern lighter – there was a screen on the top for tourists to select their wishes.
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Lantern floating upwards, bearing my wish
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My lantern taking flight with others

TURKEY
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The turkey pavilion was shrouded in semi-darkness. The ancient relics from the earliest civilization to the Ottoman Empire sat, stood, hang in orbs of orange light. One of the most unforgettable pieces I saw in all of the expo was this statement.

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Water as a human right in Istanbul
Water is one of the most prominent topics approached in different ways at the Expo. The conservation and the development of water purification processes were at the focus of the developed West. But no other country had the deep-seated courage and integrity to claim such a natural right of humanity.

PERU
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The traditional costume
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Black-and-White Pottery

I was drawn towards Peru Pavilion with a raging curiosity to rediscover the joys of this genuine South American nation which had occupied the highlight of my summer in May. The pavilion was simple, with displays of people’s daily lives followed by a theater (like all other pavilions!). Near the entrance, we found a row of shops selling Peruvian trinkets – I saw Lhamas again!

AMERICA
The biggest disappointment today was the America Pavilion. We were ushered from one theater to the next. After three short simple films, the visit was over. The best part of America’s contribution to the expo could actually be found in the plaza where two girls and three boys put on a captivating dance performance featuring each of America’s musical age.
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The outside was much better than the inside.

Recommendations: Taiwan, Turkey

Day 2
My energy level was at low ebb compared to the ecstasy I felt the day before. From 20+ pavilions, my record for the second day dropped below 10.

JAPAN
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Japanese Pavilion welcomes us first with an exhibition of its home settings and traditional art crafts.

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Stepping into the future, Japan showcased her cutting-edge technology. The most notable were water purification system and battery-ran fuel-less automobiles.

In the second part, two enthusiastic hosts put on a lively show for the audience. We embarked on a journey about the miraculous rescue of an endangered species, the crested ibis, under the collaboration of Chinese and Japanese environmentalists.

UNITED EMIRATES of ARABS
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Was this camel made of gold? I would not be surprised if the answer was yes.

The United Emirates of Arabs Pavilion was perhaps the most awe-inspiring pavilion. The story of its rise from desert to the richest country represented a beacon of hope for me. Unlike other geographically disadvantaged but resource rich nations, UEA prospered from its natural endowments. I hope this opulence could last and the people could live in sustainable wealth. I also ponder what went wrong with South American countries like Peru and Ecuador, sunken in poverty and plundered by resource-needy counterparts.

INDIA
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The India Pavilion was very busy. There were stacks and clusters of beautiful objects that sent our minds in a dizzy woozy state, bedazzled by the golden glitter all round us.

AUSTRALIA
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The Australia Pavilion was also fun to visit. Walking past an orange time tube and a garden of indigenous totem poles, we found the most adorable timeline of a country in the world. Each important event and date was represented by lively cartoon figures!
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The first confidential election

Recommendations: Japan, United Emirates, Australia

Day 3
My mission changed from making my way into as many pavilions as possible to being a good guide for my parents.
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My cute parents

Since I no longer carried the worker pass, I only visited two pavilions, Morocco and Switzerland.

MOROCCO
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The inside of Morocco Pavilion was gorgeous, replete with booths acting like windows into the Moroccan trade and culture: featured crafts included leather shoes, woven fabrics, colorful sashes…
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SWITZERLAND
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The main attraction of the Switzerland Pavilion was an experience of the gondolas that could be seen pervasively in the Swiss landscape. I waited for 3 hours before getting my turn – my first tiring experience of waiting.

Recommendation: Morocco

Day 4 Tian Zi Fang
Li Qi kindly offered to be my tour guide on the fourth day, to my greatest delight. He first took me to a quaint food court area, Xin Tian Di (New World), in the midst of old Shanghai buildings. Here we had breakfast with the palatable appetizer of savory scenery.
Later, we went to Tian Zi Fang, an artistic area with meandering narrow alleys flanked by unique, exotic, and novel shops, displaying different merchandise – from kitchenware to computer-enhanced oil paintings, from notebooks to traditional dolls.
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Yummy starters in the morning
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The ambient street
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The plaque mounted on the wall at the entrance to Tian Zi Fang
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The eyes of an angel
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mini milk/cream pitchers
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Bearish Bodybuilder
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The narrow street
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Ji Mi Cartoonist Series Merchandise
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We are joining the photography team =D

The best part of the Shanghai visit was the mixture of anxiety, excitement, amazement, and fatigue that took over me in different intervals over the short span of 4 days. Life is like packing a suitcase, the more organized and orchestrated, the more we can fit into it.
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Look back, I see the trail of fond memories.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 05:22 Archived in China Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Peru Trip Part 8

Last Day in Lima

overcast

Saturday May 22
We arrived in Lima in the morning. After catching up to the Lima group, we went to the Andean markets to make our last souvenir hunts.
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The cutest T-shirt ever
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Beautiful paintings

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In the afternoon, we went to see the Pacific sea.
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The sky was spotted with gliders, stimulating my adventurous spirit to try.

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Robert broods before the immense sea. The gray waves rolling ashore are barely distinguishable from the gray overcast skies. The sea in Lima is not the ideal place for beach partying, but I feel at peace here. Its enigmatic depth has a healing force, silently absorbing my sadness, leaving my heart lighter than before the wordless communion.

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Surfers lie on surfing boards and enjoy the undulating waves

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Exhausted at the airport

Posted by Ceci's Cre 03:47 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru Trip Part 7

The most memorable day with little Beckham

overcast

Friday, May 21
Once every week, the small children who were taken into the prison with their mothers were allowed to go outside to play.
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The fortified prison walls

We were honored with the privilege to take these children to the riverside for play. I made friends with a little boy called Beckham, who loved to play Chocolas (high five).
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He looks like a bad boy, chewing gum and wearing my cap backward

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Wild pigs grazing on the grass (at first, I was excited to see these “guinea pigs”)
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He found swarms of tadpoles in the clear stream water
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We almost missed the snack time because we had so much fun catching tadpoles at the river.
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Beckham was one of the oldest kids of the group.

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The caring Melissa picking out a pebble for the little boy to throw into the river
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Pablo holding “Tickles,” the spitting image of the Monster Inc. girl. She had a contagious laugh.

On our way back to the prison, Beckham and I had a small fight because I forbade him from throwing large rocks into the river. He adamantly kept his squatting position on the bank, refusing to budge when I tried to tell him it was time to leave. When Robert helped me to make him stand up, he started bawling. Thankfully another more experienced volunteer came to our rescue and carried him in her arms.
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He kept a straight face throughout the bus ride. I held my hand out for Chocolas, stuck my arms out of the window, and talked to him with every single Spanish word I knew, but failed to make an impression on his stony front. When we came close to the prison, he finally forgave me and smiled at the camera.
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Beckham and I straggled behind the group as we shuffled toward the women’s prison, where I was supposed to return him to his mother. However, when we were walking down one corridor, Beckham grabbed the rails and refused to move, calling Papa Papa in a loud voice. I immediately understood that his father was inside this wing. I wanted to pull Beckham back, and return to our designated trajectory. But he held onto those rails with amazing tenacity. Sadness welled up inside me.
A man appeared behind a tiny barred window, and called out to Beckham. All of a sudden, Beckham dashed behind me towards the gate to his father’s cell. I ran after him, but he eluded me, agilely passing clusters of men and moving carts. Finally he found his father, and they joined hands. I was relieved to see him in safe hands. But my dutiful side demanded me to take him back to his mother, until the guard motioned to me that Beckham could stay here with his father. My mission was complete, except I did not want to say goodbye to this stubborn, adorable, and affectionate boy.

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In the afternoon, Marisol took us a Shining Path museum, to walk us through the history of Peru’s 20 year bloody civil war, and the damages that the military and the Shining Path had wrought upon the lives of Ayacucho’s residents.
In 1980, a Maoist guerilla group called Shining Path waged an internal conflict. Their ideology was based in Maoist communism, believing that Proletariat dictatorship was the best government policy. The civil war lasted until 2000, and deeply ravaged the people in Ayacucho. Everyone living in Ayacucho today can still recount maimed and killed family members by the Shining Path or anti-rebellion government forces.

On our last day in Ayacucho, this visit carried tremendous significance in deepening our understanding of the Peruvian people. Back in America, trust has become a rare and fragile condition, vulnerable to myriads offenses. But here in a country that has just risen from a devastating civil war, the people are embracing each other and strangers with untarnished warmth and genuineness. Their hopeful outlook on the future has inspired me to believe in the strength of humanity to overcome evils and hardships. My interactions with the Ayacucho peole have made me grateful for the small beauties of life such as the privilges of going to school, eating a full meal, and taking a hot shower.

Posted by Ceci's Cre 03:35 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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