Miss Gioia

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goa Wedding

Our very good friends got married yesterday in Colva Church. It was a fun ceremony, full of fabulous friends. Gioia was a fantastic flower girl. She only had to be carried back to Mommy sobbing once. To be fair, she cried at a part that we had not practiced, where she got swept up into the bridal party and seated at the front of the church away from me and Chris. But for the part that she knew well, the walking up and down the aisle part, she rocked it.

Congratulations Jack and Sangeeth! We love you guys. Thanks for including us in your celebration.

All of our India pictures are here. Scroll down to the end for the wedding pictures.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Old Goa

We took a drive yesterday to Old Goa, to see some very old churches, do a little sightseeing and eat some yummy food. One of the main churches in Old Goa houses the body of St Francis Xavier, who founded the Jesuits. So interesting, seeing the glass coffin of this very old saint, sitting to the side of the massive sanctuary. I am not Catholic, so I don't really understand the reverence for Saints which extends to dead bodies and body parts, but it is a sight to see.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Goa Creche

We made it to Goa yesterday. The island has a strong Portuguese heritage, and Christmas celebrations are still underway. Many houses have little nativity scenes set up by the door or in the yard. Some are small, and some are very large. This one was at our friend Jack's house. The three kings are each on a path leading to the baby Jesus. As we get closer to the Epiphany, the three kings will be moved closer on the path to the baby Jesus.

Photos from our India triip so far are here.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Since the movers have packed up all of our stuff in a container, we are staying at the Hyatt. Luckily, Gioia made a little Christmas tree at school, so our room is fun and festive. This year, our Christmas Eve celebrations consisted of eating a hearty afternoon tea, opening presents small enough to carry with us on the flight, doing some Christmas dancing in the room (simply having a wonderful Christmas time...) and taking a picture on Santa's lap in the lobby. Ha!

On Christmas Day, we will be flying to India for the wedding - first to Mumbai and then on to Goa on Saturday. Do you think Cathay Pacific will serve Christmas cookies and gluhwein?

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Number 15

Gioia hit country number 15 this weekend: Macao* (or Aomen in Chinese). Despite her sober demeanor in this photo, Gioia had a great time. She and I rode on a gondola in the Venetian, where she proceeded to sing three full songs after the gondolier sang. One of Gioia's songs was a very long and complex song about a butterfly. I am not quite sure what it was all about (as it was all in Chinese), but it certainly had a lot of stanzas.

We had great Portuguese food, did some shopping, saw a show, swam in the heated pool, ate some more.... it was a great time. Now back to reality. T minus two weeks before the movers come. Yikes.

*Is Macao a separate country from China, you ask? Well, good question. For this tally, we are following the country list published by the Traveler's Century Club. So yes, it counts.


Friday, November 13, 2009


As it turns out, I have become a very bad travel blogger. After being in Tokyo all week, I managed only two crappy pictures: one of a flower in the hotel and a picture of the train to the airport. Yikes.

In an attempt to somewhat redeem myself, here is a brief recap of this I learned this week:

1) Heated toilet seats are super weird.
2) Japanese business men like pinstriped suits. A LOT.
3) Frank Lloyd Wright designed part of the Imperial hotel, even the glasses in the Imperial Bar.
4) Japanese stores decorate for Christmas really early.
5) Japanese business women like to wear dark clothes but often wear bright long scarves, much like Londoners. Who knew.
6) There are a disproprotionate number of French restaurants in Ginza (pronounced Gin-ZAH, another surprise).
7) I definitely like taking the Airport Bus over the train, primarily because Tokyo main station strikes fear into my heart. All those stairs and confusing signs. Goodness.

I look forward to getting home to my family tonight. It has been a long and draining week. Perhaps I will have more energy for pictures on the next trip.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I am in Japan for work this week. It is somewhat busy, but I will try to post pictures if I can.


Friday, September 25, 2009


Legoland was a good place for a jet lagged two year old. It was just her speed. Some slow boat rides, some Lego car racing, some strawberry yogurt parfait... We also did the next door aquarium the following day. It was no Sea World, but it did kill an hour before we headed back to LA.

More Legoland pictures are here.


Thursday, August 13, 2009


We met up with my Dad last weekend in Vietnam. He taught Gioia how to spit water from the pool. Gross, but she loved it. They were both hysterical.

More pictures from the Vietnam trip are here.


Monday, August 10, 2009


And the winner is... Maria! She correctly guessed that we went to Vietnam. Or "Fi Fi Am," as Gioia likes to say. This photo was taken the airport. It was one of those thingys where you put your head through a little hole and pretend you are a bikini babe with a dinosaur friend. So crazy.

Maria, please send an email with your address to rebeccacoke at yahoo dot com. I will pop a prize in the mail right away (one for you and one for Sabrina).

Thanks for playing everyone!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

A quick little weekend trip to ..... guess where!? Here is a mini-contest for y'all.
It was such fun to run this little contest in August last year, so here we go again.

A few hints:

- We will be flying about 3-4 hours to get there.

- I have been there before, but Chris and Gioia haven't.

- We are NOT going hiking on the Iranian border or swimming in the Amnok river. Nope.

Leave your answer in the comments to this post. The first person to guess correctly will get a prize from our destination. If you already know, you cannot play. Don't even try.

Back on Monday! Have a nice weekend.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

San Gimignano

We took a little side trip to San Gimignano last week during our Tuscan holiday. It was such a cute little town - just perfect for the three of us. Great food, great wine, great sights.

And the gelato - oh my. Chris ordered the dark chocolate orange kind. Fabulous. We may have to go back to Italy one day just to eat this gelato again. It was that good.

I read something two weeks ago about making sure you get in pictures with your kids. It was a sad story written by a lady whose parents had died young, and she was left with only a few precious photos of them. I realized that I am normally taking pictures, but not often in them. So I made Chris take a few pictures this trip of me and Gioia. Every time I shoved the camera at him, he said "Is this another picture in case you die early?" Yep. It is.

More pictures are here.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Tuscan Wedding

For this wedding, I decided to try to make a little picture book for the couple. I was not as productive as I had hoped (kiddo duty cut into my shooting time), but I got a few nice ones. I used Blurb to create the actual book. If it turns out nice, this may become part of our gift arsenal.

I find that we spend less time shopping and spending money on souvenirs now that we have nice cameras and lenses. People kept asking if we had been to the luxury outlets nearby, but we said no - we took a walk instead.

Besides the pictures, we came home from Italy with only four things: pasta shaped like Winnie the Pooh (guess who picked that one out), a cute little Trevi fountain watercolor, a bracelet with "Gioia" on it (because where else would we find that!), and a bottle of yummy Tuscan wine (the only one of three that survived the week intact - heh). And some gifts for the present closet, but that is just planning ahead. Even counting the gifts, it was not a lot.

Definitely best of all were the photos and great memories. Hopefully the little wedding picture book will be cute enough to send along to our friends. We shall see...


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Castle Gargonza

We just returned from our whirlwind trip to Italy. The 15 hour trip back wiped me out, but Gioia is running around like a mad woman. It is taking all of my energy just to sit here on the couch and upload photos from last week...

We stayed at Castle Gargonza for the wedding, and it was just lovely. The room was very Euro, with a little kitchen for making breakfast (and storing our wine and cheese). It was a perfect location for a destination wedding.

More pictures of the castle grounds are here and here.


Saturday, May 30, 2009


When you are two years old, you can no longer hold up one finger when people ask how old you are. But two fingers is tricky. Needs some practice.

I took these pictures while we were laying around in our hotel in Rome yesterday. The one below is my Every Day in May 28. Other recent Every Day in May images can be seen in my Flickr set here.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009


We are in Italy this week for our friends' wedding. We flew into Rome on Sunday and then took a train to a little town in Tuscany Monday afternoon. Which meant we had a little time to see Rome. Gioia was pretty jet lagged, but she handled it better than Mommy.

We went to see the Trevi fountain Sunday night. It was astoundingly crowded. We passed a group of Chinese tourists saying "Hen duo ren." You know it is bad when the Chinese say it is crowded.

Bright and early Monday morning, we did a quick tour of the Colosseum. We arrived at 9, and it was very nice and quiet. By the time we left at 10:30, it was like we were swimming through a sea of tourists. Thank goodness for jet lagged babies who wake up at 5 am.

More Rome pictures are here.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Flea Market Treasures

How could I have forgotten to share my lovely flea market finds from Paris!? Clockwise from the upper left: an embroidered remnant of a tablecloth or tea towel, several yards of white trim, red piping, an antique child's collar (mended in places with tiny stitches).

A word to the wise - when people tell you to get to the flea market early, they do not mean 8 am. I spent a good hour and a half wandering around empty streets, waiting for people and goodies to emerge from behind locked roller shades. Next time, sleeping in is in order.

I was just so very excited, though. hee. There were so many delicious things to see. Like little stores completely devoted to antique doll clothes. I almost bought a turn of the century composite Asian doll. She was divine. But she was also 300 Euros. And I didn't really need her. But she might now actually now be on my list. You know, the list of things that I convinced myself not to buy and then regretted it for years. Like the golden chicken painting I walked away from in Manila when I was a poor doctoral student. Damn that chicken painting. It still haunts me.

So instead of a doll, I brought home this little eyelet baby tunic (for a much more reasonable 10 Euros). It is completely handmade - a bit stained and well-worn, but so sweet. I may try to replicate it in a bigger size for Miss G.

Such a lovely day.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stuffed Rat, Anyone?

This was definitely the weirdest thing I saw in Paris: a window display full of stuffed, dead rats. They were the real deal, assembled in macabre death scenes. Rows of rats hung from traps in a disturbingly orderly fashion. A group of rats was huddled together at the bottom of the window display, colluding to overthrow their dark masters.

It was a pest control shop with a very strange sense of humor. Although maybe this kind of advertising works in Paris. Perhaps people really hate their rats there.

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Monday, March 9, 2009


Did you know that there was a store in Paris dedicated to mustard? Truffle flavored mustard, white wine flavored mustard, traditional mustard... I could go on for a while.

I saw it first on the travel channel which plays in Taiwan. When I was in London, one of my colleagues said, "You know there is this mustard store..." Then at dinner Friday night a completely different collegue from our Paris office said, "And of course there is the mustard store."

It was fate. I had to go see this famous store for myself. It was a very cool experience, aside from the scary moment when the sales lady asked if my purchases were gifts (in French) and I responded with a frightened, bewildered stare. I haven't tried the mustard yet, but several jars are packed away in my suitcase, ready for the trip home to Taipei.


Sunday, March 8, 2009


I spent a few hours at the Louvre yesterday. I didn't want to stay too long and overwhelm myself, so I only did parts of two wings - mostly the paintings and sculpture. In general, I prefer Dutch and German works to the more effusive Italian and French paintings. That said, this little French cherub was one of my favorites of the day.

I spent a long time trying to find a famous Vermeer which supposedly lurks in the museum's massive corridors. But I was sadly unsuccessful. I did, however, have a nice time in the Napoleonic apartments. So rococo. So fun.


Saturday, March 7, 2009


I have never wanted to go to France. I am 33 years old, have traveled the world, yet I had never been to Paris. I was so. very. mistaken.

I didn't know. I simply didn't know. How beautiful it is. How this city would break my heart in so many unimaginable ways.

No one has been rude to me yet. Not a single person. I have been traipsing around all day saying, "Bonjour! Merci, and Alors!" Me!? Cranky pants little old me. Can you imagine?

I could eat it all up with a humongous spoon. It is divine.

Tomorrow I will visit the flea market, see some of the Louvre, and search out a famous mustard store. How can it not be a good day?

More pictures from Paris are here.


Thursday, March 5, 2009


Liberty of London - my most favorite store on earth. I forgot to bring the address with me today, so I wandered a bit around Piccadilly trying to remember the way. At one point, I stopped into Starbucks, buying an excuse to ask for directions disguised as a coffee. But the baristas were no help. Liberty? Never heard of it.

Which, of course, is pure blasphemy. We were only two blocks away from the most beautiful store in the whole world, and these girls had no idea.

I found it on my own, wandering down semi-familiar streets, turning a corner and sighing with relief to see the familiar tudor roof and sign. The entrance is crowded with fresh flowers, all gorgeous and quaint. If I lived here, I would take bunches home for my kitchen. Every day.

I bought soaps and lovely ribbons. Cool colorful socks for my husband, and makeup for my face. And of course, fabric. Beautiful tana lawn fabric to become a summer dress for G.

Ah, Liberty. How I love you so.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mind the Gap

I am in London for a few days for work. This was my day to acclimate to the time zone before meetings tomorrow. After arriving in the wee hours, I took a brief nap and then headed into the city to do some shopping. It was a stereotypical London day: wet, cold, dark. And I loved it.

I called Chris while I was sitting in the pub with a little glass of draft cider (v good) and a bowl of veg chili (n good). I said that I was going to get on the Underground and head to Piccadilly next. To which he replied: "Rebecca, it's the tube. People call it the tube there."

Oh yes. The Tewbe.

Perhaps my husband is realizing he is actually glad to not be here as I embarrass myself in this great big city. As long as I keep my mouth shut, I think I can blend in. I am wearing black shoes, after all. But the second I open my mouth, I am doomed.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I stole this picture from my husband's blog, re-posting it here in case anyone missed it. Because it is SO CUTE.

Tonight at dinner, Gioia was acting up. I took her away from the table and we had a talk about: No hitting, no screaming, no grabbing. When we were back at dinner later, she started again. So I asked - Hey Gioia, do you want to go back outside (meaning - to have another talk). And she said - Yes. Outside please.

She loves the snow. Loves it.


Monday, January 26, 2009


We made it to Niseko last night, and we had a lovely first day. We took it easy, playing with Gioia in the snow. She was too little for her own skis, so we winged it a bit. She took a few toboggan rides with me and with Chris (which we may have enjoyed more than she did). The petting zoo was her favorite, though. We went twice. Yes, that's a penguin. Poor little guy.

Chris skied with her on a couple of runs on the "Family slope." As she didn't have little skis of her own, he held her in his arms instead. It worked fine, and she certainly didn't hate the experience. We had a really nice day. Tomorrow it's day care for Gioia and grownup skiing for us, but this was a lovely way to start off.

More pictures of the trip so far are here. If you look at all of these, you can see some shots of the Cool Star coach, which we hired for the 2.5 hour trip from Sapporo. It came complete with our own beer attendant. Very nice.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Missing My Family

I am in New York for meetings at the moment. After two weeks of travelling with my peeps, I am finding myself remiss without them. So I am posting this picture as a reminder that Miss G is having a fabulous time at her grandparents' house, running around with the dog and begging to go outside to see the fish in the backyard. Chris said that she prayed for me twice last night, which makes me feel loved indeed.

We made it to Atlanta a day late after missing our connecting flight in Frankfurt. Turkish Airlines says it was a voluntary act on our part. Which makes total sense. We volunteered to arrive 35 minutes late, take a bus from the first plane, run though the airport like crazy people with three backpacks and a car seat, take a train to another terminal, stand in security AGAIN only to find that the plane to Atlanta was oversold so they had given up our seats 15 minutes before departure. Yes. We voluntarily did all of that.

After spending over an hour rebooking, we flew to Munich, stayed in a hotel (and paid for it because of our voluntary decision to miss the first flight), and then flew to Atlanta on Monday. By then, Baby G had been traveling for three days straight. She had had it for sure. In that long 10 hour flight, I discovered that my sweet little girl had turned into the spawn of Satan. To top it all off, she wanted only Mommy, not Daddy. He couldn't even give her a cup of water. Which meant that she screamed in her carseat, clawing and asking to sit with me while the seatbelt sign was illuminated, or bounced on my lap for the entire trip. Seriously.

It wasn't her fault at all. So I shouldn't have threatened to sell her to the highest bidder once we landed. That was probably inappropriate.

Funny, though. The next day, she was as sweet as can be. Turns out I didn't want to sell her after all. Turns out I miss her desperately now that I am away. Funny.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Leaving Bodrum

We are leaving Bodrum today, traveling to Istanbul tonight and then on to Atlanta via Frankfurt tomorrow. We have packed the bag full of things to keep kiddo entertained. Hope it works.

It was been a lovely relaxing week. Now back to work.

More Bodrum pictures from this past week are here and here.


Thursday, January 1, 2009


We have been relaxing in a little Turkish resort town called Bodrum for the past few days. This place is hopping in the summer months, but it is nice and sleepy now. Our little group took a minivan up to Ephesus yesterday, a two-and-a-half hour drive north.

Ephesus is supposedly one of the best preserved Roman cities, besides Rome itself of course. Under Emperor Augustus, it was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. The city used to lie right by the sea, but the centuries have shifted the coastline about 10 mile west (which actually led to Ephesus' eventual decline). Instead of the ocean, the ruins now lie next to a large open plain. This story of change is one that suits Ephesus particularly well, perhaps best symbolized by the statue of Livinia, Emperor Augustus' wife, which was found broken to pieces and "Christianized" by a cross crudely carved on her forehead.

I couldn't possibly retell all of the interesting stories from Ephesus here on this little blog. But if you have some time and are interested, you can start to read about it here.

Take, for instance, Anatolia, the Mother Goddess. She predates the Roman occupation of Ephesus, and took up primary residence at the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. The many round items on her chest are either a) breasts b) bees' behinds or c) bull testes - no one is quite sure. All of these things are fertility symbols, though, so perhaps it doesn't really matter.

More pictures from the Ephesus trip are here.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Aya Sofia

Built by Emperor Justinian in 1532-1537,

the Aya Sofia was considered the "greatest church in Christendom" for almost a thousand years -

until the Seville Cathedral was built in 1520, that is.

Merry Christmas.

We hope your celebrations were fabulous, wherever you are.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Inside the Harem

at the Topkapi Palace:

Very cold and wet outside, but definitely worth the wait.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Istanbul Day 1

It is almost 5 pm in Istanbul. The call to prayer echoes outside of our hotel room window as Gioia dozes for her nap. We have been here only 30+ hours, but we are settling in nicely.

This morning, we saw the Blue Mosque - so named for its famous blue tiles adorning the walls and inner domes. We also visited the Islamic art museum, viewing its fabulous antique carpets.

Everything we have eaten here has been delicious. It is kind of like eating fairy food: once you have tasted it, you can never go back to normal food.

More pictures from today are here.


Saturday, November 29, 2008


We had a team outing in Nantou this weekend. Unfortunately, I had to miss the first day of the trip for a last minute meeting in Hong Kong. But I flew back late last night, and Chris and Gioia met me at the airport with a car to drive us to central Taiwan. We pulled into the hotel parking lot at 1:30 am. It was rough.

But we woke up refreshed, with no small thanks to Chris, who coaxed Gioia back to sleep for another hour after she popped up at 7 a.m. Once we all got rolling, the group went to a botanical garden and then to a bai jou factory (Chinese rice wine, basically). The fresh air, lakes, mountains and green things were a nice change from city life.

Today was a good day, despite the hectic schedule. I was glad that I was able to join my team. Now we are back home and I am trying to get some food made before our belated Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow. The pecan pie is in the oven and the pumpkin is for the morning. It smells fabulous here.

More pictures from today’s outing are here.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Makin' Plans for CNY

The annual Chinese New Year trip: one of the new "traditions" that is easily adopted by a Western expat living in Asia. CNY is a family holiday in China and Taiwan, so staying home means one night of firecrackers and then six days of erie silence and empty streets. You have to get out of Dodge, for sure.

Last year, we spent CNY waiting for kiddo's visa in Guangzhou. It was a great experience, don't get me wrong. But we were stuck in limbo, wandering deserted streets and just marking time before the offices re-opened and we could move on. Not so fun. So this year, we were itching to go somewhere exciting, somewhere active.

So the tickets are booked and the studio is reserved. This year, we are going skiing in Japan. It has been a while since we last went skiing (Argentina in 2004? Yikes!), and Chris was itching to get back on the slopes. Plus Gioia has not really seen snow (that we know of anyway). Hopefully, this will be her "baby step" year, where she starts to feel comfortable in a winter environment. Next year we can pop her in a lesson or two. She will be a ski-wee before you know it.

The only problem with this plan is the clothing (or lack thereof). We pretty much ditched all of our warm gear when we moved to this tropical island. Gioia has a ton of sundresses, but not much cold weather gear. Luckily our friend Amy gave her a great hand-me-up ski outfit - beautiful overalls and a jacket - but I think she will probably need more than just that for a week. Hmmmm.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Our last evening in Phuket, we went to a boutique hotel called Sala for dinner. We met an expat British family* on Friday night, who highly recommended the place. So we went. And wow. Glad we did.

We had been staying at a larger, well known resort with standard food and standard rooms. But this place was quite different – unique, modern design. The restaurant was right on the beach, so we had cool breezes blowing as we ate. The food was outstanding, perhaps the best of the trip. Gioia even got to see a kitty cat, so everyone had a nice evening.

If we ever come back to Phuket, we will probably book one of this place’s 79 villas. It was really, really nice.

*As a side note, this couple had just sold their businesses in London and moved to Phuket six weeks ago with their kids. The little boy (who was about four) asked me: Are you English? I said no, I am from the United States. He looked at me strangely and then said: But if you aren’t English, then why is your skin white? Chuckle.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

And That Is Why We Lug a Carseat Around Asia

We took a trip to Phuket Town today, which is about an hour's drive from where we are staying. We shopped (mostly browsed, actually) and lunched before heading back to the resort. About 15 minutes into the drive back we were jolted from behind. It was only a little fender bender; the car behind us bumped into our trunk.

We were a little startled, but no one was hurt. The driver pulled over and got out to deal with the issue. I looked over at Gioia and she made the baby sign for "scared," which basically involves patting her chest rapidly. I asked her: "Did that scare you?" And she responded "Pa." Which is Mandarin for fear. Ah, yes baby. I am sorry you were scared, but I am glad you can tell me how you feel and receive comfort.

At the end of the day, it was no big deal. Only a small delay on the way to a nap. But imagine what could have happened if I had been holding her. Even a little tap could have thrown her forward and led to injury. Instead, she was safe in her five point harness.

And that is why we always bring a carseat, even when it is a pain.


Friday, October 10, 2008


We have always raved about how Gioia is such a good traveler. Well. That was true until yesterday. On our four hour flight to Thailand, she was THAT CHILD. You know the one. To be fair, it wasn't all her fault. She had a hard time napping on the noisy plane where they announced stupid things every five minutes: "And now the flight attendants will pass out juice and water." Argh, people. Do you really need to be that loud? In multiple languages? Sigh.

As soon as she got to the hotel, though, her mood cleared. Gioia loves hotels, most especially the fluffy beds with fancy sheets. She learned how to say "pool" this morning, and she seems unlikely to forget anytime soon. Pool. Pool. POOOOOOL. In addition to swimming, she has also met the hotel's resident baby elephant. A pretty good start to the trip, I think, despite her shenanegans on the flight.

More pictures from the trip so far are here.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mini Break

Friday is a holiday in Taiwan, and I have to be in Singapore on Monday. Which means... mini break! We are flying to Phuket tomorrow for a few days on the beach.

Is it wrong that I am more concerned about packing the right camera lenses than the right clothes? It must mean that I am getting old.....

Photo from the JW Marriott Phuket Resort website.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Stuck in Tokyo

As our plane landed at Narita yesterday, the Captain announced that all onward flights to Taipei were cancelled due to the typhoon. Which means that I am still four hours away from home, waiting for the storm to clear so I can go tuck my baby in to sleep.

I met a guy from Vermont while waiting in line for my hotel voucher at the United lounge. This was his first trip abroad, and he did not know what to do with the unexpected layover. He couldn't reach his contact in Taipei and he was not sure where to go next. He had a mask of bewilderness over his eyes. I took him by the hand (figuratively) and led him through the exiting process. I made a joke about not having a visa, and I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Oops. He did not know he needed to fill out immigration and customs forms. Do I have to declare anything, he asked? Well, not unless you have commercial goods or a million yen stuffed in your shirt. You're probably fine. Poor guy.

I hope I get home today. But if I don't, I know that I will just slip off downtown and stay at a nice hotel with a cool glass of wine. This is a positive externality of traveling so much - the confidence that a typhoon delay is no big deal. After all, I'm not stuck in Karachi. I can imagine now, though, how scary the experience can be for some other people. Alone, inexperienced, unsure... not fun.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Catching Up

I have been a little discombobulated lately, primarily because I took a quick little business trip to Macao this week, from Sunday to Tuesday night. I forgot my camera, which was frustrating. It was probably just as well because I never left the Venetian during my entire stay. The rooms there were quite fancy, as was the spa pedicure I sneakily arranged after my official day was done on Monday evening.

If you have been to the Vegas version, then you would recognize the Macao one for sure. But the interesting thing is that in Vegas, everyone drinks while gambling but no one smokes indoors. In Macao, everyone is sober, but the cigarette smoke is so thick it could kill a horse.

It was a good time, though. Not a bad place for a conference, really.

While I was gone, Chris took Frankie to the vet to see if a spot on his tummy was cancer. It wasn't. Thank God.

Speaking of medicine, Gioia went to the doctor today for her 15 month check-up and Japanese Encephalitis shot. Because ... WOW.* Yes, we let the nurse stick Baby G in the leg with a big ol' needle. Last time, with the MMR shot, she cried out in surprise and anger, one of those silent screams which break your heart to watch. You know the one: the scream where she squeezes her eyes super tight, opens her mouth in a noiseless yowl, and turns bright red, shaking with rage. Ya. Scary.

But this time, it was more of an indignant scream. A "what in the world" and "ow, my leg" kind of scream. Baby G is growing up. She is fierce and independent. On the way out of the hospital, she walked all by herself. We kept offering her our own hands as support, but she kept shaking her head - no. No.

* Full disclosure - I was worried about safety and efficacy, so I did a *little* research. Reassuring.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Kikilia of Mulberry Summer. She correctly guessed that we went to Thailand. Tokyo and Shanghai were also very good guesses, but Bangkok was the destination du jour.

Kikilia, I cannot seem to find your email address on your blog, so please contact me (rebeccacoke at yahoo dot com). I have a nice little prize to send you from Jim Thompson. Because a trip to Bangkok is not complete without some shopping at JT.

Thanks for playing y'all.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where in the World is Baby G?

We are taking a little weekend trip to meet up with Gioia's grandpa (wai gong). He is in Asia for a few weeks, so we get a chance to pop by and say hello. But where are we going? A few hints:

- We will be flying about 3-4 hours to get there.

- Chris and I have been there before, but Gioia hasn't.

Can you guess? Leave your answer in the comments to this post. The first person to guess correctly will get a prize from the city in question. If you already know, you cannot play. And I know who knows.....

Back on Monday night! Have a nice weekend.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

San Fran in Four Hours

On my way from Taipei to Orlando last Sunday, I had a six hour layover in San Francisco. I have never been to San Fran, so I decided to hop on the BART and see what I could see. It took only 30 minutes to get to the Embarcadero stop from the airport. I walked from there down to Pier 39, which apparently is a must do.

Seeing Alcatraz off in the distance was cool, and the sea lions were excellent (a big surprise too because I read somewhere that it was off-season). The Golden Gate bridge was fogged over, so I only saw one itty bitty cable. Other than those big things, Pier 29 was your typical tourist trap - Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, boat trips around the bay, magnets and T-shirts for sale.

Everyone says San Francisco is amazing. Fabulous. Totally the best city ever. I think that my little walk around the pier area didn't really throw off the BEST CITY EVER vibe, but perhaps I need to come back and tour the more neighborhoody areas of the city. Perhaps.

I forgot to bring a camera on this trip, so I bought a little disposable one and snapped some shots on my adventure. Chris always says that the tools do not matter, that your work (art) should not depend on the quality of your equipment. Well, probably that is true. But man, did I miss my SLR. Perhaps I am not very good at photography, because I really need my camera crutch.

The whole experience cost me about 50 bucks: US$10.70 for round-trip BART fare, US$10 for the taxi ride back to Embarcadero from Pier 39 when my feet gave out, US$9.99 for a Kodak disposable camera, US$4.99 for a book on the Great Fire (which really was a Great Earthquake, with a side order of military stupidity and bad luck). Best of all, I was able to avoid falling asleep in the aiport while waiting for the next flight.

More pictures are here.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Drive Through Immigration

I had to fly to Shenzhen yesterday. Well, kind of. You still can't REALLY fly direct to China from Taiwan, so I flew to Hong Kong and then had a car drive me to the Shenzhen hotel.

The crazy thing about the journey was this: the immigration check-points are drive-through. As in, you hand your passport and immigration form through the car window - first on the Hong Kong side to leave and then on the China side to enter - and then smile really big while the officer looks at your picture and then at you and then at your picture...

Five minutes, tops. And I didn't even have to get out and stand in the humid South China air. Um, yes, I would like an order of fries, a Big Mac, oh and permission to enter China please.


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Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I had a conference in Singapore this week, so we decided to go a few days early as a family and catch some rays at the beach. Man, did ever I need it. We landed in Sinagpore and then took a 45 minute ferry to a little island in Indonesia called Bintan.

We stayed at the Banyan Tree, which was very, very pleasant. Even though the resort had a capacity of 150 people and was completely booked, we almost never saw anyone. Maybe they were all off playing golf. Or maybe the resort was just so well designed that we seemed to be secluded. Either way, it was a good thing we did not run into many people because little Miss G was SUPER cranky the first two days. When Chris ran to town for milk and diapers, the people at the front desk said "Is your baby still crying?" Ummm, yeah.

But she soon cheered up. The sand was a big hit, but the ocean... not so much. She was like a little monkey, clawing her hands up my sunburned back in fear of being dumped and left in the sea. She finally relaxed a bit, once she figured out that floating in the pool in her inflated baby tube was quite pleasant.

More pictures of our little beach trip are here.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

You Know Me Well

According to the stamps in my passport, I have been to Hong Kong eight times in the last twelve months. And that does not even count the times that I transited through on my way to/from Taipei before moving here last October. Thank goodness that the new government has announced that direct flights to the mainland will start in July. Only on weekends at first, but that is certainly better than the current state of play.

On a related note, we applied for a China visa for Miss Gioia this week so she can come with us on our trips. The process requires that she surrender her China passport so the powers that be can invalidate it. Neither China nor the United States allow for dual citizenship in this particular case, so I suppose we made the citizenship decision for her a long time ago. But still, the surrendering of her China passport made me very sad.

Even my secretary came back into my office after I handed her all of the paperwork and said: "Are you SURE!? Do you really want to do this?" Umm, yes, I have contemplated the repercussions and am sure about the decision, but thank you for making me feel worse about it.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008


We returned yesterday from a quick visa trip to Hong Kong. Chris stayed with the baby while I continued on to Shanghai for two days. When I came back to meet them on Tuesday night, I found that Chris had taught Gioia to wave HI on command. He took this great picture of her waving at her reflection in the bathtub. She is fascinated by waving now, and will get quite confused if the recipient of her enthusiasm does not wave back.

In related news, the visa trip was successful. For certain reasons, we were a bit worried that she would not get it (long boring paperwork story which has to do with the fact that she was born in China and trying to live in Taiwan), but it looks like this long road indeed leads to a residence card.

When we checked in for our flight to Taipei yesterday, the counter agent said, "Make sure you get to your gate early because of all the travelers." And we said - Yeah, what's up with all of the people going to Taiwan on a random Wednesday? Hah. The election. Everyone is flying home to vote. Crazy times.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

More Things That Worked

Two more things - one prompted by my husband and one by Bes' comment.

12) Sleep sack - So no blankets in the crib means that baby needs another way to stay warm, especially in Chongqing in January. I brought one of the two sleep sacks that I made from an Ottobre pattern last year. It was great. Loved the sleep sack. Both are made from a waterproof fleece, which has proven quite handy now that we are home and using cloth diapers. Big fan of the sleep sacks. Do they make them in a 168 cm size?*

13) Hot shower trick - Gioia came to us with a pretty nasty cold. By the fourth day, she was waking up in the middle of the night with a persistent, hacking cough. Chris decided to run a hot shower and rock her near the open shower door. The steam build-up helped clear her airways and the white noise soothed her back to sleep. It was brilliant.

*That is a European sizing joke. Perhaps not so funny for those of you who haven't spent the last year trying to figure out if a size 74 cm is a 9 month, 12 month, or 18 month size.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Things That Worked

Before we left for our China adoption trip, we read lots of lists from people who have gone before on what to take and what not to bring. Well, most of that advice was useful, and is widely available if anyone is interested. So no need to rehash thoughts like *bring a thermos* and *lots of ziplock bags*.

Instead, I thought it may be helpful for us to share some of the more unusual things that worked for us on the trip.

1) Bedtime music routine - We preloaded her ipod* with a BeddyBye playlist that we would start right before we put her down. The list contains 15-20 sleepy time songs, mostly from this collection. Within a week, we had basically conditioned her to go into sleep mode if the songs started playing. Often, she would start to yawn about 30 seconds into the first song. If she woke up in the middle of the night and had difficulties settling back down, we just started the list again. It is important to play the songs consistently at the same time and in the same order every night. Also, we didn't play those particular songs during the day. Now that we are home, she falls asleep almost instantly after we put her down in the crib. I think the bedtime music is a big reason for that. This trick helped her to get over jet lag too.

2) Pack n' play - We knew we were going to be in three cities and three different hotels before we could fly home. We also were going to be traveling with her for a LONG time (about a month), so we wanted to establish as much consistency as possible during the trip. As part of the plan, we brought along a pack n' play given to us by one of our good friends in Beijing. Although the website says this product is not to be used in place of a crib, it worked really well. It was a pain in the butt to lug through airports, but it made her transition from hotel to hotel and finally to home much easier.

3) Carseat - There is much debate about whether one should bring a car seat on the trip or not. Chinese people really do not use car seats at all, so it is a bit of an oddity. Nonetheless, bringing a car seat was a great decision for us. She rode in it in every car we took (except for one - and that was a BAD experience). If a taxi did not have seatbelts in the back, then we waited for the next one. We also had a private guide take us to the orphanage, so were lucky to have had use of a regular car for much of the journeys. In the hotel, she took some her naps in the car seat for two reasons. First, her head was a little flat in the back from lying on her back for so much time. We wanted to give her every opportunity to stay off of her head. Second, she was getting used to being in the carseat. After six days, she would calmly sit there for thirty minutes or so. We also brought wheels that attach to the seat so it can be wheeled through airports.

Our only problem was that Air China forbade us from using the seat on the plane from Chongqing to Guangzhou. We even went to the airport the Saturday before the flight to show them the seat and try to convince them to let us buy an extra ticket (my husband speaks Chinese pretty well). We waited for an hour and a half while they called Beijing. The final response was no - not on 737s or 738s. Hmmm, China.

FYI, the rationale for using the seat on the plane has to do with turbulence, not crashes. Babies have flown out of people's arms and crashed into the ceilings of planes. I fly transpacific quite regularly, and I cannot remember the last time I was on a flight to/ from the US that did not have serious, scary turbulence for a period. For me and my family, taking a car seat was the only decision.

To balance that, however, we asked our guide in Chongqing how many other people he had seen with car seats in his ten years of doing adoption tours. He said - only you.

4) Mei tai carrier - This thing was fabulous for fostering attachment. She really relaxed once one of us had her strapped to our chest. We used a Babyhawk Mei Tai that is AWESOME. We also brought a Snuggli, but it sucks. Too much strain on the back. When she was fussy during the day, we just plopped her in the Mei Tai and walked around. It worked like a charm. In fact, now that we are home, she much prefers the carrier over the stroller.

5) Soft dolly for self-soothing - The orphanage rooms did not have heat, and all of the babies were swaddled up to sleep in large sleeping bag contraptions, tightly wrapped up in layer after layer of fleece. We think that Gioia learned to suck on the lip of the blanket as she went to sleep. Sucking was her automatic self soothing mechanism whenever she was stressed. So when we put her down in the crib to sleep, she needed something to suck on so she could settle down. We couldn't put a blanket in the crib, for fears that she would smother herself. I brought one of the simple velour doll babies along, and it worked perfectly.

6) Putting powder in all of the bottles - We had a veritable assembly line going in the bathroom in the morning. All powder for the bottles ( at that time, it was still cereal and formula together) was put into the bottles before she woke up. Then when a bottle was needed, we added room temperature water and then 50 ml of hot water from the kettle. A quick shake and we were ready to go.

7) Emergency food - We kept a few scoops of dry rice cereal powder in small bowls in the diaper bag at all times. If she needed a snack, we just added hot water and we were good to go. We also brought several jars of baby food with us because I was sure we wouldn't find organic where we were going in China. We did find lotus paste baby food though. She liked it.

8) Bath strategy - The first time we tried giving her a bath she screamed bloody murder and made us scramble for a fluffy towel. The secret lay in getting in the tub *with* her and her favorite toy. Which leads me to...

9) Stacking cups - Best invention EVER. The version we brought were bath toys too, so they were doubly great. Beyond that, no expensive toys were needed. We wandered into a toy store one day and bought a fancy rattle. That was not money well spent. She MUCH preferred to shake the tube of gum that we bought for one tenth the price.

10) Gerber stars - Baby crack. Awesome.

11) Casio point n' shoot camera - This little, inexpensive camera was excellent for taking quick little movies that could be quickly uploaded to the web. Our immediate and extended family all live in the United States, and they still have not met her in person yet. So movies are a really important way for everyone to share the Gioia experience. We have a big video camera too, but we barely used it on the trip. Actually we only used it one day: on the day we picked her up in Fuling.

*Yes, our infant daughter has her own ipod. To be fair, it is a hand-me-down. And we use it for play music, wakeup music, bedtime music.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sea Park Outing

We made it to the sea animals park today.

More pictures here. For the record, Chris took all of these because I was carrying (playing with) the baby.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lounging Around

We are hanging out in the United lounge until our flight to Honolulu. There are some amazing antique dolls on display here with intricate faces and kimono.

But Miss G was not really into the dollies. She was more into catching some Zs in the family room.

Everybody slept. It was good.

Thank goodness for the family room. Every time Gioia emitted a little whimper in the main room, some business person would look around in confusion. We are much happier tucked away in the corner with stuffed animals and colorful mats.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

^$%$#%@#$ China

I have been stuck in Hong Kong for four hours now because China decided to hold military demonstrations over Shanghai. It could be worse. I could be sitting on the runway.*

But now I will not get to my hotel until 3 am, then up for an early client meeting.


*That happened this summer. I was stuck on a Air China flight for six hours after landing en route for a weather delay. At 1:30 a.m., just before I stormed off and tried to hitchhike to Beijing, the plane took off.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Night Safari

Last week in Singapore, I convinced a bunch of my teammates to skip out on yet another group dinner and pop over to the night safari instead. This is something that everyone tells you is a "must-do" in Singapore, and they are right. It was very cool. Basically it is a zoo at night, which makes it more mysterious and fascinating. You hop on a 45 minute tram ride, which takes you past all sorts of endangered creatures, like golden jackals, lots of esoteric deer species, and a Malaysian Tapir. Some of the animals were walking around on the tram path, uncaged (think deer, not jackals).

The deal with night safaris, though, is that they are at night. In the dark. With prohibitions on flash photography so the animals are not disturbed. As a result, all of my photos looked like this...

I did manage to take one decent animal picture - of a fish in the tank by the bathroom. Heh.

It was a good time. As one of my friends said the next day: only in Singapore could they get all of those wild animals to stand so obediently under the spotlights.

Speaking of wild animals, be sure not to miss Chris' latest picture of Frankie at the dog beach. Looks like my boys are having a great time without me.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I met up with my dad in Bangkok this past weekend on my way to Singapore. We went to have dinner Saturday night at Celadon, which is in the Sukothai Hotel. Dad was a little bitchy about the whole experience because he really prefers to eat on the street, but he was swayed once we sat down with a tangy little Australian Shiraz.

The food was oh so good. I love Thai pomelo salad, don't you? The restaurant was nice and soothing. All diners eat surrounded by lily ponds and subtle, traditional live music. I thought the music was a recording until we stepped out into the foyer after our meal and saw this lady.

Yummy yummy. Must go back. Even Dad was pleased.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Makin' My Way Home to You, Babe

I am winding my way to Taipei. Last week, I left Beijing and went through Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Bangkok. I am now in Singapore through Friday. Ironically, I just received word that our sea shipment will land at the port in Taiwan on Wednesday, which means that our stuff will arrive before Chris or I get there.

I was very suprised at how beautiful Hangzhou was. I had heard lots of good things, but was always like, yeah.. yeah. But it really was nice. I would even go back. We had a three day training session at the Sofitel Xanadu, which is away from the city. It was an excellent hotel, and probably much cheaper than the one by the West Lake. And it had some fabulous black swans floating nearby that had vibrantly red beaks. They let me get right up close to take photos. No bites, thank goodness.

After dinner in town one night, some of my team members and I went for a stroll down the old (read "touristy") street. We came across this giant Buddha statue, one of those with the hundred babies crawling all over. I stayed away from rubbing the belly - it would certainly be awful to mess up the adoption by getting preganant at this late date. But I did get close enough to see the great and very detailed children statues.

More Hangzhou pictures here.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mei You

We are all packed up and out of our Beijing place. Chris and Frankie flew off to the US of A last Wednesday, leaving me with an empty house and two suitcases. Beijing's emptyness creeped me out a bit, so I left as soon as I could. It will be two weeks before I actually land in Taipei, though. Work travels will take me to Hangzhou and Singapore first.

It is hard to be without the ones you love most. Luckily, I am here now in Shanghai and hanging out with some of my friends. It is nice to stop back into my old life of dinner parties and glasses of wine, even if only for a few days.

I do have two special friends to keep me company in Shanghai, where I am cat sitting for a friend. Finnegan climbed into one of my bags this morning as soon as I zipped it open. Thomas (not pictured) is sitting on my lap as I type.

Cats are different from dogs, that much is clear. As I was about to leave the apartment this morning, I took one last look around for the kitties, but I could only find one. I spent 30 minutes searching for the second one (mischevious Thomas) in this little three bedroom place, but I never found him. It really freaked me out, and all day I was wondering how in the world I could have lost a cat in a locked apartment in under three hours. When I came back after running errands (thinking: please be there, please be there), he was sitting on the floor watching me open the door. A dog would never have done that, would never have hidden sneakily for 30 minutes as you frantically called out his name. Sheesh.

I do appreciate the company, though. Frankie and Chris are far, far away. It is nice to have someone around to distract me from missing them. Instead of being sad about what I do not have (mei you), I should appreciate the love and company that I do have.

And now I am off to open a can of tuna....

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


One of the neatest things that we did in Langkawi last week was take a tour of the mangroves with the hotel's naturalist. Mangroves grow where the sea meets the border of the rain forest. There are 23 species of trees in this particular area which have adapted to take in salt water instead of fresh. Many of them have crazy cool root systems, which are homes to all sorts of crabs, mudskippers and other crawly things.

While on the tour, we saw a feeding of kites, which are birds that kind of look like eagles, except their legs and claws have no feathers. The feeding boat dropped a bunch of chicken necks in the water and a tremendous amount of birds came swooping in out of nowhere. Apparently, the government started this kite feeding program a few years ago. There was an ecosystem imbalance at the time and the birds were starving. As a result, they started attacking Malaysian Airlines planes, which did not go so well for the birds. Now that the mangroves have recovered from their earlier trauma, natural food is back for the birds. So the government needs to wean them off of the free chicken necks. It made a good show, though.

This little guy was hiding in the trees as we floated by in our boat. He looked to see if we had food, and then sauntered off when he discovered we had nothing to offer. Apparently monkeys cannot digest bread products (unlike fish), so they can get really sick when tourists feed them. A fed monkey can get kidney ailments and other horrible diseases. Yet people still float by and toss these little guys slices of bread, hoping to see a show. Aren't humans lovely?

More pictures of our Mangrove tour are available here.


Sunday, October 7, 2007


China's National Day was October 1, so the whole country spent the last seven days on holiday. As with all Golden Weeks, Chris and I joined other expats in getting the heck out of dodge. This time, we trekked down to Malaysia for a couple of days of scuba diving, bird watching and relaxing by the beach.

We splurged a bit and spent four days at the Four Seasons on Langkawi, which is an island group in northwest Malaysia famous for its beaches, rainforests and mangroves. It was a lovely time. The resort is outstanding (if you ever are in the area). The wildlife on and around the islands was excellent. We saw three sea turtles while diving, loads of red and orange (male) and green and blue (female) crabs, monkeys, lizards galore, birds (babalas, kites, mynahs, sandpipers and others whose names escape me now), mudskippers, stingrays (that liked to be petted - really), and a little red tree frog on the toilet seat at a restaurant.

Now back to reality. Do the movers really come tomorrow?

More pictures are available here and here.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Things That Make Me Smile

Monks in airports. After seeing one, in Hong Kong or Shanghai, I always wonder what they are doing, where they are headed. Are they going to an existentialist convention? How did they pay for their flight? Do they freak out like me if they are delayed and miss their connection?

Seeing them against the backdrop of stores peddling perfumes and fancy bags makes me think ... how ironic. Suffering is caused by desire, right?

Lovely, in their muted saffron robes. Makes me smile.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Paw Attention

Have a rest, y'all.

Spied in a transit lounge in Southern China.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Guess what we did last weekend? Yup. We visited the Korean demilitarized zone, aka the DMZ. Did you know that this still active, cold war memorial doubles as a tourist attraction? Yes, in between the land mine signs, the barbed wire, and the barely prepubescent soldiers rumble busloads of tourists.

Our tour took us 73 meters underground to a tunnel dug by the North Koreans. This particular tunnel was blasted out by political prisoners of Kim Il-sung. It goes underneath the 38th parallel and down towards Seoul. The South Korean Government officially admits that there are four tunnels, but unofficially there are 10 or so.

So what do you do when your tour of the Commie tunnel is over? Why go to the DMZ souvenir shop, of course!

More Korea pictures are available here.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Sorry, We Cannot Change Coins

One of the downsides of traveling a lot is that you get stuck with a bunch of foreign coins. Money changers will not take them, so you often find yourself wandering around an airport going... Hmmmm, What can I buy for 40 Baht? Often, the answer is nothing. Then you take the 40 Baht home in your pocket thinking that you will just spend it when you come back. Except you forget to bring it back next time, and instead the money piles up in a forlorn jar in the kitchen.

I went through our jar last week and sorted all of the coins. We have some crazy coins in there. For example, we have coins from monetary regimes that no longer exist, such as French Francs and Austrian Groschen. We have Mexican Pesos and Israeli Scheckels. Now, we haven't been to these countries in years, which means that we must have moved to China with all of these ridiculous coins.

I have now sorted all of the coins into very fancy plastic red cups. I guess the thought is that we can grab the cup o' coins next time we travel to that country. But it really seems futile. And the cups are ugly.

Perhaps a better idea is to just lug them on my next Cathay Pacific flight and donate them all to the Change for Good Program. Although that requires forethought as well. Sigh.

Anybody wanna Peso?


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back from Beyond

Phew! I am back in Beijing after nine days in the United States. Well, really eight days once the 24+ hours of trans-Pacific air travel is factored in. During the trip, I was in Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando and Boston.

I was able to take a breath and put my feet up at a true Chicago barbecue, complete with some super luscious sweet corn. Ahh, sweet corn. I saw my parents, gave a baby doll to Zane, and attended a wonderful doll workshop with the fabulous Mimi. Oh, and I worked too.

Still jetlagged and pooped, so I will save some stories for later this week.

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

What a Magical Day!

On Saturday, Chris and I were standing in line for the Jungle Cruise ride at Hong Kong Disneyland. From behind us, we heard a two foot tall little one say: What a magical day! Indeed it was.

Chris flew down to meet me in HK on Friday as I was making my way back from Taipei. We expected to spend three to four hours at Disney, but we wound up staying for over seven hours. It is the smallest Disneyland around, but it was more than enough for us.

The Stitch interactive show was crazy technosavy. We still don't know how they got that one to work. I survived Space Mountain (I hate, hate roller coasters), and Chris turned out to be an Ace Buzz Lightyear fighter on the space blaster ride. The Lion King show was really spectacular. Disney does it all well: staging, lights, vocals, choreography, timing.

I was most impressed, however, by the logistics of getting to and in the park. We bought our tickets at the Central MTA station, took the train for about 25 minutes to a station near the airport, switched to the Disney line, and then walked right into the park. No driving, no trolleys from the parking lot to the gate, no long lines to get inside.

Chris took this picture of me on the teacups. Who says Disney is just for kiddos?

For those of you who have not yet been, take note that HK Disney is a great time.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Battered and Bruised

I am in Taipei for nine days or so. Today was my one weekend day, and a friend and I checked out a spa nearby the hotel for a little sauna and massage action. It all started well, with a nice shower and steam room, followed by some lounging around in a comfortable chair with healthy snacks and a Vogue. There was a lot of nudity, which kind of weirded little ol' American-me out a bit. It was a women's only spa, and they all jumped in the communal baths naked as jaybirds.

But I digress. This story is about the Chinese-style massage, the one that made me almost cry for 90 minutes straight. The massage that hit every single nerve in my entire body. The one where I had to ask a "little" less pressure THREE times.

I should have known better. Chinese massages in China are rough affairs, so I avoid them in Shanghai and Beijing. I was thinking maybe they would be a little westernized here in Taipei. But no. Amber, the masseuse, even took great pride in telling me that she studied for two years in China.

Just for the record, I am not a baby. I like strong massages, unlike my husband. His perfect massage would involve no pressure at all, only a feather. But this - this was a sumo wrestler on steroids. I hurt way more now than I did going into the spa. At least I won't get breast cancer now, though. That's what Amber told me, anyway.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Four Seasons, How Do I Love Thee?

When I show up to check in and realize that I left my passport in a bathroom stall in the Hong Kong airport an hour ago, you call your guy at the terminal and he finds it for me in ten minutes.

Four Seasons, I love you.

I will never, ever stay anywhere else again.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

ShanXi Hanging Monastery

On Saturday, we went to the Hanging Monastery in ShanXi, which is also around 1,500 years old. It is an architectural wonder that is literally built right into a vertical cliff wall. The structure was high and narrow, with lots of stairs and small dark rooms full of idols. Certainly there were no kiddos running around. This monastery is a bit unique in China because it was built to jointly honor Confucius, Buddha and Lao Zi (the founder of Daoism).

While this place was a bit scary for acrophobic me, the statues in the little rooms of the monastery were wonderful, just wonderful. More pictures here.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Yungang Grottoes

Late last Thursday evening, Chris and I called our driver and said: So.... How much would it cost for you to drive us to ShanXi this weekend? Less than 36 hours later, we were bundled into the car - snacks and all - for a four hour road trip to Datong.

One of the places we visited during our weekend roadtrip was the Yungang Grottoes, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unlike the nearby polluted, banal city of Datong, this place is outstanding. It was built around 1,500 years ago, and has over 51,000 buddhas carved into caves - teeny tiny buddhas and humongous buddhas.

It was really beautiful. Unlike some other tourist attractions in China, this one had an authenticity that was inspiring. Imagine, one guy years ago said - hey, let's carve some buddhas. And carve they did. Not many people know about this site, it seems, but it is definitely worth a trip. We are so glad we went.

More Yungang pictures here. Also, Chris has uploaded some videos of the trip, which confirm once and for all that I am a big dofus. "I mean, that was a really long time ago!" What am I, 14?


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dalat Flowers

Dalat is well-known for its flowers, which are grown for show in local gardens and for sale throughout Vietnam. More flower pictures are available here.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Gifts from Afar

In China, people typically bring back little gifts from their vacation for co-workers. I really like this tradition because it reminds me of how Chinese people are very thoughtful and intentioned. However, it does mean that you have to be very good at remembering and buying something for your colleagues when you travel. When I had a small team, picking out gifts for everyone was easier. Now that there are 14 of us, it is more of a challenge.

Luck was with me this time, though. I found these wonderful embroidered bags in Ho Chi Minh city for US$1.50 each. Then I bought some specialties from Dalat to fill each pouch: strawberry and mullberry jelly candies, tamarind candy (oh so sour!), and artichoke tea bags. The end result is a very special token that is really representative of Vietnam, all for less than US$2.00 a gift.

Here is a closeup of the incredible embroidery on each little pouch. The quality is outstanding. Can you image doing all of that work for so little money?

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Dalat Evason Ana Mandara Resort and Spa

Six days and five nights in a mountain resort, with cocktails and massages at your beck and call, excellent food, your own personal butler and a 1940's convertible roadster to take you touring around town whenever you like. Nice, huh? First let me say that the town of Dalat itself was really charming. I am pretty partial to mountain towns, though, like Cuenca in Ecuador and Baguio in the Philippines. There is something about the cool air and pine trees that relaxes my soul.

The Evason resort is still pretty new; it opened in the later half of 2006. We had some minor issues which were probably linked to the newness. The biggest problem was that our fireplace exploded into the room 30 minutes after it was lit. I think it was the first time it had been used, and there was an unfortunate air pocket behind the plaster in the back that expanded and blew. Luckily, there was no damage to us, the room or our stuff. Although, the fireplace now looks pretty bad.

Even still, the resort is very well managed. From the handmade soap in the bathrooms to the eco-friendly resort policies, all of the little details of our stay were well thought out. We took three excursions during the week - a scenic Dalat tour, a picnic lunch by a lake and the coffee lover experience. My friend and I were more into being driven around than being active ourselves, but they do also have whitewater rafting, mountain biking and rock climbing. Personally, I prefer to just have a massage. Or three.

As I mentioned before, we got a fabulous deal through the Luxury Link auction website. Perhaps they are running a promotion because the resort is so very new. Even at full price, though, this resort would be worth the money.*

If you aren't so keen on mountain vacations, the Six Senses group also runs two oceanfront properties in Nha Trang (and some in Thailand and Oman). Pricier, of course, but I am sure those resorts are well managed too if beaches are your thang.

More Dalat pictures are available here, and resort pictures are here.

*I don't know why I feel compelled to say this, but please know that I have no affiliation with this hotel. I just really liked it. Since good resorts (at good prices) are sometimes hard to find in Asia, I wanted to share the news. I actually think that the new blog advertising phenomenon is ugly. Can't trust anyone these days.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Little Smocked Dresses

I have a real soft spot for smocked dresses on little girls. Perhaps it comes from growing up in the Southern United States, where nice clothing is expected every now and then. Or maybe it is because I spent six weeks in Ecuador one college summer observing women working in a smocking factory. Either way, the delicate embroidery on children's clothes makes me feel that all is right with the world.

I can smock, but I have not had much time lately. The last project I did was the flower girl dresses for my brother's wedding. That was in 2005, and my plans to get out the pleater since then have not yet worked out. So when I saw these incredible smocked dresses for sale in Vietnam, I snatched up eight of them. Yes, eight. But they were very reasonable! The cheapest dresses were US$7.50 and the most expensive (made of a fine cotton batiste) was $30.
Who could have resisted?

I also picked up some appliqued t-shirts for US$6 each. Isn't this one wonderful?

So now Miss G has pretty little dresses waiting in her closet. We'll have to go back, though, so that we can restock once she outgrows these. No, I am not kidding.

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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Vietnam is the new Thailand

I am back in Beijing after a lovely, lovely week in Vietnam. I cannot recommend this country highly enough. It has all of the joys of Southeast Asia - great food, nice people, high quality handicrafts - with a laid back French colonial flair.

I am still recovering from my 4 a.m. Air China flight back from Ho Chi Minh (with a beyond crappy hour layover in Nanning), so I'll save details of the trip for later this week, including a review of our spa villas in Dalat and more pictures.


Saturday, April 28, 2007


Did you know that one US dollar is 16,000 dong? I gave out some really wild tips last night after I got to my hotel in Ho Chin Minh (at 4 am). My breakfast this morning cost so many dong that I almost couldn't do the math. It's just not right, people.

But our afternoon snack before wandering through the Reunification Palace? One strawberry shake, one lemon soda and a plate full of the freshest shrimp and pork rice paper rolls ever made on the planet = 102,000 dong.

Love it. I am going to eat the whole country.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

You Know You Travel Too Much When

Your passport is less than a year old and it already needs new pages.

The only time you have to get new pages is during a business trip to Singapore.

You have memorized your passport number - and your China Visa number.

You know exactly which security line to pick in the Beijing airport for domestic flights.

You know which China airports have Starbucks and/or internet.

You avoid the first flight out of PEK because that is the one with all of the obnoxious American Chamber of Commerce tour groups.*

You know that taking the bus from HongQiao to downtown Shanghai is often faster than waiting in the taxi line. And it only costs 4 kuai.

You know that Air China Business is worse than Singapore Airlines Economy.

You regularly tell your driver as he drops you off at the airport that you have no idea when you will be back.

You buy all your makeup at the dutyfree stores in airports.

You intentionally buy two sizes of perfume: regular and travel.

You know which shops to hit at each airport during a layover - Jim Thompson in Bangkok, Liberty and Smythson in Heathrow, Khiel's in Hong Kong, the bookstore in Dubai, every single store in Singapore, and no stores in Bangalore**.

You recognize the Singapore Airlines flight attendants.

* No, I will not apologize for that comment.
** Worst airport experience ever. Well, except for the time in Guayaquil when the drug dog identified a ham sandwich in my bag. But that was situational.

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

There and Back Again

Chris and I just took a quick three day trip to Singapore. I had to go for business, and airfares were so cheap that I was able to convince Chris to come along. It was a good thing because I missed him desperately while he was away in Shanghai and then Denmark for the last three weeks. We had a really nice time. Singapore was so very sunny and green and wonderful. Instead of being my normal cranky pants, I was smiley and almost giddy.

Returning to dreary, dusty Beijing would have been a bit of a let down if it weren't for all of the flowers for sale on every street corner. We bought two big pots for the back patio and a smaller one for the front door. A guy came over yesterday to fill them up with loads of color. He had to go back for more flowers, in fact. After all that work (not by me mind you), our house is starting to look a bit brighter. Notice we picked up a new camera too?

Happy Easter every bunny!

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

For my Father

To the one who gave me, amongst other things, a love of life and travel: Happy Birthday.

More pictures from our Fall 2006 trip to Angkor Watt here.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

I Am So Excited

Making plans to go to Vietnam for the May holiday. Chris has school and won't be able to come with, so friend and I are going to a spa in Dalat. We got a five night package on Luxury Link for US$715, which includes accomodation for two, two hours of spa treatments per person, breakfast every morning, one 3 course dinner, cocktails one night and airport transfers. So cheap, in fact, that I have budget to go shopping here in Ho Chi Minh city.

Mmmm .... pho. Can not wait.


Sunday, February 4, 2007

Where were we?

Can you guess where Chris and I went this weekend? One hint - it was reeeaaaly cold. OK, here is another hint.

Did you guess Harbin (pronounced "Har" as in "Jar" and "Bin" as in "Bean")? Yup, we flew to north China on Friday to meet some of our friends for the snow festival. This was a non-stop trip packed with tons of sightseeing. It was definitely a good time, although the peeps in town have learned the word "tip" and use it constantly. As in, "Will you be giving me a tip? How much tip? Don't forget my tip!"

These pictures are from the largest ice park in town, which features life-size buildings and statues all carved out of ice dragged in from the river. Lights are embedded into the ice blocks, so the huge park is awash with colored lights by night. It was so bright that we could see it from our hotel.

Later this week, I hope to write more about the Siberian tiger park and 731 museum, but I am off now to drink a glass of wine and soothe my windburned cheeks.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tips on Traveling to Korea

One of my friends from Chicago recently received a referral for a baby boy in Korea, and her family will be soon traveling to pick up their new son. This was such fun news to hear, especially since we will soon be in a similar position. How exciting to know that you will soon be saying "Well hello" to a new little member of your family. Chris jokes that by the time we pick up Miss G, she will likely be big enough to walk right up to us and say "Whas' up peeps?"

Because this was on my mind all day, I found myself compiling a list of tips for traveling in Korea for my friend that may (or may not) be useful. It was really the only thing I could think of to do to be even remotely helpful. I am sure that you all have tons of things to add that I have missed, but here is my list.


1) For the most part, there is no tipping in Korea. If you try to give a taxi driver or a family restaurant staff person extra money, s/he may be confused. If you stay at a big Western hotel, though, the people will likely be spoiled and may expect tips anyway.

2) Unless you have a super secret special cell phone, it will not work in Korea. They have their own system and 99% of the world's cell phones do not work there. Even if you think it will work, it will not. Even if the dude at Cingular said it will work, it will not.

3) The best food around is in small family restaurants that you just stumble into. If you are adventurous, the local food can be fabulous. Avoid the "Pizza Huts' and similar chains that look familiar to you because they are normally VERY WRONG and you will be disappointed that it is not like you expected. That said, McDonalds is usually a good bet anywhere if you crave Western food.

4) My parents flew Korean Air over Christmas and they said the food was horrendous, even when they got upgraded to Business on one leg. So bring a sandwich.

5) If you can, watch 5-10 minutes of US Military TV when you are in Seoul. It is hilarious. Korean soap operas are really funny too, especially when you cannot understand anything.

6) The Seoul subway rocks - clean, efficient and easy to navigate. Remember to hold on to your ticket because you need it when you exit. I screwed that up once and had to jump over a turnstile to flee (true story).

7) If you travel to any city outside of Seoul, then you will see great examples of the less modern side of Korea. If you are only staying in Seoul, then make sure to wander down some side streets or anywhere that you can see some crazy looking market areas. They are definitely worth perusing.