The first time I went to China was during the summer of 2001. I was eight years old at the time, and when thrust into a world of public transportation, hazy skies and crowded public areas, I could not understand what the appeal of visiting China was. When I left China that summer, I was happy to go and never come back.
Yet, being an American born Chinese, China is the land of my cultural heritage. It is the land where I ultimately came from. So last summer, exactly ten years from my first visit, I went back to China again.
They say a lot can change in ten years. Perhaps it was me who changed. After all, I was no longer the little boy who disliked walking and could barely understand Chinese culture. Or maybe it was China which had changed. The dusty and technology backwards land which I remembered had developed into a land of modern metropolitan areas and beautiful countrysides. This time, I realized the might of Ancient China when I visited the astounding Great Wall. Instead of seeing hazy skies, this time, I uncovered the majesty brought by the clear blue tranquility of Hangzhou's West Lake. This time, after two weeks of exploring and understanding my own cultural heritage, I did not want to leave.
My journey to China allowed me to rediscover my cultural home and in doing so, myself as well.
One day, I know that I will definitely return there.
Over the summer in 2011, I travelled to Vietnam with my mother. Prior to this, I had been studying at University in New York City while my mother lived in Hong Kong. The trip gave my mother and I an opportunity to become a united family once more, which is something very important to us. As we ventured through Vietnam, we were shocked to discover the pure tranquility of Halong Bay and because of this, we grew closer as a family. The trip through Vietnam not only allowed us to discover the beauty of the country but also offered me a close, personal memory forever.
In summer 2011 one of my dreams to visit and tour Indochina was realized thanks to the professional work of Indochina Odyssey Tours. Throughout the trip we visited so many places that brought out the nice, friendly and colourful character of Indochina. Visiting the 4 different countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia showed us many similarities of these countrioes as well as we could now tell of the many varied lifestyles and development of these countries. Thailand being the most urban and developed, rich in Buddhist customes, Cambodia still coming out from the ravages of the civil war b ut boosting so much cultural and architectural heritage, Vietnam invites you to sophisticated and delicious food and Laos, the most tranquil and lush country of them all. Nature and Buddhism goes hand in hand in Indochina and we experienced the beauty of nature and the spirituality of Buddhism, both are exotic and refreshing to my mind as I come from a small urbanized island in the middle of the Mediterranean: Malta.
My first experience with Mongolia was in the summer of 2009 when I was brought there by my work as an exploration geologist. I have since been fortunate to spend a great deal of my time both working and touring this beautiful place. Although I have been fortunate to meet many amazing local people and be emersed in their cultural and lifestyle the most memorable part of my experience here has been the ability to visit and bring donations to three orphanages. Poverty in Mongolia is striking, there population consists of a small very wealthy population and a very large extremely poor population, with some people falling somewhat in between. In summer it is not uncommon to see 2 year old children begging for food and money. It is a heartbreaking reality that we do not have to face in Canada, at least not the part of Canada I am from. I was able, through a very meandering networking effort, to come into contact with people that run orphanages and let me know how I can help. I have since brought clothes, toys, school supplies, and other hygenic goods that were the product of donations from friends and family in Saskatoon. The experience really hits home when you get to see the smile on the childrens faces when they recieve these gifts. In a place where so many kids have so little, it really is an honor to be able to share this time with them, and feel like everything they get is thoroughly appreciated. I hope to continue my work here, with the children, for as long as I possibly can.
March, 2011 -From Shanghai to Beijing in 6 days we enjoyed every second of our exciting Shanghai-Beijing tour. Great wall in Beijing has a fantastic view, The Bund in Shanghai is a very romantic place,
scenic, pleasant and joyful and that memorable Hutong tour, plus excellent tour guides, very reliable and good in English, they explained to us China's rich culture, history and iconic landmarks.
We're looking forward to be back in China.
It was a trip of a lifetime for us, a we circumnavigated South America, starting in the Galapagos Islands, and traveling all the way to Antarctica.
Along the way, we saw Machu Picchu, snorkeled with and got up close to wildlife as diverse as Blue-Footed Boobies, White-tipped sharks, and rare penguins. We whitewater rafted in Chile and pondered about the planet's future while gazing upon millenia-old glaciers and icebergs.
We brought home memories and experiences to last forever.
Of all the wonders of the
world, both man made and natural the most lasting memories are always
about the people who we encounter along the way. The Thai gentleman
with a huge smile on his face as he paddles by in his dugout boat
represents his country well as the “Land of Smiles”. The South
African Zulu lady with a warm and friendly smile who was selling
vegetables along the road in Zululand can make anyone feel welcome in
what can be a very hostile and unforgiving country. A Ukrainian
street musician with his lively songs and music displays a very
modest but happy and carefree lifestyle as he sings for change in the
streets of Lviv, Ukraine. The weather beaten face of the elderly
Chinese lady shares memories of a long life of hardship and struggle
with just a passing glance, while without making eye contact the
Australian Aboriginal man shows signs of what was once a proud
heritage that was lost in a changing nation. They all have their
own memorable stories to tell, whether its verbal, with a huge smile
or just a passing glance, they all leave lasting impressions that are
always the most precious memories of any trip and unlike the tourist
attraction, they will never be forgotten.
Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated with pandas. Whether it was their gentle demeanor or simply how cuddly and beautiful they are, I'm not sure. When I was five years old, I begged my mother to make a panda costume for me for Halloween. She spent a month finding the material and pattern, but was extremely successful with her accomplishment. I wore that costume for as many years as I could. My nieces and nephews now where it and it keeps my mother's and my tradition living through the years.
Last summer, I had the extraordinary opportunity to volunteer at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre. What and experience! I was able to get up close and learn so much about the animals I have always loved. Feeding them, watching them interact, learning what they eat and preparing their food, and, yes, even cleaning up after them made my heart soar.
I will never forget my early childhood memories of pretending to be a panda, not the thrill of seeing these endangered animals thriving in Chengdu. Thank you for saving my beloved pandas!
This was a great escape from city life. Back to Nature, into a different world filled with green things and wet things. Things with claws, and big teeth. Very cool!
is life…it flows through you and me.
I once thought that you could never visit heaven in any lifetime…
Until I visited – The Valley of Nine Villages ( Jiuzhaigou ) in China.
Its breathtaking beauty defies any description.
I had to pinch myself many times to make sure that I was not dreaming.
The blue-green-turquoise colored waters were simply out of this world.
These pictures were taken at the end of winter when only a fraction of its full
spectrum of colors were visible. I can
only imagine what it looks like in autumn in all its magical glory.
Finding a quiet moment in this fairyland was rather difficult with the
thousands of visitors but
this is one place I vow to visit again.
Let’s face it…who wouldn’t want to visit heaven if it was on earth.
The Valley of Nine Villages is truly ‘Heaven on Earth’.
I can only describe this picture-perfect place as a masterpiece of nature.
And I would like to share this magical experience with you.
( Jiuzhaigou is a UNESCO world heritage site )
I sat down on a patch of grass and admired the scene before
me. It had been fourteen years since I had visited Beijing and in those fourteen
years so much had changed. Back when I lived here, there were no tall, urban skyscrapers
or large, sprawling factories. Back then, we rode bicycles or walked to where
we wanted to go—there was none of the congested highway lanes filled with the
thousands of foreign cars that I saw today. What used to be ponds and grassland
had been converted into supermalls and shopping centers and now no matter where
I looked, nothing looked familiar to me anymore. Even the old apartment
building that I used to live in and the old sandpit that I used to play in had
been razed and were converted into high-class condos.
Yet despite the painful waves of nostalgia that hit me, I
realized that change was probably a good thing—the economy was so much better
now and the streets were bustling with small shops. And although much of the
grassland had been turned into concrete, the most beautiful parts of Beijing were
still there. The old temples, the gorgeous lakes, and the beautiful forests
were all protected by the government and left undisturbed by the wave of
urbanization that had hit my hometown.
As a young eight year old boy I read a book about an adventurer who travelled the Yangtze river in the 1920's. His tales of the candle-lit electricity-less villages along the banks fascinated me, as did his recounting of his
experiences with the Chinese people he met, a people who seemed so unknown and exotic to a young child. That book ignited my life-long interest in travelling the world.
I was not able to begin travelling until I entered the U.S. military upon graduation from high school. Unfortunately because of the political situation and my security clearances, I was forbidden from travelling to China during my 30 year career, and for ten additional years after retiring.
Finally, in 2006 I was free to go, and did so after studying the Chinese language for a year. As shown in my selected photos, I celebrated my 63rd B-Day riding a bike past a rice paddy near Yangshuo, followed in the evening by an al fresco birthday dinner at a small street-side Café…Lisa’s café...that's Lisa in one of my photos. I later took the boat cruise down the Yangtze River, during which I met a lovely Chinese family. I saw the villages along the bank that I had read about half a century earlier.
My memories of China are many, but most of all I found that I loved the Chinese people. I was stunned by their friendliness which confirmed what I had read in that travel book so many years earlier, and not what I had been led to believe in the many intervening decades. The people are wonderful, and my selected travel photos thus focus on them, more than on buildings or scenery.
I was especially moved by the children who approached me, more openly friendly than any others I’ve encountered across the globe in my travels. Their interest in me mirrored my childhood interest in their culture those many decades ago.
My Senior (Old Man's) Year in China…An 8 year old boy's dream had finally come true…I will never forget my time in Zhongguo.
It started with a competition. My friend Rob had won a helicopter served snowboarding trip. Rob had won the prize at the Burton New Zealand Open for what the judges deemed "best trick". Then the snow started to fall...it was time to put this day together with a band of awesome friends. We knew our friends were in New Zealand, but now how to find them. No one had phones, and where were they lodging? A few Facebook messages sent and we had assembled our crew; friends from the US Snowboard Team who had come to New Zealand to train.
The heli day started early before dawn. We awoke in Wanaka to rain after it had been storming hard all night; we knew it was going to be a good day. The rain continued during an hour ride to the heli base near Mt. Aspiring National Park, and then the sun broke out from behind the clouds. As we stepped out of the van, sun shone on our faces and mountain parrots flew down to greet us. I climbed on board the helicopter with Rob and Seth for the first flight up to the top of the mountains. As we stepped out we sank up to our knees in fresh, light snow...oh yes it was going to be a glorious day of snowboarding powder snow with friends.
My husband and I are convinced that we possess a streak of madness. To seriously contemplate on downsizing our lives, selling our beloved home, and taking our 4 kids with us on a new adventure travelling around the world, seems (I’m sure to many) quite a crazy thing to do.
To us, long term travel is about being open to possibilies, of becoming a student of life and of the world. This requires boldness and a lot of hard work in learning new things, planning, and following through to keep our family healthy, continually growing, and most importantly, safe. We want to explore and experience this wonderful world. To continue to grow to know each other and this immensely beautiful world more intimately.
As parents, we are choosing not to be fearful, but instead always careful. We want to show the kids that the world is not a scary place. That there are more good and beautiful people out there than there are bad. That life is about taking the right kinds of risks, following your heart and always being true to yourself. Life is too short to grumble and complain about how the way things should be. We need to take action, learn understanding and tolerance first-hand, and go out to make a difference in the world. The world God created is an incredibly wonderful and beautiful place.
We want to explore it, marvel in it, and delight in it!
Visiting Morocco, particularly the Sahara Desert, was a dream come true for us. Our time there as a family has been etched into the sacred part of our memories.
As I peer out, squinting my eyes against the sunlight, I stared...
For years, I have heard stories about the great wall, I had seen pictures of it, but I have never once visited it. Now as I stood here by myself looking at it, I was astounded at the grand majesty of the great wall. No picture, no description or story could come close to the real thing.
As I stared at the grand majesty of the scene, I heard my tour guide say, "Ok, time to go climb it!"
I stood, rooted in place as I contemplated the implications of those words.
I had no doubt that the great wall would be even more beautiful, even more majestic up close. I knew that I would want nothing more than to traverse the same paths ancient Chinese soldiers walked while defending their regime against hostile invaders. This wall was a testament to the power and grandeur of a dynasty which no longer exists. This wall was built with the blood and sweat of thousands of workers and it seemed like a shame if I did not even stand on it and fully experience the view from the top.
Yet, I had one problem. I am deathly afraid of heights. I have been ever since I was little. The thought of
walking up to the great wall and standing their on the battlements, at
once excited and terrified me.
In the end however, the allure of this ancient wonder of the world still beckoned to me. As I allowed myself to slowly walk up the wall and stared out, I took in the magnificent view and breathtaking scenery, and for the first time in a long while, I no longer felt afraid.
Traditional and cultural charm of Beijing ;
"looking-toward beijing stone" it's wonderful and most memorable fore me and my wife; Beijing is a good mixture of past, today and tomorrow.
Travelling around Vietnam with our 6 and 8 years old children was a unique experience for us as we could travel around the region through our little children's eyes. We visited Sapa in the borders of Nothern Vietnam and China, visited several families there and a school that our children really interacted with the locals. Travelling in vietnam with children is an unforgettable experience that i suggest to all families!!!!
The ancient Chinese (and many current Chinese) believed this place to be where Heaven and Earth met. As I stood there, on the spot where the might emperors of the past would come to speak with the gods, I understood the appeal and attraction of the spot. To me, the unobstructed 360 degree view of the horizon combined with the inherent power and sacredness of the site seemed to at once suggest a place where gods might come down to walk the earth.
On Snow Jade Mountain at the base of the Himalayan Mountains on our Honeymoon trip to China. We saw this Yak riding on the Glacier on an episode of the Amazing Race, and my wonderful tour organizer made this happen for us! This area was so beautiful and the water was ice blue. It was only one of several amazing highlights in China for us!!
I am a painter and was sketching in Baoguo Monastery at Emei Shan in Sichuan. A buddhist monk came to look at my watercoloring. He thought that I needed another, better brush. He came back and handed me over a brush as a gift and wished me inspiration . Although I speak a bit of Mandarin I did not quite understand him. After about half an hour he came back with a beautiful scroll with the calligraphed character 禅-chan (Zen). Our guide Joy, a wonderful young lady who introduced us not only into the art but also the concepts of Buddhism and Daoism , said to me: ' Receiving a gift from a monk is a blessing and means you will be inspired in your painting in the future. And so it was. I made a bigger watercolor - of course with the brush the monk has given me- and later a big oil painting. Both hang in the rooms of friends, one in Paris, the other in Brussels. I love to go back to China to paint , enjoy the spiritual dimension of touristic sites and moreover pick up a bit of the grand cultural tradition.