Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hong Kong and Hwasun!

Hong Kong - As told by Tyler

After our wonderful experience in Beijing, we set off for our 8 hour layover in Hong Kong. The flight with Dragon Air was great. We were provided with a dinner meal, and even though we had pizza before the flight, I still enjoyed every bit of it (including the ice cream!) We all got to watch a movie on the personal screens, I re-watched the Maze Runner and Val watched a Korean film with English subtitles that someone from her school recommended. She said it was interesting. We were supposed to take a nap, but we got wrapped up in our movies, so that didn’t end up happening.

We arrived in Hong Kong some time after 10 pm. and went through the airport procedures before being ready to go explore and meet up with my uncle, Greg, who was already in Hong Kong for business. Mike and Annaleah stayed at a hotel at the airport since Annaleah was a  little sick from all the traveling and needed rest. Val and I found the taxi area and went to meet Greg at his hotel. The taxis in Hong Kong are all red Toyota Comforts and look very unique! And because Hong Kong was previously a British colony, they drive on the right side of the road! We were able to call Greg using the taxi driver’s phone when we arrived at his hotel since the driver couldn’t find the correct entrance to the hotel. It was great to see another familiar face!

Cute taxis!

Driving on the right side of the road!
Hong Kong was a much warmer ~68 degrees compared to the ~28 degrees in Beijing. After a quick change in the hotel, we were feeling good and ready to head out...except when packing, I only brought my hiking boots, which was great for our adventures in Seoul and Beijing, but I felt a little awkward wearing them to go to a fancy bar.

We met up with Pauline and her Husband Tim, who live in Hong Kong. (Pauline is related to Greg, and use to live in Oregon to attend High School when I was about 7 years old.) It was fun to see Pauline again and meet her husband for the first time. All of us squeezed into a cab and headed to the OZone bar, the highest bar in the world, which is part of the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

This is not my photo...but shows a nice picture of what the building looked like!

Notice there are no jackets or sweaters involved! So nice! 

The bar was very chic and modern. When coming out of the elevator, you walk through a blue lit hallway into the bar and lounge, which has an indoor section and an outdoor section. We found a spot in the outdoor area by the big windows and ordered drinks. Since it was late, (after midnight by now), most buildings had their lights shut off, but what we could see was pretty cool. The drinks were good and the company was awesome!

Our view!

Delicious sliders!

When were finished at the bar, we said goodbye to Pauline and Tim who had to head home. Then Greg took Val and I to find a place to get foot massages. Now about 2 am, it took a little looking around, but we found a place that was still open for another hour. After doing a lot of walking around this vacation, but the foot massage felt great and it was nice to just sit and relax.

What does everyone need after a nice foot massage? Food of course! This also took some looking around, seeing that most places aren’t open at 3 am, but we did find a 24 hour Chinese food restaurant. We didn’t think we were that hungry, but once we saw the food, we were changed our minds. The food wasn’t amazing by any means, but better than I’d expect from a 24 hour restaurant during odd hours.

Walking the streets of Hong Kong with Greg at 2am!

Once we were content, we all walked back to Greg’s hotel room. Greg was super nice and let us use his bedroom and bathroom, while he got some sleep in the living room area. His room was very nice and even had a TV in the bathroom mirror! 

TV in the mirror! Crazy! But a great idea! haha! 

We essentially got cleaned up and ready for the our morning flight, relaxed for about 15 minutes in the very comfortable bed, and then had to say goodbye and head back to the airport. We are so thankful to Greg for hosting us for our condensed excursion of Hong Kong, we had a really great time!

Hwasun-As told by Val ;)

After our 6 days of traveling all over we all were happy to be back in Hwasun to relax a little. Though there wasn’t too much relaxing between all the things we wanted to show my mom and dad! We showed them almost everything that was important to us or that we really like!

We bussed out to Neungju Elementary School to give them a grand tour of a Korean school! We also gave them a quick cooking “class” on how to make Gimbap (traditional Korean “sushi” roll-but without the raw fish!).

We explored downtown Gwangju and of course the huge E-Mart store! My co-teacher Jin was kind enough to meet us for dinner in Hwasun at our favorite pasta place and even gifted my parents with Korean Starbucks coffee cups!

The police officer and his group wanted a photo with us. ;)  
On the bus to Gwangju! 

One of my favorite photos! :)
We took a walk up to the reservoir and went out for Korean BBQ with our friend Brad and Maranda! That was a new experience for them! Sitting on the floor, cooking your own meat, and trying new Korean side dishes was fun for them and we all had a great time!

Our favorite Korean BBQ place of all time! :)

Overall, our time in Hwasun felt so short as it got even closer for them to go back home. It was a bittersweet goodbye but we were so thankful for the time we had together and all the amazing memories we made! Thank you Mom and Dad for coming on a adventure with us! We love you!

We did it! We finished posting about our wonderful January vacation! Still working on the videos (because we took a lot!) but we're glad we finally caught up! Thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

72 hours in Beijing!

Hello everyone!

The next post in our vacation series is about Beijing!

Our stay in Beijing,China was 3 days of amazing sites, food, and great memories! Instead of writing a day by day diary, we will just talk about the sites we saw instead!

Jade Factory- After being dragged through both the Amethyst Factory and Ginseng Center in Korea during our tours, we expected to be pressured into buying lots of jade at the Jade factory. Surprisingly enough, we got a nice (and more informative) presentation about Jade and then were given time to look through the GIANT Jade showroom. This place was humongous and we were basically the only tour group there! We didn’t feel nearly as pressured to buy anything (though we did!) and it was really fun to see all the jewelry, statues, and other art pieces made out of Jade!

They called this a "happy family ball." So we bought one! :)

The Sacred Path to the Ming Tombs: We had no prior knowledge on what this was before so it was nice to learn about. You can read more about what it is here (by people who actually know way more than we do! When we got there we saw that it was a it’s a long path with many statues of ancient emperors and of sacred animals. It was a beautiful morning and it was fun to walk along the path taking photos with the many statues. When we got to the end, our driver picked us up and took us to the Ming tomb. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the actual tomb because the building you must climb up to get a view was under construction that day. It was fine though and we were able to leave for lunch so we could get the the Great Wall earlier.

The Great Wall- After visiting the Ming Tomb along the Walk to Heaven, we stopped for lunch for what our guide called, “tourist” chinese food. The food was good and similar to chinese food in the US. It hit the spot and we were ready for the Great Wall!

On the ride to the Badaling section of the wall we got glimpses of the wall running along the mountains. Once we arrived we had to walk up a path to the entrance. It was a chilly, yet clear and beautiful day outside. Once our guide checked us in, we got to explore on our own for a couple hours. The Great Wall was stunning in how it twisted and cut through the mountains. Walking along the wall was a lot of fun, but does involve lots of randomly sized steps and steep inclines, so we had to watch our step. Our couple hour photo shoot seemed to go by so quickly. We were also very thankful that there weren’t too many people! We heard that in the summer, there are so many people that you can barely even see the part of the wall your walking on! Crazy! It was such a nice day and we really enjoyed seeing this amazing site! Definitely a highlight of our trip!

First glimpse of the Great Wall!

One of our favorite family photos!


Such a beautiful day! 
We did it! 

So happy!

The Water Cube and Birds Nest-On our way to dinner we were able to to stop by the Water Cube and Birds nest from the 2008 Beijing Olympics for photos! It was really cool seeing them in person since we watched it all on TV during the Olympics! Apparently the Water Cube now has a water park inside for kids!

Kung Fu Show - For our evening entertainment after a long day, we went to a Kung Foo Show! The outside of the Theatre was covered in red lights, so it was called the “Red Thater”! Inside they had a little gift shop and concessions (they will even pop microwave popcorn for you!). The show was well done and the performers were young monks who did all kinds of stunts and mixed martial arts with dancing. It was interesting to see this part of the culture and they did a great job!
The Red Theater

The young monk who was part of the story of the show!

Tiananmen Square- We were looking forward to seeing the Tiananmen square after seeing it so many times in the history books in school! It was amazing to stand there in the middle of it! We took many photos of the parliament buildings and the giant photo of Mao hanging on the red wall. There were some military men standing guard and of course many groups of tourists around.

Chinese Parliament building! 

The Forbidden City- We didn’t know much about the Forbidden city, but we really had no idea just how HUGE it was! There were 5 large "gates” before entering the Forbidden city. So just when you thought you were inside….you’d see another gate ahead! It took a little extra time to make it through the city as we stopped a lot for photos and lots of information from our tour guide. We were a little overloaded with information as there’s so much to learn about this amazing place, but it was a great experience to be there!

We made it inside! 

The Beijing Zoo- I (Val) was very much looking forward to this part of the tour as I love animals. The main attraction at this zoo was the Giant Pandas. This was really the only reason we were going and we couldn’t wait. The zoo (as most of the attractions we had been going to) was pretty empty. It was nice because we got a front row view of the pandas! The pandas were adorable and very fat! They mostly were sitting and eating (they eat about 20-40 pounds of Bamboo a day!) or sleeping. We learned that Pandas like solitude and can’t really live together as they can be aggressive with each other. So each of the pandas we saw were in their own habitat. It was so cool to see this beautiful animals! After the pandas we stopped by to look at the Brown Bears before leaving (it was a quick zoo trip!). There was momma bear and 5 baby bears! The baby bears were so cute and very active. They all were playing and wrestling with each other! We were very entertained by that!

Beijing Duck Dinner- For dinner that night we decided to have a special Beijing Duck dinner downtown! We were able to do some shopping downtown before dinner though, which was interesting as we got to barter for the first time in a long time. 

Our tour guide recommended a place called DaDong. It was a very nice restaurant! They cooked the ducks in a open fire place with applewood. The ducks are inspected by a team before they are taken to your table and carved by a chef in front of you! The duck was very delicious! The skin was crispy and the meat was tender and juicy! It was served with a variety of condiments and we also ordered some fried rice and a caesar salad to enjoy with it (I know caesar salad….not very Chinese, but it was good!). We even got a bottle of champagne to cheers! It was a wonderful dinner!

The menu was a giant book! 

Food Carts-After dinner we took a walk through downtown near the food carts on the way to the taxi. This was a very interesting experience. The food carts had a variety of fresh fruit, noodles, and of course, seafood and bugs! The most unusual was the tarantula and snakes! There was also octopus on a stick, grasshoppers, and scorpions! Needless to say we didn’t have any extra snacks that night! ;)

Tarantula anyone?

Summer Palace-The last day of our tour we started off by visiting the Summer Palace (quite literally, the palace the Emperor would live in during the summer!). It was so beautiful as there was a man made lake on the property that was actually frozen! People were even ice sledding on it! The palace was beautiful and we walked along the lake under a covered path taking in the pretty sites! It was very cold and windy that morning but the sun was out and we were thankful for that!

This boat is made of marble!
It was built because the king said "Build me a ship that won't sink!"  It may not sink, but I don't think it's sailing away anytime soon! ;)

Can you find us? ;) 

Gorgeous, but very cold day! 

Pearl Factory- That day we went to the pearl factory, which was not as informative as the Jade Factory, but still good! Pearls are one of my favorite kinds of jewelry so that was a very fun to explore! There were so many different cases of pearl jewelry to look at! My sweet Tyler was so kind and even bought me a beautiful pearl necklace to match my pearl earrings I have! My friend Alina was right’s a dangerous place to go with so many pearls available for purchase! ;)

Lots of pearls!

Dumplings-For our last lunch in  Beijing, we went to Din Tai Fung, a famous dumpling restaurant. Tyler’s family has been there before in the US and they love it, so we decided to try it out in China! We ordered lots of dumplings and they all were delicious! Our guide Leif even ate with us! We can’t wait to go back to that restaurant again!

Happy dumpling! 

After lunch it was time to head back to the airport and said goodbye to our amazing tour guide, Leif! It was such a fun 72 hours in Beijing and we really loved seeing everything we could in such a short time! The tour we booked was wonderful and everything went smoothly (which we were really grateful for!). We definitely recommend traveling to Beijing! You won’t be disappointed! :D