A Travellerspoint blog

A Great Day!!

semi-overcast 25 °F

Our second tour guide, Suzi Qi, we met at the forbidden city and really liked so we asked her to take us to other locations today and show us around the city. We met in the hotel lobby at 9, grabbed a quick bite at Mc D’s ( we haven’t eaten there since New Zealand, so no fast food comments), and struggled for 10 minutes to get syrup, please see Rileys blog entry. After that we were off to the Beijing zoo to see the Pandas, super cute and something the Chinese are very proud of. Then to the Summer palace, gorgeous views and amazing architecture and history (the Dragon Lady, ruler by proxy from late 1800’s to early 1900’s was one mean lady). Then off to the Olympic village (really cool to see in person). A quick stop at the largest tea house in Beijing, Dr. Tea’s. And finally to the old Beijing area for a rickshaw ride and tour of a locals home.
We went into a traditional Chinese home, 4 walls of rooms surrounding the central garden or courtyard. It was great to see “real people” in their natural environment, the first since we left Bali. The owner of the house, an attractive 60ish woman spoke no English and was fascinated by the girls, she smiled and stared the entire time. She kept telling the translator to tell them how pretty they were, she rubbed Rileys hair and at the end tapped her on the butt. Riley was a little shocked, but we found out later that is not uncommon for an adult woman that things a younger child is “cute” to show affection. Morgan has also had her share of stares and our guide thinks she looks like Britney Spears (all I need to hear from across the pond).
It has been interesting to see the reaction many of the locals have had towards the girls, they are not afraid to stare and check you out from head to toe. We have caught many a passer by’s trying to secretly take a photo of the girls and have had at least 10 people ask to take their photos with the girls (I take pictures of them, taking pictures of the girls, its comically really). It has to make the girls feel special, it’s not because of their beauty, but because of their uniqueness, that is so compelling here. It is always good to feel like you have some individuality and something that makes you different, they have certainly seen that here. I seem to just get looks of fear, and I am fairly certainly they see me as someone they think might try to eat them. My size, height and frame (oh yeah, and my weight), is not the average here at all!!
I think in a land of 1.3 billion people, individuality and feeling unique is probably one of the hardest emotions to fulfill. It is a populated place and standing out would be a challenge.
Maybe that is what made it such a great day, the reality of our uniqueness as individuals, and the ability to express that difference so freely where we live. It was a great day!

Ryan

Posted by ryanober1 08:18 Archived in China Tagged ryan Comments (0)

A Great Wall!!

sunny 35 °F

We have had 2 fantastic tour guides, one from the hotel recommendation, and one from us meeting her at the Forbidden city when we were walking around aimlessly and needed a little help. They both spoke English very well, helped us with understanding some of the cultural differences, were very informative, and both were excellent sources of information, I would recommend both to anyone planning on coming to Beijing. William worked for a tour company and took us to The great Wall in the Mutianyu area, we drove for about 45 minutes to get there, but it was recommended as the less busy and most beautiful area of the wall, so we chose that over the closer to Beijing section. It was the right choice!! As we climbed up and out of the city quickly and as we rounded a corner you could see the wall on top of the mountain ridge and follow it as far as you could see. It was a spectacular sight, more breathtaking than I had imagined, and more massive in scope than I had envisioned. You park about ½ mile below the wall and take either a cable car or ski lift up. We paid the admission fee and took the ski lift to the base of the wall. From there we walked along the wall for a mile in each direction, it was tougher than I thought it would be, uneven cobblestones, very small stairs (especially for my size 13 feet), very steep incline and declines and there was still patches of snow every so often. It was a good, hard walk that made you appreciate what the soldiers must have experienced.
Interesting facts we learned, the great wall was worked on for over 2000 years, it runs over 4000 miles, from the pacific to the Gobi desert, it was worked on by every dynasty but 2 (one from Manchuria and the other when Ghangis Khan ruled China), over 1 million people worked on it at a time, and when they died their bodies were simply thrown into the wall and the rest of the workers kept going, many bodies are inside the wall, The wall is deteriorated in many areas, where tourists go have all been restored, it looks different in different areas (depending on the architect and dynasty at the time that section was built), it was built to keep the Mongolians out!
Surprisingly to get down from the wall you have 2 options, ski lift or sledding in a metal chute (like an Alpine slide). Of course we took the sleds and hurled down the mountain as fast as we could go, it was a blast, but felt strange to be on an amusement type ride after seeing one of the 7 man made wonders of the world.
It truly was a “Great wall”!

-Ryan

Posted by ryanober1 08:12 Archived in China Tagged ryan Comments (0)

China so far....

overcast 30 °F

China has been great! It has been the first country that not everyone knows/ speaks English, also we stand out a lot! With Morgan and I having light hair and my Dad being 6 foot, 3’. A lot of times people will stop and want to get a picture with Morgan and I. People here don’t have a problem staring at us. Sometimes you will find people dead lock staring at our family~ a little creepy. Today was amazing!! We had a really action packed, busy day. We woke up early and got picked up by our guide Suzi, we went to breakfast at McDonalds (they are nice places to eat here in China & they also have a delivery service), she helped us order and then she left outside. We had pancakes and wanted syrup, after 4 tries going back to the counter we finally got it ☺. I came back with cream, my mom came back with a knife, and my dad came back with ketchup. Finally we brought up the pancakes and said honey and they gave us syrup! We went to the Beijing Zoo to see pandas- they were so amazing! One of them had a play ground in his habitat and climbed up the slide then down the ladder ☺. After the zoo we went to Summer Palace. It was huge, and beautiful, surrounded by mountains and a lake. It was made for an emperor’s mom for her 60th birthday by her son in 1750. It took 10 years to make! It has the longest corridor walk in the world, it goes from one end to the other. The son made it for his mom so she would not get sunburned. Summer Palace is 3 times the size of the Forbidden City. After Summer Palace we went to the Olympic stadium~ the Birds Nest and the Water Cube. They both had unbelievable architecture! We saw the Olympic flame holder; it was neat to see in person what we saw on T.V. 3 years ago. We found out that a lot of changes have been made in Beijing because of the Olympics. A lot of the roads were redone, and a whole new Subway line was added. Then our guide took us to a tea tasting place called Dr. Tea. We tasted 4 teas, Jasmine, Oolong, Lichi and Puer Tea. A few years ago we did something similar in China town, it is neat to have done it in real China. After tea tasting we went on a rickshaw tour. We got to tour a family’s home; it was really neat to see a traditional Chinese house. Now we are back in our hotel about to go relax at the pool.

~Riley

Posted by ryanober1 08:09 Archived in China Tagged riley Comments (0)

Beautiful Bali!

sunny

Beautiful Bali! A place that allows you to breathe, to exist....
I was swept away by the beauty of Bali and by the kindness of the Balinese people. I was intrigued of the rituals and belief system of the Hindu religion. I have heard from so many people that Bali is a spiritual island. Now I can attest to its allure! We stayed in a remote village outside of Ubud, in our own private paradise, Hanging Gardens Hotel, for 5 days. As we explored Ubud, my senses were heightened. My eyes were open wide, taking in the magnificent scenery. I noticed the temples, so many temples, each one unique in design yet masterfully created to be symbolic and meaningful to the Hindu villagers. I was drawn to details as we drove along the bumpy narrow roads. I noticed the black and white checkered fabric skirted around the stone statues at the entrance of the temples, and the vibrant pink, purple and yellow colored umbrellas protecting the gates to the temples. I could smell the incense burning from the stone alters within the temples. The streets were lined with women balancing ornate floral offerings on their heads as they walked along the roads to pay homage to their God. You can’t help but to tap into something greater than your self as you visit the villages in Ubud. Time and time again, I was reminded that believing in karma helps create and maintain a peaceful way of life! Wayan, our driver that we befriended during our stay in Ubud, made a subtle comment one day regarding the reason why visitors are drawn to Bali. “It’s because we believe in karma, we live our lives in peace, we love our family, our community and our God. This is why people like to visit Bali!, it’s a peaceful island” So true indeed! On our 2nd day, Wayan invited us to his home to meet his extended family. Wayan shares his home with 20 members of his family. When we entered the outside courtyard of his home, we were greeted by his mother, his uncle, his wife and his 4 children and some of his nieces and nephews, and a few friendly chickens. It is amazing what a smile can convey, strangers become instant friends as we toured their family home and temple. It was such an honor to be guests of Wayan in his home. Even though we could not communicate with words, we shared the same space, the same moments…..we connected. This makes me happy, this is what our trip is really about….
The people of Ubud do not have many possessions and live quite humbly. Yet they seem so happy, so proud of their culture and their land. I experienced many ah-hah moments in Bali almost as if a mirror were placed in front of me urging me to look within. These moments of reflection were of course squeezed in between our treks, our meals, and the constant banter of two 12 year girls! I have to give credit to Morgan and Riley once again. We are in week three of this adventure and they are taking each day as it comes, up for the adventure! And what an incredible adventure thus far.
I was sad to say goodbye to Bali, but eager to pay a visit to the sleeping dragon…..Beijing, China is our next destination!
julie

Posted by ryanober1 06:55 Archived in Indonesia Tagged julie Comments (0)

Cooking Class

sunny 90 °F

A few days ago we went to a cooking class offered through our hotel. It was an outstanding experience! We walked through rice and cornfields to get to the cooking class. The kitchen is all outside, in a small garden. When we got there all the food was out and the traditional Balinese wood-burning stove was fired up. We told our guide in America that we have 4-6 gas burners on our stove at home and he looked at us asked why, that seems excessive. It was a reminder that less is more! We sat down and drank coconut water straight out of the coconut. Then we started cooking with the chef. We made a soup for the appetizer, fish satay for the main course, and a banana caramel soup for dessert. They were all amazing!!!! We hope to cook these dishes in USA. And we learned a lot about true Balinese cooking. Our chef told us that they eat the same type of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which includes rice, satay chicken, pork or fish and fresh vegetables.
We all agreed that cooking on an outdoor woodburning stove is pretty cool!
~Riley

If you want the recipes for the soup, marlin satay or banana caramel soup, pls email us!
Posts of China coming soon

Posted by ryanober1 01:54 Archived in Indonesia Tagged riley Comments (0)

Ketut Liyer

Medicine man in Eat, Pray, Love

sunny 85 °F

Ketut Liyer is the real medicine man in Eat, Pray, Love. When we walked through the gates of his house, it was like we were in the movie...We sat where Julia Roberts sat in the movie! It was very impressive, although I didn't want to get my palm read. I knew he was going to tell me I am going to get a divorce or something to that extent. To Riley he says your pretty, your lucky, your happy, your smart...to me??? He focused more on my love life! I mean he said I was pretty and smart.... but those were the only things I wanted to hear everything else, I could have lived without knowing. He told me to choose who I marry wisely, or I might end up having a divorce. From that point on I was listening intently. The next thing he tells me is he sees me becoming a doctor (which is good, because thats what I want to be). At this point I'm smiling, and...here comes the punchline" but I see you pregnant! " So, I have to be careful to not get pregnant in medical school. Now, I am confused... did he really say that or am I imaging it. When I see Riley, my dad, and my mom laughing, I'm like ok, i guess he just said that. He said boys will like me but to make my studies my priorty. He told my dad to come up, following my mom. They both got the same as Riley...lucky, pretty, happy, smart, etc. He told my mom that she would be lost without my dad, and he told my dad that he would be broken, but would eventually move on. The word he used most with Riley was lucky, the word he used most with my mom was diligent, the word he used most with my dad was influential, and the most he used with me was be careful. I knew I should't have gone in there, but I did.... and this is was what I learned. On a good note, he did say our family had good energy and we woke him up :)

~morgan~

Posted by ryanober1 19:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged morgan Comments (2)

The Island of the Gods

semi-overcast 85 °F

The Island of the Gods!

Why would Bali, Indonesia be called this? All I knew about Bali before we got here is that it is the only Hindu island in a Muslim country. 94% of the residents on this island of 4 million practice Hinduism, a polytheistic belief system that seems to pray, make offerings, build temples, dance and play music for their higher powers at all times. Unlike the Muslim faith, there are many gods or deities that need to be honored and it appears that everyone here is in someway living around their faith and practices. There are many gods- maybe that is where the name for the island comes from?

I believe this is one of the most absolutely beautiful places in the world. It is green, it is unique, and it is beautiful. Everywhere you look is a new view full of wonder and beauty. There is poverty and dirty areas, and yet because of the overall energy and beauty you don’t seem to notice anything but the nice things. It is a place you feel special, whether because we are different, because we are so fortunate, because we are entranced with the beauty, or because it is such sacred and holy land to the people that live here. When you’re here you feel like a king- maybe that is where the name for the island comes from?

It is hard for me to describe how I have felt while here… It has all been positive and spiritual for me. Since we have landed it has been one wonderful minute after another, the cab ride was crazy (like I like it), the hotel is amazing (really how I like it), the people are happy and friendly, the environment is beautiful, the temples are spiritual, the place is wonderful. I would recommend Bali as a destination that everyone should experience in life.

It has been pleasant and nice everywhere we have gone. The people have been warm and affectionate. The prices for everything are very cheap. Great food, a little spicy, but great flavor. The scenery is beautiful. The architecture is incredible. The spiritualism is tangible.

There is a very unique dichotomy to this country- it strikes me as an island of opposites—
• Controlled yet Chaotic
• Beautiful yet Natural
• Happy people but very little possessions
• Poor but satisfied
• Artistic yet simple
• Simple yet elegant

I really enjoy it here, I feel content, spiritual, relaxed, happy, and pensive. I guess maybe that’s why its called the Island of the Gods??

Ryan

Posted by ryanober1 06:22 Archived in Indonesia Tagged ryan Comments (0)

Planet of the Apes

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special." Stephen Hawking

sunny 87 °F

When we arrived we went through the normal customs and immigration procedure with great ease, about 10 minutes from landing to being through to get luggage, the fastest yet. We went to the money exchange window (about 10 windows all with the same rates, yelling for your business, a theme that would be consistant in most urban areas in Bali). We exchanged $500 hundred dollars for the standard rate of 8600 Rufias, so once we landed we began instant millionaires, the girls thought that was pretty cool, we let them each hold $1,000,000 Rufias, leaving just over $2.3 million for Julie and I. When we left the airport the girls seemed somewhat shocked at the poverty, the chaos and the intensity of so many people on scooters, weaving in and out, with seemingly reckless abandon to all sense of self preservation, but they pulled it together after we got through the big city and started to see the Hindu temples and smiling people everywhere. Our cab driver took us to the “Monkey Forest” on the way to the hotel and we walked among thousands of monkeys. Unlike anything I have ever seen or done before.
When we first walked through the gates, Julie was holding the bananas and was immediately surrounded by about 10 monkeys, after the “Ram attack” Riley had experienced in New Zealand, we all learned when animals surround “stop, drop and run.” It was funny to see how they handled this differently than the Merino sheep incident. I felt right at home, I think the monkeys thought I was their giant Gorilla leader, they seemed more respectful (or maybe fearful) of me. We met a really nice monkey forest protector, a cross between a religious person and an animal trainer, he told me as long as I am calm, and don’t panic they will actually climb on my shoulder and hang out with me… Of course that was my invitation to allow chaos to begin, release the monkeys…. I sat on a small wall and held a banana above my head, one old looking one slowly walked up, reached and grabbed the banana, and sat with his arm on my leg and slowly ate his treat. We connected, it was a really cool moment. Then one of his buddies came up, a little faster, I lifted above my head and up my arm he went and sat on my shoulder, then his even faster buddy arrived and went on my other shoulder, I rewarded him with my last banana. That’s when it got interesting, people were all taking picture and laughing, all was good in the animal universe, until their fastest friend yet, number 4 (with no treats left), decided to jump on me from behind and try to climb onto my head. Clearly he wanted to outdo his monkey friends and went for the whole enchilada, an unexpected jump to the head of their human jungle gym. I had enough and jumped up while monkeys went every which way, but at least I was free from “the planet of the apes episode gone awry”.
I survived the money incident, relatively unscathed, just my super gorilla ego was a little hurt, it would set the perfect tone for the rest of our time in Bali.
-Ryan

Posted by ryanober1 06:13 Archived in Indonesia Tagged ryan Comments (0)

Comments

semi-overcast 90 °F

Hi all,
As some of you have noticed you have not been able to comment, we changed the settings so you now can.
If you click on the post then there is a comment button.
Bali posts coming soon
~The O's

Posted by ryanober1 03:34 Archived in Indonesia Comments (4)

Singapore

sunny 79 °F

We are only here in Singapore for today. We have learned alot in the 24 hours we have been here for. We are staying at the Crowne Plaza at the airport. It is absolutley a beautiful hotel, fun, modern, and has an amazing pool. We woke up bright an early and went down to the lounge to skype email and have breakfast. We asked the concierge what he recomended to do in Singapore. He told us to take a cab and take a river boat ride and the touristy sort of things. We took a cab to down town, our driver, Lim, was very nice and told us everything about Singapore we could possibly imagine. We learned that Singapore is a city as well as a country. The government does not allow any drugs at all, if you are caught you are atomatically hung and killed. He also told us that it is a very strict country, for instince if you spit in the streets, you are canned in public. Also there are no homeless people, the governtment makes sure that every one has a job and roof over their heads. 80% of the people in Singapore live in Public Houseing, 15% in apartments and only 5% in owned houses. There are 4 religions Muslim, Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism. There are 4 main languages, English, Indian, Malays and Mandrin. Out of the population there is 70% Chinese, 20% Indian 10% other. We stopped along the drive at a water park that has cables that pull you to ski instead of a boat. Then we saw the bay that has thousands of shipping boats. Singapore is the second busiest port in the world, after Shangai. Then we took a water cruise down the river, walked down to restaurants where everyone shoved menus in your face to get you to eat, we ate a Thai place. Then we went to a mall to find clothes (Yes we have already needed more :) ). After a long day of tourism we came took the train back to our hotel. We are back in the lounge heading out to swim and get a nights rest for our 7 o'clock flight in the morning to Bali.

~Riley

Posted by ryanober1 01:05 Archived in Singapore Tagged riley Comments (1)

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