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Jan. 23rd, 2017

Hawaii Day 5

Finished the last day of our Hawaiian tour with Maui. Not much to say about this island...we preety much just hit a series of beaches, and they weren't even all that different from one another. I'm guessing this was the island you come to to have fun, not to spectate.

There were two highlights today though. One was lunch, surprisingly. We finally were introduced to a chinese place, and we ordered an steamed local fish. It was a flounder like thing whose name escapes me, but was tasty (and expensive, but oh well).

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Jan. 22nd, 2017

Hawaii Day 4

Got up at 5 in the morning to catch the early flight to Hilo (the biggest of the Hawaiian Islands). Looks like today was sunny in Honolulu...but foggy and sprinkly in Hilo. Boo.

After we got to Hilo, our first stop was a beach named...Richardson? I didn't catch it, but it was a black sand beach. We got to take a few pics of the waves breaking over the volcanic ricks before we were told the beach was closing due to advisory warnings. Hm.

Next was a small waterfall called Rainbow Falls, which I'm sure is normally pretty, were the sun out to actually form a rainbow. Yeah, with the day's foggy weather, it was just a small yellowish waterfall.

Lunch was meh, though the gardens next to the restaurant was nice (even if they added a charge for it to the meal fee). The rain kinda put a kibosh at looking at the place closer than from the covered walkways though.

Afternoon, we went over to the Mauna Loa caldera, I guess it's called. Couldn't see much given the rain (or just the wind blowing the clouds into our faces), but we managed to make our the caldera mouth and at least one active lava plume. It was way too far/vague to photograph though.

We also visited a lava tube, which was neat eccept for the wet puddles and the rain on the was to the entrance. Sigh.

New hotel for the night, then tomorrow we hit Maui before heading back to Honolulu.

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Jan. 20th, 2017

Hawaii Day 2

Got up before dawn to visit Pearl Harbor right as it opened. Apparently lines are horrible there afterwards. Had a single sandwich for breakfast from the gift shop there. (Ugh, our itinerary for most of the days in Hawaii involves setting out before breakfast hours; no wonder our hotel reservations didn't include breakfast even though the hotel has that service.)

Anyway. Pearl Harbor. Saw the wreck/memorial of the U.S.S. Arizona. Watched a movie about the attack. There were also a coupleof small museums that were information's but not very photogenic.

Lunch was a udon place near our hotel, chosen because it was one of the few places open before 11. The place was still quite popular even as we were leaving closer to lunch hours though. I did like its a la cart tempura selection.

In the afternoon, visited the Polynesian Cultural Center. Pretty plave with pretty people and a LOT of dancing and singing (hollering). I liked the fire dances most of all. Those (badum-tish)

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Jan. 19th, 2017

Aloha Day 1

Flew to Honolulu this morning, and arrived to a warm summer temperature. I can see why Hawaii is such a nice tourist place. You get perrenial summers and none of the scary bugs from Australia.

Anyway, took a cruise on the Star of Honolulu in the evening. The view was pretty good, and there was even a whale sighting! Alas, it was too quick and shy to captute on camera. Also, there were some nice dances for entertainment.

The food...ugh, in hindsight we should've bought the deluxe ticket instead of basic. Apparently for just $10 more, you get lobster. Sigh. The tour pamphlet said it was just crab legs. Those were not crab legs I saw at the other tables. Actually, it turns out there were three tiers and only the five star one has lobster. But our tour service only offers the 3 & 4 star tiers, so we weren't missing out on anything after all. Ah well.

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Jan. 2nd, 2015

Home Sweet Home

Didn't actually get any sleep the last night in Auckland. Basically just tossed and turned for like 4 hours. We flew first to Sydney and then waited for another 4 hours for our connecting flight to LAX. Not sure why they can't just have us fly directly from NZ to the US but I'm guessing it is probably due to group rates. I didn't get any sleep on that flight, but did manage to catch maybe an hour's nap during the wait.

The international flight from Sydney to LAX was supposed to be about 12+ hours in duration. I watched two in flight movies (Qantas international has a pretty big list to pick from) - Guardians of the Galaxy and Inglorious Basterds. Then I think I must have slept about 5+ hours, which is pretty good, even if I missed the 'midnight' ice cream snack they served.

As an aside for the movies, they were kinda meh to be honest. GotG didn't really grab me, and I thought the male lead way too cliche. Inglorious Basterds reminds of a revenge fanfic; I didn't get what's so great about it that has so many authors on AO3 lauding it.

Anyway, the connecting flight from LAX to SFO was much tighter in schedule. We were lucky that the checkout was quick (they didn't even collect my customs declaration form, which is kinda a WTF after the interrogation in NZ), and the check-in wasn't too bad. We managed to get through everything in like 1.5 hours and just 15-20 mins before the boarding.

The flight to SFO was uneventful, as was the BART ride afterwards. One the "same day" that we left NZ, as a matter of fact, due to crossing the international date line. (Hm...looking over the timestamps of previous entries, it seems that IJ used the US Pacific Time for all of them even though I posted them from AU/NZ. Ah well, don't think it would be worth the bother to manually change them all.)

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Jan. 1st, 2015

Down Under Day 11

Happy New Year to all! (It ought to be the first in the US at this point).

Before we left Rotorua proper, we stopped at the Wylie (?) Gardens for some quick pictures. Then, it was a 3 hour drive to Auckland.

We stopped at the outskirts of the city to get lunch at a mall food court. Got some sushi with fresh locally produced trout. Mmmh.

After that we went worked off our lunch with a short hike at the peak of Mt. Eden. It's not exactly a famous mountain (ex-volcano) but it does give a nice view of the city.

After that there were a few more short stops at a local beach, a ferry station, and the local bridge. These three spots weren't really worth getting off at really. The beach was more of a have fun place than scenic spot. The ferry station didn't have any really unique architecture. And the bridge honestly photographed better from the mountain than close up.

Finally we got to the hotel, which was the Skycity casino, a tower like building that's probably the highest building in the city by a lot. They have free wifi here, but it takes like a dozen tries to connect. Dinner was the buffet in the atrium. Then afterwards we went up to the observation decks to take pictures of the surrounding city. On the way down, we spent most of the remaining NZ dollars we had in the gift shop to finish off our checklists.

Tomorrow our wake up call is at 4 am in order to catch the international flight to Australia (then LA, then SFO). Kia ora New Zealand!

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Dec. 31st, 2014

Down Under Day 10

Today's schedule started off with a trip to a local (mega)farm called the Agridome. We saw a farm show showcasing a bunch of different sheep breeds they have there, as well as a demo of sheep shearing, lamb feeding, and sheep dog herding. It was adorable. And smelly. Then we took a farm tour in a tractor through the various areas of the farm. Got to pet some sheep and alpacas, and see some deer, bunch of different cows, and some ostriches (emu?). Also got a lot of crap (literally!) on our shoes and had to clean then off at a special wash stand. Yuck.

Lunch was eaten at McDonald's because we were pushed for time. Though, their beef patties are unique in that they use local beef sources, and certainly tasted different from US ones.

Next we stopped at a place for bungee jumps cuz a few folks in our group signed up for it, and the rest just wanted to take pictures (and live vicariously through them crazy kids). Have I ever mentioned I'm not too fond of heights?

After that we made a stop at the Huka Falls. Though, I would call it more like a steep rapids than "real" waterfall. Very pretty though. And definitely the short of place I can imagine a gaggle of dwarves in empty wine barrels to sweep through to get away from the scary elfking. Not that I think that scene from the Hobbit was filmed there. But it does suit the scene.

Last main stop was at the Te Puia, the indigenous Maori village place. We got to tour the grounds, see a demo of there woodwork and weaving crafts (the leaf weaving was awesome), some dance performances (with a lot of half naked buff guys...mmm...'dem abs), and a buffet dinner. The food was cooked in their traditional style, which was buried in the ground and then heated on top. It gave the food a smoky quality and was quite tasty. I was stuffed. Finally, we took a short walk to see the local geyser, and got sprinkled with sulfiric water for our trouble.

Ah well, we managed to make it back to the hotel before the weather started sprinkling. We've consistently had pretty good weather this trip, which is kinda nice.

Also, later tonight our guide held (is holding) a New Years party just with some group contributed snacks and guide contributed alcohol. A lot of silly group games til midnight when the year turns. I stuck out early to use the lobby wifi to post this latest entry, cuz I don't want to pay for another full day when tomorrow is our last actual tour day and we'll be heading back to Auckland.

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Dec. 30th, 2014

Down Under Day 9

This morning we left Queenstown for Auckland airport. I noticed that 2 out of 2 NZ airports have the same process of (dis)embarkation. Basically you have to cross the tarmac and go up and down a ladder to the plane. The good thing is that there are two ladders at the front and tail of the plane, so if you're seated in the back you don't have to squeeze through everyone in front of you to get on and off the plane, making the process more than twice as fast as normal flights in most other countries. The con is of course you're SOL if its raining.

After we left the airport the bus drove for about 2 hours to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Very pretty ceiling. Quiet boat ride under a very pretty glittery ceiling. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed there so we could only take pics of the cave exit.

Then 2 more hours drive to the town of Rotorua. Dinner was at a chinese restaurant that specializes in venison. Food was pretty good. Or maybe its just the fact we didn't have time for lunch today.

Our hotel in town is the Millennium again, the same hotel chain as before, and same wifi policy. I actually also spotted a Rydges hotel in town as well and the town brochure mentions they have the same unlimited wifi policy as our hotel in Sydney. Hrm.

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Dec. 28th, 2014

Down Under Day 8

Today could more accurately be called the day of food.

This morning we have a free period to do whatever on our own. We chose to do a hour long Segway tour of the area. My first time on one of these things. It turns out to be not that different from riding a bike, except the balance is front to back instead of side to sides. In the same group with us where two kids and their parents. The dad was taking pictures with one hand as he went along. This turned out to be a bad idea, as on the pebbly trail just before the star/finish lot, he ran over some rock and wasn't able to keep his balance. Apparently the dive he took caused him scrape his leg along some sharp rock fragments, resulting in a painful and scary looking wound (going by the hysterics the rest of the family went into; I didn't see it myself). A reminder kids - somethings you just don't do with one hand unless you're pro.

Around lunch time we met with the rest of our tour group and rode the gondola up the nearby mountain (whose name I forgot). We had a few moments to snap pictures of the scenic view up high while waiting for everyone to arrive.

Lunch was a buffet at the restaurant there at the top. The food was good and the view was great. Of special note were the mussels (local specialty and very fresh), actual sushi (mmm...sashimi), and large variety of desserts (mmm...tiramisu).

Our gondola + lunch ticket also included one free ride of the Luge. That was pretty fun, though I would on the whole prefer things that used more leg muscle than arm. My upper body strength is puny. =P

Later that afternoon we went to visit the early chinese settlements from the gold rush days a century ago. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy that as much, since there really wasn't much to see there, plus the trees in the area were dropping these fuzz things that drove my allergies wild.

Eventually we headed back to town, and after a bit more wandering and waiting, we had our dinner at a korean BBQ place. Food was ok, the kimchi was nice if really spicy, etc.

To tomorrow we have another flight up to north NZ. It's not an early flight (and the airport is teeny) so there's that.

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Dec. 27th, 2014

Down Under Day 7

Today's outing centered around a cruise at Milford Sound.

First, we got up early for a four hour drive ove to Te Anau (sp?) lake. There were a few pit stops at a few scenic spots such as Mirror Lake and so forth. But I admit I actually slept through most of the drive up. I am told the scenery on the way was pretty good, and we passed by a few sheep herds.

The cruise itself, despite having an English name, was distinctly Asian. The lunch buffet was Asain food, the second announcer/commentator was in chinese, and like 90%+ of the people on board were Asian. I guess that tells you a lot about the demographics of tourism here.

The view, of course, was gorgeous. We also passed by afew spots where seals were resting on the shore. The cruise was about an hour long and covered a round trip from the harbor to the place where the lake meets the sea.

The drive back was our tour guide telling jokes and riddles, and trying to get our tour members to each sing something. Ugh. I was hiding low in my seat. Fingers crossed for future long drives.

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Dec. 26th, 2014

Down Under Day 6

Continued from previous entry... So, the flight from Australia to New Zealand was not quite uneventful.

One family apparently joined our tour group using a third party tour company from China. Everyone else are from the USA using the actual tour company (Ritz Tours). The problem is whoever hooked that guy up only got him a visa for Australia. Now, apparently if you have a US passport, you don't actually need a separate visa for NZ. But a chinese passport? SOL. The guy ( who was there with two twin daughters maybe 12 years old) had to stay behind in Melbourne. Not sure if he can get a last minute visa to join the rest of the tour eventually or figure out a way to go back to Sydney and stay there until the return flight at the end (which has a connecting stop there).

Another thing that took everyone by surprise was how stringent Customs was in NZ about bringing in anything resembling food products. One family got fined $400 for a container of commercial honey they bought in Australia. My mom got pulled aside because their k9 unit caught a sniff of some shreds of curry beef jerky in her backpack (the rest of it had been eaten in the flight and it was just some spilled remnants, thank god). There was also a camera guy there taking pictures of everyone being pulled aside. When asked he said that the film was going to go on TV. Ugh. Dick move.

Anyway...after the almighty struggles with Customs, we finally left the (very...small) airport into the city proper. Queenstown, though, is also a very small city, for all that it's an almost 100% tourist city. It is maybe ten blocks by six blocks in size, and at most a 30 min walk to cross the whole place. Then again, NZ itself is a sparsely populated country; I think the entire population might be smaller than some chinese cities.

The hotel is called the Millennium Hotel. Decent for a small town I guess. WIFI is only freeform the lobby for 30 mins out of every day, so I'm actually purchasing my internet use for an outrageous price. Bleh.

Dinner was just some random chinese restaurant in the town. Tomorrow is another full day.

EDIT: Forgot to add...we did get some time to wander the town after eating. We took a short stroll through along Lake Wakatipu and then through the local rose garden. The flowers were mostly in bloom, and they were beautiful.

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Down Under Day 5

Posting this from the airport on day 6...

So yesterday morning we were allowed to get up late for once. Left the hotel at a leisurely 10 am and hit up a couple more places in the city.

We visited St. Patrick's, the Fitzroy gardens which included Capt. Cook's cottage and a "fairy tree". Then the Shrine of Remembrance, another war memorial.

At lunch we ate at Chinatown, a dim sum place called Shark Fin Group (食为先). We were actually to try the taste of kangaroo though, since you can trust a cantonese diner to serve anything. So we had kangaroo meat cooked in the style of mongolian beef. It was pretty good. The appearance of the meat looked more similar to beef. The texture when chewed was kinda a midway between pork, chicken, and liver.

Afterwards we killed about an hour or so in a local Chinese museum (澳华历史博物馆) about the history of the chinese community in Australia. It was a really well made museum, with 5 floors that made the best of its limited area. It was also full of infostats and anecdotes. Wonder if there's anything like it in SF.

In the afternoon we drove a long way over to Phillip Island. First stop was at the seal rocks place called The Nobbies. Unfortunately, the weather was too chilly for the seals to come out so we didn't see much except seagulls and one lone wallaby.

Dinner was lobster, nicely done but not much else to say about it. There was wine served for once, and I think our tour guide was a little drunk. He certainly did a lot of loud singing on the bus afterwards, though at least his singing voice was ok.

Then we waited out the sunset at the beach for the penguin parade. A lot of chilly waiting for a bunch of blobs wobbling in the distance. No lights/flash allowed, no cameras period with or without flash...meh. We actually got a better look at the penguins on our way back to the parking lot, wobbling along the causeways just outside the fence. No photos even if they'd allowed it though. The lack of ambient light meant your average digital camera and cellphone just showed a fully black screen if you tried.

The drive back to the hotel was quiet. It was nearly midnight when we got back. Then this morning we all got woken up early to catch the flight to NZ. And here we are.

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Dec. 25th, 2014

Down Under Day 4

Merry Xmas from Australia. In the midst of summer, hah. Departed Sydney early this morning and took a short domestic flight to Melbourne.

Lunch was provided by the tour and was at a dim sum place. However, the dishes were predetermined rather than a la carte, so they weren't all that varied. Tasted pretty much like every other dim sum I've had. Meh.

We checked in early to our hotel, the Crown Metropol, which is attached to this huge casino complex, also called Crown. Gotta say, the place looks really high class both inside and out. However they're more stingy about their internet, which sucks. I'm pretty much relegated to using the free wifi in the lobby for this post.

After checking in, our tour guide took us on an 2 hour walk around the surrounding area, which is the city center. Man, this guy is a beast.

We saw the Yarra river, the town square, Hoiser Lane (aka Graffiti Alley), the town hall and government buildings, and ended up at the local Chinatown (aka the long street with all Chinese restaurants and pretty much nothing else).

I am further impressed by the city, which is prettier than Sydney. There are old style buildings from the colonial days interspersed with glass covered modern high rises, and yet the mix blends well instead of being schizophrenic. Also, the newer buildings all have their stylistic quirk, without giving the impression of trying way too hard to flaunt gaudily. I like it here.

Tomorrow we'll be finishing really late since we're going to see some penguins in their natural habitat. Since they're nocturnal, that means after sunset. So by the time we get back it'll be around midnight. Then the day after that we have an early flight to NZ. So probably the next journal update is going to be delayed.

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Dec. 24th, 2014

Down Under Day 3

Popped over to Canberra today, the actual capital of Australia. The drive was a long one though, nearly 4 hours one way.

Once there, we mainly stopped by to see the Cook Memorial/Fountain, Parliament, the War Memorial. Also made short stops at the embassies and the peak of Mt. Ainsle.

Nothing too exciting really, though the sizes of the US and Chinese embassies respectively says a lot about certain political egos.

Also a lot of Falun Gong signs and paid propagandists raining on everyone's day. Bleh. The actual weather held up beautifully.

Another thing I found really interesting was the drive. The fact that, if I didn't look closely at all the cars driving on the wrong side of the road, the drive would not have been much different from one on CA. Australia is really very similar to the US, which makes a lot of since given its history. It's a young first world country, and a melting pot of occidental and oriental demographics, just like Cali.

Hm, other difference. Every once in a while we would see a residential skyscraper on the outskirts of a city. I don't recall seeing many of those in the US. They are more common in China. But, the additional difference is the ones here all generally have aesthetically pleasing designs rather than the perfunctory brick shape. And there's generally no laundry and external AC outlets decorating them. =P

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Dec. 23rd, 2014

Down Under Day 2

This morning we went to the Featherdale Wildlife Park where we were introduced to Australia's native wildlife. The place is actually kinda a cross between a normal zoo and a petting zoo. I got to pet a koala, an emu, and some kangaroos. Koala fur is surprisingly coarse, like wool. Emu... feathers feel more like fur than feathers. Kangaroo felt like oversized rats. Things that weren't for petting: dingoes, crocodile, echidna. I did not find any platypus there, sadly.

Afterwards was a long drive to the Blue Mountains, so named due to the refraction of sunlight off eucalyptus leaf oil. Unfortunately, during our short stop in a villa for lunch it started to rain, so we couldn't get the full effect today.

At Blue Moutains we started off taking pictures from Echo Point at the Three Sisters cluster of rocky peaks. We then took a ride downhill in the scenic rail, kinda like the one in Lucerne. Difference is, the ride is very short, and the track much more steep. The track must have been like a 50 to 60 degree incline. After that we hiked for a bit (in a quick thunderstorm no less...though with more lightning and thunder than actual rain) until we got to a small waterfall. That parts was really underwhelming to be honest. We took a cable car back up. The operator in the car showed off by repeating his scenic spiel in a bunch of languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, French, and Japanese.

Dinner was at a buffet inside a huge casino called The Star. Mostly western cuisine with some eastern, but nothing really stood out for me except the dessert. They had some really fancy dessert items in shot glasses. And a chocolate fountain.

In the evening, the weather was clear once more, and our tour guide took us on a walk around our hotel. We passed by the St. Andrews chapel, the Town Hall, through the Queen Victoria Building (supposedly the first mall in AU but it was renovated in the 80s so the inside looked like any other fancy modern mall).

We went up the Sydney Tower (to the "Eye"). There was a 4D intro that was pretty cool. The actual observation deck was pretty meh though. The tower wasn't as high as the ones in HK or Shanghai; nor did the city below have any especially fancy lights to go wow about.

By the time we finished everything it was about 10 pm. Tomorrow is another early day. Le sigh.

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Dec. 22nd, 2014

Down under day 1

So I flew out of SFO on Sat evening and after a stop in LAX, arrived in Sydney at just before noon local time Monday.

No rest for the weary though, and we went dierctly from the 13 hour flight to the tour.

Stop one was some spot called Mrs Macquarie's Chair. Pretty sure I misspelled that but I can't be bothered to look up the exact name right now. From what I could tell the point of the place is just that it had a good view of the Sydney opera house.

Stop two was St. Mary's cathedral. Which honestly is not that different from any of the other cathedrals in Europe.

Stop three was the Opera House itself. Nice place. Definitely interesting architecture. It's too bad I've never been inside the new opera house in Beijing built for the Olympics for a comparison.

After that we stopped at some shopping district (The Rocks) so some folks can exchange their money.

Last item of the day was a cruise plus dinner in Darling Harbor. Not a very filling dinner since the day's schedule meant we only had a light brunch at the end of the plane flight and then nothing else til dinner. But the food was well cooked. Shrimp vermicelli appetizer. Fish and potatoes main course. Coffee cake dessert. Good views on the water.

Got into the hotel around 7 pm local time. Will need to get up early for a full day tomorrow. Hopefully the good weather from today will hold and there wont be any summer storms.

Oh yeah. It's summer here down under which is nice. Weather is kinda muggy but the constant winds from the ocean offset it. Kinda nice, really. Have not spotted any huge venomous bugs that Australia is known for (along with the world's most poisonous everything else). Here's hoping that will also last.

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Dec. 2nd, 2013

China 2013 Index

Hong Kong
Day 2
Day 3

Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 8 - 90th Bday
Day 9 - Nanjing Museum
Day 10
Day 15

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Nov. 30th, 2013

Day 15 Nanjing

The day started on a high(er) note. We had lunch out with my grandfather, uncle/aunt, older cousin, and the aunt staying with us. It was at a hotel my grandmother had a coupon for. The food wasn't all that great, as is normal for hotel restaurants, but it wasn't horrible. Just small portions I guess.

After food, my uncle/aunt left to deliver the portions we'd set aside for my grandmother (she isn't mobile enough to leave the house far). My mom and aunt went to a nearby bookstore to use up another coupon that they had for that place.

Outside the bookstore, there were some small seller stalls. One of them was for hats, and they had some really adorable animal ear hats. I picked up a grey fuzzy wolf ears hat. My mom and aunt also picked out a hats they liked, and we also got one for grandmother and one for my baby nephew.

In the bookstore, we picked up a novel that my uncle mentioned wanting at lunch. Then my mom and I went to the fourth floor to look at kiddie books for my nephew (he's very lucky with being the focus of the entire families on both parents' side). We mainly looked up educational and acitivity oriented children's books. I was reminded of the Where's Waldo and I Spy series books that I remember from grade school that might apply for him as well - if not now then in coming years. Unfortunately they don't carry any translations or equivalents of these books in Chinese bookstores, so I settled for writing down the names and passing it onto my uncle, to see if they can find/order anything online.

This evening, however, everyone gathered together for a 'family meeting'. My aunt has something of a person crisis going on in her life, and the meeting was to inform everyone and come up with ideas on what she should do. I won't go into much further on a public entry, but suffice it to say that it really is pretty depressing and I feel for her and for my absent younger cousin who was hit pretty hard by it as well.

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Nov. 25th, 2013

Day 10 Nanjing

Beaucracy has been catching up with anarchy growth these years, it appears. Now, you need ID to buy train tickets too.

So we trundled out this morning with our passports to buy early the train tickets for next Monday. The first ticket place we hit - empty counter and the store it shares space with tells us that sometimes the ticket person just won't bother to show up if there isn't likely to be much business. The second place we hit - empty counter with just a sign on the window saying there's computer issues and they're not open. So we took the metro to the station itself - where the counter person tells us they only take bookings up to four days in advance; any earlier and you need to book via internet or phone.

W. T. F.

The hell is this service?! -_-

So tired and fed up, we went back home for lunch (and a nap for my mom). Called the number on the cyclotron at the train station, and managed to book our tickets with the electronic answering machine. In the end it told us to make payment and pickup at any train ticket outlet (which brings us back to square one -_-).

My aunt made a call to my cousin (the younger one), and we asked her to do an online search for other ticket outlets in the region. Eventually, we came up with another location, called ahead to make sure there's someone there, and finally succeeded in picking up the tickets this afternoon.

I don't know if we were just extra-ordinarily unlucky this morning, or if that kind of shoddy service is common for public services, where counter people can just not bother to show up whenever. It certainly leaves much to be desired.

Also, the extra hassle of having to have ID for placing the ticket order and picking up the tickets is certainly new. The explanation for these new measures is that they are for anti-conterfiet and anti-scamming reasons. I can somewhat see the reason for it, and it probably isn't too much of a hassle to many locals. But to visitors like us who are paranoid about ID and who don't have easy access to the internet, it's a nightmare.

(I keep saying they should get internet installed at this place regardless if my grandparents use it or not - how much could they charge per month if not based on usage? - but no one listens to me. Feh.)

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Nov. 24th, 2013

Day 9 Nanjing

Went to the newly refurbished Nanjing museum today, along with my aunt and my (older) cousin who was off today. My mom stayed home since she wasn't interested in historical stuff, and also someone needs to stick around with the grandparents.

Although the museum does say they need ID to get a ticket, it didn't seem like they were all that strict about things. That is, I don't recall anyone checking the tickets we got through the day.

There were 7 major areas of the museum, many containing multiple galleries within themselves. We went first to the Ancient History building, which holds artifacts spanning neolithic to Qing. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died out around the Tang section. On the bright side, I seem to remember that most of the stuff from this building seems to have been much the same as the time I visited the museum in 2011 (though my memory might be wrong).

After we finished that first building, it was already 12:30ish. So we took a break for lunch. It was raining lightly, so we didn't go far, just to a...something about Blue Gulf Cafe? Anyway, it was a fairly simple lunch, and I also picked up new batteries (which was also dying out later in the day before we even finished viewing all the exhibits, so pfft, Chinese quality).

In the afternoon, we hit the Fine Arts area next. The galleries in this area seems to be actual historical pieces interspersed with galleries of contemporary artists. (In retrospect, I should've really saved my camera on the the contemporary galleries. Meh.) For the historical galleries, there was an Ancient Arts, Ancient Calligraphy, Ancient Sculpture, etc.

After the arts area, we went looking for a restroom and found ourselves in the Special Exhibitions building. Supposedly its galleries holds many current/temporary shows, many which are joint projects with other museums/places. There was a floor dedicated to gold workings throughout Chinese history. Another floor was mostly Qing court artifacts. All of them were very pretty of course.

A lot of the other areas/galleries we only took a brief glance through as the day drew to a close. There was a Digital Gallery, which was a lot of digital educational stuff - movies, moving wall murals, etc. - great for kids, I suppose. There was also a Nationalist Era gallery, which was basically a small scale demo of a small block or two in early 20th century style. They also had a few actual concession shop business being sold there, though, which was a bit jarring if you looked too close. Another was something called the Intagibles Gallery - which consisted of live demos of cultural crafts/arts (as well as a brisk business of selling said products) and some videos/pictures/etc. of other cultural stuff (dance, medicine, food, etc.) Not really something all that museum worthy IMO. They're reaching a bit there.

It was pretty dark by the time we go back home, although at least it had already stopped raining by the time we'd left the museum. My mom had bought local river crabs for dinner, and they were delicious. We are apparently in precisely the right season for crabs, as both the male and female ones were positively stuffed. Still a bit of a pain to eat though. :p

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Nov. 23rd, 2013

Day 8 Nanjing

Nothing much happened yesterday. Today is the big reunion day and 90th bday party for my grandmother. This morning, my uncle, his wife, and my older cousin arrived first. Then later, my aunt and her husband arrive with their daughter and son-in-law.

We all chatted for a while and exchanged gifts and whatnot, then all trundled off to the SEU restaurant that we had reserved (and ordered ahead of time yesterday).

Lunch was ok. We had turtle soup, which was cool and yummy. The rest was more standard fare. Grandma gave a speech, as did my uncle. It's all on video.

Afterwards, we took a short walk around the university before heading home and everyone basically chatted away the afternoon, catching up on...stuff. I guess.

In the afternoon, us cousins three took a short walk to the SEU campus again, where my older cousin met up with his wife, son (whom we met three days ago), and mother-in-law.

This evening my younger cousin, her husband, and their dad are going to head back to Wuxi. My aunt however will be staying behind for the rest of our stay in Nanjing.

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Nov. 21st, 2013

Day 6 Nanjing

Went out with my mom to meet two of her old friends (my aunts I guess). We had lunch at a seafood buffet. By seafood, here it's less crabs and lobster, and more every kind of fish you can think of. Of course it's all in Chinese so I didn't bother to remember what fish was what. There was also sushi and sashimi, which I haven't had for a long time now. Yum.

During the lunch, they mentioned that the Nanjing museum had finished renovations and has now opened as the second largest museum in China (behind Beijing). I recall that I had visited there the last time I was here, and it was right before the place closed for the major renovations. That was about 2 years ago. Also, apparently there's so many people aiming to visit, that they cap the # of visitors to the place, which kinda sucks. But, I was also told that foreign passport holders can get a guaranteed spot in admission compared to local visitors.

We also did some shopping. There was a clothing store right outside the building where the restaurant was, and they had some nice cheap clothing. I got a leather coat for 288 RMB, and a pretty shirt for 40. On the way home, we stopped by the shopping court underneath the local supermarket (where I had seen some nice fuzzy fabric type pants) and got 3 pairs of pants and 2 shirts for a total of 296 RMB. I think I've gotten all I need of clothing on this trip.

I had also checked in at a few telecomm stores to try and buy a SIM card for my old phone. Unfortunately, it seems most of them want proof of identity, typically the national ID card. We had also passed by a web cafe, which also wanted the same. So pretty much I would have to bring my passport out with me to see if that would work. Bleh.

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Nov. 20th, 2013

Day 5 Nanjing

This morning my uncle brought over his grandson, my... nephew? once removed? What is the English term for the son of my cousin? Any way, the little tyke is almost two years old and cute as buttons. He's got a cute squeaky voice, and he looks a lot like his father.

My uncle & aunt, it turns out, has been doing pretty much all of the raising of the kid, who more or less lives with them rather than his parents. His parents are all pretty busy with work and stuff - my cousin apparently has like a work commute that's over an hour long (one way). My uncle & aunt though are both retired so they have plenty of time to take care of the kid. So yeah. That's a thing here.

The kid apparently likes to play with plastic bottles (empty of course) and to tear things up. He's not 100% potty trained yet, but does have a decent vocabulary.

In the afternoon, I took a short walk around the block (into Southeastern University and back) with my grandfather. Took my phone along and tried to detect any open networks. Alas, there was nothing that was open, connectable, and didn't require a guest login. Bleh.

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Nov. 19th, 2013

Day 4 Hong Kong to Nanjing

Woke up around 4-5 AM and couldn't fall asleep again. I guess I'm still jetlagged.

We checked out of the hotel around 6, and took the metro to the airport. Actually had a second breakfast there, which was surprisingly yummy for airport food.

For that matter, the lunch we were served on the flight was surprisingly yummy as well. Good rice and tender fish. Leaps and bounds better than the stuff from the US trans-Pacific flights. I guess it's cuz this flight was a HK flight, and they really deserve the reputation for great food.

After arriving at Nanjing, we took the aiport bus first. Unfortunately, our stop did not have good access to taxis, so we ended up lugging the luggage up several flights of stairs and then further took the metro. And then, at our metro stop, we still had to walk like 2-4 blocks to get to my grandparents' place. Bleh. I still think it would've been worth avoiding all this hassel with the expense of just going for a taxi from the airport to begin with.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was as expected. A lot of small talk, greetings, phone calls (greetings and spreading the news). I am surprisingly sleepy so early in the evening though, unlike in HK. So going to hit the hay...

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Nov. 18th, 2013

Day 3 Hong Kong

Today was a much more...fruitful day, I think.

We didn't leave the hotel until about 9 AM. Found a breakfast place that looked very popular. Forgot to note down the name. The service was a little slow (possibly due to the being busy), but the food was decent - in the good tasting way.

A little after 10 (which is when the majority of places open), we went to the HK Art Museum. I didn't expect too much out of the place, and was pleasantly surprised that there were a few nice galleries apart from the bleh stuff like contemporary art and film history. Photography wasn't allowed, but I managed to sneak a few shots from their porcelain gallery. Will need to figure out how to upload them.

After the museum, we went to the nearby Harbor City. Unfortunately, the shops there turned out to be all brand names and too rich for our blood. The front door was kinda pretty though, all decked out with Christmas & Disney themes. Took some photos there and also of the next door building place that might've been the Consumer Education Info Center (not sure).

We then had lunch at the Jade Garden (翠園) restaurant. I'd found the place while searching for good/popular yet not too expensive dim sum places earlier in the morning. It was second on my list (the first being Serenade restaurant near the museum). The food was pretty good, as was the view. I don't recall the menu item names, but there was one with a lobster broth thing that was really nice - both in terms of presentation and taste.

A little after 1 PM, we hit the HK Space Museum. There was some very cool (and educational!) stuff there too. I didn't do any of the hands on demos (like the 1/6 gravity thing, the gyroscope thing, etc., as I was still feeling stuff from lunch and wasn't sure how my stomach would react to that kinda thing. I did take some photos much it's not much representative of all the nice stuff they have there.

We saw 2 of the large dome movies. One was the 3D dome movie about the "Wildest Weather in the Solar System" - which covered stuff like the planet-wide dust storms of Mars, the methane rains of Titan, the high speed winds of Neptune, etc. Also saw a non-3D movie about the "Dynamic Earth" - which talked about the carbon cycle on Earth and Venus, and so forth. Both were pretty cool.

After resting a bit back at the hotel, we left again for some further shopping at around 7. I didn't find much of anything aside from a T-shirt that was kinda nice and on sale. Mom bought a bunch of specialty food packs for gifting people.

Although it was close, we managed to drop off our bags back at the hotel and make it back to the Avenue of Stars in time for the 8 PM "Symphony of Lights" show. Tonight's was in English, and I managed to video most of it. Will need to see how well that turned out.

For dinner, we went to the Super Star (鴻星) Seafood Restaurant across the street from our hotel. Again, I'd researched for seafood places that were not too expensive. We ordered a lobster (which was rather standard fare), a Tiger fish (which was wow-tasty-good), and a little shrimp dumpling made in the form of little koi fish things (which was tasty and adorable). Total price came out to something like 716 HKD which isn't too bad for fresh seafood.

Our plane to Nanjing leaves at 10-something tomorrow. So we need to arrive at the airport by 8, which means leaving the hotel by at least 7, and so a wake up call at 6 or 5:30... Probably won't have access to the internet for a while after this then. The rest of the entries will likely need to be back-dated. Ah well.

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