Guilin – Day 2

May 21, 2018

China trip – Part 6.

It’s Thursday, April 19, 10 days into our 2-week trip to China. We are on our third stop, Guilin, a popular tourist destination because of its renown karst topography.

Destination cities – from Beijing in the north, traveling south to Hangzhou, Guilin, and Hong Kong

Guilin is about 1000 miles southwest of Beijing. We are staying three nights at the Shangri-la Hotel in the center of the city.

The city itself is not very charming. Fodor’s travel book explains that Guilin was heavily bombed during the Second Sino-Japanese War (from 1937 -1945) and rebuilt in the utilitarian style popular in the 1950’s.

Original settlements on the Li River banks go back as far as 314 BC. The city was established in 111 BC during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty.

A dozen small ethnic groups call Guilin home and so a variety of living conditions and lifestyles prevail throughout the region. There are about 8 different Guilin languages – Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Zhuang and Mienic languages, to name some of them.

Yesterday we took a river cruise down the Li River along the karst peaks (per my previous blog) – today is our last full day here. Here I took a photo of the view of the city from our motel window.

Guilin

On the corner square right below our hotel window a large group of mostly women are working out to upbeat music.

We venture out on foot to explore the city. On the opposite corner square from the dance/exercise group, another boom box is belting out tunes and couples are gathering to dance. I turn to take a photo, and this happy couple strikes a pose.

(By evening the square is packed full with dancing couples.)

Back to our morning walk … A few blocks from our hotel we enter an open market, where the locals shop for groceries –

Abundant fresh produce:

Fresh meat

How long does it stay fresh?

Yum! Pig’s feet! And what’s that next to the feet?

No idea what to do with these items

Ugh! A pigs face? Uh, so, Halloween mask or something? Waste not, want not. Pig snout stew? Do instructions in English come with these purchases?

Get your fresh chicken here!

Throw it on the barbie

Throats slit, feathers plucked, they’re ready to go!

You want a closer look, do you? No????

Yep, their throats are slit, alright

Chicken feet are a delicacy, of course! Not sure about chicken heads. Don’t really want to make eye contact with the thing, be forced into a conversation with it, before I cut its head off.

On the other hand, if you really want fresh chicken or duck, just buy a live one out of this caged selection:

Live chickens on the left, ducks on the right

Eric thought of buying all the ducks and then setting them free on the river. I could purchase bread to feed them! But then they’d all just be caught again … Yum! Peking Duck is calling us for dinner …

Well, it certainly does make you think about what you’re eating, that another animal is giving up their life to provide you nourishment, and you basically have to tell them so, make amends to the animal face-to-face when you buy it. Fair enough …

A lot of families come through on their motor bikes to shop.

Not sure how they would carry their groceries. Add a live duck to the mix?

It was quite amazing to see parents with their children riding through town traffic on these small bikes – no big deal, no helmets, no need to hold on …. no worry apparently, about safety.

No problem, this toddler is perfectly secure…

No room for a car seat?

Yes, there’s a toddler in there …

Hey, it works! We saw families riding on electric scooters in every large city we visited. Didn’t see or or hear of an accident – thank goodness. Not that they don’t happen! Can’t imagine. I wonder what the accident statistics are or how much news coverage these accidents receive. In any case, there doesn’t seem to be much worry or government safety regulations concerning travel on electric scooters. The Guilin city streets are designed with separate parallel lanes for cars and motor scooters. But of course, these lanes merge into intersections … Here, I took a video of the intersection right below our hotel – gives you an idea of how one might worry about the safety of an entire family on an electric motor scooter …

Oh, and by the way, cars and scooters do not yield to pedestrians. The rule seems to be: The biggest moving mass on the road gets the right-of-way. Note to pedestrians: Get out of the way of anything that can run you over!!

In the afternoon our driver Terry delivered us to a popular site in the center of Guilin, The Prince City Solitary Beauty Park. Inside are the decaying remains of an ancient Ming Dynasty palace built in 1393. Sun Yat-sen lived here for a few months in the winter of 1921. We walked around the park and then climbed up the main attraction in the park, the Peak of Solitary Beauty. This is a 492-foot high karst peak, with carved stones leading to the top. It’s an intense workout for your legs getting to the top, but totally worth it for the great views of Guilin. Here we are climbing the steps to the top of the Peak of Solitary Beauty:

And views of Guilin from on top:

Guilin

Climbing back down now …

It was difficult to capture a photo of the peak from the ground. This is my best effort:

Peak of Solitary Beauty

For dinner, our concierge, Ray, had made us reservations at a fabulous restaurant – Chunji Roasted Goose Restaurant (yes, roasted goose is their specialty.) Terry, our driver, delivered us there and back again (Do I feel special? Pinch myself!). It was top-notch in all respects, round tables with cloth tablecloths, elegant lighting and decor, prompt, polite service … Here, I’ll share my photos of the evening. First, the restaurant:

Our server:

Chinese local beer was great!

Some of our dishes (Victor always makes fantastic choices!):

Too pretty to eat!

And one last photo of the busy chefs in the massive kitchen!

Well, okay. It’s Friday morning now, April 20. Today we travel by several trains to the last destination on our trip – Hong Kong! We have met Terry, our driver, out in front of the Shangri-la Hotel and are ready to hit the road to the train station in Guilin. Oh, except Eric can’t find his raincoat.

Yeah, we are in for several new adventures today, for starters, we wake up to a torrential rain. (An omen?) While Eric digs in his suitcase looking for his raincoat I take a video.

Are you ready? Pile into the van with us and Terry. We’re on a new adventure!

Guilin! Li River Cruise

May 14, 2018

China Trip – Part 5

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 – We have checked out of our motel in Hangzhou, and are on our way to the airport to catch our flight to Guilin, a city about 800 miles south-southeast of Hangzhou. When you’re hanging out at West Lake in Hangzhou, it’s hard to imagine that you’re nestled in a city of 9.4 million people. I captured a couple of photos during our 45-minute drive to the airport, the first one of an older apartment building in the center of town

and the second photo of a typical newer high-rise apartment complex

But since you really can’t capture the layout of the dense urban sprawl in a photo – here – I took a video on our drive to the airport in Hangzhou –

New high-rise apartment complexes are springing up everywhere in China, however, property development in China is vastly out growing the number of people who can purchase them. According to this article, the Chinese government is launching building development across China to promote economic development. Property development has become big business! According to this article, “The 2011 estimates by property analysts state that there are some 89 million empty properties and apartments in China and that housing development in China is massively oversupplied and overvalued, and is a bubble waiting to burst with serious consequences in the future.” Well, that was a prediction in 2011. In 2018 the property development industry appears to be alive and booming as strong as ever. Still a bubble waiting to burst?

I wanted to mention this in my blog; it was amazing to see the huge new apartment complexes springing up around every large city we passed on the train.

We have arrived at the airport in Hangzhou. Wow! It, too, looks brand new.

Airport in Hangzhou

Oops! I’d better quit taking photos. I’m lagging behind David, Victor, Steph and Eric! (Well, not Eric – he’s taking photos too.)

A photo from the air now, as we approach Guilin:

By the way, Guilin is our third stop on our two-week (north to south) trip to China – the city furthest inland and our final destination on mainland China –

Destination cities – from Beijing in the north, traveling south to Hangzhou, Guilin, and Hong Kong

Guilin is situated in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, a region of limestone karst hills and mountains, rising almost vertically from the earth.

Karst Peaks near Guilin

These peaks were formed 200 million years ago when the area was under sea. Limestone was created from fossilized prehistoric sea-floor sediments. The sea bottom was pushed upward by geological forces and the sea receded. The exposed alkaline limestone was then eroded by the natural acidity of rain water collected in streams. Peaks developed from the land left after erosion by the streams. Cave systems have also developed in the limestone – a spelunker’s dream!

But we aren’t spelunkers. We are ordinary American tourists looking to book a relaxing cruise down the Li river right smack dab in the middle of these peaks. We check into the Shangri-La hotel in Guilin (having been thrilled with the Shangri-La in Hangzhou!). Victor immediately meets with the concierge ‘Ray’ who lines us up with a driver for the duration of our stay, ‘Terry.’ (This must be their given English names for when they serve English-speaking tourists?)

The concierge, Ray, and our driver, Terry.

We developed an affectionate bond with Ray and Terry, who treated us like we were the center of the Universe, responsive to our every need, during our stay at the Shangri-La Hotel in Guilin.

Ray and Terry

Somehow, too, our first evening there, Eric got snagged into participating in a dance in the lobby, much to our amusement. I caught the tail end of it in a video, with David, Victor and Steph watching in the background (the FAR background, I might add, so as to avoid Eric’s fate…)

These two hotties are the ones who snagged him.

(Okay, even Eric admits, it was totally worth it.)

So it’s Wednesday, April 18th, Ray has secured tickets for us to take the 4-hour Li-jiang River Cruise down the Li River along the Karst peaks. We meet Terry, our driver, at 8:15 am and he drives us 45 minutes to the Zhejiang Pier. Here – I took a photo of a picture in our brochure that shows you where the cruise originates on the Li River in the north to where it docks four hours later at the city of Yangshuo – a distance of about 80km or 50 miles:

Li-jiang River Cruise route

Okay, so Terry has dropped us off and we are in line (with hordes of people!) with our passports and tickets. Just move with the crush of the crowd. Our boat is number 12, which is, uh …

Which boat is ours?

Luckily Ray had also arranged a guide to help steer us along, a poised, well-dressed young lady who spoke excellent English, who greeted us in line and accompanied us onto our boat, which happens to be at the end of this dock.

It’s a tremendous relief to know we have found our boat, as, you can see, these boats are set at docks extending widely to the right

Boats to the right!


and to the left …

Boats to the left!

Ah… Relax now. We have a table to sit at inside our boat on the bottom level. With free hot tea service!

David, Jody, Victor, Steph

But the place to be is on the top deck…

Eric

There’s definitely a few other foreigners on this boat

Look at the boats behind us!

David and Eric

Vic and Steph

Jody and David

Several times during our trip a Chinese person would ask to pose for a photo or two with us, to which we happily concurred. This was one such lady, who wanted a photo with David and Eric.

Fun!

At some point our guide found us on the top deck – “Hey!” She informed us. “Did you know that we are passing the very spot that is pictured on the Chinese 20 Yuan bill? It’s coming right up!” Huh?

Here is a photo of the 20 Yuan bill:

And here is the photo I captured at the spot!

Scene on the Chinese
20 Yuan bill

And our photo memory of the moment:

David, Jody, Steph, Eric

(Don’t know where Victor was)

Pretty good, huh! I have at least 50 more photos … No? You don’t want to see them all? Okay, here’s just a couple more:

Up ahead is the famous rock face called the ‘Nine Horses Hill’

Nine Horses Hill

Left to the viewer to interpret how to find the nine horses in its face:

We are below again now – getting ready to dock, and totally entertained by this precocious little toddler sitting with his family across the isle from us. I’m trying to get his attention for a photo but he simply will not look at me!

His grandmother steps in to assist – just turn his head!

Oh well. That’s fine. A few minutes later he has settled down with his family. He’s so cute!

As I said, precocious. Definition: (of a child) “having developed certain abilities or proclivities at an earlier age than usual.” Is that a candy cigarette or a real cigarette? Hmmm. Hard to tell. I remember decades ago, when I was a kid, how much I loved candy cigarettes, posing with them, pretending to smoke, crunching them down slowly as I ‘smoked’ them. They have long since disappeared from store candy shelves. One interesting statistic we learned from one of our travel books is that 63% of Chinese men smoke cigarettes.

We have docked and are getting off the boat now in Yangshuo.

Docked!

We file through a huge market, but we just want to escape the crowds.

This woman in front of us reminds me never to buy a souvenir hat or T-shirt with Chinese characters on it.

Buy this t-shirt with English on the back!

Instructions to Victor from the driver are for us to walk to Kentucky Fried Chicken where he will meet us. Okay, that should be recognizable enough!

The city of Yangshuo has a population of about 300,000 people. Nestled amongst karst peaks!

Here is a video I took on our walk through a city shopping street:

Suddenly, across the street, an out-of-place Kentucky Fried Chicken sign comes into view – attached atop a building that doesn’t look even remotely similar to a Kentucky Fried Chicken! (Thank you, Victor, for orienting us here. I’ve no idea how we got here…)

Is it really a Kentucky Fried Chicken?

The next moment we walk right into our driver, Terry. I suspect maybe we stood out in the crowd more than he did.

Terry leads us along a main road to his vehicle. The traffic is crazy! A lane for cars and a lane for motorized scooters and rickshaws tearing along at the same speed and no one is wearing a helmet!

I took a couple of photos on the 50-mile drive back to Guilin.

Terry and Ray had arranged a tour for us on the way home – of an organic tea plantation. It was hot now in the late afternoon and we were glad they didn’t put us to work!

Hey, we’re just tourists!

As I said, it’s an organic tea farm. Workers suddenly appeared in the rows setting out sticky tar paper to catch insects!

Setting out sticky paper (yellow) to catch bugs

We learned the whole process of harvesting and preparing the tea leaves.

And enjoyed several different samples of hot fresh organic teas.

Whew! Exciting day, huh? Well, we have one more full day in Guilin before we head to Hong Kong. Are you ready? I have at least a hundred photos to prove it!

Hangzhou! – West Lake

May 10, 2018

China trip – Part 4

Hangzhou is the second stop on our two week trip to China.

Destination cities – from Beijing in the north, traveling south to Hangzhou, Guilin, and Hong Kong

We arrive in Hangzhou on Saturday April 14, from Beijing, an 800-mile/ 4-hour journey by bullet train. Hangzhou is also about 170 km (105 miles) from Shanghai – a 45-minute commute by bullet train, so you could plan an extension tour to Hangzhou from Shanghai.

Why visit Hangzhou? It’s history is traced back over 2200 years to the Qin Dynasty. One of China’s 7 ancient capitals, it was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty in the 12th Century. Marco Polo visited Hangzhou in the 13th Century, describing it as the ‘City of Heaven – the finest and most splendid city in the World.’

The population of Hangzhou today is about 9.4 million. A huge lake in the center of the city – West Lake – is considered to be one of the most beautiful sights in China. We stayed at the Shangri-la on the north end of the lake and spent the next two days exploring the area on foot. There is a paved walkway around the perimeter of the lake and also two causeways that cross the lake. Here is a graphic of the lake I took out of the Fodor’s travel book – Shangri-la Hotel is the red splotch!

West Lake in Hangzhou

We walked about 10 miles on Sunday, April 15, south across the Sudi Causeway and back around the west side of the lake on the Xishan Lu Causeway back to our hotel, then hiked up a hill behind our hotel. In other words, if you like to walk, Hangzhou is your Paradise.

Sunday, April 15 – We’ve headed out of the front doors of the hotel:

Shangri-la Hotel- Hangzhou

On the Sudi Causeway now – crossing the lake:

David and Steph

Sudi Causeway

Temples, pagodas, pavilions and gardens surround the Lake.

Tomb of Yue Fei

Enjoyed these hilltop views of the lake and city of Hangzhou:

On Monday, our second full day, we walked through Solitary Hill Island, then across the causeway to the northeast corner of the lake. We had decided to visit the Chinese Medicine Museum and the China Silk Museum, located a few blocks into the city beyond the southeast end of the lake. Except we were too late to line up a driver. No problem! We’ll just hop on one of those extended golf carts we see ferrying people around – ride it around the south side of the lake and walk!

Oh! Except every one that goes by is already full of passengers … Well, we’ll just keep walking till one comes by (every 5 minutes or so) with open seats!

Victor, David, Steph, Eric- we’re walking, just keep walking to the far end of the lake!

Full golf carts keep passing us by …

Huh. We finally arrive at a major junction where people get off- we all hop on and ride the cart across the causeway and along the south end of the lake. I snap a couple of photos along the way …

We hop off at the southeast end of the lake and walk a few blocks into the city, to the Museum of Chinese Medicine. Apartment buildings line the streets –

Of course you’re going to line-dry your delicates!

The walk to the museum turned out to be far more interesting than the museum. We walked through a busy street market

Laughing Buddha in the middle of the market

A pair of stone lions frame the entrances to buildings, a common ornament in Chinese traditional architecture. They indicate safety and luck – ward off evil spirits. The male stone lion stands at the left hand and the female at the the right hand:

You would often see young women walking together arm in arm or holding hands, even grown women. Heartwarming!

Girl power!

We’re at the Museum of Chinese Medicine now – here is a statue of SunSimiao –

SunSimiao – Medicine King (AD. 581-682)

the Chinese Medicine King, a famous pharmacologist of the Tang Dynasty – 581-682 AD – 1400 years ago!

From this museum we proceed to the China National Silk museum. Catch a bus!

Eric

Here’s a photo of the China National Silk Museum.

China National Silk Museum

We learned a lot about silk worms and how silk is made and the history of the silk industry in China … But now, we’ve got to get ourselves back to the hotel!! Back on the bus!

David, Victor, Steph

We walked a few blocks from the bus stop to get back to the lake – on the south end of the lake now – we must catch another golf cart back over the causeway to the north side or we’ll be walking 5 miles! We walk a while with many full carts passing us by …

Others are in line too!

– until suddenly two carts arrive and we snag seats on the first one! Hop on the back rear-facing seat with me and enjoy the ride (and relief that we are spared the walk!)

Trying to figure out where we got on – where we are going – where to get off! Over the course of both days we covered nearly the entire perimeter of the lake.

Here’s a few more photos (and the Temple Eric is talking about):

To wrap up our second day, here’s another video I took toward the end of our ride along the west boundary of West Lake back toward our motel

And one more photo:

And that pretty much puts a wrap on Monday, our second full day in Hangzhou.

It is now Tuesday morning, April 17. We have spent the last 3 nights in Hangzhou and today we travel to our next destination, Guilin. We leave for the airport in about an hour – time for one last stroll along West Lake, back down the Sudi causeway, absorb a few minutes more of one of the most beautiful sites in China.

Here you see the view of our hotel overlooking the lake, the Shangri-la.

Shangri-la in Hangzhou

Great place for a selfie!

Okay, time to head to the airport. We have booked a plane to our next destination: Guilin! – Further inland, about 370 miles south-southwest. Ready for a new adventure?

Bullet Train from Beijing to Hangzhou

May 5, 2018

Well, dear reader, I feel a bit remiss in my previous blog at having posted such gloomy photos of the Great Wall – we did go on a rainy day, but why not experience the Great Wall in bright sunshine! The views at the Mutianyu section of the wall are magnificent – why have a rainy experience when you can have a sunny one! Click on this link if you’d like a Great Wall brighter day experience. You’re welcome. Ha.

So now it’s Saturday, April 14 – we say ‘good-bye’ to Beijing and catch the bullet train to Hangzhou – a city 760 miles south-southeast, near Shanghai.

Victor arranges a driver to take us to the train station. You all have your tickets? Yes! Good – we’ve arrived at the station.

Beijing South Railway Station

Now what? Just a bit hesitant to enter the crowds. Where’s the bathroom? We can’t lose each other!

“I need coffee” Eric says.

Look at your ticket and find our gate

Train ticket to Hangzhou

Yeah, right. Help, Victor!

Sooooo – which train is ours?

Just stay attached to Steph and Victor – get in this line!

Don’t want to lose Eric. Whew! He’s behind us…

Down to the trains now … Which one is ours??

Follow Victor!

Yay! We’ve boarded the bullet train. Business class! (Thank you, Victor.) Now we can relax!

Kick back for the next 4 hours!

I snap a few photos of the landscape flying past us at 180 mph.

So does, Eric. “My photos are better, Eric.” (Which they usually aren’t.)

We pass a lot of coal plants!

It’s incredible to see China’s investment in ‘infrastructure’ – tearing down the old, building the new.

Out with the old!

In with the new!

Here is a one-minute video I took to give you an idea of the landscape. High rise apartment cities rise up out of the landscape like mushroom colonies.

Do you notice how quiet the ride is? Riding the bullet train is a pleasurable experience.

Oh goody! We’re being served lunch!

Yum!

Oh, looks healthy. Some sort of fish, and pork, with a garnish, and rice …

Lunch!

A sad, out of sorts fish, staring right up at me that I get to have a conversation with.

He has a bone to pick with me? Oh, lots of bones – little tiny bones. Now I do like fish, but do I have to see the whole fish, head and all, stare the animal in the face while I’m eating it? I’m just not used to this kind of thing. Fillet the meat off the body, please, cloak it in breading, come on! I don’t want to see the whole animal I’m actually eating. Especially the head!

We’ve arrived in Hangzhou now. Yay!

Hangzhou train station

How old is this station? It looks brand new.

Wonder what that mural says?

A driver has met us – how nice! Thank you, Victor!

Follow the driver!

It’s at least an hour drive to our hotel, the Shangri-La,

Shangri-La Hotel in Hangzhou

which sits right on the main attraction in Hangzhou: West Lake. Here, I’ll give you a glimpse of it:

West Lake in Hangzhou

Basically the most beautiful lake you could ever imagine. We’ll be exploring this area over the next couple of days. You want to come along?

Beijing, China: The Great Wall

May 3, 2018

Part 2 of our recent China trip:

Our party of 5 Americans, Victor and Steph, Eric, David and I, arrived in Beijing on Wednesday Jan 11, for a 2-week visit to China. We are on our own, following our own itinerary, with Victor as our guide. Yesterday, January 12, we visited the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing. We are only staying 3 nights in Beijing, so today, our last full day, come rain or shine, we are visiting the Great Wall.

The Great Wall is the longest man-made structure ever built – a system of many walls built over 2000 years, from the 5th century BC to the 17th century AD. (Check out this wiki-link site on the Great Wall.) Especially famous is the wall built in 220-206 BC by Qin She Huang, the first emperor of China, to defend against invading barbarians. Stones from the mountains were used over mountain ranges, rammed earth was used for construction in the plains. It has been estimated by some authors that hundreds of thousands, possibly up to a million, workers died building the Qin wall. Little of that wall remains today.

Over the dynasties the Great Wall was eroded, built, rebuilt and extended many times. The latest construction took place in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the length was then over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles). This is the wall often referred to when we talk about the Great Wall.

The Wall in its entirety spans 13,000 miles across northern China, snaking over deserts, hills and plains.

To conclude this history lesson (ha!) click on this short, fun, Youtube video on the Great Wall. And no, you can’t see the Great Wall from the moon!

Despite impressive battlements, the wall ultimately proved ineffective; it was breached in the 13th century by the Mongols and then in the 17th century by the Manchu.

Much of the existing wall that was built during the Ming Dynasty has crumbled and is still unrestored, but the sections of the Great Wall around Beijing have been frequently renovated and are regularly visited by tourists today.

Here’s a photo showing you the path of the Great Wall.

There are several sites you can visit on the Great Wall that are within an 1-2 hour drive from Beijing. The Badaling Great Wall is the most visited and famous stretch of the Wall, the first section to be opened to the public in the People’s Republic of China. It’s the destination for tour buses and is typically swarming with tourists, about an easy hour-drive from Beijing. No! We want something more remote!

So, on Friday January 13, Victor lines up a driver for the day to take us to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, about 80 km or a 1 1/2 hour drive from Beijing. It happens to be raining today, unfortunately, but for us to see the Great Wall it’s now or never. The Mutianyu section is a bit more remote than Badaling, and we’ve heard, a lot less crowded. There is also a strenuous hike involved – it takes about an hour to hike up to the wall from the parking lot.

We have arrived now, and started our ascent to the wall:

Starting up!

The signs are written in Chinese and English!

Half way up there is a small concession stand. Probably does a fantastic business on a hot day…

The concession stand – not to be confused with Eric and his pink umbrella

You can also ride a cable car up, and/or take the toboggan down:

Take the toboggan down!

The wall looms above us now!

We’re on top of the wall now! Good news is, we practically have the whole Wall to ourselves. Bad news, too much fog to enjoy the magnificent views…

We peeked into this building – barracks, where you could see the humble bunking accommodations. The officer’s bed had an area underneath it where you could light a fire to keep the bed warm!

Barracks!

From the watchtowers, guards could survey the surrounding land.

Victor, Steph and David

This section of the Great Wall is connected with Juyongguan Pass in the west and Gubeikou Gateway in the east:

Built mainly with granite, the wall here is 7-8 meters high and the top is 4-5 meters wide. Some of the steps are a little skewed:

Heading back down now …

Down, and down, and down …

David, Steph, Eric, Victor

Walking toward the parking area now. The rain sure put a damper on the crowds!

Any hungry customers out there?

I snapped a couple of photos on the drive back to our hotel in Beijing.

Rush hour gridlock getting home

Well, there certainly was a lot in Beijing we didn’t see. The Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, The National Museum of China, the Beijing Zoo, to name a few. So many restaurants and shopping, although we did eat dinner at a superb restaurant a couple of blocks from our hotel, where we enjoyed a fine serving of Peking Duck:

The Da Dong Restaurant

There was also a huge underground shopping mall underneath our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Beijing. Here, we just got off the elevator:

Underground mall underneath our hotel

We enjoyed dinner at a nice restaurant in the underground mall, as well, where Eric began to get a pretty good grip on eating with chopsticks:

Way to go, Eric

Time to call it a day. Get a good night’s sleep!

Tomorrow we travel 760 miles on the bullet train to Hangzhou!

2018 Trip to China – Beijing!

April 29, 2018

David and I just returned from a 2-week trip to China. How could I not blog about it? We flew from Idaho Falls to Seattle to Beijing, leaving Monday, April 9, returning this past Monday, April 23. We traveled with my sister Stephanie and husband Victor, and my brother Eric. We didn’t go as part of a tour, we planned our trip itinerary with Victor, who is Chinese. Victor was born in mainland China but his family moved to Taiwan when he was a young child (fleeing the mainland during the 1949 revolution when Mao Zedong came to power). Victor grew up in Taiwan, and then Hong Kong for 3 years before immigrating to the United States to attend college when he was 18 years old. He has lived in America ever since, becoming a US citizen.

What to see of China in two weeks? Beijing, of course. From there …. how about we hop on a bullet train to Hangzhou? Then a flight to Guilin. From Guilin, over to Hong Kong by bullet train and subway. Three nights in each city! Here is a map of China from the Fodor’s China travel book:

Map of Mainland China

And a map of the eastern half of China, to show you the destination cities on our itinerary – starting in Beijing in the north, traveling south to Hangzhou (near Shanghai), then Guilin, then Hong Kong, a total distance of nearly 2000 miles.

Eastern half of China – Destination cities – from Beijing in the north, traveling south to Hangzhou, Guilin, and Hong Kong

You want to come along? (!!) I’ve taken hundreds of photos (?? – maybe. I stopped counting) Don’t really know how these blogs will shake out – just thought I’d start at the beginning of our trip and see where the photos take us! Are you ready? Fasten your seatbelt!

Monday, Jan 9 – 3pm: Fly from Idaho Falls, to Salt Lake City, to Seattle, Washington.

4:23 pm – We have landed in Salt Lake. Navigating through the terminal now to our next gate – to board our flight to Seattle:

SLC terminal – which way do we go?

I have never seen the airport this busy!

5:18 pm – flying over the Great Salt Lake:

Great Salt Lake

At 6:47 we fly past Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in the Cascades and in the state of Washington. It is located 54 miles (87 km) south-southeast of Seattle:

Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains

6:55 pm – Descending for a landing in Seattle:

Seattle!

We (David, Eric and I and Steph and Victor) spend the night in a motel near the airport in Seattle. Steph and Vic arrive in Seattle close to midnight from Boston. Get a good night’s sleep! We all fly to Beijing tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 10: Our flight from Seattle to Bejing leaves about 4pm. Arrives in Bejing on Wednesday, 6:25 pm. 26 hours later! Okay, but it’s 15 hours later in Bejing so… the flight is only about 11 hours. We arrive at the Seattle airport in plenty of time. With carry-on bags only! (We decided we never wanted to be separated from our bags, especially on the flights in China…) Hey, grab a newspaper before we board!:

Colorful, anyway.

You suppose I could learn to read Chinese during our 11-hour flight? (Never mind. Victor has informed me that the newspaper is actually Korean…) Mostly we passengers ate, read a bit, and then tried to sleep. I was cranky at the end of the flight from all the times I looked over at everyone around me, seemingly snoozing away, as I lay there bright-eyed, counting sheep. It’s best to lay there and at least pretend you’re sleeping, because you just might drift off, but you have to at least avert your mind from thinking about how many hours of the flight you still have ahead of you…

Wednesday April 11- 6:30pm: Alas, we’ve landed in Beijing! Victor has a driver waiting for us at the airport, (Yay!) who finds us immediately and delivers us to our motel near the city center, the Grand Hyatt Beijing. Very nice. Hard to capture in a photo – here’s my attempt:

Grand Hyatt, Beijing

The best thing about the Grand Hyatt is its location – it lies within walking distance of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. They also serve a wonderful breakfast buffet, so large, in fact, that on our first morning Steph, Victor, David and I pass on it and order breakfast a la carte. And then proceed to watch Eric eat the breakfast buffet. “Think you have enough to eat, Eric?”

You even found a banana?

I recognized a lot of the food on his plate. But what were those white blobs with with black polka dots?

‘Dragon fruit’ says Eric. Okay, so the next two mornings we all spring for the breakfast buffet.

Thursday, April 12 – 10am – After Eric’s huge breakfast, we head out on foot toward the Forbidden City. Bejing is surprisingly clean, modern, new, and safe.

Building in Beijing city center

Although, you should carry your passport with you where ever you go, particularly if you need to purchase tickets – admittance to a landmark or museum or transportation… We had to show our passports to get into the Forbidden City. I took a lot of photos of the Forbidden City in the center of Beijing, but honestly, they all look similar. The Forbidden City was constructed from 1406-1420 (600 years ago!) by 100,000 skilled artisans and up to a million laborers as the palace of the Ming Emperors of China. The complex consists of 980 buildings over 180 acres, the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. The complex served as the Imperial Palace for 500 years, home to 23 Ming and Qing Emperors, until the dynastic system crumbled in 1911. (See the Oscar-winning movie “The Last Emperor” for the story of the last Emperor of China – with fantastic footage of the Forbidden City and the history of the last Emperor’s overthrow in 1911 and the rise of the New Republic of China till the Last Emperor’s death in 1967.)

Fodor’s China travel book has a great photo of the Forbidden City. (Okay, so I took a photo of their photo, thank you, Fodors) It gives you an idea what a huge complex it is:

The Forbidden City – picture from Fodor’s

Another travel book (which I had cut apart) has a nice photo of the layout of Forbidden City – which I’m including, just so you can understand how large it is. See all the entrances and exits? Our plan was to enter the complex from the back and come out the front that overlooks Tiananmen Square.

Admittedly, photo is a bit tacky

We are entering now…

Steph and Vic lead the way

Since 2012 the Forbidden City has seen an average of 15 million visitors annually.

Pairs of lions guard the entrances of halls.

The public was not allowed to enter any of the buildings. Mostly we moved with the crowds, had to wait in the hoards just to get a peek inside the palaces.

At some point we exited, with the movement of the crowd, thinking we’d be facing Tiananmen Square.

But, hey! Where were we? We had come out one of the side exits, but darned if we knew which one. Hey there’s a moat! Does that help orient us?

Luckily Victor speaks Chinese and could ask a guard where we were and how to get to Tiananmen Square. Oh! So it’s a long walk … Dang! Suddenly, out of nowhere two drivers pull up beside us. Now I don’t know what you call the rigs they were driving. David, Eric and I piled into the back of one and Steph and Vic in the other. We soared off into the traffic, back onto the sidewalk then swerved back into the street, weaving in and out of traffic, down alleyways, alongside buses; the ride was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, luckily we were going too fast to process it. I captured photos along the way … Mostly of Eric, because he was facing us in the rig.

Down the alley!

Watch out for that bus!!

Our driver was whizzing faster than Steph and Vic’s and at some point we lost them. Imagine our relief when they finally pulled up behind us!

Whew! We’re all still alive!

Sure enough, we were dropped off a block from Tiananmen Square. We are walking to it now and I just happened to capture this video.

We are so exhausted by the time we get to Tiananmen Square we look at it from across the street and pose for photos. In this photo of us you see the main front entrance to the Forbidden City in the background, the entrance we thought we were coming out of.

Eric, Steph, Victor, David, Jody

As I said, we were across the street from Tiananmen Square. Hard to believe this is the best photo I have of Tiananmen Square:

Worst photo ever of Tiananmen Square

– there was so much traffic it looked too exhausting at this point to actually cross the street to get on the square. So this is the closest we, dear reader, will get to it.

I took a couple more photos of Beijing on our walk back to the hotel.

There. I bet at this point, you’re a little exhausted too! Our first full day in Beijing. Yeah, well, get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow we visit the Great Wall.

DVD Player Without Remote – Free to a Good Home

February 28, 2018

Let me make it perfectly clear at the get-go here: I am not hormonal. My body is well past menopause and I no longer succumb to hormone-induced fist-slinging mood swings or irrational outbursts. Right?? Think ‘mellowed’ … ‘calm’… ‘collected’.

Unless something happens that totally, rationally, logically, and justifiably pisses me off. Then, well, you’d better get out of the kitchen.

So yeah, I suffered a meltdown recently. Over a Samsung DVD Player we bought not even a year ago – Wi-fi, HDMI compatible, high definition, with remote. Except, somehow, we lost the remote (not going into it). And the player doesn’t function without a remote. Well, there are two buttons on the front of the device, ‘on/off’ and ‘eject’ but every other function, for example, ‘play’, ‘fast forward’ ‘stop’ – is controlled by the remote.

“No problem. I’ll just go buy a universal remote and hook it up.” I said, ever so calmly.

Drove to Best Buy, bought the remote – not bad – 15 bucks!

Problem solved!

RCA. Made in America. Simple and EASY to Use. Okay!

Get out the instructions.

Step 1: Manually turn on the device you want to control.

Yeah, sure. How about YOU turn it on? Our DVD Player has no power indicator light – giving you no clue as to whether it’s ‘on’ or ‘off’. If it’s ‘on’ vs. ‘off’ shouldn’t a little red indicator light turn on, or something, telling you that, yes, indeed, the device is on? I pick the thing up – look all over it – is the light on the side, the bottom? Surely there’s a power indicator light! Nope, there isn’t:

Is it ‘on’ or ‘off’? You tell me …

Oh but maybe you can’t open the sleeve that holds the DVD unless the device is turned on? Nada. No help. Even if the player is ‘off’ – you can still open the sleeve for the DVD.

Here, I took this demonstration video of our DVD Player (note: the root word in demonstration is ‘demon’):

There. You see. You plug it in – push the ‘power’ button and nothing happens. You plug it in, push ‘eject’ button -and ‘Ta-da!’ the sleeve pops open, even though the machine is ‘off’. But there is no “play’ button, so what the heck good is that? YOU NEED A REMOTE!

Well, whatever, I’ve got the remote now. So where was I??…

Step 2: Find the Code List that came with the remote. Find your device and brand in the Code list – Circle the codes for your brand and keep them handy:

The Samsung DVD player codes are handy

Check.

Step 3: Press and hold the device key (VCR key on the remote) – hold that key down and use other hand to enter the first five-digit code for your brand in the code list …

Okay. This I can do.

Then there’s Step 4. Here – I took a photo:

Short version of step 4:
‘Prepare for meltdown’

Okay, to review, you turn on your DVD player manually. (Problematic in this case.) Then hold down the device key on the universal remote, while entering the code for your brand of DVD that you got off the code list. To test whether the code took, you point the remote directly at the DVD player and press POWER on the remote, DID YOUR DEVICE TURN OFF?

WELL, I DON’T KNOW IF IT TURNED OFF, DO I? WAS IT EVEN ON?

If the remote hasn’t turned off your DVD player, then you try the next code. If that code doesn’t work, then you enter the next code, and if that code doesn’t work then you enter the next …

Note the tip in fine print at the bottom of step 4: TIP: Because there are so many codes, you may have to press the POWER key many times – possibly hundreds of times.

WHAT?

Did you notice the number of codes on the code sheet for the Samsung DVD player?:

10 different codes for Samsung?

How many hundreds of times will I need to push the power key, and HOW DO I KNOW WHAT CODE WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T SINCE THERE IS NO POWER INDICATOR LIGHT ON THE FRIGGIN’ THING SO I DON’T KNOW IF AND WHEN THE SORRY-ASSED-&%*$%*& DVD PLAYER IS ‘ON’ OR ‘OFF’!

I was screaming this at the inert DVD player sitting on our kitchen counter, when David walked in from upstairs.”Do you have a problem?’ I sucked in a gulp of air and attempted to explain to him, using a seething inside voice, how I got to this moment and the horrible situation I was in with this crappy DVD player with no power indicator light (who bought this thing in the first place?) which rendered it impossible to connect to a universal remote where one of ten codes might work and I would probably figure out which one did if only I could communicate telepathically with the DVD player about whether it was ON, or OFF, couldn’t the DVD player give me some kind of sign?

“Why don’t you violently stab the front of the DVD player with an ice pick, honey?” I said. “Smash some holes through front panel to expose the mother board so at least maybe sparks will fly out of it when we turn it on.”

“Spare yourself, Jody, and buy a new one.” David suggests. “They don’t cost much.”

I headed back over to Best Buy. Gave the strapping male clerk an earful about the last DVD player we bought here – how ridiculous! No power indicator light! Had he heard other complaints about this? (No. Not a one…) Well, it was a Samsung DVD player, and while one is interested in such features as HD, wireless, HDMI compatible, and such, who would even think you’d have to ask for a POWER INDICATOR LIGHT! What a rip-off! So what else do you have – NOT buying Samsung again! It must cost maybe a penny to add a tiny little indicator light, don’t manufacturers in Korea understand human nature?!! How can I be assured the new one I get has an indicator light? Oh. I see. From the picture on the box.

Came home with a new player with all the current technological bells and whistles for 70 bucks. You can see from the photo on the box, it’s most precious quality – a power indicator light. Whoopee!

I still have the Samsung player. I hate to donate it to a thrift store, even though it’s practically new. Someone will buy it for almost nothing thinking they’re in DVD heaven, all they need to do is program a universal remote to operate it. Yeah. I don’t want my actions to impel some poor soul, maybe already living on the edge, to drive him/herself off the deep end trying to figure out whether that DVD player is ‘on’ or ‘off’.

Aloha, Kauai – Hello Winter

February 21, 2018

In the words of Nelly Furtado:

Flames to dust
Lovers to friends
Why do all good things come to an end?

Alas, the sun is setting on our 10-day trip to Kauai. I try to stave off the melancholy that worms its way into my consciousness toward the end of our trip. As a culminating celebration on the evening of our last full day, the five of us – David and I, Steph and Vic, and my brother Eric – always go out to dinner at the Baracuda in Hanalei. My brother Eric sits on the end of the table, to my left, and I turn to him. “Do it, Eric …”

Eric knows. It’s become a yearly ritual – his duty to cheer me up with his “My heart beats for you” routine:

There. You’re feeling better now too, aren’t you? So sad to leave Kauai.

Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll share a few last photos before we head to the airport.

A last Kauai sunrise:

And Steph and Vic’s bird feeder – which not only attracts hoards of birds, but Nene geese and an egret as well:

One Layson albatross hung out about every day behind Steph and Vic’s house, as if waiting for the swoop of an interested suitor, making the mating noises with the clapping of its beak, and the whining – one day another albatross swooped in several times and then landed and they danced together.

Often though, this albatross would wait there patiently, occasionally flap its wings and finally fly off.

The Albatross is a totally different bird in flight:

Layson Albatross in flight above Larsen’s Beach

Our last day, Saturday, Jan 27, Eric, David and I climbed the Nounou Mountain Trail East to the top of Sleeping Giant. You don’t want to do this hike under wet conditions. We had had a couple of sunny days and decided to do it. The path that takes you up on top of the Giant’s head is about 4 miles round trip with about 1000 ft elevation.

Sleeping Giant’s Head

The hike is considered moderately difficult, but you’d better wear good shoes:

David

Eric and David

Almost to the top of his head now..

You can do it!

On top!

Here’s my video of the panoramic view on top of Sleeping Giant

Eric on top:

Headed back down now.

David

We beat Eric down. I caught a picture of him coming out at the trail head.

Saturday, Jan 27, 2018

Okay, time to wash the mud out of our shoes, take a shower, get our shit together for the airport.

Wait! One last photo of Kauai – near Anahola …

And my favorite photo of Eric on Larsen’s Beach:

And my sister Stephanie with the sea turtle:

Larsen’s Beach

Stop it, Jody.

Okay. Facing the inevitable. We’re at the airport in Lihue now – waiting to board the 11:15 pm red-eye to L.A.

Goodbye, Paradise!

So sad…

Vacation’s over!

Except Eric. Eric is interminably happy.

David and Eric fall off to sleep as soon as the plane to L.A. takes off. I know because I’m wedged between them, in the middle seat, hardly able to move my arms or legs, wide awake. The plane is pitch black dark so we can sleep. But of course, I never can sleep. Or I perceive that I’m totally not sleeping. But I must doze a bit. How else to endure that petrified seated position for six straight hours?

Descending for the landing in L.A. – 6:30 am, Sunday morning:

We arrive at Gate 50 or something and just need to go to 52A to catch our flight to Salt Lake. Great – look it’s just ahead there to the left! Oh… then down this staircase…

Into a long line to an outside door to … catch a bus?

Outside now on the tarmac … Waiting for the bus…

‘Good morning, L.A.!’

Get a seat on the bus!! We did. Sat and watched the line and luggage pile in, one after another – cramming into the seats and then filling the standing room in the aisle clear up to the bus driver. I picked up my phone from where I was sitting and captured a photo:

Happy happy joy joy

It was a ten minute bus ride to our gate in the far flung American Airlines terminal. We unload and head into the terminal – oh that’s right, I remember! There is one food concession in the whole terminal. Jump in line! We’re starving.

We thought we were half nuts to get in line since we were about 20 people back. But we still had a good 45 minutes until boarding our flight to Salt Lake. No. We were totally sane. Look at the line piling up behind us! (Yes, I took photos. How else to entertain myself as the line inched forward?)

I stepped out of line and took a photo of David, with the line ahead of us –

David in line with his calm ‘whatever’ face

Then photos of the line building behind us

Eric, David and I ordered 3 ham, egg and cheese mcmuffin type sandwiches with coffee – so hot we couldn’t drink it. But it didn’t matter so much, when it cooled down enough to take a sip it was so bitter I couldn’t stomach it anyway. Not that I didn’t try. I knocked a wave of hot coffee on my leg before boarding our flight to Salt Lake.

Here we are in flight:

Flight to Salt Lake, Sunday Jan 28

11 am – landing in Salt Lake!

From here we drove the nearly 3-hour drive home to Idaho Falls.

This area of the country has enjoyed one of the mildest January’s on record. These peaks are usually blanketed in snow this time of year. In Idaho Falls the temperatures have been hovering in the 40’s, 10-15 degrees above normal.

We’re home in Idaho now. A consistent ‘Where’s Waldo’ activity keeps our minds and bodies busy in the back yard, complements of our miniature poodle, Rudy.

Find the dog turds:

There’s actually two of them, should I zoom in?

Yea, getting back into the routine. Here’s what our back yard looked like yesterday:

Feb 20, 2018 – 11:19 am

A skiff of snow hoisted on 20 MPH winds with a forecasted high of 16 degrees.

So yeah, winter in southeast Idaho is not going anywhere …

Kauai “Where’s Waldo” Brain Plasticity Adventure

February 17, 2018

Still in KauaI!

View of North Coast from Sea Lodge Beach

I have so many Kauai nature photos to share, with no cohesive story, thought I’d do a ‘Where’s Waldo’ activity of sorts – combine my “find the critter” photos into a 10-minute brain exercise, if you will … think, brain plasticity!

I will identify where I took each photo – say, for example, in planning your next trip to Kauai, you want to avoid spiders, or something…

Like this spider I spotted on the trail to Larsen’s Beach:

Find the spider

Do you see it? It’s directly above center in the photo. Zoom in for a closer look… I know you want to:

Common Kauai garden spider

Beautiful! How many spiders in this web above our heads? Zoom in on the web and count them:

How many spiders in this photo?

You’re not that curious, you say? Ready for the answer? ……………………………………………………….

Eight.

(You seriously don’t want to be the first person in the morning breaking trail.)

Walking toward our car now, at the trailhead to Larsen’s Beach. Whoa! A big honking snail!

Find the snail

Crossing the road. Oh no! I took a video:

About as much action as you will capture from a snail…

David rescued it:

One hunk of a snail

Put it on Stephanie’s shoulder

‘Aloha’

Not shy, but surely soon dead had we not moved it to the grass…

Find the lizard:

In Stephanie and Victor’s garden

Now find the lizard, on our hike to Sleeping Giant:

Hint: upper left quadrant

Don’t make yourself cross-eyed. The sun is shining on her head and she is looking right at you. Same lizard is a bit easier to find in this photo:

See its head sticking out?

She’s just above the center of the photo.

Find the ‘Sleeping Giant’:

Sleeping Giant – ‘shhhhhh!’ don’t wake him!

That whole mountain, Nounou Mountain, is Sleeping Giant- Local legend has it that a giant who attended a party given in his honor feasted so much that he laid down for a nap and never awoke. Follow his head, on the left, over his chest, to his feet on the right.

Sleeping Giant’s Head:

Hike to the head of Sleeping Giant

Sleeping Giant, near Kapaa, is one of the most popular hikes on Kauai. Here’s a fun, informational link about Sleeping Giant. It’s 4-mile hike (and 1000-ft elevation gain) from the trailhead to the top of his head and back. Once you are on top you can hike from the hair on his head to his ‘chinny-chin-chin.’ Here we are on top – can you find the two other hikers on top in this photo?

Easy to see one hiker, where’s the second one?

Quite difficult to find the second hiker. Here – I’ll zoom in!

‘On top of the world, Ma!’

Back down to the beach now – Aliomanu Beach. Among the ‘rocks’ ahead, which one is a monk seal?

There’s a Monk Seal?

Hard to guess. Not so hard when you practically step on it. It’s the shape furthest up on the bank. Sunning himself… Here – I took a video, brace yourself for the action:

Just enough action to prove the shape isn’t a rock

Speaking of rocks, find Eric:

Hike to Hissing Dragon – where’s Eric?

Find the horse on the trail ahead of us:

What horse?

We were hiking the Mahogany Plantation Trail. The trailhead is right at the Kileua Farmer’s Market. It is flat and beautiful. There were several horses grazing and signs that read “Do not touch the horses” – which seemed like a set-up because this horse would not move out of our way, until David swatted it on the butt.

Here’s more photos of the Mahogany Plantation hike:

Find the bird in Stephanie and Victor’s back garden:

Find the bird

‘You’re giving me a headache!” you say. Okay this one’s difficult. Hint: It’s perched underneath the bushiest blossom on the flower that’s furthest left. (Read that aloud five times for extra brain boosting.)

This one’s a bit fun: How many chicks in this video? (taken at the top of the “ANGER US CONDITIONS” trail to Anini Beach in Princeville):

I don’t know either. They really don’t want you to count them. 5?…6?

Find the way around the mud:

There isn’t a way.

But we’re on a great hike – the Kuilau Ridge trail near Wailua – a 2 1/2 mile hike through the rain forest, only muddy in places. Here’s a couple of photos I took near the summit:

Kuilau Ridge Trail

Lastly, what’s wrong with this picture?

Two highly-paid consultants

We all piled in the car in a big hurry to shop at the Waipu Farmer’s Market, near Hanalei – had to get there – quick! with the mob, when it opened. Not sure what David’s excuse is with his shorts, but Victor did put his sandals on in a hurry.

Finally, dear reader, here’s a beach video for you. To help you decompress after all that brain exercise:

A walk on Kahili Beach. Yeah, that’s better…

Who friggin’ needs brain plasticity exercises anyway?

Kauai and the Love-Struck Layson Albatross

February 12, 2018

Back to Princeville on the north shore of Kauai … I always look forward to watching the magnificent sea birds, the Layson Albatross. There are 22 species of albatross ranging widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. They are absent from the North Atlantic. So if you live on the east coast of the US you won’t see them. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to 97.5% of the Layson Albatross.

Layson Albatross near Steph and Vic’s back yard

Check out this Audubon link for a marvelous photo of a Layson albatross and her young. Albatross breed on Kauai during the months of November to July. They leave their breeding grounds and evidently most go northwest toward Japan, then northeast toward Aleutians, before turning south toward Hawaii again. Non-breeders may wander anywhere in the North Pacific at any season.

Incubation for a albatross egg is 64-65 days. The period from hatching to fledging is 165 days. A young albatross returns to its breeding grounds three years after fledging, and first breeds at the age of 7-9 years. (Check out this wikipedia link on Layson Albatross.) It takes several years of courtship for a male and female to bond, but they bond for life. The courtship involves the use of ritualized dances – up to 25 different movements. So if you visit the northern shore of Kauai between November and July, you can witness their courting – ritualized dances. It’s quite entertaining!

On Saturday, January 20, 2018, David Eric and I were walking near the golf course when we came upon a group of four adolescent albatrosses engaging each other in a mating dance. I captured a video. They make such a racket with their whirring, clucking, whistling, and beak clapping, you usually can hear them before you see them!

We stood 30 feet away and kept watching them. They seemed a bit oblivious to us, they were so engaged in each other.

Soon two albatrosses wandered away from the others to continue their dance. They look so clumsy and awkward on land the way they waddle! (In the background of the video you will also see another albatross nesting near the bushes.)

Be patient with the video and see what happens when one albatross walks away …

I think of the Beatles song “Hello, Goodbye” when watching the Albatross mating ritual.

You say yes, I say no
You say stop, and I say go go go, oh no

You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello

I don’t know why you say goodbye I say hello

I say high, you say low…

Here’s a link to marvelous video I found on You-tube of two albatrosses engaged in, shall I say, a ‘passionate’ mating dance – (Oh, you might want to skip the ad and turn your sound down – they make quite a racket!) Well worth watching this video, however, warn the person in the next room that you are about to play it… based on the experience at my house … (I ran David out of the kitchen when he heard it, Megan hollered at me from the next room, ‘What’s that?” – Hey, just a pair of love-struck Albatrosses!)

Albatross look so big and awkward the way they waddle on land, you wonder how they launch their bulky bodies into flight. I caught an albatross on video taking flight right near Steph and Vic’s patio (January 25, 2018). It nestled by the golf course as if waiting for someone, clapped its beak a bit, then as if running out of patience, went into a running take off toward the ocean …

At the end of Larsen’s beach there is a large protected albatross nesting ground, off limits to hikers. Larsen’s beach is probably our favorite hike, I’ve blogged about it several times – link to the blog I wrote last year – Besides the albatross flying overhead, you will likely run into endangered monk seals and large sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach.

Anyway, in case you think these birds are too goofy and awkward to be impressive in flight, think again! Albatross are highly efficient in the air, covering great distances with little exertion. I took a couple of videos of albatross in flight at Larsen’s beach:

They fly in formation – move over Blue Thunder air show!:

Here’s a photo I captured last year on Larsen’s Beach of an albatross landing.

Dropping in for a landing

Look at those webbed feet! Yeah, that’s because they are swimmers too, going after fish, squid and krill in the ocean with squid as their main staple.

Here’s a photo I took at the trailhead of Larsen’s beach.

Trail to Larsen’s Beach

Hike down through the grasses and across the beach to a point where you discover the arch. Here’s a video I took of the arch in January 2016 …

Sit down and picnic above the arch and enjoy the air show, as there are scores of albatrosses nesting on the bluff right above you.

Maybe humans could learn something about courtship from the Albatross, who engage in mating ritual dances over several years and bond with their mate for life.

You’re welcome, my fellow humans, yea, as we muddle awkwardly through one of our courtship rituals – Valentine’s Day.

Just sayin’…