Suitcase and World: 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Chile, Argentina and Uruguay! Itinerary, Planning Resources & Trip Costs.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
(Photo by Luca Galuzzi.  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.)

We're going to South America!  I don't think we had even left Thailand yet when Bro and I talked about where we would go to next.  That was this past February.  Of course, South America came up.  I've only been to one country - Peru.  Bro's never been.  It's a big continent and we bounced around ideas of where we would like to travel to.  We finally settled on Chile and Argentina.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Tianmen Mountain. Natural Arch and 99 Bends.

View of the natural arch and the stairway leading to it.

Typically, I am a half glass full person but as I took the photos in this posting, I was a glass half empty person - bemoaning the fact that in a few short hours, I would be saying goodbye to everyone and boarding a plane that would eventually take me to Beijing.  Tomorrow, I fly back to the US.  Even though I had shoved all these thoughts to the back of my head, I was still already feeling so bittersweet that I really don't think I enjoyed the last bit of my visit to Tianmen Mountain.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tianmen Mountain. Tianmenshan Temple.

Given that we are in a National Park, I did not expect to see a temple here but indeed there is one.  I guess that really should be no surprise as this was not park area when the temple was originally built.  From the Coiling Dragon glass skywalk, we made our way along the Coiling Dragon trail to Tianmenshan Si ("Heavenly Gate Mountain Temple").

Tianmen Mountain. The Glass Skywalk.

Today's cloudy skies and the fact that today is my last day on this trip did not detract from my excitement.  Today, was a trip highlight day!  We got to walk on 5 foot wide, 100 meter (328 feet) long glass skywalk that stretches around a cliff on Tianmen Mountain, a mountain located within Zhangjiajie National Park.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Killing Time in Zhangjiajie.

We had the afternoon to ourselves so we killed time wandering the streets of downtown Zhangjiajie which is just about a fifteen minute walk from our hotel. Returning from Tianzi Mountain Reserve, Lee and the driver dropped us near a bank as Mal needed to withdraw more money from the ATM machine.

Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve.

Arghh!! I saw nothing but cloudy skies when I threw open the curtain windows in our room.  I scanned the skies looking for a glimpse of blue sky and saw none.  I had so hoped for a sunny day.  Yim is going to be so disappointed :-( 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Night Stroll in Zhangjiajie.

It was 9p when we set out from the hotel for a short walk around the hotel which is located right on a main road.  The only obvious place to walk towards was a complex of buildings that looked like a commercial complex of some sort.  We were drawn in by the lights :-)

Zhangjiajie. A Walk Along Golden Whip Stream.

After lunch, Lee and our driver took us back to the park entrance where we took the path leading to the trail that ran alongside Golden Whip Stream.  The trail was basically a loop and it took us about 2 hours to complete. We had the occasional stop to take photos and admire the scenery but otherwise, we didn't break our stride.

Zhangjiajie. Huangshi Village.


e arrived into Zhangjiajie late yesterday afternoon.  We had flown from Dunhuang with a layover in Xi'an.  As we were waiting for our luggage, I spotted our guide waiting for us on the other side of the window.  We had been guessing if Lee was going to be a boy or a girl and at first glance, I thought Lee was a boy but in fact, she's a girl.  Very much a tomboy :-)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Random Shots of Dunhuang. Our Last Day.

Today was our last day in Dunhuang and I think we were all more than ready to move on.

Mal and I lazed around a good part of the morning but it really was a beautiful day so I used her need to buy bottled water as a way to get her out for a short walk around the hotel.  The hotel itself is on a relatively busy road but the side roads are not as they all seem to lead to neighborhoods.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

More of Sazhou Night Market.

Give us free time and where do we go? Back to the market - to the Sazhou Night Market to be more precise.

Yumen Pass.

The Small Fangpan Castle.

On the way back to Dunhuang city from the Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark, we stopped for a short visit to Yumen Pass (aka Jade Gate) and to see an original section of the Great Wall dating back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD).

Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark.

Today, we got to see a most and incredible,  surreal desert landscape that I will not soon forget!

When I first heard the term, *yardang*, as in the Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark, I thought the word was a Chinese word.  It sounded Chinese and maybe it referred to the specific region the geopark was located in.  I could not be more wrong!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Shazhou Night Market....In The Daytime.

Yim and Sal have been pretty much the ones who are coming up with ideas on where we should go and what we should do.  You cannot believe how incredibly grateful and relieved I am to be able to take a back seat.  Usually, I'm the one having to make the decisions and it's not often an easy task. So I thank them and graciously just tag along.

Mogao Caves.

The Fab Four at Mogao.

Mal and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed bright and early.  Mal had our vouchers for breakfast. The hotel itself did not have a restaurant so we had to go to a local restaurant that was located pretty much next door to the hotel.  Our voucher entitled us to some noodles and an egg.  I wasn't all that hungry so it was easy for me to pass up on the noodles.  Mal was not enticed  either. Very sad breakfast even by my budget travel standards and this is supposedly a 4 star hotel we're staying in.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Encore Dunhuang.

I only have one simple word to describe what I saw tonight - Wow!!!!

When Cathy asked if we wanted to see a performance event, tied to the International Cultural Expo that Dunhuang was hosting, we all said yes though we really didn't have any idea what we were all in for. 

Killing Time in Dunhuang.

We had the afternoon free to ourselves today and as often happens, we had little clue as to how to keep busy.

After Cathy dropped us off at the hotel, we headed out in search of a place for lunch and we found what looked like a nice place to eat.  Most importantly, it was air conditioned - the heat here has been least for me :-(

Echoing Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake.

Crescent Lake

We spent the morning at a place that I have been looking forward to visiting ever since I decided to come on this trip.  The dunes sounded so unique.  Walk on them and you can hear them echoing ergo their name - Echoing Sand Mountain.  Well, the whole echoing thing didn't happen probably because the place was mobbed with tourists but it was still a fun experience hiking up and down the dunes and see the lake which has never dried up.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Short Stroll in Dunhuang.

After pretty much what was a full day's journey getting to Dunhuang from Jiayuguan, we all looked forward to stretching out legs for more than just a few minutes.  We all took some time to get ourselves settled into our rooms and then we all met back up in the lobby.  Cathy had given us a rough set of directions to walk in.  I think we were all a bit tired so we set out but I don't think we knew exactly which way to walk but we  knew we had to head towards the river and so we did.

On the Way to Dunhuang. Yulin Grottoes.

After a VERY uninspiring breakfast at the hotel, we left Jiayuguan bright and early this morning. By day's end, we had arrived into Dunhuang. It was a long road journey and along the way, we made a few stops - most notably at Yulin Grottoes, hands down the nicest cave temples we've seen so far. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Overhanging Great Wall.

After our visit to Jiayuguan Fortress, it was off to climb a section of the Great Wall. The last time I was on the Great Wall, I climbed the Simitai section which was partially reconstructed.   Today, I walked a comparatively shorter section known as the Overhanging Great Wall, that was pretty much fully reconstructed.

Jiayuguan Fortress.

Mal and I met up with Yim and Sal for breakfast at 8a. We took Mal to the same woman that we had bought the Chinese cruellers form yesterday. Today, I had two and a small plastic cup of warm soy milk. That was a perfect breakfast for me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

After Hours in Zhangye.

After visiting the Zhangye Danxia Landform, we headed back to our hotel.  We gave ourselves a few minutes to freshen up before heading out for a walk about the city. We happened upon a supermarket and took the opportunity to pick up a few snacks for our upcoming roadtrip.  Supermarkets all look pretty much the same these days.  This place had a good selection of both fresh and prepared food items as well as imported products.  It definitely caters to a wealthier clientele.

The Breathtaking Zhangye Danxia Landform.

After lunch, we first made a pit stop to use the public toilet. As Mal describes it, it was the Step to Urinary Disappointment - her way of describing a toilet that is well, unpleasant to use because of the smell and dirty floor. I shall describe no more. You can imagine it. The rest of this blog posting will seem so much nicer after this unpleasant start :-)

Dafo and Mati Temples.

Mati Temple Complex.

It was another early morning call today. Mal wasn't up to it but I joined Yim and Sal to venture out in search of a place for breakfast. We followed Cathy's instructions and headed down the street adjacent to our hotel. It was barely 7a and not many places were open.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lunch in Linxia and the Train to Zhangye.

A cup of green tea flavored with rose buds, goji berries, dried dates and dried longans.

After visiting Bingling Temple, it was lunch time. We ended up at a restaurant in Linxia.

Linxia pretty much like every other nondescript Chinese town we've been to on this trip. Although this is the Silk Road region, if you have any romantic notions of seeing quaint, ancient Chinese buildings and temples, scrap them.

Bingling Temple.

It was an early wake up call this morning. We had to hit the road at 6:30a. It was still dark when left Xiahe behind. Our destination for the morning were the Bingling Temple,carved into natural caves and caverns situated a canyon just north of where the Yellow River empties into the Liujiaxia Reservoir near Linxia.  The grottoes are only accessible by boat.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Most Dreary Day in Xiahe.

Sangke Grasslands.

Dreary day today - cold and rainy.  In all honesty, I was very uninspired to do any sightseeing.

Mal and I were suppose to meet up with the other two at 8a and walk back to the same noodle restaurant we had breakfast at yesterday for our first meal of today. But I hadn't slept well last night - waking up at 3:30a and pretty much tossing and turning until the sun rose. I just wanted to sleep in and Mal was feeling the same.  I was toasty, comfy under my blanket and I didn't want to get out of bed.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Random Photos of Xiahe.

Tibetan Momos.  It's what was for lunch.  Can't go wrong with dumplings! :-)

The plan for lunch was to go Tibetan. Although there were plenty of Tibetan restaurants located right next to Labrang Monastery, Yim and Sal were leery because they didn't look all that clean. So, we ended up back on Zhaxiqi Street, walking past the place we had breakfast at this morning.

Labrang Monastery. Part 2.

After making the donations at the Assembly Hall, we headed back to the main courtyard, towards the entrance to the monastery complex.  More random photos along the way.

Labrang Monastery. Part 1.

By 9:30a, we were all out the door of the Nirvana Hotel, following Eric to Labrang Monastery. He bought our entry tickets and we walked in, joining the pilgrims on the kora. Yim and Sal spun the prayer wheels as they walked along. I opted to just take photos from afar.

First Views of Xiahe.

Original post date: September 17, 2016.

We arrived into Xiahe late yesterday afternoon. Eric got us checked into our hotel before leaving for the day with our driver Hu Hai Jung.  Mal and I got settled into our room, even having time to do a bit of hand laundry.  We would each pack up a few items to have laundered by the hotel.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fossils in Hezheng and a Glimpse of Linxia.


Mal had set the alarm for 6a but I was up well before then. Something I ate last night had not agreed with me and I had to make two trips to the toilet to empty my bowels. Not a pleasant way to greet the day.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

An Afternoon Stroll in Lanzhou.

Mal and Sal lead the afternoon stroll.

Original post date: September 15, 2016.

Before Mal and I left our hotel room to meet up with Yim and Sal, I did the card hack to keep the air conditioning on in our room. While the room had cooled down somewhat between the time we arrived and when we were about to leave, I knew it wasn't cool enough for both Mal and I to be comfortable sleeping. Mal likes to sleep in a cold dark room as I do.

On the Move to Lanzhou.

David had arranged for the hotel restaurant to have breakfast available for us at 7:20a. We had 20 minutes to eat before leaving the hotel at 7:40a for the 20 km drive back to the train station.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Maijishan Grottoes.

From the train station in Tianshui, we immediately drove to Maijishan Grottoes.  Warning in advance, this is a long posting because there are so many photos.  I really should create a slideshow of them but I'm too lazy at the moment. :-(

On the Train to Tianshui!

The last time I left on a train from Xi'an, it was to go to Beijing. On that trip, I took a hard sleeper today. Today, we travel in relatively luxury in a soft sleeper train.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Last Night in Xi'an.

Hard to believe but our stay in Xi'an is almost over. So sad as I feel I've just arrived and I'm just getting reacquainted with this city. Tomorrow, we leave for Tianshui - we begin our trip along the China Silk Road to Dunhuang.

The Other Terracotta Figures in Xi'an.

My favorite travel experience is when I come across something totally expected that was worth the discovery. Such was the case with the Hanyangling Mausoleum. The mausolem complex was constructed around the tombs of Liu Qi, a notable emperor of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24AD), and his empress, Empress Wang.

A Return to The Terracotta Army.

How lucky I am! For most people, seeing the Terracotta Army is a once in a lifetime experience. The fact that I got to see them a second time is incredible and I have a feeling this will not be the last time for me as I know Bro wants to come to China one day and most likely, I will be the one to accompany him.  For me, today was seeing what had changed since my last visit in 2009.  Would there even be more warriors on display?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Ending Our First Day in Xi'an. Dumplings, Bright Lights & Market!

The Bell Tower shimmers at night.

It was an overcast day today with intermittent rain drops.  I was acting as tour guide today so after spending the morning wandering about the Muslim Quarter, I decided to take the gals to the Shaanxi History Museum which I really enjoyed visiting on my visit in 2009.  Mind you, I'm not much of a museum going so if I found the place interesting, I figured that at least Yim, who is a museum goer, would like it.

A Bit of Shopping and The Great Mosque.

I met up with the gals for the buffet breakfast at the hotel.  I'm slowly getting reacquainted with Yim and acquainted with Malamo or Mal as Yim calls her.  Mal's much more relaxed this morning than last night, enjoying a hearty Western breakfast.  Yim and I went Chinese, eating rice porridge though after seeing Mal eat her eggs, I was craving one myself.  The one nice thing about staying at an upscale restaurant is you get a better buffet.  I left the table happily filled and ready to get on with the day!

My Muslim Quarter Food Diary.

Cubes of soft glutinous rice mixed with chili and cumin and topped with bean sprouts and scrambled egg.

I'm back in Xi'an after 7 years and the first place I go to is one that I fell in love on my last visit here - the Muslim Quarter. Why? Because for me, it's all about food!  The photos on in this posting were taken both yesterday, when I wandered about the place on my own and today, when I returned with Yim and Mal aka Malamo.  Salivate away!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Back in Xi'an.

The Drum Tower.

This morning I woke up in Seoul, Korea and by afternoon, I was strolling the streets of Xi'an, China. I said goodbye to George in our room at the airport hotel in Seoul.  He would be departing later in the day.  I took the hotel's shuttle to the airport.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Making Our Way Back to Seoul.

How 10 days have flown by. I can't believe that today is our last full day in Korea and we spent it driving back to Seoul from Wando.   It ended up being about a 6 hour drive and we didn't stop along the way except at Incheon Airport to drop off the rental car.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Another Day, Another Ferry Ride, Another Adventure.

In our second class cabin on the Red Pearl.

Our grand plan today was to take the 3pm Red Pearl Ferry.   That would leave us at least half a day to explore more of Jeju but as it turned out, that was not to be.  We got foiled, yet again, by the ferry ticketing process.  Grrrrr......

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Savoring a Jeju Island Delicacy. Black Pork.

For our last dinner on Jeju Island, we really had no idea what to do so we asked the hotel receptionist for advice.  He told us to go out the front, turn right and go down one block.  There would be plenty of restaurants in the vicinity.  That's exactly what we did  last night so with no other suggestions in hand, we did exactly as the receptionist instructed.

Part 2 of Our Day on Jeju Island. Dolharbang Park and Hamdeok Beach.

Dolharbang Park.

Considered to be a main symbol of Jeju Island, Dol Hareubang, literally meaning "Old Grandfather" stone statues, can be found everywhere on the island although I only caught sight of them once before we when to Dolharbang Park.  Their name is made from the Korean word for stone, dol, and the Jeju dialect word for grandfather or senior, hareubang.

Part 1 of Our Day on Jeju Island. Mt. Hallasan and Manjanggul Lava Tube.

Manjanggul Lava Tube

Today is our one and only day on Jeju Island. Everyone that I asked about what there is to see and do in Korea always mentioned Jeju as must-do. So, here we are.

Our day began with a buffet breakfast at the hotel.  Based on the offerings, it's obvious that this place is either owned by the Chinese or caters to a lot of Chinese tourists.  As you might expect, for that reason, I was very happy with the choice of food items :-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Long Way to Jeju.... via Cheongsando.

In his economy cabin *seat* on the Hanil Carferry 1 from Wando to Jeju.  You have no idea how relieved he is to finally be on the ferry!

It started out like any morning except the alarm went off bright and early at 6a.  We didn't want to miss our 8a ferry to Jeju Island so we quickly prepared for the day.  We checked of the Piano Motel which had been a very quiet and uneventful stay.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Jeongju to Wando.

George and I decided that we would spend time in Jeju which means pretty throwing out the 7 day conducted tour itinerary. We have to make our way south to the city of Wando where we can catch a car ferry over to Wando. On the way, we stopped in Jeongju to check out the Hanok Village that is located there. It's a popular tourist attraction.