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Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

China Boom

I got back from my trip to Hong Kong and China.  The most striking thing is the booming economy there.  You wouldn’t know there is a recession here in the states.

Here is a picture from one of the hotels in mainland China.   The smog lingers constantly and the construction continues into the night.

Here is one of an 8 story shopping mall.   One of the malls we visited was all electronics fakes.  Their slogan there is “you make it, we fake it”.

Here is one of the beautiful harbor area looking from Kowloon to HK island.  I visited my friend Todd and also Alka mavshi and Naya kaka who both live in the midlevels area on Hong Kong island.

Here is a picture from their apartment.

Mavshi cooked me a wonderful home-cooked meal which was very nice after being on the road for so long.

On the Friday night I spent there, Todd and his wife Anne took me to the American Club.  It was a wonderful oasis for expats and served some of the best food I had there for two weeks!

A good trip… and I got really good at using chop sticks!

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On one of the days, we went to a zip line “park” run by Canopy Safari.  It was about an hour’s drive into the jungle from Manuel Antonio.  It started out with about a 20 minute walk up the hill.   From there, it was about 20 zip lines down and a couple of rappel lines.  Here are some pictures.

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After each zip line, they hurried us through to the next one.   It was loads of fun as you can see from the expressions….. but I must say, it was all a bit too “sanitized” for my liking.  Guess you have to do it once but, I would go back for another river ride instead!

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On one of the days in Costa Rica, we went white water river rafting on the Savegre River.  Our tour was conducted by the Amigos Del Rio group.  We chose the full day adventure down the Class 3 rapids of the Savegre River.  The adventure started with a bus ride to a way point about an hour outside of Manuael Antonio.  From there, we climbed into a 4 wheel drive hum-vee type vehicle for another hour drive deep into the rainforest.

Here are some pictures from the adventure.

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We started off slowly and then hit some major rapids.  It definitely looks scarier than it felt at the time.

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They referred to this section of the river as La Boca del Diablo or the Devil’s Mouth.

There was also another section of the river we got to “surf a hole” – a technique where you are paddling upstream against the flow of the river and keeping up – too cool to describe.

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We were fortunate to have a great tour operator and boatman (Ramirez) leading our raft.  Only a few of us fell out of the boat and were quickly rescued!  This was an amazing and thoroughly enjoyable day on the river.

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We just got back from a week of vacation in Costa Rica.    This time we rented a beach house in Manuel Antonio Beach.  Manuel Antonio is a small beach town about a 3+ hour drive from the capital city of San Jose in Costa Rica.  We rented a car at the local Budget and drove the 130km to our slice of paradise.

Here are some pictures of the kids on the beach behind the house.

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Each day we built a (bigger and bigger) sand castle in the hopes of battling the high tides.  Each morning we would come out to see the waves had wiped clean our hard-work!

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One of the features of the beach house was the daily monkey crossing.  We got to see a troop of monkeys crossing thru the back yard.  The monkeys would stop by pretty much every afternoon for plantains and flowers.

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In between the beach and the monkey sightings, we enjoyed the wonderful backyard and pool.
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During the week, we also did a day of white water rafting and one day of a canopy tour.  I’ll post those pics separately.

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On the second day of our Zion trip, Doug, Denis and I took a hike along the lower Subway route. This is about a 10 mile hike that took us a little over 7 hours round trip with a lot of climbing in and out of the canyon.

Here we are at the start of the hike. You have to read to the end to see why it is called the Subway!

The entire hike is along an ancient riverbed with steep canyons along each side. We saw some dinosaur tracks part way thru the hike.

Here are Doug and I getting our feet wet.

Here is a picture of one of the sandstone overhangs.

Finally, here is the Subway. This water carved formation extends for about a 1/4 mile and dead ends in a deep pool of water that requires rapelling gear to continue.

This is the end of the trail for us!

Here is Doug climbing through the canyon.

And one last look at the awesome Subway!

After that, it is another 5 mile hike back to the top of the canyon.

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On our last two days in Ecuador, we headed south of Quito on the Pan American highway to the village of Banos. It is known for its Tungurahua volcano which is an active 5000m high volcano site. It last erupted in Nov. 2006 and was said to have released steam on the days that we were there.

Fortunately, all we saw was a peaceful mountain and amazing views.

Here is a picture of the “spa” we stayed at in Banos at the base of the mountain. It is in a picturesque location underneath a waterfall.

The spa itself is a cheesy motel about the quality of a Motel 6 or worse but is was the best in town.

As you can see, the kids can have fun anywhere.

In the morning, we took a ride on the “terabithia” which is essentially a tram that goes across a gorge and ends in a waterfall. Banos is known for these “cascadas” that sit at the edge of the rainforest.

The one that we rode was 500m long and 100m above the ground. Check out the video of the ride. They stopped the tram about 2/3 of the ride and just before the waterfall.

After the ride, we headed back to Quito. On the way, we stopped off for some ice cream in the town of Salcedo which is known for its ice-cream. There must have been 100 ice cream vendors in the town.

After about a 4 hour ride back to Quito, we had a quick dinner at our favorite restaurant called the Magic Bean and were entertained by our little angel!

It was an amazing experience overall and one we will remember forever. Special thanks to Anjali for researching and arranging the whole trip!

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On one of the few remaining days after the Amazon, we went to the equator, also known as the middle of the world.

Here are the kids on the equator line.

We visited a museum that had a water demonstration supposedly showing the coriolis effects. On the equator line, the water drained from the sink straight out. On either side of the equator line, the water drained out with a whirlpool effect. It was even clockwise on one side and counter clockwise on the other. Pretty cool demonstration, but I find it hard to believe how just a few feet on either side of the equator can make a difference.

Here we all are posing for the Tustin News. We had our picture taken for the “Where in the World” section of the paper.

Another interesting feature of the equator is that one can balance an egg on a nail head. Supposedly, the gravitational forces at the equator are neutral allowing one to balance the egg. Once again, I’m not sure I buy the logic, but sure enough, it did work and it sure impressed the kids! We should now try it at home to disprove this theory. Any physicists in the house with a hypothesis as to why this works?

Vikram got to shoot a blow gun. See the arrow in the cactus.

After the equatorial museum, we headed off to the Otovalo market. On the way, we stopped off for lunch at a restaurant at Lake San Pablo with a wonderful view of the Imbabura volcano in the background at 8000 feet.

Otavalo is about two hours north of Quito on the Pan American highway (also known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes) . Otavalo is one of the oldest and most famous markets in the world. The Indians make and sell their handicrafts at the market.

This is a real hagglers paradise. Be warned though, as I bought two large size T-shirts that both shrunk to a youth size!

We have two more days left in Ecuador and tomorrow, I’ll post some more pictures from our trip to Banos and a different rainforest.

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