Wednesday – Thursday, 2/ 25-26/ 15

WEDNESDAY, 2/25/15

I seem to have developed an alternating daily activities schedule.  One day, I seem to be super unproductive (lazy), and the next day, I seem motivated to take care of jobs hanging over me.  Today was the “lazy” day.  I kept thinking I was going to do something productive, but really never did.

Judy is suffering through the throes of pre-performance anxiety.  She had a lunch rehearsal session today for several of the solo singers in the upcoming show (next week).  They, of course, hadn’t practiced over the just completed holiday, and no one seems to be able to remember their lyrics.  It’s a challenge, since English is the second language for most of them.  Today was a “wake-up”, or at least she hopes it was.

THURSDAY, 2/26/16

Today was my “active” day.  I started off with Facetime calls back to the US.  Then I called the medical clinic to set up an appointment to look at my right ear.  I got water stuck in the ear on Friday, January 30.  I went to the doctor on Sunday, Feb. 1, and he gave me some medicine.  I understood then that I had a little swelling, and the drops he gave me would take care of the minor infection, and ultimately clear the ear.  Now, almost a month later, I still have some blockage, after trips to the US, and then Bali.  I hadn’t been in the water since it happened, except for a few dousings during my failed surfing attempts in Bali.  I’m beginning to wonder if I have a more serious problem.

I took the train to the clinic and walked in about 10 minutes late.  I signed the insurance form, and they walked me around to the doctor who was already in the room.  She looked in my ear, pulled out a little vacuum device, stuck it in my ear, and pulled out what looked like a rock.  It was huge!  She said it was wax, but it looked like so much more.  That was it!  Problem solved.  I was out the door 10 minutes after I walked in, no charge.  I guess now I’ll have to start swimming again.  Darn!  It was a really convenient excuse.

After the doctor, I spent a half hour in the bank on the ground floor, exchanging left-over Singapore dollars for Chinese currency.  Back to the trains, and Taiyanggong Station where I bought some suckers at BHG that Judy needed for her show.  Next stop was the local wet market for some green beans for tonight’s soup.  Our phones are running low on currency, so I purchased some recharge cards at a local UHN shop.  Last “outside” chore of the day was dropping off laundry at the cleaners, and picking up what we left before the holiday.

Back in the apartment, I prepped the green beans, and started the soup.  When Judy got home, I listened to stories about the pre-show frustrations while we enjoyed dinner.  No matter how much you plan or work before a show, there are so many loose ends that keep cropping up.

Working again, 2/24/15

Judy heads out to a full day of school.  There isn’t the usual line of taxis waiting.  Beijing still isn’t in “full work” mode.  She flags one down without too much trouble, but it’s always a little scary when none are aroun.

 I managed to make up for my lazy streak yesterday with a full day of activities today.  I washed and dried six loads of laundry.  Talked to mom back in Baton Rouge, and Courtney in DFW.  I rode the bike over to the police station to register our return to Beijing after the trip to the US and then Bali/Singapore.  The computer was down, and the single clerk on duty was filling out all the forms by hand?  She said the system was being upgraded.  After a holiday like this one, I would think there would be lots of people checking in and re-registering.  I was lucky and caught a “hole” in the line, but when I left, there were 12 people behind me.

I stopped by the bank on my way back to check our account balance.  I have to check it at an ATM.  My bank doesn’t have an English website, so all my confirmations have to be done on-site.  Next stop was the local wet market for fruits and vegetables.  Only three vegetable vendors were open today.  Everyone else must still be on holiday.  I bought the necessary vegetables for soup, and climbed back on the bike.  Found a vendor on the street selling fruit, so I picked out some nice apples.

Back at the apartment, I unloaded the vegetables, grabbed our wheeled cart, and headed out to Metro for groceries.   Back at the apartment after Metro, I began prepping the food for the soup.  By the time Judy got home, I had the soup ready, the dishes washed and put away, and most of the laundry put away. 

Back in town, just in time for the fireworks, 2/23/15

I guess traveling is hard work. We’re both worn out! Judy’s school begins classes tomorrow, but she goes in around 10 am to meet with one of the other faculty to work on backstage planning for the musical. She gets home around 2:00.

I managed to find time to take a nap, while I was lying around. We finished up some the final unpacking when she got home. It’s going to be a tough week for me. Our Ayi is still enjoying her New Years Holiday, and won’t be back until Monday, March 2. I’ll be doing lots of laundry and dishes between now and then.

Today is officially the last day of the holiday. Stores and restaurants will begin to open tomorrow. The fireworks vendors didn’t take a holiday. Tonight is another big fireworks night, one of three major celebration nights during the holiday. I posted a short video link below.


Singapore, Day Two, 2/22/15

Today was really full. After breakfast, we went out and caught the “Hop On Hop Off” bus, checking out the sights. At the central sightseeing hub we switched over to the “Duck Boat”, for a tour of the Marina Bay area.

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Some of the government subsidized housing. 85% of Singapore residents live in government housing.


Some of the private housing for the upper 15%.



Our “Duck Boat”

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After the “Duck Boat” tour, we boarded another “Hop On Hop Off” bus for a different section of their tour. They took us through Little India, and Chinatown. We eventually got off at the Marina Bay Sands and walked through their mall area. Singapore is a really modern “western” city. It was one of the easiest cities to maneuver around we’ve visited.

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Inside the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes


We went back to the hotel, changed into our traveling clothes, and made the trip to the airport. Our flight was packed with everyone heading home at the end of the Chinese New Year. Immigration was such a breeze tonight. There were only two people in line in front of us. After we had our luggage, we went to the taxi area. Everyone who wasn’t at immigration was in line for a taxi. It was like a holiday line for a ride at Disneyland. We found a guy scrounging for passengers, offered him 200rmb, and voila, we were home in a flash. I think we would’ve still been in line for a taxi at the airport when we walked into our apartment at 11:45. We started the unpacking process, but it didn’t long before we both crashed.

Our introduction to Singapore, 2/21/15

We’re flying out of Bali today, headed to Singapore. Willie and our driver pick us up and drop us at the airport. They pass us off to someone else from Country Holidays, our travel agency. He walks us through our check-in and immigration. Bali has a $20 per person “departure tax”, payable in cash (no plastic). Everywhere we went today, people were making sure we had the cash on hand. One of the first things Willie told us when we landed last Sunday was about the tax. There must have been some interesting exchanges when people are leaving and don’t have cash, or are totally out of money after a vacation.

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A driver meets us as we walk out of the airport, right on schedule at 1:15. After a half-hour drive, he drops us off at the hotel. We take a short break, then head out to visit one of the Singapore’s “Garden By The Bay”. It’s been open two years, and is huge. We enjoyed walking through the two enclosed domes, seeing the huge variety of plants and how they’re displayed.


This area was called “Cloud Forest”

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This area was called “Flower Dome”

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We catch a taxi over to the Singapore Flyer. It’s the second largest in the world, behind the wheel that just opened in Las Vegas. There are tremendous views of downtown and the Marina Bay area. The sunset was beautiful! We grabbed a taxi back to the hotel, ate a little KFC from next door, and prepared for a full day tomorrow.


Getting ready to board the Singapore Flyer.



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Need a skin treatment?


Three Bali beach days, 2/ 18-20 / 15


It’s beach time in Bali. We ate early and then headed out to the beach area, eventually finding some chairs with lots of shade. I decided I might as well learn to surf while we’re here, so I arranged board rental and lessons from some of the locals on the beach. It was an experience, but probably won’t be repeated (by me). I was able to ride the board, but wasn’t able to get completely to my feet. My gimpy knees wouldn’t let me stand up fast enough. By the time I could get to my feet, I was off-balance and “splashdown”. The waves were good for a beginner like me, but trying to work my way back out after each ride was a physical beating. It took a few dousings before I figured out how to get through the incoming waves without drowning. I had fun, but was exhausted when I finished.


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Some of the local beach vendors. If you wander too close to the hotel beach boundary, they begin to circle



Dry land training, before I hit the surf. I’m the one in black)


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The rest of the day was spent relaxing, either outside, or in our room. Wednesday was more of the same. Just before sundown, we walked down the beach, checking out all the restaurants and crowds celebrating the Chinese New Year. We finished off the evening with dinner at the hotel. They had a Gamelan orchestra performing.



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Friday, the weather was windy with intermittent rain showers. We spent a really lazy day (as if the last two haven’t been lazy) sitting around the room and out on the balcony watching the waves roll in and the storms blow through. During one of the breaks in the weather, we strolled out of the hotel and down the street to a Circle K. Away from our hotel, the town is a just a lot of tourist stuff and traffic. We were glad to get back to the solitude of our room and balcony.

Some unique Balinese experiences, 2/17/15

We really hate to leave this villa. We ordered breakfast “in”. One of the “extras” with our stay is a one-hour massage for both of us. There is also a half hour “welcome” massage. We get to enjoy both this morning, one and one-half hours out on a balcony overlooking the jungle. This place is something else!


Video link to Villa walk-around

Willie picked us up at 11:00 and we started out on our second day in the mountains and towns of Bali. As we drove, I was amazed at the number of motorbikes. We passed several schools that were transitioning between morning and afternoon groups. There isn’t enough room for everyone to attend school all together, so the school day is split. Some students attend in the morning, finishing at noon, and the 2nd group begins at 1:00, finishing at 6:00 pm. Teachers work either the morning or afternoon session.


A middle school in transition as the morning group departs


Motorbikes everywhere!

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We stopped in one town where the specialty was making jewelry. We watched several delicate pieces being designed. The highlight of the day was lunch. We ate at a restaurant sitting on a hill overlooking a gorgeous rice field with Mt. Agung as a backdrop. Mt. Agung is a volcano. It last erupted in 1963, killing several thousand people. The top of the mountain is covered in clouds today.


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Following lunch, we traveled to the largest Hindu Temple on Bali. It’s situated on the side of Mt. Agung. Willie had brought along some fruit and flowers in a basket. After we dressed appropriately in traditional Balinese attire, we were able to observe a “blessing” from a Hindu priest. Traditional Balinese is not our best look.

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There were several different gamelan orchestras set-up on different levels of the temple.


On our way down the mountain, we stopped at a Moslem mosque. It’s the only mosque on Bali. The Moslem community on Bali is 200 families and they all live in the neighborhood surrounding the temple. The population of Bali is around 4 million. Although Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world behind China, India, and the US, and Indonesia is the largest Moslem country in the world, the majority of Balinese are Hindu.

We finished the day with our arrival at the Seminyak Anantara. Anantara is a luxury hotel chain based in Asia. Our hotel sits on Seminyak Beach, one of several big beaches on the southern tip of the island.   Our room has an ocean view with a hot tub out on our balcony. It’s not as fancy as the villa in Ubud, but it’s a great Bali beach hotel.


Ubud, Day 1, 2/17/15

We started off the morning getting more familiar with our villa. It’s really weird being surrounded by all the luxury appointments, and not having any walls on the buildings. I found time to jump in the pool before we went to breakfast. Breakfast was set in a gorgeous setting out on a balcony overlooking the jungle and the Agung River.

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After breakfast, our guide, Willie, met us with the driver, and we headed for the first stop on our tour of the Ubud area. We drove through town and up a long hill before the driver stopped. We got out and the driver left. We thought we were going to step out and observe a rice field. Actually we were at the beginning of a two-hour trek down a trail through rice fields and jungle. Willie talked about the rice economy of Bali, all the while pointing out plants and animals we came across as we made our way back into Ubud. It was an interesting way to learn about Bali, it’s history and it’s people.


The beginning of our rice field trek.


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They can haul anything on a motorbike


Some of the Ubud community were preparing for a cremation ceremony as we drove by.


After our hike, we drove through Ubud, back to our hotel. We wanted to enjoy the property, and last night, when we arrived, we zonked out. Willie picked us up in the early evening and took us to a performance of traditional Balinese dance. I posted a couple of links below of the dance performance. The chanting of the men was intriguing, and lasted the entire 50 minutes of the performance.

Balinese Dance link 1

Balinese Dance link 2


After the performance, Willie took us to “Mosaic”, one of the top restaurants (and most expensive according to Willie) on the island of Bali. The specialty of Mosaic is its use of local foods, prepared in a French style. Some of the tastes were a little exotic for us. When we didn’t “clean our plates”, we got a visit from the manager after the 3rd course, concerned there was a problem with the food. Suddenly, we were the focus of scrutiny on everything we ate (or didn’t eat.)

We really enjoyed our day in Ubud. We found ourselves wishing we had more days here, and fewer on the beach. We’ll evaluate as the week continues.

Unpack, repack, Bali bound! 2/ 14-15 /15

SATURDAY, 2/14/15

It’s Valentines Day. There are decorations around at the mall, etc. It’s a mostly “western” holiday, but retailers will try to make some money if they can. Our time today is spent packing and prepping for our trip tomorrow to Bali. Judy was in the US such a short time (4 days) she didn’t get adjusted to the time change in Texas. I spent 7 days and it was enough time to get adjusted, and now I’m going to get to flip my body clock back to China.

Packing is problematic because we’re going to a tropical climate. All our “summer” clothes are packed away. There’s lot of digging and searching, trying to find appropriate clothing for the beach. We eventually find everything we need and head to bed.

SUNDAY, 2/15/15

We need to be at the airport at 6:45 am. I figured early on a Sunday, we wouldn’t have a problem getting a taxi, even if the “migration” was going on. The “migration” references the Chinese New Year tradition of families returning to their homes for family reunions. In Beijing alone, the government is anticipating 8 million people leaving the city. There is a mad scramble for train and plane tickets leading up to the holiday with scalpers buying train tickets by the hundreds in advance.

I was wrong! There were 4 taxis parked in front of our complex, and none of them wanted to go to the airport? We were ignored by more than 20 empty taxis as they drove past. I eventually offered one of the taxis sitting at the complex 200rmb (regular trip is 80rmb) to take us, and he started loading our suitcases. The airport express highway traffic was thick, but moving. At our terminal, the line of taxis pulling in was backed up. It took an additional 10 minutes to get to the terminal doors. It was reminiscent of the APEC conference holiday traffic at the train station. We got checked in and went straight to immigration and security. The lines were long, but moved steadily. We are way too familiar with this airport!

We’re flying Singapore Airlines for the first time on this trip. It’s a relaxing flight and the seats are comfortable, in spite of the tight spacing. The difference between flight attendants on the various airlines is striking. The Asian airlines especially seem to have a mold their attendants must fit. As they walk through the airports, they travel in groups, dressed very strictly in their colorful uniforms.

Our flight to Singapore takes 6 hours. We kill a couple of hours on the layover and then board our flight to Bali, on schedule for a two-hour flight. We are on schedule when we disembark at the Bali airport. There is a visa procedure requiring purchase on arrival. It’s $35 per person. The lines are really long (40-50 people in each of the 6 lines). Our travel company, Country Holidays, had sent info two weeks earlier about a new service available allowing pre-payment, and I told them we were interested. I sent them the money, and now we’re looking for our contact. I had a phone number, but my phone won’t work in Bali. After 5 minutes, an agent comes through with our name on a sign, and he walks us to the front of the line (past some frustrated looks). Then he walks us through the diplomatic “fast pass” immigration line. This was well worth the money. We find our luggage, and again, we breeze through customs. What was probably at least an hour, took 5 minutes, after he found us.


Denpaspar Airport


He walks us out and finds our driver and guide. They load our luggage in the van while I find a money-changer, and we head out for Ubud, a 50-minute drive. I slept through supper on the Singapore-Bali leg of the trip, and my stomach is growling. The driver stops at a KFC for me to get something quick. It was jammed with people. After a 10-minute wait in a line that never moved, we walked out empty-handed. The driver stopped down the road at a Circle K (yes, in Bali). I grabbed some soft drinks and Pringles, and we continue on to the hotel.

The main road to Ubud was narrow, but we turn off on an alley (or less). The driver and guide seem a little confused, but we eventually find the hotel entrance road (this was a really narrow road, down a steep hill). It’s around 11:00 pm when we arrive at the Kayumanis Ubud. We are walked to our villa, and WOW! It’s a huge private walled area with our own pool, outdoor living area, bathroom, and dressing area (yes, outdoors, covered but no walls). If everything else about this hotel is this great, we’re going to be living it up. Tomorrow will tell.


Villa entrance


Living area


Heading toward the bed & bath area

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Yep, no walls



It’s a long haul back, 2/ 12-13 /15

I’m heading out to Beijing today, returning after dad’s memorial service. Judy left on Monday, arriving safely. The only problem she had was the extreme crowds at immigration in Beijing. The annual “Chinese New Year Migration” has begun.


Beijing Airport Immigration lines when Judy arrived

I picked up Brad at his apartment in downtown Ft. Worth, not far from our new condo/home at 5:00 am. My flight departs at 7:40. We arrive at the airport without traffic issues at 5:35 am. As I get out, I realize I don’t have my backpack with my computer, passport, and every other essential item I have to have. I’m not sure where it is? It’s either in the condo, in the hallway near the elevator, or in the parking garage. We race back to Ft. Worth, and the backpack is on the cabinet in the condo. Now we get to race back to the airport. We made it back at 6:45. There was some traffic, but we used the new toll lanes on the airport freeway and breezed along. TSA-Pre helped speed through security and I make it to the gate in time to eat a little breakfast from Burger King.

The gate transition at Dulles airport in Washington wasn’t too long, and the wait was short for my group to board. The boarding is very slow. There were several notices about “overbooked”, and needing volunteers to catch a later flight. They were sorting out those issues when someone stopped at my seat with a matching boarding pass. A few minutes later I was being moved into Business Class. YEA!!! These are the “lie-flat” seats we always walk by as we head back to Economy. It was a restful flight. I could tell the difference when I got off the plane 14 hours later in Beijing.

It’s Friday evening in Beijing when we landed. Immigration is more crowded than I’ve ever seen it, but not as bad as Judy’s arrival. It took her an hour to complete processing. The taxi ride into town is long, but not unexpected on Friday night as the New Year approaches. Judy is home when I arrive. I unpack a little bit, but it’s not long before I’m “catching zzz’s”.