The week of July 21

Your enthusiasm is like a fire
My smile is like a flower

Over the years, I learned that missing you is such a graceful feeling,
much better than fighting with you, than feeling vulnerable with you …

In this busy world, everything needs to be fast! but have you tried slow and relax type of love —- like the music along the Venice canals—-there is no fear of change, no fear of war but just the enjoyment of being together.

Singapore (3) Gardens by the bay – Cloud Forest

One surprise may be impressive, but some consecutive surprises just —- can not be surpassed!

Cloud forest is the second astonishing site. It is shaped vertically and the designers used visual clues to make you feel that you are climbing up to a mountain. Hmm, what we often see when hiking in the mountains? The trail map said you can visit “lost world” “tree top walk” “waterfall view” “cloud walk” …

Once you enter the cloud forest, here is the tall ever waterfall that are welcoming you.

Turning around the waterfall, there are less people. Your neck is bent backwards and you breathe inhales the forest mist. It’s peaceful as in the forest.

The hiking trail seems a bit easy :D, but the views are not unique.

There are real plants and special types. “Please do not touch the Carnivorous plant, or you will be fed to them.” hmm, it must be yummy ;). And there are this man-made artistic lotus. They compete each other for the beauty.

Turning around the corner, you see the city sunset. One side is Marina Bay Sands, and the other side is the light garden! They are layered with the lines of the windows and mist of the waterfall

See the skylines through the geometric shaped windows.

The trails go up. You see different paths like the overpasses in the city highways. I was thinking about the movie “inception” 🙂

The waterfalls are so close that you almost can touch it.

Here must be the peak! At every step, there is a different but beautiful view.

We happened to be at the best time to visit here. You can see the light of the sky changes from bright white to darker blue. The lights in the forest just came on. It is a completely different feeling of the “forest”.

The visual interaction room is fun too. When you touch a flower bud, the flower opens 🙂

Watching a video about the cloud forest.

Living fossils — cycards–witness the history of the lives on earth. Maybe being still like plants is a possible way to survive history.

You don’t just want to be good. You want to be surprisingly good, again and again, to convince the world.

Singapore (2) Gardens by the bay – Flower Dome

This place brings me many surprises!

I thought I went there to see a garden. Then wow, it is many gardens! It is a huge space located in the city center, you can just walk and walk … for the entire evening. You see the beauty and feel the magnificence especially when you think about Singapore is a small country and the hotel rooms are often just a small bed :).

On one side, the gardens connect to Marina Bay Sands, and on the other side, there is this 360+ meters ferris wheel. I have been many places in the world, but never have seen anything like this, no wonder that the gardens won many design awards.

Here is the night view of the gardens, consisting of Flower Dome, Cloud forest and Sky way.

When you get off the subway, the exit looks like this. “we can dance here!!” I was so excited and spinned several circles. Indeed, later, when we came back, there were some groups dancing hip hop 🙂

It’s the sunset time. The soft ray peeks through the windows and highlight the entire garden with a layer of gold. The entrance is on the top of the flower dome, so you see the entire garden once you enter.

You walk along the path and it takes you to different parts of the world. Here are many different kinds of cactus from South America?!

The special exhibition was rose. I have never seen so many roses, many different colors. The smiles just automatically climb up your face when your eyes are filled with flowers!

The gardens indeed are a good place to tell the fair tales: remember that Alice in wonderland?

It’s also a great place to take your lovers. Are you smiling now? 😀 🙂

Singapore (1) night safari

What do animals look like at night? Are you excited to hangout late at night? We are all super excited to visit the night safari, the world first. 2024 is its 30 years’ anniversary.

The vibe looks like this 🙂 😀

The night safari is located at the north west corner of Singapore. It considers the Singapore bio tour corner? There are also Singapore zoo, river wonderness and bird paradise. You can come out a whole day to visit them. It took more than 1 hours to get there via public transportation. If it is not at the traffic hour, you can just take a taxi.

The night safari opens 6:30 pm or 7:30pm in summer and closes at midnight. There are a few “must-do”s, and the first of course includes the shows!! There are light and fire shows (see on the left), and also the animals’ performance, such as the performance of owls and vultures (see on the right).

The food stands here sell Singapore signature dishes. It tastes good but very expensive. This following dish costs about 30 Singapore dollars, and in a normal food court, it only costs a few Singapore dollars.

The second “must-do” is to take the tram and tour around the safari. We waited in line close an hour. There are frequent trams, but there are also a lot of people.

It’s astonishing to see those creatures at night. They are peacefully hanging around. You almost can imagine that’s how they look like in the wild at night. There are birds, beavers, porcupine, and many exotic Asian animals. It is hard to take photos at night on a moving tram, so only big animals can show here. There are also some animals walking right beside the trams. For example, a cute anteater sniffs around near our tram. The driver said he walks down this road every day to see his girl friend on the other side 😀 :).

The tram takes about half an hour. Our driver was a super cute old man. He said to us “give me your camera and let me take a picture for your family. They charge you 50 bucks for taking a picture for you”, he pointed at those picture-service people 🙂 Besides taking the tram, you can also walk the trails. The trail is busy with people and from time to time, you see a staff carrying a flash light. We walked the entire trail system and it took us about 2 hours. We did skip some places on the road.

Slow Loris is my son’s favorite. It is world’s only venomous primate. It looks cute and innocent, but it has venom!!

The athletic devil looks so lazy and pigish. He slepts happily when we were there. Then, there is this recording playing its scary sound when you push the button. err, can’t blame people to name him the “devil”. I have also seen them in Australia.

When we left the zoo, it was already 11:30pm. There are a couple of buses still running outside the zoo. My phone has some issues with the map app that day. It is great that we followed a group of warm-hearted Australian tourists and got off the bus at this train station called Bright Hill. Well, it is called bright hill, but when we arrived, the last train has left :(. Now I was in the middle of nowhere in Singapore with 70-years old parents and 1 sleepy kid and a phone that has a broken map app. so I messaged my friend and he immediately called a taxi and made sure we were onboard. Such an adventure at the bright hill :).

Nothing is more happy for me than taking out my loved ones for fun. It was a great memory for my parents and son.

The week of July 14

I felt that happiness is about to jump out of my chest.

The best pictures are the ones that record special stories and the happiest moments, it’s nothing about whether you look beautiful or have wrinkles.

You can’t hide that likeness. Your eyes will shine with it, your face will glow with it and you hands can’t help doing it.

*The scenery on an evening walk*
Kids are laughing on the swings
couples walked along the paths
The grass is highlighted with sun rays
Also this old guy squatted in the middle of the road and too a picture
“the light is good”, he said.

Hangzhou (1) Nine Creeks in Misty Forest

Driving along Zhijiang Road (之江路), passing Liu He Ta (六和塔)and Zhejiang University Zhijiang Campus (浙大之江校区), you’ll arrive at the Nine creeks tourist area. This is one of my favorite places to visit in Hangzhou, especially in June. It is beautiful and cool (temperature). From Zhijiang road where the buses and taxis stop, the walk towards Nine Creeks in Misty Forest is like 1-2 miles, but the trail is covered by the treetops and you don’t even need sunscreen. The creeks run along the trail. The water is clear and not deep, so you can go down anytime to trek the creeks. There are stones and little waterfalls, and it is certainly a fun walk. Of course, remember to bring your water shoes, for the stones can make your feet really hurt.

The left and right sides of the trail are the slopes where the tea trees grow. They are the famous long jing tea production fields. It makes a typical “Jiangnan” (江南)scenery that I often miss when in US. I saw some bike riders, and it indeed looks like fun to ride on this road.

If you are tired of walking, you can spend 8 RMB to take the electric go-cart ride. Here is the map. There are many restaurants and hotels around the area.

The water is originated from the two sources, one from the Shizi peak at the Longjing mountain (龙井狮子峰) and the other is from Yangmei Ling, Wengjia Mountain (杨梅岭,翁家山). The water splits into nine creeks in the area, and eventually they are all merged and enter the Qianjiang river (钱塘江). The longest creek is a total of 7 km.

There are 18 creek-crossing like this along the trail. You can trek through the waters or jump around the stones to cross. You can also rent a tent and some tables/chairs for some tea nearby to enjoy the misty forest, 25-38 RMB per person, dependent on the type of tea.

The ice bars here are shaped with tourist symbols. I have been admiring them.

There are also waterfalls and beautiful Mandarin ducks to see if you hike around. You can play there whole day easily.

What to wear: water shoes (for both hiking and creek walk), T-shirt, shorts
What to bring: water (you can also bring water toys, towel, hat, slippers and bug spray if you don’t mind carrying things)

Northern lights

I have been wanting to see the northern lights for many years. When I was in Sweden and Voyageurs national park, I especially looked up the sky and imagined that green. One day, they arrived unexpectedly.

I was very busy on 5/10 weekend, and on Saturday morning, when I got up and heard that many parts of the north American saw northern lights last night. “Oh I would’ve driven to the Voyageurs national park if I knew it.” Then the radio said “the northern lights will continue on 5/11 and maybe 5/12”. When it got dark, we headed out to the Ada Hayden lake, the north part of the town. The parking lot is full. The benches around the lake were full. We also saw some tents here and there. The road near the lake had many traffic lights. They were the crowds leaving from the graduation ceremony. It must be a good weekend.

The sky looked purple redish, and near the horizon, it has an edge of yellow green. “Is it the northern light?” We were not sure. The picture below has much more obvious color compared to what we saw in person. We sat in the dark and guessed whether the lights would arrive like lightening. Northern lights are cool because they looked very differently at different places although they happened at the same time in the northern atmosphere.

All the planets are under the horizon that night but it is cheerful to see the starry dippers and the fast moving international space station.

Around 11pmish, the sky has some stronger red and green at places.

It was such a beautiful night. Although my family was hurry to go back to sleep, I was totally in the mood of 20s:

Walk around the lake late at night
Sit in the darkness hand in hand
We watch the stars and chat about the life

Coles Famous Tenderloins

The memorial day was passed not long ago. We remembered to visit this little restaurant again. It is located in a little town in Iowa called Slater.

This restaurant is run by an old man and his young Philippine wife. It has been here since I moved to Iowa in 2014. There is a popular biking trail across the street, so whenever we came over for a bike ride or skating, we often visited this restaurant. It has excellent root beer float and tenderloins. Every time I went, the owner came over talking to me and started with “are you from Philippine?”

super tenderloin (with onion and brisket)

During the COVID, many restaurants are closed. This one also only opens sporadically, but it is not closed. Later, there was a fire happened in the kitchen and the fire burned half of the restaurant. It was remodeled and opened again, only with more fun flavors. Initially, we ate inside, and after remodeling, we only dine outside or takeout.

On the window near the menu hangs a picture of a handsome young man dressed in the Marine Corps uniform. When we asked, the owner told us that it was his only son, who died in the war (If I remembered correctly, it was the Desert Storm operation). This restaurant was initially started by his son. After the son died, the father decided to continue running this restaurant in memorial of his son and followed his vision. Every time I think of this, I feel something warm and soft inside. It is a tough restaurant although there is a “tender” in its name.

We often learned the history from the textbooks and Internet, which I found is dry and cold. But by coming over here often, I feel I am lively interacting with the history. I often brought my friends over just to support this restaurant. I find glory and gain much energy from this ordinary small restaurant.

(I wrote this story on a plane flying over near Iraq, salute to our heros)

Total Solar Eclipse

This year, the total solar eclipse happened on April 8, and the northern lights were visible on May 11. Also, a comet is approaching Earth and it may be brighter than Venus in Oct/Nov. We are so lucky!

We were heading towards Carbondale Illinois, where it was supposed to have a total eclipse with the longest duration in the area (4 minutes 10 seconds). We drove more than 7 hours and took a workday off. But it totally worth it. Everyone should agree that partial eclipses are not at all comparable to the totality.

Magnificent beauty

We stayed at St Louis over a weekend and drove out on the Monday morning. The cast had predicted cloudy, so we all cheered up when we saw the blue sky, and it was almost clear! (We had thought about going to Rochester New York to watch the eclipse 10 days ago when the weather reported likely rain and cloudy here in the midwest, lol). The morning traffic was like this everywhere. It was supposed to be 1 hour something drive, but we stuck on the road for more than 3 hours due to multiple accidents. Then lucky again, we entered the totality zone around 12:20pm.

While on the way to Carbondale Illinois, we saw a big sign “total eclipse festival” on the Du Quoin State Fair Ground. (Later, I found this place is famous for Du Quoin State Fair). Wow, we even cannot plan that well. We drove passed 2 minutes and then came back here. When we turned in, the eclipse just started.

wow, good vibe here

The eclipse happened fast and every time you looked up, there were some changes. It was thrilling.

The sun light gets thinner and thinner like the air when you climb higher and higher. The birds make louder and louder noise, until the totality arrived. This was one of the best 4 minutes in life. It was so strange and exotic that you felt you may be in another planet?! This was a different space compared to some minutes ago except that people around you were the same. Everyone has amazed smiles on their faces. The world is united and at the peace. You wish the time could stop here.

The type of beauty you cannot describe.

I was taking pictures, danced with the music that was playing, and thought a lot. It is the type of time that you naturally think about life.

I thought about who I was with when I watched the last eclipse in China. I remembered that I was in my first or second grade. We went out of the classroom during the class time and looked up using a piece of filtering board. I remembered the sun ring and there were also some water basins set out, and some kids were looked into the basin …

When the moon starts moving out, we went out for some music and food.

On the way driving back, I received beautiful lines about the eclipse from a poet. Such a poetic event should be accompanied with the poems and the poet.

It was just a perfect day!

Here is how my son writes about his “totle sooler eeclips”. I was laughing so hard, and finally understand why some of my native speaker friends think my accent is adorable.

UTV @ Aruba (3)

One of my favorite experiences at Aruba is riding UTV in the desert. Riding a UTV makes you feel like a superhero in the movie. It is loud, rough, rumbling and feels powerful when it run over big rocks or go up hills in seconds. There are some wonderful sites in Aruba which are only accessible by all terrain vehicles. You can go with some sort of truck, but I selected to ride UTV/ATV by myself. UTV/ATV are all terrain vehicles. ATV is one-person like driving a motorcycle, you will need a helmet. I drove UTV which can take a passenger and does not need a helmet. Below is the one I drove.

There are many tourist groups that can take you out for the UTV/ATV ride. I went with Kini Kini. I am super happy with them. They were very accommodating, and communicated fast on phones and emails. Our tour guide is super funny and such a character. He said “Aruba, we are a happy island. We have many return customers. Bora Bora is overrated :D” Below is him 🙂

The tour first drove through the city and then arrived a historical church, which is the first chapel of Aruba.

I heard that people here feed street dogs

There is some coconut stand nearby and selling cock tails :D. In Aruba, you can drive after drinking, just don’t get drunk. You can even use US dollars and of course, your credit card can work too.

What to bring? Special kind of Sun glasses that can block sands. I see that some people also take scarfs around their necks to prevent the sand from entering the clothes. But it is fine without it too.

Besides driving around in the bumpy desert, UTV takes you to three exciting stops: (1) natural bridge (2) natural diving pool and (3) a gold-mining ruin. The best outfit for the day should be the swimming clothes under and a long-sleeve UV protection on the top. It is also good to bring a towel to dry off after your diving, and also bring slippers (for playing in the pool) and sneakers (for hiking around the ruins). The guides will bring some water bottles for you.

it looks like on Mars when you are on top of the bridge

Ruins are like natural rock climbing gym, and I also love to take good pictures in ruins (but I have no luck to find a good boy friend who can take good pictures for me :))

The view from the ruin, feel the happy atmosphere
The view of the ruin from the top

It was a great day and have 0 complaints :).