Friday, February 27, 2015

Photo Friday: Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo
New York City
December 2013

Thursday, February 26, 2015

January 2015 On Instagram

On my list of 101 Goals in 1001 Days, I want to share more of my life through photographs on Instagram. I challenged myself to post at least once a day for a month. While I was on vacation during the month of January and February I snapped a lot of photos. So sharing on social media sites was easy. Although this post is a bit late as we're rounding out the month of February, here is a look at my month on Instagram in January.

I started out my month traveling by train to Xi'an to visit the Terracotta Warriors and explore the rest of this ancient city. Then it was on to Chengdu for a few days to see the Giant Panda Sanctuary and eat some world famous Sichuan food.

From Chengdu I flew to Cambodia for two glorious weeks. I feel in love with the country from the moment I arrived and I know I will be back soon! I spent the first part of my time in Siem Reap exploring the countryside, visiting ancient temples and eating plenty of delicious food.

Then it was on to Phnom Penh for a few days. I took a short 45 minute flight and arrived at the very small open air terminal. Phnom Penh has a much different vibe than Siem Reap, but I enjoyed a few relaxing days in the city. I took a sunset cruise along the Mekong River, learned the traditional Khmere cuisine at a local cooking class, visited the silk islands, and shopped at the local non-profit boutiques. I even took in some of the city history with a visit to the killing fields, Royal Palace and National Museum.

I was really excited to return to Siem Reap for the remainder of my stay in Cambodia. I didn't really have any set plans, but my last few days were filled with plenty of new experiences. I drank plenty of mango shakes, visited the military museum, relaxed in a hammock at the reservoir, watched the sunrise at Angkor Wat, toured the floating village by boat, returned to the ancient temples and dined with a friend in his small village.

As I sort through thousands of photos, I will continue posting about my experiences during this extended vacation. In the mean time, you can follow me along on Instagram to see what I'm up to currently or catch up on some of my trip posts here:



Friday, February 20, 2015

Photo Friday: Indialantic Beach

Indialantic, Florida
May 2012

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pullman Guangzhou Baiyun Airport Hotel

My return flight from Cambodia to Chengdu connected through Guangzhou. I arrived at 10pm and had a 10am flight the following morning to complete my trip. It takes about an hour to travel from the airport to the downtown area of Guangzhou. During my travels through China and Southeast Asia I usually select budget hotels, but this time I chose the airport hotel merely out of convenience. However, the hotel is only a few years old and it is beautiful.  


Hotel Lobby at Reception

The rooms are large and comfortable. Bathrobes and slippers are provided for use during your stay in addition to a yoga mat and umbrella if the need arises. Bath towels are thick and extra large in size. The water pressure in the shower was the best I've had in awhile and pours out of a rainfall shower head. The bed was so comfortable that I felt as though I was sleeping on a cloud. Plus I was provided with plenty of cushy pillows including curved leg pillows at the end of the bed. The bed was so warm and inviting I had trouble leaving it in the morning and nearly missed my flight.       

My stay was delightful and my only complaint was the bathtub. It looks nice, but was rather small and I couldn't get the water hot enough. Mind you, I had no trouble accessing hot water in the shower. I realize most people don't even care about bath tubs in hotel rooms, but I love soaking in a hot bubble bath to relax. Living in China I don't have a bath tub in my apartment so baths are few and far between. When possible (and budget allows) I book hotels that have a separate tub with the intention of indulging in a hot bath.    

One thing I miss from home is the access to a variety of beauty products. While Sephora is located in a number of cities, their product selection is smaller than in the USA and the price is typically double. The same goes for any other western brand products, beauty or otherwise. So I love it when I stay at a hotel chain that provides name brand beauty products in their rooms. I was delighted that the Pullman in Guangzhou supplies CO Bigelow products. I will be using each of these until the last drop. 

Additionally, Wifi in the hotel is free and there is no pesky code to enter. You simply click the hotel name to connect. The connection was solid, which is unusual in a number of hotels in China.   

Although hotel rates vary depending on the date booked, the price for rooms typically run over $120 USD per night. I booked my stay through As I've used the site for my travels throughout China, I had earned a free night which I cashed in for this stay. With the value of my free stay applied, I ended up paying $38 for the night.     

The hotel is beautiful and the room was comfortable. I wish I could've stayed longer! It's not really practical to stay here long term as it's so far from the city center, but I wouldn't mind staying here again under similar circumstances.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chanrey Tree

On my last day in Siem Reap, Cambodia I had lunch at the Chanrey Tree. It was recommended to me by a local who said the flavors tasted just like traditional Khmere cuisine. Reservations are recommended as it is quite popular, especially for dinner. 

This is the reception area of the restaurant. There is outdoor seating available out front in addition to seating upstairs in an air-conditioned room. The prices are a little higher for Khmere food than you will find in town, but the atmosphere, service and food presentation are far superior. The restaurant is located along the river, a few minutes walk from the pub street area and old market.  


I dined upstairs in the air conditioned room. I ordered two of my favorites: a mango shake and fried fresh chicken spring rolls. Plus I tried the seafood with fresh (local) kampot pepper that was served with steamed rice. Everything was delicious and the service was excellent. They do add a 15% service charge to bill, which is only notable because tipping is not as common in Cambodia. 

I had a great meal at Chanrey Tree and I'll be back again next time I'm in Siem Reap. 


Do you like tasting the local cuisine when you travel?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Reads: Dunaway's Crossing

Dunaway's Crossing
By: Nancy Brandon

Dunaway's Crossing is a historical fiction novel. Set in Georgia during 1918, the backdrop is a small town facing the influenza epidemic towards the end of World War I. Bea Dot travels to visit her cousin as a temporary escape from her abusive husband. Feeling trapped by her marriage due to traditional  views of the time, Bea Dot struggles with her path in life as she meets a handsome suitor and faces the horrors of the epidemic.  

The characters and storyline were developed enough to hold my interest until the end. I really enjoyed reading Dunaway's Crossing and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

*Note: I received a free digital copy for my honest review

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Myself: 21 Things

This is the first Valentine's Day I will be spending alone in quite sometime. So instead of focusing on someone's love for me, I thought I'd focus on loving myself. One of the items on my 101 in 1001 days list is to identify 21 things I like about myself so here goes, in no particular order.

I Love...
  1.  My positive attitude
  2.  My tenacity
  3.  My propensity for kindness toward others
  4.  My sense of generosity
  5.  My love of history
  6.  My interest in books
  7.  My fondness for singing anytime, anywhere
  8.  My long, toned legs
  9.  My firm backside
  10.  My passion for travel
  11.  That I'm passionate about life
  12.  That I'm fun loving
  13.  That I'm adaptable and can handle various situations
  14.  My adventurous spirit, willing to try anything once
  15.  That I make people feel good about themselves
  16. My passion for art and architecture
  17. That I can make my home anywhere
  18.  I love that I enjoy food and take pleasure in eating
  19.  My love for languages
  20.  My cooking skills
  21.  That I'm living my dream

What do you love most about yourself?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Photo Friday: Xi'an

Xi'an City Wall, China
January 12, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Through The Lens: January 2015

I've wanted to focus on taking more photos to document my every day life rather than just record the amazing note worthy moments. I think part of this comes from the clock winding down on my first year in China. I'm not sure yet whether I will stay another year or not yet, so I want to take time to record my everyday life here. Because soon, all of this could just be a memory.

So when I learned of the Through The Lens link up that is hosted by Treats and Travels and All That Glitters I thought it would be a great way to showcase my monthly adventures as well as day to day activities. Here's a glimpse of what I did in January.       

1. Arriving in Xi'an, I spent an afternoon walking along the Xi'an Old City Wall. Preparations are under way for the Spring Festival Celebration on February 19th. From what I've seen so far, it looks like the display will be amazing. I wish I could see the finished product!

2. Visiting the Terracotta Warriors has been a wish of mine for a long time. I'm so glad to have experienced it! You can read about it here.

3. Another dream was to visit the Giant Pandas in Chengdu. It was so much fun watching them! You can read about it here.   

4. Sichuan province is known for its spicy cuisine and hotpot. I loved it and can't wait to go back for more. 

5. Cambodia has been on my list for awhile. I am so fortunate flights from China are cheap and that I had plenty of vacation time to enjoy. This is from my first day, walking along pub street finding a place to eat for lunch. 

6. Driving a motorbike in the countryside of Cambodia was an amazing experience! I loved getting out of the city for awhile to learn how many of the local people live. You can read about it here.

7. Walking amongst the ruins of Angkor was wonderful! I love history and I'm always amazed to learn about ancient cultures. This is from my first site, Angkor Wat. 

8. I have mixed feelings about my visit in Phnom Penh. The city is full of people and has a much different vibe than Siem Reap. This is from my first afternoon in the city walking to the Mekong River and the tourist strip in front of the Royal Palace. 

9. Back in Siem Reap for my final days in Cambodia, I spent an afternoon at the reservoir relaxing in a hammock to beat the heat.   

What did January look like for you? 

All That's Glittered

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Blogger Book Swap Reveal

Last month I participated in the Blogger Book Swap through Chaotic Goddess Swaps. This is one of their most popular swaps and it is held several times a year. I  find swaps to be a fun way to get to know other bloggers out there. Plus I get to give and receive fun things! You can read my original post on the swap here. I was paired with Wendy from A Day In The Life On A Farm. I was delighted to get to know Wendy and found that we had a similar taste in books. 

The objective was to mail three books:
  1. One book you love
  2. One book you're interested in but haven't read
  3. One book from your partners wish list

Here is what I sent Wendy:

A book I loved:

Behind The Beautiful Forevers
By: Katherine Boo

A book I'm interested in:

The Plum Tree
By: Ellen Marie Wiseman

A book from her wish list:

Henrietta's War
By: Joyce Dennys

Wendy made selections for me that were all on my wish list. Here is what she chose for me:

A book she loved:

Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet
By: Jamie Ford

A book she'd like to read:

Seriously...I'm Kidding
By: Ellen Degeneres

A book on my wish list:

My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search For His Family's Past
By: Ariel Sabar

 I'm looking forward to reading all of my selections. I hope she is too! What are you reading?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lemongrass Garden Massage and Beauty Spa

On my last day in Siem Reap, Cambodia I decided to take it easy and enjoy a delicious lunch followed by a relaxing massage before I left town. After seeing reviews on Trip Advisor and walking by the shop numerous times during my stay, I decided on trying the Lemongrass Garden Massage and Beauty Spa for my treatment.

I selected the 90 minute Aromatherapy Massage for $23 USD. I arrived early afternoon without an appointment and I had no trouble getting in right away. I imagine most tourists spend the day touring the ancient sites. 

I was welcomed with a cup of tea to relax on the sofa prior to my treatment. To start, my masseuse brought out a bucket of water and scrub to wash my feet before leaving the reception area. Then she provided me with a pair of clean sandals to use in the salon. This is necessary because Cambodia is very dusty and my feet and legs are usually covered with dirt just from walking along the street.

Asian spas are not typically as modest as in the USA, but here I was provided with a pair of black mesh disposable panties to wear during my massage. My masseuse was very professional and the massage was incredibly relaxing. It was exactly what I needed after two weeks of hiking through ruins, motorbike tours and riding around on a tuk tuk. I recommend trying the services at this spa and I plan to return any time I'm in Siem Reap.      

Do you like to indulge in any way during your vacation?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Photo Friday: Lake County Forest Preserve

Lake County Forest Preserve, Illinois
June 2013

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Chongqing Cygnet

Foreign tourists visit Chengdu to see the Giant Panda Research Base although the city is famous to local tourists for its cuisine. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province and Sichuan food is known around the world to be spicy. Hotpot is also a popular food in China and I'm told the best is found in Sichuan. So during my recent visit I checked out a local restaurant to try out the spicy hotpot. Chongqing Cygnet Hotpot has been around since 1982. It is a local chain restaurant that was located in a shopping center near my hotel. 

From the menu, you choose the flavor of your broth and the assortment of meats and vegetables that you'd like. They also have a larger version of the menu that's mostly photographs. One of the difficult aspects about dining out in China is finding an English menu if you don't read Chinese. Most of the menu is Chinese, but they have adequate photographs of the menu items, so as a non-Chinese speaker I had no trouble selecting the items I wanted.  

I've had hotpot numerous times at this point and I am typically served a sesame paste as the sauce base. In addition, cilantro, pepper jelly, and vinegar are provided to adjust the seasoning to my liking. At Chongqing Cygnet they not only had the basics, but they had an entire sauce bar for me to choose from. I loved experimenting with the different flavors.  

Another aspect that I loved about Chongqing Cygnet is that each person has their own individual burner and pot in front of their seat. That way everyone can order their own broth as spicy as you want and no one has to worry about mixing meats with vegetables if dining with a vegetarian (or vise versa). I went with the three pepper spicy rating on the menu which was perfect for me. 

I ordered a platter with meats, mushrooms and green vegetables. Plus I added sliced potatoes, muer, and bean curd; three of my favorite foods in hotpot. Everything goes into the pot to cook, even the green leafy vegetables. Then you pull it out of the pot and dip it in the sauce to eat. I usually order a spicy broth and add way too much pepper to my sauce so my mouth is on fire by the end of my meal. It's quite delicious though! I ordered way too much food and there was enough left over for at least one whole meal. For every thing, including my drink, the meal was under $15 USD. I loved my experience at Chongqing Cygnet and I will definitely go back again. As a chain, they have locations in other cities throughout China. I look forward to eating a lot more hotpot during my stay.    

What do you think about spicy food?