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Hong Kong Women’s Conference (second year)

March 30th, 2014 1 comment

The A.S.I.A (Associated Sisters In Asia) Women’s Conference was held in Hong Kong again this year the second weekend in March. I was able to confirm with a friend early on that she would attend and we would fly over together, but she was going to meet up with her other friend who would be coming from Singapore. Luckily I got another friend to agree to join me and be my roommate for the 3 nights that we were there. We decided to fly to Hong Kong a day before the conference started so we could do some sight-seeing, since there wouldn’t be a lot of time during the conference. And the speakers for the conference were wonderful as usual. We were privileged to hear from members of the Asia Area Presidency: Garrett Gong & Randy Funk. And then we attended about 6 breakout classes of various topics. It was wonderful to get out of the Philippines, see Hong Kong, be spiritually uplifted, participate in a service project, see old friends and make new friends.

First outing in Hong Kong was to the LDS Temple...but the taxi driver said this was "not a temple, only Chinese temple, this is a church"

First outing in Hong Kong was to the LDS Temple…but the taxi driver said this was “not a temple, only Chinese have temple, this is a church”

Chi Lin Nunnery in Hong Kong was very peaceful, although we never saw any nuns while there

Chi Lin Nunnery in Hong Kong was very peaceful, although we never saw any nuns while there

Did some souvenir shopping at the "Ladies Market"

Did some souvenir shopping at the “Ladies Market”

The people in Hong Kong hang dry their clothes right outside their apartment window

The people in Hong Kong hang dry their clothes right outside their apartment window

My roommate and I at the 12 story church building where our conference was held

My roommate and I at the 12 story church building where our conference was held

Streets of Hong Kong are busy

Streets of Hong Kong are busy

Cool Asian boat at the Hong Kong harbor

Cool Asian boat at the Hong Kong harbor

Old fashion double decker bus only costs about $.30 to ride, but it doesn't go very fast and makes many stops along the way and is crowded on a Saturday afternoon

Old fashion double decker tram only costs about $0.30 to ride, but it doesn’t go very fast and makes many stops along the way and is crowded on a Saturday afternoon

Hong Kong Park is right in the middle of the city, but you wouldn't be able to tell once you were surrounded by the fountains and trees

Hong Kong Park is right in the middle of the city, but you wouldn’t be able to tell once you were surrounded by the fountains and trees

Unique teapots on display at the Teapot Museum located at the Hong Kong Park

Unique teapots on display at the Teapot Museum located at the Hong Kong Park

Aviary at the Hong Kong Park

Aviary at the Hong Kong Park

My friend who was in our ward in Texas, flew the 10 hours or so from Saudi Arabia to attend conference

My friend who was in our ward in Texas, flew the 10 hours or so from Saudi Arabia to attend conference

My 2 friends who I got to join me from the Philippines

My 2 friends who I got to join me from the Philippines

More photos from Hong Kong women’s conference here.

Beijing, China Vacation

March 20th, 2014 No comments

We were fortunate that Matt had a business trip to Beijing, China in early March. That meant the kids and I got to join him and do some sight-seeing. In preparing for this trip we had to get a visa for everyone. To make things easier on me, we used HAS travel agency to take care of the visas. I gathered the papers needed and then someone from HAS travel showed up to our home and took everything to the Chinese Embassy for us and waited in whatever lines were there. Unfortunately, the Chinese embassy charges ~$170 per person for a visa, but at least Matt’s was paid for as part of his business trip (and his hotel and airfare). Of course we booked a tour guide through Viator. We were fortunate enough to have Iris Liu as our guide and she was wonderful. Her English was great, she did some research for us beforehand, she was wonderful with our kids, she told us how much we could bargain down to, and it was totally stress-free for us for the 3 days we had her. A cool fact is that the NBA contacts her each year to help guide their staff and players when they visit for exhibition games. If she’s good enough for the NBA, she’s good enough for us – we highly recommend Iris (read our tripadvisor review of her here)!

Day 1:

Tiananmen Square; we didn't cross the street, so this was what we saw of it in front of the Forbidden City

Tiananmen Square; we didn’t cross the street, so this was what we saw of it in front of the Forbidden City

Part of the Forbidden City. This view reminds me of the Disney movie Mulan

Part of the Forbidden City. This view reminds me of the Disney movie Mulan

Behind the Forbidden City is Jingshan Park. It offers a fabulous view of how huge the Forbidden City is...9,999 rooms total before a fire destroyed some of them

Behind the Forbidden City is Jingshan Park. It offers a fabulous view of how huge the Forbidden City is…9,999 rooms total before a fire destroyed some of them

A pedestrian walking street full of stores. Many familiar store were seen

A pedestrian walking street full of stores. Many familiar store were seen

Down a side alley of the pedestrian street is the "Food Market" where people can eat scorpions, starfish, seahorse and other items...yes, Matt ate some scorpions

Down a side alley of the pedestrian street is the “Food Market” where people can eat scorpions, starfish, seahorse and other items…yes, Matt ate some scorpions after they were deep fried

Around the corner from the scorpion area is this souvenir alley full of people and trinkets

Around the corner from the scorpion area is this souvenir alley full of people and trinkets

We had time to do a little bit of shopping where you bargain down and should only give the vendors 50% of their asking price. Matt got a couple of clothing pieces, Kalani got a pair of gloves and I got $20 knockoff Ugg boots that Kalani wears

We had time to do a little bit of shopping at this 4 story “gray market” where you bargain down and should only give the vendors 30-50% of their asking price. Matt got a couple of clothing pieces, Kalani got a pair of gloves and I got $20 knockoff Ugg boots that Kalani wears

We ended our first day watching a 45 minute acrobat show. It was the most amazing show that we had ever seen with a variety of talent and tricks

We ended our first day watching a 45 minute acrobat show. It was the most amazing show that we had ever seen with a variety of talent and tricks

Day 2

First stop of the day was the Great Wall of China

First stop of the day was the Great Wall of China and we had perfect visibility

We took these "ski lifts" up to the wall

We took these “ski lifts” up to the wall

We wished Kalani a Happy 10th birthday on the Great Wall of China

We wished Kalani a Happy 10th Birthday on the Great Wall of China

To get down from the wall we rode this "Luge". Everyone LOVED the ride down

To get down from the wall we rode this “Luge”.

We got to go see the 2008 Olympic park

We got to go see the 2008 Olympic park

Our last stop for the day was to the Summer Palace which has the longest/most gallery of paintings since everywhere you looked there was some kind of art work

Our last stop for the day was to the Summer Palace which has a ton of artwork since everywhere you looked there was some kind of painting, carving, mural, etc

This marble boat has held many functions and is just beautiful

This massive stone marble boat has held many functions and is just beautiful

The water around the summer palace still had some ice at certain areas

The water around the summer palace still had some ice at certain areas

Day 3:

We started off the day by going to the "Dirty Market" to look for a painting and other souvenirs, and we weren't the only people there

We started off the day by going to the “Dirty Market” to look for a painting and other souvenirs, and we weren’t the only people there

We visited the aquarium where we saw Beluga whales and heard the loud noises that they make

We visited the aquarium where we saw Beluga whales and heard the loud noises that they make

The sea lion, dolphin, whale show was also pretty cool

The sea lion, dolphin, whale show was also pretty cool

Of course we had to visit the zoo to see giant pandas in their home country

Of course we had to visit the zoo to see giant pandas in their home country

And we ended the day by visiting a silk factory where we learned about the silk process

And we ended the day by visiting a silk factory where we learned about the silk process

Fun Photos:

We got to ride a Rickshaw through an old neighborhood

We got to ride a Rickshaw through an old neighborhood and tour a traditional “Hutong” courtyard home

We stayed at China New World Hotel and had this view

We stayed at the Shangri-La China World Hotel and had this view

Motorcyclist have warm gloves and blankets attached to their motorcycles to keep warm while driving

Motorcyclist have warm gloves and blankets attached to their motorcycles to keep warm while driving

The BEST Chinese food we have ever had was in Beijing and didn't cost very much. The servers take down orders on these devices that look like a walkie-talkie or cell phone

The BEST Chinese food we have ever had was in Beijing and didn’t cost very much. The servers take down orders on these devices that look like a walkie-talkie or cell phone (this is our tour guide Iris)

I don't know if they block the doorways year round, but while we visited all of doorways had some kind of "blanket" to keep the cold air out

I don’t know if they block the doorways year round, but while we visited all of doorways had some kind of “blanket” to keep the cold air out

Our last photo with our tour guide Iris who we highly recommend at the hotel

Last photo with our tour guide Iris, who we highly recommend

We had a wonderful time in Beijing. It was also refreshing to leave the 85 degree weather that we’ve had for the past 16 months in the Philippines and enjoy the cool weather of 45 degrees for a few days. Also we had pretty great weather with the air quality index. Matt had flown in with the index level in the 500s. But, when the kids and I arrived we had 47, 94 and 139 index levels; anything above 300 is classed as hazardous by the World Health Organisation. A couple of fun facts we learned from our tour guide. Top 3 things to do in Beijing are: Great Wall, Forbidden City/Tienanmen Square, and Chinese Opera. (we saw an opera in Taiwan, and prefer the acrobat show over the opera). Top 5 things that China is known for: silk, porcelain “china”, jade, tea & holistic medicine.

More photos of Beijing here.

Categories: Family, Travel Tags: , , , , , ,

Jakarta, Indonesia Vacation

February 25th, 2014 No comments

Matt had a business trip to Jakarta and wanted us to tag along. After looking at the calendar and school schedules we decided it would be best to come the weekend before his meetings and explore Jakarta. And it happened to be Chinese New Year, which is a holiday here and my birthday! Of course we went through Viator again to get a tour guide and we were fortunate enough to book Ira for 2 days. We packed a lot in those 48 hours and then Matt was able to explore even more for 10 additional days while with co-workers.

Day 1:

Mulia Hotel lobby around midnight checking in

We arrived at Mulia Hotel around midnight. Only a 4 hour flight from Manila and the hotel was wonderful.

Our view of Jakarta from our hotel window

Our view of Jakarta from our hotel window

Happy Chinese New Year...year of the Horse.  Our first stop of the day was to a Chinese Temple "Vihara Dharma Bhakti"

Happy Chinese New Year…year of the Horse. Our first stop of the day was to a Chinese Temple “Vihara Dharma Bhakti.” There were so many people there and the air was full of smoke from the incense

We spent time at Sunda Kelapa seeing huge wooden boats and then taking a 15 minute boat ride with this older gentleman

We spent time at Sunda Kelapa seeing huge wooden boats and then taking a 15 minute boat ride with this older gentleman

Next stop was to "Old Town Jakarta" where Matt was approached by a few teenagers asking him questions for a school project

Next stop was to “Old Town Jakarta” where Matt was approached by a few teenagers asking him questions for a school project

In "Old Town Jakarta" there is a European feel since the Dutch where here. You can rent these bikes with matching hats for an hour and ride around the square

In “Old Town Jakarta” there is a European feel since the Dutch where here. You can rent these bikes with matching hats for an hour and ride around the square

We bought this painting off the street from the artist (middle) on our way to another attraction

We bought this painting off the street from the artist (middle) on our way to another attraction

This Catholic church is built directly in front of the oldest Mosque in Indonesia

This Cathedral is built directly in front of the largest Mosque in Southeast Asia

Istiqlal Mosque is the National Mosque of Indonesia and we were told President Barack Obama visited here in 2010

Istiqlal Mosque is the National Mosque of Indonesia (3rd largest mosque in the world) and we were told President Barack Obama visited here in 2010

People still enjoying their time at the mosque after the noon prayer...and it was packed for that Friday noon prayer

People still enjoying their time at the mosque after the Friday noon prayer

Istiqlal tower as seen from within the mosque grounds

Istiqlal tower as seen from within the mosque grounds

Kalani holding the National Monument

Holding the National Monument…maybe she can get us some of the gold off the top

A late lunch at D'Marcos where our tour guide is part owner. We enjoyed all of the food that she had prepared for us and these are the "dessert pizzas"

A late lunch at D’Marco where our tour guide is part owner. We enjoyed all of the food that she had prepared for us and these are the “dessert pizzas”

In the evening we went to Grand Indonesia Mall where there were "Chinese New Year shows"

In the evening we went to Grand Indonesia Mall where there were “Chinese New Year shows”

Also at the Grand Indonesia they have this music/water show that lasts about 5-10 minutes and was pretty fun to watch

Also at the Grand Indonesia they have this music/water show that lasts about 5-10 minutes and was pretty fun to watch; and it was right next to Baskin Robbins ice cream

Day 2

We drove out of Jakarta for our next adventure. In some areas beggars are sitting between the lanes of cars

We drove out of Jakarta for our next adventure. In some areas beggars are sitting between the lanes of cars

Taman Safari was our first stop of the day where we were able to feed animals from our car window

Taman Safari was our first stop of the day where we were able to feed animals from our car window…guess he didn’t want to feed the zebra though

There were lions, tigers, and bears (oh my)...plus many other animals we could see up close from the comfort of our car

There were lions, tigers, and bears (oh my)…plus many other animals we could see up close from the comfort of our car

We found a komodo dragon in it's own country at Taman Safari

We found a komodo dragon in it’s own country at Taman Safari

Predator vs. Prey. We were in the reptile exhibit during feeding time.

Predator vs. Prey. We were in the reptile exhibit during feeding time.

Driving to our lunch appointment we were able to see the traffic that everyone talks about in Indonesia. It was the worst traffic we had ever seen; people were sitting here for a couple of hours waiting.

Driving to our lunch appointment we were able to see the traffic that everyone talks about in Indonesia. It was the worst traffic we had ever seen; people were sitting here for a couple of hours waiting.

We had lunch up in the mountains, but it was too cloudy to enjoy the view. After lunch we bought some souvenirs and the other vendors would not go away

We had lunch up in the mountains, but it was too cloudy to enjoy the view. After lunch we bought some souvenirs and the other vendors would not go away

Our last stop in Indonesia was to the Flower Garden

Our last stop in Indonesia was to the Flower Garden

The kids could have spent another hour or two here enjoying the garden. They really liked doing this maze

The kids could have spent another hour or two here enjoying the garden. They really liked doing this maze

More photos from our Indonesia trip here.

Christmas with family

February 7th, 2014 1 comment

The month of December was packed and full of fun. We had a full house and a lot of memories for Christmas 2013. My parents finally came to visit us and it worked out the best to have them here for Christmas. They only had 10 days in the Philippines, but I think that we packed it pretty full to make sure that they had enough to do and also time to relax. One of the highlights of the trip was taking my dad to the island where his dad (my grandfather) is from (Siquijor) and meeting his half sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. We also had Matt’s brother, Drew, come visit us since he served his mission in the Philippines and speaks Tagalog. After Christmas in Siquijor, we brought our cousin Sherwin with us back to Manila for a few days. It was his first time to Manila and his first time on an airplane!

We hosted a Christmas party for our help and their family and gave everyone gifts

We hosted a Christmas party for our help and their family and gave everyone gifts

We took Matt's brother, Drew, to Divasoria to buy some gifts to take to our family in Siquijor

We took Matt’s brother, Drew, to Divasoria to buy some gifts to take to our family in Siquijor

We spent an evening at Republiq Dance Club with friends

We spent an evening at Republiq Dance Club with friends

Less than 24 hours of my parents landing in Manila, we took them to Siquijor to see our family. Our cousins hosted us for lunch/dinner many times

Less than 24 hours after my parents landed in Manila, we took them to Siquijor to see our family. Our cousins hosted us for lunch/dinner many times.

One cousin opened a Sari Sari (store) and Kalani spent a lot of time there helping to sell items and acting like a security guard

One cousin opened a Sari Sari (store) and Kalani spent a lot of time there helping to sell items and pretending to be the security guard.

We took my parents to one of our favorite places, Combagahay Falls

We took my parents to one of our favorite places, Cambugahay Falls

We also found new places that we had not visited on the 3 previous trips we took to Siquijor. Like Infinity Resort where the view was breath-taking

We also found new places that we had not visited on the 3 previous trips we took to Siquijor. Like Infinity Heights Resort where the view was breath-taking and we were glad to share it with our many cousins.

Of course when you find a beautiful place the Filipinos take photos! Here Kalani is taking photos with a cousin

Of course when you find a beautiful place the Filipinos take photos

Drew at Lugnason Falls...a new area we hadn't been to before

Drew at Lugnason Falls…a new attraction we hadn’t been to before.

On Christmas Day our cousins rented a karaoke machine

On Christmas Day our cousins rented a karaoke machine.

Also on Christmas Day the boys learned how to prepare lechon (pig)

Also on Christmas Day the boys learned how to prepare lechon (pig)… from slaughter to table, we got the full on Filipino experience.

The boys also went to a cock-fight where our cousin had a rooster fighting

The boys also went to a cock-fight where our cousin had a rooster fighting.

We couldn't leave Siquijor without a basketball game...or 2 or 3 or 4! Matt was invited to play with the police against a club team one evening

We couldn’t leave Siquijor without a basketball game…or 2 or 3 or 4 games! Matt was invited to play with the police against a club team one evening.

Our cousin/tour guide takes us around in this rented car every time we come to visit. And we pack as many people as we can inside since not everyone has transportation

Our cousin/tour guide takes us around in this rented car every time we come to visit. And we always pack as many people as we can inside.

We love spending time with our cousins

We love spending time with our cousins.

My dad and his half-grand-nephew were similar is various things...even how they slept. It is a good thing they caught up on their sleep in Siquijor since the fun didn't stop in Manila!

My dad and his half-grand-nephew were similar in various things…like where they slept. It is a good thing they caught up on their sleep in Siquijor since the fun didn’t stop in Manila!

While waiting for our plane to arrive we spent some time in Dumeguete shopping mall with our cousin Belinda who lives there

While waiting for our plane to arrive we spent some time in Dumeguete shopping mall with our cousin Belinda who lives there.

Our cousin ready to board his first plane and spend 5 days in Manila with us

Our cousin ready to board his first plane and spend 5 days in Manila with us.

Our first meal in Manila was at the mall near our home where we had some yummy ramen noodles

Our first meal in Manila was at the mall near our home where we had some yummy ramen noodles.

We took the group to the Mall of Asia where we watched the firework show and also people ice skating

We took the group to the Mall of Asia where we watched the firework show and also people ice skating.

I don't know if Sherwin had ever seen a mall this size or as many malls as we took him to before

Sherwin had never seen a mall this size.

We had a wonderful buffet dinner at Manila Peninsula and Drew's "friend" joined us...who Mason liked to be with

We had a wonderful buffet dinner at Manila Peninsula and Drew’s “friend” joined us…who Mason liked to be with all the time.

One evening we invited the cousins living in Manila over to our home so Sherwin and my parents could see them

One evening we invited the cousins living in Manila over to our home so Sherwin and my parents could see them.

It was beautiful weather, good company and a lot food while everyone was visiting us for Christmas.  We felt truly blessed to have our family with us for the holiday season

It was beautiful weather, good company and a lot food while everyone was visiting us for Christmas. We felt truly blessed to have our family with us for the holiday season

Taiwan Vacation

January 26th, 2014 No comments

A few weeks after returning from California, Matt and I had a “couple’s get-away” to Taiwan. His birthday is in November, so we used that as an excuse to get away for a weekend. One of the perks of having trusted house help is leaving your kids for an extended “date night(s)” in a neighboring country! We have really come to LOVE having a tour guide when we visit countries since they know the language and how to get from place to place. So, we found Donna on Viator and were happy with all that we were able to see and do in the 3 full days that we were there.

Day 1:

First impression of Taiwan is that it is clean.  This lady was mopping the sidewalk outside of her store!

First impression of Taiwan is that it is clean. This lady was mopping the sidewalk outside of her store!

If you are going to stand on an escalator, stay to the right...everyone follows this rule

If you are going to stand on an escalator, stay to the right…everyone follows this rule

Some street food that we tried that was pretty good

Some street food that we tried that was pretty good

Traveling with a Tech-Savvy guy like I do means checking out electronics.  However this was not like Fry's.  Many small electronic stores, but at least they were all near enough to each other at 3C

Traveling with a Tech-Savvy guy like I do means checking out electronics. However this was not like Fry’s. Many small electronic stores, but at least they were all near enough to each other at an area called “3C”

SCORE!  We found the padfone...one of the reasons why we chose Taiwan as a get-away.

SCORE! We found the padfone…one of the reasons why we chose Taiwan as a get-away.

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Anniversary...all in one with a new phone and dock/tablet

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Anniversary…all in one with a new phone and dock/tablet

Dinner at Din Tai Fung Dumpling House.  Really yummy food and a pretty famous restaurant

Dinner at Din Tai Fung Dumpling House. Really yummy food and a pretty famous restaurant

We asked our tour guide if she knew where the "Mormon Temple" was at and she took us right to it.  We have a friend serving an LDS mission there now, but sadly we didn't see her

After dinner, we asked our tour guide if she knew where the “Mormon Temple” was at and she took us right to it. We have a friend serving an LDS mission there now, but sadly we didn’t see our friend.

Ended the day by watching a puppet show and opera at Taipei Eye. We got to take photos with members of the cast at intermission

Ended the day by watching a puppet show and opera at Taipei Eye. We got to take photos with members of the cast at intermission

Day 2:

Started off the day by visiting Mengjia Longshan Temple

Started off the day by visiting Mengjia Longshan Temple

Outside of the National Palace Museum...no photography allowed inside

Outside of the National Palace Museum with our guide…no photography allowed inside

Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall grounds. He was the former president of the Republic of China

Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall grounds. He was the former president of the Republic of China.

We were able to watch the changing of the guards in front of the Chiang Kai-shek statue

We were able to watch the changing of the guards in front of the Chiang Kai-shek statue.

Beitou hotsprings. You could smell the sulfur and supposedly you can boil an egg in seconds there at the main source

Beitou hot-springs. You could smell the sulfur and supposedly you can boil an egg in seconds there at the main source.

We opted for our own private hotspings at Villa 32...and it was a perfectly romantic location; away from the free and/or public hotsprings

We opted for our own private hot-springs at Villa 32…and it was a perfectly romantic location; away from the free and/or public hot-springs.

Last stop of the day was at the Shilin Night Market. We have so much fun trying to get the best deal on things

Last stop of the day was at the Shilin Night Market. We have so much fun trying to get the best deal on things.

Day 3:

We rented a car and drove north-east to the mountains and ocean. The wind and water created these cool rock formations

We rented a car and drove north-east to the mountains and ocean. The wind and water created these cool rock formations.

From the minerals in the water, these are known as the "Golden Waterfalls" in Jinguashi

From the minerals in the water, these are known as the “Golden Waterfalls” in Jinguashi.

The three of us explored Jinguashi mining grounds

The three of us explored Jinguashi mining grounds.

We walked through the crowded Jiufen market

We walked through the crowded Jiufen market.

We walked around Ping Hsi "Pingxi" branch rail where we saw people "play sky lantern." They would write sayings or wishes on a paper sky lantern and then release it.

We walked around Ping Hsi “Pingxi” branch rail where we saw people “play sky lantern”. They would write sayings or wishes on a paper sky lantern and then release it.

We walked to Shifen falls and it was lovely. If it was warmer we may have been tempted to swim there, but it was a chilly day.

We walked to Shifen falls and it was lovely. If it was warmer we may have been tempted to swim there, but it was a chilly day.

We ended the day by having dinner at Taipei 101.  We had this whole room to ourselves for about half of our 7-course meal

We ended the day by having dinner at Taipei 101. We had this whole room to ourselves for about half of our 7-course meal.

Taipei 101 is super tall with 101 floors...we ate on the 86th floor (or there about)

Taipei 101 is super tall with 101 floors…we ate on the 86th floor (or there about).

Good-bye Taipei, Taiwan.  It was a wonderful weekend get-away

Good-bye Taipei, Taiwan. It was a wonderful weekend get-away.

More photos of our Taiwan vacation here.

Categories: Family, Travel Tags: , , , ,