Vientiane & Vang Vieng, Laos Vacation

May 22nd, 2014 No comments

After we got back from Vietnam, I was looking at Google maps and noticed that Laos was right next to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. When I first made the suggestion that we should go visit Laos, it was met with some resistance. But, then it became a reality. We flew into Vientiane and as soon as we got off the plane our tour guide Chansay was there and we were off enjoying the country. Matt found Chansay on Viator, and then on Facebook as well. He was friendly and knowledgeable. His English isn’t perfect, but we were able to communicate and have a wonderful 2.5 days in Laos.

Day 1

Directly from the airport we went to a night market in

Directly from the airport we went to a night market in Vientiane that was next to the Mekong Delta…then we went to Dhavara hotel for a night’s stay

Ho Pra Keo in Vientiane  was originally constructed in 1565 as the Lao royal family’s personal chapel, and as a home for the Emerald Buddha after it was snatched from northern Siam (Thailand). This sacred jade statue was reclaimed by the Siamese in 1778 and now sits in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok which we saw in 2013.

Ho Pra Keo in Vientiane was originally constructed in 1565 as the Lao royal family’s personal chapel, and as a home for the Emerald Buddha after it was snatched from northern Siam (Thailand). This sacred jade statue was reclaimed by the Siamese in 1778 and now sits in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok which we saw in 2013.

Cool carvings out of tree trunks at Ho Pra Keo

Cool carvings out of tree trunks at Ho Pra Keo

Wat Si Saket located in Vientiane is famous for its cloister wall housing thousands of tiny Buddha images and rows with hundreds of seated Buddhas. These images mainly date from the 16th and 19th centuries and come in all sizes and are made from wood, stone and bronze – more than 6,800 Buddhas in total.

Wat Si Saket located in Vientiane is famous for its cloister wall housing thousands of tiny Buddha images and rows with hundreds of seated Buddhas. These images mainly date from the 16th and 19th centuries and come in all sizes and are made from wood, stone and bronze – more than 6,800 Buddhas in total.

Laying Buddha at Pha That Luang reminded us of Thailand since they have one of these too.

Laying Buddha at Pha That Luang reminded us of Thailand since they have one of these too.

One form of the local transportation in Laos

One form of the local transportation in Laos

Inside an indoor market/swap meet type place.  Almost every country in Asia has something like this

Inside an indoor market/swap meet type place. Almost every country in Asia has something like this

The Patuxai is dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France...and is very similar to the Arch de Triomphe in France, although this one in Laos has shops inside.

The Patuxai is dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France…and is very similar to the Arch de Triomphe in France, although this one in Laos has shops inside.

View of Vientaine from Patuxai

View of Vientiane from the Patuxai

Day 2

We drove 3 hours from Vientiane to Vang Vieng and stayed at the Riverside Boutique Resort

We drove 3 hours from Vientiane to Vang Vieng and stayed at the Riverside Boutique Resort

They day started out cloudy and rainy, but we still had a great time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

They day started out cloudy and rainy, but we still had a great time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery

First stop was to Tham Chang Cave and we had to climb a bunch of stairs to get there.

First stop was to Tham Chang Cave and we had to climb a bunch of stairs to get there.

Inside Tham Chang Cave

Inside Tham Chang Cave

Mason praying inside the "Elephant Temple"

Mason praying inside the “Elephant Cave”

A Laoation tractor, also used as a means of transportation on the road for locals

A Laoation tractor, also used as a means of transportation on the road for locals

Outside of the Tham Nam Water cave the kids had a great time playing with the inner tubes...inside the cave was pitch black expect for the headlights that we wore

Outside of the Tham Nam Water cave the kids had a great time playing with the inner tubes…inside the cave was pitch black expect for the headlights that we wore

We had a "Sunset Boat Ride" although we really couldn't see the sunset. Still we all had a good time and saw a lot of foreigners looking like they were enjoying spring break as well.

We had a “Sunset Boat Ride” although we really couldn’t see the sunset. Still we all had a good time and saw a lot of foreigners looking like they were enjoying spring break as well.

All the food that we ate in Laos was DELICIOUS!

All the food that we ate in Laos was DELICIOUS!

We are big fans of family massages when they are cheap

We are big fans of family massages when they are cheap

The Farley Family enjoyed Laos and all that we were able to see and do there

The Farley Family enjoyed Laos and all that we were able to see and do there

And thanks to our wonderful tour guide Chansay...and if he is booked, his fiance is also a tour guide!

And thanks to our wonderful tour guide Chansay…and if he is booked, his fiance is also a tour guide!

More photos of our Laos vacation here.


Spring Break Vacation 2014

May 22nd, 2014 No comments

Kalani got a week and a half off for spring break this year. So, that meant we were going on vacation! In planning and preparing for our spring break vacation we realized that we were 3 countries shy of visiting all of the 10 ASEAN Countries. So, that meant we were headed to Laos, Myanmar & Brunei. Fitting 3 countries into about 12 days took a lot of planning, bribing and a sense of adventure! We had 2.5 days in Laos, 4.5 days in Myanmar (Burma), 1 day rest back in the Philippines (to wash clothes and re-pack), 2.5 days in Brunei. It was a great vacation and we made some wonderful memories. Blog post on each country to follow.

Our schedule for Spring Break 2014

Our schedule for Spring Break 2014

 


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.


Kalani turns 10

March 24th, 2014 No comments

We have now been parents for 10 years…how time flies! We feel very fortunate to have Kalani as our daughter and love spending time with her and watching her grow into a young lady.

Kalani is a very compassionate, easy going, funny and loveable

Kalani is a very compassionate, easy going, funny and lovable

She loves to sing and had a singing teacher for a couple of months and now is in an International Girls choir

She loves to sing and had a singing teacher for a couple of months and now is in an International Girls choir

She loves attending the International School and has had some wonderful and fun experiences at the school

She loves attending the International School and has had some wonderful and fun experiences at the school

She loves to play with her friends and brother...and make silly faces while taking photos

She loves to play with her friends and brother…and make silly faces while taking photos

She is growing up too fast

She is growing up too fast

She still misses the United States and the family that we have there. And getting stung by a box jellyfish wasn't great either

She still misses the United States and the family that we have there. And getting stung by a box jellyfish wasn’t great either

But she also loves the perks of living in the Philippines

But she also loves the perks of living in the Philippines

Happy Birthday to our wonderful girl

Happy Birthday to our wonderful girl

10 facts about Kalani:

-Really easy to travel with

-Wonderful big sister

-Loves acting & singing

-Loves to read (right now Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus…she has a crush on the Leo Valdez character)

-Fun

-Adventurous

-Loves her school, but also misses being homeschooled

-Loves to eat, especially Baby Back Ribs

-Likes to wear her moms socks, shoes and make-up…and the shoes fit her perfectly

-She is a very good friend and loves to be with younger children and babies

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Beijing, China Vacation

March 20th, 2014 1 comment

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.