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.


Bicol Region Roadtrip

March 3rd, 2014 No comments

A major benefit of living in the Philippines is employing a family driver! And we had him earn his paycheck this past weekend since he drove us to our last vacation spot that was 12 hours away. Kalani didn’t have school on Monday or Tuesday, so it was a perfect time for a 4-day weekend get-away. We left at 4am on Saturday morning and arrived in Donsol by 4pm. The drive down was beautiful with long stretches of lush green scenery with protruding volcanoes. There was a good 2-4 hours at least where we didn’t come across any McDonald’s or Jollibee fast food places because we were in such rural areas.

Day 1:

We left at 4am and slept for a while in the car.  But, when we were awake there was some beautiful scenery

We left at 4am and slept for a while in the car. But, when we were awake there was some beautiful scenery as we headed toward Donsol.

After 12 hours in the car the kids just wanted to hang out by the beach and especially on these hammocks. And luckily there were other kids from Kalani's school at the same resort so they all had someone to play with

After 12 hours in the car the kids just wanted to hang out by the beach and especially on these hammocks. And luckily there were other kids from Kalani’s school at the same resort (Elysia Beach Resort) so they all had someone to play with.

Also on our first day we went to see some fireflies. It was amazing to see thousands of these insects synchronize their flashes of light. It was like watching a bunch of “Tinker Bells” communicating with each other…or Christmas lights that kept changing their light pattern. However, none of our photos or videos turned out from the firefly experience.

Day 2:

We got down to the pier by 7:30am to try our luck at spotting a whale shark. Peak season is from March to May, so we were a week or so early. The weather was bad and we didn't have any luck.

We got down to the pier by 7:30am to try our luck at spotting a whale shark. Peak season is from March to May, so we were a week or so early. The weather was bad and we didn’t have any luck.

We then headed to Legazpi to try our luck on that side of the region, but because of the weather, we weren't allowed in the water. So we drove an hour to our second resort "Misibis Bay"

We then headed to Legazpi to try our luck on that side of the region, but because of the weather, we weren’t allowed in the water. So we drove an hour to our second resort “Misibis Bay“.

We spent some time swimming, playing table tennis and then everyone had a chance to play a video game

We spent some time swimming, playing table tennis and then everyone had a chance to play a video game.

Since we already paid to have a whale shark excursion at a location, we woke up early to try our luck again. And we had a beautiful view all the way to the pier of the Mayon Volcano

Since we already paid to have a whale shark excursion at a location, we woke up early to try our luck again. And we had a beautiful view all the way to the pier of the Mayon Volcano.

Matt and I got in the water twice to swim with a 10 foot whale shark. It may have been the same whale shark, but we were the only ones able to swim with it in the 2 hours we were on the water

Matt and I got in the water twice to swim with a 12 foot whale shark. It may have been the same whale shark, but we were the only ones lucky enough to swim with it in the 2 hours we were on the water.

And while we were suppose to be looking for whale sharks, we couldn't help but enjoy the view of the volcano

And while we were supposed to be looking for whale sharks, we couldn’t help but enjoy the view of the volcano.

After our whale shark experience we wanted to spend some more time in Legazpi, so we rented ATVs and headed to the lava wall of Mayon Volcano

After our whale shark experience we wanted to spend some more time in Legazpi, so we rented ATVs and headed to the lava wall of Mayon Volcano.

We took a small hike up to the 2006 lava wall of Mayon Volcano...then Matt took the zipline down

We took a small hike up to the 2006 lava wall of Mayon Volcano…then Matt took the zip-line down, but the kids didn’t want to try that so I walked down with them.

Apparently our day wasn't exciting enough since Kalani got stung by a box jellyfish. The resort had vinegar on hand (and I also had my own bottle that was used), the doctor was on sight and stayed with her for a couple of hours

Apparently our day wasn’t exciting enough since Kalani got stung by a box jellyfish in shallow water. The resort had vinegar on hand (and I also had my own bottle that was used), the doctor was on sight and stayed with her for a couple of hours.

She got stung on her leg and feet, but her arm was the worse with a tenticle wrapped all the way around her arm when we came out of the water. So one hand is scared and swollen

She got stung on her leg and feet, but her arm was the worst with a tentacle wrapped all the way around her arm when she came out of the water. So one hand is scared and swollen for the time being.

Day 3:

We left the Bicol region around 7am and again enjoyed the beautiful view of that area of the Philippines. 12 hours later we were at home nursing Kalani's wound

We left the Bicol region around 7am and again enjoyed the beautiful view of that area of the Philippines. 12 hours later we were at home nursing Kalani’s wound.

More photos our our Bicol Vacation here.