Natalia and I decided to take some time together to travel and we chose China for
our touring destination. Greece was Nati's first pick and I wanted Egypt, but
with the Arab Spring, we decided to avoid the Mediterranean.

Hong Kong


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Since I love to register myself under funny titles, I was Dr Perrault when we stayed in Hong Kong.
That meant an upgrade to the largest room we had in Asia. This is a view to Natalia in the 'office'.
Courtesy of the good folks at Aeroplan, we also had the privilege of Executive First on the flight
into Asia. Nice 'luxurious' start to our trip!


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That's the huge bathroom with two sinks, a tub, and me taking my slippers off in the toilet.
This was to be an introduction to the way that Natalia travelled Asia - washing my feet every
night before bed.


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Since the good folks at Air Canada were also 3 hours late on our flight in, we didn't get to check
out Hong Kong Disney when we arrived. Instead, we hit the hay, and got up early the next day to
navigate the subway (MTR) and get down to the train station, in order to see Nate and Ellen.


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Randall came along with us on our trip as well. Here he is with the Hong Kong MTR map.


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I don't know why I thought a Circle K in the Hong Kong train station was funny, but it was.
Maybe it's the fact that there used to be one down the street from my house where I used to spend
my paper route money on hockey cards. I didn't see any Upper Deck or Opeechee cards in this one.

Dongguan


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When we arrived in Dongguan, it was raining, so Nati and I each bought an umbrella.
Here is Natalia, pretty excited about her polka dot umbrella. This was also the spot where
Natalia was introduced to Chinese bathrooms. "It's just a hole!"


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Nate and Ellen met us at the train station and we took a drive to a museum dedicated to telling
the story of the Opium Wars, and to telling how the British disrespected the Chinese.


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The front of the museum


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Some Communist history with the hammer and sickle that I thought was fun.


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Nate and Ellen (8 months prego), and Natalia in front of the museum, in the rain.


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AFter a stellar lunch at a Hunan place inside the 'Holy City Fashion City' mall, Ellen toured us
around a 'wet market' in East City. We came here to pick up ingredients for our dinner, but we had
the pleasure of seeing live turtles, chickens, these black chickens (actually a black chicken on the
right of this photo), pigeons, fish, as well as the largest lilies I've ever seen.


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We took a short power nap, and Nate and Ellen (mostly Ellen) made a spectacular local delicacy - hot pot!
Most Chinese homes don't have ovens, but they have stove tops and electric plates. The hot pot had
meat, meat balls, noodles, vegetables, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, and leeks.


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Nate, Ellen, and I in their beautiful home, enjoying hot pot.


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After dinner, we decided to go for foot massages at a local hotel. I thought this table was
incredible so I took a photo of it.


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So a Chinese foot massage consists of putting your feet in some kind of crazy chemical dissolved into
hot water, and then having a massage lady/man rub your feet and shoulders. The ottoman that Ellen
is sitting on is actually a water basin.


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Here Nate is enjoying the hot water. We found it funny that the massage girl he had refused to touch
his bare feet and instead massaged them through a towel.


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This will become a bit of a theme - Paul taking photos of terrible English.
'Blissful sightseeing shopping wonderland' indeed!


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Before heading to catch the train back to Hong Kong, we took photos in front of Nate and Ellen's home.


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Nate, Ellen, and Nati in Dongguan.


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After an outstanding dim sum breakfast of wide noodles, pork and shrimp dumplings, rice congee (not my
favourite), Wonton soup, and spring rolls, Nate and Ellen drove us back to the train station. This
blurry photo is what happens when dumb white guy (me) tries to explain to a police office how to take
a photo of us.


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I got a kick out of the signs that had cartoons on them. It somehow makes the Chinese police seem
that much less onerous and scary.


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Randall and a cartoon Chinese police officer. More on Dongguan is HERE .

Back to Hong Kong


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We coordinated using BBM and met up with my work colleague Rene in Hong Kong. This footprint is one
of many of world capitols. Of course, the first one we'd see would be Ottawa.


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We wandered around Victoria Harbour and took photos with Bruce Lee.


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Bruce Lee, Randall, and I. I asked every one of our tour guides why Chinese people make a 'V' in
photos and I failed to get a decent response. Here are a couple of theories of the origin of this
symbol in Asian photos HERE . Interesting. Either an American figure skater or a Japanese camera ad.
A few other sites reference this as a Japanese phenomenon that the rest of Asia has now picked up.
Here is a video of Janet Lynn falling at the Olympics HERE .


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Natalia and I at Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong.


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Even though we didn't get to see Asia Disney, Nati still took photos with Mickey.


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Hey Rene, you have some white stuff in your beard. This almond pastry was ridiculously good
and I couldn't believe that Nati didn't want one.


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I thought these Jap-anime balloons outside of a hotel were cool. Of course, Nati gave me a great smile.


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This kid's shirt actually says, 'I am POOP POOP!' Seriously.


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As we made our way back to our hotel to get our bags and start our tour, Natalia saw this character
at a mall and thought it was cute.


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Not quite as cool as these two though!


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At Hong Kong airport, we saw a couple of fashion disasters that Natalia thought were funny. One is
wearing leopard print tights. The guy is wearing a man purse and looked ridiculous.

Guilin


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Our first flight inside China took us to Guilin .
We arrived later in the evening and met our tour guide Helen and our driver Mr Tsai. After giving us
her canned speech about the area, she showed us to our late dinner and then we meandered around. The
area around the hotel was hopping, even late into the evening on a weeknight. Nati liked this
Hello Kitty store.


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I appreciated the fact that this Correction Tape could have used some Correction Tape.


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This was the view from our hotel. Guilin was much closer to real world China than I had seen
previously (other than Dongguan) and the smell and craziness going on was evident even at 10pm
on a Sunday.


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We still weren't completely on the right time zone yet, so we both woke well ahead of our planned
7 AM alarm. All of the hotels we stayed on this tour had both a 'Western' and a 'Chinese' breakfast
buffet option. We took the Western option and were pleased to have at least one meal every day that
we could mostly identify. Any meal that Natalia can have with croissants and jam generally makes her happy.


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Our hotel sits right on the Lijiang river so we went for a walk after breakfast. We saw a few boats
with strainers cleaning up the river.


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We also saw a bunch of swimmers out enjoying the morning. They didn't seem to have a problem that ferries
and boats were motoring by them.


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Our first tour took us through the countryside and to the Longsheng Rice Terraces. These fields are
managed by one of the 55 Ethnic Minorities (Natalia's favourite phrase) - the Zhuang. In this photo
Natalia is being accosted by a member of the Yao people - the ones with the long hair - to try to
get her to buy a hat.


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Natalia next to the map of Longsheng. We were heading to Long Ji rice terraces.


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The road up to Long ji was ridiculously steep and narrow. We picked up a Danish couple whose car
fell into the drainage on the way up. These sedan chairs are used by the locals to carry tourists and
their luggage up to one of the hotels on the way up to the villages.


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Some of the terraced rice fields get the Paul Perrault stamp of approval.


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Natalia and our tour guide Helen with one of the small villages behind them. The hike to the top of
the hill was definitely hot and humid, but the elevation wasn't that big a deal.


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I thought this basket with a duck in it was pretty funny.


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A view of the rock steps we climbed. The lanterns were quite pretty too. I can imagine this area would
look pretty neat lit up at night with lanterns.


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I think the translation they were looking for was 'antiques'.


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Me and the Long Ji rice terraces.


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Some of the rice as it's being dried in the sun.


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The time gap here is striking - women selling hand-woven blankets, and China Unicom selling smartphones.



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Long Ji rice terraces, Monday, July 18, 2011.


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Natalia and I and some of the Zhuang minority taking photos.


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Nati and rice terraces.


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I think this sign says something about dumb white people needing to bring a lot of water. It was
SMOKING hot!


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Looking across the valley.


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At the top of our hike, we rested, and drank some water. This kid's pants are a common item of clothing
for young kids (less than 5 years old). If you look closely, you can see that the pants are pulled up
but there is a hole in the crotch so that the parents don't have to worry about messes. Everyone around
the kid DOES have to worry about the mess though.


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Randall and rice terraces.


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Randall and rice terrace villages.


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Randall with two ethnic Miao dressed in their traditional outfits.


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A local villager shampooing her hair in the stream running through the town.


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This is where we had lunch after our little hike. This roughly translates to 'There is no', as in
there is no bad service and no bad food. A few too many double negatives, but the idea is there.


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I stopped to relieve myself at the restaurant and found this lovely squat pot. This is, by far,
one of the cleanest pots I found.


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If you look closely, Natalia isn't pointing to a scarf. She's pointing at a huge cockroach, or some
other kind of crazy large bug.


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A little better view of the hiking trail, or steps.


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Some locals carrying the sedan chairs with people in them.


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This seems kind of funny to me, but rolly suitcases aren't that useful when the path is all stairs.


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A super blurry photo of the 'Tiger Bear Welcome Centre'. The huge tiger and bear was what drew
me to this place.


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Our next stop was Elephant Trunk Hill .
I liked this carving and took a photo of Natalia standing by it.


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Natalia and I at Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin, China.


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These birds are cormorants and are used as fishing birds. Their throats are tied mostly closed so that
they can catch small fish, but big fish get caught in their mouths. The fisherman then removes the big
fish and puts the birds back out.


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People playing in the shallow Lijiang river.


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Natalia sitting on a stone elephant in Guilin.


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Nati and I at Elephant Trunk Hill, in Guilin, China.


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Photo 2 of Elephant Trunk Hill.

Video of cicadas at Elephant Trunk Hill



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Some river seafood being cooked at the shore.


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It's so hot in Guilin that small restaurants will put their tables into the water to keep their
patrons cool.


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I had our tour company arrange a special meal for Natalia and I since it was our 2 year anniversary.
Helen made sure that the bakery she ordered the cake from actually got their English correct. Nice work!


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Nati and I with a beautiful view overlooking the Lijiang river. The Chinese don't really drink
that much wine so our server actually brought her own bottle for us to this restaurant. They
must not drink a lot of red wine as they had actually chilled the bottle for us.


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This was a pretty regular meal in Guangxi with a peanut dish, a beef dish, and a vegetable dish.


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We put sparklers into our cake.


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I'm not sure what the sad face is, but it might be that there is fruit on the cake instead of icing.


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That didn't stop Natalia from digging into her cake though.


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Natalia did some damage to the cake.


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I took this photo for my friend Matt Harms, who used to wear a cool Astro Boy shirt.


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Here we are outside my namesake steak house, after Natalia found a Hello Kitty mug.


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Most of the hotels our tour company booked were pretty decent, but this one was definitely a 3 star
masquerading as a 4 star. This little basket of goodies was in our room.

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