Swimming with stingrays

A cruise in the Caribbean cannot be without a short stop at Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands. Fortunately there are no caimans on the island… heheh. You know what that is right? Anyway, it’s safe so we’ll recommend that you go.

For though the islands are known to be a tax haven full of foreign corporations parking their money there or operating shell holding companies, it isn’t entirely just the playground for the rich and famous… well quite some of it is, but not everything.

We were out on an excursion that we got for free as part of our booking of the Caribbean cruise that brought us here. Not operated by the cruise line meant we had to get ashore on our own and look for the representative of the tour. Let us tell you that we only had 8 hours on the island. And we had the tour at 1030am. Guess what? Because it was so busy, the tenders taking us ashore only cleared the crowds and took us to the island around 11am.

Great stuff.

Now we had to take the next tour at 1230pm and ensure we get back to the harbour before the last tender at 5pm. If it did not make things worse, there were 20 other cruise ships with attendant number of passengers waiting at the tiny harbour.

It was almost running the gauntlet to get back on the boat ship. Did we get back in time? Read all about our adventure here. Wouldn’t you like to swim with stingrays too?

A most glorious falls

Yes we know that there are many large and beautiful waterfalls in the world. And it is such a coincidence it is oftentimes the border between nations too. And the Niagara is no different. Like other renown sites such as Victoria falls or Iguazu falls, it sits on a human defined border.

Did you know that approximately 750,000 gallons of water fall over every second here?

We were fortunate to have spent time on both sides of the Falls, the US side first followed by the Canadian side the next day. Because you must. For trying to see it all in a day would only belittle the glorious views. At the time of our visit, it was so easy to walk across rainbow bridge between both sides without customs procedures. Yeah there was a customs officer on the US side but he was there only to ensure the crowd going across to the US side was orderly.

Go over to the Canadian side to observe all of the views. Get up high too and take in the panorama like our feature picture.

There were two beautiful days we ordered and received to enjoy the falls. Come reminisce with us our view of Niagara here. Which side of the falls (country) do you think the views of the falls are more spectacular?

The Love island

Lake Erie.

For sure not eerie. This is a short story about our little cruise on the lake where there are said to be a thousand islands. Well, it depends on your definition. If the little outcrops of a few square feet are included, perhaps it would be a few thousand. So begins our North American reminisces.

You might come across another such story in a future post by us, but we’ll start with this one.

And it is a story about love and devotion. While not quite the Taj Mahal, it nevertheless is a similar testament of a man’s love for his wife. He was a successful man of his time. And he loved his wife so dearly; that the summer home they had on an island they owned in lake Erie was to be turned into a castle as a present. Wow.

But the wife died before construction were complete. And the lovelorn man ceased construction. Left for many years abandoned and derelict, the partially completed structure faced the elements of harsh Canadian winters, deteriorating to a pitiable state.

Fortunately the country came to the rescue and purchased the property, commencing restoration works. So today it is available to visit for a fee, but if one comes over from Canada the US customs and border protection post will check for identification. The island is US territory…

We were coming from Canada in this journey and thus did not make a landing. But find out where this island of love is (here). Who knows, you might get to land on the island on our behalf instead! Have you been there? Tell us!

Dive deeper into Beijing

The city is such a juxtapose. As it hurtles towards modernity, it had lost quite some of its original charms. Or so it may seem. Scratch a little deeper and perhaps you might find a gem or two that remains.

In this post, we share the links to two short essays.

  • Food. Yes in any major city or culture one needs to see, smell and taste the way food is prepared. Remember we wrote that there is history coming from food too? Well, this short essay shares what can be found in Beijing. Read more about it here!
  • Now aside from the Great wall or the wonderful sites in the city itself, you should know that there is much more just surrounding the city. And nowhere is it more intriguing as the Sacred way (here) which leads to the tombs of the Ming Emperors.

There you have it. Honestly even a full week in Beijing is not sufficient. Just like spending a few days in NY City wouldn’t really ‘count’…

And so ends our series on Cathay – ahem, China. The middle Kingdom was home for 4 years and there are much more memories than possible to pen on this little blog. Believe us when we say what we put in this blog is but a mere fraction of what we’ve seen and done. We spent a chapter of our lives exploring this giant continental sized country. It is full of juxtapose, even till today and we hope this inspires your curiosity to go put your handprints there.

Next up, time to rotate to North America and we shall share some reminisces about Canada and the Caribbean. Heheh, beautiful memories those journeys were too. There is just so much to share and such a limited time to write and publish. That’s coming soon!

Imperial Capital 北京

Empires.

You’ve read about them. Might have watched documentaries about how they rose and fell. One common thread of these huge political entities is the grandeur of their capital. And Beijing is one such example.

Not capital till the early 1400s, the city was a ‘mere’ provincial town on the northern reaches of the Chinese empire. While it was ‘capital’ of regional kingdoms and fiefdoms, it was only because of Chu-Ti’s ascension to the throne that got the city into the limelight. Not wanting to remain in Nanjing where the founder of the Ming dynasty (his father) domiciled, he preferred his own base in the north where he had previously been the feudal prince.

Thus an imperial capital was born.

And it has continued growing ever since, gaining weight (we mean size) and transforming into a city with so much to see and do. Because it is filled with such a diverse array of relics and imperial wonders. You have to know we are all privileged. During the imperial era, no commoner would easily ever set their eyes on what you now take for granted to visit and see. Unless you became either an eunuch, a soldier or a palace maid.

The city is a must to visit and we cannot profess to provide a guide. But we’ve compiled a few stories on Beijing. Starting from the cover here, we dive further sharing with you what we saw with our eyes (umm…camera). Enjoy!

Have you been to Beijing? Does it put you in awe?

Food tour of 张家界

Since we are on a roll here with food posts, here’s one that also happens to be a handprint story.

Perhaps you’ve not read our journalogs (two parts) on the journeys we made to the “avatar” inspiring landscape of Zhang Jia Jie (张家界) here. And so we tell you, you’ve missed out! LOL. But today’s post is not about the beautiful landscapes that you missed because misty days made us miss some too.

Rather, we want to share with you the incredible food journey we experienced while journeying through the misty lands that seem to be forever (at least when we went) shrouded in mystery…

Really you ask? What can there be in them mountains?

From strange looking edible fungi to tuber that is medicinally sought after, such are the wonders that nature produces. Could this be the reason that the sages of yore went to the mountains to seek out the meaning elixir of life? Perhaps. But more important is that the loss of such habitats is irreversible. Which is why we are advocates of conservation and a limit to development. Through land use intensification coupled with adequate infrastructure for living and playing, we can save these bastions of natural pharmacies alive!

Such were some of the meals that infused these local ingredients into both a feast to the eyes and the stomach. Because eventhough there were only two of us, we still got the usual many course meals. It was hearty indeed for every day we are surprised.

Take a read here and whet your appetite to make the same food journey. Wouldn’t you like to visit the land of the avatars?