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?

Enjoy the caves of 九乡

You might recall in an earlier post we shared our handprint story of struggling with rarefied air in the highlands near the Tibetan border. If you had read the story, you would also know that we ‘evacuated’ back to lower altitudes as soon as we could to avoid worsening our bout of altitude sickness. Talk about cutting losses…

What was one to do now that we are back at a more comfortable altitude?

Why we set out exploring of course! Because we only had two days remaining, it was not possible to go far. In fact, we only had the hotel nights in Kunming city itself, thus leaving for another city such as Lijiang was not possible without paying more and changing the flights home. Hey you’ve still gotta stick with budget right? Afterall one can still save for a return in the future. So where did we go?

The caves are alive with the sound of (Yunnan tribal) music… Yeah. That was sure fun.

But that was not all. We also visited a tea institute where the senior students host visitors and provide an appreciation of the prized tea of the highlands – Pu’er (普洱) tea. Not only are they aged for long long time, they are said to have wellness effects too. We bought a couple of ‘cakes’ of tea home and are still drinking them.

Yunnan is a fascinating mix of different ethnic cultures and natural beauty. Find out more about our cave exploration here and tell us if you’d do the same!

Suzhou (苏州) and 太湖

Having read all about Hangzhou’s West Lake (here), we hope your appetite has been whet for more stories of what short road trips one can take while in Shanghai. Literally a stone’s throw away in today’s terms, Suzhou can be counted as one of the places where a day’s journey can yield a treasure trove of experiences that brings you back to the time of the Song/Sung dynasty.

Whereas Hangzhou is a city of tea and home of Longjin (龍井), Suzhou is a city of silk it is said. And when we were in the city it seemed evey corner there were vendors trying to sell you the most wonderful quality fabric… let’s just say we were not interested to buy any…

What some might know of the other side of the city is its famed gardens. Home to quite a few of the largest private classical gardens in China, they were the abode of bureaucrats or merchant princes from a golden age. For as one of the cities of eastern China, it had grown wealthy from being the terminus of the grand canal – the source of booming trade that flowed between north and south China, someday which we want to explore too.

But Suzhou is not just the city. It is also near lake Tai, one that is so large that it continues to supply freshwater to surrounding cities. Let this essay enchant you into perhaps not just road tripping there, but stay longer. Have you been the this half of heaven?

West Lake (西湖) in Hangzhou

You’ve read about artsy water towns in East China in our previous article (here). Northern Italy has a plethora of beautiful lakes in addition to its large water town (heheh – Venice). How about China? Can it offer anything to rival Italy?

Perhaps not rival. Afterall no two places are the same. No?

The cities of Eastern China along the tributary rivers of the mighty Yangtze had always been blessed with having a good mix of fertile valleys fed by plenty of water. And so Hangzhou is no different. Set within the city is a lake that had inspired many a Chinese poet or painter. They were mesmerizd by the wondrous beauty that the lake supposedly exuded. So famous the lake was that even emperors came to visit.

Of course Hangzhou is more than just the lake. Afterall, it was the capital of the Southern Sung dynasty. An imperial capital for 150 years until it was taken by the Mongols resulting in regime change. Our stay though revolved around the lake and all that is to see here. And you should know we do not stay grounded in one location for too long when on our journeys. We spent almost 4 full days there. Do you wonder why we were struck by the lake? Was it really so alluring? Read all about our poetic journey to Hangzhou’s famed lake.

Perhaps you might book yourself into one of the new luxury hotels there and enjoy the view? Would you be inspired to become a poet by the lake?

Crashing waters of the Yellow river

Rivers. They are a source of life with the water they bring. But they can also be a tempestuous beast that taketh away – both property and lives. China’s ‘mother’ Yellow river (黄河) has been both the love and sorrow of the Chinese people over the past few millennia. Like its cousin the Yangtze (长江), the river nurtured a civilization that advanced to magnificent heights. But it also unleashed sorrows when floods wreaked destruction, sometimes leading to regime change.

Thus it was a real treat to set off to see the first large falls of the river in the remote Hukou (壶口) valley. There in the foothills of the mountainous Sha’anxi and Shanxi provinces (陕西/山西) the river channels from a width of what hundreds of meters wide to merely 20-30 meters or so abruptly, leading to nothing but a torrent over a fall!

In fact this surge of waters is so huge that its roar can be heard kilometers away. Ok we exaggerate – one or two kilometer… And back in the day we walked right up to the edge with little more than chain links as a barrier between us and certain doom if one falls over… Bear in mind we were there in the autumn, when the volume of water would be much lower. Imagine the near tsunami wall of water coming through after the spring melt! Or after the torrents of the mid year rains.

You might know that they closed access to the falls in July of this year precisely because of that…

Ok, a little melodramatic. But it was indeed a spectacle that blew us away. Not just because of the sheer magnificence of the falls, but also the fact that it was a hard journey through the mountains where people still live in caves…really.

Got you interested? Read all about it and more in our road trip here from Xian!

Morning walks at the Chinese & Japanese gardens


Yes we have finally come around to posting again about our beloved little red dot. It has been such a long time since the last one. Not quite the Gardens by the Bay, the green of the Chinese and Japanese gardens in the western side of Singapore offers you an entirely different experience. Whereas the gardens at the bay are more about ‘in your face’ impressive, this corner of the little red dot offers more poetic solace.

And that is partly because it is set in the heartlands, our local term for the suburban towns and neighbourhoods where most people live. You’ll need to know that Singapore is more than just the shiny skyscrapers and beautiful glitzy hotels in the CBD area. And that not everyone lives in a nice condo.

Home to the workhorses of the country, it is also the place where you’d see more local inhabitants than tourists, so those travelers out there (hey remember to come get your certifications) will be most delighted you can immerse into local culture. Just remember not to overuse the ‘lah’ when you interact and try to blend in like a local. Heheh.

But most importantly, come for a morning walk when the sun rises and reflections of the ball of fire is rippled in the waters surrounding the gardens. Yes! The gardens are set within a body of water, the Jurong lake. Which serves not just as a water catchment (recall this post?) but also a leisure area where folks can take to the water – not swimming, just canoeing etc. You’ll get a fine for getting into the water…sorry.

Recall that the gardens by the bay have otters? Well guess what these gardens have? You’d be surprised with what you see here in the gardens. Find out more here!