Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Back from my trip to Asia... bringing back warmer weather...

This is going to be a LONG post.  I am going to keep the photos a little smaller than normal in the post, but feel free to click on them to make them larger.  Sorry if there are any typos... I tried getting typing all this and getting it out before running out to a gardening shoot for the morning show...

My youngest brother teaches English in Hong Kong so I went over to visit him along with my other two brothers.  I am the oldest.  Bryant is the next oldest, on the left of the photo, and Clark is the next oldest, next to me, and Marcus is the youngest.  Between me and Marcus there is a seven year difference. 
The first day there we went on a hike to Lion Rock to see the city.  This was considered a "clear" day for them.
We stopped by a temple on the way there, but better temples to come.  This was just a brief stop.
Before that we also went by a fish market.  So many fish and sea creatures.
He lives at Skypark.  It is a 27 story building with a pool on the 28th floor and a rooftop garden and hang-out area on the roof as well.  This is a view of his roof, from the other side.
Marcus has always been a fan of small gifts.  He got me a miniature dead donkey.  My nickname in high school was Donkey because I looked like Adam Dunn from the Reds and his nickname was Big Donkey.  Silly gift... classic Marcus.
That night we also went down to the harbor to watch the light show.  Good first night, but so much more to come...
The next day Marcus had class so his girlfriend took us around.  We went to the Nan Lian Garden and Buddhist temple. 
No photos were allowed inside the temple, but man was it gorgeous.
They also had an amazing bonsai tree collection. 
From there we walked to the Kowloon Walled City Memorial.  There used to be many tall skyscrapers inside this walled city, but it was demolished for safety and a beautiful garden has been put up in its place.
Amazing park to check out! Kowloon Walled City Memorial.
Marcus had an hour for a lunch break so we went to his school to check it out and get some lunch.
Here is the plaque they have for him on the wall.
We got very good at eating with chopsticks! That night we went across the waterway and went to a rooftop bar, but photos were not great because of the rain moving in.
The following day we did some exploring.  After some morning food.
Bryant got a new battery put into his phone and also a new screen on his iPad. All done in less than 30 minutes for a great price.
Back to the harbor and Hong Kong
So many markets everywhere.  What is unique is that if you need electronics then you go to a certain part of the city.  Or if you need clothes then another part of the city has a market for that.  In America we go to a giant box store where it is all together, but there you need to go to different areas to get what you want. 
We tried to go around the Hong Kong Zoo and Botanical Gardens...  Amazing orchids in the greenhouses.
 But got caught in some downpours from time to time.  So we only saw a few of the animals brave enough to play in the rain.
In Hong Kong they have Amber, Red, and Black Rainstorm Warnings.  Amber means heavy rain, Red means really heavy rain and localized flooding, and Black rain is rain so heavy that schools close and travel is not recommended. This rain was an Amber Rainstorm Warning.
We shared a hot pot for our final night in Hong Kong for our first stent. We also had a few drinks.  They were unlimited and included in the buffet, anyway. ;)
Saturday we woke up and ran a couple errands then headed out to the airport.  The shipyards were HUGE!!!
Really cool bridges between all of the islands.
We were delayed getting onto our plane because of another storm, but this was a Red Rainstorm Warning.
Finally got on to our plane between a couple cells, but then sat on the runway for another 90 minutes.
Vietnam Airways is a great airline.  They offer free beers and even a meal during the 90 minute flight.  I had time on the runway to re-tie my Garmin watch.  It had loosened up a little.  This flight was the worst flight of my life.  We had to fly through the storm and after being delayed about 3 hours I wish we could have waited another hour or two.  We hit a couple of bad air pockets and the plane was tossed all over the place.  One drop in particular we all went airborne and everyone came up out of their seats and the plane started to take a nose dive and you could feel the blood go from your feet to your head.  Luckily the pilots pulled up, but it was very scary then when we got out of the storm it was a smooth flight, but I seriously thought that might be the end of it for us. Whew!
Then we landed in Hanoi.  Marcus and I did some planning and Vietnam had some amazing sights and we wanted to check them out. 
Hanoi is a VERY busy city.  Lots of people, but everything is very inexpensive.
The four of us had some delicious food from a restaurant near our hostel and the entire meal only cost about $10 USD for the 4 of us with drinks and sandwiches.
Then we all had drinks for about $0.25 USD.  Fun times!
The next day we rented some Honda 125s and started our ride to the coast. 
We all wore masks because of the smoke and pollution.  By the time we got back to Hanoi the mask were very dirty.
Check this load out!  Yes, that is also on a Honda 125!  Everyone drives those and it is actually much easier to get around and you are traveling the same speed as all the vehicles.
We stopped at a shop on the way and got some waters and coffees.  MAN!  These are STRONG!
We also stopped on the side of the road for some fresh fruit.  They cut up the pineapples so you can eat it with your fingers and they even gave you some salt/red pepper in a pouch and it made the pineapple amazingly spicy.
We made it to the ferry with only about 90 seconds left.  Otherwise we would have had to wait another 30 minutes for the ferry to return for the final trip of the day.
The sites were amazing once we got onto CatBa Island.  The roads were great too.  Most of the mainland of Vietnam where we rode was flat and farms and small towns, but CatBa had hills and curves and great water views.
Group shot!
The view from the hostel was pretty amazing!
We all showered and then went out for one more ride before it got dark.
The next day we did a boat tour and went kayaking and along the edge of HaLong Bay.
We also went to Monkey Island and climbed to the top of one of the peaks.
The monkeys were friendly, but if they wanted something of yours then you better let them have it.  They got a little aggressive once they had something.  I tied my bag around a post after seeing one monkey take a woman's bathing suit cover up into a tree.
We also stopped for a quick swim before heading back into town.
On the way back into town we passed a floating fishing village.  They catch fish and then let them grow up in these netted areas.
Quick shower then another ride around the island. We were told to check out one of the floating restaurants for dinner.
So we did just that.  We picked out a grouper fish for the four of us to split.  Fresh from the water!
The next day we rode back to Hanoi.  Marcus' tire blew out around halfway so we had a local show us where a shop was located. 
He took us to this small village and he changed the inner tube on the bike in about 10 minutes and only charged us 100,000 VND, which was less than $5 USD.
The kids in the village came out to say hello to us, but the couple did not speak any English.
We stopped at a temple nearby that was out in the middle of a rice field.
The inside was amazing and such a quiet and peaceful location.
They also had a few bonsai trees in the courtyard area.  Some of them looked nearly dead with the exception of one flower bloom. 
Here is a view from the side of the temple.  Open fields, just like what it looked like as kids for us, but just not soybeans and corn.
One of the best meals of the trip was our final dinner in Hanoi.  We always ordered several dishes and split it and this was amazing.  We met someone, KB from South Korea, while in CatBa and told him about our hostel in Hanoi so he stayed there the same night as us and we got to learn more about him.

Remember that coffee?  We had it a few more times only to realize in Hanoi that it was weasel coffee.  Despite weasels eating the beans and passing them to be cleaned... we still bought a bag of the coffee beans to bring home.
Flight back to Hong Kong was a much smoother flight.  We stopped by Hong Kong Disneyland. 
We got to meet Chewy and R2-D2 and ride nearly every single ride.  They had some really fun MARVEL rides, including a new Ant-Man and the Wasp ride where you shoot targets with a laser gun.  The jungle cruise was faster, but LOTS of fire and water.  My favorite ride was the Mystic Manor.  It is a play on the Haunted Mansion, but it has a monkey opening up a magical relic that makes other artifacts come to life.  REALLY cool!
One final group photo.
The next morning Bryant took off before us by about 5 hours.  So Marcus, Clark, and I went to the south island to go up to the peak and see the city since it was a clear day and the cloud deck was higher than normal.
The tall building behind us is 118 stories tall... Just to put the size of the city into perspective.  7.8 million people in a tiny area.  Only way to do that is going up.
Here is a photo of one of the markets.  I took this when we headed to the peak.  Each night they clear and clean the street.
Here is what it looks like 90 minutes later when we were heading back to grab our bags and head to the airport. 
We flew over Japan on the way back and this is a shot of Southern Alaska.  Amazingly beautiful from 35,000 feet!
I missed these three with all my heart and was so excited to get home and see them.  I have some spoiling to do for all of them, especially Dawn.  She had the kids all to herself with occasional help from family and I know it wasn't easy.  So grateful for this once-in-a-life opportunity to see Marcus with my other brothers and do some exploring.
Back to our weather in Ohio! Who is ready for our second day of the year with temps in the 80s!?  A front will lift north today and allow for winds to pick up out of the southwest and that will push our temps into the lower 80s today.  We will see partly cloudy skies through the morning and midday then building clouds with late afternoon and evening scattered showers and storms.  The best chance will be near or after the evening commute and before midnight for the strongest storms.  Central Ohio is in the Marginal Risk for severe storms with damaging winds and hail possible in the strongest isolated storm cells.  Once the sun sets we will see the storms weaken some overnight, but scattered showers and a few rumbles overnight.

Thursday will bring more scattered showers and storms, although not a complete washout.  So have the rain gear handy again.  Most of Ohio is, again, in the Marginal Risk for severe storms, but a slightly higher chance, Slight Risk, in Southwestern Ohio for the storms to become severe Thursday and Thursday night.  By Friday morning we will have some lingering showers and a few rumbles of thunder moving out then drying out by Friday afternoon.  Highs in the 70s for the final two days of the workweek. By Saturday another Low Pressure system will pass by to our south bringing more showers and storms.  Due to more rain it will also keep our temperatures a little cooler on Saturday, with highs in the mid 60s.  Sunday is our driest day on the extended forecast with only a 20% chance of rain. More scattered showers and storms return next week. Have a good one!

Andrew Buck Michael

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