Let me know if you want to go to China with me!

Many thanks to Georgiana Vines for her profile in the News Sentinel this morning! I am planning a tour for late May 2014 right now and am available to plan another one just for you and your group at the time of your choosing. Please contact me at jjeanash@gmail.comĀ and let’s talk! Zai jian (Bye!) Jean

Planting rice seedlings in far southwestern China, March 2013

Planting rice seedlings in far southwestern China, March 2013

Good Vibrations

Surfboard "explodes" from palm tree

Surfboard “explodes” from palm tree

The Beach Boys--Bruce Johnston in blue shirt; Mike Love just stepped out of my frame

The Beach Boys–Bruce Johnston in blue shirt; Mike Love just stepped out of my frame

After a lovely dinner it was time for the Beach Boys. Well, two of them, anyway: Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, who at least joined the Wilson family, Love and Al Jardine as early as 1965, plus four newbies. A guy sitting nearby said Brian Wilson had been in the band about six months ago when they played Hong Kong

Original Boy Mike Love

Original Boy Mike Love

but sounded so bad they invited him to leave. However, the Web says there was a rift after their recent 50th anniversary tour and Love/Johnston split from Wilson and Jardine. Whatever. The new, much younger, replacements sounded just like the originals and the 25-hit set list included not only all the BB songs I can think of plus some others from the era, including “California Dreaming” and “Barbara Ann” (or Bomperann, as I think of it), which just didn’t fit. The theater was probably only half full–young and old(er), Western and Asian, but exuberance made up for low numbers. One obviously overserved Western 40-something started it when he boogied down a side-center aisle and across the front and back a time or two. He had 100 times the rhythm Love did! Then dozens more joined him and from then on we were all on our feet. A guy ran onstage to shake Johnston’s hand and was hustled off but when two babes entered from stage right they were allowed to groove to the music. Discrimination?!

Johnston's in the striped shirt, Love in coral. Between them is Christian Love, Mike's son?

Johnston’s in the striped shirt, Love in coral. Between them is Christian Love, Mike’s son?

Overall a very good but not great concert, lasting just 70 minutes. (Remember, top-40 tunes in those days were only about three minutes long!) The new guys had the sound nailed,though, and it was something to write home about, literally!

Ramblin’ Gamblin’

Dragon and Dragon Lady

Dragon and Dragon Lady

Golden dragon reaching for the pearl

Golden dragon reaching for the pearl

[Dear readers, I’m sorry about bad formatting, but this is taking me so long to do that I’ll take the easy way out and bunch up all the photos at the end of the posts or wherever they land. Just don’t have the time to fuss with appearance via my iPad when HK is calling! Sorry, and thanks for your indulgence.]

My tourist goal accomplished, I didn’t feel guilty about enjoying several of the dozens of casinos and resort hotels. It’s easy to get around for free by strategically using casino shuttle busses. From the Ferry Terminal I took the Wynn bus from Taipa Island north to the main
section of Macau over a bridge that reminded me of the one across Lake Ponchartrain, and arrived just as the enormous golden tree emerged from beneath a dome covered with astrological signs, turned multi colors, and sank beneath the dome again. I have a five- minute video of it that someday I’ll try to post on YouTube. There’s a dancing fountain show
there too that I’m sorry I missed because it doesn’t start until 5 p.m. and this was just early afternoon.

The Wynn, which is very similar to its sister in Las Vegas, is walking distance to Senado Square and from there to the (unfortunately over-commercialized) warren of lanes that take you gradually up a slope to the steps to St. Paul’s. I had spent a few minutes at the helpful
tourist info center at the terminal where they told me that the Sintra (yes, I thought at first,”How interesting, there’s a hotel named after old Frank though they misspelled it”–not) runs a shuttle back south to Taipa Island and a sister property right across the street from my
concert venue, the Venetian, so I hopped on board and cruised on down. Took a look at the City of Dreams and Hard Rock Casinos before going to the Venetian. The exterior looks like the Doges Palace with a smallish Rialto Bridge over a moat/canal where gondolas are moored. Inside, though, it’s all Vegas, (except for the Sistine Chapel-decorated main hallway) as are all the others I saw today.

The Venetian's exterior resembles the Doges Palace

The Venetian’s exterior resembles the Doges Palace

"Sistine Chapel" main hall at Venetian

“Sistine Chapel” main hall at Venetian

Adding a new stamp to my passport

All that remains of St. Paul's, Macau

All that remains of St. Paul’s, Macau

Macau, a former colony of Portugal which “returned” to China two years after Hong Kong left British sovereignty and went back in 1997, is teeming with East and South Asian tourists and gamblers. I heard more Mandarin than Cantonese on the climb to the famous ruins of St. Paul’s and saw very few Europeans or North Americans. The climate is great for the many palm, palmetto and banyan trees that line the streets, humid and in the 70s today. Colonial Portuguese buildings downtown are a nice contrast to the skyscrapers and apartment blocks of Hong Kong, and it’s nice to see names of streets and other signage in that language.

If you’ve seen any photo of Macao at all, it probably was the facade of St. Paul’s Cathedral, built in 1602 but destroyed in a fire 232 years later.

A cutie standing where cathedral was

A cutie standing where cathedral was

My Turkish ice cream cone

My Turkish ice cream cone

Macanese street foos I didn't sample

Macanese street food I didn’t sample

Behind it are some archaeological remnants of the foundation plus a chilly, quiet, crypt down about 25 steps at the back. I jumped when I looked closely at the walls and saw displays of bones on shelves. These are remains of “Japanese and Vietnamese martyrs.”

On a lighter note, returning to Senada Square I noticed a couple of Turkish guys making…Turkish ice cream by hand. It looked intriguing and I was hot so I bought a cone and this is a sensational discovery! It’s the most dense ice cream I’ve ever had and somehow was a bit chewy, as if it had a little Turkish taffy in it. Tasty and refreshing! I need to open a franchise at home!

Spring has sprung

Definition of frustration: browsing the Hong Kong Flower Market and being unable to buy any of the gloriously colored plants on the first day of Spring. Block after block of shops spill out onto the sidewalks with all kinds of plants and cut blooms, all at reasonable prices. “Lucky” bamboo, orchids, azaleas, bonsai, herbs and other varieties a better botanist than I am is needed to identify are very tempting but impossible to take along on my journey, let alone bring into the U.S.
Beyond the flowers is the Bird Market, where chirping is cacaphonous and avian colors compete with the flowers in diversity. What a feast for the senses! I’m the only female here and seem to be younger than most of the shopkeepers and regulars tending their pets. For sale besides birds are cages of all sizes and shapes plus food and accessories. The aroma was better in the flower market, for sure.
I hope tomorrow’s weather is better than today’s mist and drizzle for my visit to Macau. In all these years I’ve never gone there and I’m eager to see the former Portuguese colony’s historic buildings as well as the modern casinos! Now off to the Temple Street night market.

Hong Kong Rocks!

Weather forecasters in Hong Kong seem to have as much difficulty with accuracy as those in East Tennessee do. Instead of rain, happily it turned out overcast with some sun and in the upper 70s as I walked down Nathan Road to the Star Ferry this morning. I started counting the number of offers for tailoring and copy watches after the first couple. The eventual tally was tailors-7, “Fauxlexes”-1. My favorite bookstore is on the little road just behind the Hyatt, but that hotel is no longer there, supplanted by yet another vertical luxury mall. Swindon’s was still in its place, though, and instead of stocking up as I used to do when Hong Kong was the last stop on my tours, I wrote down titles and later, I must confess, put them on my Amazon wishlist.

A must-do is sailing the Star Ferry from Kowloon to the island itself, so I cruised to the terminal where I was startled to see it awash in anti-Falun Gong banners and displays. FLG is a tai chi-qigong-style spiritual and exercise belief that startled the Chinese leadership in 1999 when thousands of followers surrounded the seat of government in Beijing, just sitting in silence. Since then the group has been demonized by the central government and evidently there’s propaganda afoot here in HK as well. I asked a young lady at the tourism office at the terminal what most HK folks think about the publicity and she said nobody cares.

Bussed to Stanley Market in search of something a friend wanted me to get and while unsuccessful in that task, I did find a book (which I bought) called, “The Leisurely Hiker’s Guide to Hong Kong,” which sounded like it was written just for me. Most itineraries are two hours long with starts and ends accessible by public transportation, so I’ll try one or two tomorrow.