Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Honolulu, Hawaii: October 20-24, 2019

Leaving Shanghai behind, we stopped in Honolulu for a few days to celebrate my grandnephew's 9th birthday on the 23rd and to hang out in a beautiful city while he was in school and his parents were working.

The view from the Airbnb apartment on the 35th floor was mesmerizing. Each day we woke to a changing view with clouds rolling in, planes landing, and boats gliding into port. It was located downtown on the edge of Chinatown and the former red-light district.

We visited the nearby Foster's Botanical Garden with its collection of many trees and plants that we've never before seen.

Young Date Palms above and Canonball Tree below

Breadfruit tree
The Chinatown area was gritty but interesting. Apparently brides and grooms come from all over Asia to have their pre-wedding photo shoot in this area. On consecutive days we watched the same photographer with two different couples going through the same poses except that the groom in Couple Two was clever enough to hold his bride's hand as they crossed the street while being photographed.

We strolled through the exotic Oahu and Maunakea Markets selling fruits, meats, and fish in abundance of the types that we rarely see on the mainland. My favorite sighting was the sign for "Big Chicken Feet."

We watched two ladies in a floral shop stringing leis. Around the corner, another florist shop displayed decades of old and new orders.

The former "Club Hubba Hubba with Live Nude Shows" now has a Yoga Studio. It's right next to Smith's Union Bar which the sign says is "The Oldest Bar On The island/Established in 1934." The sandwich board sign out front in an effort to distance itself from the Yoga Studio and any chance that someone would think it is a Hipster Bar says, "This is not a Hipster Bar/This is real people having real drinks making really bad decisions/it's what we do." The sign on the window says that this bar is the "official watering hole of the USS Arizona" which has been underwater in Pearl Harbor since December 7, 1941.

We visited the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

The underwater portion of the rusted USS Arizona has new life as a reef. It is a truly touching, profound memorial. The memorial was designed by Austrian architect Alfred Preis. Preis fled the Nazis in 1939 settling in Hawaii. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Preis was arrested and put into an internment camp. At the dedication of the memorial in 1962, Preis said America stood for peace, prosperity, and freedom. The shape of the memorial is like a WWII timeline showing America as strong in the beginning, becoming weak in the middle, but regaining strength at the end.

On our last full day we found Shangri La. Shangri La is the name of the house built by Doris Duke. Duke (1912-1993) became the richest girl in the world in 1925 when her father James Duke, the tobacco and hydroelectric power tycoon, died and left her his assets. At 18, Duke, finally free from her mother, traveled the world. This is when she became a collector of architectural ideas and art from the Islamic world. In 1930 she found her way to Hawaii where with the help of Duke Kahanamoku, native Hawaiian, Olympic swimmer, and father of surfing, she purchased land on the southern shore for the house she named Shangri La.

The Syrian Room
To visit Shangri La tickets/tours must be reserved in advance through the Honolulu Museum of Art. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and tour guide for our visit. My photos don't do justice to the Shangri La, but there is a virtual tour of the property and collection at Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art. Even the virtual tour doesn't do justice to Duke's collection of Islamic Art. Go and hear the stories of how she acquired the art and how she built Shangri La.

Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, at the Honolulu Museum of Art
An exhibition at the Honolulu Museum of Art that captured our attention was an exhibition of contemporary Chinese ink landscape paintings by Li Huayi. His art so perfectly followed the foggy mountain vistas we had just seen in China. 

Gangsta Kent almost 9
While it may not look like it, our main purpose in stopping in Honolulu really was to be there for Kent's 9th birthday on October 23. In advance of that momentous event, Kent's grandparents (Jerrene's parents) took us all out to dinner to celebrate. It was a fun night with great food, sake, and lots of photos.

Kent scored an iPad from his grandparents.

Two days later on Kent's actual day of birth, his parents, Lary and Jerrene, also hosted a pizza/cupcake party for Kent.  

The next day, Jerrene picked us up and treated us to a late breakfast at the country club before delivering us to the airport for our flight home.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The "Ancient" City of Zhenyuan, China: October 18-19, 2019

Zhenyuan, in the eastern part of Guizhou province is a Miao city. We stayed in the old town area which meant that we had to leave our bus in a parking lot and board a Zhenyuan tourist bus that dropped us at the hotel. The streets are narrow, parking doesn't really exist, so traffic is limited.

We visited the Zhong Yuan Temple for a view of the city which is only 1.2 square miles in size. It's a very walkable city.

The city is concentrated between mountains and along the river. Every square inch of buildable land is built out.

Zhong Yuan Temple

Pagoda on Pedestrian bridge and a temple on the top of the mountain 
The city is charming by day, but dazzling at night when the entire city is lit. It was a beautiful, electric light cityscape.

This alleyway was near the hotel we stayed in. The lanterns are red creating a totally red atmosphere kind of like being in a darkroom. Two models were there with a photographer/videographer making "art" they told me. I was there before them with my tripod hoping to capture movement of people as they walked through the alley. The models using their cellphones took photos of me so I motioned for them to walk toward me. This is a compilation of three slow photos. I converted it to black and white because it was really too red.

The next morning we were up early to walk to a temple located on the top of a mountain. Unfortunately there was a new gate, locked, at the bottom of the mountain. The gate didn't open until after sunrise. After an early breakfast, Dan and I walked around the city looking for nice fog photos.

On the far side of the river we were greeted with a Tai Chi master first teaching a student and then performing his morning exercise. The master's performance lasted about 35 minutes. There was music. It was beautiful; he was beautiful. I've never before seen Tai Chi at this level of expertise. Just watching him and listening to his music, my stress level dropped.

Signs in front of the "Coffee Bar"
After hours of morning photography I decided to stop at the Coffee Bar for a cup of real coffee. We waited for the bar to open at 10:00 am. When a young woman raised the metal doors, I asked for a cup of coffee. She showed me a menu with all selections in Chinese characters. I said coffee. She didn't seem to understand. Finally, I gave up. While there are lots of signs for coffee and even "coffee" shops, the word coffee doesn't seem to be a universal word. The signs seem more like something put up because it's trendy and not because there is coffee. We even stayed in a hotel that had a "coffee" shop, but didn't serve coffee.

Our final overnight was in Guiyang the provincial capitol of Guizhou province. It was supposed to take about two hours by bus to get there. Unfortunately, our bus began to overheat and kept needing to rest and cool down. Instead of two hours, it took us about seven hours. Fortunately, it was our last night and we didn't miss any photo opportunities.

Early the next morning (Oct 20), we all went to the airport for our flights out of Guiyang.

It was a good photo trip even with all the rain and clouds along the way. The food was wonderful. Our tour leader, William Yu, his local assistants, and the other photographers were all very easy to be with. A success.