Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fujiya Hotel: East meets West in the midst of Hakone National Park

What do you picture when you think of a Japanese inn near a popular hot spring? Perhaps a ryokan with tatami mats on the floor and sliding door panels made of rice paper stretched taut across black wood frames? Sure, I would have loved to stay at one of those during our family trip back in April 2012. But with my rambunctious kids, I knew that we were one "Look at me. I'm a Samurai" game away from coughing up a ton of money to pay for ripped mats and torn door panels.

Hakone, Japan
The Flower Palace at the Fujiya Hotel

Instead, we finished off our day visting Mount Fuji and Hakone National Park by spending the night at the Fujiya Hotel. Frommer's Travel Guide describes it as
"quite simply the grandest, most majestic old hotel in Hakone; indeed, it might be the loveliest historic hotel in Japan."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Beauty and Renewal at Butchart Gardens

Life's been a little crazy for me lately. Change is afoot. The school year is winding down to an end. For some reason, the 5th Grade will now have Physical Education daily for the rest of the year, greatly increasing either the laundry load or the the stink-o-meter reading if my child re-wears his uniform without washing. My youngest child's birthday is coming up, and I'm starting to wallow in sentimentality. This is the last year I'll have a kid with an age in the single digits. My oldest is just shy of hitting 6 feet (2 meters) tall. Where has the time gone?

I'm thinking back to our big summer trip of 2007. It was significant for a number of reasons. This was our first family vacation with 3 kids purely for fun, not to visit relatives. It was also the first time we traveled internationally as a family, making the trek from Texas to Canada. I also remember what a nervous traveling mama I was back then and realize how much easier it comes to me now that I have miles under my belt. Canada seems like a piece of cake compared to Tibet.

Butchart Gardens is an inspiration for the Canada Pavilion at EPCOT in Walt Disney World

Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island was one of my favorite stops. I really wish I could get my yard to look like this.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

10 Photos of Tibet through a Car Window

It's taken me a while to write about our family trip to Tibet back in October. A multitude of images flood my mind when I reflect back on our visit. There are the ones you would expect of towering mountains and peaceful monks. Buddhist temples and praying peasants. You know what I mean. The postcard shots.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Khoo Kongsi: The Finest Clanhouse outside China

clanhouse, Penang, George Town
Gazing up at the Khoo Khongsi's Upper Level

Moving to a new country can be an overwhelming challenge and having family there that you can rely on eases the transition and provides community. That's the case now, and it was even more true in the pre-internet days when long distance communication was harder. Because of Confucianism, Chinese culture has a big emphasis on filial piety (i.e. respect for one's parents and ancestors) and by extension, supporting the family clan. Historically, Chinese who immigrated to a new country settled down where their clan had already begun establishing roots so that they wouldn't be alone. Within each Chinatown, clan associations sprouted up to serve as a benevolent organization for family members.
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