Thursday, May 29, 2014

Weekend in Xiamen

It’s getting busier and busier at work. Summer is one of the busiest times – along with Christmas/Chinese New Year. Ironically, Memorial Day weekend is nothing special. It’s not technically summer yet and no one here cares about American vets. So I took some time off a little earlier than usual because it’s only going to get busier.

Ryan came to Hong Kong the last 2 times, so it was definitely my turn to go to him, but since it was a holiday weekend – at least to us – we decided to do something different. Instead of going to Fuzhou or him coming to Hong Kong, we went to Xiamen.

We went to Xiamen on our cruise last summer. Ryan hated it. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t all that impressed. What I liked the most about it was a small grocery store that had a surprisingly large selection of American items. These were actual American groceries made in America by American companies – not the “genuine” “made of America” things you see throughout China.

Ryan misses American food even more than I do – especially since I live in Hong Kong where I can get a wide variety of international food. He lives in Fuzhou where his non-Chinese options are limited. I convinced him to go back to Xiamen with the food.

I also told him that if he really hated it that much, we could just stay in the hotel all day naked. It was an empty compromise since I knew he could easily say he hated the city no matter what he really thought and he knew I was never going to spend the entire trip inside a hotel room.

Even though neither of us was all that impressed with Xiamen, I knew there had to be more to it than what we saw. We were only there while the shipped was docked – only about 9 hours. Since then, I’ve heard a few people say how much they like Xiamen and how much cleaner it is than most Chinese cities. I figured there must be something to it that we missed.

I went to see what else was there. We both went for the American grocery store.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Vacation to Somewhere part 5

What really brought me around to Finland was the house we can stay in. Since there are 4 of us, we’ve always been thinking about renting a big villa or house instead of just staying in the usual hotel rooms. There’s a really nice house in Helsinki in the downtown area. It looks like it’s close enough to walk to Helsinki Cathedral – which is one of the main sights.

Helsinki Cathedral is very close to the main train station, so getting around should be easy. It all looks pretty close together on a map, but you never know until you’re actually there.

I’ve never really thought about going to Finland, but I’ve never been opposed to it either. It’s just one of those places I never thought much about. The more I look into it, the more I’m warming up to the idea.

Kevin wants to go to Finland more than Bali. Ryan wants to go to Bali more than Finland. Lily & I are currently on the fence. I guess we’ll know which one it will be when one of us makes up our mind.

I’m just glad we’ve narrowed it down to only 2 choices. Hopefully, no one will come up with another option.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Vacation to Somewhere part 4

What do we know about Finland? It gets very cold. But our trip is in August. That’s the warmest time in Finland and that’s when Finns seem to leave Helsinki – making hotels much cheaper.

Helsinki seems to have a very good public transportation system. They have lots of trams – which I like a lot better than subways – and you don’t have to take a taxi from the airport into the city. I’d rather take a train from the airport than a taxi any day. Taxis have different rules and systems everywhere in the world and you have to know how the locals do it to do it successfully. Trains are pretty straightforward and don’t charge different prices at the driver’s whim.

Most of the main attractions in Helsinki are all in the same part of town. That just makes it easier. There are cities in China where everything is a million miles from everything else. You can’t just walk from one sight to another. When I’m in a city for the first time, I want to be able to walk as much as possible. You don’t see as much from a taxi who’s taking you on a wild goose chase and you see even less from a subway.

None of us can speak any Finnish at all. I don’t know a single word in Finnish. But I can say, “Jag pratar inte svenska” in Swedish. A lot of people seem to speak Swedish in Finland.

Not that it matters. I don’t think you need to know the local language to enjoy your visit. Sometimes not knowing the language makes it more interesting. I don’t know a single word in Thai, but I had a good time there. I don’t know any Dutch and very little Italian, but Amsterdam/Rome was a great trip. I don’t know any of Indonesia’s languages, but Bali was one of the best trips of my life.

English is also very common in Finland, so there shouldn’t be any problems. We were thinking about Thailand, the Netherlands, Israel and Jordan and we don’t speak any of those languages.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vacation to Somewhere part 3

We finally decided where to go on our big summer vacation. Our short list was Amsterdam, Thailand, Scotland, Bali, Israel and/or Jordan.

We ruled out Amsterdam because there were too many temptations for the men. I don’t like to go around judging people, but I don’t want my travel companion to be baked the whole trip. I wanted to get some cheese in Alkmaar, but it would have been hard to get the others to leave Amsterdam – even for a little while.

We ruled out Thailand because it would have been a pain to get to every place we all wanted to go. If we just went to Bangkok that would be easy, but going to one place then another and another isn’t the most relaxing vacation in the world.

We ruled out Scotland because I was the only one who wanted to go there. There are 4 of us, so it has to be somewhere with more interest.

We ruled out Israel/Jordan because there are just too many problems. I don’t care about the politics, but Ryan & Kevin do. We couldn’t get past it enough to have a good trip.

That left us with Bali. I’m always up for a private villa with a private pool. Indonesia’s been in the news lately with some less than flattering stories, but that was true the first time we went to Bali. None of it ever affected us. Bali seems to be removed from a lot of the general turmoil – or at least they do a good job of keeping it under the surface.

Then Kevin came up with Finland. We all collectively said, “Finland?” I assumed that since no one else liked my Scotland idea, no one would like Kevin’s Finland idea.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Old Ryan, New Home

This was going to be my turn to visit Ryan in Fuzhou, but since we just moved into the new apartment we decided that he should come here to check it out. Usually when Ryan comes to Hong Kong we go to a hotel. The old apartment was just too small for everybody at the same time. Staying in a hotel gave Ryan & I some time alone and also worked out for Lily & Kevin. Now that there’s plenty of room for everyone, Ryan can stay here whenever he comes to Hong Kong.

Lily & Kevin were at work a lot, so Ryan wanted to test drive the apartment. His top priority was to have sex on the balcony, but that was never going to happen. It’s a big enough balcony. It’s the biggest balcony I’ve ever seen in Hong Kong. There’s plenty of room to do all kinds of things, but it’s still in Hong Kong. Our building isn’t pressed against the next building, but we still have neighbors who can easily see our balcony when they’re on theirs. That balcony’s big enough to have a party, but you’re never going to have any privacy on it.

Naturally, Ryan suggested we wait until night time. Hong Kong isn’t exactly dark at night – there are always plenty of lights on everywhere – but you could probably go unnoticed on the balcony with the living room lights off. So maybe there’s slightly more privacy at night, but there’s also a lot more mosquitoes. There are plenty of mosquitoes in the day time – more than enough, in fact. But night time is when they really come out in full force. Since this is mosquito season – anywhere between March and December is mosquito season – I’d prefer to be as covered as I can when I’m outside at night. There are parts of my body that really don’t need mosquito bites.