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1.29.2007 - 34 comments 

This photo is one of me taken at the Chinese Garden of Friendship which happens to be in the Darling Harbour near Chinatown in Sydney, Australia. The gardens themselves compliments the areas already rich Chinese heritage and culture. It is just a short walk from Sydney's Chinatown, (which just also happens to be a great place to have lunch).

As a little history, the garden itself was designed by Sydney's Chinese sister city, Guangzhou in China. The gardens were developed on a site which is right in the corner of the Darling Harbour. (A place that many associate with the 2000 Olympic Games.) The gardens were officially opened in 1988 as part of Sydney's bicentennial celebrations and they were named the "Garden of Friendship" symbolising the bond being established between China and Australia.

Being one of the few public traditional Chinese gardens outside China they offer a rare insight into Chinese heritage and culture. One of the interesting features of the gardens is that you can not see the whole garden from any point within them. Like most places, there's an entry fee to the garden with its paths, pools and weeping trees.

The garden has a number of other noteworthy features including the Dragon Wall sybolising the bond between New South Wales and Guangzhou, the Water Pavillion of Lotus Fragrance, the Twin Pavillion and The Tea House that offers traditional Chinese tea and other refreshments. Just in case you want a short hot one (instead of a tall cool one).

The detail in the three tiered pagoda is very intricate with designs of plums, pine, and bamboo. These were chosen for good luck as well as balance of nature. Every door opening frames a beautiful picture of plant arrangements while the interior of the pagoda encircles you in it's intricately carved warmth.

We found the gardens to be a nice respite from the somewhat hectic Sydney business area. It had an almost surreal tranquility about it in not only areas like the one I am sitting in here, but all over the gardens. I took way too many photos of these gardens, but this is one was taken by my wife. But I loved the surroundings and just wanted to be part of it... (so please forgive my self-indulgence!)

"What am I doing here?" -Rimbaud writing home from Ethiopia Posted by Picasa

1.22.2007 - 30 comments 

May be that some of you will remember from my last post about Tuolumne Meadows, that I mentioned a possible future post about a Ghost Town just down the mountains from there? Well, thanks to some of my blogger friends' requests... here is this that little ghost town of Bodie, California that has long since been forgotten by most of the world.

I was really surprised that there was not more hype about this sort of unique place and we were actually both disappointed to find that WE were the ONLY visitors to this place the whole time that we were there. It was almost like everyone in the world was no longer home. While this can be fun… it also makes it tough if you want to have an over-priced hamburger and a tall cool one while you are there. A fact that still resonates with me.

Seeing all of these old buildings and thinking of what the town must have been like in its heyday some 150 years ago. This fact stuck in my mind the whole time we looked around that whole town for signs of that old heyday life. The buildings themselves were really very neat, but the area itself, was very much of a desert... just very hot and very dry. Another reason to want a tall cool one!

The history of the city shows that in 1859 William (a.k.a. Waterman) S. Bodey (spelled differently than the town) discovered gold near what is now called Bodie Bluff. A mill was established in 1861 and the town began to grow. It started with about 20 miners and grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880! By that time, the town of Bodie bustled with families, robbers, miners, storeowners, gunfighters and prostitutes of all kinds. At one time there was reported to be 65 saloons in town. And still not a tall cool one in sight.

Amongst the saloons were numerous brothels and 'houses of ill repute', gambling halls and opium dens. Needless to say that there was entertainment for every taste (well taste might not be the operative word here)!

After a long day working the claims, the miners would head for the bars and the red light district to spend their earnings. The mixture of money, gold and alcohol would often prove fatal. It is said that there was a man killed every day in Bodie. Presumably, the undertaker never had a slow day.

There are records that say that Wm. Bodey took a ship from New York, around the horn to end up in San Francisco. The name of the town was changed at some point in time, before the majority of the people made their way to Bodie. There are different stories as to why - one says it was to keep the correct pronunciation of town's namesake. Another says that the sign painter didn't have the room for the tail of the lower-case "y". Today, even though Bodie is lost down a dusty 13 mile long road, off of state highway 395, it is amazing just how many people are aware of this once glorious town.

There's a story about a little girl whose family moved from San Francisco to Bodie. Depending on who tells you the story, (or where you read it), she wrote either: "Good, by God, I'm going to Bodie" or "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie". Once you get through this actual site, you'll have to decide for yourself. But for me, a place where you can't even find a tall cool one... is definitely a GHOST TOWN! Posted by Picasa

1.15.2007 - 24 comments 

As you can see from this shot I took while we were leaving Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne Meadows is a stunningly picturesque subalpine region is a great place to camp and hike with many varied trails. It is near the Western entrance to Yosemite. This area is only accessable by car during the summer via Tioga Road. This is the way we actually exited the park after coming in a week earlier from the Southern entrance (route 41 by the Mariposa Grove).

Tioga Road — the most famous scenic drive in Yosemite Park and it stretches 39 miles from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass through forests, meadows, lakes and granite domes. Open in summer only, the Tioga Road was originally a wagon road across the Tioga Pass built by the Great Consolidated Silver Company in 1883.

Tioga Pass — where Tioga Road (Highway 120) enters Yosemite Park's Western edge, crosses the Sierra Nevada's crest at an elevation of 9,945 feet and is California's highest automobile pass.

Tuolumne Meadows is a gentle, dome-studded meadowy section of the Tuolumne River, in the eastern section of Yosemite National Park. Its approximate location is just a few miles from the town of Lee Vining down below (as the crow flies) but several more miles as the car drives slowly down the very steep mountain grades from the meadows to the desert plaines below. The meadows are at an approximate elevation is 8619 feet (2627 m). And Lee Vining, California is an unincorporated town in Mono County, California. The town has a total population of only 488 and its elevation is only 6781 feet. It is located on the southwest shore of Mono Lake.

The economy of the little town of Lee Vining relies largely on tourism, since it is the closest town to the east entrance of Yosemite National Park, and is near other tourist destinations such as Mono Lake, the ghost town of Bodie, popular trout fishing destinations, and June Mountain and Mammoth Mountain ski areas and the June Lake recreational area. Tourism is mostly confined to the summer months, because California State Route 120 through Yosemite is closed otherwise because of heavy snows, although they say that year-round tourism has been increasing in recent years.

Tuolumne Meadows has a good view of the Cathedral Range (in the background of the image, looking south), Lembert Dome and Mount Dana (to the north). Camping is available at the Tuolumne Meadows campground. Excellent hiking and rock climbing are accessible from Tuolumne Meadows, which tends to be less crowded than Yosemite Valley.

The John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail run through Tuolumne Meadows. Downstream (flowing to the right (western) side of the image), the Tuolumne River cascades over Waterwheel Falls, near Glen Aulin, eventually pooling at Hetch Hetchy.

All in all, this is just a small slice of the beauty that abounds in the part of the country of the Sierra Nevada's. This reminds me that I may want to do a blog post someday, about the Ghost Town of Bodie, California.

"Travel at its truest is thus an ironic experience, and the best travellers . . . seem to be those able to hold two or three inconsistent ideas in their minds at the same time, or able to regard themselves as at once serious persons and clowns." -Paul Fussell Posted by Picasa

1.07.2007 - 40 comments 

Playing many roles, Tahiti is French Polynesia's largest and most glamorous tropical island and home to its unique capital city of Papeete (pronounced Pa pa ate tay). Tahiti is sometimes called the Island of Love. Tahiti is shrouded in legend and the central character in many stories of travel, intrigue and romance. Not all these stories are grounded in fact. Most notable is the common referral of the word "Tahiti" to represent all the islands of French Polynesia.

This is incorrect. I think for most folks, the Island of Tahiti is quite literally an existing legend, but frankly Tahiti is in fact the largest and most populated island of the 118 islands and atolls that comprise Tahiti Polynesia and of course it is the most famous. I only wish we could have had enough time to visit all 118 of them, but alas that was NOT the case. People who have been there also extol the virtues of Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine and Raiatea or Tahaa islands.

Even though this shot was taken from Papeete, there is so much else going on in French Polynesia, that it is hard just to stay in one area. Even though that was our case, but we really were not sure what all there was to do there and we certainly did not plan enough time in French Polynesia to really check it all out, (but truly... even months) more than likely would not have been enough.

There is a market in Papeete locally known as "Le Marche", is in a sense, "the heart of the city". It has become a tourist and traveler's sightseeing favorite due to its brightly colored vendors and attractive Tahitian products. Wander among the many stands and displays to find such products as luscious ripe fruits and vegetables, monoi oils and scented soaps, vanilla beans, cakes and pies, fruit preserves, dancing costumes and clothing, woven hats and bags and shell necklaces. 2 floors worth of vendors, including the finest display of floral arrangements of orchids, and anthuriums, marigolds and daisies and other flowers you will ever see. Located in the heart of Papeete, just one block inland from the center of the waterfront, it's not hard to find, in fact it is hard to miss.

This is one of the most beautiful and colorful islands I have even seen anywhere, but as nice as it was, I would have trouble finding any more genuine first class service as we did on the Air Tahiti Nui flight we had on from Papeete back to Los Angeles, California. It was truly world class. And the planes and flight crews were as attentive and as any I have ever seen in ANY First Class service including that of Qantas. The had very colorful tailored uniforms as we entered the plane and as soon as we were in the air over the islands, they changed into what I would consider traditional Polynesian wardrobe.

The fact that it is a FRENCH Polynesian airline, made me wish I had picked up the French language somewhere along my educational travels over the years. Let me tell you, their English was much better than my French. On the flight back to the states, I kept thinking, when will I even get a chance to get back to this beautiful part of the world? I think the flight alone was only 4-5 hours shorter than the flight to Sydney, which seemed to take forever, (really it must have been close to 18 hours). But REALLY... you can't just go to your backyard and see this kind of beauty (well... unless... ) you happen to live in Papeete, Tahiti.

"He won't fly on the Balinese airline, Garuda, because he won't fly on any airline where the pilots believe in reincarnation." -Spalding Gray Posted by Picasa