Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A picture a week | 3/52

Tuesday we had a few of Baby O's friends (and there mama's) over for a play date. It was so much fun! :) Everyone seemed to have a great time even with the hair pulling, fighting over toys and a few tears. There was also a lot of toy taste testing.

I can see clearly now

Get your bargaining pants on we're headed to the copy mart in Shanghai. The copy mart has three floors of stall after stall of purses, shoes, sports jerseys, headphones, gadgets, scarves, toys, DVDs, prescription glasses and more. It can be kind of overwhelming with a lot of customers browsing and seller trying to get you to come into their particular shop. On this trip J wanted to get a new coat (that was our second stop for the day, I'll have to write about the fabric market another time) and we were both interested in getting a new pair of glasses.

My bargaining buddy :)
Bargaining is a game to see who can get the best deal. It is one of my least favorite games to play, but in China "everything is negotiable". I suppose this means that I am going to have to do some reading and then practice my bargaining skills. My current method of bargaining is: make J do all the talking. So far it is working out pretty well for me :) I have done a little bit of reading on the subject (here) and my search came up with many other options (here & here are just a couple). The thing that I have to remember is 'there are many stalls so I can always walk away'.

When we arrived some of the stalls were open, but not everything so we didn't have a lot of options. I think it was the third glasses stall that we looked at that I found a pair of frames that I liked. J asked, dou shao qian? how much? Before the seller answered he took my current glasses and measured the lenses, then gave a price. J said no, there was some back and forth. The seller didn't want to come down, so we started to walk away but he followed us. As we got farther away his price got lower right to the spot we were both comfortable with.
First you have to look at the green dot in the gray thing that J is looking into in the picture above. They find the sample lenses that fit your prescription and you have to try on the sample glasses that are gray and orange in the other picture above. If it is all clear you pay, get a receipt and they tell you to be back in thirty minutes.
I had a lot of fun trying on many different styles of glasses and sun glasses.

This is my favorite photo of the day!
The wining frames!
I bought the above frames, J got a pair of glasses and he also order a pair of prescription sunglasses. The sunglasses are going to be mailed to our house because they didn't have the lens he needed in stock.  Overall we are both very happy with our purchases.

(Copy mart address: 580 Nanjing West Road | 南京西路580号).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A picture a week | 2/52

Baby O's post-lunch messy face
His newest trick is climbing up on the couch. It's not my favorite trick of his.

CNY 2015: Cebu, Philippines

We spent almost 24 hours in Cebu, Philippines between our time on Panglao Island and Boracay Island. We took a Super Cat ferry from Tagbilaran City to Cebu. The ride was about two hour long, we had assigned seating inside the cabin. I think there is also an option to sit outside which was probably nice. After checking in to out hotel we grabbed a quick fast food lunch at Jollibee, which was pretty good fried chicken.
We spent the afternoon at Fort San Pedro. Fort San Pedro is very small, but it was interesting to see. The fort is a triangle shape with two walls facing the sea and one facing land, each wall is 20ft high and 8ft thick. I was not able to find much information about the history of the Fort. Inside we were able to walk around the top wall and view some art and a stamp collection.
After J and I both did some searching we each found a restaurant called Zubuchon that we wanted to try for dinner that evening. It is known for it's 'lechon' and it did not disappoint! J LOVED it! I mean, he loved it so much that we had it for dinner on Saturday evening and then went back the next day for lunch before our flight. Our hotel happened to be a block away from one of their locations, we really lucked out. 'Lechon' is a Spanish term for a roasted suckling pig. In 2009, Anthony Bourdain (chef/author/TV personality) visited Zubuchon with his TV show 'No Reservations'. After he tasted Zubuchon's Lechon he declared it the "best pig ever". I'm not usually a huge pork fan, but I would have to agree that it is very tasty!

Monday, March 23, 2015

CNY 2015: Countryside tour, Philippines

There were a few touristy sites we wanted to check out on Bohol Island. I had done a lot of reading about all the tour options and decided that there were only a few that I thought would be interesting for us. (This was partially because I was worried that it would be a really long day for Baby O.) I had also read about hiring a driver/car for the day to take you where ever you wanted to go.
After breakfast one morning we headed towards the beach and found someone to drive us around to only the places we wanted to go. There were plenty of people (with laminated pictures of where they would take you) trying to get you to choose them to be your driver. We had to do a little bit of negotiating because we also needed to stop at the ferry terminal in Tagbilaran City to pay for our ferry tickets, but we agreed on a price and we were off.
Our first stop was Chocolate Hills. The Chocolate Hills are a geological formation (cone-shaped mounds of grass-covered limestone) that are covered in green grass that turns brown in the dry season, hence the name. There are approximately 1,200 hills in a 20 square mile area (50 square kilometers). Getting from Alona Beach out to Chocolate Hills took about an hour and a half (thankfully Baby O slept for most of that). It was an interesting ride, it was similar to 'the road to Hana' in Hawaii. This road was just as small, but it was lined with small houses and stores for most of the ride, also our driver was weaving around motorcycles, kids/adults walking on the side of the road, animals, constructions and of course other cars. It was not quite dry season when we visited, so the hills weren't as 'chocolaty' as they get later in the season.
Our next stop was the Philippine Trasier Conservation Area to see on the smallest members of the primate family. These guys are tiny! I knew they were small, but they were much smaller than I was expecting them to be. The Philippine Trasier can be from 3 to 6 inches in height and weigh 2 to 6.5 ounces, making them about the size of a human fist. They have large round eyes with sockets that cannot move, because of this they are able to turn their heads 180 degrees.

The conservation area that we visited had a fenced in area with little 'huts' set up along a path for the tarsier's to sleep in. Not all of the huts had tarsier's in them, but we were able to see four that day.
Next we stopped at Baclayon Church or The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion. This church was built just after the first Spanish missionaries arrived in Baclayon in 1595. It is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It is recorded that the current building was completed in 1727. The sign we saw said it is one of the best preserved Jesuit-built churches in the region. On October 15, 2013 a 7.2 magnitude earthquake damaged the bell tower. Many of the other Catholic churches on Bohol were also damaged (and some completely destroyed) by the earthquake. Unfortunately  we were unable to go into the church as they had just started their lunch break.
Our last stop of the tour was The Blood Compact Monument, and honestly it was not worth it at all. I thought there was going to be some information about what the monument was for, but there was just a statue, and a guy trying to sell us key chains/hats/selfie sticks/etc. I did some reading when we got back because I wanted to know why this monument is important. The Blood Compact Monument is there to commemorate the 'sandugo' (which means one-blood) between Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna the chieftain of Bohol. On March 16, 1565 the sandugo was preformed to seal their friendship.
Overall it was a great tour, we probably could have done a couple of other stops since Baby O was doing great. But we were happy with what we choose to do. We even made it back to the hotel for Baby O to nap before heading to the beach for a beer and then dinner.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

CNY 2015: Alona Beach, Philippines

Sorry about that brief intermission on our trip to the Philippines.  I've been working on editing and sorting through our photos which took longer than I was expecting.

After our time in Manila we flew to Tagbilaran City on Bohol Island. We had a very early morning to get to the airport in time for our flight. Before you can enter the airport you have to go through a security check point to get into the building. We got in line and a man with a Cebu Pacific uniform on came to "help" us get through the line quicker. We didn't really think anything of this, as we have been able to go through faster lines in China because of Baby O. Well, this was different and ended up not being any faster and costing us $10. We did not make the same mistake the next time we were at the airport.
Alona Beach here we come!
The tiniest airport!
Happy travelers
We stayed in the Alona Beach area of Panglao Island, which is connected to Bohol Island, by a small bridge. We really enjoyed our four days on Panglao Island. Our hotel was a ten-ish minute walk to the beach. It was a great hotel, but if we were to go back we would probably pick something closer to the beach and restaurants. Our hotel, the Panglao Regents Park, was really good, the staff were very friendly and helpful. We ended up upgrading our room to something closer to the pool and off the main road, which was quite loud.

We embraced the leisurely island life from the get go: baby O took a nap, I took a stroll on the beach and J did some reading. We continued our leisurely lifestyle for all four days at Alona Beach.  We ended our first day with dinner (at The Buzzz Café) down by the beach.
Nice view for the evening.
The next day, after Baby O's first nap we put on sunscreen and packed our bags for an afternoon at the beach.  Baby O's first time in the ocean! I forgot to pack the camera so I don't have any photo proof, but he did end up enjoying the water. He was unsure of it and first, but that all changed when he and dad started to splash each other.

That evening we went to Trasier Paprika for dinner. It is pretty far out of town, but there is a free shuttle that leaves from Trasier Botanika in town, you just have to stop by and make a reservation. What a great restaurant! When we arrived it was already dark, but we could tell that the view would be great during the day. The food was really good! It was pricier than most places we went to but well worth it. We happened to be here on Chinese New Year's Eve and we got to enjoy some fireworks that were being set off nearby. There was a large group of Chinese people at the table next to us who were also waiting for the return shuttle. They LOVED Baby O and entertained him for a bit while we waited.

Baby O and his entertainment :)
Headed back to the hotel, it was a bumpy ride

The next day we hired a car/driver to take us on a countryside tour. I don't want the post to be huge so I will write a separate post about that day. Our last two days we spent mostly by the pool, swimming a little, having a few San Miguel Pale Pilsens.
The people in green on the left are giving massages.
There was a cover band playing at one of the restaurants and Baby O was really excited about.
He has some good dance moves :)
We made reservations to go back to Trasier Paprika for lunch on Friday so we could enjoy the view that we had missed when we were there for dinner. When Friday came around, J wasn't feeling well so he decided not to go. It was also close to Baby O's nap time so he offered to keep him so I could still go. I was sad that they couldn't come but it was better for them to nap. What a great view it was!
The shuttle