BigWorldAndSmallWorld Blog

New Mexico the Land of Enchantment

Posted in New Mexico,Travel and Adventure,Vacation by Administrator on the August 1st, 2022

We went to New Mexico twice each time started from and ended at Albuquerque: this spring to south and east, and a few years ago summer to north and west from Albuquerque -> Petroglyph National Monument -> Acoma Pueblo -> Lava Beds -> Church Rock -> Four Corners -> Aztec Ruins -> Taos -> Santa Fe -> Albuquerque. New Mexico’s different architecture, Indian and Mexican infusion culture, and its mostly flat land with spotty butts’ landscape were quite interesting.

The south and east route Albuquerque -> Santa Rosa -> Roswell -> Carlsbad -> Alamogordo -> Las Cruces -> Albuquerque route, we thought we would get away from Minnesota snow in March when we went to New Mexico during the spring break, but to our surprise it snowed twice there during that week. Even people lived there told us snow like this was quite unusual. On this trip, we had the luxury to visit my husband’s rock-climbing and caving friend from 40 years ago. He moved to Albuquerque two years ago. He and his wife have a very nice house with a good view. We spent a couple of nights there and had a good time talking and hiking.

Santa Rosa’s Blue Hole was a must-see. A car museum by the road was unexpected. Fort Sumner’s Billy the Kid Museum and Billy the Kid Grave were interesting to see. Then we headed to UFO town Roswell.

Roswell is famous for its 1947 UFO event. Even though UFO Museum was interesting to see, but I liked the Bottomless Lake State Park there the best. There are at least five lakes in that park, there are paths get you close to the edge of the lakes and some of them you can even walk around the lake.

Carlsbad Caverns is world famous and it’s a must-see. Good thing we checked national parks’ website before we went. To visit the Caverns, you need to make a reservation ahead of time through their website to select a timeslot for arrival. Because our reservation time was 1:30pm in the afternoon, on the way to Carlsbad Caverns we went to see Sitting Bull Falls first. We took the Carlsbad self-guided tour where elevator took us directly down to the cave. The trail in the cave was about 1.5 miles. Can you spot the lion’s tail in the cave pictures I posted below? Carlsbad also has a natural entrance. It’s where bats gather. They usually come in June/July. We did not see any bat when we were there in March. The natural entrance is huge, magnificent to see even though the walk down to the entrance was long.

White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo is another must-see. The world’s largest gypsum dunefield over the Chihuahuan Desert is 275 square miles, it’s so amazing to drive on the vast field and walk on the sands. As you can see it happened to snowed at night so when we went to White Sands in the morning, the snow was whiter than sands. But still very beautiful.

Alamogordo is a city built narrow in width but stretched long along mountains foot. We liked Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument. It’s worthwhile to hike there, the shapes of the rocks were unique and a cloudy day made this place somewhat mysterious.

Here are some other interesting things we saw on this trip such as living desert zoo and Pueblo Missions ruins. It looks this blog is getting long, I’ll write about our New Mexico north and west route at another blog.

West Iceland the Sagaland in winter

Posted in Iceland,Nature,Travel and Adventure,Vacation,Winter by Administrator on the June 23rd, 2022

In January 2018 I took a 5-day trip to Iceland for a Mid-Atlantic Travel Tradeshow sponsored by Iceland Air. It was a very well organized trip just for travel agents. We can choose which hotel we wanted to stay at and which tour we wanted to take from a selection list. In winter time, there is no direct flight from Minneapolis to Reykjavik, I had to route to Chicago. But in the summer time, there is direct flight from Minneapolis to Reykjavik, therefore it is much convenient in the summer.

Upon arrival, the first evening we had a welcome dinner at downtown Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center hosted by Iceland Air. The Center is a modern building with nice architecture and wonderful lights. We were treated with great hospitality by the host who offered us a huge selection of delicious bite size food and drinks. BTW, is a good website not only for booking flights, but also for day tours as well.

The 2nd day we had a full day tradeshow. Prior to the trip I had already made meeting appointments with vendors and tour operators that I’m interested in finding out more about. Because my schedule was almost full and each appointment was merely 15 minutes; therefore I did my homework ahead of time and marked on my schedule each appointment’s booth number so that I can get to each booth promptly. From 9am to 5pm, in between appointments I had just enough time to cover the entire tradeshow floor; it was a very efficient day. I found today to be very helpful for me because prior to the trip I knew nothing about Iceland, but now I learned a lot by talking to vendors and I had a good idea about Iceland as a whole. That evening, we were entertained at Valsheimilid with lovely food, good company and entertainment.

The 3rd day we were on a full day excursion of our choice. I had chosen the West Iceland the Sagaland tour because of its nature. West Iceland the official tourist guide that I acquired yesterday at the tradeshow became very handy; otherwise I had to say it’s pretty hard to follow the names of the places we were going. As the map shows the Snæfellsnes peninsula projecting out the most on the west was where we toured. I stood there before the 844 meters high Hafnarfjall Mountain outside Borgames and Eldborg Crater rising 60 meters above the surrounding lava, I was amazed by the winter wonderland.

We had a tasty lunch at the ancient fishing station called Arnarstapi in a room with magnificent glacier view. Arnarstapi is known for its stunning basalt cliffs, ravines and grottos as well as unusual rock formations in the ocean. The Snæfellsjokull National Park is the only coastal park in Iceland. We walked on slushy and spongy moss-covered lava fields, it was an interesting walk. We took a nice coffee and cake break in the afternoon along the coast somewhere on the way heading back.

In the evening we had another great food and entertainment.

The 4th day is also the last day, today I went to the famous Blue Lagoon. The colors of the water was so beautiful, words just can’t describe it. The lagoon is big some area deep and some area shallow. The water felt warm even in the coldest January.

After the Blue Lagoon, the bus took us to the airport and I took the flights home. On the way home, I can’t help but thinking next time I want to visit Iceland again in the summer. I want to take a bus tour all around the island on the ring road as the map shows. This way I get to see a green Iceland and all the attractions; that will be fantastic! For a bus tour, I recommend these companies Reykjavik Excursions and GJ Travel

Below are some helpful websites for reference:
1. The Tourist Board for Iceland:
2. Keflavik Airport:
3. Visit Reykjavik:
4. The Iceland Review:

Idaho is a place of boundless beautiful nature

Posted in Nature,Travel and Adventure,Vacation by Administrator on the June 3rd, 2022

We spent a week in Idaho in the summer of 2019. We only covered a fraction of the state mostly in the south and west. The vast north we didn’t even touch yet. One can easily spend two weeks there. We flew to Idaho Falls and flew back from Boise. We rented a car for a road trip east to St. Anthony and Ashton, south to City of Rocks national reserve, and northwest to Lewiston. We marked the places we went to on the map.

I like Idaho Falls, Craters of the Moon, City of Rocks, Shoshone Falls, Three Island Crossing State Park near Glenn’s Ferry (part of Oregon Trail), scenic drive from New Meadows to Lewiston and back, and Hells Gate State Park in Lewiston. Also Idaho potato museum is a must, we had some fried potatoes with cheese, and it was delicious

Idaho Falls is a charming city, the falls are in the city. It is a nice walk along the falls, there are plenty shops and restaurants along the side too. An evening walk when lights were on was very pleasant.

Mesa Falls near Ashton was nice, we even saw a rainbow.

My son had fun sliding down the sand dunes near St. Anthony. We also saw some young people riding dune buggies and doing crazy jumping there.

Craters of the Moon is a unique place on earth. When I was walking on it, I felt like I was walking on a lava land. It was extremely hot.

Idaho Potato Museum is a must-see. The museum also served potato dishes, all were delicious.

On the trip, we also visited a few other museums. They all were nice.

City of Rocks is a fun place to see different shapes of rocks. Trails there were interesting, so were other parts of Idaho where hiking trails are plentiful.

Shoshone Falls is magnificent. It was the largest falls we saw on this trip.

We also saw some other pretty nice falls.

Wasn’t this Balanced Rock interesting? I thought it was.

Lewiston area and the scenic drive from New Meadows to Lewiston were very nice. Lewis and Clark Museum is a must-see. Hells Gate State Park is in Lewiston. My question was why it was called Hells Gate? I thought I found the answer at the time, but now I forgot.

Winter in Minnesota Can Be Fun

Posted in Family and Friends,Minnesota,Winter by Administrator on the February 22nd, 2022

Having been lived in Minnesota for over 25 years, I know Minnesota winter can be long and hard. We are lucky if it does not snow on Halloween or in May. Over the years I have learned a few tips to overcome the cabin fever. As I was looking at the pictures on my phone, I realized winter here is not all that unbearable. First tip, we use school’s winter break (normally a week in early March) to take a vacation in warm places such as San Antonio, Death Valley, San Diego, Florida Keys, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah’s National Parks. When we returned home, I always felt winter goes by more quickly. A short warm weather break makes a big difference. Second tip, do something outdoors such as making a snowman or snow-tubing. Before the pandemic, we used to host Japanese students in February and March for 3 weeks. This gave us the opportunity to take our students out and about and to check out local winter wonderland such as Minnehaha Falls, museums and Como Zoo and Conservatory etc.

Above pictures in the order are snow-tubing, Minnehaha Falls and Walker Art Center.

Como Zoo and Conservatory in the winter and how about a hearty meal at Cafe Latte?

Let’s make a snowman or two! My sons, my sister and my niece and one of our Japanese students had so much fun.

Don’t forget the Ice Castle. I really love this place.

When I saw these pictures, I couldn’t help but smile. My son just loved snow.

Winter wonderland is beautiful, especially after the first heavy snow.

I hope my blog cheers you up on this snowy day. Being a travel agent I had the privilege to go to Iceland in January for a travel trade-show, I’ll share that experience in another blog.

Learning How to Take Better Photos

Posted in Hobby,Photography by Administrator on the December 12th, 2021

I’m taking photography lessons from Kent Johnson at Community Ed. I found myself making huge progress since I started the lesson and I fell in love with taking photos with DSLR (single len reflective digital) camera. Thanks to my photographer friend who lent me his camera so that I didn’t have to invest in a new camera to start with. This worked out beautifully for me, now I purchased this Nikon D7000 camera from my friend. After five Level 1 lessons and some practices, I would like to share with you some of my best works. As Kent told us: from now on, we should always show our best work. Kent also told us that a professional photographer always process their photos using some sort of software. But I don’t have any software at this moment, therefore I have to show them in the original shot.
Before taking photography lessons, I had no idea what aperture, shutter speed and ISO are and I have never used manual mode. Now I know this essential triangle, how each works and how they work together. With modern meter, I found it very easy to use manual mode and I also intentionally explore over exposure and/or under exposure (called bracketing) to see which one(s) I like the best.

After warming up with a few fall color photos, our homework was taking some photos showing cold. I did so when the first snow fell and practiced with aperture, shutter speed and ISO triangle and bracket. As you can see below, some of my shots are under exposed and the moon over the roof ISO wasn’t quite right.

Then we learned how to take portraits. I used a 50mm lens with the largest aperture F1.4 to take the following shot since our lessons were in the evening, it turned out to be pretty cool. After learning composition rules, I found myself feeling comfortable with framing a shot. On Thanksgiving we were on a farm, I did a lot practices and I liked some of my shots.

These two shots I like the most. Even though it was late afternoon before sunset, I feel the shots looked more like moon, do you agree? I sent one of the shots to Kent, he agreed and did his PhotoShop magic for me.

Then we learned using continuous shots and panning for moving objects such as child, pets and moving body, and for sports. I used my son’s basketball for practice. It was fun hearing the sounds of shutter continuously shuts. I feel a little more like a profession now, it’s a good feeling :).

Last but not the least, I continue to take more practice shots and used one of them to make my holiday greetings to you. I hope you like it and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! And yes I can take a very clear moon shot now.

Maui Hawaii

Posted in Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the March 22nd, 2021

On the way to Maui, we flew to Oahu and made a stop there first because we wanted to see the Pearl Harbor. In order not to do a overnight stay, we arrived early in the early morning via flight, stored our luggage at the airport and took a taxi to the museum. We pre-booked the Pearl Harbor tour tickets online at We spent the afternoon at the museum and returned to the airport for our late afternoon flight to Maui. I would highly recommend taking the boat ride to the above water museum to see the ship wreckage under water. This full day arrangement is efficient but could easily go wrong if anything went unexpected.

Maui is the 3rd island we visit. We had been to the Big Island and Kauai. The Big Island is the biggest so we saw different landscapes and experienced different weather. Kauai is like a little grand canyon, we liked its unique and charming land-form. At each island, we rented a car, stayed at a place for 1 or 2 nights and drove around to see places and moved on to another place until we completely circle the island. This is our way of Hawaii vacation. We spent 8 days in Maui. My oldest son loves Hawaii, he said he would like to live there one day. Surfing, snorkeling, swimming and many nice beaches for example this black sand beach, and of course beautiful scenery and nice weather too.

Hana Highway is a must-drive. It will take a full day to complete the highway until you drive to no more road and turn back. The drive itself is very rewarding as the scenery is so breathtaking. You may take as many stops as you wish to look out and stop by a local restaurant for a satisfying lunch. Make sure to bring enough water bottles and/or snacks, you will need them. One of our favorite is Haleakala National Park where we drove through narrow canyons to a high ground. If the sun is out you will be lucky to see the colorful canyons like a canvas.

We chose Wailea area as the central location. It has several very nice resorts to choose from for lodging, many shops for shopping and many restaurants for eating. Don’t forget to use resorts’ amenities like spas, beaches, pool side bars and game room etc. Have a drink or two. We also used local grocery stores almost daily instead of going to restaurants for every meal.

Last part of our vacation was driving through North-west part of the island before returning to the airport. We stayed at a resort for 1-night and enjoyed the beach there. This ends our wonderful Maui vacation with a video of a blow-hole, what an enjoyable time with my two sons!

China’s Avatar Zhangjiajie Forest National Park

Posted in Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the August 3rd, 2019

The first time I went to Zhangjiajie was thirty years ago. It was a fun and memorable trip with some of my high school friends. Even today I remembered many things about the trip. The place was so rural and so different than the big city Shanghai where we lived. I remembered for the first time in life we had to stone a chicken for supper outside a restaurant. I remembered we stayed at a farmer’s house for a couple of nights because at that time Zhangjiajie was not a tourist place yet so there were no hotels. The farmer’s family was so nice to us and they yield their wedding bed for us to sleep. I remembered one time we were hiking on the mountains and all a sudden the rain poured down like cats and dogs, we had no place to hide so we kept walking on the muddy slippery road until we hit a small hut. We entered the hut for shelter and dried our clothes at a fire place. I remembered at the hill foot there is a small town called Furong 芙蓉镇 where a famous movie was shot there. When we arrived at the town, I got fever and our travel group was nice enough to stay an extra day there so that I can rest and feel better again to continue our adventure.

Thirty years later, this time I took a tour. So much has changed I almost could not recognize the place. It is very commercial now. Unlike before the only transportation is on foot, today there is a cable car taking you high above the mountains where you can view the misty mountainous outside from inside the car. The view is awesome and scary at times. The most notable geographic features of the park are the pillar-like formations that are seen throughout the park, like the rocks we see in the movie Avatar. In the park, Tianmenshan 天门山is probably the most well-known sight. The name came from the arched rock high above the mountain looks like a window in the sky. I walked the 99 steep stairs down; it was quite an experience and I think you definitely should try. Besides the rock formations, there is a cave called 黄龙洞,a waterfall at the entrance to a lake called 宝峰湖, and a show at night called 湘西魅力 are worthy to see.

Even though I like the rustic nature before Zhangjiajie was a popular tourist attraction much better, I have to admit that among the new things I do like the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge. Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon opened the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge in 2016, it’s the longest (430 m (1,410 ft)) and highest (300 m (980 ft)) pedestrian glass bridge in the world. Walking on the see-through glass bridge high above the canyon, the feeling was a mix of awesome and scary. At times I felt like I had to sit down instead of stand on the bridge. The other new thing I like is the cliff side glass walkway where you walk along the sharp and steep cliff side via a see-through glass walkway attached to the cliff wall. I highly recommend the experience, it’s very awesome.

Finally you may ask where is Zhangjiajie? It is located in Hunan province in central China. It is the province where famous Chairman Mao Ze Dong was born.

Hidden Gem Guizhou

Posted in Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the August 3rd, 2019

Guizhou province located in southwest China is known for its traditional rural villages such as the 14th century Qingyan ancient town and the 74m-high Huangguoshu waterfall one of the largest waterfalls in China and East Asia. Its capital city Guiyang is a vibrant city. If you ask me ten years ago what do I think about Guizhou? I would not hesitate to say it’s poor. But after I visited Guiyang and Huangguoshu waterfall last year, my impression of this place has changed. Because I like nature, I really like the natural resources this province has.

There are two well-known Guizhou food I tried and liked: Si Wa Wa 丝娃娃and Suan Tang Yu酸汤鱼。Si Wa Wa, I take it gets its name from many dishes of thinly julienned vegetables and you wrap them in a thin pancake like a doll, then you put any sauce you like on top and eat it. Suan Tang Yu, you pick a live fish, several complements and a broth. The restaurant cleans the fish for you and brings the broth in front of you so you can cook the fish and the complements on your table in a big pot by yourself. Besides tasting good, I like the way you wrap or cook food by yourself, it makes you feel involved in the process and it’s very interesting.

Suantangyu picture credit to

Huangguoshu waterfall is huge and truly amazing. Nowadays you can get to Huangguoshu waterfall rather easily by train and then after you get to the nearest town you can take a taxi. Plan to stay 1-night is a good way to see all three parts of Huangguoshu National Park. There are a couple of decent and cheap hotels near Huangguoshu. The three parts of Huangguoshu are Dou Po Tang 陡坡塘,Da Pu Bu 大瀑布,and Tian Xing Qiao 天星桥。If you arrive Huangguoshu after noon on day 1, I recommend visiting Dou Po Tang in the afternoon. Day 2 I recommend visit Da Pu Bu first because this is the largest scene in the park and normally it gets a lot of people in the afternoon. After visiting Da Pu Bu, then you can visit Tian Xing Qiao. You will be able to finish these two parts by the afternoon and it’s time to head back. If you plan to follow my recommendation, then you will need to buy 2-day tickets. All three parts are beautiful and easy to walk around. Inside the park, you will feel close to the nature and the air is fresh. It’s definitely a relax vacation place.

The day I went to Qingyan ancient town was a rainy day. From Guiyang city, I took a bus to get there. Strolling around the town, I like the small village feeling. There are many interesting small shops along the streets where you can look around or buy all kinds of merchants and art-work. I like the street-food the most; there are many options you can choose from. I felt like wherever I went, I could find something to eat, it’s so hard to resist the food temptation. The town has several gates, there is even a small wall like the Great Wall of China where you can climb up and have a good view of the town and surrounding areas.

Today Guizhou Huangguoshu is becoming a very attractive tourist place even for Chinese people.

Ancient Village Hongcun and Scenery Mount Huangshan

Posted in Hongcun,Huangshan,Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the January 3rd, 2017

People say one must see Huangshan in one’s life time, how true it is. I was lucky to see it not too long ago. Huangshan is a mountain range in southern Anhui province in eastern China. The area is well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, Huangshan pine trees, hot springs, winter snow, and views of the clouds from above. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Huangshan and the scenery has been the frequent subject of poetry and artwork, especially Chinese ink painting and, more recently, photography. Even though Chinese people like to take pictures with rocks that are painted or carved with words or poems, I normally just like to see it and move on. I like nature stuff much better. To me Huangshan is impressive with its beautiful sunset, sea of clouds, many strong and different shapes pine trees, and unique rock formations. Climbing up and down the 1-person-wide ladders on the mountain is truly memorable, it was scary but exciting. The memory of being on the mountain was still vivid as I go over my pictures a couple of years later.

Hongcun is a charming small village at the foot of Huangshan. I enjoyed the architecture and the market; this place truly is a gem of Hui culture. If you are like me who like the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon then you will be pleased to know that scenes from the film were filmed on location in Hongcun. It was a nice walk around the village seeing old residences and old furniture, people painting on the street, a nice pond in the middle of the village and walking over some very old stone bridges.
While in the area, visiting a market is a must. I enjoyed stroll along the street and window shopping. So many special local food and artifacts to taste and see on the market, it’s hard not to buy anything.

Korea Experience

Posted in Korea,Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the January 3rd, 2017

May 2016 I went to Seoul for Rotary International Conference. It was a super inspirational experience for me the first time attendee. Our district folks stayed at an Ibis Hotel. The hotel has a nice rooftop restaurant where I got a good view of Seoul.

The hotel is near Seoul’s famous shopping street Myeong-dong. It’s pleasant to stroll around, do some shopping and have a Korean mango ice.

After the conference, I took subway and Korea rail and took about two hours to get to an Incheon hotel where I started my 6-day Korea tour with a group.

Among all the places I went to in Korea, I like the Korea Cutural Village where Dae Jang Geum 大长今was filmed. In the village one can see Korea style old and relatively recent residences, wedding ceremony and other performance.

Another place I like is Namiseom南怡岛 a small half-moon shaped island. If you like the movie Winter Sonata then you will like this place and its pines.

景福宫Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395, it is located in northern Seoul.

On the trip I ate some traditional Korean food such as many different hot pot, ginseng chicken noodle, seaweed rice, BBQ, kimchee and other, they were good.

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