BigWorldAndSmallWorld Blog

Unique Fujian Tulou and Picturesque Yunshuiyao Ancient Town

Posted in Chinese Ancient Town,Fujian Tulou,Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the December 20th, 2023

Fujian Tulou is a unique architecture in Fujian province. It is a huge enclosed style four story residential building. The wall is made of natural mud, thus came the name Tulou (earthen building). There are hundreds and thousands Tulou in Fujian. I visited Nanjing Tulou with one of my young friends. She was born and raised in the area. However this was also her first time seeing Nanjing Tulou. We saw two shapes of Tulou: circle and rectangle. The enclosed inside open area usually has a well and/or a stage for public use, while the stories were used to be private rooms. But today, very few people still live in Tulou. Many of them became museums and visitors can go to rooms to see what’s inside. Tulou’s 1st floor usually is used for kitchen and cafeteria, 2nd floor usually is for grain storage, and 3rd 4th floor usually is for bedrooms.

This particular rectangular shape Tulou was built on marsh lands. How amazing it is! When we walked inside, we could feel the spongy like ground. Like many, I can’t help but wonder will the building sink? The answer is no. It has stood for hundreds years. According to some documents, the earliest Tulou appeared in the 16th century.

On the day to see Tulou, we also came to a picturesque ancient town called Yunshuiyao. Its natural beauty attracts a lot of tourists each year. This place was also a movie shooting place and the movie is also called Yunshuiyao. Its serenity makes people feel like living in the past time. I like the huge banyan trees, their branches stretched so elegantly outward. I like the watermill, the stream running gently, and many students do their paintings under banyan trees. Spending a day with a friend and sightseeing together was most marvelous.

Romantic Gulangyu and Xiamen Famous Delectable Food

Posted in Food,Gulangyu Island,Travel and Adventure,Xiamen by Administrator on the December 20th, 2023

Gulangyu is a pedestrian-only island off the coast of Xiamen, Fujian province in southeastern China. The name literally means waves beating and making drum like sound. The island is about 2 km² in area, and is reached by an 8-minute ferry ride from downtown Xiamen. It is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. I suggest making the ferry reservation early. Morning ferry tickets are usually hard to buy. Weekends are full of people, if possible, I suggest go to Gulangyu during weekdays. I was lucky enough to have one of my college classmates who currently lives in Xiaman to be my guide and companion. People come to the island for leisure stroll around many pretty little alleys and relaxation. There are many well-known buildings and picture spots usually packed with people taking pictures. We went to the island on Monday, luckily that day there wasn’t too many tourists. We took our time to stroll around the streets, visit a couple of museums and sit in a café to enjoy delicious mango ice slush.

Gulangyu is most famous for its many colorful and beautiful international architecture buildings. This includes an old US Embassy, old Japan Embassy, bank buildings, manors, and villas that were built in late 1800 and early 1900. Today some of the buildings converted to museums and gardens for people to visit.

When visit Xiamen, one has to try many delectable food. I was so lucky to eat almost all the famous ones including bubble or jelly tea, Sha Cha noodles, Tu Shun Dong (sandworm jelly), mochi, fish balls and sweet peanut soup.

With many thanks to my classmate who took the time to show me around and even let me to stay at her home for several nights. It was absolutely wonderful to see her after 33 years.

Enchanting Wuyi Mountains

Posted in Travel and Adventure,Vacation,Wuyi Mountains by Administrator on the December 20th, 2023

Wuyi Mountains are located in Fujian province in southeast China. It is 3.5 hours from Xiamen or Shanghai to the city Wuyishan by high-speed train. In September when I was there, it was hot and humid with daily temperature over 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit). I spent 2 full days to visit Wuyi Mountains National Park. Time was well spent on bamboo rafting on the 9-Bend River and viewing the range’s 36 peaks, climbing the rocky hills, walking through the narrow path in between the rocks called Yixiantian “the Razor”, and visiting famous Wuyi rock tea cultivation sites.

the Razor

Tea tasting is included in almost every tour. When I signed up for a tour, I didn’t know that particular tour at that particular time ended up only had one person that was me. I was hoping to meet other tourists but unfortunately it was not the case. However I did get the tour guide and driver just for myself, my family laughed about this and said I got the VIP service. After 2-hour tea tasting of four different kinds of tea, I finally had to buy a box of tea in order for them to let me leave the showroom. It was not cheap. Of course when I was visiting the rock tea cultivation sites, the legendary Dahongpao mother trees was a must see.

After I shared my travel pictures, one of my friends told me the funniest story I have ever heard, which was his backpack got stuck during his walk through “the Razor”. It took nearly two hours for people behind him to back out so that he could exit. Good thing was my guide kept my backpack, what a service!

Egypt a Place Full of Mystery and Fascinating Ancient Culture

Posted in Egypt,Travel and Adventure,Vacation by Administrator on the April 24th, 2023

Finally our wish to visit Egypt came true in March 2023 where we took an 8-day Globus Egypt tour with Nile River cruise.  Before I went, I was fascinated with pyramids and the story of Death on the Nile River.  After I went, I was fascinated with Egypt ancient culture which was so advanced in the world more than three thousand years ago.

We began our amazing trip with the pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx as the first sites to see after our long flights to Cairo.  We rode on camels and it walked us in between Giza pyramids, that was a fun ride.  We also went through some long and narrow pathways to a king’s burial chamber in the middle of a pyramid.  It was worth paying the extra for this visit.  Even after we saw the pyramids structure and touched the big block of large stones, how they were built still remains somewhat mysterious to me.  We were told there are over one hundred pyramids in Egypt, so amazing!

Cairo Museum is a must see. We saw a lot of precious artifacts including a replica of Rosetta Stone.

We flew to Luxor to start our 5-day Nile River cruise. At Luxor we visited Karnak and Luxor Temples. The 1997 007 movie the Spy Who Loved Me was shot at Karnak Temple where the beautiful and colorful carved pillars were impressively tall.

Papyrus paper was made from a plant called Papyrus. You peel the stem piece by piece and you sock them in water for a few days, then you layer them horizontally and vertically and you press them with heavy stone. The plant has a natural gluten material which serves as a binding agent. Once the paper is dried, it is quiet durable. Artists painted all kinds of images on papyrus paper, they are beautiful.

The cruise took us from Luxor to Edfu to Kom Ombo to Aswan. My favorite was Valley of Kings and Queens and Queen Hatshepsut’s monumental rock temple on the west bank of the Nile. We were told there are over one hundred kings and queens buried in the Valley, 62 burial sites were excavated. They are still working to excavate more. The Valley’s tombs’ paintings and carvings are best preserved compared to the pyramids. Pyramids were built about a thousand years earlier than the Valley of Kings and Queens.

Who would not like cruise, especially on the Nile? Nice scenery, good food and along the way many attractions to see. I found it most unusual the little boat vendors sell their merchant to the big cruise ships. The vendor showed you what they sell and then they threw their stuff in a bag a few stories high onto the ship to the interested party, the two sides negotiated a price, if the price was acceptable, the purchaser threw money back in the bag to the little boat. If the deal did not carry through, the party simply threw the merchant down in the bag as it came. We asked what if the bag did not hit the little boat? The vendor just swam to catch the bag.

In Edfu, we had a scary experience ridding on a horse carriage from the harbor to the Temple of Horus. Many carriages ran among cars and people, there are no traffic lights or lanes, it was chaotic. However, because of the carriage ride, we were able to see first-hand what the streets look like in Egypt.

Temple of Horus (the god of war and the sky) is a best preserved historical Greek style site. At KOM OMBO the temple dedicated to the crocodile and falcon gods, I saw many crocodile mummies for the first time. At this temple, there is a well which was used to measure the depth of Nile River so that to predict if a flood will be coming.

There are 11 Ramses who reigned Egypt for four hundred years. Among them, Ramses II was the most loved. An excursion to Abu Simbel is a must. Two temples built in rock hills, one for Ramses II and one for his wife. It’s an impressive sight.

In Aswan we stayed in a hotel on a man-made island and visited the Temple of Isis. While sailing on a Felucca to our hotel, we passed the famous The Cataract Hotel where Agatha Christy stayed for 11 months to write the well-known novel Death on the Nile River.

From Aswan we flew back to Cairo and spent our last day in Egypt visiting the step pyramid which was the very first pyramid built. As we say goodbye, we had a wonderful trip, it was truly once in a life time experience.

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!

Next Page »