Scenic Sunday

* Every Sunday our blog features a random scenic photograph from our travels *

Havasu Falls, Havasupai Indian Reservation, Grand Canyon, Arizona

“The key to change… is to let go of fear.”
~Rosanne Cash

To see other blogs featuring a Scenic Sunday, visit

Tansu Step Chest

Johnnie and I didn't have very much furniture before we came here.  All that we have in storage back in the States is a couch, love seat, coffee table, and a full size bed.  To Korea, all we brought with us is a queen bed, two old dressers, and a console table.  We compare it to living like college students :)

While we've been in Korea, we finally purchased some amazing furniture pieces that make us feel like grown-ups.  For example, we bought a dining room table and chairs.  Not a cheap one just to use, but a really nice one that we plan on having for the rest of our lives.  Thanks to our informative friends here, we found some great off-the-beaten-path furniture and antique stores and bought some beautiful wooden furniture that makes our house look more like a home.

One of my favorite pieces that we bought is the "stair step cabinet".  It's officially called a Japanese Tansu Step Chest.  These are a very common sight in the furniture and antique stores around here.

The cabinet has many doors, drawers, and sliding panels.  Some of them have discrete and clever locking mechanisms.

The cabinet is actually made up of three pieces.  The front and the back of the cabinet are identical.  The drawers can be pushed or pulled through either side.  This allows for the cabinet to "step down" in either direction, work as a room divider, or be displayed in different arrangements.

Alternative arrangement #1

Alternative arrangement #2

“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”
~William A Ward

Beijing, China - Part 3/3

The attractions we toured in Beijing were amazing.  The palaces were enormous and beautiful, making Korea's palaces seem tiny in comparison.  The Great Wall was everything I hoped it would be although I wish we had more time to hike a greater distance of it.  There were no disappointments on our trip to China.  Beijing was truly an impressive travel destination!

This is a scenic photo post with few descriptions.  If you would like some information about the places we visited, please click on the title links below or do a google search :)

In the park outside the temple area, tons of locals gather daily to exercise, play games, and socialize.

The steps were well worn along the handrail.  The height of each step varied a lot in places!

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change
that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
– Miriam Beard

Beijing, China - Part 2/3

Our Beijing tour itinerary included a stop at a friendship store and three factory stores.  These are government-owned stores that sell primarily to foreigners.  Visitors on tours are required to be brought to these stores and spend a certain amount of time there.  The prices in these stores are very high and they will rarely bargain with you.  Luckily, before we traveled to China, I got a heads-up about what to expect from my fellow military wives combined wealth of experience.  Almost everything you see in these government stores can be purchased in the markets for a small fraction of the price.

All of the prices in these government stores were listed in U.S. Dollars.  Obviously these stores are not for Chinese locals to shop in, they are for China's "foreign friends" like us who are brought here as part of a travel tour.

The Pearl Factory was interesting.  We had a short informative presentation by a very good salesman who told us about the different types, colors, and sizes of pearls.  He told us about picking the right size and color and also showed us how to tell real pearls from fake ones.  We had fun looking around and trying on some necklaces but we didn't buy anything.  Some of the bracelets at this store were hundreds of dollars and the necklaces were a whole lot more!

The Silk Quilt Factory was my favorite.  We were shown how silk is produced from silk worms and the different types of silk that can be made.  There were workers making a silk-filled comforter by stretching layer upon layer of silk over a frame.  We were so impressed with the comforters and pillows that we each purchased a set.  They were a little expensive but not unreasonable and now that we've been using them at home, we feel they were well worth it.  We passed on the duvet covers which were a bit unreasonable.  There were many other silk items for sale in this store such as clothing, rugs, scarfs, and fabric.

The Jade Factory was beautiful.  There was so much carved jade to look at!  Of course everything had a price and there were salespeople everywhere trying to convince us to buy something.  There were thousands of beautiful and intricately carved pieces of jade in a variety of colors.  There was also a huge huge selection of jade necklaces, bracelets, pendants, rings, and earrings... all highly priced of course.  I laughed out loud when I saw some of the exact same jewelry that I've seen in the markets of Korea for a lot less than the "sale prices" here.  We didn't buy anything but we took a lot of pictures!

These carved jade turtles were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and were priced at $1,079! 

This large carved jade cabbage was priced at $104,930!

At one of our stops we had time to sample teas at a tea house. So many different kinds!

We had one free afternoon that we spent exploring a couple of markets.  We went to the Hongqiao Market (Pearl Market) and the Xui Shui Market (Silk Alley Market).  These markets are both large and reminded me of Dongdaemun in Korea.  There was floor upon floor of vendors selling practically anything you can think of.  Shopping here was amazing but INTENSE.  The store vendors are vicious, rude, and manipulative.  If you so much as pause to look at something (or dare to pick something up), the vendor will start putting it in a bag and telling you how much you owe.  The price they always start off with is ridiculously high.  You have to be unemotional and firm to get the price you know you should pay.  Don't be nice - it won't help.  They start high, you start low, they'll call you crazy, you call them crazy, you try to walk away, they'll grab you to make you stay, and eventually you will win :)  Most vendors won't bargain out loud, but prefer to pass a calculator back and forth.  Walking away is one of the best ways to get them to agree to your price if its reasonable because they won't want to lose the sale.  Always check the zippers, snaps, etc on an item before you agree to purchase it.

Most of the things you see in the markets are name brand but are really just good knock-offs of the real thing.  Therefore, you should only pay a small a fraction of what the real thing would cost.  I was told not to pay more than 20% of what the real item would cost in the States.   We bought some North Face jackets (with a zip out fleece) for the equivalent of $40.  The vendor's starting price was $300!  It's a great jacket that I've been wearing daily ever since.  It's a knock-off I'm sure, but it looks real and is certainly worth what I paid.  There are also a lot of knock-off designer purses and wallets that you can get at cheap prices with bargaining.  The Louis Vuitton wallet pictured was the equivalent of $10.  You can get the same wallets in Korea (slightly better quality I think) for $35.  We also each bought some gorgeous pearl necklaces and bracelets at the Hongqiao Market.  My aunt's $20 pearl necklace was appraised at $300 when she got back to the States!

Our afternoon shopping in the markets was exhausting but so much fun!  I would certainly take a trip back to China with an empty suitcase just to go shopping for a week!

"The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and
coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one."
~ Erma Bombeck

Beijing, China - Part 1/3

While my mom and aunt were visiting us here in Korea in November, we took a four-day weekend trip to Beijing, China.  This was a tour that we booked through the travel agent on our military base.  There were 30+ people on the tour with us, together for the entire trip except for a free afternoon.  We had a great tour guide who was very informative and made sure that everyone had a good time.  This was such an amazing trip filled with interesting food, beautiful sights, and intense shopping.  The best part was experiencing it all with loved ones.  Being able to cross things off of our bucket list is pretty cool too :)

We stayed at the Hotel New Otani Chang Fu Gong.  It was a very nice hotel with clean and comfortable rooms.  There was a bar, gift shop, money exchange service, and a few different restaurants.  We had a great breakfast buffet at one of the restaurants everyday that was included with our stay.

The Beijing National Stadium, aka Bird's Nest, built for the 2008 Olympics. 

So much traffic everywhere!  These cars were all trying to go the wrong way down the one-way street we were driving on.  Our bus was bigger and it won :)

There were a TON of people riding bicycles.  Some were pedal bikes and some were motorized.  There were also a lot of mopeds and three-wheeled bikes.  There was a wide bike lane on almost every street we drove down.

Taxis... everywhere... in all colors!  The taxis were cheap unless you are going a long distance in rush hour.  Make sure the taxi driver turns on the meter when you get in.  Some taxi drivers will try to negotiate a price for the trip which often ends up being overpriced.  Official taxis have a license plate number starting with a "B".  Outside the touristy markets, random men will approach you and offer you a ride in their vehicle for a price.  If it doesn't have a "B" plate, then they are not real taxi drivers.  We got offered a ride in an unmarked van... no thanks, better safe than sorry!

On our first evening in Beijing, we were taken to an Acrobatic Show at the Jin Sha Theater.  The performers were very skilled and put on an entertaining show.

Here is a montage of video clips from the acrobatic performance:

After the show we made a stop at Wangfujing Night Food Street, also known as Donghuamen Night Snack Street.  This is a night market with over 100 vendors selling all sorts of food and snacks.

Some of the food looked normal and quite tasty!

However, there were some other things that may make your stomach turn...

There were quite a few "insects on a stick" available such as scorpions, silkworm pupae, and large crickets.  Johnnie and I are always up for trying new things so we each at a scorpion!  Crunchy, not a bad flavor, but so gross to think about!  I'm glad we did it but I won't be doing it again!

One other treat that we sampled was the "fruit on a stick".  The fresh fruit was coated in a hard sugar glaze and it was delicious!

‎"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."
~Henry Miller