Monthly Archives: May 2014

Temple of The Soul’s Retreat

Please enjoy the images from last weekend’s adventure to Hangzho and our visit to Lingyin Temple and the surrounding Tea Plantations.


Rules To Live By

This weekend, Greg and I took a road trip with Kenny to the city of Hangzhou. Hangzhou is about a 2.5 hour drive from Shanghai and is considered to be the Happiest Place in China. There is an old Chinese saying

生在苏州, 活在杭州, 吃在广州, 死在柳州

“Be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou.”

The meaning here states that Suzhou is known for its beautiful and highly educated people. Hangzhou for its scenery. Guangzhou for its food and Liuzhou for its wooden coffins. Yikes.

I’m almost sure, I’m going to hear from my Chinese co-workers on Monday after reading this, as they will dispute where the best place to be born, live and eat. Seems ancestral heritage and knowing where to the find the best food comes with a real sense of pride. Square Melons. Try discussing the same topics with a Texan.

The big attraction to Hangzhou is West Lake, a fresh water lake that boasts ancient pagodas, temples and gardens.

West Lake

West Lake

West Lake is surrounded by mountains on 3 sides and Hangzhou city on the other. The bamboo covered walking paths around the lake is 15k or about 10 miles. It can be longer if you chose to take some of the side paths.

We took off for our walk as soon as we arrived, late Friday afternoon. Kenny walks a 10k every day. A walk in the morning and a walk in the evening. He’s a fast walker. He can walk the loop in about 2 hours. Something he was proud to share with Greg and I. I think he quickly realized we weren’t going to break any records when we kept stopping to take pictures, ask questions about the buildings and take in some good people watching.



Near our hotel was the best people watching. There were several live performances, dance lessons, of course tai chi and a few weddings. We first heard a high pitched, Mariah Carey”ish” voice. As we got closer to the scene, we saw her. She seemed to own the microphone and was more or less driving the crowds away from the performance. I felt sorry for the guys in the band. When there was a break in the lyrics, the music from the instruments was actually very soothing.

No Chance

No Chance

You could rent bikes to ride around the lake. Pretty, bright colored bikes with bells attached to warn walkers on their approach. When we arrived at the bike rental place, I went over to inspect them. They looked like miniature bikes or toys. The seat just reached between my knee and my thigh. No chance we could fit on any of them.

As we made our way around the lake, we started asking Kenny some questions. Things we were curious about. Like why do people walk backwards? Yes. It’s true. We’ve seen people by our apartment and again at West Lake walking backwards. Not turning their heads to see where they are going but walking in clean strides, arms swinging, walking backwards. Kenny shared that if a person has neck problems, they should exercise by walking backwards. It strengthens the neck.


As we continued on, we saw a couple ahead of us and every other step they put their hands out straight in front of them, chest high and clapped.


He said that clapping while walking is good for your digestive system. He shared that people with digestive issues should clap their hands while walking. I whispered to Greg “I think they’re clapping to cover up the sounds of their digestive systems.”

That makes more sense doesn’t it?

I took a short break from asking all my questions to enjoy the beautiful sights along the way. The air was clear, the sun was shinning and we were shaded by the bamboo. It was such a great break from the big city life of Shanghai. It’s funny to think that a break or a get away to a town of 8.5 million people can be that different, but trust me, you can tell when you’re getting away from 20 million people, the noise and the pollution of a big city.

Leifeng Pagoda

Leifeng Pagoda

Across the lake stood the Leifeng Pagoda. A beautiful structure that stood above the trees. It seems the original Pagoda was built in 975 AD. During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), Hangzhou was attacked by Japanese Pirates and the wood portion of the Pagoda was burned leaving only the brick skeleton. Later, due to superstitions that the brick powder could repel illness, many people stole the bricks from the tower to grind into powder. The Leifeng Pagoda collapsed in 1924 and was rebuilt in 2002.

There were several koi ponds along the way. We stopped to look and I was surprised to see how many turtles were in the ponds. I asked Kenny if he’s ever eaten turtle, thinking this might be something we could connect on as I’ve had turtle soup while on a trip to New Orleans.

Wrong. Kenny seemed a bit put off and shared that in Buddhism, turtle is a sign of longevity. His family owns 3, one for each family member. Embarrassed, I could not change the topic fast enough.



Just up ahead of us was this lovely couple walking with smiles on their faces, greeting people as they passed. I noticed they were both wearing NIKE.

I had Greg and Kenny doing a shoe count with me as we walked. Never not working, we saw 3 runners total. 2 were wearing NIKE and 1 was not. A lot of the younger people were wearing NIKE so when I saw this older couple sporting the brand we had to talk. Kenny shared with them I worked for NIKE.

They both put their hands together and he said “NIKE good.” He shared that they were both 80 yrs old. They walk 2 times a day. 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. He did share with me that his shirt was not NIKE. I loved it.

At dinner that night, Kenny shared some insights on good health and eating. He said the only alcohol he drinks is red wine. He only has vegetables at dinner. He eats fish, pork and chicken at lunch giving the body enough time to digest. Greg and I were listening carefully as we ate our sweet and sour pork ribs and drank a cold beer.

He said to only drink hot or warm water. Never cold and never ice. It’s too hard on your system. He said that drinking green tea calms you and lowers your blood pressure. He shared several times the importance of walking in the evening.

When I shared with him about my sleep issues, I only sleep about 4 hours a night, we learned that soaking your feet and having your spouse wash them is good for circulation and a better nights sleep.


I actually looked into this and learned that in Chinese medicine, soaking your feet every night will draw your overactive mind back into your body and promote mental relaxation.

So here’s my take away from spending time with my new spiritual, mental and physical advisor Kenny.

Drink hot water. Walk. Walk backwards for neck problems. Clap you hands while walking for any digestive issues. Walk. Drink red wine. Eat any proteins or meat at lunch. Only eat vegetables at night. Walk. Drink the powder of bricks to ward of illnesses. Wait. That wasn’t advice from Kenny. Scratch that. Soak your feet at night and have Greg wash them. Drink green tea instead of coffee. And never, ever eat turtle.

No Problem. No Problem.

Ship on the horizon

Ship on the horizon.

This last weekend Greg and I golfed for the first time since our move to China. Greg flew over to meet me for the weekend after a week of meetings in Sanya, on the island of Hainan.

Hainan Island is located in the South China Sea and is the most southern province of China. It is located near Vietnam. I now know this as I Googled a map after looking up from reading my book poolside, and noticed the Chinese Navy ship patrolling the coast. Look closely in the picture and you can see the outline on the horizon.

I’m very aware of the current dispute China and Vietnam are experiencing over oil wells in the South China Sea but didn’t realize we were so close to it all. Look it up if you’re curious. I don’t want to use my blog as a way to share information on any political unrest.

Sun Valley Golf Resort

Sun Valley Golf Resort

Hainan has been referred to as the Hawaii of China. I agree. It’s really beautiful and very tropical. It’s more humid than Hawaii, it feels more like Louisiana humid but again, beautiful.

We golfed at Sun Valley Golf Resort. A lot of the courses are named after western courses, Sun Valley, Mission Hills, even Sun River Golf Course. All very beautiful and all very empty. I guess it’s officially the off season as it’s too hot for most people to play.

Our golf experience was like nothing I had ever experienced. Oh sure, the bad golf I’ve experienced plenty of times. I’ve played very bad golf on the best of courses. But this time was different. This time we played with a caddie. Not a caddie who carries your clubs, we had a cart. A caddie, who is basically your personal butler on the course. They ride along on the back of the cart with the clubs. They follow you to the tee box, place your ball and hand you your driver.  A little nerve wracking. I get nervous teeing off in front of others and so to add 3 additional people, there were 3 of us golfing and we each had our own caddie, is almost a like having a full gallery at every hole.



Did I mention the caddies don’t speak english? Sure, they’ve been given “scripts” to provide help at each hole. Scripts rehearsed in english. At almost every hole as they line up the tee shot they would state “bunker, bunker, middle.” We took that to mean, there is a bunker on the right, bunker on the left, you might want to hit in the middle.

Greg chose to listen to the instructions and hit right down the middle. I took it to mean, why not hit one of the bunkers and completely miss the middle. My drives got so bad that my caddie walked the course with a rake.

On the green, they line the ball up perfectly and demonstrated where and at what angle you should putt. The “script” for the green was either “uphill” or ” downhill.” Again, not that helpful as they were stating the obvious.

Did I mention it was hot? We drank 3 large Gatorades and 2 bottled waters on the course and did not need to stop for a break at the turn. I did, but only to change out of my white golf shirt as it was completely soaked from the humidity.

As we played along, I  loosened up a bit and was getting pretty comfortable with having the caddies around. When Greg would tee off, they started to cheer and clap. They would follow his shot in the air to see where it would land and proclaim “No Problem. No Problem.”

When I would tee off they would collectively groan. They did cheer once when I managed to just miss the sand trap by a few inches. When I would hit into the woods, we would drive the cart near the area and the caddie would jump off and pretend to be looking. Once I saw the “Caution Snake” sign I waved her back to the cart and started taking balls from Greg’s bag.

I think I had 1 or 2 good holes out of 18. I had fun, sweated off a couple pounds and got a sunburn.

I ended up really liking my caddie. She was sweet and would laugh with me after each shot. I think they all got used to my golf game – commenting in Chinese and then laughing together. Wait. You don’t think they were making fun of me do you?

Caddies. I think maybe we should all have one in our daily lives. Someone to give advice, set you up for the perfect shot, warn you against hazards, laugh with you to keep it real and cheer for you when you’ve done well.

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