Category: adventuring

Jan 16

chicken checker

Over the holidays, I stumbled across a picture taken just after showing my prize-winning goat, Victoria, at a local fair. This was the inspiration I needed to post a story I’ve been working on for a while. Hopefully my father will forgive me for retelling it here!

Chicken Checker

“Are you hungry?” my father asked as we coasted down the Oklahoma interstate in our beaten-down farm truck. Our truck had no radio or air-conditioning and, oh, those woolly bench seats scratched in summer! But the prospect of joining my father, an over enthusiastic Renaissance man, on a road trip outweighed every inconvenience. When we weren’t counting hawks on telephone poles or singing television jingles, I peered through the holes of the rusted-out floorboard where sun-bleached road rolled underneath my feet. I could entertain myself for hours in this small cabin.

We were still hours away from meeting my mother. While judging a goat show in Oklahoma, she had stumbled across a prospective buyer for a spring doe from our Missouri goat dairy. Now my father was generously driving hundred mile stretches of wheat fields with a talkative five-year old and the almost-sold goat in tow. It was a noble deed.

“McDonalds?” I replied instinctively, ready for fast food billboard scouting.

“Ah no, I’ve got a better idea!” This was not typical Happy Meal excitement, “Let’s barbecue some chicken!”

Though we were separated by thirty years, I would always relate to my father’s thirst for adventure. I didn’t fully grasp his proposal but I was already an eager accomplice.

A few exits later, we pulled into a parking lot and my father launched into action. He sprung onto the truck bed with our goat and brushed away straw and feed sacks to reveal his secret stash of barbecuing supplies including an iron cooking pit, coal, chicken, and a few cooking utensils. He spoke aloud as he tore open bags, hypothesized how to pile the briquettes, and speculated on our feasting time. The details were lost on me but I was mesmerized at the thought of cooking while driving… genius!

We stopped one or two more times to adjust the coals. When my father deemed that we had achieved optimal barbecuing conditions, he rested the chicken gingerly on the grill and promoted me from “daughter” to “chicken checker” which entailed keeping tabs on our dinner by occasionally glancing back into the truck bed through the cabin window. I accepted the title and responsibility with pride.

While our dinner was cooking, my father teased me by pretending to drive with his eyes closed while I squealed in horror and delight. I asked if there were other children at the fairgrounds. Perhaps the Mennonite twins would be up for playing some games in the show-ring sawdust later? In our conversation lulls, I diligently looked back and reported that all was well in the truck bed.

It was hard to imagine a better August evening, driving carefree with my father with the windows rolled down and a few lightning bugs dotting the fields. Even the Oklahomans seemed to get friendlier as daylight waned. Our dairy goats always attracted attention on the road and tonight was no exception. Drivers and their companions waved as they passed. “That’s so nice!” He nudged me to wave back to our highway friends.

A few more vehicles passed us and waved. We waved too. And then a few more. In hindsight, we should have become suspicious of our well-wishers sooner. And then a startled elderly couple passed while mouthing an unintelligible message to us. My father’s smile waivered.

“Elaine… I think it’s time to check the chicken.”

Sensing urgency, I spun around and pressed my hands and face to the window. The glass was warm against my fingertips and nose. A split-second later I discovered why. Our situation was dire. Flames spewed from our truck bed and smoke billowed down the road. Our show goat pawed frantically at the spreading flames. Cars were swerving to avoid our sparks and debris. We were a 50 mile-per-hour bonfire on wheels.

Within seconds of hearing my “uh oh,” my father swung the steering wheel and made an emergency halt. He ran around the truck while I struggled to keep up, pushing open the heavy door and jumping down from the cab. He passed me the goat and shooed me a safe distance away. From afar, I watched as he tossed our gear from the truck and stomped down the flames with a plank of wood.

The seriousness of the situation eluded me entirely. We were isolated on the road with a flaming truck and no water. Many years later, my father would reveal that his gravest concern was the gas cap he had lost a few weeks prior and the fear that the tank would explode at any second. I turned my attention to teaching our goat to sit like a dog as onlookers streamed by.

After some time, my exhausted father emerged, wiping his hands with a rag. The soot had gathered in his forehead creases making him appear years older. Our belongings were scattered on the side of the road and charred straw still blew from the truck bed on the evening breeze. He started scooping our belongings back into the truck. Approaching me, he eyed the scorched hair on the goat’s hooves. I saw a troubled “your mother is not going to be happy” thought cross his brow but he didn’t say anything aloud.

After all of our gear was accounted for, we continued down the road again. When the adrenaline had subsided, my father pulled off again and found a payphone to relay a message to my mother that he was going to be late as “something had come up” on the road.

When he returned from the payphone, his head had cleared enough to remember our original mission – the chicken was still in the iron pit and we were both very hungry. After inspection, he returned triumphant with a tough, dry, but still salvageable chicken, especially with a generous smothering of barbecue sauce. He presented our winnings wrapped in aluminum foil, a trophy of our gourmet ingenuity and absolute proof that I had the best father in the world. And with miles to go, we sat on the tailgate eating in rare silence.

Jul 25

scotland coast-to-coast biking trip

Before Todd headed out on his archaeological dig this month, I traveled with him to spend a week mountain biking across Scotland starting on the west coast and ending on the east coast. It was the first time we did a self-guided mountain biking trip like this. I’ve been meaning to post our pics from the trip for a while – enjoy!

our coast-to-coast bike trip across scotland starts at fort williams. we have about six days and 200 miles of dirt trails in front of us. fort williams should be an easy day. we start around 4pm and just need to bike fifteen miles to our first bed and breakfast in speanbridge.


within half an hour of starting, we were lost, wet, bug-bitten, trespassing through a dynamite zone, only to find ourselves accidentally biking down the course of a world-champion dirt bike derby. at the end of the day, this is what remained of our day one map. this was definitely not a tom-tom, “in one quarter mile, turn left. you are approaching your final destination” style biking trip. todd studied the day two map like crazy.



day two was a lot better. it started off raining but cleared up quickly. we circled around two lakes and enjoyed some beautiful trails.

we hardly ran into anyone the entire week except for perhaps a few hikers in the first mile or two of our trail.

unlike day one, we finished day two a bit early and walked around the small town of lagan.

a pond in laggan

so green, so many sheep

on day three, we head deep into the country.

about 10-12 miles in, there is a stream that is generally not traversible except in the dry season. after an easy day two, i begged todd to give this trail a try. thankfully, it was dry and passable. otherwise we would have had to retrace our previous 10 miles.

though we were past the streams, we faced a new challenge… absolutely no trail across miles of wet marshy bog.

it’s hard to tell from this photo how hard it was to bike this part of the trail. sometimes you would put your foot down onto the seemingly solid reedy grasses to hear the water streaming under your foot. we had no choice but to walk and push a few times. we saw a few deep ruts from stuck mountain bikers from previous days which was reassuring to know that we were at least veering in the right direction.

an old castle on the way to aviemore

just a pretty pasture at the end of day three.

a castle surrounded by a lake just before aviemore

another stream. it started lightly raining on us. at one point, todd realized there were tadpoles in our biking trail.

todd’s trying to find the trail beyond the stream and into the forest

we had some technical single-track in the later part of the day. in this picture, the track was just overgrown with summer brush. in other parts, we had some exposed track with lots of big rocks that were bouncy and fun.

the group who planned our route for us didn’t recommend bringing paneers because they tend to shake loose over the trails. we had a daily luggage transfer service that took our day clothes between our bed and breakfast stays. this trail is probaby where you are most likely to lose water bottles and gear if you haven’t strapped them down properly.

just a beautiful landscape… todd way down the trail

my perspective before heading down, more single track

we crossed this stream about a dozen times that day. you’ll notice that my bike is already across the bank. i had waterproof biking sandals while todd had biking shoes that were dried really slowly. todd managed to keep his feet dry throughout the day and seeing this stream, i offered just to walk his bike across so he could try to rock-hop across the stream and stay dry. on future days, he started bringing extra pairs of dry socks.

these little yellow flowers were so pretty

for an hour or two, it threatened but never quite rained. the wind was good for keeping the bugs away.

we stumbled across this old hunting lodge

lots of sheep grazing in the hills

todd’s assessing the map. before day four, todd managed to upgrade his iphone to 4.0, download and cache all of the scotland trail maps, and get a few navigation apps on just a single bar of sporadic bed and breakfast wifi. if we do anything similar to this again, we’re bringing our own up-to-date gps and preloading the trails in advance.

this day is only 28 miles long but because it’s more technical, it felt like the longest day of the trip. todd had his fall about 500 feet away from here just over the crest of the upcoming hill. that shook us up a bit (thank goodness for the helmet).

this was the only trail sign we ever saw. we were following a single-trail dirt path and at some point, you need to break from the trail and head around a hill to pick up another trail. however, with the stream breaking things up every 50-100 feet, this is hard to do. someone with kind mountain biker goodwill must have posted this. thank you!

some remaining cottage stones on a hill at the start of day five.

day five was longer with some headwind and rain, but the trail was a lot easier. these little guys were just waiting to greet us on the bridge.

another stream. it started lightly raining on us. at one point, todd realized there were tadpoles in our biking trail.

the biggest stream we had to cross.

better to cross the stream than to try this bridge

some sheep keeping an eye on us. todd swears he saw a sheep that was really mad at him one day, “he had horns and a look.” however, most sheep scattered as soon as they saw us.

it was still raining so we took a lunch break under this bridge. we didn’t mind the rain so much at this point. the trail (you can see it on the right), was amazing.

we had been following the river for a few hours and here we start heading up into the hills.

just before reaching town, we saw this orange rusted barn roof matched by the orange-red poppies below. ah!

washing down our bikes and getting ready for day six where we head over mount keen. this is our longest and highest climbing day. fortunately, the weather cleared up and despite the forecast, looks like it was going to hold. just in case, i’ve got lots and lots of extra dry clothes and food in my pack

a little lamb scampers away from todd

after a few easy miles, we start the climb up to mount keen.

the trail gets more and more difficult until you finally can’t bike anymore. you are expected to walk your bike the last hour until you come around the summit.

after reaching the top of the mountain, we’re starting our descent. we’re tired (more from pushing than biking) but getting on the saddle again with these trails and this view is worth it.

a view of the descent from the summit

after the descent, there are about a dozen sporadically-placed stone storm drains in the trail. apparently a lot of bikers try jumping them and damage their tires or rims. todd and i are pretty casual mountain bikers. todd even caught me walking my mountain bike over a curb in town and had to laugh. even though there was probably little risk of us jumping these storms drains anyway, after those warnings, we were scared of risking anything even resembling a jump on these guys. if you damage something here, it’s a 20-mile walk down.

todd’s heading down the descent. eventually we’ll meet the stream and follow it into town.

after a steep descent, the trails gently slope down and we enjoyed two hours of beautiful gently sloping paved roads. near the end of day six, i stopped here to buy some scottish blossom honey.

on day seven, we have just fifteen miles of easy paved road to reach the coast in the morning.

the end of our coast-to-coast journey at montrose. the taxi picked us up at 10:30am and we enjoyed the rest of the day in edinburgh. from here, i fly back to california and todd heads to a month-long archaeological dig along hadrian’s wall.

Feb 21

harley farms

By Fridays, my head is spinning. Anyone in the startup world inevitably deals with constant multi-tasking and by the end of the week, all of that mental sharding begins to take its toll.

However, holding a newborn baby goat on a weekend afternoon just makes everything better. Todd and I took this trip to Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, CA to see their first crop of 2010 kids this weekend.

For those of you who know me, you also know that I grew up on a goat farm. I hadn’t visited a working goat dairy in 20 years. It was amazing how many things were the same (the smells) and how many things were different (milk machines have come a long, long way!).

Pics below…

Dec 31

the birthday arms race comes to a close

Two years ago, Todd surprised me with a birthday kidnap vacation to Hawaii. Sandy drove me to the airport under the guise that we were doing an interview in the airport area. I saw Todd standing on the airport curb and said, “Oh, it’s Todd! It’s so good to see him.” Even when Sandy parked the car in front of Todd, I rolled down the window and started a mid-day conversation by asking him how his day was going. Sandy finally said, “Elaine, get out! You’re going away.” And Todd handed me my suitcase and ushered me into the SF Airport departure area.

The 3-4 day birthday vacation was amazing and a much-needed break from a busy start-up routine. The only problem was that despite being very nice, Todd and I are fiercely competitive. And the Hawaii trip instigated a three-year birthday arms race. For Todd’s 29th birthday, I kidnapped Todd for a trip Peru where we hiked the old Incan trail. For my 30th birthday, Todd surprised me with a cooking lesson at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

On my last birthday, I made Todd promise that we wouldn’t leave the country and I’d celebrate a low-key birthday to end our competition. On a workday evening, we watched old submarine flicks (my favorite film genre) from our apartment, ordered take-out, and sliced my favorite birthday treat – a turtle pie from Baskin Robbins. It was perfect. However, Todd’s 30th birthday was just around the corner and it was no secret that he was expecting something.

On November 18th, Todd stopped by Meebo. While in a meeting, I asked Todd if I could borrow his car keys to break the tape on a sealed package. While he wasn’t looking, I handed the keys to Cam who excused himself and ran to the parking lot to transfer our birthday luggage from my car into Todd’s car. After the meeting, Todd was intending to go to a night film class in San Francisco and we had planned to perhaps get dinner in San Francisco afterwards. A few hours later we were heading to China to mountain bike through rural southern Chinese villages.

Getting Todd to the airport without him knowing was difficult, but the most challenging logistical detail was getting his Visa issued without arousing suspicion. I managed to sneak a passable passport photo of Todd a few weeks earlier from my iPhone. I woke up early one morning to complete and mail the forms before Todd woke up.

A lot of people were involved in keeping Todd’s birthday secret and these photos are long overdue. Once we arrived in Pingan, the tour agency, Bike Asia, took most of our luggage and we were left with two sets of clothes that we packed on our bikes – one set for biking and the other for walking around villages in the evening. We biked between 40-80 kilometers a day depending upon how much elevation we were expecting. We usually started biking by 8 or 9am and finished the day just before sunset.

This is my first blog post. In subsequent blog posts, I hope you’ll see that I’m not always tired, dirty, or wearing spandex!

getting the suitcases and gear into the trunk of the car


todd, i need you to take this exit


todd was undoubtedly surprised. i didn’t tell him where we were going but he started asking questions like, “do i need my sunglasses for where we are going?”

in the airport garage, i gave todd a box full of puzzle pieces. when the puzzle pieces were put together, it would unveil the details of our trip. however, todd didn’t find out where we were going for a few more hours.

todd did two things from the arrival lobby: 1) he warned cam that he wasn’t going to fix as many bugs as he’d hoped over the next weekend, 2) checked-in on foursquare from the san francisco airport. after that, he was ready to go.

we first flew to LA and todd still didn’t know our final destination. we walked to the international terminal and when i turned into the air china check-in area, todd said, “china? we’re going to china? why are we going to china?” if i hadn’t planned this trip, i don’t think we would have gone to china for a while.

todd’s piecing together his puzzle.

now he’s reading why we’re going to china.

todd’s examining our biking itinerary that lists how many miles we’re biking each day. he’s a little intimidated.

to our first destination at the longji rice terraces in southern china. the miao women in this area never cut their hair and their hair could easily extend to the ground.

view of the rice terraces

we’re exploring the dragon’s backbone rice terraces adjacent to our hotel

it was really cold in our hotel. we huddled around a small coal pit in the lobby area. our guide, farmer tang, sits to todd’s right.

we spent the first day hiking 10-12 miles. you can see pingan in the distance. for irrigation, the rice farmers suspend bamboo from the branches in the foreground to pipe water to their rice paddy.

i like the image of the pig on the rice terrace. i believe these houses were constructed by the dong people who are known for their carpentry skills.

a carpentry workshop area

farmer tang collected enough grass to construct a small offering at the top of the mountain

little hut on a hill

these local women were dressed so well considering the work they were doing. the women typically wore silver earrings and brightly colored embroidered garments. each time we passed someone on the path, they would stop to ask farmer tang who we were and also how many other women we had passed that day.

this is why our guide, farmer tang, was so essential. this is a map of the local trails.

farmer tang just set up his first yahoo email account after his sixteen year old son had been urging him to get the family a computer. todd’s helping him check his email here.

todd unconvincingly pretends like he’s making tofu

when we finished our hike, we took a local shuttle back to our original hotel. our van was one of the few local non-tourist vehicles and we happened to take it when the school children and merchants were heading home. it was packed.

a view of or packed van. even more people wiggle inside after we exited.

a small caravan walking up the trail leading to our hotel.

our first morning before biking. todd helps himself to a fried-rice breakfast.

i like this photo because it almost appears as though todd’s deciding between biking or horse riding. our first hour of biking was straight down the winding mountain road. it was exhilarating and cold.

when we reached the bottom of the hill, we took local roads that served more cows than vehicles.

our first of many noodle bowls.

three happy pigs live next to the bathroom where we had lunch

we stopped at a local factory that manufactures bamboo jugs for wine. just behind the factory you could see the bare patches in the bamboo forest where workers had recently chopped down the trees.

these are the bamboo jugs for the wine. we saw these later at airports and grocery stores.

many hours later, we finish our first day and rest in butterfly valley.

chilies and rice dry on bamboo mats

drying rice is everywhere we walk in this local village

todd poses in front of a local temple. you’d never guess this was a few feet from our hotel.

todd in biking spandex and chinese household sandals

a toddler helps his mother bag rice while his younger sibling looks on from her mother’s back

cute chickens. the farmer was about to scoop up all of the chicke into this cardboard box but they kept jumping out. there are a lot of animals (including humans) whose appearance struggles through adolescence. however, i think chickens are the worst adolescent animals i’ve ever seen. they just aren’t cute during this phase.

posting post-shower in a small corridor

some cattle follow us

todd tries to decipher some local postings

a really, really long stalk of bamboo carried on a farmer’s shoulder. just ahead is a winding staircase with lots of switchbacks. we watched her skillfully navigate the corners with the bamboo.

todd’s pointing out that the builders used upside down plastic coke bottles for fencepost decoration

just pretty woodwork

this is our outside water heater. why it’s decorated with a martini glass, i don’t know. i actually washed myself from the cold sink and it wasn’t until we exited the room for dinner that we realized that the regulator for the shower was on the outside of our hotel room. for todd’s shower, i stood outside while todd shouted, “too hot, too cold” from inside. i’m not sure what donald norman would say about this situation. this seemed like something too strange to ever see again but all but one of the places we stayed while were were biking had this contraption.

a bee hut for collecting honey on the side of a hill

we’re biking again and enjoying a mid-day noodle break. i hadn’t sat in chairs this small since early elementary school.

farmer tang purchases fruit from a street merchant. they are weighing the fruit using a stick and a solid brass weight here.

apparently palmellos are in season in november

we stopped at a weekly market. the colors in the shoes were just pretty.

this man was marketing an electronic wand that would instantly heat up water. he had a large sound system and could be heard from blocks away.

we got caught in a long traffic jam biking to guilin. todd and i got stuck behind this duck truck. todd really wanted a close-up photo of the cute ducks and i risked life and limb to get within photo distance of this truck. the photo turned out well though.

the ducks were the only ones smiling in the traffic jam.i’m sure the traffic jam was better than where they were heading.

we stopped at a dam for lunch. farmer tang goes to the bottom to wash his hands.

farmer tang divvies up the palmello

biking through a local town. in many of the villages we biked through, the buildings were hollow and vacant.

another shot that todd really wanted. this woman had two pigs underneath each arm while walking down the road. i took this photo while biking so it’s a little bit blurry.

a great shot of the rice being grouped together and prepped for harvesting.

my favorite energy snack

todd’s favorite energy snack (fresh sugarcane)

water calligraphy on the sidewalks in guilin

glass bridge in guiin with the karst mountain terrain in the background

after trekking through local villages, the lights in guilin were refreshing. plus, we had a real hot shower!

the morning traffic leaving guilin was nuts. i tried to capture it here.

noodle break! we’re pro’s at noodling by now.

slurp, slurp, slurp

farmer tang admires todd’s growing beard. todd explains that he didn’t know he was coming otherwise he would have shaved (and scheduled a hair cut) beforehand

one of the few areas where you can see the old architectural style. it was very quiet here.

these workers repairing phone lines seemed so out of place

we had a few tough uphill patches to get to this peak. this was the highest we biked throughout the trip. after this, biking became easier.

a happy couple looking out and thinking, “it’s all downhill from here!”

just a pretty view. we’ll be biking down to this area next. but we still have many, many miles to go afterwards.

fueling up with some chocolate goo

after our longest biking day, we arrive in a local family-run lodging house in Xingping.

most towns we visited had these fluorescent banners to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution

cautions! falling stone.

sunset over the li river

the karst mountains in this area are also illustrated on the back of the 20 yuan bill. all of the mountains have a name like sitting frog, five fingers, smiling monk, and even pen holder.

the eggplant chili dish from this area is amazing. i brought back the pickled chili paste to try to reproduce this in California.

surprise! farmer tang pulled out all the stops to make sure that todd’s 30th birthday didn’t go without singing and candles. it wasn’t chocolate but it was really quite good.

the children in our farmhouse were so happy to help todd share his birthday cake

the next morning, we hiked to a lookout point before hitting the biking trails

early in the morning, we could see a synchronized aerobics class in the schoolyard.

that’s me. todd’s felt like i should have a photo from the lookout point too.

we started the day by loading up a raft boat with our biking gear and rafting 2-3 hours to our biking trail

enjoying some morning fruit that farmer tang plucked from a tree for me

we passed lots of chicken farms. i could tell when were approaching a larger town because there were always chicken farms just outside the populated areas. and i could tell when we were approaching chicken farms because chickens really, really stink.

these college kids joined us for part of our biking journey. they said that they had never spoken to english-speaking people before. however, in the course of trying to practice their english with us while biking, one overlooked a bollard in the road and crashed. he was fine but i wasn’t eager to be very conversational afterwards.

this was my view most of the trip. todd’s really good at checking that i’m following him.

water buffaloes

we passed 2-3 really, really old bridges outside yangshuo. i think this one was from around 1200 AD

we carried our bikes over the stairs so we could cross the river and reach a small restaurant

view from on top of the bridge. you can’t see it from here but the tiny raft far, far away was occupied by a bride and groom-to-be who were getting their wedding photos taken on this river

we’re getting better at ordering food. no more surprise chicken feet or mysterious pork bits.

biking through the rice paddy fields outside yangshuo was the best part of the biking vacation. at times, the path narrowed to just a few inches and if you veered in either direction, you’d land in wet paddy fields.

this was a typical view of most of our biking on the final day. any time farmer tang took us on a shortcut, we would be guaranteed adventurous offroading with really narrow, bumpy trails (far narrower and bumpier than here). fun, fun, fun. sometimes we’d hear schoolchildren shouting, “hello” from the fields to practice their english though we couldn’t see them over the tall grasses. we’d shout “hello” back in their general direction.

it’s thanksgiving and somehow we stumbled upon a real, honest-to-goodness turkey. farmer tang was stunned to see a turkey which is apparently unusual for where we were. we tried to explain to farmer tang that this day was our national turkey-eating day. explaining the pilgrim story seemed pretty long-winded and when i was thinking about it, i wasn’t entirely sure when turkeys became part of the thanksgiving tradition.

the corner of a roof juts out into the sky

some original historical architecture still remains. farmer tang thought that it had been purchased by a family who hoped to rennovate and create a resort here.

end of the day at moon hill

we stopped by farmer tang’s house. farmer tang lives just outside yangshuo and has a few pigs and chickens. he explained that anyone who doesn’t own a pig in this area is just lazy.

saying goodbye to farmer tang in our hotel lobby. he said that we were the youngest and the slowest bikers he had traveled with. he joked that it was okay because we were on our honeymoon but he knew that we were just slow and that we’ve been married for a while now. next time we’ll condition a bit more. we were painfully saddle sore the first few days.

todd cheers when he sees a real hot shower!

we enjoyed a sit-down non-noodle dinner in yangshuo. this kitten climbed up into my lap.

yangshuo is ridiculous. most of the stores here are geared towards drinking or rock climbing. while we were here, the world rock-climbing competition was just coming to a close. imagine a more hyped-up boulder, colorado.

tiramisu! we have to stop!

todd challenges a chinese man in a suit to a game of badminton. todd actually beat him.

inside the water cave

i think many would think these guys have the best job in the world. we hiked a mile or two inside a cave and were startled to find this high-tech setup inside the cave. nearby, there are some natural mud baths, hot springs, and two changing rooms. however, many people venture into the waters sans clothing (after all, who remembers to bring their bathing suit?). these men take, print, and sell personal souvenir photos of tourists playing in the mud baths. the pictures can be pretty provocative.

walking down the cave. you can see todd’s blurry silhouette in the lower righthand corner.

here are the boats that will take you inside the cave

a local man takes a nap outside his store just adjacent to the water cave

the entrance to the water cave. the blue pipe on the left supplies the electricity necessary to power the computerized photo souvenir shop miles inside.

a woman crafts and sells sandals outside the cave

corn story! we passed several corn bars and finally were curious enough to sample it. we had corn juice and waffle balls.

three working men taking a nap in their wheelbarrows

we took a cooking class in yangshuo and made cashew chicken, beer fish, eggplant, and some little dim sum balls. todd gave me most of his vegetables.

the cooking school is equipped to teach nearly a dozen people. however, there were only four of us tonight.

bon appetit!

after yangshuo, we took a 2-3 hour plane flight to beijing. i splurged for a really nice hotel at “the opposite house.” after not having dependable hot showers, this felt like an especially nice treat. currently, this is my all-time favorite hotel.

the restaurant at the hotel. quite a different experience than our rice noodle stops.

we spent the morning before our return flight in beijing’s forbidden city.

admiring the architecture and history. we used todd’s iphone to download the wikipedia articles for the forbidden city. in most places, facebook and wikipedia are blocked. however, for some reason todd could still pull up those sites with our international iphone data plan.

at the airport. getting ready for the long flight back home.

boarding the plane

last moment in china

and many hours later, we’re back where we started – in todd’s car in san francisco.