The pink dolphins of Hong Kong

Away in an old fishing village, there are regular tours of something I have never heard of before, pink dolphins. More commonly called the Chinese White Dolphin but affectionately called pink dolphins for this unusual pink and white-colored dots making themselves stand out against the dark water. I found this tour in Tai O village, a once-thriving fishing community, now being overshadowed by a giant bridge connecting the Hong Kong cities of Zhuhai and Macau. It is the longest sea-crossing bridge spanning the Pearl River Delta. Tai O has been an attraction to see the local fishing culture and to catch a glimpse of the pink dolphins, but now the village has an added feature on the boat tour, to see the new record-breaking bridge. The bridge construction has been a threat to the rare pink creatures. Marine experts say the dolphins feeding and communication activities of these very social animals have been distributed. Hopefully, now that the construction is about over and the bridge is waiting for its grand opening the sea life will be left alone.

The Dolphins start their lives as dark calves until they grow into the famous pink spots. The pink spots are from blood vessels beneath the skin of the dolphins. There isn’t a great deal known about these pink dolphins of Hong Kong but the numbers don’t lie. The animals in the Pearl River Delta areas have seen numbers drop by eighty percent over the past decade.

Try as you may, but you will not find any pink dolphins in my photos. Like many others on the boat, I was never ready when these creatures would jump up to say hello. After many missed shots, I simply sat back in the first of the boat and watched pointed pink heads pop up and splash away just as quick. It was a calm end to a busy Hong Kong day.

Womans safety worldwide

“You are going to get killed over there” Wherever there maybe, was just the place everyone was so sure to be unsafe. Usually, this fear comes from the unknown. Traveling as a solo female in countries I have never been before always exciting. When you see land as the plane banks for the final approach and your new adventure waits just outside of immigration. Everything seems safe and controlled in the airport until the outside door slide open and the wilds of a foreign land await.

When I choose a country, there are always a few well know spots that I like to see along with every other tourist and traveler. Hot touristy spots have different kind of safety risks to look out for. When there are large crowds of people milling about, keep your personal items close to your body and to be aware of is the best and most basic advice. Pickpocketers have mastered how to barely touch a person and walk away with a wallet or camera in hand. These tricks are played out in busy, sought-after sites that may feel comfortable but are targeted for lazy travel habits. Just being aware that people may be watching for a bag to be left unattended is a good habit to form. There are big city scams that can steal your information at ATM machines and taxi drivers who scam you into a higher fare by driving all over the town first.

Although money is very devastating to lose, physical safety is above all, the most important. Here are a few basic rules I try to follow.

  • Don’t trust people too easily
  • Don’t look like a tourist, look at the map before you go and leave the guidebook in your bag.
  • Don’t have large wads of money, stash cash in a different spot on you and hidden in your bags. Flashing large amounts of money could make you a target.
  • Don’t drink too much and watch your drinks around others.
  • Don’t dress too flashy, blend in

with what locals wear.

Picking a place to stay

Read, read, read! The times I walked away from a hostel or hotel were always the times I didn’t read the reviews. Angry people like to write reviews which is good if you see a pattern of bugs or staff issues. After reading enough reviews you can almost see the same words the owners and managers use to boost their own businesses. You must feel safe when you close your eyes for the night. Never let anyone hear your room number at the front desk of a hotel and always make sure there is a working deadbolt lock and a secondary lock. Bringing a wedged door stopped is a light and easy way to add protection. Hostels often have private rooms for a higher price if the group of people in the assigned room worry you. Spend the extra money to be and feel safe.

Things like where are the nearest medical center is located and getting there in a time of need is a bigger challenge less populated area. Other health issues come into play with less developed countries such as clean water and proper cooking techniques.

Another tool I found is a solo woman safety app that gives you a number of how safe an area is on a 1-100 scale. It’s called Geo Sure Global and will tell you the safety rating for an area you are in or planning to go. There is also a feature to compare different cities next to each other. Geo Sure Global uses a six-point system to determine what the score will be. The number for each area can change depending on the six categories. Being a gay woman traveling can feel like walking into the unknown. Having an app that can tell you a general safety level in different areas can protect you physically and give you peace of mind mentally. There is a wide enough spread of internet across the globe I think an app like this, especially in a time of unrest will help with global safety. Download for Apple or Android

Oktoberfest!

Welcome to the beer fest of all beer fests!

Oktoberfest in Munich Germany puts on a grand show every year for almost 7 million people starting at the end of September. But before you can drink a pint of beer there is much planning, prep, and building that must go on with a team of highly skilled teams create a new vision each year. There are 700 vendors ready to set up for the weeks of madness ahead. The area of the event is already a construction site by July and doesn’t stop for ten weeks. The first thing that comes to mind is the giant beer tents. There are 14 major tents and 15 minor tents. In the biggest tents, there can be upward of 8,000 festival-goers. The tents are made of all wood grounded to concrete that is poured every year. For the management, this is a full-time job planning and pulling off this annual party. Several thousand people come together to wrap up the project in the few weeks of construction. Tear down is about half the time of set up running around five weeks. Most parts are stored in storage containers and delivered to the storehouses in Munich

screenshot_20180514-1040583497833654933708972.png

I planned my visit for the opening day. It was a calm morning when I arrived with my mother and took a stroll down the main road of beer tents standing tall. By the time we doubled back, the roads were filling with beer drinkers waiting for the day to get started. We picked the Hippodrome tent and sat and had a bite to eat and noticed that most tables were reserved. We quickly learned that there is an opening parade and each owner comes into their tent and taps the first barrel and the beer drinking does not stop for a few weeks after. From the beautiful windows, I watched the parade roll by with barrels of beer and horse-drawn carriage and everyone was dressed for the occasion. There is such a buzz for the town for the opening day, Like the city of Munich has been waiting to unwrap its gift for months, watching the structures go up for months in town.

screenshot_20180514-103430374325931179103060.png

screenshot_20180514-103408788563197193801950.png

screenshot_20180514-103338525362217177590660.png
My favorite photo of my mother joining me October Fest in 2013

screenshot_20180514-1032387327147946420798862.png

screenshot_20180514-1032443011924690503875723.png

screenshot_20180514-1032495441040686012589485.png

screenshot_20180514-1041097954965972554144741.png

Yes, this is a blurry picture but they move so fast with all that beer! This was the best I could get an even more beer was rushing by, being gripped tightly by fingertips.

My advice is to get here early to get a seat or wait for the short lines of smaller tents. I definitely would recommend going to multiple tents for different environments in each one. If you have a larger group it pays to plan ahead of time and reserve a table in a tent of your choice. All of Munich books up for this beer event, so planning ahead helps get more of what you are looking for before it’s booked up. My last bit of wisdom is if you drink a few too many pints, there is a nice grassy hill to rest your eyes until the next round. It’s all a very happy party and the locals are waiting to welcome you in. Do your country proud, don’t make a drunken fool of yourself. We have all seen this too many times. Safe travels and smart drinking!

Windy Wellington

The Capital of New Zealand and tucked away at the bottom of the north island and is the gateway to the south island. The ferry across the Cook Straight runs from Picton to Wellington three or four times a day through two different companies, Interisland and Bluebird. But we didn’t come here just to leave. There are things to do and see in Wellington! The first place I feel most people are drawn to is the downtown waterfront area. The length of the water has shops, restaurants, and some museums lined up ready for the next batch of visitors. The weekend is the big draw for the waterfront, farmers markets and rummage sales going on every Saturday. Sunday has different events and activities going on all year. When I was there one Sunday morning there was a relay for life race going on. Being the capital city center you can count on various functions.

20170321_123019

The streets are narrow and are filled with endless shops of all kinds. Wellington is a busy city but a friendly one. Like most of New Zealand, their citizens try to look out for one another and give the benefit of the doubt. Wellington is a great city for a pedestrian. I never took a cab or bus while in the capital city. There is wide sidewalk twisting with every street even in the midst of road construction. There are so many fascinating places I passed on my many hours of getting to know this city I definitely didn’t have enough time to stop at them all.

20170320_191809

20170324_144750

20170320_190944

20170320_185801

20170321_121122

20170321_165736

The best view and my favorite part of the windy capital city is the cable car that lifts to the top of the city. There are signs on the streets to direct you towards the ticket and the bottom of the cable car. Every ten minutes the car runs for a small fee and you will have two options. You can pay for a return ticket down or get a oneway ticket and walk back down to the city. You must take a oneway ticket and wonder the way back down. There are multiple paths to follow heading down and there are even maps available along the way. Lush green landscapes and manicured yards give way to a stunning rose garden. The rose garden was in full bloom on that warm day I found myself at the edge of row after colorful row. Not only roses but the exotic flowers from a place a half a world away from my own home. So it was all new and unique to me. The rose garden is The Lady Norwood Rosegarden and has The Wellington Botanic Garden just up the hill.

20170320_191151

20170320_191231

20170324_144308

Be local

Go local! We have heard it said, but what does that mean to you right now. If you are sitting at a desk not doing work you should be or sitting by a pool on a far away island you can find what is off the beaten tourist path of chain stores and malls if you look around.

Being a local in your current city, home town when you visit family, or find something local in a far away place. It’s always worth it to go local and see how people are going about daily life. If the locals love a great restaurant, it’s safe to say the food will be worth the trouble.

If you need to be pulled out of your fast food comfort food zone then listen to these reason why going local, anywhere, is important everyday.

  • Big box stores dont need anymore of your money.

Which do you think gives better service and quality, the multiple billion dollar corporation paying minimum wage workers who have trouble answering questions or the small locally owned businesses ran by a family and is tied into the community. I would rather put my money into the hands of a small business owner even if its cost a little more.

  • Google doesn’t always know everything.

There are places in this world (believe it or not) that are not connected to a Facebook page or Google maps. When you are in the far corners of the Earth you may not be able to understand what information is on the internet. If you happen to pass a place where the tables are full and there is a line, there must be a good reason and its usually worth the wait. “Greasy spoons” and “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants have some of the best homemade cooking in every city.

  • Locals know what’s happening

As you are strolling by a busy lunch spot for the afternoon rush of the blue collar area and decide to see what the fuss is all about then you have made it past the first step. The next part is tricky (not really) and involves speaking to others. Ask your server or eat at the bar and talk to a person near you. See what is going on around you. Even if you are asking about what is going on in your own area you still can learn about amazing places from word of mouth. When you are in a place with a language barrier there are always still ways to ask about great things to do. Draw a picture, translate a question, or hand and body language talking. It seems like a lot of trouble but the rewards can be amazing, even if it’s just the tale of getting lost on the way.

Supporting the little guys doesn’t just benefit the small business owner. It is good for you the consumer! Usually going small means it’s not a touristy spot and the prices are cheaper. In the cases that you pay for for an item chances are the quality is much higher then the cheaper box store version. I would rather purchase a homemade gift to a gift anyone could buy on Amazon.

This is a photo of a woman I meet selling woven elephants on the sidewalk outside a market. I gladly paid for this fine craftsmanship and a very unique souvenir from my time in Thailand. Go out and get lost, or meet your neighborhood Baker and make a new friend. It may be the most fun thing you do all week.

Melbourne, Australia Chinatown vibes

The Chinatown in Melbourne Australia in the central business district and is home to places of business, worships, and restaurants for the home of the longest continuous Chinese settlement. The Chinese originally came for the Australian gold rush and stayed for a new life. This small section of Melbourne is home to the Chinese’s New Year festival which lasts for a few weeks every year with fireworks and the waking of the dragon.

20170629_1311252109762738.jpg

Many people just pass by  Little Bourke Street on their hustle of the madness of the downtown. I can not say enough how amazing getting away from the droves of people can be. The hidden discovers to be found. Chinatown is missed often because there is so much to do in Melbourne. You can walk down the gate that is the start of Chinatown and see many different Asian restaurants and shops.  Chinatown has grown from one block with a gate on each end to now have grown to multiple blocks over the past few years. I learned that in American Chinatowns, there are mostly Cantonese settled there. In Melbourne, there is a much more diverse Chinatown represented. Why is that good for you? Many more types of food to try and more mixing of cultures.

When you make it to the busy area of CBD of Melbourne make sure you take time out to walk the few blocks of Chinatown. Even if it is just to see the beautiful buildings and for the free smells.

A first look at Melbourne Australia

Body Worlds Exhibit Worldwide

20180622_1310206590869182331936449.jpg

This amazing exhibition shows real cadavers on display to show how the human body works and the effects of different health choices. This is a worldwide traveling exhibit in multiple locations at the same time. Every time I have been to this display I see different pieces and I am always amazed. This is the true definition of being in awe of the human body and what it can do. Not only what the body can do but also what it can put up with or even overcome. Showing that healthy choices make a healthy long-lasting body is the main goal. What better way then to visually show the damage. I feel we all like to pretend that what is going on under our skin is working well enough. Seeing the lung of a smoker next to the lung of a non-smoker there is no room to argue. There are also very powerful demonstrations and pieces that show disease and disabilities.

wandering in the dimly lit room with black covered walls and black lined cases that makes the bright spotlights make every detail more dramatic. I started to look down at my own body looking at what would be right under the surface. Being is sports my whole life I kept looking at different areas that I have injured before and seeing how the body is woven together. Such a fragile inter working that we often take for granted and abuse. Treating your body right is the ticket to a quality long life.

Dr. Angelina Whalley and Dr. Gunther von Hagens are the creators of the traveling exhibit and their goal is preventive healthcare. To show first hand the effect on the daily decisions there are interactive displayed as well as the perfectly preserved models arranged to spark your wonder. Plastination is the process of preservation invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977. The process replaces body fluids with plastic, then are positioned and harden by heat, gas, or light. The complexity of nature preserved forever. It is odorless and easy to transport to the international locations. Great detail and hard work goes into each body that is being prepared. It could take up to 800 hours to prepare a whole body. Then sent over to be put in a series of baths of acetone and then dehydrated for around three to four months. Only then does the plastination process take place, forced vacuum impregnation. That process takes about six to eight weeks. After it comes out and drips dry and is still flexible. With the help of pins, wires, staples, and other aids the model starts to take its pose. Getting into the final pose can take a few weeks up to a few months. The final step is to cure the specimen and preserve it forever for all of our viewing pleasure.

20180622_1315551997670629283174546.jpg

130367988110530709321453.jpeg

Body Worlds is such an amazing learning tool. People usually spend about one to two hours looking and reading. I have never been disappointed when I have gone to an exhibit like this. Around every corner is a new area of life. Breaking each area up by body part like lungs or kidneys and the damage unhealthy choices cause. Or other rooms were filled with a portraits of different family from around the world and what their monthly grocery looks like all stacked up compared to the other families from around the world. The choices you could see were made up of locations and culture influences. Still more rooms have what reconstructed joins look like or plates with screws drilled directly into the bone. There is so much information and yet you still walk away with questions, not to imply that there was unanswered questions about the exhibit, but rather open and expand your mind to lead to more questions. This is what a good science display will achieve no matter the age. Learning especially about how our own body works is priceless. With that being said the few times I went i notices it depends on where the show is being hosted. The bigger the science center the more it cost. Also the bigger the science center the more pieces of the traveling exhibition can be enjoyed. There are some large pieces like cross sections and large animal specimens. I would guess $10 -$25 USD for tickets.

130233821453545925584477.jpeg

130488518317938955766370.jpeg

The creators seem very stright forward about the negative effects on the body. Such as the smoking man with his leathery skin and blackened lungs. There is a healthy non-smoking lung sitting next to a smokers lung.

130534964676032769674045.jpeg

130528096429987790271670.jpeg

130578270355919282600966.jpeg

130817448160080718732267.jpeg

130986409059754126505973.jpeg

20180622_1328305361140465013123208.jpg

20180622_1336546603612273704142170.jpg

The X Lady

The one-of-a-kind inter works of this display is well worth the the time, fee, and traffic. There are multible exhibitions in differnt parts of the world thoughout the year. There no excuess not to go to this eye opening display. It will be somewhere near you soon, and if, not travel a little you know you’d love it. @heidvastag

20180622_1335129053975172505726759.jpg

Reichstag 

Walking up to this large front lawn of the Reichstag on a nice day makes me want to sit and have an afternoon lunch. There is no time for this in Berlin there is just too much amazing things to see. The Reichstag building is a parliament building and has strict guidelines to get in the door. Registration is free to enter but you must register before you enter. Be sure you bring your passport. I never tell anyone to go wandering around the city with their passport on then, but every rule has its exception. The dome and the roof terrace have different times for the terrace and dome. The Reichstag is also closed for maintenance and holidays throughout the year, so be sure to check opening times and dates when planning your visit. I did not pre-register before going to the Reichstag. I did wait in a long that moved pretty quickly, bringing in a small group of people in to check passports with faces before we were allowed up to the elevators to the dome and terrace.

Walking into the beautiful glass and mirror dome that spirals up to the observation deck overlooking Berlin. The dome is 23 meters high and 40 meters wide and designed by Sir Norman Foster. Foster originally planned an air cushion-like flat roof and only under political pressure planned a dome. There are guided tours available and a wealth of knowledge and fascinating facts that are hidden in the Reichstag. One such fact not largely known is that there are still Cyrillic graffiti left by Soviet soldiers after the siege in 1945. It has been carefully preserved and can still be seen by visitors today. There is also a bullet hole from the Second World War.

The Brandenburg Gate is a short walk away. The city is very well laid out from The Reichstag building. The Holocaust memorial isn’t too much further than the Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island is further past that. I don’t recommend trying to push yourself and see it all in one day. There is so much to see in this city, so plan for full days of exploring no matter how long you are in Berlin.

Reichstag is a must if it is the first of the fiftieth time you are coming here. Just the walk up to the top is a piece of living art to the view of this unique city. I can’t get enough Berlin.

There is a restaurant on the terrace serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations are required for dining here and the menu is on the pricey side, but the views are free. The hardest part about visiting Reichstag is deciding whether to visit in the daytime or at night.

Budapest

An old world feel from the moment you get off at Keleti Train Station. There is much history under the layers of dirt from time and neglect. Please don’t let my negative comments sway you from seeing this great and old city. After you make your way out of the sketchy train station and wander around you will see a beautiful city with many secrets.

This man was waiting to greet me at the corner with his belly wore from rubs. I feel like I could outrun him.

On one of my stops from the subway, I walked up steps to a festival in full swing with dancing, fresh food cooking, and music. I spent a few hours deciding on what I wanted for lunch and watched the street performers.

Wandering around I found local treats and homemade crafts that I recognized from my Hungarian grandmother’s house. The same red pattern of tablecloths and napkins brought back great memories of family dinners of the same food I was seeking in the city. This is a big reason I travel, its to reconnect with your past if only by a pattern or a smell.

 

There are so many grand stone building with complex curly ends and detailed columns, don’t forget to look up.

Hello Berlin

Berlin may bring up mixed thoughts and feelings upon hearing the name, but the city has grown to be a cultural and artistic hotspot.

The Holocaust Memorial is a maze of different sized columns numbering 2711 in all. The artist meant for the memorial to be confusing and disorienting. It is not taken kindly if you climb on the memorial, so please be respectful.

The great Brandenburg Gate always seems to be filled with life. This gate marks the former city gate where the beginning of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel.

While walking around there was a “checkpoint” where I received an old school passport stamp for Checkpoint Charlie at the east and west side of the Berlin checkpoint.