Sewage Back-up Coverage on Insurance Policy

I have been back in Chicago for over four weeks. We had a frozen pipe in our condo building that has caused >100k of damages to our home. Our insurance provider has denied us because we didn’t have sewage back-up coverage. Oh, hey- it was a 3 inch sewage/drainage pipe that froze. I have learned a lot about insurance. I have also found that many are in the dark (like we were!) on what is covered and the process.

Let me start at the beginning. First, Qi, Boba and I are all healthy. That’s the most important thing. Qi is still in Hong Kong and Boba is still with the sitter. Second, I was extremely anal when I winterized our condo. I even sent details to our property manager to ensure I didn’t miss anything. She complimented me on my preparedness. Most people I’ve spoken to have expressed how thorough I was….I guess that’s nice to hear? However, shit happens! And in our case, literally “shit happened” all over our house. It’s impossible to prepare for a clog in the drain-line that caused the sewage to stand still and then freeze during the sub-zero temperatures.

What makes it worse, is I thought our coverage was above and beyond the necessary measures. If you know me, you know I always prefer to be over-prepared. Hence the extremely thorough winterization and the high liability and property damage coverage for our home.

The whole process with insurance and remediation has been eye-opening. I found there’s not much info online which is a big part of why I’m sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned. Probably the biggest mistake I made was thinking that our insurance company was on our side. In hindsight, I realize how naïve that sounds. I truly thought “if you followed all the proper procedures and did nothing wrong, that it would all work out”. Unfortunately, so far, that’s not the case. To be fair, I do feel like our agent has been a diligent advocate, but she is in sales and it’s her job to make me feel that way.

I’ve spoken to so many people over these weeks. No one says the same thing on the proper procedure to follow. I’ve talked to our insurance agent, our claim’s adjuster, at least 9 lawyers, general contractors, remediation companies, appliance restoration and disposal companies, realtors, our HOA insurance adjuster, property management team, etc.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. Check your home insurance policy- Like us, most of the people I’ve spoken to did not realize that sewage back-up was excluded from their policy. Sewage coverage is an add-on. This pertains to both condos and single family homes. I cannot speak for town homes. Even our agent was unaware we were lacking sewage coverage as part of our policy. There’s a possibility that could help us.
  2. It might be beneficial to hire a public adjuster- Our insurance company adjuster spent less than 5 minutes in the house before denying us. Our HOA adjuster was more thorough but also represents our building, not us. Having an unbiased adjuster has been very helpful so far. And it’s really nice to have someone on your side! It adds cost, but the info they’ve shared with me is by far more than I received from either my insurance or the HOA policy adjuster.
  3. Hire a remediation company- They will perform the cleaning and demo. In our case (sewage-which is category 3 water or black water) they had to remove 2 feet outside the affected area. I asked our property manager for referrals. A public adjuster could also give recommendations. I received so many conflicting opinions on when remediation should start. Our policy adjuster said to wait, our HOA adjuster said start immediately, but the remediation team did not want to start without insurance. We had the worry of mold (and insurance doesn’t cover mold on a standard policy) so we needed to get started right away. Keep in mind, “right away” was still over three weeks after the initial damage was reported. I still have no idea if that was correct or not. Guess I’ll find out….. It takes mold less than 72 hours to grow in optimal conditions.
  4. Consider legal counsel- Although I’ve found lawyers to be slow to respond, I still have hope in receiving their aid and insight. I’m not being dramatic when I say slow. One lawyer returned my call after 19 days.
  5. Remediation companies do not handle appliances- We had appliances filled with sewage just sitting in the house for several weeks because I was not aware that remediation does not also handle electronics. A separate company needs to be contacted for their assessment and disposal. Our remediation team gave us referrals. If you hire a public adjuster, they can give you referrals and walk you through the process. I was late to hire a public adjuster.
  6. Other damage- For damage to other personal property such as rugs and clothes, there are separate companies who handle this type of cleaning. For example, if the sewage came in contact with a rug, it will need to be discarded per proper handling of category 3 water (sewage). The remediation team will take care of that. However, everything in our house smells like poop and especially the porous items like fabrics. I am waiting to take care of these things with aid of insurance.
  7. Get several estimates for General Contractors- We’ve had a couple GCs come to give estimates. If we get insurance coverage, this will be important. Not to mention, for such a huge job, you’ll want to shop around and feel comfortable with your GC.
  8. Contact your Realtor- I don’t think this is absolutely necessary. I contacted two realtors we’ve worked with in the past for their advice and for GC referrals. Network, network, network. I also wanted to be certain we were following protocol for disclosures. Down the road, when we go to sell our home, we want to ensure all procedures were followed properly and we have the documentation to prove it. Luckily we didn’t have mold…..which is such a blessing!
  9. Consider recording phone conversations with your insurance company- I’ve found that for most of the insurance correspondence, no one wants to respond in writing. If you have a phone conversation and want to record it, just make sure you tell them they are being recorded prior to recording them. It might come in handy down the road. In lieu of this, I followed-up with an email summary of what they said and asked them to respond if it was incorrect.
  10. Take pictures of EVERYTHING- Be certain to take pictures of the damage, the damaged items (and their model #s and other identifying #s if applicable) and document it all thoroughly. I have a digital folder with text messages, emails, pictures, policy info, etc.
  11. Don’t start rebuilding without insurance- Unfortunately, it makes it challenging to get insurance coverage when you begin work prior to settling insurance disputes. We’ve had to stall our restoration in hopes that insurance will pull through.

Some things that I’m thankful for:

-I had such an amazing time in Hong Kong, China and Japan. I will always cherish that time! It was an experience of a lifetime. I loved it and will be forever thankful for such an amazing opportunity.

-Qi’s parents were handling things at the condo for the first couple days while I was still in Hong Kong. Qi’s Dad even fell on ice near our condo and had to go to the hospital. Thank goodness he was ok! I am super grateful to them for all their help in our absence.

-For 2 weeks I squatted at varying homes. Thanks Alistair Templeton, Bijou Hunt and Stacey Hill.

-Boba is well-loved and healthy at the sitter’s house. Our house is such a mess with ripped up floors, exposed pipes, etc. As much as I was looking forward to seeing him, I’m being a responsible pet owner and keeping him in his safe and happy environment.

-Julian Dibbell reached out to his network for lawyer referrals.

-I experienced the biggest and prettiest snowfall in Chicago since 2015….and I didn’t have to drive in it.

-My family and friends have been very understanding and respectful about my request for solitude.

-Qi, my parents, sisters and friends still made my birthday very special even though I was feeling sorry for myself.

-My parents, sisters and Qi have endured countless texts (at all hours) and have been extremely supportive.

-I’ve been developing much needed patience skills. It’s long overdue!

Originally, Qi and I were hoping I could return to Hong Kong in time for Chinese New Year. We have tickets to go to Shanghai to celebrate with his family. Unfortunately, that’s not going to work out. I know I’ll make it for CNY someday though. Luckily, I hadn’t yet purchased tickets for Singapore, Australia and Vietnam.

I’m not looking for sympathy–please refrain. Unless you can provide me with a hug from Qi Qi, I don’t need anything. I would not normally share such detail about something so personal. My aim is to educate-but I admit, writing this has been cathartic. Already an owner in our building added sewage coverage to their policy. There’s some satisfaction in that- that our crappy (pun intended!) situation has potentially helped someone else avoid this scenario….although it only added $9/month which makes me ill.

Other than patience, there’s personal growth here for me. I am stronger and smarter today than I was yesterday. The only way to build this type of character and strength is through adversity. I’m not saying I’m happy about our situation. Nor have I forgiven myself for not realizing we didn’t have sewage coverage. I have gained knowledge though. I am still hopeful our adjuster or lawyer finds a loop-hole and insurance picks-up coverage. I’m holding onto that. Hope is an extremely powerful thing!

Dum Spiro Spero– While I breathe, I hope.

Macau China- Christmas 2017

DSC_0521 Macau

Qi had both Christmas day and Boxing day (12/26) off work so we decided to take a quick jaunt to Macau/Macao.  Macau is an hour ferry ride (~40mi) from Hong Kong and a huge gambling mecca of the east.  Gambling is illegal in many nearby countries so Macau is a very popular destination.  Since Macau was a Portuguese colony until the late 1990’s, it had an interesting blend of Portuguese and Chinese influence.  We arrived on Christmas morning and left the following evening.  It was a quick but fruitful trip.

I did some research on Macau concerning where we should stay.  It is much like Vegas- there’s a downtown with gambling and then the strip is in a different location.  Additionally, Macau has a beach resort area.  I was expecting many more casinos since its gambling revenue is larger than Vegas.  However, it felt like a very tame Vegas- no drunkies on the streets or people whooping and cheering in the casinos.  The vibe was pretty mellow.  I wanted to blame this on Christmas, but it might just be less flashy.  Although we visited over a holiday, it was still crowded.

We stayed in what is considered downtown Macau because a lot of the history is in this area.  It is a very small island, so traveling to the other regions is no more than a 15 minute cab ride.  Our hotel let us check-in right away so we dropped off our bags and began sightseeing.  From our hotel it was a short walk to the Ruins of St. Paul’s.

DSC_0577 Macau

DSC_0584 Macau

DSC_0589 Macau

DSC_0592 Macau

DSC_0597 Macau
the crypt

We saw the Historical Centre and St. Dominic’s church:

DSC_0529 Macau

DSC_0566 Macau DSC_0569 Macau DSC_0553 Macau

Senado Square:

DSC_0501 Macau

DSC_0517 Macau
panner used to roast chestnuts over a fire

A Temple:

DSC_0518 Macau DSC_0521 Macau

The streets and landscapes:

We love to try the local food specialties.  I was especially excited for the egg tarts (they were divine!) and Qi was excited about the pork chop bun.  I filled up on egg tarts and bread so I didn’t have room for the pork chop sandwich.  Qi said it was delicious.  We also had the steamed milk pudding which was amazing!

That evening, we went to a cirque du soleil-like show at City of Dreams casino called House of Dancing Water.  It was a beautiful show featuring ballet, silks, acrobatics and all partially in water.  It was like Le Reve in that sense.

What an enjoyable Christmas Day!

 

 

Beijing- Tiananmen Square – Nanluoguxiang Hutong

IMG_20171215_130405 Tiananmen Square

My day in Tiananmen Square was the day I walked 12.6km exploring Beijing.  I took the hottest shower ever when I returned to the hotel that night!  I started the day by walking to Tiananmen Square from my hotel in Wangfujing.

IMG_20171215_131130 Tiananmen Square IMG_20171215_131023 Tiananmen Square IMG_20171215_130840 Tiananmen Square IMG_20171215_130405 Tiananmen Square IMG_20171215_125927 Tiananmen Square IMG_20171215_125526 Tiananmen Square

Traveling in China was not as easy for me as in Hong Kong or Tokyo.  Many things were not in English or even pinyin.  However, I went to a lot of touristy places where maps were along the roadsides.  Although I could not tell what they said, I had a familiarity with my destination locations directionally and the red star demarking “you are here” was pretty universal.  My only destinations were the Tiananmen Square and the most famous hutong, Nanluoguxiang.

For those who might not know, Google, Amazon, and many social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) were banned recently in China.  I knew this ahead of time and thought I had planned for it.  My research suggested certain maps apps. They were supposed to work but didn’t work when I arrived in Beijing.  The hotel had suggestions for alternatives as well, however they were all in Mandarin.  Without a map app, I got lost a lot.  My fellow tour-goers had told me about an app called Turbo VPN.  This app supposedly scrambles your phone to show that you’re not located in China.  I cannot vouch for it because I could not upload this app.  I could not access my Google play store.  Without Google translate, I was squandering.  It was still doable.  However, I was not as adventurous as I’d been in Tokyo.

We’re going to Shanghai for Chinese New Year and this time Mr. Chen is coming with me so I won’t have to worry about it….although, I will download the Turbo VPN and report if it works.  If anyone else has suggestions, please leave a note in the comments section.  Thanks in advance and cheers!

One of the first things I couldn’t figure out was crossing the street.  There were railings along the street at intersections so it was impossible to cross.  I kept passing these signs but I figured it was for entry to the subway.

IMG_20171215_124233 Tiananmen Square
see the railing along the road and the sign for stairs? those stairs go down under the road so pedestrians can cross the street
underground crosswalk

Some of them had peddlers selling hats and toys.

After Tiananmen Square, I walked north to the most famous hutong in Beijing- Nanluoguxiang Hutong.  It still had residences but now it’s mainly a mall with street food.  It smelled delicious.  I had pineapple bread there but it wasn’t even 25% as good as it was in Hong Kong.  I’m addicted to it in Hong Kong!  My stomach growls just thinking about it.

IMG_20171215_154303 Nanluoguxiang Hutong IMG_20171215_153359 Nanluoguxiang Hutong IMG_20171215_152703 Nanluoguxiang Hutong IMG_20171215_151734 Nanluoguxiang Hutong IMG_20171215_151606 Nanluoguxiang Hutong IMG_20171215_151432 Nanluoguxiang Hutong

Next up, the food in Beijing and Wangfujing street market.  We also went to Macau for Christmas, hiked up to Victoria Peak, visited another famous street market and went on a dinner boat cruise in Victoria harbor for NYE.  I have never seen so many fireworks!!

If you missed my other adventures in Beijing:

Great Wall, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven.

Thanks!

Beijing- The Ming Tomb- Dingling

We went to a Ming Tomb prior to heading to the Great Wall.  The Ming Tombs are scattered throughout China, but most are near to Beijing.  All of the tombs were built at the bottom of a mountain. They’re mausoleums built for 13 of the 16 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.  We went to Dingling.  “Ling” means tomb in Mandarin.

I loved our tour guide from Viator, although he was very superstitious.  We went to the 13th and last tomb that was built.  It was destroyed twice.  Once was from WWII by the Japanese.  I cannot remember the other time it was destroyed.  Maybe the Cultural Revolution?

Although the Emperor was not really buried there, according to our guide, we could not enter the tomb from the main entrance.  The main entrance is called the “gateway to heaven”.  We had to enter along the side.  Only the dead would enter through the main entrance and it could only be the Emperor.  It totally made sense once he verbalized it.  He also told us we couldn’t take selfies with the tomb as that would be bad luck.  I think that’s a bit disturbing but I guess I can see someone taking a selfie with a tomb?  I was a little freaked out I was going to mess up one of the rules.

DSC_0302 Ming Tomb
This is the “gateway to heaven” that we couldn’t walk through on our way into the tomb
DSC_0297 Ming Tomb
same for this entryway; we could only enter to the right or left

DSC_0295 - Ming Tomb DSC_0300 Ming Tomb DSC_0323 Ming Tomb

DSC_0326 Ming Tomb

The doorways weren’t large enough for the tomb to fit through so the Emperor and the two Empresses were never actually buried there.

DSC_0319 Ming Tomb
donations of incense, flowers and fruit are considered good luck
DSC_0314 MIng Tomb
the biggest one represents the Emperor’s tomb

We could exit through the main entrance.  Women had to step out with their right foot first and men with their left.  This part of the trip made me so nervous.  Our guide was so excitable and I didn’t want to break any of the rules.

But if you’re curious, I saw plenty of people entering through the main entrance when we were leaving.  I guess they didn’t have a tour guide to explain the bad luck in that.

This concludes the second day of my tour with Viator.  In addition to the tomb, we went to The Great Wall, the jade factory, tea house, and lunch was included.  We did have to pay an additional $100rmb (~$15US) for the round trip ski lift ticket at the Great Wall.  The total for this day, including the lift pass, was $60US.  They picked us up in our hotel and drove us around all day.  I was pleased with their services overall.

Day 1:

Day 2:

The total was $115 US.  I have seen different prices on different days.  I was lucky as both days my tours were a total of 4 people and we had pretty great viewing conditions.

Cheers for a prosperous 2018!

More to come on our Christmas trip to Macau, Tiananmen Square and the fireworks in Hong Kong for NYE.

Beijing – The Temple of Heaven

DSC_0200 Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven was my favorite excursion of the day.  I enjoyed the Forbidden City, Imperial Garden and Summer Palace.  However, the detail in the Temple of Heaven was just stunning.  It was built in the early 1400s just like the Forbidden City.  The Emperor during that era is regarded as a great leader….according to our tour guide.  He definitely created a lot of jobs for his people.

DSC_0212 Temple of Heaven DSC_0210 Temple of Heaven DSC_0208 Temple of Heaven DSC_0200 Temple of Heaven DSC_0198 Temple of Heaven DSC_0195 Temple of Heaven DSC_0189 Temple of Heaven DSC_0187 Temple of Heaven

My selfies have improved. I still can’t believe this was taken with my phone! My only regret- you cannot tell how crystal clear the sky was during my visit.  You can probably tell it was chilly though!

The temple was used to pray for good harvest.  Now it’s the most famous temple in Beijing.  I took so many pictures of it.  The detail was truly amazing.  We only spent 20 minutes at the Temple of Heaven.  Our whole group definitely wanted more time there.  The Temple of Heaven was the last visit on Day 1 of my Viator tour.  We went to the Forbidden City, Imperial Garden, a pearl factory and Temple of Heaven.  It also included a lunch.  The total was ~$55 US.

I’m really glad I visited some of these sights in Beijing when it was so cold.  It was pretty crowded.  I cannot imagine what it would be like in warmer weather.  If you can handle it, traveling to these sights during the winter months might be ideal if avoiding big crowds is desired.  The Forbidden City was probably the biggest crowd I saw during my three days in Beijing.  It was actually the coldest when we went there too because if was our first stop and we arrived at 8a.

Up next:  Ming Tombs, Tiananmen Square, culture in Beijing, FOOD!, and a visit to a famous neighborhood or hutong of Beijing.

If you missed some of my other adventures in Beijing:

Forbidden City and Imperial Gardens

Great Wall of China

Summer Palace

Thank you and Happy Holidays from Hong Kong!!!

 

 

Beijing- The Summer Palace -Viator tours

DSC_0290 Summer Palace

After the Forbidden City and Imperial Garden, we visited the Summer Palace.  I imagine the grandeur of the Summer Palace is much more extraordinary when in the midst of summer.  But the scenery was still picturesque.  The lake had a thin layering of ice on the surface that added an interesting depth to all my photos.

It was blistering cold, however the sun came out which helped.  We had ~2h at the Summer Palace to roam on our own.  Our tour guide said we would need weeks to fully explore the area.  The lake itself is >500 acres.  In the warm months, it was a place of respite for the Emperor and Empress.  They would spend much of their time at the Summer Palace instead of the Forbidden City.

DSC_0239 Summer Palace DSC_0292 Summer Palace DSC_0290 Summer Palace DSC_0265 Summer Palace DSC_0264 Summer Palace DSC_0263 Summer Palace DSC_0261 Summer Palace DSC_0236 Summer Palace DSC_0240 Summer Palace DSC_0241 Summer Palace DSC_0249 Summer Palace DSC_0257 Summer Palace DSC_0259 Summer Palace DSC_0235 Summer Palace DSC_0229 Summer Palace

The Summer Palace origin dates back to the 1100s.  It was named a World Landmark in the 1900s.  Even in the bitter cold, locals were playing games and enjoying the beautiful scenery.  We even saw a man writing calligraphy in the sidewalk.  He was creating a portrait of a bystander in the picture below….it’s not the piglet!  He was using water instead of ink.  It was very entertaining.  It made me think of my father-in-law who is quite talented in calligraphy as well.

There are pavilions, temples, gardens and bridges to best enjoy the landscape.  We didn’t even cover 1/3 of it in the time we had there.

DSC_0287 Summer Palace DSC_0285 Summer Palace DSC_0281 Summer Palace DSC_0273 Summer Palace

So to recap, on this day trip with Viator, we saw the Forbidden City, Imperial Garden, Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven.  The Temple of Heaven was my favorite stop and the topic of my next blog post.

I did a 2-day tour with Viator.  Lunch was included on both days.  The first day was ~$55 US.  All entry fees were covered in this price.  I thought we covered a lot and I was pleased with our guide.  I loved that our group was small (4 people) and talkative.  I would recommend traveling to these locations in the cold weather because it’s less crowded.  Just wear layers!

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Beijing- The Forbidden City and Imperial Garden

It was a chilling -2 degrees Celsius (and windy!) and I was visiting the Forbidden City and Imperial Garden.  The Forbidden City is >150 acres.  It was built from 1404-1420 and housed up to 3000 concubines, the Emperor and Empress and the Imperial Guard.

Everything about the complex followed the principles of Feng Shui.  For instance, the Forbidden City had mountains protecting the entrances.  The entrances were facing a certain direction that is evading me right now.  The main thing I remember is the dragon outside the door of the Emperor’s living quarters.  The Chinese dragon is different than the Western dragon that breathes fire.  The Eastern dragon has horns and water comes out of its mouth.  It never goes to the bathroom.  The significance there is that whatever enters the dragon doesn’t leave it.  So at an entryway of a home, the dragon should be facing the entry.  It will bring money and prosperity into the household (through its mouth–and the money will never leave since it doesn’t use the washroom).  If the dragon’s back is to the door, then the household will squander monies and good fortune instead of collecting them.

DSC_0102 forbidden city
male dragon

Another significance of the dragon, is the dragon stepping on a ball (it’s a pearl which designates power) represents the Emperor and the dragon stepping on the cub represents the Empress.

The male is the yang and the female is the yin.  Yin and Yang are very important aspects of Chinese culture and required for balance.  They are displayed throughout the Forbidden City.  I couldn’t retain all that was shared, but our tour guide was very informative.

I again used Viator for my tour of The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven ,The Great Wall of China and Summer Palace.  It included a pick-up at my hotel and lunch.  There were four of us on this tour–a brother and sister from South America and young lady from Switzerland.  Between them, the oldest was 24.  I’ll explain in a bit how I knew their ages.

We arrived at the Forbidden City right when they were opening at 8:30a.  So we didn’t wait long in the line nor was the line very long.  It was frigid.

Here’s a picture the tour guide took of me before we entered.

IMG_20171213_080737 forbidden city
I’m wearing so many layers (leg warmers too if you can’t tell!). The only things cold were my nose and hands….my gloves weren’t wind proof

And the Imperial Garden:

There were trees in the garden with either red or green tags.  Red tags meant the tree was over 300 yrs old.  Green tags meant they were over 100 yrs old.

After the Forbidden City, we drove to the Temple of Heaven.  I’ll discuss that in a separate post.  We also stopped at a facility where they were practicing acupuncture, cupping and holistic healing.   We received an assessment on our health and a foot massage.  This is how I knew the ages of my fellow tour-goers, by the way.

The trained Herbalist looked at my tongue and used my pulse on my wrist to give his assessment.  He said that I don’t sleep well.  He said my mind never turns off and I’m stressed out.  This could really fit anyone but, I hardly slept the night before.  He wrote me a prescription for herbs to aid in sleeping but it was 800rmb for a 30 day supply.  That’s ~$130 US for a 30 day supply.  Yowza.  We couldn’t take a picture or I would’ve asked Qi to translate the herbs for me.  I also heard his assessment of my peers and according to them, he diagnosed them properly.  None of us purchased the herbs though.

There is a book I plan to buy (to Qi’s chagrin!) to study herbs and their healing power.  It parallels my work in a way and I find it fascinating.  I also bought a ton of tea while in Beijing.

old versus new stone floors

I’m fascinated by the dragons.

I have much more to share on Beijing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beijing- The Great Wall- Mutianyu section

DSC_0396 Great Wall

Last week I was in Beijing.  I went there because of all the history in Beijing and to visit all the iconic sights– the most iconic being the Great Wall of China.  The Great Wall was built in 1404.  There were several sections available for tours.  I decided to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

The weather was supposed to be cold and cloudy.  The day before I visited the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven.  It was gorgeously clear, albeit frigid– but more to come on that in a separate post.  I mentioned it because I figured my quota for good weather had been filled already.  I cannot believe my luck.

I planned tours for a couple of my days in Beijing.  I used a website called Viator.  I was scheduled with a tour guide who called the night before to confirm pick-up in my hotel lobby.  His English was good and his enthusiasm could not be faked.  Our tour group was a total of 4 people.  There were two gentlemen from Melbourne and the third man was from Florida.

We arrived at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.  I chose this section because it’s considered to be less crowded than the Badaling section (very popular for tourists) and a bit more scenic and steep.  It’s further from Beijing and a less traveled part of the Great Wall.

To get to the wall, we had to ride up a ski lift.  This ride was not part of the cost for the pre-paid tour.  Alternatively, there’s an option to walk up the mountain.  For the return, there’s also the option to take a toboggan down the mountain.  Unfortunately (or fortunately– I cannot decide which!) the toboggan option was unavailable.

Prior to getting on the ski lift, our tour guide told us we needed to be back in 2.5hrs.  So climbing the mountain was not an option– although, I definitely wouldn’t have chosen that regardless.

DSC_0387 Great Wall

DSC_0371 Great Wall
All the cars were marked letting us know that former First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, rode up to this part of the Great Wall

The ski lift dropped us off between watch tower 14 and 15.  We could only walk to watch tower 20, after that, the wall was restricted from tourists.  There is a simple explanation for this.  The Great Wall is >13,000 miles and only parts are maintained for tourists.  Walking from tower 15 to 20 was still quite a trek.  I had several layers on because I thought I’d be cold.  I was sweating from the exertion.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the day I burst into tears.  On the next day, when I visited Tiananmen Square, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude that released itself in tears.  To have the opportunity and means to visit so many amazing places….I cannot believe how blessed I am!!  I tear up just thinking about it.  I was at the Great Wall!  Unreal!

If you missed other beautiful sights I’ve visited in Hong Kong and Japan, please visit these other posts on Mount Fuji and Victoria Peak.

Otherwise, please enjoy these pictures of the Great Wall- Mutianyu section.

By the way, the wind had died down but most of the smog was already eliminated.  Thank you wind for providing the most amazing views!

IMG_20171214_121713 Great Wall
my legs were wobbly after 2.5 hours but I walked the whole section

IMG_20171214_123410 Great Wall IMG_20171214_122729 Great Wall IMG_20171214_122645 Great Wall IMG_20171214_122211 Great Wall IMG_20171214_121108 Great Wall IMG_20171214_121102 Great Wall

IMG_20171214_114002 Great Wall
I was there!!!!

DSC_0419 Great Wall DSC_0418 Great Wall

DSC_0417 Great Wall
it was a workout!

DSC_0414 Great Wall DSC_0410 Great Wall DSC_0396 Great Wall

DSC_0457 Great Wall DSC_0435 Great Wall DSC_0415 Great Wall DSC_0407 Great Wall DSC_0406 Great Wall DSC_0404 Great Wall DSC_0403 Great Wall

Please stay tuned.

Up next:  Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Ming Tombs, Forbidden City and more adventures in Beijing.

Thanks for traveling with me!

 

 

 

 

 

Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery

IMG_20171205_132509 nan lian garden

I just returned from Beijing where I visited The Great Wall, The Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, a famous hutong, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Ming Tombs, etc.  I cannot wait to share my experiences!  Before I left Hong Kong, I went to Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery.  They are near the Diamond Hill MTR stop and ~45min from Wan Chai.  It cooled off to 65F and I actually wore jeans.  It was the perfect sightseeing weather.

Entry into both the garden and nunnery is free.  The gardens are known for their traditional Chinese landscaping.  I had to seriously edit myself from posting every picture.  I got carried away with its beauty.

IMG_20171205_125918 nan lian gardens

IMG_20171205_133548 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_133351 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_133249 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_133239 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_133104 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_132509 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_130753 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_131320 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_131451 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_133621 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_132832 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_132421 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_131642 nan lian garden IMG_20171205_130753 nan lian garden

I probably walked around for two hours.  It was so serene.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t very crowded either.

Immediately north of Nan Lian Garden is the Chi Lin Nunnery.  Chi Lin Nunnery, other than being a part of a monastery campus, is known for its beautiful bonsai.  WOW.

IMG_20171205_135447 chi lin nunnery

IMG_20171205_140925 chi lin nunnery IMG_20171205_140801 chi lin nunnery IMG_20171205_140421 chi lin nunnery IMG_20171205_135109 chi lin nunnery IMG_20171205_135403 chi lin nunnery IMG_20171205_135606 chi lin nunnery IMG_20171205_135717 chi lin nunnery IMG_20171205_135920 chi lin nunnery

The nunnery was built in 1930.  You couldn’t turn a corner without seeing a bonsai tree.  I wish their age was listed along with the descriptions.  They were amazing.  Bonsais are not easy.  The care that’s needed to maintain them all is incredible.  Here are some other historical landmarks we visited in Wan Chai:

Blue House and Pak Tai Temple

Afterwards I intended to go to a very famous vegetarian restaurant that’s nearby for lunch.  However, it was already 3p.  Time had gotten away from me– more importantly, the vegetarian restaurant closed at 3p.  Luckily, the MTR station nearby also housed a mall with many restaurants.  I had fun window shopping at a mall that didn’t have stores like Armani, Gucci, Chloe, Prada, etc.

By the way, if you compare the prices of Western stores in HK to the prices in the US, the US prices are much cheaper.  The only reason Hong Kong has such a reputation for shopping is there are many nearby countries that don’t have these stores due to tariffs.  So people come here to shop because it’s their only option.  If you are visiting from the US, shopping for US brands should only occur if you are in dire need of something or don’t mind spending the extra cash….it’s a lot of extra cash too.  I did a comparison of one high end jacket.  It was a 20% mark-up in Hong Kong compared to the USA cost.

Stay tuned for adventures from Beijing!

Wan Chai & Tsim Sha Tsui

Hong Kong Bird Sanctuary and Night Market

exploring our neighborhood- the grocery store and dim sum

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong Bird Sanctuary and Night Market

IMG_20171202_135242 hong kong park

Qi has been working crazy hours and weekends.  It’s not really different than at home except at home he can work from home–so he’s physically present.  Well Saturday, I thought he could use a break.  He hasn’t even been to the Hong Kong Park yet!  So we took a trek to the Hong Kong Bird Sanctuary and later went to Kowloon to check out the infamous Night Market at Jordan.

Remember how our first week here, I went to the Zoo and Botanical Garden and commented on the limited number of birds?  That’s because I didn’t go far enough into the gardens.

IMG_20171202_130418
beautiful mango tree!

IMG_20171202_133359

IMG_20171202_133221 bird sanctuary
hello cutie
IMG_20171202_133355
If you knew how many pictures I took of this parrot eating!
IMG_20171202_133512
(s)he likes mango and dragon fruit!

There were over 600 birds in the sanctuary.

IMG_20171202_133825
some were lovers

IMG_20171202_133100 bird sanctuary IMG_20171202_132605 bird sanctuary IMG_20171202_132238 bird sanctuary

IMG_20171202_132000

IMG_20171202_132047 bird sanctuary
Hornbill

IMG_20171202_131819 bird sanctuary IMG_20171202_131006 Bird sanctuary

We also walked around Hong Kong Park.  That park just never gets old to me!  And it was Qi’s first time.  I was really excited to show him around.

IMG_20171202_135242 hong kong park IMG_20171202_135445 hong kong park IMG_20171202_135530 hong kong park IMG_20171202_135132 Hong Kong Park

That night we visited the famous Night Market in Jordan.  It was such an adrenaline rush to barter with the vendors.  Although, I didn’t purchase a thing…

IMG_20171202_221752 Night Market
there’s a slight chance he knew I snapped a picture…

IMG_20171202_221801 Night Market

Eating street food is a bonus.  I mentioned these bubble waffles in a previous post about food in Wan Chai.  They still taste like waffles.  We’re glad we had them but we’re not going to open a stall selling them in the US or anything.

IMG_20171202_232848 night market

Some things to note about Hong Kong that I keep forgetting to mention:

  1. The doors to most malls and public buildings can either be pushed or pulled.  It’s really nice not to have to think about it.  Although, I foresee this biting me in the ass when I get back to the States!
  2. In public buildings, sometimes the escalators going up are on the left hand side (LHS) of the escalators going down (I consider this a British influence- akin to driving on the LHS of the road).  However, we’ve seen (in the same building!) escalators that follow the same standard as the States- where the escalator on the left is going down and the escalator on the right is going up.
    IMG_20171206_154448
    going up on LHS

    IMG_20171206_155528
    going up on RHS
  3. Along the same line, in the MTR stations, there are some stairs with arrows pointing up on the LHS and some where the stairs on the LHS point down– good thing they’re labeled!IMG_20171206_174656
  4. Lots of the buildings have a huge overhang over the sidewalks below.  This is because in the summer there are tsunamis in Hong Kong and a lot of rain.  You almost don’t need an umbrella if it’s raining.

We’re here!

Tea Ware Museum and Fruit Market