Oh, Hello there.

Why hello. Long time no chat little bliggity blog. I'm really sorry I've been away so long little blog but you see our internet at home is bu hao, which means 'not good' in China, little blog. Also, our VPN is even more bu hao these days. Due to this fact, you're not the only one that has been neglected sweet blog. Also, my email inbox is very sad, my face book account is almost not breathing and my favorite blogs have piles of posts I have yet to read. What would life be without the internet? Well, I'll tell you little Blerg. If there was no internet, few things would change, but you, blog, would not exist, I WOULD work out 7 times in the past 9 days, so that's nice and probably completely unrelated but I thought you should know, and all other forms of productiveness would probably come to a screeching halt because I need that 21st century Wifi to get them done. 

This is just me saying, "Hello blog. I still love you and I'll try to come back real soon, and I'm sorry that this is so short, but my head is hurting, real bad. Isn't that the worst? On the day I have time to get away to Starbucks and use their internet, AND the VPN is working, my head is throbbing. So unfair little blog, so unfair. That is all blog. Talk to you soon." 
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Words of Advice from our Chinese Momma

The other day I asked our sweet Chinese Momma, Jenny, to give people in America "advice" about traveling in China and asked if there was anything that she wanted American people to know about China. Her responses were so sweet and of course, her broken English, made it even sweeter. 

What do you want people in American to know about China or Chinese people? 
Chinese people are kind to all the people, I think. Most Chinese people are kind.
Chinese and Americans will be good friends. 
I think in the future, the world, will be one world. 
I want Americans to know that China has a long history and has so many wise people in its' history. 
China has many very kind people. 
Chinese people are good. --from little Justin, he couldn't resist giving his own ideas, too:)
What are some street smart things you'd like people visiting China to remember or know? 
Don't believe strange people in China. -- Justin
Protect your wallet. If you are in a mark or tourist place, watch your wallet.
Eat safe food. If you want to eat, go to a big restaurant, not a little one. 
Eat special food in every place. Like in Qingdao eat seafood, in Wei fang eat meat bread, and so on.
In China there are so many cars so you should look around when you walk. 
And there you have it. Simple and sweet. 
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Z1 Restaurant: The Himalayas, Qingdao

We recently had a dinner date night out at new hotel, The Himalayas Hotels' Z1 restaurant in Qingdao. Our incredibly generous friend, Sonny, is the GM there and so kindly gave us two tickets to try the Z1 buffet out. Thank you Sonny!
We were so excited to try Z1 especially because we heard that all of their produce is local and organic. We had also attended an opening party for the hotel where the food was fantastic. We thought if the food there was any indication of the food at the buffet, we were in for a treat!
Heading on our way out for our free date night! :) Those are the best kinds, right?! Please don't ask me why we looked frosted over and vampire like in this picture because I have no idea why. 
There are so many hotel buffets in Qingdao. Usually, they are not really our cup of tea. For one, they are usually ridiculously overpriced for our taste. Some of these buffets go up to  400 yuan per person, which is just crazy to me. Not only are they so expensive but they usually aren't that great in our opinion. The food is sub par and still has that "buffet" taste. Also, the environment never feels that cozy to me. When we go to dinner we like to go to places that we can sit back and relax for a while, we don't like the usual stiff chairs of a buffet. 
The Himalayas is different, though. From our first sight at the lobby a few months ago we knew this would be a place that we could enjoy. We love the setting and the couches at the tables in the buffet area. The lighting, surrounding and fresh flowers at each table all add to make a great ambience. Also, while there are many buffets that are overpriced like I mentioned above, the Z1 Restaurant is only 198 per person, which is much more reasonable. 
Every table was decked with these beautiful, fresh centerpieces. 
There is so much offered for your 198 yuan. There are stir fry, steaming, grilling, and sushi stations. There's tons of desserts, a chocolate fountain, and free wine and beer. There's Peking duck and roast pig stations and even a brick oven for pizzas.
The dessert section is fabulous. I never wanted to leave. There were at least 10 types of cakes to try, macaroons, a chocolate fountain, small dessert bites, tons of fruit and ice cream. Every thing we tasted was delicious. I especially liked the dark chocolate and mint cookie bites, the cheese cake and the madelines dipped in the chocolate fountain.
Fresh noodle choices for your choice of stir fries or soups. 
The kitchens are out in the open so you can see all the work going into your dish.
The Himalayas has all the usual Chinese food, steamed dishes and dim sum that you would hope for at a buffet.
There is an abundance of great Chinese food dishes, as well as some Thai influenced dishes available. 
Fresh seafood. You can enjoy it raw or ask for it to be steamed, grilled or bar-b-qued. 
There's a very nice sushi station. I just loved these displays. 
Fresh sea food on ice. You can choose what you like and they will grill it for you over an open flame.
There is a sweet and sour pork carving station as well as Peking duck. Let me tell you, I know that hanging meat may not look that great but man, the honey roasted pork was amazing. 
Free flow red and white wine and beer is offered, like all good hotel buffets in China.
A cold stone bar for mixing your ice-cream of choice with your toppings of choice. 
If you're in Qingdao we highly recommend the Z1 Buffet! Enjoy!
Oh, and we finished off the night playing with the Wii's they had in the lobby. We may or may not have played well over an hour. It was a great night! 

Also, the Himalayas has a great offer going on for  5 cocktails and antipasti for only 128 yuan! I'm not gonna lie, I really want to jump on that deal some time soon!
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Tiger Kingdom

Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai was up there on the list of my favorite things we did in Thailand. Actually, it was my second favorite behind our road trip. If you're a reader or blogger in Blog Land chances are you've seen others post about Tiger Kingdom, too. I know I did, which is why, around a year ago,  I took a mental note, "We must go to Thailand and we must lay with tigers." This was heck-a appealing to me from the very beginning for 2 very good reasons. First off, my favorite animal in the whole world for my whole life (well, before my golden retriever love affair started) has been a white tiger, not that white tigers and tigers are exactly the same, but they're basically the same. So, I knew, if I had a chance to get all snuggly with one, I would take it! Second, I don't know if you've ever noticed but Chara is very lioness to me. And since I'm obsessed with Chara, and tigers are basically lionesses, well obviously, I should pet some tigers. Obviously. For these 2 reasons mainly, okay, okay, and also for the whole fact of them being tigers and that we would get to pet them, we made our way to Tiger Kingdom as soon as we could once in Chiang Mai. 

To my great surprise, Tiger Kingdom also had some white tigers! They were caged and we didn't get to get all snuggly, but still,  we watched them and they were lovely. Their eyes were blue, just as they should be, and their fur was white and beautiful. And look at that beautifully pink paw! I wanted desperately to put my fingers through the wire fence and pet them, but I resisted.

Tiger Kingdom, along with most tourist sites in Thialand, was incredibly, surprisingly, organized. Upon entering, you are greeted by several smiling faces showing you the different choices of tiger experiences and prices are listed clearly. Once deciding what tigers you're interested in seeing, you line up, grab your ticket, and wait to see your numbers on the screen. Easy Peasy. We decided on seeing 3 tigers, which was a package for around 1250 baht each. We chose to see the medium tigers (the Big tigers had a way longer wait and their sizes weren't that much of a difference), the small and the smallest. Always choose the smallest! Don't you dare come to Tiger Kingdom and not see the smallest, you guys, it's the best!

Tip: Don't pay for the camera man! We had heard that this was a bad idea and so we skipped it and didn't miss anything at all. We had no shortage of pictures and all of the tiger guides grabbed our camera from us to take pictures. If you choose to pay the extra for the camera man, we have heard that they push you through much faster and take pictures from very unflattering angles. Have you had a different experience? Let me know!

While you are waiting, there is a restaurant surrounding the big tiger area, where you can eat and watch the tigers play. There is also a gift shop, a brownie shop and other activities available to entertain yourself while you wait. We walked around the park and admired the white tigers, lions and new born tigers, through their chain link cages.
The lines moved fairly fast which was great for the wait. Surprisingly, despite things moving quickly, we never felt too rushed in each tiger cage. We watched the tiger screen and saw that our time in the medium tigers cage was up first! We made our way to the cage and were briefly explained the rules.

1. Don't look the tigers straight on in the eyes.
2. Don't touch past their front shoulders. 
3. Don't try to play with them. (The older ones)
I took off my scarves and all loose hanging jewelry and we entered, with much excitement! First up, we saw this big sleeping baby. We rubbed his belly and the guide tried to wake him by pulling his tail or stabbing him with a stick. It sounds bad but this big guy only opened his eyes a little bit and moved to a new position. He was not going to be bothered! It reminded me of Chara. She sleeps like that a lot! Many people have said that the sleeping tigers were because they drug them. While I can't prove to you that 100% these tigers were not drugged I will say that I don't think they were. The park claims that they are drug and tranquilizer free and do not believe in it.

Why were they sleeping so much? Tigers sleep 18 hours a day in the wild. That's a whole lot and we came around 1 pm. The sun was up, it was warm and cozy, and probably a good time for sleeping. Also, they are used to people always around them. This is their life. I imagine they are used to it and could care less who is coming to see them if they are wanting a nap.

Also, why don't they bite your face off? All of the tigers at Tiger Kingdom were born and bred in captivity. From birth they have been around and handled by humans and because of this they view humans as just another kind of tiger. This is the reason why you can't look them straight on because they will view this as a sign that you want to play. All of the precautions in the tiger cages are to prevent them from hurting you unintentionally while playing not because they are aggressive.

Not all of the tigers were sleeping. There were many in the cage that were up walking around, chasing toys and pouncing on each other. Zachary got this guys tail.

A tiger yawn. With Chara I always touch her tongue when she is yawning. It's just a game I like to play. But I resisted with this girl, let's call her, Eva! That sounds like a tiger name, eh? Though, if they would have allowed me, I totally would have! This sleeping beauty was the one we got really cozy with. She was sprawled out having a rest when we came up. She was so beautiful and strong! I loved seeing all of their stripes! I didn't realize how beautiful they were until I got up close to them!

Look at those huge paws!
I felt so very comfortable with the tigers! Actually, with the medium and small tigers I felt short changed! Like, "I really want to just kiss their faces! And snuggle up close and personal!"
The guides were so comfortable with the tigers so I knew if they would have allowed us, we could have been, too. They had a relationship with them like we have with Chara. Pulling their tails, pushing them and playing with them. The guide lifted up Eva's lips to show us her huge tiger teeth. And pulled back her paws to show us her huge claws.
This guy was focused on a toy in the air, ready to pounce at it!
The small tigers were much smaller. It's amazing the size differences. With these small guys, I really wanted to get up close and personal! Their fur was still that sweet, soft cub fur. Zachary had some fun petting one on the bead, kind of pushing it around a little, like he does with Chara, and the tiger was completely fine with it. Then our guide saw, and boy oh boy, you'd think we killed his dog. We tried to talk to him about his job and other life things and every answer ended with, "but I don't like it when people don't listen and touch the animals the way they're not supposed to." Geesh. So, please note, DO NOT touch the big, medium, or small tigers above their shoulders, your guide will freak out, and he will make you feel terrible about it. 
The tigers reminded me more of dogs than cats. I've never had a cat, so maybe cats act like this, too, but they just seemed so Chara-ish to me. This big softie rolled over so Zachary could scratch his belly more.
Next we went to the smallest tigers area. I absolutely loved this part of our time at Tiger Kingdom. In the small tigers area there didn't seem to be any rules! We took our shoes off, climbed in and were sort of free to play, snuggle and interact with the babies. They were precious. I fell in love with them instantly. They were soft and snuggly and just really wanting to play constantly. There was no sleeping there! 
You better believe I kissed these guys and snuggled with them as much as they'd let me! I wish we could have gotten better pictures of them but they never stopped moving! There is no posing or lounging, perfect for that perfect photo, with the baby tigers! We got mostly blurry pictures with that rambunctious group.

Look at those stripes! Just precious!
They had little wood blocks out for the tigers to chew on. 
We played with the smallest tigers for 20 minutes or so, which in my opinion was too short! We had a good amount of time but I never wanted to leave! After, we walked around the park a little more and enjoyed looking at the other tigers that were "off" work,  I guess. 
There were no guides around so I got as close as I possibly could to their cages and put my face up as close to them as I could. 3 or 4 tigers jumped down and came up to my face, looking me in the eyes and smelling me. Zachary was freaking out a little bit behind me because I was doing what I was doing but they were so sweet and not at all aggressive about it. I like to think because I'm an animal tamer or something but.. ya. No, that's probably it. ;) I wish I could have gotten better pictures of those little moments we had through the fence but I didn't.
A few cages over was this beast. It's funny, because as comfortable as I felt with the tigers, you'd think I'd feel the same with a lion. But no! When that lion looked at us, I freaked. Really, there's a reason they call them the King of the Jungle. They are so intense. No wonder C.S. Lewis used a lion as a character/symbol for God in the Chronicles of Narnia. He, the lion, was so majestic and just looked, I don't know, strong, powerful, like he could search your soul or something! Of course, I know, he's just a lion, and totally can't, but you know what I mean! Right? If the opportunity to go in his caged area had arisen, I seriously don't know if I would have taken it. He was intense. The tigers were playful to me but the lion, intense. I'd feel totally vulnerable. I could go on and draw some many parallels, like C.S. Lewis does, to God, but I'll stop, and let this just be a Tiger Kingdom post. :) And I'll spare you from another 12 paragraphs of my processing, and go.

Go to Tiger Kingdom if you ever get a chance! It doesn't disappoint!

The Deets
Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai
Getting there: In Chiang Mai, every taxi and tuktuk driver will know where Tiger Kingdom is. There are several that have the Tiger Kingdom logo all over their vehicle, these you can know for sure, will get you where you're wanting to go.
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