Celebrating Chinese New Year for the First Time

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God is so good and I can express only thankfulness to all He has provided this January. After twenty years, something amazing happened and I was able to celebrate Chinese New Year for the first time in Shanghai with my family. He brought me to home in time for the one rare week of the year in China when relatives and friends from across cities, provinces, borders are brought back together.31788059114_ce7f27f79f_k_zpsfouvb3xd

And of course being me, I accidentally left my camera behind when coming across the extravagantly decorated Cheng Huang Miao (City God Temple of Shanghai) that lights up every night for the new year holiday.  😦 31788066104_9e4ce06012_k_zpsvkjvngriNevertheless, Cheng Huang Miao was more beautiful and crowded than ever with everybody wearing headbands with little chickens to celebrate the new year of the rooster.

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Water Lily Season at Guyi Gardens

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On this humid day in Shanghai, the sky is the color of sea foam and the air hangs heavily on our shoulders, we feel it as we walk down the street, eyes hungering after ice cold water and the breeze from the neighboring convenient store’s open doors.

(Apologies again, this is one of many belated posts regarding my summer in Shanghai)

img_1877_zpsrxxgfolgWe arrived at Guyi Garden in the midst of the summer heat. It was morning yet the sun had already emerged in full bloom along with the garden’s water lilies. img_1826_zpscln3n6wb

Located in Nanxiang of the Jiading District, Guyi Garden has been around since the Ming Dynasty when it served as a private garden to a magistrate. Through the dynasties, the garden continued to expand and transform into what it is today: a public space for enjoying nature, conversation, morning exercise routines, and gatherings of retired friends playing cards.

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Local Shanghai Style Breakfast

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There is no other way to start off the day than with a traditional Shanghainese-style breakfast – passed on from generation to generation. They call it Da Bing You Tiao (大饼油條) or Chinese Sesame Bread & Fried Dough because these two popular breakfasts foods are simply one of the most genius combinations out there. The crunchyness of the You Tiao with the savory green onion flavor of Da Bing.

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7am in Pudong. If you look close enough, lurking behind shiny residential buildings and corporate offices, what do you find? Only if you are as lucky as us, an old-fashioned marketplace thriving with customers and flavor.

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The menu! Everything is so cheap yet so delicious. I might be extremely biased but I think it definitely beats the local IHOP. In terms of USD, everything on the menu is selling for less than 50 cents. As a poor college student, I wish we had one of these in rural Indiana (please?).

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Shanghai’s London Inspired Town – Thames Town

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Out of nowhere, in Shanghai’s Songjiang new district, you may stumble upon this extraordinary British-inspired “village” – Thames Town, whose name is derived from London’s River Thames.

We came here during our day trip to Songjiang and almost, for a second, I got all flustered thinking somehow I had been dragged back to the western civilization against my will.img_1651_zps17y0qvai

The relatively new Thames Town was initially constructed in 2006 as part of a One City, Nine Towns plan under the watch of a British architecture firm. Many of the buildings are exactly modeled off of existing establishments in England, including the church in the image above.

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Now, Thames Town has become extremely popular for wedding photography (we saw countless grooms & brides running around with their photographers) and also hobbyists, arms filled with spare lens (I can relate to this feeling).

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Returning to Shanghai (终于回到上海 )

 

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Somehow its 5am in the morning and I’m clumsily stumbling into a plane, hair messily tied in a bun and luggage squeaking behind. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been back to Shanghai but the routine still remains the same – skyscrapers and fields transforming into specks of colors before my eyes, entering into the evening black of the Pacific, 15 hours above the clouds…

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I’ve always thought of distance as a physical representation of separation. 7,233 miles between the USA and China – add in the language barrier, time zones, and strikingly different cultures… its always surreal to wake up from a nap and end up on the other side of the world.

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Colors of Antelope Canyon

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With no surprise, one of the prized natural treasures of Northern Arizona is Antelope Canyon, the renowned Navajo slot canyon known for its rusty warm hues and sharp textures. 39_zps1y3s3frc

We arrived on a cold winter’s day with everybody wrapped up in sweaters and dangling camera straps. It was quite a sight to see the range of tourists, faces of all ages and race clicking away on their photo-taking devices.

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Overcoming Fears at Horseshoe Bend

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Trembling legs, shortness of breath, and a sudden fear of a very dramatic death? The symptoms are complete – congrats, you are scared of heights. Unfortunately, a phobia of heights does not pair well when your greeted by the grand Horseshoe Bend – a majestic, photogenic wonder in Northern Arizona.

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Confession time: As a photographer, I’d like to think that I’m willing to make sacrifices for the sake of good photography. However, between the choice of life and death, I think I prefer the former which requires me to stay as far away from jagged cliffs (with crowds of tourists pointing their sharp selfie sticks around like medieval swords). After all, I place well in being one of the clumsiest people out there.

To take the perfect picture at Horseshoe Bend, one must overcome their fear of heights and boldly embrace the tall barrier-less cliffs. I didn’t get far until my knees started trembling. (Unlike the brave lady in the photo above, I didn’t gather the courage to take the perfect picture)

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