Posted by: Tony Shan | August 17, 2010

The Catch Up Entry

It’s been a couple of months since I last updated in Hong Kong, now let me catch you up on what has happened. As you know, I was in China for a little over a month running this summer camp for American high school students. I did not have access to blogs or facebook, so I couldn’t update what was happening as I promised. I did have a great experience in Dali, China, made some great friends with the students who are all at least 10 years younger than me. Just think, by the time they turn 21, I’ll be in my early 30s, now that’s a scary thought. Running the programs in China was definitely an interesting experience, I did a lot of planning and organizing. When I was there, there were times I hated the job, but now that I am back here, I kinda missing being there and hanging out with those little brats. Most of the kids are from nice families in New York, California or Florida. It was definitely fun to see the reactions of the local people when white kids speak pretty good mandarin to them. I think this language ability will definitely come in handy in some shape or form for these kids in the future.

After I came back to the states, I started packing things up for my big move to Evanston, Illinois to attend business school at Northwestern University. My mom and I decided to rent a car and drive cross country from LA to Evanston. I planned out a nice little route, where we would only drive 5-6 hours a day and stop by these places that we have never been and probably won’t go otherwise. We got a nice little 2010 Toyota Camry, packed the trunk and the backseat full of my stuff. The entire trip took about 7 days. We stopped at Flagstaff, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Amarillo, Texas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, St. Louis, Missouri and Joliet, Illinois before finally arriving in Evanston. It took about three trips to unload the car to my new apartment at McManus Hall, an apartment complex just for business students on campus. I got the job as one of three student directors, so my nice and spacious one-bedroom apartment is free of rent. I gave my mom a little tour of the campus and the city of Chicago over the last couple of days. She left this morning to go back to California, and now I am all along ready for this new chapter of my life.

This is the first time that I will be living by myself, no roommates, no suitemates, no apartmentmates, just myself. Hopefully I won’t feel too lonely. There are already so many activities and events that I got invited to, so I guess I won’t be at home that often. It is definitely a weird feeling though. It’s like I can’t believe I’m actually here. I am leaving for my Kellogg Worldwide Experience and Service Trip (KWEST) on Saturday. The trip that I selected is called KWEST Mystery, so I have no idea where I am going. That should be an interesting experience in itself. I’ll keep you posted on where I end up. Hopefully facebook/wordpress won’t be blocked at that place. Until next time…

Posted by: Tony Shan | June 9, 2010

Have i mentioned that i <3 hong kong?

I left LAX Monday afternoon for my summer camp job in Southwest China. My trans-pacific flight was covered by the company, so I didn’t get to choose when or what airlines that I got to fly with. They put me on a China Airlines flight from LAX to Hong Kong with a short layover in Taipei. This was the 2nd time that I flew into Taipei in the last 3 months. If you recall, I traveled to Taiwan in the beginning of March for my month-long Asia/Oceania trip. The flight from LA to Taipei was the rockiest flight that I’ve ever been on. I thought I was going to throw up. It didn’t help that I sat in the back of the plane where the turbulence was felt the most. The seats were so cramped, it’s even smaller than United flights which I didn’t even think was possible. The guy sitting next to me kept going to the bathroom when I’m trying to sleep, at least 3 times, so I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I did however watched a bunch of movies that I wanted to see. I saw Alice in Wonderland, which was just okay, then Valentine’s Day, which was actually better than I expected, then Wolfman, which was blahhh, and then How to Train Your Dragon, and then I caught the end of Dear John which I already seen before. So basically, I stayed awake during most of the 13 hour flight.

I arrived in Hong Kong pretty late, at 11:30 PM. So Hong Kong is pretty much my favorite city in the whole world. I know it’s crowded and humid, but somehow I just love this place. My mom used to work in Hong Kong when I was younger, so I always visited her during summer and winter breaks. I have this unexplainable attraction to this city. I think I love the overall energy, the superb transportation system, the little cafe restaurants lining up the streets. I am seriously reconsidering looking for a job here after my MBA. I took the airport express to Kowloon which took only 20 minutes on this luxury train, so much nicer/better than BART that’s for sure. The company booked me a hotel in Mong Kok, where I got some much needed rest. I went to bed around 1:30 AM and got up around 6:30 AM local time. I wanted to sleep until 8, but due the jet lag and time change, I just couldn’t sleep anymore. Now I am all refreshed, back at the airport waiting for my flight to Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan Province. I am meeting a fellow staff member, Stacey, who is flying in from New York via Taipei this morning. We will be on the same departure flight to Kunming. Once there, we will be taking a 4.5 hour bus ride to the city of Dali, where we will meet our boss Rick, the director of the Rustic Pathways China. I am excited to start training and can’t wait until the kids get here in two weeks.

I will be facebook-less while in China, because it is apparently blocked there. Hopefully, I can figure out how to use a VPN and climb over the firewall.

I will update once arriving in Dali and let you know how things are going there. Till next time…

Posted by: Tony Shan | May 28, 2010

Travel Blog Resurrected

So I am traveling again. After getting back from my Asia/Oceania trip in March, I have been home laying low and not doing much, but all is about to change in a couple of weeks.

I’ve always wanted to be a tour guide and a camp counselor, so I thought I would finally realized these two goals over the summer before I go off to business school. I interviewed for a couple of travel summer camp programs since I’ve been back home and decided to take a job to lead high school American students to this rural town in China for a language immersion program.

Rustic Pathways (, the program that I chose, is a leader in unique and affordable international community service, adventure, language and life skills programs that take high school students to some of the most exciting destinations in the world. We offer an incredible range of programs that allow teenagers to mix and match locations, types of programs, and duration for anywhere from one-week to ten-weeks in over 18 countries. The connectivity and multiple departure dates make our trips easy to link together and fit into your schedule and ensure you get the most out of your experiences abroad.

The specific program that I will be leading is called the Chinese Language Immersion Program. I will be leaving on June 8th from LAX to Hong Kong, and then take a connecting flight from Hong Kong to Kunming in the Yunnan Province in Southwest China. From Kunming, I will take a 4.5 hour bus ride to the city of Dali, where the program is held. The city of Dali, called “Old Town” by those who live here, is an ancient walled city that dates back more than 1,000 years. Stepping out onto the cobbled streets in the morning, you will be surrounded on one side by the Jade Mountains, whose 12,000-foot, snow-capped peaks tower above this little city and stretch all the way into Tibet. Tucked on the other side lie the beautiful crystal waters of Erhai Lake, whose far shores hold thousands of years of history, tales, and beauty within the little scattered villages and temples. The small Old Town of Dali is a picture-perfect image of China, and both the people and landscape have a unique peace to them that is fast disappearing in other parts of the country. Dali’s small pedestrian streets are lined with beautiful waterways and blossoming trees that create a cool, shady backdrop to the laid-back atmosphere. Small cafes and shops nestled into the ancient stone structures provide endless opportunities to shop, make new friends, and explore the secrets of this tranquil and welcoming place.

So once I arrive in Dali, I will spend about a week and half in training, getting acquainted with places and surroundings. The students will arrive on June 24th for either a 2-week or 4 week program. My employment will end on July 22nd, and that’s when I will return to the states. Basically, my housing and 3 meals a day will be covered plus a tiny stipend. So while there, I have to make sure the students leave for their Mandarin classes in the morning at 8 AM, and then I have the rest of the morning off while they are in class. I thought I might even join them for these classes sometimes. Even though I am fluent, my writing skills have deteriorated dramatically over the years from infrequent usage. This would be a good opportunity for me to reacquaint myself with my native language. I also want to spend sometime visiting the numerous tea houses in the old town and just relax, read books while sipping on different teas. After the students are done with their classes around noon, the rest of the afternoon are for me to plan different activities to do with them. Outside the stone walls of Dali, dozens of hidden wonders wait to be discovered. Explore the exotic markets of the Yi people as they hike down from the mountains to trade their goods and produce. Hiking and biking around the lake, discover the small untouched villages that line the shores of Erhai, and experience what it was like to live and fish these waters over a millennia ago. And naturally, what trip to China would be complete without a few visits to breathtaking temples nestled within the Jade peaks or tucked into the Erhai landscape? Outside the classroom you will find yourself endlessly captivated by the serene beauty and sincere welcome of the people and places of Dali. Does that sound exciting?

I am really excited for this trip. It will be a mini-vacation for me. There is internet in my room, and I plan on bringing my laptop so I will update this blog often with stories I’m sure. Unfortunately, facebook is currently blocked in China, so I won’t be on it at all =( unless I figure out how to overcome the firewalls. We shall see.

Here are some pictures of Dali and the program.

where the students will attend classes

This is the director of the program who interviewed me over the phone. I thought he would be much older, but apparently he is my age

Posted by: Tony Shan | March 25, 2010

I am the chief ofy tribe kamate!

Today was amazing! I started off the day doing a caving adventure. I had to put on a wetsuit and crawl through these awesome caves 30 meters undergound. These caves are win formed my water dripping down on limestones over millions of years. The water which contains carbon dioxide brings out the calcium carbonate out of the stones and make these awesome shapes underground. There are also glow worms which are maggots that live in these cave walls. Their poop apparantly glows in the dark. I also got to get on this black tube and just drift on the waters in the caves.

After caving we went to our Maori cultural experience for the night. Maoris are the aboriginal people in new zealand very similar to those cultures in Hawaii and Tahiti. We had a traditional Maori meal which were steamed underground. Kinda bland to be honest but very light. We had a show after dinner and I was chosen to be the chief for our 16 person stray bus group because I was the oldest male. I led my tribe to this big room barefoot and was challenged by the tribe. The warriors with their weapons did their chant and offered me a olive leave before my feet. I have three choices that I can make as the chief. The first was to do nothing but that means I have to take my tribe and leave their terroritory. The second was to step over the leave but that signals war and we will be attacked. The third was to pick it up and step back signalling that we come in peace and we trust each other. Of course I had to pick number three and that’s when their chief welcome me by shaking my hand an press his nose to mine. I had to do that with everybody. After the welcome, they did a couple of songs and dances and that’s when the interactive part began.

The guys were separated from the girls. We the guys have to take off our shirts and learn the chant. It’s the chant that the new zealand all blacks do before each of their rugby games. Since I was the chief I have to lead it. I am not a very angry person so it was hard for me to scream out the chant and l lost my voice half way. After we learned the chant I had to learn the men/warrioris and perform it for the ladies in our tribe. It was a lot of fun even though I can’t really talk anymore.

Tomorrow I am going whitewater rafting and we are going down a 7 meter waterfall how awesome is that! I might do bungee jumping in the afternoon if I don’t chicken out.

Picture 1: that’s a statue of a kiwi national bird of new zealand not the fruit

Posted by: Tony Shan | March 23, 2010

Can’t surf the web, how about some wave then

It’s Wednesday here in New Zealand. Last night was interesting. The group as a whole had a BBQ dinner where we mingled and talked. I never thought I would meet a jewish person that I didn’t like, well the isreali guy sure changed that. As I mentioned yesterday he seemed extremely douche, well he is and crazy too. He says that he is 30 and runs a software company in Isreal, but he acts like a little boy. In the words of the english girls, “that guy is mental”. He kept making these references about his “little guy” to the German girls, I don’t know it was just bizarre. Anyways we did go to the hot water beach last night. Because of the low tide, we were able to dig holes in the sand and hot water will come up. It has something to do with the volcanos and lava or something like that. The Europeans can’t say dig holes instead they called it grab a hole, sounded weird to me. The english talks about snogging which I have only heard and read in Harry potter.

So this morning we left hahei for raglan, a famous surf beach where the movie endless summer was filmed. I finally decided to learn surfing and boy am I glad that I did. The lodge we are staying in tonight has a surfing school so I signed up for a 3 hour lesson. My instructor Andy was really awesome. It was just me and another guy so it was like a private lesson. First we had a theory class and I was taught the 4-step technique. Then we went to the beach and put on the wetsuit and get our actual board. I was surprisingly alright. I stood up on the first try and caught some really good waves all the way on to the beach. I think the hardest part was dragging the board back into the water to wait for a good wave. That board got so heavy and when my energy was depleting, it just took me forever to get back into the water. I really enjoyed it though and I think I want to do it more often now. Maybe when I get home in LA, I can finally hit the beaches and surf rather than just watch other people do it. I do think I will be sore tomorrow.

I am getting along with everyone on tour. I am having good conversations with a lot of them so that is good at least. I was craving rice today so I was able to search out a Chinese place for lunch today. It wasn’t very good but I don’t think I can have a salad or sandwich anymore today.

Tomorrow we are heading out again at 8 in the morning to go to waikaimo and then to our Maori experience a night. So more fun adventures to come!

Picture 1: the free wine we got from th tour called the stray dog piss and I never tasted dog piss but I imagine it would taste like this wine

Picture 2: this flavored sparking water drink that is “world famous in new zealand” now does that make sense?

Picture 3: our guide made this ambrosia salad for our dessert last night which is made up of yogurt, cream, frozen fruits and marshmellow and it is what I call a bowl of grossness

Picture 4: this ice cream was actually really good a New Zealand specialty called hokey pokey basically vanilla ice cream with honeycomb pieces

Picture 5: my honey lemon chicken over fried rice lunch it was ehh

Picture 6: the maku beach that surfed at today

Posted by: Tony Shan | March 23, 2010

I am a stray

I wa picked up at my hostel this morning at 8:30 by the stray bus which is an orange mini coach with a trailer. This is from their brochure. “The stray tour is designed for adventurous travelers. We link outstanding attractions on and of the beaten track; we take time to do things through the travel days”. So my bus has 15 people. I am the lone American which I was a bit surprised by. There are two girls from Canada, one isreali guy who is extremely douche, one guy from Switzerland and everyone else is either from Germany or England. We took off for Hahei beach today. It’s on the coromandel pennisula which I am almost certain there is one in Mexico too. Once we checked in to our accomandation for the night, we took off for a walk to Catheral Cove where Narnia Prince Caspian was filmed. The walk took about an hour each way. En route I bonded with the English girls . They sure are travelling a long time. I thought I was travelling a while for a month but they are all traveling for 6 months. It’s crazy! I can’t imagine being away from home that long. We are having a kiwi BBQ tonight as a group, should be a lot of fun. And tide dependent, we might go dig our own hot water pool tonight!

Picture 1: view of Auckland

Picture 2: the brown kiwi my hostel last night

Picture 3: Hahei beach

Picture 4: the stray bus

Picture 5: Catheral Cove

Picture 6: view from the walk

Posted by: Tony Shan | March 22, 2010

Auckland not to be confused with Oakland

I flew from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand today to start the last leg of my month long trip. My flight was delayed again but this time it was only by 30 minutes or so. I flew Air New Zealand for the very first time. It’s actually not bad. I sat in an emergency exit row so it was very spacious. I think I like the entertainment system the most, there are multiple channels of movies and the best thing is that you can fastforward or rewind.

My flight landed in the afternoon. They sure ask a lot of questions going through immigration and customs. The immigration officer was asking me about what I am studying because I put student as my occupation and how am I paying for my trips if I am a student. It’s not like I am permanently staying here, what’s with the 6th degrees.

I checked into my hostel in Ponsonby which is a suburb town of Auckland. I took the airbus from the airport to city center and then transferred on to a city link bus. The hostel is pretty crappy. They don’t even have blankets. I don’t know why it is recommended in the guidebooks.

Tomorrow morning I am starting the stray bus tour. Basically it’s a tour for backpackers like me. We get on this orange bus and the experienced driver/guide will take us from Auckland to Wellington in 6 days. Of course we will passby various towns on the way down and do different activities. I think tomorrow will be kayaking into these really cool caves. I will keep y’all updated.

Posted by: Tony Shan | March 21, 2010

Aren’t these rocks remarkable?

So my Cairns post is a lost cause. It wouldn’t upload and then deleted itself. Maybe I will retype again when I get back to the states. For now all you need to know about my Cairns experience is that I got extremely seasick and threw up on the great barrier reef, yeah brought back wonderful memories of puking my guts out while scuba diving in cancun, should have known…

Now on to day 2 of my two day kangaroo island adventure tour. We got up at 7:30 for a 8:30 call time to our day. Our first stop was to these rocks called the remarkable rocks. They are basically sculptured by nature over millions of years. There was this whole scientific explaination that our guide told us about how they were formed, but I’ll spare you all those details. These rocks overlook a cliff onto the ocean. It was a pretty magnificent view. We took several pictures with all the different kinds of rock sculptures. Apparently if you have seen the movie December Boys starring Daniel Radcliffe, which I unfortunately have, many scenes were filmed on/in these rocks.

Next we went to see this lighthouse which was in operation in the 1800s and then to Admiral’s Arch which was this cave that houses many seals from New Zealand. The rest of the day was spent spotting kangaroos and other various animals native to the island.

I am now sitting at Adelaide airport, my flight to Sydney is delayed by 4 hours due to mechanical problems. It’s just my luck an now my remaining plans in Sydney is all screwed up. Originally I wanted to go to Watson bay to see the famous “the gap” and then go to the wildlife park to take a picture with a koala, but now I won’t arrives until 7pm and everything will be either too dark or closed :-(. I am staying by Coogee beach tonight so I guess I will just hang around the beach then. I am off to New Zealand tomorrow morning to finish the last leg of my trip!

Picture 1: overlooking the remarkable rocks

Picture 2: the remarkable rocks in the distance

Picture 3: the lighthouse

Picture 4: Admiral’s Arch

Picture 5: lots of kangaroos

Posted by: Tony Shan | March 19, 2010

I spy a kangaroo

we were picked up at 6:15 this morning via a nice coach to take us to the ferry for kangaroo island. Kangaroo island is apparently the third largest island of Australia aside from the mainland. This island has kangaroos and koala bears in their wild habitat. The ferry ride wasn’t as bad as I thought. it only took 45 minutes on this big ferry and we were on this really deserted looking island.

There are ten people on this tour plus our tour guide Kate from Adelaide. There is an American couple from Minnesota, a couple from Iceland, a couple from France and two German girls and me and my aunt of course. First stop was to this sheep farm where we saw a live demostration of shearing the wool off of the sheep and then spinning the wool into yarn. These sheeps produce merino wool which make into these merino wool sweaters that gap sells and which I own several of. Next we went to this euclyptecus distiller where they make oils and lotions. The oil suppose to help with cuts and burns and really effective against infection. I bought a lip balm which wa great. It’s like putting honey on my lips. After that we went to seal bay where there were hundreds of seals big and small just lying there on the beach. The cubs were a lot cuter. We also went to a sand dune where I sand boarded. It’s basically a skateboard and you can either sit on it and sled down or stand like a snowboad. I did both and it was so much fun. The only downside was I got sand all over me. The highlight of the day was when we saw wild koalas and kangaroos. there were all like 3 feet away from me. It was amazing.

For dinner, our guide cooked us BBQ with steak and chicken. It was delicious. All the couples bought wine and drank while my aunt and I shared one beer because we are Asian and can’t drink. Right now we are sitting by this campfire site where the guy from Minnesota is trying to start a fire while everyone just sat around watching. The Icelandic lady started singing folk songs in Icelandic. and I was thinking who do you think you are bjork? hehe but it was really cute.

Tomorrow we have another full day on the island. My previous post on cairns is not posting for some reason. I will try to figure it out.

picture 1: town hall of Adelaide, south Australia

picture 2: this awesome lamb salad I had at this Greek restaurant in Adelaide

picture 3: this kangaroo that we petted

picture 4: the beach view

picture 5: our dinner

picture 6: this gross looking dessert they try to feed us. it’s canned fruit with vanilla custard

Posted by: Tony Shan | March 15, 2010

I am on top of the sydney harbour bridge!

I met my aunt at our hotel the old Sydney holiday inn at the rocks in around noon time. It is kinda nice to travel with an older relative, because I get to stay in nicer hotels, definitely an upgrade from the hostels I normally would stay in if travelling on my own.

We went to the Sydney Tower first, the tallest structure in Sydney. I forgot the exact number of floors but I think it is somewhere around 87 floors. It was a clear day so we got a really nice circular view of the entire city. Included in the admissions is Oztrek. Basically, I sat in this chair that moves and shakes while the big screen shows images of various attractions in Sydney. It supposed to be a simulate experience as if you are traveling on this spaceship . It was pretty lame to tell you the truth. I just got really dizzy.

After the Sydney Tower, we walked through town towards the Sydney Opera House. It is a really magnificent structure. Very scenic with the harbour as the backdrop. They were building a stage for an outside opera show so o wasn’t able to climb the steps to the front, but we did get really good pictures with the outside of the opera house.

After the Opera house, we went to the bottom of the Sydney harbour bridge to get ready for our bridgeclimb. This is a private company that gives tours and let you climb to the top of the bridge. It wa expensive but definitely worth the trip. I would highly recommend it. My friends Kevin and Bobby did the climb during their honeymoon and really enjoyed it, so it was on the top of my todo list in Sydney. We chose the twilight climb so we got to see the views both during the day, the sunset and at night. We had to get suited in this bodysuit. I thought it was going to be really cold climbing to the top so I wore jeans and brought a hoodie, but it turned ou to be 22 degrees Celsius and very humid so they recommended doing the climb either in shorts or underwear. We had all these equipments that we attached to our suit such as a radio so we can hear our climb leader, a fleece in a pouch in case it gets cold, searchlight for when it gets dark etc. We were harness in this really unique latch thingy. The climb itself wasn’t too bad, the views were amazing. We got to see the sun setting, a clear aerial view of the Sydney opera house, and when it got dark, all the lights turned on in the city, it was really cool. Our group had nine people, two people from boston, two from new Hampshire, one guy who just turned 70 from Sydney, a lady from hong kong and a lady from singapore who we think are lovers. It was kinda funny because my aunt just flew in from hong kong, and I flew in from singapore. Our climb leader thought we were on our honeymoon. I get that a lot, when I travel with my mom, people think I am her younger boyfriend. We took pictures in 4 various locations on the bridge, one with the opera house as th backdrop, one on the summit of the bridge, one with the sunset, and one with the city at night. These photos you had to pay for them and they are really expensive. So in the end we chose 3 better ones to purchase. We did get a group shot for free but everyone looked hideous. We started at 17:35 and finished at 20:45. Like I mentioned earlier, it was a really great experience, so I would highly recommend it.

I am on a flight from Syndey to Cairns right now. We got up at 3:30 in the morning because our flight was at 6:25. We are flying jetstar, a regional carrier which is a subsidiary of Qantas, kinda like southwest airlines in the states.

On the agenda today is a whitewater rafting trip down the Barron river. It will be my first whitewater rafting experience so I am really excited. I hope I don’t get motion sickness.

picture 1: view from top of the Sydney tower

picture 2: The Sydney Opera House

picture 3: The Sydney harbour bridge

picture 4: a picture of the cast of glee doing the bridgeclimb

picture 5: me in the wonderful looking bodysuit, my aunt said I looked like a sewage worker

picture 6: we had dinner a this German restaurant. this is a pork knuckle it was gigantic

picture 7: Sydney opera house at night. this was taken on the rooftop of our hotel

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