- - - 9/18/2016 - - -

Mongola

Filed under: — Andy @ 5:32 pm

Mongolia, with Josh and group.
A ten day trip with Josh, Crystal, Susana, Ward(for a day), Ochiro our awesome guide, and Ganba our comedic driver.
Mongolia Photos

Ulaanbataar(The capital):
The first thing we learned in the city is that more than a third of the countries entire population lives here. The next thing I noticed was large scale construction of apartment buildings everywhere, as I learned that the country is trying to get everyone away from living in Gers and burning coal as it is a big pollution problem for the city. Still, the city has some very nice areas and things to see. The central square was quite large and had a nice statue of Genghis Khan [actually pronounced Chinghis Khan]. We saw some monasteries, enjoyed the National Museum of Mongolian History, and enjoyed a great view of the city from the Zaisan Hill War Memorial. The last thing before we left the city was go to the amusement park, and for only $7got to go on 5 rides. Being a weekday evening the park was almost deserted, but everything was still running and we had a great time.

Eagle Valley:
The next day we took a small airplane down south to the Gobi desert. After a quick stop at the Gobi museum, we started hiking down the valley as it started to rain. Yet even with the rain, the cliffs were beautiful and the rodents were running about. I got ahead of the group and went a bit further than the usual turn around spot and the guide had to come chase me down. That night we spent our first night in a Ger camp.

Khongor Sand Dunes:
Maybe one of my favorite parts of the trip was the camel ride to the sand dunes and the hike up the near vertical face of them. By the time everyone else made it to the top we had a great view of the sunset.

Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs):
Made famous in the 1920s when American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews found a lot of dinosaur fossils and made the first discovery of fossilized dinosaur eggs. It was a very interesting place to hike around, take pictures, and pretend to look for fossils. In the evening when the sun goes down the cliffs do glow red and look like they are on fire.

Ongi Temple:
Actually temple ruins. Once a large Buddhist temple complex straddling the river, it was destroyed in 1939 when the communists took control of Mongolia. After we walked through and toured the area I took off on my own to go on a little hike to the top of the nearest peak. That evening at the Ger camp there was a very nice traditional costume show where even our guide got all dressed up.

Erdene-Zuu Monastery:
Driving on mostly unpaved roads to our next location I realized how large the Gobi desert was. Along with the surrounding steppe there was a lot of driving and downtime in the car, which we did fill a lot with car games and music. The city of Karakorum where the monastery is located was the old capital of the Mongolian empire, but again not much is left. The current monastery and accompanying museum was still an interesting cultural visit.

Ugii Lake:
A large freshwater lake with some nice lake activities. There was an archery area. We all took a boat ride and did some fishing. A Northern Pike followed my lure to the boat but decided not to bite. We went on a fun banana boat ride and did some swimming in the lake. We had fish for dinner while watching the sunset over the lake.

Hustai National Park:
We took a short horse ride when we arrived at the park, but the main attraction here was going to see the Takhi, the wild horses native to the area.

Terelj National Park:
Maybe my second favorite place on the trip because.. trees, in fall colors, and mountains. The beauty of the area was such a very different view than what we had been seeing in the Gobi desert. We visited a monastery in the mountains and a rock formation that looks like a turtle. I also took an early morning hike to not quite the top of the mountain behind our camp.

Back to Ulaanbataar:
We had one last day in the capital for some shopping, to visit the dinosaur museum, play some games at an arcade, eat Mongolian BBQ, and watch a concert complete with throat singing, dancing, and contortionists. An amazing end to an amazing trip.

See all the pictures here:
Mongolia Photos

- - - 6/18/2016 - - -

Sri Lanka

Filed under: — Andy @ 6:57 am

Our first real traveling since Melina was born and we went to Sri Lanka for a week. I knew that traveling with a one year old would be very different than if it was just the two of us, but besides some small changes in the way we travel we were really able to do most of the things we wanted to do. The major differences with this vacation was instead of using public transportation we hired a car (air conditioned) and a driver, and instead of staying in cheap dormitories we stayed in low budget hotels. We still ate as much of the local foods as we could, but also tried to get some healthy and non-spicy alternatives for Melina. Here is a short overview of the trip.

For the full photo gallery visit: Sri Lanka Photo Gallery

Our route for the week:

Negombo
Closest city to the airport. Our point of departure and return for this trip.


We explored the beach in the early morning before heading out.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Lots of elephants, also lots of tourists.

Kurunegala
We stopped here on the way to Dambula to meet up with an old Sri Lankan friend I made when I first moved to Japan. We did a home-stay at his house while his relatives showed us great hospitality, and made us the best homemade Sri Lankan foods we would have all trip. He would also accompany us for the next two days of our trip.

Minneriya National Park
The place for a safari and to see wild elephants.

Sigiriya
Like you see in the pictures, an ancient rock fortress that is not an easy climb. Still, with Melina in the carrier we made it to the top. Once at the top we were greeted with an amazing 360 view of the surroundings, as well as some wicked windy conditions. One of the highlights of the trip and a place I will not soon forget.

Dambulla Cave Temple
Ancient temple with many Buddha statues. Also Kittens.

Spice & Herbal Farm
On the way to Kandy we stopped at a Spice & Herbal Farm to get a tour of how the Sri Lankan people use a lot of the different herbs and plants Ayurvedic medicines and everyday use.

Kandy
We visited a few things around the area. Kandy Lake, the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Temple of The Tooth, Kandy Market, and also saw a traditional Kandy Dance performance (Melina slept through the entire show).

Nuwara Eliya
Up in the mountains of Sri Lanka is Nuwara Eliya the place where all the Ceylon tea is grown. Compared with the rest of the country which was very hot, Nuwara Eliya was very cold. We visited a few tea plantations and got tours of the factories complete with free tea samples. Suzuna wanted to go to have High Tea at the Grand Hotel which was also very nice.

Horton Plains National Park
My personal second favorite place in our trip. We had to get up at 5am to get there early, but the scenery was breathtaking and the 9km hiking loop around the park was one of the best hikes of my life. We were able to see the plains, forest, the World’s End cliff, streams, waterfalls, and assorted animals.

Negombo, again
For the last day of the trip we made it back to Negombo where we had a nice Sri Lankan cooking class, and visited the beach again before heading back to Japan

For the full photo gallery visit: Sri Lanka Photo Gallery

- - - 1/5/2016 - - -

Los Angeles - Other

Filed under: — Andy @ 11:09 pm

While in LA, we made it a point to go eat all the good ethnic foods and do many of the things that are not available or just very expensive in Japan.
Here is the list:
Mexican!
Philippine
Vegan-Organic
Thai
Greek
Moroccan
Italian
German
Southern Cajun
California sushi
Jewish

Melina’s favorite pastime was playing with the cat food and chasing the cats around the house.


Painting ceramics was fun

- - - 1/1/2016 - - -

Los Angeles - Rose Parade

Filed under: — Andy @ 10:55 pm

One of the things I wanted to do back in LA, was to take the wife to go see a rose parade, especially since she likes flowers and plants. I havent been to the parade since I was a kid, so I also really enjoyed going to see it once again. We also went to go see the post-parade floats up close to really see the detail involved in making them.

- - - 12/25/2015 - - -

Los Angeles - Xmas

Filed under: — Andy @ 10:46 pm

This year for winter vacation, I decided to take the wife and baby back to Los Angeles to meet the extended family, and spend an American Christmas and New Years. It was a long three week vacation, but the time seemed to go by very quickly. Melina really enjoyed her first Christmas. She loved chasing the cats at my house, the big tree in the living room, all the new toys, and all the space to crawl around in. My older and younger sisters also came back for the holidays, so she got to meet and play with her aunts and cousins.


Picking out a Christmas tree


Getting the stand put on


Taking it home!

(more…)

- - - 12/21/2014 - - -

New Zealand

Filed under: — Andy @ 11:59 pm

I had to take some leave from work before the end of the before it expires. After thinking about it for a little to long I finally decided to take a trip to go hiking and adventuring around the south island of New Zealand. Besides getting stuck in immigration at Auckland for an hour and a half, it was an awesome trip. The weather was great for most of the time, and the day it was raining we got to see waterfalls in their most impressive state. I got to see a lot of different national parks and area in the south island along with lots and lots of sheep. My tour guides and tour mates were great people and we had a really small group so we could really get to know each other pretty well. The highlight of the trip would have to be the two days we spent in the area called the Siberia Valley. We took a scenic plane ride up and along the mountain range to a valley up in between mountains where the plane landed and let us out. We then spent the entire day hiking up to Lake Crucible. The following day we spent hiking out of the valley and down to the river where a jet boat was waiting to pick us up and jet us back to the city. There were other great hikes, a nice mountain bike ride, as well as kayaking around Milford Sound (which is actually a fiord). We had a free day in Queenstown which I spent doing some canyoning. I realized that Queenstown may be the adventure capital of New Zealand, but everything is also very expensive. The food on the trip was nothing too out of the ordinary, but I did enjoy eating as much lamb and venison as I could. The venison pies are especially good. New Zealand is only place that I do hope to make it back to as there are lots of multi-day trails that seem very interesting, and I still have the entire north island to explore as well.

The full New Zealand Gallery

New Zealand Gallery

- - - 6/1/2014 - - -

Bali

Filed under: — Andy @ 4:01 am

For Memorial Day week, and the weekends before and after, I took Suzuna on a vacation to Bali. I have never been to Indonesia yet and all research points to Bali as one of the nicest places to visit, that is if you stay out of the Kuta and party areas. Other than buying the airplane tickets, and looking at a few things we wanted to do in Bali, we really had no plans and of course no hotel reservations. I was told that Ubud was a nice place, so as soon as we got to Bali that is the first area we visited. We made our plans usually one day in advance, but when we got to Ubud we found a nice place to stay and looked for something to do. The first thing that we did was go on an ATV adventure. We took our ATV through the jungle, around farmlands, and through the middle of a stream. That evening we saw a traditional Kecak dance.We spent the next few days around the Ubud area going on bicycle tours, nature discovery tours, bathed in the holy waters, and even decided to climb Mt. Batur for the sunrise. It was only about a 2 hour hike to the top, but the view was nice and the hike down along the recent lava flows was exiting. Our next stop was Lovina to see the dolphins and go to a hot spring. To see the dolphins, you have to get up and be out on the water before sunrise and if you were lucky enough could the the dolphins jumping right next to your boat. We then made our way to Amed stopping to snorkel above the sunken wreck of the USAT Liberty. From Amed we took the fast boat to the Gili Islands. We were told to avoid the biggest of the Gili islands and go to one of the smaller and quieter islands of the three. We stayed at Gili Air for the next few days doing lots of snorkeling, biking around the island, and eating a lot of good foods… until it was time to head back to Japan. For our last night, we went to Tanah Lot and watched the sun go down. There are still a few things that I wish I could have done in Bali if I had more time, but they will have to wait until the next trip.

Bali Photo Gallery

- - - 9/2/2013 - - -

Canadian Rockies

Filed under: — Andy @ 3:53 am

The last two weeks were spent with Suzuna in the Canadian Rockies. We rented a car and drove from Vancouver to Calgary stopping at all the points of interest along the way. We had an amazing time driving, hiking, camping, eating, and mountain climbing.

The full photo gallery can be found here: picasaweb.google.com/andynewman/CanadianRockies

The diving course can be seen here: Google Maps

- - - 4/7/2013 - - -

Peru

Filed under: — Andy @ 5:25 am

Peru was awesome!

I was able to visit many interesting places and have tons of great experiences during my two week excursion. The full gallery can be found here!

Nazca
We visited Nazca for one reason only, to take a plane and view the Nazca lines from above.

Ica
The wine and Pisco capital of Peru. We got to do grape stomping and lots of wine tasting.

Huacachina
Sandboarding!

Puno
Entrance to Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca
We did a homestay with a family on one of the islands on Lake Titicaca. They gave us traditional clothes, fed us traditional food, and put us to work herding sheep in the morning.


We played soccer with the local high school team. It was not a fair game mostly because we were at 3,800 meters above sea level.

Cusco
Historic capital of the Inca Empire.

The Inca Trail
We did the four day trail along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu. This was probably my favorite part of the trip. We were hiking over mountains and past lots of Inca ruins along the way. There was never a boring day. We had a great guide and porters who carried the tents, food, and equipment and a chef who made us 3 meals a day. It was not quite ‘roughing it’ as I am used to.

Macchu Picchu
Touristy, yet still awesome. We took pictures from every angle we could.

The Amazon
The last part of the trip was a few days in the Peruvian Amazon. We did a night hike, a day hikes, farm visit, night boat ride, and was also able to just relax. We got to see a lot of wildlife, plants, and spiders and bugs.

Lima
Before heading home we had one more day to explore Lima. Ken and I also took the morning to learn to surf.


Eating Guinea Pig.

- - - 3/15/2013 - - -

Off to Peru!

Filed under: — Andy @ 5:04 am

Peru