Monument Valley

2 hours away from the ever popular Horseshoe Bend is Monument Valley. I didn't think this national park would be the highlight of our road trip, but it made the biggest impact on me. I'm sure everyone who's grown up in the US has seen this image somewhere. I just never knew what it was called, and had mistaken it for something akin or related to the Grand Canyon.

We were with Dineh Bekeyah 2.5 hour tour, and I highly highly recommend this tour if you're thinking of going down there.


The breadth of this place really can't be explained. They took us down in an open jeep. You can't really tell if you're still standing in reality or in some kind of made up place; suffice to say in that moment, the power of what nature can build really seeps into you.


There were several scenic points and resting sites where small shops were set up selling interesting jewelry and home goods, some wood and some made of animal bones.

The great thing about our tour group was that they had access to restricted areas. They had an option to check out the hogans and learn a little about the way of living for some Navajo people.


They took us into a female hogan, and spoke to us about the way we should walk in and out, and the symbolism on the way entrance was facing. The inside of it felt much larger than from the outside, and the temperature was quite moderate. There was a pleasant smell from the wood and the earth.


I was lucky enough to capture some very nice clouds during our tour, and even luckier in that right after it, it started pouring. This was an incredible place of land formations, but what made it even more than just nature, was the feeling of something spiritual, something mysterious in the way the rocks stood, and in the distance, a glimpse into another time.

Death Valley

The US has some amazing national parks; Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Redwood to name a few known ones. I've always heard of Death Valley, but I never thought of going there, simply because while the name sounds like mysterious running down the back, the prospect of seeing a land of "dead" in my mind wouldn't entertain for maybe more than 2 mins tops. But go we did, and I'm glad, because yes, it's beautiful, it's frightening, a bit eye opening, but sincerely it just reinforced my notion of never put me in a survival race on the desert please.


After the initial "oohing" and "aahing" at Zabriskie, it was off to Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation in North America at 282 ft below sea level. The ground was made of hardened salt. We tasted it, and that was some pretty good preservatives.


Of course, some of the most impressive sights involved the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. I had never seen real sand dunes, and even at the considerably smaller scale they were at Death Valley, I was bloody impressed. Every movie that involved any sand dunes flew through my mind, and nothing compared to the sight of those endless peaks.


It would've been the icing on the cake to stay the night in the desert, as half of it does come out at night. But we have a four day grand trip coming up, and there was a martini with my name on it waiting back at home, so we had to make due with a shot of golden hour as our tiny car pulled away from big desert.


Industrial Zen

On the heels of the last post, I've always been quite enamored with the color and form of an industrial, wabi-sabi styled architecture and home decor. The combined texture of metal, aged and colored wood, with dark ceramic interior decors exudes this soothing, rustic feel of times past and at the same moment, embraces modern lines and forms. Here are some wonderful color and material profiles:  


Colors on the Table

I have a fascination with food in general, and even more fascination with food photography. And now that the art of photographing food has gone to such a level, the color palettes on them are as in depth as a good landscape or portrait. So today's a post in homage to some good rustic potrayal of food staging.


Streams of Consciousness

Steam of consciousness drawings

I've been sort of exploring this idea of drawing whatever comes to my hand, my mind at one particular moment and not letting myself plan to draw. Recently I've come to question why people stop doodling and start "drawing", because what drawing meant for a kid is straight pen to paper quickfire, of the moment, with no regard to how it "should" look but the very concept of "it is what it is". I very much miss and yearn for that kind of freedom. As I got older, drawing took on this very technical term and even before I drew, I was preoccupied with the fact that it should look like something and it should mean something.

And so, last year, I've started trying to relax and just go back to drawing as a way of expressing the paths of my mind, and letting it surprise me with the choices my hand took. I should think that these drawings really depicts who I am and where I am at the moment, with as little pretentiousness as possible.

Guilin, China - A Poetry

While planning our one month getaway to China, we knew we had to take in some nature. My husband kept mentioning "the mountains". Guilin had those. After a lot of hassle booking the tickets through a Chinese travel app (damn you, c-trip), we were ready to go. Never. Take. Shanghai Airlines. Again.

That plane looked like a backdoor bathroom in bar that only serves warm Bud Lights. The stuffing was coming out of the chairs. I tried to peel my eyes away from any joining of hand-rest to chair, or chair to chair, or crevices between chairs. Stains on the compartments above that I only hoped were some misplaced melted chocolates. I felt sorry for the staff who had to walk on those carpeted aisles, they were nice people too.

But we did finally arrive. Our first hotel was in Xiangshan, named Elephant Trunk Hill Hotel. It was a lovely little place, we had a double that led out into a cute terrace. Unfortunately, it was so hot and the mosquitos were little missiles zooming around outside, we kept ourselves locked up.

A busy little lady worked at a tourist booth in a corner of the reception area. Nice but a bit frantic to get us onto any sort of tour short of launching us out of our chairs. We chose a boat tour down the LiJiang River into Yangshuo.

If I could somehow avoid tours, I would at all costs. But I hadn't the legs to swim down that river. Next time, I'm renting those small motorboats down the LiJiang. But at that time, at the crack of dawn, we were ushered into a tiny bread van with a chatty tour guide and her little microphone of terror.


She tried to sell us the range, from perfumes to nuts to local stories. I sat with my sunglasses on and gave my best washed out foreigner look as I can when she came around.

We got onto the boat at midday, and here's the obligatory photo porn of those famous mountains.







Of course, the best time of day for these photos would've been nearing sunset. I was able to snatch something closer to the ideal off the main bridge in Yangshuo.


As for the hotel, we had outdone ourselves. The Zen Garden Resort stole our hearts with their pictures, and we splurged and went for the best room in the bit.









One of the perfect places to relax and take in the countryside. They also provided electric mopeds outside for anyone to use. No disclaimers, no waivers for fools. Just a total trust that if you eat dirt, you do so on your own time.

In small rural areas like Guilin, electric mopeds are the thing to do. We zipped through small back roads, strained our necks to observe around the corners of the colorful local abodes. We flew past green moss-covered mountains as the evening sun set fire to the lush countryside. The rush and the feeling of freedom the best I've ever had.





We did visit a touristy part of Yangshuo in a small sector between West Street and Pantao Road. Here you will find your Starbucks and your fast food chains, but also some very delightful little alleyways full of local shops.


Last but not least, I did manage to only get a small inking of what I saw. 3 days in Guilin was too short it seemed, but somehow perfect enough to leave a taste of want in the back of our throats for next time.


Shanghai Part 1 - The Chaos.

I had been planning to make a trip back to China for a while now. The last time I was in Shanghai was 2003...likely 2003. China is as complicated to describe as the US. The good, the bad, it's all there in the open, you can see it the moment your feet touches the ground.

Whatever the case, China is charming to me. I may hate it sometimes, but I'm irrevocably drawn to the "busyness". The absolute buzzing, standing in just a whirlwind of change.


The New York of China. It's the same confusing, harmonizing intermingling of the old and the new, the foreigners and the locals, and the push of international influence is so clearly felt.

My husband sent pictures of Shanghai back to his father in Switzerland. His dad asked where he was. He's thinking of old architecture, pagoda roofs and something he's seen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

You've gotta dig a bit deeper for that in Shanghai. If you peek in alleyways, you might see the lasting bastions of the real Shanghai.



But most of the time yeah, it's super malls. Pretty ones at least.


And can I say. Please can we just up the coffee space game in the US? Chinese coffee shops has got their "home away from home" concept design down pat. I'm always excited to go hunt down new coffee shops, even in the rural areas of Guilin they were designed to the teeth.

XinTianDi (新天地)

One of the places that really struck me in this cosmopolitan stew.  Shanghai_Images-1-19

So charming, the little alleyways that twists here and there. A real whiff of traditional Shanghai architecture mix with juuuust a right amount of stink of a tourist trap. But the maze of brightly and bold colored little shops and eateries are just brilliant. And those candied apples, they're nasty, but you just can't stop eating them.



Of course the FOOD .

One major mistake we made was when we first got to Shanghai, we were recommended what Chinese people wanted to eat, which was whatever international mash-up was in the fad. Oh no no. We want the traditional, the everyday blue collar worker, 38¥ a pop, shabby little hole in the wall with a long line of people type of goodness.






Next Shanghai post will be the old towns, Zhujiajiao and Zhaojialou!