Would You Stay at a Panda Hotel?

Would you stay in a Panda Hotel? We did and we loved it!

During our whirlwind stay in Hong Kong, we were treated like royalty, stayed in a suite that looked like a movie set and ate the most amazingly delicious food.

And, yes, there were pandas… CONTINUE READING >> 

Panda Hotel in Hong Kong

When we began planning our stay in Hong Kong finding a hotel was the first task. Of the several we looked into, the intriguing Panda Hotel was our top choice – mainly because Veronica is crazy nuts about animals.

Though Panda Hotel is one of the largest hotels in Hong Kong, with nearly a thousand guest rooms, they most certainly managed to keep a personal touch to their friendly service, starting with our jet-lagged arrival.

We were greeted warmly and the check-in was fast, efficient and personalized. VERY welcome after a sixteen hour flight.

The lobby of the Panda Hotel in Hong Kong

Panda Hotel in Hong Kong

That first night we basically collapsed into bed, but the next day we got to know the Panda.

The iconic namesake “bears” are everywhere… one might even call it Panda-monium! Actually, quite fittingly, Pandamonium is the name of the gift shop.

The Transformers Suite at the Panda Hotel in Hong Kong!

The lighthearted atmosphere continued in our Transformer-themed suite. Based on the movie series and the Hasbro toys, the room was sleek, shiny and futuristic.

We felt like we were sleeping on a movie set – a REALLY comfortable movie set. Like the rest of the hotel, every need we had was met – and then some.

The Transformers Suite at the Panda Hotel in Hong Kong!

Panda Hotel in Hong Kong

We had a high-tech coffee machine at the waiting in the mornings and fluffy terry cloth robes and towels were most appreciated at night after running around Hong Kong like maniacs.

But as fun as the whimsical decor of the lobby area and our Transformer suite was, the service was serious.

The Panda staff went out of their way to be sure our stay in Hong Kong was perfect – we tapped into their vast knowledge of the city, receiving sightseeing tips, restaurant suggestions and transportation hints.

When we needed a taxi, we were given cards with tailor-made, handwritten Chinese translations to give to our drivers, insuring worry-free travels about the city.

The Panda Cafe in the Panda Hotel, Hong Kong

Our days began in the Panda Café, where we poured over our guidebooks and maps, charting out our upcoming adventures.

Breakfast was served buffet-style and included dim sum, a ramen station, as well as western world favorites.

When we came “home” exhausted from our sightseeing, the buffets offered a sensational selection of appetizers, soups, main entrées and desserts well into the night. The seafood was amazing – carefully prepared works of art, each morsel.

YinYue at Panda Hotel in Hong Kong

As suited as the Panda Café was for exhausted-GypsyNester, casual dining, we wanted a special night on the town on our final evening in Hong Kong. That’s where the fabulous YinYue filled the bill.

On the top of the high-rise hotel, YinYue commands dazzling panoramic view of the world’s most vertical city through floor-to-ceiling windows.

YinYue at Panda Hotel in Hong Kong

We were more than happy to let the chef decide our culinary fate, so we ordered the special menu.

Each course arrived at the table with flair and elegance. We even got to try jellyfish!

On our way out of Hong Kong the only complaint we had was that none of the hotel guests were actual pandas.

Thanks to Panda Hotel for providing a three-night stay! As always, all opinions are our own.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Delve deeper:
See all of our antics in Hong Kong!
Explore the enormity (and beauty) of Big Buddha
Check out the celebrated Jumbo Kingdom in Aberdeen Harbor
View the wares on the Tonic Food & Dried Seafood Streets
Learn our tips on how (and how NOT to) fly to Asia
Continue along with us on our Amazing Asian Cruise though China, South Korea and Japan!

YOUR TURN: We found this place wonderfully whimsical. Would YOU stay at the Panda Hotel?

Un-nesting. Could it be Blissfully Real?

I’m constantly searching for material that dispels my internal anti-mantra, “You are a bad mommy. You shouldn’t be so happy that your children have left the nest. You are a bad…” In my latest frantic search, I came across a theory that I love. Un-nesting.

Suzanne Koven, M.D. writes in her post for Psychology Today entitled “The Un-Nesting Instinct”:

Celia’s story started out sounding pretty familiar-a cliché almost. She was fiftyish and going through menopause and, in addition to the weight gain and hot flashes, she found herself irritable and sad. Her children, she told me, were a particular source of sadness. “You mean because they’re growing up, moving away?” I asked. ‘No,’ answered Celia, ‘Because they’reCONTINUE READING >>

I’m constantly searching for material that dispels my internal anti-mantra, “You are a bad mommy. You shouldn’t be so happy that your children have left the nest. You are a bad…”

What keeps that inner nag going? Guilt? Self reflection? Stupidity? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, it is what it is.

In my latest frantic search, I came across a theory that I love. Un-nesting.

Suzanne Koven, M.D. writes in her story for Psychology Today entitled “The Un-Nesting Instinct“:

“Celia’s story started out sounding pretty familiar-a cliché almost. She was fiftyish and going through menopause and, in addition to the weight gain and hot flashes, she found herself irritable and sad. Her children, she told me, were a particular source of sadness. “You mean because they’re growing up, moving away?” I asked. ‘No,’ answered Celia, ‘Because they’re not.’‘”

WOW! You bet my interest was piqued – could I finally have an answer, and from a doctor, no less?

Dr. Koven continues: “This ‘un-nesting instinct’ is the opposite of what some women experience at the end of pregnancy when they find themselves scrubbing floors, straightening drawers and otherwise ‘feathering the nest'”

Could it be that my un-nesting instinct is just as potent as the nesting instinct? Are my feelings just as valid now as when I was pregnant and wanting to feather our little home with love?

She goes on to add: “At menopause a woman may find herself with a very different urge: to get rid of stuff instead of cleaning and rearranging it, to downsize.”

THAT’S IT! The validation I needed! Of course, Dr. Koven insists that her obsevation with Celia is just a theory, but WHAT A THEORY! I’m taking it as fact and going on with my bad self. And this Celia chick? My kind of gal.

Then there is this survey that further bolsters my mood:

According to a Del Webb survey (tip o’ the GN hat to Grace Curtis who found these stats for us!):

58 percent (of the Baby Boom Generation) say they are or were emotionally ready to get the kids out of the house. Males (70 percent) are significantly more likely to be emotionally prepared than females (55 percent.)

The older the Boomers become the more ready they are to clear the Nest. In fact 71 percent of the Boomers between 53-58 years old are emotionally ready to be Empty Nesters.

I am not alone.

And, best of all, I have some anti-venom for the “bad mommy” anti-mantra.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Do you find validity in the un-nesting theory? Are you one of the 58% that are or were ready for the empty nest? Is my “bad mommy” mantra correct?

Dispatch Two – Our Amazing Asian Cruise!

Our amazing Asian live-blog continues!

Follow along LIVE with us as we discover China, South Korea and Japan. We’ll be bring you The Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, Dalian, Busan, Nagasaki and all the fabulous entertainment, the activities, the food and fun aboard the ms Volendam!… CONTINUE READING >> 

PREVIOUS DISPATCH: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Zhujiajiao Watertown
DAY NINE: Climbing the Wall & Cultivating Harmony

Time to check off a big bucket list item today as we head to The Great Wall of China about an hour outside the capital city of Beijing.

The Great Wall of China

The section of the wall that we are visiting is actually only one piece in the series of several walls begun several centuries Before Christ and built over a span of nearly two thousand years by many different emperors. Combined these make up what is known as The Great Wall.

The Great Wall of China

During The Ming Dynasty, in the mid 1300s until the late 1500s, this part of the fortification was built to protect the seat of power from the Mongols to the north. Then after the fall of the dynasty in 1644, the wall was deemed unnecessary and left to decay.

Click here to see more of our adventure at the Great Wall!

The Great Wall of China

Over the next few centuries it had nearly fallen apart until restoration was undertaken in 1984. Because of those efforts we found this incredible landmark in condition to climb hundreds of feet up the incredibly steep side of the mountain, where we got amazing views of the world’s most famous wall on both sides of the valley.

The Great Wall of China

Click here to see more of our adventure at the Great Wall!

From The Great Wall we head back into Beijing to the Summer Palace and the Garden of Cultivated Harmony. The palace and man-made lake it overlooks, were built around 1750 by the Emperor Qianlong during the Qing Dynasty, which was last of the dynasties, as a birthday gift for his mother.

Delve deeper into Beijing!

It’s Always Nice to Have a Summer Home!

The Summer Palace of Beijing, China

But 150 years later Empress Dowager Cixi made it home and proceeded to instigate all sorts of political skulduggery using her son, and later her nephew, as figureheads for her reign.

The Summer Palace of Beijing, China

See more photos and info about The Summer Palace

The covered walkway of The Summer Palace of Beijing, China

By walking about a mile around the shore of Kunming Lake and the amazingly ornate covered walkway, we got a great vantage point for looking up Longevity Hill at the palace. The landscape here is very flat, so the hill is actually made from the earth that was removed while digging out the lake.

Delve deeper into Beijing!

The Summer Palace of Beijing, China

Before heading back to the Volendam, we are treated to sunset above the Palace – just like royalty.

Sunset at The Summer Palace of Beijing, China

See more photos and info about The Summer Palace

DAY TEN: Forbidden, No More

The iconic picture of Chairman Mao is always in perfect condition.

Day two in Beijing, formerly known as Peking because of a mispronunciation by early European visitors, begins in Tiananmen Square. The square is the third largest city square in the world and gets its name from the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) on its north side, that separates it from the Forbidden City.

Merging of old and new in Beijing's Tiananmen Square

An interesting tidbit we learned from our guide… there is an artist who’s only job is to make sure that the iconic picture of Chairman Mao is always in perfect condition.

Delve deeper into Beijing!

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

In the Forbidden City we are blown away immediately. The incredible architecture is mostly wooden, but the massive doors at each gate are made of solid stone.

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Follow us into The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

As we pass through each successive gate it just gets more and more incredible. Covering some two hundred and fifty acres, the complex is truly enormous.

The name comes from the fact that everyone except the emperor’s wives, concubines, and eunuchs were forbidden from entering.

Finally we make it through to the emperor’s palace behind the ninth gate, it certainly looks like it was good to be emperor.

Delve deeper into Beijing!

Follow us into The Forbidden City

In the afternoon, we head over to the Temple of Heaven in the southern part of the capital city.

A Heavenly Temple

The Temple of Heaven's Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest

The most famous of the temples is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which is said to be the largest wooden building in the world that is constructed without using any nails. Fantastic.

Follow us to the Temple of Heaven!

Delve deeper into Beijing!

DAY ELEVEN: Dalian, Darlin’

The waterfront in Dalian, China

Our last port of call in China, Dalian, is a northern port city that reflects a history from Russian and Japanese occupation.

Dalian, China

Historically a part of Manchuria, we found many different and exciting foods. We came upon a downtown market place where boiling broth is used to cook noodles, vegetables and seafoods that are served into bowls while sitting at a tiny kiosk.

WATCH: The best street food we’ve ever had!

By pointing, nodding, and gesturing we managed to get all sorts of fantastic tidbits into our bowls.

When the bill for this absolutely unbelievable meal came we thought there must have been some mistake, twenty yuan, about three dollars for both of us, including drinks!

Click here to see more about our day in Dalian – and our experience of eating silkworms – ugh!

Dalian, China

The old wooden Japanese trolleys, from over one hundred years ago, still make their way around the crowded streets.

The wooden streetcars in Dalian, China!

The same area is also home to an antique market where vendors offer every sort of trinket imaginable.

Antiques in Dalian, China

Click here to see more about our day in Dalian – and our experience of eating silkworms – ugh!

DAY TWELEVE: At Sea – Our home away from home

After three glorious days of seeing the wonders of China, we are more than ready for a restful day at sea while heading to South Korea.

Aboard the beautiful Volendam

As comfy as our stateroom is, we’ve found some fantastic places on the ship to rest our tired feet, relax our awed minds or stay in touch with the world and loved ones.

The Explorations Cafe aboard the Volendam

The Explorations Cafe offers computers with free access to The New York Times, or connect to email and websites through the ship’s wifi. And like any good internet cafe, there is a complete coffee bar to keep us surfers properly caffeinated.

The Digital Workshop aboard the Volendam

There are also seminars in The Digital Workshop with tips on everything from the latest version of Windows to making the most of the loads of photos and videos everyone is shooting.

Dancing with the Stars aboard Holland America's Volendam

In the afternoon on days when we aren’t in port, the showroom dancers and members of the crew team up with passengers for Dancing With The Stars on the high seas.

The Crow's Nest on Holland America's Volendam

Our evenings are spent in the Crow’s Nest – the highest and most forward spot on the Volendam – the perfect place for watching the sunset in comfy chairs through the floor-to-ceiling windows. We’ve gathered a group of fantastic regulars here, sharing an evening cocktail and our day’s experiences, then matching wits against other groups in the surprisingly spirited ongoing trivia matches.

Dining aboard the Volendam

Ready for another formal night, we got a perfect spot in the elegant Rotterdam Dining Room for another fantastic meal.

The GypsyNesters aboard Holland America's Volendam

After dinner, we make our escape to our stateroom.

Towel art aboard the Volendam

This little guy was waiting to greet us when we got back to our cabin. Who knew there were elephants in these waters?

DAY THIRTEEN: Something’s Fishy in Busan

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

Busan is the busiest port in South Korea and fishing is a big part of all of this maritime activity. This has led to one of the biggest fish markets in all of Asia. We couldn’t think of a better place to start our day.

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

The enormous Jagalchi indoor market covers three floors but the fish selling spills out into the surrounding streets too.

WATCH: The incredible fish market of Busan!

Click here to see more about Busan

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

Both inside and out are jam packed with every sort of sea creature imaginable, many that we not only had never seen before, but we couldn’t even begin to identify.

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

The second floor also houses a traditional restaurant – complete with no shoes allowed – that serves up freshly caught specialties. Where else could we dream of having lunch?

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

Click here to see more about Busan

DAY FOURTEEN: A Day of Reflection

Nagasaki, Japan is no doubt best known as the site of the second atomic bombing on August 9, 1945. This is commemorated at The Peace Garden which is dominated by a large statue of a man pointing skyward, where the bomb came from, and the other arm extended in a sign of peace. His eyes are closed in prayer.

Nagasaki Japan's Peace Garden

We walked through the park from the Fountain of Peace past the many artistic gifts sent from countries around the world proclaiming the hope that these horrible weapons will never be used again.

Nagasaki Japan's Peace Garden

See more about The Peace Garden here

Nagasaki Japan's Peace Garden

Water is used as a poignant part of the park because the casualties of the bombing suffered unbearable thirst.

Nagasaki Japan's Peace Garden

This quote from a young victim really brought the suffering life for us, “I was thirsty beyond endurance. There was something oily on the surface of the water, but I wanted water so badly that I drank it just as it was.”

See more about The Peace Garden here

More about beautiful, peaceful Nagasaki

Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan

Near the epicenter stood the Urakami Cathedral, one of the biggest Catholic churches in Asia. Even though it was mostly reduced to rubble several of the statues survived and are on display.

Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan

See more of these eerie statues that survived the bomb at Urakami Cathedral

After visiting the church we spent several hours in the Atomic Bomb Museum documenting the devastation and suffering in heart-wrenching detail that defies description.

Clocks forever stopped at 11:02 are a stark reminder of how time stood still for the people of Nagasaki on that fateful day.

Clocks forever stopped at 11:02 are a stark reminder of how time stood still for the people of Nagasaki on that fateful day.

Click here to see more about the Atomic Bomb Museum

Chinatown in Nagasaki, Japan

A few kilometers south of ground zero, where the devastation was less severe, some of the older structures remain. Since we were getting a little hungry we headed to Shinchi Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in Japan, where street food is king.

More about beautiful, peaceful Nagasaki

Kakuni-manju, a Nagasaki specialty

Of the several dishes unique to Nagasaki, such as champon and saraudon, our favorite was kakuni-manju, a slice of barbecued pork on a folded steamed bun.

Spectacles Bridge in Nagasaki, Japan

About a dozen old stone bridges span the Nakashimagawa River in the old part of the city a few blocks away from the Chinatown. The most famous of these, Spectacles Bridge, dates back to 1634. The unusual name comes from the way the arches reflect in the water which, from the right vantage point, looks like a pair of eyeglasses.

Click here to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom in beautiful Nagasaki!

Our send off with dragons in Nagasaki

As we climbed back aboard the ship for our last time, a group from a local high school gave us quite a send off with traditional music, dancing and dragons.

WATCH: Beautiful Dragon Dance

More about beautiful, peaceful Nagasaki

Most amazing towel art on Holland America

As we head to our stateroom for our last night aboard, a bit sad that our time on the Volendam is over, we are giddily startled by the most elaborate towel art we’ve ever seen! Hanging from our ceiling is an orangutang!

Making us laugh like this when we’re a bit sad proves in a nutshell the kind of attention that Holland America has given us throughout our adventure. Somehow our fabulous attendant knows exactly what we need before we realize we need it.

Our new buddy Oscar the Orangutang hangs above us as we sail on to Kobe, and the word is that our timing is perfect for seeing one of Japan’s most iconic sights. Tonight we dream of cherry blossoms in Osaka.

Click here to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom!

See how we “ruined ourselves” in fabulous Osaka!

PREVIOUS DISPATCH: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Zhujiajiao Watertown

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We’re traveling with Holland America aboard the ms Volendam – through Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan!

Chinese Cooking Class Aboard the Volendam


enlarge video

Under the skillful guidance of Chef David Serrano, our dishes come together beautifully and better yet, even while using razor sharp knives, no cooks are harmed in… CONTINUE READING >>

The first of our hands-on cooking classes – Chinese Cuisine. We prepare Sichuan chicken, fried rice, and find out just what makes delicious soup both hot AND sour.

Under the skillful guidance of Chef David Serrano, our dishes come together beautifully and better yet, even while using razor sharp knives, no cooks are harmed in the production. To top it off, at the end of the class our creations become our lunch.

We’re live-blogging this trip! See where we go! http://www.gypsynester.com/asia-cruise.htm

Visit our GypsyNester YouTube Channel!

We’re Too Old For This Crap

One of our top priorities when becoming gypsy — as opposed to empty — nesters was to use our new found freedom to see family and friends that we hadn’t been able to visit in years.

While finishing up our childrearing years on a Caribbean island a thousand miles from the mainland we were understandably limited in our opportunities to drop in on folks.

Now that we are unfettered, we have had the opportunity to reunite with quite a few of our old friends. In every case I’ve noticed… CONTINUE READING >>

David Writes

One of our top priorities when becoming gypsy — as opposed to empty — nesters was to use our new found freedom to see family and friends that we hadn’t been able to visit in years.

While finishing up our childrearing years on a Caribbean island a thousand miles from the mainland we were understandably limited in our opportunities to drop in on folks.

Now that we are unfettered, we have had the opportunity to reunite with quite a few of our old friends. In every case I’ve noticed that we picked up right where we left off. It was like ten days had past since our last visit, not ten years.

Is this a function of getting a little older? I think that’s a big part of it. After putting a few decades behind us we have learned not to manufacture troubles. We could look for a reason to be pissy, get all “Why haven’t you kept in touch better?” or we can be thrilled to see an old chum. Fortunately, everyone chose the latter.

One of these friends, whom I hadn’t seen in over a decade, really opened my eyes. Our last encounter was under less-than-stellar circumstances and I was a little anxious about seeing him again.

Driving the point home a little harder was the fact that we were seeing each other for the first time in years at the funeral of a mutual friend who had shared in some of the tribulations.

My fear melted away as soon as he reached out to greet me. It turned out that neither of us harbored any hard feelings and after a while he said “David, when we get to this age it’s just not worth worrying about crap like that.”

He was so right. We had years of friendship to look back on so why dwell on the rough patches?

All of our shared experiences, good and bad, bind friendships together. Now we can recall and retell these events, embellishing them into tall tales, at our reunions. These invariably end in guffaws of crazy laughter. “Remember that time we…?”

My musician friends and I predictably return to war stories from our years on the road. There is nearly a battlefield type camaraderie that touring days, weeks and months on end trapped together on a bus develops.

The band and crew become the entire known world in a crazy “us against them” roadshow. The names we would give these tours said it all. Humor is definitely your buddy deep in the throes of a “mud and dust,” “death march to Bataan” or “bring your helmet” tour.

At times the laughing jags would take the stage with us. I recall one night when it was a little hard to sing while doubled over, crying and drooling uncontrollably over something our lunatic keyboard player had whispered in my ear right before the second verse.

We literally ended up on our knees and couldn’t even play anymore. I always liked giving the audience their money’s worth.

For Veronica and her friends, the conversation tends to gravitate to zany antics involving kids and times they scared the living crap out of us.

Sure, NOW we can laugh about when one of our little ones destroyed her tibia in an accident at Veronica’s best friend’s house while we were attending a pre-cell-phone wedding — since she is perfectly ambulatory 20 years later — but at the time, not so much.

The kind of fear we all felt when dealing with a crisis like that — and the relief after it subsided — really cements a friendship. On the bright side, we got to watch a four-year-old crab scoot around on her butt in a radiation-green hip-to-toe cast for weeks. THAT’s entertainment.

Much more than our hairlines, waistlines or an offspring’s ability to walk has changed over years. Our friends’ children have grown in our absence — all of them looking nothing like the mental picture we had of them as ten-year-olds with missing front teeth. Most of them are adults now. Weird how that happens.

An added bonus to these renewed relationships is that technology has made it a whole lot easier to stay in touch. Now we can have much more contact than we ever did before the rise of social media.

Facebook is no doubt the king of old-friend-finding-and-keeping-in-touch-with, but Twitter, texting and email are all members of the royal court. With their help we can keep tabs on the antics of friends and family online with just a few clicks a day.

Speaking of family, in the best of worlds we should be able to put past grievances behind us but, for no apparent reason, no one seems to hold a grudge like kin.

Even though our new found freedom has granted us opportunities to visit family members we hadn’t seen in years, some of the get-togethers were still a bit strained.

How can kids who nearly killed each other on a regular basis back in childhood carry resentment over completely non-lethal misunderstandings as adults?

I don’t have an answer but I do have a suggestion…

When we get to this age it’s just not worth worrying about crap like that.

David, GypsyNester.com