13 rules to eat Chinese food like a real Chinese

1. Everything on the table will be shared. It's the opposite of the Western way where one orders one's own food and eats only the entire one has ordered (at least that's how it looks like to the Chinese' eyes).  Nothing on a Chinese table belongs to anyone in particular. Everyone gets to try a few bites and share everything. If someone has already ordered your favorite dish, there's no need to order it again. Order something else that will add variety.
2. Use chopsticks (duhhhh!) and spoons, never knives and forks.
3. Noodles and Fried Rice (traditionally fried rice is a way to revive leftover rice) are usually for a quick filling meal alone or when you don't feel like sharing, definitely not for a festive group outing.
4. NEVER pile up your favorites pieces onto your own bowl as soon as the dish arrives. That's hoarding and is considered extremely rude! And it's even worse if you don't finish it!
5. Eat slowly, grab one bite from the dish at a time. Put down your chopsticks (not fork) in between your bites to enjoy your conversation.
6. Pace your joy of eating for at least 1 hour.
7. Go with as many people as possible to taste more dishes.
8. Order even numbers of dishes unless it's associated with a funeral or death.
9. Learn to appreciate bones (the meat around a bone is the tastiest part) and strange sounding vegetables such as silk melon and X X choy. By the way, It's “dofu" NOT “tofu" in Chinese.
10. Stay away from the usual American Chinese dishes including fried rice and chow mien. Try a few of the other 80 dishes on the menu, and get white rice to soak up all that delicious sauce.
11. Don't grab the last piece of food on the dish unless you're sure everyone has had a chance to try it. Still, wait for the end of the meal to make the move.
12. If you are a host, pour the beverages for your guests, and keep up with the refills. If no one is hosting, pour beverage for the elderly and your boss.

13. Fight to pay for the bill. But I hate this, so feel free to skip it.

Meet my new friend George, a free spirited, intelligent, and super friendly wild sea lion from Catalina Island. I met him while leading a tour on Catalina Island, one of the channel islands of California and a great vacation destination that’s easily accessible from Los Angeles. Our unexpected encounter with George made our visit to the island even more memorable.

We were on a boat parked off shore where my guests would soon launch their jet skis when George poked his head out of the water, and waddled himself audaciously on to the edge of the boat to bathe in the warm afternoon sunshine. As we scrambled to look for our cameras, the jet ski instructor explained that George is an old friend who has invited himself to his boat ever since the sea lion was a baby. They decided to name him George, and he gladly took to the name–he even responds when called! We went closer to him to look at him, and he was not at all shy to us. We called out to his name, and aimed our cameras at him trying to catch as many images of this precious moment as possible. To our astonishment, George seemed to understand our intention, and sat up to pose for us! As shown in the picture included here, George is clearly very proud of his body image.

The pictures of George still brighten my day every time I flip through the pictures on my phone. And like a friend, I think about him once a while, and hope that he has put on a little more fat to defend himself from the cooler winter water and air. I know I’m not alone feeling this way towards a wild life. Why does it matter to us so much? Many of my clients regard wild animal encounters (from a safe distance of course) among the most memorable events of their travel.

As the world fully embraces the age of globalization, and our ability to travel farther and deeper rapidly improves, wilderness becomes ever more scarce. However, deep inside, we are all still connected to our original play ground, where our ancestors hunted, gathered and lived among wild life. We draw inspirations from nature and wildlife for arts, science, sports, and engineering. We can’t live without our fellow earthlings! Unfortunately, our experience with other earthlings today is mostly limited to other humans, pets, and zoo exhibits. Unlike visiting a famous destination, a wild animal encounter can not be planned or arranged. It comes down to your LUCK. That’s why we cherish these encounters. Such encounters give us new perspectives, they make us feel lucky and special, and reawaken our connection with the natural world.

wander off following your nose

If you find yourself waking up in San Francisco during one of your travel adventures, you may want to skip the hotel breakfast. Instead, consider putting on a coat and a scarf (always the safe way to dress in the Fog City) and wander off to find yourself a delicious local breakfast. 
Just follow your nose. There is no doubt that you will smell all flavors of coffee being brewed on almost every block you pass. As your stomach grumbles, pay attention particularly to the coffee shops that are gathering crowds. Step inside, and you will know why San Francisco also has a nickname, the "Paris of the West."
The sight of freshly baked colorful pastries, the smell of hot tea, cocoa, and coffee, thoughtful decorations, and cozy atmosphere will make you wonder for a moment if you have somehow been transported to France. 
Order a cup of coffee, and choose a few pastries that are too tempting to pass. Split the pastries with your fellow travelers if you can, so that you leave enough room in your belly to venture to another place to try something else special. What a way to start your day! 

Less than a five-hour drive from sprawling Los Angeles, you can commune quietly with the largest living things on earth, the beautiful of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  These rare and mystifying trees are found only on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and they may be the most awe inspiring things that you see on your trip.

Nineteenth century naturalists like John Muir were inspired by the sight of Giant Sequoias to initiate the conservation efforts that ultimately lead to the establishment of America’s National Park system–which is now proudly recognized as the one of America’s greatest ideas.

Sequoia National Park is about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Los Angeles.  You will want to spend at least one night there to fully experience this incredible place.

Hug A Sequoia


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California has a long meandering coast. So for seafood lovers, there is plenty of fresh and unique seafood to taste during your visit.  However, it takes some insider's knowledge to find the best places.  A few fun piers in some of the  beach cities showcase the mouth-watering variety of crabs, lobsters, oysters, clams, squid, shrimp, and fish. And if you're feeling adventurous, why not try a sea urchin?  A happy convenience for tourists is that you can have your seafood steamed, grilled, or fried for you right where you buy it, then find a picnic table to enjoy it with a good view.  And, for those who prefer a white-linen experience, there are many fine restaurants offering fantastic seafood prepared in a variety of world cuisines such as Italian, French, Japanese, Mexican, and of course, California cuisine!

No. Paris hasn't moved to America.  It's Vegas Baby!  

This great western playground is a city of curious and exciting contrasts--simultaneously a cosmopolitan metropolis and a far-flung desert oasis.  For some, it's easy to lose track of whether it is day or night in Las Vegas, but it shouldn't be, because when the night falls, the city dresses up with all colors of the neon rainbow and the party really begins.  

Long famous for its many world-class casinos, in recent years Vegas has excelled at catering to other kinds of tourists young and old alike. The city's small zoos, botanical gardens, and theme hotels are hits for families with kids.  And big-name, magic, dance, comedy, and musical performances attract all walks of life.

What's more, when you have had your fill of urban glitz, you can easily escape to enjoy a breathtaking natural wonder. The city is only two hours away from the glass bridge at the west rim of  the Grand Canyon.
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Why is the golden Gate Bridge red?

For San Francisco's first time visitors, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see landmark. Built during the Great Depression, and spanning almost 2 miles, it is a true engineering and architectural wonder.

If you walk on the bridge on a nice day, you will get a beautiful view of the city and the bay area, and feel the pulse of the city as the bridge hums with traffic entering and leaving the bay city.  As you take in the impressive views of the bridge, a question might come up naturally. How come the Golden Gate Bridge is red, not gold?

It turns out that the color of the bridge has nothing to do with the name "Golden Gate," which refers to the strait that enters the San Francisco Bay.  That Golden Gate (over which the bridge crosses) got its name from the California gold rush of the mid- nineteenth century. The designers of the bridge chose the rusty red color believing it harmonized with the naturally ruddy geology that surrounds the bay, and made the bridge visible in the thick fog that the cities is often covered under. Time has told that their decision was perfect.  

A rare treat in southeRn China

I had a special treat during my travels in Yunnan Province in China's deep south (picture to the right). It was a special ham that is aged 3 years. I was in Shaxi Village, wandering down a quaint street lined with small shops selling hand-crafted artifacts and exotic local street food. A local told me that most people in the village cure their own hams, but they are never as good as Chunwang's. I actually wasn't even feeling hungry, but my family and I didn't want to miss the rare treat. We went to a cozy, homey little restaurant nestled in one of Shaxi's traditional wooden structures. The room was decorated with intricate wood carvings and other local crafts. We ordered a plate of the ham we had heard about, steamed--the best way to enjoy the ham's full-bodied flavor. As we savored the delicious ham, we chatted with other travelers and the establishment's gregarious owner, Chunwang. Fellow guests also let us sample the local cheese they had ordered, which was sprinkled with sugar in order to accommodate "the American taste" (for some reason they believed that we like our cheese sweet, blame The Cheese Cake Factory?). I told Chunwang to look me up if he ever comes to L.A., but he said that he is too happy at home to take the trouble to leave. I don't really blame him. Shaxi Village is one of those places that mesmerizes you into forgetting the rest of the world.

You'd better try some seafood

Nice to meet you, George!