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Sheena Loves To Travel

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May '12

Fenghuang Province in a Nutshell: Complete with Expense Estimates! (China)

Fenghuang, also known as Phoenix Old Town, is situated at Hunan Province in China. As the name implies, it is a well-preserved old town and is geared generally to tourists, although more for local tourists. This is where I had my first ever backpacking experience and it is still by far one of the craziest, and best trips I’ve ever done! If you get the chance, I highly encourage you to visit!

We took a 15 hour train ride from Guangzhou to Jishou for 300 RMB (chair lifts for stairs are not available!) From Jishou station, we took a bus which took us all the way up to the town. The bus ride was bumpy and disgusting, or maybe I was just lucky because the lady at the seat in front of me was barfing like crazy, but it was all okay after I saw the beauty of the town.

We had absolutely no itinerary, no pre-bookings and no plans when we arrived. So we walked the streets asking around for a place to stay at. Initially we were looking for hotels (more like houses) which had what they call a “western toilet”, but hotels with such were too expensive for our budget so we gave up and ended up in this place. 

It’s 135 RMB per room, which we split into 4. How cheap is that?! We just joined two beds together so that three of us can fit in it. Our other two friends stayed at a separate room for the same rate. Anyway, check out the bathroom! Yeah!

Spicy food at its best. I’m not even a fan of spicy food but Fenghuang’s was a big, big exception. You know that a town takes its spicy food seriously when they only let you choose between “mild spicy” or “very spicy”. And the number of times I used the word “spicy” just on this paragraph should give you a very good hint already. YUMMY. THE POTATOES ARE CALLING ME.

For dinner, we would usually order a lot, and I mean a lot. So the estimate of 20 RMB per person per dinner is really very cheap already.

Something you shouldn’t miss: the local rice wine. It was so good, the boys bought extra bottles for our next trip (we were off to Guangzhou after) but it spilled in their bags. Lesson learned: do not be greedy. Enjoy it while it’s there. Or just make sure the bottles are properly sealed. An average of 8 RMB per regular sized bottle. 

THINGS TO DO: The town can easily be explored by foot and there’s really so much to see already just by walking around the old town. But if you want to go hike mountains or go boat cruising, there are various tours being offered along the sidewalk which you could easily join. We joined two in particular:

This tour took us on a hiking trip up on the White Cloud Mountain, or at least that was what they told us it was called. I’ve been trying to research online and I’m not so sure now about the accuracy of the name. Oh well. Say hello to the Miao people! I will be posting a separate entry about this tour in the future.

Just a gist: It was a tiring hike but I survived, so I’m pretty sure you will too (I’m not exactly the fittest person around!) According to my journal, we paid 100 RMB for this tour. What I’m not sure about is if this is 100 RMB per person or already for the 6 of us. They sure fooled us if it’s per person, because everything in Fenghuang is crazy cheap! Haha!

TOUR-RIVER BOAT CRUISE: A relaxing river boat ride around the Old Town’s river. This nice man paddled all the way and even sang us songs as he did. It was cool to see the town from a different angle. Like the hiking tour, I will be writing more about this cruise in detail next time.

If you’re into handicraft items, you’ll love this place. Shops are lined up and each of them selling different quaint items. Woodcarving keychains like these are around 4-6 RMB, depending on how big or if you want it on both sides. I had a quote from my favorite Chinese author/illustrator, Jimmy Liao, written on a keychain. One of my favorites!

Loads of colorful textiles and trinkets. 10 RMB for three small fish pouches. 25 RMB for 6 of the big ones.

We wanted to do something silly so we rented some costumes and joined in a local tradition that they do every night; have paper flowers and candles float along the river as you make a wish! 5 RMB for the costume per person (haha so cheap!) and 6 RMB for all of our paper flowers already.


  • Hardly anyone speaks English. So brush up on your Mandarin!
  • It was really cold when we were there in May and we weren’t really prepared (hence the shorts and t-shirts!) because the rest of China was already really hot. So just be prepared…) Also, seniors should not expect any stair lifts for the elderly in any residences.
  • Definitely bring home packs of dried kiwi. I’m still craving for them three years later. Someone please bring me some…
  • This is so cliche, but seriously, just enjoy. Try to do as many things as you can, no matter how silly or tourist-y! For more ideas, check out my other Fenghuang entries and let me know if you visit!

One of the best places to go backpacking is in China because you can get to a lot of different places just by train and everything is really extremely cheap compared to backpacking in other countries. Also, China is so big that cultures are so different in each province (compare Inner Mongolia to Shanghai!) so it’s always gonna be a surprise each time!

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Nov '14

Book Review: Care in China

According to Wikipedia, China is currently undertaking a massive reform of its health care system. The NRCMCS (New Rural Cooperative Medical Care Systems) is the name of a massive new initiative starting in 2005 to provide better health care to the rural poor in China. According to government reports, over 80% of the Chinese rural population had joined in to this initiative by 2007 – just two years after the launch date.

elderlymaninchinaChina faces many challenges in terms of providing health care, particularly to the elderly and poor. A new book, “Care in China – A Study of Senior Citizens’ Wellbeing Lifestyles” (by Piia Tillikainen) also addresses these challenges. This book was part of a research project observing elderly in Shanghai, conducted by the Inclusive Design Research Group in China.

In order to fully meet the needs of its aging population, China will need to embrace many modern technologies that it does not yet have fully in production. Whether it be medical technologies, or mobility aids such as stair lifts for elderly citizens, China will need to carefully evaluate all avenues it has to improving senior’s quality of life over the next decade.

On my recent trip to China, I was amazed by what is clearly a strong effort made by the Chinese government to provide quality health care to its aging population. However, only time will tell if these measures will by truly successful.

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Dec '13

Sheena Loves Her Cats

tigerkittenRecently I adopted a new member into our family: an adorable kitten we’ve named tiger. Tiger is an orange colored kitten who really does look a bit like a miniature tiger, and has a ferociousness that is quite amazing. We’ve been searching for some interactive cat toys to help keep in busy during the days when we are away. There are fortunately some great cat toy choices out there, particularly those make by Catit Design (like the speed circuit cat toy), that can occupy him for hours.

Taking care of a new kitten is a lot of work, but oh is it worth it! I love watching how he explores and plays, and we can’t stop laughing at his cute antics every day!

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Jun '12

Chocolate – Oh My!

Oh, I just discovered a new food blog: Radiant Chocolate!

I know that eating too much chocolate is not a good thing, so maybe the delicious looking photos of chocolate covered grapes, pretzels and more will satisfy my cravings a bit.

Oh my! I’m already addicted!

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Jun '12

Cleaning After Traveling

Recently I came home to a filthy house. After months of traveling abroad, my house smelled dusty and dirty, and looked it too.

Although I had done a thorough housecleaning before I left to travel, a house sitting alone can go “stale” (for a lack of a better word).

Although I hate to clean, I found myself spending hours running my carpet shampooer (I own a lovely Bissell Big Green rug shampooer) and dusting high to low.

It is disappointing to have to spend so much time cleaning when you first come home from a trip, and when all you really want to do is relax! However, I find it hard to rest properly in a dirty house, so it had to be done!

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May '12

Sheena Love To Travel…And Make Cupcakes

Wow, I’m on a total cupcake binge! Recently I’ve been reading cupcake blogs, buying cupcake books, cupcake coloring kits, cupcake muffin pans and – of course – cupcakes!

I love cupcakes! No question about it. However, I think I love making cupcakes probably even more. Especially with my four year old nephew (who loves cupcakes as  well!).

My four year old nephew is also really into pirates. Pirate flags, pirate talk and pirate cupcakes! However, alien cupcakes are a close second! :)

However, I personally prefer these beautiful butterfly cupcakes myself. Oh, and this adorable ladybug cupcake and bumblebee cupcake pair!

Now if they would only come up with calorie free cupcakes. That would be heaven!

But, alas, it’s time to check out some of the best elliptical machines of 2012 for my new home – I’ve got the feeling that I’m going to need to work out a lot in the coming months.

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May '12

Van Gogh is Bipolar

Last August 8, my fiancé and I celebrated what would be our last anniversary in August (we’re getting married next March!). After he finally put down his PS3 repair guide (because he had a PS3 overheating issue) he took me to a place I’ve been wanting to visit for the longest time now. I’m so happy to tell you that finally, I have been to Van Gogh is Bipolar and that the experience was incredible!

Van Gogh is Bipolar is by Jetro Rafael, a clinically diagnosed bipolar, who believes that food can affect our moods. Definitely only happy vibes here though as he shares with you his culinary experiments and discoveries. Don’t forget to take off your shoes before you enter and check out the house rules!

(Commercial: This is the first time I shot using a Lumix in lowlight because I didn’t bring my DSLR, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing so do forgive the blurry photos)

As Jetro would later on tell us guests, Van Gogh is Bipolar is also his way of showing others a glimpse of “his world”, and oh, what a world it is. It’s like a brain on caffeine times one thousand. And I mean that in a very good way. Like, Yowza Captiva!

There are no waiters and everything is self-service. You may ring the bell though if you need anything and Jetro himself will be happy to assist you. Hello!

Van Gogh is Bipolar opens only to 12 diners per night and they’re by reservation only. This is the red room. A friend of mine visited months ago and the set up on this section was different (they sat on the floor). I think that’s one of the charms of Van Gogh is Bipolar; things are added, things are removed and there’s a lot of change all the time so it’s always a delightful surprise each time you visit.

This is the area for group diners. That night, I think they had around 5 people in this place. The shadows are so pretty and otherworldly.

And this is where we ate that night! People stick letters, calling cards and other things on this part of the wall. Sure made for a very interesting read.

Now let’s begin our enchanting feast. The drink with me here is called “Love Potion”. It was really good. So sad I wasn’t able to finish it though because there was no more space in my tummy by the end of the night. The cute thermos with the union jack is where you get hot water for the tea (see below!)

As you wait for your food, Jetro will invite you to make some tea first to relax. I love tea, so don’t mind if I do! Choose from a variety of not only teas, but also teapots! How cute and very Alice In Wonderland-ish!

I had one with banana leaves, my first time to try that! And if you wish, you may add sugar too! Or as my fiancé said, “some honey for my honey!” Haha!

And I eat! Reasons why I will never be a food blogger: One, I have no idea how to properly describe my food, and two, I easily devour the food once it’s served infront of me, which leaves me unable to take a decent photo of it. This explains why for this post, we only have photos of the appetizer, the dessert and of me drinking the soup. I’m sorry.

Aside from letting us choose if we’d have a 3, 4 or 5 course meal, Jetro also asked us to choose if we wanted “happy” or “chill” for our main course. “Happy”, as we learned, is fish based and “chill” is meat based.

I had the 3 course “happy” meal: turkey soup, well-done tuna sashimi with pasta and dessert and my fiancé had the 4 course “chill” meal which was turkey soup, special appetizer, lamb ratatouille with pasta and dessert. They were so amazing, I cannot describe them and will not even attempt to do so.

The experience here was one of a kind and it’s really hard to put to words. Everything felt personal and light. It was charming, beautiful, crazy and eclectic yet at the same time, relaxed and laidback. It’s something you would have to experience for yourself. I obviously, highly recommend this place.

To add to his many trinkets, I decided to leave one of the bookmarks I designed (available online!) I wonder if he’ll keep it here in this shelf! Heehee! If you visit and see it let me know! Anyway, as we were leaving, he came up to us and gave me a little souvenir, which I thought was really sweet and awesome!

Jetro said that this was from one of his many travels; it’s a Czechoslovakia postage stamp! This must be a rarity now because Czechoslovakia has been split in two since 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia! How awesome? Thanks Jetro for the special gift and for the wonderful experience. We had a great time and we’ll be back soon. I’m taking my brothers and friends with me!

Van Gogh is Bipolar is located at 154 H. Maginhawa St. Silkatuna Village, Quezon City, Philippines. Text (+63)922-8243051 for reservations.

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May '12

Eating Raw When Traveling

Last year I went “raw” – meaning I mainly eat foods that are not cook (probably about 80% of my diet is raw, as I do occasionally eat a cooked dinner with friends and family).

I can’t tell you the difference it has made in my life – better energy, skin and more – but in terms of traveling it can sometimes be challenging.

For others who also only eat raw foods and are contemplating a trip, I have a few suggestions:

  1. One of the best things about traveling is that you will get to try out a lot of new fruits and vegetables you have never seen in your home country. Fruits in particular tend to vary and you can definitely eat most of these raw, without worry about how to prepare them. Outdoor markets are your friend!
  2. Read ahead and learn some easy to prepare recipes before you leave home. One book I really like is Eating for Energy, but there are lots of raw food recipe books out there, and you may even want to consider throwing one into your backpack or suitcase.
  3. Do some online research ahead of time, if you will be visiting larger cities. You may be surprised at how many raw diet or raw vegan cafes there are around. Most health centered restaurants or supermarkets will have some good choices for you as well.

Eating raw can be challenging at times when traveling, but with some advanced preparation and know-how, you can make your transition much easier.

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