Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

After spending every year since 2000 counting down at Times Square in NYC, this year I decided to do it in Tokyo. Went to a temple (増上寺 or zojoji) that was over 400 years old for the count down. The Tokyo Tower next to it made it quite a sight. It's indeed a different way of ushering in the new year ... :-) Have a Happy, Healthy, and an Eventful New Year!!


video

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Trip to Death Valley National Park

Together with Xin and Shwe, we began our 4 days/3 nights road trip to Death Valley National Park during this recent Thanksgiving holiday break from Sunnyvale, CA with our rented SUV.

Thursday morning, November 22nd, 2007
In about 3.5 hrs of drive, we were at Bakersfield. Our initial plan was to meet up with Lalit and had lunch here. I guessed we got there a little earlier than expected, and at the same time found out all the shops were closed. So... change of plan: we picked up Lalit at Mojave and had lunch at Denny's instead; KFC at next door was closed. Anyway, it took us almost 3 hours to a small town called Lone Pine, just West of the Park, with a spectacular view of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental US. It was our first stop before we head into the park tomorrow morning. After loading our stuff, we checked out the close by Alabama Hills before we headed back to the motel room to prepare our Thanksgiving dinner -- steamboat/hot pot! Yup, we brought all the stuff in cooler with us! Though we forgot to bring "sha cha" sauce, it's still yummy! We were so stuffed!

Friday morning, November 23rd, 2007
...was dedicated to drive around the desert park.
- 1st stop:- Furnace Creek visitor center (we found out that our SUV is not "hardcore" enough to drive the dirt road to Racetrack Playa) :(
- 2nd stop:- Devil's Golf Course. (rugged salt crystal rock)- 3rd stop:- Badwater/salt field; 282 ft below sea level, lowest point in the National Park/US.- 4th stop:- Natural Bridge Canyon. By the time we were about to leave, we knew that we probably couldn't make it to the Sand Dunes during sunset; not to mention that we had to stop by at Dante's View before that. It was dark very early. Instead of attempting to wrestle with time, we took a slower route to our next destination, passing by Artist's Palettes.
- 5th stop:- Dante's View. Excellent view, but it was windy and COLD!
- 6th stop:- Stovepipe Wells Sand Dune; one of the most accessible one. By the time we got close to the Dunes, the sun had set. We did a moonlight hike instead. It was GREAT! The weather was perfect! Of course we all rolled down the sand dunes. :D- 7th stop: - Stay overnight at the other side (East), outside the park at Beatty, Nevada.

Saturday morning, November 24th, 2007
...we drove west into Death Valley Park again. Trip to Racetrack playa was cancelled :( because the road was too rough for our SUV. :(
- 1st stop:- Mud flat. This stop was not in our plan. We drove by and found it interesting. So we decided to drove off road and stopped by. It's one of our highlight. :)- 2nd stop:- the volcanic Ubehebe Crater.- 3rd stop:- Mosaic Canyon; beautiful trail- 4th stop:- back to Best Western @ Lone Pine, CA. and crashed for another night.

Sunday morning, November 25th, 2007
It’s nice to be out in the wild for a few days... after our complimentary breakfast at the motel, it was time to pack everything up and get ready for another lonnggg drive back to civilization. Traffic was bad when we were about to get off Highway 5. We left the motel around 11am. By the time we were in the Bay Area, it's almost 7pm. So, we headed straight up to Sushi Tomi @ Mountain View, and treated ourselves with spiciy tuna donburi, handroll, chirashi donburi... :) yum....!

I'm sure there are a lot of places, and smaller hiking trails that we would like to explore... Perhaps some other time... (no lOnG hiking; i'm NOT a fan!) Anyway, this has been such a fun vacation!! :D


more pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/peisunl/DeathValley2007