At the turn of the twentieth century, Gulang Yu (鼓浪嶼 “Drum Wave Islet”) was one of two foreign concessions in China (the other being Shanghai). Because of this, the island is full of European-style mansions and churches. It also has a piano museum and a calligraphic wood carving museum (my personal favorite attraction). Cars and bicycles are banned on the island, so the tourists get to walk around and take it all in.
The Summer Palace undoubtedly is one of Beijing's highlights. It has nearly 900 years of history, during which many emperors have used the park and its fabulous pagodas as a summer retreat.
Katie and I decided travel from Cambodia to Vietnam in style: in an enclosed speed boat down the Mekong River. We climbed aboard and left Phnom Penh early in the afternoon. A few hours into our journey, Katie cracked open a beer. As if on queue, we stopped at the border, where we had to get stamped out of Cambodia. Katie sipped her beer while waiting in line. She commented that it was her first, and probably last, time drinking alcohol at an immigration checkpoint. The officials didn't seem to mind. They simply stamped our passports and we were on our way. Next we got stamped into Vietnam and continued our trip, watching the slow-paced life along the river's shores.
It was time for a change of pace. I had finished the Great Ocean Walk, then spent two days sea kayaking and relaxing on Torquay's beaches with Craig and some other friends. So far on my Australia trip, I had only seen Victoria, the southernmost state on the main continent. But Australia had a large chunk of land further south, a land so forgotten, it was often omitted from maps of the country. Even its name sounded exotic. Tasmania.