Monthly Archives: May 2018

Addendum – Memory Maker III: Asian Invasion – Beijing

So the peanut gallery has commented on my last blog post and deemed it incomplete.  I had intentionally left this part out even though in most of our minds, it’s probably the best memory we have of the trip, if not the most humorous (at least to some of us).  It concerns this guy who is usually quite mild-mannered and laid back.

Team Sheffields and Team Woods have vacationed as a family together for at least the past 4 years, if not longer.  As some of you have read in my blog posts, traveling does not always go as planned and at times patience with each other wears thin.  All in all, however, we manage to have a blast on our adventures with our friendship securely intact.  The bumps in the road seem to make our friendship stronger and then we end up with a good story to recall ad nauseum.

Team Solether is a new addition to the vacay train.  So, I decided that maybe the “bus incident” (to which it will hereinafter be referred) is better left out since, well, let’s just say, it wasn’t a shining moment for one particular member of Team Solether, even though it was quite comical to observe for the members of the other teams.

Anyhoo, as I mentioned in my last post, it was EXTREMELY crowded in Beijing when we were there because it was a public holiday.

Crowded China GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

We had to take a public bus and it was packed to the max.  Beijing is a city of 20 million people and it felt like all of them were on the bus we just boarded.  At one of the stops, poor little Kyle got shoved to the side of the door and when the door opened, his head was smooshed behind the door.  Jared watched in horror, but was helpless to do anything because it was so packed.  I guess what is so amazing and a little disappointing is that none of the Chinese on the bus even seemed bothered by Kyle’s cries and just pushed themselves off the bus.

Call it claustrophobia or papa bear syndrome, but Jared (understandably)


He turned bright red and does this number to get some breathing room around him.

He then starts grabbing folks literally by the collar and chunks them off the bus.  As the scene unfolded, we the observers experienced a range of emotions, which included shock, awe and yes…utter amusement.  Stacey was completely mortified and didn’t really appreciate that the rest of us found the situation comical. Angry white guy in Asia is quite the spectacle.

So, of course this episode will go down in the annals of Memory Maker vacays.

Kyle was OK and we STILL get a good laugh whenever any of us sees or even thinks of a bus.


Memory Maker III: Asian Invasion – Beijing

A tour of Asia would not be complete without a stop in Beijing.  The temperature was much cooler than Chaing Mai; we could see snow on the ground in some places.  Of course we made the obligatory stop at Tiananmen Square.

Our timing wasn’t the best because it happened to be a public holiday.  The place was packed.

We asked our tour guide, Daphne, about the student protests that occurred in 1989 and where in the square this iconic picture was taken.

She declined to respond saying that she liked her job too much to tell us anything about that.  So much for freedom of speech.

Since we had already visited the Forbidden City, Team Woods opted out of a second tour.  We left Teams Sheffield and Solether to brave the crowds.

Instead we chose to wait in a nearby park where we had a nice view of the Forbidden City from above.

We experienced Peking Duck.  It’s not cheap, but it certainly is delicious.

And we stopped to see the Bird Nest Stadium where the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games were held.

Then it was time for the pinnacle of the Asian Invasion tour: hiking the Great Wall.

Our guide picked us up early.  He introduced himself as “Cheney.”  Shane, without missing a beat, says “I’m Shane, but some call me ‘Shaney.’  Cheney just stared at him stone-faced and then there was an awkward silence.  Benjy remarked, “oooo, out of the box early, Shane.”  The rest of us just groaned.  American humor sometimes gets lost in Asia.

Here was our ride to the wall.  Looking back to our cool wheels last summer, which we affectionately called “Sheldon.”  This bad boy, in comparison, was Sheldon 4.0.  Aw yeah!

We loaded up and drove for about 2 hours outside of Beijing.

We had an hour hike up to the Great Wall.  Our plan was to hike the wall for 2 days with one night spent at a small hotel in a village nearby.  The trail was muddy, steep and very slippery.  We passed patches of snow on the way up.

Finally, we made it.

It was breathtaking.

Our timing to hike the Great Wall (unlike the timing of our visit to Tiananmen Square) was pretty much spot on.  The crowds had dissipated and the cherry blossoms were in bloom.

We hiked for about 4 hours on the first day.

Jen and I paid homage to Chi Omega, the sorority which we both pledged so many years ago at the University of Florida.

It’s amazing to see how the wall twists and snakes far into the horizon.

At the end of the first day, we all saved ourselves the hike and rode toboggans down.

The next morning we were up and at ’em early for another full day of hiking on the wall.

And then we made it to the end!

Going through all of our pictures to write this blog made me, once again, so grateful for the friendships with which the Lord has blessed us!  To be able to travel to foreign places and experience the things we did together is such a gift.  I will always treasure these memories and love these people!

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” -C.S. Lewis

Memory Maker III – Asian Invasion: Chaing Mai, Thailand

In Chaing Mai, Thailand, we hooked up with another family from Jacksonville, the Solethers, who are currently living in Japan.  It had been quite some time since the Solethers had last seen the Sheffields, so the reunion was joyful.

We didn’t waste any time sightseeing and stopped to tour one of the Buddhist temples.

Most of the ladies in our group were not dressed modestly enough to be admitted to the temple, so we had to rent some sarongs they had available at the entrance.

We had all developed a good appetite seeing the sights, so we headed over to the night market for some yummy Thai street food.

This was the Sheffields first experience with Asian street food and they were big fans.  They particularly liked the rotis stuffed with bananas and topped with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate sauce.

Benny had no problems choking that stuff down.  The kids especially enjoyed the fresh fruit smoothies and at less than 1 USD a pop, it was all you can drink.

Once we were sufficiently stuffed, the girls headed to the night market to do some shopping while the boys enjoyed a group foot massage.

The ladies at the massage place just loved Kyle and Aaron.

The next morning we woke up early for a full day of riding elephants.

We got changed into our elephant riding outfits…

…then we headed out to feed the pachyderms some snacks.  No snacks, no riding.

Benjy tried to feed his elephant one banana at a time…

…but the elephant would have none of that and ripped the entire bunch right out of his arms.

I got to ride Wan, the elephant I had ridden the past three visits.  I don’t know if she remembered me, but I like to think that she did.

We all climbed on and headed out.

Here are some of my favorite pix of the day.

I thought the pictures of the boys covered in mud looked like a scene out of “Lord of the Flies.”


The elephant clearly enjoyed the mud bath too!

Now, this sequence of shots of Jen and Shane exchanging smooches on the elephant trunks cracks me up.

Shane…always the smooth operator.

We also went on a bike tour of the countryside.  It’s quite a sight to see 16 people biking down the backroads of Chaing Mai.

We saw rice fields…

and visited more temples.

We managed to make it through with only a couple of crashes, nothing too serious.

And then we made visit to the tigers.  Controversial, I know…

Final stop of the Asian Invasion: Beijing!