Preparing for a Trip to Prague

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A photograph of tea and a cookie

Friday J is heading to a conference in Prague, so of course I'm going to tag along! I've never visited Prague before and I'm really excited about the trip. I typically use the New York Times travel guide, 36 Hours in Europe for travel inspiration; however, for this trip I've found it less useful than usual. In my search for other ways to plan my trip I've found five helpful resources that I thought I'd share below.

1) Margo from Guten Blog Y'all has written seven helpful posts about her visit to Prague. I definitely stalked those posts when I found out that I'd be heading to Prague. She also went on a yummy food tour that I'm tempted to sign up for.

2) is a helpful website for finding the perfect hotel in Prague. We are staying at the Diplomat Hotel, which is located close to J's conference and close to a metro stop so that I can easily visit all of the sites. Check it out!

3) When planning a trip, I love to check out the Wanderlists on Afar Magazine. These are collections of highlights from trips taken by Afar writers and fellow travelers. You can even post your own trip highlights to share with the world.

4) The blog the Czechesotans covers all things Czech and they even share their expat life there. It only fuels my daydreams of moving to Prague...

5) I've started a board on Pinterest to inspire your next trip to Prague. Boy does that Astronomical Clock look incredible! I'm also very excited to eat all of the pastries - Czech pastries look delicious.

Do you have any last minute pointers for my trip to Prague? What should I see, eat, or do!

The Yunnan Nationalities Museum

Monday, September 29, 2014

Miao embroidery from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming, China

I cannot speak highly enough about the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming. It is honestly the most well-done museum I've visited in a long time (and I visit A LOT of museums). Many of the exhibits are described in English, Mandarin, and Japanese. Communist Party language is generally avoided (YES!) and it is clear that most of the information was provided by anthropologists.

The Nationalities Museum specializes in teaching, researching, and protecting ethnic minority cultures. They have a collection of over 40,000 artifacts, which are displayed in several permanent exhibits. Clearly, my favorite exhibit was on ethnic minority clothing - I have about 100 photographs of the different outfits. If you happen to have the chance to visit outside of Kunming (e.g., in Lijiang or Shangri-La) you will have the opportunity to see people (typically women) wearing their traditional dress. That is one of my favorite things about Yunnan - that these clothes and cultures are not yet a thing of the past.

The Yunnan Nationalities Museum also has an excellent gift shop. I picked up a spoon painted using Yi lacquer-wear techniques. I used to study the wood used to make these handicrafts so was giddy with the chance to finally be able to purchase one. Yes, I get giddy over purchasing spoons...

Getting There: The Yunnan Nationalities Museum is located near Dian Lake (Dian Shi) and the Ethnic Minorities Village, which a bit far from the city center. Take the A1 bus to the final stop (1 or 2 RMB depending on how new the bus is). Walk directly across the street and through the parking lot on the right. The large Yunnan Nationalities Museum will be in front of you. (Lucky for me that my academic work and personal interests overlap!)

More Information: The Yunnan Nationalities Museum offers free admission and the exhibits are in English, Mandarin, and Japanese. The Yunnan Nationalities Museum is closed on Mondays and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

The Outside of the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming, China

The Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming

Inside the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming, China

Women of the ethnic minorities of Yunnan
A short introduction to the colorful ethnic minorities of Yunnan Province

A Bai woman's traditional outfit from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in KunmingAn Yi Minority outfit from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum

an ethnic minority woman's traditional outfit and jewelry from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming, Chinaan ethnic minority traditional outfit from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming

Several of the gorgeous outfits that are worn in Yunnan Province - You can still see people wearing them today!

Embroidered belts, sashes, and aprons from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum
Embroidered belts, sashes, and aprons - I love the embroidery in Yunnan!

woven bags from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum

A model of a bamboo house in the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming, China

Traditional Lacquer wear from the Yi ethnic minority in Yunnan Province, China
Lacquered cups with chicken feet from the Yi ethnic minority

decorative Wa Dang from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming
Wa Dang - decorative edges on roofs

The mask exhibit at the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming, China
The Mask Exhibit

A Tibetan Buddhist Mask from the Yunnan Nationalities Museum
A creepy Tibetan Buddhist mask

Do you like anthropological exhibitions on traditional dress?

Stay tuned for a bonus post tomorrow! I'm linking up with Treasure Tromp for Treat Yo Self Thursday.

Pachaug State Forest and Rhododendron Sanctuary

Friday, September 26, 2014

I love spending time outside. In southeastern Connecticut there are public parks all over, and one of my most recent park finds is the Pachaug State Forest, which is 24,000 acres. The Pachaug State Forest and inclosed Rhododendron Sanctuary, located in Voluntown, Connecticut. The Rhododendron Sanctuary is half a mile of board walk through a swampy Rhododendron habitat.

I've visited Pachaug State Forest because of their Rhododendron Sanctuary. Unfortunately, each time I've visited (in April and the end of May - the typical flowering time for other species of Rhododendron around Connecticut), the rhododendrons were not yet flowering. Clearly, I didn't check the website that says flowering time is in June or July. Whoops! Next time is the charm, right? Despite this, the Rhododendron Sanctuary is gorgeous and the perfect place to visit in any season.

The Rhododendron Sanctuary can be found on 219 Ekonk Hill Road in Voluntown, CT.

Hopewille Pond State Park and Rhododendron Sanctuary

The Rhododendron Sanctuary
 Ferns in the Rhododendron Sanctuary

The Hopeville Pond State Park

Ferns in the water at the Rhododendron Sanctuary

The Rhododendron Sanctuary - not in bloom

The Rhododendron Sanctuary in Connecticut

Where are your favorite parks?

I'm linking up with the #SundayTraveler. Did you link up yet?

10 Things to do in Kunming, China

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1) The Yunnan Nationalities Museum is an excellent anthropological museum that describes the different lifestyles and cultures of ethnic minorities of Yunnan Province. This is the best museum that I've been to in a long time (more details coming up soon).

Ethnic dress at the Yunnan Nationalities Museum

2) Green Lake Park is a popular park and lake in the center of the city. I love heading to Green Lake early in the morning to watch locals practice Tai Chi and dance.

Green Lake park in Kunming

3) The Yuan Tong Temple is a Buddhist temple in the center of Kunming that is from about 1,200 years ago. The admission fee is 6 RMB.

The Yuan Tong Temple in Kunming

4) You can find tea tastings at numerous tea houses and markets throughout Kunming. Tea tastings at tea markets are typically free, though it is expected that you purchase some tea. Try visiting one of the many tea houses around the southern side of the park (try Cuihu W Rd. and Cuihu S Rd.)

Tea for a tea tasting in Kunming

5) Eat rice noodles. The rice noodles in Yunnan are the best (I am certainly biased). Eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! You can find awesome rice noodles throughout the city.

Yunnan Rice Noodles

6) West Mountain (Xi Shan) is a perfect day to spend the day hiking. West Mountain is also very close to Dian Lake and the Yunnan Nationalities Museum.

7) I'm always up for a visit to a botanical garden (I'm a botanist- go figure). The Kunming Botanical Gardens certainly don't disappoint. The gardens are particularly gorgeous from February to May when magnolias and/or rhododendron are in bloom. The Kunming Botanical Garden is a bit far out of the city, so if you are unfamiliar with the bus system, I'd suggest taking a taxi (tell the driver 'Kunming Zhi Wu Yuan zai Heilongtan' or find the address at this website)

The Kunming Botanical Garden

8)  The Bird and Flower Market is an interesting place to pick up souvenirs or people watch. The city is slowly demolishing the old-style wooden buildings; however, if you visit soon you will be able to see the few that remain.

The Bird and Flower Market

9) There are major shopping centers throughout Kunming, the most famous being Nan Ping Street. I love heading to this area to people watch and shop at international stores such as Uniqlo and Zara.

Umbrellas in KunmingShopping at Kunming's Nan Ping Street

10) Dian Lake (Dian Shi) is the largest freshwater lake in Yunnan Province. At Dian Shi is the Grand View Park that has a pavilion built in the 1800s.

11) Bonus! Try excellent Yunnan coffee - even Starbucks sells it!

Yunnan Coffee

Kunming - The City of Eternal Spring


Today I'm linking up with Treasure Tromp for TreatYoSelfThursday!

My Love Affair with Chinese Food

Monday, September 22, 2014

an image of hot pot

Even as a kid growing up in the US I enjoyed eating "Chinese food." When I first traveled to China for my PhD research, I naively thought that Chinese food would be somewhat similar to what is offered at the restaurant in my small town. Boy was I wrong! I've never been more glad to be wrong. Chinese food is millions of times better and more diverse than I expected.

From 2010 to 2012 I lived in Yunnan Province, which is in the southwest of China. The food in Yunnan is incredibly diverse due to 1) the numerous climates that allows for a wide range of crops to be grown and 2) the different cuisines of the 26 different ethnic minorities. For example, Tibetans, who live in high elevations in the northwest of the province have a diet based mainly on buckwheat and yak products (eg., cheese, milk, meat). In contrast, the Dai people, who typically live in the southwest of the province (near Vietnam) eat food that is extremely spicy and often incorporates tropical fruit. Additionally, Yunnan is known throughout China for their numerous species of edible mushrooms as well as their frequent use of wild-collected plant species. This makes for a delicious and diverse cuisine!


When I'm not in China I dream about noodle dishes. Seriously. In Yunnan, noodles are eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Noodles can be made out of rice, wheat, beans, or yams and noodles can be thick, thin, or pulled. The most common form of noodles in Yunnan are thin rice noodles prepared in a bowl of spicy soup that is as large as your head. A bowl of noodles in Yunnan is about 7 RMB (1.14 USD).

yunnan rice noodles
 yunnan style thick noodles

chinese noodles
 bean vermicelli

Chinese rice noodles

Pot Stickers or Dumplings (Jiao zi)

Jiao zi are delicious little morsels filled with meat or vegetables. They are eaten for any meal of the day and are served with dark vinegar and cilantro.

Dumplings (Bao zi)

Bao zi are steamed buns that are filled with meat or vegetables and served with dark vinegar. They are often incredibly cheap (5 RMB for a flat of steamed buns) and are easy to eat on the go. Bao zi are eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are just oh so good!

steamed dumplings and a sesame bun for snacks
 a flat of steamed dumplings

Hot Pot (Huo Guo)

In Yunnan, Sichuan-style hot pot is the go to for dinner. Sichuan-style hot pot is spiced with chili peppers and Sichuan peppers (a mouth numbing spice that looks like a peppercorn). There is also usually the option to have a mild broth as well. Hot pot is a boiling broth that you add uncooked food to. When the food is cooked you remove what you want to eat from the boiling broth. This meal should be eaten slowly with friends and shared beers. Yum!

a nice hot pot spread in Yunnan
Sichuan-style hot pot in Kunming

looking down at a hot pot meal in Yunnan Province
Spicy on the outside, mild on the inside

beer and uncooked food for hot pot
Note the mini glass for drinking beer!

spam and meat for hot pot
Mmm spam. I love spam in my hot pot

frozen tofu and meat for hot pot
Frozen tofu, fish balls, and lamb

Barbecue (Shao Kao)

Shao kao is basically the Chinese version of barbecue; however, there are many more options available. In addition to grilled meats, vegetables, seafood, and tofu, you can have the more unusual pig's brains, chicken feet, and animal innards. Shao kao is eaten for dinner or as a late night snack (perfect for after a late night out). Shao kao is served with chili pepper powder.

Chinese barbecue

cooked chinese barbecue

Eggplants, potatoes, and grilled vegetables

grilled vegetables


Dishes can be a mix of meat, vegetables, tofu, and soups that are eaten for lunch or dinner. Dishes usually compose a large meal, and other than hot pot, can be the most expensive at about 50 RMB for a meal for two people. When ordering dishes for a group of people you should always order at least one more dish than the people eating (e.g., if ordering for 3 people you should order at least 4 dishes). 

spicy green beans
lamb dish

2 acres dish (corn and edamame)
Corn, edamame, and peppers

spicy potatoes
Spicy potatoes

Ku Gua or bitter melon dish
Ku gua - or bitter melon is a Yunnan specialty
Yu Xing Cai - a delicious Yunnan specialty
Yu Xing Cai (sorry I don't really know the translation)

Yunnan mashed potatoes
 sweet and sour chicken

copper pot potato rice from Fu Xian Lake in Yunnan
Copper Pot potato rice - a specialty from Fu Xian Lake

broccoli with Yunnan cheese
Broccoli with Yunnan cheese (so good!)

broccoli cooked with ham

Yunnan broccoli dishes
broccoli with Yunnan bacon

cooked cabbage
Cabbage with peppers and garlic

roasted meat and potatoes
roasted meat and potatoes

fried red beans from yunnan
fried red beans

a meal for two in Yunnan province
a typical Yunnan-style meal for two

Dai Specialties

Dai food is so incredible! Most dishes have a nice balance of spicy and sweet. My favorite dishes include pineapple rice, any kind of spicy meat, and this sweet soy and coconut milk drink with bread and jellies.

Dai drinks
Dai pineapple rice

Dai style spicy meat
Spicy chicken


In addition to shao kao, you can find numerous street snacks such as roast corn and sweet potatoes, fried potatoes, fruit, and hard boiled eggs. Popular snacks are also in found in supermarkets or convenience stores and typically consist of nuts, sunflower seeds, and preserved eggs and meat. Additionally, you can find flower cakes and other pastries that are often filled with red bean paste.

Yunnan style flat bread
Spicy flat bread

perserved meats in Yunnan stores
Preserved meats

a bag of tea flavored sunflower seeds
 flower cake

spicy potatoes for a snack
Fried potatoes

 *Sorry for the long post!

Okay, now I really want a giant bowl of rice noodles. What country has your favorite cuisine? Do you like Chinese food?

I'm linking up with Katie from Something Winnderful for her Social Saturday linkup!