Traveling the World, My Dream, My Passion

If you are my friends, if you are my colleagues, if you have read my books, or if you happen to come across my Facebook page or bump into me in a souvenir shop in Tenerife or Gran Canaria, you’d know that I have an itchy feet and enjoy visiting exotic and fabulous new places. It has always been my dream to see the world – I don’t know when that dream began but I know that it will never end.

When I was growing up, I could not venture very far, due the many practical constraints I faced. Then I got a lucky break. My life in the past three decades has taken me far and wide. Based in the UK, at the corner of Europe, my grand dream of seeing the world is no longer a young girl’s wishful thinking, it has become reality!

Naturally, I have left footprints in every part of Great Britain. There won’t be a tourist place I have not visited on this island, be it Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales or England, from the top of Scottish highlands, to the English Channel. It’s quite possible that I have beat a great majority of native English people in a travel competition as to the number of places I’ve visited, and I’m very proud of this fact.

My desire to explore has taken me to best parts of Europe. Of the 50 European countries I can count about half of that in my sojourn, although some of these countries I have been to more than once. A country like Italy has so many beautiful cities and areas that one single visit just would not do justice. There was beautiful countryside studded with wonderful gems like Siena and Florence in Tuscany, historical Rome, film-settings like Venice, the Lakes in the north of Italy, not to mention the leaning Tower of Pisa and the sunny island of Sardinia floating in an azure sea between Italy and France.


There were numerous adventures to Greek islands, and top of my list are Santorini, Zante, Kefalonia and many more. Ranking high on my list of top destinations  are also the Spanish Canaries off the Africa coast, and the garden paradise of Madeira in the Atlantic. Then if sandy beaches are too hot to handle, there are very cool places, like the Swiss and Austrian Alps for skiing, or Paris and Prague for immersion in art and culture. The Europeans are spoilt for choice and quite a lot of them don’t even know it or appreciate it.

In Asia, my exploits remain limited, but I have been to many wonderful locations in China, and I love Malaysia and Singapore, for different reasons. There are quite a few countries in my bucket list.

Despite the tedium and testing of long haul, I visited Australia and totally fell in love with it, the climate, the people, the food, the wild life, just to name a few attractions. New Zealand is one of the dreams yet to be realised.

I have to say that USA has some of my favourite places on earth. Yosemite is right there, as well as San Francisco, Oregon, Chicago, Indiana and Seattle. It’s such a massive country and I wish I was young enough to take a ‘gap’ year so I could play Columbus and ‘discover’ America all over again!

Two Continents remain virgin territory to me, which are South America and Africa. So I think there is a need for me to try harder and travel further. My diary is filling up nicely as I write this.

Finally, this is just a short introduction to a series of my travel logs. I would love to share with my readers of all the beautiful places I’ve been to and the happy memories of each and every place. There will be pictures, videos from many of these travels, and I am going to take you with me. Come, fly with me, and enjoy these virtual tours with JunyingKirk Airlines :-).

Thanks for being my travel companion and please leave a comment if you have enjoyed the trip. If you like, share your travel experience and list your very own top attractions here as well.

Posted in Travelog, True Life Story, Writing | 2 Comments

Strategic Thinking in Building Author Platform and Finding an Audience


Three months ago I ranted about my confusion and dilemma when confronting head-on all the social media options out here to help an indie, self-publisher author to market her work and reach her potential fans/readers (A New Author’s Reflection and Dilemma in Promoting Books ( Now still relatively new on the scene but with two full length novels on Amazon Kindle, and a contribution to a short story collection, I feel I am on more solid ground and no longer as disorientated and overwhelmed. The newly acquired confidence partly comes from picking my way through the giant maze of options, hence a massive learning curve, partly derived from the generous support of fellow writers I’ve come to know, respect and learn from.

Through Facebook and Twitter I’ve met many individuals who are in a similar position to myself.   For the last few years since I opened my Facebook account, my circle of friends had remained around 30 with whom I had maintained regular contact and face to face interactions at some stage of my life, now three months after my ‘status’ changed from a normal human being to a ‘published author’, the numbers of my Facebook friends have doubled many times over, and will continue to grow no doubt. These new faces are, guess who? … all published authors of one form or another. While some have been in the game for ever, others are just starting out or have yet to publish their debut novels. If back in March I was pushed into the water trying not to sink in the oceans of writers, in June I have learnt to do the basic doggy-paddle and take a much needed breath above water.

I enjoyed being a member of GoodReads, where I was just a regular reader for a couple of months before I realised that I could actually have an author’s page there with details of my books on. It was a wonderful place for book lovers to share their enthusiasm and passion for literature and movies. I have made the acquaintance of quite a few avid readers who have similar tastes to mine, and I was glad to be able to write reviews on the books I truly loved.

The important lessons I have learnt from my readings and navigating my way through these networks have been: I need to know who and where my audience are and what they can get from me? Based on this premise, I am in the middle of building my unique author platform with the grand plan of reaching millions of my readers/fans out there on this planet Earth. Well, maybe not quite in its millions, as that sounds a bit ambitious and perhaps grandiose. But at least a few years down the road, I hope that I would have reached more than just my family and Facebook friends :-).

Thanks for checking in and do leave a comment if you have learnt anything useful from this week’s blog.


Posted in Social Media, Writing | 9 Comments

My Favourite Films

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog on The Changing Face and Place of Films, when I promised to share with my readers my best loved films, so here is the moment of truth.

As a long-term film fan of many different genres and from different eras and countries, it is not an easy task to give a full list of those truly wonderful and unforgettable films I have watched in my life, but I shall make an attempt to give you a flavor of the kind of films that have made a lasting impact in my memory.

For starters, these are the top five films I’ve named on my Facebook: Escape to Victory, Spartacus, The Sound of Music, Life Is Beautiful and American Beauty. I watched the first three films while still in China many years ago, and I remember them so clearly.

Escape to Victory was set in the Second World War. It was not so much the amazing football, including the legendary Pele, it was the spirit and the message from the film that moved me and make it memorable. It also had a wonderful cast. I loved Spartacus for the same reason. I love strong heros who, no matter what their origin, stand up and fight for freedom. Similar films that appeal to me include Braveheart, Schindler’s list, Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist,The Great Escape and Life is Beautiful.

Apart from good war films, I am a huge fan of action blockbusters, such as The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Mission Impossible, Jason Bourne, Terminators and X-men. I am always up  for a treat. There are few things better than going to cinema with a friend on a night out, or simply sitting on my sofa and taking a ride in those amazing James Bond cars.

You would think that I am a war-like action hero-worship movie freak if you’ve read this far, but I do like a lot of other films, which are lighted-hearted and great fun. Not only good musicals like The Sound Of Music, The Wizard of Oz and Chicago are wonderfully entertaining, I also enjoy some well-written, well-acted rom-coms. Off the top of my head, these include The 40 Year Old Virgin, some Charlie Chaplin comedies, and more recently Meet The Fockers.

Having said that, if given a mindless silly fun or a more gritty realistic take on life, I’ll probably go for the latter. I don’t care too much for horror or supernatural, but a violent and bloody dose of reality does not put me off.

Some of my favorite films were adapted from my favorite books. For example, Jane Eyre and its many versions over the years. Wuthering Heights is another, and Atonement, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, and many more.

I have not listed any Chinese films here, or low-budget British or foreign languages films, but I’d love to know what films you love and why. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

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No More Heroes

I remember the moment. Etched in my memory as if in the granite mountain behind them, Lance Armstrong and German Jan Ullrich climbing a massive hill in the Alps , far ahead of the peloton. Lance looked over at Jan, not once but three times, checking to see what he had left in the tank. This was one of their many private battles.

Armstrong had seen enough; he knew from the look in Ullrich’s eyes that he had nothing left. He was just hanging on doggedly, his heart rate already in the red zone. Armstrong pounced and stood up on the bike, dancing on the pedals for a devastating  attack that left Ullrich for dead.

This pattern was to be repeated for several years until Armstrong had amassed a record number of Tour de France wins. He had reached an almost mythical standing in the sport and in the wider world. Cycling fans either loved or hated him. Some hated him for being so American, so brash so uncompromising, for refusing to give interviews in anything but English.

Others were always suspicious of the way he could just leave people behind when he chose to. The way he could smash the challenge of other World class atheletes in the race. The way he only entered the Tour de France. The single minded concentration on that one great prize.

He had his attack dogs, who would weaken the others with constant bursts of acceleration, waging psychological warfare on men and teams with less money than US Postal.

In equal measure, fans respected his non-nonsense Texan approach to this most European of sports. They chose to ignore or not to care about the rumours of doping, of drug abuse, of blood transfusions. None of these fitted the mythology of Armstrong. Livestrong. The man who beat cancer. I read his book, as did millions of others and was inspired to get back on my bike.

Today I watched the 60 minutes programme on CBS which spoke at length to one of his team mates and Olympic gold medallist, Tyler Hamilton.  The dream and the myth are over. Even George Hincapie, Armstrong’s best friend on a bike has indicated that the accusations of EPO abuse and blood transfusions are true.

So what are fans left with? A very sour taste in the mouth. The removal of those files of pleasure in the brain, the tarnishing of those great moments in time trials and on the high mountains of the Alps where Armstrong reigned supreme for a decade  On whom should we now pins our fantasies of man and superman. Alberto Contador ? Three times winner of the Tour de France is being investigated for drug abuse. Another phenomenal hill climber who can dance on the pedals while others are fighting for breath. I don’t think so. He looks like he will win the Giro d’Italia, in many ways tougher than the Tour de France, but risks being stripped of the title if he loses the forthcoming court case.

John Kirk

I am grateful to John for his contribution to my very first guest blog. Please read and comment, and thank you for visiting!

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On the Changing Face and Place of Films

Last week I did my blog on Reading and how much I love doing it. This week I’m turning my attention to another of my greatest hobbies, watching movies. Yes, most of us have been to the cinema, and even more of us have watched TV for many years, and with the invention of videos, DVDs and now downloads on our PCs or iMacs, Iphones, and some of us even make home movies and upload them on YouTubes and other websites. Never before have films and entertainment become so easily accessible and they are virtually everywhere in our everyday lives.

For some of us who have lived for a few decades, we bear witness to an amazing change and transformation in our relatively short lifetime. I remember there was a time back in China when we crammed into an outdoor square or a make-do platform and eagerly waited for the showing of a black and white film. There were times when we queued patiently for a cinema ticket and went in excitedly, watching a foreign film with bated breath. Often we brought our own chairs or just sat on the hard and dusty ground.

I don’t remember the first time I ever watched a movie, but I do remember back in the early 1970s when television became available but not every family could afford one, there were organised showings at a designated place. There were not many good Chinese films due to the straight-jacketing of the  notorious Cultural Revolution, but there were quite a lot of foreign language films which were dubbed so the Chinese audiences could enjoy them. Depending on which countries China was friendly with at the time, we would be shown the films from our ‘friends’.

In my memory, I watched quite a few Northern Korean films and I remember one particularly well, and it was called The Girl Who Sells Flowers. It was a story about two sisters separated after the war, one in the South and one in the North. Of course, the one in the South suffered terribly. It was a heart-wrenching story and I cried almost non-stop and nearly passed out when the film came to an end. Now on reflection, I think the Koreans are good at making heartbreaking movies, as a few of the modern South Korean ones I have watched in recent years also made me tearful. Perhaps I just had a very soft spot somewhere or my emotions are easily stirred.

In the 1970s and 1980s while I was still in China, going to the cinema was a huge treat for me, and I went as much as I could. I saw films from Albania, the former Yugoslavia, India, Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, and later on films from our former arch enemies such as UK, France, Germany and America. We had wonderful dub voice actors, some of whom were so famous that they were household names. A few years ago I was saddened to learn that those once famous dub actors were struggling to get work, as many of them were laid off by their employers, the film studios across the country.

My passion for films started early in life, but it was further nurtured and intensified after I arrived in the UK.  Going to cinema is still a wonderful treat and sitting on the comfy sofa and indulging in a great movie is a pastime hard to beat. In the past two decades, it was impossible to calculate how many films I have watched in both cinemas and on Video/DVDs. I guess on the basis of between 2 to 10 movies per week, the number would be quite staggering. I have watched so many good to great movies, again it is not possible to name them all.

In the past year or so, my knowledge of films have become more intimate. In the Autumn of 2009, when my husband and I visited Malaysia, John’s film director friend Razak was making a Bollywood type of movie called Ratu, meaning The Beauty Queen in English. Razak was doing an audition for the leading lady, and I was lucky enough to be present, watching beautiful girls strutting their dance and acting routine to win the part.

A week ago, we went to the Screening of The Insatiable Moon in the Midlands Arts Centre, and we heard the producers talking about the process leading to the filming and during the filming. John knows the producer well and we have watched his films before.

Only a couple of days ago, I signed up a wonderful Chinese director Lu Chuan on my Facebook. To be honest, to say that I was thrilled was an understatement. He is by far the most famous person on my Facebook. I have watched all his three films to date and they were all amazing films in very different ways. His most recent film is The City of Life and Death, about the horrendous war crime that Japanese committed against the Chinese, the Massacre of Nanjing in 1937. This film has received rave reviews from critics in America, and worldwide.

John returned from Malaysia early this morning and greeted me with a bit of news on the side: he played a hospital doctor in Razak’s new romantic comedy, so now I can claim that I married a film star :-).

One day, I hope that my books will be made into films or at least a TV series. Aren’t I a dreamer? We live and we dream!

What are your all time favorite movies? I’d love to hear from you, and I look forward to sharing with you my best-loved films in my next blog.

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