Experience Asian Culture When You Go Global in the Great Lakes Bay

Imagine sampling exotic foods in the Far East, dancing amidst the sights of Spain, or savoring every decadent morsel of Italy. (Sounds nice, right?) Before you sigh over the price tag of a global jaunt, or fret about language barriers, take note: The Great Lakes Bay Region is the perfect place to experience culture from around the globe without ever leaving Pure Michigan!

Japanese Cultural Center 2

Go Global: Asian Style

Hello: Konnichiwa, Japanese; Ni Hao, Chinese; Xin Chào, Vietnamese; Wàt Dee, Thai

Blended within our Michigan towns are rich, cultural nods from Japanese, Chinese, Thai and many other Asian cultures – fused with opportunities to taste, explore and experience another world when you Go Great Lakes Bay!

Take Tea, Traditionally

Step through the handcrafted bamboo gates of Saginaw’s Japanese Cultural Center, and prepare to be immersed in serenity and tradition. Amidst stone lanterns and weeping cherry trees, discover the Awa SaginawAn Tea House, constructed in 1985 as a collaborative effort between Saginaw and its sister city Tokushima, Japan.

Japanese Gardens1. The gardens and tea house are open April – October, Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 4 p.m. The 3-acre Japanese Gardens may be enjoyed for free.

2. Tea & Tour: Explore the tea house with a trained docent (teacher), learn the storied creation of the sukiya (rustic) structure with Japanese hand tools and enjoy green tea and sweets, traditionally and beautifully presented, for just $3 during business hours.

3. Traditional Tea Ceremony (Chanoyu): Witness celebrants in traditional kimono perform the 400-year-old ritual of serving tea at 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Take photos, ask questions and enjoy tea and sweets for $8.

Japanese Cultural Center 3

Go Global Bonus: Try your hand at Japanese calligraphy at the annual Japan Festival, 1 – 4 p.m., September 13, 2015. Taste sushi, witness Japanese performing arts and cultural demonstrations and maybe even play a traditional Japanese game or two! Entrance to the festival is free.

Try Tai Chi

An ancient Chinese form of martial arts, Tai Chi is practiced for its health-giving and spiritual benefits – one hour of tai chi burns more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing!

1. The word Tai translates to “big” or “great”; Chi, “ultimate energy”. It is non-competitive, deliberately slow-paced exercise.

2. Experience “Tai Chi at The Crow”, led by Jim Bush, at Saginaw’s The White Crow Conservatory of Music. Wear comfortable clothes; drop-in fee is $5.

Sample Asian Fare

Dine in, take out, or test your culinary skills at home – but certainly taste the Orient. Options are vast to enjoy authentic Asian, Asian-American and Asian fusion fare right in our region!

Spring Roll1. Visit Pasong’s Café in Saginaw for locally-famous spring rolls served with made-     fresh-daily sweet and sour sauce, a bowl of life-changing Pho (soup of Vietnamese origin) or Pad Thai, and Thai Tea, a creamy, orange beverage served cold. Interested in discussing foods, flavors, and culture? Owner Tina Saycosie, originally from None Khô, Savannakhet, Laos, is a living wealth of information, worth a listen.

2. Asian Noodle in Bay City specializes in Filipino food, and also offers dishes with Singaporean, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian and Chinese influences. Soup of the day varies, but Tinolang Manok, a fragrant soup with ginger, vegetables, green papaya, is popular, and locals rave about the Halo-Halo dessert.

3. Head to Basil Thai Bistro in Midland to sample authentic, northern Thai cuisine. Be prepared to enjoy your meal served family style, and don’t leave without trying the Som Tum (papaya salad) stirred with pickled crab in a lime fish sauce.

Pad Thai

Go Global Bonus: Peruse Pinterest for Asian recipes, and head to Saginaw’s Asian Market to stock up on oriental food items, spices, drinks (and perhaps green tea or purple yam-flavored ice cream for dessert)!

Explore the Arts

This Summer, enjoy unique opportunities to further explore Asian culture thanks to community collaboration between the Saginaw Art Museum, Japanese Cultural Center and Saginaw Valley State University.

1. “Preserving and Persevering: A Japanese Community Collaboration”, June 11 – July 11. Behold a collection of 14 Japanese wood cuts and elegant, authentic Japanese quilts (on loan from the Japanese Cultural Center) on display at the Saginaw Art Museum.

2. “Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams”, May 22 – August 29, an exhibit at SVSU’s Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum featuring fifty photographs by Ansel Adams of the Japanese American relocation camp in Manzanar, Cali., during World War II.

Want to take your global experience even further?  Follow us at the Go Great Blog for more posts in the “Go Global in the Great Lakes Bay” series and discover opportunities to experience far-off lands, close to home.

Jen Wainwright is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Michigan. She specializes in marketing communications copy, feature articles and compelling content/blog posts. Jen enjoys experiencing multicultural opportunities in the Great Lakes Bay Region with her family, camping and laughing. You can find her at www.jenwainwright.com.

Thumbs Up for Huron County – A Guide to Pure Michigan’s East Side

Looking to visit Pure Michigan’s east side? From Harbor Beach to Port Huron, and everywhere in between, there are endless opportunities to lose yourself in nature and explore one of the state’s hidden gems. Guest blogger Barbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, shares just some of the amazing things Michigan’s thumb has to offer! 

I was raised in Mid-Michigan, only a few miles from I-75; our beachfront home in Bay City was a pit stop for friends and family on their way “up north.” While there are numerous points of interest up north in the Upper Peninsula, and throughout our great mitten state, my roots are in the Thumb, and I think has a lot to offer!

I’ve often joked, because Huron County is its own peninsula, nobody travels through it by mistake. If you are in Huron County, you mean to be there. Sadly, Huron County is easily and often missed. However, there are many wonderful reasons to live, visit, and play in Huron County.

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Photo Courtesy of Karen Murphy.

Let’s start with the geographical fact that Huron County offers you a sunrise to sunset opportunity. Start your lakeshore tour of Huron County by spending the night in my city, Harbor Beach. Stay at a motel, a bed and breakfast, a cabin rental, or a county or city campground. The sunrise view of the Harbor Beach Lighthouse and pier are incredible; enjoy them while walking or jogging along our newly appointed Harbor View Trail.  Our Maritime Festival has been rocking for over 10 years now, and is our biggest event of the summer. Take a tour of the lighthouse, and dine at the beach or at one of our many restaurants before embarking on the rest of your journey.

Travel north on M-25, through Port Hope, but don’t forget to stop for a huge hand-dipped ice cream cone at Grindstone General Store. Enjoy it there, or take it to go. Then, continue on your way to Port Austin. If you enjoy shopping at farmer’s markets, then you are in luck! Port Austin boasts one of the biggest and most successful farmer’s markets in the state! I love picking up fresh vegetables at the market, especially for my Pico de Gallo recipe. I serve it with tortilla chips for a light party dish or afternoon snack, or use it to top off a cheeseburger or scrambled eggs. Of course it is delish in quesadillas, fajitas, or nachos too! Yum! Port Austin is also home to an impressive marina, many restaurants, and a spectacular Fourth of July show. You might even wish to take in a play or musical at the Port Austin Community Players.

Photo Courtesy of Farm Barbie.

Photo Courtesy of Barbara Ann Siemen.

As you travel to the west side of the county, now going south on M-25, be sure to stop at Port Crescent State Park to see the beautiful beach and a favorite state campground.  You will travel through Bay Port, on your way to the quaint cottage town of Caseville, home to the infamous Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival. Caseville also hosts several other festivals and events throughout the year. Caseville is diverse in its accommodations, too, with choices ranging from campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, motels, to weekly cottage rentals. Grab a beer and a bite to eat at the new Thumb Brewery, before heading out on a fishing adventure with Team Gunsmoke.

After you limit out for the day, cuddle up on the beach at Caseville County Park and watch the sunset to complete your journey. You’ve accomplished a lot in Huron County! Congratulations! Now is a good time for you to begin planning your next trip back to HuCo! There are a lot more neat towns and points of interest in Huron County, I just can’t name them all! You” just have to come back soon.

FB Profile picBarbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, is a city girl turned country chick, thanks to falling in love with a farmer. She’s a stay at home mom and professional farmer’s wife. She’s also an amateur photographer, chef, and fashionista and an aspiring children’s book author. Check out her blog.


5 Pure Michigan Locations Perfect for a Postcard

Do you love to capture that picture perfect moment? Every day, our fans share incredible photos from around the state, showing just a small piece of all of the natural beauty Pure Michigan has to offer. As we continue to celebrate spring, guest blogger Shalee Blackmer from The Awesome Mitten shares her five favorite places to photograph in Pure Michigan. 

My favorite adventure is one with great photo opportunities. Lucky for us, Michigan is filled with natural wonders, killer sunsets and beautiful lighthouses creating endless opportunities for photo-ops. The start of Michigan’s most photogenic season is upon us, which means it’s time to break out the phones, cameras and GoPros to capture another amazing summer of memories. There are many postcard-worthy photo spots around the state—but here are just a few to start your summer list.

image1. Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Ludington

Located about five miles north of downtown is one of my favorite places in Michigan, Ludington State Park. After a hike of about 1.8 miles, you will come upon the massive lighthouse that is delicately nestled into sand dunes. With no cars, light crowds, calm waves, and pure beauty, this one place sums up why Michigan is the best place in the world.

Photo tip: Getting far away from the building and up on a sand dune is the best way to capture the moment. Hike north of the beach about 500 feet and take a landscape shot with the lighthouse sitting in the far left of the frame. You will also never regret going for a sunset.

2. Porcupine Mountains, Upper Peninsula

I’m a mountain and hiking girl at heart, which means the Porcupine Mountains are my Michigan heaven. Although it can be quite the journey for much of the state, the Porkies are beyond worth the trek. Fall is absolutely stunning and it reminds me how lucky I am to live in such an enchanting state. We sure have the lakes, but the mountains are just as wondrous.

Photo tip: Summer and fall are the best times for the photo journey. Find cliff lookouts and mountain peaks to take clean shots without other objects interfering. Think of unique subjects for the photos; hiking shoes, wildlife, a tent etc. Tell a story with the photo to bring others along on the journey.

image (2)3. Turnip Rock, Port Austin

At the tip of “The Thumb” is a rocky shoreline and natural landmark known around the world as Turnip Rock. It requires a three-mile kayak journey from downtown Port Austin and is best to do on a calm day. Saying the trip was a blast is a complete understatement. The area is absolutely unbelievable.

Photo tip: Jump out of the kayak and wade in knee-deep water to capture the perfect shot. Shooting from a low point will capture the rock and the trees on top in one frame. Try your best to make sure nothing else is in the shot or background (even other people).

4. A Michigan beach sunset, Everywhere

image (1)Sunsets are a Michigan selling point and my all-time favorite thing to watch. My best locations for shooting are Caseville, Manistee, Beaver Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes. I think we all can agree when I say a Michigan sunset is the best medicine from reality.

Photo tip: It is important to know that clouds are good. A sunset with clear skies will have no uniqueness. Clouds will give the photo character and the best colors usually come after the sun has set, so don’t give up too early. Shoot from creative angles with creative subjects. A footprint in the sand or your sunglasses on the beach can create a story rather than a photo.

5. Tulip Time Festival, Holland

image (3)Hollands Tulip Time Festival is an annual tradition that takes place every spring. Thousands of tulips bloom and make the fields dance with colors, life and beauty. A windmill placed amongst the tulips makes visitors feel as if they have been transported to a fairytale from the Renaissance era.

Photo tip: Get low. A picture from close to the ground will capture the entire windmill and numerous shades of tulips. Make sure the windmill is not in the center and instead place it on either side of the frame. When editing, don’t over-saturate and make the colors overwhelm the picture.

A fancy camera is not needed to capture some of the best moments. At the end, you can create a calendar to reminisce about all the fun you had down the road. Most importantly, have a blast. Create a road trip or getaway with family or friends.

Gear up! Summer is on its way and there is a lot of exploring to do!

image (4) (2)Shalee Blackmer is a 21 year old college student who grew up in the small town of Mecosta. She currently attends Michigan State University as an Advertising student and spends her time exploring the outdoors. Her hobbies include running her own travel blog, which aims to inspire college-age students to see explore on a budget and taking photos to share her story. She enjoys camping, road trips, hiking and cliff jumping and enjoying Pure Michigan beauty.