A Spectacular Coastline – Big Sur

Along scenic Highway One approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco lies a 90-mile stretch of awesome beautiful coastline – Big Sur. Its dramatic meetings of rugged cliffs and raving waves of the Pacific Ocean create a spectacular view of land and sea, offering an irresistible reason for an excursion from Silicon Valley.

The weather of this Memorial weekend couldn’t be better. The bright sunshine of May breathes new life into every form of being. Flowers are blossoming, vegetation is green, and the smell of the ocean washes away any tension and distress in modern life. Here, technology doesn’t matter and business is irrelevant.

Among its numerous state parks and beaches, my favorite spot is McWay Waterfall. A short trail leads to an astonishing 80-foot waterfall, dropping off a cliff onto the beach nested in a little cove. The aqua blue water gently taps onto the white sand shore, as ceaseless pulses of the ocean. The sublime beauty of the scene cheers my heart and uplifts my spirit. To say it is a paradise on earth is an understatement!

A day hike of Tan Bark Trail sees the best of the Big Sur wilderness. The trail goes up through redwoods and tan oaks, with slopes as steep as amost 90 degrees and a running creek streaming down crystal-clear waters. Near the top of the mountains, a waterfall runs under a short wooden bridge. Sitting on the bridge and listening to nature rejuvenate me. On the way back, a grand ocean view of California bays overlooking Highway One came into sight – it literally took my breath away!

Nothing can end the day more delightfully than watching the sunset at Pfeiffer Beach. A secret of Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach is hidden in the far end of the winding Sycamore Canyon Road. The beach is spotted by rough rocks, with an arch magically standing amidst roaring waves. It is said at certain time of the year, the sun actually sets exactly in the arch. As the wind blew stronger toward dusk, the setting sun shining through flying clouds presented a drastic seascape that I would never forget.

I am immensely humbled by the beauty of nature at Big Sur. Isn’t it a luxury, or a necessity, to be able to pause and reflect in life? To be harmonious with nature is to be harmonious with our inner selves. Big Sur, it’s not just a spectacular coastline, it’s also a destination of natural beauty and harmony.

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e-Commerce Momentum in China

In my previous posts, I talked about the challenges of e-commerce in China, and the competition between local Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba / TaoBao and global online auction site eBay China / EachNet. Six months later, the competitive landscape has changed dramatically. e-Commerce is clearly picking up momentum in China.

The latest China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) data revealed that TaoBao had a 67.3 percent share of China’s customer-to-customer (C2C) market in terms of user numbers by the end of March, while eBay China had only 29.1 percent market share. The most popular transactions in China’s C2C market were for clothes, cosmetics, computers, cell phones and home appliances.

According to , founder, chairman and CEO of Alibaba, that owns TaoBao which has now over 15 million users, the most critical factor for TaoBao being successful at C2C e-commerce in China is its payment system AliPay, the PayPal equivalent in China.

One of the key issues that hindered e-commerce in China in the past is the under-developed payment systems that resulted in the settlement risk – the risk of ensuring the goods are delivered and payments are made between buyers and sellers. AliPay, different from other payment systems in the market, solves this problem by escrowing cash until the goods are delivered. In a way, AliPay acts as a temporary bank between buyers and sellers. In the meantime, it increases the liquidity in the TaoBao marketplace. AliPay is a key driver of the company’s success and e-commerce in China.

Ambitious Ma is also aiming to make Alibaba the No. 1 search engine in China, taking on and . He plans to take Alibaba IPO in the near future. His vision is to make his company one of the world’s top three most powerful Internet companies and a Global Fortune 500 company a decade from now.

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Villa Montalvo

Hidden in the Saratoga hills and standing silently is a magnificent Mediterranean-style mansion surrounded by 175 acres of beautiful estate gardens – Villa Montalvo. Now a center for literary and performing arts, Montalvo is the legacy of former Senator James Phelan (1861-1930) as a public park and home for art, literature, and music in the Bay Area.

The Villa has the Spanish cotta-tile roof, graceful terraces, and a wide open veranda overseeing expansive crispy-green lawns. On the other end of the lawns, a classical gate opens to a long pathway leading to a pavilion with Greek white columns – Love Temple. Along the pathway are terrains of tall pine trees and prismatic gardens on both sides.

When I first visited it three years ago, I immediately understood why Villa Montalvo is a place sought after by the couples who want to tie their vows. I can’t imagine a better place for a beautiful, romantic and joyful wedding.

My favorite spot is the Oval Garden located right behind the Villa. It has a rose garden setting with charming wisteria-covered pergolas and Roman statues. The surroundings offer an ideal place for ceremony. With enchanting music in the background, guests can mingle in the courtyard or on the patios, enjoying splendid views of the estate’s lawns and gardens while sipping champagne and sampling hors d’oeuvres.

In addition to its natural beauty, has become a center for creativity, offering art courses, performing arts events, gallery exhibitions, and artist residencies. Every year, Montalvo and its arts programs serve nearly 200,000 visitors from around the world. “Montalvo,” as it is said,” in its silence and beauty, will become one of the creative forces of the world.”

To many people, Villa Montalvo is a place of art, beauty, tranquility and majesty. To me, it is a place of special memory in my heart.

– A tribute in remembrance of our wedding at Villa Montalvo and in celebration of our togetherness for three blissful years.

Photo source: http://www.villamontalvo.org/
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