Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Giant Buddha

The giant Buddha is where we traveled to today, it is in Leshan.  Another two hour bus ride.  The bus and train stations are mad houses.  There is no orderly way to get on the bus or train.  They open the gates  and everyone charges toward the gate.  People are pushing and shoving, it's a stampede.  They do not take your ticket until you get on the bus or train. They do assign seats because you can purchase either a seat or standing room only ticket.  They are both quite nice to ride although, extremely crowded.

The giant Buddha is carved into a mountain and it is visible by either a steep cliff road or by the river ferry boat.  We opted for the steep cliff road,  While getting to the cliff road, first you walk up the mountain and view the gardens(not much to see it's still winter) and temples but,it's peaceful and away from the continuous honking.  They honk all the time whether you are in the roadway or not.  They even honk in Leshaun and it is a very small town in comparison only one million people.  The cliff road is very steep in spots but, has steps throughout.  Going down is always much easier than coming back up.  We were hoping that when we had reached the bottom that we would not have to climb back up,  Lo and behold we climbed back up and then down again into a very quaint little fishing village.  Here i could have stayed and enjoyed the river but, there were some ladies hawking their merchandise and chased us away.  They do not understand the word "NO" or " BOO" which is Chinese for No.  If you think the stuff the Chinese sell to the states is junk/  The stuff they sell to their own people is worse.

I have yet to find a fabric store but, have found quite a few yarn stores and counted cross stitch is BIG here.  When asking about a fabric shop they either send me to a tailor or a women's clothing store. I have found a few things on the Internet but, when i try to translate, it just doesnt work.  I have even found clerks to write it in their own language but, when i show the taxi driver, he never seems to understand.

I have yet to buy anything to take home it is either bloody expensive or so cheap it would fall apart while packing.

We have enjoyed some peaceful days, where we just walk around and find whatever.  Maybe a nice place for lunch, time for a beer, grocery shopping, people watching.  How could i forget this, I had to register with the police department in every little town i go to.  This is always a comedic situation because neither I or the police speak the same lingo.  Their forms are always in Chinese Characters, truly a sitcom should be written on this alone but, the government must know where we are at all times. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Little more observing and you notice the ladies all have sleeves for their coats, they are plastic protective covering and have cute little things on them such as "Hello Kitty", flowers, monkeys.  the reason for this is they never take their coats off, they keep everything at the same exact temperature, inside or outside.  They think that you pick up less diseases by keeping everything the same temp.  Needless to say my feet have not been warm for days.

Another observations is that the men carry the ladies purses, i'm not sure why but, we have all come up with a few theories.  I say it means they are going out together or attached in some way.  Here are a few more theories, they can get the guy to do it, they are too weak to carry their own.  This really baffles me and why would you want your man to carry your purse?

Just got back from the Panda Reserve, the Pandas are AMAZING!!!!  They are incredibly cute.  The park is very clean and i almost flet like i was breathing fresh air.  AAAAaaaaahhhh!!!  The bamboo trees are also very note worthy.  The pandas were active and i got some great pics.  Hopefully, i will try and post again tonight. I havent been very fortunate to do this whenever i get a picture up the connection goes down.

I was missing the sun, haven't seen it since Beijing.  Today i caught a glimpse of it for about five minutes or so.   Quite Nice. We have treated ourselves to a real hotel tonight, complete with Heat and a real shower.  I might actually sleep with warm feet tonight.  YEAH!!!!! I might even get caught up with some western news. 

The panda reserve is in Chang-du.  it's approximately 2 hour bus ride west from Chongqing.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Today we headed out to find the "Harry Potter" store both of my girls are huge (did i say HUGE) fans so, i thought it would be fun to pick something out from there to bring home.  Chongqing has five different downtown districts.  Did I tell You 32 Million People. We have explored four out of five and lo and behold they have closed them all down. Sorry Girls.  They do have a great Rail Metro Station, which is only two years old and nice and clean.  though this task has taken us all morning and into the afternoon we will not be going to the hot springs but, will get ready to meet John's friends for "KTV"

First John wants to take us out to dinner in one of the high rises with a magnificent view of the city. The dinner was wonderful and the view stunning.  The chinese light up everything.  All of the buildings have lights and not just the tops, and not just one color, we ate talking flashing, red, blue, green, yellow white lights everywhere.  In the trees too.  Some are synchronized, some stay the same but, there are lights everywhere.

we then head to "KTV" to meet up with Johns friends.  We start off with about seven of his frineds and end up with about 12 -15 young men who all teach English, and who are from all over the world.  Though the majority are either from Britain or the the states.  They are all very nice and come out strong when there is a relative in town.  There are so few foreigners in town that they stick together which is quite nice.  Back to "KTV" which is Karaoke television.  John is an excellent singer but, i do not carry tunes too well.  You actually rent a private room for your party and order drinks and snacks. You get two Mics and pick your own music.  It was a lot of fun and this took us into the wee hours of the morning.
Upon Arrival in Chongqing, we found our next hostel "Where Friends Meet" it is located on a "houtang" which is an alley where they sell just about everything and street food.  This is always very interesting and I'm starting to haggle a bit.  It is also located on one of the major rivers that go through the city.  I  would like to say that the view is beautiful but, you really cant see through the "Haze".

We found a wonderful place for lunch with a Chinese band which played traditional music and really performed for us.  There are not a lot of westerners in this part of China so, they are extremely friendly and want you to feel at home.  They also take your picture a lot!!

We then Headed to John's Apartment which, is on the 16th floor of an extremely tall high-rise.  It is quite small but, a lovely place.  His roommate David will be leaving next week so, John is looking for another place to live.  No roommate this time.  It seems that the Chinese build everything upwards, there are so many tall, very tall buildings. Chongqing has 32 million people.  It is the third largest city in China. 

He then showed us the cheap imitation shopping district.  It is underground and goes on and on and on.  It is where they sell all of the name brand rip offs.  Its quite amazing and ohn assures me the stuff falls apart rather quickly.

We stopped and had some beer on the street and people watched a bit.  there are people everywhere and even though its the middle of the day, its packed.  Makes me wonder if anyone works here and yet i know the Chinese are very hard working.  There is just SO many people.

From there we went to club that John has played in and had a few more beers because he claims that i must feel a bit buzzed before we meet his friends and eat "Hot Pot".  Hot Pot is a bit like fondue, there is a big pot in the middle of the table filled with oil, a very SPICY oil.  You put in your own food and fish it out with chopsticks, no skewers. Food consists of beef, pork, chicken feet, intestines, bean sprouts, lotus root, (which is yummy), brains ( i did not ask who's) tofu, cucumber, potatoes, noodles. Digging it out with chopsticks is not as easy as you would think.  In fact not easy at all, not sure if it was the beer or the fact that chopsticks are still a bit foreign though getting easier daily.  John's friends came with us , where more beer was drank and some wine which was more like a grape juice than a liquor.  We had a lot of laughs and John's friends were more than pleasant

From there and the time is now Mid-night and the street is still hopping we headed to a Mahjong
room.  You rent the room for however long you like and they supply a hot sweet tea which you drink through a straw.  We, of course, brought in our own drinks but, also drank the tea.  I learned the proper way to play Mahjong which is much different than the computer game i play.  The tables are elctroic and automatically set up the tiles for you.  There are four of us to a table and we have two tables going.  I'm quite a compettive game player so, i caught on quickly and even won a round. Had a most enjoyable evening.

Got back to the hostel quite late and it is now early morning.  My feet are once again not cold but, freezing. why they dont heat anything i dont know but, i wish they did.  The Chinese believe that the inside temp should be the same as the outside temp it is just above 32 degrees farenheit. 

i have been truly blessed to see how they really live, eat and entertain themselves.  Because if i was in the states, i would definetely think twice about eating at some of these establishments. 

Tomorrow, Hot springs, and "KTV", Harry Potter store.

Note to self: Little plastic beer cups, sleeves for your coat, Chinese men who carry their ladies purses,
street merchants.
Flying to Chongqing to today and guess what, yep you guessed...I'm back in the middle seat.

Traffic, bicycles, scooters, cars, people, and rickshaws.  Chicago is known for its jaywalkers but,we have nothing on China.  Nobody Looks they just step out into the street and walking in the road is normal and scooters and motorbikes on the sidewalk is normal too.  The honking is non-stop.  The cars don't use signals and cut across lanes with out looking, sometimes three or four at a time and a U-turn is acceptable  anywhere, John likes to throw us into taxi's and me and listen to me gasp and watch me close my eyes and has made quite a few drivers laugh. Then i think they try to be as outrageous as possible.

Toilets, they have two different kinds and you are fortunate when you come across the western variety which, we are all familiar with.  Then there is the Chinese variety. a hole in the floor and have i mentioned their is NO, No, no toilet paper.  You must purchase your own and keep them in your pocket.  they are equivalent to our Kleenex tissues in a plastic bag.  Back to the hole in the floor, they do have grips on either side so, that your feet do not slide.  The more interesting thing is sometimes you come across a western toilet and it has shoe prints on the toilet seat.  Enough said on that subject.

Ok, maybe not because this brings me to a same but different topic. Toddlers pee and poop in the street.  Men also pee in the street.  There are no diapers, the Chinese think that diapers are unclean so, when a child has to go, they squat and relieve themselves. they have holes in their pants so, that their butts are sticking out.  it would definitely save you some money not having to buy diapers.

Now for something completely different, Smoking.  Smoking in Beijing and Xian, they did have non-smoking restaurants and in both hostels you were not allowed to smoke.  These two cities have more of a western influence, though their is plenty of smoking on the street.  John has assured me in Chongqing that smoking is very much the norm and he too has taken up the habit. I too, have observed that when in a restaurant and if the people around you see you smoking they offer you cigarettes and it is bad manners to refuse.  Women who smoke are considered "Slutty" so, few do.

We have been lucky the first two days in Beijing and actually viewed the sun, the last three days or more there has just been this "haze".  it is actually smog but they Chinese call it either "haze" or
"fog".  We are surrounded by what appears to beautiful mountains but, you really can't see them until you are on top of them.  I have yet to see the moon or stars.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Xian.... day three and four

Xian, the city where the terra cotta soldiers live.   
We spent the first day exploring the city, they have a musical fountain and I thought the only one was in Grand Haven, Michigan.  We then went to the small goose pagoda.  Which is situated in a small park and quite lovely.  I must mention that I'm still sore from the great wall.  14 Km up and down stairs truly kicked my butt and it seems that whenever we go that is all we do, climb stairs.
We have truly kept moving since we got here.  Though somewhere between nine and eleven pm we come back to the hostel and order beer.  The Chinese are not noted for their wine or beer but, they do have some nice imports (Guinness and Carlsberg) . I'm enjoying the cultural difference here versus Beijing.  Beijing was very westernized and this has more of a china feeling, including the architecture.  John assures me that his town is even more so.  We explored the Muslim quarter and enjoyed some excellent Indian food.  They have a merchants quarter and haggling is the nature of the game everywhere in China.  I have been not good at this and so, have not purchased much.  They start off at 100 and I now say 20 and hope to get it for 30.  Walking away is the answer, they then drop the price immediately.  It is an art form to master.  speaking of mastering, i do believe I have mastered the chopstick, because after all the walking, we eat well.  Tonight we ate at the dumpling house. Dumplings are a staple here and quite good. They can be filled with beef, pork, seafood and a mixture of all of these.  Hoping to send some pics tonight.
Having a great time tomorrow we fly to Chongquing,  Johns home.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Beijing Day two

The forbidden city, ti-an-men square.  The day is saturday and it is very busy on the subway.  It is 2 yuan to ride the subway which is very cheap.  This is for a round trip.. It is a ratio of 6 yuan to 1dollar.  The square is a square really not much to see but, I can now say that I have put my feet in the square. I have actually twirled around in the square.  Next is the forbidden city, it is filled with the old  style architecture that I so like to see.  It is very spread out and lots of buildings.  The gardens would be beautiful if it was not the middle of winter but, with some imagination you can picture how it would look in the summer.  We did not Have a tour guide so, we were on our own as far as knowing what things were.  There were a few English signs so, you can grasp some of the history.  We also had a china book which helped some.

  From there we headed to the silk market , I'm not sure what I was looking for but, it was not what I found.  It was more like a flea market though they had silk there it was only sold in three meters or more and they very much wanted to measure you for a dress or suit.  John did bargain some earrings for me which I absolutely love.  

We then headed back to the "happy dragon hostel" where our luggage was stored and caught a taxi to the train station.  We are heading to Xian tonight.  John and karen have begged for some western style food so, w are eating at M cDonalds tonight in the train station.   have a sleeping car which has been quite lovely.  Sleeping while traveling has it's benefits.  There is not much countryside, seems to me that there are a lot of factories and high rises even in the smaller towns.  Hardly any stars and I have yet to see the moon.  

Eating so far has been a pleasant experience.  You always get chopsticks, a bowl and a plate. The bowl and plate are of a desert size.  You put everything in the bowl and the plate is used for spitting out bones or shells or you just spit it out on the floor.  You do not put your fingers to your mouth, you spit. They do spit everywhere, right in front you on the street, in restaurants, in stores. They have no discrimination when it comes to spitting.

Wile walking to the square we ran into a "houtang" which is an ally filled with street merchants selling food and their wares.  I very much enjoyed this part of the walk.  Of course, they see you and want to sell you everything " cheap".  

I have also had people step right in front of me and take my picture.  They don't see alot of foreigners so, they  just snap your picture.  I'm just wondering what they do with these pictures.  If you  are standing and taking a picture, there is usually more than one camera going off at the same time.  

Tonight, I will touch on the toilets.  


There is just no sleeping in the middle seat. Yes, you do doze off every ten to fifteen minutes and then your eyes open right up. Part of this is because I'm apprehensive about how I will get along. There is a very nice man sitting next to me who's name is Zhou (he tells me to call him George) This is a comfort to me since my father was George.  He has told me that all Chinese men know how to cook, because in order to "grab a woman's heart you must first grab her stomach.  I found this interesting and told him that it was just the opposite in America.  The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  he has also reissued me of other things, China is very crowded, there is no " personal space", it is not uncommon for four generations to be living together.  he has also taught me my first word,  "Gambay" which is  for clinking glasses together When drinking.  I'm drinking wine, he's drinking water.  I'm drinking wine for a couple of reasons, it's free, and I was hoping it would knock me out. Which brings me full circle. there is just no sleeping in the middle seat.  

now on to things I have learned myself.... rule one is to exchange your money before you ever leave the states.  But, of curse, I did not learn this until I left.  
Rule two: buy better ear buds.....14 hours is a very long flight and my ears now hurt.

First impressions from the sky.  Mountains, long oblong buildings at first and then everything rises up....a tremendous amount of very tall buildings...apartment type...the roads are almost devoid of any traffic and see that I'm landed at 4:30 I had  thought to see more.  my western way of thinking.

I am quite taken already by the Chinese lettering.  It's quite fun to figure out, not that I can but, quite interesting all the same...

I found John at the airport!!!!  yeah!!!

Tonight, though I'm extremely tired we are heading to get some Peking duck.  The best place to eat this dish so, I'am  told is in Beijing.   

The duck was amazing. Yum yum!!! With it we had a traditional green vegetable, some sort of seaweed (which i quite liked) along with tree fungus and a bread pudding with a semi sweet sauce.  the restaurant is very loud.  people sitting next to each other seem to be yelling at one another.  I'm assured by John that this is quite normal and in fact this is a QUIET restaurant.

The hostel we are staying at is called "The Happy Dragon" the staff is very nice and speak English quite well.  The rooms are cold, heat is not an option in China.  The temp in restaurants and homes are kept at about 50 degrees. Tonight the outside temp is 18. Brrrrrr!!!!! My feet are freezing.  This is also the reason why I'm awake at four in the morning.  could possibly have something to do with the time change too...but, I'm blaming  my feet. Did I say ice cubes.

Today we head to the great wall.  So, I should try and get some sort of shut eye good night all...

 Note to self ...tomorrow I must mention beds and plates bowls, bones shells 
Toilet paper,fortune cookies

Yesterday,  we went to the great wall.... The Chinese say that no man is a hero until he walks the great wall... you can now call. Me. Wonder Woman.... From Beijing it takes approx 2 hours, it's a nice bus ride and we hired a guide.  THis is a great place to mention that the traffic here is unbelievable and I felt that I should just close my eyes because, I.  Was silently swearing to my self the whole time.  People just make u-turns wherever, the cyclists and pedestrians walk and ride where ever.  Makes me want to cringe every time we get into a taxi. 

Back to the wall, it was incredibly, the views were amazing... We hiked up and down stairs and in the little guard stations, you come up in guard station number 4 walked up hill to number one and then back to 14.  The stairs are never quite the same size so, you must always pay attention to your feet.  Though that was my excuse for stopping and looking at the incredible views.  with our tour we got a complimentary breakfast and lunch.  The lunch was incredible along with breakfast, this was nice because it took the pressure off of ordering food.  Which brings me to, why they have pics with their food menus just like some of the restaurants in the states. Which is nice but, take note this is only in the more expensive restaurants.  Beijing's food is sweet so, I quite like it.  Where John lives the food is spicy, incredibly spicy so, I shall see how I get along there.

We got back to the wall at about five o'clock and then took a nice break.  From there we got into a taxi and headed to the summer palace which looked incredible from the outside but it was closed.  As far as Chinese architecture goes everything is quite modern but, in this section of the city I got to. See some of what I had expected.  More Chinese flavor of architecture.  Though most of it was run down it was still nice to see.  from the summer palace we ventured into the Beijing subway station.  As far as stations go, it was extremely clean and once again very modernized, it was also. Very crowded.

We took the subway to the railway system to buy tickets for tonights excursion to Xian to see the terra cotta soldiers.  We had trouble getting any of the ticket holders to fill our order but, then I see number 16 is the English speaking counter, lo and behold we wait once again only to have to speak Chinese to the agent.  Oh well, we did succeed in buying sleeping car tickets on tonight's train.  Today we head over to teinamen (sp) square and the forbidden city and the silk market....I'm very excited about both.  I saw a bakery, pastry shop up the street so, I think I will head over there while John sleeps.  I guess that means I'm feeling more comfortable about going out on my own.  And I need some caffeine.

Beds here are a two inch foam on plywood which makes for a hard night of sleeping.  Tomorrow night we stay in a hotel, I'm thinking that it might be a bit different kind of bed.  At least I'm hoping it will be.  

There is absolutely no personal space in China.  And no fortune cookies either. Not sure where the Americans got that but, there is none here....hoping tonight on the train I will be able to fill you in on toilet paper and plates and bowls. I'm ever improving on my chopsticks. yeah!!!

Signing off...Wonder Woman 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Less than twelve to go

Ok, I'm packed...and I have now went through the suitcase three times. I have taken things out and then put things back. I have packed only jeans. For those of you who know me well, not sure how this is going to work. I'm definitely use to wearing skirts and now I'm wondering if I should have brought something a little more dressier. I have decided not to open the suitcase again.

China or bust,


Monday, February 13, 2012

One Day to go

I'm still trying to get the feel for this blogging page but, I do believe I'm gaining some insight into how this all works. Thought I would do a bit of sewing tonight since I won't be near my machine for three weeks (withdrawal, maybe I should see about some group therapy) but, there is so much other stuff to get together. I've been pondering toiletry items. I'm sure they have toothbrushes (probably made in China) and paste there. Though I will bring my own anyway, just not a huge tube. Shampoo, conditioner, hair ties since I'm staying in hostels, these items might not be there, and who knows do they have them in hotels. I'm guessing that they wash their hair just like me so, i should pack lightly. I will need room to bring home all of the things I find that are "Made in China". I was warned to bring my own facial scrub because all of the stuff they sell has a whitening agent in it. That would not be good for my pale face. Next, I'm starting to get paranoid about how I'm going to communicate but, I guess pointing my finger will work then I can be classified as one of those typical Americans, the ones who only know one language, their own. How does one end a post? Farewell, always stitching, Love, Kimberly

Sunday, February 12, 2012