March 2007 Archives


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Some updates

Thursday - Pretty uneventful day, finished our final packing, relaxed on the beach, and caught our fligh to Hainan with the safest cab driver ever (he had a huge drum of compressed natural gas in his trunk). Arrived in Shanghai around 1AM.

Friday - Spent most of the morning getting adjusted to Shanghai and getting our orientation. We had some breakfast shopped a bit (and probably paid too much because we didn't have the hang of haggling yet). We had dinner at a restaurant called Wang Baohe which was interesting. It was 10 courses of crab and crab based dishes, lots of fun to eat. We then tried to hail a cab home, much harder than it seems. There were hundreds of cabs everywhere, but all of them were full, and on each corner (in one of the busier sections of Shanghai) there were people trying to get cabs. We walked about 6 blocks trying to find a cab without much success. Finally we found a spot near the bus stop where a lot of cabs were dropping people, I literally had to grab a cab door and run with it about 5 feet to secure it for our use, in Shanghai its everyone for themselves.

Saturday - this morning it was off to the South Bund fabric market. It's a huge mall with about 75-100 stalls and shops selling customer tailored suits, and other fabric related products. Our haul for today included:

2 custom suits (men's)
1 custom suit (women's)
1 trenchcoat (women's)
1 heavyweight wool jacket (women's)
1 custom silk shirt (women's)
7 custom made shirts
13 ties (yes 13)
2 sets of cuff links
1 watch
1 huge duffel bag
1 belt

for Roughly $650, not bad for a morning's work. Tonight we plan to hit the Bund, do some sightseeing and possibly more shopping (we still need a tea set and maybe some chopsticks).

Still in Hainan

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We have decided to stay and work on our tans, no point in separating the days at this point as I have lost track. We fly out tonight for Shanghai, should get in around midnight which should make getting taxi into town interesting. We are staying at this hotel, near the Bund:

We will be here until we depart on 04/02 for home!

Lijiang to Haikou

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First I have posted 3 times in the last couple of hours, so read below.

Monday - We spent the day in Lijiang exploring Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain. The morning started off a little rough when our hotel (slightly cheaper hotel in the middle of old town Lijiang) sent us down an alley for our breakfast. We were greeted with some slightly dirty tables, and two laminated sheets containing the breakfast menu. I ordered eggs, toast, and porridge, Melissa ordered Chinese Porridge and eggs as well as bread. The bread was probably the best part of the meal, even though it seemed to have been some sort of packaged mass produced white bread. The eggs were about 1/3 egg and 2/3s hard brown crusty burned egg. It took our "waitress" 20 minutes to produce these two wonderful items. Since we were already late we decided to cut our losses and head for the bus stop. We walked the main intersection where we were instructed to head the night before, but were unsure which way to proceed. I recommended that maybe we could ask the policeman standing about 10 feet away which way the bus stop was. As has been the case in all of China by "we could ask" I meant "Melissa, can you please ask". The policeman directed us (her) to the right and we were on our way. About a block away we saw the #7 bus, which we knew was correct from the Lonely Planet guide. We got on the bus, which looked like it was built in 1970, and had not seen an ounce of maintenance since. As has been the case almost everywhere in China everyone on the bus was smoking. On a bus that seats about 14 people there were currently 6 people, all of who were smoking. It was probably my least favorite bus ride ever and I sat with my head hanging out of the window. Apparently cigarette smoke doesn't bother any of them because none of them had bothered to open their windows. Eventually the bus filled (30 minutes); the last two were an older Chinese couple, who Melissa explained to me were having an argument because the man didn't want to get on this awful bus, but the woman didn't want to wait. We shot up to the entry for Jade Dragon mountain to begin what would turn out to be 4 hours of waiting in line. First there was the line for the bathroom, this was mostly a problem for Melissa (10 minutes). Then there was the line for our bus to the cable car to the top of the mountain (45 minutes). Once we got off the bus were were greeted by the actual line for the cable car. We waited, and fumed a bit, as we watched about 20 people cut in line in front of us to be together with the rest of their tour group who had saved them a spot. We eventually got on the cable car (35 minutes). The cable car was pretty interesting, apparently you cover a vertical distance of about 2 miles (~10 feet) and the distance from the start to finish is about 5 miles. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the top where the temperature drops from about 70 degrees to about 10. We looked around for about 5 minutes, you can also hike around this area up on the snow covered trails. We were already late due all of the unexpected delays, and had to head down as we had tickets to "Impression Lijiang" a performance of 500 people at the base of the Jade Dragon peak. We got into the line to head back down on the cable car (30 minutes) and eventually made our way back down.

Impression Lijiang was rather interesting. The performance is basically a large scale story of the ethnic Naxi people of the region. The impressive part is that their are 500 people who perform and the sheer numbers are impressive. The show is better explained in pictures (see below). That was pretty much it for our day, we caught the bus back down to town and caught our flight back to Kunming to spend the night in preparation for our flight to Haikou the next morning.

Tuesday - Ahhhh, finally in the "Hawaii" of China. We are relaxing at the Sofitel Fizi on the west coast of Hainan, China. Its very nice here, not exactly a Hawaiian white sand beach, but a nice beach none the less. The other benefit as that we are in a huge 300+ room resort and we have literally seen 2 other guests here in the last 6 hours. We had a pool roughly the size of a small lake to ourselves all afternoon, and no one was using any of the chairs next to it. Its wonderful. Here are the updates for the last couple of days.

This is Melissa's post: (since I think "She said" is copyrighted).

Sunday - We had to catch the Express Bus to Lijiang early in the morning, so we asked the manager at the rustic Jim's Tibetan Peace Hostel to please give us a wake up call at 7:00 the next morning. Luckily, a combination of lingering jet lag, exhaustion from scrambling up mountains every day to get to scenic areas, and fatigue from sudden changes in altitude had us going to bed every night at about 10:00, so we just woke up naturally the next morning at around 6:45. This turned out to be lucky, as Jim's Tibetan Hostel of Neglect completely failed to provide the requested wake up call, although a couple of Dalian roosters picked up the slack by crowing at around 7:00. Rich suggested that perhaps the wake up call at Jim's Hostel of Customer Service--What's That? would consist of them placing a couple of roosters outside our door.

We went downstairs and, being idiots, attempted to order breakfast in Jim's Tibetan Hostel of Inexplicable Delays. Rich's breakfast came right away, and he went ahead and ate it. Forty minutes later, Rich ran outside to flag down the Express Bus and I begged them for my breakfast. They eventually made it and boxed it up for me, and we went outside to catch the bus. Breakfast was not good.

The ride to Lijiang was actually quite pretty and uneventful. The views were neat (lots of the terraced fields to which I am particularly partial, and toiling workers, which makes Rich feel wealthy and powerful) and they showed a strange western movie involving cowboys and Jet Li, who somehow manages to lose his memory in the movie (as Rich pointed out, that seems to happen in all his movies). It was partially in English and partially in Mandarin, so I may have been the only person on the bus to understand all of it.

It was very hot when we got to Lijiang--it's a town high up in the mountains, so it is fairly chilly when the sun isn't on you, but the sun is quite strong. We wandered around Old Town Lijiang for a while, completely unable to figure out where we were based on (1) the map in Lonely Planet, (2) the map we bought from an old woman on the street, and (3) the maps posted by the town on wooden signs every block or so in Old Town Lijiang. We tried for about an hour, but could not find our way to the hostel where we had wanted to stay, and eventually just stumbled into a hotel and decided to stay there. It was a pretty authentic Chinese courtyard hotel, which was fairly nice, although later we learned that the people upstairs from us were gymnasts who were intent on practicing their floor routines in their hotel room all throughout the night.

With the daylight rapidly fading, we decided to walk up to Black Dragon Pool, which wasn't supposed to be really great, but was supposed to have a view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain that is considered to be *the* photo op of all of southwestern China. It was kind of pretty. We also spied steps going up something called "Elephant Hill" and, as is our wont, we started scrambling upwards. It turned out to be a very tough walk up, but rewarded us with some pretty views of Lijiang, Black Dragon Pool, and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Afterwards, we returned to town and hit a few of the hiking gear stores (Lijiang is the last major stop on the way to Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is a fairly famous hike) so Rich could examine each and every fleece available in minute detail. We paused in our fleece crawl to have some dinner at a barbecue joint that we passed on the way to the Black Dragon Pool. There are these open air restaurants with tables set up outside with lots of different types of food on skewers. They tell you how much each type of skewer costs, and you pick some for them to cook for you on a charcoal grill. It turned out to be really fantastically good. Yak meat is better than I expected. We had a couple of drinks at a bar next door, and then wandered back to the hotel, at which point Rich convinced me again to go fleece shopping with him. He picked out a really nice fleece for his mom, who is heading to Alaska soon and will need something to keep her warm and dry.

New Pictures online

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No time to post on the rest of Dali, or Lijiang, but here are some pictures:

Fun in Dali

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Friday - We arrived via airplane in Xiaguan (Dali) this morning, it was about an hour flight. We took a taxi from the airport to Old town Dali which is a nice quiet town with a very Tibetan feel to it (including may Tibetan restaurants). It's very laid back, and we have run into many more backpackers and westerners already. We got a bit of a late start so we decided to go to the nearby three pagodas. We paid a rather steep 121 RMB to enter; as we paid some tour guide tried to get our attention. He whispered discount at me, and also said something to Melissa in Chinese, while at the same time he poked her in the back in a further attempt to get her attention. We ignored him a proceeded forward. The three pagodas were also the home of 9 temples, and what was literally about 500 stairs. We decided we couldn't stop until we reached the last temple so we did all of them, it took us almost 1.5 hours. We did take some amazing pictures. For dinner we went to local hostel and had Tibetan lamb and hotpot which was OK, but decidedly bland.

Saturday - Today we got up and played travel agent for about 2 hours, although we did manage to figure out our next route (Guanzhou to Hainan) and also book a room at "City Hotel" in Shanghai for our last 3 nights. We then took a cable car to the top of Cangshan Mountains which was more like a chair lift. It was relaxing, but a little rickety looking. At the top we were rewarded with some beautiful views of the Erhai Hu (Ear shaped Lake) and some nice hiking. We hiked for about 2 hours and then came back down. We decided we would get massages since our feet were killing us and they were inexpensive. The girl that massaged me was nice although apparently was not used to massaging non-Chinese, since at one point she exclaimed that my hands were too big and she couldn't reach my palm to massage it properly. She also was not used to feet as large as mine either, and was visibly tired at the end of it all. When we came downstairs Melissa said that they were discussing my feet, apparently it was a source of amusement. It was fun none the less and they seemed good spirited about it. For dinner we decided to try one of the "local" places which was fun. Each restaurant puts out all of their fresh vegetables and tanks of fish and you can pick what you want. We had three medium sized fish and some vegetables and peppers, it was very good. We also sampled the friend cheese that Dali is famous for, it was really good and to me tasted like cheese curds. Tonight we had dessert and we are doing some internet and reading before we go to bed. We head our early tomorrow on the express bus to Lijiang at 8:40. Not sure were we are staying yet, we will find a place when we get into town.

Tombs, Walls, and more cramped planes

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I dont have a lot of time to type since I spent the last 1.5 hours getting some pictures online, so this will be brief.

Wednesday - What a busy (but great) day. Took a bus tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. It's supposed to be less touristy than the Badaling section which is where I think about 75% of people go. It was very nice, still pretty touristy (they have 2 sets of cable cars, and a metal slide ?!? you can take down) so it was not very remote by any means. We hiked up to about 6 different sections of the wall, which was a pretty good workout, my legs were jello by the time we climbed to the top and came down. We also stopped at the Ming Tombs, which were interesting and provided some nice pictures. We had a nice tour group, one girl was from Chicago and was heading out on her own from here. Another was from Chengdu and was studying to be a tour guide on this trip. The guide spoke decent English, unfortunately he decided he liked Melissa and me and spoke for about 3 hours of the 4 hour car ride about everything from the history of Beijing to a very detailed history of eunuchs and the operations performed thousands of years ago. We ended up getting back very late due to traffic, and barely made our flight to Kunming, but in the end we were just on time.

Thursday - We arrived very late (around 1AM) and had a bit of an adventure getting a taxi, Melissa's Mandarin came in very handy and we arranged for a ride to our "Golden Dragon Restaurant". We were a bit concerned that the driver could take us to the wrong place (or anywhere he wanted really since neither of us knew Kunming) but in the end we were whisked to our hotel for much needed sleep. After a 7AM wakeup and nap from 9AM - Noon, we spent the day touring Kunming. The weather is great here probably in the mid 70s and sunny. We spent some time in Green Lake park and then had the local specialty of "over the river noodles". They are noodles and broth with a fairly heavy layer of oil on top. At the table they add all sorts of things, what I could identify: chicken, deep friend object (chicken?), two very small raw eggs (not chicken?), some pieces of what appeared to be bologna (small), some pieces of what Melissa said tasted like cartilage, and finally a piece of chicken bone and skin (not sure what part, wing maybe?). In all the soup was pretty good. The shop itself came from my Lonely Planet guidebook, no English markings, so probably pretty authentic. There were no westerners eating there (although I only saw about 2 so far in Kunming). We are now back at our hotel plotting our next stop. We have tickets to Dali tomorrow and will most likely attempt to stay at the following place:

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Safe and sound in Beijing. Here is the recap of the last couple of days for anyone interested.

Saturday - Flew to Beijing via United. It was like our plan left in 1982 and was lost in time before returning to pick us up. The flight attendants all were in their 40s and 50s and had haircuts like the mother form the Brady bunch. For entertainment our entire section of roughly 100 people (10 rows of ten each) shared one projection screen in the front (of which I could see about 40% of) and one 15 inch screen at the front of our section (roughly 25 feet from me). We didn't even bother watching the movies. Because the flight left at 10AM most people were wide awake making sleep impossible, There was some sort of happy hour outside my seat, which was loud enough, but then as anyone attempted to maneuver around the happy hour taking place in the aisle they managed to bump into me even though I was clearly sleeping. All in all the worst international flight ever, thank god it was only 13 hours.

Sunday - Cleared customs and immigration and arrived at our hotel around 4PM. It was all we could do the stay awake until 7:30, ate some fast food and felt generally miserable and exhausted. Slept for 13 hours.

Monday - Visited the forbidden city. It was fairly anti-climactic but fun none the less. Its pretty cold here (mostly in the 30s) and I haven't seen the Sun since we landed. Everyone stares here, apparently at the huge white man and his Chinese girlfriend. I am pretty used to being stared at in foreign countries, but its particularly noticeable here, apparently its worse for Melissa. (Also developing countries have no noise ordinances, as I type this someone is drilling a huge drill into the wall I am facing). We went to Beijing Da Dong Duck house last night and had some really excellent Peking Duck. It was served just like here with scallions, pancakes, and plum sauce. Some interesting observations, they serve free wine while you wait for your table, and after dinner you get a free sweet soup with tapioca and almond flavoring. Also, after you pay the check (abotu $50 for two including a bottle of wine) you are served a fruit plate that comes on what appeared to be dried ice, very unique.
All in all a very good (albeit cold) day in China.

Tuesday - We have decided that this cold weather is not for us, and have booked a flight four hours due South to Kunming. We have to take a taxi (soon) to go pick up the ticket and also confirm our hotel reservation. We are staying at the following hotel (for 3 nights - starting tomorrow night):

Golden Dragon Hotel Kunming(昆明金龙饭店)
Address: 575, Beijing Road, Kunming 600011
Phone: 86-871-3133015
ZIP: 650011

Tonight we are going to an acrobatic show and getting more peking duck at the "Duck King". More posts later.

In case anyone is looking for us

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We will be staying at the following hotel upon arrival in Beijing, more information to follow.

Harmony Hotel Beijing
Youtong Street (No. 59 Suzhou Hutong)
Dongcheng District Beijing 100005, China