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Old 07-28-2009, 04:18 PM   #16
figmentfan2009
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Great Wall Glory

It is 4:30 in the morning again. Today we do the Peti-cabs and fly to Chengdu.

Yesterday was up for breakfast in the Hotel again. They change some of the breakfast foods up every morning, some they keep the same. I love the tea and the assortment of juices and the fact that even my picky one can find something to eat.

8 am off again, this time for a 2 hour bus ride to the great wall.

The bus ride was great. There are signs with cute (humorous) pictures telling people to buckle up, don't drive drunk, obey the height restrictions and obey the weight restrictions. Traffic clears out once you are out of the city and it is a lot like driving between locations on the interstate in the US. Biggest difference there is the fact that you don't have people honking every time someone changes lanes or is going too slowly. Even when there is little traffic and changing lanes is simple, they seem obliged to beep the horn whenever they find a reason to. It amazes me that they don't get annoyed with other people beeping at them when they don't have any control over the reason that beeping is happening.

Got to see road side fruit markets and people in was less 'touristy' places just going about their lives. The biggest contrast that has been striking me is the brand new cars (many people seem to really like black cars) and the very old, well worn bicycles that share the road. I guess I always through that, when I saw pictures of China with people on bikes that looked like they were from the 50s that they were taken much closer to the 50s. They may not be. The bikes really are like that in the vast majority of cases and none seem to be the kind of bikes that we think of as 'for pleasure' even when they purpose of the rider seems to be for pleasure... they are always the one speed old Schwinn looking bikes that I remember from when I was a kid.

Great wall was awesome. The vendors WERE in your face but in a much nicer way. Learned later that only people who live in the town where the wall entrance is are allowed to be vendors there. That explains why you can actually get up the mountain. I was less than enthused about riding up in the cable car (I really really don't do cable cars well... I used to HATE the one at WDW with a passion) but being enclosed, I think, helped (except it was stuffy and humid and my glasses kept fogging up) and I have some great pictures that I will post as soon as I actually get time.

Oh, a bit about pictures. They are REALLY great about taking pictures and the one thing about picture time is always... Wait Wait, just one more... so they have one with their cameras.

DS was smiling ear to ear because he was actually standing on the great wall of China, and that had always been a dream of his. It was foggy, so you couldn't get the breathtaking views that you sometimes see in pictures, but the pictures had their own shrouded in mystery quality to the.

Walked to the top of two of the tower's roofs. It is hard to believe that this has been around for 1800 years and that people had to carry the bricks up the hill to build it. They really didn't like the Mongols.

Schoolhouse for lunch. So far, I would have to say this was my least favorite lunch but it was still good. Had a hard time with the cornbread 'bread' part of the chicken sandwich and ate it with a fork. The ice cream (caramel) was killer.

After lunch, got to see glass blowing (not like you see at Disney or at one of the 6 Flags parks... real glass blowing with a huge blow pipe and furnaces). They made a flower for us to see. Then, noodle making, and we all got a chance to try if we wanted to.

Back on the bus for the ride home. A last drive-by of the great wall entrance for a final picture (the fog burned off, so you could see it from the bus) and back to Beijing and more looking at small town China. The bus driver took us kind of over the river and through the woods on the way back so got to see small town life in process. Everywhere there are parks, most of them with exercise equipment and all of the exercise equipment is painted yellow and blue. Corn (at least here around Beijing) is a big crop by the looks of it, and it is just about the 'right' height for corn if it were being grown in Pennsylvania this time of year. Some of it is in tassel, some hasn't gotten that far yet.

2 highlights of the bus ride back to the hotel for us were
1... seeing a truck load of donkeys on their way somewhere on the interstate
2... a drive-by of olympic stadium and the water cube.

Back to the hotel... found a place to eat that didn't speak any english and that thought we were a riot trying to eat noodles with chop-sticks. I have really learned to like sticky rice a lot...

Then down to the Night Market. I tried bubble tea (interesting flavor) and sugar coated (like... hard candy... dipped) cherry tomatoes on a stick. Dipping them in the hot melted sugar has the effect of starting to cook the tomatoes and the taste (if not the consistency) reminded me a lot of eating stewed tomatoes when I as a kid. DS had fried silk worm (DD and I tried one of these... weird sensation and kind of... stale bread kind of taste), centipede, scorpion and meal worms and (I think) crayfish (these he said were spicy and I was less up for the spicy than adventurous enough to eat them(. Meal worms have nothing to them, taste kind of like grass after it has gone to hay.

Walked around a pedestrian street shopping thing, will probably have to ask Huan where it was this morning so I know where we were. Very reasonably priced jewelry (if you could fight your way through the crowd. Not sure the quality, but it looked sterling and was labeled on the tag jadeite and agate.

Back to the hotel to crash and burn (after putting the finishing touches on packing... ) and now, nearly time for breakfast.
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Old 07-28-2009, 04:51 PM   #17
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Another great installment. Thank you so much for taking the time to post each day. I am really enjoying your observations.

Curious to know how hard it is for you to get your TR posted. Is it a slow connection as I have read from other people? We are considering taking an e-book with us, but I wasn't sure how easily we would be able to send out e-mail.
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Old 07-28-2009, 05:31 PM   #18
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I just loved reading about your son's reaction to being on the Great Wall! What an amazing thing!

Your days just seem so filled with activity. Wonderful

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Old 07-28-2009, 07:27 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RweTHEREyet View Post
Curious to know how hard it is for you to get your TR posted. Is it a slow connection as I have read from other people? We are considering taking an e-book with us, but I wasn't sure how easily we would be able to send out e-mail.
I am just back from the Enchanted China Trip, here is a summary of the
Internet connections for the hotels on the tour:

Beijing - Fast (Video Chat was good quality) - Free
Chengdu - Very Fast (Video Chat was excellent quality) - Free
Guilin - Slow (Could not do video, Skype was very choppy, web pages Ok) - Free
Shanghai - Very Fast (Video Chat was excellent quality) - 120 RMB / 24 hours
Hong Kong - Very Fast (Video Chat was excellent quality) - Free

In general, the speeds were as good as an average Cable/DSL connection in
the US. In Beijing things seemed to slow down in the late afternoon (4-6PM).

I was very happy with the quality of the service.

Chris
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Old 07-29-2009, 03:59 PM   #20
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Peticabbin the Hutong

Last hours in Beijing. As usual breakfast was killer. I guess it is a consensus, everyone loves the ABD food... packing wasn't a lot of fun, had to make sure weight was evenly distributed between bags... but it was done and they disappeared from outside the door.

Peticabs were neat. Pretty sure the driver of DS's cab wasn't thrilled about him... he stands out even more here than he does at home. He thinks it is funny... sometimes I'm not so sure funny is the 'right' word. Rode down narrow little streets behind and in front of people's houses. They live in from 1 room to about 5 rooms with communal bathrooms and kitchens outside (frequently). The bathrooms are, naturally, the squatty potty kind, but are pretty clean... weirdes part of them was the walls are only just over waist high and no doors. << for what it's worth, I'm thinking of doing a bathroom retrospective>>.

Knot tying was difficult. No, you don't just watch the host do the things, you learn how. The knot tying isn't easy, but it is fun, and I actually caught on after a bit. I'm thinking I'm going to try to take this up as a hobby to do off and on with crochet. Our teacher was a retired kindergarten teacher. Her house was decorated with pictures of Buddha because her daughter is a practicing tibetan Buddhist. According to Huan, that is partially becoming the fashionable thing to be. The teacher's house was 4 rooms.

Next we went to Chinese Yo-Yos. I figured I would be a total flop at it (I'm not the most co-ordinated person in the world, but it was really not that hard and I got it going pretty quickly... got it going pretty fast too. This was in the park by the river and it was so peaceful and pretty.

Paper cutting was last for our group (we were split in half) and we cut out double happiness (what people decorate homes with when people get married) and spring (which wasn't as easy as it looked... and was made harder because they didn't draw the lines on spring the way they did on double happiness. The teacher here was a retired public transportation worker and she lives in two rooms.

Lunch was family style again and was really good. Discussion, for part of the time, surrounded DS's adventures at the Night Market... and his weird food. After lunch before we got on the bus we got to enjoy a few quiet minutes by the lake. It was so peaceful. People were swimming with inner-tubes...

On the way back to the bus, we passed a duck island... they have built little houses for the ducks and they seem to be very happy with the arrangement. I will post pictures as soon as I get some uploaded to somewhere (probably flikr).

Off to the airport. Beijing Airport if absolutely beautiful. We didn't fly into the nice terminal when we came in, but we did fly out of terminal c. The dragon terminal... the terminal is supposed to be in the shape of a dragon with the tail being where you board the planes. Parking lot is a turtle shell. The most interesting thing about the airport was the fact that you could buy beer our of a vending machine. They had beer, alcohol free beer, ice tea, something called fire and coke all in the same machine. Fire said it was a coffee beverage... oh, and they had bottles of milk tea.

Flight to Chengdu was delayed a bit, on the tarmac, for 45 min because it was foggy and they were being careful landing and taking off planes. I caught a 45 min nap which was nice... Didn't get to see the ground much because it was cloudy the whole way, but the clouds were pretty. Snacks were cookies (that were pretty good, actually) and spicy tofu that had nearly the consistency of beef jerky and I had warm walnut milk (which wasn't great, but wasn't too bad).

Dinner was great. We had not spicy, some spicy and WAY spicy food. DS ate the duck face (after clearing it with everyone that it was good to eat) and the fish face (again, after clearing it with everyone). He thinks it is funny... the reactions he gets to what he eats. I'm not sure I totally understand the reactions, what he is eating isn't main stream and it is a little left of center, but not WAY left of center... but he is happy that he is getting to try things he probably never would have had the chance to otherwise. But apparently, fish cheek isn't quite as yummy as people make it out to be... ...Pepper Flower was the hit of dinner... little green spheres that aren't really spicy, they just make your mouth kind of tingle numb.

Hotel in Chengdu is beautiful and our room (on the 26th floor) overlooks the river. The lights at night are amazing. The city is beautiful.

And... now it is time to grab a shower and finish off backing up pictures and videos and head down to what is supposed to be a killer breakfast.
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Old 07-29-2009, 06:58 PM   #21
RweTHEREyet
What makes you think the Tag Fairy doesn't know you?? :D
Will get my Grapefruit Cake at Starring Rolls from now on!
I can't stand not having another trip booked!
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbcdiver View Post
I am just back from the Enchanted China Trip, here is a summary of the
Internet connections for the hotels on the tour:

Beijing - Fast (Video Chat was good quality) - Free
Chengdu - Very Fast (Video Chat was excellent quality) - Free
Guilin - Slow (Could not do video, Skype was very choppy, web pages Ok) - Free
Shanghai - Very Fast (Video Chat was excellent quality) - 120 RMB / 24 hours
Hong Kong - Very Fast (Video Chat was excellent quality) - Free

In general, the speeds were as good as an average Cable/DSL connection in
the US. In Beijing things seemed to slow down in the late afternoon (4-6PM).

I was very happy with the quality of the service.

Chris
Thanks for this info. While we are not on the ABD tour, we will be in Beijing and Shanghai the majority of the time.
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Old 07-29-2009, 07:17 PM   #22
RweTHEREyet
What makes you think the Tag Fairy doesn't know you?? :D
Will get my Grapefruit Cake at Starring Rolls from now on!
I can't stand not having another trip booked!
 
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Thanks for another installment FigmentFan. Hope tomorrow is another great day for you guys.

Looking forward to seeing your pictures.
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Old 07-30-2009, 01:16 AM   #23
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Reliving our trip through you

Wonderful to read your posts, as it brings back fond memories of our trip from just a few weeks ago (tell Brian the Quan family says HI). We just ordered our PhotoPass CD, so I've been able to relive the memories thru the photos and your entries. All I can say is just when you think each day has been great, it just keeps getting better and better! Enjoy!
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Old 08-01-2009, 08:21 AM   #24
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Pandamonium, Terra Cotta Soldiers and Guilin

Sorry, time to catch up a bit. It has been a busy couple days.

Thursday was pandas in Chengdu. It was, apparently, an amazing day for Pandas... it was also a great day for ducks. It rained buckets while we were on our way to the research facility and while we were looking at the pandas. But the rain made the pandas much happier and some of them more active. I've seen them in San Diego zoo years and years ago. It is not the same. They are way more active and they seem to just take for granted that food will magically appear. And it does. I was grateful to have my waterproof camera on Thursday because there were pictures (not as close as I could have gotten with my other camera) that I would have missed if I had not had that camera along (I would have been afraid of ruining my good one). DD and I got our pictures taken with pandas. They schedule the picture taking around the panda's mood, their break schedule and several other factors, and it was close that we might not have been able to get our pictures taken... the pandas were a bit moody and it was interesting to watch everyone getting climbed on by the "kids". Mine bit me. Not hard, more like... hmmmm wonder what this is.... and he really liked his tummy scratched. DD was in her glory and I honestly thought she was going to cry she was so happy.

I seem to be a source of humor because I'm always taking pictures...

It was afternoon on our own. Kids slept off the cold and wet. DH and I walked around Chengdu, walked down the river and watched local men fish and found a park to walk through. It was along the river and had several temples and building to walk through. We only managed to get a little wet. Cafe-Z at the hotel is a wonderful buffet and there is something for everyone.

Face Changing Opera was, thank goodness, under a canvas roof. It is at a tea house, and you get a cup of jasmine green tea to drink. The opera isn't anything like any opera I've ever seen, and I love the way that they mix music with comedy and the music is wonderful. The lady who is the MC of the opera narrates half in chinese and half in english but you really have to listen to catch some of what she is saying. The tea is great, the outside venue is interesting (and if it rains, the rain on the 'roof' adds to the atmosphere). One of the most interesting parts of the opera is the fact that, for 50 yuan you can get a massage, a foot massage or an ear massage. Most of our group got one or more of them.

Friday morning... Up well before crack of dawn to head out for the airport. It was still raining when we left... but the first leg was only about an hour. When we landed in Xian, it was still overcast and trying to rain. The bus ride wasn't too long (they just opened up one highway within the last week or so) and we got to the terracotta warriors in time for a quick lunch at the tea house. The place smells wonderful. Be warned, though, they don't have any drinks at lunch, so take a bottle of water with you!!!

Words cannot describe the warriors. They just can't. You do get to see the farmer (who is now about 80) in the gift shop signing books. The crowds are pushy (REALLY pushy... they have NO manners at all and will shove you out of the way and get snotty if you try to GET out of the way). The destruction of all of the history when the armies destroyed the tomb is really sad. DS spent an amazing amount of time looking at everything, reading all of the signs, taking everything in. He spent an enormous amount of time taking pictures and explaining to me to me the way the army was laid our and how the infantry worked during his dynasty.

Back on the bus and to the airport.

Please note, if you buy tea/coffee at the airport, it is EXTREMELY hot. I scalded myself on my tea when I spilled just a little on my shirt. They passed out 'box lunches' for dinner before we went through security and between that and the chinese dinner there was an enormous amount of food on the plane. We landed in record time and actually got to see most of the trip to the Hotel of Modern Art in the daylight.

The hotel is amazing. The art is amazing. The mountains are amazing. It is SO quiet. It is SO hot and humid. It is wonderful to take a nice quiet stroll outside in the trees and the art after the busy day. The beds are soft and the down comforter is a welcome addition.

Today was the trip down the li river. It was warm and humid and the sky was blue and just a few clouds. Perfect weather after the last 2 rainy days. Perfect weather to take a boat trip and see the stunning scenery. The river is full of water buffalo and boats. Several places along the river you can see (or at least we did) "markets" that were set up in the middle of the river on little islands or along the river bank. The markets are nothing more than tent roofs over tables.

The market is crazy. The food in town is fantastic, and the shopping is an adventure in itself.

And, it is time to pack and crash and burn.
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Old 08-01-2009, 08:26 AM   #25
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Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. You write really well.
I am enjoying it
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Old 08-01-2009, 03:34 PM   #26
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great tips!

Thanks for the on-going report! We went last summer and missed Chengdu because of the earthquake in that region (our time in Bejing was extended, and we saw pandas in the Bejing zoo). We didn't go to Xian (reason alone to go back to China some day)--and because we didn't go to Chengdu, no face changing opera...so please, more details on that! Do the singers change masks quickly etc? (guess this is what I envisioned). The HOMA is just such a cool place. With the addition of Xian, what was taken out of the trip? Do you have just one night at HOMA?
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Old 08-01-2009, 05:04 PM   #27
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Guilin and Face Changing opera

Face Changing opera was totally awesome. The face changing part was only... maybe... 15 min long but it was (depending on who you talk to) the best (and last... duh) part of the show. The masks are beautifully colored and everyone in that part of the show has big hats.. and there is one of the people who spits fire several times during the show. Literally, if you blink you miss the change. They usually change the face behind a fan but it is so fast, if you weren't paying attention to the color of the mask BEFORE the change, you are totally sure you actually saw the difference. There is a lot of show to that part of the opera and it is interesting to watch. Everyone was trying to "catch" how they change. There was a running commentary on the fact that it was something to do with the way they turn their heads or the way they flick the fan. Bobby, our Chengdu expert, had fun with us around the face changing part. (if you didn't get to go... and NOT if you haven't gone yet... PM me and I can explain more).

I have a video I've been trying to get up to YouTube but for some reason youtube won't load here... it is of the shadow puppet part of the show, which was equally as amazing.

What did they take out of the Guilin trip for Xian? Sleep. That is all that I can find that they took out. They moved movie night from the night you get here to the night before you leave. You stay 2 nights (people are voting for 3 and one less in Shanghai). I'm most disappointed in having to have the bbq in the Lotus restaurant rather than by the lake but if that is my biggest disappointment, I will so totally live.

If you haven't been on the trip yet and are going, I suggest looking at all of the bathrooms in all of the public places. Not for the commodes themselves but for the "art" and decoration that are the bathrooms. There is one out by the lake built into what is supposed to be a rock that has quartz crystals decorating the walls and the water in the sinks comes out of stalactites. I took pictures (go figure) of the decor of most of them just because it was so neat.

HTH... let me know if you have any more questions.


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Old 08-01-2009, 08:52 PM   #28
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Love the report! Wow, I never would have thought about taking an underwater camera - great idea!

High hopes for going next summer!

Can't wait for your next post. Hopefully you'll get a chance to post pictures when you get home?
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Old 08-02-2009, 02:33 PM   #29
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Quote:
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I have a video I've been trying to get up to YouTube but for some reason youtube won't load here... it is of the shadow puppet part of the show, which was equally as amazing.
The young man that picked us up at the airport in Beijing said that youtube had been blocked throughout China. Facebook was still okay at that time. I don't know about now.
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Old 08-04-2009, 02:40 AM   #30
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Guilin and Shanghai

Yes, pictures will be forthcoming when we get home. LOTS of pictures.

Li River Cruise was a wonderful down time kind of day. Getting to the dock was a real adventure (the bus had to drive in some places that I wouldn't have probably taken a compact car. I would NOT like to drive in china. It was a nice "countryside" kind of bus ride, lots of water buffalo, lots of rice paddies, lots of beautiful scenery. On the boat, they had snake wine that is supposed to be good for manly vigor and arthritis. DH and I spent the entire ride on the upper deck of the boat. It was plenty warm, but it was beautiful. We passed island markets and lots of other boats.

The market town was interesting. The vendors were less "in your face" than they were in the tourist areas of beijing, but you could bargain down some killer deals. Lunch was family style.

Dinner back at the HOMA was buffet

Shanghai is very 'big city'. They are getting ready for the 2010 expo (worlds fair) and there is a lot of construction going on. There is an awful lot of western feel to the town but there are still small shops that are entirely chines. DH has been able to find pepsi for 3yuan each for a bottle (but it is hard to find ones that are cold... the chinese are way more into very hot... water..tea...coffee... than they are cold

Yesterday we went to old town Shanghai and every kid on our trip got a Chairman Mao watch. It ended up being the running joke. And apparently that was yet another in a long list of firsts for this trip. Shopping in old town was fun and we got some really nice things. Silk, jade, pearls... I even got some really pretty purple wool yarn to make a shawl out of when I get home... Plan is to have it done by the time we go to Germany.... The park part of old town is beautiful but very very crowded.

Today was the Shanghai museum. DS was enchanted with all of the history, especially the jade, the money, the statues and the bronzes.

Tonight is soup dumplings and the acrobats of shanghai.
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