Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the sun rises here


what a difference. the city was a lot cleaner. it was brighter (probably because there was no smog blocking the sun) and people seemed friendlier.

well that was once we got into the city. the train station was still not super friendly. but conveniently our nice holiday inn express was only a five minute walk from the train station rather than the two hour long trek it took to get to our beijing hotel. (side note: in beijing we stayed in a traditional hotel in the hutong district of beijing. it is the old part of town with small little side streets, so staying at a holiday inn wasn't cheating..we did the culture part in beijing) actually i think a holiday inn fits better with shanghai. it is modernized city. the holiday inn let us check in early. we promptly took showers. (take that last pic and times it by 13 hrs on a train, actually it might have been more because we were late by a couple of hrs..anyway..gross).

after our showers we took off to the metro. we ended up at people's park. once out of the metro some young chinese girls who wanted to practice their english began chatting with us after asking us to take a picture. they were really nice and wanted us to go to a tea showing with them and then to lunch. so we went. i think we got had. ha. the tea show was like the one we went to before but we actually had to pay for the tasting. and it was not cheap. everyone paid. and one girl bought us tea as a gift. but i am still skeptical. mainly because the next day we got off at the same metro stop and some english speaking young chinese asked us to take a picture. and if we had stopped they might have asked us to go to the tea showing too. but i am cynical. so who knows. i guess i can choose to believe that they were just being nice. (lunch after consisted of street dumplings which were great). after that we went to yu gardens and bazaar. really it looks like china town. a huge one. the bazaar is actually in old town shanghai. it is complete with red pagodas and chinese gardens.

after wandering around and looking at the gardens, we headed to the business district of shanghai. we had to cross the river on a ferry to get to the other side of shanghai. after getting off the ferry we took our first rickshaw to the pearl tower. i think it is a tv tower. anyway. it is really interesting looking. and looks very science fiction. a complete contrast to old town.

we then took the metro back across the river to the bund. the bund is the old financial district and has very european looking buildings. it is also on nanjing rd which is where all of the major shopping takes place. they are getting a forever 21. fyi. ha. cori and i bought some chopstick sets on sale. we are excited to have a chinese food party. or i might just make some sushi. and have a sushi party. after doing some shopping, we decided to head back. we only make it to 8o'clock before we get super tired. especially since train sleeping isn't the best sleep.

bring it, beijing

so beijing is crazy. i may have mentioned that before. crazy. not only are there cars, and people, and buses, and motorcycles everywhere, there is also a thick cloud of smog covering the city. if it was sunny we didn't know. i think it was. maybe.

while both cori and i are pretty handy with a map, we decided it would be best if we allowed someone else navigate beijing. so we book a tour that took us to the summer palace, the forbidden city, and the temple of heaven...with an english guide and entrances into the places. AND wait there is more...lunch included.


so we went to the summer palace. which is really cool. it was made for the emperor's wife, who really wanted to be the actual emperor. they affectionately refer to her as the dragon lady. i hope because the dragon is the symbol of the emperor and not because she was crazy. anyway. the summer palace was hers. it has nice gardens, a pretty big lake, and some nice temples. nothing super intense or crazy. just a lot of pretty things (when you could see them through the smog).

after the summer palace, our tour guide informed us that yes indeed there was more included in our tour. we got the privilege of going to a silk and tea 'factory.' really we had a short demonstration on how silk was made that was actually pretty interesting and then led into the show room where war could buy quilts, clothes, robes, etc. so basically. here things. Same thing at the tea factory. there we got to try different teas and then we could buy some. i may or may not have bought some delicious fruit tea. i'm such a sucker. oh well.

after the factory, it was time for lunch. YES! (we kinda missed breakfast and attempted to get something at the summer palace which turned out horrible, gross) so i was starving. Kevin (that was our guides name. or at least his english one) ordered. it was great. it was a beef dish with mushrooms, and fried eggs, and then a tomato and egg dish, and then bok choy with a side of rice. can't forget the rice.

after lunch we went to the forbidden city. IT IS HUGE. just fyi. there are different rooms and throne rooms all throughout in case the emperor got tired and wanted to stop. There are also different stairs to go up. the middle set is where the emperor always went up. those stairs are still blocked off today. the emperor and queen(?) would also go through different gates. the emperor would go through the front, and the queen and the concubines and maids through the back. the queen  would also go through the middle and the concubines would go through the side and the amides the other side.  the emperor would also go through the middle gate and the priests and gov't officials would go through the sides. interesting.

anyway. the forbidden city is a city because it had to house all of the maids, priests, officials, concubines, workers, etc.

after the city we went to the temple of heaven. which shockingly enough was built to honor the heavens. which is why the temple is round and blue. both symbols of heaven. the grounds are pretty as well. the chinese sure do like their gardens.

after we went to the temple, we are on our way home. But we had one last stop. unfortunately we had to actually think and navigate ourselves. or just walk to the metro and get out at the correct stop. rocket science really. and we accomplished it. right to Tiananmen square. we walked around a bit. there isn't much to look at besides a massive picture of chinese dictator. back to the hotel to grab our bags.

then we had to baby step it all the way to the train station. we were so exhausted again that lugging our bags all the  way to the metro and then on the metro and to our train seemed like crazy talk. but we made it. got some dinner. and then ventured to find our platform. which we did.

then we had to find our beds. our ticket was all in chinese so we didn't know what the numbers meant. once on the train i showed my ticket to one person and she had signaled me one way. then i showed it to another lady and bless her heart she took us all the way to where we needed to be and pointed out what the numbers meant. car 11 bed 9. perfect. time to relax and sleep all the way to shanghai.

on the night train. beijing does not look good on us. we are gross.

Now all of China knows you are here...

remember that line from Mulan? where the little Chinese guard throws the torch into the basin to signal an invasion of the great wall. and then the scary huge hun guy breaks the chinese flag and burns it? and says perfect.  and THEN you know things are about to get interesting.

i always liked that part.

and i feel like once you go to the great wall you know you are in China. however, getting to the great wall  is part of the challenge. ok. maybe not if you speak chinese. but otherwise. things can be tricky. we got directions from our hotel. walk to the bus station. check. get on bus 635. check. wait for bus 919. um. 15 minutes bus 919. heavens bless the little girl in the hotel wrote the directions in chinese and english so we could show someone. and then try and translate the hand signals again. actually some chinese speak english. mostly younger people. anyway. it turns out we have to walk another 15 minutes to get to bus 919. which were not in the directions. i suppose we were suppose to just know. we turn the corner and there is a massive bus station...across the street.

across the street shouldn't be a problem. in is. people drive like crazies. and love honking their horns. because it helps the traffic. actually they generally honk when someone is going too slow and they have to pass the other car. honking shows the annoyance. Anyway. so we risk life and limb and cross the street. i try to stay in the middle of the pack if there is one. or at lease try and be next to a local. if they think it is ok then keep up.

so we make it to the bus station and find 919. wait in line and then someone says ..not great wall bus. i guess we looked liked tourists.

so then we find the ACTUAL great wall bus and get on that. we sit on it and realize we are starving. we haven't had anything since the plane really and it is now it is several hours later. people are eating this corn on the cob that looks like it should be grilled. it isn't. i have no idea how it was cooked. steamed maybe. but it is almost sticky. i am hungry enough to get over it and eat it anyway. cori forgoes the corn.

next an hour and a half ride to the great wall. yay!

we get out. the 'tour guide' on the bus who only spoke chinese gives us directions in chinese. and we stand there. luckily a nice younger chinese guy asks if we need help and then translated the directions. we could either pay to take a tram halfway or just walk. we decide walking seems like the best idea....

so we walk up a hill just to get to the actual wall. pay to get inside. and then there it is. one thing that is surprising is the lack of foreigners. most people are chinese visiting from another part of China.

And all of China knew I was there.

I got stopped at least 5 times on the way up by people wanting there picture taken with me. It could be because i was white, it could be because i was wearing aviators. i blame it on the captain america shirt. once. i was stopped just looking and turned to leave and someone in front of me got upset. seems they hadn't finished taking their picture yet. the other 2 people standing behind me, now caught, stepped down and stood next to me for a picture.

this guy had taken a picture of me and his girlfriend. and must have decided he wanted one too. because he jumped in my picture as cori was trying to take one of me. notice he looks about as touristy as me.

after we walked around the great wall. which is not super easy. when there are steps and not ramps, they are kinda small and probably not made for my big feet. also slightly uneven, but i guess i can overlook that since they were made you know forever ago.

the great wall is amazing. and it isn't one big wall. It is more like sections. we were at the more touristy one. but it winds up and around. and goes on forever. the picture above, we had just started out. we actually weren't even that high yet. it was really interesting to be somewhere you have read and learnt about. and then actually being on it seems surreal.

after the great wall. we make it to the bus and make it our home. we found a restaurant that had pictures and rough english translations on the menu. we ate some amazing sweet and sour chicken and dumplings. then went to our hotel to regroup and then brave the train station to get a ticket for an over night train from beijing to shanghai. to get to the train station we took the metro. which was much more convenient and less life threatening than the streets.

train ticket? no problem right? wrong. we stand in like six lines..and by six i mean 3 before someone tells us line 16 had english services. apparently we didn't notice the flashing banner that changed between english and chinese stating that. i still think it was in chinese for the most part. after we waited in line and pushed off the impatient people trying to cut us..we got our train ticket for the next day.

we made it back to our hotel and crashed. between the traveling and flights and then going straight into sightseeing we felt like we had been up for 3 days.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

jet planes.

so i left to china.  I flew to Frankfurt first.

it was and 8 hour flight roughly.  I flew out of the new international terminal at hartsfield. it was super nice and clean. 

AND bringing up a past post. The designers of the airport must have hear my plea about taking all of my luggage to the bathroom and how cumbersome that was....BECAUSE they elongated the stalls. they aren't any wider but they are longer so you can open the door with your luggage and you inside. beautiful. now i can continue flying solo..well internationally at least. 

oh. side note. the new terminal has a varsity. just fyi. 

as i was boarding my flight to frankfurt , i was walking behind these really really really tall russians. and as long would have it one sat next to the seat i was supposed to be in. perfect. loud. crazy. 6'8 russian for 8 hrs. but then his friend began trying to seat in the row in front of where i would be sitting next to a smaller calmer looking guy. so i called an audible and asked if he wanted to switch so they could sit next to each other. they did. fantastic. then one said the other regretted switching because now he isn't next to me. case in point of why i wanted to switch. 

the guy next to me was actually really nice. and was surprisingly russian too. but he also spoke english and german. he read through like 6 or 7 newspapers. a couple in each language. he also have me a ibuprofen for my headache that was mixed with motrin. that russian headache medicine was no joke. completely wiped out my headache. he also gave me his fruit cup in the 'morning.' which is pretty serious it had fresh pineapple, watermelon, and A blueberry.  his name was Alex. 

We landed and had to go through security. Then I waited for 4 hrs for my next flight to beijing. 

the flight to beijing was less eventful. i sat next to some chinese people. who didn't talk to me. it is ok. i took a nyquil and slept. 

my flight got in at 5 AM Beijing time. Beijing is 12 hrs ahead of atl. Then i had to go through security and customs which was actually pretty easy. I met a german guy around my age in the customs line. he started speaking to me in german. which i returned with a confused look and 'uhhh' to which he replied in awesome english..'oh, you don't speak any german?' no. no  i don't. he then asked if i learned chinese. nope. he said he started learning on the plane. his name was Martin. we talked until i had to exit out of the airport and he had to switch to some connecting flight to some tiny city. 

and when i walked out..there was CORI waiting for me. and looking about as tired as i was. we got money out of the atm. found the airport express train to the metro line. and sat.  and breathed.

we got off on the metro line "close" to our hotel. we stayed in a more traditional area of beijing. which was interesting AND confusing. and had little to no english. LUCKILY we had our hotel address in chinese and be having no shame just went up to people and pointed. most people were really friendly. and  also fluent in hand signals. once in the right direction. there were signs for our hotel. heavens bless. 

we got to our hotel around 8:30 ish exhausted. we cleaned up slightly and gave our bags to the hotel. 

we were off. 

China hates blogs.

So i have been bad at blogging. clearly.

in my defense. china blocks so i COULDN'T blog.

The past couple of days i have no excuse.  except that i've been busy.  having an awesome time.

which i will now start blogging about officially. it will take me a couple of days to get caught up.

Thursday, May 17, 2012