Saturday, July 7, 2012

Changsha to Sanya

This all happened on Tuesday, July 3, and I'm writing it on Saturday July 7.  We woke early, at 5:00 AM because we wanted to try and catch the first bus to the airport.  The hotel we were staying at, The Changsha Aviation Hotel, was chosen because it was right by the shuttle bus station that would take you to the airport, and the first bus leaves at 5:50 in the morning.  Our plane was leaving at 8:20, and we wanted to make sure we got to the airport in time, and that's why we wanted to first bus there.  We woke, dressed, drank some coffee, ate a couple of breakfast cookies, zipped up our suitcases and went down to the bus.  We got the tickets, and made it on the first bus, but just barely!!  There were only 3 seats left and they were scattered around the bus.  Jorg sat in front, I sat in the middle and Min had to sit on the back bench.  Laina sat on my lap.  Min was not happy at all that she had to sit by herself.  Oh well, she lived.

We got to the airport in plenty of time, we checked in, cleared security and went to our gate.  There was time for the kids to run around, eat some more breakfast cookies, go to the toilet and get bored.  Then, finally, it was time to board the plane.  The flight was 2 hours long and it seemed to pass quickly.  We got a little breakfast snack that the girls thought was very strange for breakfast (cake, spicy turnip pickles, a sweet bean bun, and a small package of spicy duck meat).  I ate all the duck packages!

When we landed, we collected our luggage and went to find a taxi.  The taxi stand was easy enough to find, and the taxi driver used his meter and didn't try to negotiate a price and he was good and honest.  This was nice, because there have been many reports on the internet about the taxi drivers and how they are swindlers and cheaters.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with a necklace made of coconut shells, a cool washcloth, a glass of juice and warm welcomes from all of the staff.  We went up to find our room, a nice comfortable room on the 6th floor.  After getting situated, we went out for a walk around the grounds and then after that a swim.  The pools here are all surrounded by meticulously manicured gardens and the water is fairly shallow, only about 3 feet deep, so it's easy for the girls to "swim" without worrying too much if they will let a lungful of water.  There is a kiddie pool that is only a foot and a half deep and there is also a small water slide that they can play on.  After playing in the pool for a couple of hours, we went upstairs and watched some TV.  About 6 or so, we decided to take a cab into the city to buy some snacks and have dinner.  The taxi driver was again, fair and honest.  No problems.

The city is interesting.  For some reason or another, Sanya is a favorite with Russian tourists.  When you see a non-Asian-European type person (AKA "White") chances are they are Russian.  The signs in the town were written in Chinese and Russian with very little English.  It was very strange to be addressed first in Russian.  We found a grocery store to buy some snacks, some quick noodles (like Top Ramen) and then, most importantly, some laundry soap, and then we went out to find a restaurant.  We learned that things here are expensive.  VERY expensive.  We found a restaurant, a Singapore/Chinese place that had good dishes for not SO much money, and ended up having a good meal.  Jorg started to wonder if we were going to need more money than we had to make it through the rest of the holiday!!  Well, the girls were wiped out, they had a big day and we were all tired, so back to the hotel (again, a very nice taxi driver) and to bed.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dehang to Changsha (on Monday)

On Monday morning it was time for us to leave Dehang. We woke about 7:00 and had some coffee and then a small "things from packages" breakfast. We had a very slow morning, but finally about 9:00 decided to get packed up and moved out. We took our suitcases down the small staircase, Jorg paid the bill and we made our way out to the bus area. We were lucky and found that the bus was nearly full and we left within about 5 minutes of loading in. The ride back to Jishou took about 45 minutes and went without a hitch. The bus dropped us off at the train station, where the girls went to the toilet and we had to figure out where to go to catch the bus to Changsha. After asking at an office, we learned that the bus station with buses leaving to Changsha was only about 500 meters away down the same street we were on, so off we went, and soon found ourselves at the bus station. Jorg bought us our tickets and 25 minutes after getting off the bus from Dehang, we were on our way to Changsha. The bus route took us on a new expressway, which cut the bus ride down to a 5 hour ride, from what used to be a 6-8 hour ride depending on the traffic and specific road conditions. After about 2 ½ hours into the trip, we stopped for a potty break and continued on the way.

At 4:30 we got to Changsha and Jorg was REALLY hungry. Right near the bus station was a KFC, and so we went there, knowing that there was OK food for an OK price. 3 chicken sandwiches, fries, and sodas later, everyone was feeling happy and ready for our next adventure, getting to hotel. (I only wanted fries, so I just mooched off others fries and then ate the last 1/4th of Laina's sandwich that she didn't want).

First, we tried to flag down a taxi, with no luck. Either the taxi's were full, or refused to stop. So we walked to a different side of the street and tried to wave down a taxi there, again with no luck. There was a man who was working with parking regulation and Jorg asked him why we were so unlucky with flagging a taxi, were we doing something wrong? The man asked where we were going and he said, "Oh, that hotel is just a 10 minute walk away!". When Jorg was trying to get specific directions, a man passed by and offered to escort us there. Jorg said the man said, "Don't worry, I'm not going to cheat you, I am only going to show you the way". We got our little duck line going, and the man showed us how to go, and sure enough, after 10 minutes of walking, we arrived at our hotel. I love when we get a travel angel. All those who have traveled know about these travel angels, and I can remember each one that has crossed my path and has helped out in a pinch, sometimes in a big way, sometimes in a small way, but always memorable, always special and it always makes me want to be a better person, and to be a travel angel myself.

After we settled in the hotel, we went out on the street to look for dinner. We found a little restaurant and had a small simple meal of meat with green peppers, green beans, rice and tofu. Then, a little walk around the block, and back to the hotel for bed. I don't think we took any pictures today, so that is why I'm not posting any!! x

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dahang Pt. 4 To the waterfall

1.  General Scenery
2.  The woman in the short dress is the mom from the family we hiked with.  Hiking in a short dress and high heels is how they go around here.
3.  The waterfall.
4.  Our family
5.  Me and the woman and the girls watching the world go by.
6.  The pathway
7.  Back in Dahang, the women on the bridge selling things to bus tourists.
8.  The girls decide to go native while playing in the river.

Dahang pictures Pt. 3

1.  The kitchen in our little hotel.
2.  Another view of the kitchen. 
3.  A view of morning life in the village.
4.  A look from the bridge onto the veranda of the hotel.
5.  can you see us eating around the table?  It's our family and the Chinese family we hiked to the second waterfall with.
6.  The girls playing with stones along the river.  (No, we will not buy you a Wii system, you go out and play with stones...)
7.  One of the matriarchs washing her long hair in the morning.

Dahang Pictures Pt. 2

1.  A picture of the trash that was stuck in the reeds and bushes along the pathway as a result of flooding.  I was really fascinated to see the kinds of things that were caught-shoes, eyeglasses, a pullover, glove, flip-flop, general plastic trash, raincoat...I could have taken loads of trash pictures, but limited myself to 2 or 3.

2.  Jorg and the girls by the waterfall.

3.  Jorg being victorious after reaching the fall.

4.  Min.

5.  General scenery walking back from the waterfall.  We were talking about how we could have skipped the 2 days in  Zhangjiajie and spent more time in Dahang.  The scenery isn't quite as spectacular, but it is still beautiful and the atmosphere in the town is so pleasant.

Dahang pictures

Dahang (which I have misspelled "Dehang") was a fantastic place for pictures, and I may have taken more here than in any other place so far.  Since I can only post about 6 pictures at once, I may have to make two or three posts about Dahang.

1.  Our hotel.  Our rooms were on the top floor.
2.  A view from the hotel balcony.
3.  Another view from the hotel balcony.
4.  One of the rooms (the one Min and I slept in).
5.  The girls heading into the fields towards the first waterfall.
6.  I like this picture of Laina.  It seems to capture her attitude, the way she walks with he shoulder blades pinched back, with a sassy attitude...and her purse.  A lady never leaves home without a purse.
7.  Me in the fields on the way to the waterfall.

Finally, Pictures!

Finally, after about 3 days, I have an internet connection stable enough to post pictures.  This group of pictures will be of Jishou and Fenghuang.

1.  The girls eating watermelon in the night market.
2.  A cormorant fisherman checking the lines
3.  A self portrait on the little 3 wheeled motorcycle cart.
4.  The motorcycle cart.

Monday, July 2, 2012


NOTE: I'm having internet issues here in Changsha, so I can't send any pictures.  I'll post pix ASAP when we get to Sanya.

Today is Sunday and we've had a rather relaxing day. The morning began with the girls not being able to get to the toilet, because the French people who are sharing the floor with us were using the shower, so the girls had to figure out how to go downstairs to the lower floor to go. Oh well, never mind, the French people are gone today and it doesn't look like we will have any other guests. Jorg went down later to find some hot water to make some coffee, while he was down there, he started talking to a Chinese family that were staying in the hotel. I went down to drink coffee with Jorg and this couple ended up inviting us to eat breakfast with them. For breakfast we had: tiny fried fish with hot green peppers, eggs fried with green peppers and onions, fried potatoes, and egg and tomato soup. Not exactly my perfect breakfast, but it was tasty and filled the belly.

After breakfast, we all decided to go together to walk to the big waterfall. The walk was relatively flat, on a stone pathway which was lined by rice paddies and vegetable fields. It was nice easy walk, about 5 KM total, probably less. The waterfall itself, was very large, and was made even larger by the fact that we had been deluged over night and in the morning by some very nice rain storms! We were actually a little afraid that we might be stuck inside all day, but the storms cleared, the sky brightened and we were able to go on our walk. Jorg, the girls and I were enjoying our relaxation by the river, watching the Chinese tourists cross the river and take pictures. The family we hiked in had to take off early, so we exchanged email addresses and they walked back. About noon or after, we decided to walk back to our hotel. Jorg and I wanted to nap, and the girls wanted to play, so we compromised. I set the girls up with a video on the computer (Follow that Bird, a classic) and Jorg and I slept. After nap, Jorg took the girls to the part of the river we walked to the first day, which had some really nice areas to play in, and that is where they are as I type this. I decided to stay back and sit on the veranda and enjoy the town life. A few tour groups came barging through town, but now it is quiet. The old ladies selling fried fish on the bridge are closing up shop and starting to go home for the night. The rest of the town is washing up, and getting dinner ready. Our family is the only foreigners in the hotel tonight.

Dahang is a very easy going village. The people selling things are not pushy and they usually give a price that they don't want to haggle on. There are mostly old people and children here, I guess the "middle" people are either in town or out in the fields. There a few 20-50 year olds, of course, but there are many more old people and children. The babies and kids under 5 will run around with no pants on, or no clothes at all, It doesn't matter around here. Of the old people, there are mostly old women. You'll see an old man around here and there, but it's mostly old women, and they usually are wearing their traditional clothing (the little boy of the house, about 4 years old, just came tromping up the stairs with nothing on other than his shoes. He is miffed because I'm not doing something more interesting with my computer).

It is quarter to 6 in the evening as I'm writing this and Jorg and the girls aren't back yet. I expect to see them coming down the path any minute. I am getting a little hungry since we didn't eat a proper lunch, and I'm wishing I had some Lonely God to munch on!!

Irritations: Piggy people throwing their trash all over the pathway. There were all manner of food wrappers, empty drink bottles, empty cigarette boxes, and old skewer sticks littering the pathway. These were dropped there by the bus tourists that come through the little town. It's not because there are not trash bins along there way, there ARE trashbins, about every 500 meters! Some people are just piggy and it bothers me that the people don't care enough to keep the natural areas clean.

The other irritation is somewhat my fault I suppose, but when I left the girls to watch a movie, Laina couldn't resist the computer and messed around with something and managed to turn the touchpad off. FINALLY I got it working again. I don't know exactly how, but I did. I was really worried for a bit! Laina isn't allowed to have the computer anymore—at least unsupervised!

Saturday night

NOTE:  I am actually posting this on Monday night and am not able to attach photos quite yet.  The internet I do have is sketchy at best and isn't quite up to sending photo files.  I will try and post them later.

It's Saturday night and we have finally found a hotel in China which doesn't have internet! We have had a very busy and fun day, though! We started off in FengHuang and one remarkable thing about the morning was that we had no power in the hotel. Apparently, there are 2 main grids for the city. Once grid, the one our hotel is NOT on, had some maintenance and was turned off on Friday. This morning, the other grid, the one our hotel is on, had it's turn for maintenance. The big deal for us was that we couldn't make hot water for our coffee (the electric kettle wouldn't work, of course). The other thing, we couldn't check emails (horrors!). We set out to the other part of the city, the part which had power, and found a cafe to have some coffee, it was pricey coffee, in fact it was cappuccino, but it was yummy and hot. The girls had hot cocoa. The cafe had a riverside view, and that was nice. After coffee, we bought some biscuits and juice and had a "stuff from packages" breakfast. All of our tummies were a little bit off from our adventurous eating last night, so we didn't want to put more challenging food inside, we just stuck to biscuits (digestive biscuit type things) and juice...oh, and some Lonely God Snack chips, a new favorite. The girls will say, "Ohhhhh, poor Lonely God...". We're easily entertained, I guess...

After breakfast and packing up again, we were ready for our next adventure. We had to walk about 3 blocks to the next major intersection, catch a taxi which took us to the bus station. Then, thanks to Jorg's fine Mandarin skills, we got a bus ticket to Jishou. The bus left about 5 minutes after we got on, and we were in Jishou about and hour and 15 minutes later. We had a few stops along the way, one was because the bus driver wanted to buy a watermelon that he later stopped and gave to some woman. When we arrived at the Jishou bus station, we learned that we would have to go to another bus station to buy a ticket to Dehang. The man at the bus station flagged a vehicle for us-a 3 wheeled motorcycle wagon. We could all fit: Jorg in the front with the driver, the two girls on the bench seat, and me in the back perched on a suitcase. Perfect! The bus station we had to go to was by the train station, only 3 KM away, so we just had a short journey to get there.

At the new bus station, Jorg found that there was a bus leaving to Dehang and there were still seats available, so we piled in, our luggage in the back compartment. The ride there was only about an hour, and we made a few stops for people to get on or get off. We had to pay 7 Yuan each for the ride (the exchange rate is 6 and a bit to the dollar right now). When we arrived in Dehang, we were directed to go over a bridge and walk down a pathway to where we came to another bridge. I waited by the bridge with the girls while Jorg went to go ask if we could get a room. He was in luck, and the first place he asked had a place for us to stay, 2 nice rooms with 2 beds in each room, a shared toilet and a hot shower, all for 80 Yuan per room. Perfect! We got set up in the rooms and then, after a rest, started out on a little hike. After asking around a bit, we found a pathway out into a valley that took us through rice and corn fields, up a small canyon by a river and then, our reward, was a waterfall. We could only stay at the waterfall a short time, because it was getting dark. This pathway was so peaceful and quiet, we only met a few other travelers on the way. It would have pristine, except for the fact that there was a flood only a short time ago and all the flotsam and jetsam from any of the mountain villages got brought down the mountain and the trash and residue was stuck in the reeds and branches on the sides of the stream. If one would only over look this, the pathway was extremely beautiful and as good as any hike one would want to take. A+ hike, would take again.

After our hike, we had some dinner-a simple meal from our hotel kitchen, green beans, some sort of green leaf vegetable, tofu, smoked pork (delicious!!) and rice. A Spanish couple came and ate there as well, and we talked with them for a bit. Jorg stayed and talked longer and I took the girls up stairs for a shower and bed. It's 11:00 now, and I will end this by saying that I really am enjoying our time in Dehang.

Sent from my iPad

Friday, June 29, 2012

By bus to FengHuang

Here's how our day went today:  Wake at 6:00.  Get kids up and dressed, fight with Laina about how she's carrying too much stuff in her backpack "No, Laina, there is no reason why you need to carry those stones you collected from the park in your backpack.  You can put them in your suitcase".  Get a call that the taxi we arranged to pick us up at 7:00 is actually going to be early and we need to get ready ASAP.  In the lobby at 6:45.  Get to Bus station at 7:20 and learn that, although we wanted to take a bus at 8:30, we can actually get an earlier bus at 8:00.  Fine, get the ticket, make a quick trip to the toilet (to say it was a dumpy toilet is disrespectful to dumps), and climb on the bus.  The bus leaves promptly (much to our surprise) and we head out on our journey.  We stop about 1:45 into the trip for pit stop and then continue on until 12:00 when we arrived at FengHuang.  We got a taxi to our hotel, settled in, gave the hotel some REALLY foul laundry to do and went out for an explore.

Fenghuang is so Touristy!  There are little tourist shops selling all manner of junk and gewgaw and handicrafts from the region.  There are shops selling pulled ginger candy and dried pig faces, Some sell tobacco, and others tea.  What we were SUPPOSED to see was the amazing ancient wooden buildings, but these were hard to see for all of the human action going on at street level.   The girls each bought some little souvenirs, Laina got a necklace, Min got a small purse and a dress.  (I have a couple of friends that will point and laugh at me that I STILL can't spell "Souvenir" without spell check).  After we had our fill of walking around, we went back to our hotel room for a bit of a rest.  The girls watched TV.  Jorg slept.  I did some internet.  After our rest we went out to the night market for dinner.  There were stalls with all manner of things put onto bamboo skewers.  You pick what you'd like and they grill it up for you and then you sit at the little table and enjoy the meal.  We had chicken, dry cured ham, lamb, some sort of green vegetable, cauliflower and broccoli.  It was quite good.  We also got some dumplings which, after taking a bite, went straight into the trash.  Yuck!  No flavor and cold.  The girls finished the night with some watermelon slices.  Now, everyone is tucked into bed, except me.  I will take a shower (Jorg told me not to electrocute myself, as the electric shower has its power supply IN the shower) and I will be off to bed, too.  Tomorrow we will take a bus to Jishou, and then another bus to Duhuang and we will be there for 2 nights.

Best thing today:  Well, maybe not best, but as I was on the bus, I saw a very old granny, who was carrying a basket of vegetables on her back.  She was walking next to a motorcycle that had a little boy, maybe 2 years old on the back.  The old granny reached out to pat the little boy's head.  It was one of those sweet moments that one captures in the mind like a flashbulb going off.  It lasts for a second and is gone, save for the shadow of it in your memory.

Worst thing:  Those yucky dumplings.  Blech.  Oh and the smell of Cho Doufu. Cho Doufu, literally "Stinky Tofu", was one of Mao ze Dong's favorite foods, and they love to cook it around here.  It really stinks like poo.  The taste isn't so bad, but why would anyone want to eat food that smells like poo?  I will eat it if it's served to me, because I'm polite that way, but I would never choose it on my own.  Sometimes I have wondered if they just make this stuff to serve to foreigners to see if they can make the foreigner eat food that smells like poo, but actually, it's a favorite food around here.  The locals love the stuff.

Some Random Photos

I hope these all load up in the right order, since I can't view the page, it's hard for me to tell.  Here are some photos that I think are funny, and that don't really have anything to do with anything.

1.  Utopian Residence.  I think I should put this sigh on the front of MY house! (taken in front of an ancient house in HongCun)
2.  Which way to go??  Laina and Min will help find your way around the Chinese mountain! (Taken along the pathways of Huang Shan)
3.  Lonely God Snack Chips.  God is Lonely, make him feel better by eating his chips. (Puffy snack chips tasting like spicy beef.  They were yummy!  Thanks, Lonely God!)
4.  Do Not Touch Me, Do Not Kiss Me.  (A warning sign in Zhangjiajie, it's supposed to be about monkeys, but Min doesn't want you to touch her or kiss her, either).
5.  The next time you need a sincere can of paint, you know where to get one.  (by the side of the street in Zhangjiajie)
6.  Raise High the Roof Beam, Moses!!  (a storefront in Fenghuang)

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Today was very much like yesterday, only slightly dryer.  We took a cable car to the top of a part of the mountain, a different cable car from yesterday, and at the top, was cloud banks.  We walked around up at the top for a bit, and took the cable car down, and then we walked along a stream called "The Golden Whip" which sounds to me like a good name for an S&M bondage club (not that I'd know anything about that).  The walk along the golden whip took about 2 hours.  After that, we took a bus to a weird little monorail train, and rode that through a section of the park in which we could see many giant rock formations rising up from the valley.  Today was special in that we saw wild rhesus monkeys coming out of the forest to beg for food off the tourists.  They can get really aggressive, so we did not feed them, but other did.  After hiking, we went out to dinner with our guide.  So, I'm tired now, and not really verbose, but I wanted to write a little record of what we did.
Little things to remember:
Jorg taking pictures with "minority girls"
The girls having another turn on a "Ferris Wheel" or as they call it here a "Tuijia Swing"
Monkeys in a cage begging for food handouts
Laina moaning about her wet feet
Min moaning about mosquito bites
Oily cucumbers for lunch, impossible to pick up with chop sticks
Wondering if I'm going to contract Schistosomiasis
People continually asking the girls if they speak Chinese.  And the girls, knowing full well what is being asked, refuse to answer.

Good:  Seeing some amazing scenery from the valley.
Bad:  wet socks, wet feet, wet wet wet....

Tomorrow:  Fenghuang (Phoenix City)

Note: sorry, no pictures today.  The camera is WAY over on the other side of the room, and if I go get it, I will not be able to make it back to the computer, because I will, instead collapse on the bed. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some more pictures

Here are a few more pictures of our day on Wednesday.  The wooden contraption is the weird little Farris Wheel that the locals threw together with rope and wire. 

On Wednesday

Well, today was a rather odd day. We woke early, and went to breakfast in the hotel (Chinese breakfast with many different plates of Kimchi to make the Korean guests feel comfortable). We met our guide at 8:30 and he took us to the eastern entrance of the park. THEN we took a bus to the cable car and took that to the top and then we saw...NOTHING!! The fog was so thick that we couldn't see beyond the precipice we were standing on. This is how it was most of the day, walk here and there to the different viewpoints to see great banks of fog. We did do some fun things, the girls had a turn on a makeshift Farris wheel, and we got to climb up a really steep ladder to the top of a mountain spire for a different view of the fog!

When we were further down the mountain we were able to see some of the karst mountains, but not many. We ate dinner at a funny little path side shack, walked to different fog overlooks and then called it a day about 5:00. We ate dinner of noodle soup in the hotel cafeteria, and then put the girls in bed at 8:00 (although Laina didn't sleep until past 9:00 and Min woke with a nightmare and cried about 9:30). Thursday we will walk a lower pathway and hopefully we'll be able to see more!