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!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wednesday morning catch up

So, we decided, rather spur of the moment, to leave Zhangjiajie City and head about 30 KM further in, to Zhangjiajie Village.  We are staying at a very nice hotel, called "Pipaxi Hotel" and we're about 20 mintues on foot away from the entrance to the park.  On Tuesday afternoon, we walked to the village, checked out the situation for buying tickets (Laina will be free, Min will be half price), and we hired a guide for the next 2 days.  On the walk home we ate some dinner in a small restaurant, we had very simple food, green beans, tofu, sliced pork with green peppers and rice.  Perfect for us, and we ate all but a few bites.

Yesterday, Tuesday, was a bit of comedy of errors.  We needed raincoats and umbrellas, so we took a taxi from our hotel to a department store.  At the store, we found some really inexpensive umbrellas, one child sized rain coat and bought some snacks.  After shopping, we went to a cafe for lunch.  When we hailed a taxi for the ride home, I couldn't fold up Laina's umbrella, and so I just grabbed the edges and bent it to get into the taxi, which snapped the ribs, and the umbrella was broken.  I threw it away when we got out of the taxi.  We hired this same taxi to take us from our City hotel, the 30 KM to the village hotel.  When we got to the village hotel and started to check in the hotel, Min told us that she had forgotten HER umbrella in the taxi.  THEN when we got in the room, we found that the bag that contained the other umbrella and the rain coat got left somewhere along the way, where?? We don't even know.  SO-in the village, we bought 4 new umbrellas and no raincoats.

I'm attaching a few pictures that we have taken along the way, including a picture of the little duck line that we make when going through the airports,  mountains that we saw walking to the entrance of the park, a tease of what we will see tomorrow, and the girls, Min being happy, and Laina...well...being Laina.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rain and Missing Posts?

Well, we are currently in the small city of Zhangjiajie.  It is raining and raining and the forecast is saying there will be rain solid for the next 4 days.  Bother.  We haven't exactly decided what to do, if we will just throw on rain coats and umbrellas and get we while seeing the national park area, or if we will try to go to sunnier places or what we'll do.  Right now, I'm thinking we'll tough it out.  We need to buy a couple umbrellas and if we're lucky, a couple good rain slickers for the kids.

I got a report that some posts have disappeared from the blog.  I can not tell what has happened, because the blog itself is blocked by the Great Firewall of China.  I use my hotmail account to write the posts, attach pictures and then when I push "send" the post flies magically to blogger and posts itself directly.  I'm not sure how it looks once it posts, and I can't format or edit, either.  It just goes up, and if I make a mistake or a typo, or say something rash which I didn't want to say, there is nothing I can do about it until I get home and can then go into the blog editor and edit to my hearts content.  If posts have disappeared, I have no idea why or which ones they were!  Hopefully I'll be able to sort it out when I get home.

Jorg isn't feeling very well today, either--we may not do too much today.  It's ok, though.  A bit of a down day is fine.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Finding Husbands

In Jiang Shan Park, we noticed many people sitting on the park benches with pieces of paper on the ground in front of them.  I asked Jorg to read the papers and he said that the people are the parents and the papers are telling about the attributes of their daughters who are searching for mates.  The parents that were searching for a wife for their son, would then talk to the parents with the daughter's descriptions and exchange phone numbers for a possible meeting.

Beauty of Hollowness

In JiangShan park, there is this rock which is hollowed out naturally by the forces of nature.  In front of the stone there was an explanation about why it was a special rock.  I like the part which talked about the "beauty of hollowness".

King Kong of the Bamboo

As we were walking back to our van from the Bamboo Forest, we came across this tourist site.  We could have paid 40 yuan or so to go in and see the "beasts" which lurk inside, but we passed.  In hind site, perhaps we should have gone in, just to see what it was about??

Shower inscription

In the Anhui style hotel, there was an inscription in the tile of our shower.  I thought it was interesting to have on the shower, so I took a picture of it.

Tiananmen Square

Sunday we went to visit Tiananmen Square.  As soon as we got off the subway, we had to put on our raincoats and get out the umbrellas, because it was raining!!  We walked around, anyway and enjoyed the warm rain, the relative emptiness of the square and the different feeling that a rainy gives the place.  After walking around, we walked through to the entry gate of the Forbidden City, but didn't go inside, it's was too much for the kids, just walking there was sufficient to get a feel for the place.  The girls can go in on a different trip.  We then went to an adjacent park and walked around in there.  While in the park, we found an indoor play structure, that for 20 yuan, the girls could play in a dry area and we did that for about 45 minutes.  THEN we took the subway to Xiaoyuan's house and went out for a fantastic meal of Xinjiang Food and then walked back to our hotel together in the rain.  Although it was wet, it was a very nice day!

Going to 798

On Saturday, we met XiaoYuan and RenWei at the Art Gallery district to look around art galleries!  The district used to be really for artists and the world didn't know about it, but how it is a fancy schmancy, see and be seen district for people who like to think they're artsy.  The real artists have picked up and have moved elsewhere in the city and we're too out of the scene to know where they are.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday, June 22

Today we were able to wake up a little later, I woke at 6:00, typed some things and then the girls woke about 7:00. We went for breakfast at the hotel and then went back to the room to pack yet again. We managed to get everything in our suitcases and day-packs and at 10:00, Sean picked us up to take us to the train station. Our train left at 11:05 for Beijing and will take 4 hours. It's amazing because this train journey used to take 12-15 hours and would never be done as a regular commuter train trip. Now, with the high speed rail, a train leaves for Beijing every half hour or so, and sometimes even more often. The trains are usually full. At one point, I could even get internet and had a small skype chat with my parents! As I am typing this, Laina is entertaining herself on the ipad and Min is reading a Roald Dahl book. I have spent much of the time updating my blog things, getting ready to post another update.

When we got to Beijing, we took a taxi to our little hotel, a Hutong courtyard style hotel which is very homey and quaint. It's a hostel, so there are many foreign tourists, backpacker types who come through here and the hosts speak good English. We got settled in and then we set out on the subway to meet Renwei and Xiaoyuan for dinner at 6:30. We had some amazing food, yet again! Then, back to the hotel for bed.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Pig

This is the little hut and the pig that was inside the hut that scared the pants off of Laina and Min.

Wednesday and Thursday in Huang Shan

Wednesday June 20

This morning we woke at 6:00 to pack for the trip to the mountain. We were staying on top of the mountain in a hotel for one night and packed everything we were going to need for overnight in our day packs. We left our luggage with the driver in his van. Our hosts in the hotel fixed us a breakfast to eat on the outside veranda. We ate eggs, rice porridge, and mantou (steamed buns). At 8:30 our driver came to pick us up and take us to the place where we would take a bus to the cable car. From the cable car we would walk about 4 KM to our hotel. EVERYTHING we would have at the hotel, clean laundry, food, soap, snacks, all the building materials, everything, was brought up on shoulder poles by porters. Over the course of the day, you would have to step out of the way so the porters could keep walking at their slow pace up the hills. Bricks, flooring material, carpet, cement for new construction, were all brought up by these amazingly strong men.

On top of the mountain, the pathways were clear, clean and new. All concrete and carved out stone steps. There were trashcans and people, for the most part, people used them. We walked and looked at viewpoints, and were amazed at the scenery, Huang Shan is truly a beautiful place by any standards. It would be a national park if it were in our country.

We got to our hotel about 2:00 in the afternoon and after we checked in, we went to look around a bit more. We climbed a part of the area called "Purple Peak" and sat there for a while admiring the scenery. About 5:00 we went for dinner, which was more expensive than most dinners here, but when you consider that each plate, each chop stick, each bite of vegetable was carried by one of the porters, it didn't seem so bad, and we were very thankful for a good meal. After dinner we went back to our room, had a shower, watched some TV and went to bed very early, at 8:30.

Thursday June 21

    This morning we woke at 4:30 AM to go out to see the sunrise. We were not the only ones out, but we went to a quiet area, which was facing the wrong direction for the sun rise (on purpose) and enjoyed a peaceful morning listening to the birds and watching the sunlight change on the rocks. We stayed watching the sunrise until about 5:30 and then we went and got breakfast (bamboo leaf wrapped rice, corn on the cob, and tea eggs). We ate breakfast on the front veranda of the hotel on a little table, enjoying the birds and watching the people...watching us!

After breakfast, we went to our room, packed up and started on our way back down the mountain.

    On this day, we hiked to more popular area of Huang Shan, and encountered more people. Before, it was in Chinese terms, relatively empty. On this hike there were some very strenuous uphill stair climbs as well, 100-250 steps at a time, but a great majority of the hike was steps down. The scenery all through the park area was amazing. The karst stone formations are so sheer and steep, there isn't a good way to explain it with words. The area is frequently featured in Chinese paintings. You know these paintings of steep hills surrounded with fog and mist, and you figure that it must just be some scenery that someone imagined? Well, this place DOES exist. It's called Huang Shan. In all, on this day, we hiked upstairs and downstairs about 5 KM. I had bought Laina and Min a little medal on a ribbon that has picture of Huang Shan and they had their names engraved on one side. Laina is so proud of this medal that she has been wearing it all the time since! We made it to the cable car at 12:00 and at the bottom, found our driver and had lunch and zoomed back to Nanjing.

    Back in Nanjing, the girls went swimming with Jorg, I wrote some emails and caught up on blogging. We ate dinner once again with Sean and Eliza. Each dinner they have taken us to has been fantastic. Eliza has been so kind and has bought the kids some new clothes and a very cute little doll toy, but this has nearly overloaded us and packing has become trickier. We are currently all packed so that we each have a day-pack and a carry on sized pull along suitcase. Every item we are bringing with us has been carefully thought out and any extra puts us closer to overloaded. Hopefully we will be able to stay light!! We went back to our hotel and got in bed at 9:30.

Our Anhui Hotel