Monday, December 31, 2012

Zhūjiājiǎo朱家角 and West Lake西湖

Hey there!
This blog post consists of pictures I took while my classmates and I spent a weekend visiting Zhujiajiao, a water town near Shanghai, and West Lake (Xihu). 

Zhujiajiao: A water town. What is a water town you may ask? Well in China it is typically a town situated near or on a river and it is riddled with canals or Qanats; shout out to Dune series fans.  The two river towns we visited where beautiful.  As we made our way to the hotel, high stone bridges and splendidly lit river dwellings appeared out of a filter of rain which in my mind truly affirmed the place as a water town.

Our transport to the hotel

It is all the rage in Europe right now

This river town is famous for this style of blue fabric

White Wine Báijiǔ 白酒 factory

Fermentation Room

West Lake Xīhú 西湖

The Water Torch in this picture and two others are on the Chinese 1 Mao paper note

Bamboo Forest

龙井茶 Lóngjǐng chá Dragon Well Tea is a famous and delicious type of green tea grown in China, and it is grown in the same region as West Lake

They hire really handsome guys with red beards to sell their tea
Until next time

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Week of Travels: Part Two

Hello everyone and happy holidays! It is currently Christmas day in Shanghai and I thought I would sit down with a cup of Americano and finish part two of my week of travels in China.  In my last post I described the adventures my friends and I had in Beijing.  So I will start where I left off.  
We landed in Chengdu, which is a city located in the Sichuan province.  The main things to do near Chengdu are to visit the Panda sanctuary or visit the Giant Buddha in Leshan. Since neither my friends or I had any interest in Panda's 熊猫 Xióngmāo, except perhaps what they tasted like, we settled for the latter.  The site of the Giant Budhha in Leshan, although very touristy, is quite interesting and a definite site to see if one is in Chengdu.  The next day we visited a park in Chengdu and spent the day sipping tea at one of the parks many tea houses and watched the many activities that were taking place throughout the park. Such as Taji Sword, opera, various forms of dance; including hip-hop, calligraphy, Mahjong; a very popular game involving illustrated tiles, and of course karaoke.  That night after a fantastic diner, Sichuan food is by far my favorite style of food in China, we were tired from the day's events but it was 万圣节 Wànshèngjié Halloween, so we decided to see what Halloween was like in Chengdu.  Surprisingly Halloween was pretty well represented in Chengdu.  The street we visited was decked out in Halloween decorations with screams and howls reverberating throughout and many interesting monsters and ghouls walked amongst the crowd.  We ducked into an outdoor riverside restaurant and it was there we meet a Chinese cop and preceded to spend the rest of the night talking with him and his family.  I wish I had a picture, but this guy and his family were great and made Halloween in China an unforgettable experience, an experience that you will need to ask me about in person.
After Chengdu we took an over night train to Kunming, a city in Yunnan province, were we spent a few days before heading back to Shanghai.  I will let the pictures explain the rest of trip.  I will post again soon about my visits to Huangshan (yellow mountain) and Xihu (west lake). Until next time

What I would look like if I only ate Sichuan food.

Giant Buddha

Wow look at that 帅哥, truly 高富帅 haha 

Thanks for the reminder

Can you spot the foreigners? At a tea house in Chengdu

This was my favorite part of our week of traveling.  At first glance you may ask how could an almost 24 hour train ride on hard seats be remotely enjoyable.  Well this was my favorite part of the trip because it was truly a real Chinese experience.  We sat in the cheap seats with the majority of the rural Chinese passengers, ate our bowls of instant noodles like everyone else, and added our own noises to the load music and voices that circulated throughout the train car.  Since we were the only foreigners on the train and the fact that many of the passengers had never seen a foreigner before, we attracted quite a bit of attention. One particular man that was leaning on an adjacent seat openly stared at us for an hour.  By the time night fell we had started a small party in our section of the train car and I meet my Chinese grandma, whom I have my arm around in this picture.  I also really enjoyed this experience because I only spoke Chinese to these people, it was the only way we could communicate, and so I feel that this particular experience helped greatly with encouraging me to speak Chinese outside of the classroom.

These gates were located in the city of Kunming, Yunnan.  In WWII U.S. Army troops and vehicles passed through these gates to deliver supplies to the Chinese resistance fighting the Japanese forces occupying China.  My friends and I did not do very much in Kunming except relax at a SPA and eat Kunming street food, I got food poisoning again haha.  The SPA experience was a little interesting because the main hot spring did not allow bathing suits, just your birthday suit, and in the center of the main hot spring their was a very large and anatomically correct sculpture of a phallus, which I am told is a symbol of power in Asia.  Anyway Kunming is a great city to visit, the food is delicious and it is simply just a great place to walk around in.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Week of Travels: Part One

Hello everyone once again it has been quite awhile. I have been busy with what seems to be an ever growing pile of things to do, such as midterms and papers, and I have also been traveling.  I was going to write about my midterms, but I think that might have been a little too exciting.  So it is my adventures during my recent travels in China to which today’s blog post pertains.
 A couple of weeks ago my fellow classmates and I had a week off from classes to travel around China.  A couple of friends and I decided to jump on a bullet train and head to Beijing which was our first stop in our week of traveling.  After a short five hour ride, we arrived in Beijing at 11pm and stepped out onto a rain drenched street near Tiananmen Square.  After checking into a nearby hostel we decided to take a walk in one of Beijing’s many “matchbox house” communities.  These communities consist of very small delicate houses lined up abreast along narrow streets that seem analogous to the paths in a corn maze.  These communities are so large and intertwined that inside small business can survive just because people do not want to have to navigate all the way to a main street.  Walking through these communities felt as if you were not in Beijing, well at least not 2012 Beijing, it really seemed like one was walking through the streets of old China.  I found it very interesting that a community like this, despite its close proximity to Tiananmen Square, had so far survived the modernization pressures of the city.
The next day we visited the Forbidden City, which was very interesting but extremely crowded.  After wading through a sea of other tourists, knocking into a curious man who looked like and dressed like Jesus Christ, I entered the Forbidden City. I was immediately surprised by the sheer size of the city and by the fact that despite its size there was comparably very few rooms.  Most of the city is large courtyards that provide the buildings located at the ends of these courtyards with an appearance of being daunting and powerful.  After our day in the Forbidden City we spent the night couchsurfing with a Russian who was living in the city.  That night after some delicious Beijing hot pot we decided to check out some of Beijing’s night life, which is a lot fun.  But the real fun started later that night when a taxi driver tried to overcharge us and he and I got into a shouting match, in Chinese, over the price.  Despite losing a button off my shirt after the taxi driver decided to get a little physical, I really enjoyed the experience because I used quite a bit of Chinese, and up to that point my argument with this taxi driver was the longest conversation I had with a Chinese person that I did not closely know.  At the end of the argument we ended up not having to pay the full price and made it back without any further complications.
During our last full day in Beijing we visited the Great Wall.  The section of the Great Wall that we visited was restored for about a mile of its length, which was nice because it gave me a sense of what the wall looked like during its glory days.  But the sections of the wall that had not been restored were the most interesting.  To walk on top of the original stone of which the wall was built with felt like I was walking on something that transcended time.  Walking out on the decaying sections of the wall, far away from the crowds of other tourists, truly gave me an idea of what a monumental feat of human perseverance the building of such a structure exemplified.  An interesting occurrence that happened to me while I was walking on the Great Wall was that I saw the same guy resembling Jesus Christ that I had seen at the Forbidden City the previous day walk past me.  The second appearance of this man sparked jokes between my friends and I that went along the lines of "After all those Sundays of Church, it turns out that all I had to do to find Jesus was visit Beijing".  
After the day at the Great Wall my friends and I left Beijing and boarded the plane to Sichuan.  In Sichuan my friends and I had a few more interesting adventures that include Halloween with a Chinese Cop and I now have a Chinese grandmother, but these are tales for another post. So until next time

Top of Tiananmen Square 

Forbidden City

A shíshī

Inside the Forbidden City


This picture is a good representation of the pollution in Beijing.  The funny thing is that when I showed this picture to one of my Chinese friends he said"wow you guys were lucky you went on a good day".  I found that very interesting, I would hate to see what the pollution is like on a mediocre day.

An arrow tower on the walls of the Forbidden City

More meow for your mao
(A Mao is also a form of currency in China, to clarify the joke)

Great Wall (Restored Section)

Great Wall (decaying Section)

The remains of a Great Wall watch tower


On second thought...

Oh well why not
This is humorous, in China scorpions are not a common snack. It is truly just a product of tourism in Beijing.  While my friends and I were indulging in this particular snack we attracted a group of about fifteen Chinese people, who eagerly watched and took pictures of the stupid foreign tourists eating scorpions  

Something that I did not expect to see while in China