Monday, June 11, 2007

Bicycles, Circus Freaks, and Plastic Wrapped Shoes?? What happened to the Fortune Cookies??

Hi y'all! I'm back!!!! I've been back from China for a week! But who could blog last week when there was minute-by-minute Paris Hilton updates to be watched?!! I mean, one minute she's at a gala awards event, the next ... in jail. But then ... she's outta jail and electronic braceleted. Oooh, but a blink later, and she's being rearrested at her house and thrown back in the slammer! Yee doggie, people ...... that ranks right up there with the OJ Simpson White Bronco fiasco. Crazy, right?

Anyway, but now that she seems safely tucked away in jail for awhile, I've had some time to sort through my (ahem) SIX GIGS worth of pictures and videos (hello? Manic Photo Taker, anyone??) to find some to show you.

All in all let me just say that it was a fabulous trip. Everything went way better than expected. The accommodations were better, the food, the luggage schlepping .... all good. The bathrooms took a little getting used to (more on that later) but all in all ..... a big thumbs up! My mom had mentioned like 10 years ago that she wanted to go to China and so for ten years I've been wanting her to get to China. She turned 84 this year and I realized that I'd regret if she never went to China (whether she still wanted to go or not!!!). So we went .... and I couldn't be happier!

Here we are in Tiananmen Square:


But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Our first stop in China was Shanghai. Now, here's just a normal touristy picture of The Bund area in Shanghai.

And another of the Yu Yuan Garden:

I mean, yeah yeah .... tourist site. Whatever. Screw those! (*grin*) .... what enthralled me most about Shanghai was the traffic! Y'all, I couldn't get enough of it!!! I can't believe there aren't accidents and pedestrian deaths left and right! I couldn't even focus on what the tour guide was saying because I kept cringing and leaning and trying to swerve for people as I sat in the front seat of the bus and viewed the chaos around me. Luckily, I took video. Because words just don't describe it! All I can say is .... PEDESTRIANS DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT AWAY. Nor do bicyclists for that matter. Nor cars already in a lane. In fact, it's pretty much just a free-for-all. SHEESH!

So here is some here:

And some here:

Pretty insane, right??

I mean, the bikes! Good lordy, the bikes! EVERYWHERE!

And they all looked like THIS!

I have NO idea how anyone figured out which was theirs!!! Perhaps it didn't matter ... you just grab the one closest to you and go? It was nuts!

Next up we headed to Beijing! Y'all, I stood on the frickin' Great Wall of China!! That was such a highlight for me! Here's a picture of the portion of the Great Wall we were at. I had NO idea that when people would say "did you climb the Great Wall?" they actually meant "did you CLIMB the Great Wall??". You see, I thought maybe you had to climb to get ON the Great Wall but then you just walked it because the top was flat... I did not know that once on the Great Wall you had to climb! WTF?! :)

I mean, just look at this thing!

And look how steep .....

I didn't make it to the top. In fact, I didn't realize there WAS a top. I did, however, realize when my quadriceps had decided I had climbed enough! :) And so I stopped. It certainly was a beautiful view though. And I climbed high enough to receive a "hero's" card! (well, when I say "receive" ... I mean "purchase". (You say "to-may-toe", I say "to-mah-to" ... whatever! ;)))

Also in Beijing I found this clock counting down the time til they host the 2008 Olympics!

They are still busy getting that city and their sports arenas ready to host. Looks great so far! It will be interesting to see Beijing on tv once the Olympics start. You know, to see if I recognize any places.

A few more photos around Beijing. We rode these rickshaws through the Hutong area:

What a hoot, right? I felt bad for our rickshaw driver. I was wondering if each driver would scramble to grab the skinniest people into the rickshaw they'd be pulling! (I know I would!!)

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures I took while riding along...

There was laundry EVERYWHERE, y'all. In every city. In fact, the simplest way to determine whether some huge high rise was an office or apartment building was to note whether or not there was tons of laundry hanging off every balcony. Apparently dryers are still not common and/or one local guide said her dryer took 9 hours to dry one pair of jeans. So ... I guess I'd be hanging up my stuff too. Though probably not my underthings outside like the person did above.

A couple of other shots around Beijing:

At Summer Palace...................... Me at the Temple of Heaven.

Oh, oh ... y'all will like these .... I saw KNITTERS! And look, the woman knitting while the men wound the skein into a ball. I don't know how she convinced them to do that ..... but ....You GO, girl!

After Beijing we headed to Xian. Home of the Terracotta Warriors.

It was difficult to catch decent pictures there because of the indoor darkened lighting so I'll leave it at just that one. A pretty amazing site though in person. Can you believe they uncovered all these by lightly brushing away the dirt with something akin to a toothbrush. NO THANKS! I would NOT be a good archaeologist. No patience (which could also explain why the second of a pair of knitted socks has not been finished for over a year (or so) now! Just sayin'!)

On to the Yangtze River cruise!! This too went much better than expected. Each day we docked somewhere and toured a location like the one below:

(these were taken at the City of Ghosts)

And while not in port we cruised by beautiful scenery such as:

And at night the ship crew would put on a fun show for us.

Thumbs up on the cruise!

Anyway, we docked in the city of Chongqing as our final Yangtze cruise destination. This is the largest city in China at a mere 32 MILLION PEOPLE! HOLY CRAP!

I couldn't capture the whole city in my non-wide-angled camera so I went with a simple representation by one of the statues found on one of the main bridges there.

Not quite the same but it will do. Anyway, Chongqing is where we had the opportunity to check out the pandas!!! Look how cute! This is the baby panda....

........And here's a panda all grown'd up (doesn't it look like it is missing its remote and beer!?!) :)

Also in Chongqing we walked the streets of Old Town. Man, y'all talk about me (with my pastey white skin and blonde hair) being a Circus Freak in most of China (I had folks who would approach me to take a picture with them). In Old Town, H-O-L-Y B-E-J-E-E-Z-U-S!!! A woman who was also on my tour was laughingly saying she didn't want to walk near me there because of the stares and such! Of course, it wasn't just me bringing on the stares in this part of China ... the whole group of us were stopping people in their tracks. It was crazy! And my laughing out loud about it wasn't helping to NOT draw attention to us! ;) Here are a couple of Old Town pictures. I'll post more interesting ones of the people there in a later post.

Please note the cat in front of the baby stroller in that second picture. Would you believe that cat is the ONLY cat I saw on the ENTIRE trip. One cat. ONE. And only a handful of dogs. And I'm too scared to ask why. So I won't. (hello? 1-800-DENIAL?? :))

After Chongqing we hit Guilin. This town had merely 4 million people. I liked it .... it was the most like Portland. Damn humid though.

While there, we took a tour on the Li River. Very, VERY pretty. Here are a couple of pictures....

I was fascinated by the water buffalo (see them in the second picture!). I saw more water buffalo here than cats or dogs in all of China! (hrmph!)

While in Guilin, we also toured the Reed Flute Cave. This is a beautiful cave that they enhanced with colored lights. My camera battery died (after all the water buffalo pics earlier that day (heh)) so I was only able to grab this shot. The bottom half of the picture is water reflecting the upper portion of the cave.

After Guilin, on to Hong Kong!!!! I was very excited! ... And not only because I knew that once we got to Hong Kong that I'd be able to get my hands on a ................. (*insert drum roll*)

That's right .... Starbucks!!! I mean, I had access to one in Shanghai and we saw one or two in the distance in Beijing as we drove by but then ... BUPKUS! So I was pretty damn excited that there was one right outside our hotel in Hong Kong. Yee haa! (It's the little things, I tell ya! :))

Here's a picture I took of Hong Kong on a short walk from our hotel:

We were lucky, it was an absolutely GORGEOUS day!

Here's one of the Peninsula Hotel:

A couple of shots on the way up to Victoria Peak:

And a few from the top:

And last but not least (for now!), I found these .... all the shoes for sale wrapped in plastic. Isn't that crazy!? How are you supposed to look, touch, and feel? Not to mention "try on"!?! Ah well.

So all in all a WONDERFUL time. I have more to share at a later date (remember SIX GIGS of pictures!!! :)). So brace yourself! .... :)

But for now ... I'm out. I hope y'all are having a fantastic June so far!!!


shannon said...

welcome home!

Jeanne said...

Back in the US of A! Safely. Whew!

OK. First off, Great Wall--eeee! The photo made me dizzy. Too high, too high!

Secondly, lane markings are merely suggestions, is that right? Two can share one lane if they wish. Yikes. And I thought they drove bad in part of the US.

Looking forward to all six Gb!

Kat said...

Shannon ... missed ya at the Yarn Harlot. She was a hoot ... as always! :)