Steve's China Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I'm just in shock...

Tragic News: Taylor Passes Away At Age 24

The Redskins have been notified that Sean Taylor passed away Tuesday morning at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

He was 24 years old.

My heart and prayers go out for Sean's family, the Redskins organization, and all of the other fans.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Exploring a little

Reese came over to my place in the early afternoon and helped me with my Chinese for a few hours. Afterwards we went to JinLi Street. This is sort of like an old market area, with the shops and restaurants made up to look like it did centuries ago. Of course, all of the products are new but some are made like they were made ages ago. The silk store was very interesting... lots of silk products, and they had displays to show the different stages of how silk is made. Other interesting places sold calligraphy, some sold clothes, fans, jewelry, toys, tea, etc... I wish I had taken my camera!

There are also a lot of little shops selling Chinese snacks, tea gardens, and little bars. There's even a Starbucks, although it seemed a little out of place. We went to one little place that sold some rice noodle soup. The weather was a little chilly on Saturday, so the noodles were very good. Reese was surprised I could eat such spicy food, but a lot of Chinese people (especially here in Sichuan) believe that foreigners don't like spicy food. After that we bought some tofu on a stick from another place and shared that as we walked among the shops. I really need to remember to take my camera with me more often.

Sunday was another relaxing day and I spent most of the day un-installing, installing, updating, and playing Medieval II Total War on my computer. In the evening I met up with my friends Cynthia and Tony and we went to a Thai restaurant called Fiesta Thai. I was very surprised at how good it was... It was very Thai! We had some spring rolls, some Thai-style noodles (pad thai), some seafood with chili's and basil (gra prow ta-leh?), some chicken with vegetables (gai pad prik), and some beef curry (gang neau). Yum! I'll definitely be going back there.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving and sunshine

Happy Thanksgiving!

A friend of mine here told me that most of the western restaurants here in ChengDu usually serve some kind of Thanksgiving dinner, but since I had an earlier Thanksgiving dinner during my last visit to the US I wasn't missing it that much. After work I went home, cooked some pasta, and reinstalled some software on my home computer. I might go out this weekend and see if any place is still serving turkey. We'll see.

On Tuesday the sun came out. I do not think I had seen the sun in the three weeks before then. ChengDu does tend to be a rather cloudy place. There is even an old joke that when the sun comes out the dogs bark at it, because they do not know what it is! Wednesday was another cloudy day, but yesterday and today we have had some more sunshine. It's pretty nice!

Monday, November 19, 2007

New things

After coming back from the hotsprings I caught a small cold. I discovered they had some chicken noodle soup from the US at Sabrina's Country Store. That was great! I do not think I have ever had soup with chicken in it here in China before.

I started on some new projects a few weeks ago at work. So now I am on the ChengDu Australia/New Zealand team, and last week we had someone from Australia come and give us some training on the projects. I've always worked on US projects, so this is kind of a nice change... especially the smaller time difference. It was a very busy week because of our visitor, but I enjoyed it (even with the cold).

Reese, a friend of mine from work volunteered to help tutor me in Chinese. I really need the help too since I have not studied my Chinese since I have gotten to ChengDu. She came over on Saturday afternoon and we spent over 2 hours reviewing most of my past lessons and notes. After that I took her to out to dinner at the Shamrock Pub. It was a lot of fun! We ate, drank wine, and ended up chatting until very late. I can not remember the last time I had such a nice evening with someone that was so much fun to be with.

Sunday was relaxing. I played some Everquest II, did some laundry, ate a lot, played some more Everquest II, took a long nap, ate a lot more, played more Everquest II, ate a little more, and watched a movie. I should have studied some Chinese, but didn't get around to it. I'll study some tonight, I think.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hotspring weekend

On Saturday afternoon I joined a couple of hundred co-workers for a little trip to a place called HuaShuiWan, which is a hotspring resort area about 85 km (about 53 miles) outside of ChengDu. We boarded 6 buses and headed out in the early afternoon and after a pleasant drive through lots of farmland that surrounds ChengDu we arrived in HuaShuiWan.

Some farmland outside of ChengDu.

Playing a game on the bus.

The whole weekend was cloudy, and since the resort is up in the hills it was a little chilly.

Out of the farmands and up into the hills.

The town of HuaShuiWan is very small. Just two or three little hotels, a few touristy shops, a few little restaurants, etc...

Entrance to Hotspring Village hotel.

Horses and vendors outside the gate of the hotel.

After we arrived and checked in at the hotel, Hotspring Village, we went for a little walk around town. I always enjoy getting away from the city. The leaves have also started changing color in this area, and that's always nice to see.

Veteran memorial in HuiShuiWan.

Touristy stores.

Some friends go horseback riding.

Before dinner we played games, such as cards and Mahjong. I learned a new card game and played that with some friends. I did not win, but I did not lose. After playing cards we went to dinner.

Playing cards and mahjong.

After dinner a lot of us went to the hotspring pools at the hotel. The pools were divided into 5 areas... the smallest and hottest at the top, which went down to the next pool which was less hot and little bigger, down to the next which was less hot and little bigger, etc... The minerals in the water also dissipated as the water went lower and cooler, so that the top pools was very green and the last pool was very blue. We ended up staying at the pools most of the night, and I slept really well afterwards.

The lower hotspring pools.

A nice fish pond outside of my room.

On Sunday morning we had breakfast and afterwards some of us went to the pools again, some of us went for a walk, and some played games. It was a nice lazy morning and I just relaxed until lunch time.

Hotel dining room.

After lunch we checked out of the hotel, boarded our buses, and headed back to ChengDu.

On the outskirts of ChengDu.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Free plug for Yon

When ever I get a chance I like to go over to Micheal Yon's website and see what is going on in Iraq that you don't see on the news. Whether disturbing or hopeful his pictures and stories are always amazing.

Thanks and Praise

A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from “Chosen” Company 2-12 Infantry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John’s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Plan E

I think I have all of my airline and hotel reservations done for my winter vacation. Since the cost of airline tickets went way up in the last week for flights from Australia to Singapore that part of the trip got changed, so now I will go to Hong Kong for a few days instead of Singapore.

I think the prices will even out some since it is cheaper to fly to Hong Kong, but will cost more to visit there. Anyways, I would prefer to spend more money on the ground sightseeing and stuff then spend more money on airfare. The flight is also a lot shorter to Hong Kong (and then back to ChengDu too). So, now the plan is to fly to New Zealand for Christmas, then fly to Australia for New Year's, and then a few days in Hong Kong.

I would have preferred to buy all of the airline tickets from a Chinese travel agent, since I can usually get a really good discount price, but the service is not that great. I am buying the airline tickets from ChengDu to Shanghai, Shanghai to New Zealand, and Hong Kong to ChengDu from a Chinese travel agent and the discount on those range anywhere from 15 to 35 percent compared to how much I would have to pay in the US.

The tickets from New Zealand to Australia and from Australia to Hong Kong I had to buy online via Expedia. Before I could buy those though I had to put money on my Bank of China credit card. They don't give most people a decent size credit limit (probably a good thing), but is a pain to deal with when you want to buy something big. Of course, while I was waiting for the money to be posted to my credit card the prices of the airline tickets went up.

I had TUI make the reservations for the resort in Australia. I had to go to my bank, withdraw the cash to pay for the trip, and then go to their bank to transfer the money to their account. Yeah, Bank of China doesn't like to transfer money to other Chinese banks. Great service, huh? Actually, dealing with the bank on this and putting money on my credit card was much easier than I had expected. I went to the main branch for Sichuan province and there were not many people there and got everything done in less than two hours. I only had to take one aspirin afterwards.

I got my tourist visa for Australia online, and I do not need a visa for New Zealand or Hong Kong, so that is all taken care of. The only complication I can foresee now is that the travel agent will deliver my ticket for ChengDu to Shanghai to me, but the other two tickets I bought in China I have to pickup at the airport when I get to Shanghai. Hopefully nothing will go wrong, but who knows? Murphy is everywhere here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Next plan

TUI was not able to get me my flights, so now for Plan D!