Steve's China Blog

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jay's trip to Chengdu

Jay and I arrived in Chengdu rather late, so we just went to my apartment and went to sleep. I was going to work the next two days... I worked part of the day on Thursday from home and all day on Friday at home. On Thursday we went to my office and I showed Jay around a little bit. We had lunch with two of my teammates from work, Yan Mei and Wen Yun.

Yan Mei, Jay, Wen Yun, and I at lunch

We had some really good Sichuan dishes for lunch (fish covered with hot peppers, minced chicken with hot peppers, pork and vegetables in spicy oil, and pickled peppers). Jay did pretty good with the food during the whole trip. He was willing to try everything we served him, and he didn't get sick or anything. I did try to make sure we had some western meals every once in awhile too, since Jay was not use to eating so much Chinese food.

On Saturday morning Jay and I went to the Panda Breeding Research Center in northern Chengdu. We got there early because we wanted to get our pictures taken with a little panda, but we couldn't find the place to do that. There were no signs for it. Eventually we found a place that had a line of people, and sure enough that was the place.

Baby panda with mother panda

To get your picture taken with the little panda you have to donate 1,000 Yuan to the research facility. Jay forgot his donation at my apartment, so I gave him mine so he could pose with one of the pandas.

Jay and his panda

I think this panda was only a few months old. They are quite small when they are born and grow quickly. After visiting the pandas we went back to town; and my friends Cynthia, Tony, Phyllis, and her sister Jessie took us out for a Sichuan dinner. We had a variety of dishes that I think are only found in Sichuan. It was very good.

Tony, Cynthia, Jessie, Phyllis, and I at dinner

A whole lot of Sichuan goodies

After dinner Phyllis and Jessie took Jay and I to a place called Shunxing Ancient Teahouse. We enjoyed some tea and some snacks, and watched a Sichuan Opera/variety show. At one point some guys came over and gave Jay and I a shoulder/back massage while we watched the show. They also had someone who went around cleaning ears, but we passed on that.

Performing with an old style instrument

Kung Fu tea pouring

Face changing

Jay gets a massage while chatting with Phyllis

On Sunday Jay and I got up early and met up with my friend Jolly and her friend Scarlet. We went to a place called Leshan which is about two hours drive from Chengdu. We were going to see the giant Buddha, which at 71 meters high (about 233 feet) is the largest statue of Buddha in the world. The first viewing of the giant Buddha statue was by boat.

Jay and I on the boat in Leshan

Scarlet and Jolly

Jay and I with the giant Buddha statue in the background

The river current here is very strong, so the first time going by the Buddha statue was very quick as we were going down stream. The boat then turned around and slowly went upstream by the Buddha, so everyone had time to take pictures.

Some souvenir sellers outside the dock and park

For the second viewing of the Buddha statue we went through a large park and came up to a place by the head of the Buddha and then walked down to the bottom. It was quite a hike, and all of us were pretty tired afterward.

The steep climb down the side of the giant Buddha statue

A look down where the feet are

Jay and I check out a really big toe

Down past the Buddha we found a small place with some shops and restaurants, and we took a little break with some cool drinks and some souvenirs.

Jolly and Scarlet help Jay do some souvenir shopping

We then made our way to the Wuyou Temple nearby. The bridge leading to the temple was very pretty.

The bridge to the Wuyou Temple

On the bridge

When we got to the bridge we discovered that if we wanted to go up to the temple we would have to do a lot of hiking up a small mountain. We were all too tired for that and decided to call it a day. We called our driver and he picked us up nearby and we drove over to Leshan to buy some snacks (sliced beef, sweet duck, and fruit). I think I caught a cold from the air conditioning in the car, since I woke up Monday morning with a slight head cold.

On Monday Jay and I went to JinLi Street in Chengdu. JinLi is a market street that is decorated like an ancient Chinese market street. It's not totally authentic since there are places there like Starbucks and Dairy Queen there, but it's nice.

Jay bought some Chinese KungFu-type shirts and also had a painting done with some Chinese calligraphy that resembles his name in Chinese.

Nice job with the calligraphy

There were also many pretty Chengdu girls to see there.

A pretty girl poses for the cameras

Actually, there were a lot of pretty Chengdu girls just about every place we went. I think if Jay comes back to Chengdu it will be more to see the pretty girls then to see me. Haha!

A pretty girl plays a guqin at a teahouse on JinLi Street

On Tuesday we didn't go do any sightseeing. My cold was getting worse, so I didn't want to go anywhere. Jay went for a walk in the area around my apartment and I tried to sleep some. We also spent time preparing for the next day's trip to Hong Kong.

In the evening we went to join my friend Kitty for some hotpot. The place we went to was called Lao Ma Tao, and it has been around for a long time. We had beef, lamb, stomach, liver, quail eggs, enokitake mushrooms, and lotus root. I didn't eat any of the liver, but Jay tried all of it. It was really good! It was also helpful for my cold.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jay's trip to Beijing

Jay flew out of Raleigh on Friday June 11, and after a stopover in Toronto would arrive in Beijing on Saturday 12 June at about 3:55pm. I got a flight from Chengdu to Beijing on Saturday 12 June that was suppose to arrive in Beijing at around 3:20pm. The plan was that we would both meet my friend Jackie at the only McDonald's at the arrival hall in terminal 3 of the Beijing airport. Unfortunately I booked my flight on Air China and my flight to Beijing was 2 hours late.

This really screwed things up since Jackie wasn't sure what Jay looked like, and Jay was not sure what Jackie looked like. I found Jackie at the McDonald's at about 6:00pm and there was no sign of Jay, so Jackie and I started to plan what we would do to find Jay. A few minutes after that I looked up and there was Jay! He had gotten tired of sitting at the McDonald's after having sat on an airplane for 15 hours and had gone walking around the airport. Anyways, we finally were all together.

Jackie decided that the best way to get to the hotel was to take a city shuttle bus to YaBing Road, and walk over to the hotel. This was probably the cheapest way to get there, but the walk from the bus stop to the hotel was very long, especially for Jay and I since we had been traveling all day. After we got to the hotel we checked in, and Jay went to get cleaned up before dinner.

For dinner Jackie took us to a really nice Beijing Roast Duck restaurant (and we took a taxi rather than the less expensive bus). This place was a duck restaurant that the locals go to... not one of the tourist dives. The dinner was wonderful! After dinner Jay and I went back to the hotel and crashed. The next day would be a busy day.

Jackie had to work on Sunday, so Jay and I were on our own all day, but she did find us a driver for the whole day named Jiang Tao who met us at our hotel in the morning and took us to the BaDaLing part of the Great Wall. As you can tell from these pictures Sunday was kind of smoggy...

Part of BaDaLing Great Wall

More steep climbing ahead

Even with all the smog the view was very nice. The route we took was very steep. The place had also been very built up nearby with lots of restaurants, shops, and other tourist trap places. I guess they did this before the Olympics since it was not like this years ago when I had last visited the Great Wall.

Jay and a big rock

After going to the Great Wall our driver drove us to a restaurant nearby the Summer Palace, and Jay and I had some dishes that are popular in the Northeast part of China, such as braised beef with tomato and beans. It was a really good lunch, but we ate too much. This would become a trend while in Beijing.

I forgot the name of this restaurant, but it was good

After lunch we went over to the Summer Palace. I had been to the Summer Palace a couple times before with the last time being in 2006. Back then it was going through a lot of renovations (to get it ready before the Olympics I guess), and there was a lot more to see there this time. We even got lost for a little while. Jay was becoming more proficient at saying, "bu yao" (do not want) to all the street vendors who were all over the tourist places selling all kinds of junk. I did not take a lot of pictures at the Summer Palace, which is kind of strange since it is one of my favorite places in Beijing.

Jay near one of the covered walkways in the Summer Palace

After returning to the hotel from the Summer Palace we went for a walk around the area near the hotel. I wanted to buy a carton of cigarettes, as well as some snacks and water for the next day. We went down several streets and saw a lot of cool sights, such as little sidewalk BBQ cafes, different kinds of stores, and lot of different kinds of people. Jay was loving it all.

The next day Jackie met us at our hotel, and took us to the Forbidden City.

Jackie and Jay outside one of the gates to the Forbidden City

Jackie and I inside part of the Forbidden City

One of the courtyards inside the Forbidden City

Jay points out something interesting as someone photographs the wacky foreigners

It was very crowded and we tried to see as much as we could. We got these little GPS audio tour devices that told stories about each of the locations we visited and Jackie especially liked the stories.

Jackie listening to a story on an audio tour device

We finished going through the Forbidden City at around noon, and Jackie took us to a youth hostel nearby that she had heard had great lunches, but they were not serving food that day so we ended up going to a little dumpling place nearby. We had some dumplings with beef and some dumplings with egg and vegetables. Jay really loved the dumplings.

Jackie poses outside of a youth hostel in downtown Beijing

After lunch we went over to this placed called HuTong, which is a big lake surrounded by cafes and shops.

A view of the lake

Jackie got Jay and I a bicycle rickshaw and we rode around the lake for awhile. The driver was pretty funny and tried to explain the sights around the lake.

Our bicycle rickshaw driver

Jay and I seated in a bicycle rickshaw

A very pretty girl dressed on Tong Dynasty clothing

The day was very hot, so after our ride around the lake we wandered around on foot, and took breaks in shady spots to do some people watching. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Jay and I relaxing in the shade

On Tuesday we met up again with Jackie who took us to the Temple of Heaven. The weather was very hot and my feet were hurting from all the walking we had been doing the last few days, but it was a lot of fun.

Jackie and Jay acting silly in the Temple of Heaven

After the Temple of Heaven we went to a market area and visited a few shops. One was a pickle shop called Liu Bi Ju, which had been there for over 400 years. Jay loved this place, and bought several types of pickles.

Loads and loads of pickled vegetables

After pickle shopping we visited a noodle restaurant and had lunch. The food there was kind of so-so.

Enjoying some noodles for lunch

After lunch Jackie left to go visit her Uncle, and Jay and I made our way over to the Lama Temple. I think this was the largest Buddhist temple I had ever visited, and also one of the prettiest. There were a lot of little temple buildings which contained shrines to different Buddhist deities.

Down a narrow passage in the Lama Temple

After visiting the Lama Temple Jay and I went to a pub called Molly Malone's' that was near our hotel and had a dinner of kabobs and oysters. It was pretty good. I miss good seafood in Chengdu sometimes.

On Wednesday we woke up and had a large breakfast at the hotel, and in the afternoon we went to the airport to catch our flight to Chengdu. It was an Air China flight, so it was late taking off.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Travel time

I'm off to Beijing later today. My brother Jay will be flying into Beijing this afternoon. We are going to be spending 4 days in Beijing, a week in Chengdu, and then 3 days in Hong Kong. It should be quite an adventure since Jay has never been out of the USA before.

I need to finish packing. Will post more about Jay's visit to China later!