A Travellerspoint blog

Photos are officially up!

Okay, due to some technical difficulties, I could not get my photos to load on this site. But they're up elsewhere--over 400 hundred of them-- so please, pace yourself. Please go to this website to view them (hopefully I'll get videos up soon as well):

www.wanderluststrikesagain.shutterfly.com

They are in chronological order corresponding to this blog. And most have some sort of description, if only noting the city they are in. So, grab a meal, take a bathroom break and enjoy!

Posted by Becky1016 09:40 Comments (2)

One last list. Just for good measure.

Chicago, IL

overcast 40 °F
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At the suggestion of my mom, I'm adding this entry. She asked me what things I missed or would be happy to come home to (besides my wonderful family, of course).

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit for your approval:

Exhibit A: A direct excerpt from the journal of Becky Blomgren, written on the 4th of November, 2008. The bad day. The freak out day. The black day that shall henceforth be referred to as Mr. Hyde Day.

Please peruse at your leisure.
------------------------------

7 days until this is over. Until I can be understood. Until lines. Until men holding open doors. Until knowing where I'm going. Until knowing where I am. Until being able to dial phone numbers correctly. Until no longer having to say where I'm from. Until hot showers in a shower with a door. Until flushing toilet paper. Until no squat toilets. Until goat cheese & spinach & tap water & working out & sandwiches & mac and cheese & milk & my leather jacket & my sheets & shops that are inside & fruit & easy tooth brushing with running water & English language news & the internet as much as I want & security & clean clothes & laundry with a dryer & no backpack & conversations & fashion magazines I can read & people who know who Obama is & buses that aren't trying to scam you & Midwestern friendliness & no being asked to take photos with because I'm white & no being followed because I'm white & no stares because I'm white & no being pointed at because I'm white & no being giggled at because I'm white & no moldy smells in rooms & no gross food & no dirty buildings & no laundry hanging on balconies & no shouting, shouting, shouting & no spitting, spitting, spitting & no pushing, pushing, pushing & leaving things on the floor without people gasping & no being cheated all the time & air-conditioning & peanut butter & Nutella & alfredo & cooking for myself [Afterthought: When do I ever cook for myself?!] & people saying I'm sorry... and Excuse me... & my own space & no packing & nice shoes & mature people & the real thing not all fakes & no more flying & no more waiting & no more planning or problems or 'winging it' or 'going with the flow' or druggie hippie backpack travellers saying "You know man?" & no more being a guest & food whenever I want it & working heat [Afterthought: Ha! In my apartment? It doesn't work that well.] & sane driving [Afterthought: On the cab back from O'Hare I was SO annoyed at how slow he drove] & buses that look like buses not creepy dirty child molester vans & people with good hygiene & signs & directions & readable maps & ENGLISH ENGLISH ENGLISH & not panicking & carpet.

------------------------------

There you have it ladies and gentlemen. Exhibit A. An uncensored look at the Mr. Hyde Day breakdown. A fairly thorough list of the woes and wishes of a solo female traveler in China. Some may need clarification--just ask. Others may not really be true on any day except "The Black Day". But they were all true at the time and therefore are true at least in some part.

But please don't let this color your image too much of my trip. I certainly could have done without certain things in China, but I also couldn't have done as much as I did without so many kind people and so many genuinely nice and helpful Chinese people (English speaking or not). I saw amazing things (photos, I promise) and had such a great time. I'm just happy to be home that's all. Where everything is comfortable. And familiar. And mine.

So there you have it. Everything you ever wanted to know about what goes on in the mind of the solo female traveler in China--if you want to know more, you've got to take me out to dinner. Just ask Grandma Mary. Hope you enjoyed the ride. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to finish my slice of American cheese and my glass of tap water.

Posted by Becky1016 23:41 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Finally home.

In Transit from China to Chicago

overcast 40 °F
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China gave me a fitting farewell. It showed me both that it was glad I came AND that it had not changed a lick.

I was picked up from the hostel in a cab, as requested, that was to take me to the airport. When I opened the front door of the hostel I was dumbstruck. It looked like a towncar! Black and gleaming, nice interior, tons of leg room and a young and attractive driver playing nothing but American rap and hip-hop. It was everything I could have hoped for! And I had forgotten what good brakes and a nice suspension can do for the ride.

Once I got to the airport they were playing mostly cartoons with no dialogue (so I could understand just as much as everyone else) and videos of fashion shows (albeit last season). Finally, things I could appreciate on TV! Even the folks I sat by on the plane were great. When I came and motioned that I was the window seat, one of them even got up! Granted, I still had to climb over the other but at least the one moved! That's more than usual!

Once I arrived in Guangzhou it was time for China to show me that it hadn't changed a bit.

Heading to the taxi stand I was approached by a man offering his taxi services. He asked where I was headed, I showed him the address that Mr. Wei had written out for me. He barely glanced at it and said, "Yeah, sure. I take you." Knowing that he was probably a scam artist I asked him how much (knowing it should be no more than 100 yuan). He said 250! I have him a ridiculous look and said, "Absolutely not!" He frantically followed me, "200! 200! It's very far away!"

Me: No, it isn't.
Him: What you pay lady?
Me: Certainly not more than 100. And I know that for a fact.
Him: No no no! Very, very far! 200!

I left him on the curb with a flip of my hair and a withering stare.

Next up was the man actually standing at the taxi stand acting like he was associated with it. He asked the same question, I showed him the same paper and he said, "Special price! 350!" I instantly laughed in his face harder than I have in a long time and said, "Are you crazy? No f-ing way man." Who did they think I was?

He looked shocked, shot a glance at his friend who laughed and shot back a look like, Not as dumb as you thought, huh?

This man persisted. "Okay, okay, for you I do 300."

Me: I happen to know it's no more than 100 and it's not more than 20 minutes away. Do you think I don't know where I'm going? Try again pal.
Him: Okay lady, what you pay?
Me: No more than 100.
Him: Oh no no, you very confused is very far....

And it continued til I got my own cab who charged me...100. I couldn't help laughing at how easy they thought it was going to be to scam me and how impossible it actually turned out to be.

Then I got to the hostel. I booked it because it was the closest to the airport. When I got there the girls behind the counter didn't really speak English and, though I confirmed my reservation by phone and email they claimed I didn't have one and demanded I pay 300 yuan (even though there was a huge price list right behind their heads that showed that nothing in the entire place was that expensive). I looked at the sign and demanded the cheapest price (150 yuan) saying that I was promised it in my reservation (which later I realized was a lie--they quoted me a much higher price. Gee. I feel awful too). After much drama and annoyance (about 35 minutes worth) they gave me the price I wanted, I was escorted to the room by two people who showed me how to use the light switches (they flipped on, then flipped off....rocket science), I showered then put on my makeup for the next day. I got dressed in my clothes for the flights to follow, got under the covers, turned all the lights on, set my mobile phone alarm (I finally figured out how to use it) and put my iPod alarm on as well. I was not taking any chances. I would not miss my flight. I even chanted, I will wake up at 5am tomorrow until I finally got to sleep somewhere around midnight.

I left by 5:30am and was forced to find my own taxi in the completely dark backstreets of Guangzhou. The girl at the desk had 'promised' to call a taxi for me but I had the sneaking suspicion she was just paying me lip service. When I checked out in the morning, the man behind the desk really seemed to think I was speaking absolute gibberish so he was no help. He just smiled and laughed at whatever I said. Just for kicks I decided to test him and as I was walking out I said, "Okay, I like toast! You're a big gray elephant!", with a big smile on my face. He smiled back and nodded and said, "Yes of course! Have good day! Thank you!" Luckily, a cab full of drunken college-aged Chinese kids pulled up and stopped by me on the street. They all got out and started shouting, "Hello American Woman!!" I thought, Oh God. Not now. Not this morning. Turns out they were just friendly. They gave me their cab, helped put my bags in and waved goodbye shouting, "American Woman!!" until I couldn't see them anymore. Go figure.

Now, after nearly 36 grueling hours of travel (except for the part with the sleeping pill on the way from Beijing to Seattle--thanks Kathy [as in Kathy I stayed with in Macau, not some random stranger--as if!] it worked wonders!), and one slightly unnerving trip through US Customs (they simply couldn't understand that a single girl, unemployed, travelling alone for a month in China did little shopping AND paid for the trip herself) I am finally back on Maplewood, sitting in my room in my lovely apartment. Having watched an episode of the Golden Girls, eaten an English muffin and caught up with Patrick, I figured it's time to consider trying to sleep. But in reality, I'll probably start unpacking and loading photos on my computer. Don't worry, there will be many. Or I guess, if you don't like photos...you should worry a lot.

Posted by Becky1016 22:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Final Stats


25 days--6 cities (in Asia)

12 Flights--nearly 20,000 miles

8 beds--1 floor, 2 apartments, 1 hotel, 4 hostels

1 train, 1 turbojet, 7 Star Ferries, 2 Subways, 3 bus systems, 1 motorcycle, 2 bicycles, too many cabs for my own good and a partridge in a pear tree

Purchases: 2 hats, 1 purse, 3 pair earrings, 1 necklace, 2 dolls, 1 painting, 1 fan, 1 coin purse, 3 pair slippers, a $25 Northface lacket and fleece liner, and too many M&M's, Dove Bars and Pringles to count

70-- (approx) photos taken (knowingly) by Chinese tourists

0--loads of laundry (I know. Ewwww....whatever)

Casualties
endless email addresses on scraps of paper from new friends
9 pairs underwear
5 pairs socks
2 shirts
2 books
1 power adapter
1 pair fabulous gold Old Navy flip flops that I've had for 2 years and only cost me $5!
Mucho dinero

Facts to Know Before Heading to China
They drive like maniacs!
Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way
No deodorant...yuck
Where's the cheese?
Where's dessert?
They hang clothes on balconies to dry them
No size 9.5 (41) shoes :(
There is no such thing as 'waiting in line'
Chivalry is D-E-A-D. Or, more likely, never really existed.
You look funny. You will be pointed, stared and laughed at.
Air conditioning--when you CAN find it, give yourself hypothermia with it and hope the effects last a while.
Heat--it will not be turned on until the government says so. The government will not say so until well after it has started getting cold. Good luck drying any clothing.
You are Western: therefore everyone will want your picture. And to practice English with you.
Why wouldn't you shower over the squat toilet?
"Western food" is never really quite.
Feeling lonesome? Go in a store. Someone will follow you around.
Bars may be open until the wee hours, but the Chinese will go to bed around 11:30pm.
That water could very well be flavored like toothpaste.
You think you're in the front of the line? Just wait...
Everything is an 'antique'. Even the stuff they sell in airports.
The ratio of times you get in a cab to times they will actually agree to drive you somewhere is about 3:1.
Those cookies probably taste like fish.

Posted by Becky1016 18:47 Archived in China Comments (0)

The last real day in China.

Yangshuo, China

sunny 62 °F
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Today I woke up to the rooster crowing...seriously. There's this blind rooster (at least I think he must be visually challenged in some way) that crows sporadically starting at around 6am. It's one of the quirks of small town China.

I wolfed down more toast than I knew possible at breakfast and made plans to go to the Water Cave with Madeline and Jess. We talked to Mr. Wei, who arranged everything, got on our bikes (I got a better one than the other day--that other one had a flat tire now...my fault?) and headed out, map in hand.

The caves were about 30 minutes fairly easy ride from the hostel. Riding a bike in China is an experience, you come to appreciate the constant honking of horns as a warning that you'll be freaked out in a moment by a car or bike needlessly zooming close by your face. It's actually not as dangerous as it sounds because there are so many bikes on the road--everyone is used to sharing the space.

We arrived to find out that tickets for the Water Cave normally cost almost 170 yuan and we paid 60 (go Mr. Wei!). We were instructed to lie to everyone we met about how much we paid so of course we told them all they'd been had. We waited around for a bus (read a small van that we packed 11, yes 11, people into for the bumpiest ride I've had yet).

The caves were stunning. You often had to duck down so close to the floor, only to emerge in clearings that were metres and metres high. Often you couldn't see the ceiling. The stalactites and stalagmites (yeah, I'm SURE they are spelled wrong...come on I'm working without spell check) were unbelievable.

And then came the best part. The mud pit. It was we three girls, three British boys and a Chinese couple so over-dressed it was clear they would not be partaking in the fun. It was a bit odd. We came into the room with the mud pit to find a few changing rooms and a bank of computers with 5 men sitting around them, very over-dressed (they took photos and printed them out for you right there). Even more disconcerting was when they said, "Okay. Take off your clothes and get in the mud."

Now, this is why we all came here and we knew this part was coming. You strip to a swimsuit and have a bit of fun in the mud--supposedly very good for your skin. But it was just weird. However, all of us agreed we wanted to do it--how often in your adult life do you get the chance to jump in a giant mud puddle in your clothes and play? Awkwardness aside we all just jumped in.

To be perfectly honest it was cold and felt like you were walking in...well...poo. Or what I would imagine walking in poo would feel like. I wouldn't know. Seriously. Soon, everyone let their guard down and we had so much fun. We got in a huge mud fight, they took tons of pictures (which we had to purchase, of course, and which I did, of course) and eventually we rinsed off as best we could. I chose to wear a dark pair of underwear because I didn't want to get my swimsuit bottoms ruined. I didn't realize just how much mud had gone down my pants. But I pretty much felt like I was wearing a saggy diaper for the rest of the cave tour. And I had mud in my ears. And up my nose. And...other places. Everywhere.

After the tour, we rode down the street and spent the afternoon climbing Moon Hill. Since I don't have photos up yet (I will in a few days when I'm home) you should google this. It's a big mountain with a hole like a doughnut hole (or, I guess, a moon) in the middle. The view from the doughnut hole is amazing, but the view from the above the doughnut hole is stunning. And when we arrived near sunset...unforgettable. You're above the whole town and can see the karst peaks for miles.

But we couldn't stay long, we had to be back for 6:30pm dinner. We arrived, a little late, to find everyone already eating. No worries, they had saved about 9 plates for us and were just warming them up to serve us in the upstairs kitchen. I sat with Jess and Madeline, Finton and Liz (from England) and we chatted all about our days. Then down to the dining room after the meal to talk with the new arrivals, one of which met George Clooney when he came to tour the research facility that this man worked at in Switzerland.

Tomorrow is my last day in Yangshuo. My lofty plans are to buy some slippers (like the ones Mr. Wei lends to everyone to wear around the house) and some knock off NorthFace (VERY cheap here...like 30 dollars cheap). Then some sad goodbyes to the lovely people I've met here, the exchange of contact information so as to never be without a good travel story, and the indulgent cab ride to the airport for the indulgent flight to Guangzhou, where I'll spend an indulgent night in a nice private hostel room, before the oh-so-not-indulgent three flights and two 3 hour+ layovers to get back home to Chicago.

Posted by Becky1016 05:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

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