A Travellerspoint blog

A Profound Set of Days...

Beijing, China

sunny 50 °F
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Happy Halloween!

Beijing has been very good to me and I'm loving every day. They aren't as jam-packed as some of my others, but I relish the chance to spend my evenings with fellow travelers from all over the world in my hostel and trade stories and talk about everything--politics is of certain interest right now. I'm staying at the Peking International Youth Hostel for about 11 dollars a night (look it up, it's stunning). I'm in a room with 8 beds but only 5 other people, all guys I think (though I've never met whoever sleeps closest to the door--they pull the covers over their head).

My very first morning here Dennis, the red-headed Irishman in the bunk below me, woke me up at 6am when he was leaving. So I decided to go with the flow and get up myself. I, in turn woke up Barry, the OTHER red-headed Irishman (coincidentally they were not previously friends with each other). I wandered around until I found Tienanmen Square and was dumbfounded when I turned the corner to find it looming ahead.

Most of what I know about China involves that square and some less than savory images. They flooded my brain as I walked closer. As I sauntered nearer I was passed by sets and sets of guards marching in formation. Very intimidating. The square was relatively empty, it being rather early AND cold, so it's size was magnified.

I did not enter any of the buildings, though I'm toying with the idea of seeing Mao's body while I'm here. We'll leave that one up to the fates and see if I make it back there or not. He is, however, omnipresent in form of his giant portrait--also very intimidating in a very Big Brother way. It seems he's not really even gone when you look at it.

I also visited the Forbidden City (blocks from my hostel) and was, again, blown away. First by the groups of soldiers running maneuvers, I suppose you'd call it. The way they simply snap to attention seems lethal. When they take their hats of in unison it's oddly terrifying.

The Forbidden City itself is a site to see. The straight line path from one end to the other is clogged with rude tourists. But one need only take a few steps to the outer edges to feel all alone in the massive compound. It is stunning if not a little tiring. I'll never make it to all the rooms I'm sure.

Today was the best day by far however. Last night I met Luis, from Colombia, and we decided to go to the Great Wall in Simitai on recommendation from red-headed Irish Dennis. It is a section 3 hours outside Beijing that is little preserved and has few tourists. I happened to run into the only other Americans on the tour and we decided to pal around for the day. They were great fun, from Atlanta, named Barry and Dean.

I wish I could post my photos and videos because it is something like I've never seen. The moment I caught sight of it ahead of me all the breath went out of me. We walked an 8km stretch that at times was as close to sheer rock face as I ever thought a human could traverse. Thank God for the local guides (Mongolian farmers making extra money by following tourists as 'guides' then asking them to buy souvenirs at the end). Apparently our guide knew something I didn't everytime she grabbed for my hand to steady me on the way down or practically tug me up on the inclines. I DID fall. 3 times. ......on the flat parts. Yeah, I was THAT girl. Our guide (God help me I've forgotten her name) was such a sweet woman and never got winded. She's been doing this trek once a day for ten years and hops from stone to stone, even on the steepest of grades, as if she were bouncing from couch pillow to couch pillow. Luckily, I rode in a cable car on the way up to the wall with a girl named Angela from Singapore who spoke Chinese. She acted as translator between us and the guide and we actually learned a lot.

The Mongolian people--I can't quite describe what it is, but I feel sublimely touched by them. Even their hands when they guided you down the rocks. It's something I wish I could describe but can't. There's a great honesty and roughness to them. It's....it's something.

At the end of the hike we decided to sit and rest and have some food. It turned out most of what we'd all brought was candy so we decided to eat all of it then and there in honor of Halloween. So, I've just celebrated Halloween sitting on the Great Wall of China.

Now I'm back at the hostel and getting ready to head to an Irish pub with the red-headed Irishmen for a Halloween bash and some decent pub food. I can't wait.

Posted by Becky1016 02:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

How to get from Macau to Beijing...

(in only 36 easy steps) Beijing, China

semi-overcast 50 °F
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1. Wake up 8am
2. Leave in taxi for Macau/China border
3. Arrive; wait; go through customs.
4. Walk across border.
5. Arrive; wait; wait;watch the 27 lines for Chinese nationals in customs empty out; continue waiting in the one line for foreigners.
6. Get yelled at by customs lady
7. Walk through shopping mall maze
8. Hold up paper with 'bus' and 'Guangzhou' in Chinese to anyone who looks nice.
9. Magically end up outside near buses and don't know how you got there.
10. Be sold ticket to Guangzhou--for bus that leaves in 3 minutes.
11. Realize you're dripping sweat and look SO pretty right now.
12. Enjoy comfy bus simply because that's the only thing you're sure of--that it's comfy and going...well, somewhere in China...probably.
13. Arrive Guangzhou
14. Game of charades with cab driver including flappy bird wings and a cell phone.
15. Arrive Guangzhou airport after experiencing what it's like to be a passenger in a NASCAR race.
16. Be followed through airport shop by 'helpful' shopgirl telling you how 'cool' your selections are.
17. Insert headphones in ears, pull out journal, wait for departure, hope for deodorant fans on flight.
18. Only give the buffer seat of luggage up to someone who speaks perfect English--Ellen, in from London, originally from Sierra Leone.
19. Complain with Ellen about China and how rude everyone is.
20. Get on plane.
21. Refuse gelatenous cube food when offered.
22. Try to get taxi to hostel.
23. Get kicked out of cab when cabbie can't read computer printout with Chinese address on it.
24. Have helpful airport employee yell at new cabbie and explain address.
25. Cabbie stops for directions.
26. Cabbie stops for directions.
27. Cabbie stops. Makes you pay him and get out. Points to dark courtyard that looks nothing like a hostel.
28. Talk to random old Chinese woman.
29. Get invited to come inside by random old Chinese woman while she looks for directions to the address.
30. Stay outside.
31. Call hostel front desk and have attendant talk to cabbie.
32. Turn around--where is the cabbie?
33. Stand thinking, "Is this how it will end?"
34. Cabbie returns, make it to hostel at same time as Kevin, from New Jersey.
35. Check in, put down bags, use bathroom.
36. Get drunk.

Posted by Becky1016 15:29 Archived in China Comments (1)

Full of luck...

Macao, Macau

sunny 81 °F
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So, I'm sitting here in a beautiful apartment in Macau reflecting on how lucky I am.

Before leaving Hong Kong yesterday, as I was checking out of my room, I met two Aussies ("Ackerman" and Nathan). I ended up staying in Hong Kong hours longer than intended as we all went out for dim sum at some place (apparently "the best") that was like finding in a labyrinth it was so confusing. But dim sum was great, we found a man that looked like Where's Waldo (and slyly took his photo) and laughed our heads off with funny stories from all our travels. They had come from London and been all over Italy, Greece, Egypt, Thailand I think...the list was endless.

Then I made my way to Macau where I only had a small slip of paper with an address written in Chinese characters on it. I handed it to a cab driver and hoped for the best. When I arrived, I realized I had no idea what the address was in English. All I knew was apartment 21F. So I again, hoped for the best and entered a building. Turns out I was right! I finally made it to the apartment of Kathy and Bob, parents of my friend Liz's friend Dina's friend Stephanie. Confusing, no? They are lovely people who are spoiling me and making me feel so welcome.

I plan to spend today wandering around Macau (it's only 11 sq. miles) and maybe shopping. Tomorrow it's off to Beijing for 5 days. It will be nice to slow down a little.

I hope everyone back home is doing well. I haven't heard from anyone but my parents so I don't know if this is reaching more than about 4 people. Regardless I hope you're all well. And please buy some gas for me for when I get home--I hear it's 2.89?! What happened since I left?!!!

Posted by Becky1016 17:12 Archived in Macau Comments (0)

Hong Kong-eriffic!

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

overcast 83 °F
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So, I took the train into Hong Kong two days ago and this morning I leave for Macau. It's been a whirlwind and I've fallen in love with Hong Kong in the process--well, parts of it.

It's been nice to be somewhere where people speak the language ('the language', of course, being English--how ethnocentric of me). When I got here I took the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor from Kowloon (the Northern Shore) to Hong Kong Island (the southern shore) where I'm staying. I can say this with absolute certainty--I chose the PERFECT place to stay. It is a hotel called Bishop Lei International run by the Catholic diocese (did I even come close to spelling that right?) and it's more expensive than most 'budget' accomodation. But it's literally nestled in the foothills of Victoria Peak. The only downside is it's not a hostel so it's impossible to find friends to pal around with. C'est la vie.

Once I got settled I decided to find the Victoria Peak tram so I could get a good view of the city. I knew it was close by. So I picked a direction and started walking.

On the way I found the mid-level escalators (touted as the longest in the world), a grocery store having a Western foods celebration (thank God!), a lightpole covered in U.S. dollars, the Hong Kong Zoo and Botanical Gardens, an Evangelical church hosting an annual gala (complete with a mangnificent an incense you could smell for blocks after), a street carnival (with clowns, music, food, liquor, dancing and an Englishman who sang 'What a Wonderful World' to me in a dead on Louis Armstrong impression), a Halloween costume contest of hundreds and two ATM's that refused my debit card (though others finally took it).

Obviously I didn't exactly take the direct route.

Once I finally found it I had to wait in line to buy a ticket for almost 45 minutes. I had been hoping to catch sunset but when I got to the top it was dark. All the better--the city was all lit up and glittering. Stunning. Don't worry, I took a lot of pictures.

I splurged on an 56 dollar cab (then realized it only translated to about 8 US dollars and felt pretty good about myself. By the way, a 1.5 Litre bottle of water is about 50 cents, the Star Ferry First Class tops out at about a quarter.

Yesterday I went to Tsim Sha Tsui and all around Kowloon. Kowloon is the more stereotypical Hong Kong you think of. Loud and filled with signs and lights and people. It's a little much for me. I could however, happily live in the Mid-Levels of Hong Kong Island forever I think. I visited the famed Ladies Market--which to me was just like any other street market I've ever seen--and the Flower market which was lovely. I just wished I could buy some but I figured customs wouldn't like me taking flowers.

The funniest thing here--there are these women--hundreds of them--who just sit along these wide pedestrian walkways on cardboard all day and they eat, gossip and gamble all day. One woman was even cutting and styling hair! They don't look remotely homeless though. It's just like their hangout spot. It's just weird. Anyone know what this is about?

For my last night I decided to go to High Tea at the Peninsula which was worth every penny. The service was immaculate and everything was heavenly. Complete with clotted cream and a 5 piece orchestra in the balcony about the dining area.

After I saw the light show--cheesy but fun anyway.

And then, I went crazy.

I was sitting next to this western guy and was considering striking up a conversation when he got up to leave. So I followed him. Not 'went after him'. No, more like I tailed him (ala Veronica Mars). I just wanted to see where he'd go. I followed him all the way down the Avenue of Stars, across the ferry terminals, up a grand staircase, through a mall and up an escalator to the second floor of a department store when I lost him. And found the hat department.

I ended up buying two hats (a fedora and a red beret) and finally answering the question, 'What shall I buy from Hong Kong?'.

Satisfied with myself, I went home and watched international English news like it was going out of style. Good News--the whole world is obsessed with the election and pretty much all of them want Obama to win. At least BBC and the six other random stations I got.

On to Macau!!

Posted by Becky1016 17:18 Archived in China Comments (0)

I'm a teacher now?

Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

semi-overcast 82 °F
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Forget about being a tourist--I'd rather be a teacher. Believe it or not, I spent last night teaching English at the Guangzhou Honda Plant and made 400 yuan (about 60 bucks) for my hour and a half of 'work'. My friend Liz said they were looking for a substitute and she had already told them I'd do it. So, I completely lied to the organizers and told them I taught English and Theatre back in Chicago for a few years when they asked if I had taught before.

A car picked us up and drove us out of the city to the factory. They gave us food and I was given my students and just chatted and practiced small talk and introductions with my class. It was a lot of fun and very easy as they were all very good at English. But they do this to build confidence because soon a lot of English speakers will be arriving for a conference and they want to make sure they can show them around and make them feel comfortable.

Then we went out to an Irish pub and promptly spent half our money drinking with about 15 different internationals that work with Liz. The place was called Hooley's and they had fantastic Western food (which I was very glad to see) and even a band playing western music. And I have to say--they were better than any band I've heard in any western bar I've ever been to.

I leave for Hong Kong and Macau tomorrow. I just arranged my hotel for Hong Kong and paid through the nose for it so it wouldn't be trash. Everything is very expensive in Hong Kong. But, the fates have smiled upon me and my new friend Dina has a friend that has parents living in Macau. They are from the southern United States. She called them and asked if I could stay with them and they said yes! They live on the southern island of Macau, called Taipa and apparently they are incredibly hospitable and have a fabulous house. So, I have a free place to stay and guides as well. Macau is an old Portuguese port and looks very European. I couldn't be more excited! Things are looking up!

Posted by Becky1016 02:14 Archived in China Comments (0)

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