Monday, November 28, 2011

WOW! I can't believe I never blogged about China. Sorry!

I'll start with Beijing where we began our journey and spent the first three days.  The city was very dirty and the smells were hard to get used to, but the history there is overwhelming and we enjoyed it very much.

The food was amazing.  We had heard that it was nothing like here in the States, and they weren't kidding.  I'd go back just to have the food again.  We ate everything with chopsticks and had no problem adjusting.  They did have forks available, but we wanted to enjoy the whole experience.

The highlight of the trip was our day at the Great Wall of China.  It was a bit overwhelming and the gravity of the "situation" didn't hit us until we were back on US soil. We had the Holy Sh!t moment, WE WERE STANDING ON THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA!

I think the reason it didn't hit us when we were there is because it seemed so touristy which detracted from the experience a bit. We even went to one of the lesser visited parts.  If I never hear, "Lady, Lady $1. For you, lady lady $1", again I will be all set.  LOL  (the walk up and back was lined with vendors selling their wares).


 The second day in Beijing we went to the Forbidden City. There were so many people there. It was awesome but wasn't what I was expecting.  No one is allowed inside the buildings and it was hard to see in through the windows and doorways due to the amount of people there. But, still, knowing that I was standing in the same spot as many former Emperors or Empresses was cool.

 Later in the day we took a tour through a Hutong which is a small neighborhood comprised of alleyways and courtyard homes.  They are slowly disappearing due to the fact the goverment is working hard to modernize Beijing.

 As I said, the food was amazing, but we still had to venture into McDonald's to see what was up.  There weren't too many surprises other than the fact they put an egg on their chicken sandwich and they have dark meat chicken rather than the white meat Americans demand.

After the Hutong tour, Abby got an impromtu Chinese Calligraphy lesson.  It was one of the highlights of the trip.

Below is what the Chinese know as Snake Wine.  The (venomous) snake is alive when it goes in and yes they DO drink it.  It is attributed to their health and longevity.

One of the last places we visited was the Olympic Site. 

We also visited Summer Palace (above) and the Temple of Heaven (below). 

And finally, no trip to Beijing is complete without Peking Duck. We ate at Dadong Roast Duck and it was AMAZING (it's hard to describe anything related to this trip without using the word Amazing!!)

Xi'an and the Soft Sleeper fiasco

Whoever said three cities in 9 days was doable is insane...oh wait, that was me. LOL

Seriously, if I was a well seasoned traveler or was traveling with a group (including someone else to help with the responsibilities of getting us where we needed to be) it could be ok. But, I was NOT expecting the stress of handling all of this myself and have decided it was the stress of planning the trip that caused all of my sickness during the months preceding the trip.

How do I know this?  BECAUSE I GOT SICK ON THE TRIP TOO and didn't get sick again after we were back home.  When did I get sick? Oh, just the worst possible time...on the overnight train to Xi'an.  I thanked God for opening the doors that caused me to book a private room with a bathroom, although it was much more expensive.  I was so sick all night. I don't know what I would have done in a room with strangers and a bathroom down the hall.

The room was cool. The beds were hard as a rock, but I wish I could have enjoyed the experience more. There was no time for enjoyment.  I just wanted it to be over. TWELVE HOURS, with a bad stomach on a train is not what I would recommend to anyone.

But, here is the cool room  and the scene of the crime.....

Poor Abby was exhausted after just three very busy days and didn't get much sleep on the train with me being sick.  She sure was a trooper though!

We stayed in a beautiful hotel in Xi'an but missed a whole day of our planned itinerary.  I stayed in bed and Abby watched movies on HBO (only channel with English) and ate room service all day. I never heard a complaint.  LOL

Unfortunately, the part we missed included the Dumpling Banquet and the show.  We could have gone on Day 2 after we crammed in everything else, but I still wasn't feeling great and the thought of stuffing myself with Dumplings was not appealing at all and Abby wasn't hard to convince (she was overwhelmed and exhausted).

 Here are a few of the room service meals Abby enjoyed (to a total of $100 for the day! and all I got was some toast and a sprite)

Here is the part of the bathroom I wish I got to enjoy....

Here is the part of the bathroom, I actually got to "enjoy".....

On the second day in Xi'an, we went to the Shaanxi Museum and the Terracotta Warriors which made up for the whole horrible ordeal on day one.

As for the Terracotta Soldiers, there is nothing more I can say other than WOW.

 This last picture shows that although they have excavated thousands of soldiers, there are still thousands more to uncover....

 I recommend doing some online research about these if you don't know the story. It's simply amazing and unbelievable how old they are and why there are there.

I'm not much of a museum person, but the real reason we went to China was so Abby could learn about the culture.  There is no better way to learn about a people then to see their history and this is found in Museums.  She thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trip and it made me happy to give that to her.

 Yes, these are REAL gold pieces....

Before we headed back to the hotel, we went to the Dyan Pagoda (or Big Wild Goose Pagoda).

This was built to store ancient Buddhist manuscripts that were brought back to China from India via the Silk Road.

It is still used today.

If I have the chance to go back to China, I will definitely make sure I get back to Xi'an.  We missed so many things that we wanted to see (ancient wall, bell tower, Tang Dyansty show and Dumpling Banquet).

Last stop, Shanghai.... favorite city in the world!

I say it is my favorite city and that is comparing it to London, NYC and Chicago.  The energy was awesome. I couldn't get enough of it.

There isn't much history to find in Shanghai since the city is modern in comparison to the other cities we visited.  We did visit the Jade Buddha Temple though.

Outside of the temple was the most beautiful pond filled with Koi.

All of my complaints about touristy things in Beijing were out the door in Shanghai. I just had to go on the Tourist Tunnel.   It was this single train car that you stood up in that travels underneath the river from the old side of Shanghai to the new side.  The tunnel is lined with lights and they strobe so that it feels like you are in some sci-fi movie.  Tacky but fun.

One on the other side, we walked around and looked at the buildings. There isn't much to do over there, but we wanted to go over just to walk around.  Below is the TV tower.

On the old side of the river, some parts of the city seem to be stuck in a time warp.

Laundry day?

The homes must be small. This kitchen is outside. I can just imagine how expensive it is to live within the city, though.

The best part for me, though, was the way the city lit up at night.

 Even the elevated highway was lit underneath with neon lights.

 Even with all of the modern elements, we still found some beauty. This garden was so gorgeous.  One thing the Chinese get right, for sure, is their gardens.  sigh

Outside of these gardens is this tea house (Huxington Tea House).  It sits in the middle of a pond and the only way to get to it is on a zig-zag bridge which was built that way because the undead (zombies) can only walk in a straight line and they wanted to keep them out. No tea for you!

Once again, I have food pictures.  We had the most amazing meals in Shanghai.  

 Here are some shrimp dumplings that were so delicate and so tasty. Above is fried pork which was one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.

Below are dry-fry string beans. Yep, they're smothered in pork, just how I love my string beans. LOL

Below is bread and butter which sounds normal, but this is China people. I don't do anything normal. I don't know why, but this was extra yummy too!

The best meal experience we had the whole trip was when we went to eat Xialongbao  (show long bow - short o on show and bow)

Xiaolongbao are dumplings that contain broth. You have to nibble them and drink the broth before eating or you will scald your mouth. They are very flavorful and I would love to find somewhere in the US where they make authentic ones.

The sauce they give you to dip stuff in is not soy sauce as most people think. It is some sort or vinegar and it is really good. I wish I knew what kind it was so I could buy some to use at home.

When walking to get lunch we happened upon this fully functional clear plastic car.  Isn't it cool?

This is our guide in Shanghai. She was so sweet and we felt so comfortable with her. It was so hard to say good bye. Hopefully we'll see each other again.

This is the view I had for most of our visit in Shanghai. In China, friends loop arms and walk together.  It's just the normal way to bond and spend time together.  Nice custom.

I have millions more pictures but can't post them all. I hope you enjoyed the update. Sorry it took so long to post.