Thursday, September 2, 2010

回国, 回家

I'm back in the US! It's been a week since I've been back and boy do I love and appreciate the sight of blue skies, white clouds more than ever. I also love how much diverse foods you can find in my hometown and I'm sorta experiencing reverse culture shock. I realize how much I've gotten used to the differences in Beijing and China in general from the way things are here. I love discovering new things and new places but I love rediscovering the familiar even more! lol

after the final dinner, lots of ppl went to houhai or clubbing to party it up one last time. i didnt go but both my roomates did and i have no idea when they came back in the morning. in the morning, i finished packing, altho sean didnt help cause he brought over overfill from his luggage to pack into mine -__- anyway, the ppl going on the traveling checked out and i said final goodbyes to whoever liked us enough to wake up at 8am to say final farewells. from our group only ken and cody came down to see me, sean, gandhi and matt off. dora and kat were crying saying goodbye to jessica. other friends were there too, even the korean girl, sorae (aka emily, the cute one). so everyone was hugging each other, so touching <3 our little group of 17 got on the bus and left, waving goodbye to everyone as we drove away. awwwwww

ok so ud think we'd leave beijing pretty efficiently, but nooo there was very heavy traffic on the highway and i think gui laoshi was nervous we'd miss the plane but wen we got there, we were told the flight was delayed for at least 3 hours. 3 hours?! are you kidding me? thats how long our flight is! XD so gui laoshi organized us and checked us into a very sleezy hourly hotel by the airport. we took hotel shuttles there. oh man the hourly hotels were shitty as hell. every one of our rooms stank of pee, smoke, or the combination of that and other unidentified smells. it was gross. sooo what were we supposed to do to kill time? play mahjong! room too small? drag a table out and play in the hallway! bryan had brought his set of mahjong tiles and him, matt, charles, and someone else started playing mahjong in the middle of the hallway, heck, we owned the hall and all the rooms down it anyway. they played a few games and me and sean relaxed in our rooms, playing computer games and watching TV like the original monkey king, classic spiderman and winnie the pooh (in 3-D CGI, oh boy), all in chinese of course. we had lunch at the hotel's restaurant. the food was terrible. it was potluck style and everyone had metal trays with compartments, like you see in jails or bad high schools or something. anyway, the food was gross and i barely ate anything. at that point, it was time to go back to the airport.

omg security was a bitch. not for me, but waiting for sean. he accidentally left his swiss army knife in his backpack along with lots of other things like chargers which the machine picked up so he had to take almost everything out of his backpack, and he was carrying a really heavy backpack jammed full of crap. he had to go thru the security line all over again. i was also cramping by then so i was not a happy camper. everyone also had to do patdown, where you have to stand on a platform and the woman pats you down with her hands and her metal detector thingy. kinda embarrassing and invasion of my privacy bubble. =/ ugh 8:30am leaving our friends, and our dorm, the beijing campus, and finally, finally at 3p we departed beijing. took fooooorrrever to get out of there.

the plane to kunming was half full- or half empty, whichever way you want to see it so the stewardesses were giving seconds during lunch to whomever wanted it. the food, i recall, wasn't very appetizing. when we landed, the sun was setting, so it was soo nice. after being in beijing for 6 weeks, i tell you there was literally only 3 or 4 days that you could actually see the blue sky. and then we landed in kunming and everyone could breathe properly, and could see the beautiful, gorgeous setting sky and clouds. man, it felt soo good to leave the congested grey capital. our tour guide picked us and gave everyone a red carnation. =) she explained, kunming is also called city of spring or city of flowers because there are always flowers growing here, there is never an off season for flowers. the hotel was really nice and in some ppl's room, there was a mahjong table in the corner. soo guess what we did for the rest of the night? lol we played mahjong! on a proper mahjong table!! we felt so lucky! hehe. the table could also be plugged in and the middle of the table would pop out and you could shove all ur pieces in and it would automatically shuffle!! alas, we couldnt figure out how to make it work for us. the table was too high tech for us and there was no instructions. i had to fish out the tiles from inside the table. i had small hands, they said. but really, if we figured out how to work the table, it woulda been soo epic. automatic shuffling and lying out the wall for you, plus blinking lights and rolling dices in the middle, drawers on each side for stashing ur gambling money. oh man, woulda been so sweet.

the next day, saturday, we first went to take pictures at the iconic gates of the city, named jade rooster and golden horse gate. 10 years ago, they did not exist, let me tell you that. lol. ive been on this exact literary before, 10 years ago with family. so everywhere that we were going to go for the next 10 days, ive already been. ok, so after that gate, we traveled to the stone forest. we rode thru the scenic rural countryside, it was a looong ride. the stone forest was actually pretty cool. the area used to be the floor of the ocean millions of years ago and the rock formations, which used to be at the bottom of the sea floor survives today. this was a karst type park so the rock worn by time, weather, all that good stuff formed some pretty interesting stuff to look a
It was a great day to be outside and enjoying the sunshine but after an hour of walking, it soon felt pretty hot. Parts of the rock trail would be worn smooth when ppl use the rocks for leverage climbing up the stone steps. But some parts were still pretty sharp stone jutting out, so you had to be careful. We had lunch at a restaurant nearby and they were holding an auction selling chinese paintings. This was obviously a place for foreigners, we even saw a white family. Next, we headed to “colourful yunnan” which is basically a government controlled shopping area selling mostly yunnan jade and silverware. We went inside but couldn’t afford much since the price range was waaaay beyond us. Everything was really beautiful though. The best jade for the best price you could find in china (or so the gov tells us). After this, we went for tea tasting. We sampled 5 kinds of tea: sleeping beauty which was bland tasting, very light colored, young pu-erh which was very bitter which was supposed to compare to aged pu-erh, which was very strong tasting, and wine colored, jasmine tea which smelled SO good lol but had very little taste, and finally black tea. I sampled a few more since I was buying other kinds of tea-green tea and qing tea for my grandpa. Other ppl in the group bought pu-erh tea to bring home.

On Sunday we went to the western mountains, the mountains near kunming. There were Taoist and Buddhist temples carved into the side of the mountain and we hiked up there to see it. 10 years ago, these temples weren’t there. We had a great view of the city down below. For lunch, we went to eat the specialties of the kunming. There was an eggshell stuffed with …things…lol. It was pretty unique cause ud have to peel off the eggshell as if inside was a hard boiled egg, but its not. After lunch, we went on the road to dali. We trekked through the beautiful rural countryside with its usual run down mountainous roads.

On Monday we went to the historical 3 pagodas, symbol of Buddhism and the icon of the city of Dali. The centre pagoda is over 1000 years old and the two smaller ones on either side of it are more than 800 years old. Hard to imagine they stood for that long. We then took a 4 decker ship cruise on the nearby lake. We all enjoyed the nice breeze and we stopped on an island with a huge white statue of the bodhisattva, Guanyin. Going back to shore, we attended a minority dance performance on the boat accompanied with their 3 course tea. The 2nd course of tea was reaaaaally sweet and tasty. The other ones were blah. We got back to the hotel with plenty of sunlight left, some ppl were already getting sunburned from the day’s activities. The centre courtyard is open to the sky and so picturesque chinese, so some ppl from the trip took this opportunity to play mahjong there lol.

On Tuesday, we went back on the road again, destination: Lijiang. Every time we changed cities,  we had a new local tour guide and this tour guide took us to Ancient Town Suhe where it showcases the minority ppl called the Naxi and their ancient trading town, one of the stops along the Tea and Horse trail in ancient china. The place had a lot of historical feel to it and canals of running water was on every street. Something about fengshui and the king’s superstition. We walked around there for a while and later went to the cultural museum where we learned more about the Naxi, Dali and Tibetan people. We then went to a park called Black Dragon Pool, it was very scenic and we enjoyed a recreation of a simple ancient chinese symphony using chinese traditional instruments. We ate dinner in a little restaurant in the city of Lijiang, soo many chinese tourists here!

On Wednesday, many ppl from our group got really sick, including me. The tour guide said it was probably reaction to the high altitude, so not many ppl joined the day’s activites, which was going to a dance performance about the minority ppl and then going up to the snow mountain and learning about the Naxi myths. Most ppl stayed at the hotel and slept/threwup/took advil/had diarrhea.

On Thursday, most ppl were feeling better and we continued our trip, on to Shangri-La. Going even higher altitude! 11,000 feet! It took all day to get there, but we did stop and a Tibetan family welcomed us to take a look inside their traditional house. The living room was a wide open space, integrated with the kitchen. I was familiar with the layout since the art museum had shown me an exhibit on this before. We travelled thru bad mountainous narrow and windy roads. The driver even got into a screaming fight with an oncoming car that almost hit us. and we were so scared we were going to fall down the mountain, the roads were tiny! Yet the driver would go speeding at 80mph. Terrifying. At night, some of us opted to go to the tibeatan folk dance and song performance. Admission price included unlimited chinese wine, called baijiu, and tea and snacks. This audience was more rowdy an probably more tipsy than most lol.

On Friday, we had reached Shangri-la and getting accoustomed to the high elevation. We went to a horse riding place and we all rode on our own tiny tibetan horse! some of us were poo-ing at the fact we couldnt control our horse, it was lead on a rope by someone walking along side us. safety reasons, they said. boooo. but it was still very refreshing wide open place, filled with purple (!) wildflowers and plains stretched as far as you could see, with green lush mountains surrounding and horses and buffalo dotting the surface. After, we went up the a Tibetan monastery, commissioned by the 14th dali lama, they said. To get up there, we had to climb up a set of very steep steps. OMG Most of us were completely out of breath like we had run a marathon, but it was only lack of oxygen and we weren’t used to it. Going inside the monastery there were so many rules you had to follow like you had to walk in a clockwise direction around the temple and of course, you couldn’t take any pictures. Everything inside was so colourful just like their flags/banners and so much gold everywhere, so many intricate designs. Pretty cool.

Saturday we took the flight to shanghai. Omg blast of hot air all over again. The last week travelling the weather was perfect like in the bay area, but once we got to shanghai and metropolis, we were reminded it was full on summer in china again. Our hotel was really really nice and at night I went with a group of ppl to a shopping and eating district in shanghai, just like most districts in shanghai, im sure. We had mcdonald’s. and yes we couldn’t wait to go back home lol.

Sunday we went to the World’s fair, AKA world expo. I don’t see how ppl can survive the heat and sun all day standing in line. Honestly this wasn’t the funnest day. sean got high fever that wouldn’t go down, heatstroke I believe and I didn’t feel well myself only after half a day at the expo. We just relaxed at the luxurious hotel and rested.

Monday we went up to the pearl tower, 3 hours of lines ugh. I liked the museum inside the tower, showed a lot of shanghai history and made it interesting too. We went to the shanghai museum next, a lot of ppl weren’t interested and wanted to do their own thing. It wasn’t that interesting lol. Then the tour guide took us to a very popular tourist shopping area. TONS of ppl omg in very narrow alley/walkways. Didn’t really get much done, just a lot of sightseeing and I hate that. At night, we had our farewell dinner at the hotel. All you can eat buffet, and very beautiful and delicious food, the kind served at upscale hotels hehe.

Tues: homeward bound! Flight back to US. Bye bye china, ill come see you again in shanghai. I didn’t get a good feel for you at all this time around. And Beijing, hopefully ill see you soon too.t. not to mention its pretty impressive looking.