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Up a Lazy River

April 24, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

For spring break we chose to cruise on the Yangtze River. This early in the year the boats only run between Chongching and Yichang, not all the way to Shanghai. We chose to take a train to Yichang and then take the boat cruise from Yichang up to Chongching. We would still have a few days left, so we took a train from Chongching to Chengdu before returning to Shanghai by train.

I was looking forward to just sitting on a boat and watching China go by. It turned out not to be quite that relaxing. Breakfast was at 7:15 every morning, so no lazy sleeping in. There was at least one or two excursions each day, some lasting 3-4 hours. Therefore, a lot less sitting on the balcony with a book and watching the world go by than I had envisioned.

We arrived in Yichang on Saturday and had most of Sunday to look around before heading to the boat that evening. We went out fairly late on Saturday evening looking for food. Most of the shops around our hotel had closed up already and we were beginning to lose hope, when we discovered a group of about 5 street food carts on a side street.

street food carts

 

Lovely dumpling soup and freshly fried rice were the result.

two bowls of dumpling soup

 

The next day we just walked out of the hotel to explore the neighborhood. There was a  park across the street, so we wandered through it enjoying the sights.

shady park, replica of the Great Wall of China

We wandered through an antiques market.

flipping through an old comic book

Then we went in search of lunch. Central China is known for it’s spicy food, so we did amazingly well in choosing dishes. Only one was unbearably hot.

cooked greens and a green salad

Then it was time to walk back to the hotel, pack up, and catch a taxi to the boat dock.

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We settled in and then wandered around the boat checking out the facilities. It is very nicely appointed. Just a nice hotel on water.

Over the next three days we went on excursions involving a bus trip to the Three Gorges Dam, a boat trip up a tributary (Daning River), and climb a hill to see the Fengdu Ghost City. All of which were interesting, but a little tiring.

We were the only caucasian/English speaking passengers. The staff spoke enough English to make sure we knew what was happening and they always made sure we went with the local excursion guide who could speak to us in English. At meals, they gave us our own table and our waiter took good care of us. So, we didn’t make any lifelong or cruise-long friends. Being introverts, we enjoyed the privacy that our language gap afforded us.

Overall, we enjoyed it and were sorry to have to leave the boat on Thursday morning. The cruise was too short, so we are planning on doing it again during a summer season when we can do the full length of the river from Shanghai to Chongching. We will skip some of the excursions, especially those we have already done. It is nice to see interesting sites, but we would be happy with just some pleasant down time.

Yangtze River

We did not linger in Chongching. We took a taxi to the train station and then took a train to Chengdu. We were both getting over a long lasting upper respiratory infection, so feeling a bit worn out and tired. Therefore, we didn’t do very much in Chengdu except take naps between meals.

vegetable soup, cooked greens, spicy pork dish

We had some fun at this restaurant because, clearly, they do not get many caucasian tourists. The chef came out to take a selfie with Daddybird. He came back a little later with a bottle of beer and glasses to drink several toasts with us. The wait staff crowded around all trying to help us choose dishes from the menu which was all in Chinese with no pictures. Another customer who knew a little English was pulled in to help translate.

flaky meat pastries and other snack foods

The next day we went to Kuanzhaisiangzi Alleys which is a historical residential area that has been “revitalized” into a tourist area. Lots of shops, restaurants, and food stalls.

On Sunday we went on a food tour with Lost Plate Tours (same company for the tour we took in Xian). It is a great way to find local specialties that you might not encounter or know to look for otherwise.

food stall

On Monday, it was back onto a train for a 14 hour trip back to Shanghai. We love traveling by train. It is less stressful than air travel even though it takes longer. Much less hassle getting through security and onto a train. We pay extra for first class which is less expensive than flying and more comfortable. The view out the window can be amazing.

small farming community nestled among mountains with a modern highway above

All in all, it was a good vacation and we would do it again.

To see all the pictures:

813 photos and 112 photos.

 

 

 

 

 

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Terracotta Army

January 24, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

seven columns of ceramic warrior statues

It is long overdue to write about our visit to the Terracotta Army archaeological site. This is a bucket list sort of event. It was not really on my bucket list. I did not expect to travel to China, let alone move here to live. I was amazed by pictures of the discovery, but never said “I have to go see that!” until it was just a train ride away.

Consider that these statues are approximately 2200 years old. The quality of the sculpture is amazing. They are life size and made out of pottery. Every face is unique. Characteristics of different ethnic groups are evident. Each work is signed by the worker and the supervisor involved in the creation. Only one third have been excavated to date (42 years since discovery). All but one of the figures excavated so far were smashed by members of a farmer revolt shortly after the death of the Emperor Qin and therefore have to be painstakingly reassembled.

terracotta statues as found in broken pieces

Visiting the site is easy and inexpensive. Frequent buses run from Xian to the site every day. The cost for the hour long bus ride is 7.50 – 8.50 yuan ($1.15-$1.30). Admission to the park is 120 yuan per person ($18). We sprung for a personal guide 150 yuan ($23). It was nice to have the additional information provided by the guide, but would not be necessary as there is plenty of signage and published information about the site.

To see all the pictures (Day Five) – click here.

Pictures from Day Four, Xian Museum and Small Goose Pagoda – click here.

Pictures from Day Seven, Xian Beilin Museum – click here.

Pictures from Day Eight, Great Mosque of Xian – click here.

We definitely enjoyed our time in Xian. There were many sites we did not see. There is thousands of years of history there and fantastic food.

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Eating Xianese if You Please

December 24, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

four story Chinese tower

Bell Tower, Xian China

We traveled by overnight train from Shanghai to Xian. I recommend this form of travel. A private sleeper with a private toilet cost less than the cheapest airfare. Worth it. Not the easiest sleep, but overall it is low stress.

We checked into our hotel. Hunted up some soup and dumplings. Then took a long nap.

two bowls of soup

Won ton soup – noodles, cilantro, seaweed, and tiny tiny shrimp

In the evening, we went on a food tour provided by Lost Plate Tours, which we highly recommend. There were two other couples with us on the evening tour and it was a lot of fun. We squeezed into two tuktuks and bounced all over town to eat some really fantastic foods off the tourist track. We ate like locals.

steaming basket of dumplings

After a good night’s sleep, we got up and did it again, going on the morning food tour. This time it was just DaddyBird and I with the guide. More fantastically delicious food.

round flaky pastry

We spent the afternoon walking back to the hotel. We happened upon a Daoist temple on the way.

Daoist temple

To see all the pictures:

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

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Catching Up – Lazy Blogger

December 19, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

I have been terribly lazy about posting our adventures. So, I will try to catch you up on the last 2 1/2 months.

ballroom set with formal dining tables

We went to a fancy dinner held during the World Congress on Art Deco at the Fairmont Peace Hotel. Everything was lovely. The food was based on a menu from the 1920’s. Everyone was dressed up.

blue Nanjing metro token

We took a quick weekend trip to Nanjing.

two cats, one white, one tabby & white

Where we met Oliver’s and Bert’s doppelgängers.

statue of Sun Yat Sen

Sun Yat Sen

We spent the day trying to see as much as we could of the Presidential Palace grounds. It is amazing as it contains structures from hundreds of years exemplifying the different styles from the Ming Dynasty to the Republic.

small lake surrounded by Ming dynasty buildings

Ming Dynasty

yellow building with a colonade

Republic – Provisional Presidential Office

This brings us to December. We went on an Historic Shanghai tour of religious buildings, including Daoist temple, Buddhist temple, Islamic mosque, Jewish synagogue, Catholic cathedral, Anglican church, and Protestant church. You may be surprised that these buildings still exist after the Cultural Revolution. Worship was disallowed during that time, but the buildings were kept and repurposed (as storage facilities or factories). Now, the five major religions are allowed to worship (although proselytizing is not allowed). So, the churches have been refurbished and are currently in use.

front of a Jesuit Catholic church

Cathedral of Tungkadoo

inside of the Grace Church

Grace Church

At Grace Church the choir was practicing. They were singing the Hallelujah Chorus in Chinese. No matter what the language, this song brings tears to my eyes.

8 large Christmas trees in the hotel lobby

The tour ended with walking down the Bund to see the Christmas decorations. The Astoria Waldorf had 8 huge trees in their lobby. (Real evergreens, not artificial.)

So, this brings you up to date. We are about to embark on a nine day trip to Xian, the home of the Terracotta Army and the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

To see all the pictures from Nanjing – click here.

To see all the pictures from the tour of religious buildings – click here. The pictures are a bit out of order because I was using multiple cameras.

 

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Traveling the World Within China

September 29, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

You may have heard of the “ghost towns” of Shanghai. These are suburban developments with European themes that have not necessarily been big successes. We visited Thames Town a while back and found it very interesting and charming. It was also not a “ghost town.” It was clear that there were people living there and businesses operating.

We recently visited Holland Village in northern Pudong, although it wasn’t our intention to do so. We were headed to a music festival to hear Ajinai, a Mongolian folk rock band that we love. We were running late, caught a taxi, showed him the address of where we wanted to go (in Chinese), he said “ok,” we got in and he began to drive — THEN he motions that he wants us to call someone who can tell him where to go. There isn’t anyone we can call to give him directions in Chinese. Thus began the worst taxi ride we have had. He was a terrible driver, weaving all over as if he couldn’t keep the car in the lane. I came very close to telling him to pull over so that we could get out, because I didn’t want to die in this taxi.  He also chose the worst possible route, driving through the heart of the city instead of taking the outer ring elevated road. So, the trip that should have taken 40 minutes took 1 1/2 hours. He then drove right past the destination. We got him to pull over to a bus stop so we could get out and kiss the ground. (I kid. We didn’t, but we heaved a sigh of relief at still being alive.)

During this 1 1/2 hour ride we came up with a Plan B, because it was obvious that we weren’t going to see Ajinai that day. Holland Village, one of the 8 or 9 “ghost towns” was not far away and we plan to visit as many of them as we can, so we hopped on a bus and traveled north to find Holland Village.

New Holland coat of arms on a two story restaurant building

We took a stroll down the street.

Dutch style buidings

Crossed the draw bridge to the island in the river where there is a non-functioning windmill.

a Dutch style windmill

We walked back to the restaurant and had a lovely dinner. A rather pleasant day, despite how it began. We took the bus back to the metro and the metro back home.

To see all the pictures click here.

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Not Our Favorite Summer

July 22, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Ocean, sail boats, coast line

This summer did not go according to plan. Only three of our many plans came successfully to fruition. DaddyBird was able to attend the university graduation of BabyBird. I was able to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. We both (separately) were able to spend time with family. Other than that, all plans fell apart.

Early in June, we found out that we were going to have to move out of our apartment by July 31st. Since we had planned to be in California until July 21st, we decided that some change to our plans was needed to accomplish this feat. DaddyBird’s USA trip plans were significantly shortened. He returned to Shanghai two days before I was scheduled to leave.

The move was accomplished, but two days later DaddyBird was seriously injured while assembling and moving a large bookcase. He attempted to survive on his own, but on the third trip to the doctor, it was determined that surgery was necessary. Therefore, my trip was shortened by four days so that I could return before he was released from the hospital and be here to take care of him while he recuperates. He is healing well, although he wishes it would happen faster.

In addition to the inconvenience of having to move out of an apartment we were very happy with and the pain and frustration of being injured, we missed out on seeing friends and family members. I don’t start back to work until August 10th, so had hoped to get to do a little travel within China, but that won’t be possible either.

On the bright side, we easily found a new apartment, there are many shops and restaurants in the new neighborhood, and the apartment staff have been VERY helpful – taking care of DaddyBird in my absence and helping with transportation to and from the hospital. It is not all bad, but definitely not our favorite summer experience.

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San Jose Tourist

July 9, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Almost all of our summer plans have gone wrong. The last time we were in the States we were so tired from running errands, dealing with business, and shopping, we promised ourselves that next time we would just be tourists and do touristy things. So, despite all the disruptions to our plans, I am trying to do a few of those touristy things.

Starting with the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

quilts hanging on a wall

The above quilts are kawandi, quilts made by African Siddi women who live in India. The quilts are made with a unique style that bypasses the initial sewing of the pieces together. They are stitched together as they are attached to the backing.

Hanging art quilt made with embroidery cut from tea towels and pillow cases

Another display focused on embroidery. My favorite pieces were made from found pieces of embroidery (from tea towels and pillow cases) that are reassembled into wall hangings. The designs were very familiar, although it interesting just how many jugs of moonshine there are.

a birds nest made out of glass

There was also a display of works made with glass, some of which were based on quilt arts. I have no idea what this bird’s nest had to do with quilting, but it was beautiful.

Bedouin weavings

A display of Bedouin weavings was quite familiar, too.

San Jose Art Museum building

Next museum – San Jose Art Museum

two pictures, an antique picture of a Native American man, a recreation of the photo showing an Indian woman

My favorite display was a series of pictures in which an antique picture of a Native American is recreated by the Indian artist. The collection was called “An Indian from India.”

two photographs

Another display of interest consisted of found photographs that show young Indian girls in all cases with a bouquet of flowers to the right and a mirror to the left positioned to show the back of the girl in the photo.

displayed color photographs of Indian girls

close up of one of the photographs

The amazing thing is that there are 83 of these. The artist who created the display did not take these photographs, they found them and assembled them. So, it seems strange that they are all posed exactly the same.

entire display of 83 photos