FC: China | 2008
1: Beijing, Lijiang, Chengdu, Xi'an, Guilin, Yangshuo, Hong Kong | China | April & May 2008
3: Day One - After 19 hours of flying from Atlanta, via Seoul Korea, we arrived in Beijing and went straight to bed. We started our first full day in Beijing at Tiananmen Square, the world's largest square, located just outside of the Forbidden City. This massive concrete plaza, completely devoid of trees, is also probably the world's most crowded. There were hundreds of people, many of whom were Chinese tourists, lined up around the center of the square waiting their turn to visit the Mausoleum and crystal coffin of Chairman Mao Zedong. As we entered the Forbidden City - the imperial palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties, we passed through numerous gates, bridges and courtyards. There are 980 surviving buildings in all and from south to north the main buildings ran in a line with governmental first, then residential towards the rear. The roof tiles are yellow - the color only the Emperor could use and the sloping ridges of the roofs have a number of figures that increase according to the status of building - 10 was the highest - The Hall of Supreme Harmony. Our favorite area was the gardens towards the rear of the city. Beautiful peonies, and ancient juniper trees - some of which were 300 years old! There were also interesting shaped rocks from a lake in southern China and 4 pavilions representing the four seasons. Next we went to the Temple of Heaven, the place where the Emperors prayed for good harvests. The symbolism in the construction of this complex was very evident - the outside walls had one end which was square - representing earth, and a semi-circular end - representing heaven. Two of the buildings are round, each standing on a square yard, again representing heaven and earth. All the buildings within the Temple have special dark blue roof tiles, also representing heaven. The number nine represents the Emperor and the number of steps and architectural details were all multiples of nine. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests has four inner, twelve middle and twelve outer pillars, representing the four seasons, twelve months and twelve traditional Chinese hours respectively. A stop for lunch was our first official Chinese meal and was quite good. Numerous dishes were brought to the table including a huge bowl of soup that could serve 12 people. After lunch we went to a silk factory where we saw how a single larvae cocoon was used to make silk thread and one double larva was softened in water, dried on a form, then stretched out to make a layer of batting for a comforter. On to the Summer Palace where there were even more crowds. This was the summer retreat for the "Dragon Lady" Empress Dowager Cixi, and although there were beautiful gardens and an expansive lake, it was hard to take in the scenery because of the dense smog in the air. We strolled through a series of covered paths decorated with 14,000 paintings and connected by 4 pavilions. Dinner was the traditional Peking duck which was carved at the table and served | with miso sauce, pancakes and cucumber. After dinner we joined mostly Chinese tourists for an Acrobat show. Our favorites - ladies balancing on bicycles, tumbling through rings, 2 men counter-balancing each other through complicated poses, and ladies with yo-yo like barrels that they tossed into the air from strings. Day Two - Started the day with a visit to a Cloisonné factory. The process was interesting to see as the artisans glued rolled pieces of metal onto a metal base to form the pattern. The spaces were then filled with liquid enamel and finally fired, then polished. It was raining quite hard as we made our way to the Ming Tombs. There wasn't much to see other than a large building constructed without nails or pins. Inside was a large statue of an Emperor and numerous artifacts from the tombs. After lunch at the Jade Factory we headed out of the city to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which tends to be less crowded than some of the sections closer to Beijing. It was a slippery walk on wet stones, past tons of tourist stalls & the harassment of shop keepers to get to the cable car that took us up to the wall. Once on the wall, the view was quite good despite the rain and may have even been better than a dry day because the rain washed away some of the smog. The wall is a spectacular feat of engineering and one of the highlights of Beijing. Unfortunately, there was evidence of graffiti on the wall and also a person set up on the wall selling drinks and trinkets - such a shame! In the evening we saw the very colorful Beijing Opera. Luckily for us there were subtitles on side screens so we could follow the story. At the tables in front of us we were amused by the waiters pouring tea over their backs from brass pots with 4 foot long spouts. Day Three - Still raining as we visited the Drum Tower where we climbed 69 very steep steps to the top for a demonstration on the 24 drums. The tower had an excellent view of the old Beijing city and the Hutong ancient city alleys - some of which are 800 years old. Close behind the Drum Tower is the Bell Tower which has a 63 ton bell that is only rung on the lunar New Year. The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower both lie on the north-south meridian that bisects the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Next we were taken by rickshaw for a tour of a Hutong neighborhood where we visited the home of a local family belonging to Mr. & Mrs. Chen who served us jasmine tea, dried apples and peanuts. The Hutong districts are protected by the government and residents pay only a small amount of rent. We enjoyed seeing life within the small alleyways, despite the rain. Our final Beijing destination was a tea house on the way to the airport where we learnt about the Chinese Tea ceremony and tasted different varieties of tea.
5: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
7: The Temple of Heaven
8: The Summer Palace
10: The Great Wall - Mutianyu Section
11: The Bell Tower and Hutong neighborhood visit
12: Peking Duck Dinner and the Acrobat Show
13: Beijing Opera
15: Day Four - Arrived the previous evening in Lijiang, a charming town at foot of the Himalayas near the Tibetan border. We stayed in Old Town Lijiang which is the best preserved ancient town in China and is not accessible by cars. We stayed in a beautiful hotel built in the traditional style of intricately carved wood and the rooms were located off of numerous courtyards that had a garden area within each and were decorated with strings of red paper lanterns. The people of Lijiang come from several ethnic minorities that are prevalent in this area of the country. Many wear traditional dress on a daily basis including our guide Mandy, who was half Tibetan and half Naxi. Our driver was from the Bai minority. That first morning we walked out of the old city via the cobblestone streets, stopping to admire swaying willow trees and the unique system of waterways and bridges flowing freely through the road network. We met our driver outside of the old city and drove to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain where we saw a spectacular outdoor show entitled "Impression Lijiang" which provides an insight into the lives of the region's ethnic groups through song and dance. Five hundred actors and horses performed on a stage whose backdrop was the snow capped mountain range. After the show we were given papers on which to write a wish. They were then blessed by a Dongba (ancient Naxi) priest before we threw the papers into a huge burning cauldron. We then took a cable car to the Spruce Meadow, which commands a magnificent view of the glacier and peaceful mountain scenery. A ride across the White River mineral terraces on the back of a Yak capped off a very enjoyable morning. In the afternoon, we strolled through Baisha Village, a traditional Yunnan folk village where we saw mural paintings dating from the early Ming dynasty. Our final stop was at the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture where we saw exhibitions of Naxi culture and dress, and learned about the 1000 year old Dongba script, a pictorial language similar to hieroglyphics, that is still used today. A Dongba priest created a personalized scroll for us with our names in Dongba script. Day Five - After breakfast, we headed out of town on a 3 hour car ride over some very poor roads to reach Tiger Leaping Gorge, a 17- kilometer-long gorge located between peaks above the Jinsha River | (upper course of Yangtze River) and known as the deepest on earth. The legend goes that a tiger leapt to the other side, using a huge rock laying in the middle of the river at the entrance of the Gorge, hence the name. Access to the gorge is via a new path and 3 tunnels blasted into the side of the mountain. Rockslides are evidently a problem, indicated by numerous warning signs and closures along the path. After lunch we went to Shigu (Stone Drum) Town which stands on a green hill, overlooking the First Bend of the Yangtze River. On the hill there is a statue commemorating the cooperation of the Red army and Naxi people. In town, we saw an ancient stone drum, and an interesting iron bridge. Even more interesting was a baby stroller sitting on its own with a duck inside of it. Just as we were taking a picture, a small dog with pierced ears and silver earrings popped his head out too! Back in Lijiang we entered the town through Lion Hill where we could look down on all the rooftops of the old city. Strolling back down the hill to our hotel we enjoyed the greetings of Hello, how are you - the only English spoken by children who were on their way home from school. For dinner we decided we had had enough Chinese food and found a Tibetan restaurant that served western food - a hamburger and pizza never tasted so good! Day Six - In the morning we had time to ourselves to wander around the old city which is much less crowded than in the later part of the day. Upon meeting our guide we walked to the Black Dragon Pool Park where on a clear day you can see the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain reflection in the pool. The day was too hazy for us to see the mountain reflection but we could see a nice reflection of the pagodas and bridges in the clean spring water which is the water source for the old city of Lijiang. At the park we met a group of older women who were dancing as a form of exercise. One brave one asked if she could have a picture taken with Ria and then all of them wanted to be in on the picture. They weren't so interested when Gavin wanted to join in, but Ria sure felt like a celebrity!!! We really loved our stay in beautiful Lijiang, but in the afternoon it was time to leave and take our flight to Chengdu.
17: Lijiang water system - the uppermost pond supplies drinking water, the middle one is for rinsing vegetables and the last pond downstream is used for laundry
18: Old Town Lijiang
22: "Impression Lijiang" show at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
25: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
27: Ethnic Minorities of Lijiang
28: Baisha Village and 5000 year old Spruce - the oldest tree in China
29: Ancient Dongba Script
30: Tiger Leaping Gorge
31: Shigu Town & First Bend of the Yangtze
32: Shigu Town | Opposite: Black Dragon Jade Pool Park
35: Day Seven - Woke up early so we could get to the Panda Research Base when it opened at 8AM. The first thing we did was to make our way to the nursery where we could be first in line to hold a panda on our laps for about 5 minutes. Once we had made a 2000 RMB ($285US) donation we were dressed in protective booties, gloves and a smock and waited excitedly until the panda was carried out to us by the staff. Our panda was an 8 month old girl named Xiang Bing and she was very tame as she sat on our laps and rested against our chest while she munched on a stick of bamboo that had been dipped in something sweet. She only became restless when her bamboo ran out. It was an amazing experience to pat her head, arms and paws and cuddle her furry body. Time flew by too fast and we had to give her back to the staff, but not before she stuck her claws into Gavin's pants to hang on to him. We then spent the rest of the morning touring various panda enclosures where they had pandas of all ages, except for newborns - we did not see any of those. We did see a bigger female nursing two small pandas and it was so heart-warming to watch. The younger ones are playful with each other and are curious about their surroundings. They are learning how to climb trees and their wooden play equipment, but are not always | successful and end up tumbling to the ground. They get right back up and try again. The teenage and older pandas seem to eat bamboo constantly and will casually take half eaten branches from each other, even if there is a huge pile nearby. They like to sit in a reclined position and are messy eaters, often ending up with a pile of bamboo debris all over their chest. They are also picky eaters apparently there are 60 species of bamboo that are edible to the giant panda, but they only prefer to eat about 27 of these species. The research base also has several red pandas which look nothing like their black and white counterparts. They are much smaller and look like a cross between a raccoon and a cat. On the grounds there was a lovely swan lake where we sat and had some tea. The tea was served in a tall glass with about 2 inches of tea leaves in the bottom and no filter. It was a little awkward to drink, but tasted good. We did not see much more of Chengdu as we had an afternoon flight to Xian, but from what we could tell it seemed to be a very industrial city and the pollution levels were higher than any other city we visited. We were fortunate to have been in Chengdu prior to the massive earthquake that hit a few weeks later.
39: 8 month old Xiang Bing was a joy to hold
43: Teatime - unfiltered "Puer" tea
45: Day Seven continued - Arrived in Xi'an in the late afternoon and the weather was much warmer than the previous cities we had been in, however our driver Mr. Xie Xie was good about using the car air-conditioning (other drivers didn't like to use it because of the gas it used up). After a short rest at our hotel we were taken to a theater for a traditional dumpling dinner and Tang Dynasty show. The dinner included a variety of dumplings that were hand-shaped and pleated - some were even formed in the shape of animals and vegetables. Just when we thought we could eat no more a huge hot pot of soup over a flaming fire was brought to the table. The server added some small dumplings and left it until it started to boil over. She then served the soup and explained that however many dumplings got dished into your bowl would tell your fortune. Ria got 2 - meaning good things coming and Gavin got 4 - meaning lots of money! The performance was music and dances that originated in the Tang dynasty over a thousand years ago. Our favorite acts were the Prince Qin soldiers who jumped around the stage simulating fighting enemies; colorful ladies who sang and bobbed their heads; the "Golden Buddha" dance with ladies dressed in yellow with long brass fingertip extensions; and the acrobatic girls with "trembling bamboo" - spinning tops on strings. Back at the hotel our room was very hot and just like all the places we had stayed on the trip, the hotels do not turn on the air-conditioning until summertime, regardless of the heat in the room. By this point we had figured out that we needed to request standing fans, but this hotel sent up a huge bag of ice instead! Not sure what they thought we would do to cool down with the ice, but eventually we got the fans we requested. Day Eight - Visited the Forest of Stone Steles museum, once the site of the Temple of Confucius. This museum has the largest collection of steles (stone calligraphy carvings) cut in 837 A.D., the oldest existing texts of the Confucian classics, and more than 2,000 engraved stone tablets from the Han dynasty which record some of the largest achievements of Chinese culture. From the museum we went to a factory which produces handmade reproduction terracotta warriors. We had fun posing with our heads atop a life-size warrior body. It was just a prelude to the real thing - the fabulous Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, which was our next stop. Discovered in 1974 by local farmers drilling a well, this archeological treasure is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world. The terracotta army was buried with the Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC) to protect him during his rule in the afterlife. The three excavated pits of Qin's terracotta army contain life-size figures of warriors, depicted in battle dress according to rank and unit, and numerous figures of horses and chariots. It is believed that each statue is based on an actual soldier of that time and no two figures are alike. Unfortunately their original weapons were stolen by tomb robbers and the coloring on the figures has faded with exposure to air. Each pit lays 15 to 20 feet below current ground level and was constructed with the figures placed in corridors or rooms. These | corridors, separated by earthen walls, are paved with pottery bricks on which the warriors and horses stand. Large wooden planks placed over the corridors between the earthen walls and covered by layers of mats made from fibers formed the roofing. This was then covered by earth to conceal the army's location. In the 2,000 years since its construction the roofing has collapsed, damaging the figures and there is evidence of fires indicating the presence of tomb robbers as well. Pit No. 1 is the largest and is approximately one-third excavated. It is estimated to contain about 6,000 terracotta warriors and it is possible to see the excavation and repair of the figures in different stages of completion. Pit No. 2 was found in 1976 and contained over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. Many of the figures have been restored but are missing heads. The bodies and heads were sculpted and fired separately which accounts for the large hole appearing at the neck. Finally, Pit No. 3, also found in 1976, is smaller and contains officers only, but appears to be in much better condition. The Terracotta Warriors represent only a small portion of the massive underground army. The main tomb has still to be excavated - partly because archaeologists are still uncertain of its exact location. After lunch and another factory visit we were taken back into the city where we entered through the ramparts of the east gate of the city wall. The wall surrounds the old city and we enjoyed a walk along the top where we could see the contrast of old buildings next to the new modern ones. There were also examples of old wooden weapons that were used to protect the city walls and a small museum where we were given a short lecture on Feng Shui. From there we made our way to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda - a tall Buddhist shrine of the Tang Dynasty. We could not go inside, but it was adjacent to a nice park and we happened to arrive at the start of a water fountain display set to music - called "Dancing Water" by our guide. The fountains built into the 1/2 kilometer concrete plaza are apparently the largest water fountain display in the world. Ria was treated like a celebrity again while Gavin was ignored. Day Nine - The 600 year old Drum and Bell Towers were our first stop this morning. They are located opposite each other and on the plaza outside there were vendors selling strings of small kites which they flew high into the sky near the towers. Inside the Bell Tower we listened to four songs performed by musicians in traditional costumes. We walked to the nearby Muslim Quarter where we visited the Great Mosque - the largest and best preserved mosques in China. The mosque, built in the Chinese style, but with strong Arabic architectural details, has some beautiful courtyards and a hall that could accommodate 3000 men for prayers. Outside of the mosque is the Islamic Men's Street, a bustling market for the local Muslim population. A bazaar with good bargains for the tourists and open air food stalls cooking and selling a wide variety of unusual foods made for a very pleasant atmosphere. Next it was off to the airport for our flight to Guilin.
46: Tang Dynasty Show and Dumpling Dinner
47: Stone Steles Museum at the Temple of Confucius
49: Emperor Qin's Terracotta Army
50: Our Transportation - black sedan with tinted windows, a driver and a private guide. Our name carved on a traditional seal - called a "chop"
51: The Great Mosque and the lively Islamic Men's Market
52: Xi'an old city wall and the Drum and Bell Towers
53: Big Wild Goose Pagoda and "Dancing Water"
54: Guilin & Yangshuo
55: Day Nine continued - Arriving in Guilin we were taken to our hotel which was situated on a lovely lake. We walked most of the way around the lake on our way to dinner then hit a main road that led us to the "golden arches." Normally we avoid McDonald's when traveling overseas, choosing instead, to experience the local flavors. However, the food we had on our tours had been disappointing (most tours had not let us choose our own dishes and when we tried to choose for ourselves it became a huge issue). You can only eat so much white rice and unflavored vegetables, and any meat included in the dish is in such miniscule proportions that we were now thrilled to eat a Big Mac! Since the restaurant was not air-conditioned we got our food to go and sat outside, despite the hot humid weather. We were gawked and stared at, but this was something we were starting to become used to. For days now the site of us in shorts or listening to an I-pod would stop locals in their tracks. Many people had requested to have their pictures taken with us and we have had a taste of what it must be like to be a celebrity. When we returned to our hotel there was a wedding reception taking place in the lobby. It was quite a celebration with plenty of eating and drinking. We were amused by several trays of favors that held candies and loose cigarettes! Day Ten - We woke up early and walked around the lake again. This time we saw many groups of women exercising in the park areas - something we saw often in the early morning in China. Some were doing aerobics to western music but most were doing what looked like Tai Chi with swords. We met our guide and driver back at the hotel and then drove 2.5 hours to the Long Ji Rice Terraces - also called the Dragon's Backbone. We walked up hill through the Pingan village and past the wooden houses to where we had stunning vistas of the rice terraces which look like ribbons that wind their way from the foot to the top of the hill. The villagers have been growing rice this way for 500 years and were just starting the planting season. There are two ethnic groups in this area - the Zhuang and Yao minorities. The women of both groups wear colorful embroidered garments and fancy silver ornaments. The Zhuang women wear pants with an embroidered trim and a hat that looks like a head scarf made of toweling. The Yao women are famous for their long hair which can be up to 5 feet long and is only cut twice in their life! Once when they are 18 and again when they get married. They save the cut pieces of hair and have an intricate style of wrapping the hair all together to form a knotted head piece which tells their marital status. Apparently they only wash their hair with rice water and they claim this keeps away the gray hairs. If you pay them (approx. $1.50) they will let their hair down for you and knot it back up quickly - show over! In the afternoon we drove back through Guilin and on to Yangshuo, passing by spectacular outcrops of limestone along the river. Yangshou is a lively town full of back-packers. Our hotel was centrally located to West Street- the main drag and....hallelujah our room was air conditioned! At dusk we walked to the Li River where we boarded a very noisy motor boat to watch a display of Cormorant fishing. The Chinese fishermen have been using | cormorants to help them fish for a thousand years. They tie a string around the cormorant's throat so it can't swallow big fish, then train it to fish and then let the fishermen pull the fish from its throat. We had the opportunity to pose for pictures with the fisherman and his birds at the end of the show. Day Eleven - As the sun came up we were back on the Li river for a sunrise tour. We had an old boat all to ourselves and we sat on the bow where we had an incredible view of the mist-shrouded peaks which have inspired poetry and art for centuries. We traveled downstream for an hour, passing beautiful scenery, water buffalos, fishermen, and sampans on the river to a small village called old Fuli town. There were no tourists here, just a rural town that had recently experienced a death of one of their residents. As we walked through the village we could hear popping noises in the distance and saw red firework papers everywhere until we came upon the funeral procession complete with an elaborately decorated casket, dragon costumes, music and more fireworks! By no means a solemn affair - it was a colorful celebration marking the passing of someone from their community. We made our way by car to another small village called Xingping old town and walked to the waterfront which had a nice view of the mountains - the same viewpoint as on the back of the 20 RMB bank note. Back in Yangshuo we had time to ourselves to do some shopping on West Street where we haggled for the best prices. In the late afternoon we took a thrilling hot air balloon ride where we had birds-eye-view of moon hill, the endless rock formations and rice paddies along the river. It was just us in the basket with the pilot who showed great skill by taking us up as high as 3000 feet and back down through the trees and buildings that were so close we could almost touch them. After coming back to "terra firma" we went to a traditional tea-house in town where we had some local Osmanthus flower tea. That evening we saw a show called "Impressions Liu Sanjie" by the same director of the show we had seen in Lijiang. This colorful outdoor performance took place on the Li river and the performers included local fishermen and several minority groups. Magnificent illuminated karst peaks were the backdrop for the show. Day Twelve - We drove back to Guilin in the rain (were were lucky it had not rained during the previous day's activities) and visited the Reed Flute Cave. This cavern is quite big and has beautiful stalactites and stalagmites lit up by colored lights. Pools of still water reflect the formations and the lights on their surface. There was a special area of the cave which had a 1000 year old turtle that the Chinese would paste wet money onto its back for good luck. We are not sure if it was really that old or not. There were some baby turtles in a pond and Gavin fed 2 others that seemed to be young adults. Since we had some time before our flight to Hong Kong our guide recommended a Chinese Foot Massage. The one hour treatment started with a herbal soaking, then vigorous pounding, kneading and flexing of our feet with a cucumber scented gel. We received a short back and neck rub at the end - very relaxing!
56: Early morning exercises by the lake in Guilin
58: The Dragon's Backbone" Rice Terraces
59: Pingan Village at the Long Ji Rice Terraces
60: The long haired Yao women
63: Cormorant Fishing on the Li River
64: Xingping Town Opposite: Old Fuli Town | Sunrise on the Li River, Yangshuo
67: Up, up and away! Hot air balloon ride over Yangshuo
71: Reed Flute Cave and it's resident tortoises
72: Hong Kong
73: Day Thirteen - We arrived the previous evening in Hong Kong where we immediately saw the British influence. Most signs were in English and everything was clean and organized. They also drove on the left - the opposite of mainland China. After a little confusion on how to purchase the airport express tickets we figured it out and took a short train ride then a shuttle bus to our hotel. The hotel was conveniently located in Kowloon and adjacent to a very modern and busy shopping center and subway station. In the morning we took the subway to Tsim Sha Tsui, the southern tip of Kowloon, to catch the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island. It was a short ferry ride through the crowded harbor and once we docked we made our way to the "escalator" - really a series of escalators that take you up several steep streets. We got off at the Hollywood Road antique district and walked into some of the galleries to see beautiful figurines from the Tang dynasty and examples of the tiny shoes worn on bound feet in the "golden lotus" style, which was three inches long and thought to be both lovely and alluring. We strolled through the public zoo on our way to reach the Victoria Peak tram. The tram takes you up the peak at a 27 degree angle which is much steeper than it sounds. From the top you can see all of Hong Kong and across the harbor to Kowloon but the view was very hazy. We had lunch at a restaurant with big picture windows and a big check - $50US for 2 hamburgers and 3 sodas! We rode the tram back down and walked through an amazing public aviary. There were many beautiful species of birds and just outside was a conservatory of stunning orchids and varieties of cacti as well as a park with a waterfall you could walk behind. In the evening we went to the very crowded Temple Street night market. We were constantly approached by hawkers of counterfeit designer handbags and watches who had temporary set-ups in the market and could disappear at the first sign of the authorities. Once we got the hang of it we realized that we would be shown a catalog from which we could pick the items we wanted. They would then bring them out a few at a time or take us to an alley out of sight. We had seen copy products in Yangshuo right out in the open, but in Hong Kong they are apparently starting to crack down on the counterfeiters. Prices were much higher than in Yangshuo and the dealers were not so interested in negotiating. We were told by other tourists that Shenzhen, just over the border into China, was where all the deals were. Day Fourteen - It turned out that Shenzhen was only a 45 minute | subway ride from our hotel so we used our multiple-entry visa for China to go back into the country. It was odd to walk through immigration and customs inside a subway station. There was a 5 story mall that we could easily walk to from the station and from the minute we walked in the door we were assaulted non-stop by people selling everything from watches, handbags, DVD's and manicures. They would grab your arm and follow you all over even waiting for you to come out of a competitor's shop. Some of the things they would say (sometimes all at one time) were: "Missy, missy" "Hello looking" "Best price - hello" "You want DVD?" "Copy watches - you want?" "What you looking for?" We have never been so harassed and they were relentlessly aggressive in their sales techniques. It was basically the same set up as the night before, but they would pull you into a small store stocked with no-name products on display, then pull out the catalog of designer copies. In some places it took us up to an hour to get through the process of bringing out products which they used runners to collect from some secret location, then start the haggling. It was extremely tedious and exhausting, but worth the trip for the deals that could be had. We returned to Hong Kong/Kowloon and walked through several markets close to our hotel. The Flower Market had beautiful, fresh flowers and plants at extremely reasonable prices (i.e. a bouquet of about 15 peonies for $2US). At the Ladies Market you could buy bras, underwear, clothes as well as fruits and vegetables. The Goldfish Market is the place where fish lovers go to buy all manner of fish related products including aquariums, many types of fish but primarily goldfish, tank plants, and even colorful sea anemones. We arrived at the Bird Garden Market just as they were closing up, but could see that there were stacks of birds in cages and a wide variety of bird related products for sale. Day Fifteen - Since the Bird Garden Market was so close to our hotel we decided to head back there before leaving for the airport. The stalls were opening and the dozens of cages of birds were being pulled out from their overnight storage. This market was also a social gathering area for older men who brought their caged birds and hung them from trees and specially designed bars, then spent the morning talking with each other or reading a newspaper. They could buy bags of crickets and we saw some birds being fed the insects with chopsticks! Our amazing China vacation was at an end and it was time to head back to the airport for the long flight home.
75: The Hong Kong Skyline
77: The birds in the Hong Kong aviary and the Bird Market
78: Unusual Transportation
80: Street Food
82: Funny Signs