S: China & Japan 2010
FC: Our trip to China and Japan December 2010
1: Beijing, China Tiananmen Square and Forbidden Palace | December 5th 2010 - We began our international adventure leaving Madison on a 9:30 am flight to Chicago and then a long 14 hour flight from Chicago to Beijing. We actually flew over the North Pole to reach China.
2: Temple of Heaven | Platform set up acoustically so when the Emperor spoke his voice could be heard throughout the temple.
4: Everybody wanted to take pictures with us! | The Great Wall | Almost there... | Getting closer...
8: Xi'an | Big Gooze Pagoda
9: Big Wild Gooze Pagoda | At the Terracota Warriors Factory
10: Terracota Warriors
11: Xi'an city walls | At a Chinese Mosque
12: Guilin Cruise down the Li River
16: Elephant Hill
18: Guilin at night
21: Shanghai at night
63: Views from tower
66: December 5, 2010 – Flight to Beijing We began our international adventure leaving Madison on a 9:30 am flight to Chicago and then a long 14 hour flight from Chicago to Beijing. Other than the flight being extremely long and a bit boring since our computer and iPhone ran out of batteries it was interesting that we actually flew over the North Pole to reach China. We thought we would be flying West, but apparently flying over the top of the world is a big time saver. Also, the food was even worse than expected for airline food. We were given some fish like smelling noodle soups which were less than to be desired. Luckily we had some snacks at the Delta lounge in O’Hare before leaving and brought a number of the Special K Strawberry bars with us. Day 1 December 6, 2010 - Beijing After the long flight, we landed in Beijing around 4:30 in the afternoon the following day. Flying in, we could see the immense size of the city. The airport was also was one of the nicest airports we’ve ever seen. It was modern and well organized and it looked like a giant turtle from the outside. Later we learned the symbol of a turtle is used to represent a long life in China, so the idea is that the airport would last a long time. At the airport we met our tour guide Ema and our driver who took us to Sunworld Hotel in Beijing. Ema explained that the city has approximately 15 million people and is organized in 6 rings, so ring 1 would be the city center and so on. Driving to the city center we noticed a number of more rural areas outside the city had lots of trash and the smog in the air was clearly visible. However, once we were in the city, the streets were clean compared to most large cities. The driving reminded us of Buenos Aires with the crazy driving in and out of lanes, and here you have to be even more careful since most motorists don’t seem to distinguish between sidewalks and roads. Our guide mentioned it isn’t technically allowed but normally the police look the other way if some drive slowly down the sidewalks or park on them. That night we were tired so figured we’d wash up and go out to get a quick bite to eat. While getting ready, Ana realized there was no conditioner so she called the front desk to see if we could get some. Next thing we knew, we had someone in our room working on our air conditioner. Realizing the language barrier Ana tried to act out what she wanted to the lady who then proceeded to show her how to use the hair dryer and eventually resulted in her bringing us extra shampoo. At that point we gave up trying to ask at the hotel. Ana being worried about spending nearly a month with no conditioner for her hair, figured we’d check out a local super market on our block the guide mentioned earlier to us.
67: In the market we had a fun time trying to read the Chinese labels and playing pictionary with the staff to find conditioner. Ana was able to find a similar product that would work but not the conditioner she was used to, so we figured maybe hair conditioner didn’t exist in China since most people had straight hair and it was unnecessary for them. After the market we ate at a local Chinese restaurant that had some of the best Chinese food and Jasmine tea we’ve ever had. It was a bit challenging to order but with the combination of one person at the restaurant who spoke some English and pictures on the menu we were able to figure things out. When we finished eating we ran into someone who offered to write our names as a gift in Chinese letters. He brought us to the floor above the restaurant to do this and gave us the gift but it was mostly a ploy to bring us in to try and sell some art work. There were some nice pieces that we liked but we didn’t end up getting anything. Day 2 December 7, 2010 - Beijing Our hotel had a really excellent breakfast buffet that consisted of mostly Chinese foods with some fruits and breads. The meal was a good start to the day but we found it interesting how a number of the employees were dressed up in Santa hats for Christmas. It was strange seeing Chinese people dressed up for the holiday. We assumed Christmas wouldn’t be a big deal in China, but apparently we were wrong. We began the day at Tiananmen Square, which is the biggest square in the world. From what we were told traditionally in China people would have square courtyards for their homes and generally the richer the family the bigger and nicer the courtyard. Tiananmen Square originally was the courtyard for their emperors. It was really interesting to see how 99% of the visitors were Chinese and we noticed for the first time how much we stood out. The square was lined by a number of government buildings and Chinese guards. It was a little strange to see army personnel instead of police like we are used to. In the center of the square, which happens to be the exact center of Beijing there is a monument of a giant sword stuck in the ground which as the story says keeps the earth dragon there. On the square there is also China’s national flag where they do a flag raising ceremony every morning, and Mao’s tomb. We didn’t go to see Mao since the line was long but we heard they have his body preserved in see through Jade (a very popular and expensive stone in China). After taking in the vastness on the square we took the underground tunnel across one of the avenues to go to the Forbidden City which is across from the square. Interestingly they have a number of soldiers there who train to come across the avenue every morning with the Chinese flag and run the flag raising ceremony.
68: The Forbidden City really blew us both away. The details in everything were remarkable. The carved staircases, the dragon statues in front of the entrances, and the building were all great to see. The Ming Dynasty that used this city as their winter home had some style. Overall, there were over 9000 rooms in the city, which we heard were mostly occupied by the Emperor’s concubines. One interesting tidbit was, Dan had this group of people coming up to him that he thought were beggars since they kept coming up to him. Then they started making a picture sign so I thought they wanted us to take a picture of them before we realized they wanted a picture with us. There ended up being about 4 or 5 people that lined up to take pictures with us. From talking with our guide she guessed they were from Inner Mongolia and probably never saw people like us so wanted to take a picture. We didn’t realize we were going to be touring celebrities on our trip. We left the Forbidden City and walked around the outer wall of the Forbidden City for a bit before grabbing lunch. After eating we drove to a place called Temple of the Heavens. This temple was used by the Emperor who would travel there 3 times per year. The temple felt like an escape from the city since it was massive and surrounded with gardens. At the temple we felt like we were in the woods though you could see Beijing’s skyline surrounding us. The colors on a number of the buildings in the template were mostly a mix of blues and yellows, since those are the colors they used to represents the gods. They also had a platform in the middle which was set up acoustically so when the Emperor spoke his was could be heard throughout the template. When leaving the template we walked through an area with a number of older people playing cards and then went to a traditional tea house for a tea ceremony. There we tasted a number of delicious teas and learned both how to smell and taste teas properly. It felt like we were in a wine tasting in Nappa Valley. Ana purchased a fruit tea that reminded her of her mom since she used to buy this particular kind of tea when Ana was younger. Later that evening we went to see the Golden Mask Dynasty show at a local theatre. This show was created for the Olympic games in 2008 to demonstrate China’s culture to foreigners. The show was spectacular and had the fanciest stage we had ever seen. It had the ability to lift to the ceiling, to move either left or right, and at times water would flow across the stage like a river which we’ve never seen before. Even though it wasn’t allowed we filmed this so we could make sure to show others.
69: After the show we went to a small local restaurant across from our hotel. No one there spoke English but there was some pictures of food that helped us order. Our waitress and the fellow patrons had a good laugh watching us point and attempt to order some food. Neither of us got what we expected but made due. Ana’s dish which we thought would be soup ended up being a bowl of noodles covered with more pepper than I’d ever want to see on a dish. When leaving the restaurant one gentleman came up to us and mentioned he didn’t think he has ever seen foreigners in that restaurant before. He was with his daughter and mentioned he was an art professor with a local studio and would paint our names for free for us after talking with him for a bit but we declined. We were still hungry so went to the market to get some food and then on the way back to our hotel ran into the gentleman and his daughter and went with him this time. It ended up being the same place we were the night before which was ackward. We weren’t sure what happened but he seemed to get in an argument with the other person who showed us the studio the night before. They gave us our names again but this time written on a nice silk bordered canvas as a gift. Once again we refrained from buying any of their artwork. Day 3 December 8, 2010 - Beijing Today we were excited to head to JuYongGuan, one of the sections of the Great Wall of China. On the way, we stopped by a ceramics factory were we saw how they made some of their fine ceramics and then brought us to their shop. There were some nice looking works but it really wasn’t our style. They looked like things you would see at a grandparents’ house and nothing we were interested in. Once we got to the Great Wall, our guide asked if we wanted to do the gentleman’s or Ladies section and we chose the gentleman’s section. Basically it was a steeper and more challenging section. At the time we were surprised when our guide didn’t come with us but after climbing for a while we understood why. It wasn’t too bad but halfway up Ana was wishing we took the other way. Seeing the mountains and the wall in combination it is hard to imagine anyone successfully invading. The mountains themselves would be hard enough to across without a wall there as well. It was cold and windy when we made our way to the top but it was incredible seeing it go on throughout the mountains. We found a large group of people on the wall who also wanted pictures with us, so we ended up taking other several pictures with some other random Asian tourists.