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China Part 1

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S: My Asian Adventure - China Part 1

FC: My Asian Adventure- China Part 1

1: Well I had to get up at 3:20 am to get ready to leave. It was quite early since I did not fall asleep until around 11pm the night before. Adam was nice and drove me to the airport, I wish I could have hugged him longer but I was worried about being late. My worries were correct for by the time I got my tickets and went through security I only had a few minutes until boarding. Overall the trip here wasn't terribly exciting, but was a tad emotional for me. I have to admit I was nervous going by myself, but the way I looked at it if I wanted to see and do these things it was solo or nothing. When I reached San Francisco I had only 30 minutes to find my next gate, grab snacks and find the restroom. I made it quickly off the plane and headed straight for a departure screen; gate 93. So I look around and the numbers only go up to 90?! I keep turning 360 degrees looking for the number 93. I soon give up and hurry to an information deck. The lady is like you need to go to the international terminal... "where is that?”, she says turn around, that building over there... "how do I get there?”. ::sigh:: I quickly rush off in the direction she sent me and then notice a sigh saying international terminal, gates G91... blah blah blah. I think it might have helped me more had the board I looked at said G93, not just 93. Once I was certain where the gate was I rushed to use the restroom and then rushed for snacks and water, then rushed to the boarding area where once I got seated we were to board in 5 minutes. When we were seated on the plane it was fairly certain I was not in Kansas any more. Luckily it was not a full flight and I got a window seat, plus an empty seat next to me. The flight played some good movies but I did not watch them, I was too involved in my book "The Help” (by the time I reached Kunming, I had read 300 pages). We were served 2 meals and a light snack. Meal one I chose the chicken, which turned out to be “sponge” chicken with potatoes and salad, so needless to say I ate the potatoes and salad and donated my oat chewy to my aisle neighbor. The light snack was a banana and two gluten-filled breads, yeah for banana! Then lastly the breakfast meal was more gluten filled crap so I passed and had some of the the snacks I had brought. After 11 or so hours we finally land in Shanghai. Amazingly customs was very easy. The hard part came in finding my next flight. I did not realize I had to change terminals, but once I asked for help I was on my way. The next terminal I had to figure out which line to stand in and check in. Overall the process went fairly smoothly. I have to say once I made it back through security I concluded their system was much more efficient. Instead of a free for all, they had corral areas that were let go once the next stage had cleared of people, plus I did not have to remove my shoes! I had about 3 hours to kill before my next/last flight so I was going to look in the shops, but sadly once I made it through security, no more shops. So I bought more water and went and waited for the plane. Did I mention yet... Holy Crap I’m in China! When I first got here it was quite crazy a subject to think of, and to make things even crazier my cell phone worked in Shanghai! Needless to say I sent a few texts that said "Holy crap I’m texting from China!” By this point I was quite exhausted. On the long flight I had only managed to sleep a few hours. So luckily the benches did not have armrests and I dropped my carry-on on a seat, propped my legs up on it and proceeded to take a nap; thankfully I was smart enough to set my phone alarm so that I would not miss my flight, which to be honest had I not set that alarm I would have missed my flight, I was zonked out!. | September 7, 2011 | All Grown Up and Off Exploring China...

2: China- Part 1

4: After another three hours of flight time, I finally made it to my destination, Kunming, China at 12am Friday morning or 10 am Thursday Rapid City time. Once I picked up my bag, my guide was supposed to meet me with a sign showing my name. Our plane had landed 20 minutes early so I did not panic at first when I did not find the guide. There were three exit spots so I wandered back and forth hoping to see the sign. After 20 minutes I asked the information desk if they could call the guide, but being that it is 12:30 am, no answer. She says "take cab," but can offer no other advice since she speaks very little English. I choose to wait. Another man asks if I "need taxi," I tell him I should have a guide, but say I will be back possibly. 1:00 am rolls around and I am tired, cranky and annoyed. The gentleman who asked about the taxi sees me again and offers help by calling the Hotel, but sadly the night crew does not speak English either. He says he can take me to the Bank Hotel, which I say I have no yen, he says he will take $10 to take me. So I agree and off we go. I follow him to his car and see no taxi sign on the top and start to think about the movie "Taken”. We get in the car and I start asking all sorts of questions about credentials but he does not understand, he then hands me a business card, but sadly it is in Chinese and I can't read it. We eventually make it to the hotel, I’m not going to lie I was very freaked the entire ride and was sooo glad to have arrived only to have... the front desk tell me I do not have a reservation. I speak no Chinese and the front desk man speaks very little English. Needless to say I had to pay for the first night at the hotel 2,500 RMB or $391 bucks for my room. Talk about the longest day ever. I got to my room, and quickly called Kathy to tell her what was going on. Not sure what the problem is, I decide to take a bath... but then have to jump out of the bath to answer the phone. The "GoWay" agents called to check on me and said they would be calling the China representative at 9pm Canada time to figure out what had happened and would reimburse me for any expenses the mix-up had caused. I was very glad I had added an extra day to get used to the time change, for it was 3:00 am by the time I was able to fall asleep.

6: The Bank Hotel- Kunming, China

7: I woke up around 9am to the sound of construction above my 12th floor room. Apparently the hotel is renovating floors 13-17, what luck I have. Around 10 o'clock I get a call from my guide apologizing about yesterday, apparently they thought I was arriving today. No worries, I told her all is fine, though because of the mix-up they set-up a city tour for the day to compensate me. It was a very kind gesture and I’m glad I had a guide to walk me through the city, but I felt I was unable to take as many dumb pictures as I usually do, or she wanted to talk when really I just wanted to walk and photograph, but either way on the way back I realized I would have most likely gotten myself lost and never found the park, or found my hotel. Plus no asking directions because NO ONE speaks any English. Have I mentioned how much I stand out yet? I am like the only white tourist for miles. In fact I only saw two others, walking the park, since my arrival here... crazy stuff. Plus my guide does speak English but not that well, many times I ask questions and she does not understand or know what I am talking about ::sigh::. So anyways back to the story... my guide picks me up at noon and the driver takes us to the park. Traffic is so bad all I can think is I bet it is quicker if we just walk. I mention this to the guide and eventually she agrees and off we go to walk the park. The park was very busy, many groups of people, some were there to even dance. It made me think of my mom and how she would love to attend a dance group in the park. After exploring the park we explored an old military school. I’ll be honest I didn't quite understand all that my guide told me about it. The school was started around 1910 and ended in 1935 and was a major player in the uprising in China in the early 20th century. I could not take any pictures there, but it was a very nice museum... wish I knew more about China's history, the information might have made more sense. I will most likely Google it when I return.. After the school the driver picked us up and took us to the flower and bird market, from which point we would walk back to the hotel. I really enjoyed walking the streets, seeing the mix of old and new buildings. I thought it sad that the city was westernizing so much, I prefer the old, but I guess if buildings are unsafe they gotta go. Lets see, where to begin with this market... for many blocks there were hundreds of stalls selling wares from food, gifts, hamsters and beetles. Thats right, you heard me, hamsters and beetles, plus rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, puppies, kitties, turtles..... I’m not going to lie I was quite mortified at the cages these poor animals were trapped in, yet am also ashamed to say I was completely intrigued by it all. Did no one here think it was cruel? Some cages were adequate sized, but some rabbits were in cages smaller than a shoe box. We slowly made our way back to the hotel by 4pm. By this point I was starved since I missed my free breakfast and only had a protein shake and nut bar that morning. Have I mentioned no one speaks English around here? My first attempt at food came with asking the front desk where I might find a convenient store, and settle for a supermarket. After 40 minutes of walking and not finding it based on their directions (plus I got to see a 2 year old girl pee on a tree base right downtown like it was no big deal), I head back to the hotel and settle on room service, but since my wheat allergy I go to the front desk to order with my allergy card. They send a lady down who I thought was told about my allergy. I ordered the hamburger, no cheese and no bun. When my meal came, burger had a bun. Thankfully the top bun was not on the meat and the meat had lettuce separating it from the bottom, no big deal just a waste of food. Once I finish my meal I get back to reading The Help, though at 7ish my eyes get heavy and I think "I am just going to close them for a bit before I take a bath..." next thing I know I wake up and the room is dark and it is 9 pm. So I get up, take my bath, jump in bed, read some more and go to bed again at 9:30ish. | September 9, 2011 | Kunming Free Day... Sort of

9: Green Lake Park

10: Flower and Bird Market

14: After not eating much yesterday it was nice to finally have a meal. Breakfast was half American and half Chinese. I have to say their fried rice tastes much better than ours. The only thing missing for me was the scrambled eggs, there was an omelet station but again no English so I just didn't even want to deal with it. Once I finished breakfast my guide and driver picked me up about 8:30 to head to an all day Stone Forest tour, but she told me since the golden temple is on the way we would also be stopping there to day instead of the following day. I will say it was nice to visit a temple as my first site, really made me feel like I was in China. The temple itself is small, but made completely of bronze, so when it was first built the sun shinning on it made it look made of gold. The guide said it weighs 2,500 hundred tons, that is if I understood her correctly. Apparently the temple was made by a monk for a women he loved, but then he soon loved another and made a temple for her right next to the golden temple, though the second was not as nice. I’m sure I butchered the story but that is what I got out of it. Besides the temple there were many other structures to explore, one even had a giant bell, that both me and my guide wondered how they got it up there. Once again more people dancing in the park for exercise and gift shops up the wazoo. I will no longer think Keystone is tacky, everywhere I go here there are hundreds of gift shops, it's just crazy. Once we finished exploring the temple site it was back to the car for the 1.5 hour drive to the Stone Forest. In my head I had envisioned the Stone Forest to be very secluded away from people and cities, but boy was I ever wrong. Oh by the way I started to get car sick in the back of the car on the drive, but did not want to say anything since I knew we were almost there, but my guide kept talking to me, causing me to take my eyes off the front of the road. I did my best to look interested, but man did I feel like puking. Once we made it to the park I did my best to explain I was getting car sick and would need to sit up front on the way back. Any who... so the park was right on the edge of the city and had paved paths everywhere, plus carved writing on the rocks and oh yes... gift shops even crammed up between the rocks, plus lord all the people. It was crazy, I felt like I was at Mt. Rushmore during 4th of July. I was not expecting it to be such a major tourist attraction for locals. When I think National Park I think out in the middle of nowhere... this was more like a city park that charged admission, and top it off with visiting on a Saturday, it was a crazy day. On the upside I saw 5 white tourists today! We explored the park for about 2 hours and I had a blast, to be honest I could have stayed there all day looking in every nook and cranny. I wish I had had time to explore by myself, but the guide was with me the entire time. She was very nice and took many pictures of me today, I sorta forgot to do that the day before. She even took me to some fossils and we all know how much I enjoy that! | September 10, 2011 | Stone Forest and Golden Temple

15: The Golden Temple

20: The Stone Forest

25: After the forest it was time for lunch at 3pm (I was not hungry when we arrived). When we first pulled up I was not sure what to think of the place, a lot of construction was going on all around and well, no one else was there eating. My guide took me up stairs and sat with me until the food came. After that she went downstairs to eat with the driver. It felt a tad strange eating all by myself upstairs, and when I say by myself I mean I was the only one up there beside the lady who sat in the corner in case I needed anything. It was very weird. The meal was great though. I had a piece of roast duck (though they cut up the bone with the pieces which made it hard to eat with the chop sticks), steamed cabbage, rice, tea and this strange milk fried thing ( I tried it and did not like it). The guide saw that I was eating with the chopsticks as she walked down the stairs and seemed quite impressed I could use them, I felt quiet proud. I’m still learning with them but definitely not as clumsy as before. Once I was done I headed downstairs to use the restroom and boy was I in for a surprise. I had heard about the toilets in China, but seeing one in person does wonders. I’m not going to lie I had a hard time using it, since most of those who know me very well I have a hard time squatting flat footed and well that is what must be done and I will leave it at that and you can just look at the picture on the next page and think what you would do, it's going to be a long 6 weeks LOL. The drive back I sat in front of the car and enjoyed the ride way better this time. The drive took us through 3 very large tunnels, one was around 3,600 ft long, and many bridges. It seems the large city of Kunming was built on one of the only flat spots around! Many farmers were growing corn all over the hillsides. Once back at the hotel I worked on my blog a bit then read my book and went to bed... then got up at 3am to post my blog for all you peeps. Thankfully the Internet is working any time of day now hence how I am able to finish up my blog today at 5pm, thank the lord. I felt like the biggest nerd standing in the dark all sleepy posting my blog.

27: I had no idea that bad boy was waiting for me... It's going to be a long 6 weeks!

28: I think I have finally acclimated to the time. I was not sleepy when I got up and did not feel like a nap in the afternoon, so I should be good to go for the rest of the trip. Today was supposed to be another full day tour, but I was picked up at 9 and was back at the hotel by 2:30, not sure what I think about that... This morning we drove to the Western Hills and visited the Dragon Gate. The complex was built was right into the side of a cliff, which made for a spectacular view of the city and surrounding area. All I could think about was how did they built it over 600 years ago without power tools? We were only at the area for about 1.5 hours and then headed down the mountain and went to lunch. The tour stated a visit to the lake, which did not happen, but I did get to stop at the post office for post cards and stamps. Lunch was great again, and at least this restaurant was a tad busier and looked not as sketchy. After lunch they took me to a supermarket, which sadly I did not notice was a Walmart until I picked up an item and saw the price tag said WALMART!! WHAT!? I tell you what... it was the biggest Walmart I had ever been too. The kinds of food they were selling were crazy. I would have took pictures but I was too embarrassed to take very many inside the store, sorry. Once back at the hotel I had “Angie” show me the way to the Bird and Flower Market, where I did some exploring on my own before I headed back to my room to get ready for the night and my flight to Chengdu, where I get to see Pandas! | September 11, 2011 | Dragon Gate and Walmart!?

29: Dragon Gate

34: So this morning I got up at 7am and just took my time getting ready since I wasn't to be picked up until 11:30. I played on the Internet a while then headed downstairs at 9am to eat breakfast before chatting online with Adam for about an hour. I have to say I was quite impressed with our connection and it was really great seeing him. It really is too bad no one else has Facetime or I could chat with more peeps. If you do have Facetime or can get it let me know in a blog comment and I will try to chat with you. Do not send an email because I’m not sure my email is working for I have not received any since I arrived here. Any who... the time came to say goodbye to Adam and head downstairs to close my bill. It took awhile but we got it. Plus I was happy to see I was not charged for all the water I drank. Oh yeah I almost forgot. I had bought a Streripen to use on water since I had brought my camel back along, but on my third day my bag caught on the counter in the bathroom and it fell to the hard floor and the bulb broke ::sigh:: So now I will have to pay for water, something I had not budgeted into my spendings. I thought of having my parents mail me a new one but too big of hassle and what if it did not arrive on time and missed me? Once we arrived at the airport “Angie” helped me check-in and made sure I made it all the way through security before she waved good-bye. I then had an hour and a half wait before I boarded the plane. I thought you might be intrigued to know I was the only white person at the airport and on the plane, just crazy I tell you. Once we landed in Chengdu I grabbed my bag and crossed my fingers my guide would be there to great me. Ironically he was the only one there with a sign so it was quiet easy to see him, hallelujah! | September 12, 2011 | Off to Chengdu... Pandas here I come

35: The Tibet Hotel- Chengdu, China

36: On the way to the hotel the guide talked of many things and again the Mid-Autumn festival was brought up... which is why every where I turn I see moon cakes for sale (last night I just realized the new Angry Birds update is based on the Moon Cake Festival, how ironic). Once at the hotel I had planned to walk the neighborhood, but after I tipped the guide he insisted that he accompany me to the local tourist spot he had mentioned free of charge since I told him I did not have the extra money for the use of the driver. So guess what, I rode the bus! I was totally freaked I’m not going to lie LOL, and it is not just because I’m using China's public transportation, public transportation in general freaks me out. Since I did not grow up with it, it just stupidly seems to cause me anxiety. Plus being by myself in a foreign country does have its disadvantages, especially being female, of the innocent mind of the traveler. Of course nothing happened but I could not stop my mind from thinking bad things. We only took the bus a short ways then walked the rest. It was quite far in my mind and I kept asking “is it close, is it far”, I think he thought I was getting tired rather than nervous of the distance I had traveled from the hotel. Once we arrived I could see it was a huge modern/old shopping center. The old buildings had been rebuilt so tourist could experience what it might have been like in the old days. There were two streets like this, full of tea houses, gifts and food. It was very beautiful and my pictures do not do it justice. There was even a few street performers acting like bronze sculptures, very fun. I wish I could have stayed longer by myself but I was worried I would not find my way back to the hotel and I knew my guide (whose name means Dragon) had already taken enough time for me, especially since his son called asking where he was LOL, for he was only to escort me from the airport. Once back at the hotel I had dinner, a protein shake and nut bar, read my book and went to bed. I have been going to bed quite early since I arrived here to make sure I am not tired and so I have plenty of time to get ready in the morning, for say perhaps writing my blog like I am doing now. I will leave soon for the Panda Breeding Center so the next blog will definitely have fun pictures. I am pretty sure I have never seen a panda, or at least don't remember seeing one. If I did it must have been at San Diego when I was in 5th grade, I’m sure my mom can tell me if we did. Either way... I am pretending this is my first time since I don't remember the others SO YEAH! I'm going to see pandas! I hope there will be babies!

40: I was picked up by a different guide today since the one from yesterday had jury duty. I actually ended up liking todays guide better and thought of requesting he accompany me tomorrow, but he was already booked with a larger tour... oh well I guess. Todays activity included the Panda Research Base, a museum, lunch and then if time a visit to a local Taoist Temple. When we left to see the pandas it was lightly raining, so when we arrived we needed to use our umbrellas for the first half hour or so. It was quite fun to see the pandas. I saw many different ages, from adult to just a few months. Unfortunately I was not allowed to photograph the tiny ones so you will have to use your imagination. The “zoo” was very well designed and landscaped. You could tell they were very well funded. After walking around my guide mentioned that I could hold a 1 year-old panda if I liked, the catch is it cost $1,000 yen or $160 bucks. It was a lot of money but I thought what the heck once in a lifetime opportunity here SIGN ME UP! Let me just say he felt like all fur and was just like holding a big teddy bear. As you can see on the next page, I look like I am dressed to go to surgery. I thought it was so we did not give the panda any bad stuff, but soon realized it is because the panda is very dirty LOL. Sadly my pictures from the breeding center are not the best, it was very overcast so when I would zoom in for close-ups the light was too low and my pictures would look blurry :( Once we finished with the panda we headed to eat lunch. I tell you what... these places that are serving me must think Americans eat like pigs because they bring enough food sometimes to feed 3-4 of me. The food was good though, I am definitely eating a lot of rice since they cant serve me any wheat products. I did get served this tofu thing today which tasted good, but I could not get past the texture of the tofu and did not eat any, felt very bad about leaving all the food. | September 13, 2011 | Nothin' Beats holding a baby Panda

41: Panda Research Center

42: Do you think he will fit in my carry-on?

46: Once I finished up my meal we headed to the museum. The guide suggested we visit a closer museum since he said it was bigger (again trusted him, not sure if he lied or not). The museum was alright. To be honest I have never been one for museums unless there are natural history museums but I put on a good face and pretended to be interested. After that, he did something extra for me and took me to a local Taoist Temple, which houses the local peoples gods and religious beliefs. I really enjoyed the temple grounds and was glad we went. I could not take any photos inside the temples so again use your imagination, think Buddha statues but not quite. While at the temple grounds I had my fortune told by a master Taoist Monk. He had been given a cloth to signify his accuracy in predictions, but sadly when I asked him if my marriage would last, he lost me when he said boyfriend would jump from job to job and I need to hold my temper . I almost wanted to start laughing, but I kept a very stoic face. He did say a few right things though, that my boyfriend was a good man and we were good together and that I am impulsive and that I should not travel so far from home for my safety LOL. The other thing I found ironic about being told my fortune was at least 6 people stood around and watched and they all heard my fortune before I did, plus this monk did a lot of talking to my guide and all I got in return was a few short sentences. I wonder if things went wrong in the interpretation. | ... a museum

53: Taoist Temple

54: So I’m not going to lie. I had great expectations for today that sadly were not met. Don’t get me wrong it was still a fun day, just wasn't what I had envisioned in my head. To get started, first we had to drive quite a ways out of town (2 hours) to reach our two destinations of the day and, of course what do you know, I have to use the restroom. We had been driving for about an hour and I had not seen one gas station or town really. I kept seeing visions of peeing on the side of the road... I chose to hold it, thinking it can’t be that far. Eventually my bladder won and I mentioned I could use a toilet (they don’t say restroom). As luck would have it about 20 kilometers down the road a gas station appeared. Once we left and reached Leshan (the town with the buddha) we parked the car in the town and they said I would take the boat to see the Buddha. I said will I get to walk by the buddha, he was no no this is better, and I was like no I want to walk by the buddha. He was like no no no, you will do much walking at Emai Shan this is much better. So off to the boat I guess. As my luck would have it we would have to wait 40 minutes for the boat so we headed over to the buddha, what I wanted in the first place. Come to find out it was the driver who chose the boat, that way he would have less driving and we would be done with the buddha sooner. We got dropped off and entered the park. When “Dragon” tried to pass the entry gate they would not let me through so he had to call the driver to show his paper work. This not allowing him to enter was the theme of the day and I have concluded that the Chinese people who work at all the tourist spots are habitually angry because there is so much yelling and pointing I really wanted to know what was being said. Eventually all was good and we headed up the mountain to the temple and the buddha. Along the way up were a few smaller buddhas and a very cool dragon fountain. Apparently in early times the three rivers that meet at this place caused much water turbulence and many fishermen's lives were lost, so the Buddha was built to stop the death. The dragon fountain only shows the dragon tail and head, while the body in is the mountain frozen, the monks way of stopping the dragon from causing more trouble. The monk that started building the buddha almost had the money he raised for it stolen by the government because they did not believe he was going to use it to build the buddha, so he said he would gouge out his eyes to prove it, after he did one they let him keep the money... craziness!. Once we reached the top of the mountain you could only see the top of the buddha’s head and a huge crowd taking pictures. As “Dragon” and I tried to squeeze in so I could see, I got bitched out by a Chinese women (though I have no idea what she said) trying to photograph her boyfriend, you could tell he felt bad for me, he looked embarrassed by her actions and after her one shot let me up to the rail. From the top you can not see the whole buddha, but many people stick out there hand for pictures to look as though they touch him. I wanted to climb down the stairs to the bottom but my guide said we did not have time since the stairs we packed full. I kept asking but was told no, we will walk much at Emai Shan. After the buddha we explored the temple and the cave that was originally build as a tomb for the three monks that helps build the buddha over the 90 years it took to be built. | September 14, 2011 | The World's Largest Buddha

56: Leshan Buddha

61: After that we headed down the mountain to find the driver and go to lunch. Again they gave me so much food, I really need to remember to tell them to bring smaller amounts ::sigh::. All was good, they brought out this fried egg thing which was quiet tasty until I bit into something hard like bone and soon lost my appetite, anytime I find a UFO in my food it instantly kills my hunger. Next we were off to Emai Shan where I thought we were going to get to explore the mountain and many temples. But again no, we took a bus to the cable car area, which I have to say we almost didn't make it there. Our driver had a lead foot and I am pretty sure he blew a gasket because we all heard a big POP and soon the engine seemed like it had no pressure and died. After about 15 minutes the bus started again and we made it thankfully. I had told Dragon I wanted to hike the mountain up and take the cable car down so I could get some exercise and boy did I! The mountain was not what I had envisioned I had thoughts of seclusion and streams, but instead we kept walking by people’s houses and selling stuff! Talk about the land of gift shops. I have neglected to mention that in China you have to pay for everything. The “interstates” all have tolls, we had to buy entrance to park, bus fee, temple fee, cable car fee. HOLY BUCKETS! Dragon said that the Chinese people have to pay for government checks on their car once a year and yearly health exams after 50 if you have a driver’s license. I don’t see how anyone can afford to eat. He said the average salary is around 20,000 RMB or $3,127 bucks. Some people only make 2,000 RMB or $312. Yet the government pushes people to buy houses for 1,000,000 RMB ($156,000) so they will be a slave the house there entire life as Dragon puts it, and when I say house I mean a flat in a high-rise building.

62: Anywho... back to the mountain. Once we reached the top I was completely soaked on my head with sweat, Dragon kept saying do you need rest and I tried to explain it is a Johnson family trait to sweat a lot, in excellent shape, just sweaty LOL. He laughed very hard at that. The temple we visited was quite beautiful. Inside the main temple was giant bronze elephant which I really wanted to know how they built that sucker all the way up in the mountain. Though I also have to comment that if I had not wanted to hike up the mountain we would not have done any hiking or barely any walking around at all, so he lied when he said we would do much walking here. Also sorry that I don’t have much to say about the temple I get sooooo much information in one day that when I sit down to write about it I can’t remember much due to information overload, not much gets saved. If Adam was here I could tell you loads about the site, he is the one that is good at remembering that stuff, I just take the photos. Next we got on the cable car and headed down the mountain. This temple was only a small ways up, compared to all there was to see. I had hoped to see more than just one temple, but he seemed to know what he was doing at the time so I did not say much, for it was already 5:30 pm when we got on the bus back to the parking lot. We arrived back at the hotel by 8pm, when the schedule said 9pm, meaning I would have had time to climb to the bottom of the buddha. I’m not sure I liked the tour today. I felt that I did not get enough time for each spot. I would have rather done one or the other.

63: So I think I changed my mind about hiking up.. I'm getting all sweaty!

64: Emai Shan

66: Trying to get to and on the way to Lhasa | So the day started out great. I had breakfast, said goodbye to the the amazing shower (I forgot to mention the shower had very hot water, just no hot bath water). Once all packed-up and checked out I went to wait for the guide. Dragon was running 15 minutes late, so I started to worry, and my feelings were correct. Come to find out yesterday his mentally ill sister wandered off and the family had not yet found her so he was out late looking for her, very very sad. I felt awful that he had to take me to the airport when he needed to be looking for her, but was soon very glad he was there because all chaos soon ensued. Once at the airport I was reminded of something I should have checked. When I flew out of Kunming to Chengdu my ticket had the wrong passport number listed with it, but my guide was able to make the lady print my ticket anyways. So now here I am leaving for Lhasa and this lady says no way. So they argue a lot and then we have to go another desk. Where more arguing ensues. Since it is 11am here I cannot call anyone in the US, so after 40 minutes of arguing it was decided I would buy another ticket, so 1,670 RMB later I am heading back to check-in, where the lady then says I will have to wait to see if there is a seat. At that point my guide about lost it. What do you mean if there is a seat? She is the owner of two seats. For a small man he can be very loud and scary I thought the lady might cry. Eventually another guy came over and printed the ticket. I thought for sure the deck lady was going to send my back to some far off destination, but it showed up thank god. Once I found the gate I had 30 minutes to use the restroom and buy water, then sat down to wait. After much waiting and watching I concluded the flight was late since our plane was not there. It took quite a long time to offload the plane, clean, then reload putting us about an hour behind schedule. The flight was very uneventful. It was about 1 hour and 40 minutes and would you believe it included a meal, which has been my best airline food in a very long time. As we approached Lhasa, we passed the edge of the Himalayas, so every person on the plane was on the left side crowded the poor people by the windows. The clouds did not offer the best view so hopefully I will be on the correct side of the plane on my way out. As we came in to land the mountains we were flying over finally were brought into perspective, as in the photos you can see the clouds are just above the peaks. Once I collected my bag I met the guide and driver, where the guide presented me with a white scarf to welcome me and bring me luck (a Tibetan tradition). Then we were off on the newest road I’ve seen in China, to go to Lhasa. He said the new road had been completed just days before and cut the old two hour drive down to 45 minutes. The airport is 50 km from the town since it the only place flat enough for the runway. For you see I did not fly in on a small plane, it was an Airbus 330, so it had two seat on the sides and 4 in the middle. I think it might be due to the elevation needed to fly here, not sure. I just found it strange that the largest plane I have been on locally is going to the smallest town | September 15, 2011

68: Four Points Sheraton- Lhasa, Tibet

69: The drive to Lhasa took us through many newly built tunnels as well, plus you could see the construction for a new train system. Everywhere in China is new new new, I am glad I came when I did so I can experience as much of the old as possible before it is all tore down. I am sure my travel agent would not even recognize Lhasa, my guide said most of the buildings I was seeing where built within the last 8 years. The scenery on the way felt just like home and was a nice break from the bustling cities I have been in. Lhasa has about 400,000 people, big but no where near the millions of people I was experiencing before. Once we arrived at the hotel I said goodbye to my guide and settled in the room. I had hoped to explore the city some but when I asked which direction I did not understand so I just walked some to stretch my legs. I will explore more tomorrow since I now know where I am going after a Google map search. Gotta love having the Internet even all the way in Lhasa, which by the way I am above 11,000 ft right now, with peaks all around that reach over 15,000. The hotel is nice, but does seem a bit run down, I changed to this one after I read in reviews the other choose had bedbug problems. If I think this one looks run down, I would hate to see the other. I miss everyone and hope all our well!

70: Today was a full day of touring temples and past Dalai Lama homes. The first stop of the day was Jokhang Temple. This place was soooooo crowded! Hundreds, maybe more, of people were in line to pray and bring money/offerings to the many temple buddha’s. Many were outside praying as well. Once inside I started to get a tad claustrophobic. It smelled a tad with all the people, I was worried I might catch something from the people who may have come praying for better health LOL, I know what can I say I’m a germ-a-phobe. I wish I could have taken pictures, everywhere was beautifully decorated and oo many small rooms with different buddhas covered in so much money as well. People stuff it everywhere as an gift to buddha. My guide said about 90 monks live in the temple and it made me feel bad for them that they had to deal with all these people, tourists and locals everyday. After the tour of the temple we had time before our Potala Palace tour entry slot, so we walked the market called Barkor Street. It has been my favorite market so far. So many stands and wears. It was hard to pick. I will go back again tomorrow I think, but as of now I bought some bracelets and tibetan prayers flags. The price of everything is fairly reasonable, all you have to do to get your price is walk away and if that person will not sell the next stand down will sell it to you for your price. My guide suggested we show up early at the palace since most likely my tour group size of ONE will allow us to have early entry, and he was right. I really enjoyed walked the tall/long flights of steps to the top. I kept imaging what it would have been like hundreds of years ago and the palace was surrounded by a small village and nomads rather then the bustling town of today. Inside the palace had some spaces just like the temple but also inside were the tombs of all the past Dalai Lamas. The 5th Dalai Lama’s coffin was HUGE, and all the coffins were made of gold I was told. The 5th’s weighed about 1,500 pounds in gold! I am sorry I can’t give you more info I am having a hard time retaining most of the information because each day I learn so many new things and also because I often have to work so hard to understand the guide that once the moment is past I am trying to decipher the next thing he says and then I forget what we just talked about. | Walking in the footsteps of the Dalia Lama | September 16, 2011

71: Jokhang Temple

75: Potala Palace

78: Norbulingka Palace

79: Once we exited Potala Palace it was off to lunch, where my guide and I had a fun time ordering me something without flour. I ended up with veggies and fried yak meat (which is AWESOME by the way) and rice with tomato soup. This was also the first time my guide and driver joined me for lunch so it gave me time to ask more questions in between the awkward silence LOL. Apparently I must tour fast or things go faster with one person since all my tours seem to end sooner than planned. Since we were done early my guide took me to the locations of the Dalai Lama’s summer palace. It was a huge park with many different buildings; each were a different Dalai Lama summer home. I enjoyed looking at the most recent Dalai Lama house because since it was built in the 1950s it has some modern touches like a radio. Sadly he was only able to enjoy it for a few years.

80: Barkhor Street | Oh boy... a market! Wait a minute... you're telling me I have to haggle with these people? Crap. I hate haggling for stuff

82: Hmmm... I wonder if I will get in trouble for being here. The prayer flags make me think I should not keep hiking onward, but can't stop myself. Must take pictures of flags... | September 17, 2011 | Well sadly last night I felt my throat getting sore, so somehow I caught a cold either from one of my guides or on one of the many planes I have been on. So I now have a “ninja” mask to wear while on the planes. Today I woke up like every other day, got dressed and went to have my breakfast. I had just went up for a couple more items and right when I got back to my table the hostess was just about to give my table away, and since for the past 9 days that keeps happening to be I said, excuse me, I was sitting there. I didn’t say it mean or anything. The people hadn’t even sat down. So no big deal they sat at a larger table next to me. As I was cracking open my hardboiled egg the man turns around, I thought he was going to ask me some question when he instead says.. “Not to start the morning off on a bad note, but you should have just sat at another table since you did not leave a marker on the table”, he said that part in a calm voice like he was the voice of reason. So I said “I’m sorry, but it is just me (shrugs shoulders) So I don’t have away to leave...” “ He yells at he while making a violent hand gesture, "then you should have left a marker, or moved.” His anger was so shocking to me , plus the fact I already have a cold with itchy eyes, just made me want to cry. I just said "I’m sorry” and turned away, not wanting to cry in front of the jerk. I just could not wrap my head around why I should of had to give my table up when no one had even sat down. So I just half finished my plate and left, I could not control my emotions and needed to talk to someone to make me feel better. Sadly Adam was not home, but by chance I instant messaged Jenn and luckily she was online, so I was able to vent my story to someone. | The rude man... and two actual working monasteries

84: Drepung Monastery

86: I spent so much time talking to Jenn that I was running a few minutes late meeting with the guide in the lobby. Today’s plan was to explore two monasteries and have lunch. Both monasteries were neat but very similar, except one was under a lot of construction, so not very many pictures there. At the first one I got to hike a ways up a mountain to see more prayers flags. I also had a group of three Asian men stop me and each had to have there picture taken with me! They didn’t even ask they just stopped me and pulled out their camera. It was neat to get a glimpse of what Monk life is about. I also was allowed to take photos inside for 10-20 RMB, so I can give you all an idea what most other temples and such look like. They are all not exactly the same but similar, so that you can at least have a better visual then my terrible lacking of substance descriptions. Over all it was a good day, lunch was good as well. Though right before lunch sirens kept going off for like 20 minutes it sounded like an air-raid. No one seemed to care but it had me a tad freaked for a while. We also tried to mail my postcards, but would you believe every post office in Lhasa had run out of 80 cent local stamps! Today will be my last post for a few days. The hotel in Beijing does not have free Internet, but when I get to Xi’an I will have free Internet and will post then.

87: Sera Monastery

88: So today started out like any normal day. I got up at 7 am, slowly got dressed, ate my breakfast (while stealing some fruit for lunch) and went upstairs to finish packing for the plane to Beijing. The day had started out great for I had finally been able to reach Adam so I could see and hear his voice online. We talked for about 2 hours then I had to say goodbye and head to the airport. My guide took me to the post office one last time to see if any stamps had arrived. Thankfully they had but not the exact ones I wanted. So I ended up having to put four stamps on each postcard! Once I arrived at the airport is when all things went down hill. First when my guide checked me in, the passport issue I was told had been fixed had not been fixed and once again I almost was not let on the plane. Thankfully my guide talked them into letting me on. Then we walked to the security where we said our goodbyes, again my plane ticket does not match my passport, so the security officers almost did not let me through; they called another person over and thank god they let me through, since my guide had left an no one around here speaks any English. I had arrived quite early, it was just barely 1pm and my flight did not leave until 4pm, so I read my book and beat the first world of Super Mario Brothers. I had been so involved with entertaining myself and just what the check-in board said that I had failed to notice it was raining and no planes had left the airport since I had arrived. Here I was thinking I had chosen a great day to leave Tibet since it was cloudy and overcast and had sprinkled on the way to the airport... When 5:30pm struck the flight had been canceled, for what reason I don’t know, and the airline was putting us all on a bus and taking us to some hotel that I do not know, while my bag was to spend the night at the airport. I was very distraught, I did not know why we could not fly, and the weather did not look too bad once we got on the bus, hell a plane even took off while we waited. Once on the bus I learned that our plane had never landed and been sent back to Chengdu. In the airport I borrowed a security guard’s phone to call my guide, and he said to call him back in two minutes, but before I could I was ushered to a bus and soon was off to who knows where. I was on the verge of crying the entire time I was on the bus. Our plane did not leave until 9am, so all I could think about was how my tour group would be touring the world’s largest square and Forbidden City without me. I would not be arriving till around 2:30pm, at best. I met a nice American couple named Jim and Susie, who became my substitute parents and helped me feel better. They said don’t worry, we have anything you need. They even let me use there international phone, but I could not reach Kathy since it was 6 am and the number they gave me for the guide in Beijing was incorrect. I had no idea if they knew where I was or what was going on with me. | September 18, 2011 | Now I know why Brad Pitt spent seven years in Tibet

90: While on the bus I had a breakdown and my eyes teared up, but the nice Russian lady in front of me, Mila, held my hands and helped me calm down. I had another breakdown a few minutes later, but eventually I came to my senses. She later turned around and gave me a small gift. The way she did her best to make me feel better was so sweet and I really appreciated her effort. I eventually started laughing and joking. Once we arrived at the hotel we checked in, and thank god, it was nice and had a hairdryer and bathroom stuff. When we pulled in it said four-star, but we all joked that in the time it took us to drive there (which was almost 2 hours), it had dropped to a three star. They fed us dinner which was good, then I went up to my room, washed and dried my one pair of underwear then read my book, Sarah’s Key, and eventually finished it. Before I had finished reading I had been running around with my head cut off trying to figure out how to dial out of my room! No one at the front desk spoke English and my new friends from Arkansas were not in their room; later it turned out they had been given the wrong room number. I tried like three times back and forth up & down the stairs trying to make a stupid call; I almost wanted to throw the phone against the wall but thought better of it and then resorted to reading my book and going to sleep. At the airport I hoped to try Susie’s international phone before we took off, but sadly since she was busy trying to switch their flights I never got to use it. Today had started out so well and turned into the day from hell. So many questions, and no answers. Hell I didn’t even know where they took us till we got there and read the information in my room, and even then I still don’t know where that is. All I knew was we were not in Lhasa. I wonder if my guide had contacted the travel agency? I wondered if I would still get to see the Forbidden city or if I was out of luck? I wondered if I was going to still be going on the pedicab ride tonight? Today sucked ass and that is all there is to it. It was the first time on the trip I had become homesick and just wanted to go home, as I type this I still feel that way so many problems on this trip, it is so disheartening. It makes me wonder and worry what sort of crap I will have to deal with next. So yes, now I know why Brad Pitt spent seven years in Tibet, HIS FLIGHT GOT CANCELLED! I just hope they will let me on the plane today. I still worry about my passport issues and now I do not have my guide to explain my problem or help me buy a new ticket (no problem with that, did not have to recheck-in). As you read this, this problem will have already come and gone and I pray it all works out in the end. As a side note, I always say things happen for a reason. As our group waited on the bus a girl got very sick and was clutching her abdomen and they rushed her off the bus while a doctor attended her and then an ambulance picked her up. Had we taken off that would have happened in-flight and she would have most likely died on the plane. As her boyfriend took their stuff of the bus he said to my friend “today was her lucky day.”

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  • By: Erica H.
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  • Title: China Part 1
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