Monday, November 15, 2004
We are now out of China (not really, but let's pretend, ok?). We are in the Hong Kong airport right now on a layover (2.5 hours worth) and they have free internet, so here I am! Aren't you lucky?
Why do I say tetris? Because one of the stores here has a little portable tetris machine for about $10 that we are going to buy (only 2 AAA's needed and included!). Very exciting! I talked R out of the portable dvd player. That was a silly (though intriguing) notion.
What to say? China Part I is now over. A bit saddish, but I'll wait to cry my tears into a tropical drink (or beer) on a beach in a couple days. I'll send my ending (for now) impressions later. We ended up spending a bunch of our last couple of days with Jason and Kitty(sp?), which was great. We got an insider's opinion (Kitty is Chinese) and an outsider's inside opinion on things. Very interesting. But that is for later. 3 hours of sleep bodes better for nonsensical ramblings and hyperbolic story telling. Let's get it on!
Beijing. Here's what we did:
Forbidden City (old home of the dynastic emperors, forbidden to outsiders [non-fancy types] until not that long ago)
The Summer Palace-peaceful playtime place for the emperors
The Great Wall (impressive as hell; good story)
Lama Temple (damn big buddha. won the world record for 'biggest buddha carved out of one big damn tree'. Not sure how stiff the competition was for that one, but impressive. and a peaceful respite from the city[the temple area, not the large wooden buddha])
Peking Duck-darn good fare. Not much meat (the skin is the tasty delicacied part. the meat is made into a soup) but tasty tasty tasty!
Squid on a stick. Pics were taken and will arrive eventually. Also to be found on a stick in the area that was et: scorpions, dung beetles, fish (whole), whole baby quails, and more. Good pics. Made a new friend and we swapped hats and shoulder grabbed for posterity
Cheese. Found some decent french cheese (first cheese since leaving home)
Jason and Kitty. Thanks for taking the time to show us around. You guys are great, and I hope we weren't too big a dead weight for you. Jason-midwest farmer hick type speaking Chinese; very impressive
Michelle arrived and hasn't tired of us yet. Fun times; I think she's getting used to my abuse. No worries, I am sure most of that will shift to Kristine tonight.
Dvds and cds. Sent a box home yesterday (slow mail. 2-3 months, heads up parents). Included in the box were 12 dvds and a cd. Cheap cheap cheap. (any maybe not too legally obtained). Whoompah!
That's the bulk of it. What? What happened at the Great Wall? ok.....(fade out wavy like to dream remembering sequence)....
At breakfast (omelet and 4 pieces of toast and juice) we met 2 Aussies and a UK girl. They had the same plan as us (ride out to one section of wall, hike 10K to another section then bus it home) so we joined forces, rented a van-ish thing and off we went. At the drop off point(about a 1/4 mile and many stairs down from the wall) the welcoming committee waited-about 7 or 8 vendors at the ready. Spying them, we also prepared. The doors of the van burst open and we mounted our attack on the hill/steps. They laughingly kept pace with us, as they walk all this daily. We tried. Gaining the top of the wall, we took some pics and I started talking with one of the vendors, a very nice'farmer' (she said) lady from down in the valley (we were off in no-man's land). She was my friend the next couple hours. She didn't pester at all, but supplied info and acted as guide and friend. Even taught me some Chinese words that I have since forgotten. The wall is very impressive. Got some good pics and was wowed. I highly recommend checking it out. The crowds were very small, our 'tails' not aggressive and in fact friendly and pleasant to hang out with. Halfway thru my friend said that she had to turn around to head back to where we started off, but that if I made it back there (no chance) that I could buy one of her GW pic books. Instead I bought it there.Overpriced I am sure, but very beautiful pix. Besides, I did like her and had no issue paying more than necessary for the book. Who has the money (even unemployed)? Oh yeah, me. My good deed for the day, if you will. She even gave me a prayer bead bracelet for 'free'. Nice lady,we took a pic and off she went. A short time later we stopped and ate lunch on the Wall overlooking beautific sights. Awesome.
Trouble began. As we neared the end, we ran into 3 guys hanging out at one of the 'guard stands' (or whatever they are called. look it up) collecting a fee for the upcoming portion of the GW. Well, we'd paid 30 Yuen ($1US ~= 8Yuen) at the beginning, and had had no intimation of this added charge. Skepticism ran rampant amongst us (esp. after we paid and saw the date on the official looking tix-2002). One of theAussie guys got all fired up, calling the men thieves and maybe tryingto push past (before we paid). Not good, an uncalled for response (over about $3.50 US), but it was the principle, you know? Whatever. On we went. And 5 minutes later happened upon a suspension bridge witha 5 Yuen charge. Again, less than $1US, but this time there was lots of yelling and the Aussie tried a couple of times to shove his way past. Overblown and unnecessary in my opinion. Again, who has money? I paid the 5Y, ran across the bridge and up the next set of stairs (oof. too much work!) to check out the exit to appease minds that no further charges awaited us. None did. And I talked to a few westerners, all of whom knew about that second charge (2 comanies working either end of the hike). Oops.
That was all. Not too exciting, but it left a tiny sourness in my mouth. Not so much from being 'cheated' (we were not), but the quibbling over minute amounts of $. Call me a sucker, but it ain't worth the effort or brain damage.
More on that topic later (maybe).
I think I have gone beyond my free 30 minutes here. Besides, tetris awaits. An hour 20 until our flight. But we are already back in the warmth! So nice!
All of you take care (or whatever it is that you do) and I'll be chatting at you from Thailand. HOPEFULLY, internet will be easy to find and cheap, and maybe I'll be able to access my own blog and stop harassing my poor mom.
Added notes I've forgotten along the way:
Early last week I was in the shower washing my hair, and noticed that it was all tangled and knotted. Hm. That's new. I started thinking; I haven't combed my hair since high school (I think), and haven't brushed it since September (it's a bit longer now). So I got out and used the cheap plastic small comb the hotel provided, and combed my hair! Very exciting. I even kept the comb for future use! I am sure my hair looks good under my hat.
I have been shampooing my beard. Yes, it's that long. Last night I combed it as well. Don't fret. I am buying a razor when we get there and it's gone by tomorrow night at the latest. For now
In the box sent home I included a pair of pants, my suntype hat, some undies (teehee!) and I forget what else. We're slimming down the pack!There was a book in there (or 3).
The Idiot, Dostoevsky. Very very good book. I have about 40 pages left, so I won't have to read any depressing Russian authors on the beach (happy, Craig?).
I am the grand master flash champion of double solitaire in China!!! I beat up on R last night and she went to bed all depressed that she lost (on a related note: CH-R was going to buy and send you a pack of cards with a note telling you to practice DS. I talked her out of it). Way to go me!
Too much babbling. Need foody treats.
This is one fancy airport! There are perfumeries all over. It's weird-not much of that (at all?) seems to be worn in China, so it's only the random overindulging French types that have exposed us to good smelling things the last 7 weeks. Maybe I should go stand in a shop for a while so as not to suffocate my neighbor in the next flight (though I do smell like roses....)