Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Xian and Shanghai - Hello Jackie Chan

Me defending myself :) Muslin Quarters
It has been extremely hot in Xian well over 100 degrees so checking out areas during the heat of the day is out of the question.  The teacher from Abu Dubai and I went to the Muslin Quarters on Saturday morning, it was like a carnival. There were street vendors making sesame treats and taffy.  They were selling all kinds of foods (which I did not try nooooo way) but my adventurous friend did. After a couple hours in the Muslin Quarters a welcome break at Starbucks!!  In the evening we went to see the Big goose Pagoda, the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.  The old city walls which surrounds the city, was built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, 12 meters high and has a dry moat. Oh yes, they do have a Walmart here!!!  Here are some pictures.
This is the Walmart

Big Goose Pagoda

The Front Door

The Drum Tower

Taffy Pulling in the Muslim Quarter

Pounding a sesame treat

The next day, I had to take a shuttle to the airport to catch my flight to Shanghai.  Of course I got lost trying to find the hotel where the shuttle was leaving from.  Going underground to cross the street you can miss one turn and be lost forever!!  But I kept asking for directions, and this one couple actually walked me directly to the shuttle bus.  The trip to Shanghai was uneventful but I did not get the direction from the hostel on how to get there.  But studying the map, I knew what metro stop to get off and I figure I would go from there.  As it turned out, it was right in the middle of the touristy section of Shanghai.  When I got off the metro I walked into a zillion people (of course).  I saw this guy and he had an IPhone and helped me go in the right direction.  After that it was just a matter of asking the police which way to go.  It was an incredible walk to the hostel, if I wasn't so tired I would have taken pictures, it was all light up and I passed a Sheraton, a Waldorf Astoria, and a Marriott, so then I go down a side street and here is my hostel “Captain Hostel” ($45.00 for four nights!!).  The next morning, I woke up and made coffee.  I needed to plan my day, I decided to go and get my train ticket to Hangzhou first and then walk along the river.  As it turned out, I bought my ticket and right across the street was a really nice restaurant.  I had steak and eggs (about $8.00).  The first steak I've had since being back home over a year ago.   I am definitely going back to that place.  I then took a cruise down the river, it was hot but there was a nice breeze.  It is probably in the high 80’s here so it is much cooler than Xian and Beijing but the humidity is still quite high.  So after I bought some fruit and went back to the hostel until evening. I took some evening pictures, here are the pictures:

At the airport in Xian - Sleep boxes

Buildings are amazing

The "Bund" 

Near the river 

Same bull as on Wall Street (see below)

Explanation of the Bull

On the River Cruise

Financial Center

Oriental Pearl Tower

Same tower but at night

Boat cruising on the river

Night Life

Life Challenge: The priviledge of a lifetime is being who you are... Joseph Campbell

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Terracotta Warriors

I took a fast train to Xian ( pronounce say-shin 4 1/2 hours), speeds were up to 302 km per hour and it was so pleasant.  I met a very nice Chinese women and we talk almost the whole way.  There was a group of tourist from America on the same train and the women I was with, thought I was with that group.  When I told here I was by myself, she was surprised.  She worked for China Oil and was being picked up by her company and offered to take me part way to my hostel.  That would be great I told her.  She dropped me off at the subway station and I got off where the directions that the hostel gave me to get off and tried to following it with no luck.  After asking a lot of people (who did not speak English but the directions was also in Chinese) a man on a motor scooter stopped to help.  He kept asking the locals where the hostel was and he finally knew where it was.  He took my luggage and put it on the front of the scooter, oh dear he is going to take me there.  So, with my skirt I was wearing, I hopped on and prayed I wouldn't die tonight!!  As he darted through traffic I thought how funny it was and knew if I didn't make to the hostel at least it would be a good epitaph (here lies Annette, died in China riding through traffic on a scooter!!!!).  But, as it happened God's angels were watching over me (again!!) and I made it to the hostel in one piece (and my luggage too!!).  I gave the guy 5 yuan (about a $1.00) for the ride.  As I got off the scooter, about 15 young people came out of the hostel and just kind of stared at me.  I got my bag and went into the hostel laughing all the way.  When I checked in they only had one bed and it was the top bunk, darn, hate the top bunk.  They told me the next day that they would change my bed to the bottom, once someone checked out.  No problem.  I signed up for the Terracotta Warrior tour the next day.  The tour started at 9 am and I met a young women from the East Coast that is working in Abu Dubai as a teacher.  The day was very hot and humid, the bus was air conditioned but the pits weren't and again there were thousands of tourist mostly from China that visited the sites as well.   Walking into Pit 1 and seeing all of the soldiers that have been uncovered is overwhelming.

A little bit of background for those who don't know who the Terracotta Warriors.  In 1974 peasants drilling for water uncovered a vault that led to the discovery of soldiers and horses in battle formation. It is said to have over 6000 soldiers though they have only uncovered 2000.  Pit 3 is said to be the headquarters of this army.  It contained 72 warriors and horses.  There are two types of horses the Chinese and Mongolian (it is said the Mongolian are the shorter stronger horse that pulls the chariots whereas the Chinese horses are the faster ones). No two faces are alike and the very first warrior was the kneeling archer the only one in the pit that was fully intact. All the craftsman that constructed these warriors (said to have used the slaves as faces of the soldiers) were killed once they completed the work (so as to keep this secret from outside the dynasty).  In Pit 1 was the infantry and was accompany by 35 chariots though the chariots were made of wood and long since disintegrated. The color was vivid on the soldiers but once they were uncovered within hours the color dissipated and only the red color stayed. I bought a book signed by the peasant who discovered the warriors (he is now in his 80's).  The book is very informative and has a lot better pictures then the ones I took but here they are:
Train Station Beijing

Fast train I was on AWESOME

My hostel in Xian

Entering the Terracotta Warriors

Picture of the first one found - kneeling archer

The real one-fully intact

This one with a horse

This was Pit 3 some soldiers  were not completed (no heads)

Pit 1

Still Pit 1 the Infantry

Life Challenge: Age is an issue of mind over matter..  If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.... Mark Twain

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square

Oh my goodness… Where do I start, I can’t believe I am here; yesterday I was at the Great Wall and today I am at Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. There were a zillion people with me too!!  I got off the subway at Tienanmen West (should have gotten off at Tienanmen East) so I had to cross the street and it is underground.  Well, so did about a million other people.  Police were trying to do crowd control and I was caught up in it. I couldn't go forward or backward.  I almost panic there was so many people the crowd was underground and we were not moving.  It was getting hotter and hotter (I thought about when people do panic and what happens), after about 15 minutes they let us get through to the other side but we had to go through security first.  People were pushing and shoving it was a mad house.  Once we got through security and up the stairs to the other side of the street, it was okay. The square and city are so massive it didn't matter how many people were there, we could all walk around easily.  It was amazing, you can see by the pictures.  There is only one way in and one way out of the Forbidden City so you have to walk completely around the City to get back to the subway.  I didn't eat breakfast and I started to get hungry after a few hours of walking around and I saw a stand that had “hamburgers” and bought one.  I thought about it as I was eating it, it was not a “hamburger” in the regular sense of the word (what was I thinking). It was actually “ham” (I think and I hope).  I was worried for most of the day that I would get sick, but so far so good.  Actually, I have not been sick yet but I am extremely careful (except for the “hamburger” stupid me) of what I eat.  Before I got back to the hostel, I bought fruit (watermelon, bananas, peach and papaya), the cost was about $2.50.  The peach I will peel before I eat it, and I ate the watermelon, very sweet and delicious. 

A little information about the Forbidden City. The city is surrounded by a 52 meter wide moat. In former time, the price for uninvited guest was instant execution (thank God that changed!!). It was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the construction of the buildings took fourteen years from 1406 to 1420.In the Ming dynasty and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was the imperial palace where twenty-four emperors ascended the throne and exercised their strong power to the nation. The Forbidden City is in the heart of Beijing and is China’s largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings and the largest palace complex in the world.  It was off limits for 500 years during this time as it was the reclusive home to two dynasties of imperial rule until the Republic overthrew the last Qing emperor.

Tienanmen Square 

That is the Forbidden City

Coming out of the underground 

Going to Forbidden City

Another view of the entrance

After Entering

Lion on either side of the Palace

Explains the Gates

You can see all the people Main Palace

So many beautiful buildings

Another view of the main Palace

Another Palace

Explains the Cypress Trees

Imperial Garden

This tree was Beautiful

Look at the knots on this tree

Have no idea what this building was!!

Restaurants on the way to my hostel

Life Challenge:  You are always a student, never a Master. You have to Keep moving Forward.... Conrad Hall

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

798 Art District China

Art Gallery
This area of disused factories was built by the East Germans in the 1950’s has been turned into art galleries and restaurants. I had to take the subway and bus to get there.  This place was highly recommended to me at a coffee shop I found.  (See attached pictures).  The guidebook said it would be 6 kilometers from the subway station and cost 2 Yuan but when I got on the bus, it was 6 Yuan and a 45 minute bus ride (I realized coming back that I got off the subway too early). It is located in the heart of Beijing with skyscrapers all around.  The galleries were fun and I even found a piece of jade (a grasshopper) made by a student for my sister.  She had asked if I could pick up some jade from here and I wasn't sure what I could find but this was perfect. I walked around and saw some unusual art. They love cats stores here (but I haven't seen any cats only dogs) but it was an interesting day.  Chinese are a lot different than Japanese.  When I am on the subway here, it is who gets the seat first and it doesn't matter if it is female or male young or old.  There isn't a priority. Japanese always give up there seat to women and elders. There are so many people on the subway it is pushing and shoving so you better hold your own!!  I only got on the wrong train once and I caught my mistake immediately and got off the next stop and hop on the right train.  The subway is clean, fast and efficient; it takes you to all the train stations and the airport. Beijing is not as clean as Japan but they are trying to recycle, and there is an odor that is not pleasant and there are a lot of homeless people here.  I was told that Beijing population is 31 million and everywhere there is congestion.  The government has restricted the Internet so I could not log on to my blog, Google or Facebook unless I have a special Internet site (which I bought for a month).  I appreciate my freedoms even more when you learn that life in other countries is so different than ours. Most people take these privileges for granted until you don’t have them.

Sign out front

The building still quite old

Love the art deco

Another interesting piece of  Art

This is the "cat" store

Kiss Me was name of this piece

Outside a cafe

Even the graffiti was beautiful!!

Restaurant where I ate those are mailboxes

My lunch and no English was spoken!!

One of the many skyscrapers!!

Life Challenge: Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…..  Martin Luther King Jr.