Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kowloon - Hong Kong Avenue of the Stars

I left my friend (Peter) in Hangzhou and I am back at a hostel in Hong Kong.  A tiny dorm room with 5 other dorm mates (3 men, 2 women)  One guy is from Canada, one from Austria, one from Spain, a young women from Russia and one from Ohio who is teaching English in Korea.  How's that for an International group!! This hostel is a dump. One toilet and shower for 12 people (another dorm next door) and right across from the laundry room where they are doing the hostel laundry all night.  The air conditioner doesn't work that well and it is extremely loud but it makes for a good story.  This place is called Chung King Mansion, downstairs is a bazaar (you have to fight your way through all the stalls to get to your room).  My dorm mates all booked at different hostel (one German Hostel, one Day and Night hostel, me Budget hostel) so how did we end up in the same tiny room.  Because it is own by the same corporation!! will get an ear full when I leave.  The good news it that I am in the center of town more or less (Hong Kong is many islands)!!  Today I went exploring, they have a very nice park near here and a museum, so I spent a few hours there.  I then went to the Avenue of the Stars (this was built in 2004 to honor Hong Kong Film stars), a lot like ours in Hollywood but not as many stars.  And guess what, they had Jackie Chan's hand prints and a statue of Bruce Lee!!!  After I went to the Art Museum they had a really interesting antiquity section.  So, here are my pictures of the day:

At the Park

The trees are amazing

Another beautiful tree

Inside the museum

These samples are from the drawer you can study them there

Back in the park can you see the bird?

Self portrait

The front of the hostel

Across the harbor In Hong Kong

Art deco before the Ave. of the Stars

Another art deco so cute!!

At the beginning of the Ave of Stars

Jackie Chan "Star"

Bruce Lee!!

Miss Piggy!!
Life Challenges: A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension...  Walter Oliver Holmes, Jr.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hangzhou - 12,000 Bridges

Peter and me at Leifeng Pagoda
My friend Peter met me at the train station and took me to Zheijiang International Hotel to stay. The next day he picked me up in his car at 9:30 and we went sightseeing.  Hangzhou is one hour south of Shanghai but has a lot of history.  It dates back to the Qin dynasty (221 B.C.).  Marco Polo passed through in the 13th century, saying that Hangzhou had a 100 miles of water vaulted by 12,000 bridges.  When the Mongols took over, they established their court in Beijing but Hangzhou remained as a prosperous commercial city.   It is famous for West Lake, originally a lagoon adjoining the Qiantang River, the lake didn't come into existence until the 8th century when the governor decided to develop the area.  It is quite magnificent and without a car it would take hours to travel around. Plus it was hot and humid and the air conditioning in the car was wonderful!!  Never thought I would like air conditioning but China has changed my mind!!  We went to the Leifeng Pagoda first, this Pagoda was built in 977 AD but collapsed in 1924.  During the renovations in 2001, Buddhist scriptures written on silk were discovered in the foundation.  Beautiful and amazing view of the lake but overcast  and muggy.  Next we went to a very famous restaurant called "Louwailou" founded in 1838, it's specialty is chicken and fish cooked in bag.  Story has it that a beggar found a chicken and wrapped it up in paper and bury it in the sand.  His friend was hungry and he came back to cook it and give it to his friend.  The chicken was so tender that the Emperor found out about it and came looking for the beggar and gave him the position of  the royal chef.   Well, I don't know about the story, but the chicken was excellent!! I have pictures!!  After we went to Lingyin Temple, famous Buddhist Temple, built in 326 AD and has been restored no fewer than 16 times due to war and calamity. During these 5 dynasties about 5000 monks lived in these temples. They have several temples and at least a thousand of the smaller Buddha statues.  I was told that these Buddhas are the largest in China.  So enough said, here are the pictures:

Entrance to the Leifeng Pagoda

Going up the escalator 

Inside showing the remains of the earlier Pagoda

A view from the Pagoda

Another Temple I think Jingci Temple

The chicken in a "bag"

So tender and favorful

Our lunch shrimp, and lotus root with rice very sweet

One of hundreds of Buddhas carved in stone

River  from the West Lake

Another Buddha

This one was in a cave

One of the ones in the Temple, HUGE

Another HUGE one

These were smaller but so colorful

Thousands of these with different faces

Life Challenge:  Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow....  Helen Keller

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Be Careful in Shanghai

Shanghai is an amazing city so modern compared to other cities in China but if you go please be careful, there are a lot of scams here. I read in my Lonely Planet book about young art students going up to men and asking to have their picture taken and then they take them to a "tea house" where they end up spending a lot of money. But it not only art students that does this, in one day I was scammed three times. The first one was by a young women and her friend who "wanted" me to take their pictures and then they wanted to be my best friend "come, we are going to an auction where a lot of foreigners will be", what??  I kept asking, lets be friends. she said.  When I said I was a Peace Corps Volunteer who made no money and I couldn't afford to buy anything they quickly walked away ( what, you don't want to be my friend!!).  Whew, that was close so  I am walking to People Park and a couple who stop me by "Peace Hotel" (this hotel was built in 1929 original called the Sassoon House where Charlie Chaplin, Charles Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward would stay during there visit to Shanghai!!), please can you take our picture. Sure, no problem, oh, the wife asked " where are you going"? "We are going the same way, we are tourist and heard about this tea house, come with us it will be fun".  Before I knew it we were sitting down in this tea house but my new best friends were just talking away when I ask "so how much is this tea"?  Oh, don't worry about it, "yes I need to know, I am on a budget, can I see the price list?" The women kept trying to take my attention off the cost and finally showed me the price list (which was outrageous) a small cup of tea for "energy" was 50 yuan ($10.00) and they were going to have 8-9 cups (already set up by the tea person) of different kinds.  I got up and said, sorry, I can't afford this but you two stay and enjoy yourself and I left rather quickly!  I believe my angel was with me this second time too!!.  I didn't talk to anyone the rest of the day, I took a city bus tour (jump on, jump off) and went to the Shanghai museum.  I did get to People's Park and Square and the museum was incredible.  This country has so much history it is unbelievable.  Oh yes, I said three scams.  As I was walking back to my hostel, a young women came up to me and asked me to take her picture.  I looked at her and took her Iphone and snapped a picture.  She started her speech and I just looked at her and walked away saying "you got to be kidding".  Here are my pictures:

On the Bund walking to People's Park

Built in the 1920's, Roosevelt's family refurnished it to a Grand Hotel

Peace Hotel Sassoon Family built this

This statue is on the Promenade

At the Park

Near Yuyuan Gardens (on the Bus)

These Lions were outside the museum

So Majestic

Inside the museum 5 floors beautiful

Furniture gallery

Costume gallery

Head dress

Life Challenge:  Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me...  Randall Terry  Fooled me three times, you deserve what you get!!! A.M. Carlos

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