How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


Zhahai to Magnetic Macau

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

I’m not sure when the bus switched to the left side of the road. I blinked as vehicles passed alongside on the wrong side. This was a huge surprise and a shock. First unexpected palm trees and then

First agenda item: a bus tour of the Macau. We gawked like children, at least I did and cannot say exactly how everyone else reacted. Cameras clicked in such rapid succession, it sounded as if a bomb might go off. We’d arrived at The Monte Carlo of Asia, the Las Vegas of the East.

Lunch Buffet:

Salad fixings

  • Red cabbage
  • Romaine
  • Baby corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Cukes
  • Chickpeas
  • Italian dressing

Main

  • Baked Ox Tongue with creamy cream cheese
  • Roasted Chicken with chili and white wine
  • Red kidney beans stewed with pork
  • Fish Fillet with beer batter
  • Sautéed mixed vegetables
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce
  • Rotini with red pepper sauce
  • Fried rice Chinese style
  • Steamed white rice
  • Japanese Pork Curry
  • Pizza
  • Buns
  • Congee
  • Chocolate cake
  • Pound cake
  • Red Bean Pudding
  • Stewed pear in red wine
  • Finger sandwiches
  • Cold cuts (2 kinds)
  • Potato salad
  • Pork
  • Sardines, Portuguese style
  • Coffee, tea, water. Can’t recall if there was beer. (Maybe to order?)

(I couldn’t read several scribbled items due to my rushed handwriting)

The driver dropped us off in front of the Fireworks Factory. A new local guide, Cheryl, met us. Our luggage was taken off and sent ahead to our hotel as we scurried behind the guide in the opposite direction.

© 2015Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

© 2015Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

Up a hill, we followed the flag-carrying guide lost on the outside parameters of the French group. Next stop: Old Macau (a little history).

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Macau Quick Facts

  • 75% income comes from the casinos
  • Gambling allowed only in Macau, nowhere else in China
  • 29 million visitors to casinos in 2013
  • Run by Chief Executive (must be Chinese, local person, and local citizenship)
  • Runs for five-year term, only re-elected once
  • Only power of Parliament is bigger than Chief Executive
  • Can vote from 18-years of age
  • Port-based laws: have own police, laws, money, postage stamps
  • Is visa-free
  • Has three bridges
  • Status of Macau now 440 years
  • Macau Flower
  • Home of Macau Grand Prix. Circuit is like Monte Carlo (3.7 miles)
  • Macau Old Garrison
  • Watch your belongings. This is a tourist city.
  • Narrow streets
  • Comprised of two islands 29.5 square km

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  • Before 1993, only 17.3 square km. Close to doubled now.
  • Language: Chinese (Cantonese).
  • Portuguese almost never spoken anymore
  • Schools teach Chinese, not Portuguese
  • Portuguese (about 2% of population) are Catholic, need children to be baptized
  • Chinese prefer to send children to Chinese schools and keep their own religion
  • Three major religions: Buddhist, Taoist, and Catholic

Video by: MichaelRogge

* * *

Next time on December 15th – Holy Cow! So this is Macau.

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. I hope to return but when is the question. Thank you for your supportive reading, reblogging, and tweeting. I DO appreciate your kind and continued follows far beyond my inadequate words.

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Zhongshan to Lollygagging in Zhuhai

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The day began with a wake-up call at 6:08 a.m.

Breakfast was outstanding! The best one so far. It’s as if they had pulled out all the stops. We weren’t just tourists, but special visitors.

 Breakfast

  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon slices cut in the shape of cleavers
  • Sliced dragon fruit (first time on any buffet so far)
  • A wide selection of rolls, white and whole wheat
  • Whole apples, pears and baby papaya (lots and lots)
  • Six various dry breakfast cereal + milk
  • Three kinds prepackaged yogurt
  • A cheese plate, including blue cheese and gouda (first time this trip)
  • Five kinds of jam, including pineapple (Gosh, they were good.)
  • Peanut butter
  • Bacon, and chicken and beef sausages
  • Eggs boiled and sunny-side up
  • Romaine lettuce and fixings for salad
  • A whole section for hot food: rice, green vegetables, baked beans etc.
  • Coffee and tea replenished as soon as empty (all other hotels we refilled our own)

The service had been the best thus far as well.

We held back until the French Group was seated on the bus. I expect each of them had staked out his and her seat from the beginning. The worry it might be crowded, since the French group had huge carry-ons, soon evaporated. This was a 48-seat bus, but the overheads weren’t tall enough for my square overnight bag. Two seats across the aisle from Sue and I were empty. Soon we stashed our paraphernalia on them to keep the seats company.

The bus had left the hotel at 7:50 a.m. and the tour guide was still talking French at 8:37 a.m. Some of our group understood French. I managed with a little guesswork but missed most of the content. It occurred to me,  most information shared with the tour guide’s original group would likely be in French. We were outnumbered, after all. He made attempts to include the English speakers but the translations were much abbreviated.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved

Lots of green spaces along the roadway: trees, shrubs, flowers; everything trim and neat. Gorgeous boulevards in Zhuhai. A water truck in the inside lane supplied water for the plants. Banyan trees  (small leaves and wispy beards hanging from branches) shaded one side of the road and palm trees decorated the other. I wasn’t certain where we were until the Fisher Girl statue came into view, and kept forgetting we were even in China. I blamed it on the palm trees and the presence of so many Caucasians

IMG_0707

                                                                    © 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved

The bus stopped at tourist trinket shops around 9:15. The ladies lined up for the Happy House before heading down to the water to view the famous Fisher Girl and learn about her story. The highway we crossed to walk there was a danger to our safety: four busy lanes with fast traffic.

More Images of Fisher Girl

It has been unusual to see beggars or anyone with disabilities. I have where and when we had seen a few. My guess is they are well hidden and not allowed around well-beaten (tourist) paths. I couldn’t resist taking this fellow’s picture. When he realized what I’d done, he yelled at me but we walked on in a desperate hurry.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved

Time for shopping and lollygagging over, I felt our group held back again as if we were the forgotten branch of the family. Don’t get me wrong, our fellow travelers were friendly and polite and yes, they spoke English a lot better than I managed French. Next stop, mysterious Macau at last.

~ * ~

Next on December 8th:  Zhuhai to Magnetic Macau

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. I hope to return but when is the question. Thank you for your supportive reading, reblogging, and tweeting. I DO appreciate your kind and continued follows far beyond my inadequate words.

 


Guilin: Elephant Trunk Park

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

I can’t recall when our bus changed from a 12-passenger to a full sized for our tiny group of eight. (Yangshuo or Guilin?) Honest. A full-sized bus! Made us feel special I suppose. After lunch, we headed to Elephant Trunk Park. It was a good day for a slow walk around but soon became boring as we stayed longer than we needed. This time, Chinese girls took a particular liking to Ernesto and begged to be photographed with him. By now we knew they like to have pictures taken with the foreigners.

Quick Facts:                           

  • Guilin is not a big city: population only about 1 Million
  • Guilin has 2 rivers and 4 lakes
  • International football academy is here
  • Known for strawberries and Calamondin (I think). They look like tiny oranges)
  • Lots of foreigners have come to Guilin since 1980
  • Plenty of open spaces / large parks (pay fee) and small ones (free)
  • Many nurseries along the highway/lots of peach trees
  • 90% who come, like it
  • The River Li divides the city into east and west
  • Taxi costs 10 Yuan anywhere (about $1.66 USD)
  • Garbage is collected every single day
  • Biggest pollution from cars and factories, not from garbage
  • Recycling done carefully
  • Some garbage incinerated
  • Government provides rat poison if required
  • Rats not a problem in the city
  • In the countryside, rats are still eaten
  • Welfare for people who cannot work, but a tiny amount
  • Chinese Welfare Lottery is illegal but people buy tickets
  • Selling lottery tickets only allowed if portion goes to social/charity endeavors
  • Ticket sellers probably give just enough to stay under the radar
  • Income taxes: 5% for regular people / 10% for the rich
  • No land taxes because you don’t own the land, but must pay to renew 70-year lease
  • Farmers trust their wells because it’s free
  • Wells do not get tested at all
  • Water supplied by government/cost per amount used like in Canada

After the park, we finally unloaded our luggage and checked out the new hotel. My apologies for the fuzzy pictures. The girl is from a particular ethnic minority, but I’m not sure which one. Our guide was no help.

More Quick Facts

  • Banyan Trees
  • Streets edged by Camphor trees (smell nice and keep bugs away)
  • Cannot make money in this city
  • Government pays to keep out pollution and manufacturing
© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (hotel courtyard)

Dinner:

  • Ying and Yang soup (egg white and green tea for design)
  • Dumplings
  • Panko dipped spring rolls
  • Soy and chili sauces for dipping
  • Carp with celery, water chestnuts, and cucumber
  • Celery, water chestnuts, and pearl onions
  • 3 large (pork balls surrounded by sliced cucumber (center uncooked)
  • battered and spiraled eggplant
  • Batter-dipped chestnuts, deep-fried
  • White rice
  • Orange wedges in skins
© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (The soup)

Our dinner restaurant had many rooms for patrons. The waitress wore something like Bluetooth technology and carried on a conversation with someone as she delivered food. The farther south we went, the angrier the conversations sounded.

Someone cut a piece from one (of three) of the huge pork balls for a taste. The next person cut through the center, revealing raw pork. We all looked at each other. What to do? Finally, the waitress came back serving a nearby table. We waved her over and explained about the raw meat. She continued her funning conversation in the sphere and stopped long enough to inform us it was not raw. She picked up a fork and mashed the pork ball till it flattened. “Is okay.  Is okay. Is okay.” Her voice escalated until it sounded like yelling (maybe scolding). Smacking down the fork, she left in a huff. Needless to say, no-one touched the pork.

No doubt about it, the pace has slowed from the initial fast pace 19 days before.

~ * ~

Next on November 3rd. Flight to Guangzhou

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~ 

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. I hope to return but when is the question. Thank you for reading. I DO appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express. Please bear with me.


					
		
	


Yangshuo to River Li

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After breakfast, the bus driver headed through the Yangshuo countryside to the Li River.

Quick Facts

  • Yangshuo is known for pomelo and persimmon trees
  • Smoking and drinking the hardest vices to control
  • Cigarettes very cheap: as low as $1:00 per pack
  • 90% of men smoke
  • Restaurants have ‘No Smoking’ signs but cannot enforce (afraid to lose customers)
  • Cigarettes bring in taxes (so no smoking not yet imposed)
  • Phoenix Tail Bamboo is used to make clothes and underwear, softer than cotton

More Quick Facts

  • Chinese people are never quiet; always talking about everything around them
  • They cook and eat dog here, using lots of spices to flavor the meat (i.e. orange peel)
  • People in the country don’t like their pictures taken because you are stealing their spirit (shorten their lives)
  • Don’t like pictures taken of babies, especially, but sometimes, they will charge money (?)
  • Because of tourists, the locals make a good life
  • Vegetable stands everywhere tourists pass
  • Homegrown vegetables + rice, fruit
  • Countryside littered with paper and garbage until you reach the city

Tidbits

At the concert the previous night, no-one clapped, no-one shut-up; everyone had a camera taking pictures and videos. A sea of cameras lit up the dark like candles throughout the audience. What a sight.

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All land is owned by the government. If you want to build a house, you must apply to the Village Committee (like a village government) and apply to lease the land for 70 years. Sometimes, you can renew the lease and pass your house, apartment, condo or especially farms, until the government has other plans for the land your family has lived on for hundreds of years.

We stopped at an old farmhouse along the way to the River Li for our cruise. Here a Caucasian tourist tries out the old-fashioned broom.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                 © 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Down a country road, lined with stands of food and trinkets for sale, we followed Lily, our guide. The people stared at us and we tried not to stare back. Our cruise boat was old and rusty, run by locals and not what I’d call clean. No health and safety issues here. The gangplank had wood rot (holes in it) and I stepped carefully. We sat topside instead of inside on old wooden chairs (and a couple new benches) as the weather was co-operative. The locals must earn a living any way they can. Of course, there were trinkets inside for tourists as well as soft drinks.

We were about 25 tourists onboard. One woman with her son and daughter and another mother with her daughter (all in early teens) and a couple families of flip-flop-clad Australians with six youngsters between six and 14 were all onboard. I felt in good company in my flip-flops. No way could I have worn runners. My feet at this point felt broken.

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We passed water buffalo on the shore and for the first time, noticed countryside litter: plastic bags and empty cigarette packages. Electrical towers were seen in the weirdest places, in the middle of nowhere, but most farmers still live in the old ways. They have a well, but no plumbing.

Winter (January / February) is not good for tourists. It is too cold and there is no heating system here. One must sleep in a coat. On the other hand, summer is hot and humid and the opposite around July. Another drawback, the water level is high on the River Li and not good for water travel because it is too fast and dangerous.

~ * ~

River Cruise Additional Links:

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangxi/guilin/li_river.htm

~ * ~

Next on October 6th: More Yangshuo on to Guilin

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

* * * 

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return but when is the question. Thank you for reading. I DO appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


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On the Yangtze, Part 7

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

How precious is a pen? I’d brought four with me and lost one. The last one is almost out of ink. What will I do if I can’t scare up more or another one? I like gel pens but hadn’t remembered how fast they run dry. I scribbled a lot, I suppose. At home, I’d pull another one out of my stash of dozens. Why hadn’t I brought more?

Lunch

Salads

Cauliflower (lemon flavored); red kidney beans and chick peas; fruit salad (with bananas, ugh); spicy red leaves (yum); tendons of beef mutton; mixed five-bean salad

Sliced oranges; cantaloupe (honey dew); whole pears; sliced red cabbage, sliced cucumbers; grape tomatoes; chunks romaine and red cabbage; chopped hard boiled eggs; raisins; real crumbled bacon

Dressings

French, Italian and Thousand Island (none of these are what we recognize as such)

Mains

Rice ball, duck breast in brown sauce; stir fry vegetables, bacon of Sichuan style; baked sweet potato; stewed beef brisket; pasta with mushroom cream sauce; steamed egg; stewed sliced fish in tomato sauce; steamed white rice; duck and pickles soup; cream of corn soup, and buns

* * *

The 3:00 p.m. extra excursion was reinstated: Ghost City Tour and Stairway to Hell in place of canceled Goddess Stream Tour previous day.

To visit Hell and Ghost City, we climbed (we were told) 500 steps. No, it wasn’t continuous. The ground leveled out at intervals and showcased temples and statues and bridges etc. I stopped counting after 10 or 11 steps as I huffed and puffed to keep up with the crowd. With no illusions about completing the ascent, I soldiered on. Talk about a workout in muggy weather yet!

Heaven Hill under Construction

                        © All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Look wa-ay-y up! Model of Temple of Hell.

Model Temple of Hell

                       © All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Many tour groups crowded around their guides, who used megaphones to be heard over other guides. It was too noisy and congested for me. I gave up listening.

The way down sloped at a steep angle; I was careful not to fall on my face. The road was paved and wide enough for a car but used for foot traffic. Members of my group had disappeared. Some had lost interest and turned back to the ship. I came down alone.

At one point I saw no-one and heard only birdsong and my runners thump against the asphalt, then, another set of footfalls clunked behind me. My heart in my throat, I stopped to pretend-fix my laces and caught sight of a man fiddling with his camera. I wasted no time hoofing forward till I reached a bend in the road and saw people milling around. My second experience since Shanghai, I came upon a disfigured man lying on the ground, begging. It appears these poor souls are well hidden from tourist’s eyes.

At the bottom, we’d come through an open market. This time a particular display caught my attention. I stopped and bought a bottle of wine (either Great Wall label or Dynasty). After a brief negotiation, I paid 50 Yuan or $8.30 USD.

Outnumbered thousands to one, I found myself surrounded by Chinese tourists and the loud chatter of exuberant Chinese voices. Taking a deep breath, I approached the closest open mini-bus and said the name of our ship with a dramatic question mark attached. The driver nodded. Everyone stared at me, the foreigner. The driver waited to fill two more seats before proceeding toward the river. We were deposited at the top of a hill where more stairs awaited downward bound. I jumped out and booted it down the stairs, down the long walkway to another semi-enclosed market where the locals gawked at the lone westerner. At least that’s how it felt. I passed men guys eating noodles. boxes of wine, cases of soft drinks and beer, and other foodstuffs.

Hot and sticky, I wanted a shower and to cool off. I’m surprised my legs held me upright after all the stairs I’d scaled in the past couple hours. Guides waited along the way directing those returning through two—or was it three—ships anchored side-by-side. I recognized no one. What a lost feeling surrounded by only Chinese!

After a quick shower, I enjoyed cool air on the balcony where an almost breeze teased me but not for long. Tourists hanging out over their balconies blew smoke clouds about, some of the smell settled on me and in our room. I went inside and shut the doors. Smoking in the state rooms wasn’t allowed. Alarms installed in the ceilings kept guest honest. Puffing outside was okay.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie  (I can’t believe how crooked the imprint is)

Our last night on the cruise had arrived. Time to dress up for a fancy Captain’s Farewell Dinner.

This is the only time we had a menu for any meal on the ship, not even at the Captain’s Welcome Dinner. This was a dress-up affair again and I felt glam and extra tall in my four-inch spikes.

After dinner, we paid our shipboard accounts and packed our bags, which were deposited in the main lobby. I hated always leaving my luggage out of sight.

I was ready to get off the ship and looked forward to a new adventure in the morning.

 * * *

Additional links:

This link gives brief blurbs about the various ghosts.

http://www.lovethesepics.com/2011/04/freaky-fengdu-ghost-city-wtf-china-34-photos/

This one provides a 4.12-minute tour but is difficult to understand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RuKGpIOQJ0

* * * 

Next time on September 8, Chongquin, Part 1

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

* * * 

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I DO appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


On the Yangtze, Part 5

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Forecast:  overcast skies and temperatures between 17 and 23 degrees C. Fog, mist and cold, damp air had already set up shop.

The 1:00 a.m. time slot to pass through the locks had been canceled due to poor visibility. After being forced to drop anchor, the captain started up the engines around breakfast to make up for lost time.

I felt claustrophobic surrounded by such solid and towering—sometimes rock and other times cement enclosures—on our side of the ship. We waited our turn. I noticed only one boat/ship behind us. It was smaller than ours.

8:05 a.m.

                               © 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (8:05 a.m.)

The barges had lined up: (10;58 a.m.)

10:58 a.m.

                                     © 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Slow progress towards the beginning of the locks (11:05)

We lingered over a late breakfast rescheduled from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. The promised excursion to the Goddess Stream had been canceled because our late entry through the locks and we hadn’t arrived at the correct destination. The optional tour to the fabulous White Emperor City   (360 Yuan or $60.00 USD) was also canceled. Some people may have been put out, but no-one can control the weather and everyone’s money was refunded.

The days have been so slow and lazy (mostly reading), I found it hard to accept it was only day three on the ship. It took all day to go through all the locks.

To show how lackadaisical I’ve become, I forgot about taking notes regarding lunch offerings.

At 5:30 on Deck 5, a movie ran about how the Three Gorges began, and about the displacement of 1.3 million people in the process. Though the documentary was many years old, the narrator was Jodie Foster. I wished the film had covered more and to a more current date.

Three Gorges Quick Facts:

  • The first gorge (Wu Gorge) is 76 km. long; the second is 44 km and the 3rd, 8 km.
  • The Gorge generates clean hydro power and has air pollution control (generates no pollution)
  • Population: 1.3 billion; India is #2 in population
  • The dam is 1.4 miles long and 700 megawatts per turbine x 32 turbines
  • 3 million people were displaced when the land was flooded
  • Reasons for displacement was flood control and for tremendous additional hydro
  • The young people were happy about the move: new houses, television, and radio etc.
  • The seniors were not happy because they had generations of history, having lived there all their lives
  • This is a mountainous geography
  • There are three man-made tunnels on the way to the gorge, the longest is 3.6 km.

By 3:35 p.m., I noticed we were in the clear and out of the locks.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie

                                               © 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie

Late Dinner rescheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Salads

Cold pasta; fruit with mayonnaise; cherry tomato salad; lotus root with orange; bean curd with shallot; stewed duck in soy sauce

French, Italian and Thousand Island dressings; romaine and chunks of red cabbage; sliced red cabbage; onion rings; sliced cucumbers; real bacon bits; raisins and Parmesan

Sliced peeled oranges; sliced watermelon; cantaloupe and honey melon; Longon

Mains

Black Pepper Sauce; Mushroom Sauce; stewed pork Hungary-style; roast potatoes; steamed pork slices with pickles; baked cabbage with cream; stewed chicken with bamboo shoots; pizza with pineapple (and banana); diced pork with pineapple; stir fry vegetables; steamed white rice; cream of pumpkin soup; mixed mushroom soup; Chinese fried noodles; and buns.

Desserts

I had two glasses of wine at dinner, and then a third to take to my room following the Guest Talent Show. Oopsie (the glasses were splashed not filled with wine). After the movie on Deck 5, I asked at the bar about buying a (cheap(er) bottle for our room, the same as the local brew at lunch and dinner. This wasn’t possible/available for purchase. Besides Jacobs Creek, an Australian wine ($33 / bottle USD), I was shown a bottle of Dynasty (China’s best local wine) at $21.00 USD. I wasn’t that thirsty. I had paid $10.00 USD, less than half, in Shanghai for the same brand at a tiny grocery store on a side-street.  Yes, it was good at that price and I was not willing to pay more. Hong Kong will be my next wine shopping adventure.

Guest Talent Show:  (Only Four Acts)

  • The French group from Quebec
  • A Spanish group
  • Two Spanish dancers surrounded by their full tour group
  • Robert (our Beijing tour guide) sang a solo.

After the short performance, Bonnie and Loreno joined others for the Twist when dancing music played and more people got into the spirit. Not me.

Afterwards, I read for a while and gabbed with Sue until 11:30. That’s a record for us, and I enjoyed my glass of wine. What a great idea. I’d seen others leaving the dining-room with a glass—and had my Aha moment.

Additional Information on the Locks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8vBOzfkcdQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HKrLbtfkAc

~ * ~

Next on August 25th – On the Yangtze, Part 6

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


On the Yangtze, Part 4

 Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The Wu Gorge had been scheduled for 4:30 p.m. with dinner following our return at 8:30. However, the day turned wet with light rain and mist by midday. A PA announcement advised dinner time change to 5:30 with departure at 6:00. Hello, heartburn.  I wondered if this was worth the both due to the spraying drizzle and low ceiling clouds. I thought maybe an adventure awaited and against my better judgment, rushed to catch the bus with our group.

Robert, our first guide in Beijing, had another group onboard. When we left for the Three Gorges Dam, (the world’s largest hydro-electricity project) he took 0ur English Group 8 under his wing. A local man, Max, was our bus excursion guide. I don’t believe he knew how to do anything but smile and appear happy. Even over the loud speaker, his soft voice and thick accent were difficult to understand and he wasn’t informative. At one point, Robert pitched in to help.

                      © All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Rain pelted the bus as we continued. After traveling over scary, wet and curving roads, we arrived an hour or so later. Too dark to see anything, we were hustled into the Visitor Center, the surroundings shrouded in fog and shadows. The women visited the Happy House as the first order of business. We lined up for tickets to see the indoor model of the gorge. It was stunning. I took pictures but replicas are not the same as the real thing.

My hands shook with excitement, grateful we’d arrived safely. I was happy to see the reproduction but disappointed we would not see the real gorge.

The real deal wasn’t in the cards. Whose idea was it to go ahead with this tour so late (in rain, fog, and dark)? Might anyone be anything but dissatisfied? I was, wouldn’t you be?

All manner of souvenirs we’d seen everywhere were displayed in the gift shop: pearls, various colors of jade, tee shirts, as well as books about the Gorges. Ten minutes for shopping and then outside into the drizzle with the local guide (Max) to the observation area, which I couldn’t make out (dark and rain mist). The pillars he pointed out were swathed in mystery like in a bad Sci-Fi movie, similar to Mount Olympus in the clouds, all mist, and vapor with an inky black void below.

Robert announced our urgent return by 9:30 because the ship had been scheduled to go through the locks by 1:00 a.m. I had doubts about the bus tires in the rain as we rushed back. What a waste of another hour plus the cost of gasoline. Rush. Rush. Rush.

Rain and dark proved to be bad companions for an enjoyable tour. I decided to disregard negative feelings, but in truth, I should have paid attention to my gut. The trip was a waste of three-and-a half-hours, driving in rain and biting my nails to stubs.

Upon our return, crew members with flashlights lit our way back from the bus to the ship because of the dark and slippery conditions.

“Watch your step.”

“Welcome back.”

“Watch your step; be careful.”

“We missed you.”

Cheesy, I know, but I was miserable, and couldn’t help half-believing the words after I’d heard them a half-dozen times. Joking, I said, “I missed you too.”

Weird what wet weather and misery will force me to do. I almost believed their words. Not.

Three Gorges Quick Facts:

  • Prevalent here are rice, tea, tobacco, sweet potato, corn and canola oil
  • Common trees: camphor (fragrant) almost no mosquitoes; magnolia, pine, and cypress look similar (cypress trees look like an umbrella or tower); poplar
  • Local birds: sparrows, swallows, Magpies
  • Work hours: work until 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. (peak time), school, factories
  • Motor bikes popular but bicycles more because of low pollution (also solar panels on roofs)
  • Private car ownership increasing as well as traffic jams and air pollution
  • China Policy since 1927: only 1 child, now changed to two. If 3rd one, you’ll be fined just as you once were for more than one. Preference is a boy, especially in the countryside.

Education:

  • Costs 6,000 to 7,000 Yuan per year for baby age 3, 4, or 5 in Kindergarten (morning drop-off, lunch, short time sleep. Grandparents or parents pickup). Costs more than primary school from age 6 (learn music, politics, English from grade 3 or 5).
  • Middle school: junior 3 years and senior 3 years
  • University: 3, 4, 5 or 7 years, must pay depending on profession studied. Must pass a college entrance exam before being accepted into college or university of choice.

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Next on August 18th: On the Yangtze, Part 5

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


Wuhan, Part 2: Cruise Ship

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Harry, our new soft-spoken Chinese tour guide (30-ish) met us at the airport. We walked for miles and miles to reach our awaiting bus, which smelled bad: between burned electrical wiring and forgotten musty rags.

We asked him to use the microphone as he choked off facts about Wuhan during the drive, but still, he didn’t project enough. In fact, speaking louder did not help his English. He sounded as if he had a hot potato in his mouth and was the least confident guide to date. The bus trip took forever before we reached our destination.

Dark had been gathering before we arrived at the docked cruise ship. As we exited the bus, Harry waved goodbye and vanished. The ship sparkled like a mirage, outlined with tiny white lights as if it was Christmas. We dragged our luggage down long, rickety planks of wood and clanging sheets of steel. Slam. Bang. Clatter. The ship’s welcoming crew members shone flashlights at intervals along the way and cautioned we watch our step. At long last, we boarded and were handed heated hand towels and tea or apple juice. I wondered if cruise ships here always received holidayers in the dark to give them a glowing first impression.

Quick Facts:

  • Population Wuhan: 12 million
  • It takes 2-1/2 hours to drive from East to West Wuhan
  • Three towns joined into one in 1927 and called Wuhan
  • This is an educational standard next to Beijing: 87 universities; Wuhan has 69 universities
  • Smallest college in Wuhan has 8,000 students and the largest has 50,000
  • A total of 1.5 million students in the city of Wuhan
  • So far, our bus drivers have made U-turns as a matter of course

The three main industries are:

  1. Steel and iron (10 square kilometers)
  2. Automobile factories: Citron (since 1993 venture with France), also with Honda and Toyota
  3. Tobacco is main industry and state-owned factory. Produces cigarettes. Pays the second most tax next to Citron manufacturing.

Cigarettes:

  • 1-pack = 10 cigarettes
  • $3.50 USD for cheapest ones and locals smoke these
  • Special cigarettes are exported: sold by carton of 10 packages: 3,000 Yuan or $500.00 USD
  • Factory located 80 kilometers outside Wuhan

Nightlife:

  • Most important social skills in China: smoking and drinking
  • Legal drinking age is 16, same as eligibility for a driver’s license
  • China white wine very strong: 35 to 43% (sounds closer to white lightning than wine)
  • In northern China, one famous brand 70 to 75% (rice wine) high alcohol content. Only the people in northern China drink this because the temperatures are cold there.
  • Chinese saying, “If you run out of oil for the hot pot, just pour in some wine.”
  • Traffic is terrible after 9:00 p.m. as the bars open
  • The bars are loud and packed with young people (9:00 till midnight); the older generation can’t stand the noise
  • Life isn’t much different for the young people in the east from the west.
  • Square dancing is popular with Seniors, who enjoy it mornings and evenings in the parks
  • Young people don’t like the sound of the loud dance music on weekends because they like to sleep late.

This is square dancing? I wonder why they call it that?

Weather:

June is the beginning of summer. The average temperature is 30 degrees Celsius. There are three ‘ovens’ (also called furnaces) in this area:

  1. Wuhan
  2. Chongchin
  3. Nanking

Six-and-a-half to seven months of the year, everyone wears Tee shirts in Wuhan because of the heat and humidity. A historical record high of 48 degrees Celsius occurred in 2006. Usual temperature is 44 or 45 degrees. When it gets this hot, school and work are canceled, a policy made ten years ago. Everyone now has air conditioning to combat the heat.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

~ * ~

Something extra for you:

http://herschelian.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/bodysnatchers-in-china/

~ * ~

Next on July 21 –  On the Yangtze River, Part 1

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading and for your kind and continued support.


Flight to Wuhan

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We had a leisurely breakfast with nothing on the schedule for the morning. Although a five-star, our hotel was situated too far from the Bund and the waterfront attractions for wandering around on our own.

Sue walked around the neighborhood and bought a pair of shoes. RJ and his wife went out and explored as well. Lots of real life to discover behind the scenes after all. I stayed behind, caught up on e-mail and repacked my suitcase, which had become heavier.

The poor live on one side of the street and the better off on the other:

As we traveled by bus to our lunch destination, I caught sight of a duo hanging off a skyscraper washing windows. You read that correctly: no scaffolding only a rope to secure them from falling as they swung in the wind. What kind of Health and Safety rules are there for workers I wondered?

Quick Facts:

  • Population in China: 1.3 billion
  • Beijing(capital city): 20 million
  • Shanghai: 23 million

We arrived too early for lunch at a moored ship—Sea Palace Floating Restaurant—and were the only patrons. The waitress might have put on a less stern face. She led us to a table where we waited longer than usual for our meal. The early bird doesn’t catch the worm it seems. Once seated, though, the food arrived within minutes. I looked around, we chatted and took advantage of the Happy House.

All tables had seating for ten. Down the length of the ship, I counted 10 tables in each row, times four rows across. As we finished eating, I noticed the restaurant had begun to fill up in earnest.

Lunch:

  • Baby bok choy
  • Breaded white fish
  • Chicken with green and red peppers
  • Onions and pineapple
  • Mystery soup
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Beef with red and green peppers and onions
  • Sweet and sour chicken with red and green peppers
  • Curried chicken and potatoes with red and green peppers White rice
  • Watermelon slices

When food is left over, we wondered more than once what’s done with the remains. Was it thrown out like in North America? I’d always been under the impression that the Chinese wasted nothing.

After lunch, we drove to Shanghai Pudong International Airport to catch China Southern, a domestic flight at 3:55. According to our trip schedule, this was supposed to have been a morning flight. Check-in was smooth this time. None in our group was pulled over for additional security check(s).

WiFi and a charging station stared at me at our boarding area. I tried to log on to the internet but couldn’t switch from Chinese to English, the only language grayed out in the list. I wanted to check if my daughter had answered the morning’s e-mail. This ticked me off a bit: handy but untouchable with 55 minutes to kill before boarding for a two-hour flight.

 ~ * ~

Chinese saying:

Red lights are a suggestion; crosswalks are just a decoration.

Crosswalks and lights are ignored and no-one is ticketed for not stopping for pedestrians. Jaywalkers cross in the middle of traffic or at crosswalks, proceeding no matter what the suggestion or decoration. Two hundred people a day are killed in China due to traffic accidents.

A Special Treat:

 RJ continues to share photos. His wife Bonnie sent me this link. Prepare to be mesmerized. Make sure you have your heart medicine handy. Grab a drink and put your feet up.

~ * ~

Next on July 14 Wuhan, Part 2:  Cruise Ship

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading and for your kind and continued support.

 


Shanghai, Part 6: Dinner and a Show

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

When we arrived at the hotel for dinner, a clamor ensued for the small elevator. Eight bodies crammed into this tiny, inadequate space. Something wasn’t right. “Sue’s missing,” I said. The rest of us continued up to the restaurant (7th floor stop), but Jackie returned to street level to find her. At the last minute, she had decided to change her shoes and hadn’t noticed we’d all left.

Dinner:

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Tomato and egg drop soup
  • Noodles (delicious, cannot guess flavor)
  • Potatoes with chicken in dark sauce
  • Sweet and sour chicken balls with red and green peppers
  • Eggplant in some kind of sauce
  • Breaded fish
  • Thin, pizza-flavoured crescent biscuits
  • Baby Bok-choy
  • Cut up orange for dessert

(Can you believe I forgot to take pictures? Yes, I’m surprised as well.)

Dinner finished by 5:45 p.m. Thebus wasn’t due until 7:00 to take the group to The Plaza at Shanghai Center Theater (10 minutes away) for the 7:30 Acrobatics Show. Sue and I took our time walking up and down Nanjing Road West, as well as some side streets to kill time (the opposite direction of our afternoon shopping).

We came across a shop named I Found, guessing this might be a second-hand store, but didn’t enter to investigate. I don’t know if they have used clothing stores in China. Why wouldn’t they?

I can’t recall if this was some kind of educational building/center we passed. Railings surrounded it about every six feet alternated with six or eight feet of brick wall. In the railing, which looked like a gate, tiny 3-inch flower pots had been packed in tight, row on row, between the railing up, down and across. What a stunning presentation. I’ve never seen flowers grow perpendicularly.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                                  © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Too long on our feet for one day, bone weary and foot swollen, Sue and I stumbled back to the hotel to wait with the rest of our group for the bus. Already it was dark. I mentioned to Jackie our guide, I hadn’t noticed gas stink or big city smell from the many cars on the busy road–no smell of pollution at all. “See,” he said, “you can’t believe everything you hear.” The statement sounded defensive. Hmm.

 The Plaza at Shanghai Theater is an impressive building. Masses of buses and hordes of people surged forward in an orderly fashion and without incident. The numbers were mind-boggling. We were one of umpteen tour groups in attendance. I asked Jackie how often the theater had a show. Every night tourists crammed the 990-seat theater to the rafters. How many tours, I wondered, visit on a constant basis? Talk about easy tourist income.

We had first-balcony, front-row-center seats. Fabulous. Someone asked Jackie the cost of the tickets. He said depending on the seating, between $56.00 to $116.00 Canadian per person.

The 90-minute show consisted of an astounding dozen acts. Other than Cirque de Soleil, you’ll never see such fluid, seemingly effortless movement, amazing costumes, and attractive performers. Among them:

 

  • Unicyclists
  • A glass balancing act
  • A young lady in a giant hula hoop performed graceful moves inside:
  • A wordless comedy sketch
  • A grown male and a young boysupposed toysperformed unbelievable contortions, again fluid and dazzling. Control of movement and upper body strength were outstanding.
  • Female (sea nymphs) performed underwater dances. Talk about smooth as liquid pouring into your glass
  • A mature woman, wearing a top with tight lace sleeves, closed the show flicking foot-tall playing cards into the audience. Her set closed when she tossed what appeared to be hundreds of them onto the stage. On and on they came. Where had they been hidden? How did she do that?

The Bund in the distance, as seen on the way back to the hotel:

Special note:

I’ve written in the past that we saw no pollution. Check out this blog. This lady has been living in Beijing for some time. Her story is a little different from mine. Maybe we simply lucked out and missed those bad days.

http://herschelian.wordpress.com/

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Next on July 7th:  Flight to Wuhan

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading and for your kind and continued support.