How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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

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                                                                    © 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.

 

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Checking out Guangzhou

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We’d had enough of Goat Park and were antsy to leave. Helen, our guide, asked I take a picture of her on my iPad. I had no idea why. At the corner of the park where we were supposed to meet, a man fresh-squeezed and sold bottled orange juice. Next to him, a girl toasted acorns in a wok for about two minutes. Helen said they were acorns but I wonder if they weren’t chestnuts. This spot she chose for her photograph.

Then she asked me to email her the photo. I wasn’t set up for e-mail I explained. “Never mind,” she said face pinched and chin dropping. Why hadn’t she given me her cell to take the picture, and why take one at all?

Guangzhou Quick Facts

  • Known for silk, jade, porcelain, ceramics
  • Arts and crafts museum (in Chen_Clan_Ancestral_Hall)
  • Tea
  • Papercuts
  • Old furniture
  • Mostly Buddhist, with some Taoism and Catholic beliefs
  • Opened city to the world with Canton Tree Fair (also the-canton-fair)
  • Chen Family Dynasty gave donation to Chen-Clan-Academy
  • Chen Family gave money (the 1920s) for Chen Family Temple
  • Rice: 2 crops / year
  • Wheat: 1 winter crop (winter wheat)
  • Sun Yat-sen first president of China after 1911 Revolution
  • Died 1925 of liver cancer
  • Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall completed temple built in his name in 1931

Next on our agenda was the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall. 

Helen and the bus driver talked and talked and talked. Somehow it sounded like a family argument. Mr. Li, some 20+ years younger than Helen, chewed his lip more than once and kept his peace. He appeared ticked off over whatever Helen sounded angry about.

Carolyn and Jim moved from the front seat to the back of our full-sized bus because Helen and the driver were so loud. Lorena asked me if I thought it okay to tell them to keep it down. I had no idea, but I said I’d be hesitant as this was their country and we were the foreigners.

At the temple, we toured mostly the outside. This is a tourist trap. The same magnets, jade, embroidery, paintings, doohickeys, and doo-dads were plentiful and on display. One of our ladies bought something expensive and it appeared the tour guide was given a gift. Maybe yes or maybe no.

IMG_0675

 

A young woman, twenty-five or more (maybe less) insinuated herself into our group. She kept bumping into a number of us and me several times. The others in our group succeeded in ignoring her, but she made me uncomfortable because I don’t like anyone so close in my space. After she followed us into a couple of stores, I whispered in Lorena’s ear if she thought the girl a pick-pocket and like magic, the girl vanished.

Lunch

(13-course Cantonese Dim Sum)

  • Beef with tomatoes (not enough beef to go around the table)
  • Sweet and sour chicken
  • Celery / carrots / peanuts and pork
  • Fried rice with fried egg and green onions
  • Spring rolls (tasty but greasy)
  • Fried pork dumplings (looked raw / without taste)
  • Corn coup
  • Egg and chili pancake thing
  • Mushrooms in sauce and a green vegetable I couldn’t identify
  • Sprouts with green peppers, onions, and slivered carrots
  • Potatoes in kind of dough and dipped in sesame
  • Pineapple half-slices (white in color…hmm)
  • Fried cakes with caramel (cardboard texture)

The room we ate in had room for only four round tables. Ours had eight chairs and I assume each of the other tables did as well. We shared the room with the French group and always knew when they had arrived. Their guide always called out, Un. Deux. Trois. He pointed to the tables as if his people were children. Soon, the noise became deafening in the box of a room and I couldn’t wait for lunch to end.

On the bus again, the discussion at the front went on and on. Helen reached across the aisle for her purse at something beeping inside, took a quick glance at us, her passengers, and continued her loud and angry-sounding conversation with the driver.

~ * ~

Next time on November 17th: Guangzhou and on to Zhongshan

© 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 faithful reading. I DO appreciate your kind and continued support far beyond my capability to express. Please bear with me.

 


Flight to Guangzhou

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Luggage had to be outside our rooms at 10:00 p.m. the night before. The wake-up call jangled at 5:15 a.m. and we rushed to breakfast soon after 5: 30.

Breakfast

  • Fried eggs (had to wait for hot steamer refill: were rubbery)
  • Coffee, watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas
  • Buns, strawberry jam
  • Sausage (no knives for sausage or jam)

Breakfast is normally at 6:30 a.m. Who can eat even earlier in the morning? Still, I managed to stuff myself. The offerings weren’t bad (though of limited variety) considering the English eight and the French group (about 30 people) were the only early risers. We were to leave for the airport by 6:20 for an 8:00 a.m. flight. I guess the next breakfast crowd will have our leftovers.

I noticed how the landscape on our (English Eight only) bus trip to the airport changed: less mountainous or maybe just smaller mountains. The French Group was nowhere to be seen.

Lily, our guide, has an apartment in Guilin where she lives with her husband and nine-year-old daughter. They must be doing well enough because she mentioned she bought an apartment in town for her parents. Her husband works at the airport, she didn’t specify his job but confirmed he is not a pilot when someone asked.

Quick Facts

  • Nissan: most popular Japanese car in Guilin (light and good on gas)
  • Costs less than $20,000 USD
  • Insurance per year: $800.00 (imagine that, considering the number of daily accidents

The flight was uneventful this time. Upon our arrival at Guangzhou, a new tour guide awaited by the name of Helen. We guessed her age as fifty-something.  She later introduced our bus driver as Mr. Li, who he appeared to be in his mid-thirties or so. Mr. Li? After landing, the ladies needed the Happy House, but the first two washrooms were full. We continued towards baggage claim and found one which wasn’t busy.

Guangzhou Quick Facts

  • Population: 20 million
  • Area: 11,000 square kilometers
  • Third biggest city in China next to Shanghai and Beijing
  • They have no winter
  • Only three seasons
  • Spring all year round
  • Also known as flower city/spring city
© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles  (Stairway to Five Goats Sculpture)

  • Agricultural city and market: fresh fruits, vegetables, chickens etc.
  • Restaurants crowded with local people, who prefer eating out to cooking
  • Many restaurants
  • Tea enjoyed three times a day
  • Eat two meals a day
  • 100-year old lunch restaurant is the best restaurant
  • Lots of steps because the building here are old
  • Busy shopping area
  • Has the best wood for coffins
  • Long ago locals had a poor life / lived and slept on the river in boats
  • the main occupation is shipping
  • Pearl River is the fifth-longest

Another full-sized bus for us. Of course, I agree, we must be special. Off we drove to Goat Park

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

The story goes: five goats from heaven brought five types of grain, presented it to the locals, and taught them how to grow them. Grateful, the people built the Five Goats Temple. Read more about it here.

~ * ~

Next on November 10th: 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 your faithful reading. I DO appreciate your kind and continued support far beyond my capability to express. Please bear with me.


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.


					
		
	


Luoyang Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

At 5:00 p.m., it was still 25 degrees Celsius when we left the Longmen Caves. All around us, the Chinese people dressed in sweaters and wool leggings. Our tour guide, Lisa, wore red sweat pants and a fleece jacket. We foreigners sported shorts or cargo pants and short-sleeved tees because we were hot. The boulevard back to the bus was again another l-o-o-o-n-g walk and the air was sticky.

Our driver turned into a pot-holed dirt road in the middle of no man’s land. What? I don’t recall buildings or much of anything that looked like civilization for a short while. We rounded a tight corner on the bumpy road and like an oasis in the desert came upon the strangest sight–at least to me. Two long buildings materialized meeting at right angles at one corner. I can only describe it as a motel—with a second story.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8 The building is in the back. A lovely bridge and flower garden decorated the middle courtyard.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8
The building is in the back. A lovely bridge and flower garden decorated the middle courtyard.

Dinner was served through Door 111 in the front room barely large enough for a round 6-foot diameter table and us squeezed around.

IMG_0351

IMG_0352

Dinner:

  • Noodle soup
  • Fritters
  • White rice
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet and sour chicken
  • Scrambled eggs and chopped tomatoes
  • Cooked sliced potatoes and ground beef
  • Pork and scallions
  • Garlic sprouts with sliced red peppers and fungus
  • Greens

This time we were served—count them—two baby glasses of drinks. I had beer. Twice.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles No doors

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
No doors on outside washroom

The bathroom was an open-ended building across the yard with six or eight stalls. No outside doors or plastic against the elements did I see at either end. All were squats but someone had taken a card chair, removed the seat and stuck a toilet seat on it. I opened the door and slipped inside. Afterward, Sue grumbled because I had lucked out somewhat with the only ‘throne’.

Along the way to the facilities after dinner, we passed two young ladies with a plastic container filled with cutlery (forks). I saw no soap in the water, no sponge or wash cloth. Agitation seemed the customary /accepted practice to clean the flatware.

Maybe this was a restaurant after all. At the end of the building opposite the facilities, we heard kitchen noises and a teen in a not quite pristine kitchen jacket appeared. He ran to the washroom and out again without stopping at the open sink. Had he touched our dinner?

Another man (not from the kitchen) washed his hands with the liquid Palmolive soap before entering the facilities and washed them again on his way out. Sue and I gaped at the scene and then each other.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles Five outdoor sinks and Palmolive liquid soap. No towels.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
Five outdoor sinks and Palmolive liquid soap. No towels of any kind.

A large fat bug floated in one plugged sink, legs pointed heavenwards, sunning himself, unaware he was dead.

I asked Lisa about the building. The year before, she had brought a tour bus of visitors when only the ground floor had been finished. The second floor had just been added and was just a decoration. What did that mean? I noticed a couple of large windows revealing cardboard boxes stacked high and wide inside.

I asked her again what we call this place.

“A restaurant. A different type of restaurant. I think this is a different experience from other restaurants.”

What? Never mind.

We arrived in Zhengzhou a couple of hours later. The time: 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. in early spring. Is this how dark it is at home in the spring? The hotel was attractive but appeared empty and quiet. The interior design cost more than the building. We dragged out luggage inside. Lisa went to the desk with our passports to get our room keys.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles Old furniture decorating hotel lobby

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
Old furniture decorating hotel lobby

I asked why the furniture was so big since the people were not. Answer: It was a sign of wealth and prosperity.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Quick Luoyang facts:

  • Population 2 million
  • This is a tourism city
  • Copper mining, glass factory
  • Heavy industry: tractor, first built in 1959
  • The Peony is the city flower (blooms in April)
  • This is an old capital city
  • Buddhism  popular

~ * ~

 Next on April 21:  International Shaolin Kung Fu Training Center and Shaolin Temple

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


Beijing Part 11: Special Peking Duck Dinner

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

When the bus dropped us off, we stumbled to the restaurant down an alley and a weird sidewalk, up-heaved and unfinished, or maybe under construction. We entered a shopping mall and took the escalator to the second floor. The women wanted to look around and shop. We hadn’t been in a Chinese mall yet. Again, no time. I didn’t care about actual shopping, but I wanted to compare a mall in the east to what we knew at home. From our rushed escort, I’d say they are comparable.

Fancy caving of Peking Duck

                          Fancy carving of Peking Duck. Check out the wine glass on the table.

Our heads swiveled as we ascended, but Robert whisked the English 8 into the most upscale restaurant we’d been to so far. All the restaurants thus far wouldn’t be mistaken for anything but Chinese. Excepting the staff, we might have been anywhere in the world. Our table, tucked in a quiet corner with no other patrons around, put the idea into my head that we’d been bad. (small joke)

Asked for our drink preferences, glasses were blessed with a splash—my guess—an ounce of wine. (Proof positive: Don’t do this at home, kids. Today I ran a test. I measured an ounce of water and poured it into a similar glass. I was right. Sometimes I amaze me.)

Appetizers

  • Thin beef slices
  • Radish
  • Salad (didn’t write what kind)
  • Vegetables

As expert as a surgeon

                                                                    As expert as a surgeon

The opened bottle waited on the sideboard. All meals and tips were inclusive but not extra wine. At least when you buy a bottle of wine in a grocery store or liquor outlet, you can haggle over the price. You don’t ask the price of wine in a restaurant and then decide not to order. Right? What a group we are. No-one jumped to order another ounce of wine. Was it good? It wasn’t memorable.

The duck presented with a flourish was carved by an expert carver, every cut precise. We all tasted it but what a disappointment. We were embarrassed to leave so much uneaten. Okay, I’ll tell you why: it was dry and tough. My apologies to the chef. A buildup for nothing.

  • Rice
  • Beef and onion + red and green peppers for color
  • Sweet and Sour chicken (familiar, almost like home)
  • French fries and shrimp (yes, together)
  • Chinese cucumbers (the teeny tiny ones)
  • Chicken and tomatoes
  • Soup (a mystery kind)
  • Pulled duck meat and onions
  • Something like a tortilla for the duck meat

 IMG_0325

Wouldn’t you know, the one night we had an early evening, we ended up in a traffic jam but not for long. My feet were killing me but felt better than the previous day. These new shoes for which I paid mega bucks were comfortable but my feet perspired like fish in a steamer.

I needed bandages for the blisters. Couldn’t find the ones I KNOW I packed. Lucky for me we had a drugstore next to the small variety store on one side of the hotel. What an experience. Neither the druggist nor the cashier spoke English. I shook my head a lot and the druggist showed me a roll of gauze suitable for a bullet wound to the chest. Pantomime, hand signals and short of removing my shoes, we finally found regular bandages. Bows and wide smiles followed.

On my return to the hotel, I slipped into the variety store next door and for $3.00 U.S. bought a large can of Chinese beer–you know, to celebrate the bandages and yes, it hit the spot.

CCTV station in the background. Looks like a pair of pants.

                                  CCTV station in the background. Looks like a pair of pants.

 

Some Quick FACTS about WORK:

  • Average salary $1,000 per month in major cities / less in smaller ones
  • White collar workers $1,700 per month
  • Working for government, same salary but allows discounts for detergents, soap, condos,
  • Working for government has good healthcare and other benefits even if salary low
  • Late to work once, maybe twice, 3rd time you’re fired
  • Unemployment rate 4 – 5%
  • 70% of companies are privately owned
  • Big imbalance between the rich and poor
  • Lots of floating population from rural areas and outside the city try to move to Beijing
  • Both parents must work
  • Grandparents live close by and look after child while parents at work

Family:

NO matter how many young children we came across—not hordes—not once did any one of them flip out, scream, cry, cause any kind of fuss. How does that work here? As well, lots of grandfathers and young fathers interact with the young child. By far, most of the children have been boys.

  • Babysitter for newborn good paying / competitive job = $1,500 / month
  • Rather hire grandma/grandparents who live close to help with childcare
  • Maternity leave is 6 months with pay
  • Second child penalty 60,000 Yuan ($10,000)
  • Twins or triplets are considered one pregnancy and not penalized

~*~

Next on March 31, Luoyang Part 1: Domestic Flight

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


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Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The Olympic Park

The Olympic grounds had been built on razed farmland. We were told all the displaced farmers had been given jobs and a better apartment than the farmhouses they’d lived in. Everyone’s happy; a win-win.

To get to the entrance of the Park, a busy four-lane highway had to be negotiated by foot. The bus had been parked on the other side. Although busy, the hazards of crossing presented less chance of being run over than in the midst of the city if you timed your jaunt.

At long last, we were free to wander the grounds. I found our time there boring, however. The sun smirked overhead. Paved walkways, expansive stone-tiled, and bricked thoroughfare stretched miles ahead, too bright and stripped of any shade. Thank goodness for hats and sunglasses. It felt a clear day and I noticed no smog to date.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtjogMtnrjw  (published Feb. 2014, 2.53 min)

or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12e3c6mAzfQ  (published May 2014, 9.45 min)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

 I recall hawkers in the open and sellers of tourist knick-knacks in stall, after stall, after stall, along one side of the center road. These were actually white tents four or five feet wide with a flap raised on some as a sunshade. At intervals, empty stretches separated one cluster from another. The disappointment lay in discovering they all carried the same products! Every one.

One of the last ones, a larger tent, provided a digital photo opportunity for a mock emperor and concubine, or possibly his queen. Ernesto and Lorena, known for their carefree style, donned the costumes provided and had their royal photo taken. One size fit all as the ‘costumes’ tied in the back like hospital gowns.

Another frustration: no open exhibits.

As we left the Park, the ladies inquired about washrooms. Somebody spied one and pointed. “No, you won’t like that one,” Robert said. “See there? That’s a good one.” We’d heard a similar declaration several times now. I wondered in what way it might be different and not to our liking.

The Birds Nest National Statdium

                                                         The Birds Nest National Stadium

No matter what was served at any of our meals, I would never starve. It struck me, though, lunch and dinner dishes were quite similar, with lots of repeats. Time will tell.

Lunch was served at a restaurant not far from Olympic Village. From where we sat, I saw back-to-back orange hoods / like half pods or huge footballers’ helmets and wondered what they were. Phone booths. Say what? Two by two they appeared on the sidewalk, back to back, closer than girlfriends. Migrants and low-income workers use these Public Phone Booths.

Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant

             Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant. 

Lunch:

  • White rice
  • Tea (always hot and ready)
  • Pork meatballs
  • Chicken with cabbage and carrots
  • Kung Pow chicken
  • Rice (with duck meat)
  • Deep fried pork
  • Cucumbers with chicken
  • Deep fried battered fish
  • Egg drop soup
  • Sliced watermelon for dessert

Some Quick Facts about Telephones:

  • Everyone has a cell phone, sometimes two
  • Use text message vs. phone because it’s cheaper
  • Use’ You Chat’ a lot
  • Two providers: China Mobile and China Unicom
  • Phone fee 200 Yuan per month or $40

Housing:

  • Apartment rent 2 bedrooms: $1,000 per month (all USD)
  • Condo rent good location: $1,600 per month (depending on that location)
  • Condos, 2-bedroom, 1,000 square meters, 1 toilet
  • Condos cost $6,000 per square meter
  • 1,000 metres = $600,000 per condo
  • A house and garage, minimum price 30,000,000 Yuan or FIVE million U.S. dollars

Up Next on March 17: Beijing Part 10: The Hutong

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


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Beijing Part 7: Ming Tombs

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After the Great Wall, a mid-day meal awaited in a local restaurant.

Lunch:

  • Spring rolls (exactly 8)
  • Fish balls with red and green peppers
  • Fried chicken
  • Eggplant with tomato and green peppers
  • Rice
  • Cauliflower and broccoli
  • Soup
  • Cut up orange wedges for dessert
  • Tea
  • The usual one small (free) glass of beer, pop or water
The Spirit Way, original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which only one has been excavated (Ding Ling)

The Spirit Way: original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which one only has been excavated (Ding Ling) 

Ming Tombs: where 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried (1368-1644).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfynyPLm4Q0    (3.04 min)

If you would like a more in-depth version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1BqspVU2HA  (8:43 min)

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building and no, no Chinese person would dare steal this money.  

Laundry: 

  • Hung on rope strung the length of apartment balconies
  • Clothes  hung on hangers: socks, T-shirts, sweaters, trousers, shirts, blouses
  • Did not notice any underwear or bedding

 On the way to dinner:

Robert and the driver appeared to converse more than usual. Robert’s cell rang. He talked at length. The call completed, he started another. Both he and the driver seemed tied to their phones for an unusual amount of time. Of course, I didn’t understand a word, yet it occurred to me something might be up. I can pull a rabbit out of any hat, real or imaginary.

Our bus pulled over to the curb and Robert announced he had to leave. The driver would take us to the restaurant, he said. He gave no explanation, but it wasn’t hard to see he was upset. Sue and I looked at each other. We couldn’t see any of the other’s reactions in front or behind us.

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Heavy traffic surrounded us. After Robert hopped off, we drove on for a short distance still in the inside lane. Vehicles crawled bumper to bumper. Another bus slowed next to ours. Sue and I sat on the left of the aisle watching through the window. I squeezed my eyes shut as a bicyclist, with no room to spare, whizzed by between our two buses. I almost had a heart attack.

The other bus moved on. We remained stock-still in the curb lane. Traffic rolled past. I thought the young fellow on the bike might have caused an accident. Traffic shifted moving past, yet our bus waited immobile. Why? By now, the whole group craned necks and raised eyebrows around the seats at each other. We noticed together, a car parked in front of the bus. Another five minutes or so dragged past. What could be happening? A man in a construction vest walked up to the car’s driver window brandishing his arms. I had no idea the car had an occupant. No translation was required. Move now he indicated. Nothing changed. A 20-something Chinese guy in black pants and a white shirt appeared at the side of the bus. The door flew open and he jumped in. The door slammed shut and I don’t recall any words exchanged with the driver. The parked car inched forward. Our bus did as well.

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In minutes, we turned into a driveway and a man, who might have been Security or Police, stepped in front of the bus. He waved his arms and shouted through the windshield and looked as if he wanted to push the bus back. What was going on? Words passed between the man outside and our driver or between the driver and the new passenger who hadn’t taken a seat. Too much going on to follow. The uniform vanished. The bus door opened again and the young man jumped out signaling for us to follow. I felt like a lamb on the way to heaven’s gate or maybe hell’s? All were silent, heads bowed as we passed through an alley and a maze of cars and another lot into a restaurant. I flashed my Travel Tour ID towards an approaching waitress. She led us to Table 6 which displayed our tour group name.

One of our group noticed the young man worked as a waiter there. The picture became clear. This had been an orchestrated event. Before Robert rushed off, either he or the driver had pre-arranged for our escort. The driver had stalled until the black pants and white shirt found us. The driver couldn’t leave the bus to walk us to our destination since there wasn’t room to bring the bus closer. I don’t even know if he spoke English. What teamwork!

By the time dinner finished, and we fidgeted, wondering about our return to the hotel, Robert showed up as if nothing had happened. He looked much better than when he’d dashed off. His voice, I noticed, was still a little odd. At least to me, his reason for the sudden disappearance was suspect.

“I had to see about my next tour,” he said to our obvious curiosity.

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Dinner:

  • Soup with fresh chopped tomatoes
  • Rice
  • Shrimp with egg and green peppers
  • Corn with lima beans and carrots
  • Sweet and sour chicken balls
  • French fries (surprise)
  • Chicken with fungus and green peppers
  • Green leaf vegetable like spinach but not
  • Chopped mushrooms and green peppers
  • Eggplant, light spice

We returned to the hotel around 8:30 p.m. I picked up my laptop from the room and returned to the lobby for free WiFi access. I had trouble and asked the guy at reception for help. He looked at the list available and pointed to one, even though the words weren’t in Chinese. “Maybe, this one?” His choice didn’t work. He shrugged. I went off on my own, but soon became frustrated and worn out. I wanted nothing more than my bed. I gave up on e-mail.

Finally day's end

Finally day’s end. This is how my brain felt as well. 

Next on March 3rd: Beijing Part 8: Pearl Stores and Summer Palace

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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

 


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Beijing Part 5

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Temple of Heaven:

The entrance to the Temple is a wide avenue meant for masses of foot traffic. It is clean and well-traveled, not only by foreigners like us but by the Chinese people as well. I did not see wrappers or bottles lying around anywhere.

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Click below for a three-minute video, which explains better than I can. Sorry for the advertisement. The first few seconds will show you the exercise in the park again but keep watching. Those pink feathers the man is tossing with his feet are the Badminton birdie I had referred to earlier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mo6_cskvhQ

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The English 8 Group (us) had removed our light jackets. The sun rose higher and the temperature grew warmer, yet around us, young Chinese ladies wore (wool?) leggings under skirts, long sleeved jackets, heavy pants (no jeans) and high heels. I love heels and wear them on occasion, but not in this kind of environment. There were lots of stairs to climb and broken concrete and uneven bricked areas all around. How they walked in those shoes without breaking their necks, and for so far and long, I cannot imagine.

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  • The park area is 660 acres
  • Commoners were not allowed inside its gates until 1918
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • All the buildings were refreshed prior to the 2008 Olympics
  • Although the doors remained open, visitors are barred from entering. We fought for a spot to look inside from the blocked doorway but could not make out much.

Forbidden City:

We walked until our feet screamed for mercy. Again washroom locations were uppermost in our minds and where bottled water could be purchased. The following video is an hour and a half long. I cannot remember all the interesting history we learned, but take time to take a peak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XRcwAAsNz8

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Lunch:

The bus driver dropped us at the restaurant. The French group followed soon afterward as well as lots of locals. All platters of food were automatically delivered and placed on the large lazy Susan in the center of the table. Choices of one (small) free glass of soft drink, water, or beer were again offered. All the food served was family style. Our plates for eating were smaller than some bread and butter plates at home.

  • French fries (What? Shocked us too)
  • Deep fried, breaded white fish (mild taste)
  • Cooked cauliflower
  • Noodles (tasty)
  • Thinly sliced beef and cucumber platter
  • Beef meatballs with onions and green peppers
  • One large egg pancake (the size of a dinner plate)
  • White rice
  • Soup with ribbons of Nori in it (I didn’t try it)
  • Green tea
  • Peeled oranges, sections pulled apart and arranged on a plate for dessert

Note: Veggies were not plentiful like they are in the Chinese food we order in the West. They appeared to be more for decoration, except for plentiful onions in meat dishes, along with a few slices of green pepper. I ate till my tummy felt happy. I had no complaints about the food.

Tian’anmen Square

We set out on foot as the bus couldn’t bring us closer to the Square. Shortly before entering the grounds, we passed a strip mall across from the Square featuring souvenir shops and the like. Sue asked if we might shop, but Robert shook his head. Not a chance. We had a tight schedule. (Check out the writing on the building, a different spelling again.)

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The Square is so huge, the danger of being trampled during a ceremony or demonstration crossed my mind. The Square accommodates one million people. That’s the size of 90 American football fields. Soldiers still patrol the area,  although they look way too young and of slight build.

  • The monument of the heroes of the revolution is here

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  • The Great Hall of the People (in the background)

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  • The Museum of Chinese History and Revolution. We were there at the wrong time and it was closed. I don’t believe we had been scheduled to visit anyway.

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  • The Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where Mao lies embalmed in a glass case since his death in 1976. We did not go inside the Hall either. This building is at another end of the Square.

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http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/BeijingInformation/BeijingsHistory/t1141051.htm

Dinner:

Tsingtao beer was served, the best beer in China we were told. Ernesto ordered a bottle. I had the one small free glass a change from the water I drank all day. Sue preferred pop or water and the rest chose water.

  • Sliced sausage, fungus (think of weird mushrooms) and cucumbers
  • Cooked green salad (leaves of some kind)
  • Rice
  • Chicken with carrots and cucumbers
  • Duck meat with celery
  • Chicken with celery
  • Battered deep fried fish
  • Sesame bread plus onions and peppers (can’t remember what this looked like)
  • Spring rolls (exactly eight)
  • Soup (forgot to write what kind)
  • Watermelon slices for dessert

Offered separately, for which we needed to pay, were special coffees and ice cream. The waitress quoted 20 Yuan for either (about $4.00 Cdn / approx. $3.30 USD). Sue pointed out the prices posted over the ice cream freezer were 3.50 and 5.00 Yuan. Nope. The price was 20 Yuan. Non-negotiable. We must have stuck out like tourists. With money.

Our restaurant had been backed onto a park-like setting with a large pond of stagnant water. It wasn’t clean and had ugly, black and swampy plants growing in it.

We had time to kill before the bus came at 6:30 to drive to the Opera. Some of our group decided on a walk in the park. Sue and I chose to sit and take a load off. We’d done enough walking all day. My feet shrieked and uttered profanities. No wonder—they must have walked 50 miles on our first day out.

Beijing Opera 7:30 p.m.

Before the performance, a demonstration was given on stage of a male performer applying face makeup and donning a costume with a dresser assisting.

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This is not an art form I appreciated, although the costumes were colorful and dazzling. One of the men in our group complained he couldn’t even catch a nap.

We arrived at the hotel somewhere between nine and ten o’clock. A jam-packed day three had ended. My brain, over-saturated with information, shut down. Goodnight Beijing. Hello, pillow and bed.

~ *~

Next on February 17th – The Great Wall

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


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Tying up Loose Ends – Homeward Bound

During summer in St. John’s, you can catch a tour bus for $5.00, which stops at all the sites for an hour each. Schedules are available at hotels. What a steal. The opportunity was lost on us as the season had closed.

Tired after our stroll on Duckworth Street, we trudged uphill all the way to the hotel. The drizzle followed us, fading in and out. One moment we snapped our umbrellas shut and open the next. Once we arrived in our room, nothing mattered more than putting my feet up and grabbing my book. I apologized to the novel for awarding it second place. Mary had other ideas. She’d heard about the sauna and prepared to unwind there instead.

The afternoon drew to a close. We had  time to kill before our last dinner with the tour group and decided to check out the atrium. A tall ladder took prominence in one area for some kind of maintenance in progress. The rest unfolded for our pleasure to amble through and explore. It was a large area.

All good things must end. Thoughts of going home struck us with a mixture of regret and relief. For dinner, we had pre-ordered Newfoundland Screech Glazed Salmon and heart of Romaine Caesar. The women dolled up, but the men dressed in casual attire. Our numbers had dwindled over the last few days from thirty-two to about twenty-four. Two servers and a Maître d’ attended us in a private room. Francis wore a suit and brought his wife. I was impressed the tour owner’s warm, down-home speech. Francis became sentimental. Can’t help but love the guy.

Sneaked a photo in art store at the Sheraton

Sneaked a photo in art store at the Sheraton

The next morning after a posh breakfast (this is the Sheraton after all), Mary wanted one last run downtown before Francis dropped us at the airport at eleven. No rain in sight. The sun smiled and the sky glowed pastel blue, a smear of clouds here and there. Yes. Believe it or not. I took this through the hotel window. Trees obscured the view of the ship in the harbor but not the clear horizon.

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Nervous as a cat, I prowled the room waiting for Mary. We had 20 minutes until transfer to the airport with Francis and a few others of our group. Seven minutes to spare, Mary arrived. We collected our bags and as soon as we hit the lobby, found everyone already on the bus, their bags already loaded.

Mary had checked us in for the flight the night before. The machine took our information but refused to spit out our luggage tags and boarding passes. No one around to help, I ran to grab an attendant some distance away though St. John’s airport isn’t huge. A desk person helped but we noticed too late she’d only printed boarding passes to Halifax and not transfers from Halifax to home. We soon sorted this out upon landing. The airport huge and obviously international, we walked for miles and miles as. Mary searched for a fish store but they had no fresh lobster. Stomachs rumbling, we checked out places to eat and shared a late lunch of salad and maybe mussels—I can’t recall— but still paid almost $50. For lunch.

* * *

Next up on November 4th – A Surprise

© 2016 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.

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