How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


Xian, Part 1 – Old City Wall (and more)

Before leaving for the day’s tour, I exchanged $100.00 Canadian to 547 Yuan and paid no commission. A Bank of China specific area was available at the reception desk. The man was pleased with my brand new polymer Canadian bills unlike the ones I’d converted at a machine in a previous hotel. The machine didn’t like polymer bills. Too slippery?

Our first stop of the day was at the old Xian City wall, which stands 12 meters high (13.1234 yards). A lot of stairs to climb to the top surface (15 meters or 16.4042 yards wide). We saw pedestrians and bikers, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Due to the short time allocated to look around, we didn’t walk far. There wasn’t much to see on top where we’d entered anyway.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall)

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                        © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall – bikes for hire)

On one side we looked down on modern buildings and the other a market in progress. Buyers and sellers moved in and out at a brisk pace. The location made me think of a wide alley. Old buildings had been removed and continued to be knocked down.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (bright weather for market day)

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                              © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (brisk shopping and selling)

Next we visited the Shaanxi History Museum: thousands of artifacts, too many people, and stifling.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                  © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (entrance in museum)
© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (magnificent wall)

Steve, our tour guide, felt ill and stopped at a pharmacy for something to settle his stomach. Instead of leaving us for the day, as I’m sure he might have preferred, he soldiered on, lime-white faced.

 Our third stop in was the factory where the Terracotta Warriors were made. Reproductions of the originals (we will visit next week) are made by way of molds. No two faces are alike. The dedication to fine detail is incredible.

Warrior Wannabe

                             © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (A tourist warrior wannabe)

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                             © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (Life-size, headless and eerie)

Lunch:

  • Eggs and tomatoes
  • Beef with onion
  • Rice
  • Vegetable soup with spinach(?)
  • Noodles
  • Spicy chicken with celery and hot peppers
  • Tofu
  • Cubed potatoes with caramel
  • Sweet and sour fish
  • Mystery meat on a stick (delicious)
© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (Sorry this is fuzzy. Too much beer?  lol

Xian Quick Facts:

  • Total population of China 1.4 billion
  • 200,000,000 Chinese still living in poverty
  • Floating population, living in country-side live on $2.00 a day and scavenge cardboard, paper etc.
  • Some farmers built rooms out of scrap on their property to accommodate the scavengers
  • Scavengers collectively work together to afford a room like this
  • If you own an apartment, your kids inherit it after you die. Cannot sell for profit.
  • If you are a real estate developer, or magistrate, you’ll manage to sell it
  • $300,000 USD + four-unit apartments were given to farmers moved off their land (so the story goes)
  • Some farmers did so well in new environment (new location), they became millionaires (so the story goes)
  • First day of Sweeping Festival begun (April 5-7)
  • Now more people are cremated
  • Traditionally one day for Sweeping Festival bit extended by government for travel to grave sites of dead relatives and loved ones.
  • http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/14Traditions278.html
  • Cars with 7 or less passengers go free because of Sweeping Festival
  • Vehicles with more than 7, still have to pay toll
  • 6 billion trips are taken around the country during holidays and New Years
  • Our bus driver’s father is a millionaire farmer. Why is his son driving a bus?

~* ~

Next on May 5th, Xian, Part 2 – Terracotta Warriors (at last)

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


Shaolin: Kung Fu Training and Shaolin Temple

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Already I was confused regarding the day. My iPad said Thursday but its calendar highlighted Wednesday. My laptop also showed Wednesday. Sheesh, different time zone. The reason for my disorientation was our itinerary had been flipped and I could not keep the changes straight.

This is where we slept the previous night. Pretty swanky hotel, but we saw no other guests.

© 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.

From the hotel, we drove to the Shaolin School of Kung Fu. Our guide, Lisa, told us the attendees were 95% boys with 5% girls. I saw no girls.

Lisa wore the same clothes as the day before: red track pants and a red quilted jacket. Too warm for the humid weather.The forecast for the day: 20 degrees.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

We sat inside for a thirty-minute-plus Kung Fu performance. The place was run down inside and out, needed paint and refurbishing. I took a couple of videos but deleted them because they were too blurry.

The little guy in white, the youngest but a rapidly advancing pupil, demonstrated clutching a bowl-shaped object to his midriff by muscle control. To prove authenticity, a pole inserted through a hole in the object (was it a bell?) allowed two young men to lift it shoulder length and carry the boy as he hung firmly attached, belly-up.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4-s8TBB6dw  (4.49 min) A peak at Kung Fu training.

Quick Facts:

  • Shaolin Home of Shaolin School of Kung Fu
  • Established 495 A.D.
  • 10,000 students
  • Ages 3 to 18 (complete education here, equivalent to finishing high-school)
  • 95% boys / 5% girls
  • Half-day school / half-day Kung Fu training
  • This is a private school (parents pay for room, board, and tuition)
  • One month holiday in February during Chinese New Year
  • Parents can come to visit on weekends
  • Costs (10,000 Yuan) under $2,000 U.S. per year
  • Attending this school is good for finding a job later
  • Can open own Kung Fu school in other countries instead of finding a job
  • Famous personalities from this school: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan

Pagoda Forest / Shaolin Temple

A short distance away we visited the Pagoda Forest. Rain drizzled as we walked around. Young girls giggled and stared, and begged to have their picture taken with the foreigners (‘the big noses’).

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagoda_Forest_at_Shaolin_Temple

This is what the tombs look like. The size depended on the monk’s life achievement and the number of  financial contributors.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 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.

Quick Facts: 

  • Graveyard with 248 tombs for important monks
  • Depending on life’s accomplishments = size of tomb
  • Depending on number of supporters (donations) = size of tomb
  • Tombs built during an eminent monk’s lifetime, not after death, and added to till he died

Some highlights at the Temple

© 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. (The well is picture below)

© 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.  (This is the preserved well.)

Protectors of the Temple

© 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.

© 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.

An Altar

© 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.

~ *~

Next on April 28:  Xian

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


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.


Luoyang, Part 2: Longmen Caves

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We were supposed to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, but our schedule had been switched.  Our new guide, Lisa, met us at the airport in red sweats and a quilted  jacket. It was warm (forecast 25° Celsius). Our luggage loaded on the bus, we headed for the mysterious Longmen Caves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QdYUkvT19g  (length 4.37 min)

OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf_ZzgwxrmI  (length 30.12 min)

We walked a long way from the bus to the grottoes. The day was humid with a hint of rain. I wore flip-flops until we got off the plane. Yes, those cheap dollar store kind to wear in the hotels, proof of how little I’ve traveled. We had slippers at every hotel. Duh. Had I known I’d be wearing them out, I’d have packed my fashionable pair. I switched to my runners on the bus. Soon my blistered and bandaged toes, although wrapped in three bandages each, growled and complained.

Bridge at Long Corridor © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Bridge at Long Corridor
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

The area we walked was a long and wide to accommodate hoards of people. It was a well-maintained park setting with flowers, trees, surprisingly pristine, alongside the River Yi. Again we saw no wrappers or garbage anywhere. No empty water bottles lay around either. Recycle containers were everywhere and well-used.

River Yi at Longmen Caves © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

River Yi at Longmen Caves
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

So much destruction had occurred to the caves and carvings over time: vandalism, smashed faces, missing heads and time/weather-wear. Stolen pieces had been mysteriously secreted to museums in various parts of the world, but are slowly being returned.

Our tickets to Longmen Caves allowed a choice between a postcard and a pack of peony seeds. I chose the latter as a souvenir because peonies are the city flower. There is a natural rock in this area that looks like it’s covered in peonies.

Peony Stone © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Peony Stone
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

I hadn’t planned to climb to the top as my feet balked at the hundreds of stairs (thousands?), but curiosity changed my mind. When would I have the opportunity to see for myself what I’d traveled so far to see? Going up wasn’t too bad. I don’t think anyone noticed how I gripped the railing with both hands. Coming down was another matter. Heights and I are not on friendly terms.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles A few caves

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
A few caves

Would you guess the biggest Buddha is 17 meters tall?

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

This is a close-up of the largest Buddha, Losana, or Mona Lisa so-called by the locals because of the smile.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Below the many stairs are shops with tourist trinkets of all kinds and postcards etc.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

By the time I’d walked, photographed, snooped in the shops and sat to rest my feet, my tummy reminded me it was starving. The humidity continued and the rain stayed away. Soon everyone gathered together. There was no more to see. Dinner awaited somewhere. I hoped we didn’t have far or long to go.

~ * ~

For an in-depth history, you may like to check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longmen_Grottoes

 

Next on April 14th, Luoyang, Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


Luoyang, Part 1 – Domestic Flight

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

So far, our English 8 Gang has traveled from Toronto to Chicago to Beijing, approximately 7,041 miles (give or take). This does not include the bus trips in the three days since our arrival in Beijing to Tiananmen Square; Forbidden City; Temple of Heaven; The Great Wall; Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, and old Beijing Hutong.

IMG_0792

The night before we scrambled to assemble our suitcases and sort out what we’d need for the morning and left our bags in the hallway for pickup as instructed. It seemed odd the next morning when the bags were in the lobby–sitting there looking abandoned and crammed together for protection. We could have brought them down when we met in the lobby after breakfast. What a headache for nothing. No tour was planned for the morning.

Bikes galore

                                                                            Bikes galore

We were off for the first of our domestic flights to Luoyang. Robert, our guide, came with us to the luggage drop-off and as far as Security, which made it easier to find our way through the airport.

Someone brought up tipping (the tour guide) at dinner the night before but no conclusion had been reached. A new tour guide waited in Luoyang. Before Robert said goodbye, there was a scramble to cross his palm with Chinese money.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luoyang_Beijiao_Airport

I stood behind Sue at the Security Check and was yelled at to step back behind the yellow line. Scared me silly. Okay, unnerved me because I don’t understand Chinese. When my turn came, the (young) clerk looked so stern, I was nervous, but I also felt she was milking it. You know, a power trip? I waited while she took her time before returning my passport and boarding pass. Once through, the body scanning wand went off. What’s going on? Deep breath. The problem:  my purchased-in-Canada-made-in-China earrings.

Russ waited in line behind his wife who cleared in no time though she has knee replacements. She carries a letter in the event the Gong Show starts. We waited and waited for him in consternation. Finally, we watched him being escorted to another Security Desk. When his carry-on had been x-rayed, they couldn’t figure out what set off the alarm. Turned out, he had a camera charger which wasn’t labeled with voltage information (there is a maximum allowed) and it had to be turned in. The security guard, who escorted him, laughed silently. I saw his animated face and shaking shoulders. Even the fellow at the desk, taking possession of the charger, was apologetic, but rules were rules.

Our arrival at the airport was 10:00 a.m., too early for 12:30 boarding. Take-off was 1:00. Would you believe we were given a meal on such a short flight (about an hour and a half)? Then again, it was time for a mid-day meal. The boxed lunch consisted of rice with scrambled egg mixed in and a piece of chopped ham; a dried fruit bun; coffee; water, and cookies. A lot of Chinese were on our flight. One guy, I watched across the aisle, wolfed down his food as if he were starving.

We arrived around 2:30 p.m. I estimated we’d flown 420 miles on a ticket worth about $143.00 USD. We did not pay this. Our trip was all inclusive.

Another new home

                                                                   Another new home

 

Lots of fantastic pictures next time.

Next on April 7, Luoyang, Part 2 – Longmen Caves

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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