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.


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.

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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.

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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.


55 Comments

Beijing Part 8: The Pearl Store and Summer Palace

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We left the hotel at 9:00 a.m.

Upon entering the Pearl building, we were bustled into a small room with folding card chairs. Our pearl instruction lady described the different types of pearls: fresh water and salt water and advised the former as best. The many colors pearls come in surprised me: gold, pink, black for example. She presented round and irregular samples as well as the reasons for the various colors.

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

Thank you Microsoft

Thank you Microsoft

After this quickie presentation, we sprinted behind the pearl instructor lady into a larger, showier room featuring thick royal blue carpet and plushier chairs. Models, dressed in formal wear, appeared on the catwalk to showcase and model pearl necklaces and earrings. I wasn’t enthralled, but still astonished by the flashy show, and I cannot lie, the jewelry was gorgeous. The fashion ladies withdrew and The Group 8 were bid to again follow by a forward flourish. With a dramatic pull on a set of double doors, a whole new world materialized:  a magical place, with lights so bright they blinded at first. Rows and rows of glass cases, shiny as the jewels themselves, glittered up and down the aisles. I swear a saleslady appeared for every customer. I noticed only one male clerk. A tour group left as we arrived. The showroom hummed and bustled like a beehive. New sales staff seemed to emerge out of thin air as needed.

Set up in one corner, I noticed a coffee and wine bar with bar chairs. No, nothing here was free to pacify/massage the customer. A list of hefty prices hung on obvious display. Avoiding sales staff who followed you like a shadow is thirsty work, but I wasn’t buying anything. I’ve never cared about pearls and most jewelry my whole life (except earrings). Why would I buy them at this age and at astronomical prices?

Lorena and Bonnie in our group bought jewelry. The remainder of our non-buying members huddled together and made for the door at the first opportunity. We found an unbelievable treasure while we wandered around till everyone finished shopping. The walls displayed every size of oyster shell you never imagined, with plaqued descriptions underneath. However, we weren’t allowed time to peruse this ‘oyster museum’ and were hustled out to the bus. Why? We had to go. The French group had arrived. Service to one tour bus at a time, please and thank you.

See the 'pearled' cream. One is for day, the other night.

 See the ‘pearled’ cream. One is for day, the other night. Amazon sells this too. I checked.

A clerk pushing Pearl skin cream caught my attention and said, “This will make your skin look 20 years younger.”

“Can I have a written guarantee?” I asked.

“Sure.”

Such a quick response. “What good is it if my face is young and the rest of me is sagging?”

“Madam, you can use it all over your body.”

“Look at me,” another clerk piped in. “I’m 70.”

We all tittered because she could not have been a day over 29. I gave her kudos for her quick comeback, though. I hope she’s worth her weight in gold. I bought the cream, didn’t I? What a sucker!

The Summer Palace

The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

                                           The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

I enjoyed our tour of the Summer Palace. The park is enormous (over 700 acres, taken up mostly by Kunming Lake); a peaceful place to spend the day. It has a long, remarkable history. This will give you a better outline and will take less time to take in. Enjoy.

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/beijing/summer.htm    (2.53 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ple6S_pjFzU (l.09 min)

The Marble Boat

                                                                  The Stone Boat

The Men’s and Ladies’ washrooms were again across from each other with a communal sink in between. The ‘facilities’ tiny cubicles with elbow-knocking walls. I don’t take up much room but had a difficult doing the deed. Ouch. Lucky for me, the door I happened upon offered a pedestal toilet. I heard later, the rest were squats. It was dark as well and I could hardly see. You want to watch for puddles on the floor.

Bridge to a point on the water

                                                     Bridge to a point on the water

Quick Facts on Education:

  • Kindergarten is bi-lingual (Chinese and English)
  • Government-paid until age 15
  • School 7:30 to 4:30 p.m. five days per week
  • For better school must pay $6,000 to $12,000 extra per year
  • Sometimes extra classes on Saturdays
  • Music lessons at school (not outside in music school)
  • Beijing has 70 universities
  • University cost for 2 semesters  $3,500 / year
  • College costs $1,700 / year
  • 70-80% Chinese kids go to college in Beijing
  • School vacation in winter 21 days (for travel)
  • Summer vacation in summer (2 months for travel)
  • $40,000 – $50,000 to study in U.S. paid by parents
  • http://news.at0086.com/China-Universities/The-university-fees-in-China.html

 

Up Next on March 10: Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

© 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.


53 Comments

Beijing at Last!

Rapid transit arrived inside the terminal every three minutes.

Rapid transit

Rapid transit

Directed by Robert, our arrival coincided almost to the minute with the train’s appearance. Luggage dragging people that we were, we rushed on and were transported to the parking lot where our mini tour bus awaited. (I have no recollection of exiting the train or getting on the bus.)

We zipped down the highway surrounded by young trees already dressed in delicate greenery. By comparison, Ontario was still in the throes of winter on this March 29th, but I squashed the thought as I gawked in awe. The highways were clean and neat with row on row of countless new tree plantings. To my limited gardening knowledge they were two to three-year-old saplings. I seem to recall some weeping willows (or not).

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

It must have been at least a good half-hour or so before the city limits loomed ahead, although. I hadn’t paid much attention to the time. What caught my eye immediately were countless gray apartment buildings: cement shells, without an outside finish; empty openings instead of window-filled; forlorn and abandoned-looking construction sites. There is a reason for this our guide, Robert, told us when I asked him.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the buyer,” he said. “He can choose the cost and type of windows, doors, cupboards, flooring walls etc. he is willing to pay. In addition to hiring a sub-contractor to finish the interior of this carcass, the owner is responsible for hooking into the main water and electrical system.

Unfinished apartment buildings

Unfinished apartment buildings

“But why are so many unoccupied. How long have they been empty?” I asked.

“More and more people are moving into the cities every day. They haven’t come here yet.”

“Who builds these things? Where does the money come from?”

“Sometimes the companies run out of money, it’s true, and must wait till they find new resources.”

Our bus progressed through streets crammed with buses and cars and masses of people. I watched young and old city-dwellers ride bicycles in terrifying traffic, sometimes with loads of cardboard or wood tied in a pile behind them. I saw no helmets and an assortment of non-practical shoes. I noticed a number of girls riding mopeds with waist clutching male passengers. Really? Does this mean more girls own the motorbikes?

Another interesting sight: tuk tuks, which looked like someone had wrapped a sheet of tin around a motor bike for a car-like body with a roof. Actually, these vehicles were not run by pedal power after all from what I could make out. I still have no idea what they were / are.

Newer, old and knocked down buildings stand side by side. As we moved through neighborhood to neighborhood, Robert informed us a lot of the old city was being torn down to make way for the new. During the long drive to the hotel we viewed rubble from many such scrap heaps awaiting removal.

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I noticed a certain rhythm to the traffic. Each time we came to a stop light, our bus driver, pulled the hand brake. Why? We were on a level road not on any incline or stopped midway downhill. All the drivers around us honked horns all the time and after a while I became aware of something else. This was their way of letting the other drivers know, ‘I’m coming through.’ The drivers weren’t angry nor irate. No screeched brakes shrieked. Bikes and buses seemed to play a game of chicken. Three or four lanes appeared to accommodate five or six lanes of traffic. I covered my eyes. Buses and cars dodged in, out around us, but not one transport truck was in sight.

Some quick and interesting facts:

  • Beijing is the same latitude as New York City
  • Beijing is the capital of Peoples’ Republic of China
  • It is the third largest city in China
  • China is shaped like a rooster. Beijing is located at the neck of the rooster and is known for fresh water pearls
  • 20 million people / 5 million cars
  • Since the Olympics, 3 million more cars on the road = work = wages = cars)
  • Odd / even license plate policy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_space_rationing_in_Beijing
  • First car market here was the German Volkswagen
  • The second was Buick from the U.S.

~ * ~

Any mistakes are my own. I admit my attention span and hearing are not always on alert. These few facts I jotted down as I thought I’d heard them.

~ * ~

More about tuk tuks (three-wheeled transportation)

 

Next on January 20: Beijing at Last (Part 2)

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles 2017

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


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25 Ways to Kill Time at Chicago Airport

I thought I’d revisit the China posts. Some of you haven’t seen them. Enjoy.

Warning: This is longer than my usual posts. Also Note: Newbie person traveling. Some of this may be old hat to you.

We didn’t need to worry about our luggage as it flew ahead direct from Toronto to Beijing. What a blessing, yet this causes me discomfort not knowing exactly where it might be. A whole string of what ifs torment me anyway. The most nagging: what if my luggage goes to the wrong destination? Pul-eese. It’ll be fine. I’d packed two changes of clothing in my carry-on thanks to advice from my blogging friends.

It turns out we’re a long way from the main building and a shuttle arrives as we land in Chicago. We jumped aboard in a fine spring mist, hoping for delivery to the correct terminal. We then jogged in the now drizzle to the entrance. First stop a washroom.

What is this? I feel like a country mouse. The toilet had unusual self-sanitizing seats. Think ultra-soft (memory foam). This video shows better than I can explain:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cokBht49qt8

Only five hours and 45 minutes to kill.

Now, what? We saw Starbucks and MacDonalds; a kind of deli; various health food shops; tons of neck pillows and sunglasses;  books and magazines, and a bar or two. Maybe we should have considered sampling our way through the food shops to keep busy.

25 Ways to Kill Time in the Chicago Airport:

  1. Walk, limp, stumble. keep moving.
  2. Learn to avoid lineups around boarding and arrivals gates on both sides of the building.
  3. Dodge weary travelers more concerned about their wheelies than who’s in front or behind them.
  4. Gape at the zillions of people (I don’t get out enough), from all parts of the world, who arrive and depart in giant waves like schools of fish—big ones— with luggage
  5. Close your mouth time and again and do your best not to stick out as if you’d just left the cabbage patch. Isn’t the world a big and confusing place?
  6. Make a deposit at each washroom you wander past. When the opportunity presents itself, you might as well grab it. Best keep your tank empty.
  7. Hang around the unusual new-fangled toilets. What will they think of next? (refer to Youtube video). I wondered how often the plastic covers were replaced and asked an attendant, but she didn’t know either.
  8. Stand in long lines to buy food/water even though not hungry
  9. Fight the crowd to buy coffee.
  10. Search for an empty table to rest aching feet. Why were all the tables occupied? Pull out my now soggy pizza out of your carry-on.
    At Chicago O'Hare Airport killing time

    At Chicago O’Hare Airport killing time


  11. Take pictures of a plane through a restaurant window, not exactly proof you’re in Chicago but what the heck.
  12. After tiring yourself out walking around the gargantuan airport, sit and try to read or people watch.
  13. Comb the gift shops for a Chicago fridge magnets but don’t buy one. They were too expensive at $5.99 each (U.S. dollars of course) and tiny—the width of two of today’s postage stamps.
  14. Check the screen for your gate early. Why is the waiting area full already. Lucky to find a seat each.
  15. Count tall people / short people. If they keep shifting up and down. start over and give up.
  16. Survey couples in boarding area to guess which ones might be going to Beijing. (Sue spied a couple from our Toronto flight).
  17.  Without hesitation, strike up a conversation and ask if they are on your tour.  knows how to peg them. They are going our way.
  18. Stare at the time in two-minute intervals, which doesn’t move it any faster. One hour and 25 minutes to boarding.
  19. Notice a planeload of pilots attached to wheelie carry-ons, who mill about purchasing food. Have you seen so many at once? Why are they hungry? Are they arrivals or departures?
  20. Gawk and wonder how all these pilots happen to be so good looking, but much more important, fret if they are indeed old enough for the job? Most look around fifteen.

    Someone's tired of waiting and waiting and waiting

    Someone’s tired of waiting and waiting and waiting

  21. Shift and re-shift from one numb butt cheek to the other and blink faster than a turn signal to stay awake. Eyes too dry to read? You wuss. You’ve only been awake 29 hours. Fifteen and a little bit to go.
  22. Evade running and screaming children
  23. Stew over whose toddler is wandering around alone. Not your responsibility, but where are the parents? You want to know, don’t you? Where ARE they? No one’s paying attention to the little guy. Nobody.
  24. Line up as directed with visa and boarding pass to get the visa to China stamped. This takes five minutes. One hour and 15 minutes to go
  25. Spy a female pilot. Wow! She looks about 40, old enough and experienced compared to the fifteen-year-old male pilots. You could trust her but where’s her crew?

The clock clicks one mouse whisker at a time. Time’s up. Boarding is announced by a distorted male voice. Not unlike unconscious sleepwalkers, you funnel into lines and shuffle forward, necessary papers clutched and eyes begging for toothpicks.

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Next on December 23rd – A Pause for Thanks and Christmas

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

For more related posts, click on China tab above


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Continuing Along the Viking Trail

Traditional, small gardens dotted the edge of the road in areas where construction companies had finished excavating and had dug up bog and peat, great growing condition for potatoes or carrots. We saw no houses around because the garden owners didn’t live in the same area. The land was perfect for planting and no one messed with your garden.

When we drove past homes, none of the front doors had stairs. They call these the mother-in-law door. The inhabitants always use the back door therefore no reason to put in steps at the front of the house. The joke is without steps the mother-in-law cannot enter.

There is only one highway in Newfoundland. If you drive up it, you’ll drive down it. Where there was nothing but road before us, our guide Francis put on a CD for entertainment. Shanneyganock is an Irish band:

Credit:  Larry Bennett

So far not an exciting day: rain and not enough walking. Excepting two stops for use of the facilities, we sat glued to our seats and on the bus. We lucked out the seats were super comfortable and had footrests. I found myself nodding, but didn’t sleep. Mary had a nap and the rest of our fellow travelers were quiet leading me to wonder how many others snoozed as well.

We visited The Arches, Parson’s Pond and took pictures in the drizzle. What a day.

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The arches are created from a limestone cliff.

Lunch was a wonderful vegetable soup, which reminded me of my mom’s recipe. I decided on the spot to make a pot as soon as I reached home again after the tour. Soon as we sat, the soup arrived. Then, plates of fresh white, quartered sandwiches appeared—all white, no whole wheat—and immediately, the coffee. Much too efficient. Servers soon cleared and cheesecake delivered for dessert. I must have confused the waitress, who blinked several times when I waved it away. I don’t have a sweet tooth these days unlike my much younger self.

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John Cabot landed at Bonavista, Newfoundland in 1497 and discovered millions of cod. The British laid claim on Newfoundland as well as Europe and Spain. Then a 1,000 Irish came (duirng the 1840s) before the potato famine, and settled along the coastline because of the fish and made a good living from fishing.

I wonder what Andrew of Have Bag, Will Travel will say when he reads about today’s touring after his own last two posts.

A little after 3:00 p.m. I noticed Shawn, our driver, in the rearview mirror. He appeared drowsy. I wasn’t certain from where I sat, but it looked his eyes were heavy. Our guide had just mentioned the heat to him and didn’t seem to notice. Could I be seeing things because of the curvature of the mirror? For a second, I almost yelled out to him. “Wake up, Shawn.” I had to save us from an accident because of his tiredness or road hypnosis. I know I have a weird imagination. Right? My sister later told me she thought the same about him.

Francis cleared up the mystery about no lobster supper per our tour schedule: it’s out of season. The tour before us enjoyed it, but we were an added group because there were so many on the wait list. They were all gone by the time our tour began.

At one point when we arrived at a small museum, the driver drove as close to the building as humanly possible. Guess he wasn’t road weary after all. The museum lady split us into two groups for a guided walk-through. Mary and I were in the second one and our time much abbreviated as we had to hustle out, but I now cannot recall why.

The bones are those of a whale. The rocks are too many to describe.

Tidbit:

Lobster from Newfoundland is better. It takes seven years to grow to market size (1-1/2 pounds) because the water is colder. Nova Scotia lobster grows faster and is not as tasty.

Next on January 22nd:  L’Anse aux Meadow

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

For more related posts, click on Newfoundland / Labrador tab at the top of the page

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Internet and computer problems have plagued me all day.

 


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Blog Friends, Neighbors and Countrymen

Due to extenuating circumstances (unexpected family and social obligations: i.e. life in the fast lane), I haven’t had enough time to visit you all more often.

November, I spent writing with furious diligence, while  life around me came to a standstill. Still appointments and family visits continue to take much of my time this month. Off and on holiday entertaining and a visit to the west coast for a sister’s 60th birthday also loom large.

When time permits, I shall flit in and out and can’t wait till my schedule isn’t hampered by all these commitments. You’re always on the edge of my mind. I have not forgotten you and miss you and our daily banter.

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