Thursday, March 30, 2006

Merl And His Ladies

  This was taken on one side of Tianeman Square where we had our Peking Duck dinner. We were waiting for our bus to take us back to the hotel when these young women walked passed. Merl, never one to miss an opportunity to chat, struck up a rather one-sided conversation which ended with this photo (not the best of Merl, but I'm sure he would rather have the lovely young women looking good). The women had just come from the grocery store so gave several of us bags of potato chips to thank us. Merl was the first guy on the trip to buy a Rolex watch. He was a great shopper and buyer. The women on the trip were proud to know Merl, the shopper and all around good guy. Posted by Picasa

The Clean Streets Of China

  The woman with the white cap is part of a crew of cleaning people at the Forbidden City. I've just been going through hundreds of pictures of our trip, and I was struck by the fact that there is no litter on the streets. It doesn't matter what time of day or where we were, everything was clean. Even driving along the roadways in the country we did not see any litter. People have a job to keep certain areas clean and they do just that. I only wish our streets could be as clean as those we saw in China. Posted by Picasa

Creatures On The Roof

  I'm hoping my sister Vicky's colleague at the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis will be able to shed some light on these creatures. We saw them on all the temples and palaces we visited. They were on all four sides. Hopefully Yan can help out with this one. She is from China and works with my sister. Posted by Picasa

Pretty In Pink

  We didn't see very many little girls during our time in China. It's still a big deal in China to have a boy so the family name is carried on. This little girl was sitting on her grandmother's lap in the Hutong area we visited. I just wonder who all these boys are going to marry someday. I asked our guide a couple of times about the practice of aborting a fetus if the parents found out they were having a girl. She kept saying we would talk about that at another time, which turned out to be never. Posted by Picasa

Hutongs Are Part Of Beijing's History

  This alley is a hutong. It's where we took our rickshaw ride and had lunch with a family. But hutongs are much more than just an alley or lane. The concept dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1341). The emperors built the Forbidden City (Palace) in the center of the city of Beijing. There were two kinds of hutongs then. Regular hutangs contained homes for imperial kinsmen and aristocraats and were mostly located east and west of the palace. The simple or crude hutongs, which were located far to the north and south of the palace, were where merchants and other ordinary people lived. The main buildings in the hutong were almost always quadrangles: four houses facing a courtyard with a rather narrow entrance to the courtyard. Many of those quadrangles have deteriorated and some have been torn down and replaced by newer buildings. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Shanghai Skyline At Night

  Our last night in Shanghai, there was a cruise on the Huanpu river. By this time I was cranky and just plain out of sorts. My feet and my back hurt. So Kerry went on the cruise without me. I watched the Discovery channel and CNN. This is probably the best shot of all that he took that night. Shanghai is a modern city that intends to conquer the world of economic development. Great shot. Posted by Picasa

The Tale of the Toilet....

  I am no stranger to foreign bathrooms. I lived in Europe for three years as a reporter so I've experienced many types. It's just that I was much younger back then and my knees worked a whole lot better. I did finally figure out how to use the squat ones while having bad knees, but I definitely preferred the other. The Western toilets were labeled "handicapped". Didn't bother me a bit. So what are my criteria for a bathroom in China: (1) sit-down toilet (2) clean (3) flushable squat toilet (4) toilet paper (5) soap to wash your hands and (6) not having to share the washing area with the men's room. I know it's weird to be writing about toilets but we drank a lot of beer so were always in need. For you ladies, they have lines in China just like in the U.S. but not for the men's room. Some things you can count on. Our hotel rooms all had western bathrooms. Posted by Picasa

BULLETIN: Cat Throws Up On New Silk Carpet

  Here's Comet trying to look sweet, but she's the culprit who threw up on one of our new silk carpets sometime during the night. Kerry discovered her misdeed when he got up this morning. She's 14-1/2 years old and sometimes her stomach has a few problems. She never, however, seems to throw up on the tile or the old carpet we don't care about. Such is life. Posted by Picasa

My Pearl Factory Purchase

  I liked this piece because it is so unusual. It's an oyster shell that still has some pearls in it. It has been coated with something and then edged in gold. The coating covers the pearls but you can still see them. This was the only one in the showcase that I liked. Not sure how there came to be holes in the shell but they just make it more interesting. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 27, 2006

No. 41 Pedaled My Rickshaw

  I was very uncomfortable with this situation. I have no idea how much this young man made or what his life was like but I just felt like a slave owner when he was pedaling us to lunch. He was very nice, had a blanket to cover our legs and always smiled. But I kept wondering what he was thinking. Was he worried about something or someone. Where would he be this evening. I would have made a terrible slave owner. Luckily the trip was not long. Posted by Picasa

Tales Of The Tenacious Saleswomen of China

  In China, when someone wants to sell you something, they will do just about anything to make the sale. Despite everything you say, they keep coming at you. This was most evident at the pearl factory in Beijing. We could feel the eyes of the salespeople on us as we stepped into the area where they would tell us how freshwater pearls are made. After our lesson, we went up a flight of stairs. They were waiting for us. It seemed like there was one salesperson for each tourist. This kind of thing drives me nuts. When I shop, leave me alone. When I find something or have a question, I will find you. It doesn't work that way in China. This young woman smiled and asked if she could show me something. I realized that the only safe place was the tea and coffee table. For some reason this was off limits to salespeople. I had coffee, ate a banana and tried to figure out how to get out of this alive. The minute I got up from my chair she was there. I moved quickly around the showroom, not really seeing anyting I liked. I'm not a pearl person and the country is certainly not a place to wear them. I finally found something I really liked. I'll take a picture and post it later. I bought it. Then she wanted to sell me earrings. I bought some. Then decided I was done. I scurried back to the tea and coffee table. Others were huddled there too. Every time I looked up toward one of the showcases she was there holding up something for me to look at. I have never experienced such tenacity in sales people. They were never rude or obnoxious but they were just always there. Just about everywhere we went, the sales people hung around us like bees at a hive. Posted by Picasa

Coming Down The Great Wall Is Easier

  Actually coming down is harder on your joints than going up. I just can't imagine back in 200 B.C. when they were building this thing. I guess it meant full employment. I probably said this before, but the astronauts on the moon could see the Great Wall unaided. Emperor Chin was quite a guy. He built the Great Wall and united the five provinces of China for the first time. He's been compared to Alexander the Great and and Julius Caesar. Some pretty ugly and bloody battles brought his victories about. He wanted to live a very long life. First his doctor told him to have lots of sex. I guess that wasn't working for him so he asked again, "How can I live longer?" The doctor prescibed daily doses of mercury. I guess the good news is that he was a raving maniac when he finally died. He's also the guy who had all the terra cotta soldiers guarding his tomb so he could rule forever from the afterlife. Posted by Picasa

Heading Up The Great Wall

  That's me on the left in the blue jacket with my new black backpack purchased especially for the China trip. Posted by Picasa

Temple of Heaven in Beijing

I really like this photo for its perspective, colors and intricate designs in the stone. I took it on the first day of our tour. I'm not much of a photographer, so when something turns out I have to share.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Monks Go Shopping At The Jade Factory

  I like this photo for the juxtaposition of East versus West and peaceful mind versus hectic mind. The people with all the tags around their necks are from our tour. I also like the monk in the front who is wearing only one glove. It was pretty cold that day. I would have gone with two myself. Didn't really find any jade that I liked. It's just not my thing. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Temple of Heaven Prayers..Correction...It's A Poem...Thank You Yan

  Our very first stop in Beijing on Saturday morning was the Temple of Heaven, which is as much a park as a temple. This woman was making Chinese characters on the sidewalk with a brush dipped in water. I'm not sure what she was expressing. (I just found out that she was writing an ancient powem which speaks of a beautiful place with a stream and a little bridge.) My sister works with a woman from China who has been looking at my blog. Yan provided the information on what the woman is doing.

She did not pay any attention to the people around her. She moved steadily from one character to another never looking up. To her right people dancing to lively music that sounded like a polka. Right behind her was the Tai Chi group and their music. Nothing disturbed this woman's concentration. Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 24, 2006

Chairman Meow in Shanghai

  Lots of feral cats. They probably help greatly with the rat and mice population. Chairman Meow had not had a bath in a while, but he did not look malnourished. He had not been neutered so there are probably lots of little Meows around. Posted by Picasa

No Child Safety Seats In China

  This little girl rode in the back of her dad's cart. Other kids we saw rode on the back of the bike or some rode on a special seat just behind the handle bars. No one wore helmets. Posted by Picasa

Learning All About Green Tea

  This is the room where we had our tea lesson. Our teacher put a three-finger pinch of green tea leaves from the basket into a glass for each of us. You can see the glasses around the table. A young woman filled the glasses from a tea kettle with water just slightly below the boiling point. We watched the leaves settle to the bottom of the glass, and then we drank. And then, of course, we bought green tea. So now, in addition to taking our pellets twice a day, we also drink green tea two to three times a day for our well-being. I actually like the stuff. I think it's an acquired taste. Our tea teacher insisted that green tea in teabags was medicinally worthless. And always best to get green tea picked in March. I got the feeling that the fall picking went into those tea bags she didn't like and was shipped to the U.S. Posted by Picasa

Dragon Well Green Tea Plantation

  This tea plantation is outside Hangzhou in the West Lake area. It is renowned for the quality of its green tea. We were there during the best time to pick the leaves. Spring-picked leaves are more beneficial to your health, according to our guide. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Maglev Train Levitates

 The train levitates less than half an inch above the guideway (yellow here) using the basic principles of magnets to replace the old steel wheel and track. It's very expensive to build one of these things. The magnetic field created by electric coils in the guideway walls and tracks combine to propel the train. There is no engine. Seems pretty environmentally benign. If you want to know more about these trains go to Posted by Picasa

Maglev Train To Pudong Airport

  Rather than ride the tour bus to Shanghai's Pudong Airport for our flight home, a group of us were dropped off at the MagLev station in Shanghai. Our tour guide, the one we really didn't like, warned of all kinds of dire things that could happen to us if we did this. Despite her warnings or maybe because of her warnings, the group of us trooped off the bus, grabbed our luggage and headed up the escalator. The top speed reached on our trip the airport was 430 kph, which translates to 267 mph. It took the tour bus 40 minutes to get to the airport. The Maglev took just 8 minutes and cost $6 per person. Pretty amazing. Posted by Picasa

Chinese Trivia

  This huge photo of Mao faces Tianeman Square in Beijing. Our guide told us that due to fading from the sun, it has to be replaced once a year. Just a bit of trivia. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Meditating Monk

This was taken at a 1,600 year old Buddhist Temple in Beijing called Lingyin. I couldn't go in the temple because of all the incense so I stayed outdoors and watched this monk for about 45 minutes. He was surrounded by crowds of people who had come to pray and offer incense to Buddha. In the background you can see the number for our bus, R-4, and our tour guide carrying it. No matter what happened this fellow did not move. Now that is the true definition of emptying ones mind. I have to try this again. It is wonderful when you truly remove yourself and just breathe.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hotels In China

With the price of our China tour so reasonable, I was a bit worried about the hotels they would choose for us. I went on line and did some research before we left. The hotels all were rated four or five star. I wasn't sure what that meant for the Chinese. If it was on a scale of ten then we were screwed. I was wrong. They were wonderfully modern and clean. The picture here is the lobby of the Howard Johnson Hotel in Hangzhou. I haven't stayed in a HoJo for years and certainly none in the U.S. look like this. The bartender still struggled to make a gin and tonic.

Monday, March 20, 2006

All The Big Companies Are There

  This is a view of the Shanghai skyline at night from a boat on the river. As you can see, the city is thriving. All the big named companies are here. One more indication that we have to pay attention to China. By shear force of will, the country will dominate this century. For hundreds of years the country focused internally either trying to unite all the states or trying to stamp out the outside world. The leadership has finally realized that the only way to power is through a robust economy. That is their goal. Stand back. Posted by Picasa

Inside Starbucks in Shanghai

  I felt like I'd never left home when we walked into this Starbucks right near the entrance to Chinatown in Shanghai. Everything is the same as it is here except the price is in Yuan (8 Yuan to $1) and the people are all Chinese. It had the same feel as Starbucks here. There are 57 of them in Shanghai. Kerry bought a Starbucks T-shirt that says "Starbucks Shanghai". I had a latte and he had the coffee of the day. Posted by Picasa