A Travellerspoint blog

Chengde

Vik, Rosie, Pip, and I wanted to go away for the night seeing we had Thursday off at the kindergarten. We have been looking at Datong which has some pretty cool things too see but when I brought this up with the family they exploded with excitement and wanted to drive us there with another family to have a bit of a holiday too. After a few discussions we figured out Datong was too far to drive just for one night so I looked in my China book and chose Chengde instead. It’s a town about 3 hours drive North East of Beijing and it’s the home a mountain resort of temples built by the Kangxi Emperor in 1703 as a type of escape from Beijing’s summer. The main building we wanted to see was the Putuozongcheng Zhi Miao which is a replica of the Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet because we couldn’t afford to make it to Tibet in our July trip.
So Thursday the girls met at my place an after lunch the other family arrived. Vikki and I went with my family and the 2 little girls, Rosie and Pip went in the other car. On the way we passed through an awesome view of original Great Wall creeping along the mountain peaks. Wade is a crazy driver and at any time there could be about 7 cars squeezing through a tiny, windy two lane road with horns a blazing, but with seven people in one car and hundreds of what looked like almost head on collisions we arrived safe and sound to a rainy Chengde. It was too late to go and look at anything so we found a Hotel that they bargained the price down for and got 4 rooms for all of us. IMG_5900.jpgAfter spending a while in their room taking photos and being force fed mountains of food, all 10 of us clambered into one car in search of a restaurant for dinner. Later that night we four girls went for a walk to find some chocolate and realised the hotel was about a 5 minute walk from the restaurant where we had dinner. BUT…when we drove it probably took over 40 minutes of driving before we stopped. None of us are still sure why it took so long but the hysterics of doing the 10th U-turn and the fact that we’d gone round the same roundabout for the 6th time soon wore off with four of us crammed in the far back seat of the car!!IMG_5902.jpg
We walked into the restaurant to find a herd of deer’s staring at us minus their bodies, and a cute little pair stuffed in mid prance on some mossy rocks haha if that didn’t wet our appetites the three huge glass jars filled with what turned out to be deer blood wine, deer leg wine, and what looked like albino deer leg wine, soon had us just ravenous….!IMG_5907.jpgIMG_5909.jpg
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better we spied the turtle’s swimming happily away waiting to be chosen for cooking. We figured this little fella was on special as after prodding him with the net we discovered his head had been torn off….hahaIMG_5911.jpg
I went over to look at the kitchen and discovered how hygienic it was when this lady cleverly making little pastry things tore off a bit of dough and let me join in the fun!! IMG_5914.jpgWe were able to snag a private room after a while an luckily had a pretty normal dinner before heading back to the hotel for a chat the fashion channel (being the only English channel) then a non successful walk to find chocolate before bed.IMG_5917.jpg
Woke up at 7 and met everybody downstairs. We walked around till we found some street stalls for brekkie, which was tea eggs, rice water and pastry things filled with pork and green stuff. Half way through the fireworks started about 25 meters down the road and lasted about 20 minutes of deafening bangs and explosions. Within 5 minutes the street was invisible with all the smoke and it had attracted a bit of a crowd.IMG_5922.jpg A police car drove through the fog and didn’t blink an eye and its so funny to think of all the precautions Australia has with distances between people and fireworks when this just happens on a street filled with people just casually walking past and having a sqiz!
Spent the morning at the big temple and watched a pretty cool show which was a reenactment of the emperor and empress and how they were entertained, ie. Dancing, wrestling, singing etcIMG_5931.jpgIMG_5942.jpgIMG_5956.jpgIMG_5961.jpgIMG_5967.jpg
Then had a quick hotpot lunch that claimed to have only one full chicken in their but for some reason two heads kept floating to the surface still intact, gobblers and all!....maybe we got lucky with a Siamese chook…IMG_5990.jpg
The afternoon was spent wandering around the park looking at more temples and in the end we just sat on the grass and soaked up the sun and the ants. IMG_5991.jpgIMG_5993.jpg This sign said something like there are deer in this park and they are likely to injure you....haha. IMG_5998.jpg but I got to pat this one with no injuries :) IMG_6001.jpgThe families had taken their two kids to a mountain and picked us up at 5 before driving back to Beijing where Isat in the front and gave Wade his English lesson including the words “road kill”, and “Coppaaa”, and the sentence “150km’s is a bit much when overtaking in the emergency lane don’t you think…”
Saturday Vikki met up with her family and I met them at a cultural street in the city that has a lot of painting and antique stores. After a yummo lunch with them and Rosie, we left them and went to Yashow clothing market where I bought 3 summer dresses…very practical for going back to Melbourne’s winter in 2 months…also got some more DVD’s and a cold rock icecream which was so delicious but it was apparently originally called Cold Stone so has kept that name over here.
Also after suffering 4 months of almost every child under three looking like this and often having to teach these children while trying to keep a straight face I thought I'd share this wonderous invention of the asians...sorry still not entirely sure how the whole rotation thing works haha IMG_5957.jpg

Posted by Lhillhouse 01:57 Comments (0)

Mandarin Test, Ned’s, and Chuandixia!

Saturday was our last day of Mandarin and we had to hand in an essay and do a test in the afternoon. The test was relatively easy but we all still made a few mistakes thought we will all definitely pass which is good as it counts as an elective with uni when I get back.
We all went back to Rosies to get ready to go out for dinner to celebrate the end of all uni work for the semester!
Hou Hai is beautiful at night and we sat on a rooftop overlooking the lake and bars all lit up having a relatively western dinner (a club sandwich with spam…)IMG_5798.jpgIMG_5811.jpg
Pip caught the train home and we walked to a little street east of Hou Hai called Nanluoguxiang where we went looking for the Aussie bar call Ned’s that a young couple who ran t had given me their card at the airport back in February. The street was gorgeous and went for about a kilometer. Very small but cars could unfortunately still just squeeze through. It’s lined with bars and restaurant and odd little toy and clothes shops that are all very cute. It was packed with people because it was such a warm night and we eventually found Ned’s - A tiny two story bar with people spilling onto the streets. We were immediately bombarded with the Aussie accent and spent the next hour watching the footy (unfortunately AFL) and chatting to the other Aussies about their time here, it was so much fun and felt like we’d all gone straight back to OZ.
After walking around for a while we decided to call it a night because we were getting up early the next day for a day trip.
Sunday woke up at Rosies and she wasn’t coming so Vik and I met Peta at the very end of Line 1 on the subway. We got hounded by taxi guys that wanted to take us where we wanted to go for 150Y, I wouldn’t budge past 50 so they weren’t the kindest. We were standing at the bus stop and they kept showing us that the next bus wouldn’t come for 2 hours so that we would go with them, during which a bus pulled up so we jumped on yelling our extent of Chinese at them that they were liars. The bus didn’t actually have a number displayed on it which we only realised after we had jumped on but we showed a guy that resembled Mao with a communist hat, camo, a backpack and binoculars and he mimed that we were on the right bus. The bus assistant came up the back to talk to us and spoke for about 5 minutes in very serious Chinese…we think he was explaining what to do and how much to pay when we got there but we were trying to hard not to laugh at him speaking to seriously when he surely knew we couldn’t understand half of what he was saying.
2 hours later during which Vikki entertained us by reading the history of China from the guide book, we were ushered off the bus by the bus assistant into a dirty hot street where we found a guy who would drive us to Chuandixia (an old village of about 70 people built around the base of a hill with all the buildings kept in original condition from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.) On the way to the village the taxi driver said “Ni Mai Mientiao” which translates to do you want to buy noodles… it was around 12 but we wanted to eat at the village and had no idea why he would be asking us this anyway. We said no in Chinese and he started to get really frustrated and kept on asking us. Thinking he must get paid if we eat lunch at his friends place or something we started to get frustrated too. We brought out all the no words we could think of saying we don’t want them, we’ve already had lunch, we’re full, and we don’t like noodles.
Soon we were driven to silence with him shaking his head and us all sick of him selling noodles!!! He pulled up to a side booth where there were a few other people and winds down his window and starts telling them that we don’t want to buy noodles! By this stage we were so annoyed we were about to get out but he pointed us to the booth and one of the men called out TICKETS…. It just so happened that Mientiao is noodles and Mienpiao is tickets...hahaha so all this time he was trying to explain we had to buy tickets to see the village when we thought he was trying to sell us noodles!!... An easy mistake! Ha.
The village was great we were only there for about 2 hours and each little house had somebody offering to make us lunch. It was a stinking hot day and Pip used her skirt as a shawl because she was too scared of getting sun burnt. The village apparently had a pretty bad earthquake this time last year and one of the hostels there had lots of visitors writing notes in English and Chinese about it which was nice. The people were all so nice but one lade didn’t want to take a photo with me which is understandable having your home as a constant tourist attraction. It’s also known for still having communist slogans painted on its walls and we saw a few red Chinese characters but they were all fading away.
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The trip home was a nightmare, standing squashed in a tiny bus isle for 2 and a half hours through windy mountain roads. The old backpacking photographer that helped us on the way there hopped on and was standing about halfway up the isle near Pip and Vikki (who had somehow managed to wrangle a seat!) and I had been pushed down the back so was being entertained by my ipod. I’d noticed this old guy looking at me more frequently then normal, which we are all used to being whites in Asia but Pip caught my eye in hysterics saying that this guy had spoken to her and Chinese and said I was beautiful and told her he wanted to take photos of me! After a bit of a laugh I looked over to him again and there he was getting this monstrous sized camera out of his bag…for probably the next 20 minutes of the trip he would have taken over 50 photos of my head from halfway up a sardine packed bus isle. After I got over the awkwardness and realised there was nothing I could do I gave him a few smiles and went back to staring out the window. Also for the last leg of the trip we all got seats and as Vikki and Pip had a conversation from across the isle the guy continuously kept snapping random shots of them mid conversation…if it hadn’t been the nice Mao look a like that had previously helped us we wouldn’t have found it so funny.
Arrived home and had to plan for the next weeks classes which is never fun, though this week is only a three day week because of the Dragon Boat Festival on the 28th.
Monday was a stinker and the school finally bought a heap of air conditioners!! So I can’t wait till they’re installed. After school the olds had a free afternoon on their tour so came over and we went out for dinner with Jessica, Wade and Doris. We went to a famous fish restaurant near their house that has a big wok sunken into the middle of the table which is made of bricks and has a wood fire burning inside it to heat the wok. There is a pond down the far end of the shop that you can pick your fish from and 5 seconds later its cut up and twitching as it falls into the bubbling cauldron of soup, potato, tofu and a whole lot of other goodies.
Wednesday I taught the baby classes and was coming to the end of the lessons when Sally springs on me that the half day baby class which is now a full day class is going to have English lessons! Little did I know that she expected me to start that same day 5 minutes after she’d told me…. I was not impressed. The kindergarten may have its good points (Surely…) but one thing they are hopeless at is knowing how to treat their workers in a professional way. So the next 20 minutes were spent having 10 just two year olds staring at me blankly trying very hard not too burst into tears while I tried singing I’m a little teapot as gently as I could.
Apart from the downer of now having 5 baby classes every afternoon, today was my last day of May! This means I only have 20 days of teaching left and I’m revising for the whole month so June is already planned. This excitement took hold yesterday when I completely packed my bags and practically emptied my room until I realised that I will still need to wear clothes for a month! However I am sending a shipment home in the next few weeks so I needed to get organised.

Posted by Lhillhouse 23:06 Comments (0)

The Olds

Saturday 16th - Friday 22nd

Saturday:
I got driven to the airport by an extremely over excited Wade who was far happier then I appeared! He spent the time while I waited at the gate taking photo’s of Doris and YeYe (the grandpa) in front of iconic airport statues and posters.IMG_5570.jpg
It was great to see some familiar faces after such a long time and after the initial introductions we jumped in the car to get Jessica from the domestic airport as she’d just flew in from Shanghai. After a grandiose lunch from Young Yi we were dropped at the silk market by Wade. First on the list was a camera because Dad sat on theirs in Turkey! After a few stalls I found some funny girls that we eventually got down to 1400Yuan for a Sony camera, spare battery, and memory card. It’s about $280 and later that day we saw the same camera in a store for $380 without any extras so that made them happy. DSC00004.jpg
After a bit of a stroll I found two girls in the jewelry section that knew how too make these rings I’ve been seeing everywhere. Its red string that almost every man women and child in China has somewhere on their body, for example if it’s your year this year ie. Year of the Ox you wear a red string with a piece of jade or a Buddha or something around your waist for the whole year. Anyway…for the rings you choose what you want in the middle (I got a little purple white jadeite flower) and then two people make the ring by tying one piece of string in knots around the other piece, it was very cool to watch and probably only took them 15 minutes.
After buying a few other souvenir type things we grabbed a taxi to Tiananmen and walked down to Qienmen street before doing the square.IMG_5579.jpgDSC00013.jpg
Came home to YeYe making traditional food for the dragon boat festival which we were celebrating early because my parents were here and also he is the only one that can still make them in the family. Its sticky rice with meat and beans wrapped tightly in bamboo leaves and tied before being boiled. DSC00027.jpgI can handle one or two but I don’t love them and they’re so heavy and filling but they’d unfortunately made over 30 of the things! Had a good dinner with most of the family then sent mum and dad to sleep on their wooden bed which I’d piled 4 doonas on to make softer.

Sunday:
In the morning went to the Panjanyuan (dirt) market with the whole family and met up with Vikki. The Grandpa got tired so in the end it was just my family and Vikki feeling awkward because we wanted to stay there all day and they were just waiting in the hot car. So we said we’d have early lunch, which was the hot pot place that they took me on my first day then they dropped us back to the markets. I finally found a sword that I liked which looked great compared to the other ones in the place with no dodgy handles and scratches, after a bit of a show to demonstrate how it can cut metal I figured out that it must be a lot better then the others because she wouldn’t even look twice at anything under 1000Y and I had got other swords down to 100Y. But I liked it a lot and after starting at 2800Y half an hour later I’d paid 1000 and had a sword! (not this one I got a curvey Japanese one)DSC00041.jpgDSC00039.jpg
I also saw these ninja things I wanted to get for John and Nick but after writing an email to customs to see about importing weapons I found out anything under 40cm long or regarded as concealable was illegal to bring in. I love this market there’s great paintings, masks, Tibetan jewelry and just a whole lot of interesting things to parooze. DSC00044.jpgDSC00047.jpg
At 3 we met Steve and went to his Chinese friend’s house to catch up with some of his friends in China then Vikki went home and we went out for dinner.DSC00073.jpg After we left them we walked to the Olympic stadium (the whole day my exciting edition of the sword was feeling more and more less exciting having to carry the long heavy thing!) where we met Wade and YeYe for some photo’s before getting driven home.DSC00088.jpgDSC00098.jpgDSC00116.jpg

Monday/Tuesday:
Monday Mum and dad went to the Confucian temple, had a Hutong tour in a rickshaw and went to the Lama temple, then met me at home after the Kindergarten and I walked them down the street to see my local market and shops. The family had also requested that Mum cook dinner so we bought some salad stuff and planned on having salad, fried potato, and some beef. What was meant to be an Aussie meal with a beer turned out to be Beef, salad and potato cut into tiny pieces on paper plates so that we could still eat with chopsticks because they only have bowls and no knives and forks! And the beer is always poured into bowls as they have no cups.DSC00251.jpg
Tuesday I cam home for lunch and took them down to a restaurant near the house where I had to use my Chinese as no one spoke English. The meal was nice though two things we ordered never showed up so I’ll blame the restaurant rather then my Chinese! Then they walked me back to school and I sent them to the Park that I run in for the afternoon.DSC00253.jpg
After Kinder I took them to Wanfujing Street where I bought a pretty cool mask, DSC00274.jpgand mum and dad enjoyed watching the scorpions moving on the sticks. Then too Hou Hai where we were meant to have dinner but bought those yummy cream pastry things that we made ourselves sick on so ended the night by just having a coffee on the riverside.DSC00311.jpgDSC00317.jpg

Wednesday:
Mum and Dad came to the morning Exercise session at the kinder because they weren’t allowed come the day before to see the babies as they would have cried when they saw Dad! But the principal saw them and insisted they stay for the morning classes to “play” with the children which I was fine with as it would take up half my lesson!
The boys in the Big class loved dad because he was so “big and hairy” haha they kept trying to touch his head and measure themselves to him. I got mum too read a story and all the kids introduced themselves so it was good to get some foreigner interaction other then me.DSC00328.jpgDSC00334.jpgDSC00341.jpgDSC00343.jpgDSC00359.jpgDSC00366.jpgDSC00370.jpg
I had the afternoon off and it was spent driving around in Wade’s car looking at the shops that sells his product. Dad found it very interesting. Mum and I not so much but anything was better then the Kindergarten. DSC00385.jpgDSC00403.jpgDSC00407.jpgDinner was at a Roast Duck place but we thought wade said they had no duck at the moment so we ordered about 4 dishes and were just filling up when they wheeled a whole duck out on a trolley and started carving it up for us! Then what your meant to do is wrap it in like rice paper with cucumber and soy sauce like a mini kebab, they’re delicious but Wade wouldn’t take “I’m full” for an answer so got a bit sickly after the 15th one! Back to Hou Hai for some day photo’s for mum and we saw this little bird on the ground with three money boxes. The owner had two more birds in cages on his bike and people watching took turns in holding coins out on their hand and the bird would hop over, pick up the coin and drop it in the money box!!! Easy days work for the guy but I felt a bit sorry for the birds. Saw a beautiful sunset over the lake then walked slowly back to the car with WadeDSC00428.jpgIMG_5602.jpg

Thursday/Friday:
Sent the olds off to the zoo and had to work just for the morning then caught the train in to Tiananmen West station where I met them. We grabbed a taxi to Beihai Park which runs along side and above the Forbidden City. It has a huge lake inside it and is pretty to walk around.
Mum and Dad’s tour did the Great Wall but it only seemed to take 2 hours of the day in the itinerary so I decided to take them to Simatai and walk the opposite way I did when I was there so that I got to walk on a different bit of the wall and they got to see the best bits. Rosie came with us and we met a Pommie couple on the bus that we shared the cost of a minivan up with. The cable car took us up and gave an amazing view and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day for photos. We walked up for about 40 minutes, then walked all the way down to the gorge where I had started last time and from there we caught the flying fox across the gorge that was very fun and a boat took us back to the car park.DSC00750.jpgDSC00728.jpgDSC00699.jpgIMG_5782.jpgIMG_5780.jpgIMG_5751.jpgIMG_5723.jpgDSC00639.jpg
We didn’t get home till 6ish but in time for a last final hurrah of a dinner before Wade and Doris and I drove mum and dad to their Hotel to begin their tour.

Posted by Lhillhouse 06:53 Comments (0)

Early Morning Jog and Happy Valley

I have been attempting to go for a jog every second day to even out some of this oil intake in all the food here! And rediscovered the park that I first ran in back in winter. It is now beautiful and looks completely different.IMG_5524.jpg
Woke up at 5:30 today who knows why but I haven’t been sleeping in past 6am for weeks so I decided to run to the park which is about two blocks form the house and take my camera so show the difference the seasons make to this city.IMG_5537.jpg
Once I turn the first street the run to the park is pretty nice too…
It was pretty busy even at 6 and I snapped a photo of myself representing a true jogger! IMG_5520.jpgHaha and realised why everyone stares so much…I am about 5 feet taller then all the 80 year old early morning exercisers that I run past!!
I also realised I'm living in Big Brother and the Govt obviously know where everyone is t any given time as I passed over 20 cameras just on the streets around the park!IMG_5542.jpg
Gave Vikki and Rosie a ring after brekkie, as we were meant to be meeting at Chaoyang Park but the weather wasn’t the nicest for a picnic, so after looking in my Beijing book and spying Happy Valley Beijing Amusement Park I convinced them we change plans.
They arrived at around 10am and now that I know my way around the city a bit better, instead of getting taxis I have been opting for just random cars with drivers that pop up anywhere and take you places for a set and much cheaper price. So we jumped in one outside my house and took off…we were coming onto one of the main roads and because of the lack of road rules everyone just pushes. Our driver was clearly in the wrong and trying to cut in front of a huge blue work truck and we we’re getting squished between it and the curb. Knowing we weren’t going to make it we just watched in silence as the driver didn’t give up…first the wheels squealed against the curb and among a constant horn being pulverized the truck hit the mirror, twisted it back, and drove on past. Instead of a normal reaction of obscene language and yelling our driver yanks on the handbrake (now in a lane on a busy peak hour freeway!) jumps out of his car leaves us in it with the door wide open and takes off running after the truck on foot in between the hundreds of cars hooting and inches from running him down! He stopped after about 50m realising he had no hope and hopped back in the car, clearly angry but began driving as if it was an everyday occurrence to strut around on busy freeways…For the next while we were pretty sure he was following the truck rather then remembering he had three patient foreigners in his care but we eventually lost it and made our way to Happy Valley.

Happy Valley was great fun…IMG_5551.jpgIMG_2221.jpgBeing China the best ride was closed for who knows what reason! But there was a great one like the Claw at Dream World that I bought a souvenir photo at, IMG_2245.jpga rollercoaster that was great but really short, a droppy one that had no line so we just jumped on (not Vikki because she hates rides) and I sat next to a very funny/very gay Asian boy that as we were making our way up I convinced him to not hold on. When we dropped I felt something whack my hand, look over and he’s grabbed it so tight it felt like it had come off in his hand! IMG_2264.jpgHahaha….he was making some hilarious noises and the ride goes up and down a few times after the big drop and not until the ride had come to a complete stop did he let go! He looked like he enjoyed it though and kept saying thank you so I hope I made his ride a bit more thrilling! Ha.

We walked past a little stall that was selling little glass things like rings and pendants that were so cute. I bought a little mouse and got the man to put it on some string for a necklace. I think he’s pretty darn cool!IMG_5564.jpg

Throughout the day the girls seemed happy with my haircut and seeing it was only $6Aus they decided to both get one when we got back form the theme park. While I was waiting, I decided to get mine coloured dark brown so I hopefully won’t have to colour it again for a long time so we had a great afternoon trying to talk to the workers and getting pampered. IMG_2275.jpgIMG_2276.jpg

The old’s get in at 9 tomorrow…getting pretty excited I just hope I can keep them entertained for a week in CHINA!!

Posted by Lhillhouse 06:09 Comments (0)

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