China

再见 China!

Our time in China has finally come to a close! It’s been an amazing trip here, and even just the last couple of days have been full of new experiences and cool activities. We went to the famous Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Olympic Park, the Temple of the Heavens park, the National Museum of China, and of course more delicious food.

Tiananmen Square was quite impressive, apparently the “largest city center square in the world.” The largest square goes to the Red Square in Russia, but over here they’ve got the largest city center square. Or so our guide said. There wasn’t a lot to see there actually, the square is surrounded by imposing government buildings and museums, and there is a large stone column in the middle. Apart from that, it’s just a massive empty square, and we couldn’t even find the spot of the famous tank man (unsurprisingly, there is no marker for it). We moved on pretty quickly to the Forbidden City, where we joined some 10,000 of our closest friends in pushing through the ancient buildings. The tourist site was absolutely packed, but that just made it even more similar to the scenes from Mulan! It was cool to see the famous site, but after seeing so many ancient Chinese buildings it actually wasn’t all that different. And we couldn’t go into any of the buildings or see anything up close, so it was really just cool for the history and not as much for what it is today.

After the Forbidden City, we went over to the Summer Palace which is today a very large park. Three quarters of the park are water, specifically a large man-made lake with an average depth of just 1.5 meters. The park is quite beautiful, however, and has many old structures with various bits of history and significance. We walked around for a while, then went on to get some pictures of the Bird’s Nest stadium at the Olympic Park and called it for the evening.

Then we had our last day in Beijing! We first went to see the Temple of the Heavens park, which was a beautiful public park full of locals playing games and dancing. We spent a few hours out, then said goodbye to my mother and aunt as they began a long journey back to the States, and we went to the National Museum to learn more about ancient China and see some beautiful ancient decorations and artworks. We finished out the trip with an amazing dinner where we got to watch the chefs prepare all of the food and we met other travelers in Beijing. Now I’m getting everything together for a trip to Tokyo tomorrow, and so I say goodbye China and I hope to see you again someday!

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China

Trip to Guilin, Longsheng, and Yangshuo!

It’s been a busy few days since my mother and aunt joined us in China! We left Shanghai for Guilin and immediately started up north to the town of Longsheng to see some of the Chinese countryside. I had imagined that China was really all city, because Shanghai goes on for as far as the eye can see (which is, admittedly, not very far with the haze there) and there are many other famously giant cities in China. However, the countryside is expansive, gorgeous, and completely unique. Limestone pillars and hills rise up all around the roads to Longsheng from Guilin, and on arrival we walked around through some amazing terraced hills. The locals farm rice, chili peppers, and tobacco on the terraces, and it’s very cool to see them all down the mountainsides. Unfortunately I can’t include photos just yet, but a few years ago they were the subject of a National Geographic magazine (so you know they’re good).
We spent a day around Longsheng walking through the terraces and villages in the area. Afterwards, we made our way back to Guilin city to spend a couple of days there. We visited an old town market and wharf on the Li River, and visited a famous cave that was thoroughly developed for tourism. It had lots of really cool and interesting formations, but in some areas the cave was completely scraped clean of stalactites and stalagmites to form massive smooth caverns for tour groups to congregate in. So it was cool and interesting, but didn’t feel very “authentic”.
After Guilin, we took a long boat ride down the Li River to Yangshuo. The ride down the river was beautiful and provided another opportunity to see the gorgeous countryside and limestone formations. The river is constantly winding through massive pillars or mountains, and they go on for as far as you can see in any direction. When we arrived in Yangshuo we rented bikes and biked over to one famous formation in particular, Moon Hill. It’s an incredible limestone archway on top of a rather steep hill, so the approach was tough but very worth it. I can’t wait to be able to post photos again, because the arch and views from the top were pretty unreal.

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China

First Days in China!

After a few days in China I’ve started to figure out how the internet work here enough to post a new entry to the blog. Sadly, WordPress seems to be slowed or partially blocked, so I can’t post with photos for a while (it also seems Flickr was blocked recently). I can still put up text entries though, so they’ll just have to do.Our first few days here were spent in Shanghai, which is a really cool city. I landed around 10:30 PM and thought the city was in a blackout, as everything except for the street lights was black from the sky. I recently learned, however, that the skyline lights just go out around 10PM. So there’s a beautiful skyline from 7-9ish, then things start to turn off, and by 10 the city is blacked out (not that there isn’t any power. People could turn on lights if they wanted to, but generally the skyscrapers are empty and dark).

The city is actually very nice, though perhaps a bit hazy. There are pedestrian streets full of shops and people, nice gardens, and a very pretty skyline. There’s a promenade along the river with a good view of the skyline, and it seems to be a popular wedding photo spot. We’ve seen probably 3-4 wedding couples taking pictures there every day.
China is taking some getting used to, as Google (and all of it’s services like YouTube) is blocked, Facebook is blocked (so Instagram is out too), Twitter is blocked, and the list goes on. It’s weird to have my internet traffic filtered and it definitely takes some adjustment. The climate is also very different up here than it was down in Thailand, Cambodia, and Singapore, though it’s nice to not be sweating every time I go outdoors. Overall it’s a very new place, and I still have plenty of time left here to see what it’s like!

 

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