First Night in Shanghai:
Shanghai is HUGE. I've been to alot of big cities in the US but seriously none compare to Shanghai. We have, what, four or five tall-ish skyscraper-esque buildings in Memphis? Shanghai has hundreds. Anyway, we arrived at our hotel, the Hilton Shanghai. BEAUTIFUL. After sleeping on just a box spring in Guilin (I'm serious), it was nice to come back to the comfort of a Hilton property.
We got some rest and started out walking to the Children's Palace, a sort of YMCA for Chinese kids. These facilities are all over China, but the founding facility is in a converted French mansion in Shanghai. They have all sorts of programs, all government-sponsored, from ballet and theater to biomedical technology and computer programming. After a quick tour, we went to see the ballet classes. These girls were amazing and apparently will be the future stars of Chinese ballet. We also got to see the beginners who were about 5 years old--and adorable. It was very interesting to hear that children could come to a free, government-sponsored program and train to excel just like American kids would if their parents put them in an expensive private studio program.
After finishing up at the Children's Palace, we headed off to dinner. We went to a little chic hotel called M on the Bund. The Bund is the river that splits Shanghai into two parts, Puxi and Pudong. Pudong is the up and coming area with some incredible modern buildings. Puxi is the old-world, formerly French occupied side, which is where our restaurant was. This was our view from the balcony of the restaurant:
We had a great dinner and followed it with drinks on the balcony, then moved to the "Glamour Bar" with all the adults from the tour. Very fun and very cool location. The rest of the night concluded with about five of us going to "Bar Rouge" that was a neat atmosphere with a cool view from the balcony, but had expensive drinks and an expensive cover. All in all, it was a great night and a great introduction to Shanghai's very international, modern culture.
Shanghai Shenanigans [Disney's theme for the day, not mine. I swear.]:
What a gorgeous day outside. Shanghai is near the coast and more on the southern side of China so the weather is like Southern California. We started out the day at Fu Xi park, which is hard to describe unless you actually visit the place. Basically, all the senior citizens in Shanghai gather at this park and do Tai Chi, fan dancing, ballroom dancing, sing-alongs, badminton, salsa dancing, and a variety of other activities. If you are over the age of 50, this is the place to see and be seen! There must have been over a thousand people in this one park--I loved it. Anyway, we got to participate in a sword-fighting Tai Chi and fan dancing demonstration with some local teachers. Seeing Rowdy Rod fan dance was a sight to behold! Afterwards, we got to walk around the park and see some of the great old people doing their activities. The highlights:
Our next stop was the Yu Gardens and market. This place was CRAZY. There were all kinds of knock-off watches, bags, shirts, jackets, etc. We stuck together through all the craziness and made it to the Yu Gardens. GORGEOUS. The coolest thing about Shanghai is that they have done urban planning really well, specifically all of the cultural parts they have preserved and green spaces they have created. It was such a neat mix of old and new. After our tour through the gardens, we got to SHOP. We went to a neat tea shop and had some incredible green tea and bought all kinds of tea and accessories. If you are lucky, I will bring you some back!! Anyway, I was on the hunt for some good deals so I found a little man with a North Face and Polo ad and decided to follow him to his shop. I thought it was going to be right around the corner, but he took me about two blocks away and led me down this creepy alley and did a special knock/password. When the door opened, you see all kinds of watches, sunglasses, shirts, jackets, etc. Knowing I didn't have any cash on me, I just decided to have fun with it and see how low I could get them for two polo shirts (obviously fake). After Rowdy and I walked all the way back to the market, the guy, who followed us, offered us 2 shirts for 200 RMB (about 28 US dollars). We respectfully declined.
Dinner was on our own, and after a seriously overdue nap, we had an adventure which I will choose not to get into, we finally ended up at the Blue Frog. You were right, Jon...the burger was AWESOME and very much needed. So were the "Blue Frogeritas". What a day. By the way, how cute is she:
Shanghai Day Three:
This was pretty much an "on-your-own" day and it was well needed. Ashlee and I slept until 10:30, which was also very much needed. Lunch at the market and shopping ensued and I ended up with more tea, some souvenirs, another pair of sunglasses, a Columbia jacket (which was knockoff price but I can't tell that it really is knockoff. We think it fell off the truck!), and a handfull of things bought by my family. We went back to the same shady alley store and had a great time haggling. We went down some even sketchier alleys and such. Best story of the day: Kamikaze Kim thought the guy taking us back there was a tour guide and tipped him!!!!!!!! Her haggling technique: "What's your best price you'll give me? Ok I'll take it." Hilarious.
We rejoined our fellow group members for dinner at a famous dumpling restaurant (got the pork dumplings Jon...good recommendation). Once again, we ate waaaaaaaaaay too much for our own good. We ended the night at an incredible acrobat show, CIrque-du-Soleil style. Simply awesome! Very good cap to an outstanding trek through one of the coolest cities in the world.
Off to Hong Kong and then HOME ON WEDNESDAY!!!!! Look for my next and final update!!
Get over yourself,
Monday, April 28, 2008
First Night in Shanghai:
Friday, April 25, 2008
Last Night in Chengdu:
After dinner at an authentic "Hot-Pot" restaurant (think Chinese fondue), we had the opportunity to go to a Sichuan Face-Changing Opera. There were traditional elements, like singing, dancing, costumes, etc. but they also had puppetry, instruments, hand-shadow formations (the coolest part), acrobats, sword-fighting, and the famous "face-changing" actors, who changed costumes and masks in less than a second, and they did it about 50 times each. It was one of those things that you might not find on your own but Adventures by Disney delivered with one of the best parts of the trip so far. Off to Guilin and the land of "gumdrop mountains"!
Arriving in Guilin:
After spending some time in the very urban Beijing and Chengdu, I was looking forward to getting to rural China. When I think rural, I usually think the kind of rural we have in West Tennessee. I was wrong. This rural was more like West Tennessee circa early 1900's with chickens and cows roaming the streets at free will. It didn't matter because the views were like nothing you can see in America. The mountain formations jut out of the ground like a million shark fins in still water. All around you are these huge, steep mountains, but the terrain wasn't hilly at all. There was a slight fog everywhere, but not from pollution like Beijing and Chengdu. While the people in Guilin live in pretty much abject poverty, they thrive off of tourism and we were about to see why.
We arrived at our hotel, the Hotel of Modern Art (HOMA) which was a part of a larger modern art complex situated in a huge park-like setting. The contrast of the modern art with rural Guilin was shocking, but in a very good way. The hotel was basically a modern art museum with some hotel rooms around it. The park/art complex that surrounded the hotel was exactly what our group needed--a place to get out and run around without having to worry about traffic and crazy merchants. Once we were settled into our super-chic rooms, the hotel had bikes for us to ride around the property on. This place was unbelievable. Huge works of modern stone sculptural art and architecture were thrust into one of the most beautiful locations anywhere in the world. It's a stunning place that is truly a hidden gem in the world. After inquiring into why a place like this was in a city like Guilin, I found out that some billionaire whose roots are in the area wanted to invest and give back to the area that is basically a rice-farm and tourism-driven economy. After dinner in the hotel and drinks in the Austin-Powers like "retro space bar", we all headed off to bed.
Tai Chi/Stone Painting/River Cruise day of FUN:
I don't know if I've posted this, but if you haven't been to a country across the globe, it takes a while for your body to adjust to the time difference. It's not really jet lag, but you just pop up out of bed around 5 am or so every morning awake and ready to go. On this day, I finally was able to sleep in a little (7:30!). After breakfast, we did Tai Chi with a local Tai Chi master on the banks of the lake on property. Very zen-like. After I slung some paint over a stone pig in the art workshop, we got ready to go to on the cruise of the Lijiang River.
If you watched Survivor China last season, you know the scenic river cruises they went on during rewards challenges and such. This was better. We took a very scenic bus-ride down to the river where we boarded our boat. I thought the sights were great from the bus, but I was painstakingly wrong. This was real China, complete with fishermen on bound-bamboo rafts and women washing their clothes in the river from the banks. I really can't describe how beautiful this experience was, but when I get a chance I'll post my pictures on facebook and you can see for yourself. In short, river, chinese people, beer, great company, beautiful mountains, and a damn good time! Afterwards, we docked in this little tourist town that had a great street market. ABD gave each guest 20 RMB (about $3 USD) and were told to find the best deal they could for a white elephant gift exchange later that night. I got nun-chucks and these magnetic noise-making bead things.
That night after some free time, the hotel and ABD staff arranged an incredible Chinese barbecue by the lake that was nothing short of amazing. We did the gift exchange and I ended up with osmanthis wine??? It tasted like perfume. And of course, Disney had to go all out and capped the night off with a gorgeous fireworks display over the lake. Modern art, beautiful scenery, fireworks, tasty food, and great company. How could this get any better? We're now in Shanghai and I will have an update for you ASAP!
Get over yourself,
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Picture of the day:
Update from yesterday:
Our last day in Beijing was great. That day was what I was looking for on this whole trip-to see local Chinese people in their home environments and get away from the big city part of Beijing. We started out with a pedicab (basically a wagon on the back of a bike) ride through the back streets where some of the locals live. These areas are eventually going to be torn down by the Chinese government so it was fascinating to be able to see them before this happens. The people basically live in 4-family complexes with a courtyard in the middle.
Our driver (see yesterday's pic of the day) was hilarious and even though it was pouring down rain, he managed to truck on through mud, between tight spaces, all pulling Ashlee and I at the same time. During the tour, we made three stops that were set up by Adventures by Disney. The first was to a woman's home. She makes a living off of tourists coming in her home and teaching them the art of Chinese paper cutting. We got to cut out some figures that stood for "Double Happiness" among other things. Next, we stopped in front of a statue of Confuscius where an old Chinese man taught us how to do this crazy yo-yo thing. I sucked at it. Next, we went to another woman's home and learned some knot-tying skills. I halfway sucked at that, but she managed to help me through it.
I think the most interesting part of Beijing was that you really saw how people were excited and ready to finally be able to show off to the entire world later this summer. It's a great city with some very hopeful people. Even in the first two days I gained such a huge amount of respect for Asian culture, and specifically the world power that China is, and will continue to develop into. I had no idea that their economy will actually surpass America's as the world's largest within the next decade. America is definitely the greatest country in the world, but we have a long way to go in regards to managing growth, utilizing technology, and global trends. Beijing is awesome and I wish I could spend more time there.
Chengdu is China's 5th largest city and has a reputation for being laid back and enjoying life. We ate some great authentic Chinese food "family style" at the restaurant the first night. They specialize in the Sichuan style food that is spicy and very unique in the combinations they put together.
The other thing Chengdu is known for is Pandas. Chengdu houses the Panda Research and Breeding Facility. This place was like a zoo with only Pandas. I have to post a picture to show you how awesome it was:
I don't think people would think to come here if they were making a trip to China, but it is definitely worth it if you have the time and resources to do so.
So, that's all for now. Tonight we're going to a Chinese Face-Changing Opera and then off to Guilin tomorrow. I love this country.
Get over yourself,
Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Picture of the Day:
Yes, I know that you might have been expecting a very cool Great Wall picture, but there is a reason I picked the bird's nest as the picture of the day. My digital camera is acting up and won't charge or something, so I've been using the chrisPhone for my camera. That thing cannot capture the awesomeness that is the Great Wall of China. I tried, but they came out crappy.
Anyway, we got up this morning and had breakfast in our super-chic hotel restaurant and then loaded up for our Great Wall day of fun. I said it already, but there really is no describing this place. I wished it hadn't rained all day but a little rain should never stop someone from seeing one of the wonders of the world.
On the way back down, there are little markets that all sell the same stuff. One woman got my dad to come in her little "shop", and by "shop" I mean storage unit, and then body-blocked him inside. Well, if you know my dad you know "Rowdy Rod" wasn't having any of that and quickly made his way out (and by that I mean he pushed her out of the way). Anyway, we bought cheap t-shirts from the woman next door and I got to experience my first haggling experience.
Best story from the great wall: My stepmom, "Kamakaze Kim", apparently had an equilibrium disorder on the Great Wall and as Rowdy Rod, Atomic Ashlee (my sis), and I traipsed the wall like Chinese Warriors, Kamakaze was busy puking over the side of The Great Wall of China. I wonder if they saw THAT from space!?? She took it like a champ and promptly joined us for a beer on the way to lunch.
Lunch was very cool. We went to a place called "The Little Schoolhouse", which is actually a renovated schoolhouse at the foothills of the Great Wall. The schoolhouse was renovated into a restaurant and glass-blowing facility. The town it's located in is called "sustainable growth" and many of the residents are from America and Canada who have fallen in love with the area and invested in its future.
On the way back, we drove past Olympic village and saw the Bird's Nest, which will be the main arena for the Olympics this summer.
On another note, I have been in China for over 24 hours and have yet to eat any Chinese food. We are promptly correcting this tonight, so I'll let everyone know how that goes. Off to Chengdu tomorrow!
Get over yourself,
Saturday, April 19, 2008
After 14 hours of plane riding, 5 hours of layover time, three gin and tonics, two hours waiting in the Beijing airport for someone to pick me up, deciding they weren't coming, hiring a taxi driver, getting ripped off by said taxi driver, and explaining to a hotel clerk that "w" in my last name does not mean "uu", I have finally made it.
Our hotel is incredible:
Luckily, I thought I was going to miss the Great Wall of China, but we are going tomorrow. I will be posting the "picture of the day" (thanks Jon) and will upload albums onto Facebook. I'm going to bed.
Get over yourself,
Thursday, April 17, 2008
That's my Itinerary (sp?) for the trip. Some cool things on there....if anyone has done these things or has tips for what to see in free time, please leave a comment.
Get over yourself,
I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT CHINA!!!!!!
I'll keep everyone up to date about my adventures in enchanted China through this blog. Please feel free to leave comments, check out my pictures, make fun of me, whatever.
I'll do my best to update this daily so as to give everyone some entertainment and a means to slack for a few minutes at work/school/home/whatever you do with your life.
For now, I leave you with some of my favorite videos on youtube: