China Travelogue IV

13 11 2008

October 9, 2008

It’s our second night here in Xian. We’re staying at the Xiangximen Youth Hostel and it’s been a good experience so far. This is the first time I’m staying at a hostel and luckily Yun found a fabulous one. It’s in a good location as it’s right next to the old city wall. (Note: I must admit our accommodation was a level up from the full hostel experience as Dan and I had a private room with an en suite bathroom.)

This city has wider roads and more traditional structures than Shanghai. I find it less suffocating.

***

Today Yun, Andre and Lisa are going to the Hua Shan mountain but Dan and me decided to take it easy instead because Dan’s tummy is still feeling funny.

Yesterday we went on a tour that included the Ban Po Museum and the Terracotta Warriors museum, then in the evening we had fantastic street food at the Muslim Quarter.

Unfortunately I enjoyed the night bazaar at the Muslim Quarter more than the statue of the warriors. Maybe I built it up too much but I still found it amazing.

I’m not used to seeing Dan this sick, hopefully he feels better today.

***

I just got back from breakfast, turns out Lisa didn’t go with Andre and Yun so she and I had a good conversation over breakfast reminiscing about our experience at our own universities, protesting for a cause and talking about life and the choices we made and will make.

It’s nearly noon and Dan is still in bed, but that’s alright ’cause today we plan to just take it easy and visit sites around the city.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Advertisements




China Travelogue III

12 11 2008

October 8, 2008

Dan and I are at a coffee shop in my company’s Shanghai office. We just got back from a quick trip to the Bund. It was quick because we didn’t really enjoy our foray into construction land, accompanied with dust and persistent hawkers.

Hawkers. It reminds me of one observation I had in Hong Kong. I noticed most of the signs I saw had Tagalog translations to them, which goes to show how much of the population is made up of Pinoys.

Anyway, going back to what I’m supposed to write about. Shanghai this time around is a different experience.

I feel like calling this city a “city under construction.” The Jing’an temple was under construction, our hotel’s facade was hidden, or partly hidden, by a flyover under construction and finally, the Bund was under construction.

I don’t mean to sound negative, I did enjoy several things about Shanghai, like riding the Maglev at 430km/h and having cocktails atop the Jinmao Tower, and of course eating street food and dumplings at the Old Town.

We met up with our friends Andre and Yun and Andre’s mum Elisa yesterday when we flew in but the three of them have gone ahead to the next city in our itinerary. Now Dan and I are killing time and regaining our strength after five straight days of traveling and sightseeing and suffering a slight case of the squits. Haha. I suspect it was due to the smelly tofu.

We’re flying off to Xian in a couple of hours. We reshuffled our itinerary a bit because we couldn’t get any tickets for the overnight train to Beijing and all the flights are expensive. My head hurts a bit and I’m feeling a bit lethargic like I was just on a return trip to Manila from Tanay, Rizal in an open-air jeepney. Hehe.

TO BE CONTINUED…





China Travelogue II

11 11 2008

October 8, 2008

On our last day in Hong Kong we went back up Victoria Peak again because the rain had let up and the sun shone a bit. Paying another $66 HKD was well worth it because we finally saw the skyline.

After the Peak we took the MTR to Tung Chung Station and got into the Ngong Ping 360, which is a tourist trap that takes you to a fake traditional village with its own Starbucks. For a moment I felt dirty and hypocritical drinking watered down coffee while walking the stretch of souvenir shops and scripted “traditional” tours.

After Ngong Ping, our next stop was the Golden City Computer Center which was Dan’s version of techie heaven.

I forgot to mention that the dirty touristy feeling I felt at Ngong Ping was redeemed when we went up the 260 steps to see the 40-foot Buddha statue and it was completely eradicated when we lit several incense sticks to pray at the Po Lin temple. Lighting up the incense sticks and praying left us with a kind of serenity and contentment that we walked silently back to the cable car station.

Our stay in Hong Kong was capped off with a good seafood meal and three huge 640mL bottles of San Miguel beer (Dan’s first taste of Pinoy beer) at a food stall near the Temple St. night market. It was, again, surreal and very special to have Dan with me at this spot thousands of miles away from home.

I would say the highlights of this leg of the trip were seeing the Symphony of Lights show, offering incense sticks and praying with Dan at the Po Lin Monastery and the very filling seafood dinner with San Miguel at a Temple St. food stall.

TO BE CONTINUED…





China Travelogue I

24 10 2008

As most of you know, Dan and I were just on a 2-week holiday all across China so the next several entries will be lifted out of my travel journal. They may be incoherent, disjointed or without flow, sorry about that, feel free to email me for more details though. It was such an amazing experience and we’ve got so many stories to tell.

Our itinerary was Hong Kong – Shanghai – Xian – Beijing – Wuhan.

October 5, 2008

It’s our second night in Hong Kong.

I’m quoting Daniel when I asked him what he thinks of it an hour after touching down.

“It’s like Chinatown, except it never ends.”

I think it’s the most unintelligent thing I’ve ever heard him say but maybe he’s still digesting the experience so I forgive him.

Our hotel is decent, a bit far from the HK Island but it’s negligible. Last night we took a cab to Tsim Sha Tsui and saw the awe-inspiring HK Island skyline and the Symphony of Light show. It was a spectacular show and the feelings of amazement I experienced were similar to what I felt when I first went to Enchanted Kingdom. Haha.

This is Daniel’s first trip to Asia and our first overseas flight together. I must say it was nice to relax and enjoy a long-haul flight for a change.

I had forgotten how humid it can get and I was absolutely exhausted on our first night.

Our first meal was, funnily enough, Japanese. In a restaurant on Ashley Rd after watching the light show. We then went to the Temple Night Market, which wasn’t quite as impressive as the outdoor food stalls and Hong Kong’s skyscrapers.

Today we went up Victoria Peak while it was pouring so there was no view to be had but we still had fun. We had a bit of an adventure at lunch when due to hunger (mine mostly) we went inside a Chinese Restaurant where absolutely no one spoke English. For ten straight minutes after sitting down, no one paid attention to us and we couldn’t figure out which food to order from the menu written in Chinese. Thankfully one of the wait staff found a dumplings menu in English and we finally found familiar subsistence.

In the afternoon we rode the mid-levels escalator and checked out trendy Soho. It was nice and funky. The word “gentrified” comes to mind.

Dan adores Hong Kong and thinks he can live here but I’m not sure I can be happy here.

***

I was disorganized on the first night. All my things were unprepared and the itinerary wasn’t well-planned but I bounced back the next day.

I saw so many maids in Central, 90% of them probably Pinays. I didn’t know what to feel, should I be happy to see fellow Pinays, or be sad because here I am holidaying while thousands of women from my country work so hard, battling loneliness and stresses on their relationships, with only one day in the week to spend for leisure?

Despite that one scene today it’s been a wonderful two days riding the MTR, getting soaked in the rain and lost in the streets of Hong Kong.

TO BE CONTINUED…





Shopping Shanghai, shooting shanghai, loving shanghai then leaving shanghai.

13 03 2008

I love shopping in Shanghai more than any other city I’ve ever visited as the city’s character extends into its retail culture. Haggling is of course better if you’re accompanied by a local as the stores will give you the “Chinese” price instead of the tourist price.

There is a sort of play to haggling here; after the storekeeper gives you her/his price you offer to pay only a third. If she/he doesn’t budge initially, turn around and walk away. Then count to five.

Sometimes you don’t even reach the number five without hearing the storekeeper yelling and running after you, displeased but nonetheless conceding to your offer.

Good shops abound in the Yuyuan Bazaar near the Old City God Temple and Yu Gardens in the Old Town, and the Shanghai Museum shop of course.

***

I am in love with this city and I think New York and Dumaguete have found a worthy rival with Shanghai. This city is definitely a photographer’s heaven and I don’t think I’ve ever visited any place gifted with this unique character and enriched with so much culture. Even my shopping finds have a quirkiness to them which make them very pretty to look at and photograph.

I’m not looking forward to going home this Friday. Melanie is going away to Japan and D is in the US so I don’t really have anything at the moment to anchor me to Melbourne. Plus the hustle and bustle of Shanghai and the warmth of its people remind me so much of Manila that I actually don’t feel like I’m thousand of miles away from the two places I’ve been calling home.

Work here has been so busy and sometimes I’m nearly burned out but it’s all good. It’s nothing I can’t handle and it’s a type of challenge that one should face once in a while to keep on improving… and to maybe reinforce to one’s self that patience is indeed a virtue. My workmates are brilliant, it’s just the language barrier that’s sometimes a tough thing to hurdle.

Oh well. Mum and my aunties are coming over on Easter Sunday so I have that to look forward to. So anyway, I really believe all good travelers should include Shanghai in their must-visit list, otherwise your travel life will never ever be complete. Lagot.





Nanjing at Night

6 03 2008

I finally did it. I summoned enough courage to walk more than 10 meters away from my hotel. Of course it helped that my hotel towered over all the other buildings in the area so it still acted as my security blanket.

My first foray into Shanghai streets alone took me to East Nanjing Road. It is a pedestrian road so no vehicles are allowed except for the mini-trams going back and forth. I had several mini-feats last night, I crossed the big intersections by myself, I dodged several bicycles and cars and people in a rush and I was able to ward off a group of hustlers posing us Chinese students. I was forewarned by several websites that these people lure tourists into “artsy/cultural trips” which eventually end in a dinner with a bill higher than one is willing to pay. I guess their pronunciation of Nanjing gave them away.

It was a rich visual and sensory experience. Shanghai is a paradise for a photographer. There are so many images to capture and the place has a lot of character.

I am planning to explore more places and wander farther away from my hotel as days go by, even if it’s just a few meters of progress each day ;P





Ni Hao

5 03 2008

I’m on my 3rd night here and despite having no friends here nor acquaintance, I do not feel lonely.

My workmates have been very warm and welcoming. On my first day of work I was treated to my first real Chinese lunch by a couple of teammates and today another two guys invited us to a fancy Shanghainese lunch to celebrate the birth of their sons.

I was told that out here, baby showers and celebrations occur after the baby is born, not before the birth, like how Westerners do it.

A more interesting cultural fact I learned is that by tradition, a baby’s name isn’t given by the parents. It is in fact given by a future/fortune teller. When I asked what the basis is, they said it is based on the five elements; water, fire, gold, earth… I’m missing one more, I can’t remember what it was. I’ll get back to you on that one. So anyway, the baby’s name will have to signify a balance among the five elements. And mind you, you can’t just go to any fortune teller, parents consult with the famous ones and sometimes the wait list is so long that your kid has to wait 4 months before she gets called by a proper name.

Food here is orgasmic and is a social activity as it is shared by everyone on the table. My workmates keep worrying that I dislike Chinese food and I keep reassuring them that as long as I know what I’m about to put into my mouth then I’m a happy camper. This is definitely my kind of foodie heaven, without a doubt, especially since the cuisine differs per province, there’s Shanghainese food which I’m informed is sweeter, then Beijing which is spicier, and then there’s a region which is the greasiest oiliest of them all. Heaven indeed. So let me take back what I said about Minneapolis several months ago hehe. Just kidding. Maybe…

Anyway, before I came here I was told Shanghai was a mix of the old world and the new and progressive. I don’t quite get that impression.. Maybe because I’ve played witness to that kind of setting when I was in the Philippines or maybe because I don’t normally associate modernity and progress exclusively with a Western backdrop. But for others it could be the opposite, so when they see progress with an Oriental or Eastern flavor, they automatically say it’s a mismatch.

I’m still working up the courage to wander far from my hotel’s vicinity. I find it unnerving that I can’t read any of the signs around the city and that I can’t speak the language so it’s very easy to get lost. That’s all for now. I’ll check back again in a couple of days, if anyone cares…