Carefully Slippery August 29 – September 3

Our tour group consists of Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and Canucks!

We started today with a walking tour of Shanghai. My insides were very upset and a few bathrooms were destroyed enroute. Thankfully William, our guide from Beijing, took me to the Chinese pharmacy and got me some concoction made of twigs and flowers and roots. I took 5 of them and was cured!! Good old Chinese medicine. That evening we went out to see the Shanghai Acobats – these people were amazing and the show went on for a couple of hours. There was even a girl going crazy with hulahoops. And 5 motorcycles in a sphere whizzing around – it was a wild show!!!!

The following day we took a bus to Xitang – a watertown – meaning it was on canals – very very pretty and the photo ops were great!!! It was another HOT day – 37 celsius. When we returned to Shanghai, we went to train station to take the overnight to Xian. This train had A/C and it was much cleaner than the previous train and I had a bottom bunk. Our guide William is full of knowledge, however, does he snore!!! he is a frickin freight train! We arrived in Xian at 9 am – it is a walled city of 8 million and full of pollution – the sun only peeked thru once in the days that we were there. The 2nd morning we rented bicycles and rode on the wall around the city 16 km. It was great. Shopping in the Muslim market was good and the bartering was heavy duty. Bought some silk and a majong game.

Speaking of “carefully slippery”, the Chinese to English translation is quite humorous. This one was found on the floor outside the bathroom. “Warm Notice” sign in elevator to press the buttons and take notice. “Carpenter Tan” a comb shop. “Happy Bum” candy. “Morning Twilight Business Hotel” hotel name. “Dairy Fairy” Ice Cream parlour.

And on another note on “Squats” – take care of your belongings – anything in your pockets that might fall out. The Kiwi had her sunglasses fall off her head into the squat.

In Lintong were the famous Terra Cotta Warriors – what a sight. These were discovered in 1974 by a farmer. A few hundred have been uncovered. They were built 2000 years ago by the Emperor and placed over his tomb. There are 4000 in total and will be excavated over the next several years.

Took another night train to Beijing and today walked Tianaman Square and the Forbidden City – tons of people everywhere and undercover cops all over. Our tour guide was so strict on behaviour in the square.

Hit “Flavour Street” tonight. WHOA this street had it all. We dined on sheep’s balls…getting ready for Mongolia. There were so many different culinary treats. ie snake on a stik, starfish, dried seahorse, sheeps’ kidneys and penis, sea cucumber, larvae, curried shark, scorpions.

Most of the food we have had has been non-spicy with lots of meats and dumplings and rice and veg. There is not alot of variety in the flavours, as we have in the Western World. However, if you do want Western food, it is here; KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds. William has taken us to some really out of the way, back ally places and it has been a real experience. He usually always introduces us to a new Chinese liquor – this stuff is deadly, however he loves it and of course wants us all to try it. The only dessert we have been served is watermelon.

Off to the Great Wall tomorrow and our last day in China. Peking Duck – the Last Supper!!

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The Art of Squatting August 25 – 28, 2011

Coming from the Western World, we are not too familiar with “Squat Toilets” and they are very common in this part of the world.  The 1st thing to remember when travelling in China is too bring your own TP – they do not supply it unless you are staying at a upscale hotel.  The squat toilet involves placing your feet on either side of the “hole” and squatting as low as you can go without falling over, and aiming for the hole.  Some squats have handrails, but it’s better if you have good balance, strong thighs and a tight core!
We are now back in Shanghai at the Captain’s Hostel which is right off the Bund (the beautiful esplanade which runs alongside the river)   Our hostel has a great rooftop bar with a view of the magnificent skyline and at night it is magical.  We are paying $7.00 each per night at the hostel and our room has 5 beds, but we are the only ones in it – we lucked out!!!
The massive subway system in Shanghai is efficient, clean and easy to use.
Venturing into “Old Shangahi” was a treat, away from the hustle and bustle of the section our hostel is in.  We found some beautiful shops and art museums and had the best foot and back massage by 2 wonderful Chinese women.
A short ferry ride took us across the river to the Pudang Financial District of Shanghai.  We went up to the 86th floor of the Hyatt which is the highest bar in the world.  The view was “forever”.
Tonight we start the “official” tour and meet our travelling buddies.  We have moved from the hostel to a hotel!!
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Drunken Shrimp and Tongue on a Stik August 20 – 24 2011

As we had missed our flt to Chongquing, we booked into a cheap airport hotel for an early departure the next morning. We dined on Drunken Shrimp which are “live” shrimp that have been doused with alcohol and then served to your table – they were still grey…
Speaking of food, the choices are vast and so un-Western! We had “Hot Pot” in Chongquing which is a steel pot sunken into the middle of your dining table – you order HOT or Combo and then the various dishes which include meat, fish, veg, noodles, rice, etc. We ordered “Hare Tail” thinking it might be bunny’s tail but no, it was a small, bony, little fish. Pigs’ Brains were Pigs’ Brains – very mushy but tasty. We threw all the various food into the boiling Hot Pot which was full of red peppers swimming in hot oil. WOW – over the top Delicious and HOT.

While waiting for the train, we ventured into a Walmart – OMG – the meat, the fish, live bullfrongs, alligators and many other dried reptiles were there on display. One thing we have yet to see is any farms wih livestock and there is a ton of “street meat”. Jess treated me to “Tongue on a Stik”!! YES – pig tongue on a stik – actually pretty good. There was also quails on stiks, frogs on stiks, bulls’ balls on stiks.

Now in Chongquing with 34 million and 36 celsius. We stayed at the Yangtze River Hoster in a room with 4 other female travellers. After walking and getting lost many times we hit a streetside cafe and had noodles and beer.

We took a bus to Wanchu to board our ship for the Yangtze River Cruise. Yangtze River is the 3rd largest river in the world. We were the only Westerners on the ship and we had 2 teenage boys as our roommates. The next morning we boarded a smaller boat to go into “The Gorges” and sat up with the Captain drinking stick tea. The scenery was spectacular!

The following day we were up at 6 am and off the ship and into dragonboats. Jess and I were lead strokes and we did a 250 metre sprint against another boat and won. None of the people had dragonboated bedore and it was a “HOOT”.

The 3 Gorges Dams are massive and only bus groups are allowed into the site with lots of very tight security – they took our can of unopened beer, a Swiss knife and bottle of Scotch upon entering and returned them 2 hours later at the end of the tour…

In Yijiang we ate at a roadside stand and then took a cab to the train station. The train departed at 11 pm and we were shown our room – it had 2 sets of bunks – 3 levels high!!! I got myself halfway onto the top level and freaked – there was no way I was going to sleep up there – claustrophobia had sunk in! One of the female train staff found me a lower bunk – what a night – the train was jammed, and stifling hot. I slept in my clothes with all my valuables tucked into my shirt!

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August 17th to August 19th

TIME TO LEARN MANDARIN…

Jess and I left the Wild Wild West Canada, however, got lost finding Vancouver Airport with Michael as our driver…We even plugged in Consuela Miss GPS and she too could not find the right terminal.  At last we made it with only 3 hours to spare…

After checking in with Air China, we discovered that everything was closed.  So we headed to the Air China Lounge – they let US in!!!  And with open “bar” privileges… it was great as we chilled in comfy chairs and sipped on Scotch and appies until our flight was called.

We were in the back of the plane with a very strange curtain surrounding our seats along with 4 other seats – not sure why…  We took our “magic” pill and we were “down” for 10 hours.  Landed in Beijing at 5:30 am and it took 30 minutes to get thru customs.  We walked the airport and decided it was time for a Chinese beer as we had 2 hours to kill before our flight to Shanghai.  Found the Air China lounge and chilled out there with Chinese beers – scored again.

Boarded flight to Shanghai and slept for another 2 hours.

OK now time to put on my big knapsack – holy crap – it weighs a ton!!!  why did I bring so much stuff????  I could have just brought my “day” pack.  next time!!

To begin with, my pack never was adjusted for me, the “big mother”  was resting below my bum – yikes – had to adjust!!!  Got on the subway – really clean!!!  took 30 minutes to get to Peoples Square where our Ming hostel is located.  It is 36 c out – BOILING HOT!!!!!  and with ???? lbs on my back – we finally find the hostel – it is choice!!!

Showered and hit the streets – no JET LAG for us.  Walked and walked – so clean!  Went to the Bund area – really choice on the river.  The huge Department st store had the funkiest massage chairs that massaged our feet right up to our heads.  We really need these in Canada!!!

Hit the Waldorf Astoria to check out the “longest bar” in Asia.  Had drinks and then checked out a beautiful bank and there was a massive bronze bull outside.  Photo moment!!

Found the Captain which is a hostel with a rooftop bar with a gorgeous view of the Bund skyline and lights – WOWOWOWOWOW – I think we might just have to stay here when we return next week, if just for the view…

Back to our hostel and crashed.  Up to catch the subway to airport to fly to Chungking.  OOOOPS – we went to the wrong airport!!!!  missed the flight…  this is why we need to learn MANDARIN!!!!!!

OK so we booked flight for next morning and got a cheap hotel by the airport – did a little shopping – the 3rd floor of the “mall” was full of “games” for the dads to take the kids to while the moms shopped.

The grocery store was enormous and had everything.  We picked up a bottle of Chinese wine, which we are enjoying right now in our room.  It cost 5 bucks.

Time to go and have some noodles and then to bed so we catch our flight tomorrow at 7 am.

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