Monthly Archives: April 2014

Why Not Us!

Why the title? Click here and see why. Why not us?!

And now a few more photos, hopefully to entertain you.

Seems like a terrible thing to do to a BMW

Seems like a terrible thing to do to a BMW

 

Where does one begin? With the "Almighty Auto Service Experts"? Or maybe the "Global Auto Film Iasters" (Ed. note: To be fair, when I approached them to tell them the error, one guy said "I know - M") or the logo "PC" which, apparently stands for Cars and People". Aaaahhhh, China...

Where does one begin? With the “Almighty Auto Service Experts”? Or maybe the “Global Body Film Iasters” (Ed. note: To be fair, when I approached them to tell them the error, one guy said “I know – M”) or the logo “PC” which, apparently stands for “Cars and People”. Aaaahhhh, China…

 

This is not about the shoes - it is about the outfit. They are wide legged white linen pants with an 8" strip of black cloth attached at the bottom. I saw her go by and waited for her to return and she almost got past me. To say that the black and white and black outfit was not fetching is an understatement.

This is not about the shoes – it is about the outfit. They are wide legged white linen pants with an 8″ strip of black cloth attached at the bottom. I saw her go by and waited for her to return and she almost got past me. To say that the black and white and black outfit was not fetching is an understatement.

 

Okay, so this was a real puzzler to me. On Monday the guys on the right were at the mall carrying their sign ( on the other side, it says "Sorry") around. I could not figure out why. On Tuesday the tent went up. Apparently "Sorry" is the name of the apartment complex. Do these marketing guys ever check out the literal translation before they advertise? Or maybe they meant sorry to the university guys who had to wear these ridiculous outfits to hand out the brochures advertising it.

Okay, so this was a real puzzler to me. On Monday the guys on the right were at the mall carrying their sign ( on the other side, it says “Sorry”) around. I could not figure out why. On Tuesday the tent went up. Apparently “Sorry” is the name of the apartment complex. Do these marketing guys ever check out the literal translation before they advertise? Or maybe they meant sorry to the university guys who had to wear these ridiculous outfits to hand out the brochures advertising it.

This very healthy (?) looking sod will thrive when it is laid down on the carefully prepared soil next to it, we're sure.

This very healthy (?) looking sod will thrive when it is laid down on the carefully prepared soil next to it, we’re sure. Right…

Well, tomorrow we are off for a three day weekend in Ningbo. (Ed. note: a coastal city famous for its seafood. It is Labour Day holiday – Thursday, Friday and Saturday and then back to work on Sunday, for 6 days straight. Some holiday.) Cheryl and Andy will help us kick off  a month long celebration of Terry’s 60th birthday (the 23rd). We will follow that with a weekend visit to Jiaxing of other Cinec administrators and partners when, I’m sure some kind of celebration and imbibing will occur. Terry and I then wrap it up with a trip to Hong Kong for a few days on the weekend of her actual birthday. Whew, I am exhausted already.

Stay tuned for more stories.

The Shoe Blog

Why wouldn't you wear these to RT Mart for grocery shopping? I had to look twice to see the heels as they blended in so well with the floor.

Why wouldn’t you wear these to RT Mart for grocery shopping? I had to look twice to see the heels as they blended in so well with the floor.

 

It seemed like a good idea at the time but… TIC

(Ed. note: be sure to go right to the bottom and check out the link)

Way back in basketball season, sometime in early March, we hosted another BC offshore school and got to chatting with the principal who invited us to bring our kids to a “fun” badminton tournament, tba.  Early in April, we got an email that said it would be held on Thursday, April 24th, from 9:00-2:00 and every school could field a team of 10, 5 girls and 5 boys. So far, so good although it seemed rather an expenditure of school time and money for 10 kids, but wanting to be supportive, we decided to send a group. A teacher volunteered to go with the kids and I left it to him to decide how to pick the team.  We don’t have a formal badminton team so he decided he would ask who was interested and take it from there.

On Monday, April 21st, we received an email telling us the tournament would be held on April 25th and the time was now 9:—4:00. Teams were now down to 6, 3 boys and 3 girls. If these had been the parameters from the beginning, there is no way we would have considered attending. However, we had made the commitment, so first we clarified that the date had not changed.  Then cuts had to be made.  Suffice to say that the selection process fell apart somewhat and the ‘fun’ tournament  went sideways, threatening to become a reputation-damaging incident of mammoth proportions.  The phone started ringing on Tuesday night, with Daisy transmitting messages from one upset family, and didn’t stop until about noon the next day.  Apparently, the Chinese take their badminton VERY seriously and neither the kids nor their parents believed for one minute it could be just for fun.   We viewed it casually–no practice, no play-offs to see who would attend, criteria that kept changing– then last minute cuts because of the change of format all added up to a major culture clash. Several apologies later, I still have kids threatening to change schools because of it.  Live and Learn and always remember, TIC!  Now for the tournament itself.  I am merely recounting the story I was told.)

One school dropped out so there were 24 kids in total.  Did I mention they take these things seriously?  There were many badminton courts painted and available on the gym floor but only two were in use.  Two to three refs were assigned to each game.  Birdies had to be changed every 10 minutes (!) so an estimated 70 birdies were used over the course of the day.  In one of our games, the ref stopped the game twice to take calls on his cell phone.  At least he didn’t call for a smoke break.  TIC, this could happen!  We have noticed a large standing ash-tray with butts in it in our gym  so were not terribly surprised that this gym smelled like smoke.

The kids kept asking what was going on.  It seemed there was no clear pattern to the events,–singles, doubles, singles, whatever–but it worked out okay.  By the end of the day, our kids had had fun, made some new friends and won a medal or two.  With enough medals  for 10 kids per team, some of the glow was off any win, but thankfully, a good time was had in the end. Note to self:  do not, under any circumstances, mess with badminton! (Ed. note: Believe it or not, even Terry got a medal for allowing the students to go. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the real reason, but since there were, apparently more medals than kids, so our “coach” brought one back for her. I will get a photo and include it in an upcoming post.)

Now, some photos for you as they seem to be piling up on us.

Last weekend Shelley and Rob and their two boys, Matthew and Alexander, took a trip from Shanghai to the countryside. While waiting for them at the train station, I saw a woman worker rush out of the WC and get a maintenance worker and they rushed back in with mops. One of them placed the refuse containers and two signs in front of the door to block the entrance. In the five or so minutes I was there, four (4) people moved the signs aside and went in. I guess when you gotta go…

Just because the entrance to the WC is blocked, doesn't mean it's closed.

Just because the entrance to the WC is blocked, doesn’t mean it’s closed.

Also while waiting for them (they were seriously delayed), I also saw this. I have no idea.

Go figure this one.

Go figure this one.

We went to South Lake and saw a number of the swimmers out in the water. (Ed. note: I know, I have shown them before, but it was a very cold and miserable day) I figure it is about a 3/4 to 1 mile swim around the little island and back to shore, all the while dodging the tour boats. One fellow (not in picture) didn’t even bother with the buoy.

I guess it isn't THAT cold.

I guess it isn’t THAT cold.

From South Lake it was back to the mall for some fishing and rides. Now you know how in Canada they have those little fishing pools where kids can catch a fish and win a prize? Well TIC. Think of a kids’ backyard plastic swimming pool about 5 feet in diameter. In the bottom of the “pond” is about an inch of water and maybe a hundred, hundred and fifty plastic sea creatures with a small magnet on them. Your fishing rod also has a magnet and you can catch as many as you want – one or 100, since they practice the catch and release philosophy. Nice – tell a 3 year old there is no prize for catching all these fish and check out the disappointed look on his face.

Then it was on to the water ride where you shot the seals or whales or whatever the things were.

Matthew, Shelley and Alexander look totally relaxed and having fun - Rob, however - let's just say focused.

Matthew, Shelley and Alexander look totally relaxed and having fun – Rob, however – let’s just say focused.

The final ride was the kill the jungle animals ride. Matthew and Geoff went first and drew a crowd of about 15 adults. Terry took no photos, so you will have to settle for round two where it was Matthew and Alexander.

Hit the animal and the red light goes on and the animal moves.

Hit the animal and the red light goes on and the animal moves.

And speaking of Shelley and Rob, we got another order of wine delivered this week.

It took far less - but far too much, time this time around.

It took far less – but still far too much, time this time around to get at it.

On our walk the other day, this guy was stopped at the corner, I guess waiting for someone to tow him away.

Anyone got a trailer hitch I could tie up to?

Anyone got a trailer hitch I could tie up to?

There was a fellow working on putting new wire into this manhole. It is pretty much filled with water, but the wires run through the pvc pipes so maybe it is okay?

Look carefully, now

Look carefully, now. That is a leaf floating on the surface.

A store in Jiang Nan Mall. Is it selling bras, as the name would suggest , or interestingly patterned men’s briefs as were displayed in the window?

Make up your mind, would you.

Make up your mind, would you. (Ed. note: Quite the package…)

Warning: The following is for those of you with strong stomachs only

For those of you who have farm, hunting or fishing experience the following will mean little or nothing to. To the vegans, vegetarians or squeamish folks, look away now or at least scroll down quickly with your eyes shut.

We decided to have chicken tonight, having found the absolute best recipe for roast chicken ever – and I mean that as someone who has made more than a few chicken dinners in his life. (Ed. note: Here is the recipe – seriously, you must try it!!  http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/roast-chicken-rules)

We went to the market and got a fresh chicken. How fresh? Well that’s it on the right and it came complete with an egg still in it as well as some still forming. That’s them in orange just under the egg. On the left are other parts of the innards – gizzards, hearts, livers, “finished” and “unfinished” eggs – all available for purchase if one so desired.

Dinner tonight is chicken and...

Dinner tonight is chicken and… Terry was particularly impressed with the hygenic grey towel being used to wipe the counter with and rest the chicken on.

This week at the office one of the baristas wanted to demonstrate her prowess with pouring the hot milk and her English proficiency.

Starbucks - where everybody knows your name.

Starbucks – where everybody knows your name.

The Shoe Blog

I have some great shoes in the next few posts, but let’s start with these. The young woman wearing these today in the pouring rain was handing out flyers worth 20 rmb ($3) off on your next meal at some buffet restaurant. This style is all the rage this spring.

Guaranteed to keep you feet wet, cold and sore, I'm sure.

Guaranteed to keep you feet wet, cold and sore, I’m sure.

 

(Ed. note: Hey – anybody else do one of these today? )

Every Blog Must Have a Title, Martin 3 or The Great Wall and Final Thoughts On China

(Ed. note: First of all, in the last post I missed this photo which Lynne and Martin had commented on  “

Tomorrow, on to the Great Wall. How many bricks do you think there are in a wall 5,600 kilometers long, sixty feet high and sixteen feet wide? And for thelife of me I can’t see why they built it IN the mountains…….”

My, my - Lynne looks so small - but certainly not insignificant.

My, my – Lynne looks so small – but certainly not insignificant.

Secondly, for those of you who wish to learn something, this blog DOES have a title – The Jiaxing Express – and it is the Posts which Martin has neglected to give names to, until today.

Thirdly, I am schizophrenic since I have been given free rein by Martin by make all the Ed. notes I wish, but scolded by the women for doing so. What’s a man to do? Read on and find out.

Fourthly, over to Lynne and Martin.)

Welcome to Martin and Lynne’s last guest posting from their Grand Tour Of China (Ed. note: Sadly, this time it is true). When last we left you, we were heading for the Great Wall. We chose to go to the Mutianyu location, based on Ron and Terry’s recommendation and the fact it has a metal sled run to get you down from the mountain side. You go up on a skiing style chair lift:

Lynne on her way up

Lynne on her way up

And come down on a plastic sled with a brake – used obsessively by the guy in front of us so we were reduced to about two miles an hour. No, he wasn’t Chinese – American.

You really work up some speed on this - just ask Kim and Bruce but not Lynne and Martin

You really work up some speed on this – just ask Kim and Bruce but not Lynne and Martin

So, we remarked in the last post that for the life of us we couldn’t see why they built it in the mountains. In this photo, you see it snaking off o’er hill and dale, and mountain, into the distance. Look closely at the far mountain top and you can see four Chinese characters laid out in stones. You can also see that the Wall continues past that. Indeed, there is another mountain in the far, far distance (left of the nearer one) – you can just see the Wall crossing that one.

Look way way off

Look way way off

Here’s a close up of that far mountain top with the Wall crossing it:

(Ed. note: I'm thinking different people have different definitions of "Close-up")

(Ed. note: I’m thinking different people have different definitions of “Close-up”)

So that shows the terrain it crosses; here’s a photo showing how steep it is. Not only that, each step seems to be a different height and a different width. It was hard enough for us to walk up some sections on an April morning. Imagine what jogging up in a suit of armour on an August afternoon would have been like!

Or a day of pouring rain...

Or a day of pouring rain…

Before any one comments, no, those handrails are not original. This section had been reconstructed, so at the end, there was an un-reconstructed section. It looked like this:

If the wall had been constructed in BC you would likely need a helmet to walk on it.

If the wall had been constructed in BC you would likely need a helmet to walk on it.

So you can see they have done a lot of work on it over the years. You can also see that most of the inside is rubble, with brick facing on the outside and for the battlements. It was near this section that we came across a typical Chinese sign, which kind of answered our question about whether or not it’s closed in winter.

Wasn't closed in the rain in May, either.

Wasn’t closed in the rain in May, either.

One more shot, showing the section we were on, with the top most “castle” being the end of the reconstruction – again, very steep.

It is a spectacular sight.

It is a spectacular sight.

And so, back to Beijing. The next day we visited the Buddhist Temple, home to the Panchen Lama (Dalai’s second in command). There are actually two Panchen Lamas – the one officially sanctioned by the government and the original one who hasn’t been seen since 1985. Here’s the main temple.

Rather boring after The Great Wall

Rather boring after The Great Wall

On the last day, we visited the Temple Of Heaven, before heading to the airport to fly home. This was basically a private compound and garden where the Emperor offered sacrifices for good harvests, and had his wily way with the concubines. Supposedly the largest circular wooden building in the world. Again, looted by the British during the Boxer rebellion, and then used as their headquarters. As far as we could tell, it lay in ruins until the Olympics. Now it looks like this:

Again with the British...

Again with the British…Don’t they like anybody but themselves?

And so we left China – a land we never thought we would visit. But hey, for $875 each Vancouver to Shanghai to Xi’an to Beijing to Shanghai to Vancouver, why wouldn’t you? It was definitely an experience we would recommend to others. The culture, the people, the history, the sights, the cuisine – all made for an extremely interesting and busy holiday – definitely not for those who like to lie on a beach. We hope we have given you a flavour of the trip, and China, with these few comments and photos (we took over 500 of them!).

We would like to thank Geoff and Terry for inviting us, for being such gracious hosts, such good companions, and for showing us the sights of Shanghai and Jiaxing. It was a most thoroughly enjoyable holiday with good friends!

(Ed. note: Ah gee… It was our pleasure to have the two of you come and enjoy our Asian home. Thank you for coming and for offering to blog. It is fun to read of someone else’s experiences. Anybody else want to join us next year?)

The Shoe Blog

This is an excellent example of what Chinese women wear on their legs with the heels they so enjoy. This woman sat down next to me at the train station last week. BEFORE she sat down, the dark band at top of her nylons were showing. I made sure I looked anywhere but directly to my right since I have no idea how high that skirt would have ridden up when she crossed her leg. However, the woman across from me could not stop looking at my neighbour, so it must have been quite the sight.

The stirrup hose is such a nice look.

The stirrup hose is such a nice look. Also the arch of her foot seems to be pretty high off the insole, don’t you think.

 

 

 

 

Every Blog Must have a Title, Martin #2

(Ed. note: Okay so after having been scolded by both Lynne (“Bossy”) and Terry (“You sure wrote a lot”), I will make no further comments on the guest blogs.)

Now that we have verified that Geoff knows the meaning of the word final, on with the blog!

Passing through the Main Gate of the Forbidden City, one comes across a series of Temples named along the lines of “Temple Of Heavenly Peace”. You pass through each one until you get to the North Gate. Actually, you don’t pass through them, you look into them and then have to go around them – one of the disappointing things about the FC. The other was that most of the fittings have disappeared, either due to the Boxers, the British or the Red Guards. So this is typically what is left inside now:

Life in the lap of luxury - on the other hand it isn't exactly warm in there in the winter.

Life in the lap of luxury – on the other hand it isn’t exactly warm in there in the winter.

You can get an idea of the life of opulence the Emperor and the Court lived. We got the sense that there was a lot of ceremony interspersed with long periods confined to one of the many smaller palaces within the FC walls. The role of one temple was a rest stop and changing room for the Emperor as he was carried between two other temples – exhausting work! Or he could visit the Concubines’ Palace (500 concubines), which was guarded by dragons……

Quite the ferocious little beasts

Quite the ferocious little beasts – Is that guy  shielding his eyes out of terror?

The place was full of animals guarding the grounds. Here’s two more:

Two?

Two?

Notice the level of decoration on the building behind. The number of animals on the roof edge indicates the importance of the building (in this case, the Temple Of Heavenly Peace). Every lion has an upturned lion cub under its front left paw. The place has been torn down and rebuilt several times since old Genghis’ day – most notably in the 1490’s by the Ming Emperor Yongle. It’s also burned down several times, so they put these all over the place as fire extnguishers. The audio guide we were using made a point of saying that British soldiers scraped the gold off it during the Boxer Rebellion…..

Damn those Boxers!

Damn those Brits!

No blog post can do justice to the size and grandeur of the Forbidden City, so we’ll leave it here and head back to the hotel. Just so you can see how “forbidden” it was, here’s the moat on the way out.

Apparently they didn't think boats could cross the moats

Apparently they didn’t think boats could cross the moats

At this stage we came across a rarely mis-translated sign (way fewer in Beijing than elsewhere, we found). This was in a public toilet. Apparently, it is part of a campaign to make people be “nice” to each other. We don’t think they meant the bit about the pool, because the Water Cube was miles away! You are the best!

Be Healthy

Be Civil Be Healthy

Back to the hotel, which had an interesting array of Mongolian art (mostly horses and saddles, with one picture of a sheep outside the bedroom – don’t ask). However, this was in the lobby:

Who would have thought that a horse statue could be so interesting?

Who would have thought that a horse statue could be so interesting?

Look closely and you will see that it is one tree stump lying on its side with a herd of wild horses individually carved into it (carved, not glued on). Feeling peckish, we decided it was time to sample the world famous Peking Duck. We happened to pass THE place to eat on the way home, so we decided to make a reservation for eight o’clock “No reservation needed, sir!” Sure enough, come eight o’clock we had to barge our way in past a door keeper saying “No reservation, no table!” Anyway, once inside we ordered the duck, which is carved at the table. You eat it sliced, wrapped in a very fine tortilla type of bread, with lots of spices. The two pieces on the plate are the two halves of its head…..

Excellent!

Excellent!

A lot of the old Beijing is now gone, replaced by the Stalinesque architecture beloved of Communist countries. One major architectural crime was the demolition of the city walls in 1964 to build a ring road. Here’s pretty much all that’s left – the South Gate seen from Tiananmen Square (a little smoggy).

Compare the height of the people to the height of the gate. Amazing.

Compare the height of the people to the height of the gate. Amazing.

However there are still some “hutongs” (alleys) left. They house lots of people, but use communal showers and bathrooms. We both checked out the communal toilets (out of anthropological interest), and fled. Here’s a hutong. As a former Telus employee, Martin could not but help admire the overhead wiring work.

If they keep this up they'll soon have a roof over the hutong

If they keep this up they’ll soon have a roof over the hutong

No Cregg-Guinan walkabout would be complete without the discovery of a cheap drinks place. A bit pricier here at Y5 for a 600ml Nanjing beer, but what the heck, we’re on holiday. Much hilarity from all the staff and customers when the Canadians ordered beer but no food. Here’s our local, on the left, with the main cop shop on the right. By this stage we were both choking on the Beijing smog. Martin’s lungs are still not over it (he who never gets sick!). It later transpired that we were there in the middle of a sandstorm, which had deposited clouds of fine particles all over the city. The sand had been blown down from Inner Mongolia, which seemed appropriate given where we were staying. And we had been remarking about the amount of left over construction sand lying in the street……

i

At least the jail cell is close if you want to sleep it off.

Tomorrow, on to the Great Wall. How many bricks do you think there are in a wall 5,600 kilometers long, sixty feet high and sixteen feet wide? And for the life of me I can’t see why they built it IN the mountains…….

Every Blog Must Have a Title, Martin

This week’s blog is the final guest posting by Lynne and Martin detailing the end of their adventures in China, now that we have fully recovered on our return to Canada.

(Ed. note: Contrary to the above statement, this is NOT the final blog from Lynne and Martin. They still have to tell you about the sand, the duck, the Wall and the more. Additionally, Ed. will print what they have written, with no censoring, but lots of notes.)

When last you left the intrepid explorers……. We were heading to Xi’an, a part of the trip that has been more than adequately covered by Geoff and Terry in recent posts. Suffice it to say that Xi’an, the Terracotta Army and the Emperors’ tombs are absolutely magnificent and a must see if (Ed. note: When) you go to China.

After T & G left on Sunday, we pottered around in Xi’an until late afternoon on Monday. We discovered how to eat good food for next to nothing in the local Chinese Noodle Shop. Now, all weekend we had been buying 600 ml bottles of Tsingtao in the corner store for pre-prandial consumption in the room – cost Y7.50 each. How much in the noodle shop for 600ml of Tsingtao? Y4.00. Go figure! (Ed. note: We may be affronted. Is there an implication there that we had not introduced them to cheap food, or good food or cheap good food – or beer?)

HUGE bowls and Huge beer at a miniscule price.

HUGE bowls and HUGE bottles beer at a miniscule price.

So, Tomb Sweeping Weekend having come to an end, off to Beijing on a two hour flight that left on time and served food. Taxiing into town for $20 bucks, we checked into the Inner Mongolia Hotel, which was an improvement on the Citadines in Xi’an. Disappointingly, though, not a single misspelt sign! (Ed. note: Nice touch Martin – book us into somewhat suspect accommodation, but you two get exquisite. Nice!)

Apparently you have to even get dressed up just to go to the lobby.

Apparently you have to even get dressed up just to go to the lobby.

By now it was around eight, so we thought we’d take a look at the nearby Tiananmen Square. No dice. It’s closed at night and patrolled by the police AND the army. (Ed. note: How does one “close” a huge, empty space that is 960×550 yds.?)  So we visit the famous night food market to have a beer and something to eat. Fortunately, not these, as they were still wriggling……

Mmmm ... but if they are still wiggling, they are fresh!

Mmmm … but if they are still wriggling, they are fresh!

So, back early the next day. Access to TS and the Forbidden City is tightly controlled by security gates (as indeed are all subway stops). We get diverted by what we thought was a wannabe guide who turned out to be the head of the Forbidden City Calligraphy School. He showed us into the Temple of Ancestors before he tried to sell us something. Anyway, no one was in this temple except newlyweds doing formal photography. It had an impressive main building used by the Emperor to honour the ancestors (we’re thinking of putting one in the back yard) (Ed. note: An ancestor, a main building or a temple for newlywed photos?). This is the interior.

Stretch those arms Lynne - just imagine you are holding Martin...

Stretch those arms Lynne – just imagine you are holding Martin…

After half an hour trying to figure out how to get out of there, we ended up at the main gate of the Forbidden City. Now this is a blog in itself, as it is, of course, huge. So we leave you with a picture of the main gate. To be continued…. (Ed. note: Okay here is my question: If this was to be the last blog (see Martin’s preamble), why did he finish with “To be continued…” . It is very confusing for the Ed.)

Forbidden

 The Shoe Blog

Since this week’s blog originated in Vancouver, I thought it would be appropriate to use this. It appears that the Vancouver Sun is stealing my idea. If any of you know a good lawyer, could you find out if I can sue? They have taken The Shoe Blog and made a small adjustment calling it Boots and included it in something called Instagram. I don’t think that is right. Just another example of The Man beating down the little guy!

It was MY idea!

It was MY idea!

Wasup in de ‘hood – and udder places

BIG happenings in our neighbourhood this week.

The Planting

Our apartment is in Phase II of Spring Source and they have just finished up the building and selling of Phase III. I must say that they do things right here in China. They landscape every complex in order to make them both attractive and environmentally friendly – they add enough plants to soak up all the pollution in the air.

These photos are of the ladies planting the block long boulevard:

  1. Last fall they put in tall bamboo trees
  2. Last week they planted a stretch of grass approximately 12 feet wide. Each plant is individual and has about 5-8 blades of grass on it.
  3. Then came a row of photinia seedlings
  4. Then a row of some other kind of green plant
  5. Then a guy comes along and trims the tops of the green plants with clippers
  6. Then another row of trees
  7. Then they are watered in with a fire hose
  8. Remember now, these are all being planted is what amounts to nothing more than clay.
Behind these two women you can just see the grass.

Behind these two women you can just see the grass.

This is the photinia. Terry thought they were cuttings, but they actually have little roots - but are still just "twigs"

This is the photinia. Terry thought they were cuttings, but they actually have little roots – but are still just “twigs” – and check out the “soil”

The 14 or so women all sit on little stools all day

The 14 or so women all sit on little stools planting all day while the trimmer trims and the boss talks on his cell phone

Then comes the fire hose...

Then comes the fire hose…

And one day maybe it will be this colourful.

And one day maybe it will be this colourful.

 

Going to the Store

This week I am walking back from school, behaving myself, walking on the sidewalk and I see a car turn off the street and come up on to the sidewalk. Now this isn’t all that unusual since they also park on the sidewalk. However, this woman:

Drives a block and a half from the blue circle...

Drives a block and a half from the blue circle…

Up to the store, where...

up to the store, where…

she drives back on to the street, parks, gets out, goes in to the store, spends a little money and then gets back in to her car...

she drives back on to the street, parks, gets out, goes in to the store, spends a little money and then gets back in to her car…

makes a u-turn in front of an oncoming bus and drives away.  Aaahhh China...

makes a u-turn in front of an oncoming bus and drives away. Aaahhh China… (Ed. note: I was surprised she didn’t come back up on the sidewalk)

No Parking

I think I have written about this before, but it came up again yesterday. It was pouring rain and at least 4 scooter drivers had the temerity, the gall, the utter hutzpah to not park in the designated scooter parking area but rather to drive under the covered walkway attached to the mall ( a place where buses used to park, where delivery vans and trucks routinely go) and park and lock their scooters up. No, no says the guard , who generally busies himself doing — nothing. He proceeds to DRAG these 4 scooters sideways about 60 yards and puts them in the scooter parking area.

I can't imagine that dragging these thing sideways is a) good for them or b) good for you.

I can’t imagine that dragging these thing sideways is a) good for them or b) good for you.

Udder Places

No, these three photos have nothing to do with cows, but they are related to travel – sort of.

This was at the famed Replica Mall. Now we heard these two speaking German, so perhaps they don’t read Chinese or English or understand the no smoking symbol. On the other hand, the 4 Russians at the table on the other side of us were smoking too, so maybe it was us that didn’t understand the sign.

Perhaps these aren't actual cigarettes (although they had smoke coming from them and they smelled like burning tobacco) - maybe they are just small white sticks you put in your mouth.

Perhaps these aren’t actual cigarettes (although they had smoke coming from them and they smelled like burning tobacco) – maybe they are just small white sticks you put in your mouth.

(Ed. note: How is this one related to travel? Well, I wanted to tell them to F…) 

The second one is at the Hongqiao Train Station. This was a new one. The guy in white had come from the right and forced his way to the front of the line next to us, butting in front of the woman who was there. Not to be outdone, the guy in the black then completed a swoop from the left and pushed his way in front of the guy in white. However, since I wasn’t involved, there were no fisticuffs!

"I'm first", "No, I am", "No me".....

“I’m first”, “No, I am”, “No me”…..

And finally, this is self-explanatory

Hey, it doesn't apply to ME!

Hey, it doesn’t apply to ME!

The Shoe Blog

Today it is the complete ensemble.

I think the big blue bag makes the whole thing come together, don't you?

I think the big blue bag makes the whole thing come together, don’t you?

 

Xian: Day 3

Well, we finally made it to the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xian. George the driver picked us up at 7:15 and 45 minutes later we were there – as opposed to the day before when after 45 minutes we were not even 1/4 of the way there. Anyway, we parked and mysteriously a woman appeared, out of nowhere it seemed, to offer her services as a guide. We agreed as she spoke fairly good English and we were off. She informed us that there are 22 English speaking guides and over 600 Chinese speaking guides. Guess the big North American rush to Xian hasn’t happened yet.

Four Intrepid Travellers - and someone who wouldn't turn around or leave.

The Four Intrepid Travellers – and someone who wouldn’t turn around or leave.

The museum opens at 8:00 and by the time we got in about 8:15, it was already very busy. There are three huge (and I mean huge) sites where you can view the warriors. The first site has the photo one usually sees when the warriors are discussed.

They seem to go on for ever

They seem to go on forever.  The walk-ways are above, as you can tell, but no plexiglass barriers.  Quite a difference from the day before where everything was behind glass walls.

Each soldier's face was modelled after an actual person

Each soldier’s face was modelled after an actual person, thus they are all unique.

They are really amazing. They were discovered in a farmer’s field by three farmers as they dug a well. (Ed. note: The place we were the day before was discovered when the government was building the highway to the airport. If they had dug about 50 yards ot the west of where they were, no discovery.) One of the three took a piece of pottery  from a broken warrior (although they didn’t know it)  to the government artifact people and he was then recognized and generously rewarded as the discoverer – the other two not so much – totally left out. As the guide said, “The one who reported it has had dinner with many heads of states from around the world, has a big new home and a healthy pension for life. The other two men are still farmers.”   The fellow hangs out periodically at the museum site – he was signing “his book”  at the book shop. Nice guy – if you bought his book, you could take his picture but no book – no photo!

Lots of interesting stuff:

  • The mausoleum was started when the emperor  Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China was 13 years old and completed 38 years later when he died. Talk about long range planning – and early arrogance!
  • The warriors were all painted when discovered but within 4 days of being exposed to the air the colours faded away.
  • They were positioned on huge wooden platforms between supporting walls where another layer of wood rested and formed a cover before they were buried in layers of dirt
  • Some of the wood above them rotted and then the earth on top collapsed onto them
  • Some of the wood above them was somehow burned (Ed. note: Wikipedia suggests by looters) and then the earth collapsed on them.
  • The second pit has a total or 64 chariots and teams of horses yet to be excavated. I think they are trying to figure out how to do it without losing the colour.
The "waves" are the chariots with their teams of horses

The “waves” are the chariots with their teams of horses

By the time we got to this pit, about 9:30, it was getting really busy – at least in our view. There were hundreds of people there – maybe thousands. The day before must have been absolutely nuts.

Some photos:

The faces capture the sobriety of the situation

The faces capture the sobriety of the situation

All of the figures were in two parts to allow the steam from the firing to escape. However, every head fit only one body.

All of the figures were in created two parts to allow the steam from the firing to escape. However, every head fit only one body.

The "red"of the horse was the natural colour of the clay.

The “red”of the horse was the natural colour of the clay.

This is a photo of a photo of what they discovered before the colour faded away.

This is a photo of a photo of what they discovered before the colour faded away.

The tail of the horse was the 2nd part of them and attached separately.

The tail of the horse was the 2nd part of them and attached separately.

The Kneeling Archer. Almost all of the weaponry was mad of wood and has long since rotted away.

The Kneeling Archer. Almost all of the weaponry was made of wood and has long since rotted away. He was the only archer to survive intact.

The detail is amazing - right down to the soles of the shoes.

The detail is amazing – right down to the soles of the shoes. Early Adidas?

This is a standing archer sans bow and arrow.

This is a standing archer without the bow and arrow.

The detail in everything was amazing.

The detail in everything was amazing. These helmets were pieced together with some sort of  fine rope.

Unfortunately the lighting in the room of the two chariots was very poor. If you used a flash you got too much reflection, if you didn't the photos didn't turn out great. This is one of two  bronzed chariots they have excavated.

Unfortunately the lighting in the room of the two chariots was very poor. If you used a flash you got too much reflection, if you didn’t the photos didn’t turn out great. This is one of two bronzed chariots they have excavated.

The warriors and all the things that were with them were built by the first emperor of China.  The site was chosen away from Xi’An (the nation’s capital and seat of power) because of good Feng Shui–here,  the site is protected by mountains, and a river runs through the area, bringing good chi, etc, etc.  He died because he was using mercury to stay young (don’t try this at home). His mausoleum is still untouched.  You can see the grass-covered hill from the highway but experts estimate it will take another 80 years for the mercury rivers he had surrounding his resting place to dissipate.  Through the wonders of modern science, they can ‘see’ them and all sorts of things underground.

And so we leave – but not before experiencing more of TICTIT.

As we leave the excavation site a couple of policemen race past us.We come upon this scene, which the Chinese tourists are fervently ignoring – only the foreigners pay attention. Apparently the guy on the ground was caught by other citizens picking someone’s pocket. He was some upset, boy – first sitting up and screaming and then refusing to stand after being lifted up by the police.

No, he is not sleeping

No, he is not sleeping

And then we are on the road. We are about 1 mile out of the town and the traffic going into town has been a solid line of cars. I have no idea where these bozos think they are going, but just like the day before they are trying to make a two way road into a one way road and forcing us on to the shoulder.

WTF?

WTF?

 The Shoe Blog (aka The Watch Blog or Listen to Links)

Do you remember reading in Our Grand Tour of China how Martin and I bought watches in the secret secret room at the Replica Mall? Well, let me get you up to date on my $50,000.00 (Ed. note: I paid only 1% of that after Terry told me once that I could spend up to $500 for a watch) A. Lange and Sohne watch. (Ed note:  I meant a real watch!) Two days after I bought it, I had to take it back because the day of the week wasn’t working properly. He fixed that and then on April 8th it stopped completely. Now, given that it works on the principle that motion winds it and it had been on my wrist, I figured

  1. oh well, it’s broken,
  2. they told me it had a three year warranty,
  3. I’ll just take it back the next time we are in Shanghai, which turned out to be yesterday.

In we go and the first fellow I dealt with, (before turning me over to the guy in to the secret secret room) is there and greets me warmly. I show him my watch and he proceeds to get his phone out – I think to phone the guy and let me know I am coming down for a replacement. But no, it is to show how – on April 8 (Ed. note: weird, huh), the police came, raided the secret secret room, and took away all the designer bags, watches and “employees”.  Links later told Terry that they lose all the merchandise, will likely go to jail for up to a year and be fined 300,000 rmb – $50,000. She also tells us that nothing would happen to foreigners if they are caught in the raid. Whew.

Well, that’s too bad – but what about me? He takes me – very carefully, to a new secret, secret room and we strike a new deal – I get a Patek Philippe watch for no additional money – even if it is a “different” shop. Now I have some leverage – if (when?) this watch stops, I can always lead the police to a secret secret room.

Martin – how is your watch working?

My new Patek Phillipe watch from secret secret room #2

My new Patek Phillipe watch from secret secret room #2

 

Xi’An Day 2

(Ed. note: It appears there is a technical issue between WordPress email alerts and iPads. Those of you who get your email via your iPads are, obviously, getting scrambled messages. Until I sort this out somehow, just go to jiaxingexpress.com to see the new posts. I am working on this night and day. Well, during some of my waking moments anyway.)

After our hotel breakfast, such as it was, Martin asked at the front desk what a private tour/driver to the warriors would cost and came back with the information–about Y500.  From this, he deduced that a cab could probably be had for 200 or 300. Off he went.  Before he was able to stop a cab, a resourceful individual asked him if he wanted a ride.  Within minutes, we were on our way there and back for Y300.

What a great start!  First, said the driver, we should stop at one corner of the city wall (90% original structure and in remarkable condition) because a photographer friend said it was the best time and place to get pictures.  Okay, why not?  we schlepped off and took a few shots of each other admiring the wall.  We noticed that a number of men were ‘playing’ with tops in the square, whipping them with, well, whips to set them spinning.  Needless to say, Geoff wanted to try and soon enough, he was obliged.  The poor fellow could only watch as Geoff thrashed away (Ed. note: thrashed? thrashed? It was a smooth stroke) and finally broke his whip, without moving the top at all. There ended that enterprise, except that Geoff then set off to buy the poor fellow a new whip, drawing a crowd of at least a dozen men, interested to swatch this strange white fellow (foreigner) bargain. Another 5 minutes passed as Geoff haggled, then awarded a new, over-priced whip to the bloke, who looked less than thrilled but somewhat mollified (Ed. note: The guy should be so lucky. He never had a store bought whip in his life).  We got in our car and set off once again:  destination Terracotta Warriors.

This guy has great form!

This guy has great form!

About an hour later, we managed to be maybe a third of the way out of the city.  The traffic stalled around us, grid-locked.

We saw this guy packing in bag after bag of concrete on his hip as we sat there.

We saw this guy packing in bag after bag of concrete on his hip as we sat there.

But wait, on our left, cars began to drive the wrong way in the on-coming lane, forming a 4th lane.  Before long, a fifth lane sprouted to the left of that lane, effectively taking up 2/3s of the on-coming lanes.  It wasn’t being used, was it?  What’s the problem?  Meanwhile, our driver began making suggestions about what else we could do.  At first we were adamant–no, we were not about to turn back now.  However, after several more minutes with no movement, we agreed that maybe we should visit the mausoleum of the third and fourth Emperors of the Han Dynasty, Wen and Jin.  Pulling a u-turn in 4 lanes of traffic, 2 of which are in the in-coming lanes, is no easy feat but our driver, George, pulled it off with great aplomb.

George wouldn’t have known this, but in the back seat, Lynne had mentioned a few times that a WC would be agreeable about now.  An hour later, we arrived at our destination.  Not much to see straight ahead but a grass covered hill and a parking lot and WC to the right.  “That’s it?” I say incredulously.  “This is what we came to see?” George turned left and away we went, away from the WC.  First stop, the gates to the mausoleum, an archeological dig site as they are buried under centuries of dust and dirt.  Before we embarked from the car, George pointed out that the only WC was back where we entered the park.  Lynne and I did manage to find one, in a treed enclosure.  Suffice to say that others had encountered the same problem before us!

Lynne and Terry leave the bathroom.

Lynne and Terry leaving the door to the frequently used bathroom.

We had a quick look at the south gate site, then walked up to first mound and around it, noting the rocks outlined different sized rectangles in the ground surrounding the mound. These, it turned out, were burial pits that hadn’t yet been explored.

This is one of the smaller burial pits.

This is one of the smaller burial pits.

We made our way to the museum, watched an informative show and viewed the displays. Very interesting and we all agreed that we were glad we had come.  If we had visited the warriors first, we might not have gone at all. Saw lots of terracotta animals, personified as honest oxen, alert dogs, clumsy and funny pigs, brave horses, and sheep and goats–all very nice but the pigs didn’t look funny to me. Very realistic, all of them.

The alert dog

The alert dog

We got George to drop us off at the eastern gate of the wall. Hungry, we headed up the street to find something to eat.  It’s hard to walk a block in China without seeing a restaurant but we seemed to have landed in the stretch of no eateries.  In desperation, we turned off and hoofed it another block or two, when I spotted the “Golden Hans” Gasthaus sign with a giant beer stein as the logo.  This is place for us!  On the first floor were two copper vats where they make their own.  Great, we thought.  Directed upstairs, I was dismayed to see a buffet.  I avoid buffets like the plague.  Mostly the food is mediocre and the prices high, so I always eat too much to justify the cost.  We are shown a table and a man attempts to seat us.  I am peppering him with questions: Do you have a menu?  Can we order something other than the buffet?  Can we see a menu?  “Sit-down!” he says, emphatically.  Okay, will do.  I drop to my seat, cross my hands in front of me and shut up.  We order beer. Plates are distributed and within a minute, another fellow arrives with a handful of steel skewers.  We ask for our beer. He scrapes off a couple of morsels of chicken onto each plate, stamps a section of the bill and disappears.  What does this mean?  Have we ordered the buffet?  Have we ordered something else?  Can we eat other food from the buffet?  Will they bring us something else?  What’s going on? Can we get our cold beer?  I can tell you for a certainly, I am not going to ask!

We have stumbled on to a carnivore’s dream.  They continue to bring out skewers of assorted meats–chicken, pork, prawns, beef, lamb, maybe goat?–each time scraping a piece or two onto each plate.  It turns out we can also eat things from the buffet table.  Great, but this place pretends to be a German beer hall–where is the beer?!  The guy who told me to sit seems to be the manager and is apparently near a stage of breakdown, run off his feet.  We ask him again for beer.  The fourth time, Lynne merely holds him with a steely gaze and he runs off downstairs, returning with one one-litre mug of cold beer.  He drops it to calm us, runs back downstairs and comes back with 3 more.  Finally!  We are sated and happy.

We finally got the beer - after several rounds of meat and Lynne almost taking the guy's head off.

We finally got the beer – after several rounds of meat and Lynne almost taking the guy’s head off.

Outside, we head back to the wall and climb up the inside staircase (it wouldn’t be much a barrier if the stairs were on the outside–thanks, Martin) to the top. We were going to walk to the next city gate but once up, we decide to rent bicycles, jump on and become kids, racing along the wide embattlements.  What fun!  An hour later, we were at the south gate, turned in our bikes and climbed the stairs back down to the streets, and head back to the hotel.

The Son and Daughters of Anarchy?

The Son and Daughters of Anarchy?

Bang the Drum Slowly

Bang the Drum Slowly

None of us felt much like having another meal so we went into the Muslim quarter to explore an earlier-missed alleyway.  It was Saturday night and the men were obviously called to a lecture as we passed through them sitting and listening to a voice over a PA.  If we were in the mosque, we didn’t know it but it seemed probable that it was, although it was part of a larger bazar area.  What a scene the Muslim quarter is!  We were all feeling claustrophobic passing through–way too many people and too much noise–but it was a slow go.  I want to estimate the numbers of folks out on that Saturday night but I don’t think I can, just know that hordes might come close.  We were happy to get away and head back to the hotel.

It was Qing Ming Festival in China, aka Tomb-Sweeping Festival, a time when ancestors are honoured and tombs are, you guessed it, swept.  As we walked, we saw individuals burning small fires of fake money at intervals along the alley.  On another street, we saw a vendor but were stopped by a local–it was disrespectful for us to take part in this festival in this way.  The burning was for their ancestors, not ours.  Narrowly avoiding an international incident, we called it a day and headed to our ‘four-star’ hotel for the night.  As if.

Tomorrow:  the Terracotta Warriors or bust.

The Shoe Blog

One of these pairs of shoes is from China and the other from the southern United States. Can you tell which is which?

Apparently, silver shoes are all the rage everywhere.

Apparently, silver shoes are all the rage everywhere.

 

Technical Issue

Hi all. It seems all of a sudden that some of you are not receiving the Jiaxing Express properly and that all you see is

>

 

If this is so, could you please send me an email at geoffwatt@telus.net and I will see if I can figure it out and then you can return to enjoying  our adventures.

(Ed. note: Of course, if all you see is > then you may not get this. HHHMMM…)

Thanks

Geoff

Tales from Xian, Xi’an or Sian – Take your pick (She Ann): Day 1

Well, we have seen the warriors and returned home to write about it – eventually.

First of all, though, we had many Chinese adventures (Ed. Note: Henceforth these will be referred to as TICTIT – This is China This is True – thanks to Martin). Terry and Geoff’s flight got off to the usual one hour delay once we had boarded. We should have know that would occur since the sign above the neighbouring boarding gate read as follows:

isn't Flow Control a rather personal issue?

Isn’t Flow Control a rather personal issue?

We paid just over $800 for the two of to fly to Xian – a flight of 2 hours. Once on the plane we were served – nothing. Terry even had to ask the cart person to come back so she could buy water as the “flight attendant” just went right by as if she was invisible. Lynne and Martin, however, that’s an entirely different story. They paid $1600 (total) to fly Vancouver to Shanghai, Shanghai to Xian, Xian to Beijing, Beijing to Shanghai and Shanghai back to Vancouver. And what did they get on their Shanghai to Xian flight? A choice of a chicken or shrimp hot meal, a dessert, and wine or beer. Who says money buys luxury?

We caught the Airport Shuttle into Xian – a trip of, supposedly, 45 – 60 minutes. 90 minutes later, all due to traffic, we arrived at the hotel. The congestion was unbelievable. (Ed. Note: Well it was unbelievable until we saw what we saw the next day.) On the trip in we saw more and more in-progress apartment buildings. Xian is a “middle city” according to our driver George. There are “only” ten million people. Who knows where it will end? We had left Jiaxing at 11 am and arrived at the hotel at 7pm – a two hour flight taking 8 hours. Unreal. To say we were in need of a drink is an understatement.

Terry writes: Fortunately, Martin and Lynne had laid in a supply of cold beer and potato chips at the hotel so we were soon restored.  The hotel itself required some getting used to.  Martin had booked it but failed to notice that it would be under renovation for an extended period, including the time we were staying.  The good news was that the work did not start until 10:00am when we were long gone; the bad news was that only one lift was in order and posted beside it a sign that discouraged use of the staircases which “could be cluttered and dirty.”  Hmmm.  Let us hope there is not a fire. The first morning when I came down for breakfast, the doors opened to a surly crowd who had obviously been waiting for some time. There were clearly more than would fit and I didn’t stick around to see how they decided who would take the first ride.

Buffy Ste. Marie, Jimmy Buffett, All You Can Eat Buffet and Buffee Breakfast - No wonder our kids are having problems learning English

Buffy Ste. Marie, Jimmy Buffett, All You Can Eat Buffet and Buffee Breakfast – No wonder our kids are having problems learning English

Back to Geoff: After refreshing ourselves with a few beer at the hotel, we ventured forth to find dinner and found it at Tongshenggxiang – supposedly one of the top Muslim restaurants in Xian – and it lived up to its billing. The dishes: a huge leg of “lamb”, (Ed. Note: the consensus is that it was really goat, not lamb),

Just because it is says it is lamb, doesn't mean it isn't goat. Either way, it was good.

Just because it is says it is lamb, doesn’t mean it isn’t goat. Either way, it was good.

sliced beef of some sort, eggplant, pickled cabbage, lotus root and – Yangrou Paomo – a traditional soup that is made with mutton and broth and then has crispy flatbread broken into it, creating a porridge type consistency. You then add pickled garlic to it and eat everything. Being afraid of vampires, Terry added four large cloves to hers and ate them all. As I said the food was good – except that it seems Xian Muslim cooking adds only one spice to its dishes – and that one spice goes into EVERY dish. (Ed. Note: On one hand it is one more spice than is added to food in Jiaxing, but on the other, c’mon guys try something other than cumin.)

From there it was off to visit the four streets of the “Muslim Quarter”. These consist of mostly food stalls and wagons – hundeds of them serving everything from squid on a stick to a lovely looking but bad tasting yellow cake. They also make various forms of peanut briitle. This is a laborious process where two muscular individuals use a 25 lb. mallet to pound the mixture into a 18″ square flat “pancake”, fold it over and start again, doing it several times. These determined, serious men have incredible strength and stamina and are to be admired. Here’s one of them.

I cannot imagine doing this all day. After 10 minutes by wrist and back were screaming "STOP IT YOU FOOL!"

I cannot imagine doing this all day. After 5 minutes my wrist and back were screaming “STOP IT YOU FOOL!”

After pounding the mixture for hours on end (Ed note: Well, maybe five minutes, but it seemed like hours), they take it away and break it into pieces, just like peanut brittle. Then it is packaged and sold. However, if you buy it don’t pack it in the outside compartment of your suitcase if you are on Spring Air.

Left: Powder Brittle - will be good topping for ice cream Right: Actual pieces

Left: Powder Brittle – will be good topping for ice cream Right: Actual pieces

There were also the stalls selling all the typical tourist trinkets, clothing and artwork. (Ed. Note: Everywhere one goes in Asia the majority of what is sold is exactly the same with only a few things thrown in for the regional specialty. Not surprisingly here it is the warriors.) 

The centre of the old city Xian is the Drum and Bell Tower Square, so named because of these two temples.

The appropriately named Drum Tower (look closely at the first lit level to see the drums, which go all the way around the building.)

The appropriately named Drum Tower (look closely at the first lit level to see the drums – you can just see the tops of and which go all the way around the building.)

and

The appropriately named Bell Tower

The appropriately named Bell Tower

They love to fly kites in China. Martin and Lynne were convinced that there was something other than the wind holding these up – like maybe a bird?

Look up - Look wwwwaaaayyyy up!

Look up – Look wwwwaaaayyyy up!

 

Remember I mentioned the 4 cloves of garlic Terry had? Terry writes: On our walk over Lynne and I stopped to watch some older couples in traditional costumes dancing in the square.  Standing in the second row of the audience, we were talking and laughing when the couple in front of us turned around with their hands covering their noses and terrible frowns on their faces.  We guessed that the garlic, even though pickled, still packed a punch.  Honest mistake, wasn’t it?  Do those little pickled cocktail onions leave your breath stinking of onion?  I think not!  Still, it was a hilarious if embarrassing  moment.

After a couple of hours, we cruised back to the hotel and got to bed at 11:30 – incredibly late for two of us – regular weekend hours for the other two.

Coming up: Days 2 and 3 – Traffic – what traffic; Sit down!, The bikers and, of course, The Terra Cotta Warriors. Stay tuned.