Outta the city!

So far, China has been big city after big city for me. (Okay, well just 2 big cities, but they were really big.) Now I am in Tumen, which is about 25 hours by train Northeast of Beijing, right on the border with North Korea and about 3 hours from Russia.

While it was quite a haul getting here, I love seeing this other side of China. Not only is the town much smaller than Beijing, it is somewhat of a border town, with much Korean influence. Anyway, getting to hike on real mountain and go more than an hour with out hearing a taxi honk has been awesome. (Things are so po dunk here that the electricity was out all day today.)

Anyway, another bonus about being here is free internet (courtesy of Trista) and lots of down time. So, as saxtor so observantly pointed out, I've added a few features to the blog (ability to see old posts, and real-time comment tracking). I also threw together a little slide show. Now it isn't a BrothesrRoot worthy slideshow with autoplay, music, etc., but it will have to do. Mine does have captions though. Zing! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
Tuesday October 24 2006File under: travel, China

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The Pretty Good Wall

Okay, just kidding. The Great Wall is exactly that: great. Even better than great, in fact. Visiting the wall is something I have been wanting to do for a long long time. Often times, that means the experience doesn't live up to any expectations. I'm so glad to report that this wasn't the case at all. Even though the day was a little overcast, and the tour that took me there dragged us through a million different government run shops and factories, my time on the great wall was spectacular.

There are a couple different places you can go on the wall, each with its own assets. I chose to visit Mutianya, because it was supposed to be less touristy. "Less touristy" is a relative term, I guess. There was still a cable car to take visitors to the top and a tobogon slide to take them down. I did neither although the tobogon was pretty tempting. But because of the weather and time of the year, there weren't too many people.

I got it in my mind to hike and hike and hike, so that is exactly what I did. Beyond about 3 towers from the ski lift, there were very few people, so that I could get some decent pictures. I made the 3 or so kilometers to the end of the reconstructed part, enjoying some of the best views and best hiking of my life. (Walking on such a huge part of history just seems to have that effect, I guess.) By the time I got to the end, I realized that I had to get back to the bus ASAP. So it was an almost-jog the rest of the way back, which, considering the terrain, was quite a feat.

All in all, I must have hiked 5 miles and my body is feeling it, esp. on top of all the walking I've been doing here in Beijing (Forbidden City, Tienamen Square, etc. etc.) I think today shall be a rest day.


Saturday October 21 2006File under: China, travel

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Beijing - Day 1

6:30 - Arrive train station.
6:31-8:00 - Get horribly lost. Feel lonely and depressed.
8:01 - Meet local. Exchange English practice for directions to hotel.
8:30-10:30 - Roam around downtown Beijing with new friend, again with the English practice. Marvel at Forbidden City from afar.
10:31-11:30 - Get situated in hostel.
11:30 - Eat 16 potstickers. Rethink badmouthing of chinese chinese food.
12:30-2:30 - Meet new locals, again for the English practice. Roam old town with new friends.
2:30-3:00 - Spend 2 weeks' budget on tea.
3:00-4:00 - Write postcards in beautiful Beijing park. Rethink tea purchase.
4:00-dusk - Smile about the happy first day in Beijing.
Wednesday October 18 2006File under: travel, China

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Unfamilar Territory

It has taken me a few days to get my mindset shifted to be able to enjoy China, but I think I am coming around. Not only is it the change from Thailand to China, but the change from small town to big city, warm weather to chillier, and traveling with folks to traveling solo all happening at once. Those things considered, I'm doing pretty well.

The big thing to see here in Xi'an is Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army. If you've never heard of it, any explanation I give will sound dumb, so I suggest you go learn about it. Sufficive to say, it was pretty cool. They've built a great museum around the whole thing and showed the whole process of excavating them.

Yesterday, I went to see the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. It was built in 709 or something, way way back. Around the pagoda, there are beautiful grounds an other buildings in the traditional style. It was a great place to sit and soak up the traditional China-ness of everything.

All my other efforts here are in regards to the small things. While they don't sound like much, the few small victories I've managed have raised my spirits much. Riding public transportation, ordering food by pointing and smiling, and purchasing a train ticket to Beijing using only gestures. But with my small victories have also come small defeats. Last night, somewhat down about the whole Chinese-Chinese-food-is-not-at-all-like-American-Chinese-food thing, I opted to indulge myself in the cultural experience that is pizza hut. Same same, but different.

The whole time that I have been in Xi'an, it has been foggy(/smoggy?) and it rained pretty good yesterday, so I haven't been too inclined to go adventuring. But that has allowed me to catch up on a few movies here in the hostel and also catch up on my reading. Tonite, I leave on a sleeper train to Beijing, which I am greatly looking forward to. I hope to see some of the country side that is the China in my mind. Just as long as we get out of this fog(/smog?), I think I'll be fine.
Tuesday October 17 2006File under: travel, China

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