Friday, October 17, 2014

Post Slacker Update

I am back in the states and back on the road.  Will finish telling my China/Thailand adventure when I am in one place for a day or two.  I am gradually heading to Kentucky for another season at Amazon.  Can't wait to be with my besties and Amazon Camperforce family.  Here is a funny from the other day on the road.

No ticket... Just funny.

Here is one from this morning.  Loving life!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Day 3 in Beijing

I was very frustrated when I woke up.  I needed out of where I was staying... It was ruining my trip.  I googled... Well yahoo places to stay since Google doesn't exist in China.  I thought about getting a hotel near the airport and chilling until I leave on the 1st but I still had 2 full days in Beijing.  So, I decide I would take my stuff with me and go to see the Lama Temple and hope I find a place for the night somewhere close to there.  

I pack everything up and leave not even saying goodbye.  I know that is rude but I had had enough.  I got on the subway and the first one I was on I met a guy from Toronto who happened to be going to check in with a hostel one stop away from the Lama Temple.  He let me tag along and I got a room for 2 nights... A room all to myself... With my very own bathroom.  I was really excited and a huge sip eight was lifted from my shoulders,  this guy and I ended up spending the day touring around the Lama Temple, eating at KFC... Which I have to say is super yummy. Monthlong like the US version which I almost never eat at.  In China it has a bit of spice and it is fabulous! 

 On the way to the Lama Temple we met some ladies who spoke Spanish.  Not sure where they were from except I knew they were not from Cuba.   I spoke a bit with them in the little Spanish I can remember and told them I had lived in Miami and one of the ladies said something about all the Cubans.  Quite funny.  

The Lama Temple is the holiest place in China.  Many places to pray and burn incense. It was very interesting.  

After the Lama Temple the day was still young so we went to the Beijing Zoo.  I was advised by my friend I came to China with not to go... Might scar my memory forever.  It wasn't as bad as I had imagined but wasn't all that good either,  most of the cages were bare... No grass.  The enclosures were super small and a lot of them were glass so you could barely see thru all the smudge and people would knock on the glass and harass the animals.  It was really sad.  The elephants were treated the worst in my opinion.  There was no grass, little food, small enclosures that had feces all over from who knows how long and even one set of elephants didn't have any water.  I have pictures I will share later.

China likes to charge for anything extra... So there were parts of the zoo we couldn't see because either it was closed or had an extra charge.  We did get to see the giant pandas... And a couple of them were the ones from the Olympics.  The cost to get I. The zoo was around $8 US so for the price it wasn't horrible we couldn't get into everything but seeing the way the animals were treated was very sad.  We watched as a man was tormenting a vulture... He even stuck his finger in the gate... I was hoping the culture would bite it off but he didn't.  I just don't understand the people in China sometimes... They need some don't touch that parenting.

After the zoo I headed back to the hostel and chilled for the evening.  Going to meet up with the Canadian tomorrow.  Nice to have someone to hang out with that speaks English.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Day 2 in Beijing: Beijing Sideways Tour

This was the day I was waiting for ... The only thing I was completely excited about during this trip.  The Beijing Sideways tour to the Great Wall.  Not so much seeing the Great Wall but being able to ride.  My tour guide and driver picked me up at 9:30am in the motorcycle with a sidecar.  I had never ridden in a sidecar and was quite excited... Even more excited knowing I would be able to drive a little on the trip.  My tour guide was a lady in her mid 20s from Indiana and my driver was exactly what I imagined a Chinese biker to look like.  It was a foggy day... Not smog because it didn't smell... The temperature was just right.  A bit chilly at times but since the sun wasn't out it never got real hot.  Driving in China is a lot different than in the US... Even different than driving in Miami.  Haha... The motorcycles kind of go where ever they want... In between cars, on the side streets for bikes, over curbs... Whatever to get where they are going.  It was a blast!  Once we were outside the city a bit he let me drive.  The first time was on the way up the mountains... Curves and steep slopes.  His bike is quite a bit different than mine.  The sidecar alone is a huge change since you can't lean into curves but have to steer... Than the shifting was the same but his was much harder to shift and the brakes were a bit iffy.  It was difficult with the curves and going up the mountains but we all survived.  He took control again and the tour guide got to drive a bit.  Then when we were in a more flat area I got to drive a bit more... It was much easier and I got the hang of shifting and turning.  The driver took video which I will share once back in the US.  

We got to a small village and started going down what looked like a walkway to where we were dropped off to hike up to the wall.  I'm not much of a hiker but it was a good workout to get ready for working at when I get back to the U.S.  We get to the wall which was a part that has less tourists and it was quite the hike up to where we ate lunch.  I'm not much for heights and not much of a hiker but I took my time and we made it.  It was just me and the tour guide so I could take all the time I needed.  

We had a nice lunch of salad, bread, meats, cheese, cookies and wine... And of course some water.  Then we had to hike down the other side.  Yikes!  Here aren't always steps so on the really steep parts I did a bit of a crab walk since I am not always the most coordinated going down.  Again, I made it... Where we got off there was another hiking path down to this inn/restaurant where we had a beer and met up again with our driver.  

I have many pictures to share... But again, have to wait until I'm back in the US but here are a couple I took on my iPad 

That's me in the driver seat and my tour guide.

That's my driver, tour guide and me in the sidecar.

Getting close to where we hiked to get to the wall.

The Great Wall

Beer after the hike... Great Wall faintly in the background.

Getting ready to head back to Beijing

The route we took.

On the way back to town we passed by the Olympic Stadium.  I really enjoyed the much needed ride.  My tour guide told me to find myself a hostel or hotel for the next couple of nights... I could really feel the frustration when I got back to where I was staying... So my plan was to take everything with me in the morning and find a new place to stay.

If in Beijing you definitely need to checkout Beijing Sideways.  They do tours of Beijing and tours to the wall.  It was a blast!  Now I can say I rode in China... Since it isn't easy to get a license to drive this really is a great way to check it off your list. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Day 1 in Beijing

The first night in Beijing was much less than I expected.  I was told by who I was couch surfing with that I would be rooming with women teachers and students.  I ended up in a room with 3 late teenage boys and the guy who offered me the "couch".  He first put me on the top bunk above the teens.  I haven't had to climb up on a top bunk for a few years and I'm not the type of person who sleeps or climbs on the top bunk.  I get up there and was waiting for people to go to bed as I was completely exhausted and all the lights were on.  Finally, the guy told me I could sleep in his bottom bunk which was pretty much in a closet with windows.

I am usually quite content and figured if I can't deal I will just find a hotel.  I guess I am just getting to an age where I want a bit more comfort... Especially if I'm not home in TicTac.  

The bathrooms in China are a bit different.  It is one open space... No shower curtain or anything so when you shower the entire room gets wet... Including the toilet.  I was quite happy to have a western toilet and not a whole in the ground but it was always wet... And the floor was always wet so you had to wipe down the toilet and hold up your pant legs so your clothes wouldn't get wet.  Also, sharing a bathroom with teenage boys is disgusting.  It smelled so bad I would gag while brushing my teeth.  I wasn't courageous enough to shower in that bathroom. Yuck-O!  I have no idea what this guy was thinking when he offered me the place to stay.

The first day I went to the Forbidden City and the 2 parks surrounding the Forbidden City.  I was a lot of walking and a lot of stairs but it was a beautiful day.  I will have more pictures when I get back to the states and can take them off my camera but here are a few to start from my iPad.

Forbidden City

Look!  A handbell set! :)

Jingshan Park
View of Forbidden City

Beihai Park

Better photos when I get back to the states.

What I learned quickly is the subway is super simple in Beijing.  I downloaded a Beijing Metro app on my iPad which was helpful but there are subway maps everywhere to check to see where you need to go.  I bought one ticket each time I went to the subway.  The temp tickets only last the day and you scan to get in and insert them to get out without them being returned. Don't be afraid to push to get a spot.  It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be.  Certain times of the day were quite crowded but nothing like you see on YouTube where they push people in.  

Every place has security so if you can get away with not carrying a bag then don't.  I never carried my bag and got thru security quickly but if you bring a bag you have to wait in huge lines to get the bag checked thru the scanner.  I'm not a huge fan of crowds and people so if I can avoid I do.

On the way back to where I was staying I stopped at he Super Walmart for some food since there weren't many places to eat in the area.  What an interesting place.  First, there would be no RV parking there.  They had underground parking and a lot of people rode their bikes.

Walmart bicycle parking.

There are multiple floors... Just confusing.  I only went to the grocery section which had fresh fish on ice and in water.  Everything was strange looking but you could find what you needed.  In the produce section they had a counter with workers that weighed your produce and put a tag on it so there is no looking up at the checkout.  I guess to save time but not sure how efficient that really is.

I found a couple things to eat and had to go in what felt like circles and escalators to the check out... And guess what... Not enough checkers... And it was hot... Either no AC or it wasn't on very high.  Lines were much closer together and crowds of people.  I almost just left as it was taking forever but I didn't have any food so I had to suffer thru... I survived.

It was an enjoyable day but was dreading going back to where I was staying with the teenage boys.  I told myself after my tour the next day I could find a new place... So that meant two more nights.  I went back to where I was staying and the door was locked... The place was suppose to be open all the time.  Luckily I knocked and someone let me in.  I went straight to my bed.  It was a crowded place with many dorm type rooms and the open spaces were filled with stuff.  I just stayed in my bottom bunk, watched a movie and fell asleep not talking to anyone.  It was very confusing because the deal was I spoke with his students for an hour a day and I would get a meal and a place to stay.  No one was every around for conversation or a meal... And to be honest the place was dirty and smelled funny so there was no way I would be able to eat there.

The lovely view from my closet bunk bed.

Just kept telling myself... It is a free place sleep.  Fell asleep excited about the Beijing Sideways tour to the Great Wall in the morning.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

First night in Beijing

I did the train and the subway... Feeling accomplished.  The train was over 30 minutes early so I got to where I was suppose to be to meet up with the person I was couch surfing with a couple minutes before 10pm.  First it wasn't the best stop off the subway but it could of been because it was dark... People leave you alone... Other than the stares so I didn't feel unsafe at all while waiting.  The person I was meeting with said he would wait for me from 10pm to midnight.  Well... 10 came and went.  10:20 came and went.  I asked a young man if he spoke English and if he could call the number I had for the person I was staying with.  He called and the line was not in use.

Then I started to get nervous.  The young man asked me if I had another friend to call but of course I didn't.  Then I asked him if the address the person I was staying with was real.  All I got was a bunch of Chinese characters with a couple of numbers so it could of said anything.  The young man told me it was really close.  He was getting worried for me and told me not to worry.  I told him I would just get a cab and head to a hotel if he didn't show after a bit.  The young man left and I was waiting alone... Again.

Finally he showed up.  He is a young guy and he was wearing a knitted beanie type of thing with a really long pigtail that he got as a souvenir that day. All I could think of was McClintock and how they always threatened the Chinese cook they were going to cut off his pigtail.  (I know how horrible)

So we start to walk to the school where he works and I will be staying.  He told me that he will be sleeping on top of me.  Get your mind out of the gutter.... As in bunk beds.  We get to the place where I will be staying meet a few people.  It is a school that teaches English and the students and teachers all live in this flat.  This place makes TicTac look like a 4 star hotel...maybe a step up from the shack since there is electricity and running water.  It is a room with 2 sets of bunk beds and what I believe is a closet with windows and another set of bunk beds.  The bathroom has a toilet which I was very relieved but it is in the shower... Well the whole bathroom seems to be the shower.  The shower has a shower head but no real boundary for the shower so everything gets wet.

He first told me I could have a top bunk in the larger room (only because it has a larger than the closet but only large enough for 1 person to walk between the bunk beds).  I haven't slept on a top bunk in a few years and I can't say I really belong on a top bunk so when he told me I could sleep on the bottom bunk in the closet I was all good with that.  The beds are full of comforters which were washed who knows when and I am hoping I don't end up,with love or something,  I guess that is a good reason to shave my head again.  Just the thought of these blankets make me itch. Also no pillow,  so I bunched up a comforter and put my coat over top so I am sleeping on my coat and not the comforter.  

We will see if I stay the 5 nights I was planning.  Can't wait til Sunday and the sidecar tour and October 1 won't come fast enough to get out of China and go to Thailand.  Hoping there is a bit more sanitary.  I have a hotel lined up for 2 nights in Bangkok and then heading to Chiang Mai to another couch suffering place...She has a house and is a older adult so hoping for at least cleaner.

High Speed Train

Forgot to tell you about my trip from Kunshan to Beijing.

Took a taxi by myself to the train station.  My friend set it up and had someone with me to tell the driver where to go which was a great help.  The driver stopped before the door and I had no idea what was going on because there was plenty of space to get closer.  All the signs were in Chinese so I wasn't sure where in the world I was suppose to be.  Luckily people were going I. Somewhere so I followed.  Found some people in uniform and showed them my ticket and shrugged my shoulders not saying a word.  They pointed me I. The right direction without saying a word and I found my way no problem.  I have realized with the older generations it doesn't help to speak... Things get confusing and they start to yell as if speaking louder will help me understand.  So I use complete hand gestures.  Show what I have to help but nothing more.  The younger generations I will speak English and hope maybe they know what I am saying.  

I found my way thru security... Which was next to nothing.  Put bag thru scanner and walk thru the detector but I had my iPad in hand.  There were two gates but it was confusing as it looked all automated so I wasn't sure if you go thru the first gate and then go to the gate of the train or what.  I have only taken a train maybe twice while living in Kingston, NY to go to the city and I am not a public transportation kind of person so I just waited to see if anyone else went thru.  No one did but time was getting close for departure and I was getting nervous so I asked a young man what was going to happen.  He spoke a little English and we figured out what was needed.  Then finally people started to line up and I felt much better.

My train ticket... The important things were the numbers.  On the signs at the gate was all in Chinese characters so it was helpful to have the names of the cities in English with the characters so I could compare and be sure I was in the right place.

As I was about to go thru the young man came back to be sure I was going in the right place and then showed me where I was suppose to stand and my seat.  I thought that was really nice but I pretty much figured it all out just wasn't sure when we were suppose to go in.  

As we were walking to where I needed to be he asked me if he could take a picture with me.  There is the never seeing a white person thing.   Said yes since he helped me and he asked me where I was from.  Told him the U.S. and we waited to get on the train.  I saw his ticket and knew he wasn't sitting by me but he followed me on the train.  I found my seat and he stood in the open area in front and off to the side of where I was sitting... And kept looking at me.  

I started to freak out a bit because the train started and he was standing there looking around, checking his phone like he was waiting for someone while every once in awhile staring at me.  Of course all these horrible thoughts of being jumped or what have you were going thru my mind but I figured I could take a bunch of Chinese.  Hahaha

I remembered what the town was on his ticket and realized he was the next stop.  And lo and behold at the next stop he was getting off.  I look over and say thanks and he said "want you to get off now". But I think he meant he was getting off now.  So I nodded my head and said goodbye.  He got out and looked at me thru the window and I waved.

Being white in China is a bit confusing.  No personal space, people stare and you just don't know what they are thinking.

Anywhos... That is how my trip to Beijing started.  

Such a smooth ride.  We were going over 300 km/hr.  (The elbow in the picture below is the young man who was helpful yet stalking)

This lady got on when I got on and got off in Beijing... Carrying these crabs the entire way.... Over 5 hours.  You can actually get those crabs just like that at Walmart in Beijing.

The view wasn't all that great.  Smog, high rises, run down places but I was happy to see some green.

Last full day in Kunshan

Was pretty lazy during the day.  I fell asleep the night before at around 3pm and I was out except for a couple of hours until 5am.  I guess it was needed.

I was going to go out on a bus adventure by myself but decided to hang with my buddies today.  I did wander to the corner store for some chocolate.  Got a coke and snickers along with a beer for later.

The ladies at the check out asked me where I was from and they got all excited when I said the U.S.  The snickers is smaller than the U.S. version.  About the same length just thinner... The coke bottle is thinner and a bit taller also.

Later in the afternoon we walked to where my friend is working and stopped by McDonald's to see if their menu was completely different.  It had a few different things... Like flavor of shakes and such but the basic menu looked the same.  May try later in my trip.

We played on the playground and then went to dinner.

We ate across the street from this cool bridge... All around the water was human feces... Guess that is the place to go if you need to go... In the middle of the city.

Had a fantastic dinner...quite spicey but it was good! Oh and check out what they had on the didn't order that.

Below is what we did order.  Yummy!




Green beans


Fried rice.

Had a nice walk home after and tried some new beer.

Yes, German beer in China.

Leave for Beijing tomorrow afternoon.

Being a white toddler in China

My buddies have quite the interesting life here in China now.  They are 2 totally adorable little boys but I have never seen people so obsessed with another person like the Chinese are with these two boys.

The first night we went out I was amazed how all the workers in the restaurant came out to stare at us while we eat.  They also started touching and taking pictures with my 3 year old buddy.  I was freaking out a bit.  I hate it when people watch me eat, I also need a certain amount of personal space especially if I don't know you but watching them touch someone else's child was completely inappropriate in my mind.  

Everywhere we go people stop and stare... Not like the stare but not trying to be noticed but the mouth dropped, in your face, looking you up and down kind of stare.  The first day was entertaining... People would literally stop as they were driving by to stare.  Now it is getting a bit annoying and the touching and trying to pick up my buddies really bothers me.  

Last night while walking to dinner you would of thought we had Justin Beiber with us.  A group of young teenage girls from across the street were screaming, hands reached out, and bending at the knees while we walked by.  Yes, my little buddy is quite famous here in China.

Then we got to dinner and this is what it looks like... The entire time.

We only have one waitress but all of them come and stare.  Then they start touching.  Then they pick him up and start taking pictures with home.  My buddy was having quite the good time with these girls.  They gave him all sorts of treats and he was happy.

When we go to the park to play all the grandmas want their grandkids to talk and touch my buddies.  A bit weird but when we went to the store and they rode the toys was the weirdest.

We had 3 ladies that came out of the shops near by to stare at them and touch them.  I was surprised they didn't lick my buddies to see if they tasted like vanilla.  This lady started rubbing their arms and then tries to pick up the littlest buddy while he ride was still going.  I told her no and she backed off.  How weird is that?  Why would someone think it is ok to touch someone else's child... None the less pick them up... While the kid is enjoying his ride.   That is one thing I don't think I could ever get use to.  My buddies are good sports and will turn away if they don't like it.  They are treated like famous people here in China... How I would love to see it from their point of view,

First Full Day in Kunshan

I don't know what to do with myself.  I normally wake up and check Facebook.  That is how I keep up to date with friends and basic things happening in the world.  In China there is no Facebook.  I also can't update my blog of my adventures.  No blogs in China.  You have to find a VPN to be able to access these things.  Sometimes you can find them for free and sometimes you have to pay for them but that can go around the government blocks on websites.

We went for a walk around the apartment complex.  You would of thought we were the Jolly Green Giant family or something.  People stare and not the glance but in your face look you up and down stare.  Completely obvious stare.  Guess that isn't in the manner code, not to stare, here in China.  It was as if they never saw a group of white people before... And maybe they haven't. 

Saw some interesting things on our lunch adventure.  I have had a few people warn me about the lack of personal space.  That was the first thing I encountered.  We were getting on the bus and I was the last one of my friends getting on an almost empty bus and two ladies were behind me to get on.  You would of thought there were 100 people trying to get on this bus.  These ladies were literally touching me they were that close to me and they were the only other two people getting on the bus.  Once we were on the bus the staring continued.  Since we have two small children everyone wants to touch them and stare even more.  We took the bus a few miles away to something like a mall.  I was told to be prepared of the public bathrooms and that children will go anywhere.  Well, got my first show of 3 toddlers squatting and peeing right outside the door to the mall.  

We first went to eat.  Again, the staring.  Every worker in the joint was next to our table staring, wanting to pick up the kids and take their picture with them.  I wanted to take a picture of them all staring but I just couldn't be that rude.  Haha... We were trying to teach the older boy to give the peace sign in the picture but he is super shy and was not a huge fan of all the attention.  I wouldn't of been either.  

They serve warm water... Some sort of tea with the meals instead of a glass of cold water.  One of the many odd things about me is that I don't drink hot drinks... No tea, hot cocoa, coffee... Nothing.  So I may just have to go thirsty when going out to eat.   

The place setting was a small bowl with those soup spoons, a small plate and chopsticks.  No napkins.  We ordered many different dishes to share.  Guess that is the way they do things which works for me to try new things.  I can't use chopsticks most of the time... On a good day I might be able to get a few bites but today was not that day.  So I used the spoon or my fingers to eat.  :)  I was looking around for a napkin and there wasn't one.  We asked for some and they bring us a small box of tissue... Like Kleenex.   There is also a small garbage can at the table... Like the size you would have in a bathroom.  Now I know why... Those tissues are not a very good napkin.  Haha

Another interesting thing... Everyone eats right off the plate it is served in.  Hence the small plate.  No need to dish up and no double dipping rule here.  Luckily, I was with friends otherwise not knowing that I might of freaked.  I have a lot of odd food rules which I have a feeling a lot of them will be challenged on this trip.  

We had lamb chops and here are some pictures of the other dishes.

More lamb.

The noodles were super good.  Yes, those are some Chinese French fries on the right.

I believe this was a zucchini dish.

Everything had a bit of spice and was super good.  It was hard to eat at first with everyone staring and my lack of chopstick usage but after a while they all moved on to other things and we could eat in peace.

At the end of the meal the boys went to the bathroom and reported back this was the bathroom I wanted to see... The clean, more civilized version of public restrooms.  So the older boy brought me back to see.  We walked into the women's room following another woman so I know for sure we were in the right place.  The woman we followed in went into a stall no problem.  We walk in and the cleaning lady starts yelling at me in Chinese and points to the men's restroom.  I give a weird look as she keeps yelling grab my boobs and said "woman".  She stopped pointing and yelling at me and starts pointing and yelling at the little boy I was with.  I just open a stall and we walk in and she finally shut up.  This is what we saw.

Yep a porcelain hole in the ground that you flush.  That is my little buddy showing me how it works.  Since living in the shack and on the road I am ok with squatting in the wide open spaces but I don't know if I will be able to squat with someone in the next stall.  I also can't squat real well so I'm not sure if I have the aim to make it in there. Haha

After lunch we had to do some shopping.  There was a scooter store in the mall and I needed to check it out.  They have so many different types of 2 and 3 wheeled motorized vehicles.  I just love seeing the creativity on how to carry things and modify for your needs.

Here is my buddy demonstrating the rear seat.  

These are super cute!  Other than your regular moped the scooters have those rear seats and a basket.

This is inside the mall on the second floor.  They have this really cool escalator thing that doesn't have steps but more of those moving sidewalks but goes up and down.  So you could easily roll one of these down to the first floor... And your shopping cart.

This is a cool add on you see on the road.

I will have to get some picture of the 3 wheeled scooters with the room to carry things.  We even saw a garbage person on a three wheeled scooter with a pile of garbage on the back.  I will work on that.  In this city they are trying to go green.  They have lots of trees and if you ride an electric scooter you don't need a drivers license.  Obviously, there are scooters everywhere that don't abide by traffic laws... Or rules... Or maybe here they are suggestions.

After the scooter store we went into a store that has a bit of everything... Clothes, home goods, food... Kind of like a super Walmart but signs, bins and such like you were in some clearance store.  I needed to find some snacks for the train ride to Beijing in a couple of days.  I had no idea what to pick so I found "American" type of snacks so I wouldn't starve on the 10 hour train ride.  Something like Pringles and Oreos.  Being dyslexic having store signs and packaged goods in Chinese really isn't all that difficult.  Usually if I am in a hurry or driving I can't read what most things say but go by what they look like.  Same thing here.  I went by what the package looked like and could get a basic idea what I wanted and then looked at the picture to be sure it was a flavor I wanted.  It is interesting that nothing is truly shocking or weird being in China.  It is like every other urban area... Like a huge Chinatown.  The staring and personal space is awkward but when I lived in Miami Florida there were weird customs and things you just get use to.  Also, the parts of Miami I lived in a lot of people didn't speak English... Or refused to speak English... So I've been yelled at in other languages before.  :)  

On the way home we took a taxi.  People do drive a bit crazy... Mainly trying to get around all the scooters.  This driver was quite enjoyable because he would holler at the scooter and give some sort of hand gesture and then chuckle.  My kind of guy.

I guess I was quite exhausted.  After we got home I layed down and took a 5 hour nap.  Oops. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.