Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo

yeah, ok, so it's been a little while since our last post and we have definitely done our share of traveling around this massive country. And to clear the air, this post is in honor of the children's fairytale story about the Chinese boy who fell into the well.

Since our days in Beijing, we have travelled south towards Hong Kong. Our original plan was Beijing to Xi'an to Shanghai to HK.

Xi'an was a welcome change from Beijing: it was slightly warmer and had a lot of people in its streets. It felt lively, fun, and full of food options! Since we arrived from Beijing by sleeper train, we took it slow the first afternoon. Wandering to the local Muslim district was surprisingly a great choice. This is one of the few places in China where the locals are Muslim. They also have some great food vendors and if you're looking for fake NorthFace, they have that too. The following day, we tried to buy our train tickets to Shanghai before heading out to see the Terracota Warriors. Lightning does strike twice...all tickets sold out for 3 days. Well, we didn't want to hang around a cold city for long, so we had to find other choices. The ticket window attendent didn't give us very tempting options to get to Shanghai, so we decided to look at the map while at the window and pick a spot. The locals didn't like us taking time up, but when we picked another destination, Guilin, it too was sold out! Unbelieveable. So we ended up buying plane tickets before breakfast to Guilin. It ended up saving us money because we no longer had to buy a train ticket to HK from Shanghai....great! Another great bike ride around the wall of the old city allowed us to see the city from all around. The mob scene of the train station, local singers, plays, and parades were all spotted by chance...a lot of fun.
As soon as it was dark enough, 2 HUGE telescopes we noticed we full of people and they both had lasers on top beaming up at the full moon. Turns out they were aiming to have a great view of the lunar eclipse. The Chinese will also be sending a man to the moon in the next few years, so we will see if the Armstrong moon landing was true or not. However, far and away the highlight of Xi'an was being able to witness the Lantern festival, which was 1 week after their new year. It was like there were competitions between neighborhoods, buildings, and individuals to see who could light off the biggest and most fireworks. From dark until midnight it sounded like a war and smelled like gunpowder.

A ride to the train station brought us to the local buses that run to the Terracota Warrior site. The Chinese bus system is unique. The driver will pull over anytime, anywhere to pickup or drop off passengers. Not only that, the locals have about 45 suitcases and boxes with them, so it gets crowded; fast! The Warriors were an interesting site. Quick history story: a farmer started digging for a well, and found some clay pottery and this led to uncovering a massive field of warriors. It was a strange place...the whole site has been built up with modern building to house the 3 dig sites. Extremely spread out and reminiscient of Beijing. The warriors themselves are all unique; not one is identical to another, but because we cannot get close it becomes difficult to tell. We had to hurry out of there because we needed to catch a plane.

Arriving in Guilin at night, in the warmth, we could only see the faint outlines of tall, jagged mountain-looking formations. It was creepy at first, almost king kong like. We didn't really spend time here, but instead went to a small town called Yangshuo. The famous formations are called Karsts and are based on limestone errosion. This place is a slice of heaven.

It was like Crested Butte of the East. A small "mountain" town with lots to do around it. A bike trip was in order here, for sure!!!! Finding out about some local country roads and a trip to one of the many caves sounded like it would take up our day well. Weaving in and out of traffic and other cyclists for about 15k, we made it to the Budda Cave. No one was there we thought and the gora inside the cave we thought worked there to translate for the workers. It turns out Sam, was not working there, but in the middle of a year trip around on his own. So, we joined up for a while around town for the next 2 days and spent some good time chatting it up. The caves were fun, the formations inside were of all sorts: hollow that have different tones when they are knocked; guilletien looking limestone curtains; chairs; even mounds that look like "titties" as the guide described while laughing. Back onto our bikes, Kate and I tried out our map of the country roads. All was going well, until our trail faded out...some locals were asked to point the way, and before too long we were back out on the main road. This was definitely a lot of fun. Before leaving Guilin, we made sure to try to buy our train tickets more than 1 day ahead of time. We aren't sure if the train was all "hard sleepers", but let's call this part of the trip from Guilin to Hong Kong,
The train car consists of one long hallway with 2 sets of triple bunk beds coming off of it in each section, all open to the privacy. Phil and I are in the lowest bunks and the train is packed. They turn the lights off at about 10:00 pm and these little, tiny hallway lights come on that illuminate the path way. So we go to sleep. (P.S. I am reading the Lord of the Rings right now) I am having really evil dreams lately, and sleeping on a full train through rural China was totally unsettling. Around 3:00 am in the morning, both of us are dead asleep and all of the sudden I feel hands rubbing my feet and my legs. It awakes me out of an evil dream and I look towards the foot of my bed and there is this small head with narrow eyes sitting at the foot of the bed lit only by the small hallway lights...looked like Smeagol a little. Ok, so I FREAK OUT and start screaming "oh my god, oh my god" because I was so startled. This wakes Phil up who is completely disoriented and starts screaming "GET OUT!!!" (which, btw, I have NEVER heard Phil scream like that). The little boys father calmly walks down the hallway and takes the son by his hand and leads him away. So this little child was in my bed rubbing my feet and legs!!!! It was seriously the most creeped out I have been in my entire life. I did not sleep the rest of the night for fear of what would end up in my bed. EWWWWWWW. Thank god it was only a child and not some toothless, dirty man.

Yeah, it was as strange as it sounds. If I had been more with it and someone wasn't in the same bed as my wife, I may have not growled loudly, but what was done was done. At least I was able to go back to sleep!!

In Hong Kong now, it is incredibly crowded here. Makes Manhattan seem like Omaha...or at least some other smaller city. I guess that'll be good for when we move back to NY. Took the trip up Victoria Peak today, some nice views from up there. But for now, I am going to stop typing and head out to eat.

One last quick interesting travel note that may (or maynot) only interest us. We haven't met a lot of American's yet, but plenty from England, Australia, and New Zealand. Within the first 10 minute, can you guess what subject is brought up? The US Presidential Election. Everyone seems to be into it more than most Americans. In their eyes, it affects them just as much right now, and to be honest, we believe it!!

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