Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mutianyu Great Wall with Some Snow

I made another trip to Mutianyu in November. This was the fourth trip there for me but the first time I was there when there was a bit of snow! We had a few snowy days and there was a bit left on the wall and in the hills around it.

More photos at flickr.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Cuandixia Village

Back in November, I went to visit Cuandixia Village with some friends. I had wanted to visit this village last April, but I wasn't able to then. This time, there was snow everywhere and it was freezing. We saw very few other visitors while we were there. Cuandixia Village is a several hundred year old hill village and one of the best preserved in all of China. We walked around the courtyards and lanes. When we were ready for lunch, we found a little room and I managed to tell the man and woman there that we were hungry and asked if they had any food. It was a guesthouse with a little room with a couple small tables so we were hopeful. They did have a menu, but it was all in Chinese and I could only recognize a few of the characters. Luckily, I was able to order a few things and get across to them that we did not want any meat, only vegetable dishes. Our lunch was lovely and our visit to this village was wonderful.

More pictures on flickr.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Well, family and friends, the amount of time you have with a free place to stay in Beijing has just been extended. Yesterday, I signed a new contract for the 2010-2011 school year. I will definitely be here until June 2011. Let me know when you are coming over!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Leah and her 'Rents Visit - Part V: Back in the Jing

After returning to Beijing, Leah and her parents had a day to explore on their own while I was at work. They checked out the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square - which still had all the pillars and floats from the National Day celebration.
I had a car pick them up in the afternoon to bring them up to see my school before taking a cab back home. Dinner and acrobats finished off our Friday evening. The acrobat show was the same one that I took my dad and sister to in June, but this time there was a bit more excitement. At one point in the show, two acrobats were inside giant wheels. They secured the contraption (two large wheels rotating on an axis) to the stage while they did their stunts inside and outside the wheels. At one point, I noticed that the stunt was not exactly like it was the last time I saw it. The acrobats looked like they finished early and there were more people than necessary to untie the wheels to raise them back up out of the way. The show went to intermission while they took care of the wheels. What is supposed to happen, is that they get the wheels untied and then raised up into the area above the stage. For some reason this was not happening and the wheels were beginning to swing a bit over the audience. Some people in the first few rows got up and moved out from under while others just sat and watched. Finally, some ushers had everyone move from the first few rows and the acrobats were finally able to get the wheels up and out of the way. The show went on.

On Saturday, we went up to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. This was the third time I had been up to this part of the wall. We took the gondola up and rode the toboggans down.

After the Great Wall, we went shopping. Here's Leah with one shop owner.

Sunday was the day reserved for Roger's talk about the regulation of water quality in America at a water research place here in Beijing.
After the talk, we were taken out to lunch and then on a walk in a park in western Beijing. It was the fanciest Chinese lunch I have been to so far and there was a variety of dishes that I have never seen. There were several toasts to Roger and to the rest of us. Luckily, we were not toasting with baijiu.
Monday morning, Leah and her parents left for the airport. Thanks for visiting, Leah, Richelle, and Roger!

See you in June, Leah!
More pictures over at flickr.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Leah and her 'Rents Visit - Part IV: Pingyao

We arrived to Pingyao the next morning. It was chilly and rainy but I was excited to show Leah and her parents a very different Chinese city compared to the large cities they had seen so far. This was the second time I had been to Pingyao. The first was in March when my mom came to visit.

We had breakfast at our guesthouse before venturing out to explore the old city. Pingyao is a great city to wander around in and shop in all the little stores.

We saw this guy again. When my mom and I were here last time, he sold us carved stamps for one quai each. This time, he asked for 60 quai. I told him that he sold stamps to us for one quai back in March. He responded in Chinese, "That was March, now is October!" and wouldn't budge from his price.

We also saw some cute kids.

We saw these people jumping over a wooden structure. They would go around three times or more and jump through. Good luck maybe? One lady had some trouble jumping over.

I left Leah and her parents here to spend one night while I flew back to Beijing to go back to work. They had a great time continuing their exploration of Pingyao before they also flew back to Beijing.

More pictures over


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Leah and her 'Rents Visit - Part III: Xi'an

After leaving Shanghai, we took a flight to Xi'an. This is the second time I had been to this city but we did a couple of things that I didn't do on my last visit.

First thing the morning after we arrived, we went to the old city wall to ride tandem bikes. Leah and I rode our Cooperate Cycle and her parents got their own individual bikes. Roger got a lot of great pictures and videos of the riding including the only pictures of Leah and me on our bike so I will add those when they send them to me. (Hint, hint!)
We stopped to watch the dancers on the other side of the wall.

After riding around the wall, we went to see the Terracotta Warriors.
Next, I took the Cochrans to their first tea ceremony in China! Roger and Richelle like tea and Richelle has a collection of tea sets. They enjoyed the ceremony and we all bought some tea. We managed to plan it just as a downpour happened outside.
After the tea ceremony, we were supposed to go visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, but it was still raining so we went for foot massages instead.
That killed the time until our dinner show began. We went to the Tang Dynasty Show where you watch the dances while eating a variety of dumplings. The dumplings are shaped as whatever is inside. So, the little ones shaped like pigs have pork, the little fish have fish, and the little pumpkins.... are delicious!
After the show, we headed over to the train station to board for our overnight trip to Pingyao. We had a four-bed soft sleeper room for the four of us. I don't think any of us got much sleep though.
More pictures over at flickr.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leah and her 'Rents Visit - Part II: Shanghai & Suzhou

We flew to Shanghai on an early morning flight and caught a cab to our hotel.

Looking out the window, we saw a street packed with people not far from the hotel that we decided to check out. It turned out to be a shopping street that was ridiculously crowded. That's what we get for traveling during the National Holiday. We walked over to the Bund but we couldn't see anything due to construction.

I had some recommendations for restaurants from a friend, so for dinner we checked out Barbarossa. Delicious!

The next day, we took a train to Suzhou for the day.
We walked all over the place and again saw too many people everywhere. The Lion's Grove Garden would have been much more interesting if it had not been so crowded.

We went to an Arts and Crafts Museum which was nice and empty. The Temple of Mystery was very mysterious. We stopped by the Northern Pagoda on our walk back toward the train station.
About this time, we all started to get a little cranky from too much walking, taxis who didn't want to take us anywhere, places being closed, and hunger. After finding a place for dinner, we headed to the train station where we were able to change our train tickets for one an hour earlier since we had seen enough of Suzhou for the day.
Back in Shanghai, we decided to have drinks at the Radisson up the street from our hotel. At the Radisson, there is a rotating restaurant at the top and a bar one more floor up. From here, we had a great view of Shanghai's buildings all lit up.
The next day, we got up early to check out a market in the Xintiandi area of Shanghai. Since we were early, there were only a few others walking around with us and we found some great souvenirs.

We walked over to the Yu Garden next. This garden was again very crowded but managed to still be pretty peaceful. We all enjoyed our walk through the gardens.
Leaving the Yu Garden, we walked on the nine zig-zag bridge, but we didn't know it until we saw a postcard later - it was that crowded! We knew we were walking on a bridge and that we were making turns, but it was a mob of people from one side to the other. Amazing.

In the afternoon, we went to the Shanghai Museum - for free! I am not a big museum person and I have only been to a few museums that really held my attention for a long time. The Shanghai Museum wasn't one of them, but Leah's parents had a great time!

After the museum, we cabbed it over to the French Concession for tapas at Azul & Viva for dinner. I loved the French Concession area and would definitely spend more time here.

Leah and I went for foot massages after returning to our hotel.
The next morning, we got our shopping on at Uniqlo, H&M, and other random stores back in the Xindiandi and French Concession areas. While we were walking around, we ran into the cars and a float ready for a mass wedding. Usually, there are several cars which will caravan for a wedding. In this case, over 40 couples were getting married so there were a few hundred cars ready for the parade to wherever the weddings were about to take place.

We had a lovely Chinese lunch before checking out of our hotel and catching a taxi to the airport for our flight to Xi'an.

More pictures over at flickr.