|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.
We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.
Thanks for checking us out!
- Mark Twain
- Maya Angelou
Saturday, August 22, 2009
We counted that since June 20, we've taken 14 flights. I won't even count the number of ferries, taxis, tricycles, or jeepneys we've taken.
We'll be settling in to a routine here in Shekou and preparing to start school.
Since we are back in China, that means no Facebook status updates or pictures on the Blog. You can always go to our photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/ebrown2324 to see all of our photos. I'm not sure how I will be uploading them from now on. Perhaps just from the country or I might switch to Flikr or something until the Picasa/Google thing blows over here in China.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
On Wednesday, we took a day long trip around Bohol Island. We first went to the famous Chocolate Hills in Carmen. As you can see from our pictures, there are hills scattered about the countryside each and of themselves. Some are connected, but many are just large mound hills. During the dry season (not now), they turn all turn brown, thus Chocolate Hills. They had cut down the vegetation on a couple of them so tourist during the wet season could see the chocolateyness of them.
The rest of the day was stopping and going in various stops. We saw the world's largest captivated python weighing in at 250 kg and over 26 feet long. She was named Prony and was 12 years old.
We saw where the original natives signed a "Blood Compact" with the Spaniards, were a statue now stands commemorating the treaty.
We stopped off briefly at a bamboo swinging bridge.
We drove through but stopped at a manmade forest. A university in Bohol started a project 50 years ago where any student going to the university would plant a tree in this "forest." Many of the trees are tall and skinny and all seemingly perfectly lined up. Interesting.
We saw the areas oldest cathedral, the Baclaran cathedral. I think they are just now in the renovating stages of this, but it is already beautiful, but will be gorgeous when the do restore it completely.
The highlight of the day was the Tarsier monkeys. This is one of the most famous tourist attractions in all of the Philippines, and it didn't disappoint. Literally on the side of the road near the river, they have set up a little area where 14 tarsiers can be seen by anyone. The tarsier is the world's oldest mammal (someone can fact check that for me) and the world's smallest primate (pretty sure about that one). It has huge eyes, and I think I remember reading how it was the inspiration for the little fuzzy creatures in the Gremlins, a Mowgwi (although I have no idea how to spell it). Gizmo was one.
We had only seen one for about 10 minutes, but then one of the workers showed us several more, then when he noticed we were really into them, he plucked some off of the trees and let us hold them, pet them, and have our pictures. Great pictures by the way you have to see! This by far was the coolest part of the day and certainly a highlight of the trip.
We arrived back at our villa in the afternoon and took naps and just relaxed the remainder of the day.
|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
On Tuesday, we slept in and had decided to take the 4:30 ferry to Taglibaran before heading to Panglao Island. We decided to see some of the sites of Cebu. There isn't really that much to see, but we saw a cross that had been given the area by Magellan as well as a couple of different cathedrals in the area. We had wanted to see the place where Magellan had been killed by the tribal leader Lapu Lapu, but it was too far away for us to go.
We made it in time for the 4:30 ferry after having all day but needing to rush to get there in time. The ferry ride was about an hour and 15 minutes, but we had to wait for our ride from Panglao Tropical Villas to arrive to pick us up.
Our villa here is actually just a room in a rather large villa with 5 bedrooms, a large living room area, and kitchen. Our room is the "master bedroom" and by far the nicest thing we have stayed in on this trip. Even has a bathtub which isn't common for mine and Jamie's typical accommodations. The beach area is fantastic, but it is really on a harbor side of things, so you don't really get in the water. They have excellent facilities and very helpful staff.
|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
On Monday, it was just a long travel day. It didn't need to be, but became that because the airline was delayed for 3 hours. The people who were getting us to the airport didn't know of this flight change, so we still left at 6:00 am to get to the airport for a 11:00 flight. Turns out the flight wasn't until 1:30, we after being transported around by tricycle, ferry, van, bus, we finally arrived at the airport in Kalibo. The flight to Cebu was only 35 minutes and we arrived there at 2:30. So, it took us 8.5 hours for a 35 minute flight.
We decided to just nap and rest the rest of the day and even ordered delivery to our hotel, the Palazzo Pensionne. Nice little place, and even though we booked on hostelworld, it is more like a hotel.
Tomorrow, our plan will be to see the sites of Cebu.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Today, Jamie and I had another relaxing day on Boracay beach. It rained for 2 minutes, but we were able to scamble inside before heading out to this great little Italian restaurant for lasagna. We stayed out at the beach hoping for a wonderful sunset like last night, but it was just too cloudy after the rain. It was a bit disappointing, but we ate at a Spanish restaurant and had Paella Mixta which was absolutely delicious!
We have to get up at 5:30 and head out by 6:00 to catch multple transports to Kalibo airport for our 11:00 flight to Cebu. Bunch of traveling and waiting for just an hour flight.
Boracay is definitely a place we'd come back to for another vacation. There is quite a bit to do here, but we were content of just hanging around the beach area. If we ever return, maybe we'll get into the other activities.
We've added a few pictures from our last day on Coron Island and here at Boracay. Be sure to check them out in our Philippines albums.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Boracay is very touristy with shops, restaurants, and vendors all along the beach, however, and there are dozens if not hundreds of people hanging out at the entrances to the beach asking if you want a tour, jetski, ATV's, or scuba. They haven't really bothered us that much and our little "resort" here furnished us with a couple of beach lounge chairs and an umbrella, so we were all set.
Tonight, we ate at The Hobbit House, which I had heard about, but wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. I had thought it would have more atmospere, but it was really just some midgets serving us in an overpriced themed restaurant of the famous Lord of the Rings. We actually had some mexican dishes. The only good thing about the place was that they had a wide selection of bottled beer from all over the world.
We have decided not to go on any tours and just hang out tomorrow before we leave to go to Cebu. We'll save some money this way and still be able to just relax at one of the most famous beaches in the world.
I'll take some pictures of the beach tomorrow. I took some of the sunset tonight, but we were a bit late for it, so we are definately going to catch it tomorrow. Tonight looked amazing, so we'll get the full thing tomorrow.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Nonetheless, we woke up this morning and have been shuffled around the Philippines ever since. After a transport to the Busuanga airport in Coron, we were delayed for 1 hour. After a 1 hour flight to Manila, we were delayed 4 hours before our flight to Kalibo. Catilclan, the "gateway to Boracay," was not accepting our plane, so we had to fly to Kalibo. We were then transported by bus for an hour and a half, a quick ferry, then another transport to our hotel, the Villa de Oro right on Boracay beach.
I feel better, but have not eaten. Jamie just found me some sour cream and onion Pringles and... a DR. PEPPER. I am hoping my stomach settles.
Tomorrow and the next day, we'll hang out on the beach here in Boracay before heading to Cebu for a day, then Panglao Island.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Tomorrow, we leave Coron and take a connecting flight to Manila before taking a small flight to Kalibo. We would have gone to Catlican, but the airport is not currently taking smaller flights, so they have redirected us to Kalibo. We'll have to take an hour and half bus ride, then a ferry to Boracay Island. May take all day.
Hope all is well with everyone.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
Jamie and I woke up at 5:15 this morning and left at 5:45 to go to the top of Tapyas Peak to overlook Coron Village and Island. We walked about a half mile then scaled up 786 steps to the top. We made the whole trip in about an hour and were back at 6:45. After a quick clean up, we headed out for breakfast and then met up with our guide for a trip to a private island for some snorkeling and relaxation in some hammocks.
The snorkeling was amazing as we were able to see coral of many colors as well as some beautiful schools of fish. No need to scuba because the coral stretched out from the shore for about 75 meters and stretched down the shoreline 4 times that. After lunch consisting of squid, seaweed, rice, and beef, we were on our boat again to go see a Japanese battle ship sunk in 1944 by the US. The water was shallow, so we actually were able to stand on the ship for it was turned on its side with a coral growing all over it. View was great. Jamie and I actually paused for a second and were amazed that were actually standing on a Japanese battleship from WWII. For 2 history majors, that is a pretty amazing feeling.
After another brief stop at what our guide called the water garden which was some snorkeling examining some more amazing coral, we snorkeled around another sunken Japanese cargo ship. This was a great day as it started out with a rather difficult but rewarding climb, moving to a relaxing stay on a beautiful beach, then snorkeling around WWII ships.
Tomorrow, we go to a small island all day long for some fun in the sun. We are looking forward to it!
Check out the pictures of today in Jamie's photo album of the Philippines.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
On Monday, Jamie and I headed out of our not so great accommodations in Manila (Green Mango Inn), and headed out for our 9:40 flight to Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines. Our flight was a little prop plane on Zest Air. The amazing thing about this flight is that there were only about 14 people on board the plane and the total cost for us was $20. The departure fee from the airport was $9.
We arrived safely literally in the middle of a cow field in the middle of nowhere. We took an odd little trip for about 45 minutes to the village of Coron. The reason why it was odd was because only sections of the road was paved. No big deal, but they would pave one section of the road for 200 yards, then pave the other side for 200 yards, then switch again. Go figure...
We arrived at the Coron Village Lodge and checked in. We bought a package deal that would take us island hopping for 3 days, but it didn't start until the next day, so we just hung around the village, walked around, read, and had a great dinner down by the water. Our place isn't on the beach, but once you see the pictures of this place, you'll understand that there aren't many beaches.
Tuesday (today) was one of those days for the books (or blogs in this case). After breakfast, our guide took us on a little boat across the bay to Coron Island to this little small beach, no longer than 100 yards. The water was the emerald and blue that you always see in magazines and the sand felt amazing. We took some snorkling gear with us and spent an hour or so snorkling around the beach area and around. After lunch, we swam some more and were off to another little section of the island for another beach. We only stayed here for 30 minutes, but the water was just as beautiful.
Next, we took a trip to the Twin Lagoons, and in order to get into it, you had to swim in under the rocks. It was part freshwater from being fed by a lake, and part salt water. It was here that Jamie said, "This water is so blue it looks like the water in at a putt putt course." Quite true, but this water is real and the bottom certainly isn't painted or food coloring added.
After the Twin Lagoons, we went to a lake where we had to hike up some steps. Before we reached the lake, we saw a little cave where our guide told us that the people of Coron hid from the Japanese during WWII. From the opening of the cave is the picture you see above, perhaps one of the most beautiful sites I've seen. Jamie and I have our picture taken there too as well as Seymore. The lake was great, but we actually just rested in the shade there.
Next, we went to "7 Islands," a little clump of islands in the middle of the bay where we snorkled and fed the fish with some bread. They all came in droves to nibble away at the bread under the water. Only when it was gone or a larger fish came did they stop. The fish were beautiful colors and neither Jamie or I had ever fed them this way.
Next, we went to the local hot springs for a relaxing dip. The water was quite warm but very refreshing considering our muscles were tired from swimming practically all day.
Dinner tonight was a great fish served with veggies and a mango shake.
I've uploaded all of the pictures and a few videos. I doubt they will do any of it justice, but maybe you can get an idea of our day through them.
Let me know if you have any questions. Great wifi here at the hotel, so I'll post tomorrow about our day along with some pictures.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
Jamie and I woke up pretty early so we could catch a bus heading out from Pasay City to Tagatay. Because of the hassle of getting around and the fact we didn't book a single thing prior to coming here, we are forced to somewhat just play every day by ear here in Manila. Amazingly, you can't really find a map anywhere, and the best map was available at the airport. We forgot to pick one up. Nonetheless, we've just about mastered the tricycles, jeepneys, and busses after today.
We were out by 7:00 and caught about a 10 minute tricycle to a main road. There, we found a taxi that would take us to Pasay City bus station. The driver said there were many bus stations in Pasay and was confused about which one to take us to. We went to the right one the first time, I bought a donut from Dunkin Donuts, and we settled into our air conditioned bus. We had no idea how much it was, how long the ride would take, or even which stop to get out on; but we figured we would figure it out.
The bus ride took about 2 hours and we froze to death. The tempurature this morning was only about 70 F and they had the aircon in the bus blasting. Jamie even wrapped up in the towel we had brought. We made it to our stop with some help from the passengers and immediately were approached by people selling "packages" for the Taal Volcano. We had read up on these and were prepared to bargain.
Our first mini trip was straight down a curvy road to the bottom of the lake. For those that don't know, Taal Volcano is actually a volcano within a lake which created another lake in the crater, which then had the volcano. You can check out the pictures. I'm not much one for science, so you can fact check me if you want. They call it the world's smallest active volcano as well as a 10 year volcano as it erupts about every 10 years, although hasn't had a major one since 1974. There have been some rumblings since 1991 though.
Once we arrived at the bottom of the lake, we haggled a price for the boat, horse, and lunch. They gave us a ridiculous price and we settled on less than half of that. We may have still overpaid, but it was what we expected to spend.
The boat ride across the lake to the volcano was bumpy and they even gave us a little tarp to cover ourselves with because we were splashed so much. Had it not been for that tarp, we'd been soaking we as well as all of our belongings in our backpacks. Next, we saddled up on a horse with a guide and made a 30 minute ride up to the rim of the volcano. Inside, you could see the inside lake. It was beautiful and we had heard it was breathtaking. I was a bit disappointed and Jamie mentioned that it is hard to wow us anymore. Keep in mind that in the last 2 weeks, we have walked on the Great Wall of China, seen the Terracotta Warriors, and taken a hot air balloon ride over the karst landscape of Yangshuo.
The Taal Volcano was nice, but I guess somewhat disappointing. We walked along the rim and took some pictures. It was very windy (see video above) and we were picking dirt out of our faces for a while afterwards. We took our little horses back down from the rim to the lake, took an even wetter boat ride back across, and then feasted on some rather tasty fried chicken and rice for lunch. Another tricycle ride to the top of the mountain, a non-aircon bus for 2 hours, a 30 minute jeepney ride, and a 20 minute walk later, and we were back at our little inn after a rather long day. We walked the remaning 20 minutes simply because we had ridden something for the last 8 hours straight.
After napping, we decided on a little pasta restaurant walking distance from here.
Overall, we weren't thrilled with Manila. The transportation around the city is hectic at best and the place overall is a bit dirty. We expected more. However, tomorrow our trip really begins as we take a small little plane for an hour to Coron Island. We have a package deal there of island hopping and snorkling and perhaps scuba diving around some old WWII ships.
Check out our albums for photos of today and the rest our trip. Click on the picture above to go directly to the video of the Taal Volcano.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
|From Eric's Philippines Pics|
|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
Jamie and I slept in this morning but decided to venture out into the city of Manila to see the Intramuros which are the old city walls as well as see a couple of churches.
Traffic in this city is terrible made even worse by 1000s of tricycle motobikes and the dreaded jeepney. Granted, these are rather cheap modes of transportation, but we have determined that if they would be better of utilizing busses or more light rails. We don't run the city, so to each his own.
We are staying out of the city; so in order to get back we could either take a very expensive cab ride or do an alternate route of tricycles, jeepneys, walking, and light rail transit. We opted for the cheap way since we are on a budget for this trip.
We finally arrived at the Intramuros, but wasn't all that impressed. The Manila Cathedral was impressive as was St. Augustin's Church, but overall the area was dirty with the constant hassle of tricycle drivers wanting to show you around. We opted for walking.
We decided to call it an early day instead of seeing some other Manila sites. After the hassle of getting around, we decided that it was just too hot and not worth it. Already, Manila isn't our favorite city, but we knew coming to the Philippines that Manila wouldn't be the highlight.
Nonetheless, check out the pictures in our Philippines August 2009 photo album. I took quite a few of the churches which are worth looking at.
Tomorrow, we go to the famous Taal Volcano, which is has a lake within a mountain with a lake within a mountain, or so our friendly hostel says.
The second pictures is a video and is outside one of the light transit rail stops and us walking through the sidewalk of vendors. They didn't hassle us, but the beggars wanted money for us walking on their little planks to keep us out of the water. Just click on the picture and it'll take you to the video.
The picture is of Seymore on top of the city walls of the Intramuros.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Seymore is in many of the shots and here is is in Summerville, Georgia on his first trip to the USA this summer. They had this large US flag draped over their courthouse and we thought it was a great pic. He'll get his USA tattoo as well as a Philippines one as soon as we get back to Shekou in a couple of weeks and find our pen.
If you have any questions, shoot them our way! Mom, Dad, and Samantha are flying back to Atlanta as I type this. Wish them a safe travel back home.
We had one last day to either hang out in Yangshuo or go back to Guilin. We opted for another day in Yangshuo and decided to check out one of the local caves. Called the Water Cave, they took up by a small boat into the opening of the cave via an underground river. From there, they did the typical walk through a cave spotlighting things with the flashlight which were supposed to look like something (a Buddha, a girl washing her hair, an elephant, etc.). It was a bit hokey, but still a cave and pretty cool. The highlight of the trip was the mud pit for a bath. Samantha dover right in and covered herself completely as did Jamie, although somewhat at a slower pace. I didn't really want to do it, but didn't want to be a party pooper, so I did, but refused to dunk my face. I have a thing about getting water and such around my eyes, much less a ton of mud. Mom even decided to join the fun and came right in after us. Decent pictures of us in Dad's album.
That took pretty much the whole afternoon and after a quick shower back our our inn and dinner, we were off to the Guilin airport for a 50 minute flight back to Shenzhen. We were delayed over 4 hours due to inclement weather in Shenzhen and didn't arrive in Shekou at our apartment until about 3:15 am all exhausted.
Thursday, July 6
Mom, Dad, and Samantha's last day in China was spent pretty much relaxing. Dad bought him a new mp4 player from a local electronics store, Samantha rested up, Mom and I went to see QSI's preschool, Jamie washed a ton of clothes, and I escorted everyone around while preparing for our trip to the Philippines the next day. Dinner was Pizza Hut because we were all too exhausted to go to IKEA.
Friday, July 7
Somewhat frustrating, but Cebu Pacific Airlines is teh only airlines where you cannot take the ferry from Shekou to Hong Kong International Airport. Go figure. So, instead of escorting Mom, Dad, and Samantha to the airport, we had to say our goodbyes at the ferry terminal and Jamie and I had to go all the way to Central Hong Kong just to turn around and take a cab back to the airport. We arrived at our terminal and gate 5 minutes before boarding after panicing we'd miss our flight to Manila.
We are here in in Manila, Philippines at a small little hostel/inn outside of the ciy. At least Blogger works here in the Philippines, so uploading pictures and such will be easier. Here is a breakdown of where Jamie and I will be going in the next 2 weeks while here in the Philippines.
Manila, Taal Volcano
I'll be posting pictures as always as well as keeping you informed our our travels here. It will be a mixture of relaxing on beaches and some sightseeing.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
|From Samantha's Pics|
We woke up this morning at 4:30 to get up before the sunrise. Mom and Dad had graciously agreed to pay for us all to take a hot air balloon ride over the amazingly beautiful karst landscape of Yangshuo. Again, it is difficult to describe the beauty, but we had 4 cameras going and taking pictures. The ride lasted about and hour and floated up and over the mountains and hills and over the rice fields. We saw the workers working their fields as well as other hot air balloons taking off. The sharp contrast between the colorful balloons and the landscape was striking.
We actually returned to inn at about 7:30 and had time for breakfast, Skyping with family, and rest. Jamie, Mom, and Samantha then went to a cooking class in the local village we were staying. They went to the market to buy their fresh ingredients, then went to the village to cook 5 dishes. You'll have to ask them for details, but they said it was a great time and they learned so much. They all bought the local cookbook as both a souvenir and hopefully they'll be making some dishes for us. Ask them about it!
Dad and I rest and I uploaded our 2800+ pictures online. After Jamie, Mom, and Samantha returned from cooking, Mom, Samantha and I went down to the Yulong River or a swim. The walk over to the river was well worth it. If you'll take a look at Dad's photo album, then you can see the amazing pictures taken of just this area. The colors of the fields, water, and mountains are gorgeous.
After dinner in Yangshuo at the Pure Lotus, this great little vegetarian restaurant recommended by our hosts at the inn, we were transported the the Impressions light show. Here is what a website has to say about the performance:
"The premiere of the Yangshuo Light Show was on March 20th, 2004 at the Sanjie Liu Sing fair, about a mile from West Street . The performance utilizes the natural surroundings to create a spectacular outdoor theatre which is the largest of its kind. The Li River itself is the stage and twelve mountains serve as the backdrop.
The audience sits on specially designed terraces. The sound equipment is kept hidden from view as the theatre is designed to blend, merge and work with the natural environment. The changing weather and seasons bring something different to each performance and the fantastic lighting effects highlight the beauty of the setting.
The show was directed by Zhang Yimou who also directed the famous 2002 movie 'Hero' [as well at the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing]. It has received many awards and is included within most tours of the area.
Impressions Light Show in Yangshuo
The show also includes modern and classical music composed by famous musicians in China. There are also over 600 performers who are all local people.
The show gives us impressions of the life of those people living around the river. It also gives us an insight into the dress and music of the ethnic minorities of the area."
It was different, but very beautiful and great way to end the day that started with such a great hot air balloon ride. None of my pictures turned out good enough for me to even keep, but perhaps you can look it up online. Google "Impressions Yangshuo" and it'll get you there.
Be sure to check out the pictures!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
|From Eric's Pics|
Monday August 3rd
Today was a day that I had been talking about for months to Mom and Dad. Almost everyone we have met in China has recommended this cruise, so not doing it when you come to Guilin isn’t really an option. After checking out of our hostel in Guilin, we took a bus ride to the dock in Guilin for our Li River cruise. They boarded us on a river boat, provided us with a river map with pictures, and told us the journey would be 4 hours. We floated down the river enjoying the karst landscape of the region. They tried to point out some things to us, like the “9 horses” on the walls of the mountain (of which I could really only find 2 and the other 3 I found was stretching it). They provided a typical Chinese lunch and we were also able to catch some pictures of the scenery located on the back of the 20 yuan note.
It is really hard to describe to you the beauty of this region. You can of course see the pictures and enjoy seeing the various mountains and hills, but one really just has to come out here and see it to fully understand. Of course, I try my best to provide everyone back home with my own personal viewpoint as I take a zillion pictures. Be sure to check them out in the albums. Between me, Dad, Jamie, and Samantha, you should get a decent idea of what it was like.
The river cruise ended at promptly 1:00, and we were sad to have it end. I think all of us could have sat in the air condition windowed top part of the boat and watch that scenery all day long.
We were picked up at the dock and taken to the Yangshuo Outside Inn, a small rustic inn with cottages that is about 5 minutes outside the city of Yangshuo. I purposely chose this place because I thought it would be a great place to stay after being in city after city and a way to unwind after our long journey through China. It didn’t let us down despite being crazy hot and humid here. We have a small 2 bedroom cottage with aircon downstairs only. We relaxed around the place for the entire afternoon enjoying the food, reading, FINALLY getting on the Internet, and playing pool. A great dinner finished off the day. Despite the heat, we slept like logs; however, we had to get up at 4:30 the next morning for our next adventure…
As always, check out the pictures of the Li River cruise.
|From Eric's Pics|
Sunday – August 2
This was an EXTREMELY long, HOT, and difficult day, but looking back, very rewarding. I had been wanting to go the Longji Rice Terraces for some time now, and Jamie and I are forgoing the Banuae Rice Terraces in the Philippines for the Longji in China, so I was excited about this trip. Mom, Dad, and Samantha didn’t quite know what to expect, but were along for the ride nonetheless.
The only problem with the day is that I hardly remember or know any of the names of the places we saw. Our day started with a curvy, swervey, bus ride to a small village at the base of the mountains. On the way there, the country side of China was beautiful as we wound our way through the mountains seeing the karst landscape, mudslides on the roads, while our bus hung on to the curves of the road. After purchasing our tickets to the famous Longji Rice Terraces, we took another smaller bus rapidly up a curvier, narrower road to the next village (pronounced “willage” by the Chinese ). The driver was insane speeding up the hill like that, but I guess he knew what he was doing. We only say 3 other busses that had fallen off the mountain – j/k.
It was already a million degrees outside and now we were an arm’s length from touching the sun. Little did we know we hadn’t even started our journey to the top to see the Rice Terraces. Please keep in mind that we had been seeing rice terraces for the entire morning, but what we discovered at the top made it very worth-while.
First, they made you pass through the village going up small stone steps and paths for a 20 minute hike. We ate lunch at a restaurant at the top of the hill in the village. We all had bamboo chicken and rice (literally, chicken and rice stuffed into a bamboo chute and then cooked over an open flame). I was the only one to think it was delicious. Jamie tolerated it, but Samantha finally asked for her energy bar. Dad and Mom both nibbled, but it certainly wasn’t their favorite dish.
The next part of the journey was another 20 minute walk up smaller, steeper stones to see the “Moon and 7 Stars” of the Rice Terraces. The moon and seven stars refer to the tops of the hills where the rice terraces begin. Since we were there during the summer, the rice terraces are green; however, if you go certain times of the year, you can see them yellow and even “glassy” when they are full of water. It is at this time when they look like a field of mirrors. Our pictures have all turned out well of the top of this place. Be sure to check them out. The journey up and down that hill was especially hard for Dad, but he made it! We were all proud of him for continuing on to the top.
Afterwards, we went to a rather hokey little boat ride down the Yi River. They put us in a small boat and we gently flowed downstream watching “performances” of some of the minorities from the area. Most notable were the Yao Village women with the long hair. Apparently, they have the World’s Record for the group with the longest hair. There aren’t many of them, and they do indeed have long hair. 4 other “performances” were provided before we exited the boat. While going through their tourist trap shop, they made you cross over a bridge and sing a song in your native language. They had just “performed” for us, so I guess we had to for them. I led everyone in “I’m a Little Teapot” complete with hand and body motions. They loved us and let us pass through.
Next was a performance by another minority under a covered pavilion that even Jamie and Mom got to interact and dance as they joined in. Great pictures were taken and they enjoyed the dancing.
Our last stop was at a Tea House for some Green Tea, Flower Tea, Black Tea, and Puer Tea. They had a tea demonstration which was nice and touristy, but neat overall.
We were exhausted, but Jamie, Samantha, and I went to a small western restaurant, Rosemary Café, and ordered some food and brought some back from Mom and Dad. A very tiring, but rewarding day.
|From Eric's Pics|
|From Jamie's Pics|
Friday – July 31
Today was our first full day in Xi’an. We decided to take a tour to the excavation site of the Terracotta Warriors. For those that do not know, and I know many in America do not, the Terracotta Warriors are literally terracotta (clay) soldiers built by the “first” Chinese emperor to protect his final resting place. So far, 4 pits have been found and over 8000 terracotta warriors, chariots, and horses have been discovered. The emperor died in 310 b.c., but the terracotta warriors were not found until 1974 by a Chinese farmer digging a well. The Chinese government paid the man 10 yuan (about $1.50 US) for his discovery. Don’t worry though, the guy is doing quite well as we saw him signing books written about him and charging people to take his picture – TIC.
Our guided tour took the entire day but the excavation site was stunning. They still have pit #4 that they have not opened to the public they have just started digging. Pit #1 alone hasn’t even been completed. Take a look at our pictures as they are pretty amazing and Google “Terracotta Warriors” for more information.
We rested that afternoon and ate at the hostel which had yummy food for all meals.
Saturday – August 1
We didn’t fly to Guilin until later that afternoon, so we wanted to see some more sites in Xi’an before leaving. We decided early on to bike on top of the city walls of Xi’an. The city still has its original city walls which are wide enough for 2 cars to drive side by side and over XXX feet high. There are plenty of biking options, so Mom and Dad rode a tandem bike and me, Jamie, and Samantha each had a bike of our own. The city walls are about 5.2 miles around and we had 100 minutes to complete it. Mom and Dad’s tandem bike broke down 2 times and they had to exchange it once, Jamie’s bike broke once and we had to exchange it, and finally it poured down rain on us pretty much the entire time. Mom and Dad have said it was the best time they have had! Great experience and one for the books. We strolled into the bike return taking a little over 2 hours to complete because of the break downs.
We showered and freshened up, but decided not to go back out in the rain to see more city sites. I had really wanted to go to the beginning point of the Silk Road, but Xi’an is a city that Jamie and I think we will return to, so I wasn’t too bummed about it.
Our flight to Guilin was pretty fast and we arrived at the Guilin Riverside Hostel early in the evening. They had fed us on the plane, so we spent the time resting and figuring out what to do in Guilin.
I’m going to post Guilin and Yangshuo on another post, but be sure to check out our albums for pictures of Xi’an!
|From Eric's Pics|
This is the first post I’ve been able to do since July 28. For some reason, our wireless hasn’t worked in Beijing and Xi’an at some pretty decent places; but out here in the wilderness at a little village inn, it works great. Go figure. Nonetheless, this post will be rather long to catch everyone up on our adventures since our first day in Beijing…
Wednesday, July 29
We woke up early to catch a private taxi (minivan) to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. First, however, we stopped by the Olympic Village for pictures of the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube. It was hazy and smoggy, but the pictures were enough to see. Great venue and we can tell that China planned it quite well.
Our next stop was the Summer Palace. We had all taken Dramamine prior so we wouldn’t get sick from the curvy roads, so we were all quite drowsy at the Summer Palace. We walked along the man made lake and finally saw the Marble Boat before exiting early. Our driver was shocked we made it through in such a quick time, but the Summer Palace is so large, it is difficult to see everything anyway, so we just hit the highlights and went on through. We all knew the best part of the day was coming up.
After a quick brunch at McDonald’s (yeah I know, but you eat what you can), then we all napped on the way to the Great Wall. The Mutianyu section is about 2 hours outside of Beijing and much less crowded than the famous Badaling section, but the views are amazing. You have your option to either hike up to the wall or take about a 4 minute cable car to the top. We opted for the cable car, but walking up the steep slope even to it will just about get you out of breath.
It is hard to describe the Great Wall of China, and I certainly cannot do so on this blog. It is simply something that everyone must experience. You can go to either of our albums and catch the many pictures that we took or you can email or call any of us and ask. Most people just assume that the feeling is indescribable. The day we went was pretty hazy, so the visibility wasn’t really all that great, but the experience is still amazing.
After napping again on the ride home after a long day, we ate dinner at the café next to the hostel and rested up preparing for what would come the next day.
Thursday – July 30
This was our last day in Beijing. It was supposed to be a full day of activities and then an overnight train ride to Xi’an, but the soft sleeper cars of the train was booked solid and none of us wanted to sit for 15 hours on a hard seat on a train. We opted for an afternoon flight to Xi’an instead.
First, however, we went shopping at a rather large market. It has a name that has escaped me, but they call it a Pearl Market. Mom and Samantha enjoyed shopping and bargaining there, while I learned a little bit about how they conduct business after I bought a new memory card for my camera – 8 gig sweet! We decided to skip the Silk Market and instead eat a great lunch at the Hard Rock Café Beijing. Most Beijingers (not sure what a native is called, but I made this up – perhaps Beijingites?) The only sour point of this was that Dad lost his wallet. I guess it happens to everyone, but it is especially frustrating on a trip. Luckily, a vast majority of his money wasn’t in there and the credit card was canceled promptly.
Afterward, we took a couple of cabs to the airport for our flight to Xi’an, where we finally arrived and settled into our hostel – Shuyuan International Youth Hostel sometime around 9:00. For this first night, we had a 6 bed dormitory and shared the room with an Australian passing through. Nice guy.
A final note about Beijing Backpacker Hostel. It is in the middle of the hutongs and we found it especially difficult to find a cab that would be willing to take us directly to the hostel. Most, if any, would drop us off at the nearest street entering the hutongs but then you had to talk another ½ mile to get to the hostel. No big deal, but Dad’s knees were killing him quite a bit and that extra ½ mile or so was difficult many times for him especially after walking around all day.
I’m going to break up this post into another post to discuss Xi’an. As always, check out the photo albums posted to see all of the pictures.