May 30, 2013

Beijing: There and Back Again (Trip to China Part 3)

And we’re back. I’m killing time before my flight back to the US to write about the rest of my time in China. Again, I’ll go day-by-day and then put some random tidbit information at the end.


Dori and I woke up super early for our flight to Beijing. Our plane touched down around 10 am, so we had the whole day to play tourists. One of the biggest perks of the being in the Foreign Service is that Dori has friends stationed all over. Her friend Luke, who works in Beijing, was spending the weekend in Malaysia and graciously let us stay at his place while he was gone.

We dropped off our luggage and went off to the Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square. There were so many people! The two of us decided to go through the Forbidden City first. Later, this would prove to be a bad idea.

For those of you who don’t know, there are a bajillion gates to get to the main part of the Forbidden City. Cause the emperor needed to be far away from all the gross commoners. Nowadays, the first gate has a huge picture of Chairman Mao’s face on it. Lovely. 

Once inside, you’re stunned by the architecture and detail of the buildings. The many colors, carvings, and tiles are all beautiful. We took a lot of pictures, and since we were in a major touristy area, a lot of pictures were taken of us. I never got used to it. Oh well, white people in China problems.

We exited through the back gate and realized that we were forever away from Tiananmen Square (I told you we learned our lesson), but we decided to walk back instead of cab it. The walk was horrible. Not only were the sidewalk stones making our feet ache, we were constantly being accosted by rickshaw drivers asking for business. I was getting furious at them.

*Side note: Men in Beijing like to say “hello” to white girls when they see them. It wouldn’t be so frustrating, but it’s definitely not in a harmless way. I really wanted to yell back, “Je ne parle anglais!” since not every white person is American/British/Australian. (Pretty sure I spelled some of that French wrong).

Finally, we found our way back to Tiananmen Square. You see it, all the flowers and nice buildings, and can’t believe that something so horrible had happened there not too long ago. Supposedly, the Chinese don’t talk about the massacre that much since it didn’t change anything politically. Most don’t feel anything about it one way or another.

Besides the National Museum of China and several monuments, there is the mausoleum of Mao. It’s a large structure with several statues outside depicting the people of China carrying a banner with his image. It’s interesting.

Next was a trip around Qianmen walking street. It’s a newly made area that looks old school but carries a bunch of new school stores like H&M and Zara. There were a few back alleyways. Hutongs.

Before dinner, we decided to go to this small bar in the Nanluoguxiang area that Dori’s friend told us about. On the way there we walked through an amazing park and more hutongs that felt more like “real” China. The bar was called Drum and Bell since it’s located between a very old drum tower and a very old bell tower. We went up on the roof, which had an amazing view of the area. It was noticeable that most of the patrons were expats speaking languages from English to Portuguese.

We were feeling good after we left and though to take a rickshaw to dinner. We made sure to hire a guy that HADN’T accosted us. He was super sweet and drove us to KFC. Cause we’re classy.

Jeez, this post is so long and I’m only done with Saturday.



A car drove us about an hour and a half out of the city to a small area of the wall called Mutianyu. The village was very small and the area wasn’t as touristy as other parts of the wall. We took a cable car (it was a porch swing with a handlebar) to the Wall and started our trek up and down one of the greatest achievements of mankind.

I can’t describe the experience very well. It’s one of those things that you have to do for yourself. The view, the architecture, the…everything. It was amazing. You could see it stretching on for miles, twisting and turning.

It was a good day for it since it was cool and cloudy. We didn’t start to feel sweaty or tired until our way back to where the cable car had dropped us off. But we weren’t going to take it back down. Oh no, we were going to TOBOGGAN!

Yes, you read that right. They had toboggans that took you down a large slide, snaking downhill. It was SO MUCH FUN! Dori and I loved it!

We grabbed some lunch before deciding to explore the village and the surrounding areas. It was very much rural China. Although, pretty sure the vast majority of the town’s income came from tourism. We hung out at a café for a bit before a car took us back. Dang, were we exhausted. We called it an early night and watched some Downton Abbey before going to bed. 


It was our last day in Beijing and most of it was played by ear. It ended up being a day full of temples.

First, the Llama Temple. Another problem with touristy places in Beijing is the beggars. Living in NYC, I’ve seen a fair share of homeless people, but when it comes to amputees, our homeless people don’t feel the need to actually showcase the missing limbs. I had to avert my eyes a lot.

The temple was more Tibetan in style, with more people there to worship. Beautiful. There were a few prayer wheels and I couldn’t help spinning one. Although, I didn't pray. I quoted Eddie Murphy in “The Golden Child”.

There was a Confucian temple across the street so we went over to hit that up. To our liking, very few people were there. There was a statue of Confucius, so of course we had to take pictures with the dude. Again, it was another beautiful temple.

When touring with Gu Qin in Shanghai, she had told me about the Panjiayuan Antique Market it Beijing, so Dori and I went to check it out. It was huge! So any merchants selling so many different things. Lots of beads, (fake) jade carvings, teapots, vases, and calligraphy.

We still had a little bit of time before we needed to be at the airport, so Dori suggested we head over to the Temple of Heaven. I know I’ve called all these temples beautiful, but they all were! This one was much different to the others though. The main temples were mostly circular and there was an offering mound. Intense. It’s also a public park if you’re a retiree or Beijing resident, so all the greenery was nice after so much time in the foul air.

Finally we were ready to leave Shanghai. The Beijing Airport is horrible. Security was super paranoid (Our umbrellas? Really?) and the terminals had no good food. I had to have ice cream for dinner. As I sit in the Pudong International Airport, I agree with Dori’s statement that Chinese airports are the worst. 


My last day in China and I took it very easy. Slept in and took my time packing before meeting Dori for lunch. I spent the afternoon getting a much needed foot massage. Finally, Dori came back to her apartment to see me off. I have to say that I got a bit choked up saying goodbye. I had such a good time staying with her. I miss her a lot when she’s so far away.

A few tidbits:
- I found out what an “Asian air-conditioner” is, and I don’t like it.
- I won’t ever complain about La Guardia’s food options ever again.
- I still don’t know how to use chopsticks, but Dori bought be a starter pair that are connected with a plastic panda.

So that’s it. That was my trip. My plane is about to board. I can’t believe it went by so fast. I can’t believe I actually went to China! It’s wet my appetite for travel and I can’t wait until I have the time and money to go somewhere else. 

May 27, 2013

From Shanghai to Nanjing - Trip to China Part 2

Hey y’all, so I’m sitting in the Beijing airport as I write this (this airport sucks!), waiting to fly back to Shanghai. However, my weekend in BJ will have to be covered at a different time.

So, let’s pick up where we last left off, shall we?


My sister had to work, so she asked her language teacher, Gu Qin, to take me around some of the lesser know areas. Gu was so nice and told me so much about Shanghai, its history, culture, everything. For example, women in Shanghai have more power over men do to their history working with silk. Silk trade brings in more money than hard labor. It's the MAN’S family who has to pay for the wedding and used to do dowries. Ha!

We took the metro to the antique market that was full of interesting things wither made to look like antiques, or were just little knick-knacks. According to Gu, the Chinese don’t consider something less than 300-years-old an antique.

The tea market she took me to was a very non-touristy building full of artists’ shops. Calligraphy and different teapots were sold, and of course, tea. I tried some Jasmine and light brown tea which were nice, but not my thing.

I was surprised when Gu took me to Guilin Park, an amazingly beautiful garden and former home of a gangster. Gu told me a lot about his life, relationship with the government, his concubine, and the architecture of the park.

Met up with Dori afterwards and we went to Yu Gardens, a shopping area that’s architecture brings to mind “traditional China.” We took A LOT of pictures! We had dinner at a rather new, swanky area, which was nice.


I had the day to myself so I took the metro to see the Shanghai Museum. Wow! There were so many great artifacts and pieces of art. Some of which dated thousands of years ago. It really reminded me how “new” America is.

I went back to the TV Tower in the Pudong side to go all the way to the top. I was stuck in line behind a large tour group of men, which wasn’t fun. Some kept trying to take pictures of “the white girl”. But it was worth it once I got to the top. The view…oh my god! Fantastic. There was a glass floor on which I laid down to take pictures. However, the selfie angle was super awkward.

Dori got off work so we went to pick up our custom skirts. I love mine so much. I wore one out of the fabric market. Dori had coerced her friend Peter into meeting us at The Bund to do a photo shoot of us. All the pictures are on her camera, so I can’t post them yet. The Peace Hotel was a few blocks away, so we went up to the very top to have drinks. I can’t begin to tell you how great the view was of the skyline after the sun went down. I made sure to use the panorama app on my phone. 


Another day mostly to myself. After a tour of the US consulate, I took a nap since all the running around in Shanghai had started to wear me out. My sister and I took the high speed train that night to Nanjing so she could pass me off to her friends Natalie, Ildiko, and Laura, who go to school there. Met for dinner at Element Fresh before Dori had to go back to SH.
It was down to the four of us and they thought they’d take me up to the top of the Continental Hotel before going back to their dorms. Once we got back to their housing complex, we saw there was a party on the patio. I met a ton of their fellow graduate students, who all seemed nice for the most part. BTW, Nanjing dorms are just like American dorms.


We all slept late and then Natalie, Ildiko and I went back to E Fresh for lunch. We definitely had the same waiter.

Since I wasn’t interested in seeing a touristy stuff on the Nanjing massacre (when the Japanese took over the city and raped and killed everyone), they took me to a super non-touristy underground shopping area called “Fashion Lady”. It was an experience. The stuff being sold was ridiculous. Natalie took a bunch of pictures of me with some of the crazy items.

My last stop in Nanjing before heading to the train station was to get a massage. Cheap, but quality. Unfortunately, we had underestimated time, which meant Natalie and I had to rush to get me to the train on time. Our cab driver pulled some Fast & Furious, Grand Theft Auto moves. We both dashed out of the cab, cut in the security line, ran up the escalators, and sprinted to the gate. I’m 85% sure I was the last person they let in the gate. But as winded I was, I’d made the train on time.

Alrighty, that’s all for this post. One more to go where I’ll dish about all the cool stuff Dori and I did during our three days in Beijing. Spoiler alert! There was a lot of walking with a little tobogganing.

May 24, 2013

Shanghai (The New York of Asia) - China Trip Part 1

Wow! I can’t believe that my trip has been going by so fast. I’ve already done so much and am excited for everything else to come before I fly back on Tuesday.

This will end up being a rather long blog post about the first part of time in Shanghai. I’ll break it up by day and then put some general stuff at the bottom help move things along.  Also, ignore typos.


My flight from Chicago to Shanghai took FOURTEEN HOURS! It was really cramped, but thank to sleeping pills and OZ: The Great and Powerful, it wasn’t too bad. When I arrived, I met Dori and we went back to her apartment. It’s super nice, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve had my own bathroom WITH A TUB!

After a bath, we left to meet up with some of her friends here in Shanghai. Most work in with the State Department, and all were really cool. Our first stop was at a bar they frequent, which had this lovely Texas flag, and then we had dinner at Hunan, a Chinese restaurant. We stayed up super late, which helped me sleep through the night.


Unfortunately, the weather really sucked on Saturday. But after lunch, we went to see the TV Tower on the Pudong side of SH. The first floor had a museum depicting the history of Shanghai through wax figures. The bad Chinglish and noticeable dislike of Westerners was a hilarious bonus to the museum.

Outside the tower, I had my first interesting experience with being a white person in China. A Chinese tourist (from the country I’d guess) came over with his iPhone, obviously wanting a picture. I thought he wanted me to take a picture of him and his friend so I agreed. All of a sudden it turned into a selfie of the two of us. This was not the last time that tourists asked to take pictures with Dori and I. We only agreed to one girl who was nice enough to take a picture for us. There were other times when people were blatantly taking pictures of us. Awkward.

In case you didn’t know, pollution here sucks majorly. I was having difficulty breathing so we had to head to a pharmacy to buy me some gas masks. Let me tell you, they are the height of fashion </sarcasm>.

Dinner followed  (pizza) with some more of Dori’s friends before we went back and all played an awesome game called CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY. It’s basically a version of Apples to Apples, but for horrible people. It’s extremely offensive and dirty, but the fun doesn’t stop. No judging allowed.


It was actually a nice day out! For lunch we went to this AMAZINGLY themed restaurant called Abbey Road. C’mon, of course Dori would take me there. My sister knows me so well.

There’s this really great market called Tian ZiFang that we went to that sells a lot of different things. Think of New York’s Chinatown only cheaper. I bought a fake Longchamp bag that roughly came to $7. Of course different stalls tried to cheat us since we were tourists, but thankfully I had my sister with me.

We got done shopping and headed over to The Bund. It’s this great area on the river that looks over to Pudong’s skyline. The actually Bund is a set of colonial style buildings which are also very beautiful. Again, people tried to take pictures with us. Again, it was awkward.

We checked out the Peace Hotel, which was very fancy, and did some shopping at a 4-story Forever 21 before going to play LASERTAG! One of Dori’s co-workers is moving on to a different post and chose lastertag as her last hurrah! Let me tell you, the Enderle girls are not that great at this game. Although a few times we seemed to have faulty equipment. Blurg.

We had dinner with Dori’s friends Peter and Neil at her favorite Chinese restaurant (delicious!) and then gelato (also delicious!). 


Dori took the day off of work and we started off with a trip to a Buddhist Temple in the middle of the city. It’s known locally as rather touristy, but I didn’t care. It was beautiful and we took A LOT of pictures!  My favorite part was seeing a monk on a cellphone. Classic.

Next on our list was the South Bund Fabric Market where a lot of people go to get clothes custom made. Of course, I took advantage of the prices and got two skirts made for about $80. Not bad, right? I saw one girl getting fitted for an evening gown. I would have gone with a fancy dress, but where would I wear it?

Shanghai has a lot of trade in pearls, so Dori took me to one of the Pearl markets. We took the Metro on the way there and it was SO CLEAN! While we were riding I wasn’t paying attention to the TV screen, but as I was walking out, I glanced up and who should I see but DARREN FREAKIN’ CRISS. I was like “whaa?” but they were showing previews to his new movie with Kristen Wiig. Bit surreal..

The Pearl market was really cool. I got a pair of earrings, a necklace and a ring for really cheap. There was a store in the building called LENNY that leads me to believe that my dad has been holding out on us with this hidden business. 

So we finished up shopping and went to look at Nanjing Road, the Times Square of China. It was all lit up and very commercial, like TS. But get this, they have FANCY Pizza Huts here. It’s a legit restaurant where people go on dates. Weird.

It got dark and we went back to The Bund for night pictures. I got some great ones, if I do say so myself.

So this is where I will leave off for now. But here a few things that I didn’t find a way to include:

1.     Squatties are the bane of my existence. I won’t take Western restrooms for granted again.
2.     The fashion and shoes here are cray-cray. Don’t know how some of these girls are able to walk.
3.     I’ve been using a burner phone and had to relearn how to use T9 texting.