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Aug. 9th, 2016

Ancient Chinese

This is pretty neat. I didn't know ancient chinese had so many rolling R's.



Y'know...usually in time travel or crossover fics to settings in ancient eras never consider the dialect barrier. Of course it's so you don't want to bog down the plot. But still...

Other awesomeness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdO3IP0Pro8

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Dec. 2nd, 2013

China 2013 Index

Hong Kong
Day 2
Day 3

Nanjing
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 8 - 90th Bday
Day 9 - Nanjing Museum
Day 10
Day 15

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Nov. 30th, 2013

Day 15 Nanjing

The day started on a high(er) note. We had lunch out with my grandfather, uncle/aunt, older cousin, and the aunt staying with us. It was at a hotel my grandmother had a coupon for. The food wasn't all that great, as is normal for hotel restaurants, but it wasn't horrible. Just small portions I guess.

After food, my uncle/aunt left to deliver the portions we'd set aside for my grandmother (she isn't mobile enough to leave the house far). My mom and aunt went to a nearby bookstore to use up another coupon that they had for that place.

Outside the bookstore, there were some small seller stalls. One of them was for hats, and they had some really adorable animal ear hats. I picked up a grey fuzzy wolf ears hat. My mom and aunt also picked out a hats they liked, and we also got one for grandmother and one for my baby nephew.

In the bookstore, we picked up a novel that my uncle mentioned wanting at lunch. Then my mom and I went to the fourth floor to look at kiddie books for my nephew (he's very lucky with being the focus of the entire families on both parents' side). We mainly looked up educational and acitivity oriented children's books. I was reminded of the Where's Waldo and I Spy series books that I remember from grade school that might apply for him as well - if not now then in coming years. Unfortunately they don't carry any translations or equivalents of these books in Chinese bookstores, so I settled for writing down the names and passing it onto my uncle, to see if they can find/order anything online.

This evening, however, everyone gathered together for a 'family meeting'. My aunt has something of a person crisis going on in her life, and the meeting was to inform everyone and come up with ideas on what she should do. I won't go into much further on a public entry, but suffice it to say that it really is pretty depressing and I feel for her and for my absent younger cousin who was hit pretty hard by it as well.

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Nov. 25th, 2013

Day 10 Nanjing

Beaucracy has been catching up with anarchy growth these years, it appears. Now, you need ID to buy train tickets too.

So we trundled out this morning with our passports to buy early the train tickets for next Monday. The first ticket place we hit - empty counter and the store it shares space with tells us that sometimes the ticket person just won't bother to show up if there isn't likely to be much business. The second place we hit - empty counter with just a sign on the window saying there's computer issues and they're not open. So we took the metro to the station itself - where the counter person tells us they only take bookings up to four days in advance; any earlier and you need to book via internet or phone.

W. T. F.

The hell is this service?! -_-

So tired and fed up, we went back home for lunch (and a nap for my mom). Called the number on the cyclotron at the train station, and managed to book our tickets with the electronic answering machine. In the end it told us to make payment and pickup at any train ticket outlet (which brings us back to square one -_-).

My aunt made a call to my cousin (the younger one), and we asked her to do an online search for other ticket outlets in the region. Eventually, we came up with another location, called ahead to make sure there's someone there, and finally succeeded in picking up the tickets this afternoon.

I don't know if we were just extra-ordinarily unlucky this morning, or if that kind of shoddy service is common for public services, where counter people can just not bother to show up whenever. It certainly leaves much to be desired.

Also, the extra hassle of having to have ID for placing the ticket order and picking up the tickets is certainly new. The explanation for these new measures is that they are for anti-conterfiet and anti-scamming reasons. I can somewhat see the reason for it, and it probably isn't too much of a hassle to many locals. But to visitors like us who are paranoid about ID and who don't have easy access to the internet, it's a nightmare.

(I keep saying they should get internet installed at this place regardless if my grandparents use it or not - how much could they charge per month if not based on usage? - but no one listens to me. Feh.)

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Nov. 24th, 2013

Day 9 Nanjing

Went to the newly refurbished Nanjing museum today, along with my aunt and my (older) cousin who was off today. My mom stayed home since she wasn't interested in historical stuff, and also someone needs to stick around with the grandparents.

Although the museum does say they need ID to get a ticket, it didn't seem like they were all that strict about things. That is, I don't recall anyone checking the tickets we got through the day.

There were 7 major areas of the museum, many containing multiple galleries within themselves. We went first to the Ancient History building, which holds artifacts spanning neolithic to Qing. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died out around the Tang section. On the bright side, I seem to remember that most of the stuff from this building seems to have been much the same as the time I visited the museum in 2011 (though my memory might be wrong).

After we finished that first building, it was already 12:30ish. So we took a break for lunch. It was raining lightly, so we didn't go far, just to a...something about Blue Gulf Cafe? Anyway, it was a fairly simple lunch, and I also picked up new batteries (which was also dying out later in the day before we even finished viewing all the exhibits, so pfft, Chinese quality).

In the afternoon, we hit the Fine Arts area next. The galleries in this area seems to be actual historical pieces interspersed with galleries of contemporary artists. (In retrospect, I should've really saved my camera on the the contemporary galleries. Meh.) For the historical galleries, there was an Ancient Arts, Ancient Calligraphy, Ancient Sculpture, etc.

After the arts area, we went looking for a restroom and found ourselves in the Special Exhibitions building. Supposedly its galleries holds many current/temporary shows, many which are joint projects with other museums/places. There was a floor dedicated to gold workings throughout Chinese history. Another floor was mostly Qing court artifacts. All of them were very pretty of course.

A lot of the other areas/galleries we only took a brief glance through as the day drew to a close. There was a Digital Gallery, which was a lot of digital educational stuff - movies, moving wall murals, etc. - great for kids, I suppose. There was also a Nationalist Era gallery, which was basically a small scale demo of a small block or two in early 20th century style. They also had a few actual concession shop business being sold there, though, which was a bit jarring if you looked too close. Another was something called the Intagibles Gallery - which consisted of live demos of cultural crafts/arts (as well as a brisk business of selling said products) and some videos/pictures/etc. of other cultural stuff (dance, medicine, food, etc.) Not really something all that museum worthy IMO. They're reaching a bit there.


It was pretty dark by the time we go back home, although at least it had already stopped raining by the time we'd left the museum. My mom had bought local river crabs for dinner, and they were delicious. We are apparently in precisely the right season for crabs, as both the male and female ones were positively stuffed. Still a bit of a pain to eat though. :p

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Nov. 23rd, 2013

Day 8 Nanjing

Nothing much happened yesterday. Today is the big reunion day and 90th bday party for my grandmother. This morning, my uncle, his wife, and my older cousin arrived first. Then later, my aunt and her husband arrive with their daughter and son-in-law.

We all chatted for a while and exchanged gifts and whatnot, then all trundled off to the SEU restaurant that we had reserved (and ordered ahead of time yesterday).

Lunch was ok. We had turtle soup, which was cool and yummy. The rest was more standard fare. Grandma gave a speech, as did my uncle. It's all on video.

Afterwards, we took a short walk around the university before heading home and everyone basically chatted away the afternoon, catching up on...stuff. I guess.

In the afternoon, us cousins three took a short walk to the SEU campus again, where my older cousin met up with his wife, son (whom we met three days ago), and mother-in-law.

This evening my younger cousin, her husband, and their dad are going to head back to Wuxi. My aunt however will be staying behind for the rest of our stay in Nanjing.

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Nov. 21st, 2013

Day 6 Nanjing

Went out with my mom to meet two of her old friends (my aunts I guess). We had lunch at a seafood buffet. By seafood, here it's less crabs and lobster, and more every kind of fish you can think of. Of course it's all in Chinese so I didn't bother to remember what fish was what. There was also sushi and sashimi, which I haven't had for a long time now. Yum.

During the lunch, they mentioned that the Nanjing museum had finished renovations and has now opened as the second largest museum in China (behind Beijing). I recall that I had visited there the last time I was here, and it was right before the place closed for the major renovations. That was about 2 years ago. Also, apparently there's so many people aiming to visit, that they cap the # of visitors to the place, which kinda sucks. But, I was also told that foreign passport holders can get a guaranteed spot in admission compared to local visitors.

We also did some shopping. There was a clothing store right outside the building where the restaurant was, and they had some nice cheap clothing. I got a leather coat for 288 RMB, and a pretty shirt for 40. On the way home, we stopped by the shopping court underneath the local supermarket (where I had seen some nice fuzzy fabric type pants) and got 3 pairs of pants and 2 shirts for a total of 296 RMB. I think I've gotten all I need of clothing on this trip.

I had also checked in at a few telecomm stores to try and buy a SIM card for my old phone. Unfortunately, it seems most of them want proof of identity, typically the national ID card. We had also passed by a web cafe, which also wanted the same. So pretty much I would have to bring my passport out with me to see if that would work. Bleh.

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Nov. 20th, 2013

Day 5 Nanjing

This morning my uncle brought over his grandson, my... nephew? once removed? What is the English term for the son of my cousin? Any way, the little tyke is almost two years old and cute as buttons. He's got a cute squeaky voice, and he looks a lot like his father.

My uncle & aunt, it turns out, has been doing pretty much all of the raising of the kid, who more or less lives with them rather than his parents. His parents are all pretty busy with work and stuff - my cousin apparently has like a work commute that's over an hour long (one way). My uncle & aunt though are both retired so they have plenty of time to take care of the kid. So yeah. That's a thing here.

The kid apparently likes to play with plastic bottles (empty of course) and to tear things up. He's not 100% potty trained yet, but does have a decent vocabulary.


In the afternoon, I took a short walk around the block (into Southeastern University and back) with my grandfather. Took my phone along and tried to detect any open networks. Alas, there was nothing that was open, connectable, and didn't require a guest login. Bleh.

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Nov. 19th, 2013

Day 4 Hong Kong to Nanjing

Woke up around 4-5 AM and couldn't fall asleep again. I guess I'm still jetlagged.

We checked out of the hotel around 6, and took the metro to the airport. Actually had a second breakfast there, which was surprisingly yummy for airport food.

For that matter, the lunch we were served on the flight was surprisingly yummy as well. Good rice and tender fish. Leaps and bounds better than the stuff from the US trans-Pacific flights. I guess it's cuz this flight was a HK flight, and they really deserve the reputation for great food.

After arriving at Nanjing, we took the aiport bus first. Unfortunately, our stop did not have good access to taxis, so we ended up lugging the luggage up several flights of stairs and then further took the metro. And then, at our metro stop, we still had to walk like 2-4 blocks to get to my grandparents' place. Bleh. I still think it would've been worth avoiding all this hassel with the expense of just going for a taxi from the airport to begin with.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was as expected. A lot of small talk, greetings, phone calls (greetings and spreading the news). I am surprisingly sleepy so early in the evening though, unlike in HK. So going to hit the hay...

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Nov. 18th, 2013

Day 3 Hong Kong

Today was a much more...fruitful day, I think.

We didn't leave the hotel until about 9 AM. Found a breakfast place that looked very popular. Forgot to note down the name. The service was a little slow (possibly due to the being busy), but the food was decent - in the good tasting way.

A little after 10 (which is when the majority of places open), we went to the HK Art Museum. I didn't expect too much out of the place, and was pleasantly surprised that there were a few nice galleries apart from the bleh stuff like contemporary art and film history. Photography wasn't allowed, but I managed to sneak a few shots from their porcelain gallery. Will need to figure out how to upload them.

After the museum, we went to the nearby Harbor City. Unfortunately, the shops there turned out to be all brand names and too rich for our blood. The front door was kinda pretty though, all decked out with Christmas & Disney themes. Took some photos there and also of the next door building place that might've been the Consumer Education Info Center (not sure).

We then had lunch at the Jade Garden (翠園) restaurant. I'd found the place while searching for good/popular yet not too expensive dim sum places earlier in the morning. It was second on my list (the first being Serenade restaurant near the museum). The food was pretty good, as was the view. I don't recall the menu item names, but there was one with a lobster broth thing that was really nice - both in terms of presentation and taste.

A little after 1 PM, we hit the HK Space Museum. There was some very cool (and educational!) stuff there too. I didn't do any of the hands on demos (like the 1/6 gravity thing, the gyroscope thing, etc., as I was still feeling stuff from lunch and wasn't sure how my stomach would react to that kinda thing. I did take some photos much it's not much representative of all the nice stuff they have there.

We saw 2 of the large dome movies. One was the 3D dome movie about the "Wildest Weather in the Solar System" - which covered stuff like the planet-wide dust storms of Mars, the methane rains of Titan, the high speed winds of Neptune, etc. Also saw a non-3D movie about the "Dynamic Earth" - which talked about the carbon cycle on Earth and Venus, and so forth. Both were pretty cool.

After resting a bit back at the hotel, we left again for some further shopping at around 7. I didn't find much of anything aside from a T-shirt that was kinda nice and on sale. Mom bought a bunch of specialty food packs for gifting people.

Although it was close, we managed to drop off our bags back at the hotel and make it back to the Avenue of Stars in time for the 8 PM "Symphony of Lights" show. Tonight's was in English, and I managed to video most of it. Will need to see how well that turned out.

For dinner, we went to the Super Star (鴻星) Seafood Restaurant across the street from our hotel. Again, I'd researched for seafood places that were not too expensive. We ordered a lobster (which was rather standard fare), a Tiger fish (which was wow-tasty-good), and a little shrimp dumpling made in the form of little koi fish things (which was tasty and adorable). Total price came out to something like 716 HKD which isn't too bad for fresh seafood.

Our plane to Nanjing leaves at 10-something tomorrow. So we need to arrive at the airport by 8, which means leaving the hotel by at least 7, and so a wake up call at 6 or 5:30... Probably won't have access to the internet for a while after this then. The rest of the entries will likely need to be back-dated. Ah well.

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Nov. 17th, 2013

Day 2 Hong Kong

Started the trip on Friday morning. Got to the BART station and realized I forgot my passport (I know, shp). Dad had a doctor's appointment after dropping us off at the station, so no help could be expected there (both he and mom are horrible about having their cellphones with them and turned on. Thus, I had to spend $15 for a taxi to pop back home. Bleh. Silver lining - at least I didn't find out about it after we arrived at the airport; that would've probably caused a missed flight.

Long boring flight; the most surprising thing was that they gave us ice cream for one of the snack breaks, which was cool. This was an older model plane, so no personal TV screen. I didn't bother and just read on my nook. Finished Blindsight and a few other short stories I'd downloaded before the trip.

Got to HK at night. When we arrived at the hotel, it turned out there was an issue where the tour group had not cleared out when they should have, leaving no rooms in that building. We got shuffled off to the last remaining room in another building off in some dark iffy-looking alley. The room was a dinky thing that was maybe the size of the walk in closet in my parents' bedroom, with only 1 bed. Ugh. Not much we could do but make do.

At least to make up for it, this morning, they moved us to a much nicer 3 person (2 bed) room in the main building. No extra charge, which is better.

The downside of having gotten up so early this morning (whether due to jetlag or due to the accommodations), though, seems to be the problem that Hong Kong is not a morning place. Almost *nothing* was open before like 10/11 AM - museums, restaurants (I saw no breakfast places anywhere, seriously WTH), special bus routes to tour areas, etc. So we took a slow walk to the Star Ferry pier near the Cultural Center, then another meandering walk from Pier 7 to the Peak Tram.

We took some pics of some skyscrapers and interesting looking buildings, as well as several gardens/parks. And I noticed something else - everything is really really small here. Their parks for the most part are smaller than my high school PE grounds. The tram only had one car and one track. Even the sky terrace building seems smaller than the 101 building in Taiwan. We ended up leaving a lot earlier instead of waiting for the night view simply cuz there was nothing there to do for who knows how many hours.

So here we are taking a rest back at the hotel, in the nice new room. We'll probably hit the shopping districts tonight and if those turn out to be better than the tourist spots. I want to buy some lighter clothing, cuz I brought clothes expecting cold weather (for Nanjing) but HK is like 10 degrees hotter than back home in CA so I've been sweltering. Bleh.

Tomorrow we will know better and stay in until like 10. :p

EDIT: This evening we had a simple dinner and then took a brief stroll through Temple St. It was... typical of Chinese street markets, I thought. I didn't end up buying anything except another USB adapter for my Zen Mosaic, which for some reason refused to charge.

(Thought, turns out the new adapter didn't make any difference. When I connect it to my laptop, the charge light/icon don't come up on the Zen (actually it flashes once and then goes dark again), and my computer does not detect a new device. I tested the adapters on my camera as well since they use the same type of port, and I'm not able to pick up the camera either. I am able to pick up my nook and smart phone which uses a different time of adapter tough, which makes it seem unlikely to be a problem with the computer. I can't tell if there is some issue with both adapters, or with my zen and camera... Ugh.)

At 8 PM we went by the shore again to watch the symphony of lights show. It was pretty nice. I'll bring the camera and record some of it tomorrow.

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Oct. 12th, 2012

Chinese is the new international language

I figure since I might not get net time tomorrow night, I might as well write down some of the thoughts that have been swirling around my brain these last few days.

China is a rising power and a rising economy, everyone knows that. This of course means that a greater and greater number of the population are able and can afford to travel abroad. Given China's population, this means that even not accounting for ethnic Chinese but non Chinese citizens like me, there are large numbers of Chinese-origin people pouring out into the world into all the tourism hot spots.

So it's not too much of a surprise, even though it's hilarious, to turn around on the plaza of the Arc d' Triumph and see a sea of black hair and Asian features. Or to be walking along the streets of Venice and hear someone yelling Mandarin behind you, and then get overruntaken by yet another huge mob of mainland Chinese tourists and their very loud tour guide.

It's the little things, however, that really surprise me. The fluent chinese that are being spouted everywhere I go, for example. One of our tour guides in Paris is a fluent Chinese speaker. I also heard it from a waiter at the Moulin Rouge, who admits to have picked up all his vocab from just serving Chinese customers - no extra classes needed. Ok, these are pros, you might think... Of course, then you hear the mother tongue from the gondola rowers in Venice, and the ice cream shop vendors in Florence... the freaking street vendors and gypsies throughout Italy speak functional Chinese well enough to freaking haggle prices and flatter marks.

They also speak it with a more natural/correct mandarin accent than my ABC cousins, who have been taking Chinese classes for a few years now. That's kinda sad, actually.

Now - food for thought: If you go to any caucasian-run store in, say, Golden Gate park, you probably won't get far (I think, I could be wrong nowadays). And while London had a Chinatown, I didn't encounter any vendors who spoke Chinese. English is already the foremost international language. And it's the French (who are supposedly culturally adamant about not going English) and the Italians that are picking up Chinese "liek whoa". Could there be a deeper meaning or correlation there? Is the world going to end up being English versus Chinese for official international tongue in a few decades? In terms of population, I like our chances.

Apr. 21st, 2012

二郎神

Crossposted with complete image set on Tumblr



My favorite deity in Chinese myth - Erlang Shen (二郎神).

Erlang is very often hailed nowadays as a god of war. But I’m not sure I agree with that role. The more traditional war gods in Chinese myth are actually Xing Tian (邢天) and Chi You (蚩尤), and I’d even argue that deities like Nezha (哪吒) is a more proper diety of war/battles than he is. Erlang is probably more accurately a martial god/sage (武圣). He’s less about the leading armies part of war and more about the kicking of butts. =P Hence, why he was called in to fight the Monkey King in “Journey to the West” when nobody else in the Heavens could match the monkey. But he was not often shown as a front line army/squad leader during the Shang-Zhou war in “Canonization of the Gods”.

More traditionally, he’s the patron deity of the Shu (蜀) region of China, which more or less encompasses the modern Sichuan region. (Kinda like how Athena was patron deity of Athens and so forth.) He’s also a god of the waterways (possibly civil engineering?), credited with helping the historical figure of Li Bing (李冰) build the Dujiangyan (都江堰) Irrigation System.

On a less serious vein, I also think he should be a deity of domestication (or Pokemon trainers XD). IIRC he’s the only major mythical figure who is associated with a varied retinue of pets. The most famous is the celestial hound Xiaotianquan (啸天犬), and he’s also known to have a hunting hawk and a silver horse. Fun fact - in “Canonization of the Gods”, all the other gods have a tendency to have one or a few major arcane artifacts which they would often use in during battle as their ‘ultimate attack’, in an RPG sense. Erlang, on the otherhand, never bothered with any artifacts. Instead, in the middle of battle, he would fling his dog out of his sleeve to maul his opponents face - to great effect. Now remember, in ancient China, the only pure breed of dogs is the ancestor of the modern Pekingese (and not the large bloodhound/german shepherd type dog that is depicted in more modern art). I have to admit, the mental image of a fluffy pekingese assassin puppy getting tossed out of a god’s sleeve made for a very hilarious mental image.

Apr. 10th, 2012

Translation please

“天之道,损有余而补不足。人之道,则不然,损不足以奉有余。孰能有余以奉天下?唯有道者,” 《道德经》

Came across this in a fic. I understand only 7/10ths of the words here, much less the meaning. Halp? T_T
Tags:

Oct. 16th, 2011

Photos...

Ugh, why is my internet connection so slow... Took forever to upload just two albums onto Facebook, and that's just the stuff from Taipei. >_< Plus, the flash version of the uploader up and quit on me. Bleh.

Anyway... some pics that I'm not going to post to FB.

(Excerpts from the menu of the gourmet Italian restaurant known as PizzaHut in China)

Oct. 6th, 2011

I'm back!!

*is ded*

10 hour flight, stupid different baggage rules for US flights, then 1 hour BART...I managed to lose track of the bag of duty free food gift items stuff we bought at the Nanjing and Taipei airports, so Mom's not happy with me. T_T

Ugh. Only bright spot is I didn't get sick this time, the first time ever for a trip to China. Gonna crash.

China 2011 Index

Taiwan (Journal Index):
Day 0-1
Day 2 Morning | Noon | Night
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5-6
Day 6-7

Taiwan (Photos):
Day 1 - Day 2 Morning/Noon
Day 2 Evening
Day 3-6

Mainland China:
Day 9-10
Day 11-12
Day 13-14
Day 15
Day 16
Day 17
Day 18 (Photos for PizzaHut)
Day 19-20

China 2011: Day 19-20

Nothing happened yesterday. Today we head back to the U.S. Unfortunately, there is a 9 hour layover in Taiwan. So I'm wasting some time at the transfer station.

On the ride over from Nanjing on the Airbus, I got a chance to watch "Green Lantern." Yeah, it was about as underwhelming as expected. For a character that is basically billed as a "space-cop", there is precious little scenes that are space related or heavy sci-fi. Pretty much all of the scenes of Oa were covered in the trailers, and "Iron Man” had more high-tech than this movie.

My complaints of DC's incompetence at characterization still stands. I'd hate to think that the average movie-verse DCU earthling is so bad that the likes of movie-Hal would be the best choice for courage for the GL ring. Then again, none of the other DC movies have exactly turned out any paragons of virtue either. Give me Marvel, at least when it comes to the movies, I guess.

Oct. 4th, 2011

China 2011: Day 18

Went with my dad to the Nanjing Museum this morning - the province level museum, actually, despite the name. It's supposed to have the better stuff. Unfortunately, most of the place had been blocked off for renovations/construction, and of the sole building that was still open only maybe half the exhibits were open. It's also slated to be fully closed on the 8th, and wont open again until sometime In 2014, presumably completely rebuilt and expanded.

Of the still available exhibitions, we saw the full jade exhibit - which was cool the ceramic exhibit which only encompassed the Ming to Qing dynasties, a special exhibition on the Duke of Jiangdu (江都王), and another misc special treasures exhibition.

Despite the small selection of halls, there was still a decent amount of stuff to look at, and thus also photos of them. I'm especially proud of my jade exhibit pics, since the ones I took last year at the Shanghai Museum were kinda bad due to not being familiar with the camera, and the ones from the Xi'an Museum were few due to running out of time.

Afterward, we went to the shopping center I saw the Pizza Hut shop last time so I can experience the Chinese pizza experience. We did not predict the huge line outside the place, and the expected hour wait for service. According to the waitress managing the queue, there were 2 other Pizza Hut stores nearby. The next one we found "only" had a half hour line, so we ended up eating there. Also, price-wise, this place is possibly more expensive than pizza places in the U.S., and maybe even slightly more than the gourmet Italian places in the States, even. Very odd, especially considering the much lower prices at the nearby KFC or McDonald's; not to mention the lack of lines. I took photos of the menu. Hee.

Sep. 24th, 2011

China 2011: Day 7-8

The last day of the Taiwan tour took us through some canyon and cave-y places. Kinda cool; took some pictures. Period started, which was not so cool.

Stayed at the same hotel as the first day in Taipei. Got a wake up call at an ungodly early 5 AM the next day.

Then it's to the airport and a flight by Airbus to Nanjing. Pretty much the same amenities on the flight. Each seat got it's TV screen, with a decent selection of movies (I think there was the same selection as Air China). Unfortunately, the flight wasn't really long enough to actually watch a full movie (counting all the pauses due to announcements). Also noted you can play games on it too. Also, there was an usb port on the thing.

After arriving at Nanjing's airport, we took the airport bus into the city and then a taxi to my grandparents' place. And then it's nod and smile while I get interrogated on the minutae of my personal life. *cry*

Overall impression of Taiwan:

- Five star service all around, both within the service industries (cab drivers, various uniformed people, even janitors)... Very obvious contrast once we got to China and nobody gives you the time of day.

- Very close relationship, culturally speaking, to Japan. There doesn't seem to be any resentment as from other Asian countries that had been occupied in WWII. I guess the Japanese occupation in Taiwan hadn't been that bad for the locals.

- Much sparser population. Nowhere near like any of the major Chinese cities. Reminds me more of Chinatown in the States.

- Much cleaner place. Both in the air, in and outside of the buildings, on the sidewalks, etc. Probably can chalk that up to the slower rate of progress over a longer period of time rather than the short burst of modernization on the mainland.

- Food is...weird. And I say this as a Chinese. :P Definitely distinct from most Chinese food varieties I'm familiar with. Large amounts of various forms of seafood. Also seems to be a encompassing love of stinky tofu, which is NOT one of my likes.

- Very very green. Even in the cities, the plants are everywhere, lush and green. Most of that could be put down to being in the sub/tropics, where conditions are great for plants. Also, most of the eastern regions of Taiwan are still sparsely developed, so there's pretty well preserved areas of wilderness that are marred by little than the occassional rest station.

Sep. 22nd, 2011

China 2011: Day 5-6

Continuing onward the trip...

Yesterday we rounded the southern tip of Taiwan, visiting some various capes, was made to climb another hill & tower, and then went through a small cave (in the claustrophobic sense). Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera to two of the sites (including the cave), but oh well.

Today was spent heading back up along the eastern side of Taiwan, beachfront roads pretty much the entire way, and stopping at various points of interest.

All in all, nothing too spectacular.

Hotels these two days were ok, but not as good as the first couple.

Tomorrow will take us back to Taipei by the evening. And the day after that, our flight to the mainland is scheduled for 8:30 (meaning getting up at a godawful 5:30 AM).

Sep. 20th, 2011

China 2011: Day 4 Night

Another day spent jetting around southern Taiwan. All the stops and sights have started to blur together. I might as well wait for when I have the inclination to download and go through my photos to remind myself of where we visited. On the whole though, there was not much to be impressed about. *meh*

Current hotel is again free internet. Missing some of the other amenities that we've enjoyed elsewhere though.

For dinner, we went out to a pedestrian street. Choices where kinda meh on the whole. I far prefer the stuff in Beijing's pedestrian street. Saw a lot of Falun Gong demonstrators near the area. Am even more underwhelmed.

Sigh. Another day going back up the eastern side of Taiwan on our way back to Taipei.

*stares at sky*

Sep. 19th, 2011

China 2011: Day 3 Night

Checked out early in the morning, and the tour started the way to 日月潭 (Sun Moon Lake?), stopping at several sites on the way.

I have to admit I spent almost the entire driving time listening to my Zen player over those wonderful noiseless earbuds. It's not cuz I know what the tour guide is saying. It's just... let's just say our current tour guide really needs English lessons. And dictation lessons. It's not that he's not understandable, but it's apparent he's not quick with the vocabulary and takes forever to choke out a word. The way he talks just makes me cringe, constantly. And no, his Chinese is not any better, for the exact same reasons, even though I think his a native speaker (I certainly *hope* he's a native speaker). So for the sake of my sanity, I tuned him out. Besides, it's not like I couldn't wiki the stuff he was talking about if I really needed to know anyway. The spots we visited were... eh, underwhelming, I guess. (Let us all cut Taiwan some slack for not having the sheer history and size of the mainland and thus just aren't able to compete either in natural nor man-made wonders.)

The first non-rest stop we made was a small market-town for lunch. I feel sorry for many of the non-Asians on our tour, cuz the only recognizable western chow there was a 7-Eleven store. As an aside, I noticed that Taiwan doesn't have the same brand permeations that the mainland does. Sure, I see McDonalds and KFC around, but not one on every block, and no more than I see places like Burger King, Starbucks, or Pizzahut. On the other hand, the most common western brand that I do see every few blocks is 7-Eleven. Huh. Also, I noticed that unlike the mainland counterparts, the western brands don't translate their store/brand names. McDonald's is just “McDonalds”, not “麦当劳”, etc. Anyway, back to the tour... I didn't see anything really palatable, and wasn't really that hungry, so I ate two sticks of barbequed wild pig meat, and an ice cream cone (it was muggy hot and we were heading into the tropic zone...damn Tropic of Cancer).

Second main stop was at this temple to Xuan Zhang (Tripitaka). We had to hike up to the pagoda. In the muggy heat. Ugh. I refused to climb the steps of the pagoda after that. I'm sure there's nice scenery from the topic, but I've never been nature-girl.

Third stop was this Peacock Park. Why called that? Cuz they keep peacocks there, apparently. Unfortunately, none of them spread their tails for my camera, what with it not being mating season. There were also pens with some other colorful birds, peasants and others that I have no ideat what of. Did take some pics for those bird watchers out there...

Fourth and last stop was another temple, this one to Confucious and Guan Yu. Odd couple. Took a few pics, but honestly, it's nothing that I haven't seen before, and IMO doesn't even compare to the temple to Confucius in Pinyao, which is like out in the boonies.

Finally, we ended up at our hotel. Fleur de Chine is the name (huh, familiar theme?), a five star place, very much in the Japanese style what with the robes that are provided, the wooden stool and bucket thing in the shower, and a frickin' onsen in each room. Apparently, the place taps the lake and an underground hot spring for the onsen. Neat. Also, apparently internet is free here. Awesome. Need to catch up on all my internet needs...

Sep. 18th, 2011

China 2011: Day 2 Night

After a snack (can't really call it lunch) we decided to go do the tour of Tapei 101 ourselves. It's supposed to be the second tallest building in the world.

Let me just state for the record here that the main metro station in Taipei is a pain and a half to navigate. It's not only the hub junction of all three metro lines, but it also connects to the Taipei train station, and overlaps with both a major bus stop and an underground market covering several city blocks sprawling both east-west and north-south. Not only that, the areas are apparently discontiguous, and require going up and down into other sections (such as the market) to get to another part of somewhere else (like another metro line). And the maps in the place are useless for anything but giving you a rough direction of where to face.

Anyway, we made it to the 101 building. Bought tickets to go up to the observatory deck (floor 88), and were told the line was 45 mins. Shyeah... So we headed down to get dinner first. There I came across an interesting store that was selling pizza in a cone. Basically, they make pizza crust into the shape of the usual ice-cream waffle cone shape. Then they stuff in the toppings (cheese, tomato sauce, the pizza toppings of your choice. Then bake and serve. It was cute, and I think it also results in more toppings than crust compared to normal style pizza. Given how stingy most pizza places in the US are about toppings, I doubt the same thing will ever come overseas. Especially not at their low low price (NT$90 = ~$3 in case you wondered).

After eating, we went up to the observation deck and took pictures. The buildings in Taiwan might not have been as eyecatching from the street as buildings in Shanghai. But from a bird's eye view, it was apparent that they've got some very interesting architecture pieces too. We also stayed up for sunset, so that we could get some shots of the nightlight. I'm not sure how that'll come out, since digital camera...or at least my digital camera/technique isn't that great on LED lights at night.

On the way down, we passed by an exhibit on coral and jade carvings (modern works of art). They've got some really pretty stuff and I ended up taking probably as many photos if not more as of the observatory.

Then, after anothe struggle to navigate our way back to the hotel, we're finally done with Taipei. Tomorrow we start heading south.

(BTW, I just realized that it's not just the ceilings everywhere that's made for Chinese-sized (height) people. The bathrooms are biased too. The tub here just about fits someone of my size. Which means those six-foot-something foreigners are not only going to be walking through a lot of areas bent over, but they'll probably be unable to cram themselves in for a normal bath. Thank goodness for showers, eh? :P)

China 2011: Day 2 Noon

Our first guided tour was a 3 hour of the city, hitting various major attractions...

1. Chiang Kai'shek (how the heck do you spell his name under the Wade-Giles system again?) Memorial was first. We saw the changing of the guards thing at 9 AM. Poor guys. Shiny metal helmets in the muggy subtropical heat (getting worse throughout the day) for hours must suck. Then we went under the memorial where they displayed various historical stuff. I took photos of the shiny medals things. Unfortunately, our guide was rushing us through the exhibit, so I'm not sure what/where the medals are from, but I'm sure I'll get that info once I sort through my photos. Oh, and there was also an Egyptian exhibition there too (we didn't go in), which gave me a WTH moment.

2. Quick drive by of some major goverment cities, cuz apparently traffic control don't allow people to park anywhere close for photos, apparently.

2.5. Stopped by a handicraft/tea shop, purely for advertising purposes. A waste of time, but whatever.

(Then! Suddenly! It started to rain. Hard.)

3. Martyr's Memorial was next. Pretty much a memorial to all soldiers since the start of the Nationalists. It's about what you expect... buildings with rooms that have walls full of names.

(Then! Suddenly! The rain stopped and the sun came out. The muggy heat immediately returned, and you'd never knew that it'd rained except for the wet ground.)

4. Some...temple...forget the name. Apparently dedicated to the local earth diety (tu di). And to Guan Ying.

5. National Palace Museum again. We were only guided through the main attractions and the special exhibition though, quickly. Only about an hour spent there total. All I can think is that my aunt would've been appaled. :P I did like the special exhibition on carvings though - I don't recall seeing it at all yesterday, so I guess it was only for tours or something.

Since I won't have any photos of the museum, I guess I should go over some of the "main attractions" of the museum since our guide took special care to point it out...

* Jade Cabbage - Carved from a single piece of jade, white on the bottom, green at the top. Two grasshoppers (crickets?) are carved into the cabbage leaves, representing fertility.

* Pork Skin - Carved from jade (nephrite?) of all things. Brown colored thing that looks just a layer of pork skin. (Foreigners might not get the resemblance, but since pork skin is a common delicacy for Chinese, it's readily recognizable.)

* Small boat carved from a single piece of walnut (shell?). Magnifying glass shows 8 people carved onto the boat as well as intricate designs on the boat itself.

* A layered (dodecahedron?) something-hedral ball of 17 layers one inside another, each an independent layer but all carved out of one block of ivory.

There were other awesome carvings of rhino horn, bamboo, wood, and ivory too. Nice. We also bought some souvenirs from the shop to give to family/coworkers.

Then it's back to the hotel. I noted further on the way back that while there's a decent amount of cars and pedestrians on the streets, there's virtually no bicycles like normal Chinese cities. Instead, their presence is replaced by a large amount of motor bikes everywhere you look. Interesting...

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