A Travellerspoint blog

Guiyang to Kunming Trip, Days 1 And 2

Trip originally planned for Guiyang to Guilin ended up being Guiyang to Kunming. Oh well, seven times to Kunming is not bad!

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Day One -Thursday, May 29. To the airport and Guiyang

Our trip to Guiyang began at 3 P.M. as we boarded the mini-van we had rented for the trip to the Chengdu airport. The wonderful lady who sells bus tickets on campus requested we rent her van for the 300 yuan we normally pay. We were more than happy to do it and, as it turned out, her van was new and comfortable. So much for the good news.

The bad news is that the driver of the van had no idea how to get to the Chengdu airport from Emei City. Instead of just two hours, it took well over three hours to find the airport and get our bags checked. We arrived to the waiting area at around 7 pm, one hour before take-off. Fortunately, we had started at three instead of the four P.M. the ticket lady had suggested. Even have time to waste some money eating at the buffet inside the airport. Expensive and not very satisfying. Was this an omen for our upcoming trip. I certainly hoped it was not.

Our plane left at 8 P.M. and after a very pleasant flight of about an hour we arrived to Guiyang, Capital of Guizhou Province. We deplaned, went through the arrival gates and picked up our bags. At the reception area, we met our student Grace, Grace’s mother, a good friend of her mother’s and Kathyrn, another of our students. Craig, the other Guiyang student we have, was unable to make it to the airport. He promised to see us in the morning.

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Grace and I had arranged for us to stay at 7 Inns Hotel in downtown Guiyang. The price was 177 Yuan a night which Grace felt was reasonable. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the hotel was not accustomed to foreign guests so this caused a bit of a stir. We overcame the problem and checked in. Our rooms were well-appointed and clean. It was nice to finally be in Guiyang with no earthquake warnings!

Day Two - Friday, May 30. Around Guiyang

All three of our students, Grace, Kathryn and Craig plus Craig’s friends came by to pick us up at the hotel at 7 A.M. sharp. The first thing we did was go get a typical Guiyang breakfast. This took us about 40 minutes or so of walking to the restaurant that served the breakfast. Mostly sticky rice with spicy meats and vegetables. Forget John! He is not able to even taste this hot, let alone have it for breakfast. He settled for some dumplings instead.

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After breakfast, our next stop was the First Scholar Tower. Set on a pond, this is typical Ming dynasty architecture, beautifully done throughout. We spent a couple of hours taking pictures and relaxing together. Sunee bought a book on Guiyang to put on our coffee table when we get one.

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Since Grace’s plan was for us to travel by bus to Qianling park after our visit to First Scholar Tower, we walked to the nearest taxi stop. Because there were six of us, we decided to take a bus but then changed our minds and three of us took the bus and three took a taxi. Sunee, Grace and I took a taxi to Qianling park to wait for John, Craig and Katherine to arrive. While waiting, an older gentleman approached me and asked where I was from. We had a great conversation in English that lasted about twenty minutes. The gentleman told us that he always approached foreign visitors to welcome them to Guiyang. He first learned English in 1948 and enjoyed using it as often as he could.

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Along the street leading up to Qianling park were restaurants specializing in the famous Guiyang snack food, Silk Babies. Since we figured it would be about another ten or fifteen minutes before our group arrived, we decided to give them a try. They are like little tacos one fills with an assortment of meats, vegetables and condiments. Very interesting and tasty! As we did our silk babies, Craig with our fellow travelers arrived and joined us for the silk babies. Nice snack. Very nice snack indeed!

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John and I both have a love for ice cream. China offers some of the best variety of ice cream anywhere in the world. While I prefer the “sour milk” cheap bars (1.5 Yuan) that remind me of my youth, John goes for the luxury. Here we found the Magnums that we both enjoyed in Thailand. Expensive at 3.5 yuan but a treat.

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A Magnum Treat

Qianling Park is a huge park and very popular with the locals. In the park, we walked up the mountain to Hongfu Temple. Not much to see there as the Temple was being refurbished and was pretty well covered up with plastic tarps. We did have some fun trying our “luck” on the wall facing the temple. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating with us and there was a light mist for the entire time we were on the mountain. John ran off with Craig to go see the top of the peak and we sat around, visiting and waiting for them to return. Sunee also tried her look at touch the Buddha's stomach while her eyes were closed. Amost!

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Upon their return we walked down the other side of the mountain to Qianling Lake. A lot of those macaque monkeys like we have a Emei Shan. Monkeys all over the place. On the trip back from Thailand, I sat next to an American doctor who worked in Chengdu. He told me several horror stories about these nasty monkeys doing serious harm to humans, especially if you had something they wanted. Grace had here orange juice bottle forced out of her hand by a sneering monkey.

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About half-way down the mountain we saw a lady, apparently an employee of the park, feeding some of these monkeys. One mother monkey with baby was sitting very close to her as she fed the two or three younger monkeys. Suddenly a big male lumbered up and before the poor lady knew it, the mother monkey had bitten her on the fore arm. I took a good look at the wound when she rolled up her sleeves. Ugly but no blood. Four distinct bite marks were already turning blue. Ouch. Keep away from those nasty monkeys. They are neither cute nor playful!

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At the base of the mountain, we took the obligatory pictures by the monuments, stopped and visited with some food sellers and looked for a tea house. John particularly was aching for some relaxation and tea. No luck, everything was closed. We headed out of the park via a long tunnel. Better than climbing over the mountain for sure! Along the way I took some pictures of the local Guiyang snacks.

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John was still looking for a tea house and we had about an hour before our expected visit to Grace’s house for dinner. We found a coffee shop that offered us a reprise from our walk and they did have coffee so we kicked back, drank our tea and visited. As we sat, two young girls came over to practice their English. The younger girl’s English was exceptional and so we visited for several minutes with her. Absolutely delightful young girls who showed quite a bit of bravery by approaching the visiting foreigners to talk to.

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At around seven we left for Grace’s house for dinner. And what a dinner it was! Grace’s mother and uncle plus several friends had put together one of the finest dinners I have ever experienced on our trips abroad. Impressive is an understatement! Pictures are better than words. What a great finish to a great first full day in Guiyang.

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Grace and her cousin took us back to our hotel where we present Grace (for her mother) a gift we had brought from Thailand specially for this event.

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Posted by inchinahil 06:27 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Guiyang to Guilin Plans

Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 8 pm we leave for Guiyang in Guizhou Province

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Our guide book for the adventure

It is definite, we have tickets in hand and Sunee, I and John will be flying to Guiyang in Guizhou Province. We will be spending three weeks in Guizhou and possibly a road trip to Guilin. We have to be back on campus by the 20th of June.

I have contacted one of our students in Guizhou, Grace Sprite, and she knows we are coming. Excitement builds as Thursday approaches.

The next post will be of our tentative travel plans over the next three weeks.

Posted by inchinahil 19:50 Archived in China Tagged preparation Comments (0)

SURPRISE! Classes Canceled For At Least A Month

Awaiting word when we will have to be here to finish out the semester

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Just got a call from Zoe informing us that the university will be closed down for a month. Obviously this is to let the situation across Sichuan calm down and let the government get a handle on the earthquake disaster. We will be told Friday when we will have to report back to school but it looks like at least a month.

I am in the process of planning our trip to Guizhou and possibly the Guilin area again. May even make that trip to Kunming with John and Tom. Time will tell. Got a lot to do before we start on any trip.

Posted by inchinahil 07:48 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

Another Warning, Another Long Night

CCTV warned us again that another powerful tremor was possible in the next 24 hours

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WARNINGS!

We saw them today
Walking on the street
Students with their bedrolls
Looking for a place to stay

Another warning, a repeat

Of a warning from yesterday
We live on the second floor
The apartment on the right

Figure we can make it to safety
If things begin to shake

Called Ms. Zoe to ask
If everything was alright

No classes tomorrow
Won’t make that mistake
Our students aren’t a happy lot

With warnings left and right

Better to be tired at night

Than in an earthquake caught

Posted by inchinahil 06:22 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

A Morning Warning

A knock on our door to tell us about a "coming" earthquake

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We got a knock on our door at 12:45 this morning just after Sunee got a call from her friend in Emei City. Seems the government gave out a warning of another earthquake. All the students were herded out of their dorms and taken to the athletic field where they spent the night.

The earthquake was supposed to occur at 3 pm. I could have sworn that there was no way to predict earthquakes so I double checked on the internet and came up with the answer - still no way.

Sunee got prepared and we figured we could run to safety from our second floor apartment. As for me, I went back to bed. I had eaten something bad on Sunday and did not feel well, still weak from the bad milk. Got more knocks wanting us to come down and run to safety with our pillows and blankets in hand. We decided to pass on that action. John, next door, also passed. In fact, he passed so hard, no one could roust him out of bed!

This morning I was tired and knew there would be no classes. John knocked on the door at around 7:30 so I got ready and went with him, told him no classes. Sure enough - no classes. We visited with our most be "comrade" and she explained what happened to us. No school. We had walked down to my classroom where one of my students showed up and was doing self study. Visited with her about what happened. She and her friend did not heed the call, were not afraid and decided to stay in their room. Nope, the teachers came and got her and her friend and they slept in tents at the athletic field.

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Catherine is a serious student but, today, very lonely indeed

John and I then walked over to the field where I took some pictures of the now empty or close to empty field. We then walked down the hill bought some ice cream and other breakfast and back to the apartment.

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The sleeping arrangements for our students last night

No class. Well, that only means I will have to double up on some of the material in my culture class!

So far, we are not seeming to get back to normal. Maybe next week.

Posted by inchinahil 22:26 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

Jia Jiang Bamboo Paper Factory

A trip to see a bamboo paper factory in nearby Jiajiang

We left at around 9 a.m. Saturday morning to go to Jia Jiang to see the Thousand Buddhas Carvings and then to a bamboo paper factory. This will be the story about the bamboo paper factory.

Bamboo paper is only made in Jia Jiang according to all the sources I have found on the internet. It is not very commercially feasible since it is so labor intensive. The plan was to go to the Thousand Buddhas place and visit the paper making museum. There we would ask were we could visit a bamboo paper factory. Unfortunately, the museum was closed and my fellow teacher, Tom was treated very rudely for trying to go see it even when the door was open.

Fortunately, prior to visiting the museum we had lunch with a Chinese family from Jia Jiang who gave us the address and telephone number of a friend who happened to have such a bamboo paper factory. We took the bus back to town and caught a taxi with the help of a sophomore student at a Chengdu university. Nice people these Chinese. If you doubt this, ask Tom. He was still fuming about how he had been treated by the guard at the museum when we decided to go take some more pictures of carvings at the river level. Among the carvings was a group of Chinese playing Mahjong. They made us feel very wanted and offered us gum and other refreshments, making it obvious that they were glad to see us. Amazing how everywhere there are jerks and how the jerks are easily canceled out by the "real" people.

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Wonderful people playing mahjong canceling out the rude guard

So we end up in a small town about half an hour out of Jia Jiang. A store front operation selling bamboo paper. Great. Sunee decides what paper she wants and as she does this, we are told the story of bamboo paper. Factory? Sure, they say, follow us to the back where the paper is being made now. Excitement!! Ooops, the process is a closely guarded secret so no cameras. Disappointed, yes, but we understood.

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Inspecting the paper in the sales office

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Telling the story of bamboo paper

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Tom feels the difference

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Let's buy five of these bundles in different sizes

Yes, we saw the process, all by hand. A very time consuming process where the paper is actually being dipped onto a screen in a soupy mix that felt like baby oil or latex. The screen is then brought out and the paper peel off to be dried on a heated brick platform and then separated. I think the mixing formula is the real secret - to get the oil/latex mixture just right to stick to the screen in just the right thickness.

After we bought five stacks, cords, bundles or whatever of the paper, the owner told us about colored bamboo paper at his other factory and asked if we were interested. Never say no at such an opportunity! We visited this other factory which was about fifteen minutes away. As it turned out, they did not have any colored paper ready to sell. Instead we were given a bundle of cheaper paper for Sunee to use. Yep, given as a gift. Things simply cannot get any better than this, especially for someone who is studying Chinese watercolor as Sunee is.

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On the way to the other factory

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Just a little further

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Bamboo waiting to be processed

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The first step in processing the bamboo

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The bamboo paper factory

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Watermarking devices for the colored bamboo paper - ancient designs

By the way, the properties of the bamboo paper are as good as advertised. It has about 75% less bleeding as the normal rice paper and is solid enough not to let the colors seep all the way through. Great bargain on the paper and a great education on how a process continues that is more than a thousand years old. Also, most of the ancient Chinese watercolor masterpieces were done on just such paper so it lasts for thousands of years as well. Now for Sunee to become a master painter!

Posted by inchinahil 19:44 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Classes Resume Today

Southwest Jiaotong University - Emei will be back in business 15 May 2008

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I just got word from the administration that we will resume our classes today. I have two classes in the morning, the first at 0800 and the second at 0950. No one seems to be happy with this decision as we are all tired and miserable from the earthquake, expectations of earthquakes and the ever decreasing aftershocks.

My plan: take my video camera to class and record the reactions of the students to the events of the week.

Get ready for more video to be posted here soon on student thoughts and reactions

Posted by inchinahil 14:41 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

Aftershock

A discussion of four expats living in Emei City about their experiences during the 12 May 2008 Sichuan earthquake

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We decided to all go get a late breakfast. Since it was after 10 am, many restaurants were not open. We walked down the street from Southwest Jiaotong Univeristy - Emei Branch to the main street, about a fifteen minute walk.

The restaurant we chose had no dumplings so we all settled for noodles. Here is our conversation as we share our experience about the earthquake the day before.

Posted by inchinahil 16:23 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

Earthquake!

The earthquake of 12 May 2008

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While attending a watercolor class in downtown Emei City (three hours south of Chengdu), my wife and I experienced the Sichuan Earthquake. We were in a six-floor, small office building when the earthquake hit at 2:29 PM.
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The building shook violently for around 4 minutes before we exited it.
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As we were exiting the building, I took a picture of a large crack on the fourth-floor wall.
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Once on the street, the area began to fill up with people, most of whom were in shock and dazed.
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Not only the people, but also a small sparrow which seemed totally disoriented. A Chinese pedestrian picked the small bird up and set it on his finger like a pet canary. I even petted it before taking the following pictures:
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We then began to look for a taxi to get back to the Emei campus of Southwest Jiaotong University to see if our apartment had been damage. The crowds on the streets were getting larger and larger each passing minute.
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The Chinese kept telling us to keep away from the buildings and there was an atmosphere of fear and tension as we walked toward the bus stop.
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We finally caught a bus (no taxis available) for the fifteen or twenty minute ride back to the campus. Once on campus we found students roaming the streets and looking for a place to sleep outside as directed by the administration. Things were chaotic but our apartment was still intact.
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The Earthquake of 12 May 2008 will long be remembered!

Posted by inchinahil 07:00 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (4)

A Chinese Tea House

Commercial Chinese Tea House in Chengdu

A few years back, my wife and I took a city tour of Chengdu, China. One of the places we stopped was a commercial tea house where we were offered tea to purchase. I put together this video from the experience:

Posted by inchinahil 22:54 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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