Monday, May 08, 2017

Last Stop - Guangzhou

Shaman Island area of Guangzhou to be exact.

It's where all of our kids received the paperwork needed to become American citizens when their feet touched US soil.  I couldn't wait to show the girls around the place that felt like a second home.

Except I knew it would have changed tremendously since we had been here last.

The American Consulate is no longer on Shamian, so most families stay near its new location while waiting for their paperwork to be processed.  The famous White Swan has even had a complete facelift.

I thought one day on Shamian would be enough.
I was so wrong.

If we are able to take the younger kids on a Heritage Tour, we will definitely stay an extra day or two.   I wasn't sure if the girls would like Shamian or find it a bit boring.

They LOVED it.

Jillian said it was the only place in China she wasn't afraid to cross the street.

I also need to mention that Guangzhou is not part of the tour.  The Heritage Tour ends in Guilin.  We opted to take the bullet train to Guangzhou because I really wanted the girls to see where we spent a week of every adoption trip.
After checking into the White Swan--and being totally WOWED by our room--I took everyone across the street to see Christ Church that we attended on every adoption trip.  I wish we could have been there on a Sunday this time.
Second stop...Starbucks.  We needed coffee and some lunch!
Shamian is so peaceful.  My mom and the girls fell in love with it.
Happily, the Phillips family had also planned to come to Guangzhou so the girls all had one more day together.
We have pictures of Zoey and Kate with this statue.  So fun!
I was so excited to introduce my family to Michael and his sweet wife, Lily.  They remembered us and it was so fun to catch up on their family.
It started pouring so we headed back inside for some pictures in the White Swan.  I was thankful that the indoor waterfall was still there.

Molly in front of the waterfall when she was a baby.
And our little blond Chloe as a baby in front of it.
We didn't get to stay at the White Swan when we adopted Jillian (much to our disappointment).
 The rooms are now twice as large as they were when we adopted the kids.  Unbelievably nice.
And the bathroom.....we felt like princesses for the night!
 Another family from our travel group also went to Guangzhou and we all met for dinner at a place with only a Chinese menu.  The mom from that family ordered for us.  All was yummy except for...
...this tasteless chicken dish which seemed to be boiled and served with the head.
Afterward we went for a walk along the Pearl River. So beautiful at night.

The view over Shamian from our hotel window.
Very early breakfast overlooking the river the next morning before heading to the airport.
I made the girls take this cheesy picture - but we WERE very sad to be leaving China.

Zaijin, China!  Hope we can come back someday!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Yangshuo and Guilin

I forgot to document some of the afternoon after our boat ride down the Li River.  Immediately after disembarking, we met a bevy of vendors on our way out to the vans.  It looked liked this...
 A bit claustrophobic...
This guy was selling photo ops with his cormorants for 3 yuan.
We then went to a large market area where there were stores and restaurants 'for cheaper prices.'  We actually saw cooler items in the vendor area but we were told to wait and shop at the market.  Rats!

The fruit looked good.
The rat did not.  Ewwww....

Then it was time for some fun!  There was a 'spa' that offered fish nibbling.  You plunge your feet into a fish tank and let the fish eat the dead skin off your feet.  Kind of like a pedicure sans the nail polish.
Kind of.
The girls had tried it a few days prior and wanted me to experience it.
It tickled excruciatingly the first few minutes, followed by a pins and needles feeling, and eventually relaxation.
Well...sort of.
Until you looked at your feet and thought, 
"Why am I letting fish nibble my feet?  How gross is this?"

See for yourself...

The following morning came bright and early with the offer of a group tai chi lesson.  I was quite disinterested but the girls wanted to experience everything in China.  So off we went.

The scenery was beautiful - which somewhat made up for the early morning and empty stomach.  And no coffee.
In fact, it was so beautiful that I soon became bored and distracted (oh look!  Squirrel!).  I wandered off to take some pictures.
Ahhhhh...fabulous view.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Li River Cruise in Guilin

I have always wanted to do the Li River Cruise in Guilin.  The pictures I have seen were fascinating and beautiful.  None of them prepared me for the breathtaking scenery however.  It was stunning.  My pictures could not capture the true magic of the place.  You will have to go see it for yourself!

Chloe and Molly and their new friend, Grace
Delightful meal offerings.  We had a box lunch provided by the tour instead.

After a four hour boat cruise (that seemed like half that time because we were in awe), the girls were taken to a cooking school to learn to make four Chinese dishes.  Yum!  
Getting ready to start the class.
Serving up Kung Pao Chicken.  Yum!

While they were cooking, Mom and I took a walk along the Li River.  So pretty.

Don't be jealous.
We ate a delicious dinner of this Kung Pao chicken and two different types of dumplings.  It was so delicious.  The parents all agreed that it was the best meal meal we had in China.

After dinner, we attended a famous light show designed by the same man who did the Beijing Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.  It was quite a feat, with 700 actors and actresses.  

Street scene outside the amphitheater.

A very enjoyable show despite the constant loud talking behind us.  haha  Our guide told us that we needed to tell people to be quiet if they were loud - but of course we didn't.  It's a very different culture so we just go with it as much as possible.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an

We are home and since I finally have a connection again, I'm going to finish writing out our trip so I can print it for the girls.

I have always wanted to see the Terra Cotta Warriors so I was very excited about going to Xi'an.  We arrived in the afternoon and went to the city wall for a bike ride.  So fun!  It looks very similar to the Great Wall -- just not built on a mountain.  It was originally around the entire city but the city has expanded well beyond the wall now.
Kite flying is very popular on the wall.

Off they go!

The next day it was off to see the warriors bright and early.  First we stopped at a Terra Cotta Warrior factory (aka touristy gift shop) where we could get warriors at a cheaper price.
We made a few purchases and then it was time to see the warriors.  I had seen pictures of it but was still amazed.

The first Qin Emperor built them, wanting to take his army into his next life.  He had all of them built in secrecy underground.  All who didn't die during the building period were put to death when it was completed to keep the secret.  Within four years of his death, the next emperor located it, smashed all the warriors and set it on fire.

It lay there unknown until 1974 when some farmers, digging a well, uncovered heads, arms and legs. In terror, they reported their find to the government.  Excavations began and are still continuing.  There are three pits, each containing thousands of warriors, horses, officials, etc. 

I had no idea that the warriors had all been smashed.  Only one was found intact.  They are putting them together piece by piece.  What painstaking work!
The first amazing.  
A closer look
So many broken pieces!
Some of the horses
The warrior hospital.  As the men are reassembled, they look like this.  They glue as many pieces as they find and fill in the rest.  The detail is incredible.

We were then told we could go into a special room where there was a chariot and horses which was 'very special.'  There was a crush of people and the 'special room' was the bottleneck.  Too late we realized there was no turning around.  At one point someone started pushing and I had to throw a body block to keep Molly from getting trampled.  I was literally pushing back with my entire weight.  Nuts!!  All for a glimpse of a chariot that I never really did see.  Kevin took my camera, held it over his head and got this shot. Then he went back to body blocking to keep his nieces from being crushed.  Whee!

And in other news...

Funny sign of the day on the door of the bathroom stall (bottom right).