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).

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pandas in Chengdu

Today was the much-anticipated trip to the Panda Park.
Or Panda Ark, as the sign said.

As an aside, I have had to only post the pictures I take with my iPhone to the blog because I can't get a decent enough connection to post the huge files that my good camera produces.  Sorry for the blurryish pics.
On the way to the park, another tour bus pulled up beside ours at a light.  Everyone on the bus was wearing a panda hat.  Do you think they were going to the Panda Ark?  I started waving at them and they waved back.

The restroom facilities were decent, although only the squatty potties.  There was one western toilet with a long line.  Thank goodness it was barrier free because I'm not sure what one would do with one that had a barrier.  heh.  It was a single stall and when one unfortunate soul attempted to evacuate it, SIX tiny, old women rushed in.  SIX.  I heard someone yelling 'one' in Chinese and eventually five of them dejectedly filed back out to wait their turn.

Enough with the bathroom stories.

They are ridiculously cute.
You can hold one if you want.  For $300 US dollars.
So we didn't.

They are pretty much the same.  Except one has a cute jacket.  That's all.
Adorable babies.  (Don't worry, Katie, I have good pictures of them on my good camera)

Asking to take pictures with random American strangers is still a thing here.  I always oblige and now I have started taking pictures of them too.  haha
Our new friends from the tour bus checking their phones to see if their photos with American strangers were flattering enough to post to social media.
Selfie-sticks are also still wildly popular and you need to walk carefully to avoid being poked in the eye by them.

My mom wasn't sure she wanted to walk the entire panda park but was kindly encouraged by other members of our group with the enticement of "there is a gift shop at the top of the hill."  hahahahaha
This guy was so cute!  He rolled around and put on a brief show for us.  Pandas barely move because there is not much nutrition in bamboo.  What little there is must be reserved for moving around--hence they rarely do so.  They are second to koalas for lack of movement.
"I've used up all my energy for today."
We found many 4-leaf clovers in the forest.  "Very lucky."
Group photo!  So many beautiful girls.
Then we went to eat some typical spicy Sichuan food - although I think they went easy on us because most of it was not spicy.
This was posted on the three steps leading out to a patio.  Something got lost in the translation....

We were then taken to a popular local shopping area where we had the choice to shop or get a massage.  Aahhhhhh....  The girls went shopping and mom and I (along with 5 others) went for the massage.  They put us all in one large room and went to work.  It was amazing, as they always are in China.  No wimpy back rubs.  They get in there and work every tight muscle.  All for only $25 per hour.  

The girls purchased pendants with their Chinese names written on a grain of rice and put inside the pendant.  Really cool keepsake!

Tonight we are going to a Chinese opera after dinner.  It is probably the only thing we are doing on this trip that I am not looking forward to.  If you wonder why, google Chinese opera.  You will be shivering from the awful tonal sounds.