November 25, 2006

Hairy Crabs in Shanghai

To view all 49 photos of Shanghai, press HERE for a slideshow.

Gallery Glass
and Porcelain
Along the Huangpu
Zhou Slept Here
Another Chinese Monopoly
Ducks in a Row
By the Tea House

Wednesday, 22 November:
It was raining when we arrived in the afternoon. The traffic was terrible and it seemed like it took forever to traverse the few kilometers to the Astor. Since they offered no discounts, we could not afford the $80 day-rate. But we found a clean and suitable hotel, just around the corner for $32 a night. We booked in for three days. We settled in and hoped the rain would stop. In the evening we went for a walk along the Hangpu River, the Bund and a ways down Nanjing Road. The city is all lit up at night. The view across the river blew me away. Nanjing Road was lit up like Times Square. We stopped for bowls of noodles, then walked back to our hotel.

Thanksgiving Day - 2006:
Despite the rain, we were out all day. We tried to stay dry, by walking short distances and drying off. It seemed to work pretty well. We did not see a lot more that we had the night before. We could clearly see the buildings of the Bund. They were all built 80 to 100 years ago and designed by international architects. We had walked into the Peace Hotel the day before, and we visited the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank building. It was wonderful. The rotunda was stunning and the art nouveau fixtures jumped out at you. We stopped by the youth hostel and found it too expensive to move to. But we picked up some info about the city and a couple of newspapers in English. We stopped to by a headset for my MP3 player, and looked at all the cheap electronics that one must buy with great caution. We stopped at a couple of elegant hotels, including the Radisson. We love the ambience of their comfortable sitting rooms. Near the end of the day, we bought a couple of DVD's. With little to no English TV in China, DVD's are a must. We had spotted an ad for a gallery opening earlier in the day. The Contrasts gallery had a wonderful show of avant-garde porcelain, glass and furniture. Shanghai is a town full of artists that are trying to be on the cutting edge. Except for the fashion, I like most of it. We especially liked the pieces at this showing. By the time we got back to our hotel, we were thoroughly soaked. The big disappointment for the day was our inability to find a Thanksgiving Day meal that we did not have to travel far for or cost a reasonable amount.

Old and New China
in the Same Breath


Friday, 24 November:
The weather was not glorious, but it felt awfully good. You got it, no rain. We started by walking and taking the Metro to the old French concession area. We stopped by a couple of elegant old hotels. Then we visited the residence of General Zhou Enlai. After the war, his standing as a general allowed him to live in Shanghai. The Chinese Communist Party used his house to establish the party's presence in Shanghai. They were able to use it until the civil war started. The buildings and courtyards were charming old homes. The area had many like it. We continued our hike through the city. Before long we were in a large area of antique shops. I love these sorts of places. I like to look at stamps and coins. I found lots of old coins. I was very interested in the silver US dollars. Of course they looked authentic, but every one was a fake. Yes they looked good, but the weight and ring we all off. From here we entered the Chinese old city. The area is not so large. We entered on the west side. It was hard to imagine that just a half mile north was Nanjing Road with its ultra modern look and elegant shops, because this part of the old city was like so many poor hutongs that we have walked through with their myriad of run down shops. We continued and found ourselves in what felt like an old-world Chinese theme park with dozens of building of old Chinese architecture. The area around the tea house was beyond belief. And literally thousands of tourist, mostly Chinese, crowded into this area of shops and restaurants. We were now just a few blocks south of the Bund. We walked along the river. The park was crowded with travelers.
Hair Crab is a local specialty that comes only in the fall. I wanted to try it and I did that evening. They call them hairy, because of the moss-like growth on their claws. They are medium sized crabs with the bodies about four inches across. I have eaten Alaskan King crab and liked it. These were OK but nothing that I would order again. There was far too little meat and they were way too much work. They do not dip the crab in melted butter, no - they use vinegar, albeit a very mild rice vinegar. So, you can see that I am just not the hairy crab that you thought I was.

Today, Saturday, 25 November:
We have been in China exactly one month. This is a take it easy day. I spent a good part of the day writing this entry. I wanted to visit a wifi hotspot. We expected to find them all over Shanghai. It is the only city in China where many are listed on the net. Every KFC should have them and so we headed for a nearby KFC. I discovered that there is a mobile telephone company that sponsors the KFC hotspots. To use it you must find a vendor, pay $13 and then login at some outrageous rate per minute. We thought, well lets find a McDonalds - they are wifi hotspots. As we continued are walk down Sichuan Beilu, I encountered a westerner and asked what he knew about wifi hotspots. He mentioned that he had passed a Starbucks. We continued our walk and by now we had been walking a hour. Finally, we found the Starbucks. To our amazement they do not provide a free wifi connection as in Beijing. Only the telephone company wifi network was available. The IT infrastructure seems to be sorely lacking here.
Pissed yes, tired yes, but we found a wonderful restaurant just down the block. I had the other local delicacy, a pork knuckle that I had so wanted to try. That along with the short ribs was really excellent. We both rated it as one of the best restaurants we had visited. We returned to our rooms and watched an old James Dean movie, East of Eden. We had not seen it before and we marveled at what a great film it was and what a fine actor James Dean was.
Tomorrow we are off to Hangzhou.

Posted by bill at 11:09 PM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2006

Nanjing and Suzhou

Thursday, 16 November:
We arrived in Nanjing on an overcast afternoon. We checked into the International Nanjing University housing. The room is very nice, but more expensive than the western cities that we have been visiting. Still it wasn't too bad. We washed our clothes, but as usual there were no dryers. We were lucky enough to connect with an American, Paul. He is one of the many foreign students studying Chinese in Nanjing. He brought us a pole and hangers to dry our clothes with. We took it easy the rest of the day. We ate at a Korean restaurant across the street.

The weather the last several days has been sour. If it had been more warm and sunny, I might have enjoyed the city more. It has some great parks and comfortable avenues. There are several universities here. All of which should make it my kind of city. It has been cold and rainy. Most of what we want to see is outside. And we have gotten cold and soaked. To make matters worse, there is no heat in our room. Up until now, I have liked China a lot more that Betty. But here we have been on par with each other. Another reason that I have been off here is that Friday morning I got a touch of the stomach flu from something I ate.

Eventually we made it out of our room. Not yet raining, it was another overcast day. We went to the Nanjing Museum. After visiting several provincial museums, we are beginning to see the same things over and over again. They have all been excellent with nearly perfect artifacts. Some are as old as 6000 years. The Nanjing Museum is much like the others. The few differences made it worth the visit. It had and excellent porcelain and pottery section. The temporary shows are often really good too. Here there was a show of 16th and 17th century Chinese furniture. Unlike so much of the carved Chinese piece that I have seen, the lines and quality of these pieces almost seemed modern to me. They were beautiful. Another show was of local artists and photographers. I could clearly see where more modern Chinese art was headed.
We took a bus halfway back and looked for a movie theater. The one where we expected to find subtitled movies only had dubbed films. Since there is rarely any English on TV, I need a shot of it and there is no better place than a movie to get it. Hopefully, we can get that pick-me-up in Shanghai. We ended up walking back to our room. It seemed like it took forever, and the rain had started. Despite our early return, I crawled into bed to warm up and was soon asleep.

Bettty in Suzhou
by the Beisi Te Pagoda


I still was not feeling good, I started some medication. We decided to go for a walk. We visited a drum tower. And we looked for a Starbucks. Unfortunately after an hour of searching, we discovered that it had closed. We came back cold and wet again. We decide to wash some more clothes. I slept in the afternoon. There is a restaurant in our building. The food was very good and cheap.

We would have left, but we still had some damp clothes and I was not at 100% yet. So, we would stay one more day in Nanjing. In the morning, we went for a walk. We stopped to eat, and then walked through the Nanjing Normal University campus. It was really lovely. The buildings looked to be about 80 years old and in the more classical Chinese architecture. The campus was well laid out with a large mall and a pool its center.

It seemed that the day we decided to leave Nanjing, it stopped raining. The bus ride to Suzhou was a little over two hours. The tollway was the finest that we have seen: very smooth, six lanes and light traffic. That was until we were almost to Suzhou. There was a serious accident in the opposite direction. Traffic in both directions came to a complete standstill. Every vehicle's passengers were out and trying to see the fire. Half our bus emptied, but we were a mile away from the disaster. After 20 minutes things began to move on our side of the highway. Still the rubber-neckers were gumming up the works. Traffic control and flow is awful in China. More than likely this is due to the newness of it all. We arrived about 1:30 and took a taxi to our hotel. The drive there gave us a sense of the beautiful grand moat that encircles the city. This is a stunningly beautiful area.
After a short break we made our way on foot and bus to the Suzhou Silk Museum by an eleven story 400-year old pagoda. Suzhou has dozens of small canals. We crossed several on our way to and from the museum. We decided to walk back from the museum. We picked up a young tour guide that spoke no more that a dozen words of English. Still, it was nice to have the company. After a mile we walked through a large temple area. It was nearly dark. We walked on to a nearby pedestrian avenue. Another half mile we were at a beautiful town square next to the twin Pagodas, but - alas - it was too dark to see them. We stopped for supper, and then walked another mile to our hotel.

To view my photos Suzhow, press HERE for a slideshow.

Tongli Canal
Sex Museum Statue

The rain came back, and our spirits fell. We really wanted to get out and explore this town and some of the beautiful places nearby. We decided to brave it, and visit the nearby village of Tongli. We got a late start, due to the poor weather disaffection. This little village is like a living theme park. I mean this in more ways that you might imagine. You can walk in and walk around the village. But to visit the numerous museums of questionable worth, you have to pay. They even have a ticket office at the entrance to the old city where you can purchase a ticket from $10 to $20 each, depending on the museums and level of service. We are getting sick of this pay to enter every little site. The over commercialization of little places like this really spoils them. Tongli is an extremely nice spot to visit. It is a city of canals with homes backing up to them. Vendors, tea houses, restaurants and shops of every type abound. Its gardens and streets are as charming as they come. Our only wish would have been for good weather, so we could have slowed down and enjoyed sitting and relaxing along the canals. There was one museum that looked interesting, but we declined to go in. A statue in the courtyard of the museum caught my eye. The cold and the rain kept us walking.

Small Canal in Suzhou

Posted by bill at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2006

Wuhan and Hefei

To view all 29 photos of Wuhan and Hefei, press HERE for a slideshow.

Betty and Vittoria
The Bells of Wuhan

I thought that I should say a bit more about Wuhan. Vittoria, Betty and I arrived by bus from Yichang in Saturday afternoon. We checked out one hotel that did not meet the standards of Betty and Vittoria. I had seen a dead rat on the sidewalk in front of this hotel. We walked to Xinhuaxia Hotel on Xinhua Lu, some 500 meters or so away and it seemed better. We bargained a bit and took rooms for $12 and $15 a night. Betty and I actually got very big room. There is a very nice restaurant just around the corner, where the food was really excellent and inexpensive, too. Tired from the Yangzi boat, we retired early.

And so, here is the story of the rat:
I knew that there were animals in the building, because I heard them scurry across the ceiling joists. I do not think Betty heard them. In the night I heard them making noises that sounded like children fighting. The sounds seemed to come from the gas heater that was in our room. I must be thick skinned because it did not seem to bother me. That is until they knocked a bag to the floor. I got up and told Betty to turn on the lights. They had pulled some orange peels out and dragged a package of crackers out of the bag. Of course, the floor attendant did not understand what I was talking about. All the noise we were making must have disturbed the little critters, because they did not come back.
In the morning, I inspected the area around the heater. There is a pipe that runs from the wall to the heater. I could see the hole where our friendly little rodents emerged. I drew a picture of a rat and a rat hole and showed it to the floor attendant. They seemed to be as upset as Betty and moved us to a much smaller double room that seemed just fine.

As I said in my previous entry, we went to the Hankou pedestrian mall in the morning and a museum in the afternoon. Zhao Fei, who we met on the boat, came to our hotel in the early evening with his friend Diana. We ate at the same restaurant and the food was even better. It was great to enjoy a good dinner with Zhao and Diana. We retired about ten. I slept great until 6:30 in the morning. Suddenly, I heard the blaring of a public address system. I stormed out of my room and started yelling at the attendant about the noise. I am sure that she only understood my gestures. Still I was fuming, and further sleep was impossible with all the noise. I got dressed and looked for the source. On the floor below ours there was some sort of meeting going on. Based on the style and sing, it was probably some born-again Christian preaching.
I had it out with the manager again. The day before, I told him that he had to kill the RAT. Then I told him that he had to stop the morning sound blast. His solution was to move us again.

The next day had little or no drama. The Provincial Museum was fabulous. We saw an unbelievable set of 65 bells that is more than 2400 years old. They were discovered about 30 years. It took years to figure out how they were made. Now performers play a set of replicas at the museum. After the museum, the only drama of the day came when the three of us wanted to go into the park near the museum. There is a big lake next to the park. We got into a tiff with at the entrance when they demanded that we pay about $4 each to enter. Pay public parks in the People Republic seems to be far too common. We fought with them, as they let others enter without ticket. Finally, we got the senior citizen discount and enter for $2 each. Still, this sort of policy sucks. The park was almost empty, which was a pity because it is so beautiful. We took a motorboat across the lake and grabbed a bus back into town. So it was a long and fairly adventuresome day. The night was less eventful than the previous two. We went back to the same restaurant. It would have been hard not to go back there, as they had some of the best food we have eaten here and the staff was so friendly and welcoming. After dinner, we drank a bottle of Chinese red wine. It was OK but not all that good.

The Hefei Market
Eels, Crabs, Fish and Chickens

Tuesday, 14 October:
We left our hotel about nine in the morning. We got our tickets and boarded our bus less that half-an-hour later. Damn if the bus did not work for us. It had bunks that only a little man or woman might enjoy lying in a half-prone position. I had to start yelling again. The Chinese to a lot of yelling and they seem to understand it. Betty and I got off the bus, but had to wait two hours before a bus with normal seats would take passengers to Hefei. The only problem with the bus is that it had to stop at two or three more bus stations in the Wuhan area. Each took some time to arrive at and then we had to wait. At only one did more passengers board. After almost two hours of this jockeying around did we get off on the tollway. The ride was just fine. It took us six hour to cover the 470 kilometers to Hefei.

The Baohe Park and Town Moat

You can see the most impressive places in Hefei in less than one day. Unfortunately the museum does like visitors. It was only open for a few hours in the morning and again in the late afternoon. So we missed it. We visited two markets. I love to see all the fruit and vegetables. There is usually fish, crabs, eel, sometimes snails, and poultry and meats for sale too. There take a look at the photos to see what I am talking about. We visited one temple. They collect a fee every time you enter one in China. I am glad the Catholics don't do that in Europe. The park along the moat in the afternoon was great. It was peaceful and beautiful. Feng-shui has a very calming effect on people. As we finished our walk along the Baohe Park, we came to a part of the moat parkway where there we hundreds of mostly older people enjoying the last rays of sun. We saw two couples dancing. We saw an opera scene preformed by marvels singers in full costume. You have to pinch yourself when you are in such a place, because it is really hard to believe it exists. I don't think that Hefei gets many tourists. It was clear from the stares that people found Betty and I interesting. As we would say 'hello' or 'ni hou,' the stares usually turned into broad smiles.

Posted by bill at 04:48 PM | Comments (2)

November 13, 2006

On the Yangzi

To view all 80 Yangzi River Photos in a slideshow, press HERE.

1st Temple Stop
2nd Temple Stop
On the Yangzi
With Our Chinese Friends
The Lesser Gorge
The Mini Gorge

We took the bus from Chengdu to Chong Qing (Chung King). It was a pleasant four hour ride. When we arrived in Chong Qing, we planned to go to the docks and book a boat down the Yangzi. This was our first mistake. The second we got off the bus we were more or less jumped by shills for the local booking agents. These folks are dressed in uniform coats to indicate that they work for the shipping lines. I saw through it OK, and grabbed a taxi and instructing him to take us to the dock. But one of shills told him to take us to an agent about half-way to the docks. Betty thought that this was the real booking office. We expected to get a better deal here than that offered in the youth hostels. It was no better, and it is more prudent to book with a hostel. We ended up buying our passage here. They showed us a picture of a nice ship. The reality was quite different. We end up on a run down tourist boat that stank and was just awful. The name of this rust heap was the Yeng Bin Hou. We ended up paying about $165 each for the passage and some tourist stops. Your can book just the passage for about $135. If you go on a Victoria Line Cruise, this time of year, it costs about $300 and is really the only way to go. There are good Chinese boats for the same price we paid, but you have to be careful and check out the boat first. Only one tour was worth the extra money and that is to the Lesser and Mini Gorge. It is a wonderful excursion. The Three River Gorge is on the Yangzi. We passed through it in less than one hour of a three day trip. Because of the new river dam the water is up more the 220 feet, the gorge is not what it use to be. In two years, when the dam is completed the water will be up another eighty feet. We do not feel that it was worth the $260 that we spent to experience the river and its gorges.

A wonderful side benefit to taking the rust bucket, the Chinese national boat, is the people that you meet. If you are a bit outgoing and you put yourself out, you soon will have a dozen or more friends. This is what we did. I cannot name them all but I clearly remember George, Leili and Zhao Fei. There are pictures of all of them. I loved meeting them and getting to know them. We have also become fast friends with Maria Victoria Cosentino, the only other westerner (from Italy) on the boat.

We have been in Wuhan the past two days. We recovered from the boat trip. It was so nice to have a hot shower and clean clothes. We visited two museums. The Wuhan Provincial Museum is the best. Then we went to a beautiful park on a large lake. It was so peaceful, compared to the hectic life in the city. We have been doing this all with Victoria.

Tomorrow we will push off Hefei.

Posted by bill at 09:12 PM | Comments (3)

November 07, 2006

Pandas in Chengdu

To view all 54 photos for this entry in a slideshow, press HERE.

Giant Pandas
Red Pandas
More Pandas
Children in the Park
Betty and Petri
Wong Guang and My Feet
In Huanglongxi
At the Temple

The train ride from Xian to Chengdu was different from the train out of Beijing. The bunks were not as wide. There was not TV in the berth, let alone for each bunk. It was not as clean. There were cockroaches, although it was not overwhelming. The speed of travel was very slow also. It took 17 hours to travel 800 kilometers, as compared to 12.5 hours to travel the 1000 km. from Beijing to Xian. The good thing was that it was cheaper. We arrived about 6 in the morning and went to the Mix Hostel, which is quite nice. Each city we pass through, that is further from Beijing, gets cheaper. We took the deluxe room, which is actually in a hotel across the street. It cost less than half what we were paying in Beijing and it is a whole lot nicer.

Sunday, 5 November:
After checking in, we took a very long walk through Chengdu, a large industrialized city. Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province. It is nice and the people are as friendly as every other Chinese city that we have visited. The downtown is very modern.
Near the hostel is a large Buddhist temple. It was very nice to visit. We burned incense. The temple was crowded, because it was Sunday. Most Chinese get Sunday off, so they go to temples and parks and generally kick back. It was a great day for us to be out for a walk. We did not find any cool alley ways, like in Beijing. Still it was nice to see all the people out and about. We stopped by a couple of parks, and stopped for tea along the river on the south side of town. The green tea is very good here, and I am beginning to like it. The tea places do like to screw the naive westerners like me. They try to charge us two dollars per glass but we won't pay that much. We have been coughing up $1.25 - but today we learned that the common price is less than 25 cents. Since our language skills in Chinese are poor we have problems sometimes with the vendors. They will play games, the trick is to say no and offer much less. From the tea house on the river, we walked to a great little shopping and eating area next to the Wuhou Ci temple. We had lunch here. Wow, was it spicy! We got back to our room and rested before supper. Then we went to bed early.

Monday, 6 November:
Chengdu has the most outstanding Panda research center in the world. This is where we headed in the morning. You want to arrive early when the bears are out. And were they out! You can see them up close and personal. You can visit the baby bear nursery, and we did just that. Besides the giant panda they have red pandas. It was clear after viewing the red pandas that panda are only distantly related to the more common brown and black bears. I am not a big nature buff, but I really enjoyed visiting this center.
I always like to point out the unusual, the serendipity of travel. Once again it struck in this park. Before I had seen the red pandas and while I was viewing the giant pandas, I happened to ask a woman standing next to me, if the pandas were really bears. She gave me an answer, then said "You really look familiar, have we met before?" I stared hard and it came to me; yes, we had met in Argentina. I called to Betty to come over; "There is someone here from the English group in Buenos Aires." We were really surprised. Some folks know her as Petri and others as Usva. She hails from Finland. We asked her if she knew Pavii and Santre. Sure enough she does, and she will visit them in Thailand before returning to Finland. I mentioned that we too planned to visit them in Chang Mai.
In the afternoon, we got massages. They only cost $2.50 each for 90 minutes of foot pampering and a bit of a full body massage. We felt great afterwards.
In the evening we visited the Sichuan Opera. It was very different from what we saw in Beijing and Xian. The highlight was the fire breathing. But the mask changing and traditional opera skits were very good.

River Banks of Huanlongxi

Tuesday, 7 November:
Today we visited Huanglongxi, an ancient city 40 km south of Chengdu. Very touristy, and still we enjoyed it a lot. There was an old temple with two banyan trees said to be thousands of years old. We liked the temple, where we burned incense and ask for grandchildren. The waterfront along the river was charming. We sat and played cribbage there all afternoon.
This evening we took it easy. We did go to a great bar district just a few blocks from the hostel. I had gotten a taste of it the night before after the opera. So, I brought Betty over tonight. The restaurant that we ate in was not as nice as from the night before. So we went over there for a beer. The name of the bar is Solo Fun. If you make it to Chengdu, you might want to check it out.

China is a little more wired than I thought it would be. We have been finding more wireless connections, which is our preferred method of getting on line.
There does not appear to be broadband in people's homes. So, most connections are 56k lines. It makes a lot of what we do in the states impossible. And this is to say nothing about the server blocking or censorship that we have heard about, but that we have not actually seen. We even listened to MPR today.

Tomorrow we are off to Chongquing and an excursion on the Yangzi River.

Posted by bill at 10:52 PM | Comments (6)

November 02, 2006

Xi'an and the Warriors

To see a slideshow from Xi'an, press HERE.

Last Day in Beijing
In the Garden

First of November:
It was our final day in Beijing. We packed and checked out of our hotel, which stored our luggage. Then we went back for a final visit to the Forbidden City. We saw a lot more than we did on our first trip.
We walked a bit more on the streets in Beijing. We stopped for dumplings and beer. Then we went by taxi to Starbucks. It is so great to be able to get on the internet with my own computer, and we do love their coffee. We were back at our hotel by 6:00 PM. We said our good-byes and grabbed a taxi for the West Railway Station. We were taking the overnight sleeper to Xian. The train car was fantastic. There are four beds per compartment. We got the lower births. Each bed has a TV and the compartment has a table. It is about 600 miles to Xian. I worked some puzzles, watched TV and slept great. Twelve hours later we were picked up in Xian by our hostel. The hostels appear to be very good here and fairly inexpensive.

Terracotta Warriors

Warriors and Horses
The Archer

November Second:
No sooner than we arrived than we were asked to join a tour to see the terracotta warriors. We paid $20 each, which included breakfast, transportation and entrance to the sight. We waited an hour or so for the van and guide to arrive. Our guide Jong was talkative and informative. Of course, we had to stop at terracotta warrior factory, where the best facsimiles are manufactured. As usual, all the tourist goods seemed a bit high in price. None of our entourage purchased. We were a group of seven: two Irish, Nile and Dee; one Belgian, Bart; and four Americans, Ben, Melissa, Betty and myself. Ben and Melissa had just finished a two-year stint working with the Peace Corp in Jordan. We went right from the factory to see the warriors. The archeological site was extremely large. Buildings were built around the digs. It is quite overwhelming to see more than 2000 life-size clay warriors. We spent more than two hours looking at them and the other artifacts in the dig. The area around the dig has begun to be extensively developed with a commercial area and housing. We had a lunch of noodles.

Ben, Melissa, Dee and Niles

Our next stop was a government owned silk factory. This place was very enjoyable. We saw how they spin the silk threads from the cocoons. Then we saw how they also prepare the cocoons to make a silk quilt batting. These quilts are a major product of this factory, and cost did not seem all that high for a change. It was the silk sheets and quilt covers that blew me away. In their store they sold all kinds of beautiful silk clothing.
Our last stop was a museum that focused of the local imperial history and the relic bones of Buddha, whose tomb was supposed to be nearby. Exhausted Betty crashed as soon as we got back to our Hostel. I stayed up for a while.

In the Moslem Quarter
Friendly English Speaking Children

Today - Friday, 3 November:
We got up and ate a really good breakfast. The hostel has good cheap food with breakfast costing less than three dollars. The Xian hostels cost less than half the Beijing hostels. We tried to find a laundry that would wash and dry in one day. When I found it the cost was very high, so we decided to use the washer at the hostel. We hung the clothes to dry. We hooked up the Vonage router and called Birgitta and Dain. It was really cool to talk to them from China, at no greater cost than calling from Minnesota. I love the Internet!
Hostels are great places to meet people. Last night I met an Argentine and then another this morning. I was surprised to say the least. I expect to meet the Israelis and the Europeans, but not the South Americans. It is nice that they still will travel even with the low valued peso. We walked through the Muslim quarter this afternoon: wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. We had a plate of rice and the handful of their little meat kabobs. Szechuan province is just over the mountain from here and food is getting spicy. I love it. All along the walk, children called 'Hello' to us. We greeted them back and shook hands and took pictures. I think 4 to 6% of the Chinese are Muslim. They are descendants of the traders of the Silk Road. Xian is the beginning or the end of the Silk Road, depending on how you look at it. The children are learning English, and they and their parents are so friendly. I have met several travelers now that have said that they want live in China, and I can see why.
I bought the ticket for Chengdu, our next destination. This evening we were at the Opera again. It was three times as good as the one in Beijing and we had a most spectacular dumpling dinner. The dinner was a bit pricy by Chinese standards, but a bargain by US standards. The show and dinner cost $50 for the both of us. After the show Betty went to bed and I headed for the bar. I met some great people there. One group was a band from Sweden. They gave me a copy of their music. You can get their music at
We are off tomorrow.

Classical Percussionists at the Chinese Opera

Posted by bill at 10:02 PM | Comments (1)