Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A while back (ok, a LONG time ago, 7 months – this post is way overdue), I had the opportunity to travel to Xi’an when my mother-in-law came to see China.  Regardless if you have heard of Xi’an or not, you definitely know about it.  The discovery of the Terracotta Army in 1974 by a farmer drilling a water well is one of the largest archeological discoveries in the world.

Xi’an is a beautiful city that blends the ancient world with the modern.  It is the historic old capital of China as well as a modern, brightly lit, fun city.  My brother, who was also in China by chance for a conference was able to meet my MIL and me in Xi’an.

The main attraction is, of course, the Terracotta Warriors.  It is truly a site to see.

Terracotta Army

To be honest, pictures do not give justice to place.   It’s hard to understand the vastness of this one building until you have seen it for yourself.

I’ve heard it said that each warrior is a unique sculpture modeled after a real soldier.  In general I can’t agree or disagree because I’m not an archeologist working on the site. While scanning though my images, they all look “real” enough and everyone seems different from those around them – until I saw THIS GUY….

Stretch Wangstrong (Pronounced “Wongstrong”)

We all know the Chinese are a skinny bunch (with all the oil they put into ALL OF THE FOOD, I don’t know how).  But THIS GUY, really?  He’s got proportions 3 times worse than Barbie.  Figure it this way – with armor and clothing on, his waist is maybe 6 to 8 inches across.  I’m pretty sure that no human with such an unproportional body could survive – let along be a soldier.  By the position of his hands I guess he was a horse driver of some sort?  (Suggestions are welcome!)  Not to mention, I think his arms reach clear to where his knees should be…  Was there some strange stretching torture device in the ancient Chinese military?  Perhaps – after seeing this guy.  I will call him “Stretch WangStrong.”

I know – it sounds terrible in English… But Wang is one of the most popular Family Names in China.  (and FYI, it’s actually pronounced the same as WONG.  The ‘A’ in this case sounds like an ‘O’ as in “gong”.

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I understand that some people chose the non-traditional wedding, getting married on top of a live volcano, on a roller coaster, or while sky-diving.   I can even understand that some brides want a fairy-tale-princess-wedding in Disney Land….  But this one is really tacky.  I filmed it from our hotel room at the Shangri-La in Qingdao, China.

I’m trying to find good/funny background music for it.  Suggestions are welcomed!!

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新年快乐. Xin Nian Kuai le.  Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Chinese New Year was celebrated on January 23rd this year.  Husband had the week off so we went to Shanghai to celebrate with some delicious Western food and delicious Western drinks!  January 22 was also my 28th birthday – so I was thrilled when the most populous country on the planet decided to set off fireworks and celebrate with me.  😀

The highlight of our trip was a traditional New Years Eve dinner at Huband’s Co-worker’s Wife’s family home.  In the time I have spent in China so far, this was my first visit to a family home.

Friend's Mama Cooking in the Kitchen

The only problem there was communication.  Her family, being mostly without higher education and living in Shanghai their entire life, spoke only Shanghainese, not Mandarin.  However, there is always one international language found at Chinese meals – and that is the language of alcohol.  The family broke out the beer, the wine, and the dreaded baijiu (white alcohol / mautai).  I accepted a little mautai at the beginning – but after the first ‘ganbei’ (toast), realized it wasn’t a good idea to be drinking rubbing alcohol so early in the night.  *bleh!*  The food was delicious and just kept coming…  Two of the most unique dishes we tried were pig tongue and pig stomach and they were suprisingly tasty!  Just LOOK at ALL THAT FOOD!!!!

New Years Eve Dinner

So you want to know about a Chinese home?  I imagine this apartment is pretty typical for the older generation living in Shanghai.  Small.  Very small.  The entire space was probably about 40 square meters and costed MORE than our home and property back in Pittsburgh.  When you walk in the front door, you enter the dining room…

Dining Room / Entry Looking towards Bedroom (also livingroom) entrance

To the left was a kitchen and a bedroom.  To the right was a bathroom and the master bedroom (which is ALSO the living room).  When we first arrived, the whole family was sitting on the master bed watching TV like it was a couch.  To them it was!  After dinner they invited us to sit on the bed and watch TV with them.  A nice gesture but we found the custom a little strange, not to mention we couldn’t understand the CCTV programming that was on…

Friend's Mama on the Bed (also the Couch) watching CCTV after dinner

Our friend had bought a cake to celebrate my birthday.  Let me tell you how funny it is to have people singing to you in two different languages on your birthday!  It was probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had.  I’m not a fan of super-sweet icing, and (to my disbeilief) the icing was perfect.  The numbers on the cake are 28 AND 29, because I am considered 29 in China.  (They consider the first 9 months in the mom’s tummy as a first year… somehow…)  (To my brother – When a Chinese girl tells you she is 18, be careful, she may really mean 17….)

My Birthday Cake

Once it was time to leave, the 4 of us decided to try and find a bar to celebrate the rest of New Years Eve.  Unfortunately, since most Chinese go home for the New Year (much like us Americans do for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving), the vast majority of the bars in Shanghai were not open that night.  We ended up at Big Bamboo on Hong Mei Lu Entertainment Street.  Most of the bars and restaurants here were closed but there were still several open.

The coolest thing on Chinese holidays are fireworks!   I’ve heard they are banned in Shanghai, making them “illegal”, much like driving on the wrong side of the road is “illegal”, also like blowing past red lights, driving on the sidewalk, speeding, smoking in stores, and pretty much disobeying every common civilized country’s code of conduct.  But in China, if you’ve lived or visited here, you know they are mere suggestions of conduct… It is only suggested that you drive on the correct side of the road… Police man sees you, no problem…  So!  Alas!  We saw many fireworks – VERY CLOSE UP!   I think back to Pittsburgh where any of the township’s fireworks are very safe…  everyone stays very far away from ground zero… by law…   HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.!!!! …   Watch my youtube videos from Chinese New Years….

More to come…. takes an eternity to upload from China….

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Me and my mother-in-law just spent our first full day in Tokyo with a former employee of the company that owns *THE Company*, and his super-wonderful wife!  They are two of the nicest people I have ever met, and I feel very honored that I was able to spend the day with them.

We spent most of our time in the Ginza district of Tokyo, an extremely high-end, luxury area with a large number of Western stores, department stores, and boutiques.  At the Mikimoto pearl store, there was a pearl necklace for sale at over $1,000,000 (yes, USD).   As you can imagine, I didn’t do a whole lot of shopping in this area, but I did find a beautiful Japanese fan with a stand for just over 40USD.  For lunch, our hosts took us to Ginza Tenkuni, a tempura restaurant in the Ginza area of Tokyo.  Here we tried a traditional dish:  Tendon, which is tempura served over steamed rice in a bowl.

Ginza Tenkuni Menu

Tendon : Tempura over rice in a bowl

After a yummy lunch, we did a good bit of walking around the area.  The streets are much less chaotic than in China.  The Japanese drive on the correct side of the road, and by correct I don’t mean the *right* side like in the USA, but they stay on the correct side of the road (left).  They follow traffic signs and signals, which is a nice break from China where red lights and double-yellow lines are a mere suggestion.

The main street through the Ginza district is comparable to 5th Avenue in NYC.  Very high-end and VERY VERY expensive!

Outside the metro stop in Ginza area

Ginza 5 section

The obligatory enormous Apple Store

After site-seeing and window shopping, we had dinner reservations at Gonpachi in the Roppongi area of Tokyo.  Here, we had a delicious Japanese dinner!  As far as I can tell from some research, this restaurant was the model for the Crazy 88 fight scene in Kill Bill 1.  When I first walked in I thought they had actually filmed there.  There are conflicting stories on the internet, but I would guess that a model of the restaurant was built for the movie.

Gonpachi : The Kill Bill Restaurant

Other side of Gonpachi

We have an early morning tomorrow : an all-day bus tour of Tokyo.   To end for today, here is a view from my hotel window at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel…

View from the ANA Intercontinental Hotel

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