Nov 3, 2013
Yet another beautiful and refreshing morning, waking up to the sounds of the river flowing and raindrops falling on the trees. We took some pictures with the luscious red maple tree by the side of our house. And tiffany, aka monkey, climbed up it to get a pic worthy enough for a profile. ^_^
Being in Portlandia means NO SALE TAX! So Off we went to Best Buy to pick me up a SUPER LIGHT MacBook Pro with RETINA screen and 9 hr battery life and pick Sam up a brand new iPhone 5S. mmmmm Apples are so good. =)
After all that was said and done, we drove to Bonneville Dam to see the Salmon swim upstream, conquering the fight against the waters with the help of our cheering! We also got to feed HUNDREDS of salmon at the hatchery. Ok maybe just one hundred with our 25cents worth of pellets that sam bought. The BIGGEST attraction (literally), is HERMAN the Sturgeon. He is 70 years old, 450 pounds, and 10 feet long! Poor guy just mosies along in his little tank going in circles while tourists come by and marvel at its Gargantuanness. Maybe he just needs to lose a little weight. XP
After the big fishiness was over, we drove back along the Columbia river and hit up some waterfalls. Including Horsetail, and the famous Multnomah Falls. Unfortunately, the Daylight Savings change hit us by surprise with an early sunset. It was still beautiful to see those two majestic falls! The weather was a little rainy/misty/glooooomy/cold, but definitely very refreshing and invigorating.
Too bad it’s time to go back home, but not without more last minute tax-free shopping at the outlets! Thanks Tiff for bringing us around in your awesome rental car, Ford Edge. Thanks Jen for collecting those leaves of yours. XP Thanks Sam + Sam for making things confusing. haha jk. Thanks Daren and Janie for being the great and generous Big Bro/sis who make money and pay for stuff. Thanks for a great EPIC weekend! I was definitely #FALLinForPortlandia.
TraveLam entry Nov. 2nd 2013
Welcome to Portland, Oregon! This was my first time visiting the Beaver state, or the Northwest in that matter. First thing that hit me…the COLD! But good thing we were prepared. We were warned; cold and wet weather that whole weekend. After a flurry of delays, we finally landed on PDX on Friday, November 1st 2013 around 12:30 AM. There goes the original plan of catching one of Portland’s best steakhouse Happy Hour as a night snack. We decided to go straight to the Lam residence in Camas (like “Canvas”, not the word Spanish “Camas”) to rest. Daren and Janie were kind enough to be our hosts for the weekend, and apparently had a full itinerary for the whole weekend. Tiffany was our fearless driver, and she bravely took on the new lands, new wheels, and new road rules to reach our temporary abode. Can’t really see anything on the way there though, as we were driving late at night. Upon arrival, we were greeted by friendly faces of veteran Cali-Camas commuters into the Lam residence, and what a residence it was! The moment you step in, you can just feel the “home” factor. Lots of cute family pictures and Carrie’s incredible artwork. After a short snack, we all decided to hit the sack.
I felt a strange feeling upon waking up that morning. A feeling I have not felt in a while.. Rejuvenated and fully rested. It must be the Oregonian/Washington air or something. Then I went downstairs, and to my surprise the house was right next to a river!! Not to mention the huge pine trees that surround the house like giants. That “something” was being right in the middle of Mother Nature. It’s a feeling that no high tech bed can emulate.
First thing on the to-do list: Brunch. Apparently it’s what the Oregonians do here. The place is called The Screen Door. Place is so good, people are lining up way before opening for entry. We lined up 30 min before opening and we still had to wait for a table! But tis ok, because the food was worth every second. Me and Daren got the chicken and waffles (hands down best I’ve ever had), Carrie got the Texas Migas (egg scramble with tortilla chips). Tiff and Jen got the egg benedict. The portions were huge! Quality even better. The whole meal got even better at the end, as Daren kindly paid for the check. That’s Washington hospitality for ya!
Afterwards we checked out a marketplace filled with little shops unique to Portland. The variety of artwork is amazing. There was one lady that painted Einstein (among other things) based on his equations and theories. Each stroke consists of miniature numbers and letters! She had a reasoning behind each stroke and why she picked the equation. There was this shop that sells Air Plants, plants that can grow without any soil and minimal water. They grow in these little glass pots, and they can live for years! As we walked around we also found this particular tree that is so vivid in color. We hence named it our favorite tree, and we probably took way too many pictures with it haha. Carrie got to meet her friend, Esther and Daniel, in the market and yes, of course they took a picture next to the tree
There were so many restaurant and snacks we wanted to visit, such as VooDoo donuts, but the lines are just ridiculous. We did visit an ice cream place called Salt&Straw though, and it was to die for. We had the Almond Brittle and Salted Ganache ice cream, but all of the flavors were crazy good. Afterwards, we decided to visit the Japanese Garden in the middle of Portland. It seriously shocked me to see that much nature in a city. Unlike other cities, I feel like Portland is just the perfect balance between man and nature, both living harmoniously next to each other. The Garden is just drop dead gorgeous; and Jen collected plenty of leaf contrabands to commemorate the visit. The Zen garden, koi fish, Japanese trees and house blends perfectly to give an unforgettable experience.
Portland during Fall was definitely what I expected and more. Hands down the most beautiful city I’ve been to. The company was not too shabby as well :) I will definitely make my way back here in the future!
~Samuel Limbong (TraveLAM’s #1 fan)
I originally wrote this post on our 1st flight from shanghai to guangzhou. I was hoping that the flights would be uneventful and that everything would go smoothly. Little did I know, the adventure had just begun…
Last day on a trip always gives me mixed feelings. Sad to leave travel and adventure and return to responsibilities of school and life. But happy to be with friends and family… And no more squat toilets and sinks that actually have soap.
We woke up just in time to catch the free breakfast at our favorite Shanghai City Central Youth hostel (ends at 930am). Armed with our leftover chinese $$, we shopped for souvenirs down hipster-esque alleys lined with boutiques selling everything from cute clock necklaces to panda nail clippers. I found some fake Ray Ban aviators to replace my broken ones at home. Walking from our hostel to the metro and switching lines takes a while so we shopped very fast in order to catch our 1 stop flight to LAX.
We said bye to Jon because he was taking a different flight to LAX. After checking into our flight, we were starved because it was already past 2pm and all we had after breakfast was boba. Unfortunately, we only had 71.50 rmb (12 usd) to find food for 4 of us. We found a relatively cheap chinese food place and proceeded to hold up the line while counting our change. We were surprisingly able to buy 3 big dishes and veggies, but were sad because we were $0.50 rmb from getting fried chicken.
Now we had a 2.5 hr layover in guangzhou which seemed like plenty of time to catch our lax flight since we already checked in and had our tickets in hand. But we also didn’t think that we would be sitting in a stationary plane for 2 hours. I’m still not sure what caused the delay, but it was probably due to the fog/rain (though it was pretty dry… ). We finally arrived at our outside gate at 845 and loaded a bus to take us to a terminal, waiting for what felt like hours before we moved.
Armed with backpacks and flip flops, the four of us made a mad dash through the huge airport. Gate A106 was of course pretty much on the opposite side of where the bus dropped us off. Cutting lines, almost running over children, yelling at people in our way, it wasn’t pretty. We rode 2 carts along the way, 1 of which wanted to charge us 20rmb each (too bad we spent ALL our money on lunch). The driver stopped the cart when we couldn’t come up with more $$ so we hopped off and sprinted once again.
We climbed a mountain to train for this :P. Thankfully, the lax flight was delayed an hour so we made our entrance onto the plane and were very happy to see Tiff and Kevin! We were also relieved that Jon made his lax flight after a connection delay as well.
Oh, I should mention, we were more anxious about making our flights because our school told us we wouldn’t be able to start 3rd year of med school if we weren’t present at 8am on Monday. But we made it. Step 1, Mount Hua, Airport Dash. Check!
Our 2 week summer break is sadly ending, but we have plenty of memories and experiences to share that will hopefully be enough to get us through…to next summer :).
Written by ari
Woke up in the morning hungry, so we checked out of wushanyi hostel and went down to food street to find some authentic west lake food. Our motley of delicacies consisted of baked underground chicken wrapped in charcoal, red rice porridge, pineapple fried rice, konjac jelly , fried fish stick, and egg drop soup. We returned our bikes and got our 200 rmb deposit back. We only spent on average 7 rmb for a whole day of bike rentals! ($1 usd). Then we went to the bus station and boarded a 2 hr bus ride to qiandao hu (thousand island lake) for 61 rmb. When we arrived at the Hilton, we pretended to only hve 3 in the room even though we had 5. They upgraded us to a full lake view room because we were “gold” members :) thanks parents! We went swimming in the infinity pool and played in the kiddy pool with plastic balls. Invented games like “hit each others ball out” or learned how to juggle. The Hilton pool was surrounded with models posing for pictures with legit photographers. A little six year old Chinese girl started playing with us after finishing her modeling job. We asked her what her name was, and she said “cutie” in Chinese. Then she proceeded to sing PriceTag by jessieJ. We then discovered the indoor pool and the spa inside! Girls and guys split up to use the sauna and wash up. By the time we got out, we were famished! I talked to the bell boy named Stone Liu, asking him where a good place to eat was. He called a taxi for us and we went to a restaurant where we got to choose a fresh fish from the lake and eat it right there! We chose the smallest qiandao fish, which still came out to 6kilos (14.2 lbs)! Then they gutted the fish and let the heart beat in front of our eyes while the fish was cut in half already. They made some fish head/bladder soup, and cooked the rest in a lovely spiced wok. Together with some rice and vegetables, our total came out to 422 rmb! Our most expensive Meal in china so far! We learned that Qiandao is only a tourist spot for the well off since everything is super expensive in comparison to all other china. But that meal was so good!!! We came back to the hotel and I talked to Stone Liu about touristy things to do the next day for half an hour! He was so helpful that I wanted to tip him. However I couldn’t find him later on. It’s a shame that it rained both days we were at qiandao. The next morning we just took our time getting ready. It was Wei, ari and Jon’s turn to sleep in this time as josh and I were up earlier. We got complimentary buffet breakfast for being golden ;) and hid food in joshs handy dandy ziploc bags to bring up to Jon and Wei. We must have looked mighty suspicious with so many plates of food in front of us that mysteriously disappeared into our “stomachs”. The robes we wore proved handy as we shuttled the food up to feed the ravenous beasts. Hha just kidding. Since it was raining, we just watched news and bridesmaids in the room until we rode the 5hr bus back to shanghai. Surprised Jon with some Peking duck!!!! Dream come true for him :) good way to end the day even when we were drenched and rained upon.
Well I guess Carrie and I are well rested…
Finally, a sunny day…which means it’s a perfect day to bike.
On our way to the bike-share system, we stopped by a carnival booth where we threw bean bags at wooden pegs. Girls 2: Boys 2. With 4 points we adopted D’Well (rhymes with Darrell), the Dragon Well dolphin. Onward to the bikes.
Hangzhou (杭州) has the awesomest bike-share system. According to Ari it’s the largest in the world. After depositing 300¥ each yesterday (which I hope to get back), we got to use our bike cards well.
How to use the bike-share machine:
1) place card on machine
2) wait for green lights to stop flashing
3) listen for the sound of unlocking
4) pull out bike
6) bruise your bulbospongiosus
7) ride some more on bruise
8) connect bike back to machine
9) place card on machine
10) wait for beeping green light
This how-to would have proved useful earlier on in our day. There actually is a fine art to returning these bikes. If not followed, you will be greeted by beeping red lights. Solution? Have Carrie speak with the bike-share help hotline for a half hour and do some musical chairs with bikes and lock machines.
The bikes are not the best. In our ridings, Wei lost a chain once and Ari 3 times. But after all the practice, Wei and Jon are now expert bike gear rechainers.
Despite that, the bike-share system really is an amazing asset to the city. We started near our hostel and dropped by the Upper Sky God Temple to find Jon’s dragon well tea (龍井茶). Well, there wasn’t any there so we went downhill (weeeeeeeeeeee!) and found the tea in a side shop. We ordered a 10¥ average dragon well tea and a 30¥ more special dragon well tea…I couldn’t tell the difference but the majority here prefers the 10¥ tea more. Except Carrie who in her immense kindness doesn’t play favorites (“20¥!”).
After downing two large thermos of hot water, we finally had enough tea and rolled downhill for dinner. Dinner consisted of a large bowl of tomato fish, gourmet pringles, delicious veggie dishes, and an insightful conversation of bras led by Wei.
Some things we learned:
1) if you feel it’s too tight, you need to get a fitting bra
2) if you don’t feel it’s support, you need to get a fitting bra
2) if you don’t feel it’s comfortable, you need to get a fitting bra
As Wei enlightened us, the fit of the bra makes a world of difference. Sports bra, ‘you look-a like a men’; well-fitting bra, va va voom, ‘watch out Michelle Pfieffer!’
After dinner, we rode back to the Su Causeway and finally caught Carrie’s beloved sunset. It was well worth the extra perineal bruises to see a sinking red sun glistening off the gently rippling lake as a light breeze rustled the willow branches and cooled our exercise-warmed skin. Plus it gave my seat time to rest :p
We returned our bikes to one of the stations and started to walk our way back to the hostel when we saw adorable Chinese kids rollerblading around in a derby. We then joined a neighboring exercise flash mob where we were outshone by an enthusiastic elderly man.
We made our way down a promenade when we saw a haunted house, so we did the logical thing and entered. There was a cool moving walkway and a spring mattress-floor, but with our expectations of someone popping out of nowhere, we were grave-ly disappointed. They could learn a thing or two from Universal Haunt.
Next to the haunted house was that same carnival booth, and D’Well 2 was adopted. Craving iced drinks we stop by what looked to be a promising little shop. Jon successfully ordered boba milk tea in mandarin (“zhen zhu nai cha, wo yao yi ge!”), but the shop was not successful in delivering satisfying drinks. 2 dolphins won and 7 tasteless, water-downed boba drinks lost, we finally turned in for the night to our attic in the hostel to watch ‘Star Trek’.
A theme for our day should be proper-ness. I don’t mean pinky-up proper but rather having the proper tools, the proper size, the proper technique, the proper language skills. A proper toilet is a relief when relieving yourself. A proper bike seat would have preserved my precious. A proper seat height would be less taxing on my legs. A proper bike returning technique would have saved Carrie a lot of breath. A proper bra…well you get the idea. Life can be easier and more comfortable when lived properly, but as Spock learned (and some surgeons and researchers as well), the proper, standard way may not always be the best way. Whatever the course there is more than one way, and we’re learning to appreciate the adventure that our course of choice brings!
Word of the day:
“Tongue” eats (chi)
Day - who knows again
Today was a day of movement. We woke up in shanghai, said a temporary goodbye, and then boarded a smooth as silk train that would take us to hangzhou. This train was literally like gliding on air. There were no bumps, no sudden stops, very comfortable chairs, a perfect temperature, and literally lulled me to sleep for the short duration of the ride.
We arrived in hangzhou ready to explore the city. We made our way to the hostel via some clutch bus finding. We plopped out stuff down ad set out to find bikes that are supposedly free around town. After wandering down a bustling street filled with souvenirs and tourist traps, we found the bikes! The lady noted to us that the bikes were due back at one of the many stops around town by 4pm and it was already 330pm. We decided to wait and just try the bikes tomorrow. As we walked towards the lake (out original destination!) we noticed that there were many people riding the bikes… Apparently there are certain stations that closed at 4pm, but the majority close at 9pm. Although we were peeved at the lady, we decided to just continue on foot to the lake and find a special walkway across the lake that we noted on our map.
We walked. And walked. And walked. The scenery was beautiful with abundant green trees, the light shining on the lake, and nature surrounding us. We did take some small mini motorboats that we rented to explore a section of the lake. Wei and I tried to give some people high-fives to no avail. Apparently they don’t do them here… We also tried to explore a cove and almost got stuck! Thankfully, my expert maneuvering skills in a boat had us survive certain wreckage.
We climbed out of the boats and continued on foot to the walkway and walked all the way across. SO LONG. It took forever to cross… Once we crossed we attempted to go to ” bar street” to find some food. There were literally only two bars that did not sell food. We trekked onward and found some delicious dumplings and food.
On our way back we took a taxi. Carrie struck up a conversation with him and found out he is a huge nba fan. He knew so many players (claimed to know all players in the league) and when we questioned him he named the ARENA that the player played in. Pretty darn impressive.
We got dropped off and got our real treat for the day… A lady selling bugs to eat. Josh, Wei, and I tried baby scorpions. Watch the video! They actually weren’t half bad. =)
After finding some boba, we meandered back towards to the hostel to get some much needed rest (after watching some hockey highlights, skyping April, and Wei playing his new street fighter game of course).
Walking is tiring. But it is preparing us for wards.
Word of the day:
Jay-lee aka Jelllllllly
(Wei tried to order jelly for his Boba drink in Chinese, but just made it sound chinglish…they didn’t understand him…. FAIL)
3 stooges eating scorpion!!!!!! Initiation into being Chinese! ;)
After an amazing night of uninterrupted sleep we trekked out for a day at a water canal town called Zhujiajiao. We took a 1hr bus out of Shanghai complete with a crabby bus lady barking out orders to the passengers and people on the street (busses and crabby bus ladies seem to always go together in China :P).
Some call this place the “Venice of China” although the only similarity might be the boat rides and the bridges. We took a peaceful boat ride around and were very impressed by our “driver’s” steering skills using only a paddle with curved edges. Afterwards, we strolled around the quaint little town for a few hours and looked at the interesting souveniers.
We headed back to Shanghai in time for rush hour so we were lucky to get 4 seats on the bus for 5 of us, which was a little uncomfortable, but still better than standing. Stop after stop, there was a constant stream of people coming onto the bus. We finally made it back to our bus stop and headed out to see some LIGHTS.
As you can see from the pics, Shanghai has an impressive skyline with some of the tallest buildings in the world. We went to the World Financial Center (3rd tallest in the world) and entered what seemed like a different world. We opted for the free route via a restaurant/bar on the 91st floor instead of paying $20 usd or so to get to the tour of the building. The elevator that took us up only had 3 floors: 1, 87, 91. To say we felt out of place would be a MAJOR UNDERSTATEMENT. Our tank tops and flip flops were at stark contrast to the ritzy business people in suits and party dresses sipping expensive cocktails while overlooking the skyline. The restaurant people were nice enough to let us walk to the windows and take pictures though and we ooed and awed and continued back down to ground level.
We took a $0.30 usd ferry across the river to get moret expansive views of the skyline and the Bund. Then we headed to Nanjiing Road which is very much like Times Square with expensive stores and bright lights everywhere. We were starving so we literally stopped at the first restauraunt we saw. Unfortunately, this was more of a hit than a miss and to Jon’s dismay, our first duck eating experience on the trip was a fail. After leaving the restaurant with a bitter taste in our mouths we realized that if we walked a few more feet further, we would have been on a “food street.” We found some monstrous lychee and delicious mangosteen and amazing egg tarts!
We continued down Nanjing Rd and ran into a large group of ladies in a dance class right in the middle of the street. We jumped in and attempted to follow their moves while Wei recorded our efforts on the camera. Imagine Tai Chi meets Zumba. It was fun but once the moves got complicated, we decided it was time to leave.
Back to the hostel we went and after a warm shower and western toilets, it was time to charge up for another day of China madness!
Written by Ariana Anugerah
"After 21 hrs, we were glad to get off that bus and let the angry bus lady’s voice drive away. Her voice is the reason why people think the Chinese language is like shouting. The hostel that Ari booked had pretty good directions, so we boarded the MRT to Caoyang station and walked to Shanghai city central hostel. Never have we felt so clean with sit down toilets and laundry machines! We did our laundry and caught up with wifi. Then headed out to see an acrobat show that night for 135 rmb. It was “charming” (thats the name) and really run down, but still pretty cool to see contortionists, balances, pole jumping, hat juggling, feet juggling, hoop jumping, flying trapeze, and motorcycles in a ball of Death. Music choices was interesting with Star Wars and titanic songs as the theme. What made the show even funnier was the hostess trying to speak English and failing terribly at it. She literally sounded like gibberish and expected us to understand it! Josh was cracking up at it. So after that we walked for what seemed like a looong time but was actually only 2 MRT stops, we decided to go back to our nice hostel beds. Weather was nice and cool today!"
We’re hailing from Xi’an (“West peace”).
Today is Terra Cotta Soldier day. After a breakfast of fried bread and soup, we wandered through Xi’an train station questioning our way to the bus to Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum (bing ma you? bing ma you?). The bus was quite a lengthy ride but it allowed us a glimpse of suburban China (pointed out Kevin). Once we got off the bus at Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, we were quickly approached by a suited, Armani-mursed man. He became our tour guide, Peter. It was definitely a relief to finally have knowledge dropped in English.
Some of the things we learned:
-the place was found in 1976 under an orchard by Yang Ji De wence looking for water
-it was meant to be a replica of Emperor Qin’s original province
-it spans some 56 sq km which is half the size of Hong Kong (they know it’s size because of x-ray technology)
-BUT only 0.03% has been uncovered (they’re waiting on anti-oxidizing technology before digging up the rest)
-Qin Shi Huang commissioned the project at the age of 13 and by 39 had united all the provinces of China, becoming its first emperor (all that before 40…what are you doing with your life? :p)
-prior to Emperor Qin, soldiers were sacrificed to be buried with the king…so good idea Emperor Qin
-the replication required 700,000 workers resulting in remarkably detailed creations including 7,000 unique soldiers
-99% of the Terra Cotta Soldiers are facing East to protect Xi’an and the Emperor in the West while they are protected by mountains in the North and by river in the South
-Emperor Qin died in 210 BC and only 4 years later an adversary from one of the provinces he conquered destroyed the statues and stole the bronze weapons, leaving the Terra Cotta Soldiers empty-handed and crushed
What remains are puzzle pieces that take restorers 3 years per soldier to put back together. Yet we can still see a fragment of the awesome obedience of hundreds of thousands of collaborating workers and artists.
On the way back from the Mausoleum, we experienced Chinese traffic and reached our hostel exhausted. Tiff, Kevin, and I took a mini-trip through Book Alley to Walmart, translated “wa3-le1-ma3.” How did it compare? Well, for one they don’t sell cough drops…
We all reunited at the Shuyuan hostel and headed out to dinner except for Jon who had been under the weather all day. We had fried rice, some beef thing :), some fish thing :(, and, of course, Wei’s kong xin chai (kang kong). On the way back from dinner we tried to climb up Xi’an’s South Gate, but with only ten minutes left ‘til closing, it wasn’t worth our 40元.
The recurring theme of our visit to the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum was imminence. Even at 13 years of age, Emperor Qin was fully aware of his mortality, and in his preparation for death he left a physical lasting legacy (not to mention uniting China, being the first Emperor, or beginning the dynasties). We can go each day knowing life is limited, but how will that dictate the way we live? For the 7 of us here, we are living to expand our world, visiting different cultures, different places, and maybe touching other lives in our adventures.
Word of the day:
In a sentence:
wo3 yao4 zhe4 ge4
‘I want this one’
Memory tool: JUGUlar vein
Day - who knows
Rest. Last night was full of rest. After I foolishly suggested that we start watching a movie around 2230 in the hotel (and also unknowingly choosing one that would last for 2.5 hours) we allowed ourselves to sleep in until past 10. We packed up, made a tentative plan for the day, checked out, and set out to grab some food. We walked to the closest little hole in the wall where a guy was making his breakfast sandwiches by stuffing a piece of friend bread with egg, lettuce, and special sauce. As he was passing them out, he said a Chinese proverb (at least I will accredit it to being one) when he handed the last one to Carrie, “since you are the last one, you shall receive extra” and stuffed an extra piece of lettuce into her sandwich.
We then booked it to south gate on our favorite 603 and visited our old hostel to get some Internet access, book a hostel for shanghai, and email friends and family. The next activity on the list was biking the walls of Xian! We scaled the wall, found some bikes, and set off towards north gate and the railway station. We must have been a sight—Ari and Josh streaking along on their mountain bikes, Carrie with both hands on her camera instead of her bicycle, and a topless Wei and I on a tandem pedaling double time because our bike had a lower gear. Racing around the wall we appreciated the amount of new skyscrapers popping up in Xian and the smog layer in such a big city.
We grabbed some lunch and then we were off to the train station to catch our sleeper to Shanghai. The timing was perfect. We arrived a half hour before our train and did not need to run to catch it, as opposed to last time. As we are in line getting ready to check in, the initial ticket checker told us we were in the wrong line. That’s ok , that’s why we arrived early to compensate for any mishaps like this. As we were headed to the area he pointed we noticed something peculiar—it was a bus station. We approached some official looking people and asked them about our tickets and they pointed us towards the bus terminal. We had bought sleeper BUS tickets instead of sleeper TRAIN tickets—oops.
Now, let me tell you about this “sleeper bus”. There are three rows of extremely narrow bunk beds. They are maybe 5feet 10inches long and 1.5 feet wide. No lights work. The AC is blasting and although you are provided with a blanket, the thing is so insulating that you start overheating quickly once you cover yourself in it. You are required to take your shoes off and put it in a bag and ONLY put them on towards the front of the bus (I got hit because I didn’t follow this code). One thing that I will give the bus credit for is that it is relatively clean.
So here we are, all on a mistake of a sleeper bus that has many empty beds. One could assume this is because a 21 hour sleeper bus to Shanghai isn’t the preferred method travel. We start our long trip. The first two movies they show are Kung fu movies which Wei has seen before. He kindly narrated them for me and described, in surprising detail, lots of dialogue and noted important scenes. Okay, cool, 4 out of 21 hours down. After a few stops and gazing outside it is 8 hours in to the trip. Hopefully I sleep for 12 or so hours…
And with that I will bid you a goodnight. As much as I enjoy listening to Carrie, Josh, and Ari compose a wonderful medley for Contraction Band, my goal is to fall asleep before one of those do…. ;)
Oh, and if you couldn’t tell from my writing, this is Uniat.
But now, it is time to rest.
Our adventures in mt. Hua started today.
we woke up at 830 in Xian and went to go eat breakfast. ate the special soup with the bread crumbs. left at 920 cause we were in a hurry. Unfortunately, some people didn’t finish their food. walked to the bus stop. had to wait a while for bus 603 to arrive which made us nervous about missing our bus. arrived at the train station with barely 10 minutes to get on the train. right as we were getting off the bus, we ran into 3 israeli backpackers who also told us that they were also going to mt hua, except that they were taking the bus. said a quick hello/goodbye and ran to the station and barely made it on the train. beat my high score on fall down so that Jon and Ari how no chance of getting on the score board. (I take it back. Jon beat me by one point on the train ride back) Ari still has no chance.
arrived at mount hua. bought some sweet blue shoes which replaced my awesome rainbows (at carries insistence) then took a bus to the visitor center to buy a ticket. decided hike up instead of taking the gondola because they said it would only take 4 hours. there was a check in stand where people decided to check in their bags and climb without them which I was highly against because I thought the hike would be a leisurely 4 hour scenic hike.
turned out the hike was extremely intense with extremely steep stairs that seemed to go on for eternity. we were also very unprepared. we absolutely no food and what water we had only lasted us for a couple hours. we eventaly had to by their expensive eggs and cup noodles that they were selling every so often by the side of the path. Thankfully, all the girls plus kevin had checked in their backpacks so we were able to hike at a relatively fast pace. Carrie eventually had to help josh carry his bag - and thus her nickname “water buffalo” was born.
midway through the hike, we encountered stairs that went straight up and was so vertical, that we had to use chains for fear of tumbling down. very cool, except for the fact that our legs were nearly dead. after a grueling 3.5 hours of climbing step after step, we finally reached north peak, the lowest of the peaks. took a ton of pictures. decided to go on to east peak so we could see the sunrise. were worried about it getting dark. eventually made it to east peak and checked into our rooms. met the 3 israeli backppackers again who were sleeping in the room next to us. We invited them to eat dinner and after they had finished stretching, eventually joined us and told us about their required army experience and how modern israel is.
slept dirty and tired since there were no showers or any public hot water up at east peak. Carrie managed to find hot water at the guard house
Written by Wei Li
woke up at 520 to see the sunrise. said goodbye to tif and kevin after giving them directions on getting back to the airport. hope they made it. went back to sleep until 1030. hiked to south peak and arrived at the famous plank walk. paid 30 rmb for a harness that we did not trust and started our descent. super epic hike down as we were on the side of the cliff hanging onto chains and stakes drilled into the mountain side. the next part with wooden planks was also a crazy experience as they were also built right next to the face of the cliff with air flowing above, below, and beside us with a thousand foot drop straight down if we were foolish enough to let go. placed our lock with all our names written on it in the middle of the planks on one of the main chains. after taking a ton a pictures at the end, we turned around and went towards west peak where we took the gondola down. waited for the bus but a taxi kept badgering us so we eventually took the taxi back to the train station for the same price as the bus. On the way, he told us that we couldnt be chinese because real chinese people would give him a reasonable (more expensive) taxi fare. Ate as much cheap chinese food as we could at the train station in the grungiest hole in the wall store/restaurant I have seen so far. Afterwards, we bought a watermelon and had a seed spitting contest right into the road which felt very chinese. of course these noobs dont know how to spit watermelon seeds. boarded the train back to xian where we found out that alot of the hostels were fully booked. managed to find a place to stay at a reasonably cheap place called Ludao Binguan, where we found out that there was no wireless. sad face.
Walked outside the hotel and ate cheap street food. Lamb, beef, and fish kabobs for 1 rmb each, fried rice, and noodle soup. Went back to the hotel and watched the wizard of oz, before turning in for the night. Tomorrow we head to shanghai!
May 29, tuesFlying to a new place is always an exciting time for me. Flying for 22 hours with 2 stops plus 8 hours of layover turns it into an endurance test. After finally arriving in Xi’an, I powerwalked my way to the baggage claim area, where I was hoping to meet the 6 others who landed there an hour before. I scanned around for a bit, looking for familiar faces. I saw people holding signs with the person’s name who they were waiting for. Instead, I saw my own face on ipads…haha I’m glad to have such humorous friends.So after joining the group (7 of us now) we hired a car to take us to the hostel in the city. The hostel It is such a unique place, complete with several canaries in cages hung by the stairs to provide some melodic chirping, adding to the vibe. After we dropped of our bags, we ventured off…FOR FOOD!In China, food is cheap pretty much everywhere so all you need to do is walk down a street and follow your nose. We ate Beef Noodle Soup for lunch for the equivalent of about $2.50 USD. Then we walked down Muslim Quarter which is a very long street filled with stalls and shops. We tried a few different snacks some of which were good, and some not so much (like the banana leaf rice with dates? Not much taste…) One thing we noticed was that A TON of shops sold walnuts and dates. There must be a lot of walnut and date trees around the area…It started raining on us so we put on our hoods and opened the lone umbrella that we had.We headed to the Bell and Drum towers which are huge buildings in the city that light up beautifully at night, which we were able to see later. We didn’t want to pay admission to get in so we just took pictures from afar. Sloshing through puddles we headed back to the hostel for a well deserved nap.2 hours later we wearily drudged up to eat again, since it was dinner time. It was raining still so we tried to find a place that had seats and outdoor seating so we would avoid as much 2nd hand smoke as possible. We found a tiny food shop that served our needs and went ahead to basically order every noodle dish on the menu. Traveling in such a large group (7 of us) is something I haven’t done much of, so being able to try several different dishes is definitely a benefit. The whole meal cost us $1 USD each (yes…ONE DOLLA!). Amazing right?But we wanted to finish the night on a sweet note, so we headed around the corner to a place called “Good Tea” for some tea and dessert. It was a pretty fancy place compared to the places we had been eating at and it ended up being a “splurge” of about $4 USD each. We tried some “powerful” green tea and a taro cake that tasted like a mini sesame ball filled with taro. We were entertained to some soft piano music in the background, playing simplified versions of “Tong Hua” and Yiruma. Also, not included in our bill, was a visit from a 6 yr old boy who we all thought looked much older (10 or so). He was VERY FRIENDLY, especially to Carrie, and he became so comfortable with us that he climbed onto the ledge above our seats and did a “model on the beach” pose for a few minutes. The waitress shooed him away but he really really liked coming to our table…We were all very tired from a long day of travel, so we went back to the hostel to catch some Z’s. Day 1 for me down, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else :).
Day 2 ChinaNi Hao-dy tumblr folk! It’s Tiffany here and have I got some amazing adventures, battle wound bits, and sunburnt stories for you. Day 2 in China started out waking up around 8-9am Monday morning. I can honestly say, after I was able to sleep despite the melodious nocturnal tones of one of our fellow backpackers, it was one of the most restful sleeps I’ve had for 8+ hours in the past month.After we found that we could leave our backpacks in the hostel all afternoon, we packed up and went out for some 6rmb noodles for breakfast. We split up restaurants and gathered back in the outdoor eating area. Carrie, Josh, and I found a place where you choose what ingredients you want for 1-2 rmb each and they would cook it for you.So with Jon now with us we were evenly matched with Chinese speaking and nonspeakers. We split into twos to find the best deal on scooters. I was with “master leader” Wei and he noticed that one of the ladies trying to sell us a deal was following us to other vendors. We hid in McDonalds to order his McFlurry then hurried out while she was turned away. We eventually got a great deal through the hotel for 120rmb per gas bike for all day use.We paired up again (Jon+Carrie, Josh+Kevin, and Wei + I) but realized that Josh couldn’t balance Kevin behind him so I switched off from Wei. We took a couple of wrong turns we stopped to turn back… but my bike took a wide turn, hit a curb, and I ate some dirt and puddles. The thing that annoyed me more than the tennis ball bruise on my leg was some lady trying to scalp 150 rmb from Josh for damaging her umbrella. He paid 100 and walked away before they could create a bigger scene >_<A little bit shaken but still determined we went on our way! First stop was butterfly cave where Carrie got me a 2rmb flower headdress ^_^ Thats when we first met our biker friend, Doug. He was biking everything we wanted to see that day so we told him we’d meet him up at the other places.Next stop was Moon Hill! It was a one hour hike up and down. Some older ladies wanted to sell us drinks for 5rmb at the bottom, warning us they’d be 10rmb at the top. As we started to climb up we realized they were following us with their coolers. Hey who could complain, they were free tour guides and gave us fan service too. Josh, Wei, and Jon offered to carry their coolers but when we got to the top, we still had to pay the full 10rmb even though we carried their supply. The view at the top was amazing! We almost couldn’t believe we climbed that high so quickly too. And we even saw or friend Doug at the top!We didn’t know what next to do but we had motorbikes, good weather, and great views so decided to just ride and find a place for lunch. Eating outside the city was a great deal! 5rmb for noodles and 2-3rmb for drinks. It was 60 rmb for 6 people total including almost 2 drinks per person! We invited our friend Doug to join us but he told us he was searching for some Moon Cave where there was mud caving and swimming available. We told him we’d catch up after lunch. But dude those roads were confusing and there were no clear signs so we took some side streets and adventured on our own. Both Kevin and I tried to drive the bike. Note to self: do not gas when you’re trying to brake… Kevin was the real daring one. Never rode a bike before but drove a motorbike in China for a few seconds with oncoming traffic!We almost gave up on finding Moon Cave and felt so bad for our friend Doug but we found a cafe that got us the deal for the cave and mudding for 70rmb if we drove ourselves there. We followed their driver and boy we would have never found that secret magical wonderland on our own. And guess who you see when we arrive? Doug was on his way out! That dude biked everywhere we did and got to each place before us. Crayyy ripped too.I could write a whole entire entry just on Moon Cave but pictures will say a lot too. You can put your stuff in lockers and you wear whatever you’re willing to get mud on. We fit on a small boat with a German couple, our tour guide, and our boat “driver”. We were required to wear helmets because of the low ceilings and rocks. He pulled the boat by a rope along the side of the cave and it looked and felt like the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride but just darker, no music, and a whole lot more real. Once we got out of the boat we followed the guide through small passageways and were we glad to have worn helmets. I was the shortest one and I felt like I hit my head the most!This was our second cave experience in china but this one was a whole lot more personal because you got to touch a lot of stuff, and became one with the mud. Coolest part was you could float in the mud like in the Dead Sea and there was even a slide. We got to rinse off at the indoor “hot spring” which we all thought was man made. When we got back we jumped off the rocks into the water and played around the ropes trying to tightrope and balance standing up. Most of us fell really quickly and some got rope burns but it was a good experience. Josh’s luck wasn’t with him today because while driving the bike back the small road he slipped off the bike into the mud :/ when josh saw that the bike was fine she shook it off and we were on our way back. We did a lot of traveling that day and used up over half a tank of gas! We were ready to eat at cloud9 restaurant famous for their good bang for their buck and the guys wanted to try beer braised fish. After a great Family style meal for 6 for 200rmb we took off on bus to Guilin for 18 rmb…we arrived at Flower Youth Hostel where we could write on the wall and Josh left little pieces of poop artwork. Literally. If you ever visit check out the walls by the restroom. Oh maiii what a day. But the pictures don’t lie. Til next time!!!