1. image: Download



  2. image: Download

    My first Macintosh (Taken with instagram)

    My first Macintosh (Taken with instagram)

  3. 12:02 2nd Jul 2010

    Notes: 7

    Took a trip to the Great Wall a couple of days ago. We went to the part called Mutianyu, about 2 hours outside of Beijing. This section and another section called Badaling are reconstructed and touristy. At Mutianyu, you take a chair lift from the parking lot to get to the Wall, and you can ride a sort of one-man bob-sled thing to get down. That’s how touristy it is.

    We wanted to go to another section called Simatai, which has not been reconstructed. Its about 4 hours outside of Beijing, but apparently its closed now, because it is being reconstructed. We heard rumors about a ski resort being built there, but I think that was just a poor translation of chair lift.

    Aside from all the tourist nonsense, the Wall is really cool. Its massive, its long, and whoever came up with the idea to build it was nuts. We spent a few hours hiking from one end of this section to the other end. All I could think about was the poor guys who had to build this thing. Hauling rocks up these hills for a thousand years, all just to keep the Mongols out. The Mongols weren’t that bad, were they?

  4. 11:59 1st Jul 2010

    Notes: 4

    There’s a (persian restaurant in Beijing)[http://www.rumigrill.com/]. Its called Rumi, its near Sanlitun, where a lot of the embassies are located.

    The food was decent. I had a chelow kabab barg, Dave had a koobideh. The barg seemed like it had been heated up, but it was still tastey. We tried asking for tadiq, Dave even tried explaining the concept of browned crunchy rice in Chinese, but they had no idea what we were talking about. Equally tragic: the torshi was terrible, it was extremely salty.

  5. After a couple of days in Xian, we took the sleeper train to Beijing. We had about 10 days to kill in Beijing, which seemed like a lot for one city, especially after seeing how similar so many of these Chinese cities are. Luckily, Beijing is a fun place, so we made good use of the time.

    There are plenty of sights to see: the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, the Great Wall, all those new Olympics buildings. They’re all worth taking a peak at. The Forbidden City is massive, it has a museum of fancy antique clocks that were given to the emperors over the years. Twice a day they wind up a bunch of the clocks so you can see their alarms go off. The Summer Palace is very nice too, overlooking a beautiful lake.

    The food is quite good. I posted a picture of a bunch of scorpions. We didn’t eat those. But we did have some Peking duck. I’m not sure why they changed the spelling of the city to Beijing, but they didn’t change the spelling of the duck. Anyways since its the capital, Beijing has food from all the different provinces, and also from around the world. We ate Peking duck at (Da Dong Roast Duck)[http://www.thebeijinger.com/directory/Da-Dong-Roast-Duck], pizza at (the Tree)[http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/dining/pizza/has/the-tree/], persian food at Rumi, and some dodgy noodles at a hole-in-the-wall next to our hostel (both of us were sick the next morning).

    With all the embassies and foreign companies in Beijing, there’s some great nightlife. The Sanlitun area has tons of bars and restaurants where you can get pretty good food and drinks, all over-priced for the expats and tourists. Given that the World Cup was on, most of the nightlife revolved around the games, with pretty much every bar or restaurant having a TV or two tuned to a match.

  6. 05:58 29th Jun 2010

    Notes: 2

    I just realized that I have a whole bunch of pictures that I haven’t posted yet. These are from Xian. Its a pretty big city, one of the ancient capitals of China, but I think most people outside of China know it as the place where they found the Terracotta Army. The city itself is pretty cool, though to be honest, after being to like 10 Chinese cities in the past few weeks, they’re all starting to blend together.

    Xian has a Muslim section, filled mostly with people from the Hui minority. Their food is quite delicious, lots of lamb with noodles and bread in various combinations. The Muslim section also contains one of the oldest mosques in China, but you can’t really tell its a mosque by looking at it because it looks exactly like a Chinese temple, even the minaret is disguised like a Chinese pavilion.

    We spent a day at the Terracotta Army site. The tour was organized by our hostel and pretty much anytime you go on an organized tour in China, you get dragged to some sort of gift shop disguised either as a museum or as a factory. In Suzhou it was a silk ‘museum’ and a tea pot ‘factory’, in Xian, it was a Terracotta Warrior ‘factory’. Actually, it was kind of cool. They showed us how they make the souvenir Terracotta Warriors, and our guide claimed that it was the same technique that was used to make the real ones.

    If you’re in Xian for more than 20 minutes, you’ll already have seen like a million fake Terracotta Warriors, so by the time you get to the actual site, seeing the real ones isn’t all that exciting. What is exciting is seeing the giant building that covers the area where they are still being excavated. Its like a huge train station. They’ve uncovered about 2,000 of the warriors so far, and they estimate that another 6,000 are stilll underground. The still-buried warriors have the original paint on them, but if you expose them to the air, the paint fades away. So until science can figure out how to stop the paint from fading, they’re going to leave the rest of the guys buried.

  7. Turpan is an oasis 3 hours outside of Urumqi. Its the lowest place in China, third lowest in the world, and also the hottest place in China. The temperature reached 105 degrees while we were there, but it gets much hotter. The town itself is mostly Uigher, with some newer Chinese areas. It seems to have experienced a tourism boom in the 80s, most of the hotels look like they were built around then and have not seen much maintenance since.

    Since its so damn hot, the people of Turpan have thoughtfully covered a number of their main streets with grape vine trellises, so you can stay out of the sun. There’s not much to do in Turpan itself, so the shade doesn’t buy you all that much, but its still nice.

    Outside of the city, there are a few ancient cities. We visited Jiaohe and Gaochang. They’re both pretty similar, some remnants of the city walls and a few better preserved temples and houses. We also visited Tuyuk, which is an active village, though it looks like its quite old. Most of the locals seemed to grow mulberries and grapes.

    Turpan is worth a visit for a day or two. The sites aren’t all that great, but its so different from the rest of China that you feel like you’re in a different country. After a few hours in the heat, you also feel like you’re on a different planet, one much closer to the sun.

  8. 12:25 13th Jun 2010

    Notes: 1

    About 2 hours drive from Urumqi is Tian Chi, or Heavenly Lake. There’s not much to say except that its really beautiful. We spent a night there in a camp run by a Kazak named Rashit. He provides you a nice big yurt and 3 meals a day for a good price. His camp is right on the water, a short hike from the entrance to the park. We also rode some horses up into the hills. Just look at the pictures.

  9. Xinjiang is China’s western most province, I think the name means ‘New Frontier’. It borders Kazakstan, Kyrgystan, Pakistan, and a tiny slice of Afghanistan. I haven’t been to any of those countries, so I don’t know if this place is similar, but it really doesn’t feel like China anymore.

    We’re starting out in Urumqi, the capital. The street signs are in Chinese, Arabic, Cryillic, and occassionally English. There are large sections of the city where most people don’t look or speak Chinese. (They don’t look or speak like Borat either. Jegshemesh!) The largest ethnic group is the Uighers, then I think regular Chinese, followed by Huis, Kazaks and a whole bunch of other groups. The Uighers and a lot of the other minority groups are Muslim, so there are mosques and other Islamic things around town.

    The food is quite good, lots of grilled lamb with spices. Also noodles and rice, but not Chinese noodles and rice. The noodle are often knife-cut, which makes the thick and irregular, and the rice is served with cold vegetables like pickled cabbage or cucumbers. They also grow really good watermelons in near by Turpan.

    Like the rest of China, everything officially runs on Beijing time. But since we’re so far out west that means the sun rises at around 8am and sets at around 10pm. The Uighers don’t seem to like this (they don’t get along with the Chinese in general), so they operate 2 hours behind Beijing time. This makes it a bit confusing to know when things open and close.

  10. A couple of hours outside of Chengdu, there are two big Buddhist sites, the Giant Buddha at Leshan and Emei Shan.

    The Giant Buddha is exactly what it sounds like. Its apparently the largest Buddha in the world. Its quite big. We spent the morning there and then took a bus to the town just outside of Emei Shan.

    Emei Shan is a sacred Buddhist mountain. Its quite beautiful, but also very big. We were thought we could do both sites in a day, but when we arrived at Emei after an hour bus ride, we found out that there was another 2 hour bus ride up the mountain to just get close to some of the sites. So we had to spend the night in town.

    We got up early the next morning, took the bus as far as it goes, and then took a cable car to the top of the mountain. There’s a temple at the top and also a giant gold statue of 4 six-tusked elephants.

    They also have monkeys on the mountain. They’re called Tibetan macaques. They’re very used to tourists. If you hold out your hand with some food in it, they’ll come up and take it. They’re probably a bit too used to tourists because if they see something shiny or delicious in your pocket or bag, they’ll also grab that. Thats when they get a bit aggressive. Its recommended that you carry a stick with you while hiking around the mountain, just in case you come across some monkeys that want your food.