We visited Shouguang’s Vegetable Museum earlier this week. When I first spied this huge bowl in the museum I wondered what on earth it was for (and how they made it). Most of the artifacts and displays were life size.
Turned out to be a very detailed diorama of farming during the era that was the theme of the room.
I reminded me of the Where’s Waldo books we had when my son was growing up.
I don’t take selfies. Traveling in China lots of people take lots of pictures. It is hard to get pictures of sights without people having their pictures taken in them. Although it seems like folks mostly travel in groups and having someone from the group take pictures is more common, a fair number of pictures I take contain people taking selfies.
This older woman, at least my age ;), caught my eye, she was obviously “doing” the Forbidden City alone. I wondered what her story was (is).
The picture below is one I took because a) my husband and son are in it b) it was typical of that day for one or more of us to be asked to be in pictures with Chinese people and c) there is a guy who is part of the group taking a selfie during the group pictures.
The name Yangtze—derived from the name of the ancient fiefdom of Yang—has been applied to the river mainly by those in the West. Chang Jiang (“Long River”) is the name used in China, although it also is called Da Jiang (“Great River”) or, simply, Jiang (“[The] River”). The Yangtze is the most important river of China. It is the country’s principal waterway, and its basin is China’s great granary and contains nearly one-third of the national population.
X is not as uncommon in Chinese as it is in English, but it’s still hard to come up with an X is for… topic.
Xi’an, a city in central China, was an ancient capital. Now famous for the terracotta warriors, who are there because Xi’an was that ancient capital. Because of the warriors it is on the Western tourist track.
I went to Xi’an with my dad, about four years ago, after a cruise up the Yangtze in an attempt to see all of the main “must see” locations, never dreaming that I would wind up coming to China as frequently as I have. We hired a car and guide for the full day we spent seeing Xi’an. It worked out well but I do not recall which company it was.
The day was rather grey and rainy so it wasn’t spectacular…and traveling with Dad can be a bit limiting since he can’t walk very far and isn’t interested in the same things I am. But we hit a few of the highlights of the city.
The symbol of China more than any other is the Great Wall. It winds its way along the tops of mountains. It has a fascinating history, if only because it has so much history. A History of the Great Wall of China Ebook by Luo Zhewen gives a better idea than any attempt I might make to paraphrase it. It was provided by WildGreatWall.com, the outfit through which I arranged our hike from Jiankou, where the wall has not been restored, to Mutianyu, where it has been. If you like to hike I strongly recommend that hike, although the hike up to the wall is a bit challenging. I’ve used WildGreatWall.com three times and they have all been good experiences. Here are some pictures from the hike we took earlier this month:
Deciduous azalea blooming near the trail up to the wall.
The road not taken, looking west-ish from zhengbeilou tower.
Watch your step.
Path is narrow in places.
Broken area gives a chance to see construction details.
Spring blossoms and the “oxhorn”.
This section is in good shape for being un-restored.
The resoted section has lots, and lots, and lots of steps.
Still quite a ways to go.
Looking back at where we came from.
Myth busting: The great wall is not visible from space. It is too narrow to be seen from even a low earth orbit. Here is a view from a plane:
It seems like every city/area/town in China has something that is special to it. In Weifang it’s kites and paper cut art work. In Shouguang it’s vegetables.
The annual “High-Tech International Vegetable Expo” is in full swing right now. It is an event like no other in my experience. Seattle’s Garden show in February is one, not quite comparable event. In Shouguang the displays are made up of vegetables, not flowers. The displays are much, much larger. Also, there are eleven large greenhouses of displays and vendor exhibits.
Some are artful:
Some are more scientific, like this display of plant cloning:
…and this area where they demonstrate vertical systems that could even work in an apartment:
…and this area where they demonstrated aqua culture and integrating it with living spaces:
Some were not really about vegetables, maybe “vegetation”, all-be-it interesting, would be more accurate for this display of desert plants (typical of displays they had for several climates):
…and the orchids:
Vendors ranged from selling candy and toothbrushes, to plants and vegetable, to tractors and irrigation systems.
All in all a rather exhilarating, but also exhausting day.
The ultra modern high speed trains are a great way to get around this huge country. Because airports are so often pretty far from the center of cities the time savings getting to and from an airport combined with having to be there a couple of hours early can make the train comparable. Also the prices are much better.
Busy Beijing Nan Station is the terminus for the high speed trains to the south and east of Beijing (including those to Shanghai). It is a busy and bustling place that can be confusing, but there are announcements in English and the signs alternate between Chinese characters and English so a few minutes of study can get you oriented. My main faux pas is figuring out which ticket line to stand in. I give myself extra time and have always managed.
It is very rare for the actual seller of tickets to have any English so have your destination written out in Chinese.
You can also look up your desired train times on-line and have a train number as well. Ctrip’s website can help you with it. It is possible to buy tickets online and pick them up at the station, you have to present your passport, but I haven’t bought train tickets through Ctrip so I can’t vouch for how that works (maybe on my next trip). The trains do fill up so it is good to have a couple of options in mind.
Figure out where you need to be and start watching the board over the gate so you know when boarding starts. It takes a few minutes to get to the platform and some cars are a bit of a hoof along the platform, so its best to be in the first surge of folks to have time to figure out where you need to go and get there without rushing, or trying to make your way with luggage through a moving train.
In addition to the high speed trains there is the old local trains, which are very inexpensive, less posh and take much longer. They are also not a smoke free environment. But they are how a lot of Chinese people travel so you get a genuine experience.
Local trains have seats.
The ones going longer distances have sleepers, hard and soft, I’ve never taken a soft sleeper but my son and I traveled from Weifang to Taishan on a hard sleeper. It was about 4 hours (a high speed train would be less than 2 hours).
The experience of getting up to and down from the second level with just a nub of a foot hold while the train was moving was not really my cup of tea, so I sat on a fold out seat in the aisle-way and looked out of the grimy window the second half of the trip (F.Y.I. they do not have western style toilets on the older trains). While I’m not unhappy that I had the experience I would generally choose not to repeat it…no way I could do the third level.
Food is very important in China; I think I mentioned earlier that Chinese people will greet you with “have you eaten?” (ni chi le ma). A wide variety of food is available from vendors on the street, some with just a bicycle that is their little stall. Many offerings are freshly cooked.
I appreciate that there are often things like fresh fruit, corn on the cob or baked sweet potatoes available instead of just the deep fried and sugary options we get at fairs in the States (they have those as well).
At the vegetable expo this spring we got noodles that were made, by hand, after we ordered. (Yes, this belongs in my “N is for…” but it hadn’t happened yet.)
It can be a little intimidating to take the plunge and order and I confess that I still prefer to have someone fluent in Chinese with me when I order street food. But, since many stalls just make one thing, one can often just point and shoot. (Although I wouldn’t recommend it if you have food allergies).
Ordering is a good way to interact with Chinese people, both the vendors and the other customers. Choose one or two key phrases to learn when ordering; for example if you’re vegetarian learn to say: wo bu chi rou (woe boo chir row) or, better for understanding, write it out: 我不吃肉. I’ve learned what is for me a key phrase “bu la” (not spicy hot).