Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More fun at the market?

Saturday we spent most of the day over on Gulang Yu, and as always, we get to walk through the market first to get over to the ferry terminal. But Saturday morning the little path across the street, and the entrance to the market were both blocked, and there was quite a crowd and a lot of commotion. The main thing that we noticed were the police - I'm guessing at least 100 of them were milling around, directing people, and doing general police-type things.

Row of 10 police cars on the north side of the street
Looking across (from Temptations balcony) to police in the blocked-off area
At least 11 police cars on the south side of the street.
Army members with the police at the entrance to the market.

We don't really know happened, we got a little story on Sunday translated to us when enjoying a drink at Me & You 2, that some of the ethnic minorities that sell the nuts at the entrance to the market had also been sleeping out there and this angered some locals. Apparently a fight then started, he pulled out his knife and then there was a lot of blood. We don't know - no blood remnants on the street on Sunday, but then none of the nut vendors either.

If we even find out more we might just update this post - stay tuned.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Beautiful Weekend

Well the storm that we were expecting to hit Xiamen on Friday decided that it would rather visit Hong Kong and instead leave us with beautiful blue skies and temperatures around 32C.
Just perfect for wandering more of the streets and getting some small errands completed. We also had to buy some new tubing to replace the drain line on our bedroom air conditioner. The tubing had been broken and blown away during the storm and our downstairs neighbor noticed the dripping and came upstairs with the building maintenance to take a look...

Good times, and as we said a perfect weekend. Oh, and we got to see this too -
Apparently it would have been too much work for her to pull the mannequins pants back up. I wonder if this style helps to bring business in?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Super Family

We spotted this family on Gulang Yu today -
Almost a superman logo, but with a 'M', a 'W', and a 'B'. We presume for man, woman, and boy - ah the family that dresses together.

I don't think shirts like that are the best way to hide your secret identity...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Life in Xiamen...

Cruising through the headlines over at WhatsonXiamen when we ran across the headline "Xiamen police strike hard on street walkers". Since I know that you guys won't click into that article I'll post a copy of it here for you all -

Street walkers soliciting along a street is not a rarity, although they are illegal in China. Recently, 24 street walkers were caught for soliciting in Dajingjiao Alley near Zhongshan Road, one of Xiamen’s popular shopping streets.


According to the Lujiang police post, they sent out more than 40 policemen for the operation. A total of 24 women were taken to the police station on suspicion of soliciting on the street.


In addition, a patrol team will soon be set up to patrol and stand guard around the area 24 hours a day, according to the police post.


A few years ago, there were many illegal venues disguised as hair salons around the alley which made some of the old tenant's move out of there leaving empty houses with relatively cheap rent. Thus it has become a paradise for streetwalkers to hang out.


So there you go - they're cracking down on the many streets of prostitution here in one of the best livable cities in all of China. Since I didn't include the photo from the article, I'll post one Tina snapped a while back when we were strolling through the alleys.
Legs - apparently soon to be a vanishing sight. Where now will we take our guests to show them the "real China"?

If the rains hold out we will have to take to the alleys this weekend for a few last photos of a dying breed. Unless, of course, this is just another short lived crackdown the likes of which one sees quite often in China - bad this week, fine again in about a month. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nangka

Ah, tonight we are supposed to have a maintenance man come up and look at the clothes line that was busted up during our bout with Linfa. We were hoping that he would be able to get it fixed this weekend, but now it sounds like we should tell them to wait until after the Nangka storm moves through.

As I said earlier, these storms don't always follow the computer paths, and Nangka has decided that it didn't quite like the idea of touring the eastern side of Taiwan.

Nangka wants to get a tour of mainland China, starting with Xiamen...
Looks like we will have more stories of damage to post after this weekend.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just in case you want to be healthy....

As I was scanning the local news here in China, I came across an article that explains the yin and yang of fruit. This is suppose to help you to choose the correct fruit for your health, especially during summer time.

First of all, you need to determine whether you are more yin (cold energy), yang (warm energy) or neutral. Apparently most people fall in the last category. If you have too much yin, you should eat more fruits that are yang and vice verse.

People with too much yin will generally have a pale tongue, cold extremities, and diarrhea. People with too much yang, will have a red tongue, will become hot and thirsty more quickly, and will be constipated.

Here's the breakdown:

Yin (cold): Apples, pears, oranges, bananas, watermelons, kiwi, permisson

Yang (hot): peaches, long an, litchis, cherries

Neutral: pineapple, plums (which they now have discovered has more antioxidants than blueberries), and grapes.

During the summer one should eat more fruit that is more yin (cool) and should not eat fruit directly from the refrigerator. Apparently bad for your stomach. Fruits in the winter such as pears will help you relieve dryness of skin and also creates saliva.

They also state that one shouldn't eat certain fruits on an empty stomach such as bananas, tomatoes, oranges and permissons as these can cause bloating. Now they tell me.

Peaches help to reinforce your energy, promote blood circulation, and helps as a laxative. Watermelons act as a diuretic, helps promote fluids, dispel heat as it's a cold fruit, improves metabolism, helps with high blood pressure, and is high in beta-carotene and antioxidants. Pineapple will help with high blood pressure and kidney inflammation, benefits the spleen and stomach, as well as it prevents hardening of the arteries.

Aren't you glad you tuned into today's health class.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just a little more on Linfa.

Yesterday Tina talked about the damage that Linfa inflicted when it ran through Xiamen. Today there was an article in WhatsonXiamen about how it was the worse storm since 1999. On Sunday they had shut the BRT down at 16:00, that is now my preferred method for coming home from work since it saves me about 30 minutes. Glad that the storm was nice enough to wait for a weekend to come through.

The next storm to come our way is Nangka, and is also expected to wait until this weekend before bothering us. Right now it's down in the Philippines and, nice for us, is expected not to make it up to typhoon strength and is charted to pass on the far side of Taiwan. We shall see, sometimes these storms don't really like to follow the computer models.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Linfa

We woke up to the sounds of our windows rattling, granted it doesn’t take much as the windows aren’t exactly high quality, but there was a mention that a typhoon was coming from Taiwan. It was later downgraded to a tropical storm. Winds exceeded over 100kms per hour.

I quickly gathered the remaining clothes that were still out on the balcony drying before the onslaught. The winds picked up, and then the rain arrived in full force. At some points you could see the rain as it was blowing sideways. All of our belongings that were on the side by the washer, flew by our window, meanwhile, the balcony beside us had a tea set on a plastic chair that didn’t move the entire time we were watching it. Mark figures, that the supreme powers must like tea, more than lawn chairs.

We tried calling home, after all it was father’s day, but alas, no internet, so happy belated Father’s day. Then we found out we had no water either, so we spent the evening trying to watch T.V over the rain and wind. Nice to have closed captioning!

This morning I went to check out the damage of our balcony. The washer moved about 2 feet, thankfully still works, though the cover ripped right off, and the wire from our clothes line broke, along with our little plastic chair, the hangers were strewn all over the balcony, and we seemed to have collected other people’s goods.

I went out today, and snapped some photos of the damage around our area.

Friday, June 19, 2009

You have our word....

Back when we were touring the Yunnan province with Elaine and Emily we stopped in the town of Jianshui and spent a little time wandering around. At one point we stumbled upon this old temple that was in the process of being torn down, and as we circled around it an older couple started watching us and Tina started up a conversation with them. We asked about the temple, how old it was, and other general stuffs - there was more mis-communication then communication, but we got most of it all figured out. When we were leaving we asked if we could take a photo of them and they wanted us to get a photo of us with them.

Sure, no problem. Then we got into another confusing conversation that we finally figured out was they wanted a copy of the photo. Of course, just give us your address and we will mail you a copy. Tina explained that we lived in Xiamen and that it would be a few weeks before we could send out a copy, but that we would sent it to them.
With that they were excited and the old man wrote down his address in my little notebook. Today at work I asked someone to take what he had written and put it into a text file so that I could look up the postal code and then print it on an envelope.

Seems easy, but what the man had written pretty much translates as:
You took our photo today, we would like a copy. We are in the house to the left of the main hospital.

Yeah, now we feel bad - we're not sure it that will get there if just put old man near hospital, Jianshui, China.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Life in China...

About a month ago our access to blogger disappeared, at the same time our access to reading blogger and wordpress blogs went away. Flickr and then several other sites that we didn't realize that we checked that often. Ok, a nice reminder that there must be an anniversary coming up that we might not of noticed had they not made sure that we couldn't notice. Ok, it would have been impossible not to know what brought about the blocking of blogs, but the blocking was shoddy at best and a lot of articles still got through - most of the blogs that they are trying to block are the Chinese language blogs, seeing as most of us westerners know about the history they're blocking they usually don't even worry about us.

So we figured that all would be good in a few weeks. We've limped by with posting our blogs, more work then it should be, and used a couple of good proxy sites to make sure that we could still see the information that was being blocked (Red Sox scores).

Late last week Flickr was accessible again, yippee, and I can start to load up photos again. We are months behind in updating that one....

Blogger and all still remained blocked, and now this week the blocking seems to be getting even tighter. As of Sunday we noticed that more and more of the proxy sites we use to get around the great firewall are not responding. Who knows, maybe it'll jump back soon and things will be unblocked or maybe, as some are saying, it'll stay blocked through at least October.

So, we may be taking an impromptu break from blogging, not because we want to but because we are too cheap to pay the $40 for a VPN service that, for now at least, would allow us to get around China's firewall. So, if we don't get a post in you should be able to flip over to Flickr where, at least right now, we can still upload photos.

Monday, June 15, 2009

One more outing squeezed in....

Well, it appears we had time for one more outing before everyone starts heading back to their home countries. Since Ellie is moving back permanently, she is desperately trying to optimize her time enjoying some of the more unique aspects of China in her last few remaining days.

For our last outing, (or we think, Ellie may still try and squeeze in one more activity before she leaves) the suggestion was to have a vegetarian lunch at one of the temples located in the middle of the island. Once our tummies were nice and full, it was time for a foot massage. Believe it or not, some women have never had the pleasure of enjoying this experience.

The food was delicious, even if Mark dismisses the notion that you can’t have a great meal without meat. We had dumplings, an assortment of vegetables, and some black sticky rice. The restaurant had a beautiful view, and according to one of the gals, a 5 star bathroom. Yea, the conversations that take place when you are in China! Somehow, rating a bathroom, was never a topic of conversation back home.

Later, a few of us went and had a foot massage, the same place Mark still bitches about, though the gals enjoyed it. During our massage, we discovered that Ellie has never tried cupping, so we think we have convinced her to do so. This of course is assuming she can squeeze in an hour during this crazy week. We promised we would hold her hands and go with her. Hey, what are friends for…

It is truly a unique experience, and a great way to say good-bye to China!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Simple Chores

While we aren't home owners like Mike & Heather, dealing with all of the fun that they're having, we still occasionally have to do some standard housekeeping. Tina will disagree and say it's a lot of housekeeping since she spends a lot of time keeping the place clean, or at least that's what she tells me. But last night as we were pulling out some frozen sauce to heat up for a lazy spaghetti dinner we finally had to break down and tackle the chore of...
... of defrosting the freezer. It had gotten to the point where we couldn't open three of the five drawers and something had to be done. Yep, a fun and productive Friday night for us.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Expat Outing.

Just when I thought I would slow down for a moment, after spending two weeks with great friends travelling within China, I received an email from a few expat friends who wanted to explore more of our province on Monday. Naturally I agreed as one cannot miss the opportunity of exploring new places.

Originally our flight was to arrive back in Xiamen around 6:30pm, but China Eastern changed their flights so we ended up arriving around 10pm. When I originally agreed to this, I thought I would have some down time, but alas, no rest for the wicked. By the time, we got home and unpacked, it was closer to midnight which meant Monday morning was upon us much quicker than I had would have liked. Yea, I know my life is hell…..

I met the gals at early in the morning as we had a two hour drive and some of them needed to be back to pick up kids from school. The agenda for the day was to check out the flower expo and then go to the largest Tea museum in all of China. Our province apparently has the most tea drinkers per capita then anywhere else in China, or so they say.

As we drive to our first destination, most of the time was spent catching up with everyone. The drive itself was mostly highway driving, so not much in the way of an interesting view. We are forever grateful, that some of the women have drivers, which allows us to sightsee in our province much easier, than taking local buses. In the next few weeks, there will be an expat migration, which means it will be relatively quiet here.

We arrive at our first destination which was the flower exhibition. Here we had a tour guide, which of course was in Chinese so we came to the conclusion that they don’t see a lot of foreigners. We were lucky we had two Chinese teachers that joined us, thus becoming our translators. After 1 ½ hours of pretty much seeing trees, and little flowers, our attention level was starting to wane. The upkeep was quite poor, and wondered where the beautiful flowers that they advertised where located. When asked, they said it happens once a year in November. Come back then, she pleads. No wonder we got 50% off the admission.
At this point we were hungry, so we figured we would eat at the tea museum. Upon arrival and seeing the sign that says restaurant, we come to find out that they don’t have one. Why the sign is there, I couldn’t tell you, but alas, we had to find someplace to eat. The area we were visiting had little way of food. The driver found a little hole in the wall, which was fine by most of us. Some not so much so they wandered back to the museum as time was getting short. The rest of us grabbed a bite, and went to the tea museum afterwards. The grounds here were much nicer and well done than the flower expo. They had buildings that depicted various countries and their version of their tea ceremonies. As an example, there was a Korean tea house, a Japanese tea house and a Chinese tea house, except, the ceremonies were only at certain times of the day. We were too late for a couple of them, and too early for the Chinese one. The issue being we all needed to be back in Xiamen by a certain time, which meant we missed seeing the different ceremonies. We did get to see the buildings, the beautiful grounds and of course we did manage to have some time to shop and buy some tea.
Even though our timing was off, it was a nice day to see a different part of our area and was great catching up with everyone.

To all my expat friends going back home, safe travels and we the rest of us staying, we will see you and Me and You 2 for sangrias.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dinner in Nanjing

On Saturday night in Nanjing we were trying to decide what we wanted to eat, and then what we were going to do afterward. We talked about maybe heading over to the 1912 area that's a lot of western bars similar to Xintiandi area in Shanghai, or maybe trying the college area and their bar street.

Tough choices, so we took it to the internet to see if there were any reviews for good things to do at night, dinner and then drinks or so, and guess what we found? A well reviewed wine bar and restaurant. That settles that, we write down the address and phone number and head down to grab a taxi.

We had the hotel concierge flag down a taxi for us, the first one didn't know the area and couldn't help us but the second seemed sure and off we went. About ten minutes into the drive he starts asking a taxi next to us at a light for directions, and soon we're driving done some narrow streets that don't seem like the location for a wine bar. We call up the restaurant and hand the phone to the driver, that usually works. A few minutes later he's at an intersection of one-way streets and he's telling us to walk down this narrow road and that we will find it there...

Off we go down this narrow road when my phone rings - it sounds like our friend Siew Yih - "Where are you?" She should know this, "We're still in Nanjing." "Where?" "Nanjing." Then, "Do you want to come to my place?" This is when I realize that it's not Siew, and start wondering who would call and ask such a question, "What?" is my only reply. "You are looking for the restaurant My Place, right?" Ah, yes. That's right the restaurant name, what ever was I thinking. So she tells us she will meet us and show us the place, as we walk down the street we see a girl that ask us, being the only laowais on the street, "You're looking for my place right?"

Perfect. She walks us back down the narrow one-way street, up a driveway past parked cars to a tiny walkway and finally do a small door in that walkway. Yeah, we never would have found the place...And then there we were, in My Place, a great little home turned into a wine bar and restaurant.

our guide to the restaurant
The owner JT, and the waitress

The food was excellent, and the wine was even better. JT is from Singapore and felt that Nanjing was deserving of a great wine bar, maybe he is like we were before we found Temptations and was going crazy without good wine. He has his own house wine that he imports from Spain and sells at a price we couldn't believe, it was great. We enjoyed a full dinner and then moved to the bar where we ended the night by drinking him out of his house wine. It's alright, he was expecting a shipment in the next day, but it did prevent us from purchasing a few bottles to bring back with us to Xiamen.
I don't think that we could recommend this place enough, it was that good, but you will need to call them and have them send out a guide - there's no way that you would be able to find this on your own.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sunday in Nanjing

Sunday we awoke fresh and early, around 10:30, with another full list of things that we needed to get accomplished in order to feel like we took in enough of the sights that comprise Nanjing.

We started with Burger King, and then hopped into a taxi for a quick ride over to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, one of the sights that we wanted to make sure that we saw. It was quite a sight, amazingly well put together and organized and far more information than you could ever absorb in a quick sightseeing trip. As we mentioned earlier Ben wrote about it in his blog post on Nanjing, and we will agree most everything he said about it - and his photos are better, he took a few in the designated "no photos" area, as did just about every Chinese person that was touring when we were there. The only difference we took is that we read his post first and went in expecting to be bombarded with propaganda, but to us it seems perfectly normal - in fact nothing compared to the way museums seemed to skew facts (again, in our minds) in places like Vietnam. Okay, enough of that talk - enjoy photos of the museum outside:
After close to 3 hours of reading about death, bravery, and other sorts of barbaric stupidness that is generally associated with war we finished up and decided we needed something a little lighter. Two bad strawberry shakes and a long taxi ride later we walked through another gate at the city wall and to Nanjing's large lake and park.
The weather was hazy and it was hot. It wasn't anything that spectacular and as soon as we found another hole in the wall we crossed out of the park and grabbed a taxi back to near the hotel.

A few hours of wandering by the temple and buying a lot of junk in the markets and then we were off to the airport. By junk I mean phone covers and mah jongg sets.

Overall a good trip, we saw most of the highlights and walked far too much. There would be more to see if we went back, but we covered enough to feel good if we never get that chance...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Satrday in Nanjing

I was excited to start exploring Nanjing as Mark has talked about this city on numerous occasions. It has been on our list since we moved to China and this weekend we finally had the opportunity to travel to the city that was once the capital of China. There is a lot of history here, so we had lots to cover in 2 days.

Saturday morning we started off wandering through the pedestrian walk where all the shops and restaurants are located. Local giving himself a pedicure!

Then after breakfast it was off to go to Purple Mountain, where Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s memorial was located. For those that don’t know, he is considered the father of modern China who led the revolution in 1911.

We decided to take the cable car up to the top of the mountain. This ride alone took about 40 minutes and it’s about 400 meters. Once at the top, we had a decent view of Nanjing.

The ride to the top of Purple Mountain

View from the top of Purple mountain. Remember this picture!

Mark decided that there should be a trail from the top of this mountain over to the mausoleum, however, the map made it unclear whether we could attempt such a hike. My beloved decided that yes, we can get over to the mausoleum and it will be a shorter walk. Where he comes up with this? We’re not sure, but somehow he’s convinced and this is where I should known better. Having traveled with Mark over the past few years, I should start listening to that little voice of mine that says, “You may want to reconsider this decision”. I had visions of Angkor Wat all over again.

We started going down the mountain and the steps make it easier than just a dirt path, so that was a good thing, except, there are about 2000 steps. About an hour into this little trek of ours, we see that there is a road which we believe may make it easier than going down the steps, so we opted to take the road down to the bottom of the mountain. About 10 minutes into that walk, we find that the road has been barricaded so we had to walk all the way back up the steep and winding road to get back to the steps that would eventually lead to the bottom of this mountain.
The picture above, was the mountain we walked down. A sampling of the 2000 steps we climbed

Once on the bottom, we actually thought (for a second) that we should walk over to the mausoleum, but nixed that idea quickly. It took the taxi about 20 minutes just to get us over there.

We then had another 1 km to go to get to the start of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s mausoleum.Entrance to the mausoleum, along with a bus load of Chinese tourists!

Mark tells me it’s 99 steps. Actually it’s 392 steps. Luckily we had cold beer to aid with our climbing. And yet, I keep believing him...
After our morning exercise, we then we decided to see the ruins that were listed on our map, only to find that the only thing left were some large boulders that were once part of a palace. You had to use your imagination on this one.
We found a little café, had lunch and then continued walking to one of the city gates that surround Nanjing. First though we happen to come across a small village within the big city of Nanjing that dated back to the Ming dynasty or so we thought. These were very old homes, and some were already labeled to be destroyed. Mark and I wandered down some of the little alley ways, snapping photos only to have the locals look at us, like we were nuts. The older people came out of their homes, while some of the younger people took pictures and videos of us, and yet others just followed us, asking questions. It was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Nanjing.We made it to the wall, where you could climb to the top of the Southern gate, considered one of the best preserved, in China. It is definitely worth a visit, even if it meant more steps to climb.


Did I mention we climbed more stairs?

By the end of the day, we figured we climbed roughly 4500 steps (give or take about a few hundred). Personally I figured it was close to 5000.

A glass of wine, never tasted better….