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Nanjing, Day 11

Nanjing, China


Today was a well-needed slow day.
The morning's plan to visit a large TCM Hospital was rejected due to some miscommunication. The hospital was obviously going through some serious changes and reconstruction. With that came a rather exclusive attitude, especially to foreigners. They were only going to let us stay for about a half hour instead of three. That wasn't the plan and it wasn't good enough. So we canceled and left. However, a few hours later, we scheduled another visit with a different TCM clinic for the next day. We were relieved to find a quick substitute, since many members were excited about seeing medicine practiced in China. It all worked out for the best, since several people were feeling tired and probably needed a slow day to recover.

After a drive in golf carts around the park, the remainder of the group opted out of visiting the nearby temple in exchange for going back to the hotel early or visiting "electronic alley," a place for pirated software and knock off electronics and cheap MP3 players. It was packed and definitely catering more to the local crowd's needs.

After dinner the group Split up to go back to the hotel, out shopping, visit the local Pizza Hut (which is more like a fancy, expensive restaurant in China, not fast food; even though it still is) or out to a nearby nightclub.

For those who went to the nightclub, it was another night of dancing. The dance floor however, was tiny and packed with locals, who were very interested in our presence. After a few beers, many of them were coming over to practice their English on us. It's hard to be hidden in place like that when you're white and 6'3."

After the dancing and bizarre variety show interludes with dancers, crappy live bands and a drag queen, we took taxis back to the hotel in the rain. It was a great night together.

http://www.belila.com/Chinatour/


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 24, 2005 from Nanjing, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged Food, China, Botany, Medicine, Golfcart, Theft, Nanjing, Pirated, Chinese, Hospital, Clnic, TCM and Computer

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Luoyang, Day 4

Luoyang, China


We arrived in Luoyang by train in the early morning. After checking-in to the hotel in town, we got ready for a short drive out to the Shaolin temple. After a local lunch we visited the temple at the base of a mountain whose peak looks as though Buddha is lsleeping on his back (it kinda looks like that). The shaolin temple was one of the most anticipated sites to visit for the trip. The following events occurred:

DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAMERA?!

The Shaolin temple is pretty much on its own park. There are countless children and youth training away and maintaining their own grounds. The main focal attractions at the site are the theatre, where you can see them perform and train (its a choreographed show really) and the pagoda forest, a collection of small pagodas dedicated to the past shaolin masters. The performance was impressive but has an edge of feeling over rehearsed. After the show, which was really too short, you can buy shirts and other momentos outside. This is where we encountered the master of the five-fingered discount. I was talking with the shop keepers and students interested in buying some stuff from the store and I put my video camera down for a second. A minute later, it magically disappeared, in th emidst of only about 5 people. My camera DV got yanked! And not only that, the DVD's that Robert and I bought where bogus. They weren't the performance that we saw, it was a lame instructional video... it was a shaolin hustle. A lesson in impermanence.

Other than the slight damper of the theft, the religious ceremony at the temple and the pagoda forest were quite interesting and impressive. Although, on the way out of the pagoda forest, I did see a monk kick a blind beggar in the back to get him out. Not very compassionate... then again, there is a serious contradiction with having monks be powerful warriors. There's somehting not right about Peace, Compassion, and Butt-kicking. Still, it was cool to see all these things; monks doing head stands, breakig stuff, etc. I mean, we've seen so much stuff in film and TV, it was nice to go to the source of it all.

As we drove away that evening there was a huge reddish moon rising above the mountains. It was the start of the mid-autumn festival (moon cake festival). Later, we finished the day off with hour long foot massages. It was great and I almost forgot that I got ripped off earlier.


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 17, 2005 from Luoyang, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Theft, Luoyang, Shaolin, Temple, Buddha, Monks, Kungfu, Pagoda and Camera

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Beijing, Day 3

Beijing, China


The day started out with an intense ambition. We had three main attractions to visit: The Great Wall, The Summer Palace and Tian An Men Square, in that order.

The Great Wall featured, of course, lots of steps. Most at a severe incline. It's probably one of the most international tourist sites in the world. I heard at least 10 different languages spoken on the hike up. Where most people climb the great wall and some even skate it, for Robert it was just another obstacle to jump over in order to find plants. And find them he did. He came back with plastic bags of not t-shirts but of plants to show us on the bus. Mao said your not a hero until you climb the great wall... I wonder what he thought about teachers who jump it. There was a nice hook on the ride to the wall, yet again by our tour guide. We took a short detour to see a jade factory, which of course had a massive jade store attached. We all protested before going in, but yet again, most people ended up buying something (perhaps there's subliminal messaging in these places). The hook worked.

The next stop was the Summer Palace which is a good drive back from the wall. The palace is one of the largest parks in all of China and was the vacation spot for the later dynasties. The gardens and lake were a welcome haven for us, although we had to rush through it in order to fit all of the days activities. Where there is Yin there is Yang... to contrast the peace of the garden, just outside was an alley back to the bus, which we've nicknamed "swindler alley." Not only was the long alley loaded with poor merchants hounding us to buy their t-shirt knock-offs and cheap crafts, they were ready to scam the tourists. After some tour members put up a good job haggeling down the price of some goods, they found their change back to be counterfeit bills... So it is possible to get Shanghaied in Beijing.

After dinner we got to walk a few minutes around Tian An Men Square, which was lit up at night and preparing for the upcoming Mid-Autum Festival (moon cake festival).

After the square we drove to the massive Beijing train station to get aboard our sleeper train to Luoyang. Upon entering there was a huge crowd outside waiting to get in and watching someone get detained by the police. After a bout of abuse, about 5 red guards handcuffed the guy and took him away. Then we had to deal with the bottlenecking and the thousands of people laying around or rushing to get on their train. While we were all excited to hop into our soft sleeper cabin on the train, we quickly realized that after a day of hiking around without a shower, the tight quarters weren't as pleasant as we thought, especially after we took our shoes off...



permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 16, 2005 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Beijing, TheGreatWall, SummerPalace, TianAnMenSquare, Jade, Theft, MoonCakeFestival, Autumn, Festival, RedGuard, Luoyang and SleeperTrain

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Robbed in Rosario

Rosario, Argentina


Rosario is divided by a web of wide, crisscrossing one way roads which at first seem very dangerous. Of course once you realise that there is no right of way and the nonchalant drivers simply slow down when a collision course appears imminent you just sit back and enjoy the tension of every crossing.

The tree-lined streets are dotted with fragrant shops selling smart leather goods and we meandered through the city getting a feel for the place and finding the city’s few attractions – including Rio Parana which I hear (and can easily believe) is the widest river in the world – to be fairly uninspiring. The most laughably anticlimactic attraction was the place where Che was born – a big office-looking building where a little sign on a lamp post outside quietly announces the city’s feeble claim to fame. Nevertheless Rosario was a very comfortable place to stay and our hostel, an intimate reggae themed place, had a great atmosphere and a good crowd.

Rosario has a large student population which promised live music, clubs and bars and delivered them happily in no particular order. I liked the bars, which were loud and filled with the entertaining banter of the well dressed Argentinean scenesters, but the live bands that we saw were of a disappointingly bland, generic variety – made up for young guys who were more interested in attracting women than playing music. Which is fair enough I suppose, Argentinian women are inarguably the most attractive we had seen in South America.

It was after one of these nights out that we found we had been robbed. At first I couldn’t believe it but we looked and rummaged and looked again and realised it was definitely not there. Someone had stolen our pie out of the fridge. Normally I would not relay such a marvellously unremarkable tale but in this case I feel that my whole view of Rosario was slightly tainted by this rare moment of heightened emotion. So please take absolutely no notice of my scathing review of Rosario, I was just hungry.

Aside from spinach pie, Rosario left me hungry for some real music, some decent places to explore and a bit more of an interesting art scene. We had not planned to go to Buenos Aires when we first set off in April but the more you hear about Argentina the more you realise it can not be skipped. By the time we reached South America we knew it would be one of the highlights and now, finally on our way there, I was sure it would not disappoint.


permalink written by  steve_stamp on August 17, 2009 from Rosario, Argentina
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged Theft, Bars, Pie, Bands and Bored

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