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a travel blog by akstoltzy

A fellow teacher and I are traveling to China for five weeks, 20 May - 24 June, 2010. We will split off after arriving in Beijing. He will travel to Chongqing and I will begin a train odyssey that will cover 6000+ miles, at least six cities, and which will end in the southern oceanside city of Beihai. We will meet back up in Beihai and stay with a friend and his wife at their house. We will stay there for about a week and then will travel by train one last time back to Beijing and then back to Anchorage.
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Shungnak, United States

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 15, 2010 from Shungnak, United States
from the travel blog: China
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Kotzebue, United States

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 15, 2010 from Kotzebue, United States
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Anchorage, United States

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 15, 2010 from Anchorage, United States
from the travel blog: China
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Palmer, United States

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permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 16, 2010 from Palmer, United States
from the travel blog: China
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Day 2 of China Odyssey

Palmer, United States

Arrived in Palmer yesterday afternoon. Started out at 9:00 AM with a flight from my home village of Shungnak.
Had a quick stop in Kobuk (10 Miles east of Shungnak) and then on to Kotzebue, northwest Alaska's hub city. After lunch and a few hours layover, it was on an Alaska Airlines jet for the 1:30 minute flight to Anchorage.
I was able to sit next to a former student of mine and so we signed all the way down to Anchorage. He's learned a lot of sign language since I last taught him (2007) so it was nice to see his progress. His name is Nixon (but I'm pretty sure he is a democrat!).
The principal at our school in Shungnak, Kitza Durkop, picked us up at the main terminal and then we drove the 45 minutes north to her House in the Mat-Su Valley. We unloaded our bags and then it was off to Kitza's friend's House for a party of which I knew two people, Kitza and Eric (the fellow teacher I am traveling with).
Teachers area rowdy group that's for sure! Kitza is standing in the white sweater.
Today it's Sunday and we're just kicking back. Very windy today and so staying inside due to all the glacial silt blowing in the air. Just watched the Blackhawks squeak one out against the Sharks. YES!!
I have doctor and dentist appointments Monday and Tuesday and then it's off to Vancouver on Wednesday and then China on Thursday. 12 hours in the air and so technically we arrive the next day on the 21st. China is 16 hours ahead of Alaska time and 13 ahead of CST. It will be Back To The Future when we return at the end of June as we will arrive back in Vancouver before we leave due to the time change.
I'll be posting newest entries first so if you miss a day or four, just keep scrolling.
Probably won't have many entries until Wednesday.

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 16, 2010 from Palmer, United States
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Vancouver, Canada

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 19, 2010 from Vancouver, Canada
from the travel blog: China
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Arriving and The Lhama Temple

Beijing, China

Today is Saturday. We lost a day coming over since we crossed the International Dateline. When we arrived yesterday, it was about 5:30 PM when we finally arrived at the hostel. It's called Candy's Place or, more officially, 1 Hai Inn. It's located down what we would call an alley but where there is also a little bit of traffic. So maybe it's an Alley Way? In any case, here are two pictures of the outside

The people that work here at 1 Hai Inn are very nice. They speak English and have helped to get us either plane (for Eric) or train (for me) tickets.

When we got through customs in China we had to hop on a tram. The airport is absolutely HUGE. The tram, like all the trains and buses, are very crowded. Eric and I were the last two on the tram and as soon as we entered the doors began to close. Eric decided it was a good time to grab the overhead bar to prevent him from falling. Unfortunately, a little Chinese woman was standing there and her face got in the way of his hand. So, in China for 10 minutes, Eric has proceeded to knock a cute woman right in the eye with a right cross. So, welcome to China!

We took a cab from the airport to the hostel. They have lanes here that have the obligatory markings but which no one follows. It is amazing that more cars do not have dents and scratches.

I slept much longer than Eric but that isn't surprising. I slept roughly 14 hours straight. Eric didn't sleep as long as he was busy in the middle of the night trying to watch Chinese television. There is also an English speaking channel that is like a CNN but is mostly Chinese news. Apparently, I snore because Eric couldn't hear the tv. I think he is delusional. Who knows what the truth really is but all I know is that I don't snore.

I brought a map with us of downtown Beijing when we went on our hike. However, as we were about to find out, it was not to scale. We figured we would walk today and get an idea of what the city was like on a weekend. To give you an idea, think of downtown Chicago on a Saturday but with 4-5 times as many people. This city is huge. Our first stop was to the Lama Temple which is right behind us here at the hostel. You'd have to be Bhuddist to really appreciate it. No pictures in the buildings were allowed so these are the only two. This one shows the actual layout.

There is a huge Budda statue that stands about 60 ft tall within one of the temples. Pretty cool. If you look carefully at this picture, you can read about the temple.

After the Temple, we thought we would try to blend in with the crowds. However, we stuck out like sore thumbs no matter how hard we tried. We walked a total of close to roughly 17 km (based on a map that WAS to scale). For all you metrically impaired, that's a little more than 10 miles. It's also about 85 degrees here so I'm feeling a little stinky right now. We found the only Irish-owned bar/restaurant in Beijing called Paddy's something or other. We stopped there for lunch and water. LOTS of water! We met a couple of people from the states that work for Microsoft that have lived here for a while. The guy we met was obnoxious. Knows way too much and can speak a little Chinese so he's pretty impressed with himself. The lady was nice and actually gave me some tips for the next few days on where to hang out, what to watch for in relation to scams, and so forth.
We walked down a street that is known as 'Ghost Town'. Read about it here:

Here is one side of the street:

You can tell the street is full of markets, both inside and out, because of all the red lanterns. They will sell ANYTHING! Most everything is not marked so there is bartering that takes place. Most of it is junk so I still have all my money.

I didn't take many pictures because there was nothing that seemed 'picturable'. Eric has left this morning and so I am going to go out and explore the city in another direction. I'm going to try and find the Bell and Drum towers. I have no idea what they represent. However, they will probably be torn down as part of the city's rejuvination projects. I'll try and post more pictures tonight (it's Sunday now).

We left at a little after 11 AM and got back to our hostel at 5. My feet hurt, I stink, and I'm hungry. I am glad to see that the Hawks won AGAIN! 3-0 with the next two at the United Center. Looking good Hawks fans!

That's all for now. More tonight or tomorrow.

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 22, 2010 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China
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The Great Staircase

Beijing, China

I am having troubles uploading photos. My computer is very slow. Consequently, my post will be a day after the actual blog.
Yesterday, a group of 9 of us went to see the Great Wall and The Ming Tombs. It should really be called the Great Staircase. Almost 2000 steps up and then you have to still get down.
Anyway, we started by going to the Ming Tombs.

It was nicer today because of the wind. Actually saw blue skies. In any case, something like 13 of the 16 Ming Rulers are buried in this area (pic 1). I don't remember what the second picture says but I think it explains the tombs.
Here is moi in front of one of the tombs:

We were only there for a short period of time as we really wanted to see The Great Wall more than a bunch of tombs that have Pin Yin descriptions. Pin Yin is what you call the Chinese written language.

After the tombs, we drove way up into the mountains so we could do a 5K walk to the wall.

No one said it was 5K UP STAIRS!


But everyone smokes anyway. No guards or military on the way up so people smoke. Additionally, while I could have taken a picture but decided in the best interests of everybody not to, there was also a spot where someone obviously needed to defecate off to the side of the stairs. They do that here. One always need to be aware of their next step! Walking at night is even more precarious.

Once we got to the top, the views were pretty awesome.

There was a couple taking wedding photos.

It was pretty nice to see. I uploaded another picture but it doesn't show here so I'll try to remember to include that in my next post.

The Wall was nice to see. Contrary to what has been said in the past, you CAN'T see The Great Wall from space. However, it is massively long (I think greater than 2000 miles if my conversion is correct.

What I found was so neat on the way back was this still-used aquaduct.

They still use them throughout China to control snow melt in the spring as well as rain in other seasons. Made me think of the Romans and all the aquaducts still in use over there.

We stopped for lunch and ate like we hadn't eaten in a week. Here is most of our group:

They just keep brining food if you finish the previous dish. We finally said NO MORE.

It's amazing that more accidents don't happen or people get run over. Driving here is an accident waiting to happen! Probably more accurate would be Darwinian: Survival of the Fittest!

Our last stop of the day was to a silk shop. They took us through the process of the silkworm life-cycle, how they get the silk, and then how they weave and dye to make some pretty nice clothing, sheets, and so forth. The picture here shows the walkway over the main road. Pretty fancy I'd say!

The next picture I just had to take.

Our guide calls this, "The only 7-Star hotel in the world". Hmmm, I thought seven stars meant heaven. Anyway, Bill Gates rents one on the top floor for 100,000,000 Yuan a year. Divide that by 6.7 and that's your dollar amount. I think that comes out to about $15M a year. The top floor is that 'thing' that looks like it was slapped on top. I'll try and get a better piture before I leave here tomorrow. I head to Shenzhen (Shen Zen) tomorrow evening. That's right next to Hong Kong. It's a 23 hour train ride in a 'Hard Sleeper'. That means there are six people to a cabin with two sides of 3-bunks. Each is priced differently with nthe bottom bunk the most and the top the least. Please pray for those that have to endure my snoring.

Today, I go to Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City. It's hotter than Hades today so I am going to take the metro-train instead of walking. Should be an experience. I'll try my best to get today's activities posted tonight. More likely, I will do so tomorrow due to how long it takes to upload pictures.

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 24, 2010 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China
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Whare Am I?

Beijing, China

I am lost! I am hot. I am sunburn. I am thirsty. I am sweating like a water fountain. No one speaks my language! As a man, I refused for a time to ask for directions. It didn't matter. NO ONE SPEAKS English! Frustrating but a good learning moment. I'm having some tea and am cooling down and then I will walk into the next hotel or bank where I know they have someone that speaks EEnglish. You are all sleeping so hopefully I will be back by the time you wake up! I'm exaggerating a little of course as I am prone to do but I AM lost, I AM hot, and I AM enjoying it completely. This city of 16-19 million people is fascinating.
I'll post tonight my visit to Tian'amen Square, The Forbidden City, and The White Pagoda within Beihai Lake. Pretty cool!
More Later!

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 25, 2010 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China
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Tian'amen Square

Beijing, China

Went to Tian'amen Square yesterday. Took the metro train which was very covenient. One ticket is 1 Yuan or about 15 cents. I had to take Train #5 to Wondong and then transfer to Train #1. No transfers needed if you stay within the metro stations. Anyway, it was hot as hell yesterday. About 92 if my conversion is right. Humid, no wind. Today I am a bit sunburned since I walked forever yesterday. More on that later.

The above picture is from within the square itself. The building is the National Chinese Museum. Didn't go inside because I wanted to do other things. When I return to Beijing next month, I will go inside the museum as well as Mao's Memorial Museum that has his embalmed body. There are no bags allowed inside and I had my backpack so I wasn't allowed in.

Below is where the government offices are mostly located. I think Hillary and Geitner are inside as I type this discussing trade and commerce.

Here I am standing in front of the People's Monument:

I don't know if you can read the inscription
but when it was finally completed in '58, it was at the time the largest monument in all of China. Don't know if it still is or not. Took 6 or so years to build. Here's another shot from the front:

I haven't screened the pics so hopefully they are clear enough.

From Tian'amen Square, you can look across the street to see the Forbidden City. Here's a shot from across the street:

When the military would have their parades, Mao would be seated above his picture. To the right and left (I didn't take pictures) are many boxes where the other government officials and dignitaries would be seated. Today, they still have parades (I think they are on Oct 1 every year to celebrate when Mao came into power in 1949) and so the street is closed off to traffic and the military marches in front of the building.

The picture below is of the White Pagoda:

It is located about two miles away from the Forbidden City in a beautiful area called Beihai (Bay Hi) Park. The pagoda represents a monument built by one of the dynasties way back when.

This next picture is of a monument built for one of the dynasties:

Here is it's description:

After I left this park is when the real odyssey began. The map I have is not to scale and so with some bends in the roads I was following I ended up doing two 360 degree walks, each of which was approximately 2 miles. I was so disappointed when at the end of each one I found myself to be one block further east then when I had started. The blog I left last night was at the end of my second 360.

I eventually made it back to the hostel at about 5:30. When I got back here, I ate and talked with some folks I have met here. Here's the picture:

I can't see the picture clearly but from left to right is:
some guy from Germany that doesn't speak english, a guy named Matt (greenish/blue shirt) from some english speaking country (can't remember), Wilhelm (the other German's cousin who DOES speak english), some nut bag from New York named Nickie (black outfit), Gaya from Israel (blue in foreground)´╝îNatalie in the back from France (she left for Dubai this morning), and then Andrew from Australia. Natalie and I talked about her travels (she's been traveling for 10 months) which was fascinating. Malaysia, New Zealand, London, Mongolia (where Gaya and her boyfriend Ben are leaving for today), Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Tibet. I'm sure I left off a few places. What an adventure she has had.

The gal at the bar is Christina. She has been teaching me Chinese and I have been teaching her American Sign Language. She's a much faster learner than I!

So now, I will not post any more until Friday (Thursday your time). I leave in a little while for Hong Kong/Shenzhen. I'll take a 'T' train which is quite fast. Nevertheless, it will take 23 hours to get there. I have the top bunk in a hard sleeper. Hard just means a thinner matress and more bunk-mates. There will be 6 in my cabin. Who knows who they will be but I'll find out shortly. I'll take pics of the train, the ride, and then the hostel where I will be staying. I don't get in until 7:40 tomorrow night so if I am not beat, I'll download, with luck, pics and try and blog. I'll be checking email, too, so you can always write there as well if you don't want to leave comments here.

I'm doing great! My feet are a bit sore from walking so far yesterday in some pretty lusy sandals but all in all I am great.

Until tomorrow....

permalink written by  akstoltzy on May 25, 2010 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China
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