Tuesday, December 20, 2016


 We visited Shanghai, China as the second stop on our study-abroad trip. Shanghai is very westernized and easy to maneuver around. The first morning, we visited some companies and drove around the city. This left the afternoon to explore on our own. Some friends and I decided to get on the hop-on/off bus, as I like to do in all of the cities that I visit, so that we could get a feel for the entire city and see as much as possible the the short time that we had here. The first few pictures show the National Museum, the People's Park and the Bund.

The Bund sits along the river and is highlighted by many skyscrapers. Unfortunately, the smog is so heavy that all of our pictures look very cloudy. However, it was neat to see all of the landmarks that we had learned about in our Mandarin class.
 We then walked through a gorgeous park, that seems to be a frequent of the locals...

And down some streets through the crowded shops, where you can barter for anything that you want to buy. We found that prices are usually at least double what the vendors are willing to let them go for. But if you aren't willing to negotiate, be prepared to pay outrageous sums.

 On our last full day in China, we visited Suzhou and their famous gardens. We have a smaller Chinese garden in Portland, which is modeled after this beautiful landscape.




 After touring the gardens, we went to a local restaurant where the families of some classmates had set up a beautiful, traditional Chinese lunch for us.

The fried fish was very interesting to look at, but was actually quite tasty!

Barbequed duck was put on our table, but I'm not a fan of duck, so I passed. I was also a little sad to see that it was the entire duck, making it very obvious what you were eating.
 I believe this was eel, or something similar. It was cut into thin strips, looking more like noodles.

I'm not a fan of east Asian food, but I will say that this lunch was delicious overall and gave us a chance to have an authentic lunch, while in country.
Beijing was a trip that I took a couple of weeks later with one of my classmates. I will state up front, that my experience in Beijing was not a very positive one, but I still tried to see as much as I could. Our stay coincided with the visit of First Lady, Michelle Obama, and her daughters. This was both good and bad. It was great because all of the factories were shut down, so we had clean air and blue skies.

 After walking around downtown the first night and having a dinner that included chicken's feet, we had a day long tour planned for the next day to include the Forbidden City, Tianeman Square, and the Great Wall.

 Our tour guide warned us to not ask questions about anything that "may" have happened in Tienamen Sqaure, as he would not speak or answer questions. We learned that the National Museum and the tomb of Mao was located there. It was an eerie place. It was like you could feel the sadness and the threat of the government all at once. It was not a place that I felt like smiling in. There was a long line to visit Mao's tomb, which I did not partake in. The Chinese government denies the massacre in Tienanem Square and it is forbidden to speak of.


 The Forbidden City was beautiful. The architecture was exactly what you'd expect. However, this was where the bad part of the First Lady's visit came in to play. You will find that people in China do not stand in line. They push and push until they can get where they want to go. It doesn't matter how long someone else may have been there, they don't care. So, much of the Forbidden City was shit down for security purposes, which included many of the security lines to enter. We were stuck in a group of approximately 2,000 people, mostly Chinese tourist groups, who were all constantly pushing, for 2.5 hours, to get through the gates. It was a madhouse and terribly uncomfortable. Once inside, we walked through the length of the Forbidden City and were finally able to appreciate its magnitude.


The next stop was a Jade factory. It was amazing the work that these people were doing and the intricacy of their work. 
 The last "attraction", was the Great Wall. You think about how this might look, but until you've seen it in person, you will never fully understand the expanse (kind of like the smog). It goes far beyond what the eye can see, many parts of it made up of staircases because of the mountain tops it traverses.

 We hiked up quite a ways, as far as we could go in the hour or so that we had. I think that it was actually harder coming down because it was so steep and there was little to hold on to. It was also a little slick from some recent rain.
 You could see "gates" along the wall, and you can see in the picture, how far away some of them were, and just how far we could see the wall from our vantage point.

 Along our route back into Beijing, we went by the Olympic Village from 2008. You can see the "Birds Nest" and the swimming complex next door. We didn't have time to spend there, but it was neat to see.

The last stop for the day was at Dr. Tea. Obviously, this was a tea shop and we were excited to stock up!

One thing to keep in mind while "shopping" in China, is that there are many government run stores. Many of your tours will stop at these places because they earn if you buy. Oftentimes, there will be pressure from all sides to spend your money and it's not cheap.

 The remainder of our time in Beijing was spent walking around the older parts of the city. We wandered in and out of shops, mingling with the locals. You have to watch out for motorcycles and cars though, because they don't slow down and watch out for you. If you get hit, it's usually considered your fault.
Overall, China is a place that is very different from city to city. Shanghai was very modern and westernized, an easy place to feel at home. Although crowded, it was manageable and many people spoke English, even though I was trying to practice my Mandarin! Beijing is still very old school in mindset and action. People tend to NOT speak English and aren't as willing to help. It is insanely crowded, almost to a point that is very uncomfortable for those of us from the U.S. I have seen Beijing and now I can check it off the list!