A Travellerspoint blog

The Chinese London, The Portuguese China

Hong Kong and Macau: CULTURE SHOCK

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Whoa, another whirlwind of an adventure. Another summary....

HONG KONG: We took a train out of Wuhan into Shenzhen, where we could walk across the border to Hong Kong. After going through immigration and customs, we got on the subway to go to our hostel. There was an immediate difference simply crossing from one side to the other. Everything was clean and bright. Signs were written in both chinese characters and in English. There was a 7-11. People were wearing gloves as they handled people's food. No one was cutting in line. No one was screaming. There were no stares at my 2 blue-eyed travel companions. No one was smoking and spitting on the floor. It was completely refreshing. There was this anxiety that I started to get in China... the language barrier, people sounding like they're yelling at you, the strange stares, the deep throat hawker clearing spitting at your feet, people letting their children poop on the stairs of a tourist attraction, the filthy squat toilets, the "life flashing before your eyes" as you try to cross the street, and just crazy pollution (noise, air, and land).

Here's a few pics from Hong Kong:



Hong Kong was amazing. We were staying at the Mirador Mansion in the Sui Sui hostel. Not a mansion at all, just a huge dirty building piled with several hostels and tiny rooms. I was ready to stay at the Holiday Inn across the street without a doubt. We were in HK for 5 days, seeing the sites like: Victoria's Peak (a mountain with posh homes), SoHo (an area filled with cute bars and restaurants), The Ladies Market (bargain shopping for fake rolexes and souvenirs), the Jade Market, saw the skyline lightshow, went to Irish pubs, indulged at Starbucks. It was great. It really reminded me of London: cars driving on the left side, the double-decker buses, great customer service at the posh malls, the Tube system (the subway), and everyone spoke English. It seemed like a civilized (to our expectations) version of mainland China.

MACAU: Oct 20-Oct 23. We took a ferry to Macau after making some hectic arrangements in Hong Kong. Apparently, there was a huge convention and a national holiday going on, so Macau was packed with tourists. We had to stay on mainland China for one nite crossing borders several times. We stayed at this gaudy 5 star hotel called Dihao Holiday Hotel in Zhuhai. And again, there was that culture shock as we re-entered the mainland. The spitting, the filth, the line cutting, and the pushing came flooding back sooner than we welcomed. But it was funny.

We're now staying at the Hotel Guia in Macau, in a quiet part of the town. It took 2 hours to cross the border from the mainland. Most of it was waiting in the immigration line on the Chinese side. We then settled into our cute little hotel and walked around the town. Everyone calls Macau the Las Vegas of Asia. I can see the resemblance a little bit. There is the Wynn, the MGM Grand, and the Venetian (the largest in the world). There are bright lights. But still not as crazy and hectic as Vegas. Macau was a Portuguese port in Asia for hundreds of years (I think) and since 1994 was given back to China. There's lots of Portuguese influence here, the street names, lots of plazas with fountains, old churches (filled with the devout Catholic Filipinos haha), cars driving on the left side of the street and the food (esp the famous egg tarts). It's interesting... an old European town in China. It's really cute.

We walked the city on our first day and saw some churches and plazas.

We saw the A-Ma Temple, a buddhist temple, with huge coils of incense burning away:


We visited Sao Paolo, the famous ruins of an old church in Macau.


And today (22/10) we went BUNGY jumping... the worlds tallest 233 meters. It was awesome. It's not like sky diving or hang gliding...I was scared, but felt so exhilirated. So amazing. There's nothing like hanging your toes off the edge of a tower and seeing the bay and concrete beneath you. You jump and wait for this bungy cord (a huge rubber band) recoil you as you bounce around a few more times. Then you hang upside down taking free falls and wait as you get lowered down to the ground (upside down) until someone grabs your hands to lay you on a huge pillow. IT WAS CRAZY!!!

This is what we jumped off of:




We also wined and dined to a great Portuguese dinner last night. Neither Ellen or myself have had Portuguese food, and we tried it here for the first time, in China, of all places.


We're gonna hit up the Venetian (a casino) tonite. Then tomorrow we will be flying to Vientiane, Laos. Another exciting adventure....

See my travels thus far...

Posted by csomera1 18:38 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Hectic Travels

Xi'an to Chongqing to Yichang to Wudang Shan to Wuhan

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Holy Cow!!! It's been a crazy freaking week. We actually spent the whole week traveling. Here's the low down:

XI'AN: It's not as big of a city as Beijing or Shanghai. But has over 8 million people, considered small to Chinese standards, but is about just as populous as NYC. We stayed in a hostel called the Shu Yuan near the south gate of the city and it was a Western backpackers paradise. They played old 90s music, had pizza on their menu, had happy hour at the bar downstairs, and was just full of westerners lounging, mingling and dining like we were in a cafe back at home. It was so comforting, especially after the last day when it was cold and rainy. We fueled up on pizza and American coffee before venturing back out to eat rice, mystery meat and tea. It was great. Another traveller, Chloe, had summed it pretty well... "You find a place like this and you meet great people and you feel comforted for a little bit, but then you go out and you fight the mayhem of the backpacking world again." So true. So I didn't mind indulging on western luxuries, they're well deserved after squatting on squat toilets and dogding the spitting Chinese.


We biked about 14 kilometers around the city walls to get a really good view of the city, the Wal-Mart in the distance, the kiteflyers, the construction workers on rooftops. And we also walked around the Muslim Quarters of Xi'an the last couple of days buying souvenirs and trying out different foods and it was fascinating seeing the fusion of cultures and religions in this area.

CHONGQING: On Mon Oct 8, we took an overnite train to another town called Chongqing, a city on the Yangtze River, that was supposedly modeled after NYC. (I didn't really see the resemblance, though). We tried the famous "Hot Pot." A pot of spicy broth is placed in a boiler in the middle of your table and you order vegetables and meats to cook in it. Kinda like a Chinese fondu. We got 1/2 spicy and 1/2 non-spicy and it was quite an experience. We couldn't communicate very well, despite the listing of foods we liked written in chinese characters. So Lauren went into the kitchen as the lady opened the refrigerator to show her the types of meat they had. Brains and other innards were offered, but we opted for the dumpling looking meat.

YICHANG: We were shuffled around on the morning of Oct 10 to catch a 3 hour bus to another small town, Wanghao, to catch a hydrofoil to Yichang. The hydrofoil is a fast boat that can take us down the yangtze river in 11 hours instead of 3-4 days. We saw the 3 Gorges, just huge mountains and cliffs that line the river.


We finally arrived in Yichang that night, and after sorting out our travel plans for the next day, eating dinner, and haggling for a hotel room from 350 to 140, we were exhausted. You haggle for everything here and it's so mentally exhausting and draining. I get frustrated and pissed, but just overall, exhausted.

WUDANG SHAN: On the 11th, we took a 6 hour bus ride to Wudang Shan, the mountain "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" was based on, where Tai Chi originated, and where Daoism began. We met Daniel there (a guy we met a week or so earlier in Datong and then in Xi'an) there and he helped us make further travel arrangements and ended up rooming with him in a hotel on the mountain. It was freezing and damp on this mountain. It rained our first day and we stayed indoors all day and played cards and watched Commando, which replayed over and over again. I was miserable. On our second say, the weather looked promising and we trekked up the mountain. It took 3 hours to get to the to summit. It got foggier and foggier as we climbed until we were in a cloud and couldn't see anything past our noses. It poured freezing rain at the summit and was just flooded with tourists that we couldn't even get close enough to see the temple. It took about 2 hours to trek back down the mountain.


In a nutshell, I could have done without this whole leg of the trip...cold and rainy with pretty unexciting views was not my thing. But you live and learn... Seriously, watching Commando, playing cards, climbing mountains, sneaking into the more expensive hotel rooms to use their Western toilets, and sleeping on lumpy beds...all I can do is laugh at the experience.

WUHAN: Oct 13. We took a train from Wudang Shan to Wuhan and met a German couple who have been traveling together for 28 months. Holy crap. I can't imaging traveling for that long. To Americans 3-4 months, like I'm doing, is a really long time. But to Europeans, they take 1-2 years. The couple had spent a few months here and there. They've worked and volunteered in a few places. There's no rush to see and do everything because they have all the time in the world. They saved for 3 years and sold everything to travel the world. They gave us really good tips on where to stay, helped us sort our train tickets to our next leg of our journey, and haggled for our hotel room. They were great. If I was traveling for that long, I think I'd only be able to do it with Ron... so we can grow and learn from our experiences together and we'd feel protected and safe. Anyway, the highlight of our time in Wuhan (which overall, was a dirty, congested, gloomy hole) was going to Wal-Mart. We bought food and toiletries without having to haggle over prices or check the quality of the goods. It was refreshing. Ahhh...

Now, we're in HONG KONG... we took another overnite train and walked over the border and immediately noticed a difference in the cultures. Mainland China and Hong Kong are worlds apart. It's crazy. Stay tuned for the next blog to see why.

Posted by csomera1 12:23 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Sorry Roofie... I think I ate your cousin

Fried chicken kidney and ox's sex organ in bamboo barrel

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They have the craziest foods here and yes "fried chicken kidney and ox's sex organ in bamboo barrel" was something on the menu. Hilarious! I didn't order that one or the "depressing blood pressure peanut." But I did try the "peppery dog." So sorry, Polo, Nero, Roxie, Quentin and Roofie.... I may have eaten your cousin. It wasn't so bad, but the thought of it just made me sick. But no, dog isn't like frog legs or alligator, where people say, "oh it tastes like chicken."


After we spent several days in Beijing, we went to Datong for a couple of days, where we saw sites like the Hanging temple" and a set of caves with huge buddhas carved into them.


Datong is a coal mining city and it was filthy. The air was just unbreathable and the whole city was covered in a dense smog. Luckily we only stayed a couple of days. We met some nice, interesting people on that trip, and after the tour sat at a restaurant to eat cold oat noodles, some savory pastries and the peppery dog. I love getting to know interesting people and hearing their fascinating stories.

We then went back to Beijing and went to Wangfunjing, an area known to sell the most exotic foods, from worm to dog to scorpions and centipedes. I ate none of that and had dumplings with Ellen. We did get adventurous and had this burrito looking think with some mystery meat in it. But the more I started to eat, the more I thought, "poor Roofie" and threw it out. We also rode bikes the next day and saw a huge part of the city including Bei Hai Park and the Lama temple. The next morning we caught a flight to Xi'an, where the famous terracotta soldiers were. An amazing site. There's so much history and it's just so surreal being here (even though it's already been more than a week). Sometimes I catch myself and think, "whoa, I'm walking in a garden..... in China" So these soldiers were discovered in the mid to late 70s by a farmer who was digging irrigation canals on his farm. Since then, several pits are continuing to be excavated, uncovering life size soldiers and horses made of terracotta by the Qin dynasty. Over two thousand years ago, over 8000 of these soldiers were built and burried to protect their beloved emperor. They were undiscovered until about 30 years ago. It was so amazing. Just the labor and detail these people had put into each soldier was simply amazing. I'm still in awe.


Last nite, we had met some people that we've kinda been seeing throughout our journey from Beijing. It seems the backpackers have the same itinerary and hubs around town. So we sat around chit chatting, eating pizza and drinking beer, listening to Richard Marx and Bryan Addams in our westernized hostel and talked about traveling. It was comforting to be in an environment filled with strangers who shared this same experience with you. The anxiety, the discomfort, the exhaustion, the frustration, the excitement. We're from diff parts of the world, but we come and meet here, and strangely have this kindred connection with each other. And when we discuss our experiences, both delightful and frightening, we're connected. And we're relieved that someone else is going through the same thing you are. I LOVE IT!!! I love the interactions and connections you develop with other people going through this same journey.

Posted by csomera1 02:11 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Who's Mao?

Hello Beijing

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So I lost my luggage for 4 days. And I've been leeching off of Ellen and Lauren (thanx, guys). But no worries. I finally have it and so that should be the last of my bad luck for the rest of the trip (knock on wood). I haven't really backpacked like this since going to Europe and that old familiatiry is back. I can't be on my bourgeois high horse with my flat iron and designer jeans out here. We're truly roughing it. Communal bathrooms, squat toilets, and bunk beds. We have to make reservations to our next destination and find out if we have a bed to sleep in for the next nite... stressful.

We've been in Beijing about 5 days and we've already seen so many sites. We went to see Mao's Mausoleum and my ignorant butt was like, "Who's Mao?" FYI, he was the beloved chairman who led the communist revolution in China and gave the name, "The People's Republic of China". I guess he's like the George Washington of the US. Hmmm... you learn something new everyday, and that's why I love travelling!!! We also saw the Forbidden City, Tian'an Men Square, the Temple of Heaven, pandas at the zoo, a Chinese opera. I also bought some pearls from the pearl market from a woman name Charlene (it was meant to be). There's so much history here and so much to learn.


Yesterday, we did a 4-hour, 10K hike of the Great Wall (from Jingshaling to Simatai). One of the seven wonders of the world. That was one of the hardest things ever. And my left buttcheek is suffering today. The stairs are so worn down and so steep you are litterally climbing and lunging up and down the wall. A slight loss of footing would cause you to sprain your ankle or fall a dozen feet to suffer some serious injury. Luckily, there weren't lots of tourists blocking you and getting into all your photos. It was a perfect day, nice and sunny with a cool breeze. SO SURREAL.

A month ago, I was lying in bed thinking, "oh my gosh, I'm a real physical therapist." And now I'm half way around the world, and I'm like, "oh my gosh, I'm at the Great Wall of China." (Joy, I'm sure you know what I mean). This was one of the reasons when I was in Europe why I wanted to be a PT. Traveling Europe was hard, no elevators to the top of the Duomo to see the red rooftops of Florence and no bellboy to lift your 50 pound bag onto the train or up the stairs to your room. So only healthy people would've been able to see some of the sites I saw. It's the same feeling here. Only the healthy could've made that trek up and down the Great Wall and seen the mountains and beautiful landscape of China into Mongolia and walked on the same path that soldiers and such walked thousands of years ago.


I feel blessed and lucky to be here.

Posted by csomera1 10:54 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

The Last Hurrah

Holy crap...it begins

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Hi all,

I've never done this whole blog action before, so please bear with me. When I travel, I'm usually a journal writer...sitting in a cafe, people watching, and scribbling away. But this would kill 2 birds in 1 stone, keep track of my travels while letting everyone at home know I'm still alive.

The journey begins in 3 days and I'm really anxious...scared, really. This is the only time I've just bought a 1 way ticket with no real itinerary. I've just booked my hostel, filled prescriptions for prophylactics, and dusted off the old bookbag (that's been all over Europe, South America, Denver and Dover...haha). My patients joked that I was abandoning them to go on vacation....but this whole backpacking thing is DEFINITELY NOT A VACATION. The bell hop isn't taking my bag to the room of a 5 star lucury resort while I sip mojitos by the pool and work on my tan. I lug around a 50 pound bag up 5 flights of stairs to a small dorm room with strangers with my money belt tucked in my pants and its zipper fastened closed by a safety pin attached to my underwear. Not speaking th language, eating strange food, not sleeping in my own bed, and bringing only 1 pair of jeans (argh)....so definitely not a vacation. I am though looking forward to the 31 hour party on a Thailand beach for only 6 USD.

Backpacking is exciting, it's scary, and stressful but it's also enlightening, exhilirating and grounding. I always come back from these trips with "new eyes." When I get back (in approx 3 months) the food tastes better, my bed is more comfortable, my shower feels amazing and stupid petty issues don't bug me so much.

So log on, read, and enjoy....

Posted by csomera1 21:02 Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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