Sunday, May 13, 2007

Even Nixon Had to Return: Random Updates

-Back in Shanghai and still seeing weird crap.
-Pudong is gorgeous in the spring and my obsession with the Bund tunnel continues.
-Headed to Oregon on June 16th.
-Will return to NYC (and missing the pizza like whoa) on July 2nd, where I'll be rockin' out all summer long.
-Still food-poisoning free (thank God)
-Mandarin is still difficult as ever, but rewarding...locals put up with my awkward sentences and laugh with me.
-Had an AWESOME birthday last Wednesday, complete with dancing waiters and yummy food. Shout out to all of my awesome friends and family who sent me b-day lovin'!
-Failing miserably at keeping blog updated.

Spring Break: Hainan

To complete the scrambled up break, me and a smaller crew headed to Sanya, Hainan, a bizarre tropical island that is right off of the southern mainland, but still considered part of China.

We booked a hostel in advance and were pretty psyched about crashing out. Until we discovered the cat urine in our linens and the bugs scurrying nearby. After seven hours, we booked a room at a nearby hotel.

This hotel, although a step up, had a brothel downstairs, or a, ahem, "massage parlor," and a fish treatment spa. After hours, we jumped in and learned that a fish treatment spa is essentially a jacuzzi with small fish swimming around who nibble off your dead skin - a great way to conclude any evening.

And in the spirit of happy endings, I spent the next five days sunning, reading, eating seafood from a nearby crab shack, swimming, staring at the ocean, playing mah jong and previewing my life as a retiree. Hainan is beyond bizarre - a tropical island where everyone speaks Chinese with a huge Russian expat scene, brothels, bikes and clams - and a must see for those who want to see the quirky side of China, or just to feel sand in between your toes.

Spring Break: Juizhaigou

Although Juizhaigou is a 45 minute flight from Chengdu, we spent all day trying to get there. We actually got on a plane, then could not land at the airport, turned around and went back to Chengdu where we waited all day for the air to clear. Juizhaigou airport is literally on a mountain and once we got there in the early evening, for the first time in my travels here, I really felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.

I packed flip flops and tank tops. You can imagine my surprise when I looked out and saw snow capped mountains and yaks. We were close to the Tibetan border and the nearby influence manifested in some of the villages we perused. We trotted around the mountain all day, then took in local minority show which was both cheesy and oddly patronizing. The sights were good enough for this couple and had me pretty stoked as well. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spring Break: Sichuan

Due to the crazy high cost and pain of trying to obtain an entry visa, I was not able to travel to Tibet this spring break, as I had originally planned. But, a large posse of students (including me) did journey to Sichuan for five days.

We flew into Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan and by all accounts, a pretty hip little city. Every time I leave Shanghai, I expect to see shanty towns and much more poverty, which is true in some cases, but Chengdu had a strip of high-end shopping that rivaled European capitals.

In addition to being known for spicy food (we ordered pig brains and yak meat...which we later believed to be dog...), Sichuan boasts an impressive panda reserve. This place was a serious step up from the Shanghai Zoo, but still had a couple of troubling cages. Perhaps more interesting than the pandas (if such a thing is possible) was the loads of panda merch EVERYWHERE nearby. In China, there's a cheap, streetside giftshop for every attraction imaginable.

Thanks to geopolitical factors, Sichuan has a considerable Tibetan influence. After a short stint in Chengdu, we hopped aboard a plane to Jiuzhaigou.

Pandas Gone Wild

What do these images all have in common? They were all taken within a few days of each other during my spring break in China. One country, millions of things to see. More to follow.