Koh Samui, Paradise on Earth

大家好,

I think I won’t make any deadlines anymore because I never keep them! As of late, my internet has been so slow that each time I try to get on WordPress, it loads too slowly that I lose my patience. WordPress, like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc is blocked so to access it, I must use my VPN. Sometimes though it’s just so dang slow!

Today it’s not bad though so I will give you some more photos. Currently I’ve nothing out of the ordinary going on, but we might have a future Dalian trip with the school cancelled because of the China – S. Korea relations recently souring further.. the school worries it won’t be safe for the Korean students. In typical China fashion, they are on the TV and shit saying “If you’re real Chinese you don’t use Korean products” and a Russian student said he saw a T-Shirt for sale that shows a Chinese flag fist crushing a US and S. Korean flag.

Typical, unsurprising Chinese posturing. But whatever, soon I will go home anyway so yeah. In general I like Chinese people and history, but this kind of hyper-nationalistic BS annoys me in any country. Unfortunately, people here are, on average, more ignorant of things that don’t fit the party line so not much can be done.

Anyway, I’ll try to get some photos if I see anything like this.

Now to Koh Samui. To get there from Bangkok it’s actually quite easy, just long. Of course if money is no object you can fly there and that’s the fastest, easiest method. I’m a cheap-ass so of course we did the bus/catamaran method which is a slow 12 hour trip total, but only a sixth of the price or something like that. So it was well worth it.

Upon arrival it was a hair hectic but I mean, I’m so jaded with Asian travel so I guess I’m used it it. We were able to get a van taxi transfer and get to our hotel no problem. I think I forgot to take more photos of the hotel itself but it was super nice. The cheaper rooms are a bit worn but they were clean and cheap so I don’t really care about anything else. We stayed at the Kinnaree Resort. You can see the cheaper rooms and the more recently renovated ones on their website linked above. The red ones are the newer ones and the green themed room are the cheaper ones. I saw both and while the wood floor (as opposed to tile) and red decor is warmer and more inviting, I am a cheap-ass as I said so I didn’t care since the green ones were still clean.

I only realize now that the below is the only photo of the room I took, but you can check out the photos on their website so whatever haha.

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The presentation is so cute!

The room is like a little hut or house and they have little porches you can sit on. From our porch to the beach it was literally 10 steps, and it was great! More than a few days was just spent laying on the beach on a chair, reading the multitude of books on my Kindle. I loved it! Talk about relaxation. You could hear the breaking waves from our room as it was the second one from the beach end of the resort.

George was a salty Sally and didn’t want to sit on the beach because apparently putting on sun-block was too hard and he kept letting himself become Dr. Zoidberg.

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So friggin’ relaxing holy crap.. look at those muscley shoulders.. so manly lmao.

So yeah, the island time was mostly relaxing and not thinking too hard. One day we even played in the sand like kids. We made a sand fortress/castle? thing. Of course I asked for shells and rocks to decorate as I wasn’t sure how else to make it “pretty”.

See the rock on the top? I’ll let you guess who decided on that part. =.=
He was far too amused by that, but then again so was I. We are a lovely pair.

The whole 10-day trip in Koh Samui wasn’t only R&R but also food.. and more food. We are fatties and both of us LOVE Thai food. We found great pad thai noodles from a small little shack in a parking lot. It was delicious AND cheap. See for yourself!

In addition to eating good food, we actually took cooking classes with Smiley Cook which was pretty freaking awesome. The day started with our chef taking us to the market to buy ingredients after choosing what dishes to make.

We chose Green Curry, Steamed Fish, Papaya Salad, and Cashew Chicken. We met a nice Spanish couple in our group and it was a lot of fun watching George cook for the first time. He was definitely awkward but I was proud of him for giving it an honest attempt without getting frustrated or anything.

Other than cooking, we actually took a kayaking trip with Bluestars Kayaking to a geological park near the Thai islands. I loved this trip but George wasn’t so keen on the boat to the geological park. We discovered he gets seasick. Woopsie.

This was the first time I ever got to kayak and I definitely have a new hobby. It’s a good workout, but still enjoyable. I think if I ever live near water, I might want to look into some kind of group or club for rowing.. I might like that, too!

But yeah so in effort to keep this not so long, here are some random photos before I go to sleep.

So yeah, I’ll work on the final Summer trip location, the Philippines when I have time and decent internet. Also I’ll try to pay attention to things going on here to share. I think I’ve become jaded and I take things for granted here now that I don’t think to blog about it, haha.

Anyway,

再见,
Laowai Shye

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To Manila!

Thai Curry is Best Curry…

…Sorry Tim!

大家好!

Tomorrow is the start of my final semester of classes.  As promised I am getting my Thailand photos up but I’m splitting Thailand up into two posts, this one for Bangkok and a second for Koh Samui.. I’ll do that one and the Philippines in the next few days. I wanted to get both Thai posts up today but Bangkok is taking me too long and I can’t stay up so late. Yeah, I’m breaking my promises a bit, but I’m trying!

Anyway, after my awesome time in Chengdu, I took a flight to Bangkok. I was super excited as I’ve never been to Thailand before. I travel light when I’m going so many places, and I live out of one 35L backpacking bag. I arrived and had already looked up in advance how to get to the hostel. I always ensure I know exactly what to do if I’m in a place where I don’t speak the language.

I was able to take a subway ride from the airport to a stop not far from the hostel. Of course I had gotten a cell phone SIM card at the airport so I had access to google and could easily map my way there.

We chose to stay at the Siamaze Hostel  by recommendation of Monica because she had gone to Thailand the previous winter. I basically copied her trip. Made my planning much easier. The hostel was BEAUTIFUL, clean, and the customer service was on point! I stayed in a dorm style room the first night as George was meeting me in Bangkok the following morning, then we’d switch to a standard queen room. This way the first night was a bit cheaper.

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Hotel lobby panorama

The first day George was there we just walked around because he was tired from the international flight and jet-lagged. We had a food tour scheduled the next day so that day was free to chill. We found a Vietnamese restaurant which was great so I got my Viet-French press coffee and some noodles with stuff on it. The stuff was like some pork and veggies wrapped in betel leaf. It was awesome!

The following morning we did the food tour which was perfect. It was a walking tour so I felt less guilty about being the fat-ass glutton I was born to be. The tour company was Taste of Thailand food tours and the price was pretty good. We finished so freakin’ full that I barely could try the last few dishes! I don’t have photos of each and every dish but an overview. My god, I would do it again and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a really good overview of Thai cuisine. We got to try curry of course, local street snacks, drinks, Muslim food, and desserts.

This was the only planned thing for Bangkok this time around. We had a bike tour toward the end of the trip but the first 3 days was mostly exploring the city, shopping and of course eating! We did try to find some notable sights but it was kind of hard to get to them by foot and public transport. The best way I think is by bike tour, which ended up being how we saw some of the cultural sights. (more below)

Our time in Bangkok was split up, we did 2 or 3 days before our 10-days in Koh Samui, and 2 or 3 days after. This was because the trek to the island was a full day thing, 12 hours by bus and high speed catamaran. With the flight George would have to endure, it was nice having less of it being terribly close together. Since this part is all Bangkok, I will skip ahead to our second time in Bangkok.

The last few days in Thailand we tried to see some sights again but ran into the same trouble doing it on our own. Luckily the bike tour covered them but the problem was I chose a night bike tour, the Siam Ratree tour via Follow Me Bike Tours, as I felt the nighttime would be cooler and more comfortable in a Thai summer. While most certainly true, it meant that we couldn’t go inside of the fancy gates because places would be closed. The one exception was the Wat Phra Kaew, I think. It was open because of some special event and we were able to go in. Our tour guide even showed us how to prepare a lotus flower for a Buddhist prayer and the proper method for the prayer. It was a cool little culture note to round out the night.

The bike tour as a whole was so freakin’ awesome. The tour took us through small little alleyways and on a boat ferry to cross the river. This tour, while not a ‘food tour’ included MORE than enough food along the way. All local stuff, of course.

Of course I have many more photos but unfortunately WordPress limits me.. I’m at 80% capacity for a free site without even touching the Philippines.. Koh Samui photos are uploaded just no on a page yet.

But anyway.. I freakin’ love Thailand and most likely will return sometime in the future. I haven’t even been to Chiang Mai yet! So yeah, tomorrow I’ll work on Koh Samui, the island portion of our Thailand excursions. I liked that part best.. I never knew such a paradise as Koh Samui. Don’t worry, you’ll see!

Hey, TechData, go make fun of my husband’s kindergarten kid smile… me and my sister were dying laughing at it.. because while I only have one here (so he’s not too salty) he does that in multiple photos so it’s even funnier! He makes the best faces in photos. I love it.

Love you baby. Don’t be mad. :b

再见,

Laowai Shye

 

Oh My Shanghai!

大家好!

Finally getting caught up! I’m a bit lazy when it comes to writing.. Never liked it much, even if something I want to do. Strangely contradictory, I know.

Luckily for bloggin’ purposes, I didn’t travel really this winter break. I only went home and then stayed about 3 days in Shanghai, so there’s a bit to say, but I’m not too far behind.

While at home, I got to experience my first proper Chinese New Year with the in-laws since the holiday was a bit earlier this year which means I was around for it. I got to make dumplings with my 婆婆 (Mother-in-law) which is pretty traditional, but also I got to watch (I’m useless) her make all of the Chinese dishes you can see below. It tasted great and I rolled away from that table.

As you can guess by the title, that’s this one’s topic. But I won’t lie, it wasn’t that exciting except for the fact that that I got to meet some awesome people, KaiKai and Jinwen, who are friends of my husband’s. They were super generous as they not only picked me up from the airport, but also took me to a very spicy hotpot restaurant, which I loved.

I didn’t do too much in Shanghai because originally, some Polish girls were supposed to meet me there. Stuff happened and it ended up that they couldn’t go so I was there alone. Since I’ve been in Shanghai before, I wasn’t about to desperately see everything. It’s not necessary. As my hubs is originally from there, I will likely be back in my lifetime, so I took it easy.

The first day I went to the French Concession.. but to be honest, I’m not sure that I found it. Overall, the area wasn’t terribly interesting and so that’s why I doubt I had actually arrived there rather than kind of walking around nearby. I wander. Those who know me know my directional skills suck… so perhaps I was there, perhaps I was not.

That’s an authentic Shiloh experience, I guarantee it!

While there, I found a really cool shopping street,  much by accident. There I ate and bought a bunch of cool stuff like a handmade mint candle and charcoal mint face soap. This ended up being a really neat night market and made the day feel successful.

 

The both days I was lazy but the second day I was out a little earlier because I was less jet lagged. I decided I would go the Bund. I’ve been there before, but not at night with all the lights. The hostel was centrally located so I decided to just walk to the Bund. According to Baidu Maps (their version of Google Maps) it was a long but doable walk so I decided to just walk there and see what I find on the way.

Well, what I found was a park and a big mall with stores like Asics, MAC, and Victoria’s Secret and so I wandered that mall’s 7 floors. The mall wasn’t so wide, just very tall, typical for many big cities where land is at a premium.

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Toward the end I had seen the inside of a Hershey’s that I had seen earlier from the outside. As someone who grew up within a 1 hour drive from Hershey, PA, I took a look and treated myself to a nice Hershey Mint chocolate drink.

After the mall I just kept at it toward the Bund, stopping at various small shops on the way. Finally for my knees and bladder, I made it and got to see the swarms of people and bright lights.

 

In current news:

I just took my placement exam today, which is stupid and useless because I can ultimately choose my level anyway. I will likely be in E班. Level E out of A- F. F班 probably won’t have enough people to even exist this semester. But I’m ok with that.. F has some literary and writing aspects that are just not useful compared to the more speaking focus of E.

I find out Friday, and start classes again for my final semester on Monday. I want to catch up before then.

I’m much better at doing regular posts if I’m not behind. I noticed this last semester was really sparse for posts, and that’s partly because I was behind already and feeling like I need to “catch up” is a bit overwhelming sometimes and so I avoid it altogether. Dumb? YEP! The upside to this is that while I’m running out of space on my blog for photos (there is a limit for a free blog on WordPress) I will probably be OK now since I didn’t upload many photos the last 6 months. So yeah, silver lining.

So as it’s long overdue, I wanted to finally get my Thailand post out there. Of course writing this a whole semester after the fact means that some of the finer details get lost, but photos are still nice, especially for those of you who work with my husband. I was told you were waiting for them!

AWKWARD.

Welp. Next few days is catch up time.

Thanks for not being too angry. 🙂 再见,

Laowai Shye

The Greatest of Walls

大家好!

So yeah, so much for a week! I actually wrote a post about my return from home and such and then realized I didn’t post my Great Wall photos, so I will do this first before finishing the other one up which will have some of the deets I’m leaving out here.

I went to Beijing on my way home in January to see my friend Monica, but took one day to go to the Great Wall as it’s been eluding me all last year.

I stayed at the Heyuan Garden Hostel in Beijing as it’s closer to my friend’s house. It’s super clean and quiet so I think it’s my new favorite Beijing hostel and I highly recommend it! I stayed in the dorm room and it’s one of the best I’ve been to in China. The rooms have 4 beds (two bunks) and one clean bathroom for each room. This means no nasty ass floor restrooms. I find that people are more respectful of others and tidy when the bathroom to person ratio is lower. There is more accountability this way. Foreigners and Chinese alike have potential so no one is safe!

I also find these smaller hostels tend to have less “party animals” and it helps that this one is far from Sanlitun. Sanlitun is a big club and bar area so those who are going to drink and party are likely going to stay closer to the clubs so they can walk back or have cheaper taxi fares. So, needless to say, I loved this nice peaceful hostel on the other side of the city center from the bulk of clubs. The food, drink, and laundry prices were also pretty reasonable compared to many other hostels I’ve stayed at.

Anyway, so to my Great Wall trip: Like most Chinese hostel tours, I was picked up from my hostel which means it was quite convenient and easy compared to having to prepare everything myself. It’s also likely cheaper to be in a group than to go privately.

I chose the Mutianyu (慕田峪) section of the Great Wall because it’s the middle ground in price, distance, restoration, and number of average visitors at any given moment. There are more than 3 choices for wall sections, I’m sure, but usually at hostels there are 3 options.

Badaling (八达岭) is the cheapest, closests, adn the most restored. Because of the factors, I hear that it tends to be the most crowded. Of course I would expect it to be less crowded in winter anyway, but whatevs.

The most expensive, furthest, and least restored section is Jinshanling (金山岭). If you want to see the least “artificial” section, this is a good choice. Because it’s further and a bit more expensive, it tends to have less visitors so it’s pretty nice if you want more wall to yourself. I have heard and read that of the three, this one is also the most challenging hike, so it’s best for the more physically able sadists who decide that legs are overrated.

So yeah, the day was pretty chilly, but the walk was still pretty hard even if it wasn’t the worst. I met a pretty cool Chinese dude so I had someone to chat with and practice my Mandarin. His English was better than my Chinese, but I still tried.

At Mutianyu, you can walk up the mountain but then you’d have virtually no time on the wall itself, so obviously I took the cable car up and down. Interestingly enough, I was in the same cable car as Bill Clinton is 1998. There were a few marked ones showing notable people who’ve ridden in specific cars including the one ridden by Barack Obama.

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For the wall itself, obviously the winter foliage isn’t the most breathtaking and that’s the only big drawback to going in winter, but I didn’t go for pretty photos, I went because I must. While the landscape was very brown, it still was quite breathtaking in itself. I just cannot fathom how ancient people built this. I just CAN’T.

In my photos you can see a big ass set of stairs. They were the worst. They look tall in the photo, but TRUST YOU ME, in reality they were far taller and harder. I died a little, but the view from the top if where the best photos were taken, including my shameless selfie.

Anywho, dinner was included with the total tour price so I got a well-deserved meal at the end of it before returning.. and my god I scarfed it down like a hungry wolverine.

I am going to work on the post I had already written and adjust it. It should be done tonight as well!

再见,

Laowai Shye

My Last Chinese Stop, Chongqing

大家好,

Yeah I’m behind. When you’re enjoying yourself and relaxing, blogging doesn’t come up too often as something that sounds fun.

When I got to Chongqing it was SO HOT and humid of course so it was a bit of torture just to get there. I arrived in the evening so I wasn’t about to go out again other than to eat if that was necessary. Usually hostels have food of some sort even if it’s a bit expensive.

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When checking in, there was a gentleman there also checking in at the same time who was the first westerner I’ve seen since Chengdu. We chatted and introduced ourselves. He was Joris from Holland.. which was great because I was thinking about that dude from Game of Thrones.

Anyway, I dropped off my crap and got situated before heading out around 7pm to eat. I didn’t want to go out for food because on the way in, there was no obvious places nearby and the hostel was on floor 5 with no elevator and I was tired. I sat at the bar and first took some time to look though their tour lists and recommended travel spots.

As I was sitting there, Joris came out and sat next to me and we just chatted about ourselves and what we wanted to see. Since we were both solo travelers and he speaks no Mandarin, we agreed to hit up Wulong Karst National Geology Park the next day together. We ordered dinner there and ate together. He got a hot pot in a large size and didn’t realize how bit it would be so he shared it a bit, while I ordered some spicy Chongqing noodles. I could go for that now, it’s been too long. He ended up being a super awesome dude so it made my travel in Chongqing so much better and more interesting for his company, and probably safer, too. China isn’t particularly dangerous, but a lone female traveling alone can always be singled out as a target and it’s the only reason I prefer to not travel by myself.

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火锅 – Hot pot

The next day, we went together to the park, but while I wanted to leave around 8:00 or 8:30, he felt it was too early and said he preferred 9:30. I agreed because I didn’t think it would matter, but it ended up being much more of an effort to get to the damn place than we both thought. This is where the hostel kind of failed, they weren’t too good at advising as well as they could have. No mention of the amount of travel, 20 minutes to get to the bus station, 2 or 3 hour bus ride, another 30 min van ride, a final 10 minute bus ride. This was because the park is so big you need to get that final tour bus to each sight.

It wasn’t as conducive to just walking and hiking as we both though. That was a letdown and because of time, we only had time to see one thing. The thing is, in the mountains there is a GREAT, almost European-style town with hotels and hostels that would be a better bet so more can be seen and less time is spent traveling.

We opted for the 3 Natural Bridges because it was the easiest thing to get to and probably the only thing we would have time to explore and make it back in time for our return journey. A letdown, but at least I know and if could go back if I was ever in Chongqing again.

The 3 Natural Bridges were great though, to start we went down and elevator into the gorge and the 3 bridges would be overhead along with some spots where movies were filmed. I was annoyed they kept having random stupid Transformers crap because I guess some of the movie was filmed there, but it ruined the ambiance. Leave it to Chinese people to go nuts over stupid movie crap for cheap touristy photo shoots rather than leaving it in a more natural state. They also love to over-develop natural sights. While the Geological park was gorgeous, at times it felt like I was at an amusement park, not a natural park. Part of this is due to their population, it’s necessary to handle the demand to have the area more developed, but I think it’s also just the way they view tourism, vacation, and nature. They do the same with scenic spots in other places, there is no dirt hiking trail, only a stone-paved walkway that feels like a park stroll, not a mountain hike. So, so far, I feel like if I want hiking I should save it for a trip on the Appalachian Trail back home.

Again, that all said, it was still really nice. You can see for yourself!

The second day we decided to stay around Chongqing, because after all that running around, we were tired and didn’t want to wake up early. The second day we planned to visit the famous graffiti street which was done by the nearby university art students, passing Jiefangbei on the way which is the “Time’s Square” of Chongqing.

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The irony of the square was not lost on me though, as the monument is a monument to the Chinese communist movement and like the people who died fighting for “New China” whilst being surrounded by the very essence of Capitalism with the Prada, Gucci, GIVENCHY, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Coach, and other hyper-luxury brands.

After a bit, we arrived at the graffiti street and the art really made the area quite unique and the old buildings that would otherwise be ugly and unremarkable, were full of character.

We found our way to “Weird Foreigner Park” (as described on the recommended places list at the hostel) but didn’t know what to expect. On TripAdvisor someone says something like, “less a park about what is ‘foreign’ but rather what Chinese people THINK is foreign”. I was thinking a place with shopping or cafes, but it ended up being freaking a hodgepodge of stalls selling food and swimsuits and some haunted houses and other cheap hokey thrills… all with a BAD 1950’s carnival feel complete with creepy-ass clowns. I didn’t take photos there as it wasn’t worth it. It was adjacent to a new, American-style waterpark that would actually be quite nice if you’re into that sort of thing. The searing heat was making me into that sort of thing but Joris wasn’t interested and I didn’t have my swimsuit or anything else with me that I would need for that.

The final day we had planned to see the Dazu rock carvings but I must’ve caught some kind of stomach virus because I woke up feeling really sick. I told him if he really wanted to go, he could go without me because I was in pain but I would wait an hour or two to see if it cleared on it’s own. It didn’t but it did subside a bit so we ended up going to the the train station. The way to get there was interesting though because we passed an old section full of shops and such along a hill.

We decided to not go after all because it was too late. The next bus wasn’t for another hour and it was another 2 hour trip. We were worried that we would face a repeat of the first day and not have time. Instead we opted to walk around Jiefangbei a bit and grab some beers and small snacks to try. We headed back to the hostel to rest a bit and agreed to meet up in an hour to go to the Porcelain Village which was another “Ancient Culture Town” of sorts that are all over China but this one I think is not old at all, just made to look old. Regardless it was still interesting to browse and I even found Indian roti there that was delicious.

Two last notable things that I don’t have photos of is that we went to a restaurant that was an old WWII bunker or something which was different and the food was great and we went to Hongya Cave which is a food area in the side of a steep wall. We at at the Harp Irish Pub which wasn’t bad at all, but is likely where I got sick because I started not feeling well later that night and the next morning.

But yeah that’s the gist.. On July 31st I got on a plane for my next destination, Bangkok Thailand, which I can say so far has been the best part of my trip because my husband was there with me. I’ll try to get that up soon!

再见,

Laowai Shye

PS:泽元,非常不好意思-我打算发音成汉语,可是那事情要很长时间。有空就做好吗?

 

Spicy Chengdu

大家好!

I arrived late in Chengdu because of the delay so I lost a whole dang day. I would find out later that the delay would cost me the ability to go on the Leshan Giant Buddha tour but I’m not TOO broken up about it. The other days they didn’t have the tour but I could’ve gone alone but I wasn’t too keen on going alone for fear I would get lost. It’s unfounded as I got myself quite ably to country places in Chongqing (next post) but for whatever reason I was a bit hesitant.

I stayed in contact with my new Australian friend, Joel because it’s always more fun to travel with someone, but it’s also safer. It’s not that China is dangerous, because it’s not, it’s just that I think that numbers are best, especially as a woman. I’ve heard stories about expat women facing challenges when alone in China. Might be a minority but hey, why take the risk.

had to taxi to the hostel, Chengdu Flipflop lounge hostel which was absolutely great. Fabulous. I was in a standard dorm room as I usually go for the cheapest tolerable option which usually means mixed dorm. I was unpacking my things and wanted a nice shower after the almost 40 hours since my last one. I heard a dude and girl speaking Korean in the next bunk so I asked in Chinese if they spoke Chinese or English so I can ask them if they need to use the bathroom first.
(many Korean people will know some Chinese as many go to China to study it).

Much to my surprise when the male looked up he was someone who was also from Anshan. We both were like, “HUH?!” because the coincidence is real. We don’t know each other well, I didn’t even know his name but we reconized each other. It was nice because I immediately felt like I can trust the people in my room, but in general I trust Korean people, they always seem so polite and courteous.

The dorm was great because for only 4 beds (2 bunks) there was an ensuite bathroom instead of a floor wide big bathroom. While it can be inconvenient because you can’t use the toilet if someone is in there, it kind of lends to the bathroom being cleaner since  there is more accountability and if everyone is gone, you have privacy.

The first day I was there I didn’t want to do anything too crazy as I had gotten to the hostel after midnight and thus slept late. The Australian and I kept in contact even though he was staying at a different hostel so we could meet up and all as it’s more fun to travel around with someone.

But that didn’t mean I was always accompanied, one day I was alone and hungry so I found my way to a Sichuan place across the street and it was quite good! My meal is below, a la pinterest-style

I ended up returning to the place the night before departure with a a new British friend and tried the drypot squid (干锅鱿鱼) and it was simply awesome.

Since Joel and I were unable to get to see the Leshan Giant Buddha, we went to see the pandas the last day. They are CUTE AF. We were happy the “zoo” bore little resemblance to other zoos visited in the past and was very open and such by comparison. Make no mistake, it was still a zoo, but I’ve seen much worse in Dalian. That zoo was depressing.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Chengdu. WOULD RECOMMEND. But I was disappointed I wasn’t able to see the Buddha, but I just tell myself that I saved a lot of money as it was one of the more expensive tours and I wasn’t gutsy enough to go alone.

Silly noob.

再见,

Laowai Shye

Rainpocalyse

大家好,

Ok so I had said it rained in Beijing while I was there, right? Perhaps I didn’t make it clear it was like Rainmageddon no joke. While perhaps not at the level of 2012’s rain storms that were the most epic in 60 years, it was still pretty awesome in all the best and worst ways.

Recent Rain in China
This link shows an article with a photo of a tunnel outside of Beijing West station on July 20th.. I was at that station only 1 day later.

Beijing West Station
This article focuses on the transportation hiccups.. That photo is exactly where I was only one day later. I notice now that the message in the middle showing cancellations has my train, the Z49. But luckily the next day it wasn’t canceled, only delayed. I guess I can count my blessings.
In other news that small smudge of a McDonalds M on the left is where I ate lunch that day.

Where I was, major streets were still reasonable but the smaller ones were quickly becoming small rivers. I wore sandals just so I could recklessly walk through them instead of trying to get around which was near impossible.

This obviously didn’t have a great effect on my train scheduled for 11:27 AM on July 21st that was to go from Beijing West Railyway Station to Chengdu North Railway Station. All together the schedule was to be a slightly longer than 21 hour ride that was to end around 8:30 AM on July 22nd.

This already sounds intense but I was prepared with The Walking Dead season 5, Kindle Paperwhite, and my phone with external power bank that can charge it to full 2 or 3 times.

Upon arrival I was a bit early and famished so I got something quick and easy which usually means Micky D’s because it’s something you can grab and take with you if necessary which is something that cannot always be said about Chinese food.

As the clock ticked closer I was stating outside of the gate waiting for my train to be called to commence boarding and about 15 min prior to the scheduled departure time I started to zone out a bit just because I was bored waiting by myself. All of a sudden, I realized that the time was 11:25 AM and my train was no longer on the board and I panicked a second, worried that I had missed my train. I found a guard and asked him about my train and he said simply, “还没到” meaning it still hasn’t arrived. I was relieved and sure that it wouldn’t be long and so I asked him when he thought it might come. He pointed up at the board and told me to look and I noticed my train was back up again but with a new arrival time, 14:22, a whole 3 hours later.

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My 3 hour delay – my train is the Z49 on the right, moments before it had said 11:27开

In my pampered hubris I thought this was the end of the world and I lamented the seemingly eternal delay before me. With 3 hours I looked for a place to sit but I wasn’t so fortunate as there were people pretty much everywhere. There is a Chinese idiom for this, 人山人海 which means literally “people mountain, people sea” or in my local dialect, “Everyone and their fucking mother is here”.

With no seats I found a shop inside selling those small portable fold-able seats often used for outside Chinese BBQ or just for sitting outside in general and I thought this would be a good thing right now. It was 20 yuan for the more sturdy one which I felt might be necessary since I have a big butt and I intended on keeping it even if it’s a bit troublesome to carry back home. I find myself wanting one every now and again so it’ll come in handy later.

I found a spot and plopped myself down and didn’t realize just how long I’d be in that spot. I saw a white dude kind of wandering past me and I asked him where he was going. Earlier I had seen him rush past me toward the 4th gate so I had a hunch he was on the same train, especially since he was much less in a haste now which would make sense if he was on the same one.

He said he was going to Chengdu and I said, “OH!? Me, too!” so he ended up sitting down and we chatted and joked which certainly made the time go faster. As the time got close to the 14:00 mark the time changed to 晚点 which means delayed. With groans of disgust we just sat and talked taking time to glance up at the board every now and again.

The guy was an Australian named Joel and he’s quite the witty dude. Hilarious and with a good sense of humor I feel like the delay wasn’t too bad if I’ve at least made a new friend.

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When the people were truly at their highest number

So the waiting went on well past 4 PM and such. The room got busier and busier and there were messages on the board in red that showed cancellations so I decided I wanted to go ask someone if there was even a soft estimate of when the train might come and also hit the bathroom because the line was long and I wasn’t too worried about Joel stealing my stuff. He seemed ok. So with great effort I struggled through the crowd to leave the waiting room and find a guard to ask. I finally found one about the same time a bunch of military guys came and started ushering people. The guard answered that he got notice that maybe around 18:30 the train would come and that was only about 2 hours away at this point so I was happy to take that.

Now, as I’m trying to get back in, masses of people are trying to get out so I cannot get through. I had to tell a military guy that I needed to get back in because my friend and my stuff was all in there and he helped me pave a way by walking ahead of me and helping me get through as the Chinese won’t push or bother a military man.

I got back and spread the good news and no sooner had I done so, the board updated from “delayed” to 18:50. At this point, this 5 and a half hour delay was “not bad”. So we sat and continued waiting.

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Finally a time! The 晚点 non specific entry is maddening! Taken approx 4:30 PM

Of course it was too good to be true and as the time rolled around, we found that this too, was a false hope and it changed back to “晚点” around 6:30 PM or so.

It started to become a really screwed up game, when would the train arrive? There was concern it wouldn’t arrive at all or that it would arrive like some crazy amount of time later and we’d spend the night at the train station.

But in the end the intercom voiced the oncoming train and there was an audible cheer from the crowd that was waiting for it. I wasn’t sure if it was our train so I asked some visibly happy people what the intercom said as it’s not clear enough for me. She said some train was coming and I said I was going to Chengdu and she told me it was the same train. I literally danced a jig I was so happy.

When all was said and done, Joel and I had waited over 10 hours for a train at Beijing West. If I was alone I might’ve gone a little crazy but chatting with a new friend really helped pass the time. We agreed to get hotpot in Chengdu together since we were going to the same place so I would see him there.

The seat on this train that I had was the hard sleeper seat which this time was quite nice, nicer than previous ones anyway. Not there is much of a difference but these had a bit more privacy from people walking pass the space since instead of it being open out into the aisle, there was a small wall until the door frame. On other ones that space is open with a ladder for getting to the middle and top bunks but here they were just small little fold-able steps to use with the bed themselves to go up. It’s a bit more streamlined. While not a perfect execution, I tried to get a good “PanoSphere” shot with my phone so you have a good idea of what it feels like.

I was lucky enough to get the bottom bunk which is usually slightly more expensive but a huge difference in seat. The bottom one usually has more headroom so you can sit straight up, the middle and top even I, as short as I am, must hunch over. There are seats also next to the windows for such passengers so it’s not a condemnation but it’s just less convenient. On this train, the top bunk had some storage at the very top above the entryway that is not on the other hard seat cars I’ve been in. So even the very top one isn’t bad on this car because you have your own storage space so you don’t need to come down except to use the toilet or if you want to sit up rather than hunch or lay down. On any train the middle is usually the cheapest because it doesn’t have the privacy of the top nor the convenience of the bottom.

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The wall where the footholds are is a new one for me. I’m used to that space being open and there being a ladder there. This one was really nice and more private. Even had an outlet but I didn’t use it. Fancy shmancy.

After getting on I brushed my teeth and washed my face the best I could and even changed into pajamas. For a train ride over 20 hours, comfort is a necessity. I slept pretty soundly until about 7:30 AM when they were selling breakfast. I had enough food that I didn’t need to buy anything but water until 3 hour from arrival because I didn’t want to worry about buying food when I got to Chengdu at 11PM. Which is longer than it should’ve taken. A 21 hour 13 min train ride turned into 10 hours waiting at the station and 25.5 hour ride because they had to change the train course a bit and they ran it at a slower speed, presumably for safety. I’m alive, so I won’t complain. I only got antsy the last 2 hours or so.

The scenery on the way was at times, amazing. While the photo doesn’t do any justice, here is my attempt at getting a shot. Just trust me that it’s not even close.

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I saw many villages built into the side of the mountains as we passed

Anyway, I’m in Chengdu now and I must sleep. Tomorrow I see Pandas! When I return I should be able to give you my last few days in Chengdu.

再见,

Laowai Shye