Ni Hao from China!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Greetings from China! Before we arrived to China we heard so many things from other people who had been here - some hated it and others loved it. One thing is for sure though, if you were here more than a few years ago, China has become a different place. They've just knocked down whole blocks of buildings are replacing them with skyscrapers. It is changing so quickly that even some of its own people don't know what to do about it. In the subway in Shanghai they use a card system for paying the fare, and there is almost always confusion at the entryway. The first time we used the subway there was a woman in her forties or fifties who just didn't where to put the card! Also in Shanghai, while walking down one of the main pedestrian shopping areas, we saw an older couple going for an evening stroll in their pajamas. This is common thing to do in Asia, wearing your PJ's outside in either the daytime or the night... but in such a modern looking place it seemed odd.

We have been taking the train from place to place in China, and unlike most other countries we have been to on this trip there are many local people on the long distance hauls with us, not just other tourists. And, since we have been on so many trains, it has been a really easy way to get to know some Chinese people. On our first Chinese train we went from Hong Kong to Guilin. Some of our traveling companions turned out to be local high school students on their way to English camp. This scenic area is very popular with foreign tourists and many Chinese students go there to meet foreigners and practice their English. The "camp" invited us to go sightseeing with them for two days, and so we briefly became part of a Chinese tour! It was great! They also taught us a few words in Chinese. Thank you is "sheh-sheh"?

After taking so many uncomfortable bus trips around South East Asia, it has been a luxury to be able to sleep in a bed while plodding along to our next destination. On the train they have lots of things to keep you comfortable including comfy pillows and a duvet for your bed, and an endless supply of boiling water so you can eat your endless supply of noodles and endless cups of tea.

Today we went to see the Terracotta Army outside the walled city of Xian. It was amazing!! Two thousand years ago an emperor had 6,000 soldiers buried with him to protect him in his afterlife. In 1976 a peasant digging a well happened upon one of them and within a few years the site was excavated and history was made! The site is really interesting and although we have been looking forward to visiting this place since planning the trip, we were not disappointed. They even had a photo of Bill Clinton and his family's visit to the historical site on display in the museum.

Another highlight of our trip to the People's Republic was the few days we spent in Hong Kong. What a skyline!! I knew it was supposed to be spectacular, but it really was impressive. Every night there is a lightshow projected onto the buildings that you can watch from across the water at Kowloon. It's one of the tallest places you could imagine. One of my favorite things there was the escalator. It's used a form of transport! It's about 800 meters long and people use it to get to and from work everyday... there are lots of super-duper high rise apartment buildings at the top of the hill and they all have to work somehow. There's also a practically vertical tram to get you up and down, but is mostly a tourist attraction now.

Soon we will be climbing the Great Wall of China so stay tuned!

Love, Alison


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