China

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Re: China

Postby dai bread » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:22 pm

...and yet one of our Taiwanese homestay students said the sooner Taiwan and China were re-united, the better. He was the man who told me the trade figure I mentioned.
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Re: China

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:02 pm

they take great pains to inform me that Taiwan was never considered part of China


They could be wrong. From Wiki is this:

In 1683, the Qing formally annexed Taiwan, placing it under the jurisdiction of Fujian province
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Re: China

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:21 pm

Here's something interesting from the One China Policy article in Wiki:

The PRC claims that Taiwan is part of "China"

and
the current ROC president has re-asserted the claim on mainland China
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Re: China

Postby Shapley » Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:26 pm

It was always my understanding that both the government of Peking and the government of Formosa agree on a one-China policy, but they disagree as to who is in charge of the one China.

You may recall that Taipai was extremely upset that Britain handed Hong Kong over to Peking, when they consider the lease to have been established between the government now in exile on Formosa and the British Crown.
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Re: China

Postby Haggis@wk » Thu Jun 17, 2010 10:04 am

From the 1680s to the 1880s
However, the new Manchu emperors were not eager to extend their rule over the island. They were "inland" people with little knowledge of the offshore islands and even less skill at naval warfare.
In the subsequent years, immigration to the island from the coastal provinces of China increased, but the people came to flee the wars and famines on the mainland, and did not come on behalf of the rulers in Peking.

Taiwan thus remained a loose-lying area for the next 200 years. At times, the Manchu attempted to extend their control over the unruly inhabitants, but time and again the islanders fought back. There were numerous clashes between the local population and officials sent from China, leading to the well-known saying in those days: "Every three years an uprising, every five years a rebellion."
The 19th Century

That China hardly had any influence at all in the coastal waters around Taiwan is apparent from the two following examples: when in the 1870's Taiwanese pirates captured American, Japanese and French ships passing the island, these governments protested to Peking, but the Manchu emperor said: "Taiwan is beyond our territory."
In fact, the French go so upset by the recurring attacks on their ships and the Chinese inaction, that they sent a navy fleet to the island, and for nine months in 1884-85, the northern part of Taiwan was French territory.

It wasn't until 1887, that the Manchu Imperial authorities decided to declare Taiwan to be a "province" of their Empire: they wanted to outmaneuver the Japanese, who were expanding their influence to the South.
The ploy didn't work: in 1895 the Japanese defeated the Manchu's in the Sino-Japanese War, and in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, China ceded Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity (not 99 years, like Hong Kong's New Territories, but in perpetuity, i.e. forever).

An important conclusion is thus that Taiwan was an occupied part of Imperial China for only eight years. Not "always", as the KMT and the Chinese Communists are claiming


Even the Wiki article you quoted showed some doubt that it was an integral pat of Chhina and several attempts to bring it into CChina's rule usually resulted in the Chinese losing thee battle. That was the impetus of the massacre of the Taiwanese in 1947.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Re: China

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:37 am

Of course you can find opinions to the contrary. The "One China" idea is widely held, and the recent restatement by the ROC President suggests it is the othodox view.
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Re: China

Postby piqaboo » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:38 pm

Dai,
you housed many a foreign ?exchange? music student, yes? We're possibly going to be housing an intern for 6-8 months during the school year.
I know very little, except that this person is probably going to be a qualified elementary school teacher (in China) & fairly fluent english teacher, in her (most probably) early 20s.

Any suggestions for making things work for host and guest over this sort of protracted stay?
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Re: China

Postby dai bread » Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:12 pm

If your homestay has good English, half the battle is over. Treat her as a good friend, though you may end up wishing you hadn't. They're not all nice people, but most of them are.

Feed her what you have, but have rice often. Asians really miss it. You might like to try a classic simple bread-and-butter pudding. Chinese love it, much to my surprise. Also, their sweet tooth isn't quite the same as ours, so don't be surprised if she doesn't like something that you consider sweet and delectable. Use chopsticks occasionally. She will like the nod to her culture.

You will find gaps in her English. Plug them for her gently, and be careful with idioms, slang and what is, to you, normal but ungrammatical usage. Depending where she's learned her English, she may well know the pluperfect from the subjunctive but be unable to string together a simple sentence such as "I won't be in for dinner tonight."

Make sure she has your phone numbers on her person or in her mind when she goes out. Homestays get carried away at times and think that because your city isn't as big as theirs, it will be easy to get around. When they realise their mistake, they need to be able to call you. Where is the girl from, anyway? Show her how and where to catch a bus, how and where to pay the fare, and generally where things are around your neighbourhood. I don't know about Chinese buses, but Japanese ones aren't standard even between cities in Japan.

Asian girls, especially Chinese, like to wash their own panties. Presumably it''s a privacy thing, but if your homestay insists, don't make an issue of it. Just say you're happy to throw her underwear into the wash with yours, and if she insists she'll do her own, let her.

A smile and a friendly manner go a long way. I doubt if you'll have any real problems.
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Re: China

Postby Shapley » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:36 pm

"A smile and a friendly manner go a long way. I doubt if you'll have any real problems."

I found those to be the key ingredients during my brief stay there. I also remembered the old saying "Patience was invented in China." That helped me get along, as well.
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Re: China

Postby piqaboo » Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:16 pm

Thanks.
We're already planning to move things about a bit, in case she wants to do her own laundry.
We'll make sure s?he knows we're happy to do it.

We dont know much yet. Its frustrating. I like to plan in advance.
I dont have time to dive into major projects, I have to chip away.

Thanks for the reminder about idiomatic English (and imprecise enunciation), I really need those.

Rice - no problem. Good to know.

We're planning to work out bus schedules, and show where the local stop is, and take a brief ride. Thanks for the hint.
Altoid will enjoy helping prepare for that part.
I wonder if we should borrow or fix up a bicycle for her?
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Re: China

Postby Shapley » Fri Aug 13, 2010 12:41 pm

My trip to China

I left Jackson, MO early on Thursday morning. taking a shuttle bus to the St. Louis airport. I arrived more than three hours before my flight. I checked in, passed through security with plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast, and a leisurely coffee, with some time spent leisurely reading a book, as I waited, leisurely, for the plane to depart for Chicago.

The plane left on time, and arrived on time in Chicago. However, the flight to China was delayed slightly, leaving me time to leisurely stroll about the airport. My plane was scheduled to depart from the C concourse, but I discovered that there were better restaurants in the B concourse. When lunchtime came, I had a leisurely Italian lunch at a restaurant there. I had time to leisurely stroll back to the C concourse in order to wait, leisurely, for the plane to depart.

The flight from Chicago to Beijing takes about thirteen and one-half hours, flying Northwest over Canada and Alaska, then Southwest down the Kamchatka peninsula and down into China. Thirteen and one-half hours. That is a long flight. I had purchased the ‘economy-plus option, which provides an additional 5 inches of legroom over the regular economy seating. Even so, after a couple of hours, the seating begins to feel cramped, and the cushions begin to feel rock hard.

They served three meals on the flight. The first, as soon as we were in the air and the captain had turned off the seat-belt light, was a typical airline meal with a small salad, a roll, an entry of chicken or beef, and a dessert cracker. The second was Chinese noodles. The third was another typical airline meal, similar to the first, although they offered an alternative of Chinese food.

Customs cards were handled out on the plane, to be filled out. These are two-part cards, with an arrival section and a detachable departure section. The arrival section must be completed prior to passing through customs.

Customs went smoothly enough. I had to show my passport, visa, & the arrival card to the Customs agent, who stamped everything and then waved me through. I then had to pick up my luggage at the carousel. The luggage arrived before me, and was already circling the carousel. This proved to be typical of my experience with air travel to Chinese destinations. In Beijing, Haikou, and again in Beijing, the luggage was expeditiously delivered, arriving at the carousel before or as I arrived. I did not have to wait for luggage until I arrived again in Chicago.

Beijing airport has three passenger terminals. Most international flights arrive at Terminal 3. Terminal 2 is smaller, and serves domestic and international flights, though most of the international flights are to nearby countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia, etc. Terminal 1 is the smallest of the three, and apparently serves only domestic flights. There is an enclosed walkway connecting terminals 1 & 2, but they are some distance from terminal 3. A free shuttle bus is provided between terminals. The shuttle bus leaves the airport grounds and drives through the city before arriving at terminals 1 & 2. I was wondering for short time if I had boarded the wrong bus, but the placard assured me I was on the correct one.

The principal airline flying from terminal i is Grand China -/Hainan Airline. Both names are displayed over the same logo, so I assume they have merged at some point. Check-in for domestic flights is not allowed more than two hours before the flight. As I had about five hours layover in Beijing, I had time to kill. I walked to terminal 2 to have a look and to use the currency exchange, as there are no currency exchange facilities in terminal 1. The currency exchange was closed, however, but I was able to use the Bank of China automatic teller machine to withdraw money using my Travel-money Visa Card. That is a pre-loaded Visa card available at most banks. Many locations prefer them over the traditional traveler checques.

I noticed that the number of foreign travelers varied largely from terminal to terminal. Terminal 3 was full of international travelers. Americans, Europeans, Australians, Japanese, Indians, etc. were everywhere to be seen. Terminal 2 was primarily filled with persons of Asian descent. I saw many Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Indo-Chinese, etc., with a handful of Europeans and other scattered amongst them. The travelers in terminal 1 were almost entirely Chinese. I was the only American I saw during my few hours there, and I saw no other non-Asian peoples.

As it approached time for check-in, I returned to Terminal 1 and struck a conversation with the airline hostess. I never quite knew her name, which was something like "Good Joe", from what I understood of her pronunciation. It was written only in Chinese on her name tag. I believe it was pronounced more like "Gudjo". Her English was very good, and we discussed a variety of topics up until the time I was permitted to check in.

When I arrived at the check-in counter I found that, in the process of switching the time of my return flight, my booking on the Beijing to Haikou flight had accidentally been dropped. Of course, because of the language barrier, I did not find this out right away. I was only told that there was a problem, and that I had to go to the next counter. From which I was sent to the next next counter.
Several ‘next counters' later, and finding myself at the last counter, the lady at the counter called Good Joe over to explain to me what had happened. No problem, I just had to re-book and buy a new ticket to Hainan, and yes, they would take a Visa card, I was told. Good Joe was kind enough to walk me through, going from counter to counter taking care of the process. She served as my interpreter along the way. She apologized for the mix-up (even though it was neither the fault)of her nor the airline. She thanked me repeatedly for my patience.

Once the ticket issue was resolved, Good Joe was my companion and interpreter all the way through to security. I learned a valuable lesson there, a warm smile and a pleasant, patient attitude goes a long way in China. I had seen a frustrated woman in Terminal 3 complaining loudly and bitterly about some mix-up or other, and there was no Good Joe to help her with her language barrier. In the largest international terminal, where English was spoken freely, none would speak it for her. Attitude is everything, and China is the birthplace of patience.

The flight to Haikou was pleasant enough. Chinese food was served, and it was quite good. Tea was available, along with other refreshments.

A storm was brewing to the Southeast of our flight. I first noticed it as a flash of lightening outside the window, so I moved to the empty window seat and watched. It was very dark out, being a moonless night, but the stars were visible as we were flying above the cloud line. The storm clouds towered to the Southeast, with a thin haze between them and the star-filled sky above. Lightening flashed here and there, highlighting the shape of the clouds in orange-yellow. Below, through a break in the cloud cover, I saw the yellow lights of a village, lit by street lams lining the streets. The lights snaked through the dark countryside like a yellow dragon. The effect was quite impressive, seeing the yellow fire-dragon below, light show consisting of alternating flashes of orange lightening against the clouds in the middle, and the stillness of the starry black sky above. I wish that I were such an artist as to be able to capture that image on canvas.

I arrived in Haikou about 1 A.M. on Saturday and gathered my luggage at the carousel. Walking into the terminus, a driver stood with my name and hotel information, to give me a ride to the Meritus Mandarin Haikou Hotel.


2.) Haikou.

I arrived at the Meritus Mandarin about an hour after my arrival. The hotel is located near the city center in Haikou, and is a fine and comfortable hotel. Check-in went smoothly, and I retired to my room, had a quick shower and drifted off to sleep. The bed was comfortable, and the room was quiet despite the location of the hotel being in the midst of city traffic and much construction. With my window shade open, I could see the sparks of welding from the building being built outside, but I was not disturbed by the noise. I closed the shade and slept undisturbed until morning.

The ‘Chatterbox café is the principle restaurant of the Meritus Mandarin Haikou Hotel. It features a breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet, with a variety of western and local dishes. They will prepare eggs to order, but there were scrambled eggs and cheese omelets pre-prepared in the buffet line. The food was very good, and the price was reasonable. The western food was labeled, but the local food was not. A word of caution, however, the coffee was not very good, and varied from barely-drinkable to passable-at-best when I was there. They did serve iced tea, however, and it was quite good.

Hainan is called the Hawaii of China. It is an island province off the southern coast, about halfway between Hong Kong and Vietnam. The interior of the island comprises mountainous rainforest, while the perimeter is dotted with beaches. It is a popular tourist destination for Chinese vacationers. Haikou is in the north of the island, while Sanya is the major city at the southern end. Sanya is said to have the better beaches, but I did not visit there during my trip. I was told it is about a four-hour trip by auto to Sanya, but a high-speed rail line is under construction that will circle the island perimeter, and cut that travel time nearly in half.

After breakfast, I decided to see the city. I went to the reception desk and asked them if they could recommend a few places to go, and tell me how to get there. Most of the staff spoke limited English, so they brought Efi over to help. Efi spoke decent English, and was kind enough to write out a taxi card in both Chinese and English with four recommended destinations, The City Center, A shopping complex nearby, Hainan Park, and Green Park.

I decided to go to Hainan Park first. The taxi to Hainan Park cost RMB 16, or about two dollars and thirty-five cents. The taxi actually dropped me at the city center, with Hainan Park being about a block away. Getting there merely required crossing the foot-bridge over the main road, whereas the taxi would have had to drive a few additional blocks and turn around in order to cross the barrier and put me on the side of the road near the park.

The park was full of people. There was music and dancing, singing, Martial Arts, Yoga, and Chinese Opera all around the park. I strolled about, taking it all in. I played ping-pong with the locals, wehre I met Timder. He spoke good English and said he played ping-pong there all the time. He offered to show me around the city should I return there sometime, and gave me his phone number.

The park was full of life and beauty, and packed with people throughout the morning. At noon, however, the park emptied out. The afternoon heat must have driven them indoors. Finding the park less active, I walked back to the City Center to stroll about the shops. There is a variety of shopping in Haikou, with large department stores and small shops all about.

As I was quite thirsty, I decided to try to find a glass of iced tea. English is not commonly spoken in the shops of Haikou, so I had a hard time explaining what I wanted. I found a coffee house with pictures of the drinks, and ordered iced tea by pointing at the picture on the menu. It was iced tea, but had some sort of flavouring added. However, it was wet. While not exactly cold, it was at least cool, so it hit the spot.

While I was there, a young man entered and stopped by my booth. He had just completed training to work for Hainan Airline, and was scheduled to start working there the following week. Since I was the only other customer in the place, and he spoke English, he joined me and we talked a bit. We were soon joined by a couple of girls who graduated with him and were also to start work at the airline. They opted not to share the booth with us. Instead, they sat at the adjacent table and we talked. Their English was not so good as his, or at least they pretended that it wasn't, but we had a pleasant talk.

After tea, I returned to the hotel. I took a nap, as I had not quite recovered from the long flight, and then went down to look at the [pool and to check my e-mail. At the business center, I again ran into Efi, who inquired as to how my day went. I told her I had a good time at the park, and asked about other things to see and do, as well as about good places to eat. She recommended the buffet at the hotel restaurant on the fourth floor, and offered to join me if I would wait until she was off work before dining, to which I agreed.

We had dinner at the restaurant, which was quite good. It was billed as an Italian Restaurant, although Italian food made up only a small part of the buffet offering. There was a large selection of seafood from Australia, as well as Italian, Chinese, and European dishes. We were joined at dinner by a friend of Efi, who worked near the hotel. He was very nice, though he spoke very little English, so our conversation was carried on with Efi acting as translator.

Efi recommended that I see the beach, and try a fish massage at the Crown Spa Resort Hotel, where she had worked prior to taking the job at the Meritus Mandarin. We agreed to do that the next day. She was able to obtain the services of one of the hotel drivers and his car for the morning.


3. Fish Massage

The next morning I rose and had breakfast at the Chatterbox Cafe.
I then met up with Efi and the driver, who took us to the Crown Resort Spa and Hotel. This is a very nice facility. It is in Haikou, although it is across the river and in a rather rural area. There is considerable construction in this area, although it is not the usual high-rise apartment construction seen elsewhere in the city. The traffic along the road on that side of the river is also different. Much less traffic, many more trucks and three-wheeled motorcycles similar to the Tuk-Tuks of Thailand and Cambodia. The road to the Resort Spa is under construction, requiring a detour down a dirt road.

The Resort hotel was very impressive. The beach is clean, even though the water there is rather murky. The pool is huge and clean, bisected by a bridge, and with large pavilions flanking it. Efi says a room at the hotel costs about RMB 400 per night, or about fifty-nine dollars.

The spa building itself is across the entrance drive from the Hotel building. It has a large foyer with two circular stairs leading to the upper level. The cost for the day was RMB 138 per person, or about twenty dollars. The dressing area is large and spacious, with security lockers for clothing and valuables. Besides the lockers, there are toilet facilities, showers, saunas, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs. The dressing areas are on either side of the common area.

The common area consists of a large circular pool divided into five pool areas. There is a circular inner pool which has alternating jets of hot and cold water. The outer pool is then divided into four pools. There are two smaller pools which are very cold, and two larger pools. One of the larger pools is a water massage, with hot water and jets similar to a typical home spa. The other is the fish massage. This is a pool kept about body temperature, in which small fish swim and nibble on the skin of the people soaking there. It is an unusual sensation, to say the least. It is supposed to leave the skin smooth and refreshed.

There is also a large hot-water pool, as large as a good-sized home swimming pool, and maintained at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We remained at the spa until about 11 A.M., and then had to return to the Meritus Mandarin so that Efi could work. I returned to the room to change, and then set out to explore the area around the hotel on foot.

The hotel is located on a busy main road. There are several construction sites near the hotel, and work there continues day and night. There are modular housing units set up at the construction site for some of the workers to live. I did not see large numbers of workers at any of the sites, but I was not allowed inside, and had to observe from outside the fence. There may have been hundreds out of sight inside the buildings, but I could see no evidence of it.

The traffic on the street was interesting to watch. I had observed the traffic from inside vehicles while bring driven to and fro around the city, but I now had the opportunity to watch it from the sidelines. There are center-lines painted in the roads to designate lanes, though I am not sure exactly why. Vehicles rarely remain in one lane for more than a few seconds, and they drive straddling the center-lines when there is less traffic. There are no stop signs at minor intersections. Automobiles just merger into traffic without stopping. There are traffic lights at major intersections, and the automobiles appear to respect them. They have indicators counting down the seconds until the lights will change. Motorcycles, which are quite numerous, apparently have no regard for such things as traffic lights, lanes, signals, or even the directional flow of traffic. In short, the motorcycles exempt themselves from all traffic laws. It is not unusual, when traveling down the road, to have a motorcycle suddenly make a u-turn in front of you, or to see one or more heading directly toward you in the midst of heavy traffic.

Motorcycles and bicycles remain the most numerous vehicles on the street, particular in the more rural areas. It is not uncommon to see a motorcycle or motor scooter loaded with four or five people, or piled high with construction equipment or baskets of goods. Motorcycle taxis, which are three-wheeled motorcycles with a bench-type rear seat and canopy, are also to be seen, though they are less numerous on the main roads. Pedicabs are also common on the back streets, but less so on the main thoroughfares.

Also common, both for carrying goods and for carrying workmen to and from construction sites are the three-wheeled trucks. These are military-looking vehicles, like a small version of the army six-by-six, but with only a single tyre in the middle front and two rear tyres. They are almost always a military-green colour, though a few were more of a Navy grey. These usually have a canvas cover over the bed, which protects the goods or shades the passengers. I saw many of these on the rural roads and when passing through the industrial area on the way to the airport, but saw few of them in the City Center or on the major roads.

The sidewalks in Haikou are frequently lined or overhung with trees, providing shade from the sun and shelter from light rains. This is very nice, given the heat there. The sidewalks were usually clean and well-kept.

The beach and Green Park were not far from the hotel, and were within walking distance. However, crossing the busy streets, even with traffic lights, was a hair-raising experience. I decided against walking to the beach for that reason.

4. Business

The reason for coming to China was business, and I had a meeting scheduled for Monday morning. I contacted the client right after breakfast, but could not get an answer. I went to the front desk and had them write the address in Chinese so that I could give it to the taxi driver. I knew it was near the hotel, but I did not know how to get there. They wrote the address for me and called a taxi. It turned out that the office was about two blocks away. The cab driver called up to the office, and the client came down, met me, and paid the driver. We proceeded to the office.

The office building was and older building, though I would not call it run-down. It lacked central air conditioning, so the exterior walls were penetrated up and down with window air conditionaing units. The office was not particularly splendid, but did not strike me as unusual. There was a reception desk with a Chinese-speaking receptionist. There was a large common area with six wooden-walled cubicles, with two persons per cubicle/ One person was on the phone and one on the computer. There were two or three offices along a small hallway that ran behind the reception desk, the first of which was my place of meeting. The window in this office had been covered over with images of mountains, which I assumed was to hide an unattractive view otherwise visible through the window.

The client himself spoke no English, but his assistant spoke well enough, and they were all pleasant enough. The client smoked constantly, and the window air conditioner was insufficient to remove the smoke. They apologized for my not being able to contact them, explaining that they did begin work until Nine A.M. We conducted our business, and I departed a little over an hour later.

That being completed, I had the day to spend. I had spoken with Efi the previous day about wanting to see the Temple of the Five Officials, and she was able to provide a hotel vehicle again for this purpose. I met Efi and the driver at the hotel, and we set off to sightsee.

Prior to going to the Temple, we visited the tomb of Hai Rui. Hai Rui was an uncorrupted official and is considered to be the most beloved resident of Haikou. The tomb is quite impressive, with a spirit walk and circular tomb building. There is also a grand pavilion with tablets telling of the life and legacy of Hai Rui. It was an enjoyable visit.

We then visited the Temple of the Five Officials. The five officials were banished to Hainan Island during their lifetimes, and set up schools there. During the Ming Dynasty, a temple was built in their honour. This temple has been renovated over the years ,but much of the original still stands.

We visited the various halls, including the new school and the old, original temple and school. We burned incense at the altar of the five officials, and at the altar of Buddha adjacent to it.

In the courtyard, I was invited to make the water sing. A bronze vessel is mounted atop a stone, and filled with water. There are two handles on the sides of the vessel. To make the water sing, one simply wets their hands by dipping them in the water, and then rubbing them on the handles of the vessel. The water will begin to bubble wildly inside the vessel, while it emits a low tone. Varying the intensity of the pressure on the handles changes the tone and makes the water sing. I found it interesting. Efi, who had led tours to the temple before, said she had never seen that, although the bowl and stone looked quite old.
After leaving the temple, we drove through Old Haikou, a portion of the city which has been preserved. Here were buildings a hundred and more years old. Not ancient by Chinese standards, but Haikou is not an ancient city. The buildings we visited must look like the buildings visited by my great-uncle Shapley, who wandered the streets of China in 1929-1931, while serving with the Navy. They were reminiscent of the back streets of Hong Kong and Kowloon as I remember them from my visit there in the 1980's. The streets there were filled with people, and pedicabs seemed to be the primary means of transportation.

We left the old town and proceeded to the City Center, to shop for souvenirs. Bypassing the department stores, we went to the wholesale shops, where the locals were crowded around, buying clothing, jewelry, and household goods. There were also electronics shops and computer stores.

When we finished shopping, we returned to the Crown Resort Spa for a fish massage and a swim. Because the driver had a scheduled trip, we took the Hotel bus from the City Center to the spa. This was free of charge. After a couple of hours at the spa, we had the driver pick us up and return me to the hotel, and Efi to her home. It was a long day.

The next day it was time to depart. I had a twelve-thirty P.M. flight scheduled to Beijing. I had left time for a second meeting with the client, if needed, but it was not. Efi and the driver offered to take me to the airport. Since we had time before my flight, she decided to show me some apartment buildings, as she also sells real-estate. We visited as harbour-side complex, with a nice pool, and then traveled to the nearby construction site, where a sales office was set up for interested clients. We looked at the offerings and then went to the waterfront, where the beach and marina were under construction.

I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Check-in went smoothly, and I passed through security without difficulty. There is little of interest in the gate area, so I took out my copy of The Sand Pebbles and read while I waited for the plane to board. The flight left on time and without incident.

5. Back to Beijing

The flight went well enough. It was full, a meal was served, and the flight attendants did their jobs well. As before, I seemed to be the only westerner on the flight. The seat next to mine was not empty, as before, but my companion apparently spoke no English, and slept most of the flight, so I opted to spend the time between naps reading.

The flight arrived in Beijing on time. I as I was leaving the plane through to the gate, I saw my good friend Good Joe standing there holding a sign, written in Chinese, waiting to meet someone on the flight. I stopped and we spoke as she waited, and I gave her my card with my name and address. When everyone had left the plane, the party she was supposed to meet was nowhere to be seen. She and I walked to the terminal together, and she escorted me to the baggage claim. as noted before, my bag arrived at the carousel quickly. We talked for a short while, before she showed me to the shuttle stop. I told her that, should she ever find her way to America, to remember that she has a friend there.

I took the shuttle to Terminal 3. The ladies at the information desk helped me to contact my hotel, the Sheridan Great Wall Hotel, but was informed that they had no shuttle. I had the ladies write the hotel name and address for me in Chinese, to show the cab driver, and then I set off for the taxi stand.

The taxi attendant hailed a cab, a large van, and informed me that the cab ride would be RMB 450, which is about 66 dollars U.S.. I paid the fee, thinking that the difference between Beijing and Haikou was astounding, and that the price was on a par with New York City prices. It was not until I took the return trip, metered, two days later, that I discovered that the cost was only RMB 56, which is about eight dollars U.S. I should have asked the hotel when I had them online what the typical fare should have been. Shame on me for not doing my homework. I did not even have a guess as to how far it was from the airport to the hotel and, not speaking the language, I was in no position to negotiate. A lesson learned the hard way, it seems.

The hotel was very nice. Check-in was without incident. I dropped my gear in the room and set out to explore the hotel and surrounds. The battery in my camera was dead, and the battery in my cell-phone was low. I did not have a charger adapter suitable for Chinese outlets. I started looking for a place that might sell disposable cameras, but had no luck.

I walked around the grounds, which had a park-like area behind the hotel. There was a pool and pond, both drained. A large wooden deck, with little furniture, looked onto the empty pool. There was a traditional-styled building behind the hotel, which looked to be quite old, but which was padlocked. A pathway led to a courtyard behind, which circled the drained pond. It was peaceable there, but somewhat neglected. Paths were overgrown and sometimes led to dead ends. There was a bath-house of sorts, which was padlocked. The paths eventually merged together near the satellite dishes which were half-hidden behind a bamboo thicket. Here the path deposited me on a sidewalk which led to a parking lot on the left and back to the hotel deck on the right.

I made my way to the business center to check my e-mail. I found that I was able to access my home account in Beijing, though it had been inaccessible in Haikou. I made a few phone calls and then read for a while, till it was time to turn in for the night.

6. To the Wall.

The next morning I went to the hotel restaurant for the breakfast buffet. As with the buffet in Haikou, they had a large selection of Chinese and Western offerings. Unlike Haikou, however, the Chinese dishes were labeled. The restaurant area was quite large, and the buffet dishes grouped according to type, but scattered about the dining area. The fruit was near the entrance. The eggs and sausage in the adjoining area, just off the kitchen. The coffee and tea on a table nearby. The chinese dishes were in bamboo steamers near the center of the dining area, and the juices were near them. There were pancakes, waffles, and pastries in the adjoining area. The breads were all the way at the back of the dining area. There may have been other offerings, but I was not inclined to walk about the entire restaurant looking for them.

The food was excellent, and the coffee better than the coffee served in Haikou, though it generally had a slightly burnt flavour. Haikou had much better bread pudding, however.

After breakfast, I visited the travel center to see about a tour of the Great Wall and, hopefully, the Forbidden City. The Great Wall tour was a full-day tour, so I had to forgo seeing the Forbidden City, but the price was good, and the tour included a stop at the Ming Tombs.

The tour was set to depart at Nine A.M. The lobby bar offered seating with a view of the front door and the travel center, so I found a place there and waited for the tour bus to arrive. At Nine a small bus pulled in front, and the lady at the travel center signaled for me to come over. There I met my fellow travelers. We had a gentleman from Norway, who had been living in Shanghai for the past four years, where he worked as a designer of robotics for the automotive industry. We had a gentleman from Seattle who worked for Microsoft. There was a gentleman from Texas, accompanied by a gentleman from Tehran, Iran. I am not sure of their line of work, although I understood the gentleman from Texas to mention involvement in the construction business.

Following direction from our tour guide, we took our places on the bus. Our tour guide explained the schedule. We would travel first to the Ming Tombs, then to the Jade factory. After that, we would visit the Cloisonne Factory and shops. Lunch would be served at the restaurant there. After lunch, we would board the bus for Juyonguan , or the Juyong Pass, to visit the Great Wall.

The Ming Tombs are located a few miles outside Beijing. They are scattered about a large area, with the tombs of various Ming emperors here and there. The approach to the tombs was originally through a spirit walk, lined with animal statuary, but the modern entrance is via a paved road that parallels that walk. The buses stop at a pavilion that includes souvenir shops and drink booths. There are only three tombs open to the public, and our tour visited the largest of them. The tomb complex it laid out similar to the Forbidden City, consisting of a walled complex, with courtyards seperated by various halls. Beyond the main hall lies the burial hill of the emperor, which is not opened to the public.

The front part of the complex is constructed of wood and stone, the wood being a symbol of life. This part of the complex was used by the emperor as a palace and retreat during his life, and was used by his successors following his death. Beyond the main hall, the temple is constructed of stone, symbolizing death and permanence. A small courtyard separates the main hall from the entrance to the burial hill.

This burial hill has not been excavated. Thus, they are not sure of the exact burial place of the emperor, as the hill is quite large. One of the smaller burial hills was excavated a number of years ago, we are told, but the contents quickly decomposed when contacted with fresh air. Thus, it was determined that no further burial mound excavations would take place unless a means of preservation should be found.

The burial mound itself is quite large and surrounded by a circular wall. Trees grow all over the mound, which is rises somewhat steeply to a peak in the center. I was reminded of the famed Pyramid Forty from the Great Round River Drive of Paul Bunyan fame.

It was at the tombs that the battery in my camera finally gave out. I had known for some time that it was dying, but had no way of charging it. I used the camera function on my cell phone for a few shots but that battery, too, was failing.

After leaving the Ming Tombs, we visited the Jade Factory. Here we were taught about the different types of jade, and shown how to tell real jade from false. The workers were on break when we visited, so we did not get to see actual jade carving take place, but we did see the shop and the machinery, as well as jade carvings in various stages of completion.

We visited the museum, where there were magnificent carvings, ranging from small rings and bangles to very large animals and a nearly life sized Buddha. It was quite interesting to see. We visited the jade shop, to purchase some items, and then re-boarded the bus for the next leg of the trip.

Our next stop was at the Cloisonne Factory. We were given a tour of the works. It was interesting to see the manufacture of Cloisonne vases. They start with a bronze vase, onto which is glued a filigree pattern of copper strips. Paint is applied to the spaces within the pattern, and the vase is fired after each colour is applied, to prevent one colour from bleeding into another. Finally, when all the colours are applied, An Enamel is applied and the vase is given its final firing.

There was a gift shop there, selling all manner of items, including Oriental rugs, Jade, Cloisonne items, and other souvenirs and trinkets. They also had disposable cameras, much to my relief.

We were served lunch in the restaurant. It was a Chinese meal, with a variety of food types. I tried my hand at using chopsticks again, but eventually gave it up as a bad job and picked up the fork. All of the food I had was very good. We took a little time to get to know our fellow passengers, and discussed our jobs, the economy, and China. Once we were fed and rested to our satisfaction, we set out to explore the shop and wind our way back to the bus.

Our next stop was the Great Wall.

We drove through the countryside, where we observed that some houses of traditional architectural styling were being built. These were Brick homes with the curved tile roofs commonly depicted in images of China. I saw no hipped roofs being constructed, only simple gable-end styled roofs. The houses, in traditional style, often included several small building grouped together around a common courtyard, which was enclosed with a high wall. There were no windows or doors on the outside of the wall, with the exception of one or two gates into the courtyard. The windows and doors of the buildings all faced into the courtyard. This manner of construction is rather typical of country houses throughout the world, I suppose, as it was used in Greek and Roman Villas as well as Chinese and Japanese houses and palaces.

Juyonguan is a major pass through the mountains of China. A river or canal parallels the modern road, which was apparently built on the site of a more ancient road. The Wall climbs the mountains on either side of the pass, and has been restored. Juyonguan itself includes a fortified village, which serves now primarily as a haven for tourist shops. A watch tower stands alongside the road, at the foot of the wall. No doubt soldiers once peered out the windows of the tower for signs of approaching armies, or to monitor the movement of trade caravans. Now, the windows are decorated with signs advising the traveler that espresso can be found inside. Visitors to the wall begin their climb at this tower.

Before climbing, however, our group was photographed for the souvenir photo book, which would be ready for us when we completed the return for a reasonable price, I believe it was RMB 100. We each placed our order and began the ascent.

The wall at Juyonguan rises steeply up the slope. There are eight beacon towers along the way. Beyond the eighth tower, which is the highest, the wall is in disrepair. In fact, little of the wall remains beyond. Looking outward from the eighth tower, one can see traces of the wall, and the small remains of additional beacon towers, but the eight tower is the end of the line for modern visitors.

There are 1600 steps to the top, we were told. I have to take the word of our guide on that, as I did not count them. The steps are not uniform in size, varying from a short steps of four or five inches to high steps of a foot or more in rise. On the milder slopes, ramps or inclined walkways are used in lieu of stairs.

At the first beacon tower, a small souvenir shop offers frozen bottles of water, snacks, and nick-knacks. We each bought a bottle of frozen water to supplement the rapidly-warming water we had brought with us, and proceeded to the second beacon tower.

Some of the towers had to be passed through to proceed onward, others had galleries allowing visitors to bypass the tower. At some, there was a wide expanse of wall, providing room for vendors to set up shop, selling water and souvenirs, others did not. Most of the towers had a urine-odor to them. There were no rest-room facilities past the first beacon tower, so travelers apparently relieved themselves in the relative solitude of the beacon towers.

The number of climbers decreased with each tower, it seemed. We met a number of climbers returning, but I had no idea how many had made it to the eighth tower. One of the towers, I believe it was the fifth, presented a bottle-neck to the travelers, as everyone climbing the wall had to pass through the narrow doorways of the tower to proceed. A large group of tourists were taking their rest in the relatively-wide expanse of wall on the uphill side, slowing the progress of those passing through. No smoking was allowed on the wall, but we found a group of tourists puffing away, and we had to pass through the cloud of smoke they were raising in order to proceed. Alas! Rule-breakers are everywhere.

After the sixth tower, the wall seemed to narrow. The stair s here were quite steep, and I joked that the builders must have tired of carrying so many up such a steep slope, so they began to narrow the wall.

Beyond the seventh tower, the wall is joined by another section of wall that descended the hill to the pass below. The two walls joined again on the other side of the pass. The wall ran more-or-less parallel to the road and canal, along a ridge on the opposite side of the pass, before again joining the section of wall we were on.

All five of my group reached the eighth tower. The only others with us at the time was a young Chinese couple. I offered to take their picture together for them, which they gladly accepted. When we went to take our photo, we invited them to join us, but only the girl would do so, her companion taking a photo of us with his camera, as one of our group took photos with each of our cameras.

We lingered for a while at the tower, before beginning our descent. I took a number of photos. The weatehr was quite hazy, lessening the quality of the photos.

The descent went well enough. We met a few tourists on the walk between the seventh and eighth tower, though not many. Just above the seventh tower there was a small souvenir stand selling, among other things, brass plaques identifying the bearer as having completed the climb. They engraved them on the spot with the climbers name and the date. I believe we all bought one. We were assured that these plaques were not available below the seventh tower.

I found it interesting to note that there seemed to be tourists from every region of the world climbing the wall. We met Australians, Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Germans, Englishmen, Italians, Colombians, Jamaicans, and others who we did not have time to speak with. I commented that, if the purpose of the wall to keep foreigners out, it was a miserable failure. Perhaps it was not always so.


When our descent down the wall was complete, we stopped to pick up our souvenir booklet, with the group photo. I made a trip to the restroom which, in the manner of some cruel joke, was up a flight of stairs. This was in the cluster of buildings which had apparently been a village or compound for the soldiers stationed there. Whatever purpose the buildings once held, they were now souvenir shops, coffee houses, and refreshment stands. I did enjoy looking at the traditional architecture of the place, but I did not buy any souvenirs there. Apparently, few people did, as many of the shops appear to have been shuttered.

The ride back to the hotel was quiet. Apparently, we were all tired out by our climb, and chose not to exert ourselves with conversation. I do not believe anyone slept, we just enjoyed the ride in relative silence. Our tour guide occasionally pointed out an item of interest along the way, but she spoke little until we were back in Beijing. Our return route took us past the site of the Olympic Village, so she pointed out the various structures built for that event.

We arrived at the hotel, and went our separate ways. I visited the hotel shops to pick up a few souvenirs, and then went to dinner.

I arrived for dinner too early for the buffet, so I ordered a steak off the menu. It took a bit for steak to arrive, which I attributed to the kitchen being busy preparing food for the buffet. I spent my time waiting for dinner to arrive by watching the wait staff busying themselves preparing the buffet. The dinner buffet, like the breakfast, was scattered about the dining area, and the wait staff were streaming into the kitchen and out again, carrying loads of food to the warming tables, display racks, and chillers. Trays laden with breads and pastries, steaming dishes of meats and vegetables, and bowls of cold fruit and vegetables were being hustled about here and there to their respective areas.

My steak finally arrived, and it was very good. The chef came out to apologize for the delay. I told him that was no problem, and I complimented him on the food. After I completed my meal, the restaurant manager also apologized for the delay, and I again said that was no problem. I really did not think it such a long wait, but it apparently troubled them. Such pride seemed to permeate the entire hotel. Everyone I met there seemed to take pride in doing their job and doing it well. I was very pleased with the service at all levels.

I returned to the room and packed my bags for the trip home.

7. Time to go.

I rose the next morning and went to the dining area for the breakfast buffet. My fellow sight-seers who had made the trip to the Great Wall were there as well, and we all greeted one another as old friends. It is a simple thing, visiting a well-known tourist spot. Even so, it creates a connection among those who do so. We will likely never meet again, but for a few short hours, we were comrades with a common cause, and we had our triumph together, however simple it may be.

After breakfast I returned to the room and called home. It was late evening at home, and would be the wee hours of the night to them when I was at the airport, so I sought to get my last call from China in before they went to bed.

I gathered my luggage and went to the front desk to check out. I still had a bit of time, so I took a seat in the lobby and had a cup of coffee before hailing a taxi to return to the airport.

I arrived at the airport and checked my bags. There was no problem checking in early with United Airlines, as there had been with Hainan. I passed through security with no difficulties, and found myself with plenty of time to kill. I read a bit, strolled about the duty-free shops, and otherwise looked about the airport.

There were plenty of places to eat there, but I settled on Pizza Hut, as I had not had good old American junk food in nearly a week. The service was uncommonly slow, but I chatted with a lady from Vancouver, who was on her way home, while we waited. It took about fifteen minutes for the waitress to find us and take our drink orders. It took probably another ten minutes until she returned to take our food order, and another twenty minutes or so for the food to arrive. Fortunately, we both had plenty of time before our flights.
My flight was scheduled to depart at four -ten in the afternoon, and it boarded on time. Once on board and away from the gate, however, we had to sit on the runway for an hour. Apparently this was due to some runway limitations. The pilot assured us we would still be able to arrive on time.

An hour after boarding, the plane left Beijing, and China, behind us. The flight took twelve hours, plus the hour on the runway, such that we arrived in Chicago at the same time we left, Four-Ten in the afternoon. The flight took us north of the Arctic Circle, and I had the opportunity to peek out the window to look at the lands of the frozen North. It was interesting to see the ground covered with snow and the sea full of ice.

Arrival at Chicago was uneventful. I checked through customs with no difficulty. My flight to Raleigh-Durham was delayed, leaving me with plenty of time to walk about the airport, although I pretty well knew the Chicago Airport by that time.

Overall, the trip was nice. Even with the Economy Plus seating, the seats are hard and the butt gets sore after a while. It is a long way to travel if you are not going to stay long enough to make it worth while. I had five days in China, with two-and-half days travel. I do not think I could justify that much travel time for that short of a stay again. I think three- or four- days stay for every day traveling is a minimum to justify the tedium of the trip.
Quod scripsi, scripsi.
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Re: China

Postby dai bread » Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:57 pm

A very interesting account, Shap. All my Chinese homestays have given me an interest in the country and it is quite high on my list of places to visit.

I gather you did not go on a package tour, but travelled independently. You seem to have had no problems. Would you recommend independent travel, or do you think you may have missed something or perhaps had some inconvenience by not being with a package?
We have no money; we must use our brains. -Ernest Rutherford.
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Re: China

Postby Shapley » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:10 pm

I went there on business, but I had no problems, getting around on my own. Even before I met my interpereter and tour guide, I found it easy enough. I had my travel agent make the arrangements, but only for the flights and hotels. I enjoyed the flexibility of setting my own agenda. Hainan province is about as far off the beaten track as you can get, in my opinion, and I found no difficulties getting around and getting along. As Frank Sinatra sings "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere", at least in my opinion.

I did do a 'package tour' to wall, although it was purchased 'on the spot' at the hotel. It was well worth the cost, which was pretty cheap, in my opinion. I'm sure I'd have paid a lot more booking from the States.

I think that, if I had to do it over again, I'd do it on my own rather than a package tour. As Anthony Bordain says "Be a traveller, not a tourist."

V/R
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Re: China

Postby dai bread » Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:41 pm

I'd agree with that quote. What makes me consider a package tour for China is the medical attention I needed for my feet in Japan last time I was there. If I'd been on my own, I'd have been sunk. English-speakers aren't common in Japan, though the doctor who treated me was competent in the language.

Come to think of it, if I'd been on my own I wouldn't have needed the attention. 12 hours or so in Disneyland Tokyo did me in.
We have no money; we must use our brains. -Ernest Rutherford.
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Re: China

Postby Shapley » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:20 pm

By travel insurance. The ones available here have an international phone number to call to arrange service, and can probably take care of the language situation. Check with your insurance agent and find out what is best for the country you're going to, or contact one of the travel insurance companies directly.

I don't leave home without it. Fortunately, I've not had to use it, but it's good to know it's there.
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Re: China

Postby Haggis@wk » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:45 am

I always have health insurance, I hadn't thought about travel insurance.

Shapley, if you haven't you need to sign up in trip advisor and post this there.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Re: China

Postby Shapley » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:54 am

Haggis@wk wrote:Shapley, if you haven't you need to sign up in trip advisor and post this there.


I use trip adviser's 'cities I've visited' on facebook, but I've never posted anything there. I'll have read up on it.
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Re: China

Postby dai bread » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:01 pm

My elder son swears by Tripadvisor, and I've found it very useful indeed lately. The reviews are from Joe & Jane Doe, mostly from the U.S., but including a good sprinkling of others, and not always English-speakers either.
We have no money; we must use our brains. -Ernest Rutherford.
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Re: China

Postby Haggis@wk » Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:12 am

dai bread wrote:My elder son swears by Tripadvisor, and I've found it very useful indeed lately. The reviews are from Joe & Jane Doe, mostly from the U.S., but including a good sprinkling of others, and not always English-speakers either.


I use it when I go to the UK. I only use B&Bs that I've found in TA and I've never been disappointed. I also used advice to bid on hotels in London and was very satisfied with the result.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Re: China

Postby Haggis@wk » Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:12 pm

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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