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Archive for October, 2004

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Lao Shan Mountain Climb

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

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Spent 3 days in Quin Dao…one in new part of town, one in old town and one on a mountain north of town called Lao Shan–subsequently took train to Tai’an and climbed Tai Shan–one of the 5 holy mountains in China–it was an all day effort but not that difficult–more like a hard day hike in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon–spent the night on the top–accomodation somewhat less than basic but inexpensive–then was awakened a 5 a.m. to join the rest of the Chinese tourists to a lookout point to see the sunrise–it was quite impressive–took a tram down and now am south of Qufu–tomorrow have an “offer” to see the countryside so will probably see what that entails–do not know whether it is an overnight or what.

Have found that the Chinese usually have the best of intentions but something gets lost in the communication/language gap–on the mountain had people wanting to carry my backback–don’t think it was for financial gain but they just wanted to take care of an “older” foreigner–when I refused it often became a tug-of-war. On my way south and plan to stop in Nanjing and Langshou–there is another shan south of Shanghai that the guide book said is thee mountain to climb in China–but would like to meet up in Shanghai–probably +/- one week from now.

Had another couple of days of diarrhea with a near miss experience on Lao Shan–am sorry to hear that the upper respiratories have reached you again–but am glad that you are not proximate as the cold you gave to me in Russia took 3-4 weeks to resolve. Keep me updated–each time I get to an internet access I will forward to a word or two.
l. B

Kindred Spirits in Quindao

Saturday, October 30th, 2004

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Walking by the Foreign Language Bookstore in Quindao, just up the street from my comfy clean hotel room that a tout from the railroad station led me to…80 yuan she says..that’s about $10..I look in to see what they have in English. Most of the books are in Chinese…the English selection is tiny with dreadful choices and high prices. Just then I see the first westerners I have seen in Quindao walk in…where are you from, I ask…from the Gold Coast of Australia…oh, I find Australians everywhere…yes, she laughed…we manage to find our way all over the world! These women have just arrived from Shanghai where they participated in the masters section of an international dragon boat competition. One, Tye, is a nurse…the other, Leah, a school janitor. Dragon boat racing, they said, originated in China but is very popular in Australia.

Are you alone, they ask. When I say yes, their eyes light up…oh good, then would you like to come with us? Of course I jump at the chance. I show them where the internet cafe is that I had walked all over town looking for and finally found that morning by accident as there was no sign on the outside of the building. And I give them a card for the hostel I stayed at in Beijing which delighted them no end.

We have dinner together…the women pass up tubs of all kinds of shellfish to choose from on the sidewalk in front of tiny restaurants with only two or three tables…and finally choose to have “hot pot” that sits on top of a flame with your choice of all kinds of fish from the sea…a dozen different kinds of clams, little crab, shellfish we have never seen before, various unknown kibbles and bits, leafy vegetables, thin sliced mutton or pork, as much as you could eat for 29 yuan or about $6. One of the women is a bit nervous about all the unknown bits…but we laugh it off and make a complete mess on the table…the big Chinese group at the next table finding our clumsy adventure quite funny.

The next evening they showed up at my hotel door….we just showed the Chinese girls at the desk downstairs “big hair” they said…and the girls immediately knew who they were looking for…besides the fact of course, that we were all westerners…we must all know each other! They shared some wonderful chewy sweetened dried fish with me and needed me to show them how to do email so off we went out into the evening again.

My last evening in Quindao, at a 4 star hotel coffee shop, I invite the friendly waiter who has been letting me use the hotel’s free WIFI with my laptop to have dinner with me…seafood soup and jousa (dumplings)… before he has to go to his university classes at 7pm. Jack is his English name given to him by his English teacher and I find myself wishing Chinese English teachers would get a little up-to date with the English names they hand out. Jack, Han Chinese, is from Urumqi in the largest and most western province in China…Xinjiang…which has a majority of muslim Turkic speaking people. His family still lives there. He is 23 but says he is not a good student. I ask why and he says he likes sports…he would rather play American football! I say, what!! He says it’s a sport young people like but his parents don’t. I say, yes, I understand! I ask if he plays basketball and mention Yao Ming’s name…he dismisses Yao…”oh, if I were 7 feet tall I would be famous too!”

I let Jack order…he is anticipating a soup with “all kinds of shellfish from the sea” but when it comes it’s basically an eggflower soup with only a few little bits of shrimp and clam. He looks disappointed and I realize he has never done this before. The soup is only 6 yuan…less than a dollar. But Jack only makes $200 a month and I wonder what this skinny kid eats every day. At his bus stop we shake hands with lingering looks and he invites me to come back to Quindao again.

I have a hard sleeper booked on the train today at 1:30. I will arrive in Shanghai tomorrow about 9 am when I will book a dorm bed for 100 yuan…about $12. Right now this hotel I am in is celebrating a wedding with drums and a funky dragon made of balloons. The dragon lies down and the groom carries her over it and into the elevator…the ceremony will continue downstairs.

Pissing Match & Fast Food

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004
East China.gif Yesterday, off the train in Quin Dao, the station workers weigh by bags and want to charge me money...for having my baggage on the train! I get my back up and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Overnight Train to Xuindao

Sunday, October 24th, 2004
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171174607989.gif Xuindao is also spelled Quindao From Beijing, I take an overnight train alone to Quindao. Quindao is a weekend getaway for well-to-do Communist party cadres and the train is brand spanking shiny new. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Coffee Taxis & New Friends

Saturday, October 23rd, 2004
East China.gif I take a taxi to the upscale Lufthansa shopping center in Beijing to see if a bookstore had the Lonely Planet "Shanghai." They didn't of course...there were a few Lonely Planets ... [Continue reading this entry]

Tiananmen Square

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004
East China.gif I had read that Tiananmen was the biggest square in the world. However, Mao's huge Mausoleum takes up about a third of the square...almost right in the the area doesn't ... [Continue reading this entry]

Great Days Great Wall

Sunday, October 17th, 2004
East China.gif Video E found the website ( and the adventure offered intriguing the beaten track, away from the Chinese tourist groups that follow a guide with a microphone and colored flag held high ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hutongs in Beijing

Saturday, October 16th, 2004
East China.gif Quin-dynasty Beijing was redesigned with mazes of mud and brick walled courtyards after Genghis Khan's army reduced the city to rubble and is "now the stomping ground of a quarter of Beijing's residents. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Far East Youth Hostel

Friday, October 15th, 2004
East China.gif The last time I was in China it was freezing cold in January 2003. The weather is fantastic this October day in 2004. After slogging it out across Russia and Mongolia, we soak ... [Continue reading this entry]

Last Leg Through Mongolia

Thursday, October 14th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Out of the train window, just before departure from Ulaan Bataar to Beijing on the last leg of our trans-siberian train trip, we watch about 30 Mongolians...brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents and who ... [Continue reading this entry]

Reflections on the Steppe

Tuesday, October 12th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif We are lucky...days are brisk but sunny...the sun glints off bare hills covered in golden fall grass. This feels like fall in southeast Oregon where I grew up. I soak it all in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Message from Ulaan Bataar

Saturday, October 9th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Greetings- Have been in Mongolia for the past week--initial few days in a ger bordering on a national park--lazy, relaxing days with hiking and Mongolian pony riding (when on the horse my feet nearly reach ... [Continue reading this entry]

Life in a Mongolian Ger

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004
GyTjn0QZP9l6Qu21TubskM-2006198062551304.gif Video Terelgj National Park, an hour by car outside of Ulaan Baatar, is a spectacular valley surrounded by high eroded rock formations, pine covered mountains and steppes carpeted with sheep, Mongolian horses and ... [Continue reading this entry]

End of a Disastrous Experiment

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif I want to emphatically state (and I think Bob would concur) that I have nothing but admiration for this proud and resilient people who have survived 70 years of this "ideological tidal wave that ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lingering Images of Russia

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Siberian countryside with endless kilometers of grassland and golden pine and white birch trees... small wooden, weathered, unpainted, picturesque, single story bungalows throughout Sibera with blue painted shutters-the banya (toilet and shower) in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Grueling Border Wait

Friday, October 1st, 2004
The wait at the Russian-Mongolian border is a grueling 5-6 hour wait for customs to go through each carriage and take our passports, return to the office to fill out forms and then return with our passports. Olga takes ... [Continue reading this entry]