August 23, 2005
Here we are, back in the US. Right now we're in New York, at Cathy's parents' house. I'm in the process of sticking all our better photos on yahoo photos. As of right now, I've posted photos from Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. You can find them here.
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August 10, 2005
Jason and I are in Tokyo! A city we have both been very eager to see.
We left Korea via ferry from the southern port city of Pusan. I had a wonderful time visiting my aunts. I'll write more on this later, probably.
I write this from one of the strangest internet cafes I have been in. I walked downstairs and picked out an 'internet plan'. My plan is for one hour, which costs 315 yen, or about $3. This includes free drinks. I was given a room number and walked around a dark labryinth of tiny cubes. I can barely see the keyboard. Certainly, privacy is assured here. The walls have built-in bookshelves lit with pink neon, filled with thick comic books. My cube has a computer, a TV/DVD player and a little safe (must be for long-term residents!). There's also a small mirror hanging on the wall and a hanger (again, for those long-term internet types -- one of the plans was 'all night plan').
Unfortunately, our hotel is pretty crummy. Cost $100 a night, too. Perhaps we'll move somewhere else.
Our plan for tomorrow is to buy our tickets home! So, we'll be back in 4 days if all goes to plan.
July 28, 2005
I spent all of my high school years in Seoul, Korea (1990-1994). I went to the high school on the base and lived off the base in two different apartments.
During college, I visited once a year. Maybe. The last time I visited Korea was during winter break in my last year of college in 1999. I don't think I went out much, it being winter. The only thing I remember thinking - "Hey, that's different", is that I saw some fat women. Korean ladies were minature, generally.
Coming back has been interesting. I'm very excited about the "new" Seoul, but I barely recognize the place I knew. I'm constantly telling Jason, REALLY, REALLY this place used to be different -- it used to be just like I'd been describing it to you the last ten years. I sometimes wonder if it ever was like I remember it!Continue reading "Seoul, revisited"
July 20, 2005
Jason and I have only 5 more days in China. I bought our plane tickets to Korea last week. Jason is climbing a mountain and I am at the base, just relaxing and catching up on news and email.
We are in the town of Tai'an. It is a smallish place, only half a million people. heh. The food is terrible and the city is, well, a typical Chinese city. One funny thing about Chinese restaurants, is that in smaller cities (6 million or less), the restaurants have fairly rigid opening and closing times. If you want a meal at 3 PM, forget about it! Chinese people eat exactly at meal times. No snackers in this country. We tried to eat at 3 PM yesterday and encounted several restaurants where the staff was slumped over the tables, sleeping. Tables were covered with old dishes.
The longer one travels in China, the more one sees "slumpers". Everywhere in this country, there are at least ten people doing the job of one person. As a result, productivity suffers. Any time of day, nearly every shopkeeper, waiter, visible person, is slumped over a desk, sleeping. It makes you think -- this is what a country looks like when it's economy is growing at nearly 10% a year?? The funniest row of slumpers we saw was at the Shanghai museum. A line of 8 people, slumped over sleeping in a room labled "Managerial Staff".
At the Jinan airport, no plane departs from the airport from 11-1:30. The ticket desks are empty, because the staff is taking their lunch! A train we took from Shanghai to Tai'an, the train stopped for an hour from 11-12. Lunch break? I think so.Continue reading "Tai Shan, holy mountain"
July 05, 2005
I'm at an internet cafe that charges a ridiculous $2.50 an hour, so I'll make this short. (Usually, internet prices are $0.50 an hour in this country).
Jason and I are in Beijing. It's been an exciting week! Seeing the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, pickled Mao, and tomorrow we will venture out to the Great Wall.
On our second day here, Jason was pickpocketed. The guy made away with our camera, so unfortunately we have lost all of our China pictures to date. Sigh. On the bright side, we picked up a camera here that is a lot nicer and smaller. Cheaper as well. It was an incredible ordeal buying the camera. I long for Best Buy to invade this country. Basically, prices for electronics are higher here than anywhere in the States (import taxes) and the annoying bargaining. Bah! At least the camera is nice.
At the nearly one month mark, Jason and I have found that we still like China. However, moving north sure seemed to give us trouble. We have run more into the "Old China" types -- rude folks who love to scream at foreigners, unhelpful types.
Our plans are to make our way south-ish again, to Shanghai. By the end of July we will be in Seoul, where I lived when I was in high school.
June 13, 2005
So don't expect this to be updated too often!
June 07, 2005
Jason wants me to put this in a new entry, so here goes!
* The floors are dirty, dirty, dirty. (This is related to the entry in my last post about how everyone wears shoes. I have a theory that shoes are protective gear one doesn't generally need in SE Asia.) No one puts anything on the floor. At restaurants, folks generally reserve several seats for purses, briefcases and bags. We recently enjoyed taking the train in China and at the train station about a third of the seats in the waiting room were taken up with suitcases and other bags. Late birds were having to stand up -- people refused to put their bags on the ground. On buses, bags will not go on the ground. Bags go in the lap or in the overhead compartment.
Why are floors dirty? Because the floor is where one spits massive gobs of yellow-green sputum, where you throw banana peels and other trash, etc. In restaurants, the floor is for bones and other inedibles. Well, supposedly. I've not seen anyone actually spit on the ground, but that's what my guidebooks tell me.
* Fun at the dinner table, or anything goes! At a Chinese dinner table, one is given a cup on a saucer, a spoon in a little bowl, chopsticks and a pot of tea. Large tables will sometimes have several pots of tea.
There is a complicated ritual involving tea: folks pour the first cup, swish it around, and throw the whole cup and tea in a bowl. The tea cup gets warmed up for a couple of seconds and then the person discards the tea in a separate bowl. If there isn't a glass bowl in the middle, people will use an unused setting on the table. Then another cup is poured and only then will people drink the tea. Jason and I took a tea appreciation class in Hong Kong, so we know what this is about: Chinese people think that the first cup, nay POT, of tea should be thrown out. It's just for getting the leaves wet and letting all of the "bad stuff" float to the top to be thrown away. The second pot is for drinking. Most of the time, no one bothers to throw away the entire pot, just the first cup of tea. It's actually a good idea since the first cups of tea are really weak anyways and by the time you get around to the second cup the tea is then too strong to enjoy.Continue reading "More random thoughts on China"
June 06, 2005
That's one of the first things Jason and I thought when we went to Hong Kong, but it holds true for China.
My first impressions are: ain't as bad as I thought it would be! China is actually turning out to be a real adventure. Lots of cultural experiences.
We've been in China for almost a week. We spent the first three days in Guangzhou (more famously known as Canton) and we've been in Guilin for three days. We've been slowly getting used to Chinese ways of living for the past month, so it's not been a complete surprise, but many things are different from other places we have been.
So, I present a topical list of things Jason and I have been thinking about China...
May 31, 2005
More pictures ready for posting . . .Continue reading "Thailand photos 2"
May 30, 2005
Jason and I have been in Hong Kong for almost a week now. We are staying in a tiny little matchbox room in the Mongkok area in HK. It looks to be an area where the youth of HK gather to slouch around, shop and eat.
The title of this entry means -- yes, Jason and I have partaken of the infamous shark fin soup. Accidentally, if you would like to know. The soup came as part of the set dinner menu (menu written in Chinese), described by our waitress as a "seafood" soup. When the soup was served, I fished out something triangular-shaped and gelatinous in the soup. It was tasteless and chewy. The helpful waitress stopped by, no doubt attracted by my puzzled look and sure enough, it was a bit of that Chinese delicacy, shark fin! Jason finished most of his soup, but I'm afraid I lost my appetite. In the English language newspaper, there's a bit of debate over Disney's decision to serve shark fin's soup in the restaurants. After tasting the stuff, I can't figure out what folks like about it.Continue reading "Hong Kong, shark fins and all that"