BootsnAll Travel Network

China blocks Hotmail? C’mon!

June 2nd, 2009

“Two days before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, China’s censors moved today to limit the access of the country’s increasingly tech-savvy population to vast swathes of the Internet”. – Times Online

China blocks access to web sites on a regular basis. Normally, they will block any websites that they find offensive; particularly dealing with Chinese political issues or any talks about Taiwan and Tibet. China recently blocked access to Blogspot (as of two weeks ago) and Google’s YouTube (since March). In this case, China will be temporarily shutting down access to several more major sites due to the upcoming Tiananmen anniversary, June 4.

So as of today, June 2nd, 5pm – China blocked access to Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail. Sure, I understand photo/video-sharing sites like Flickr, Blogspot, Youtube, etc…. but Hotmail? Email service? C’mon now!! I use my hotmail email for work, school, etc… and now I’m not going to be able to access my email for the next few days. Fudge – that’s frustrating…

Hmmm… so what’s next, Facebook? I’m predicting in the next few days will see more websites being blocked. I wouldn’t be surprised. Hopefully after the anniversary, things will get back to normal and websites will be back up. Although, if we go by recent blocks, like Blogspot and Youtube, crap it could possibly be weeks or months 🙁

Fam and friends – for the next few days, you’ll have to contact me via this blog site, unless China decides to block it for who knows what reason. I’ll post up my Korea pics as soon as Flickr is back up.

All is well. Love and miss you all.


soju, bibimbap and metal chopsticks!

May 29th, 2009

I’m in Korea !!!

I came to Korea knowing it was a more developed country compared to China, but I didn’t expect the lodging cost to be as high. Not as pricey as the US but it comes close. I paid 18,000 won ($17) for a dorm bed in Seoul – most expensive dorm bed to date! A decent motel room in Seoul can cost you 60,000 won ($58). But other than lodging, everything else (food, transportation) is still relatively cheap.

Got into Seoul a few days ago, Korea’s capital and most populated city. My friend Sean, who I met in Xi’an back in Feb, lives in Korea and offered to pick me up at the airport. I was starving, so we headed out to grab dinner at Hongdae, a well-known college area with bars, restaurants, students and foreigners. Since I got into Seoul late and the city center being 1.5 hrs away from the Incheon airport, we found ourselves eating at 12. We had some Bulgogi (Korean beef bbq), washed it down with some beer and soju (a rice based liquor, almost vodka-like) and ended the night with an hour session of karaoke haha…singing our hearts out to “Living on a prayer” by Bon Jovi 🙂 It was great. After that, I was beat and was in bed by 3am.

First thing the next morning, I headed to a travel agency to drop off my passport for my Chinese visa and then took off for some site seeing. I had no LP book to refer to for this trip, but I did read a few articles before coming to Korea, so I came knowing that there were tons of things to do, for anyone really. There are museums, palaces, parks, mountains and even amusement parks – all in a fairly close radius. Koreans are very very very nice people, probably the nicest people I’ve met in my life. Two days in Seoul and I’ve had 6 random locals come up to me in the subway and on the streets offering their help, giving me tips as to where to go. Amazing. Man, I must really look like a lost tourist haha – Korea freakin’ rocks! 🙂

First stop was the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Korea’s largest palace from the Chosun Dynasty. There were heaps of middle school students here on a field trip, so the place was packed. I noticed all the students were snapping photos with their cell phones. You’d think that if you were on a field trip site seeing, you’d take an actual camera right? Nope not for Korean kids. They take their cell phones! Why not though? There are cell phones now that have bigger memory space and take better photos than some cameras today. Seriously.

Anyway, I saw the changing ceremony of the Royal Guards at the palace – which was cool. You’ll find the guards dressed up in colorful traditional costumes. A must see when visiting Gyeongbokgung. Behind the palace you’ll find a beautiful park with a small pavillion on the lake called Hyangwonjeong. It’s a gorgeous park, very peaceful, especially with the mountains in the backdrop. I found a spot on the grass, behind a lady that was painting the scenery and just about fell asleep. After Gyeongbokgung, I headed for Namdaemun market, a large outdoor retail market. You can find cheap clothes, toys, house stuff, food, etc…. I had some cheap bibimbap (gang of greens, rice, egg, meat in a stone pot) for 4,000 won ($4) – my favorite Korean dish so far. I ended the day at the National Museum of Korea.

Currently in Sokcho, a small town with a population of 84,000 (4 hrs by bus from Seoul). It’s breathtaking here! This city is by the beach and surrounded by mountains. I could live here! I’ll be here for few days for some hiking at Seoraksan National Park. Looking forward to it!

I’ll post pics as soon as I can.

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Am I really in China?

May 17th, 2009

The plan after Nanjing was to catch the train to Hangzhou. But because of the holiday and my ass booking at the last minute – all trains were fully booked for the entire weekend. I was debating whether to stay in Nanjing for another night, which I didn’t mind at all, or dash for the bus station in hopes to get a bus ticket to Hangzhou. However, Simon and Barney, HongKongers I met at my hostel extended an invitation I couldn’t refuse: a personal tour of Shanghai, a couch to crash on and a home-cooked meal. How could I not say yes? Before I knew it, I was on the bus with them bound for Shanghai.

Man oh man, all I have to say about Shanghai is, where has Communist China gone? Getting off the bus and walking through the metro, I was having flashbacks of my visit to Hong Kong last year. All I kept thinking was: “Am I really in China? Did I get on the wrong bus and somehow ended up back in California?” Nothing but shops, shops, starbucks, shops, more shops and more starbucks. Skyscrapers everywhere and heaps of Americans! Three months in China and I’ve encountered more foreigners walking the streets here in two days.

Despite feeling under the weather, I was still able to get a taste of this modern, cosmopolitan city. Started off at the propaganda poster art museum, which was quite interesting. We walked around the French Concession (the charming, peaceful, green section of Shanghai) through Renmin Park, Ninjing Road and ended at the Bund (waterfront area where you can find a nice collection of traditional colonial buildings, a must see area in Shanghai). Topped off the night touring the lit up city on motorbike with Simon, which was awesome.

Shout out to Si, Barney, Shannon – thanks again for letting me crash on your couch and thanks for dinner. Good times in Nanjing and Shanghai! My doors in Dalian are always open for ya’ll!



May 15th, 2009

A fairly modernized city yet there’s still a small feel of Chinese culture and history (well, at least that’s what I got). Due to the May Day holiday, exploring Nanjing was slow to say the least. I swear everybody and their moms were here for the holiday. The traffic was nauseatingly bad – attempting to travel by local bus was a nightmare and for some apparent reason taxis were unattainable. I’d probably be better off if I rented a bicycle 🙂 Bicycle commuting is very common here, which I find enticing. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed my two days in Nanjing – it was quite relaxing (when I’m not running around). The scattered rivers and lush greenery definitely add to the charm of the city that’s for sure. I never made it up Zijinshan (Purple Mountain), which was my initial plan, but I did get some sightseeing in: Confucius Temple, Light Temple Pagoda, City Wall.

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Behind The Wall (Spanish restaurant) – enjoying sangrias, tequila shots, a guitarist jammin’ out “hotel california” on the acoustic….. it got me missing home!

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Invincible I am not

May 11th, 2009

Unfortunately my May Day holiday ended earlier than expected due to a severe case of the flu. Dang, and all this time I was thinking my body was invincible 🙂 haha [chuckle..cough..chuckle..cough] Seriously though, I can’t remember the last time I got sick. I’m thinking two years ago maybe. I guess all this traveling and eating everything under the sun finally caught up with me. At least I was able to get something good out of this holiday – I enjoyed two days in lovely Nanjing, met some cool people, two days on a friend’s couch in Shanghai. (I’ll elaborate more on Nanjing and Shanghai a little later).

After leaving Shanghai it pretty much went downhill from there. On the plane to Guangzhou my head was pounding, I started burning up. I got off the plane and I couldn’t walk a few feet without wanting to pass out. I literally had to stop and rest every five minutes. I felt like I swallowed heaps of drowsy medication. With flu-like symptoms, and feeling extremely lethargic, I needed a doctor asap! I sent a text message over to Lulin (a friend of a friend) who lives in Zhuhai, small town right at the Macau border crossing.

Text: Hi Lulin, its Sophia, Waynes fren. On bus 2 Zhuhai, b there in few hrs. Can u meet me 2day? Not feeling well n need 2 see a doctor.

Lulin, such a sweetheart, picked me up as soon as I got to Zhuhai. She checked me into a hotel and we headed off to the hospital.

Lulin: “Ok you sure you want to go in because there’s a chance they might quarantine you. Swine flu and all….”

Sophia: “Really? I feel like crap. I’ll take the chance.”

After waiting lines, back and forth with a few nurses it came down to this: (Of course everything is being translated through Lulin)

Nurse: “She definitely has a high fever we need to take some blood samples before we can go any further.”

Sophia: “What? Can’t they give me some antibiotics or something? How long do I have to wait for the blood results?”

Nurse: “A few days.”

Sophia: “Thanks but no thanks. My visa expires in a few days so I won’t even be here for the results.”

Lulin: “Forget this. Let’s go. I’ll make you a Chinese home remedy tea that you can take for two days.”

I was cooped up in my Zhuhai hotel for two days straight – sleeping and drinking this Chinese medicine tea, which consisted of boiled ginger, dates and brown sugar. By the second day, I was pinching my nose shut and forcing myself to drink the tea. Just thinking about the tea is making me hurl.

To cut long story short, my fever came down and I finally made it to Macau. As soon as I got my visa I flew directly home. Still recovering but feeling a lot better…I promise I’ll write more about Nanjing, Shanghai and Macau on my next blog.

Shout out to Lulin – thanks again for taking care of me!

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, to all the moms and moms-to-be!

Mom, I love you and miss you everyday. Love your favorite daughter 🙂

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if you can’t beat em’ join em’

April 27th, 2009

Complete chaos again at the train station! Fudgeness. I’m not the type of person that would push, shove and cut in front of anyone though now I think I’m going to have to change my ways unfortunately, to “fit in” since I plan on being here for a while. In mere observation, people have very little concern for others in this populous country. The cutting in line, the shoving to get on the bus first, barging in an elevator before the people inside can step out, is an everyday thing, but simply because the Chinese are accustomed to it; same goes with the constant spitting in public. I don’t want to sound like I’m putting down the culture, because I’m not, its just plain observation. Plus, noting it will give others a heads up on these customs which can easily be mistaken for rudeness. Going on three months in China, I’m more used to it now. I learned to jostle my way through lines more aggressively now – go me! Although, I don’t think I’ll ever find myself horking up mucus and spitting publicly 🙂

Anyway, despite all the craziness at the station, this was by far the easiest ticket transaction yet, thanks to my friend Eunice. She was able to translate everything for me. No Chinese phrasebook needed here lol! It turned out that no trains ran to Guilin from Dalian. Sucks. I was so hyped on Guilin/Yanghsuo that I didn’t really think of a plan B – crap. For some reason, the next city that came to mind while I was standing at the ticket counter (while the ticket lady stared at us) was Nanjing, Jiangsu province – so I guess I’m heading to Nanjing for this May Day holiday, 1st-11th!! I love Chinese holidays!! I’ll start off in Nanjing and from there travel south to umm…. I’m not sure where yet…….but eventually ending up leaving China and crossing the border into Macau for my last visa run (hopefully). Getting this work visa is such a pain in the ass.


I’m a regular

April 21st, 2009

So I’ve been hitting up this small Chinese eatery next to my apartment regularly. I remember my first visits being a bit awkward- constant stares, staff struggling to understand the foreigner who sucked at ordering in Chinese, my food coming out slower than usual etc… It didn’t bother me though because:

1) food is cheap and pretty darn good, especially their dumplings and dim sum.
2) the eatery is conveniently located near my pad and
3) my Chinese isn’t too great so that didn’t help with the ordering (although that will change in a few months)

After a few weeks I noticed things were changing…..

The usual stares were gone and replaced with smiles, small conversation in Chinese, better, faster service and get this…. minimal English words such as hello and bye bye. What? For me? 😀 Even the workers outside the restaurant smile and wave at me every time I pass by even when I’m NOT going in the restaurant. Nice.

This morning I woke up and decided to head over for some breakfast and the coolest thing happened. I’m walking towards the restaurant and from a distance I can already see the smiling worker outside waiting to greet me. I step inside, the waitress smiles and shouts out an order of Shao Mei!! (my usual order) WOW. I didn’t even make it to the table and already she’s ordering for me. Although, little did she know that I was in to order something different. I told her “Bu yao le shao mei” then we all busted out laughing, she started talking to me in Chinese and I just kept nodding my head. Didn’t understand her but I’m sure it was in the likes of “Oh I thought you were going to order your usual shao mei, you must of gotten sick of eating em’… yadda yadda yadda….” LOL.

Oh I’ll be back for my Shao mei – tomorrow or maybe for lunch 🙂


Twilight fever in Dalian?

April 15th, 2009

English books are hard to come by here in Dalian. Being that this city is home to a huge number of expats, I find that very surprising. According to my colleagues, there are a few bookstores that carry a small collection of English books, but if I wanted any of the latest releases I’d have to go get em’ in the bigger cities like Shanghai or Beijing. I finished the two books I brought with me last month and have been in search ever since. At this point I’d take anything. A colleague of mine lent me “The Sands of Time” by Sidney Sheldon (1990). An oldie but an enjoyable read.

Cynthia, one of the gals I tutor, offered me her “Twilight” book. Yes, you’re reading it correctly – Theeee Twilight! The vampire movie that all of America is currently going gaga’ for. Twilight international? I didn’t see that coming. The movie/book never really caught my interest but like I said, I’d take anything. I took the book home and ended up finishing it in five hours. And I have to admit – this damn vampire-romance novel got me hooked! Now I understand why American girls went crazy over the movie, the storyline is very romantic. Or was it because of the lead actor? Hmmm… Anyway, out of curiosity I’m thinking about grabbing me a bootleg copy of the movie. Of course it’ll probably be a disappointment (then again what book-turn-movie isn’t). Cynthia has the entire Stephenie Meyer collection so I’m currently on book two – New Moon. LOL. I’ll be sure to stock up on English books next time I’m in one of the major cities.

Birthday shout out to the big boss, Jason!! We all went out for dinner last night in celebration ~ German beer and chocolate cake, my kind of combination.

Note to self: Birthdays – keep cake away from Wayne 🙂

Wayne has a rap sheet of starting cake fights. I’m sensing that the cake fight between Wayne and Emma is far from over…..hahaha

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new visa, new acoustic

April 13th, 2009

A few days ago, a friend and I were at the Chinese visa office applying for an extension. From the visa experiences I’ve had in the past, walking in, I was already expecting a sit down with a not-so-pleasant person behind the counter. Surprisingly, the officer turned out to be a pretty cool, young dude and the processing of my app went through with no problems. Here’s the funny part…. just as we were about to leave, that same officer pulls my friend aside, numbers were exchange, and tonight we are all meeting up for dinner lol. His motive – to practice his English. A friend in the bureau = My visa worries are over! Hahaha I’m kidding. I’m kidding. 🙂

No bunnies and eggs for me this Easter. Instead I picked up a sweet guitar – with the help of friends and their bargaining skills of course. (Thanks Wayne and James). My acoustic friend cost me a 245 RMB ($35) ridiculously cheap. Hope everyone enjoyed their Easter weekend.

Mom, my minutes ran out- that would explain why we got cut off. I’ll call you again when I get another phone card. Hurry up and get Skype so we can video chat! Love you.

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Qianshan National Park

April 9th, 2009

Bingyu Valley was a no-go last weekend. Instead, the girls and I ended up hopping on a four hour train ride north to another city, Anshan, to visit the well-known Qianshan National Park -aka- “Thousand Lotus Flower Mountains”. This densely, wooded, mountainous park has a religious history dating back 1200 years.
What’s fascinating about this park are the Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, temples and nunneries scattered all over the park – hidden between mountains, some located on the mountain peaks.
My friends Emma and Eunice were troopers and kept at a good pace. Being that this was their first trek, they did alright. At the end of the day, I asked if they would ever do it again. They looked at me, and in unison, both said, no way! I’d have to pay Emma a million bucks and get Eunice, Sean Opry (no clue who he is, she mentioned he was a model) to get them to trek again 🙂 Obviously, I’m not of resource to give them any of that, so I suspect that I won’t be doing anymore treks with the girls in the future.

It was a short two day trip but nonetheless, a nice getaway from the city that’s for sure!

” I love China!!

More Pictures – click here

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