Thursday, June 30, 2011

China Post #36 Music Class

Linda's parents have been in town for the last week and Dylan has been out of school. The school closed for the summer because the teacher is in Beijing for a few months of training. I have to say that it was nice for the three weeks or so that Dylan went to school all day and especially the last week and a half when they provided a hot lunch. Without a car it was hard to get much done when he was only going for a few hours a day, I miss driving.

Anyway, over the weekend Linda went with her parents and her coworker to see a tailor in Dalian and pick out cloth to have some pants made as well as a pair of shorts for me. Then on Sunday when I was hoping to get a long ride in, it decided to rain for the whole day. Instead we headed back into Dalian to do some shopping for gifts and mostly got wet. At least the market was not crowded because the rain was keeping people from leaving their homes.

On Monday, Dylan was invited to the music room where his school is. The room is run by his friend, Jing Gong's mother, so naturally I expected Jing Gong to be there and they would spend the time playing together. After dropping Dylan off and finding out that Jing Gong was not there I headed across the street to the sports park with Linda's parents and walked around the track with them. Here is a view of about 15-20 buildings that will be condos going up in various stages, there are more behind the ones that are closer.
At a minimum of 4 units per floor and roughly 20 stories high this should house 1200-1500 or more families. Pretty crazy, and there are at least 5 other locations around Dalian and the Development Area that are the same.

When we returned after almost an hour this is what Dylan was up to.
Yup, he was having an actual piano lesson, maybe you can get excited now mom, we will see, he seems to enjoy it but we would have to find an instructor back in Albuquerque if we want him to continue.

Later we headed with the Music teacher to where Jing Gong was taking what seemed to be a pretty advanced Chinese lesson. Jing Gong is only 10 months older than Dylan, so about 4 and a half, and was reading a chinese children's book (not one that is only a few words per page either, but more like 100 words per page) that was written in characters, not phonetics.

After the lesson was over we headed to lunch with Jing Gong's family and the Chinese teacher. Here is Linda's mom talking with Jing Gong's mom (music teacher) and Linda's dad talking with the Chinese teacher.
And of course Dylan and Jing Gong on our way to lunch.
So Dylan eventually had 3 classes in the 4 days we are here this week and Linda's mom gave several gifts to the teacher and Jing Gong. Of course Dylan got a handful of small toys as well and we were not charged for the classes.

Here is an interesting sight. A group of three street vendors.
You have the guy selling fruit out of the back of a truck, one out of the back of a horse drawn cart and a hot food (I think) cart all hanging out on the same corner on the way to Dylan's school and piano lessons.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

China Post #35 Video from Sun Asia

I thought this was pretty funny.

Monday, June 20, 2011

China Post #34 Sun Asia Ocean/Polar World

This Saturday we headed to the Sun Asia Ocean World. It is really 3 aquariums and, what else, an amusement park all in one. We bought tickets to the Ocean World and the Polar World aquariums and made sure to steer clear of the amusement park.

At first these dolphins kind of scared Dylan, I think it was the teeth, but he eventually warmed up to them.
We got a late start so needed to find food to eat and wandered around the food stalls, though most were basically the same. Here is what was on the menu.
Everything on a stick.

Here are the Coca-Cola table to eat at and apparently change you child's diapers too. Naturally the garbage can is conveniently located right below the table...
The aquariums were interesting. The Ocean World was themed around a submarine so everything was really dark and there was all sorts of piping and tubing running along the walls as well as loads of fake view ports.

Here we are looking into a "crashed UFO". It seems that aliens use toilets and watch TV the same as us, and now so do the fish.
One of the best things about the Ocean World is after you emerge from the "submarine". There is a 118 meter long tunnel that is under a tank.

Here are Linda and Dylan posing next to one of the numerous sea turtles.
And moving along through the tunnel. There was a moving walkway and a stationary one so you could ride to something you found interesting and step off.
I'm not sure this is a good idea. Or THIS might happen.
Now I don't really think this is a great idea, but hey they were out in the petting area so we took a turn. Dylan petting the young sea turtles.
We managed to see several shows, the first was the dolphin show which started out with this guy.
It was quite different than what you would expect in the US from an animal show in that it was more of a human performance supplemented by the animals. On top of that almost all the performers were not Chinese. Anyway the clown tossed out a few trinkets, one of which I managed to catch with some guy trying to climb over my back to get at it. Naturally Dylan got it and promptly lost it before we left the park. OH well.
On to the Polar World. This one was a bit depressing really, may of the animals were in really small enclosures, really just rooms. There were 3 arctic wolves, so pretty big animals, in a room not much bigger than a large bedroom, just pacing back and forth endlessly. Then there was the polar bear in a similar sized room. There were 4 arctic foxes in a smaller room that was furnished with a concrete sofa, bookshelf and a hamster wheel. It seemed as though the penguins were a bit on the warm side, they were all laying on the ice or standing with their arms out facing the fans, though it was obviously cool in the room since when they were fed the people were wearing down jackets.

There was a beluga show as well which was cool, though just see them was possibly better. Again, for such large animals the tank was small, but they were super interactive. They would swim down ad look at you through the glass and when someone else walked up they would turn to check them out too. They would follow some people along the side of the tank and react to things that you would do.
We only made it into the second half of the walrus and seal show, which was fine by me since the shows are really loud. Here the walrus is trying to pop a ballon before an audience participant can, I think the walrus won.
Out front of the Polar World in a moat filled with seals. For 10 yuan you can take a dish of small fish out and feed them. I figured hey for a dollar and a half, Dylan will never get to do that in the US, not with out some specific education anyway.
Later we even got a picture of the seal kissing Dylan, 30 yuan.

After seeing both aquariums we needed a snack. Dylan going to town on a chicken stick.
We headed back into the Polar World to catch the Beluga show after this.

Then I called the Shama, where we are staying and explained that I forgot the card for Brooklyn, the restaurant we were going to eat diner at. So one of the ladies at the front desk looked it up in the internet and I ran over to a nearby hotel where she told the lady at the desk there where it was and she wrote it down for me. Then I handed the paper to a cab driver and we made it to diner with no trouble.

All in all we had a good day out and Dylan certainly had a good time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

China Post #33 Assorted

Here are some shots from another expat, Ian (EYE-an), who went with us to Dandong last month. A nice little family shot near the end of the Great Wall.
I had a shot of Linda climbing on the broken bridge and here is one of me. Since Linda would never look at the bridge and think, OH that looks good to climb someone had to start it.
And of course what mom and dad do.....
The little ones try to follow.

Of course Ian right now is stuck in Beijing. He showed up 29 minutes before his flight departed, I don't know if it was because he was running late or what but you could easily get through security and to the gate in every airport we've been through in time. Yet in China check in closes, PERIOD, 30 minutes before departure so in Beijing he stayed. Hopefully he makes it back or works something out since his flight back to the US leaves tomorrow morning at 10AM.

I had mentioned how China has invested heavily in High speed rail. Well as we sped along on our journey to Huashan we passed many of these towers in varying states of completion.
While out shopping in Shanghai we passed this store, UM Yeah, lets do that.
We also checked out this shopping mall, 4 stories high with almost 100 stalls on each floor, though after about 5 or 6 they started to repeat themselves.
You had the stores with coin purses and bags in all sorts of colorful patterns. Shops with t-shirts that had typical China images such as Mao or panda bears. Then there were the name brand shoe stores where you could get Nike and Adidas for ridiculously low prices. Outdoor clothing stores where the Mammut and Arcteryx soft shells had no stretch to them and exposed raise seams on the inside. Oakley sunglasses that were obviously not, but had the label along with $2,000 watches for 20 bucks. It really is all about the label, some of the stuff may have "fallen" off the back of the truck or slipped out the back door from the factory, but most of it was completely fake.

My favorite shop though was the Ipad, electronic accessory and lingerie store, they also had mens underwear as well.

It was interesting to see westerners walking around with suitcases full of stuff just buying everything in sight. Then of course there was this sign explaining what the mall stood for.
OK then. It is all fine and dandy to make knock off clothing and such but it has gone too far when THIS becomes an issue. This is a little too close to home for us as climbers and it seem that someone in China really lacks a conscience. Though I did not see any of this gear at this particular mall. If you ever go to a place like this just be sure that you are willing to deal with the consequences of having whatever you purchase fall apart on you. I don't think the government expressly promotes this kind of retail as the shop keepers did not want people taking photos of the product.

Enough for now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

China Post #32 Trains

In the past 10-15 years China has invested heavily in high speed rail which is pretty cool. Many of the stations are closer in to towns and so the travel time is less as well as not needing as much time to check in and get through security. All in all, for trips up to about 1000 miles taking the train can actually be faster and certainly more comfortable as long as the train has assigned seating. The seats are bigger, recline further and you can always get up and walk around. The train we took from Xi'an to HuaShan had just opened a month or so ago and on the way out I had no concept of how fast we were moving, just that it was difficult to take pictures out the window. On the return trip I noticed the speedometer when it read 301 km/hr... about 187 mph and you could hardly tell, the ride was super smooth.

The next major line to open will be a Shanghai to Beijing train that will take 4 or 5 hours and is over 1000 km's, the flight time is about 2 hours plus the hour and a half you have to get to the airport, then collecting bags, so even if the drive time is the same you are still looking at about 4 hours for the flight.

Most of the high speed rail in China is with trains rated to 350 kph, but the typically only run at 310 kpm for passenger comfort. Then there is the Maglev from the Shanghai International airport to the edge of the city. The train runs off of magnetic levitation and while not as smooth it is freaking fast. They claim that the track is manufactured within 1mm over its entire length, but when you get jerked to the side 1mm at that kind of speed it is a bit harsh. While the track is built to within 1mm I'm willing to guess that the expansion joints that are quite regular might be off by a bit more. Anyway it was for me the high light of Shanghai and here is what it does.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

China Post #31 Huangshan 2

Here are some shots from Huangshan that my dad took. He got a new little point and shoot that takes really good pictures, a Canon 965, I think.

Here we are hiding out in a tunnel trying to get oriented on the map. In China it seems that every map you get has different things on it and is really never to scale. The map that we are looking at has the whole mountain, but the maps posted along the trail rarely had more than the point you were at and the next point or two in any direction. In addition, sometimes those points did not match anything on the map.
Here is everyone, dad is behind the camera, being idiots after climbing Lotus Peak in the storm.
This is the water fall staircase I mentioned. The higher you got in it the more water you were hit with. This is because a storm drain from higher up dumped right into the top of the staircase. By the time we made it to the top water was hitting you in the chest and spraying up into your face because the wind was being funneled up the staircase.
During this episode water got up under dad's jacket and all over his new camera and yet it kept right on working, though the lens had water drops or streaks on it for the rest of the day.

Now I might be carrying a 45 pound pack with Dylan in it and all the other tourist are impressed and making comments like I'm a model father, but these guys are really impressive. There are hotels and stores up on the mountain along with trail maintenance project and they have to get their supplies somehow. These are the guys that carry the supplies up from the top of the cable cars.
The more impressive items we saw being carried were bags, yes plural, of concrete and propane canisters that were probably 100 liter or about 25 gallon, so 2.5 times the size of a typical BBQ canister, maybe bigger. Naturally it is all up and down stairs.

Last, here is mom after a wet day up on the mountain.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

China Post #31 Huangshan

After flying to Shanghai we took a car to the town of Huangshan. They say that after seeing Huangshan every other mountain in China will be nothing, we were glad to be going on a weekday to reduce clouds. Another thing working in our favor as far as reducing clouds was the weather. Here is Dylan ready to go in a modified poncho.
With the weather calling for rain, rain and more rain, here is what the wait looked like to get onto the lower cable car.
Not quite the 2 hours we waited to get up on Huashan. A look at the cable car ride up the mountain.
Once up on the mountain there were a few other people around though by China standards it was completely empty. Here is an interesting, naturally occurring rock formation in China.
Yep, a camera bolted to the rock wall to keep an eye on things. With the limited amount of time we were going to spend out in the foul weather mom, dad, Dylan and I headed for the highest point which is Lotus Peak and not too far from where the cab;e car dropped us off. Here is a rock pillar beside the path seen through the mist.
The wind was pretty strong near the peak, it almost knocked my mom over. Here is the summit monument, you can see that at this point my camera is getting a bit wet. Water was actually dripping out of it when I would pull it out of my pocket.
Last shot before I decided it was time to put the camera away for good. When we made it down from the peak back to the main trail we noticed this sign that we did not see on the way up.
Kind of hard to tell but it says not to climb the peak in a storm, OOPS. Anyway, my dad took some more shots so maybe I'll put some of those up later. It is a good thing I stopped taking picture and put the camera away, it took several hours before it dried out enough to work after the trip.

Friday, June 10, 2011

China Post #30 LeShan Buddha

On our second day out of Chengdu we headed to see the LeShan Giant Buddha. The buddha was carved into the a high sandstone cliff over looking the confluence of two rivers that gave boaters loads of problems. To get to the buddha you start out by hiking up a trail with what else but some stairs. Along the way you pass numerous cavings of buddhas and other creatures such as this dragon behind my parents.
There is a sculpture of the sculptor, though I don't think the buddha was finished until after he had passed.
Here is a view of the confluence.
And the main attraction. The railing behind the head is about 8 feet high.
These are the stairs that you descend to get to the base of the buddha.
People milling about the buddhas feet, yes it is that big, 71 meters high.
Out past the buddha there are several other things to see including this bridge.
We had lunch at a little fishing village near the bridge and even though we asked for the food not spicy it was still pretty hot, after all this is Sichuan province where spicy food is king.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

China Post #29 Pandas

After Xi'an we headed off to Chengdu. We had hopped to meet up with our friend Kenny Tse from Albuquerque who has since relocated to Chengdu, Intel has a Fab there as well as the one in Dalian, however he had already planned a vacation to Vietnam. We did however use a driver he recommended to get around which was great even if it was a tight fit with the five of us.

On the first day we headed to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Mom, Linda and Dylan in front of the entrance.
We hired a government guide who spoke english, all tour guides are certified by the government in China. A short way into our walk, we opted not to take the oversized golf carts this time, we came across this statue. Naturally mom wanted a picture with me and Linda a shot with Dylan in front of it.
In addition to Giant Pandas the Base houses a number of Red Pandas. Since the red panda is a more social creature it does not take as much space since they pretty much all hang out in the same enclosure.
The first pandas we really saw were two cubs with their grandmother, apparently mom hand been removed to prepare for mating.
A young cub trying to climb, turns out that the panda is a pretty good climber and spends a bit of time in trees at least when younger.
There are numerous panda enclosures since pandas are mostly solitary creatures as adults. Here is a large female snacking away.
The panda needs something ridiculous like 20 kilos of bamboo a day since they can only digest about 20% of what they consume.

We moved on to the adolescent pen where there were several pandas hanging out together just like middle school kids. Here is one tree testing.
Here they are getting ready to let the morning siesta begin.
Since the Giant Panda is from the mountains they do no like it when the temperature s over 25 degrees celsius (77 F) and are actually move in to air conditioned pens when things get too warm. One adult in fact was pacing near the entrance to her pen about the time we were leaving at about 10:30am.

Here is dad shooting some teenaged pandas. The females at this age can still be housed together.
Much of the Base is covered in bamboo that makes for nice sheltered walking paths.
Our guide, Dylan and Linda walking along through a bamboo tunnel. However the Giant Panda is a picky eater and will not eat the bamboo that grows on the base. Their food need to be shipped in from higher and cooler climate zones.

This will naturally be my mothers favorite stop of her trip to China. We all though it was a very worthwhile place to check out and it is amazing how close you can get to the animals. You do however need to go early and preferably not during the height of summer so that the pandas will be more active. We got to the Research Base at about 8am and it was great, it wasn't even too crowded.