Tuesday, August 29, 2006

August 21st (Monday)

We arrived in Beijing last night and had a WONDERFUL dinner at TGI Friday's. I had been looking forward to that since I knew we were coming to Beijing. Baby loves fried cheese. :) We each ordered an appetizer and a main dish, which was way too much, but so good. I love a chance to get American food. A lot of tourists come to Beijing and want the duck, jiaozi (dumplings) or something else Chinese.

Rob got up before I did on Monday and went in to the Embassy. I slept in a little, had breakfast at the hotel, and started walking around. I got tired and decided to get on the subway. At about 36 cents a ticket, it is quite affordable. I got off near the Silk Market. It was huge and sells everything, not just silk. I was excited at first, but ended up being quite disappointed. The vendors are used to a lot of tourists and are very aggressive and start the bargaining process high! One vendor tried to convince me that 2000 kuai (about $250) was quite a bargain. I talked her down to 100 kuai (about $12.50). Since she agreed to that, she was still obviously making a profit. Many of the vendors would grab your arm and almost all would call out to you and shove their wares in your face. I don't particularly like the whole bargaining thing to begin with, but it was just insane. A lot of the stuff I wouldn't want if it was free. Some of the stuff was interesting, but I don't know what it would do besides clutter up the house. I think it would be different if I lived there. I could take in the insanity a little at a time, get a feel for what prices should be, and maybe get some neat things. I guess I will have to see what I can end up with here in Shenyang.

Rob called me on my cell phone when he was finished at the Embassy. We met up for lunch at a restaurant someone recommended to him, the Mexican Wave. It wasn't good Mexican food, but it was decent. Then back to the hotel for some rest. I sure love my rest. :)

Tuesday, August 22nd-- The Great Wall (Ba Da Ling)

It keeps going and going and going and going.....

Yes, we went to the touristy part of the wall. We could have driven further or gone to a more "hard core" hiking/climbing kind of place, but we didn't. Rob has a nasty cold and I am, well, lugging around this baby inside of me. Ugh. Beats carrying it kicking and screaming up the wall. I needed lots of rests. It was steeper than it looked. I thought stairs would be a welcome change to walking on a steep grade. Not necessarily the case. The steps are worn, some missing chunks out of them. They are VERY uneven in height and width as well. Sometimes I could easily take three stairs at a time, sometimes it was a climb doing one. See the tower at the top of the picture? Yep, we trekked it up there. From there we walked a bit furter and took a cable car down. I found it quite enjoyable, but Rob does not like cable cars.

Great Wall, Part Two

After we rode down on the cable car from the south side, we rode the cable car up to the north side of the wall. Rob didn't enjoy the cable car going up anymore than he did going down. It did save us a lot of walking though. We then walked down the north side. There were still ups and downs, but mostly downs. I had to watch my step carefully in places, but it took a lot less energy. Quality of the wall varied quite a bit, though since it is a tourist part it is all maintained. My friend, June, went to a less popular spot of the wall. I have put up a picture of her and her cousin. There hike was a lot harder as you can see! There are some sections that are even more difficult. I think Ba Da Ling section was just what I needed to be able to say that I have been on the Great Wall.

When we got back to Beijing, we had our driver drop us off at TGIFriday's
Wednesday, August 23rd Today was ultrasound day! We went to the hospital and the doctor was able to show us what appears to be a healthy baby developing right on schedule. It is nice to see arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, eyes, nose, mouth (opening and closing), kidneys, spine, heart (with four working chambers) etc. Of course the big question: will it be a boy or a girl...? Well, there was no penis to be found, so the assumption is girl, though we were told it could be an uncooperative boy. So, the question in my mind is am I glad to know that? I want to get excited about a girl now, but what if a boy pops out? Don't want too many pink frilly dresses in the closet! For lunch we went to TGIFriday's for fried cheese. Okay, we got the Three-For-All and Tex Mex Tower appetizers and ate (most of) those. Yum! We took a cab to Temple of Heaven. It is a nice park with beautiful grounds to walk on and some interesting things to see. We (especially me) were tired from yesterday at the Great Wall. Put me in 90 degree heat with sore calves and a bladder that needs frequent emptying and it doesn't take long for me to have my fill of seeing things. I primarily wanted to see this one building (you can see me in the picture). I think it is absolutely beautiful! From there we left through the East Gate and went to the Pearl Market. We walked through rather quickly and didn't buy anything. I enjoy browsing and the Pearl Market is not as aggressive as the Silk Market. I was tired and didn't feel like doing a lot of bargaining. Plus, it is more fun to shop with someone. Rob doesn't count as shopping with someone because he doesn't like to shop. He will wait and let me shop, but he doesn't participate. We went behing the Silk Market to the smaller Toy Market. Rob actually got some things! I was so excited that he found some things that he liked. He got some flashlights and swimming goggles. We didn't get "Chinese prices" but we didn't pay "White prices" either and felt we were getting a deal. Back to the hotel to rest, download pics, and blog. Soon it will be time to find dinner. Sizzler perhaps?

After resting on Thursday we decided to go to the Summer Palace on Friday. The area is absolutely HUGE! We could have spent days there, but feet were tired and weather was hot and humid.

The only part that I did not like was San Something Street. It costs an extra $1.25 if you don't have an all inclusive ticket. We did have the all inclusive ticket, and I thought it sounded interesting. We hiked around the park to find it. Basically it is a blocked off part of the river (with drawbridges on each end) that has shops surrounding it and a little skinny narrow walkway (no railings). Yes, it ends up that you are paying to see the little shops, which are not that different from those you would see anywhere else. Rob and I decided that the only reason they charge is to keep it from being crowded. If they didn't charge, it would be so packed that people would be falling in the water right and left.
When we were finished seeing all we wanted to see, back to the hotel for a nap before a late lunch. Resting in the hotel was definitely the constant throughout our trip. :)

Saturday, August 26, 2006.
Today was our day for the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square. They weren't a far walk from our hotel, but it seemed like quite the walk with baby dancing on my bladder.

A lot of the Forbidden Palace was under renovation. Got to get everything pretty in time for the Olympics. That was fine with me. It is a huge place and we didn't even see half of it! You know you have had enough when you are scouting out places to sit and rest. It was really crowded too. I can only imagine what it is like over holidays or what it will be like once the crowds from the Olympics arrive!
I guess it is a "must see" for Beijing, but I just didn't have the same enthusiasm at the end of the trip that I did at the beginning. Besides, Shenyang also has a Forbidden City, though not as big. It wasn't used for as long either. I don't think I ever wrote about our visit there. I will have to blog it.

Even Tiannamen Gate was under renovation. I took a shot anyway as you can still see the top part of it and the picture of Chairman Mao. I have some better pictures that my friend June took a few weeks ago before the green scaffolding stuff went up. I think those will be the ones I get prints of. The ugly construction picture is mine though and shows that I have indeed "been there, done that."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Saturday afternoon I took a quick walk down "Night Food Street" just a couple blocks from our hotel. I had read that they have all sorts of "treats" like scorpions and seahorses in addition to some of the more typical Chinese treats. Yum! I did see scorpions, silk worm pupas, snakes, starfish, grasshoppers, and other interesting culinary delights. Didn't see seahorses though. Perhaps I was out too early. I wanted to go before dinner as I didn't plan on eating there!
I did buy some candy coated kiwi. Basically sliced kiwi on a wooden skewer covered with a yummy sugary coating like a candy apple.
We went to Sizzler for dinner. It was nice to get a piece of red meat. Such "exotic" dining options in Beijing!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Baby (My mom says I can't call it a bad baby.)

My sister says that I need to write more about my pregnancy. I guess I hate to complain so publicly (no problem privately). I do not like being pregnant. Yes, I am excited to be having a baby. No, I don't like this part of the whole process. I try to be positive-- I feel like I am 13, should be good to feel younger, right? Of course that means my face is breaking out and I don't recognize my own body. My mom tells me that I am not fat, I am having a baby. Since I don't feel movement yet I feel FAT. I have this bulge in the front of me. My clothes don't fit, I don't like bending over, and my muscles hurt from supporting this belly of mine. I know, it isn't going to get better either.
After the first trimester I was so excited the vomiting stopped. Now I puke more than ever. It isn't as urgent and I don't feel nausea, but puking several times a day gets old. I feel like between that and peeing I should just move into the bathroom.
My sister also told me that I should talk about my cravings. CORN DOGS were the baby's choice yesterday. Of course I live in China, so first task is to find hot dogs that are meat hot dogs and not some sort of myster sausage. Second, I have to mix up the corn meal and flour batter and coat the hot dogs and deep fry them. Picking up a box at Safeway and throwing a couple of dogs in the oven or microwave would sure be a lot easier!
I dream about doughnuts, frosties from Wendy's, and 7-11 slurpees. Somehow Chinese food just doesn't do the trick. Besides, even though I love spicy noodles, they aren't so great coming back up. They are too spicy and way to long and get stuck on the way up. Yum! Great image, yes?
Oh, I forgot how much I love Chinese bathrooms. Squatter toilets, what could be better when you are pregnant. Actually squatting isn't so bad, but having to get back up again can be a killer. I am afraid I am going to lose my balance and fall in. The smell is quite lovely too. :( On my trip to Xi'an I was so excited when I found a bathroom that was (1) clean and smelled good (2) had normal toilets (3) had toilet paper and (4) had soap. Who would expect so many luxuries in one place?
Evidently Rob isn't suffering enough. Yesterday he was talking about baby #2. I haven't even squeezed this puppy out yet. Is it possible I am not as cranky as I think I am?
I need to think of some amusing things to write in Baby's book. I am not enjoying pregnancy, but I know it will be worth it when I have my sweet baby. Of course there will probably be days I will wonder about that too. :) I am going to miss sleep. I really like it!
Trip to Xi'an, China
August 3rd through 6th I was able to go to Xi'an, China. Rob had to work, but I was able to go and meet up with some friends and enjoy the city.
I arrived on Thursday afternoon and took a bus from the airport to my hotel. The Bell Tower Hotel is in a perfect location in the center of town, very convenient to everything within the city walls. I checked in, rested a bit, and took off looking for something to eat. Unfortunately, the restaurant I was looking for was no longer there. Nothing looked very appetizing to the baby, so I finally gave up. I was starving and went into McDonald's. Might not be very exciting, but beats some of the other typical fast food.
I wandered around a bit and ended up over in the Muslim area of town. I walked through the market and browsed at the many things for sale.

Walking around in all the heat wore me out. I wanted to get back to the hotel and just relax. There were several restaurants up and down the streets, but none seemed to be the "to go" type of place. I ended up getting carry out at pizza hut and heading back to eat, watch tv, and get to bed early.
Friday morning June and her cousin Lynn arrived in Xi'an. They checked into the hotel and we went out to the Muslim part of town again. June's guidebook listed a popular restaurant in the area. We were seated on the third floor. Food was brought to the table and we either accepted or declined it. I tried a couple of different types of baozi (dumpling/bun type things). They were delicious! We ate our fill and it cost us less than $2 each, including drinks. I led us back to the market area. This early in the afternoon it wasn't at all crowded. People tend to come out in the cool of the evening. We bought a few souvenirs and then found an art gallery. We enjoyed browsing through the shop and even met the artist. We spent quite a bit of time there before we left with our purchases in hand.
From there we went on to the Drum Tower. We climbed up and walked around the tower. Our timing was perfect and we were able to catch a drum show while we were there.
From the Drum Tower we went to the Bell Tower. The traffic in the area can be heavy, but there are underground walkways that make getting from place to place easy. At the Bell Tower we saw (surprise!) bells. Long ago the drums from the drum tower were used to mark the hours of the night. The tower was originally built in 1348 and moved the present site in 1552 and then rebuild and enlarged in the Qing Dynasty.
Luckily I was not the only one who was worn out. We went back to the hotel for a rest. When we were ready to go again we headed out to find dinner. We ended up having some Korean food at a restaurant in the mall. From there we walked to the south gate of the city wall and got some information about it. We hailed a cab and took off to see the Tang Dynasty show at a nearby theatre. The show included a variety of different types of dances and music from the Tang Dynasty. I only wish they weren't so big on using red lighting. It made taking pictures difficult.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More from the Tang Dynasty Show...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Saturday morning we set off to see the terra cotta warriors. We had set up a tour for the three of us and left the hotel bright and early at 8:15 am. Our first stop was the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It was built in 652 to collect Buddhist materials that a monk brought back from India.
Next we went to a factory where they make recreations of the terra cotta warriors. It was interesting to watch how they make them now and hear how it differs from the way they were originally made. After pulling the warriors out of the molds, the clay is trimmed and details are added to individualize the soldiers. Then it was on to the Terra Cotta Soldier Museum (and time for a little nap in the van along the way). Here is a link to some information about the warriors: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/shaanxi/xian/terra_cotta_army/index.htm
It was amazing to see something so old (around 200 BC) that had only been found in 1974! There is still a lot that has not been dug out. The soldiers, when first found, still had brilliant colors. Exposure to air stripped the paint off. Much is left covered until technology can protect the treasures that are yet to be seen. The soldiers are all different, varying in height, weight, and facial features. When they were crafted, the artist had to sign his work. If it did not meet up to the Emperor's standards, the artist would be killed.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

On some of the soldiers if you look carefully you can see some traces of color that hasn't completely come off.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

After the warriors we went back to the city. We went on the city wall. It is probably one of my favorite parts of the city. June and Lynn rented bikes and rode all around the wall, about 12 km. I didn't think that would be such a good idea for me so I walked around part of it and had some ice cream. If I go back I would like to ride all the way around and get to see the different views of the city.
I was exhausted and grabbed some food and went back to the hotel while June and Lynn continued on their way. The next morning it was home to Shenyang. I loved the trip, but it was good to be home. Baby wears me out!