The big deck, Chengdu

Early in our China adventures we went on a Chinese organized tour of Chengdu. We were the only non-Chinese people on the bus and were quite an oddity. We visited a UNESCO national park which was a beautiful wonder for all the Chinese tourists. For us, it was backyard Canada. As the Chinese marveled at this natural wonder, we marveled at the Chinese.As I admired the boardwalk, which was many, many kilometers long, I wondered how they got the 2×4’s up the mountain to build the deck. I figured they used a helicopter.In fact, the boardwalk went was so high up I had to stop half way to the top because I felt physically ill. The light air was killing me and I had to slowly walk my way back down the mountain, resting often.On the way down, I found out how they got the materials up the mountain. Next time my students complain about unloading the wood truck and carrying the lumber 100 feet into the school I will show them these pictures.


Photos Macau, Hong Kong and Guangzhou

Today in Guangzhou it was 34C

Some photos of our trip with Ghyslain, Juliane and Tweety.

At the casino in Macau where we saw a water show.

The ruins of St.Pauls Cathedral in Macau

At the Ruins we saw this couple using a telescopic rod to hold their phone so they could take a picture of themselves together. In the time it took them to get a good photo I could have had 5 different people use my camera to take a photo of me and Liebling.

Ghyslain, Juliane and Tweety at the Peak in Hong Kong. Liebling calls the baby “tweety” while Ghyslain calls him “petit bonhomme”. As his family name will be Berger, I prefer to call him Patrick or Patty for short.

My new coffee table for my living room at the Fish supermarket in Guangzhou. Futzu will help me move it as I always help him move his stupid granite cube from room to room every year.

China, a land of contradictions.

The wonderful Mr. Pu and his beautiful wife MeiHao. Chinese tradition says that Mr.Pu must pay when taking guests out to dinner. We are slowly bankrupting him as he refuses to let us pay for dinners. One time I managed to get the bill and MeiHao actually wrestled me to get it back.

The famous Guangzhou TV tower on the Pearl river cruise. I have been on the cruise 5 times now and will go on a 6th cruise when Futzu and his family come in July. Another hole in Mr. Pu’s pocket for dinner too. The lights on the tower are constantly changing and it is all glass on the outside. During the cruise, a Chinese woman walked up to Juliane, pointed her cell phone at her, took pictures of her belly and then casually walked away. It was like Juliane was an attraction at the zoo. Everywhere we went people would stare at her. We had a good time walking behind her and laughing at the expressions on everyone’s face.

Biking in TaiChung

Today in Taichung it was 32C and clear

My $6 CAD rental. Neale would be so proud, I checked the brakes and tire pressure before renting.

Coming up on close to a year in Asia, I am all templed out. Museumed out too. I have seen numerous temples in India, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and in over 5 differnet cities in China. And I haven’t even started on the museums etc. Yes, I am complaining and I know I shouldn’t be. The strangest temple was the tiger temple, which had actual tigers and the most disappointing temple was the “Jew” temple in India, which ended up being a “Zoo”, all our Indian guides having trouble with the letter Z.An old train tunnel through the mountain. It took about 4 minutes to ride through it.

So yesterday, I went biking. It cost me $50 CAD in taxi fair and $6 CAD for the bike but it was well worth it. I went along a bike trail that used to be a railway track. The trail was excellent and a great way to spend the day. I covered 24 km in total, from one end of the track and back again. I felt closer to a spiritual well being than I did in all the temples combined.

Out of the tunnel and onto the bridge over the river.

The view from the bridge.

Once out of the tunnel I came upon a rest area. School kids and families were BBQing and there were picnic tables for everyone. I was hoping to get invited for lunch but only the kids would talk to me.

The class clown, the worker, the facebooker, “who? me?” and friends. Just like back home.

Pork chops, spicy sausage, mushrooms and corn on the cob.

A section of the bike path. Twice as wide as the paths in Ottawa.

This section went over the highway.

View from another bridge over the river

The day was expensive but it was well worth it to be out in the sun getting some good old fashioned exercise. The best part was that there weren’t any temples or museums along the path.

Osaka Botanical Garden

Today in Osaka it was 20°C

Today we visited the botanical gardens in Osaka and it was lovely. It felt so good to walk around under a beautiful blue sky as compared to the grey polluted skies of Guangzhou. I can’t remember the last time it felt so good to be outside.

In an earlier blog (a whole lotta love to give) I mentioned how Chinese grandparents spend their retirement raising their grandchild. My friend David said his in-laws are just waiting (in his house 24/7) for him to produce a grandchild for them to take care of.

There are 5 senior citizens in this photo taking pictures of flowers. Enough money in camera equipment to buy a luxury car.

In Japan, it looks like the grandparents spend their retirement enjoying themselves. The botanical garden was full of seniors sketching, painting and photographing landscapes. They walked around and chatted together and even played a sand lot version of a 9 hole golf course.

I am far from retirement but will be a grandfather within the year. Like the Chinese, I want to love my grand children to death. Like the Japanese, I want to enjoy my leisure time too. How to accomplish both as my favourite past time is fishing?

I have to expose my grandchildren to the elements of fishing, boats, lakes and the outdoors right from birth.

Cigarette and soft drink companies use a technique called “branding”. They get young kids “hooked” on their product for life by getting them to use it at a young age. Years later they don’t even question why they want a Coke or Player’s filter, they just subconsciously buy it.

What can I introduce my grandchildren to for them to want to spend hours with me in a boat, on a lake, completely bored to death? I think a little bit of beer in their milk bottles should do the trick.

Bamboo Rafting

Last week we were in Yangshao, a popular tourist destination in southern China. It has a resident population of 740,000 with an annual tourist influx of 16 million. The scenery is beautiful but like most tourist traps, it is full of tacky tourist outings.

We took a “relaxing bamboo ride” down a tranquil river. The river was polluted with other bamboo riders with water guns to spray each other and the prerequisite photo shops floating on the river. We had to stop at each shop to see stupid photos of ourselves going down the river. I am not sure why the 5th shop believed we would buy photos after already having stopped at the 4 shops before him. Maybe the Panda hats didn’t help.

There were also floating food stands selling grilled fish and beer. We wanted to be nice and bought our driver a beer at the first shop. We got stuck waiting half and hour at the stand while he downed his beer, belched and never said thank you. Had I known there were 5 other stands along the river I would have bought him a beer (1 litre) at each stand just to see if he could make it down the river without falling off.

We had a fun time and did buy one laminated photo at $2CAD. Our driver managed to avoided a drinking and driving fine by not capsizing his bamboo raft. My sister-in-law got suckered in to buying 2 water guns and various useless tourist souvenirs. Overall, a good time was had by all.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

We went to Ha Long Bay (5th on the UNESCO  provisional 7 wonders of the world) for 2 days and 1 night on the Imperial Junk. The sleeping cabin was beautiful and more importantly, the view from the deck was wonderful. The water is a jade like green colour.

We stopped to visit an immense cave where our guide pointed out rock formations in the shape of animals etc.

There were monkeys on the cave island.

Some  of the locals earn their living by fishing.

Some of the locals have given up on fishing and gone into retail. This woman would row from boat to boat selling chips, pop and hard liquor.

When you get fed up with your neighbors you just move you house.

We had a good time.

West Lake, Hangzhou

Today we travelled 190km in 57 minutes by train from Shanghai to Hangzhou. This included a stop to pick up more passengers. The train reached speeds of 300km/h but it was as if we were going 40km/h the ride was so smooth and quiet.

Once in Hangzhou we checked into our hotel and tried to find something to do. We had ample information in English from a travel guide published by the city but the guide itself was poorly conceived. Lots of interesting stuff to see, no valuable information on how to get there. The guide refers you to a website for the city bus which gives you the mission statement and other useless information about the system but no bus schedule or routes. The guide maps have little thumbnails of places to see but hardly any street names and no distance scale, so you have no real idea where anything is. On top of that, none of the names are given in Chinese so you can’t even get a taxi driver to take you where you want to go.

After over 30 minutes of fruitless searching for information on how to get anywhere (the hotel staff were useless and the woman in charge of sightseeing tours would just point her finger towards them when we would speak to her) we just went outside and found a road that led to the lake. The city is “world renown” for the lake yet the 3 people we asked to point us in the direction of the lake (up or down the street) had no idea where it was.

West Lake is a World Cultural Heritage site. The blue waters are “mythical pearls dropped from the heaven”, “make you feel like in heaven”, “are peaceful and brimful”. We got lucky and walked right onto a setup of lawn chairs pointing towards the lake. We sat down and found out that a water show was scheduled to begin in an hour. We waited and chatted with 2 young teachers from the USA and England.

Tomorrow we will try to rent some bikes and cycle around the lake.

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