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Shanghai, Day 15

Shanghai, China


Our last day in China.
Free time in the morning went quick. Some of us walked along the Bund, others went to visit the Jade Buddha temple and the tea shop there. There wasn't much time since we had to leave at noon. If you weren't tired when you woke up, you were now.

As we were checking out we said good bye to the memebers who are traveling longer. We said good bye to Robert who was also staying a few days longer.

And finally we had to say goodbye to our national guide Sunny. He was our hero and our support, we were sad to say goodbye.


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 29, 2005 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Jade, Temple, Buddha, Buddhism, Pirated, Bund, Shanhai, JadeBuddhaTemple and Shopping

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Nanjing, Day 12

Nanjing, China



In the morning we were able to visit an acupuncture clinic. The clinic was much smaller than the hospital but they were especially welcoming and friendly. There was much more room to observe as a group as well. We were able to see patients being treated with acupunture, e-stim, cupping and tui-na massage.

In the hallway I talked with a local farmer who travels to the clinic weekly. He said that he used to go to the hospital that we visited yesterday but hates it there. He said that they just gave him the same patent pills over and over to treat his back pain. The results weren't that great. He said, "That place isn't a hospital, it's a shopping mall! they don't treat you as a patient, your just a number in line there." He enjoyed going to the clinic and said his treatments were getting results now. We later said thanks to the doctors there and stopped for a quick group picture before heading out.

After lunch a few of us went with Robert to hike Zi Jing Mtn. with our local guide Sean. We climbed most of the mountain and got to see several medicinal plants in the wild before the rain started to come down. We then hustled back down to ahve the bus pick us up.

Dinner was at the same restaurant as yesterday, only we had a special meal cooked with medicinal herbs. While there were some novelty dishs such as Bitter Mellon (pretty spicy and darn bitter) and Pig Lung Soup (actually really tasty), the meal was really good. We had fun guessing some of the herbal ingredients before Yulien was kind enought to translate to menu to tell us what was really in the meal.

After dinner Sean arranged Tui Na massages for those interested. The clinic we went to had mostly blind therapists giving 1 hour massages. They were great and we all appeared an hour later glassy eyed and sleepy. We thought how in the States the session would have cost $80 versus the $8 that we spent.


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 26, 2005 from Nanjing, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged Food, China, Herbs, Medicine, Nanjing, Hospital, TCM, Acupuncture, Clinic, Doctor, Tuina, ZiJingMountain and Mountain

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Nanjing, Day 11

Nanjing, China


Today was a well-needed slow day.
The morning's plan to visit a large TCM Hospital was rejected due to some miscommunication. The hospital was obviously going through some serious changes and reconstruction. With that came a rather exclusive attitude, especially to foreigners. They were only going to let us stay for about a half hour instead of three. That wasn't the plan and it wasn't good enough. So we canceled and left. However, a few hours later, we scheduled another visit with a different TCM clinic for the next day. We were relieved to find a quick substitute, since many members were excited about seeing medicine practiced in China. It all worked out for the best, since several people were feeling tired and probably needed a slow day to recover.

After a drive in golf carts around the park, the remainder of the group opted out of visiting the nearby temple in exchange for going back to the hotel early or visiting "electronic alley," a place for pirated software and knock off electronics and cheap MP3 players. It was packed and definitely catering more to the local crowd's needs.

After dinner the group Split up to go back to the hotel, out shopping, visit the local Pizza Hut (which is more like a fancy, expensive restaurant in China, not fast food; even though it still is) or out to a nearby nightclub.

For those who went to the nightclub, it was another night of dancing. The dance floor however, was tiny and packed with locals, who were very interested in our presence. After a few beers, many of them were coming over to practice their English on us. It's hard to be hidden in place like that when you're white and 6'3."

After the dancing and bizarre variety show interludes with dancers, crappy live bands and a drag queen, we took taxis back to the hotel in the rain. It was a great night together.

http://www.belila.com/Chinatour/


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 24, 2005 from Nanjing, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged Food, China, Botany, Medicine, Golfcart, Theft, Nanjing, Pirated, Chinese, Hospital, Clnic, TCM and Computer

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Nanjing, Day 10

Nanjing, China


We arrived in our new hotel, which was a huge 4 star hotel holding a computer conference. Although the hotel was packed for the weekend, we could tell that we were going to be spoiled here.

After check-in, we went to the Nanjing Botanical gardens nearby. This is where Robert worked a lived fro a few years. We got to meet some of his old friends and teachers and pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. We spent a few hours there going over the many different medicinal herbs, many of which Robert originally planted there in 1997. It was a lovely garden that had a new teahouse built to relax in. After sipping tea for a bit and playing with some of the local kids (balloons are a huge hit with the kids here) we went back to the hotel.

Dinner was in the city downtown, which is a decent drive from the hotel. After the meal we had free time to walk along a promenade. It was Friday night, so all the shops were open late. Here you can find anything... pirated movies or CD's (good quality ones too for $1US), pet stores, silk stores, gift shops, handcrafts, fast food, etc. It was great to hang out with the locals and haggle at the shops. It was barely enough time to even scratch the surface.

After that, it was back to the hotel, where we had to go exploring. The hotel is huge and the nicest one by far on the trip. Some of us wandered around and came across a disco... this disco is like 2 stories underground in what could be the dampest, moldiest part of the city. It looked like nobody even knew it existed! In fact, for a little while, we doubted if it even did. Going down the hallway, everyone was laughing at how surreal the wallpaper and giant mirrors were. The name David Lynch was mentioned a lot when trying to describe it to the others who didn't check it out. Anyway, it was rewarding, we found Coronas and a lit-up disco floor with a video projector behind it. We had the whole place to ourselves, so the Michael Jackson music video marathon began. Who knew we had so many good dancers on the trip?


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 23, 2005 from Nanjing, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged Food, China, Botany, VCD, Nanjing, BotanicalGarden, TeaHouse, DVD, CD and Pirated

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Chuzhou; Long Ya Mtn. Day 9

Chuzhou, China


Today we waited out the rain by having a short lecture/ class with Robert on botanical nomenclature. After finding a store that sold boots, we were ready to hike up Longya Mountain. The rain subsided a bit, and the mountain was filled with misty clean air. Robert did his best to dig up roots and hunt for plants in his poncho. There were a good amount of common medicinal herbs growing on the mountain there. That pretty much took all day, with the evening open for free time, writing postcards and early rest.

permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 22, 2005 from Chuzhou, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, LongyaMountain, Botany, Herbs, Medicine, CleanAir and Chuzhou

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Chuzhou; Long Ya Mtn. Day 8

Chuzhou, China


This day was pretty much a driving day. The bus drove down a mixture of never ending roads that were almost entirely used by us. You'd think that the lack of traffic would get us to Chuzhou faster, but it didn't. It was a 6 hour bus drive through a rainy country side in China. Good thing we bought that 2 hour VCD of Shaolin monks fighting to watch on the TV...

It was fun to see how the local vehicles cope with the rainy roads as well.


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 21, 2005 from Chuzhou, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, LongyaMountain, Chuzhou and VCD

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Bozhou, Day 7

Bozhou, China


The morning started out with the Bozhou herb market, one of the largest in China. The warehouse was like an herbal COSTCO, with thousands of items for sale at wholesale prices. There was everything from scorpions to deer antlers. The locals seemed intrigued by our small troop going through the building. Not only is it strange for non-local Chinese to visit there, its simply unimaginable that people from the US would travel around the world to go there. I guess it would be like living in Lafayette, United States and seeing a bus load of Japanese tourists pile out at your COSTCO to check it out from around hte world. It was fun to wander around the many isles and explore the herbs that are not sold in the US like centipedes.

Afterwards, our guides took us to their local herb store for a quick tour before heading out to their pill factory after lunch.

The pill factory welcomed us with 2 large banners hanging on their buildings. There was even a local TV station there to record the event for local broadcasting. We were all excited by the amount of attention we got; we were treated like diplomats from the US goverment.

Inside the plant we saw the process of taking the local farmed herbs and preparing them into powders and pills for resale.

of course, most things are clinically tested and visitors and workers have to wear the lovely sterile looking uniforms. Our guides were as pleasant as ever and they invited us to dinner later at finest retaurant in town. The woner adn director of the factory said that the city's economic leader would be present at dinner and wanted to welcome the American guests in person.

Before heading back to the hotel, the plant owner gave us a quick history of the onve famous city of Bozhou. not only is this area the bitrth place of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu (Taoist founders), as well as kung fu... But it is also the birthplace of Hua Tou, the famous Chinese Dr. who formalised Traditional Chinese Medicine. We went to visit a small shrine to him in town on the way back. Hua Tou also created a set of animal exercises that sorta resemble Tai Qi practice. Here's a pic of the owner really getting into doing one of the animal forms. It was pretty fun.

The official dinner started off with a rather formal introduction, some of us felt a little underdressed, but they didn't mind. The welcomedus to their town and country and hoped that we would return again soon and bring more attention to the importance of Bozhou in the herb growing market.

The dinner adn hotel was amazing. It was the best nite yet. After about 100 shots and various toasts to almost everyone... we were ready to call it a nite and asked robert if we could sleep in the next day.

there was one last photo op before we left. We felt like we were part of the UN.

permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 20, 2005 from Bozhou, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Herbs, Kungfu, Bozhou, Farms, Rural, Farmer, ChineseMedicine, Herbalist, PillFactory, Taichi, HuaTou, LaoTzu and ChuangTzu

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Bozhou, Day 6

Bozhou, China


faOur train trip to Bozhou ended and our 3 hour bumpy bus drive began. the raods are crowded and severly undermaintainded out here. This is rural China, farms are everywhere. Yet even here there are significant signs of progress and new building, including new cell phone towers in the middle of fields. We checked into our hotel, which, despite its huge number of vacancies and rural location, had the best accomodations so far. Including a great internet connection in every room! we spent the morning recovering from our travels.

We spent the afternnon traveling visiting nearby farms. The local farmers were great company. The village there was small and quite poor. They invited us to look around at the herbs they were growing and showed us how they process some of the herbs locally. This place offered great insight into the chinese herbal medicine; it's where it all starts. The hospitality we recieved from the farmers was wonderful and everyone welcomed our alien presence and constant picture taking. They were digging up samples and telling us the differences in age and quality with some herbs.
The family of farmers there introduced us to th eldest of the group. The man beig 90 and his wife 92! Both still looking healthy and both still working in the fields there. Everyone was sad to say goodbye to our newfound friends.

After, we traveled to the display gardens just down the road. We were told that although these lands were once owned by the government, they were now sold and privatised and the herbs grown there are still subsisidized. Mr. Gou, the owner and self-taught herbalist was there to show us around and invited us to be his guest for our stay in Bozhou. The garden was quite big and had a lot to offer. We were able to see a good amount of commonly used herbs growing there. the owner and the directors were very friendly and we left there just before the rain fell.

The owner and directors came back with us to the hotel and asked to guide us through the herb market and pill making factory the next day.

permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 19, 2005 from Bozhou, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Herbs, Medicine, Bozhou, Farms, Rural, Farmer and Harbalist

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Luoyang, Day 5

Luoyang, China


The Longmen caves are huge sculpted grottos along the river in Luoyang. The city itself was an ancient capitol of China and the birth place of Mahayana Buddhism. Traveleres and traders brought the influence form India and settled in the political and economic capitol. Most of the ancient city is gone, as well as its prestige. Luoyang is now an industrial park, resurrected by the communist party.

The grottos are massive and took years to make.

We spent much of the afternoon in the "old city" which is really just a budget redux of the old city walls. Inside the city there wasn't much and we spent most of our time looking for either bathrooms or internet cafes. The old city seemed to be designed to attract tourists and promote shopping with in the walls. Although we were there for a limited time, the only shops we saw were countless barber shops and spring shops (for like car shocks?). Talk about lack of diversity; perhaps these meet the large local needs? The streets inside are small, and the traffic is completely unregulated, so you had to spen most time looking over your shoulders. Still, the people were friendly, and rather curious to why we were even there.

After dinner, our amazing guide, Daisy, took us to the river bank to do a ritual for the mid-autum festival (moon cake festival). We prepared a small floating lantern with flowers and after a prayer we floated it down the river. Amazingly, it traveled a long ways and we could see it thru the darkness even as we were driving away.

On the bus ride to the train station, Daisy yet again impressed us with an on-bus performance with a chinese instrument that sounds like a clarinet and is fashioned form a gourd. We then got dropped off at the trainstation, which was pretty much empty but had a lot of people in the square hanging out together. There were about 100 people dancing (I guess becasue of the festival) and playing sports. There was one girl there, she had to be maybe 4 or 5 years old practicing kungfu that pretty much put the monks performance to shame. After a wait at the station and hanging out with some locals, we got on our sleeper train and met some other traveling foreigners. A Dutch group was on board, and by the smell of it, they had been traveling for quite some time...


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 18, 2005 from Luoyang, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Luoyang, Buddha, Mahayana, Buddhism, Sculpture, Carving, Daisy, Grotto, Sleeper and Train

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Luoyang, Day 4

Luoyang, China


We arrived in Luoyang by train in the early morning. After checking-in to the hotel in town, we got ready for a short drive out to the Shaolin temple. After a local lunch we visited the temple at the base of a mountain whose peak looks as though Buddha is lsleeping on his back (it kinda looks like that). The shaolin temple was one of the most anticipated sites to visit for the trip. The following events occurred:

DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAMERA?!

The Shaolin temple is pretty much on its own park. There are countless children and youth training away and maintaining their own grounds. The main focal attractions at the site are the theatre, where you can see them perform and train (its a choreographed show really) and the pagoda forest, a collection of small pagodas dedicated to the past shaolin masters. The performance was impressive but has an edge of feeling over rehearsed. After the show, which was really too short, you can buy shirts and other momentos outside. This is where we encountered the master of the five-fingered discount. I was talking with the shop keepers and students interested in buying some stuff from the store and I put my video camera down for a second. A minute later, it magically disappeared, in th emidst of only about 5 people. My camera DV got yanked! And not only that, the DVD's that Robert and I bought where bogus. They weren't the performance that we saw, it was a lame instructional video... it was a shaolin hustle. A lesson in impermanence.

Other than the slight damper of the theft, the religious ceremony at the temple and the pagoda forest were quite interesting and impressive. Although, on the way out of the pagoda forest, I did see a monk kick a blind beggar in the back to get him out. Not very compassionate... then again, there is a serious contradiction with having monks be powerful warriors. There's somehting not right about Peace, Compassion, and Butt-kicking. Still, it was cool to see all these things; monks doing head stands, breakig stuff, etc. I mean, we've seen so much stuff in film and TV, it was nice to go to the source of it all.

As we drove away that evening there was a huge reddish moon rising above the mountains. It was the start of the mid-autumn festival (moon cake festival). Later, we finished the day off with hour long foot massages. It was great and I almost forgot that I got ripped off earlier.


permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 17, 2005 from Luoyang, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged China, Theft, Luoyang, Shaolin, Temple, Buddha, Monks, Kungfu, Pagoda and Camera

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