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China 2009

a travel blog by prrrrl

My business, vacation jumping off point blog.
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In No Particular Order, part III

Beijing, China

Ticket not on packing list:
Some prep work on my part. In my free moments riding the subway or dining solo I made a packing list for my foray to far west china. So organized, I am! The night before departure I am all packed by 11 pm - very reasonable, I say. Morning arrives after a sleepless will I miss the alarm and miss my flight night but that is not new for me. A bummer but not new. I do my final prep but am very relaxed 'cause....
My list has been all checked off - I am ready! 15 minutes before my scheduled hail a taxi time I realize I forgot to pack my plane ticket. :-0. I rip every bag & pocket I have open looking for that ticket three times never finding. While I'm on the phone finally connected to a person my friend, Stasia, looks in the first place I looked, the place I designated for the important stuff, and produces the ticket. "May I help you?" in strong Chinese accent, I hear. "Thank you very much," I reply. Click.

Lost cane:
I almost lost my walking stick at the Urumqi airport. I was about to get on the shuttle to city center when I remembered I had hung it on a hook on the toilet (word of advice: do not use the term 'restroom' overseas, you will get a blank stare). I had to show my passport to the soldier guarding the door then explain to airport personnel to let me in backwards through security. It worked. They let me flow up stream.

'Generals' at airport:
Just a smattering of soldiers.

Aviation Modernization:
Air travel in china used to be novel in that they handed out gifts like silk ties and had decent meals. Alas, apart from the flight attendants bowing to the passengers at the beginning of the flight they have 'caught up' with the western world in no longer handing out trinkets & having bad food just like the big guys.

What's in a name??
Clio coddle. Clio codile. Cliocodile. Clocodile. Crocodile. Oh! That's what the 'Clio coddle' next to the Izod symbol meant!

I am 'street performer' for elderly Uighur couple in Urumqi:
I think the airport to city center bus driver just wanted to get rid of me. He asked where I wanted to get off. I gave him store & street name. He just dumped me down town several kilometers short. Oh well. An elderly Uighur couple spied me and approached me, eyes wide. They walked around me as if I were a statue and by viewing me up close from several angles would get a better idea of the artist's intent.

Over hang n build across buildings in Kashgar old city:
It appears that the Uighurs built one story houses by stacking bricks, one horizontal layer parallel to the wall the next layer perpendicular to the wall. These layers are the covered with a mud/straw plaster. Neighbors' homes abut one another so from the alley it is difficult to see where one home starts and another finishes. Then later maybe they add a second story. That second story might be flush with the first, extend over the alley by a couple feet or reach all the way to the other side shading the already dim, narrow street. Now how to get INSIDE one of these lovely homes....

Acidophilus, Anyone?
I was served a lovely yogurt with my first meal in Xinjiang. In Kashgar I assumed it would be easy to find more. Not so. The mounds of white goop for sale at sidewalk stalls that I thought was pure white sour milk is really some sweet pastry filling or topping. Yuk!

In my element in Kashgar:
I left Urumqi in haste. I arrived in Kashgar very late. My first morning of being on holiday came two days after my departure from Beijing. And oh what a feeling of being 'home' by being someplace far flung. :-)

Austrian men & skivvies:
What is it with Austrian men stripping to their tidy reddies & tidy blackies when sharing a dorm room in guest houses??? [I averted my eyes...]

Sequin city/dental city:
Kashgar is sequin city. Any time of day women of all ages & sizes can be seen wearing dazzling neck to ankle sparkles. Cool. The ubiquitous store front other than bread is dental services. There might be 6 dentists on one block often next door to each other. I see plenty of little old men that don't stop there. I don't see many little old women. Hmmmm....

Set breakfast asking for little
Xinjiangers are night owls. Little is happening before 11am, 9am Xinjiang time. So my early start for the tomb was not passing me by many breakfast options. And the down town area seemed to be mostly China Mobile outlets. Around the block I trod at 11am hoping for a sit down but not uber fancy restaurant. I finally found one open n already serving customers. They asked me if I wanted big food or little food. I assumed this meant breakfast or lunch considering the hour. I said little thinking I'd get the breakfast menu. Nope. It was a set meal of soup with spongy tofu bean threads mustard greens & gritty meat balls, two large steamed buns one flavored with herbs the other with hot pepper a small dish of pickled veggies and a large kettle of tea. All for ten quai - $1.50.

Foot hicky
Do you know what cupping is on Chinese medicine? My foot masseuse did it to my feet. He poured propane on a fire eater type puff, lit it, placed a fish bowl shaped glass just bigger than a golf ball over it briefly and then immediately applied it to my foot, the cooling air forming a vacuum. A foot hicky! [No red marks were formed on my feet - I'm just being silly. He moved the glass bowl too quickly.]

15 years ago my children attended a Chinese school in Beijing. The walls through out were white washed green on the bottom half n white on the top. You'll be delighted to know that as of 2009 nothing has changed in terms of school décor, country-wide.

What I Cannot Photograph:
Clubs; semi automatic machine guns; circular barriers under stand alone awnings; fatigue green jeeps; medics; riot face shields; riot shields; combat ready troops in line for toilet; talkless soldiers sitting on the ground under shade trees; convoy trucks; five soldiers per stand, one stand per street corner in Urumqi; marching past old city wall in Kashgar.

Otra dohblay:
Any Uighur speakers out there who can tell me if I was propositioned with that phrase? I've got to stop smiling at male hotel guests.

According to my map the international bus station was just after the river which is where I was. And there was a bus behind a gate. But one does not enter the bus station through the driveway. The pedestrian entrance had to be close. Since all I saw were shop fronts I asked the fruit vendor who happened to be in front of the driveway complete with parked bus. He asked his friend. The bus was just yards away yet neither knew where this bus station was.

Racial Profiling:
There is a Uighur night snack market in Kashgar. Is it safe for a solo female such as myself?? I ask the hotel's cafe manager/travel expert who happens to be Han Chinese. Her answer? "It is safe for you but not for me."

No smile boy takes us to bazaar:
Instructions from more than one source were wrong. There we were, far from our goal - the Sunday animal market - and not knowing what to do. My Chinese should come in handy at this point. Dong wu shi chang. One person pointed south. Three people pointed north. A young man volunteered to take us. North. It took two buses and never a smile to go to... The Sunday bazaar. No animals. I think my Chinese was good enough. It's just that foreigners are not believed. They think all wai guo ren want the Sunday bazaar. We did make it. The one who pointed south was right.

If you want me to like you:
Turn off the car alarm and the incessant sales pitch! I do not have the tolerance for noise that most Asians seem to have.

I can't loose a thing!
I thought I lost my ticket. No. It was on the first l place I checked. It just took four looks with much tearing apart of other places in between those four looks to find it. I couldn't lose my passport either. I tore apart every pocket of every bag I had three times before remembering that it was in the safest place possible - attached to me! Ah, the secret pocket...

permalink written by  prrrrl on September 28, 2009 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China 2009
tagged Soldiers and Skivvies

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Vagabonds & Time Tables

Xinjiang, China

A. Just 19 & traveling across Asia alone. Half German, half Chinese she could have been my daughter. She warned me that the southern silk road was boring.

G. Only had three cigarettes to his name and he swore they would be his last. At least he smoked outside the dorm room. Keep your pants on, Man!

E. Her hair was so short when I first saw her sleeping at midnight when I was let into the dorm I assumed she was a guy. She gives me hope. She is 11 years older than I & still probing remote locales solo. Go, E, go!!

Hurry Up & Wait:
I hurried to catch the noon bus to Pakistan... that left at 1:19. Silly me. There was a stepped platform that allowed them to load cargo atop the bus. Inside there was more cargo than passengers. The hour+ delay meant we arrived at my drop off point on time!

permalink written by  prrrrl on September 28, 2009 from Xinjiang, China
from the travel blog: China 2009
tagged Bus, Travelers and Pakistan

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Ready, set...

Beijing, China

Am packed and ready to end my late summer adventure in China. I hope to be in my home 24 hours from now. Wishful thinking? probably. The airport is closed down during the Chinese National Day parade [live on the TV right now] and close to 200 fights need to be squeezed into the afternoon when mine is scheduled. Sigh...

permalink written by  prrrrl on September 30, 2009 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: China 2009
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In no particular order and written three weeks ago during the internet block out

Xinjiang, China

Ran out of gas to Kashgar:
My 26 hour long distance escape bus to Kashgar ran out of gas in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. Has the driver not done this trip before?? It gave me a chance to find an unlit stone on a slope to hide behind. It was a girl's powder room outing as Mihray suggested we plunge into the darkness together.

Zyear 16 Jimish 51 Gooli 18 Kyrgyz:
Zyear said I was beautiful. Ha!! Hormones of a sixteen year old?? Jimish was a petite woman with a high voice. Her children angered her some how and she grumbled intermittently. She even started to kick Zyear but halted – foot raised - looked over at me and laughed nervously. Gooli had the indoor work cooking cleaning and bed making/unmaking. Mom had more livestock care though Gooli did some too. I didn't see Zyear do any work other than soliciting my patronage. Gooli had her eyes glued to her cell phone when not working. And she liked only a few Kyrgyz pop tunes she kept hitting replay replay replay replay replay replay on.

I half mooned a Kyrgyz woman:
The toilet was behind a stone corral in full view of a public boardwalk and the neighboring yurts. So I half mooned the distant neighbor lady. Did I have a choice??

Snow camouflage for mountain peaks:
It was hard to tell where the clouds stopped n the snow draped peaks started.

What a sight!
A shooting star, the silver lining over the peaks & under the clouds of an impending moon rise, snow draped peaks, innumerable stars and the Milky Way all in one expansive glance.

Stone room:
The family asked if I wanted to sleep alone or if they could stay in the yurt. I think I would have been afraid to spend the night there alone. I asked which was more comfortable for sleeping. Fortunately for me the stone room was not. I looked kind when I said they could sleep in the yurt, too.

Talking in middle of night:
Maybe I should have conquered my fear of being semi alone in the wilderness (there were other yurts nearby) in an area known for tribal leaders strong arming families that take in sojourners like myself. My three hosts chatted intermittently all night. If I was awake to document such I was not sleeping. Earplugs to the rescue the next night!

Piles of quilts:
Two homemade quits for a mattress two more above for warmth, the first being folded underneath along both sides before the foot was folded under to form a ‘sleeping bag.’ They slept side by side on one quilt spread sideways with an extra quilt strip along the bottom for under their feet. They each had their own folded cocoon quilt without the extra layer that I had. Each morning all quilts are exactingly folded and stacked against the cross bars of the yurt and then covered with a beautiful cloth that looked like a Persian rug and strapped into place with two cords waiting for the time 14 hours later when they will again be brought out.

Son, 16 year old Zyear, leaves for long periods during the day and likes to listen to music late into the night.

Shoes off at door inconsistent:
At the door, or should I say layered drape of bamboo screen and quilt that flapped in the wind and must be lifted to enter or exit, shoes are USUALLY removed. So yak, goat and human dung USUALLY was not tracked in.

Tuuk is something you yell at farm animals in Kyrgyz

Bring it on!
September is cold in the mountains! But two pairs of pants, four shirts, one pullover, a shawl and a rain jacket worn layer upon layer do.

permalink written by  prrrrl on September 30, 2009 from Xinjiang, China
from the travel blog: China 2009
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Still in no particular order...

Xinjiang, China

Xinjiang tea dark but mild:

I like.

Cell phone service dropped frequently

Despite a cell phone tower behind the hotel Zyear diverted me from, service dropped more than frequently.

Repeat music:

Boy, Gooli and Zyear like those three songs played over and over and over and over and over and over and over for 48 hours I stayed with them.

Ought, chuh!
That's Kyrgyz for, 'Horse, go!' I said 'chuh,' a lot. It works on Kazak horses, too. Well, it SHOULD work on Kazak horses...

What are:
"You realize I have altitude issues and you don't." "If I can do it you can do it." "I'm paying not to walk right now." "Hey, I only have two legs you have four!"
Things you say to a stubborn Kyrgyz 'ought' as you pull it by its reins around the back side of a seven kilometer lake trail.

Culture shock:
Though from the outside a round white tent looks like a round white tent, a Muslim yurt ['mongu ba' in Chinese] is easier to navigate than a Buddhist ger. No direction issues (a Buddhist ger is navigated clockwise with the first part upon entering & turning left being the woman's area including mare's milk churn, and the last part being the man's area including the idol altar). And there are no water disposal issues in Muslim-land. They readily toss dirty dish water out the door of yurt. Nice.

Set a spell?
In all of China the concept of 'comfort' has yet to be applied to the chair. And in 'Yurtville' we take a step backwards from that! Here I am surrounded by gorgeous scenery just wanting to sit and read while soaking up some mountain sun and nary a stool, let alone a lounge chair, to rest upon.

Too hot to handle:
I risk my life to see a glacier - I let them take me up the mountain on a small motor bike. First we stop for gas. This is not at a gas station since there are none near by. This is stopping at a neighbor's yurt and hoping he has fuel in a can. He's not there. We proceed with possible insufficient fuel. He does not check the fuel gage - I'm not sure there is one. He just shakes the bike back and forth and listens to the slosh sound from the tank. I weigh more than either lad (16 & 18) and take turns riding with each. Going up older lad's engine overheated twice. We made it back with out running out of fuel. They turn of the engine on declines.

Long eared rabbit in cemetery:
I hope it's in the pics.

More 'Chinese characters':
L, the Aussie investment lawyer living in London and former mountain climber heading to Russia in haste before the cold sets in who had captured coveted images of certain soldiers in certain cities; K, the Frenchman born in Algiers who introduced himself at 'Tarzan' thinking my name was 'Jane' - I did not disillusion him of his clever joke [Grrrrrrr, Jane Eyre!]; Japanese pierced lip photo happy beer drinking su-chef going overland to Pakistan, India, Nepal and Tibet.

Slow restaurant service:
Tends to take awhile to get your food in Tashkurgan.

Quick! Call 119??
My Tashkurgan accommodations came complete with plastic flowers, a pamphlet on AIDS and complimentary condom, and a phone. Who would I call? Who could I call?? The cord was cut.

White potato substitute:
Imagine it is Thanksgiving and your favorite yam/sweet potato dish is fresh from the oven. It probably has lots of brown sugar with marshmallows melted on top. Yum! Or if you are health conscious may I suggest roasted yam mashed with orange juice concentrate, a little real butter, pecans & cranberries. Tart but tasty. Now imagine either dish made with white potato instead. If you've just wrinkled your nose in disgust, that's my thought exactly. So that was my reaction when I ordered Chinese style candied yams/sweet potato, doubled checked that they were indeed yam/sweet potatoes, but was served candied white potato. Ewwwww!!!

The runs:
I've had the runs intermittently since arriving - the nasal kind. Dust? Virus? Not sure. I just keep tissue handy.

Glacier butt melt:
My derriere contributed to glacial melt. My apologies to the world. Twas cold and muddy but fun. Twas also precarious and standing would have been dangerous - Spikes of muddy ice ready to break off at any time next to deep crevasses of no return. At least I can say I sat on a glacier!

Pay up front!
Grrr.... Person one said 80rmb a night, maybe 60 - talk to the manager. Manager said 50rmb, 100 for two nights. I doubled checked and reiterated 'all together two nights for 100'. Manager said yes. Two days later at check out, morning manager demands 100 per night!!! I had a bus to catch. Grrrrrrr.....

Tajik women look like Jackie O as a business nun. Beautiful pill box hats, stylishly tailored suit jackets over knee length flared skirts and shoulder length drape of a veil. Jackie O as a business nun!

permalink written by  prrrrl on October 2, 2009 from Xinjiang, China
from the travel blog: China 2009
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Randomly, Sort Of

Xinjiang, China

I thought I was dreaming!
I saw the weirdest thing in China's hottest city - everyone, cars, buses, bikes, scooters and pedestrians, obey traffic signals. Really weird!

S finds me in Tuyoq
I just can't lose the guy! In Kashgar we shared a bunk room. He had a normal bed in the inner room. I had to pass through to get to the toilet. I had a hard cot in the outer room. He had to pass through to get outside. It was late and I wanted to sleep. He semi reclined two cots over and chatted. And chatted and chatted and chatted. Two days and one city later I'm getting on the 1:30 bus and there he is. His sleeper berth being far from mine we do not get to chat. We do concede that accommodation hunting together will be mutually beneficial. 25 hours after bumping into me we disembark the bus and check the traveler's bible -- the Lonely Planet Xinjiang chapter. Being a sunny day I am able to orientate the map to north. This actually impresses him. We find the budget lodging not as budget friendly as hoped but other options are unavailable. I spend the afternoon planning for the morrow's adventure and invite both room mates, S and a French Berber gentleman. On the morrow I am ready to go but S must meditate. I leave for adventure A. Climbing the China famous Flaming Mountain. The earlier the better because of the third lowest point on the planet basin heat. Fortunately I miss the 40rmb hokie tourist stop and am dropped off 300 yards beyond the fence. This means I can save $6 and just cross the empty plain, which I do. Climbing is good but hot. Terrain is crumbly and tricky. If only I hadn't waited to see if S was coming with me I could have started my ascent two hours and ten degrees Fahrenheit ago. Oh, well. The views are good and I'm the only one there. I descend and flag down every bus I see hoping for a cheap ride to Tuyoq, a small Chinese city that is one seventh of Mecca. Bus after bus refuses me. Taxis offer to take me for 7.50, ten times the bus rate. I hold fast. Hope starts to fade. But finally a bus did come and take me to the town of Tuyoq, the main tiny, four square block town. I walk 4 kilometers before I find old, 1/7 of Mecca with famous Muslim tomb Tuyoq. But not before S finds me on one of two possible old, 1/7 of Mecca with famous Muslim tomb Tuyoq access routes. The longer one, it turns out. I can't lose the guy!.

Looks Can Be Deceiving:
We want to flag down a bus to Turpin but were? We head to the closest crossroads. There happens to be three old men at the tiny convenience shop. We inquire as to passing buses to Turpin. The smallest of the wrinkled trio says, in Chinese, 'at the crossroad' and even draws a diagram on the dust. This crossroad or another? He does not use vocabulary I understand. 'This one?' He does not use 'yes' or 'no.' I repeat my question he repeats words that don't make sense to me. Finally I understand him to say that he 'will get his horse and deliver us there.' Is my interpretation correct? Amazingly it is! Well, a donkey and rickety cart, anyway. He doesn't want money. Good deal. Bumpy but fun. He takes us about one kilometer. So it was a different cross road. We would have accepted, 'not here; that way' but he assumed too much of my Chinese. So, how old was this shrunken, weather beaten, hunched over, fly wide open but you forgive ancient peasants for such man? 73. I would have sworn he didn't look a day under 85.

permalink written by  prrrrl on October 6, 2009 from Xinjiang, China
from the travel blog: China 2009
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Chew on this

Dumaguete, Philippines

Like China, a girl with fair skin, big nose and blue eyes stands out in the Philippines. Just off the plane in Manila every security guard was proactive in helping me find my way asking before I even looked lost. [Or did I always look lost??] Everyone is so helpful!

So it was no Surprise that the toothless man on the street in Dumaguete noticing me with a handful of dirty laundry pointed down the street to the next establishment. [The laundry service I had just exited could not deliver in my time frame.]

Everyone is so helpful [I restate because it is so wonderfully true]!

permalink written by  prrrrl on April 8, 2011 from Dumaguete, Philippines
from the travel blog: China 2009
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Dumaguete, Philippines

Head cold still keeping me shallow, a 9 pesos tricycle ride gets me 2 kilometers away to the public beach. Is it a narrow strip of sand between the lapping waves and the beached fishing boats. On one end is a low rent but waterfront neighborhood, on the other is the end of the airport's one runway. Trash is everywhere as are laughing children. No bikinis.

'Tis a cool day for the beach but I have a book to read. I found a snack vendor with tables and benches. Sipping a beer very slowly under her half fallen awning keeps me off the trashy sand. Quick dips in the water all the while facing shoreward to prevent book theft keep me cool. Rudgar keeps me company.

Rudgar is married but his wife is away for a few months. He is retired, bored and on his 6th beer. [Fortunately he is not in a bikini either!] [[I'm just being silly; Rudgar was in great shape for his age and beer consumption.]]

I don't get as much reading done as hoped with such an inquisitive new friend.

permalink written by  prrrrl on April 8, 2011 from Dumaguete, Philippines
from the travel blog: China 2009
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