2009年1月31日星期六

Chinese New Year, Part I

video

Hey everyone. Sorry for the belated post. I know that I promised to post every week but things got hectic around here (especially before Chinese New Year). Hope everyone is doing well.

For those of you don't know, Chinese New Year is like Christmas for Chinese people. IT'S HUGE AND IT'S IMPORTANT. Every year there are hundreds of millions (Just imagine the whole population of the U.S. traveling during Christmas time) that travel throughout the country, either going back to their hometowns to visit family and friends or people going on vacation. Since my 2 members of my immediate family are in the US and my extended family is in Taiwan (where most of them are not going to be home for CNY) my Pops and I decided that we would go spend a few days traveling as well.

Shanghai was getting really cold and so my Pops and I decided to go down South where we THOUGHT that it would be warmer. Since I've already been to HK, I thought going to Guilin would be a great choice. For those of you that don't know about Guilin, it is known as one of the most beautiful scenic areas in China; so beautiful that it's featured on the back of the 20 RMB bill.

Well, we were wrong about the weather. The weather was suppose to be colder than Shanghai; since we booked our tickets well in advance, there was no way of backing out. We left on the 24th, and from the minute we got there it was COLD. I actually do not mind the cold weather, but it was really WINDY and thus it was colder than usual. We got into Guilin late afternoon, and thus couldn't really explore as much as I wanted to. They say that the further south you go in China the weirder the food gets; of course I had to check it out. I saw live chickens, ducks, rabbits, snakes, turtles in front of restaurants...but my favorite one was this:








Yup, muskrats. Don't they just look DELICIOUS? I looked it up and they're actually not related to rats. In fact, I remember watching the discovery channel and seeing people in Louisiana eat them. I seriously considered trying it, but my Pops thought it was gross and forbade me. Maybe next time...haha

After a "normal"dinner, Pops and I went to catch a show where they performed native dances. Guilin is the province of Guangxi, and the province is known for its large population of native minorities. I wish I had pictures of the dances, but alas, I wasn't allow to take pictures.

Since our boat ride down the Li River was early in the morning, I decided to wake up at the crack of dawn to check out the most famous site in Guilin: Elephant Trunk Hill. The Chinese people have a tendency of imagining physical landscapes as animals (you'll see more examples later on). Take a look and you can determine if it looks like an elephant with it's trunk in the water...






















After visiting Elephant Trunk Hill, my Pops and I headed to the boat down the Li River. These are the images people see on T.V. and movies...































































20 RMB Bill...










This is called Mural Hill of Nine Horses...can you see them?












So this is what it basically looked like for four hours. It was cold, windy, cloudy, and occasionally rainy, and most people go down the Li River during the summer, but I thought it gave a different type of beauty and mysticism that you can't see during the summertime. Plus, it wasn't packed full of tourists, thus the scenery was a lot better.

We got to Yangshuo early afternoon. We visited a few of the sites in the city, including some caves...






















We also visited this amazing tree...YES, THAT IS ONE TREE, NOT MULTIPLE TREES. It's called the Big Banyang Tree...and it's over 1500 years old. When the branches got long, the local people planted them into the ground and it started to grow separately while being grafted to the main tree...great example of the allegory in Jacob 5. The local people also worship the tree thus you see them praying to it, burning incense, and putting good luck charms on it.


















When nightfall came we went to West Road (know for its nightlife and westerners...surprisingly, there are a lot of westerners that live in Yangshuo...actually not surprised... it's so beautiful there I want to live there)

I saw some ex-pats lighting fireworks (the video at the beginning of the blog...sorry I flipped the camera in the middle of the video; I didn't realize it was a bad idea until afterwards) near the bridge and the river. And that was the end of Chinese New Year's Eve for me!

The next morning my Pops and I visited an area known for its butterflies; however, since it was winter, there were no butterflies...but the scenery was still fantastic...

Here's a video on the way there...
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We also went to check out the famous Moon Hill...it's a natural phenomenon...and depending on where you look at it, you can see a different phase of the moon...



































You can actually climb to the peak of the hill; I wanted to do so badly, but my Pops forbade me since it was very rainy and wet...oh well, next time.

After Moon Hill we headed to the Yulong River to get a raft to float down the river...it took around 3 hours but the views were breathtaking...




























































Here's an video of our trip...
video

We were soaked after our trip down the river and decided to head back to the hotel...this is what happened to our car...













Kidding! But we did see this car on our way back. Those crazy Asian drivers...

By the time we got back to our hotel it started to rain harder and we had an early flight the next morning, so we decided to stay in for the rest of the day. Although I didn't get to see EVERYTHING (there were a lot more sites) I was pretty satisfied. I'm thinking about coming back in the summertime (when the weather is nicer). Who's with me?

2009年1月16日星期五

Most challenging week (so far)

This has been the most interesting week I've had since I've been to Shanghai. I've been here for almost 2 months, and the transition has been quite normal. There was no major culture shock (no surprise there), work has been going well, and the adjustment has been pretty smooth...until this week.

Two challenges happened to me this week. The first was I had a stalker. This is the first (and hopefully the last) stalker I've ever had. This past Saturday my friend celebrated her birthday by going to a karaoke place. It's been since HS that I've gone to karaoke, and I was really not looking forward to it, but I ended up have a good time despite my doubts.

My friend teaches English in Shanghai, so she invited a few of her students to the party. Since my friend did not speak Chinese and her students' English was limited, I ended up being one of two people there that could really communicate with the Chinese nationals and the ex-pats. I begun talking to her group of students, trying to be friendly. As we kept on talking to each other, I began to feel like two of girls would not leave me alone. I was very cordial (and I probably only end up speaking to them for a total of 30 min) to them, but I left the party early because it started to get out of hand.

The next day I receive a text from one of the girls. I made the mistake of giving the girls my business card (very common practice when you meet someone new in China; and when they asked for it, I didn't think twice). 90% of the business cards here also include your personal cell phone #, so when I received her text I realized that I shouldn't have given her my business card. I didn't want to be rude so I texted her back (being very nice and professional about it) and she kept on texting me...

She texted and called me throughout the whole week, telling me all these things (I'm not going to repeat what they were...kind of embarrassing) that made me uncomfortable. The climax of this drama was when she told me she was sending me a gift to my office...A GIFT TO MY OFFICE! I ONLY SPOKE TO THE GIRL FOR ABOUT 30 MIN AND ONLY MET HER ONCE AND SHE WAS GOING TO SEND ME A GIFT TO MY OFFICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I finally decided to tell my friend (her teacher) about it; my friend said she'll take care of it and since today, I haven't received a call for her. Hopefully (and not trying to sound mean) I won't received any more calls.

The second situation is happening as I'm writing this entry. I had to stay late at the office today. I got done around 11 PM and when I left I realized that the subway was closed (I can't believe the subway closes at 11 PM in a city of 17 million people). This is the first time I've stayed out past 11 (yeah I know, my life is boring) in Shanghai. Since the subway was closed, I had to take a taxi. Oh, the frustration! It is impossible to get a taxi on a friday night in the middle of the city! I walked around for an hour trying to get one, and just could not do it. Maybe it's because I'm not agressive enough (I saw two people almost get into a fight). I mean you would think that since I lived in NYC I would have picked up some of the rudeness of New Yorkers...Shanghainese are just as rude (if not ruder) than New Yorkers, and I promised myself I wouldn't end up like one of them, thus I am still sitting in my office right now at midnight writing this blog...sigh...

Well, gotta go out and try again...maybe I should just sleep in the office...that might work too...

2009年1月5日星期一

2009

All right, quick update on what I've been up to since Christmas:

1) I got food poisoning (for the first time in my life!) a few days before New Year's and thus my New Year's Eve celebration consisted of trying to keep food in my stomach and laying on my bed. The weird thing is I didn't get it from eating at some hole-in-the-wall that exists everywhere in China; I ate at a pretty nice restaurant that I've been to many times. I stayed up all night throwing up (last time I threw up was when I was a kid)...I now have a new found respect for pregnant women and their morning sickness.

2) I had some ass today...yes, you read right, some ASS. I went with my Pops and one of his managers (Shoutout to Alpha Qian!) to visit some customers a few hours north of Shanghai. People see pictures of Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai and think that China is becoming very modern (which is true) but realistically, most of China is still very poor and sometimes you feel like you are in a developing or third world country. We had lunch with a few of our agents in the city of Yangzhou. I had a piece of meat from a normal looking dish and it tasted like beef. I found out a few minutes later that it was not beef but rather donkey meat. I couldn't stop laughing. Never thought I would ever try the meat of an animal that brays, but hey, weirder things have happened.

3) The following pictures are from a small town called Zhujiajiao, a water village on the outskirts of Shanghai formed about 1,700 years ago. One of my co-workers (Shoutout to Carol Shen!) is from there and suggested that I should visit. They call it the "Venice of Shanghai". It's actually very small but it's a very charming place.


View from the main bridge during the day...


People were lighting lanterns and letting them fly "into the heavens." Word's like "luck", "health," and "love" were written on the lanterns as a symbol of hope for prosperity in the coming new year.







A view right after sunset...


One of the canals with a Chinese gondola...




The views at night...




One of the shopping alleys...


I also went to Suzhou (Home of the Classical Gardens of China) but more on that next week.

2008年12月28日星期日

Christmas 2008

I think sometimes we take the holiday season for granted. For example, we have known ever since we can remember that Christmas is a day where there is no work or school; we get to stay up as late as we want and wake up as early to open up presents….


Well, this Christmas was the first time in my life where I had to work. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people in China (mostly ex-pats) that either get Christmas off or ask for a paid vacation day, but most Chinese people here treat Christmas like any other working day. I thought about asking my Pops for a paid vacation day, but realized: who am I going to spend the day with? My Mom and my brother are in Los Angeles and my Pops will be at work. I know that if I had asked my Pops would have given me the day off, but I just started working at his company and didn’t want to have any special treatment from him just because I was the boss’s son…


Thus Christmas Day was like any other workday, except that I decided to make it a little bit more festive. I borrowed a Santa suit from a member from my congregation (Thanks, Brother Lamb!) and decided to dress up as Santa. But you ask: what about presents? Surely Santa has to provide presents to everyone, right? Well, since there were about 60 people that work in my Dad’s company I had to come up with something small that I can afford, and this is what I came up with:

Those are called baozi (or steamed/fried buns in English). They are very cheap and can be filled with all sorts of concoctions (meat, veggies, red bean paste, etc.). I decided to play it on the safe side and buy all veggie baozi just in case there is a vegetarian (which I highly doubted, btw) at my Pop’s company…


So with my Santa suit and my Santa bag full of delicious steamed buns I walked into the office . Here were the results:


Walking down the hall...

Here's Santa!
What's a white bearded-man doing in our office?

Passing out baozi...
Oh, no! I'm out of baozi!
Santa with his Pops...

All in all, it was a pretty good Christmas; although I had to work, I spend the day with my Pops. I made my co-workers laugh hysterically and some even say it was the best Christmas they've ever had (which isn't saying much). Would I have rather spent Christmas Day around a Christmas tree opening up presents with family and friends? Sure. But this was one Christmas I will never forget....

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever holiday(s) you celebrated!

2008年12月17日星期三

Hong Kong

Because I came to China on a tourist visa (which only allows me to stay for up to 30 days at once) I had to leave the country and apply for a permanent work visa, so I had the chance to accompany my Pops on a business trip to Hong Kong!


I spent only about 3 days there, but I had a good chance to see what Hong Kong had to offer. We left really early on Tuesday morning and arrived at HK around noon. We dropped off our luggage at the hotel and went straight to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and dropped off my application. On the way there I met these two cool guys on the ferry. We started talking and I found out that they were from Australia and they were in HK to do the “Thunder from Down Under” show. For those of you that do not know the show, it’s a famous male strip show in Las Vegas (Ms. Wansor, I think you’ve been to it for a bachelorette party, right?). They told me that they came for five days because it paid really well, but after every show all these women would come up to them and offer tons of money to sleep with them. The funniest part is when they said that they felt like pieces of meat (what did they expect?) and that they were trying to make an honest living (which is true). They both had families back in Australia. I couldn’t stop laughing when they were telling me the story…



A view of Hong Kong Harbor from the ferry during the day...



The dudes from "Thunder from Down Under"...


After I dropped off my application, I went to the church building which was right across the street. It’s such a beautiful building, and reminded me a lot of NYC’s Upper East Side church building. I also had a chance to go to the temple later that night. Not as pretty as the San Diego temple, but it’s definitely one of a kind.



The church building...



The Hong Kong temple...


The next day my Pops had to meet with some of his customers so I went to explore the city by myself. I spend most of the day at Victoria Peak, which had the most incredible view of a city I have ever seen. The view as you ascend up the mountain was just magnificent. I met this really cute older English couple from South Hampton on the tram. They were in the 70s and yet when we got off the tram they were walking around with the youthfulness of people in their 40s. Since they forgot their camera, I took pictures for them. I hope I have the same vigor when I’m their age.



Victoria Peak...



The nice English couple...


Later on that night I met up with my Pops and we had dinner. Hong Kong is probably best known for 2 things: the food and shopping. I had some amazing Cantonese and Macanese food, but alas, I always forget to take pictures when I’m eating because I’m always so hungry and I just devour the meal. Shopping, on the other hand, is not something I love. Actually, I despise shopping. But if you love shopping, HK is probably the best place because first, the city has all the name brands you want (I’ve never seen such a big LV store in my life!) and second, you can haggle with a lot of the shops (not the name brands) and pay between 30-80% of the asking price.


After dinner we went to look at the city lights in HK. The view of HK harbor is amazing. I thought NYC looked great at nighttime, but in my opinion its nothing compared to HK. Take a look at this picture….



Hong Kong harbor at night...


I picked up my visa on the 3rd day and went to Lantau Island. There are many attractions on Lantau Island, but the most famous one is the Giant Buddha. It’s an eight-five foot bronze Buddha statue. The ride from the cable car to the Buddha statue was breathtaking, showing a great view of the island. I met this really cool young couple (Neil and Darcie) from San Francisco and Darcie’s sister, Carly, and we traveled together for the whole day. We visited the Giant Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery and the fishing village of Tai O. Almost all of the houses are built on stilts, which is quite amazing.



View from the Ngong Ping cable car...



Giant Buddha from afar...



Giant Buddha up close...



Po Lin monastery...



Po Lin monastery with Giant Buddha in the background...



Fishing village of Tai O...


After visiting Lantau Island I left my newfound friends and headed straight to the airport to meet up with my Pops. But before doing that, on the way down from Ngong Ping, the camera took a picture of us in the cable car. I said I would never do it (because I think it’s so stupid that all Asian people do this when they take pictures) but Neil convinced me to do the sign…


People think it stands for peace but it actually stands for victory (I’ll explain later in another blog on how that came about). Gosh, I look so much like a typical Asian tourist…


More pictures on facebook if you want to see them!