A Travellerspoint blog

The Last Samurai: My Stand in Japan Part 2

View Semester at Sea on MVVincent's travel map.

I left the museum and the area of the hypocenter with my friends to go get something to eat and make our way to Hiroshima Castle. We went into an underground shopping mall and looked to see what restaurants were available. We passed by a liquor store and grocery and kept that in mind for the train ride back. There was a noodle restaurant, actually only spaghetti, but it was done the Japanese way. This looked like a perfect place to eat and satisfy our empty stomachs so we went inside and got a table. Each of us ordered a different but Italian style dish and fell in love. The noodles were perfect and it was just the meal we had been looking for after such an intense walk through Hiroshima. After dinner we all went to the liquor store and got some goodies and then went out of the mall and made our way to the Hiroshima Castle. As we got to the entrance I noticed that it was a Zen garden, large park, meditation center, and off in the corner was the castle. I walked around enjoying the scenery as night was slowly approaching. Brynn got a great picture of all of us under some cherry blossoms too because there were so many in the park. I think we all had a great time going to the park and soon we approached the castle. It was glorious perched up in this corner as the sun was setting. I got some great pictures of it but then we were all getting bored and started making our way back to the train station so that we could take the Shinkansen back to Osaka. Once we got into the train station we asked which train we needed to be on and made our way to the gate. It was getting late and there were only a few more trains leaving from Hiroshima so we got on the earliest one we could. What we didn’t know is that the train that we were on was going to stop at every station on the way Osaka. So, we somehow lucked out and got the entire car of the train to ourselves. As such, we had our own little mini party. It took us a couple of hours to get to Osaka because of all the stops, but once we were there I am pretty sure exhaustion was about to take over. I think that being a little tipsy helped us through the night though. Our mission after leaving the train station was to find a hotel. Brynn asked the information desk if he knew of any, but he could not understand exactly what we were looking for. I went over to a map and found that there was a hotel nearby the station and we could walk there. When we all exited the station we realized that there were a few hotels nearby so we made our walking journey, because taxis were too much, to the hotels. The first one we went to only had one room available and we needed two rooms so we left there and went to another one we had seen. At this hotel the price was really steep, but there were rooms available. We decided that we would check a couple more hotels and if nothing else return to this one because we would need a place to sleep for the night. After leaving that hotel we walked a few blocks to another one that was completely full. Because we were all growing tired of the walking there was a restaurant nearby that was open late so we went and had a good meal. Once our energy was replenished we went to the New Osaka Hotel, the one that was on the station map, to see if our luck might change. When we went inside we thought that the price was going to be too much because it was like walking into a four-star resort. I waited in the lobby to hear the bad news while the others went to ask about the rates and availability. Our luck did change! I was surprised to learn that the rate was actually pretty reasonable and they had rooms available. Brynn and Anna Sophia bought their rooms and Dave and I got ours. We made loose plans for the next day and then went to our room to get some sleep. When I walked into the room I felt like I was no longer at a four-star resort. The room was still nice and they had a fancy toilet, but it was nothing that was fantastic. The beds were pretty comfortable and they provided robes which was nice. I was just happy to get internet and take a nice, long hot shower. I passed out soon after that and had a good night’s sleep before another exciting day of walking and touring.
I woke up to the hotel’s alarm and slumped over and out of my bed to get ready. Dave and I were still pretty tired so I set the alarm a little bit later and went back to sleep. The second time I woke up I packed my bags and then left the hotel room. I met Anna Sophia and Brynn in the hotel lobby where they checked out and then all of us left. We went to get breakfast from a convenience store and then we went to the subway station to catch a train to the Osaka Aquarium. The train ride was a bit crowded, but I was already used to that because of China so it really didn’t bother me. When we got to the train stop for the Aquarium we noticed that there was a huge ferris wheel. Everyone wanted to ride it so we bought a special ticket that would give us entrance to the aquarium and the wheel. We did the wheel first and got into our cart. It was very slow moving, but we had our breakfast on it and got to see a great view of the city. From there we walked to the aquarium. I have been to a lot of those on this trip because of traveling with Brynn, a marine bio major, but I would definitely say that this one was the best. When we got inside the first thing we saw was a tunnel with small sharks and fish in it. From there we saw small river otters, crabs and a giant salamander which was pretty cool. After that we continued on the path and got to see seals, sea lions, penguins, lots of fish, and dolphins. I had seen The Cove and knew about the acquisition of dolphins for aquariums, especially in Japan, so I did not stay at the exhibit long. The glory of the aquarium was the whale shark tank. There are apparently only a few aquariums in the world that have room for the giant shark, and this was one of them. It was really cool to see the giant swimming with all kinds of sharks and fish, but it was also sad because it looked injured or sick. Brynn, Dave and Anna Sophia spent most of their time just staring at the massive creature, and it hadn’t even reached the typical length and weight of an adult. I moved on from the exhibit and got to see a bunch of other critters like the giant octopus and king crabs. When they were ready we continued through the aquarium to see the jellyfish and then went to the gift shop so they could get some whale shark souvenirs. After we left the aquarium we went to the shopping mall right next door to find some lunch because we were all quite hungry. I got a burger from the food court and a soda and was quite satisfied and thankful that Dave had money to support my life. From lunch we got back on the subway and went to the Shinkansen station so that we could make our way to Kyoto. We got on the bullet train, which was slightly crowded and only had to make one stop before we got off in Kyoto. Once we were in the very crowded station we tried to make our way to an ATM so we could draw some money out. Finally there was a 7-Eleven with an ATM that would work for our cards so the girls got some money and then we made our way to the bus station so that we could get to a couple of temples before the say came to a close. The bus was very crowded and we stood the entire time with what I thought was a full bus, but then more and more people would get on. Finally, we came to our stop and got off with some relief of not being crowded. We walked up to this beautiful Buddhist temple and from there made our way to the larger temple on the top of the hill. On our way up there we passed by a massive cemetery. I took a lot of pictures and thought about how many people were buried in the several locations of the cemetery. There had to be at least one million grave plots, but there were so many because they were just tombstones. In Japan everyone is cremated so the ashes are either put in the gravestone or scattered across the land. I would see flowers here and there, a lot of sake cups, and a lot of burnt incense. It was very eerie to be walking through the cemetery, but at the same time somewhat beautiful. They way the Japanese memorialized their ancestors was intriguing and I thought that if I ever died this would possibly be a place to be buried, or at least in a similar fashion. Although, being buried with the dirt that surround me and going back into the soil would probably be the best because I would complete the “circle of life” as Mufasa would have put it. Anyway, we got to the temple and I left the others to go and explore and meditate on my own. I found this to be very hard because there were a lot of tourists around, but it was the one thing I was looking forward to on this trip and I was not going to let anything get in my way of my goal. I found a nice bench where I sat and let my brain wonder. I thought about my voyage, how much I have grown, how much I have learned, loved, lost, cried, laughed. I thought about a lot as I sat there staring at the cherry blossoms and the mountains in the distance. It was so beautiful and mystical. The cherry blossoms were pink and some just blooming, others had already fallen to the ground. It was a magical experience, although short, that kept my mind open and free. I am so glad that I got any chance to go there and I hope that at some point in the future I will have more time in Kyoto to see the rest of the temples and pagodas. The temple we were at was closing so we had to leave, but not before buying some souvenirs. I let Brynn and Dave buy there wacky gifts as I sat on a fence outside the store that was looking up to the temples. When they were ready we left down the long steep road to get back on the bus and eventually the station. When we got to the bus station we all thought it was too crowded so we left and got a taxi to take us back to the station. When we got to the station we were all really hungry again and most of us wanted sushi. We somehow ran into one of our professors that lives in Japan and we asked her if she knew where we should go. She pointed us in the direction but before we went to eat we had to get our backpacks from the locker because we were not carrying them around all day. Once that was over we all went into another underground shopping mall to get some sushi. The restaurant we chose was cozy and not very busy. It was great sushi though, although I only got the cucumber roll because I was afraid of parasites and the problem of over-fishing. Brynn and Dave got some delicious looking rolls though and I think they were both very satisfied with what they got. Anna Sophia did not order anything because she is allergic to fish so instead she got a sandwich to eat on the train to Tokyo. After our great dinner we left to catch our bullet train to Tokyo in anticipation that we were not going to be able to get one because we were leaving so late. However, once we got there we saw two trains left that were leaving, both were lines that we were not supposed to be on but we had no other option so we hopped on and hoped that no one would check tickets and kick us off. We lucked out again and got a train car to ourselves again so we had another mini party for the trip because there were only a couple of stops before Tokyo. It was great being on the train and I really wish that America had a system similar to it because it would be so efficient. I took some goofy videos while we were on the train and we all pretty much just messed around and had fun. Before we knew it the train was stopping and we were getting off at the capital of Japan. When we got out at the station we had to transfer to another train line to get to the famous Shibuya. It was a pretty short trip and once we got there and out of the station we saw the famous crosswalks and nightlife of Tokyo. We walked around a little trying to find our bearings and see if there were any hotels nearby. We somehow ran into a bunch of SAS students and asked them if they knew were things were. I asked one of the students to show us the Hachiko Dog, the famous statue in Shibuya where a dog waited for his owner everyday until he died, because from there we knew where we should be searching for hotels. We took a few pictures with the statue and then made our way across the crosswalks and up the street to find a place to sleep. We ran into some more SAS students and were directed to a capsule hotel. Dave went inside to discuss room rates but found out that it was male only, so that was not an option for us. We continued to walk around until we found this one “love hotel.” We walked inside and got a couple of rooms and were excited because these were types of hotels that were recommended to us before getting to Japan. Dave and I were in a room and Brynn and Anna Sophia in the other. When we got to our room we just started cracking up. There was a large round bed, mood lights, condoms, lotion, music, a Jacuzzi with mood lighting, and of course a television with porn videos for those crazy Japanese. Dave and I could not stop laughing that we were staying in this place, but it was still a place to stay so we didn’t mind too much. I got free internet which was nice and there was a couch so I didn’t have to share the love bed with Dave. The girls and Dave were going to be leaving around 5am to go to the Tsukiji fish market and that was going to be in a couple of hours so Dave crashed. I went on Skype and got to talk to my Mom and Grandma which was great, although they didn’t have the best reception so I didn’t get to fully video talk, more of a phone call. It was worth it though and I was just happy that I could talk to them because it had been a while since I had seen them, especially with my phone being stolen. I had to say goodbye to them somewhat early because I was getting tired and still needed to get some sleep. After talking to them I took a Jacuzzi bath which was really nice because it was relaxing, and much needed after so much walking in the past few days and China. I felt rejuvenated after the bath and went right to sleep on the couch. I woke up around 9am to Skype my mom and grandma again and then after that took another hour or so nap before we had to check out of the hotel.
We woke up to a phone call from the front desk that we needed to check out earlier than we thought so we rushed to get ready and then left the hotel. I think the woman at the front desk was confused when Dave and I left together and then Brynn and Anna Sophia left, but oh well, something for her to think about I guess. Once we left the hotel we went back to the Shibuya station and got on the train to Harajuku where lots of shopping was to be done. When we got there we put our stuff in a locker and then got some lunch at a Chinese style restaurant because they had a dish that Brynn and Anna Sophia were looking for. After a good meal we went into the crowded shopping street and found the most random things. There were panda hats, strange t-shirts, crazy sunglasses, etc. It was fun to walk around and experience the younger culture of Japan. We saw a lot of women dressed in crazy outfits and heard a lot of high pitched voices trying to sell products. When we left that street we walked around for awhile around high-end boutique stores like Gucci, Armani, Dior, and Channel. When we came to this one corner we saw a Condomania and just had to go in because it was a store completely dedicated to protection. They had some wacky condoms but we didn’t buy anything. From there we walked some more looking at the shops and then stopped at an Oriental Bazaar where Dave got a sake set and tea set and the girls got some gifts to take back home to their friends and family. After doing all the shopping I was feeling really tired and exhausted and really wanted to go back to the ship. We went back to the station and got our stuff and then from there we split ways because they all wanted to go to the technology district. I hopped on the train to a station to transfer to Yokohama where the ship was docked. I happened to be traveling at rush hour so the trains were very crowded, but everyone was still really nice and didn’t pop my personal bubble. When I got to the transfer station I asked for directions to Yokohama on a train that used the rail pass and was directed to the right gate. I got on another crowded train and made a stop at Kawasaki before making it to Yokohama. Once I was in the very large Yokohama station I got onto another train that would take me close to the ship. This train was not at all crowded and was very short. When I got into the port terminal station I made my way outside and it was raining. I thankfully had my umbrella and started walking to the ship. I came up to this strange looking port terminal that was all made out of wood and designed after the seas and waves of the ocean. I walked inside and found directions to the ship. It was very quiet walking through the terminal and you could hear your footsteps with each step because of the wood. I checked in at the ship and then went up to the dining hall before dinner closed. I met up with Sara, who transited with the ship, and got a really good dinner. They were all talking about going out for the night, and after eating dinner I was feeling a bit better and like my energy was returning so I contemplated going out to the clubs that night. They left from dinner to get ready and I finished up my meal. Once I got to my room and unpacked I instantly felt exhausted again so I decided to not go out for the night. It was only 7pm and I was expecting Dave and the girls to get back soon along with other friends so I left some notes on the door in case they wanted to go out in Yokohama for a couple hours. I then took a good nap. I then heard some knocking on my door and found out that my buddy Evan was back for the day. I invited him into my room and we talked for a little while about our time in Japan and what our plans would be for the next day. He had a trip the next day but went out to Yokohama during the day so he gave me some suggestions for what I should do. Then we both went to bed and called it a night. Dave, Brynn and Anna Sophia were going to Tokyo Disney the next day but I did not have enough money to go so I was planning on just roaming the port on my own. James came back that night too and I don’t really remember talking to him because I was so tired and was half asleep. I think he had a good time though and he soon went to bed too.
I woke up the next morning somewhat early to get some breakfast. I wasn’t sure what everyone was still doing for the day because it was pouring rain outside. I ran into Brynn, it hurt but I was okay, and talked to her about her plans. They were still going to Tokyo Disney, so I was not going to join, but she asked me to pick up a flag for her if I came across one and she would pay me back. I agreed to the deal and then said goodbye to get some breakfast. Once I was done eating I went to my room to get ready, put on my new p-coat from China and dressed up somewhat nice because I was impressed with the fashion in Japan. I knew James didn’t have plans, but he was still sleeping so I didn’t want to wake him up to see if he wanted to hang out with me. Instead I quietly shut the door and got ready for my own adventure. Once I got outside of the port terminal I opened my umbrella and began making my way to the train station. It was really windy and raining and hard to control my umbrella. Before I knew it the piece of crap was inside out and ripped open my thumb because of a huge gust of wind. I was really frustrated and destroyed the umbrella even more and threw it away. I then walked in the rain for a couple of minutes before I noticed Grace walking on the other side of the street. I went over to talk to her and see what she was doing for the day. She had no plans other than to find a flag so we both decided to travel together for the day. We walked by a place and I picked up another umbrella and found out that they were all free by Japanese law if you saw them on the street, which made me upset that I bought one in the first place. This umbrella was a bit smaller but it worked to keep me out of the rain. We got into the station and went to the large Yokohama station where I was told we could find a flag. It was still a bit early and the stores were not open yet so Grace and I went to the ATM and walked around for a little. Then the stores started to open their doors. We went to a bakery first to get some more breakfast and then went on a search for the flags, which turned out to be quite difficult. We went to this one mall first to try and find one and went up all seven levels before giving up at this mall. We asked the information desk there and they directed us to a couple other malls. We went to one mall where the basement was a huge grocery store so I bought a bottle of wine and we got some sushi for lunch. From there we went to find a place to sit down and the only place we could find was a KFC. I got some more food and then we sat down eating sushi, pastries, and fried chicken. It was actually a really good lunch and I was feeling quite full after we finished. From there we went to a restaurant so they could open the wine and then we went upstairs to find the flag. We ended up finding a store that sold them but they were in the back and we had to ask them for it. When they brought it out we realized it was a full size flag and pole and was not what we were looking for. We had been walking around for a long time and were getting tired so we thought that if we tried this last mall maybe our luck would change and they would have exactly what we were looking for. We went inside another huge mall and went up to the level we were told had flags and began our search. We found a Disney store so I went inside to see if they had anything I would like, but they didn’t. We also asked them if they could direct us to a place that sold flags and they told us a kimono store on the same level should have them. We searched around but could not see any flags. Because we were told it was at the kimono store Grace asked the woman if she sold any. She told us to wait at this desk and then she came out with a box of assorted sized flags. We were so happy that we finally found a place! I bought a larger flag and Grace bought two small ones, one for herself and the other for Brynn. We then left and went to the train station to go back to the port area. Once we were there we walked outside and found a small park with cover from the rain. I sat down and opened the bottle of wine and began drinking. Grace bought a unique beer and drank that. I went through half of the bottle before we got up and went over to another shopping area from the recommendation of Evan before we would return to the port. Before getting to the park though I broke another umbrella. I guess I just don’t have any luck with umbrellas, or the wind just hates me. We left the park and I once again was walking in the rain before we got to the Landmark Tower and we began searching through the shops. The only shop that I had any interest in was the Pokémon store so that was the first stop for us. We were both a bit disappointed in the store because we grew up with the first couple generations and they were now on the sixth or seventh. We also felt a bit old because there a bunch of kids running around and they probably had no clue what it was like when Pokémon first came out. I took a couple pictures of the store and Grace bought some cards. When we opened the cards and were happy to see a couple that we recognized. From there we just looked around and then left the mall to go back to the ship. We stopped in the same park and I finished my wine. We then went to the port terminal and spent the rest of our money on postcards and magnets. I then asked Grace if I could use her computer to Skype my mom while she went to exchange her money. She was kind enough to me and said yes and then I went and sat in the terminal and got a hold of my mom. It was great talking to her because it was going to be the last time I would see her before I got into the States. I was feeling a bit tipsy and after the conversation I stood up and felt really dizzy and drunk. I just laughed because I was seeing double of everything and feeling really giddy. I met up with Grace again and then got in line to process through immigrations. I held myself up and did not act drunk and made it easily through the security check and got on the ship. I then went to my room to put my stuff up and then went to dinner. I got, apparently after hearing from Evan about it later, a good meal and had a great talk with my friends. I then went to my room and passed out on my bed with my mouth open. I was expecting James to come in and wake me up and we could talk a little before I actually went to bed, but when I woke up the room was completely dark. I didn’t think James got on the ship and thought he might have been left behind in Japan so I started to worry. Then I turned the lights on and saw him sleeping in his bed. I turned them back off so I wouldn’t wake him up and could not believe that I had passed out so hard. I was not feeling drunk anymore so I went upstairs to see if anyone was awake and found Dave, Brynn, Anna Sophia, Grace and Sara in a classroom watching a movie. I joined them and watched a few more movies afterward. The ship was starting to rock like crazy because of the waves so I went back to bed and said goodbye to Japan.
What I learned from this port is that it would be too comfortable for me to live in. I would, however, like to return to the country and do some more traveling because of how easy it was to get around and how comfortable I felt. I do not feel like I experienced anything here as I did in the other countries, but it was still great to visit. I have a better understanding of the relationship between Japan and the United States after the war and bombings and am impressed that Japan has advanced so much in such a small amount of time. I think that Japan is also advanced in a lot of areas technologically but still needs improvement with their people in order to remain a power in the world today. I think that the past is memorialized sometimes in a great way but in others is lacking. I am not traveling to Hawaii and will be there in a couple of days. I anticipate to write one more blog on our last destination before San Diego and then another on a reflection of myself and what this trip has done for me. I know for sure that it is going to be difficult to adjust back to the American lifestyle that I have been stuck in for the past 21 years, but I also know that I have grown tremendously and will be able to accomplish anything I set my mind to. I want you to know that I am doing great mentally, although maybe not physically and that will change when I get back home. I love each and every one of you and am sad that this will be one of the last posts for you to read. I look forward to my return to San Diego and Colorado to see all of your smiling faces and to give you a big, fat hug! I’ll be waiting, I hope you do too.

Posted by MVVincent 02:27 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

The Last Samurai: My Stand in Japan Part 1

rain 60 °F
View Semester at Sea on MVVincent's travel map.

Ah the joys of writing long blogs. I have finally had the time to catch up on my entries and post on the wonderful Asia I have experienced. If anyone is keeping tally, I could have a 67 page, single-spaced, Word document that describes my travels thus far. Now, I will have this post and a couple more before I get my final amount, but I would not be surprised if it was close to 100 pages. Keep in mind this is a Word document, that is 67 pages (up to and including China) of 8 ½“ x 11” pages. I have basically written my senior thesis…twice. Anyway, this entry is going to be about my time in Japan. I had an experience like no other, as in I had one that was lacking what other countries had to offer. I am a bit upset that Japan did not turn out the way I had anticipated, but, that is a part of the experience I suppose. I still am reflecting on my time spent there and I hope that by journaling all of my thoughts in this post I can look back at a better understanding of the country. I will also note that I am in the midst of the end of the voyage. Finals will be here in a week and I have a lot of papers to be writing. An outlet for me, and possibly a way for me to procrastinate, is to write my blogs. Because of this, the entry might be very long as has been the case for all other entries. So get ready for another long read, one that is hopefully exhilarating and thought provoking.
Japan was the first country that Dave, Brynn and I all had free so I could not wait to have a great time with them. We had all purchased our rail passes in Vietnam and were ready to go to a great number of cities to get our money’s worth. I found myself waking up as usual to a breakfast with the group. On our first day we were going to be exploring with Grace and Sara in Kobe, the city where the ship was docked. None of us knew what Kobe had to offer so we had no solid plan other than to meet when the ship was cleared. Japan has a policy for passengers on ships to have their temperature taken before getting on land and into port. Everyone had to get their temperature taken before we could exit the ship and I was expecting this to be a very long process. Luckily, I got to see my first advancement in technology from the Japanese. Our temperatures were taken by simply walking by this machine, something I still didn’t quite understand. This made the process go very quickly and before I knew it we were cleared to leave the ship. We all got together and then one by one swiped our cards and set foot on Japanese soil, well…asphalt. We walked through the cruise terminal to immigrations where we encountered a very long, slow moving line. We stood there for over an hour trying to get through immigrations. It was such a long process here because we had to get our pictures taken and were finger printed on each hand. We finally got to the front of the line and to the immigrations counter. I was having trouble getting my fingerprints recorded, probably because they were burned off in a horrific accident when I was a kid. Just kidding, I think it was because I was not pressing hard enough on the electronic scanners. Anyway, we made our way through immigrations and then went to the helpful information desk to get a map of Kobe and its local attractions. First things first though, find an ATM. We had to take a monorail to the main station in Kobe and that was where we were going to find an ATM. Dave paid for each of our tickets which were only a couple bucks and then we headed for Kobe. The weather was not fantastic, it was overcast and slightly chilly outside. I was immediately unimpressed with what I was seeing in Japan. It was just a bunch of grey, concrete buildings with nothing on them. Once we got out off the train all I could see were a bunch of men in business suits. I am not a fan of business and the entire atmosphere with the weather and work mentality was making me depressed. We walked around for a while trying to find an ATM when we saw some SAS students and asked them if they had found one. They pointed us in the right direction and we were soon where we needed to be. We queued up for the ATM, something I was really happy about because of China, and were all able to get money. I pulled out 10,000 Yen, and it all came out on one note. I now am really frustrated that other countries do not, or can not, lower their denominations for currency. Why in the world is it useful to have a currency ranging from 1-1,000,000? Everything costs a fortune too so 10,000 does not last long. They fool you into thinking you are rich but then you go and buy something and all of your money is gone! In this respect I am grateful for the currency in the United States because it is in low denominations. This could be a result of my bringing up on the American Dollar, but after visiting all of these countries, it seems to be the only one that still makes sense to me. We went to get lunch after the ATM and all of us had to break our 10,000 notes that we just received. We went by this restaurant that had smelled really good and looked like it was serving a whole variety of hush puppies. We went inside, not knowing what we were ordering, but just pointed at some pictures and paid the cashier. I got sake for the very first time and they mixed it with club soda which made me not want to have it ever again…but I did. We all ordered something different so we exchanged our plates so that we could each try something different. We bit into the first ball and hot cheese and fluids poured out simultaneously burning our tongues. It was an interesting taste, a bit fishy but good overall. We opened the second ball so that we would not burn our mouth when we noticed something pink inside. I pulled it out and realized we were having fried octopus cheese balls! Sara was grossed out by it so she didn’t eat anymore, but I was excited to eat as much as my stomach would handle. Octopus is a lot like calamari, chewy, fishy, and a bit hard to swallow. Eventually I could not eat anymore and unfortunately had to let a lot go to waste. I was also having a hard time drinking the sake and eventually everyone was waiting on me to finish. It was too similar to vodka for me, something that I hate with a passion, so I had to drink it really fast and then eat teriyaki sauce after as a chaser. I felt like a wimp, but it was better than puking all over the table. We left from lunch to go next door where fresh crepes were being made. I got a delicious caramel crepe along with a mint chocolate bubble tea. We ate our crepes inside because we were told that eating in public was not an acceptable practice in Japan. When we were finished, stuffed I should say, we left and went to explore Kobe. We walked down a couple of streets to just see what there was when we came to this huge bowling alley. We all looked at each other and then agreed that this is exactly what we wanted to do. We went into the building and realized that it was a bowling alley and arcade so I am sure you could imagine the faces we all had. We bowled first and had a great time. I actually played better than I ever had, even though I still did not break 100, but I never got a gutter ball and I even got a strike. Grace, Brynn and Dave were clearly much better but I am quite sure that we all had a great time there. It was really funny too because whenever Dave would go bowl he would throw the ball like it was nothing knocking pins everywhere and the kids next to us kept laughing. I am sure they had never seen someone his size and were just enamored with his bowling skills. We finished up our game and then went to the arcade. It was not that impressive and they had a lot of games that were the same. There was only one game that I had never seen before where you got into this pod and turned into a fighting robot. It was really fun, but extremely hard to figure out when everything was in Japanese. We all played games for an hour or so and then made our way back to the train station area to get some coffee and internet. Unfortunately the internet was not working so we just went back to the ship. We ran into some students when we got off the train that were heading to a baseball game. We were told that a baseball game in Japan is a must see. I was running low on money and was supposed to stay in a capsule hotel with my buddy Evan but I had to run back to the ship to let him know that I was not going to be able to make it. I met up with Dave and Brynn again and the three of us went to find our way with the trains to the baseball stadium. We got lost because we were with a huge group that really didn’t know where they were going. Luckily when we were standing in the station looking very lost a beautiful Australian woman who was teaching Japanese in the schools helped us find our way. We got on the right trains and soon we were at the baseball stadium. I went into the gift shop to buy a flag of the Hanshin Tigers, the local team, and then we got our tickets and found some decent seats in the stadium. When we got into the stadium we realized that we were not watching the Tigers play. Instead we were watching the Lions and the Eagles. We were sitting on the Lions side and we all had a great time. I bought a couple of large beers from the women that were carrying kegs on their backs and the three of us just talked and watched the game. I was getting hungry so I went to buy some KFC and got this really interesting teriyaki chicken sandwich. The game was not at all different from on in the States so I am still a bit confused on why it was so important to see one. Nonetheless I had a great time and got a little tipsy. I think it is pretty cool that I can say I saw a Japanese baseball game too. The game was coming to an end and the Lions were beating the Eagles 4-0 so we left early. We were on our way back to Kobe when we had to make a sudden stop because Brynn was going to pee her pants. I only bring this up because I thought it was so funny how sudden it was that she needed to go and how fast she got out of the train at some random stop. We soon got back to Kobe but we were not ready to go back to the ship. Instead I went to a vending machine that sold beer, yes that’s right, beer! I bought a couple and then we went to a Mos Burger to get some dinner. The burgers there were actually pretty good but it was not Kobe beef like we were hoping. Although I guess I can technically say that it was because we ordered it in Kobe. Once we were done with dinner we went back to the ship because it was starting to get late. I called my mom when I got back on the ship to let her know that I made it safely to Japan. When I emptied my pockets to count how much money I had I realized I only had 100 yen left. I was now starting to have second thoughts on traveling around the country because there was going to be no way to afford it. I was instead going to transit with the ship because I could save my money but still try and use the rail pass as much as possible. I stressed a lot about it before I went to bed and kept tossing in my mind the benefits of traveling each way. All of the stressing tired me out and before I knew it I was off dreaming in my own world.
The next day I woke up to pounding on my door. The room was really dark so I stumbled on my way to answer it. When I opened the door I saw Dave standing there with an apathetic look on his face. I smiled and said “Hey Davey!” I did not realize, but I had slept in past the time I said I was going to meet them and he was there to wake me up and rush me so that we could be on our way. I was still half asleep when I saw that my alarm was not even set. I guess from all of the stressing I forgot to set it and just fell asleep. I turned on the lights and opened the window. My eyes started to adjust and then I packed my bag as fast as I could. I made sure that I had everything, credit card, passport, camera, toothbrush, it was all there. I left my room and then met Brynn, Dave and Anna Sophia, my other friend that was going to be traveling with us, in the usual spot. I told them that I was not sure if I would be traveling the entire way with them because of my money situation. They were all upset about the idea of me not going and they tried to convince me otherwise. Dave told me he would cover my expenses and I hesitated because I was in debt enough to my great friend and I cannot stand when people buy me things. I told them that I would decide on the way to Hiroshima and if I could not go with them I would head back early. They agreed with the idea and then the four of us left the ship and started to make our way to the train station. The loose itinerary consisted of going to Hiroshima, then going to Osaka for the night, then the next half day in Osaka and the other half in Kyoto, then for the next two nights stay in Tokyo. When we were in the port terminal we ran into a lifelong learner, Holley, who was by herself and trying to figure out how to get to Hiroshima. We told her that she could tag along with us because that is exactly where she was going. She seemed very happy that she could travel with us because the students she had originally planned on traveling in Japan with bailed on her. We left the port terminal on the monorail to the main station in Kobe. From there we had to transfer to Osaka so that we could exchange our rail pass for real tickets and then make our way to Hiroshima on the bullet train. The entire process was somewhat difficult because everything was in Japanese, but we eventually found our way to Osaka. Once we were there we all exchanged our rail passes for the cards that would give us unlimited access on the trains for one week. Holley had to buy a separate ticket and it was pretty expensive so I am glad that I bought the rail pass because I think it more than paid off. Once we all had our tickets we made our way through the giant train station to the Shinkansen, the name of the bullet trains. In the station there were a lot of shops selling food so we bought bento boxes with interesting looking food, beer and sandwiches for the trip. From there we went up to the gate where we were supposed to board and waited for our train. When it pulled up I realized that I was going to be riding in luxury. The train looked very nice and sleek, like something out of the future. You could see inside the windows and I remember thinking it looked just like airplane seating, except with better service. We were finally able to board and once we got inside I was surprised to see that there was a significant amount of leg room, the seat would recline almost all of the way, and it was quiet and very comfortable. We all took up a row of seats and Dave sat next to me for the trip. The train started to move and then we were off at high speeds to Hiroshima. I fell asleep because I was still tired from not getting that much sleep. I woke up a few times to see the land but it went by so fast that I couldn’t really take it in. I went back to sleep listening to music from my iPod hoping that Hiroshima was going to be far away so that I could get some rest. Before I knew it Dave was waking me up telling me that we were the next stop. I got my bag ready and then opened a beer to drink. We pulled into the station and exited the train for the next step of our journey. It was raining that day in Japan so when we got inside the station Holley and I bought umbrellas. I then got my first experience with the amazing and interesting Japanese toilet! When I went into the bathroom I saw that the toilet seat was heated, would make noise and music so that no one would here you and was also a bidet so you would not have to use toilet paper. I didn’t use the toilet for its regular use but instead just played with it because I had never seen anything like it. Mature right? I also took some pictures because I was so fascinated of the device and I wanted to show my brother at home this amazing discovery! When I was done fooling around with all of the buttons and gadgets I left the bathroom and met up with the group. We had figured out how to get to the museum and dome of Hiroshima. We had to take an inexpensive trolley to the area and it was a fairly quick ride. Once we got out of the trolley my eyes gazed at the ruins of one of the buildings from the bombing on Hiroshima. The Dome, as it is called, was the only building still standing and preserved from the horrible atrocities that the city had to face at the end of WWII. It was silent all around us and we were all trying to contemplate just how bad this war was. Here, standing in front of us, was a building that was almost at the hypocenter where the bomb was dropped. It was like stepping into the past. I felt like I could hear sirens, crying, screaming, and fire all around me. I just stood there, motionless, staring at the top of the dome which was now just a skeleton of steel bars. My mood immediately changed, and I virtually stopped talking for the next few hours. Holley needed to return back to the ship before it left for Yokohama so she went off on her own so that she could get in as much as possible. The rest of us just walked peacefully around the half-destroyed building. I came up to this plaque with Japanese inscriptions on it. Below it were many water bottles and flowers. I didn’t understand the meaning of this until later, but the bottles were there to honor those who died from the bombing and were begging for water as they were grasping for life. We continued to walk around this area and came up to a memorial that was dedicated to all of the children that died during the bombing and the aftermath. Below the memorial were thousands or origami cranes to honor those who died and to show peace throughout the world. They were all in rows in every color of the rainbow. There was a statue in the front of the memorial and a button you could press that would describe in English what it stood for. We left from there and traveled to a long boulevard of cherry blossoms that led up to another memorial that was near the hypocenter. Past that was the Peace Memorial Museum. I was actually astonished that I did not see any destruction other than The Dome in all of Hiroshima. The city has really grown and modernized since the bombing and if it weren’t for the memorials, you would have never known from just walking around that the entire city was completely turned to ash. I walked down the boulevard alone and very quietly. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to look up in the air and the next thing you know your skin is melting off and everyone around you is dying. I could still feel this eerie presence from 145 thousand dead lives still roaming the earth not knowing what had happened to them. I tried to imagine looking all around me and seeing everything completely demolished. It was very difficult to do so, but when I went into the two museums it made it much easier to see the past. I took a lot of pictures of the area and what I was witnessing. I saw what the city looked like before and after the bombing, a striking dissimilarity; I saw watches that froze at 8:15, the time the bomb hit Hiroshima; I saw the clothes that were ripped and burnt off of children, some with blood and skin still on them; I saw the lunchboxes of the children with the ashes of their lunch; I saw the fingernails and hair clippings a mother kept from her dead child; I saw the smelted tricycle that a 3-year old once used before his dad buried him a day after the bombing; I saw death, destruction, tears, blood, guilt, and reassurance that something like this would never happen again. I saw peace, or at least the striving for it, everywhere I went. I did not feel hatred from the Japanese as they toured the same area as I, but instead felt a mutual understanding of the severity of the incident. I left the museum with shame towards America for what they had done and still strive to find the justification we somehow had to end, immediately and soon after, the lives of 145,000 innocent and non-innocent alike, even killing the lives of American POW’s in the process. I think America has learned from this incident, but I do not think other countries have. Hence, why I think America has to keep up with the nuclear race in order to potentially combat what other countries have gotten their hands on. Oh how I wish Albert Einstein did not invent and create! Oh, but one can only wish…

Posted by MVVincent 02:25 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden China Part 3

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I woke up the next morning early because I had to go on a FDP for my Global Management class to the Coca-Cola factory. I woke up and went got some breakfast and then went outside on the deck to see the morning of Shanghai. There was a small park located right next to the ship and in it were a bunch of people doing tai-chi as their morning exercise. I watched them for a little while and then made my way to the large tour bus. I was upset that I had to go on this trip, partly because I hate Coca-Cola, the company and the product, but I was keeping an open-mind in hopes that my mind could change. We had about a twenty minute bus ride before we got to the factory. We were led inside and up a few flights of stairs into this large theater. We each got to get a free bottle of soda and then sat down in bright red, fluffy seats. Then a man in a suit came in and began his presentation. Here is where I started to hate the company even more. The man, supposedly the manager of the factory, knew no English and was working for a global company. I was amazed that he could even work for them without knowing at least another language, but especially English with its prominence throughout the world, even if that is an unfortunate truth. The guide for our tour had to translate for him and we went through a long presentation of the history of the company. It was of course only showing the good sides of the company, not how much water they consume and how producing cola is extremely unhealthy for the consumer. They were also quite proud that China was soon to be the leader in Coca-Cola consumption in the near future. Once the presentation was over we were escorted to the manufacturing room. I saw many lines of Coke bottles flying through the air and on belts that were eventually cased up and sent out into China. I was disgusted with how much plastic was being used but still tried to keep an open mind. After viewing how Coke was produced we went to a small museum and then left the factory to go back to the ship. Once I got back to the ship I changed and then went out and got a taxi to take me to the YuYuan Garden area where there was supposedly beautiful zen gardens and shopping. Once I got there I was amazed to see so many shops inside these white Chinese buildings that looked like they were from the Qing Dynasty. I walked around for about an hour in a very crowded market and then went to find something to eat. I ended up at this large food court buffet where I got noodles, dumplings, shrimp and pork. I ate there by myself looking around at all of the Chinese eating with their families and chopsticks. I was actually happy to be by myself for once because I was somehow able to escape the chaos of China even if I was still right in the middle of it. I left from lunch and took a lot of pictures of the area. I then went to a 7-Eleven and bought a couple of beers and then sat on a bench just taking it all in. Eventually a man came and sat next to me trying to sell me this little toy. I ignored him because I was not interested but he insisted on trying to market the little thing to me. He gave up after a while and then tried to ask me about my piercings. I showed him my lip and it really freaked him out. Then he looked at my eyebrow and was scared of that, thinking that both must have really hurt and probably still did. He then motioned to me that he wanted to rip them out and smiled and laughed. I laughed too and then said bye to him and continued on my way, a little worried that before I knew it a pair of pliers were going to be yanking the piercings out of my skin. I went into the garden area and started walking around. I then noticed a familiar yellow backpack and saw that James was also in the garden. I went up to him and then walked around with him and a couple friends for the rest of the afternoon. We all left the market area to find a jersey store for them and eventually made it to an underground shopping center. Inside there were a lot of places to buy nice clothes and souvenirs. They bought what they were wanting and I found a panda hat that I had been searching for since the Great Wall. We left from the market area to go back to the ship to find internet because we all wanted to go see an acrobat show that night. We walked around for a while, drinking more beers, before I took my leave back to the ship while they went to find internet. I was only on the ship for about ten minutes before they returned. They found an acrobat show that was starting soon. I was out of money and tried to organize a way to pay for the show but could not find a solution. I sat there in the room as James got ready and left for the show, something I really wanted to see. Instead I sat there in my room and tried not to think about it. I of course started to get depressed and had this feeling of being left out. But, then I heard a knock on the door. I thought it was going to be Brynn or someone else but when I opened the door Dave was standing there with a smile on his face. He wasn’t supposed to be back until late that night so I was extremely happy to see him. He was hungry and wanted to see if I would go and get dinner with him somewhere. I told him that I had no money but he agreed to pay for me so I went along with him and we both left from the ship. I was instantly feeling better since I got to hang out with Dave. We went to the same market area I had been to that afternoon to try and get some of the food I was telling him about. Sadly, they were closing and only had a little food left, but it was enough to satisfy the both of us. We walked around the market, I drank a few more beers, and then we made our way to the Bund, the financial part of Shanghai. We walked around the river for a while and then eventually walked back to the ship. It was a great walk and fantastic to talk to someone whom I would consider to be my best friend on this voyage. When we got back to the ship he showed me what he had bought on his travels and vice versa. I said goodnight and then went to bed because Brynn, Dave and I were all going to be hanging out the next morning.
I woke up fairly early the next day to meet Brynn and Dave for breakfast. I didn’t get to see Dave though because he had gone back to his room to get ready. Instead I sat there with Brynn and others discussing what we should do for the day. We all wanted to get some last minute shopping out of the way as well as go to the zoo to see some pandas. We were all very tired but we decided that we would do the zoo first and then make our way to a shopping district before getting back to the ship on time. I got ready and met Dave in Brynn in the usual spot before we left for one crazy adventure, the last one we would have together in China. I asked the information desk on the ship the best route to get to the zoo which happened to be by subway. The closest stop for us was a short taxi ride away so we when we left the ship we hailed a taxi to take us there. We got into the station and bought our tickets and then took a long ride with a lot of stops to the Shanghai Zoo. Once we got there we were once again surprised and bombarded by crowds of people. We got in line, with lots of people cutting us because we were not breathing on their necks as is the norm, and I paid for the tickets because I owed Dave and Brynn from previous nights. Once we got into the zoo we looked at a map for the pandas and started on a trail through the exhibits until we would get there. We thought it would only take an hour or so, but the zoo was surprisingly large and it took us a lot longer than expected. We didn’t even go through all of the exhibits because we were running out of time. Going to this zoo is a whole day event, time we just did not have. The first exhibits we came to was the reptile and amphibians. As soon as we walked into the building I saw crowding and a lot of kids. Everyone was trying to take a picture, it was very loud, and very stinky. I quickly went through and looked at all of the animals because I forgot my camera and then went outside to wait for Dave and Brynn because I was getting quite annoyed with the amount of people and to be honest, little kids frighten me. The kids were actually the worst when it came to pushing and shoving because they were so small. It was also really annoying that the parents, at least in my mind, had no control over their children and would let them do whatever they wanted. I waited patiently for my friends to exit outside and then we made our way to the next exhibit. Once again there were a lot of people in a relatively small place so I made my rounds to see all of the animals and then quickly got to an area that was free from people. I did this throughout most of the zoo because I was getting very tired, I was feeling weak and my body was simply not able to function properly after the last few days of traveling. Once we left the snakes and turtles we made our way to the birds. Luckily they were all enclosed outside so the crowds did not bother me much. We came to a small food stand and the three of us bought some ice cream because it was warm that day and it sounded very pleasing, and thankfully it was. After looking at all of the crazy birds we got to see a huge variety of goldfish. Some were fairly normal looking and others had bulging eyes, brains or cheeks and looked very ugly. I thought it was a miracle they could even survive. Actually, it was pretty sad to see that some of the fish were dead and it was because the zoo overall did not know how to care for the animals, something I would learn very quickly as we continued on our trail. We eventually came up to the tigers and leopards, which were all sleeping. I could see that they were being fed frozen chicken from a grocery store and this made me very sad. I could also see that there was trash in their habitats which was frustrating because the habitat itself was very small. We left the felines to go see the bears. He we witnessed small cages and a lot of people that were throwing food and trash at the animals in order to get some sort of amusement. Brynn and I were furious and wanted to throw some of the tiny people in the cage for our own amusement. There were clearly signs in both Mandarin and English that said “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS, DO NOT THROW TRASH.” I was so mad that all of these people disregarded the signs and decided to hurt these poor animals. It was also very frustrating that the zoo would not staff people to monitor the cages to ensure that the signs were followed. I used to work at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and part of my job, even though I did not work with any animals except ponies, was to monitor cages when I was walking to ensure that the guests were treating the environments properly. If I ever saw someone throw trash or food into a cage I would kindly ask the guest to stop and point at the clearly marked signs. I would then find a staff member in charge of the area to go and remove the piece of trash or food unless I had the authority to do so myself. It was clear to me that the zoos where very different and funding went to separate places. After watching the atrocities brought on by man, we finally made it to the panda exhibit. Here again we saw lots of people disobeying the signs and tapping on the glass or screaming out trying to get the animals attention. At this point I just accepted it as fact that with a population so large who should give two shits about animals? They certainly didn’t. I instead focused on the cute white and black bears and watched them play or look super cute when they were sleeping. I walked around the exhibit and took my time here, but I starting to get so annoyed with people that I had to leave. I think Dave and Brynn were feeling the same way and so they left too. We finished up our zoo visit relatively fast because everywhere we went we got upset from the lack of respect for the animals. We eventually made our way to the exit, cooled off, and then got on the subway to go to one of the shopping areas. We decided to go to this huge clothing area that was meant for the locals, something we didn’t realize right away. We were all really hungry so we walked around in a huge maze to try and find a food court. Once we were there we noticed that everything was in Chinese. We had no clue what we were ordering but the pictures looked good. We pointed at what we wanted hoping that it was not going to be dog or cat and then found a seat to eat. I got some noodles with some weird meat in it, along with Brynn, and Dave got a whole array of funky looking food. Brynn and I only ate the noodles and scooted the meat aside while Dave ate everything on his plate. He is braver than us I suppose. We got up to leave and try and find some things for our last minute shopping. We walked around for an hour or so before we realized that there was nothing we wanted in this huge area. We only had about an hour left so we rushed to the subway and went to another area where I had been with James to find electronics for Dave and souvenir items for Brynn and me. I thought we were supposed to get off at this one stop, but then realized we were not at all where we were supposed to be. Dave and Brynn were very frustrated, I was too, so we got into a cab and tried to tell the driver the area we were looking for. Once I saw a recognizable building I pointed and we stopped in the area I was familiar with. I walked us to the underground shopping mall and we all dispersed in a frenzy to spend out last Chinese dollars. I bought a couple of small statues and I think Brynn bought a few necklaces. Dave bought a huge suitcase and a pair of headphones before we needed to leave in order to make it back to the ship. We went to the taxi stand and had a very difficult time trying to get to the place we needed. Every taxi would say no or shake their heads at us, something I learned later from one of the Chinese students was due to the fact that we were white. We were all getting really mad at the drivers because we were running out of time and we could not find a single one to take us. Then in the distance a cab waved us down and said he would take us to the ship. We agreed because we thought there would be no other option and crammed into the small car with another student who was having the same problem. I knew the ship was not far away and had a sense of the direction we needed to go in. Then I realized I was seeing nothing familiar and saw that we were driving in a completely opposite direction. I was sure that we were going to be late and just closed my eyes in hopes that we would somehow make it. Dave was panicking because he had to be on ship in time or else he would be in serious trouble. We finally got to the area we were all familiar with and told the taxi where to go. He wouldn’t listen to us at first when we told him to go left, and kept on insisting to go right. Dave then yelled at him and the driver shut up and went the way we were telling him. He pulled up to the street and Dave jumped out of the car and ran for the ship. I told him that I would take his luggage for him, but that he needed to be on in time so not to worry. We paid the taxi and then Brynn and I slowly made our way to the gangway. She still had some money left and there were a few stands selling some souvenirs so she bought a couple of items as I went on board and to my room. I put my stuff up that I bought from the day and then met Dave for dinner on Deck 6. I ate a fairly decent meal and then went to my room to pass out. My body was so tired that I collapsed on my bed and didn’t wake up to anything until the next morning.
After visiting China I have come away with a lot of knowledge. I think that China will be a superpower someday, but it needs to advance in a lot of ways before it can do so. The government can not be so controlling of its people, well it can, I guess that would make it easier to kill off a bunch of “drones” if a war ever occurs. Maybe this is their tactic. Maybe they purposefully have so much control and such a large population so it can be used at their disposal. Or maybe I am just too mean and imaginative. I do give credit to China though for having so much control with such a large population. I also think it is horrible to have such a large population because it destroys the planet in so many ways and there is absolutely no way to provide for each individual, a reason why some of China still faces poverty and the GDP per capita is only $8,500 compared to the U.S. at $45,000. I went to China looking for ancient traditions and philosophies and came away with only the modern. This was in part because of the Cultural Revolution which destroyed much of ancient China. This was also the first time that I was, I must use this word, disgusted, with a culture on this voyage. I continue to wonder why I think this, why I could be so disgusted with a people and ideals. The only conclusion I can come to is that my expectations were not met, that I was surprised at what I was discovering. I also found similarities between our culture and theirs and maybe it was the differences that left a bad taste in my mouth. I do not plan to have this mentality for a long time. I just need time to truly reflect on my experience in the country in order to find a true appreciation for where I was. I do look forward to visiting China again, maybe not in the near future, but at some point down the road. I think it will be very beneficial for me to get another look at a country I sped through. Maybe taking my time will be better for me, and now that I have been there once I will know what to expect so that I can find a “deeper” China. Well I have only one more blog to write about that is on a foreign country before I get to Hawaii and soon to the Continental United States, eventually setting foot in DIA and driving up to Fort Collins. I am treasuring every moment I have left on this voyage, which is unfortunately only a couple more weeks. I look forward to seeing everyone when I get home, but absolutely do not look forward to saying farewell to this new one. This voyage was exactly what I needed in my life and I thank everyone so much for helping me get where I am at today. I love you all!

Posted by MVVincent 23:48 Archived in China Comments (1)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden China Part 2

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The next morning I woke up to the phone ringing. I completely forgot that I was in China and answered in a groggy voice. It was the tour operator confirming that the time of pick-up would be 7:50am. I said okay and then went back to bed because this gave us twenty more minutes to sleep and the both of us only had at most three hours of resting our eyes. Finally the alarm went off and I slowly got out of bed. I looked on my computer for any messages and to see if anyone was online to Skype, and when I saw that there wasn’t either, I went to get ready. We didn’t have much time and I needed to go to the ATM because the tour was only accepting cash so I got ready in a hurry. I woke Brynn up and then I went to the other hotel so I could use the ATM. The morning was dry and chilly and everyone was on their way to work. Once I got my money I met Brynn back in the lobby of the hotel. 7:50 was approaching fast and neither of us had time to eat breakfast so I quickly went back to the room and got a granola bar that Brynn gave me the day before. I returned to the lobby and gave her a piece because I didn’t want either of us to be sick on this trip. We waited in the lobby for about 15 minutes before a short man came running up asking if we were on the tour. He was a little late and in the amount of time we waited I thought that we could have gotten a full breakfast for a full day of energy. I shook hands with our guide, Jimmy, and then followed him to the bus, our transportation for the rest of the day. When I stepped on the bus I noticed that it full except for two seats in the front. They were all on the same tour with us and from different backgrounds. There was a man and his son from Latvia, a gay couple with their mom from San Diego, a whole family from India, and a mother with her daughter from China. Brynn and I sat in the two empty seats in the front and then got prepared for a very cramped ride. The buses were designed for small people with small legs, therefore the ride was extremely uncomfortable. My legs fell asleep within minutes and to counter what I thought would be the death of me, I too fell asleep. Jimmy was giving the usual speech a guide gives as we went through Beijing. I woke up when we arrived to our first destination on the tour, the Ming Tombs. We exited the bus and waited for Jimmy to buy all of our tickets. It was really cold and really windy outside and I only hoped that it was going to improve by the time we went to the Great Wall so that I would not be shivering the entire time. I only brought a small hoody for the entire trip because I thought that I was going to be in warm weather the whole time. I was wrong. For my last three ports it was actually fairly cold and felt like Springtime back in Colorado, minus the snow. We went through the gates and then Jimmy started to educate us on where we were at. The Ming Tombs was a place at the base of some mountains where all the royalty from the Ming Dynasty were buried. We walked around a large courtyard and then went into a large wooden museum where we saw a giant bronze statue of one of the emperors. I also got to see paintings, crowns, porcelain and jade that the Ming Dynasty used. Unfortunately the tombs were actually closed so we only got to go so far. The closest I got to the tombs was a map that was inside the museum showing the location of all the dead emperors. The tour there went by pretty quickly and we all got back on the bus to go to the next destination. In about ten minutes we pulled up to a jade factory. We were shown around inside and got to see how to tell real jade from fake and also how some of the pieces were carved. The factory was more of a set up from the government to showcase jade as well as to sell it to foreigners at a “wholesale” price. It was actually really expensive, but the reasoning was because it was carved here at this factory. I didn’t fall for it but instead just walked around admiring all of the art on the show floor. Before long a woman came up to me and started asking if I liked this or that. There was one piece of jade that I liked, it was a family ball with a dragon and phoenix carved on the outside. There were twelve holes to represent the months of the year and inside of it were two more balls with similar carvings to represent three generations of family bonded together. I decided to buy the piece and the woman helped me through the process. Then I went to look around some more and see if Brynn was interested in anything. Everywhere I went the woman followed me. I began to talk to her and found out that we were the same age. She was very pretty but I was too nervous to try and pursue anything so I continued to look around. It was actually starting to get annoying because five steps behind me was this woman, waiting for me to want to buy something else. I don’t think she realized I was a poor college student. Instead I like to think that she was following me because I looked so good  After about thirty minutes in the jade show room Jimmy called us to leave and get back on the bus. It was getting close to noon and the entire group was starving so we went to lunch. We pulled up to this other factory that made enamel and copper pottery and paintings. When we walked inside there was this huge shop for tourists and was set up by the government for people to buy a whole bunch of “authentic” expensive gifts. Before we could get lunch we had to go on a tour through the process of making the pottery and paintings which was actually pretty cool. I was still really hungry because I only had a half of a granola bar so I waited outside the restaurant along with the rest of the group to be shown to our seats for some grub. We finally sat down, with the Latvians and group from San Diego. In the middle there was a whole array of Chinese food on a Lazy Susan. It was fantastic food and to go with it I had a giant Beijing Beer. I got to eat spring rolls, dumplings, and noodles and it was all virtually unlimited. As we were eating dinner Brynn and I were asked a bunch of questions about Semester at Sea and the countries we had visited. It was pretty interesting to be asked the questions because it seemed like in all other countries we were the ones doing the asking. Eventually it was time to leave so we all filed out of the restaurant and got on the bus. We went to the best destination, the Great Wall! It was about a thirty minute drive from the restaurant so Brynn caught up on some more sleep on the drive over. We passed through the mountains and could see a lot of the wall perched up at the top. It was amazing to see the zig-zag of brick cut through these mountains, still standing from ancient times. We finally got to the Badaling section of the wall and filed into a very long line to take the gondola to the top. The ride was very fun and once we were at the top got a great view of the mountains and wall all around us. Brynn and I separated from the group and went on our own walk up to the top of one section. It was a very steep hike and filled with lots of people, but once we got to the top totally worth it. The wall was amazing and absolutely beautiful. I thought about Mulan and then thought about the many people it took to build this wall. There had to be so many lives lost just to keep a border constant and to keep out the Mongolians. I also thought about all of the guards that had to be on the wall day-in and day-out probably getting very bored and cold. We took a lot of pictures from the top of this one section and then made our way down to a place that was less crowded. All around us was trash and I could not help but be disgusted at the disrespect many of the people had for this world wonder. We took a lot more pictures at the other section of the wall and then had to leave because the tour group was waiting on us. We took the gondola ride back down and then finally got back on the bus for a long ride back to Beijing. I fell asleep while Brynn talked to Jimmy all about China and America. I woke up when we were passing the Olympic Stadium and thook a couple pictures. We went to our last destination, a silk factory that was set up in the same fashion as our other two stops where we were asked to buy very expensive silk. I held back because I knew that I would find cheaper items when we went to the Silk Market that night. I got to see how silk was made, which is a pretty cruel process of killing a lot of caterpillars inside of their cocoons, and then stepped outside to get some fresh air. I was ready to get back on the bus and get back to the hotel so that Brynn and I could have our own adventures. Once we got back to the hotel we got ready for the evening and then caught the subway to the Silk Market area. When we got out of the station we were stopped by a couple of Chinese students that were studying English and art. We talked with them for a little while and explained to them how much we had been enjoying China. We had to take our leave because it was getting late and we wanted to get something to eat and do some shopping before the market closed. When we got into the market we were bombarded by lots of women trying to sell anything you could think of from knock-off versions of Photoshop to bras and underwear. Brynn and I went to the basement where there was a food court and got some really good food and beer. I drank a couple and was getting a little buzzed so we went upstairs and got our bargaining faces on. The first place I went to was selling nice p-coats and because I needed to have a warm jacket I made my move and started bargaining for this nice Giorgio Armani jacket. The woman started out at 1,800 RMB but after some arguing I got it down to 400 RMB and bought the jacket. She was very upset with me but when I left she commented on what a great bargainer I was. I then went to buy a silk pillowcase, helped Brynn get a coat, bought some t-shirts, and a nice traditional Chinese button-up shirt. I left the market spending less than $100 and I was very happy. We were heading back to the station when we ran into the students again. They wanted to show us their artwork so we followed them to their college and went up to their studio. I was enamored with their work and was so grateful that they were showing us everything they had done. I like one piece so much that I had to buy it and it is now hanging up on my wall on the ship, when I get home I will have it framed and hang it up somewhere in my apartment. We took a couple pictures with the students and got their email addresses so that we could stay in touch and then made it back to the hotel from the subway station. We had to wake up really early to catch a flight so once we got to the room I crashed. Brynn stayed up for a while talking with friends and writing a cover letter for a job she wants this summer. I feel really bad for her because she maybe got an hour of sleep before we had to leave in the morning to the airport.
We woke up at 4:30am to get ready and be out of the hotel by 5. I had told the hotel the night before that we would be checking out early and need to have a taxi waiting for us. When we got down to the lobby there was a taxi driver waiting and he took us to the airport. When we got into the taxi we noticed that there was no meter so when we finally got to the airport we had to pay a ridiculous fee. I was very upset that the hotel did not hire a proper ride and will be writing in their survey that I was quite unhappy. We got to the airport and realized that I totally forgot to look at what flight we were on. I was really worried that we were going to miss another flight so I had to call my mom and have her find out which flight we were on. She could only find the flight number but I was using Brynn’s minutes so I told her that I love her and then hung up. Brynn and I went to the departures screen and found our flight. We went to the ticket counter, got our seats and then made it safely to the gate. We had to take a bus to the plane and once we got on, once again another sold out flight, we both passed out. We arrived in Shanghai a little early, but still in enough time that the ship would be docked and we wouldn’t have to wait around for a long time. We asked the information desk the best way to get to our ship’s location and she told us to take the subway. It was about a thirty minute ride but we soon got to our stop. When we walked out we noticed that we were in a huge market a lot like the one in Beijing from the night before. We were in no mood to bargain so we left the huge shopping mecca and found a taxi. On the way to the taxi stand though two men kept trying to sell us watches, we continued to tell them no, but they would not accept that as an answer. One man grabbed the paintings out of Brynn’s backpack and thankfully she caught it in time and snatched it out of his hands yelling at him “No, no, no.” We both gave them mean glares and then quickly got into a taxi. I had written down in Chinese letters where the ship was docked so the taxi got us there in a good amount of time and with no trouble. We paid the small fee and then tried to make our way to where we thought the ship was docked. Unfortunately the ship was not where it was supposed to be and Brynn and I kept getting directed to different places where we thought we were supposed to enter. Eventually we ran into a student that knew Chinese and he helped us find the entrance to the ship, although with some difficulty. We could see the ship, but we could not see where exactly we were supposed to enter. After 45 minutes of walking we finally found the entrance. We signed in because we had not been in transit with the ship and then went up the gangway and eventually to our room. I unpacked all of my stuff and organized my room and then set my alarm for 5:30 for dinner. I then got into my comfy bed and fell right asleep. I woke up to my alarm and then called Brynn to see if she wanted to get dinner on board and then go out for the night to see a little bit of Shanghai. She tiredly said okay and I met her in the dining hall. We ate a quick dinner and discussed what we should do for the night, looking at brochures that we picked up from the airport. We decided that we would go to a famous street and people’s square to just walk around and drink. We left the ship, looking snazzy in our new coats, and then got a taxi to take us to our destination. We walked down this amazing boulevard of lights and shops with people crowding and performing at every corner. I bought a few beers from the 7-Eleven and we continued to walk down the street. We saw a movie theater and thought it would be cool to go see a movie but once we got inside everything was in Chinese so we had no clue what we would see, plus it was expensive so we left and continued to walk down the long street. We eventually came to this candy market and went inside to buy a sampler of Chinese candy, a lot of which was not very good. After drinking a bit and walking around we got back in a taxi and went back to the ship. I went to my room and went back to bed. I woke up when James came back from his trip but then went back to bed. A few hours later I heard the door open which woke me up a little, but I just thought it was James going to the bathroom. After a minute I felt what I thought was him sit on my bed. In my mind I was thinking, “Why in the hell is James sitting on my bed?” I woke up and looked up to someone that was not James. I freaked out and backed my body towards the headboard. My room was very dark but I could only make out this figure that was rocking back and forth. My eyes soon adjusted and I realized it was one of the students in my hall. I asked him why he was in my room and how he got in but he did not reply, just continued to rock back and forth. My talking woke James up. He told me to shut up because he thought I was sleep talking but I didn’t stop talking to the student so he attempted to kick me. He actually kicked the student and when there was no response James too woke up and turned on all of the lights. Once they were on, James freaked out too. The student came too and looked very confused. We both asked him why he was in our room and how he got in to which he replied, “What? I thought I was in my room.” James and I told him that he obviously wasn’t and needed to leave and go to his room. He left our room and we hoped made it back to his. I got up and shut the door, making sure it was double locked and then got back in bed. We both concluded that our door must have not been shut all of the way and he was somehow able to make it inside. It scared us both a bit and it was difficult to get back to sleep. Eventually though I was able to close my eyes and drift away into la-la land.

Posted by MVVincent 23:47 Archived in China Comments (0)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden China Part 1

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So I last left you with an epic tale of epic proportions of epic Hong Kong…well not really, but I would like to think that because my voyage is soon coming to an end. I know that when I get home I am going to have a lot of reflection on my journey across the world. I am looking forward to sharing all of my amazing stories with you and am expecting to be a completely different person when I return, a person that has changed for the better. As my journey is beginning to come to a close I am not looking forward to saying farewell to many of the friends I have made on this trip, but at the same time, I am most definitely looking forward to saying hello to all those I left behind at home. I do fear, however, that you all will grow instantly tired of my experiences and stories, so I will keep them to a minimum so that neither jealousy nor hatred is sparked. I want to hear about all of your amazing experiences, new relationships, and new outlooks on life as you too have journeyed through a semester. Do not think that nothing has happened at home since I have been gone, it surely has been different and I am awaiting all of the fantastic things you have to say about your semester. I have not had the gossip I am so used to, so I will have to be caught up and it will be from the help of you, so don’t wait for me to tell you everything that is happening in the world, but instead tell me what is happening in the United States and in Colorado, because I have missed out. Just keep that in mind as I only have three more weeks before my feet touch ground in San Diego and eventually Denver.
Anyway, I last left you with a cliffhanger on my journey in Hong Kong. I was getting prepared one night for China so I will begin my story there…
I woke up around 7am and got some breakfast. Brynn and I were going to be traveling for the next few days together on a crazy journey through mainland China and we both agreed that we would need to leave the ship around 10:30am so that we could catch our flight, leaving no later than noon. After getting some breakfast I went back to bed to catch a couple more hours of sleep. My alarm went off and I dragged out of bed to get ready and pack my beds. I noticed that I did not have much time so I rushed to get my bag packed, making sure I would have clean underwear for the trip, and then got my computer to go upstairs so that I could print off the confirmation for the flights. I ran into Brynn in our usual meeting spot and gave her the postcards that she bought the previous day. This gave her enough time to write out the postcards while I was printing the confirmation. My computer was acting up as usual so it took me longer to try and print out the confirmation for our hotel and the flight. While I was waiting for my computer to work I went back to my room to pack my laundry because I was not going to be able to do it for another week when I got back and I was running out of clothes. I shoved as many clothes into the small plastic bag and set it outside my door for it to be picked up the next day. Then, I went back to the computer lab where I was hoping to print off the confirmations. We were running out of time so I quickly printed the flight confirmation and wrote down the confirmation number of the hotel. Then, because we were running a half an hour late thanks to me, we left in a hurry to catch the train to the airport. We were not flying out of Hong Kong International but instead out of Shenzhen Airport because it was saving us over $100 per ticket. Because we were leaving out of a different airport we were going to have to catch the subway to the end of the line and then transfer over to another train that would take us to the airport. We walked outside and Brynn had been looking at the subway map so that we would know where we needed to catch the subway. We got on the ferry that was taking us to Hong Kong Island because that is where we thought the subway terminal was. She pulled out the map, saying that she was confused because it said the terminal was on a different island. I looked at the map and realized that we needed to be on the same island, actually peninsula, as the ship. So, we got off the ferry, back on the ferry and returned back to the other island. This took another half hour out of our time to get to the airport, so we got into a taxi and went straight to the correct station. Once we were there we went to the information booth so that we could get some help on which train we needed to take which took about another ten minutes. We finally figured out what train we needed and bought our tickets. I looked up at the departure list and saw that our train was leaving in four minutes. We rushed through the ticket booth and terminal, down the escalators, and onto the subway, barely making it. The doors closed and we were off. The train had a few stops, but took about half an hour to reach the border going into China. Once we were there we had to walk through a long line of customs and immigrations to get into China. We came to the first stop where we presented our passports. Then we went to the second stop where we would get the passport stamped, and then one more stop where our bags would be checked before finally clearing and reaching China! We were really running late so we once again asked information on the fastest route to get to the airport. We were told that a taxi would be the best route so we went outside and stood in line for a taxi. Once we got into one we were confronted with a language barrier. We tried our best to convey that we wanted to go to Shenzhen Airport, giving hand gestures of a plane and speaking slowly so that the driver would understand. Once we pointed on a map where we needed to go the driver was off and we were praying that we would get to our destination and not some random place in the middle of Shenzhen. After about forty minutes we pulled up to the airport terminal and booked it to the ticket booth. We had about twenty minutes left and finally found a booth that was open for AirChina. I presented him our passports and flight confirmation. He typed in some numbers and then told us we were too late, the flight had already taken off. “Shit!” is all we could think. I am pretty sure we were both mad at ourselves, not each other, that we missed the flight. If only I had gotten ready earlier we would have probably made it onto the plane in time. I do not in anyway blame Brynn for this mishap, we all make mistakes, especially me, and we must learn from them. Since we were out of luck on this flight, we had to go to a different counter to find another flight to Beijing leaving from the airport. We asked the counter to help us out and they told us that there was only one other flight leaving to Beijing and it was leaving in an hour. The price was $150, but we had no other option so we had to book them. I bought my ticket with my credit card and Brynn tried to buy hers with her debit card but it was not working. I still owed Brynn some money because she bought my rail pass for Japan so I tried using my card and it too did not work. I eventually convinced one of the women behind the counter to use her phone to call my mom and explain the situation while also trying to get a little extra money so that I could pay for the ticket. I could not talk long so I asked her very quickly and then hung up. I was very frustrated about this situation and was upset that I ended up paying for two tickets at the price it would have taken to leave from Hong Kong. Looking back on it, if we had not missed the flight, it would have been so much easier to leave out of Hong Kong and we would have been just fine. Oh well, shit happens sometimes. While we were waiting Brynn went to an ATM and was able to withdraw money so she got enough to cover her flight and we went back to the counter where she bought her ticket for the same flight. The plane was leaving out of a different terminal so we had to walk to the other side of the airport to check in. Once we got there I went to the electronic ticket counter and was able to choose my seat and print out a ticket. There were only two seats left next to each other so I rushed over to Brynn, who was standing in a regular line to get her ticket to go to the electronic counter. She was lucky, we were on a completely full flight and she reserved the seat right next to me. We began to sigh relief but didn’t calm down yet. We still had to go through security and make it to our gate and board the plane before we knew we were safe. As we were waiting in line for security we watched a tv that was in 3D without using glasses. It was so cool to us and really made me want one of these televisions back at home. I still am impressed with the technology that allows that and think that it is going to be the newest thing with tv’s once it comes out in the United States. I got to the security counter, presented my ticket and began to talk to the female guard about my piercings. She was so amazed that I had a ring in my lip and was asking if it hurt at all. I pulled at it and showed her that it was painless, receiving a huge laugh and a face of fright from the woman. I thought it was so funny and she waved bye to me as I went through the x-rays before leaving the security area. Security in China is not as intense so I did not have to take off my belt or shoes, just put my things in a box and walk right through, it was actually fairly easy and moved quickly. When Brynn and I were through security we made our way to the gate. We had about twenty minutes before our boarding time so we waited there and began to relax, we were not going to miss this flight and eventually we would be in Beijing! The flight began to board and Brynn and I made our way to our seats, at the very back of the plane. There were three seats in the middle so I took the one next to this man giving Brynn the aisle. She seemed a bit stressed so I wanted her to be comfortable throughout the flight so that we would still have a fun time in Bejing. We took off into the air and I immediately went to sleep. The man sitting next to me took up more space then he needed and kept kicking my feet to move them. He was driving me crazy and I was ready to punch him in the face if he would not leave me in peace to sleep. After taking a short nap, the steward came around passing out dinner for everyone. I chose the noodles and got a Coke to drink. The meal was actually quite decent. I could not help but laugh at everyone around us though because none of them knew how to use a fork, they were all so used to chopsticks. They all ate with their mouths open and made noises that I do not wish to hear again. They also ate extremely close to their food, almost having their entire in the plate. Brynn and I made a few jokes, and then I went back to sleep. My seat would also not recline, so I had to sit up straight for the entire flight in an uncomfortable position as I tried to sleep. Before I knew it we were landing in Beijing. It took a while to get off the plane and as we were waiting Brynn pointed out a woman that was wearing glasses that had no lenses. I didn’t believe her until I noticed this woman and told her that it must have been a fashion thing, or maybe it was this new technology we didn’t know about that gave people the power to see without lenses, but I doubted it. We left the plane into the cold night air where we had to catch a bus to get to the main terminal. I thought to myself that for such a large airport there should be more gates right next to the terminal so that they would not have to spend money on buses to transport people from the airport to the plane. We were stuffed inside this bus shoulder to shoulder and finally arrived at the main terminal. From there we started to make our way outside. I didn’t know the exact name of the hotel so I went to the information booth to get some help on how to get there. They called around to all of the Novotels, the name of the hotel we were staying at, and finally found our reservation. They advised against a taxi and insisted on the personal driver they could hire for us. We were both really tired and agreed and a few minutes later were walked to a very nice Audi with a personal driver. I felt like royalty. The driver took us to our destination, although it was close enough we could have used a subway to get there, but we didn’t know this until we arrived at the hotel. I checked into the Novotel and was given a great map and list of things that we could do the next day. We got in the elevator and went up to our room. Once I opened the door I had to put my room key in this slot so that the lights would turn on. When the room was lit up I noticed that we were going to be enjoying our stay here. The room had two nice twin beds, a giant panda animal, mini-bar, free wifi, and a small lounge with a large flat screen tv. The room was also set up to be very zen and had a very neat square design. The bathroom was also very nice and Brynn and I were surprised that for once what was described online to us is what we were receiving. I got to talk to my mom on Skype that night for a long time as well as my dad. It was getting pretty late so we both went to bed so that we would have a full day of Beijing the next day. The bed was so comfortable that I fell asleep within minutes and would have great dreams, something I had not had in a very long time.
When I woke up the next day, around 9am, I was able to get back on Skype to say hello to my Mom. She called who she could for me so that I could talk to them for a little bit on speaker phone, and then I was able to get a hold of my brother so that I could Skype him and see my baby. I got to see my brother and it made me feel so great to see that he was much happier than the last time I had seen him. He was smiling and making jokes as usual and of course making faces on his computer because he loves checking himself out. I also got to see a couple of friends that were living in my apartment, taking my place so that they could help out with rent. It was great getting to talk to them because it had been such a long time, or at least seemed that way. I also got to meet my brother’s new girlfriend Katie. She seemed very nice and it will be nice to meet her in person when I get home, of course Nich will need my approval before anything else . After talking to them for a little while I got to see my baby. She seemed a bit bigger but I was so excited to see her. According to my brother she went to the door to “wait for me” because she heard my voice on Skype but didn’t know where I was. It made me really sad that I could not be there to pick her up and giver all of my love, but don’t worry MJ! I will be home soon! After talking with the family Brynn and I got ready because we had to check out of the hotel. I tried to see if they could give us a deal so we could stay there for the three nights, but they could not give me a cheaper rate. Instead I booked two nights at the hotel that was directly behind the Novotel because it was a great location to get back to the airport and was near the subway station so that we could easily get around the city. We went over to the hotel so that we would not be carrying around our bags all day. Once we got to the room we were a bit disappointed. It was very small and was almost like staying on the ship, expect the ship’s beds were way more comfortable. It would work though, it was only two nights and it still had free internet so it would be fine for two days. We left from the Ibis, the crappier hotel, and went to the subway station to get a start on our day. We had a loose itinerary for the day and the first place that we wanted to go to was the Forbidden City. We took the subway station to Tiannamen Sqaure because the Forbidden City was located on the north side of it. When we came out of the station we were confronted with what seemed to be all of China. There were people everywhere, I had never seen so many in one place! We got a good look of the square, supposedly the largest in the world, but did not make it to the center for some pictures. Instead we were both really hungry so we walked around to find a restaurant. We walked for a while until we came up to this small restaurant that had outdoor and inside dining. It looked pretty authentic and because we were starving we decided to eat there. It was actually really nice. We got to sit outside with the locals and I ordered a noodle dish while Brynn got some dumplings. The meals were fantastic and very affordable. We finished up the two dishes and then made our way back to the entrance of the Forbidden City. On our way there Brynn and I kept noticing that everyone was staring at me because of the piercings. When I say stare, I mean stare! They would keep a fixed look on me for as long as I was passing by them. Even if I made eye contact with them they would not look away. It actually made me feel really uncomfortable and I was starting to get angry because throughout the next couple of days I received stares constantly. It really was obvious that I was walking in a very different culture, and they were witnessing something they had never seen. We got to the entrance of the Forbidden City where the gates had a huge portrait of Mao Zedong hanging over the arches. As we walked through I got even more stares and there were a lot of pictures being taken of us, discretely of course. The Chinese had this strange fascination with white people and it was almost like we were famous as we walked through the giant corridors leading up to the Imperial Palace. We walked through many corridors and gates until finally reaching a ticket booth. The entire place wasa crowded with people and I still cannot fathom how so many people there were, tourists and locals alike. The Forbidden City took four hours to walk through, the place was absolutely enormous. No picture or description can really give you an idea of how big the place was, it is something that you will have to see on your own to get a true understanding of what we were seeing. I took a lot of pictures and had a lot of admiration to the dedication and attention to detail it took to build such a monument for the emperor. I think we walked through nine huge gates before finally reaching the palace. Each of the buildings leading up to it were very similar and had a beautiful arched design. I love the architecture of the Chinese and really admire the dedication they had for their political figures, even if sometimes they were not the best. I also can understand why China was such a great power in history and also why it is gaining power as we reach into the future. After a long time at the Forbidden City, Brynn and I wanted to go to the top of this hill where a temple was built so that we could get a great view of the city and of the enormous place we just walked through. We paid a small fee to go into this park where we climbed to the top where the temple was located. Once we were there we encountered even more people, wanting to do the exact same thing as us. There were honestly so many people it was overwhelming. I would say that at least a couple million people were visiting the sites and I didn’t know why until later. We were right in the middle of a holiday that celebrates mothers and fathers. Everyone had three days off work and so they all went to tour the sites in Beijing. Once we were done getting a great view of the city and its surroundings we went down to the streets to find a place to eat and a place that was recommended to us by the hotel where we could shop and drink while relaxing. It took us a while to find what we were looking for, but we eventually found this small market that sold little sesame cakes, so we bought a couple and sat down to rest our feet and eat. It was great to take a break from the long day, but we still wanted to find this other place on the lake so we hired a rickshaw driver to take us there. We rode through the Hutongs, somewhat like shantytowns but much safer before finally reaching the place we were looking for. We walked through some more crowds and then finally came upon this large lake with shops, bars, and restaurants all around the banks. We walked around for a while and saw some pretty interesting things. There were people paddle boating on the lake, men fishing, kids flying kites, lots of people riding bikes and lots of couples walking around. We also saw cotton candy that was five times the size of my head with people giggling and laughing at an attempt to eat it. I also saw a lot of bars with musicians performing inside. It was a beautiful place and a great experience to be walking through all of it. We eventually came up to a lot of restaurants and we were really hungry from using up all of our energy so we sat down to eat. I ordered a beer and got some crispy tofu while Brynn got a beer and rice. It was a great meal and we sat on a porch that went out into the lake. I had a great time eating but we both were getting exhausted and still wanted to see the silk market so we left from that area to try and find the subway station that would take us there. As we were walking out I noticed a stand that was selling fried scorpions! I wanted to try some, but was a bit weary so we continued on our way. It was getting dark so we ended up following crowds through the Hutongs, asking for directions many times, before we finally got to the station we were looking for. We bought our tickets and had to transfer trains before finally reaching what we thought was our destination. Turns out that we had to walk a fair distance before we would get to the Silk Market, by the time we got there the market was already closed. We were both really exhausted so we went to the Starbucks and noticed that there was a station right next to the market that we could have stopped so that we would not have to walk as far. Brynn got an expensive latte and then we made our way back to the hotel. We finally got there around 10pm and I bought a bottle of wine from the front desk and we went to the room. Brynn had to use the internet so she went to the lobby to talk with her friends and family while I stayed in the room talking to my mom once more and my brother. It was another great talk but that could have been from the wine, which was not that great. Eventually I was starting to close my eyes because of exhaustion so I took a shower and then looked up tours to the Great Wall that would be affordable for us. I found one that was $25 and provided lunch as well as transportation from the hotel. I reserved a couple of spots and then went to bed because we would have to wake up early in order to get on the tour. I let Brynn know about the time and then I passed out.

Posted by MVVincent 23:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

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