Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Off again!

We are leaving soon for two weeks in England, where we'll be mainly visiting motorcycle museums. My husband is a motorcycle fanatic! The photo is one I took of him when we visited the London Motorcycle Museum in 2003 on a trip we took to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. I call it "praying to the god of motorcycles." Actually, he was kneeling to get a close-up photograph of one bike.

It seems weird to be going somewhere other than China. Three of my last four international trips have been to China. The only non-China trip was to Munich in the spring of 2007. What can I say? I like China! Especially Beijing!

When we were in London in 2003, the bird flu was making the rounds. This time it's the swine flu which is killing the people.
We visited London's Chinatown in 2003, and I picked up a few ingredients that are hard to find here. We'll probably visit again on this trip, if I can pry Jon away from motorcycles. We walked by Westminster Abbey on that trip, but didn't go in. I joke that's because there were no motorcycles on the altar!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Park yourself in a park!

It was a nice sunny spring day yesterday, so I climbed on my motor scooter and headed for Columbia Park for a photo shoot. As far as I'm concerned Columbia Park is THE park in the Tri-Cities, where we live.

It's right on the banks of the Columbia River, which was as smooth as glass yesterday, even with the little ripples made by mother geese teaching their new goslings to swim. What was interesting about this is Mom led the flock, with another adult goose or two bringing up the rear, making sure none of the little ones got lost.

All this reminded me how much I love Beijing's parks. Beijing has a lot of them, ranging in size from vest pocket, like across from the Gulou subway station on Second Ring Road, to huge, like Beihai Park and the Summer Palace. They are my favorite parks in Beijing, and still are. I try to visit them each time I return to Beijing. I especially like the parks in the spring, when the trees are greening up and blossoming out. I also just like to sit on a bench and watch life go by. One night a small mouse scampered across my feet at Beihai Park -- that I did not enjoy; maybe he was frightened by the fireworks we'd come to watch. Beihai's White Dagoba Temple is pictured above.

Another park that I liked a lot was Tuanjiehu, a small park filled with ponds and bridges, and, at 6 a.m., people dancing, on Third Ring Road between Lufthansa and World Trade centers. I only went there once, but YuYuanTan Park was stunning -- and huge. It is so big, they allowed people to ride their bikes through it. Once, at Purple Bamboo Park, a friend and I came across a fashion show which was unique in that the clothes being modeled were all made of bamboo. I don't imagine sitting down would have been very comfortable.

The smaller ponds at the parks were filled with gold fish, as most park ponds in China. I found it interesting that children would be sitting on the bank or bench, fishing poles in hand, trying to catch a gold fish. I often wondered if this was a catch-and-release exercise or if they took the fish home.

For more information about travel in China, please visit my website.

Until next time, zai jian!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Art in public places

Jon and I took an outing to northeastern Oregon yesterday. We had to cope with a late-spring snowstorn and horrendous white-out conditions, but the drive to Joseph was worth it. I remember going to Joseph as a kid; our parents took us camping to Wallowa Lake for a week almost every summer. Joseph was just a sleepy little town to drive through. No more! I was stunned yesterday to see magnificent bronze statues lining a three-block section of Main Street. Horses, deer, wolves, cougars, fish, cowboys (a cowboy on a bucking bronc was especially mind-boggling!) and Indians. Joseph, Oregon, is named after Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe.

You can read more about Joseph's Art Walk in the article I wrote for Suite101. This wasn't a planned article, but I couldn't help myself. I just had to share this with others.

Art in public places adds so much to a city. I really enjoyed the sculptures the government placed around Beijing. Usual places like parks, but also alongside major highways or just somewhere on a sidewalk. Whoever decided to place the gigantic beer mug in Sanlitun had to have a keen sense of humor. Not only is Sanlitun a key embassy area, it has many watering holes popular with partying foreigners. The Xinhua bookstore in Xidan had an uneven stack of books for its statues. And the rickshaw driver on the Wangfujing pedestrial mall was very popular with Chinese and foreigners alike who would hop in the rickshaw for a photo op.

The Olympic Green in Beijing is filled with sculptures the length of the green. They also are popular places for people to have their pictures taken. When we were in Beijing, I didn't have time to walk the length of the green to see all the statues, but the ones I did see were great. I particularly enjoyed the two people, dressed in ancient garb, playing soccer.
For more information about traveling in China, please see my website.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hoppy Easter!

Last year we spent Easter in Shanghai. This year we're staying home.

Easter is not a major holiday in China, usually only celebrated by the big hotels that cater to foreigners. The first Easter I lived in China, we went to church and then to the Panjiayuan flea market, then held in a big dirt field. The second Easter, we went to Sunday brunch at a major hotel, but that was it. So when Jon and I knew we were going to spend Easter in Shanghai, we wanted to make it special for our Chinese friends.
All that was on the agenda for the day was hanging out at our young friends' new condo, which they'd just moved into the week before. Shuo's mom and step-dad came down from Beijing for our visit.

Jon and I decided to have an Easter egg decorating contest. We took over a couple of different Easter egg coloring kits and some stickers. After lunch, we set up the dining table with everything: boiled eggs, paper cups full of dye, marking crayons, transfers and marking pens plus ribbons and fabric for anyone who wanted to get really creative.

We spent the next couple of hours decorating the eggs -- a first for our Chinese friends. They took this very seriously. There was much discussion on what to do, and what would be the best way to go about it. Should the egg have Chinese characteristics? Should it be simple? Should it be fancy? Of course, this was a big deal. After all, a chocolate bunny was at stake. We brought the bunny to give as a prize to the person who made the best decorated egg. The winner was decided by popular vote. You can see our results above.
Celebrating holidays in a foreign land, and sharing it with good friends makes holidays just that much more special. Last Easter was one we'll remember for a long time. This year we'll be spending Easter at home, but thinking of our faraway friends and all the fun we had on that trip.

If you're planning a trip to China, please check out my website for more information. If you have questions about travel in China, please feel free to email me.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

50 articles!!!

Yesterday, I submitted my 50th article to Suite101.com. Fifty articles is considered a milestone at S101 because then writers are eligible for a bonus on their earnings. A majority of the articles have been related to travel in China in some way, but I've done a few for the motorcycles section and some on Maryhill Museum.

Maryhill Museum is a wonderful little museum located out in the middle of nowhere, but well worth a stop if you're traveling between Portland and Boise. It sits on a high bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge so the views are stunning. Maryhill has the largest collection of Rodin statues on the West Coast; numerous memorabilia,including thrones, from the Romanian royal family; a replica of Stonehenge, and Theatre de la Mode, a collection of wire mannequins wearing the latest World War II Parisian fashions. The "dolls," what I called them back then, is one of my two memories from the first time I visited Maryhill when I was six years old. I also remember the signs warning visitors to look out for rattlesnakes, though I've never seen on my many visits since that time.

Here are some of the latest stories I've written on China for S101:
  • Chinese money comes in a variety of sizes and colors, making it a little easier to cope with unfamiliar money in an unfamiliar land. You'll spend it just as fast, though!

  • A list of Beijing tourism offices where you can go to get on-the-spot help.

  • The Yellow Crane Temple is a major site to see in Wuhan, which doesn't have a lot to offer in the way of tourist attractions. The inside of the temple has a huge magnificent mosaic of a flying crane. I remember the temple visit because I was fined 10 yuan for taking pictures at a wonderful bell concert. Luckily, the officials didn't confiscate my film, so I got off lightly, though if I'd known I was going to be fined for taking two pictures, I would have taken a lot more!

  • Going to church in Beijing, or any foreign city, is something I always try to do as I look upon church attendance as part of the cultural experience. I remember breaking out in tears when I attended an Evensong service at Canterbury Cathedral because it was so moving.

I also found time to post an update to my website on traveling in China yesterday. I added four new pages and revised a few others. If you have questions about traveling in China, please feel free to contact me via email.