Sunday, February 27, 2011

One crazy adventure! Part 2

Part 2

Okay, now that we got the destination out of the way, let’s now focus on how we got there.

Some of you may be familiar with how people get around in China but others may not. So, before I start into the worst, most adventurous bus ride ever I am going to talk about some of the common forms of transportation in China.

As we all know, just about everyone in America owns a car. Okay, not every person, but most will own one at some point in time. Most families will commonly have 2 cars. Some kids will get one for their 16th birthday. However, in China, mass transportation is still the way to go. Not saying that you will not see cars here, more people are owning cars each year in China. A car is a huge status symbol. People owning cars is becoming a major issue with moving transportation through a huge city. But, your everyday average Chinese will still use mass transportation.

In a city, like the one I live in, taxis, buses, and a soon to be finished subway are the most used form of transportation. Then when you want to travel to other cities you will usually go by long distance buses or train. Side note, I use to like to take trains but have gotten over it since being here. Well, except for the really fast train to Shanghai. It is faster then Nascar. I think we have got close to 220mph on it. Side note ended. Also, airlines are starting to compete with trains as another major form of transportation. A train ticket to Beijing from Hangzhou will cost around 400 yuan and take about 11+ hours. You can usually pay 500-700 yuan for a 2 hour flight. Just a little more but saves a lot of time. At times we can even find flights cheaper than trains.

My first year in China I still loved to take trains. And it was still the cheapest way to cover a long distance. When I say long distance, I mean a LONG distance. We lived in the city of Ningbo my first year in China. It is a coastal city, located on the east coast of China. On a map you need to look for Shanghai and then look below it to find Ningbo. Compared to a US map, it might be in the area of Savannah, Georgia, or maybe a little north of it. The city we were heading to was called Chongqing. It is where the boat trip started. Looking at a US map it might be in the area of Utah, not exactly Utah, but just think about the distance compared to where Savannah is.

We needed to take a train to get there. But, one thing about traveling with trains in China is that you cannot purchase tickets all the way to certain places. You purchase a ticket so far, then you get to your destination and then purchase your next tickets. This does not always go smoothly. There can be times where you show up to your destination and go to purchase your next tickets, but there are no tickets available for the next 1-5 days. So, you either get standing tickets or you wait.

So, we went to the train station and got our tickets to Wuhan. It was a 12 hour overnight train, and was about the halfway point to Chongqing. We were going to have to wait to get tickets to Chongqing after we got to Wuhan. We get to Wuhan, get in line only to find out there will be no tickets for 3 days. It was a Friday and our boat reservations were for Sunday night. Doing the math, you can quickly see that we are not in a good place. After waiting for 3 days, we would then have another 15 or so hours of traveling on the train before we would get there. Making it about 4 days until we get to Chongqing. We talked to a few people around the train station and was told that we could get a bus to Chongqing from Wuhan. We decided that we would check it out. Lucky for us they had tickets leaving in a few hours and it was going to be much cheaper then a train. So, we got the tickets. And we were told that the bus was a bus with beds on it. I have never heard of a bus with beds on it but was super excited about getting to ride on a bus with beds. In my mind, it was the greatest idea ever. Or at least I thought it would be...

Next up: The bus ride

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One crazy adventure! Part 1

The story I am about to tell took place about 4 years ago. I have told this story to many people and every time I finish telling it everyone says I should write about it. So, I decided that now is the time to do it. It will be a long story so I decided to write it in several different parts. I will try to post the whole story over the next 2 or 3 weeks.

I will begin the story by telling you a little about the culture of China and why we travel for over a month each year. I will also mention something about what we were going to see that caused this adventure.

We break up our holidays in America over a 1 1/2 month period. A week for Thanksgiving, then we go back to work or school. Then we get another break for Christmas and New Years. Well, in China they take off for about 1 1/2 month straight from school. It is at this time they have all their major celebrations. Chinese New Year, lantern festival, birthdays, etc. At this time the schools want us to leave their campus. That way they do not have to worry about us and they save money on utilities. It is to expensive to go back to America so we usually travel. (I know, traveling is so bad. Poor little Kevin. :))

My first year here in China, me and my friend Emily decided that we wanted to go to see the Three Gorges before we went south to warmer places. The Three Gorges are one of the many things you should see in China according to the Chinese and all the books on what to see or do in China. They are a series of rivers and canals that run through some mountains in central China. The Three Gorges are connected to the Yangzhe River, Asia’s longest river. It runs from the mountains of Tibet, in western China, to Shanghai, located on the east coast.

Here are some pictures for you

I will finish this blog saying one more thing about the Three Gorges. About 15 years or so ago China began to build the largest Dam in the world on the Yangtze River. This dam has caused many debates over safety and the destroying of cultural sites and relics. After the dam was completed, everything before the dam started to rise. Here is a quote from an article I found talking about how much the water will rise, "The river was blocked in June 2003 at the end of phase 2 of the construction project, and the waters started to rise. In 2004, the water was 443 feet above sea level, but will eventually reach 575 feet above sea level in 2009." That is a crazy amount of water being contained by the dam. In fact, some think the Sichuan earthquake may had been caused by all the weight added by the rising water on the fault. We decided to go see the Gorges because of the rising water. We wanted to see some sites before they were buried under. Some of the sites we got to see where just weeks away from shutting down for good. The Gorges are still there but you much less of the mountains today.

Coming soon, part 2

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sugarcane Kevin

Many may not know this but Vietnam is much like China when it comes to celebrating the New Year. However in Vietnam they call it Tet. Many of the same things that are done in China are also done in Vietnam.

The place we are staying at is called Mui Ne, and is located close to a bigger city called Phan Thiet. Phan Thiet is a fishing village for the most part. The few nights leading up to Tet, the city of Phan Thiet hosted a night market and carnival to help bring in the New Year. We were invited to come one night by a Vietnamese person we got to know, and her husband. We jumped on our motorbikes, (we being Stan, Juliane, Justin Hill, Shannon Hill, and their son Conner), and rode to the night market and met our friend Jane and her husband there. (If you came last year with us, you might remember Jane from the Sunset restaurant. Stan got to know her really well.)

As we were walking around seeing the sights we came across some people making sugarcane juice. I had it one time in Cambodia and thought it would be neat to have everyone else try it. We sat down and Jane ordered for us, and she paid. Nice people the Vietnamese!! While we were watching it be made I remembered how on one season of The Amazing Race they had to make some for themselves and drink it. I thought it would be cool to try it myself. So, Jane asked for me and this is what happened.

I became a sugarcane juice salesman.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

One Incredible Day in Vietnam

Five days ago I was blessed with an awesome opportunity. We have grown close to some people here in Vietnam, close enough that some of them invited us into their homes. We were able to meet their families, pets, and learn a little more about how they live life. It was a day I will never forget!

We got up early to meet one of them at a restaurant they work at. Only one of the girls, Thuong, was there to meet us. We had to rent motorbikes, (Vietnam's number one method of transportation is motorbikes, and they have more motorbikes then any country in the world), then we had to travel for about a hour and a half to another girls house we had met at the same restaurant, Fie. The motorbike trip was really fun, I now see why people in the states like them. After arriving at Fie’s house we got the chance to meet her family, all which did not speak any English. They were kind and offered us many things to snack on, including rice paper. I mention rice paper for a reason. We had the joy just a few minutes after eating it to see how they make it.

The process is rather long to explain, but Stan managed to get some video.

While we were watching them make rice paper they asked if one of us wanted to try and do it. So I stepped forward and gave it a try. This is what happened.

Not my best effort, haha!

Next we left Fie’s home and said goodbye, maybe to never see her again. From there we went on to Thuong’s house to meet her family and friends. The only way to explain where she lived is saying that “she is a country girl.” I mean turn off the gravel road to a dirt road country girl. All of her family are farmers and farm dragon fruit. Dragon fruit really does not have a taste but for some reason is very good.

We met her parents and her best friend. Then her parents served us an amazing lunch on the floor. It consisted of cauliflower, 2 kinds of meat, carrots, and a soup with tomatoes in it. We also had rice paper yet again. What you did was take everything and put it into the rice paper, like a burrito, then wrap it up. After that you dip it into the tomato soup. What made the experience really neat was sitting on the floor. I have never done that before, but knew it existed in some Asian cultures.

After lunch, and a short nap time, we went to meet the rest of the family members and to see the farm. She had 10 uncles that all lived within 200 yards of each other and we had to meet them all. As we arrived at each home we were met with more food. It was some of the most natural and best tasting food I have had in a long time. Fresh dragon fruit right off the tree, coconut shavings that had been sugared and sat in the sun to dry, and my favorite, coconut pancakes. They were like wafers but made with coconut and flour. I could not eat enough of those things. After meeting the family it was time to go back to our resort. I may never see those people again but the kindness and things they showed me will always be in my heart. I learned a great deal about family and kindness from these people.