Friday, April 14, 2017

China Trip (April 14, 2016)

Today was a loooooong day.  We had our wake up call at the hotel at 4:00am.  Got all our stuff, Prairie and Zephyr just slept in the clothes they were going to travel in.  The hotel had packed breaskfast boxes for us.  Our tour guide met us and our driver drove us to the airport.  We were flying Chengdu to Shanghai, then Shanghai to Seattle, Washington, then Seattle to Salt Lake city.

We had to go through customs twice and security 3 times.  There were major long lines in Seattle, so we missed our connecting flight to Salt Lake City.  My mom's flight was supposed to get into Salt Lake city a little after us and then we would meet up with her and Carma after 12 days away.  She ended up having to wait at the airport for like 2 hours waiting for us.  But we all met up, picked up my dogs from my aunt's house and made it back to Provo.  We were all asleep by 9pm.  It was so good to be back in our own beds.

Waiting in Seattle for Ben to get new flights to Salt Lake City

Carma staying entertained in the Salt Lake airport waiting for us

Reunitied with Carma

Thursday, April 13, 2017

China Trip (April 13, 2016)

Today is our last full day in China.  Tomorrow we are traveling home.  I was wondering if flying to Chengdu to really only spend one day was worth it.  It is so much work to pack everything up and fly to another city, but it was totally worth it to go to the Panda Research Center.  I am glad that it was our last thing, because the kids have been so excited to do this activity, it made the last full day something to look forward to instead of something to just get through.

Today has been a great day. The forecast was 60% rain, but we didn't have any rain. We had a 40 minute drive through traffic to the Panda Research Center. The kids really enjoyed the Pandas. I really enjoyed the pandas. We also had fun buying panda souvenirs, we had been planning to buy Panda stuff so we spent a decent amount of time at the souvenir shops.

We took a lot of pictures. The youngest pandas are like 9 months old, which is quite large, larger than our kids. They aren't these tiny cute Cubs that you imagine. We got to watch a video on the baby pandas. I really enjoyed that a lot. Kevin (our tour guide) got them to play the 10 minute video in English. Zephyr liked it so much that he wanted to watch again. I wouldn't have minded, but everyone else was waiting so we went to lunch. The most interesting thing we learned is that 50% of panda pregnancies are twins, but the mother will only take care of the healthiest of the twins. So in the wild, no smaller twins every survive, but in captivity, basically 100% of smaller twins survive because of bottle feelings and the zoo keepers care. We got to see video of the baby pandas growing, when they are 3 months old they learn to walk, it was so cute to watch! We also got to see twin pandas that once they were old enough to not need their mother they were in the same enclosure, and they were fun to watch together. They like to do somersaults, they fight with each other and then lay next to each other. It looks like human siblings.

The other thing I found really interesting was a little hands on display of infant pandas. They had a rubber infant panda that was the same size and similar weight and looked just like an infant panda. it is just pink, looks like a baby mouse or rat, with no fur yet. they don't get their black and white markings until almost 3 weeks. They also had an incubator in there in the display and you could put the little rubber infant in. Zephyr and Prairie really enjoyed trying that out.

We had lunch at the Panda Research Center. Then we drove home, packed everything, took naps.

Autumn likes to do my hair in the drives

 Then we went out to Hotpot (Ben decided to skip and sleep longer, since we had to get up so early the next morning). It was such a cool experience for the last night. It had a communist theme, for one pot, communal. I loved the food and we are so glad we had Kevin with us. This wasn't on our itinerary, but Autumn's friend told her we had to try hotpot, so we asked our tour guide about it and he arranged everything for us, did the ordering, show us how to cook the food in the hot pot.  He really made it such an enjoyable experience.

After dinner we went and picked up Ben and then went to the face changing Opera.  It was fun, we weren't allowed to take photos, so no pictures.  It was fun to try to figure our how they change their masks to fast.  There was one mask that malfunctioned and that was interesting to see.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

China Trip (April 12, 2016)

We went to Elephant Trunk Park. It is a nice park with a cool Karst formation, but nothing rally special. The weather was a little rainy, but then it started raining pretty steadily while we were there. We left the park in a rush.

The family in front of the rock formation that looks like an elephant trunk

The water was really high on the river, these elephants aren't usually covered in water

We then went to Reed Flute cave. There are 2,200 known caves in the Guilin area. This cave was really cool. No hiking to the cave, just walking up some stairs and there you are. They had the cave decorated with all these colorful lights that really highlighted the cave well. It was really beautiful and had large caverns with lots of cool formations. Linda had fun little stories and formations to point out, and with the lighting it really kind of looked like it. My favorite was the pool of water that they said looks like Guilin, with the stalagmites looking like the Karst mountain formations reflecting in the river.

Prairie at a waterfall right outside the cave

After the cave we went to the airport. Linda got us all checked in and arranged our lunch.  It is 687 miles from Guilin to Chengdu, and the flight was a little under 2 hours.

When we landed in Chengdu, there had been some kind of change and mix up and no one was waiting for us. Since it was our third city and we had had such good experiences with the other 2 cities and tour guides we weren't upset and we were understanding. Ben used his phone card and called Bertina, she felt horrible and said she would be there in 30ish minutes and our tour guide Kevin was on his way but it would be 40 minutes.

When we went out to our vehicle and it was a huge van that feels almost like a small fancy mini bus. You enter through the front passenger door like a bus and it has 16 seats and overhead bag holding. The kids were hyper and really excited about the van, about their gifts. Bertina ended up sitting back by me and the kids. She seemed really entertained by the kids. 


A couple of things that Linda taught us that I haven't written about. She taught us a phrase they say in China when people are taking pictures, the photographer says, "Xi gua tain bu tian?" Which translates "is the watermelon sweet or not sweet?" Then everyone says "tian", which is like saying "cheese" in America.  Chinese people were really amused when we would say this phrase.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

China Trip (April 11, 2016)

Today was another full day. We had a relaxed morning. We didn't meet Linda until 10am. I had thought we would drive somewhere to pick up the bikes, but I was wrong. We walked out our hotel and 10 ft to the left we rented our bikes. Then I started freaking out about having to ride in the city traffic, because it looks crazy! Linda arranged for Zephyr to be on a tandem bike with Ben and that worked out really well.

I felt like we were baptized by fire, we just crossed the road into this round about. No one wears helmets, so that wasn't even an option. At fist it was pretty nerve racking riding through the city, but eventually the traffic thinned out and we got out of the city and to a village and it was very pleasant.

 Being apart of the traffic though, I feel like I understand it so much better. There is so much honking going on, but I realize that it is not angry at all. In America I feel like anytime there is honking, someone is really annoyed with you, but here, it is just a way to communicate that you are coming through. No one seems annoyed with one another, even though to me it appears chaotic. People on scooters or bikes go the wrong way on the biking path, people pass each other and people turning left just turn, and somehow everyone makes room for what everyone is doing. It isn't nearly as orderly as the United States, and while it at first appears so competitive, when I am in it, it doesn't feel competitive. Everyone is just doing their own thing, but at the same time looking out for everyone else, because who knows what they will be doing!

We didn't bike too far out into the countryside before we made a stop for a farm stop. We met this widow, whose husband died when he was 35, and this woman raised her 3 children on her own. We got to see her dwelling. Her kitchen is kind of outdoor. She cooks over campfire. The kids picked eggs from her hen house and then she cooked them of us over the fire. They were very tasty. Then we had pomelo that she had grown and peanuts that she had grown. She did have electric lights in her home. She used a pump to get water. It is very humble, but she seems so content. Her son lives in a very modern nice looking home adjacent to her house. Linda says when this generation dies, that the house will be torn down and something more modern built

Getting eggs from the farmer's hens

Zephyr and Prairie with their eggs

Autumn with her egg

the farmer opening the pomelo for us to eat

the farmer demonstrating her raining gear

this is all food that the farmer has produced

Emily, Autumn and Prairie sitting in the farmer"s home and looking at her rice

the whole gang in her home

the whole family with the farmer outside her home

Prairie trying her pump to get water

When we were biking we saw lots of little garden plots and smelled the most fragrant flowers. It was so enjoyable, I was just loving the scenery. Of course with the backdrop of the Karst mountains. It was so lovely.

Then we stopped at moon cave. Linda talked up the hike that it is really steep and some 800 steps.  Ben and Prairie didn't end up making it to the cave. I got Zephyr too. It really wasn't bad. It was easier than the Y hike. I am glad that we hiked up.

Emily, Autumn and Zephyr at the top of the hike

Zephyr and Ben on their tandem bike with moon cave in the background

Then we had lunch at the moon cave cafe. It was delicious food again. They served the fried eggplant that I loved. There were 2 egg dishes that were fine, but nothing to rave about so those we didn't finish. We had a fried chicken with lemon sauce, and a beef with peppers and onions.

Autumn at the cafe with Mood Cave in the background

After lunch we were getting ready to bike back to Yangshuo, and there were some issues with the tandem bike chain guard, it had gotten all bent and Zephyr couldn't even turn his pedals. Ben got it bent well enough that it would work.

Zephyr and Prairie playing around while waiting for the tandem bike to get fixed

After the hike and the lunch, it was time to bike back, and we were all feeling our bottoms. Also we were past the peaceful country roads and seemed to be passing high tourist spots with lots of buses and people stopping. It was a little tiring. As dad said the morning was so enjoyable, the afternoon with the sore bums and all the tourist traffic it was less enjoyable. It was such a relief when we were back to the hotel to turn in our bikes.

Then we loaded into our van and had a 2 hour drive back to Guilin. It was a fairly bumpy road because of a lot of construction. That is one observation I have made, there is a lot of construction everywhere. Because of the long history and the high population, they can't just spread out, they tear down old stuff and build where the old was. It means that there is this constant old and new seemed together and demolition happening in neighborhoods. I saw this woman helping her little son water a little melon plant in the middle of some demolition materials, but there is a spot of soil. This is in a very urban area. I love seeing food plants everywhere. It makes me so excited to work on our garden.

I also really like the very modern feel seamlessly mixing with the old world. It is so interesting to see it all mixed. I get the feeling that in 10-20 years it won't have quite as much old world feel. I was thinking about the farmer woman, and how she goes into town to do her farming, and does flowers and some vegetables in her courtyard, yet her son has this very modern home adjacent. I wonder for her if it is like American older people using cellphones. She doesn't want it, maybe she likes cooking over the fire and doesn't see the need for anything different. It is just interesting to see how different people live. It makes me care a lot less about remodeling our home, about having older carpet. It makes me appreciate more what we have, and how I should take good care of what we have instead of worrying about having nicer.