04 March 2007

Spring Break!

It's been quite a bit since I've last posted, but I thought I'd write a little something while I have some free time on spring break. I flew into the Bend, OR airport on Friday morning after logging about 4 hours sleep the night before. It's become a general trend that if I have an early flight the next day, I just stay up anyway and deprive myself of sleep. I don't know what the deal is with that. It was great catching up with everyone the rest of the day (my aunt susie and uncle dale live up here in bend and my family flew out to meet me here) and around 4 'o' clock I decided to go for a quick run over to the park and sports field area.

I made it over to the fields fine but on the way back I decided to try another trail that I assumed would eventually take me back to where I came from...I think I've been running in Malibu for too long because it's basically impossible to get lost when there because you have Pepperdine and the Pacific and PCH - I mean you could probably get lost if you tried but you would really have to try hard! Anyway, the point of that digression was to lead into saying that I got lost as a result of taking that other trail. I just kept running though, following the power lines for a time (hey, they should take me somewhere right?) and eventually coming out on a road that looked like all the other roads in Bend. So I ran to the end of that road. By that time, it had started drizzling slightly so I decided to swallow my pride and flag someone down to ask for directions. The problem with that idea was that I know all of about 2 or 3 road names in Bend! Long story short, the car I waved down was driven by an amiable fellow named Gary who worked with tile and ceramics. After i attempted to verbalize where I thought i needed to be, he was more or less able to get me there (fortunately, he lived pretty close to my aunt's house so it was on his way home). I arrived home shortly thereafter, with another fun Oregon memory.

27 November 2006

The Shang'

The 12 hour train ride, as I mentioned, put us arriving in Shanghai before 8 in the morning! Fortunately we were able to check into our hotel right away, drop our bags off and recuperate slightly before heading off to find some breakfast.

That was an interesting experience. After walking around for a time, we landed at a neat little joint near the water. We ordered our food, anticipating its arrival with a hearty appetite. However, the portions were not up to par with what we had been hoping for. They even tried to give some of us half of the already small portion of fruit. And it took them about 17 tries to realize that we each wanted "individual" servings of jam and peanut butter. For some reason they thought we wanted to share a single size serving of each of them, or something like that. And we even had Yichieh with us, whom they could clearly understand. We had quite a time of it at 8:30 in the morning.

The rest of the day seemed kind of slow. It was a dreary, gloomy day and pretty polluted, but, having just come from Beijing, the air seemed moderately clean! Overall, I was disappointed with Shanghai. We actually wound up going to some kind of amusement park type place outside the city which was kinda random. At one point, we were feeling that we shoul've stayed in Beijing for two more days. Luckily, the night fulfilled all our hopes and dreams and turned out to be amazing.

After enjoying an awesome BBQ buffet at the top of our hotel, we headed towards downtown in hopes of locating the tower that Tom Cruise swings off of in Mission: Impossible: III. That was our mission and we chose to accept it. That turned out to be the highlight of the Shanghai portion of our trip.

First we went up to the 88th floor observatory of the Grand Hyatt-Shanghai and from that vantage point we spotted the now infamous group of towers. There was the taller, "football" shaped one next to the two slanted towers. It was so cool. Andrew and I actually bought copies of M:I:III in Shanghai and watched them when we got back to HK! It was great.

When we got down from the Grand Hyatt, we walked a few blocks down to the Grand Oriental Pearl TV & Broadcasting tower, the "sky needle" looking building that you always see in the Shanghai skyline. The bummer was that it closed right about when we got there. We didn't lose heart, though. We were determined to make the most of Shanghai so we went back to the M:I:III towers and attempted to go up inside them to the top. We made it to the 55th floor of the football tower but couldn't figure out how to proceed from there, plus, we probably weren't supposed to be in there anyway. The slanted tower he swings to was closed, but hey, we tried.

After walking around for a bit more, we caught a cab back to the hotel and relaxed in front of the TV before calling it a night by about 12.

The next day was a wash because Andrew caught an earlier flight back, which took up most of the morning and then we just hung out in a cafe until heading to the airport around 3. Got back to HKBU campus at precisely midnight, talked on Skype, and went to bed.

Overall, Shanghai was much more impressive during the night than it was in the daytime. the M:I:III towers were by far the highlight of that city.

View some photographs of our escapades here

19 November 2006

Beijing: This "Great" Wall, some Square named "Tiananmen", a summer palace, and a 12 hour train ride.

Two weeks after Singapore a few of us decided to do Beijing and Shanghai. Initially, I was hesitant because those two cities are basically the two most well-known cities in China! It did end up being a pretty rushed trip but I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten to Shanghai if I hadn’t gone then.

Day 1: We left for the Shenzhen Airport (a pretty close airport in mainland China and the cheapest one to fly out of if you’re traveling within China) at 2:45 by train and made it through HK customs, then China customs and took a taxi for 45 minutes to the airport. Our flight was delayed by about an hour and we didn’t make it to Beijing until 10:30. We were greeted by chill, polluted air. Though the cool air was a welcome change from the humidity in Hong Kong, the pollution was unbelievable. If Singapore’s air was like a newly blossomed dogwood tree, Beijing’s air was like a rotting, termite infested tree that had just been struck by lightning. I’ve never experienced that kind of pollution – LA has nothing on China.

Our hotel ended up being an hour from the airport. Unbeknownst to us, there are TWO Novotel Hotels in Beijing – one is about 15 minutes away right next to Tiananmen Square, but the other is over an hour outside the city! It was a five-star country resort for $66 US/night. It was nice!

Day 2: Friday we arose and decided on goin’ to the Great Wall, to a section about 2 hours away from the Novotel. It was amazing. It’s an incredible feat of engineering and constructing. The sheer size of it is unfathomable. It looks just like it does in the books, only better because you’re actually there.

We spent a good 3.5 hours just hiking around and taking pictures and such. We actually tobogganed down from the Great Wall, down a winding, metal chute in little toboggans! That was fun!

After I bought a shirt and sweatshirt for about $9 US, we headed to Tiananmen. It’s a Great Square. There were a lot of soldiers patrolling around and pictures of Mao so I refrained from causing any trouble, like I usually do (not). We walked around for a while and then took our taxi back to the Novotel. Oh, I forgot to mention that we’d actually hired a taxi for that day and Saturday, which made getting around easier. He did not speak a word of English so we thanked God that Yichieh was with us. Everything would have taken three times as long if Yichieh had not been with us. He is a great friend (obviously not just because of that, but you know). Actually, almost nobody spoke any English so we were very dependent on him. I was able to use some of the Mandarin I’ve been learning but the Beijingese have an accent that is very difficult to understand, even for native speakers; Yichieh even had trouble sometimes. They talk very fast and don’t like to open their mouths very much or enunciate their words. It’s crazy how sometimes our taxi driver’s words just seemed to blend together into one big long word. That reminds me; I need to start studying for my final soon!

Day 3: On Saturday we ate a giant buffet at our hotel before checking out and loading into our taxi. The buffet was truly delicious and I didn’t eat for what felt like a day – it was at least a couple of hours anyway. Our first stop for the day was the Temple of Heaven, a huge religious and historical site with a lot of Buddhas and temples. If I did it over again, I think I would’ve skipped this stop. There was this one temple that had a perfectly circular wall surrounding it that conducted sound around its interior perimeter: in other words, if you and another person stood on opposite sides and spoke into the wall, you would be able to hear each other! That was probably the highlight of Temple of Heaven.

Next stop: Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was an historic summer vacationing home for emperors and other royalty, as the name implies. It is bordered on one side by a beautiful lake and, once you reach the top of the site, there are beautiful mountain views on the other side. I recommend taking about half-a-day to a day to take in and appreciate the whole Summer Palace.

Alright, here comes the main disappointment/embarrassment of the trip. After leaving the Summer Palace, our intention was to go to the Forbidden City. Bad news; it closes everyday at 4:30 and we didn’t get there until 5. We were overcome by sadness and deep sorrow. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but we were really bummed out that we missed it. It was the Forbidden City, right in front of us and we couldn’t go in to see it. It was a major bummer.

After wiping each others tears, we went back to our taxi and were driven to the train station to prepare for our 12-hour overnight train ride to Shanghai. Before I continue, let me tell you that that train ride was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life. I wanted it to keep going; I could’ve ridden that for a day or two it was so calming. And sleeping on a train is especially soothing – it rocks you to sleep. The only bad part was that we had to wake up at 6:45 in the morning because it only took from 7-7 to get to Shanghai.

We had arrived in Shanghai and the “Mission” was about to begin…

01 November 2006

Singapore continued...

I know it's been a very long little while since I've posted anything here but you should take that to mean I've been busy travelling ( which I have been). Also, the internet over here has been acting up (or maybe it's blogger.com) which explains why there haven't been many pictures as of late either. But before I go into my most recent trip, I want to finish up writing about Singapore. Here goes...

Saturday morning, we all got up at the crack 'o' dawn, but for differing reasons: The others were going to have Breakfast at the Zoo (I couldn't get a ticket) and as for myself, well, I wanted to run to the Singapore Botanic Gardens on ther reccomendation of a friend from Singapore. It was well worth the 35 minute run across the city.

As I entered the gardens, the first thing i noticed was how clean the air was and how refreshed I felt. It was an amazing feeling. Having lived in a city for a month-and-a-half, I was beginning to tire of the poor air quality. Spending time in the Botanic Gardens was a welcome relief.

I was there by 7:30, but even then there were quite a few people there already, jogging or doing TaiChi or meditating. Nevertheless, it was peaceful and very relaxing. As I walked along the paths, I tried to take as many deep breaths of oxygen as I could to savor the pure air and soak in my now lush, green surroundings. The types of plants, trees, flowers, shrubs, are so extensive that it's impossible to tell how many there are. These are some pictures from my moring there:
Around 9, I started on my run back. It took me roughly 40 minutes on the way back and after I grabbed a shower, I had a scrumptious breakfast of cornflakes, fruit, and wheat toast with peanut butter and jam. Another girl, Blair, hadn't been able to get a ticket for the Zoo Breakfast either and when I mentioned that there was a Orchid Garden back at the Botanic Gardens that I hadn't had time to see, we decided to take the bus back to the Gardens. I have never seen so many different kinds of flowers, let alone species of orchids, in my life. I immediately thought of my mom and grandpa and how much they would be appreciating this beauty.

Blair and I met the others back at the hostel around 1. We decided to check out Little India for lunch and ended up eating Indian style around a low table, sitting on pillows. The food wasn't bad and afterwards we walked around that section of town before heading back to Sleepy Sam's to grab some sleep before going out that night. First, though, I bought some Hindi dance music! Good stuff...

We headed out of the hostel again around 7:45 and ate at Subway (Gosh, I missed/still miss that place). Then we caught a taxi to Zouk, the most famous dance/night club in Asia. we got there by 11 and danced the night away, ha! The club felt like it was straight out of a movie with about 3 different levels, an excessive number of spotlights and strobes, and an awesome smoke machine on the ceiling that would send down huge jet-like streams every so often. It was a fun time, and I really started having fun and getting into the groove when I started breakdancing because I'd promised Jenna I would. Unfortunately, when I had a bigger circle and took it to the floor, a bouncer came over and told me I had to stop. Oh well... It was fun while it lasted.

That main club was playing mainly house music (like techno) but there was another smaller club with in the same building, called Phuture, playing more Hip-Hop/R&B. We went over there for a bit and had some fun, too. Then we came back to Zouk for a while and left aound 2:30. We slept really well that night, not awaking 'til 10:30!

We decided to go to Sentosa, Singapore's island resort area where the main beaches are. We relaxed on the beach from 1:30-5:30. It truly felt like we were in paradise at that point (or at least back in Malibu!) and really like vacation. There were several small, man-made islands about 100 meters out from the beach that I swam to and walked around. Peaceful, relaxing, calm, refreshing, warm, are adjectives that come to mind when I think of Sentosa. If you're ever in Singapore, go to Sentosa for a day.
That night we went to the tallest building in Singapore to relax and then we called it a night early, hitting our bunks around 11:30 in preparation for our 6:45 flight on Monday morning (we actually got up at 3:30!).

The flight was great and we were back on campus before noon that day. I went for a swim and then hit the books...I crashed hard that night.

15 October 2006

Kazakhstani Perspective on Bush

My assignment for blogging this week (from my professor) was to find someone not originally from the US and ask them about his perspective of America. I met a couple from Kazakhstan on the beach in Singapore this weekend and after bumpin' the volleyball around for a bit, we started talking and the topic shifted to Bush. After they asked me what I thought about him as our president, I asked them what they thought about him and what he's doing. They said that they could only base their thoughts off of what they saw on the news and told me that he's portrayed very negatively across the globe by the media as a whole. They said that everything he does is criticized. The main thing they mentioned was how the media pokes fun at the way President Bush talks. The idea that this was the prim
ary thing they told me seemed ridiculous. How low can you go? I mean, think about it: The media really must be desparate to come up with a reason to bash Bush if not being the best public speaker is the number one thing that audiences come away with for why he's doing a bad job.

In all though, the couple seemed relatively indifferent.

Anyway, that's a international perspective on America's president.

14 October 2006

Things to do in Singapore

Thursday night after our Mandarin test, Jenna, Mike, Andrea, and I took a bus to the Hong Kong Airport. Our flight departed on time at 8 'o' clock in the evening and we landed in Singapore at 11:20. Customs was routine and we were in a taxi on our way to "Sleepy Sam's" by 12:15, asleep by 1:15. Hostels are convenient and inexpensive, thus, perfect for college students. I've been happy with my experience so far anyway.

On Friday morning I went for that run I mentioned in my previous entry. I love exploring new areas by way of running. There must be something about it, because that's the number one thing I've been looking forward to doing in the new places I travel to. In fact I went on another run this morning as well, but I'll get back to that later.

Around 11, we walked over to Suntec City, a shopping mall and coporate center that's arranged in the position of a left-hand, palm up. In the place where the palm would be, there is the Fountain of Wealth, the largest man-made fountain in the world.

At 1 pm we went on a "Duck Tour" of downtown and Marina Bay. The vehicle we toured in actually was a boat too, hence the name; there was a ramp to enter the water and the captain stomped on the gas and we hit the water with a huge splash. That wasn't the only time we got wet either - about halfway through our time on the water, the heavens opened up and let loose on our duck vessel. Fortunately, they were prepare and we only got rained no for a breif time. the whole thing lasted an hour and our tour guide kept us relatively entertained. It was probably THE most touristy thing we could have done though, ha.

After that, I ate Subway for the first time in about a month-and-a-half. It was scrumptious, the 12" chicken terryaki on honey wheat bread, that is! I love Subway and didn't realize how much I missed it. We walked around the mall for a bit longer and then decided n catching a few Zzz's before our Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo, that was to begin at 6 'o' clock. It was a good rest and we were picked up by "Joe" around 6 as promised. Joe is a native Singaporean who was a sailor about 20 years ago. Currently, he is studying to get his Master's in Sailing where his heart seemed to truly lie. He was full of little stories about Singapore and his past. I was thankful that I'd hopped into the front seat of the bus because I had some very interesting conversations with him both to and from our destination.

He got us to the Safari by 6:30 as promised and we got in line right away for the tram ride through the night zoo. We saw many different nocturnal animals on the tram, the highlight of which was the tiger. We saw the tiger after the tram as we hiked the entire footpath. There was a viewing section with a wall of glass separating us from the beast and he happened to be hanging out right there. I think it might have been because of my camera (flash was not allowed but there is a red light that always comes on before taking a picture), but all of a sudden the tiger sprung at the glass, stopping just short of hitting it. That got our adrenaline pumping and the animal restlessly paced around in front of us for the next 10 minutes or so. It was incredible; to see the muscles rippling throughout his sleek body and his shoulder-blades pumping with each step - less than 5' in front of us - was surreal. His entire physique resonated with sheer, unadulterated, power. There was not an ounce of unnecessary fat on him. Amazing...

That one experience absolutely made the night, possibly the day.

We rode back with Joe and weere in bed by 11:30, in preparation for a long day on Saturday. Good trip so far...

12 October 2006

Oh Yeah...!

Friday, 10:50 AM

I'm in Singapore right now, sitting in front of a conmputer at Sleepy Sam's, the hostel we are staying at for the next 3 days. I ran the city earlier this morning and just had a great breakfast of cornflakes and bananas, pb&j toast and fruit. The run was refreshing in Singapore's very tropical climate. I ran past their Supreme Court, Parliament House, National Singapore Museum, and a giant war memorial. I love exploring new places by run...

Well, time to go explore - will check back in later...