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The High Life!

If you want to read about an incredible international flight experience, click over to One Mile at a Time. I just finished reading one of the posts about the ultimate in opulent service flying the premium Residence suite on Eithad. A vicarious thrill.

If you don’t want the thrill to be just vicarious, look around his blog since he describes how he got about a 75% discount on the flight.

The blogger Lucky is a mileage program mastermind and his blog entertains and informs. Thanks to Lucky, I’ve got enough miles to go to Europe, which I won’t do this summer, but I will in time.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage

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Chishakuin Temple, Kyoto

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St. Sophia Church, Haerbin, China

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Chicago, Illinois

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Beijing, China

Seen in Tianjin

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Gallery

Weekend in Tianjin

I had a lovely weekend in Tianjin, though I wouldn’t call the city a “must-see.” It offers a few fine sights so a weekend is certainly enough, but I really went because it’s the one place close by that I haven’t been to.

We arrived Friday night around quarter to nine. It was eas enough to find the taxi queue but finding an honest driver was another story. Since there’s a queue you get whom you get. Our driver first tried to get us to pay 200 rmb and forego the meter, but we have been around enough to know for whose advantage that would be. We had to go from Tianjin South station to right by the Tianjin Eye, the world’s largest Ferris wheel sitting on a bridge. It is quite a distance, but not a 160 rmb drive. On return it cost 60 rmb. (Even if there’s a night surcharge it’s not that high.)

Our first day we went to the Tianhao Temple, which is located in a nice Chinese Ancient Street with Qing dynasty architecture and lots of crafts and food stalls. If I worked for some Chinese tourism board here, I would launch a campaign to get higher quality, more unique offerings for prospective shoppers. That’s lacking in these venues which are pretty much the same from town to town.

We decided to walk to the Wudadao district where the French and British concession were in the 19th century. The walk took a few hours, but the day was nice and the conversation pleasant. If we wanted we could have hopped on the subway or a bus.

Along the way we saw the China House, which is known for the shards of pottery embedded in the concrete gates and walls. It’s gloriously tacky. Since the Lonely Planet said the interior wasn’t worth seeing, we decided not to spend the $10 or so going inside.

In Wudadao we found the new plaza, which is actually just a small shopping center encircling the track that Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame, designed. We later found the site of his home, but weren’t impressed with the new building they’ve erected there.

On Sunday I chose to go up in the Tianjin Eye, the world’s fourth tallest Ferris Wheel with two of my friends. Had I known the wait would be two and a half hours, I probably would have gone with the others to explore the city more. Anyway, eventually we got through the line and the view was breathtaking. We lucked out on getting a clear day. I wouldn’t bother going on a day with the usual pollution.

We stayed at the Tianjin Riverside Holiday Inn, which was a fine choice. The rooms are modern and well equipped. We had a few hiccups though they were all worked out. There were five of us, three women and a married couple. I booked the room for the three women with IHG Rewards points. The room was large enough for three according to the website. Our first night the third person was delayed due to work, but I confirmed with reception that we would be three and we’d need a third bed the next night. No problem.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wanderlust

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Shanghai

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Outside of Melbourne

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Kyoto, Japan

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other themed photos:

Guild Hall Dining, #1

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While on a walking tour of Beijing’s Tienanmen Square and environs, I learned that from way back when each province of China has had guild halls where envoys from the provinces would stay. These halls also have restaurants where anyone can sample the best cuisine from each province for a relatively low price.

I found a list of these spots on a blog called Eileen Eats and have wanted to visit some for quite a while. This past weekend I had a friend who was game and we went to Xingjiang Fanzhuang Urumuqi Muncipal Office for lunch.

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Since the blog contains the addresses in Chinese as well as the romanized pinyin, we could show a taxi where to go. Urumuqi is the capital of Xinjiang, a western province with a large population of Uighurs, an ethnic group that differs from the Han Chinese in language, culture and politics. I’ve had good Uighur food in Beijing at a restaurant that’s disappeared and on my trip to Urumuqi.

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Lamb & onions

After a 15 minute taxi ride from the South Cathedral at Xuanwumen, we arrived in a neighborhood and weren’t sure we got to the right place, then we saw a Central Asian facade on a building set back from the street. Sure enough this was the right place.

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Potatoes

Upon entering we where struck by the noisy bustle of the restaurant. The place was busy and the wait staff scurried about. Soon someone noticed us and gave us a card with a number. Then after awhile someone was shouting a number in Chinese and was getting frustrated that no one was responding. I guessed, correctly, that they were calling for us. We were shown to a table and given a menu with English and with photos. Since it seemed we were the only foreigners there we were surprised, and delighted that there was English. The menu featured a lot of lamb dishes and some exotic items like braised camel’s feet. We chose a lamb and onion dish, some meat pockets, which were a lot like what a Mongolian friend would make, and Xinjiang vegetables, which turned out to be potatoes in a spicy sauce.

The food was fine, but not spectacular. Our tab came to 62 rmb (so less than $10 USD). The decor was Central Asian with a touch of Russian.

I think we should have followed Eileen’s advice and gotten the “polou rice.” I was just delighted that we found a place off the beaten path. I’d definitely try another provincial restaurant and possibly go back to this one if a friend was eager. It was easy to get a cab back to the city center.

(Tip – If you don’t speak Chinese, just say Tienanmen or Wangfujing and you’ll get to a place where you’re likely to find something to do or hop on the subway.)

Travel Plans?

During the Spring Semester we get at least 2 long weekends, now we may have to work on a Saturday and get Sunday till Tuesday off, but we’ll have some three day weekends.

Just now as I’ve been waiting and waiting for various web pages to load, I’ve started dreaming of going to Korea, not for sightseeing, but for some decent internet speed. That really may be the reason to go over the May Day holiday.

Will China ever fix this problem? Will this university?

Back to China

Tomorrow just after midnight I’m off to China. School starts on the 20th so I’ll have some time in Beijing, a day and a half, before I fly to Jinan. I’ll be the only American teacher there till Saturday night, when a new technology instructor arrives. The other English teachers, 4 of them, are still waiting for their visas. China sure has failed to improve this system. They may be in the same boat I was in in the fall having to make up classes. It’ll be especially rough on whoever is teaching 24 hours (a policy I’m 100% against).

I’m pretty well organized to go. I just have to pack toiletries and do a bit of laundry. I’ve got a few books to return to the library. (Ah, how I’ll miss using a library where I can take out books. We’ve never been encouraged to check out books in Jinan.)

I’m flying Eva Airlines for the first time. First I fly to Taipei and then to Beijing. On my way home I’ll spend a couple days in Taipei, but that’s not till June.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to blog and get online to most sites. There’s been news that China’s cracking down on VPNs. We’ll see if that’s so. It’ll be weird to be the only teacher at school from Friday – Saturday. It’ll be rather eerie. Usually everyone arrives the Wednesday night before the semester begins. This time they might be an entire week late.

For those Long Flights

These tips should help your skin and general feeling of well being.

Tasmania

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Since I have friends in Tasmania, I thought I should hop off the mainland and see what Hobart and its environs had to offer. I discovered that incredible nature and a more relaxed pace abounded in Tasmania.

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Tasmanian Tiger

Here’s what I learned about Tasmania:

  • The Tasmanian Devil is familiar to non-Australians because of the cartoon character but the Tasmanian Tiger was more of the state’s symbol than the former. However, the Tasmanian Tiger has been extinct (or believed to be so — some claim to have seen signs of them) for decades.
  • The tallest flowering tree, the eucalyptus regnans can be found here. The only tree that’s taller is the California redwood.
  • What is now called Tasmania has been inhabited by aborigines for approximated 12,000 years when it was cut off from the mainland.
  • Tasmania was named after Abel Janszoon Tasman, a the Dutch explorer, who saw what is now Tasmania in 1642.

My first full day in Tasmania I went with my friend cum hostess to the Tasmanian National Park, which was swarming with tourists, which is quite uncommon. We saw the Tessellated Pavement, which is an area of flat rock on the ocean. The ocean has cut into the rock over the course of time and what’s unusual about that is that the cuts are at right angles. It looks manmade, but isn’t. We also saw the Remarkable Cave, which is an arch from the land to the ocean, the Blowhole, a natural pool where water shoots up periodically, and lots of gorgeous seascape.

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  • My second day we went to Mt. Field National Park where there’s a rainforest and famed waterfall. This rainforest is home to the eucaluptus regnans.

    We had a great day strolling through Salamanca, the hip part of town by the harbor. (Sorry I can’t find photos.) Salamanca is home to dozens of craft shops, restaurants, bars and cafés.

    Day three was spent at the beach in Dodge’s Ferry, Tasmania. A word to the wise: reapply the sunscreen often. I’m still peeling my sunburned skin off. Still it was a wonderful trip. I want to go back to see Tassie’s funky Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

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