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Highlights from 17 days in Beijing & Shanghai

Highlights from 17 days in Beijing & Shanghai

Old Nov 4th, 2009, 02:59 PM
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Marya -- Really enjoyed your TR especially the depth of your observations.
I remember going often to the Purple Bamboo Park on the west side of the city when I was living there, where is the Black Bamboo Park, please?
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Old Nov 4th, 2009, 04:30 PM
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Good question -- I went through the same process of confusion. It is the same park (Zizhuyuan). I saw various references to it on maps (including the Olympics-era map still distributed at hotels) and in guidebooks as "Purple Bamboo Park," but then the official brochure at the park office calls it "Black Bamboo Park" so I went with that name.

With many small gardens, play spaces, water, bridges, a shop/restaurant, and more, it is a great place to wander around off the tourist track, no? That was one of the only times in Beijing that I went for hours alone without seeing another westerner.

Another lovely spot in that neighborhood that you must know is Wan shou si (Longevity Temple). Parts of the temple complex were closed though so that diminished my enjoyment somewhat.

The scale of everything in Beijing is so vast that visiting those two seemingly proximal attractions on foot took several hours. Calling it a neighborhood is perhaps a little misleading. What a city!
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 10:25 AM
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Hi Marya
My daughter graduated from university this spring and went to China on a one year teaching programme in August.Quite a few went to Hunan Province and she is one of 5 who were placed in Yiyang. She spoke no Chinese when she left but is teaching at a University so her students have a fairly good grasp of English. Also they are quite close in age so are very friendly inviting them out at weekends etc. When she first arrived, she and the girl she shares the flat with were treated like celebrities when they went into town, everyone wanted their photos taken etc. She has not seen any other Europeans in Yiyang although in the main city Changsha there are a few expats. On National day they were guests of honour at the celebrations, sitting one row behind the war veterans. She has found it an amazing experience. She loved her long weekend in Hong Kong because no one stared at her.

Here a few extracts from her emails to me

There are 26 other people training with us and everyone is really nice so is Amy and her assistant who has chosen for himself the english name "puff" after puff the magic dragon so he said, we havnt told him the meaning of his name as he seems very proud of it. Most people who have some level of English seem very keen to persue it and have access to native speaking English they all come and chat, those who dont all just stand and stare especially at us girls, its abit odd but im starting to get used to it, Amy said for the poorer classes who dont have as much acess to travel education etc.. we are the closest they have come to the western world.

the waitresses at the restauraunt were so excited to see us they kept taking photos of us all eating

You can tell that there is alot of poverty and even within the city there are huge contrasts building to building. little old people in straw hats on push bikes and buisness men in mercs. The babies all have babygrows with no bums in which is pretty funny,none of them are in prams. The traffic lights are in the middle of the road with huge stop watches counting down how long till they change. Lots of stuff is very different but we are enjoying exploring.

the only way i can describe the heat is like being in the reptile house at the zoo its really close and sticky, but all the buildings have air conditioning so we just jump from building to building. The Chinese women all carry parasoles as well so i may invest in one .

We went to the supermarket this afternoon and they really do have the strangest things we thought we had found a pet department but it was all for eating the customers fish there own live fish out of tanks put them in a bag still wriggling weigh them then push them around in their trollys next to their shopping while they die it was a little disturbing to say the least, im sure that any fish i cook will be dead well prior to arrival! to be honest tho we havnt paid more than 2 pounds for a meal since we arrived so i think eating out is the way forward. the supermarket also had live frogs and turtles and tortoises me and Evan (who is also teaching at yiyang) have decided we are going to have one as a pet .

Just finished teaching for the day, had the funniest lesson, I got them in couples doing roll plays about marriage having a baby or moving in together, they were meant to have a debate for and against each decission, ended up being hilarious, had proposals, birth and one guy even sung westlife songs to his girlfriend to convince her to marry him. I love teaching oral english wish all my lessons were so much fun!

The picnic was adorable it was actually a bbq at a park near Yiyang, they had like huge stone bbqs you could hire my students were cooking for 2 hours they made literally 50 different chinese dishes all so yummy i was stuffed tho as they all insisted i try theres After lunch we went rafting on a lake with literally the most unstable rafts i have ever seen, was good fun!

All ive heard about widow of the world is from students who have told me it is "a good place to play with many activities and entertainment where you can excite yourself" you gotta love Chinglish! i get the impression that is a theme park with different countries,

As you can see she is having a wonderful time and we are very excited to be going to visit her next year.
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 12:08 PM
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mary--i really enjoyed reading this and look forward to a future visit to shanghai and a return to beijing....

bob
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 04:04 PM
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Purple Bamboo Park it is, not far from the Beijing Zoo. In summer the lake is filled with beautiful lotus flowers and it is quite a sight in winter when the lake is frozen and snow covers the grounds.
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 08:09 PM
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you should visit the local residence house in beijing and shanghai,it is very unique.
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 09:06 PM
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Izzi -- How delightful of you to share some of your daughter's observations! Thank you. It is lots of fun to read a young person's fresh impressions. I love her enthusiasm.

Some of her comments, particularly those about marketing, remind me of us when we first visited China. One of our very first days in Beijing, my children and I were crossing a pedestrian bridge over a busy roadway when we encountered many vendors aggressively selling tiny birds or ducklings in very small cages. Being "fresh of the boat," we found the sight a little charming and a little alarming since the animals were so tightly constrained and there was no food or water in evidence. We immediately leapt to a totally wrong (culturally determined) conclusion, assuming that these little creatures were being sold as pets since children were stopping to ooh and aah and sometimes carry them off when their parents purchased them. Was this something like rabbits and chicks at Easter in the US, we wondered? Was there some special holiday or tradition? When we found someone who spoke rudimentary English to answer our question about "what the animals were for," we got an unexpected one-word answer: "Fried." Oh... Naturally that's a word that we have subsequently tossed around in our family for great comic effect. The joke was on us that day though. How little we understood about so much that we saw. It takes time...

Travel sure can change your point of view on things though. I'll also never forget the experience of coming back to the US after an extensive period in Asia, going into a fish market and being forcibly struck by the fact that all the fish were dead and headless. The market seemed sepulchral and spooky and not at all right. Similarly, the American model of dining out in which each person orders his or her own food, no sharing, seems unfortunate now. And then there is our acquired preference for round dining tables rather than the rectangles favored here in the states. I'll stop there with those humble food-related examples but there is quite a list! It will be interesting to see how your daughter's extended stay abroad changes some of her attitudes and preferences.

I had to 'Google' Yiyang to see where she was. Being off in Hunan province is much more culturally challenging and stimulating than traveling to Beijing and Shanghai as I did. Good for her! Do I recall correctly that you are going in the Spring? Are you still figuring out your itinerary? What fun -- I hope that you'll be checking in here as you make your plans.

Shanghainese -- Now you are inspiring me to go back to (let's call it Purple) Bamboo Park in other seasons. That sounds very appealing.

ees12 -- What is the local residence house? I have seen some hutong homes in Beijing and the shikumen open courtyard house museum in Shanghai, but I'm not sure that I gt the reference. Please explain since I would be very interested. (There are two such local house museums in Hanoi that I really enjoyed visiting.)
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Old Nov 7th, 2009, 05:56 PM
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WWPNHD? On reading that laugh and blush at the same time.

But on the park: it's really is only known as the Purple Bamboo Park, the character 紫 having the meaning of 'purple' or 'violet', or (much more obscurely, 'Pole Star'. (This is why even Chinese sources will sometimes tell you that the Palace Museum is also known as the Purple Forbidden City. It's the same 紫 character, but the palace was built to be lined up on the Pole Star--look at any map and you'll see it's not quite north-south. So 'Pole Star Forbidden City' would be the right translation.) In combination with another character 紫 can mean 'very dark purple', and in botanical uses it can mean lilac, amethyst, or even red.

Unfortunately Chinese sources tend to be hopeless on many things, accuracy not really being the point of tourist-targeted ones in particular, and colours in place names do seem to be a particular problem (although I've never myself seen 'Black Bamboo Park'). Earnest explanations of the meaning of Hohhot always get 'green city' mixed up with 'blue city' for instance. Unfortunately 青 can mean both 'blue' and 'green' and translators into English tend to chose the one that seems most sensible, but in the case of Inner Mongolia's capital is wrong.

Good to see someone finding Wanshou Si, which in addition to being a favourite spot of Cixi is also an excellent little museum. For those who may follow in your footsteps, Just to the right of the main entrance (as you face it) you can find what's left of the Yanqing Si, its courtyards much filled in with jerry-building and home to hundreds. This has been the fate of most Beijing temples, and not far behind, through a military complex invisible to maps there's the Fahua Si, which has suffered the opposite fate of being restored to the point of being completely rebuilt.

From just outside the Wanshou Si (and across the road) you can find the 特8内环 bus which will take you round to the Great Bell Temple (Da Zhong Si), also well worth a view.

Peter N-H
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Old Nov 10th, 2009, 10:54 AM
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Hi Marya

Yes my son and I are going March/April, will have loads of questions nearer the time.

Thanks
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Old Nov 28th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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DH and I are going next year (Oct 10th). we have 3 days in Beijing by ourselves before our tour (Viking river Cruises) begins. Your report is very helpful on things to see. I am concerned about taxi's. Is this the best way to get around or should be venture to the metro system and if we do that are the stops posted in English as well. The thought of being lost on the metro in such a large city is a bit frightening. Cell Phones: When we go to Europe we use the blackberry and upgrade our service to include Europe. Is this the best (easiest) for us to do when we go to China? What do you recommend.....Got our airline tickets today (mileage) and have call into Viking for extra days at the hotel. Not sure which one but I'm thinking Shangri-La.....thanks again for any help
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Old Nov 28th, 2009, 11:48 AM
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Marya: Stellar! I don't know how I missed this early on but I am glad to have made the belated discovery!
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Old Nov 28th, 2009, 01:26 PM
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Thanks, ekscrunchy, and please know I am staying tuned for any additions to the boof list.
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