BigWorldAndSmallWorld Blog

Travel Journal on our Silk Road China Trip

Posted in Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the September 24th, 2010

August 16 Beijing 北京
Clark and I have been to the Great Wall in 1995, but this time we went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. It hardly had any people. The view of the Great Wall stretched along the lush green mountaintops was breathtaking. We saw a wedding group taking wedding photos on the Wall. Good choice of a perfect spot!

August 17 Beijing/Urumqi北京/乌鲁木齐
We went to a local restaurant for lunch. It was a nice place for dumplings. We tasted ten different kinds of stuffing; most of them were vegetables with only one meat stuffing that the kids liked.

August 18 Urumqi乌鲁木齐
On the way to Heavenly Lake, we stopped at the roadside to look at a yurt (a tentlike dwelling of the Mongol and Turkic peoples of central Asia). Inside it was huge, large enough to comfortably sleep a dozen people. It was beautifully decorated with colorful carpets. The yurt was located on a scenic creek bank side. When winter comes, the nomad’s family just takes down the entire yurt, packs it and moves to warm grounds, next summer the family returns to the same spot and sets up the yurt again.

Sitting on top of a hill overlooking the Heavenly Lake, there was a Daoism Monastery we visited. It was so peaceful and beautiful there, truly heavenly.

August 19 Turpan 吐鲁番
Turpan was hot. We stayed at the Huozhou Hotel. Huozhou 火洲in Chinese means Fire State. Our room had a see-through glass wall bathroom, it was really cool. This was the first time we saw this kind of bathroom.

August 20 Turpan/Jiayuguan吐鲁番/嘉峪关
Our overnight train ticket had some issues. In fact we did not even have a train ticket. Our guide had to bribe several staff on the train with cigarettes and money so that we can get on the train with soft-sleep beds. Only a Chinese can handle this situation, westerners can’t even imagine what to do. Because of the ticket issue, a couple of us had to move from one compartment to another in the middle of the night; we did not sleep much.

August 21 Jiayuguan嘉峪关
Jiayuguan Pass was the first pass to Hexi corridor. People traveling westward must pass this fort in ancient times. Compared to Fort Snelling, Jiayuguan was huge. It housed one thousand soldiers and horses in ancient times.

August 22 Dunhuang 敦煌
We had our first camel ride at the Singing Sand Mountains and Crescent Moon Spring. It was fantastic! Most camels had two humps. We learned that the camels with standing humps were the healthy ones while those with hanging humps were not.

At Mogao Grottoes we saw a huge (over 30 foot tall) Buddha stone statue and a 26 foot lying Buddha statue. The Grottoes have over 700 caves, but at any given day only 30 caves are open for tourists.

August 23 Dunhuang敦煌
Dunhuang night market was a nice place to go. It had all kinds of spices, artworks and food. We particularly liked the local art and bought one wooden carving tiger for CNY800. The tiger looked so real, it was cool. Seeing the artist working on their projects in the market was definitely eye opening.

August 24 Dunhuang敦煌
We have been reading Chinese/English signs at places we went to. Here were the funniest ones we have seen. “Grapes and fruits taste the spot” in Chinese 葡萄水果品尝点,in proper English it should be something like this “This is the spot to taste grapes and fruits”. “Watch for ladders” in Chinese 小心台阶,there was no ladder rather there were some steps, in proper English it should be “Watch for your steps”. “Be careful of landslide” in Chinese 小心地滑,in proper English it should be “Floor slippery, be careful!” This sign on a bathroom door made us laugh for a long time.

August 25 Lanzhou 兰州
Two days in a row we traveled to different states; we were tired. Taking a speedboat ride on the Yellow River was an interesting experience on its own. The 45-minute one-way ride was scary considering the boat was tiny and completely enclosed with eight people trapped inside for a long time; not to mention on the way back the driver told us he saw a dead body floating on the water. However the serene Bingling Cave Temple hidden in the mountains along the Yellow River was worthwhile to see. Water buffaloes were happily resting in the valley where caves, mountains and river meet, it was picturesque! There was no other way to get to the Bingling Cave Temple, so we had to take the speedboat.

August 26 Xian 西安
After daily breakfast buffet and banquet style Chinese lunch, McDonald’s sounded so good to us. We often craved for ice cream on the trip and that was our supper.

August 27 Xian/Shanghai西安/上海
In Shanghai we departed with the rest of the group. Shanghai is my hometown.

August 28 to September 2 Shanghai上海
We still had a few days before we heading back to the States. One day we went to a nearby water town called Wuzhen. It rained and such moments appeared in many Chinese literatures “beautiful Jiangnan in the rain 雨中的江南是很美的”.

On the last day in Shanghai, a Typhoon hit the city and we got heavy rain for hours and hours. It reminded me how much I loved Typhoon weather when I was a child in the hot and humid over 100-degree days when the only cooling device we had was the fan in the house. It felt so nice and cool during Typhoon.

We had a great time in China and we have over 800 pictures! For a sneak peek of the photos we took on the trip, go to this link:

Finding true meaning in classic Chinese literature

Posted in Travel and Adventure by Administrator on the September 6th, 2010

When I was young, I learned these classic Chinese literatures. One of them is the famous Dang dynasty poem from Wang Wei “A Song at Weicheng” and another one is one of the four Chinese classic novels “Journey to the West” from the 16th century. My trip to the Silk Road three weeks ago made all these literatures into reality.

王维Wang Wei wrote《送元二使安西(又名“渭城曲”)》A SONG AT WEICHENG
渭城朝雨浥轻尘,A morning-rain has settled the dust in Weicheng;
客舍青青柳色新。Willows are green again in the tavern dooryard….
劝君更尽一杯酒, Wait till we empty one more cup —
西出阳关无故人。West of Yang Gate there’ll be no old friends.
I was able to see the so called Yang Gate阳关 at Jiayuguan 嘉裕关and the nearby Jade Gate 玉门关. These gates together marked the boundaries between ancient China 中国 and the surrounding barbarians. West of the gates was desert while east of the gates was the civilized China in old days. Making the geographic connection allows me to fully understand the true meaning of “West of Yang Gate there’ll be no old friends”.

One of the most famous characters in Journey to the West 西游记was the Monkey King孙吾空. In one of the episode, the Monkey King had to pass the Flaming Mountain火焰山with his crew. The only way to pass the Mountain was to borrow a super fan from a powerful person. I thought the Flaming Mountain火焰山was existed only in literature when I was young. But there is the real Flaming Mountain in Xinjiang province that I saw this time. The red sandy mountain under the sun is breathtakingly beautiful. Not only did we find the real Flaming Mountain, we also went to Guazhou 瓜州. In Journey to the West, the Monkey King also went to Guazhou 瓜州. We tasted sweet melon at Guazhou, maybe that is why it is called Guazhou because melon in Chinese is Gua瓜.

By the way, if you don’t know what Four Chinese Classic Novels are, they are: Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義, Water Margin 水滸傳, Journey to the West 西遊記 and Dream of the Red Chamber 紅樓夢. Happy learning because what you have learned could be true.