Friday, July 10, 2009

Beautiful Koh Samui

Ko Samui, often called just Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, some 700km south of Bangkok and about 80km from the eastern coastline of southern Thailand. An island of great natural beauty and variety, Samui is home to about 40,000 full-time inhabitants, 90% of whom are Buddhist. The palm fringed shoreline and coconut and fruit cultivation of the coastal lowlands rise to a central granite massive, the slopes of which are cloaked in virgin rainforest.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Phuket is AWESOME!

I'm in Phuket now and we just spent all day at the beach. It is AMAZING. It's just like the pictures you see online. It's absolutely breathtaking.

Our hostel is awesome and HUGE! we're about a 2 minute walk from the beach right in this adorable part of town with lots of restaurants and beach bars. We sat on the beach all day (with sunscreen) and tomorrow, we arranged a tour through our hostel. We're leaving at 7:45am to go to an island over by 'James Bond Island' and then we're snorkeling, going to Monkey Beach (where you can see live monkeys roaming around), kayaking, island tour, lunch and then in the afternoon, we're doing an elephant tour!!! I can't believe it. We got the entire package for next to nothing USD. This country is great.

Okay, well that's all i can write now. Internet is not the greatest here so I don't know when i'll be able to post again.

Arrived in Thailand!

I made it to thailand. I'm at the airport in bangkok getting ready to leave for phuket. I still am unsure about the internet so more later.

Days 2 and 3 in Hong Kong

All is going well - we're headed out today although it may rain (as usual). Tomorrow we have the whole day in HK again and then leave for Thailand tomorrow night around 7pm, I think. We arrive in Thailand around 11:30pm. Our flight to Phuket is at like 7am the next day, so it would be dumb and unsafe to get a cab into the city for a few hours rest, so we'll be sleeping at the airport. Shouldn't be too bad.

We saw Transformers yesterday in this crazy movie theatre. The seats rumbled and it was so loud and big. Overall a horribly stupid movie but the ambiance was really cool. Went out for curry last night and today we're going to another island around HK.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Leaving Shanghai, on to Hong Kong

Sorry I have been really bad about updating you on my adventures. The internet at the hotel wasn't very reliable and I still am having trouble downloading/attaching pictures to emails. So sorry there haven't been any pictures either.

I am currently at the Shanghai airport waiting to board my plane to Hong Kong (at 9:10am) due to arrive around noon. We are staying at a hostel downtown which happens to be right next to Ellen's friend that we're meeting. He is going to meet us for dinner around 6pm and show us/talk to us about the city. Tomorrow night and the night after, we're staying in a different hostel in another part of town. Both hostels said they have internet access but I might not have access to WiFi or I'll keep you posted.

Shanghai has been interesting. It wasn't at all what I had expected. Maybe if it was the last stop before home, I would have appreciated it more but I just didn't like it. I feel bad because everyone else I talk to LOVES Shanghai but it didn't do much for me. The city is HUGE and at night, it looks like Vegas with all of the neon lights. We spent most of our time outside of the city in Wu Zen, Suzhou, and Hungzhou with one day downtown Shanghai (it poured and was awful.) While I love China and definitely want to come back soon, I feel like the big cities are still growing on me. I like it better out in the mountains, by the lakes, in the gardens and away from the crowds of people. Hong Kong may be different as it is more Westernized and will hopefully have better food options for me. We're still not sure what we're going to do during our time here but once we learn the public transit system (which I guess the subways are spread out like an octopus?) we should be good to go anywhere.

We leave for Thailand (Bangkok) the night of July 7th. We are due to get in around 11:30pm but since it's so late and we don't want to be walking/driving around looking for a hostel, we have decided to spend the night at the airport. We are taking the earliest flight out of Bangkok in the morning (July 8) to go to Phuket - southern Thailand where all the beaches/tourists are. We are spending 2 nights there and then going to Koh Samui (a small island northeast of Phuket - also busy with beaches and tourists) and staying there for 2 nights. It was cheaper for us to spend an extra day on the island than fly to Bangkok for 2 days (bummer, right?). So we are flying to Bangkok for the day on July 12 and then I leave to come home a little after midnight that day (technically July 13). So the beach is only a few days away!!! I CANNOT WAIT.

Other than that, nothing much is happening. I'm excited to find food that will not upset my stomach. I'm getting kind of sick of muffins and dinner rolls. I guess it's better than nothing, though. HAPPY 4th OF JULY!! Hope you all are doing well and I can't wait to come home in 10 days!!!!!! yahoo!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Recognize any of these???

Here are some American products in Chinese - per September's request. Ha! Some Crest toothpaste, some Skippy peanut butter, some sick gold fish crackers that taste like the smell of salami, and some facewash.

Some dried roses and lemon slices often used in teas (so good!!! and cheap!), some noodles/sauce - we tried to make spaghetti (with buckwheat noodles and American sauce), and a menu from Hard Rock Café! Funny thing though, the Hard Rock was a knockoff!! It's not a licensed HR Cafe, so it was really funny. We met some Americans there who are from LA and we talked about Michael Jackson for a while. It wasn't anything impressive but fun to see that handbags and movies aren't the only things that are fake here.

Overlooking the Forbidden City

This is a view from the top of a pagoda in a park across the street from Beihai. I forgot the name and can't find my ticket right now so I'll have to tell you later. But the park is really cool.

Apparently, one of emperors was going to either die, be killed or be exiled, and he escaped from Forbidden City without anyone knowing and hung himself on one of the trees. The tree he died on has since died also but has been replaced. Anyway, that's beside the point. We climbed to the top of this landing and could overlook all of Beijing (BREATHTAKING!!!) and on one side of the pagoda, you could see all of the Forbidden City (I can't even describe it.) IT'S HUUUUUUUUUGE. I knew the city was big because it took us like 3 hours to walk through it when we went to T-Square... but to see it from up high... all the gold roofs.... it was crazy. The Forbidden City is so large in size and covers so much land, that you can barely see T-Square right in front of it (which would be the far end if you were looking from where we were today). This picture really doesn't do it justice, but my camera batteries both died before I could get a better shot. So just trust me when I say it's MASSIVE and nearly impossible to imagine. But it was freaking AWESOME.

Beihai Park (Continued)

More pictures of this fantastic park! The first is a picture of 2 gods - the gods of the East and West, I think. They correspond the the temples that are in the 4 corners of the city f Beijing. If you remember, the temple of heaven is in one corner where the emperor would go to pray for certain blessings in his city. Each temple has a god and those gods were depicted in statue form in this part of Beihai Park.

One of the details on all the roofs of the pagodas and temples. It's outstanding... the work that is put into the architecture. This park is absolutely incredible (and nearly free to get into!). I can't wait to come back to China and visit it again. I could spend an entire week just taking pictures in this park alone.

A picture of a pagoda on the water.

This one is of a giant marble wall of dragons - I think there are 9 different dragons but I will have to get back to you on their significance.

More pictures of Beihai Park. Usually, you're not supposed to take pictures of the Buddha but there were no signs in the cave saying photography was prohibited, so I took pictures. I thought you'd be interested in seeing how the Chinese (the real Buddhists) depict the Buddha compared to the Western interpretation. It's all very fascinating.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Beihai Park Series

We went to Beihai Park today after we worked at the nonprofit and the park was AMAZING!!! I LOVED IT! The big white building you see in the background of (most of) these pictures is a Tibetan pagoda. It's famous and on many postcards of China. I took almost 300 pictures of the Park alone today, so there are many more for you to see when i get home. Can't wait to show you! I'll send you more in just a few minutes.

Three Primary Colors Nonprofit

Here are pictures from our day with the nonprofit called "Three Primary Colors" in downtown Beijing. They are an organization that works with young adults and adults with mild to severe emotional, behavior and learning disabilities. LOTS of drama getting there but once we arrived, we had a brief introduction and then split into groups to do some arts and crafts. I was in a painting/calligraphy group. I attached pictures of some of the artwork the people made, the warrior god thing I traced with calligraphy ink as well as the man who did my portrait. The organization also put on a performance for us and I have attached a picture of one of the numbers from it. It is 4 of the guys who played instruments and recited a poem line by line (each man had one line of the poem and they would all speak one line at a time all the way down the line and again.)

The Bullet Train

Last week we took the bullet train to Beijing to work with a nonprofit organization in downtown Beijing. We took the bullet train from Tian Jin to Beijing - only a 30 minute ride! It was so cool! It went about 90 mph and was the smoothest ride I've ever had. Very impressive. And so, super clean!!! I have attached pictures of the schedule board, my ticket, the inside of the train station (nicer than most airports) and the nose of the train. Hope you enjoy!!!