Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Travel Adventures

So after several days in China and two more days in Korea I'm back in the US. China was actually more fun than I thought it would be. Initially I was just along for the ride, mother being the person who wanted to go.

We hooked up in China with a friend whom we've known for several years. Kim has lived in China for about 5 years and she was a wonderful tour guide. After we checked into our hotel (and had issues with them allowing Kim to stay with us. She ended up staying with a friend about 10 min away) we went to Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City. We also ate Peking Duck in a restaurant that seemed like it was in the middle of rape-and-pillage-village but in reality was in an old part of the city. The duck was quite yummy. Between the Forbidden City and the duck we wandered and found this long street where people were selling various forms of street food. We tried starfish (not so yummy), snake and sea mushrooms. The snake was ok; just rather salty. We also went to Starbucks where I got two cool travel mugs. That was Tuesday.

Wednesday we went to the Great Wall (the Ba Da Ling section) and wandered for about three-ish hours. We went to Starbucks there as well and again I got another travel mug, this time with the Great Wall on it. Then we went to the Silk Market (so named because, though it sells many things the focus is silks) where I discovered that I rock at price bargaining. For instance: a guy wanted about 1,900RMB for a pair of pants (over $100). I got them for about 80RMB (less than $10). I think he was crying as I left. But here's the thing, they won't sell it to you if they won't make a profit so I did not feel badly.

Thursday we went to the Temple of Heaven and to the Pearl Market (similar to the Silk Market, only Pearls). At the Temple of Heaven there is a park where the Chinese people get together to hang out so you can basically see the Chinese in their daily social-ness. The Pearl Market was fun. I got some nice pearl sets. My other fun story happened here: there was a shirt with Korean writing on it at one stall. I liked it and just for fun asked what the writing was. "It is Chinese. It says the name of the girl and where she will eat dinner." I was like "No it's not. It's Korean. You lie." I walked away to the cries of "You are right! It is Korean! Come back: good price!" I did not go back but did eventually find the same shirt again. They got the language right that time and I got the shirt for 80RMB (they wanted more than 550RMB).

The Pearl and Silk markets are fun but you have to be pretty focused when you are there. There is tonnes of stuff and every vendor is shouting at you as you walk by "Lady! You want silk? Chinese shirt? Good price! Lady!" Some of them even pull on you and if you walk into their stall and don't buy anything they try to physically hold you in.

Friday Mum and I were pretty much out of money so we decided to go to the airport early and see about getting an earlier flight. We got there about 10 and were told no can do. Well, our flight was not till 6:45 that night so we just chilled at the airport and when we finally checked in and boarded we ended up sitting on the tarmac for three hours because of weather. So we finally landed around 1 in the morning. The ATMs were closed and all I had on me was 45,000 won (about $45) which was not enough to get us home (a 2 hour drive) but I finally found a cabbie who agreed to that price. I told him where I wanted to go and the guy next to him told him as well. I also pointed on a map just to be sure. Well, he did not take us there. He took us somewhere totally different and still made me pay. I was trying to communicate with him and he was being a jerk when a lady cam to help. She tried to get him to do what he agreed and he would not, then he tried to tell the people who at this time had gathered around that he had not been paid. (This is all going on in Korean but I cold understand most of it) I went to pull the money out of his pocket and when he realized that, showed that I had indeed paid. By this time I'm crying because I was so frustrated and tired and a guy came up who spoke English! He was able to find me an ATM and a nice taxi driver. He told the taxi driver to give me the day rate and he did! It was still another 40,000 won but whatever. We finally got home at 3 am.

Saturday we slept in (duh) and got more of my packing done. Then one of the sectaries from school took mum and I out for dinner. It was at this amazing buffet that had all sorts of fresh foods. So. Good.

Sunday was church again and our monthly church lunch. It was even more special because our pastor and his wife who had been gone for the past year were back. Then home for more packing and cleaning then off to meet a teacher from the school who took us out to eat again. This time it was a multi-course Korean meal that was (as just about all Korean food is) excellent!

Monday our flight was at 11:10 so we left Bongcheon at 7 am with Linda whose flight was at 11:30. After at stop in Japan we landed in Minneapolis at 11:30 in the afternoon. Not too much jet-lag yet but I've been back in the US just over 24 hours so we'll see how it goes.

I updated the pictures on my page if you want to go see!

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