A Travellerspoint blog

China

A Bit About Toilets in China

We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.

sunny 78 °F

Toilets in China are interesting to say the least. The modern hotels have regular bathrooms with all of the modern accouterments. Outside of the modern hotels it is a real crapshoot as to what you will get. The Tourist Board rates some of the restrooms at the main sites. I giggled at the plaque outside of the toilets at the Ming Tomb, but as the trip progressed I was longing for a 3 star toilet. My initial impression of the three star facility was not great, but I quickly lowered my expectations for the toilet situation and began to look and pray for the tourist board rated bathrooms. Unfortunately, most of the bathrooms did not rate.
So what is the big deal? A typical public restroom in Beijing was a stall with a squat toilet. A squat toilet is just what it sounds like- a toilet over which you squat. How is this possible? First, it does not look like a Western toilet. Get the image of the toilet in your home out of your head. Imagine an oval shaped hole in the ground. The hole in te ground has a basin made of either porcelain or stainless steel and it has a grooved area on either side for your feet. Second, one does not put toilet paper into the toilet. There is a waste bin for that. Third, toilet paper is not available at most public restrooms and if it is, it is not in the stall. It is located as you enter the restroom much like a paper towel dispenser. Fourth, the smell is indescribable in most of the restrooms. I will be having nightmares for sure.

Posted by SusanConradWang 05:04 Archived in China Tagged china beijing restroom squat_toilet Comments (2)

Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs: The Final Resting Place of the Emperors of the Ming Dynasty

sunny 78 °F

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We woke up around 5:00 am and started our day. We never wake this early, but at this point, our bodies have no idea what time or what day it is. The hotel has a full breakfast buffet with a lot of interesting choices. Breakfast foods here consist of fruits, cereals, pastries, cooked vegetables, congee (I have no ideas what it is but it looks like a pasty soup), fried noodles, fried rice, boiled eggs, steamed buns, and corn on the cob. I felt like I was having lunch for breakfast. We loaded up on fruit and proteins so that we wouldn’t get too hungry before we stopped for lunch.
Our tour guide, Sally (Pan Jioa was her true name), met us in the lobby and we started our day. On our itinerary for the day: Ming Tombs, a jade factory, lunch, The Great Wall at Badaling, and a silk factory. Sally’s English was fantastic and our group was comprised of English savvy travellers. There were three girls from the Bay area that extended a trip from a wedding they attended elsewhere in China, an Australian flight attendant that worked for Emirates airlines and lived in Dubai, and a couple from Poland that decided to visit Beijing for just two nights.

Ming Tombs:
The Ming Tombs are the final resting place of 13 emperors of China. Only two tombs are open to the public and we visited just one, the tomb of the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The 3rd emperor was responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City. The actual tomb is a mountain behind a temple that’s purpose was for the prayers of the emperor’s children. When an emperor died, he was buried with all of his concubines, which would answer why the emperor needed a mountain. Apparently, the emperor would have thousands of concubines.
The tombs are in a beautiful location surrounded by orchards and mountains. The location was selected based upon the principle of Feng Shui. The mountain on one side is a dragon mountain while the mountain on the other side is a Tiger mountain. They provide protection from bad spirits. The tombs are also directly lined up with the Forbidden City. They were built on the same meridian.
In front of the tomb we visited is a large Wudan building that hosts a museum full of artifacts from the 13th Ming emperor. According to our guide, he was a bad emperor. I asked her what made him bad and she said that he was not in touch with the needs of the people and so he was the last of the Ming emperors, a new dynasty took over and began the Ching dynasty. If he were a good emperor, the Ching Dynasty would not have begun. The artifacts were oxidized and dingy due to the pollution and perhaps the environment in which they are being displayed. The Wudan is not temperature controlled. It is a very interesting building, though. The architects used 16 huge tree trunks as supports and there weren’t any nails used. The used a form of tongue and groove construction. The building is 600 years old and is still in use. Pretty impressive.
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As we exited the area, we had to go through a spirit gate and say a phrase in Mandarin that translates as “We’ll come back”. It was to keep the ghosts from following us. The women had to step out using their right foot and the men stepped out using their left foot.
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Posted by SusanConradWang 05:01 Archived in China Tagged tombs beijing ming Comments (1)

From SFO to Beijing With a Little Bit of Taipei in Between

17 hours on a plane, 2 meals, 4 movies, and 0 arguments!

overcast 78 °F

I have some catching up to do as we have not had any access to internet while in Beijing. (Through our choice- it is available at the hotel, but is a bit expensive per day and we have not been in the room enough to justify the purchase) Here is a look at what has been experienced so far.

Tuesday June 12 and Wednesday June 13: We arrived at SFO with plenty of time to check in and go through security and it was a good thing that we allowed ourselves three hours for the process as the computers for EVA Air were down and they were doing everything by hand. The line was a sight to see. People were flying back to Taipei with boxes of purchases, the process for each family took about 8 minutes, and the line was about 100 yards long. To top it all off, only 2 lines were open to service all of these people. Yikes!

We were standing at the end of this massive line when a ticket agent came by and saw that we did not have any bags to check. He told us to go to the front of the line and just check in. Yay for packing light! So instead of waiting in that line for hours, we checked in and were on our way in about 15 minutes.
The flight was 13 hours and the time went by very quickly. Dan and I watched movies, slept, and ate. The flight attendants just kept feeding everyone. Having dinner at 2:30 in the morning was a bit strange, though. The flight attendants were very charming and spoke several languages. As we entered the plane, they were greeting guests in different languages. Dan got a “Ni hao!” and I got a “Hello!” Any time they were serving us food or drink, they spoke to Dan in Mandarin and to me in English. I am going to make it a goal to learn more Mandarin so that the next time we travel to Asia, I can converse in Mandarin, too.
We landed in Taipei around 6:00am and my first view of Taipei was a bit disappointing. It was very hazy and overcast. I’m hoping that the weather is a bit clearer when we stay in Taiwan after our sightseeing in China. The airport, however, was a delight. The place was so clean that it sparkled. The floors, the walls, the ceiling, the windows…all sparkly! I have no idea how they keep such a heavily used space so darn clean. We had fun wandering around the shops and looking at all of the snacks, toys, and products. It’s fun to see American products in their packaging for Asian markets. (And to see new products and wonder just what I am looking at!)
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The flight to Beijing was short in comparison to our flight to Taipei, around 4 hours. When we landed, a guide was waiting for us to take us to our hotel and answer any initial questions. If you arrange a tour in China, the guide is a government employee. I guess all employees are technically government employees since China is communist, but there are no private sector guides. They are all provided and trained by the government. Scott, our guide, was a really funny guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor. We enjoyed our ride to the hotel and he provided us with some tips and suggestions. He told us that people might want to practice their English with us, but that Dan probably wouldn’t be approached because he has “a Chinese face”. He would be able to blend in a bit more. (Which turned out to not be so true…ABCs (American Born Chinese) stand out. People could just tell by the way Dan dressed and walked that he was not Mainland Chinese). I stuck out quite a bit and I will have stories about that later.
When we arrived at the hotel, we registered our passports and checked out our room. The room was very small and had 2 double beds. We decided to upgrade to a room with a king sized bed and wow what a difference! The original room was very plain and basic. The upgraded room had gadgets and switches for everything and outlets that fit our American electronics. The room key had to be entered into a receptacle by the front door for the power to work. The room also had pretty nice city views. On the first day we couldn’t see much because the pollution was so heavy. The sky looked an ominous brownish yellow. My initial thought was that we would have to buy and wear masks so that we didn’t breath in all of that pollution.
We thought that we would have energy to do a little city exploration after a little nap. The little nap turned into a 7 hour sleep. We woke up, ordered dinner, and went back to sleep for another 7 hours. I guess we were pretty shattered after travelling so long. The good news was that we skipped jet lag due to our marathon sleep session.

Posted by SusanConradWang 04:57 Archived in China Tagged travel air beijing arrival Comments (0)

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