Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hangzhou: Baoshi Hill and Yingzhou Islet

Recently, I had a day off from work and a three day weekend for "Tomb Sweeping Day," which is something roughly equivalent to Memorial Day, a day to remember ancestors. Since the big nationwide holidays in China lead to all the tourist sites being extremely crowded with inflated prices, I decided to stay in Hangzhou and see some things I hadn't seen before. Actually, some of the places are major tourist sites in Hangzhou, but I had just been putting them off for one reason or another.

During this weekend, I should mention that I cracked open some Stagg Chili I smuggled in from the US and mixed in the usual cheese, chipotle flavored Tobasco, and salsa. While I did have to eat the Chili from a Chinese bowl and use a cutesy Chinese-style spoon, I felt for a short moment that I was back in Chicago devouring some microwaved Chili as a usual quick and unhealthy dinner.

One of the days I hiked along the Baoshi Hill, which is very near the area where my new apartment is located. It's not a very steep or demanding hike, but hiking from one end to the other is pretty enjoyable and you can see several different interesting things along the way. There were old-style Chinese houses, Buddhist temples, and several gardens dotted along the path.

Old-Style Chinese Housing

Old-Style Lane

Baoshi Hill Path

Temple Tucked into Rocky Cave

One interesting thing was that there were a lot of people singing, playing instruments, and dancing in some of the larger public areas. I'm not sure if it was because of the weekend or the holiday or if they're always there. Most of the people were a bit older, so it was definitely a good time to sit back and watch them perform some of the classical Chinese singing and dancing.

Singing with Accompaniment

Group Singing in Large Public Square

Some Dancing with Twirling Handkerchiefs

Along the Baoshi Hill path, there's a garden area called Yellow Dragon Cave that doesn't really contain a cave at all. Lots of places in China seem to have the name cave in them, but will not contain anything that I would consider to be a cave. It had some interesting sites, but nothing really too spectacular. Since I'm usually more interesting in taking pictures of weird things, I liked the guy riding around in a duck boat cleaning garbage the most.

The Yellow Dragon

Man Cleaning Garbage in Duck Boat

Contains 4 Babies (Horizontal and Vertical) and Provides Good Luck if You Rub Their Butts

The main reason to hike along Baoshi Hill is to see the 1000 year old Baochu Pagoda. It's not too high up, but provides great views of the city and West Lake.

Gu Hill (In Front) and Islets of West Lake

Wes with Baochu Pagoda, Hangzhou City, and West Lake

Baochu Pagoda and Downtown Hangzhou

Broken Bridge and West Lake

Baochu Pagoda

Later on during my holiday weekend, I decided to take one of the "Pleasure Boats" to the Yangzhou Islet in West Lake. I have never done it before because it's kind of pricey, but I figured for my vacation at home weekend I could afford it. Despite my initial fear about what type of services the "Pleasure Boat" would provide, I decided to try it. 

Cruising on West Lake

Row of "Pleasure Boats"

After arriving on the island and walking around for awhile, it became apparent that the whole place is super touristy. Nevertheless, it provides great views of a lot of the sites around West Lake.

Pavilion on Yingzhou Islet

Chenhuang Pavilion at a Distance

Leifeng Pagoda

While there were a few foreign "laowai's" like myself there, the majority of tourists were of course Chinese. Normally, the local Hangzhou people aren't too taken back by seeing foreigners, but some of the tourists there were pretty interested and I had several requests to have my picture taken with them.

The Best Way to Eat an Apple is While Squatting

The main draw of the island is to catch a glimpse of the "Three Pools Mirroring the Moon" site. There are these three pagoda spires in the lake that have candles lit inside when there's a full moon, supposedly producing a pretty dramatic effect. However, most people just go during the day and snap a photo like myself, removing some of the mystique.

All Three Pagodas in the Water

Pagoda with Lake Traffic

Pagoda Spire with Bridge

Staying in Hangzhou for the weekend was a nice break from the usual holiday travel rush in China. I didn't have to cram into any buses or trains, deal with too many huge crowds of people, or worry about a place to sleep. While there was nothing new about the views I saw, it's always a good to get to know the city you live in a bit more.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Utah During Chinese New Year

Since I had about two weeks off during Chinese New Year, I took the opportunity to go back home to Utah to visit my family. It had been over one year since my last trip home, so it was definitely overdue. Despite that trip finishing over a month ago (as you can see I'm a little behind on the blog), I am going to post a few pictures.

Since all the family was together at one time, my mom organized a family photo session. Everyone was able to come: my parents; my brother and his wife and kids; my sister and her husband and son; even me and my solo act, which ruined the trend of multi-generational nuclear families. We went to an old train station, where they have a bunch of old trains and cool things to take pictures with. The pictures turned out pretty great.

The Original Five

The Whole Family

The Whole Family in Black and White

Emily, Sawyer, and Jeremy

Kyle, Parker, Amy, and Gage

Wes, Parker, and Kyle

Parker, Gage, and Sawyer

For me the whole trip was about seeing family and friends who I hadn't seen for a long time. Well, that and eating lots of food that I had been missing in China. I definitely gained a bit of weight after eating so many big meals, but it was worth it.

My brother and his family stayed over at my parents' house for a weekend, so I was able to spend some in depth time with them. I was great to spend time with Gage and have Parker serve me burgers and chocolate milk in the play kitchen.  Since my sister lives close to my parents, I was also able to see her and Sawyer a lot throughout my visit and saw how much energy that little man has. Besides that, we had a big lunch with the Allred side of the family, visited grandparents, and went to a cousin's wedding on the Roylance side of the family, so I pretty much covered everyone on both sides of the family.

As much as I could, I also met up with friends from the old days, although lots of them are married now and are starting to have their own families, which makes it a bit harder to meet up.

Sawyer Wanting My Camera

Grandma and Grandpa Roylance

Amazing Painting of My Grandpa Roylance by My Brother

A Bearded Grizzly Matt


Mole at the Red Iguana

Chipotle Burrito

Besides family and friends, the nicest part about being home was having blue skies nearly every day, unblocked and fast internet, and no crowds of people. Taking a leisurely drive with no traffic and mountains in the distance was definitely a nice change of pace.

Ben Lomond Peak Under Clouds

Historic 25th Street in Ogden

Ogden Union Station

Mount Ogden

I was lucky that the time I was back in the US coincided with the winter olympics. Since I had a lot of free time, I was able to watch most of the main events. It was great to watch the snowboard and ski events. I especially liked the snowboard cross.

Towards the end of the trip, my parents and I went to a Utah Jazz basketball game, which I haven't done in a long time. Unfortunately, the Jazz lost and their best player Deron Williams didn't play, but it was great to see a live game.

Unfortunately, like all good things, my time in Utah came quickly to an end. The two weeks seemed to fly by. It was really great to see all my family and to see how fast all my nephews are growing up. There's even one more nephew on the way in Kyle and Amy's family, so they're going to have three boys soon! Hopefully in the future I'll be able to see them more often than once a year. Thanks everyone for making my trip special.

Before I knew it, I had to fly back to China. I had another quick stop in San Francisco, so I squeezed in another short visit with Chris and Dara and grabbed some breakfast, then I headed from San Francisco to Shanghai. I always enjoy flying from the US back to China because you fly in an arc high to the north, over Alaska and the northern parts of Russia. Probably it is the same route going to the US from China, but normally it's at night time on that flight so you can't see. While lots of people are sleeping, I spend the time looking out the window at the huge ice sheets and pure white landscape as far as the eye can see.

Ice Sheets Floating on the Ocean

Snow Covered Landscape Over Russia