Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The end

This now conclude my very interesting and fun trip to China. I almost made it to daily blogs but I did try my best haha.

I really enjoyed spending time with my family and especially my niece. This is the longest time I have ever spent with a baby. It is amazing to discover how curious and intelligent they are. She is only 6 months old and she is already very adept at getting what she want. She already learned that if she smiles at people, they will pick her up haha. So she does this kind of a fake smile but it is still cute as hell. She is constantly observing everything. You can tell she is absorbing knowledge like a sponge. I can't wait to see how much she's grown next time. ALthough she won't remember me at all :(

finally, in keeping with the banquet theme:

day..something+1: Qi Xia Temple

I must fit in one last temple visit in NanJing haha. The second day in NanJing, we went to Qi Xia Mountain. It is another famous mountain in NanJing, but it is a little bit out of the way since most of the people go visit Zhong Shan mountain. We decided to go because this mountain is covered in Maple trees, and by November they are usuallly fiery red so it made for a beautiful hike. Alas, when we got there, there were no red maples to be found. Apparently Nanjing was uncommonly hot this year and the trees don't turn red until a chill so we were thwarted. We even hiked half way up the mountain as M was determined to see some red leaves. But we didn't make it as the sun was so hot. -_-!!!

Set at the bottom of the mountain is Qi Xia Temple, A buddhist temple built in AD 489. It also houses the National Buddhist school so it's a very serious place and not that touristy. It was kind of ironic though because as I walked in, there are red banners everywhere from different associations saying "best wishes to the Qi XIa Maple Festival opening success". Considering how crazy the weather is I find that highly unlikely hahah. We also encountered a memorial ceremony going on in the temple in the back. It is a tradition where the grieving family asks the monks to pray over the deceased so that he can go in peace. I have never actually seen one in person so I took a peek at a respectful distance. The family had traditional paper stuff to burn so that the deceased can use it in the afterlife. In addition to the normal "mountain of gold", "mountain of silver". They also had a two story house, complete with furniture and decorations, and a garage with a car inside. It is a fascinating insight into the convergence between tradition and modernity.

After this visit, we again had a banquet on the river of the QingHuai River (where the famous FPS checkpoint doorway was lol). QingHuai river is famous for its night scenery. It has a night market and it is the favorite spot for all the tourists. They did not allow any tall buildings to be built around the area, and no cars are allowed inside so it is a little space of rest( but not peace haha) in the middle of the big city. The restaurant is called "family on the QingHuai". They have live performances while you eat and they are famous for a 16 course meal where they introduce you to NanJing cuisine (in very small dishes hehe).

Unfortunately, after we got home, we learned that during the weekend, the D trains are going into maintenance, and they are cutting 8000 seats everyday. In the panic of not finding tickets later, we decided to return to ChangZhou the very next day, and called my cousin in ChangZhou to buy train tickets to ShangHai. It turned out to be a great idea as my cousin called back and said that there were only 5 seats left for the train 3 days later.


ok ok, yall are right, I am a total slacker haha. but in my defense, really nothing much happened since I came back from HangZhou. I spent the rest of the time sleeping, eating and shopping. Except for 3 days where I made a side to NanJing to visit my father's family. I was actually pretty nervous since the people from the two sides of my family actually hate each other and they never talk. This time I am taking M with me so I have no idea how it will go. It didn't help that M and I had a small fight the night before cause she thinks I am being inconsiderate making her staying at my aunts. Since she was afraid my aunt will give her the cold shoulder. I felt really bad since I haven't fought with her in like 5 years. Looking back it was partly my fault for not giving her enough assurance that wouldn't happen. So there was alot of tension. But it all turned out relatively alright. I can tell deep down, they still feel all awkward, but at least on the surface, it was all civility and politeness. That is all I can ask for.

So while in NanJing, there are of course more banquets. My aunt took us and my favoritite cousin to this great restaurant in the shopping district the first day. I had many famous NanJing dishes like the Salted Duck and Tofu Skin soup and Lions' Head that Velius talked about. I was lucky in that the week I went coincided with the International Urban City Conference in NanJing. My aunt says that in preparation, the entire city was cleaned and wiped spotless so it will look good for westerners. (so typical). But the benefit is that everywhere is super clean and have good service haha. I was able to ride the spankin new subway that took people across NanJing city. that was really nice too.

The next day, we went to visit Treasure Ship Park. It is a new park built after I was there 2 years ago. In the late Ming Dynasty (1400s). A Eunuch, Zheng He was given the mission to take a sea faring ship to explore the rest of the world. He started out from Yangtze River in Nanjing, and did about 7 trips going as far as the cape of Africa before he lost the favor of the emperor and the empire closed its doors until modern times. A couple of years ago, they found the original shipyard in NanJing and excavated lots of equipments for making ships and many artifacts during that time. So they created it into a park. In the park, there is a to scale replica of Zheng He's flagship. It was a humongous 5 level thing that I am sure can carry a thousand people at least. It was really cool to read about Zheng He's exploits and all the places he visited. It was really sad though to see how much difference there was between his trip and the European's. The Europeans started trades, and brought back lots of treausre and money for their country. But Zheng He instead took lots of gifts to other countries and didn't take anything back. Maybe if he was able to make money, they wouldn't have stopped his trips. It seems like a such a waste when they basically negated all his achievements and destroyed all his boats.