HK&C: Engrish Roundup

Because everyone loves Engrish… a few highlights (click to enlarge, if you wish)

It all started with Kiely’s Saline:
“SHE: Shining Health Eyes”
Albright’s Scooter – Hummer? or Hanma!
We have the rich commodity – in a Yongzhou supermarket
“Choiceness Raw Material Produced Meticulous”
Wheat Smell Breakfast!
At the Forbidden City, you must treat the AC with respect.
Visit the Geart Wall!
The Great Wall has many rules…
Safty Concerns galore at the Great Wall’s Sliding Car
At the Lama Temple
The Fire Fighting Self Saving Breather in the hotel…
Using the breather… I Like #4
Taiwan’s Bad Side Meat at the Forbidden City. (Translated it is “minced”)
My personal favorite, the closeup is below…
Liquor… Gecko…SEABOURSE?!?
A bit more clear…

HK&C: Day 11: Beijing: The Temple of Heaven and 798

Temple of Heaven!

Our last full day in Beijing came so quickly!

We started the day off at The Temple of Heaven, where we ate more popsicles and saw not only the main attraction but the three temples and the circular mound.

Right about then is when the camera battery died. It figures that I carried 3 backup batteries for my dSLR for the whole trip and didn’t have a single one for the point and shoot.  It also figures that I decided not to carry the dSLR out of laziness. Oops.

We then headed to North Chaoyang to check out 798 and have some lunch. 798 is an art space, the first section of which was built inside a former factory space. Now the complex consists of many buildings housing galleries and restaurants, including a tasty Cantonese venue. We took a few pictures on Kiely’s phone, and I’ll post them someday when I have them.

The End– Me: 80, Kiely: 99

We headed back to the hotel for a bit of a break after visiting 798, as Kiely was feeling a bit under the weather. In retrospect, we now think it was just the pollution finally getting to him.  In general, we were a bit tired from so much sightseeing.

The Dinosaur is Inconsolable.

We rested and relaxed. We caved in and played Bust a Move, continuing the mighty battle started in Yongzhou.

Sadly, I lost. We probably would have played more, but the game stopped incrementing Kiely’s won matches once he reached 99.

More sadly, we watched England lose to Germany before calling it a night. Even my Bust a Move Dinosaur cried… but that may have been due to my own 19 game loss.

HK&C: Day 10: Beijing: Towers, Temples, Tiananmen

Kiely is the tallest person in this Hutong.

Today we had a decadent sleep in until nearly nine before kicking of another day in Dongcheng to visit the Bell Tower and Drum Tower plus the local Hutongs, which are neighborhoods of narrow alleys. These neighborhoods are less common, as many have been demolished to allow for new construction..

The Bell Tower

The Bell Tower and Drum Tower both functioned as timekeepers, and according to Wikipedia, these towers functioned as the official time piece of China and the Government until 1924, when the last emperor left the Forbidden City.

The Drums of the Drum Tower

Both towers include a steep set of stairs and nice, breezy views of the city.  Neither tower’s tourist information indicates how they actually got that 63 ton bell up there, but I’d be keen to know. It remains the largest ancient bell in China.

Part of the Lama Temple

After wrapping up, we decided to visit the Lama Temple, a few kilometers walk away. This former monastery is one of the most popular temples for worship in Beijing. The Temple grounds are large, and there are a number of different temples for different purposes. We picked up the Audio Guide, but found it not particularly helpful, as we didn’t listen carefully at the beginning and ended up disoriented. I think we were just suffering from audio guide overdose. The Temple’s Garden’s were an excellent spot to relax and people watch.

After a quick lunch right near the Lama Temple, we headed back to our hotel as I had a massage scheduled. Woe is me.
Kiely at the Tianning Temple

All stretched out, we headed over to a temple near our hotel called the Tianning Temple, which Kiely had spotted from our window. This 12th century structure is completely solid, and has no stairwells inside. We learned that it is open only two days a month, based on the lunar calendar date. The date we visited was not one of those days.

Then we hopped in another taxi to head to Tiananmen Square.
Kiely’s height was key in taking this

En route, we had yet another interesting taxi ride. We’ve seen a number of near accidents, but today’s was by far the worst, in which we nearly struck a cyclist who was playing a bit of frogger across the ten lane highway. Despite being trapped in our lane, our driver did not brake until it was absolutely necessary- I had already worked through my entire catalog of expletives by the time he stopped.

We arrived at Tiananmen Square in time to see the lowering of the flag. This is of interest because of the ceremony, which happens daily at sunset, is timed such that the flag is carried under Tiananmen gate at the same time the sun sets.

Video Art!

There was also an interesting video art installation, but no explanation as to what was for or for how long it would be set up.
The square was full of people, many of whom didn’t seem to be tourists, as they lacked cameras and other easy indicators of tourism. It seems many Chinese travel in tour groups exclusively, so perhaps these were locals enjoying the weather… under lots of surveillance.

From Tiannamen, we went in search of the temple or museum we could not find and ultimately hopped in anther taxi to head to Gui Jie’s  (Ghost Street’s) Hua Jia Yi Yuan for dinner.

Yet another delicious duck on Gui Jie

We found this venue in our guidebook, and we really enjoyed the food, opting for more Beijing Duck, a cabbage dish, and these meat rolls.  Throughout the trip, the dish was referred to as Beijing Duck, but googling around, it is still often referred to as Peking duck. I don’t know if it matters which name you use- if you know, please comment and tell me. 

We are a monster truck.
Duck #2

Our next stop was the Donghuamen Night Market. The few kilometers walk was a welcome one, as we were chock full of duck. Kiely’s GPS was of great help in getting us from point A to point B.

We even passed St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Dong Tang), a beautiful Gothic structure built in 1655. I managed to snap a picture before they turned all the lights off at 23:00.

St. Joseph’s at Night

As for the Market, Unfortunately, I misread the guidebook, believing the market closed at 2330 when it actually closed at 2230.

The cab drivers milling around tried to convince us that they had to charge a much higher rate after hours, offering to take us home for 150-200 RMB, but we weren’t buying it. (The guide book stated that there’s a 20% surcharge after 23:00) A few blocks later, we picked up a taxi home for 18RMB and promptly crashed.

HK&C: Day 9: Beijing: The Great Wall and Beijing Duck

One of the many 919s
to deny us that morning.

We started the day quite early with a 0545 wake-up to ensure we arrived at the Great Wall before the raging hordes. Sadly, we weren’t quick enough!

The 919 that delivered!

We took a taxi from our hotel to the Deshengmenxi bus stop, from which we had been advised to take the 919 bus to Badaling.

Yes, I know, sane people in a country where they find themselves illiterate opt to take an organized tour.
We are not sane people.

Also, The 919 bus is a bit of an enigma.

The first few 919 buses we found refused us and told us to walk further down. After much walking , we found yet another queue of 919 buses, joined it and were able to board. En route, we saw a number of 919 buses that didn’t seem to be following the same route as us. Could they all be going to the Great Wall? Seemingly, no.

Next time, Kiely will wear a flag.

We arrived by 10 in Badaling, which is the easiest place to visit the wall from Beijing. The alterative is 3 hours further away, but has the benefit of fewer visitors.

I experienced the Great Bathroom (not good, really!) and after acquiring the Great Audio Guide, we began our trek up the the wall, Northbound.

Something I never really noticed about the great Wall in pictures is how incredibly steep it is. It is at points so steep that walking up seems so much easier than walking down. We followed the Wall until we could walk no further, as while the Wall might be thousands of miles, the whole thing isn’t opened to tourists.

What we came to see.

After leaving the wall and returning the audio guide, we went to the Great Museum, which was pretty good.

The Museum covered exhibits about the Wall’s history, conservation, and famous visitors. Another key thing about the museum was it’s downright excellent bathroom. If you find yourself at the Great Wall, this is the bathroom to hold out for.

Our Great Photo Op.

We found the 919 bus again, boarded and headed back. The journey seemingly took forever.

Beijing has massive roadways that seem to always be full of traffic. Increasingly, I think there are two reasons for this:
1. There are lots of cars
2. The drivers don’t use their directionals at all and frequently change lanes, often two lanes in a single move. I started to really pay attention to the taxi divers, and I found that most never signaled. We even had one who only signaled when entering a lane to the right and never signaled when entering the lane to left.

This lead us to establish China Rule #5: Wear Your Seat Belt.

We returned at 4, hungry as can be, and had a snack to make up for missed lunch.We also stopped by the local supermarketmarket on a search for moon cakes and bottled water. As we waited in line, I couldn’t help but laugh at Kiely protecting our place in the queue. Thing is, it is completely necessary. I had people walk right past me and start tugging on stall doors of clearly occupied loos as I waited in bathrooms. In the market in Yongzhou, I had to really make an effort to stay behind Kiely in the checkout line, even though I had nothing to purchase and we were obviously together. Kiely said that queue jumping is very common.

China Rule #6: Don’t queue, and if you do, be prepared to be the only one.

Kiely, Ben, Maria, and the Beijing Duck at Xiao Wang Fu

In the evening, we headed out again to meet Neil’s friends, Maria and Ben for Peking Duck at a place called Xiao Wang Fu right near the northern entrance to Ritan Park.

We ordered way too much food, but every bit of it was wonderful. Maria and Ben were wonderful company, and gave us some excellent advice for things to see the next day.

After dinner, Maria and Ben headed off to their prior commitment and we went for a walk around Ritan Park and indulged Kiely’s new popsicle habit before heading back to ours.

HK&C: Day 8: Beijing The Forbidden City

Me and the masses
We kicked off our first full day in Beijing by heading to the Forbidden City first thing with plans to spend our day checking out the Forbidden Stuffs.

We picked up our Forbidden Tickets, purchased a Forbidden Audio Guide, and began our adventure after I made a quick stop at the Forbidden bathroom.

The Forbidden City is amazing.

Even the Forbidden Audio guide is pretty neat. It has a map on it, which shows you where you are, and it automatically starts talking when you get close to a specific site. Unfortunately, these aren’t precisely tuned, as Kiely’s often went off at least 100 feet before mine.

We started out in the gardens  and winded our way through.While in the gardens, a young woman asked us to look at her University art.  We went along for the heck of it, but the art was ultimately not good and the sales pitch was very pushy. We made a run for it and visited the East Palaces.

By the time we arrived at the Center, the crowds of tour groups in matching hats had definitely arrived. I think the palaces on the perimeter see fewer visitors, as when we retreated, we found the crowds much more manageable in the West Palaces.

Kiely and the Nine Dragon Screem

After facing the mighty crowds to visit the Hall of Supreme Harmony, we headed to towards the Palace of Tranquil Longevity and the Nine Dragon Screen.

The Nine Dragon Screen has one wonky tile, which is made of wood. The story goes that the original tile broke when the screen was being set up, and that the workers faked another with food in fear of their lives. They managed to get away with it, but over time, the wooden piece didn’t wear as the ceramic ones.
There’s also an impressive Forbidden clock collection to see around the corner.

“Taiwan Bad Side Meat”

After going through the clock collection, we stopped off to have some Forbidden Food. It did not disappoint.

We both hoped to order the “Taiwan Bad Side Meat” (click the picture on the left to see), but the restaurant had run out and we had to settle for a delicious Beijing noodle bowl.

After a failed effort to find the military exhibit, Kiely decided that it was nap o’clock, and we decided to make our exit. There’s just so much to see that it’s a bit of an endurance test.

Foo Dog

Unfortunately, that took a lot longer than planned, as did finding a taxi. The Forbidden City is huge, and exiting it took thirty minutes. When we finally made our way out, our search for a taxi was lengthy.

Times were tough back then.

Amidst our wanders, someone who for the purposes of this story we will call DodgyArtMan came up and advised us that a taxi rank was further down a road near the next traffic light, so we took DodgyArtMan’s advice and headed further down the road. After a few blocks and a bit of chatting, the DodgyArtMan mentioned that he was an artist and asked us to come see his art. Recalling that life rule that we shouldn’t go off with strangers who promise to show us a cute puppy or art, we said we weren’t interested and thanked him again for the taxi advice. After another half mile or so, there was no taxi rank or intersection, but we managed to flag a taxi, regardless.

Thus, we have a new China Rule to add to our list started on Day 2:
China Rule #4: Do not go look at anyone’s art. There probably isn’t art and if there is, it likely sucks.

Chinese Pizza Hut

Back at the hotel, there was a bit of napping (Kiely) and swimming (Me).

Then we decided to indulge in a little Western food, as Kiely hadn’t had cheese in quite some time…

Yes, we went to Chinese Pizza Hut.

The Menu of Delicious Cardiac Threat

The Chinese Pizza Hut experience is far superior to the American one. For starters, Chinese Pizza Hut is much nicer than any American Pizza Hut I’ve been to. For example, Someone actually opens the door for you when you arrive. The menu contains pizza, but it also contains rice and noodle dishes. As going to a Pizza Hut in China feels criminal enough, we stuck to ordering pizza.

Our pizza was called the Delicious Bacon!

The food is definitely better than American Pizza Hut, and is comparable to English Pizza Hut. Given that I regard Pizza Hut (UK) as a guilty pleasure, this is a compliment.

Full of Amerifood, we headed home to get ready for the Great Day to come. 

HK&C: Day 8: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to Beijing

New digs.

Disclaimer: Today was not a particularly interesting day.

Today was all about getting to Beijing.
First, we headed back to Shenzhen on the MTR.
You might be wondering why we didn’t just fly from Hong Kong, and if so, the reason is that it was 80% less expensive to book tickets from Shenzhen in yuan. 
In Shenzhen, we said our goodbyes to Yuki, who was returning to Zhongshan, and then took a bus to Shenzhen airport for our 1330 China Southern flight to Beijing. 
This flight, too, failed to take off on time. The ticket said boarding would start at 1300, but we didn’t board until 1340. There were no announcements or status changes.
This flight was completely different from my Yongzhou flight, though. Everyone followed the rules. There were no fights. Everyone quietly stayed in their seats. There was even a movie and a chicken dish which wasn’t half bad. It was almost disappointing, given how my last flight showed how entertaining a flight can be!
Dinner: Chicken and Lotus
The flight to Beijing from Shenzhen takes about three hours, and after arriving, we hopped in a cab to our new digs, the Doubletree Beijing, which should give me Gold Status with Hilton. (I admit it, I have a great love of the free upgrade.
All checked in, we wandered out for dinner at a local spot. We taught our waitress some English, specifically how to say all of the things on our table (spoon, bowl, etc), and then we had a nice long walk around our neighborhood and went home. 
Eleven hours of trekking via 2 cabs, 1 train, 1 bus, and 1 plane left us too tired for even a single game of Bust a Move!

HK&C: Day 7: Hong Kong Antiques and Hotpot

The Wet Market
We kicked off the day with a short wander in our neighborhood including the local wet market. Wet markets include live food, and this one had lots of fish, turtles, frogs, and so on.
We hopped on the MTR bound for Central, where we headed towards the antiques area of Hollywood Road. There’s a mix of shops, from those that sell expensive pieces to those that sell inexpensive trinkets in baskets outside. I found a small lantern which would satisfy Darren’s and my need for Christmas ornaments.
Yuki and I at Man Mo Temple
En route to antiques, we checked out the Man Mo Temple, the interior of which is a sight. Visitors are under a canopy of incense spirals that are cone shaped, each of which is labelled with a wish. You can view pictures here, but I didn’t take any at the request many posted signs.
We could not read the menu.

Lunch time arrived, and we decided to go to one of the next three places we saw. We actually went into the first, Green Island Restaurant. I gather this was the Cantonese equivalent of a diner, and had we not had Yuki with us, we definitely would not have eaten as well as we did. The English menu offered about ten dishes, each of which was priced more highly than anything on the Cantonese menu. Yuki selected three dishes for us, and we were stuffed by the end.

View from the Bank of China Observation Deck
After lunch, we walked back towards Central and took the Mid-Level escalators to the very top. Unfortunately, when we got to the top, it started to pour, so we took a bit of a beverage break before heading down the many steps.
We then headed over to the Bank of China building, which has an observation deck on the 43rd floor that one may visit for free. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry any identification, so Yuki and Kiely had to check it out without me.
The HotPot Venue
Tourism mostly completed, we headed over to Tsim Tsa Shui for a quick errand at Seibu before meeting Kimiko and her friend Keoh at a bar on Knutsford Terrace for a pre- dinner drink. There was lots more catching up, and Yuki was able to practice her Japanese a bit. Jimmy arrived around six, and after wrapping up, we headed out to a local hotpot restaurant.
This was my first Cantonese hotpot experience, and it was lots of fun.
Step 1: Sauce!
After one orders the items to be cooked, the servers bring a massive tray of different sauces (Soy Sauce, Peanut Sauce, Coriander, Onions, etc) from which each person concocts their own bowl of personalized sauce.
Step 2: Cook!
Next, the hotpot arrives, followed my many bowls of food to be cooked. Basically, you cook as you go, and one just ladles out what one wants to eat. I was spoiled rotten, most likely because I failed miserably at knowing what was cooked versus what needed a bit more time. I think my favorites were the spinach, the beef, and the tripe.
Jimmy, Kimiko, Keoh, Yuki, Kiely and I after much hotpot.
After dinner, we all sadly parted ways. It has been so fun to see Kimiko after all these years, and I know it will not take another 19 years for us to see one another again now.
Yuki, Kiely, and I hopped off the MRT at Sham Shui Po, and were pleased to see that we had selected the same exit that we had used that morning, or so we thought. After walking fifteen minutes, we learned that we had not come out where we thought we did and had been walking the wrong way all along. Oops! If anything, it was good to have a bit more walking time, post-hotpot!