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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lodging in China

Before arriving in China, I had anticipated the lodging situation to be quite similar to my lodging experiences in Europe: cheap hostels with small rooms, even smaller beds, a bunch of foreign travelers, but still a temporary place you could call home for a few days.  Lodging in China turned out to be just like staying in Europe, except for some minor, very unique details.
 
The hostel in Beijing, the King’s Joy International Hostel, was located one block south of Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city.  A 6-story former hotel, the rooms were surprisingly spacious, each with their own bathroom, though each door seemed to be built for a 5’-6” tall man with narrow shoulders.  The beds were small, but my feet did not overhang the edge like they did in Europe.  I did have to duck and turn my shoulders sideways to walk through the bathroom door, but the rooms were overall very comfortable.  One situation that fascinated me was the hostel’s definition of “air conditioning”.  When the AC was on, the room was humid and my skin was sticky with perspiration.  When the AC was off, the room was hot and sweat was constantly running down my face, during the day and at night.  The hostel served a $4 dollar breakfast every morning that was delicious, but half of the dishes that I ate for breakfast I had no idea what they were.  Luckily, my stomach never had any issues.  Overall, King’s Joy was a pleasant hostel.



In Shanghai my classmates and I stayed at the Blue Mountain Youth Hostel.  Located a couple neighborhoods outside of downtown Shanghai, Blue Mountain was surrounded by residential blocks that provided us a small snapshot of middle-class housing in Shanghai.  All four of us students were in a small room with two bunk beds and a very powerful air conditioner (a nice contrast to our experience at the King’s Joy hostel).  In this hostel we had communal bathrooms with toilets that consisted of a hole in the floor that could be flushed and nearby sinks that were open to the hallway.  This setup actually enriched the experience as it was fun dodging other travelers walk past me in the hallway as I brushed my teeth.  Despite the lack of serving breakfast in the morning, the Blue Mountain Youth hostel was about equivalent to Beijing’s hostel experience (the air conditioner was a huge bonus!).




It was in Datong that we had our only “hotel” experience during the trip.  While in the city we staying in the Haohai International Hotel.  This was my first experience staying in a hotel room without a window.  While my room just had a blank wall where a window typically is in a standard room, my classmates had window frames in their rooms with a back-lit painting of a Chinese landscape.  The bathroom was completely tile, but there was no “tub” to the shower, so every time I showered water would simply go everywhere and eventually dissipate into one of two drains in opposite corners of the bathroom.  We had room service that would clean our rooms daily and leave us a small plate of two plums, three cherry tomatoes and one apple after every visit, a true testament to Chinese hospitality.  The hotel also served breakfast every morning, which was also delicious, but I still didn’t know what half the items on my plate were. 

 





Considering my physical build and my past traveling adventures, I consider my lodging experiences in China to be one of the better parts of my trip.  Despite the tiny door frames, inefficient air conditioners and floor toilets, I had enjoyable meals, excellent room service and my feet never hung off the edge of any of the beds. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Scale





Scale Equilibrium
Michael Hendrigsman



Let me just say something that I am not sure makes a whole lot of sense even to me. But here goes, my visit to China was to say the least an exciting and an incredible experience, but it is really hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that the scale of everyday life and the movement people is not at all deterred by the issue of size. I have mentioned in previous blogs my impression of the size of buildings and the width and magnitude of roads and city blocks, but indeed there is another dimension that I discovered and it is as close as the next block. To experience this movement and I do mean movement, because the people that live in this city (Beijing) move from scale to scale without a second thought of what is transpiring it just does not faze them. Let me explain this is in United States context; just imagine you are walking up the street in Santa Fe, you look both ways to cross the street to enter the Plaza, walk through the Plaza and bam there is the New York City Skyline only larger .

The majority of the population appears to live in a two story environment, narrow streets, and alley ways and even between buildings. This is just the way it is; that’s one reason  Beijing is the poster child for urban sprawl, you turn from your doorway and walk down the alley to the next  street and without even a gentle reminder that the scale is about to change, you are staring down a monster, I mean up. To me this scale change is quite disconcerting, and even exacting on one’s equilibrium. Well at least your mental equilibrium that is. Overwhelming to say the least!  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shopping in China

In China, while I was shopping, I realized that they do business a bit differently. The majority of the shops either, share a shopping complex, or are on the side of the street. The shops on the side of the street have their merchandise on display. It is also nice that almost wherever you go you can haggle the price of anything. It is also easy haggling because the people are often desperate for a sale. I have had a few salespeople willingly cut down their prices when I didn't have enough money on me. Unfortunately I didn't realize this until halfway through the trip. So, I suppose If you are persistent enough, you can end up spending very little in China.

Traveling in China

As I briefly explained before, traveling in china is no easy feat. It is very easy to get lost when taking the subway, or even walking. While we were Datong, we primarily took taxis to and from wherever we needed to go, so we didn't really have to worry too much about where we were going. However while we were in Beijing, we had to rely on taking the subway and walking, usually only taking a taxi when absolutely necessary. Walking is uncomfortable and tiresome, because when you walk, it is usually a long distance from point A to point B while in immense heat and humidity. Taking the subway was quite uncomfortable as well because we were crammed in a car with a ton of other people, not to mention there was a 30 second boarding/exiting time for each of the subway stops, so you have to be prepared to push people out of the way just to get in/out in time, and we almost missed our stop a few times. In the taxi it can be just as hectic; all drivers on the road kinda break traffic laws by speeding, not signaling, and running red lights, not to mention you constantly hear the blaring of car horns. however in all the time I was there I witnessed no accidents, so things turned out well in the end. As it may have been hectic, I can say I enjoyed some of those moments, for example there was a taxi driver that took a liking to us, and even started singing to us in his cab.

Overall Disorienting Arrival

       After a very long flight, I finally arrived in china. I have to say the first thing I noticed when I arrived, was the polluted and humid smell in the air. 

      Immediately after I arrived, I wanted to get to the hotel I was staying at. Well, we all know things don't usually go according to how we anticipate, I suppose. We had to take two subways til we got to where we thought we were supposed to be, however, we still needed to take a taxi after that to get to our hotel. all of that along with feeling drenched just by walking about in the streets after being on an 11 hour flight is enough to make any person feel disoriented.
      

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Writing on the Walls



The best part of staying at youth hostels while traveling is all of the people you meet. We certainly weren't the only foreigners visiting China. The reason I titled the writing on the walls is because all of the hostels had designated walls where people could leave their mark. One of the watch towers at the Great Wall was also designated for this purpose. Better believe I drew/wrote a little something at both hostels AND on the Great Wall!!

My roommates the first time in Beijing were awesome, well the first set were. I was in a 4 person room with 3 French travelers, 2 girls and 1 guy. Yes, guy! That part threw me at first, there's no way hostels would be coed here in the states. They left 2 days before I did. The night they left I got 4 Asian roommates, yes, there were 5 of us in a 4 person room. The last night I got the whole room to myself!!!

When we got to Shanghai we realized that not all of us were booked at the same hostel! We figured this out while trying to figure out which subway to take, we had 2 different addresses. Turns out there are 3 hostels in Shanghai that start with Blue Mountain. Due to all the confusion we picked the closest one and all ended up staying there. We got to be roomed together this time, which was cool.

The only actual hotel we stayed in was in Datong, there I roomed with Kristina.

The last 4 days in Beijing I had another mix of roommates.
I had a European guy, who didn't say a word to me the whole time. A group of Korean guys who were really friendly, and the coolest English girl. She decided to quit her job, sell her house and car, and travel the world for a year.

Our last night we also met a girl from New York who is studying holistic Chinese medicine. She caught my eye because of the giant tiger tattoo on her back. Turns out she got it 3 days prior from one of the best tattoo artists in all of China.









Shoes

My blog is about the different types of shoes that Chinese people wear. For example all of the younger boys wear all the expensive basketball shoes such as Nike’s, KD’s, LeBron’s, Kobe’s, and Jordan’s. Most of them when they go to the U.S they buy their shoes there because the prices are a lot more in China. The different types of shoes the girls wear are extraordinary and different. Some sandals have a raise and straps which is something I've seen before on sandals. I didn't really see the girls wear athletic shoes as you see in the U.S, mostly they were wearing sandals, heels, and casual shoes. Some of their shoe shops have a lot of extraordinary shoes such as stuffed pink poodles, gorillas on the shoe or different designs on the sandals. Also there are a lot of different types of Converse such as heels, sandals, and some with a two inch rise. I didn't expect to see a lot of big brand names and I also got to see new types I've never seen before. Now I know China has a big shoe game after being there for a week and seeing all the different types of shoes.