Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The last few days...

Time was running out. I only had one more tourist essential. I basically just wanted to hang out with Lynn. So, on my second to last day, I accompanied Lynn to her wedding dress fitting at her designer's studio in the up and coming artsy/cafe Chaoyang area (similar to SoHo). Then she headed back out to class and I went to the true city center.

Forbidden City:
I heard great things about this palace-ladened area, as it is a must see on any list. It was pretty grand and filled with lots of Chinese tourist. But I think maybe I've been spoiled with too many Asian palaces and hall looking things so this one didn't rank high on my list. The front gate from the inside. You can see the construction on the main hall. Unfortunately, there was lots of scaffolding in preparation for the Olympics.
Me in front of one of the other halls. They all started looking the same with a big throne inside.
But I was amused by these cool statues.
I also really enjoyed the clock exhibition room (it might have helped that it was air-conditioned)
The front gate with the infamous Mao. He really is everywhere!Tiananmen Sq.
It is one of the largest public squares and is really impressive when you ponder the historical events that happened here.
Some pampering on the last few days: we could afford some nice pedicures and massages. I was, afterall, in the top income bracket for once and not on the bottom! It was a bit weird to have beautiful toes in ghetto tevas.

My last day ....
I'm all for trying new foods, but after having lots of different ethnic foods from all over China, I had to return to my favorite place, a Dai restaurant, near Lynn's university.
The pineapple rice was to die for! Soooo good! Dai food is from a southern region of China, and had a lot of spices similar to those in Northern Thailand (fresh mint, basil, chili peppers, banana leaves) which is probably why I loved it so much.

Cha Chung (tea city)
OK, for those of you who don't know me, I LOVE tea. I have more tea leaves in my cabinet than I can ever drink from all across the world. So of course I was ecstatic when Emma offered to take Lynn and me to tea city where her family is in the tea business.
At her brother's shop, Emma had us sample jasmine, white and chrysanthium tea. After we went to her friend's shop and had some oolong tea. It's like bar hopping, but at tea shops. People can spend the whole afternoon there like we did, just chatting and drinking.This is a fine grade of jasmine tea. People from all over China come to this street to buy tea.Me and Emma at the tea container store. Can I just say heaven!

It was wonderful to spend my last afternoon with Lynn and Emma, just talking and enjoying each others company. Emma is so cheerful and passionate about life and her work at the theatre. It was such a blessing to get to know her!

Birthday dinner!
Lynn's birthday is actually 8 days after mine, so on my last night in China, we had a joint birthday dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Peking duck. One of the best things about China was the people I got to know from all walks of life.
Lynn's friends, who I got to know over the few weeks, and her fiancee, Chris, who organized everything for us. Thanks Chris and to these beautiful ppl who showered me with love and gifts and opened up their homes and friendship to me!
Cecilia and me at Q bar. We had several meals and hung out at our apts throughout the few weeks. Her, Lynn and me talked about everything from boys, religion, jobs, dance, travel, culture, family and much more! Cecilia grew up in southern China dancing, and moved to Beijing at the age of 13 to pursue dance in a rigorous program. Now, she has her masters degree and teaches dance at the university where Lynn is taking classes. She has a beautiful personality and I'm so glad to have met her.

Lynn and I like cocktails. Unfortunately good cocktails are a rarity. They are more of a beer drinking culture. Our table had martinis (which were practically pure vodka), mojitos (which weren't quite right), and other drinks. The clear winner was the pina colada I ordered for Cecilia who wasn't used to the cocktail culture.

And that was my last night in China - celebrating my birthday with an old friend in a new country with new friends. Not a bad way to end the trip.

I have been back for a few weeks and have had time to process and talk about my trip. My initial response was that I loved China and had a fabulous time which is a given. I loved hanging out with Lynn, the adventure, talking to Emma and Cecilia, eating and just being engulfed in something so different. But this trip was different in many ways. First, it made me more aware of where I lie on the Asian-American spectrum. Growing up fairly Americanized, I was trying to figure out what is just characteristic of my family and what is carried over from the Chinese culture. My family is loud, but now I can attribute most of that to the Chinese language and culture. I mean, the Chinese were always YELLING - not arguing, well sometimes yes, but just normal conversation is about 2 octaves louder than necessary. I can see how some of the values such as economic advancement, family, generational improvement have its roots in Chinese culture. But overall, I must say I lie closer to the American side of things.

This trip made me also think about living abroad and what life would look like in China, since Lynn's life is actually in Beijing. I think I took on more of an appreciation of the stresses of living in China than I would've if I had just been traveling normally. I could feel the burden of the sloooooow unorganized bureaucracy, vague almost non-existent concept of time, traffic, pollution, rudeness, loudness, too many people, long work hours with little progress and more. I definitely decided that living and working in China is not for me. Scandinavia is definitely the way to go :) But with that said, I already have my itinerary for my next trip to the southern part of China.

And lastly, I was going through this trip thinking about how I want to travel in the future when I graduate. I definitely need a balance of fast-pace travel adventure, but also an understanding of the culture and being still in the daily life. I spent about half my time in China exploring on my own which was perfectly fine. But watch out, I will be recruiting friends to join me because while I have no problem traveling solo, it's always more fun to share the adventures with close friends!

And thanks soooooo much Lynn for being such a wonderful host to me and showing me your life in China! It's always refreshing to be in the company of close friends, which makes it hard when oceans lie between, but that just makes the times together more precious and the adventures more special. I miss you Lynn!

Lynn and I at RBT enjoying boba.

Now, I'm back at lab, working in what is hopefully my last year of this what-I-thought-was-a-never-ending PhD. program. Can't wait to get back out into the world. In the meantime, I'll enjoy this next and maybe last year in New York City!


shinae said...

yay for a great trip! thanks for all your advice so far too. we're off to china in 1.5 weeks; we'll let you know how it all goes!

caroline said...

I think that's important - traveling to see what you want, but also taking it slow to get a piece of what life is like at the place you're going. good that you had both and that you're prepared for your next trips!

Okay, I think reading your blog has helped me choose what I'd want to do in China, if I ever get to go. I'd definitely do the Great Wall walk (and the zip line!!!), see the Forbidden Palace, look at where those Love Locks are, look at the Terracotta Warriors, eat street food, and... go tea bar hopping! I want me some tea! :) I have to email you - I've been thinking about tea a lot recently.

Angela said...

yay! thanks for reading my blog :) i'm glad yo liked the pics. wish you could experience some of it with me. but no worries - there will always be an opportunity!

Joy Hui Lin said...

wish I could have been there for both of your birthdays!

much love, joy