Hieroglyphic Graffiti » China Trip 2007

Friday July, 27 2007

Last One!

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 1:52 pm

Ok, so I forgot some pictures in that first set of phots so here’s a second gallery.


Wednesday July, 18 2007

Opera Pictures

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 12:47 pm

I forgot the Opera pictures when I made our image gallery.

You can find those here!

Monday July, 16 2007


Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 3:40 pm

Ok folks, here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Pictures from our trip.

Go here to see them.


Wednesday July, 4 2007

Aloha Hawaii, Aloha Virginia

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 3:53 pm

It seems that Aloha means both hello and goodbye. It also appears to be a life philosophy of zen like proportions. You learn something new everyday. Go practice random acts of Aloha! (It seems to relate mostly to driving habits. So be a kind driver!)

I am very sorry that this post is so late. A full 26 hours of traveling left myself and J feeling a bit like our luggage must’ve felt during that time. Tossed about, dropped onto hot tarmac and sent through an X-ray machine so many times it isn’t sure what life is like without a conveyor belt and men in uniforms with friendly German shepherds that ask about your liquids. (It’s been four days and I keep waiting for someone to come along and tell me that I can’t take my cup of tea with me on the plane.)

Now onto our last day in Hawaii. We went to see a black sand beach. Now black sand isn’t as it would seem by the name, sand. It’s broken, ground, and otherwise mangled lava that fell into the ocean. It happens when a volcano erupts on a nearby island and the lava falls into the sea in enough small lumps and is carried across to the other island. It is very soft and fine. It also washes up in such a way that if your standing on the beach when a wave comes in you’ll get black sand all over your legs and feet. (Or in my case all over your shorts because I misjudged the size of the incoming wave.)

It was high tide so we didn’t see much of the beach but I saw enough. It was pretty darn cool. There were piles of volcanic rock that had been tumbled smooth by the ocean and a small forest just behind the beach. On either side of the beach, sheltering it, were huge forested cliffs. It was very scenic. This is the kind of place you get on postcards with a little empty deck chair and “wish you were here” on the bottom.

Now, getting to this beach was another story. It was about a three hour drive from where we were staying. The drive was very scenic since we had to go over to the “dry” side of the island which is full of cactus. It’s very interesting that the rain seems to fall the most only on one side of the island. So one side is tropical and lush and the other is almost a desert. It makes for interesting driving conversation when the total Hawaiian island newbie looks out the window and says: “Hey! That’s a cactus! You have Cactus in Hawaii?” Everyone laughs and says, yes in fact they do have cactus on Hawaii. And cows and Banyan Trees. Cows with horns. I cross an ocean and I still can’t get away from the cows. There were cows in China too. Ok, no more about cows. Back to beaches.

Now to get to this beach you have to climb down a path that zig zags down the side of a cliff. It’s only about a 15 minute walk but it’s a very steep walk. Going down was difficult since I have short legs and paths are never built for people with short legs. It was hard but manageable. I tend to have the balance of a mountain goat so I could bound from rock to tree root in Teva sandals without much trouble. Going up was a different story. It was a very long, hard, steep walk to get back up. It still only took 15 minutes but it was hard going. I was reading “Lord of the Rings” on the plane and felt a little bit like Sam Gamgee (the fat one) trying to climb the cliff steps in Mordor. I was pretty winded by the time I got back to the top.

So we enjoyed the crashing waves on a black sand beach our last day and headed out to the airport at 7am the next day for our flight home. First flight goes from Hilo to Oakland. No problem. We get there and check our bags (which have to clear two separate inspections. There’s the normal one, and the agricultural one). The woman at the desk informs us that our seats were not reserved but since we are willing to sit in an exit row we have seats on this plane. She gives me a number to call to reserve the others. I call the number while J waits in line for the security check. The number proves to be just a maze of “press 1 if…” and a computer voice that supposedly understands numbers when you read to it. It didn’t understand me and thinks my “A”s are “K”s and just doesn’t want to see otherwise. I hung up and went to stand in line.

D, J’s Uncle, had given me something called Bonine for travel sickness. I will now swear by this new drug. I will never travel without it. The flight from Hilo to Oakland went about as smoothly as flights can go. Very, very nice after the crippling airsickness I’d experienced before.

I called United again while J waited for our luggage to appear. After about 30 minutes (I’m not exaggerating, I timed it) I FINALLY got a human and couldn’t hear a damn thing because it was so loud in the airport. I’m told that our seats will be assigned at the gate because there are no seats. I’m confused. I’m also confused because the person on the other end mixed up my flight days and I thought for awhile that I wasn’t going to fly out of San Fransisco until the next day. After some confused and panicked shouting we straightened things out somewhat, but still confused, I gave up thanked whoever it was and went back over to collect our bags with J.

We collect our bags (which have arrived safely) and we head out of the airport and to a bus which will take us to the Bart train. (Bart=T and for those of you not from the Boston area, Bart = subway) Now in order to find this out I had to consult an information desk with a severe lack of information and a very kind airport employee. We paid $3 each for the bus and sat down with our bags stowed for the ride. Sadly onto the bus staggered a woman who was either very drunk or very high. The jury is out on which she was and she may have been both. She liked to scream: Aiyi! at random intervals and stamp her feet. J and I had already been on a plane for five hours and were unamused.

We endured and arrived at the subway where we grabbed our bags and fled. I navigated the ticket system and was actually 80 cents short on our rail tickets. (A fact I didn’t find out until the end of the ride.) No matter, we got to the platform and I was content in my knowledge that we wanted to get on what on them map appeared to be the blue line. The trains in San Fransisco are not color coded. A voice comes over a loud speaker and tells you were the train is going once it pulls up. We found another young man going to the airport who lived in San Fransisco and decided to follow him.

The very drunk lady showed up again with her traveling companion (who I felt very sorry for) but luckily they got on a different train. We boarded our train for a 20 minute train ride. Now the Bart system is very well planned I’m sure and subways, as a rule, like planes are very loud. However, the part seemed to be designed to make the loudest possible sound while going through tunnels. It was so loud I had to cover my ears. It was terrible!

We arrive at the Airport station with our ears ringing and I am forced to add more money to our tickets so they’ll let us out. (It turned out to be $5.80 each. Add that to $3 each and you get $17.60 for the privilege of getting from one airport to the other in order to make a connecting flight. I hate flying.)

We get into the airport and go through security again. At this point I know the drill so well I’m instructing the people around me by example. We check in and get our tickets and are told once again that our seats will be assigned at the gate. I’m confused and stressing at this point but we go a Subway (the sandwich shop) for some dinner and then head to our gate. It changes part way through our wait and I only find out when I approach the desk to try and get our seats assigned.

We move to the proper gate and wait. Now we find out that our flight, which is a red eye, has been oversold. I’m in panic mode now because the next flight leaves at 9am the next day and we have a connecting flight in Dulles. I chew on my nails for awhile as they start boarding people. They were offering one free round trip ticket anywhere in the Continental US, a seat on the flight at 9am the next day and lodging in a hotel if people would give up their seats. Thankfully we got seats and were boarded. I now started to worry about our luggage. Had it made it onto the plane or was it was it waiting somewhere in a the airport innards for the next flight?

The flight went well but we got no sleep at all. It was another five hour flight at max from 10:25 to 6:25 (don’t you love time zones? we lost three hours there). We landed in Dullas and staggered around to find the proper terminal for our connecting flight and got some breakfast. We boarded our connecting flight to Roanoke with no trouble. In a startling difference this plane was only half full. Oddly enough our seats weren’t together but the flight was so empty the man next to J moved his seat and I jumped into his. Easily done. That flight was only an hour and we arrived in Roanoke with no trouble. Our luggage arrived too! I guess it didn’t have to worry about finding room on the plane.

So safe and sound we landed in Virgina on July 1. I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting for this last post but we left Hawaii on June 31st. We were a bit bushed after all the flying and hauling luggage through airports and the like.

In short our month long travel was great fun. I saw things I never thought I would be able to see and I have the pictures to prove it. I will work on getting those pictures off my camera and onto a website for everyone to see. I can’t promise it will be fast. I have in my estimate 1500 pictures to get off my camera, onto my computer, and then resized and all that. I’ll make a post when I have that URL.

It’s been a long but wonderful month. Thanks for reading!

Thursday June, 28 2007

Two Days of Snorkeling

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 4:29 pm

We spent the last two days under the sun, in the ocean checking out the local marine life.  Very cool.  This might be a short email, even with two days worth of information to relate.

I think I’ll take a moment here to relate what I’ve learned about volcanic rock.  The stuff that comes in large chunks and looks like rock with lots of little holes in it is called Aha and the smooth stuff that you see with ripples and folds in it is called Pahoihoi.  Aha is very sharp and not good to walk on barefoot.  Pahoihoi isn’t sharp at all and a lot of fun to look at because it looks like someone folded up some black cloth and just tossed it onto the ground.  The ground around here is covered with both kinds which is unsurprising considering this is a volcanic island and all but it’s so neat to me.  They also use Aha in fences and small buildings.

We drove out about two hours to the other side of the island to go Kaha Lui Beach Park to see tropical fish and Sea Turtles (Honu in Hawaiian).  I think there was supposed to be coral there but I didn’t see very much of it.

It was a coral beach in the sense that there wasn’t much sand just lots of dead and ground up coral.   As with all beaches it was very very hot to walk on and you danced your way to the water.  We went around a small stone wall of Aha and onto a tiny mini beach to get our flippers on and get into the water.  Right there, close to the shore and lots of other people was a Sea Turtle calmly having a snack.

I spent a good long time staring at it.  I was amazed to see one so close..  It didn’t seem at all bothered by any of the people and I imagine that it’s used to people gawking at it.  Still it was pretty cool.

We headed out into the water where I didn’t see a whole lot of coral but there were lots of brightly colored fish and more Sea Turtles.  The fish were a bit skittish as one expects fish to be.  They would zip around just as you were trying to get a good look at them.  The turtles on the other hand would swim right by you and then go much on something not three feet away from you.  I spent a lot of time following a sea turtle around.  It was really cool.

My camera isn’t waterproof and I didn’t bother to buy one since I have a hard enough time trying to see through goggles let alone take pictures.  I’ll give you some of the names of the fish I saw and you can google them.  You’ll get much better pictures than I ever could.

The beach had a lot of people so it was hard to see the fish without hitting another snorkeler.  The next day we went to the tidal pools which are only a short distance from D and MB’s house.  It was less crowded here but also less swimmer friendly.

The tidal pools are made but long shelves of sharp coral and Aha that keep the waves at bay.  It’s nice because you’re not rocked back and forth by the currents as much but you do get cut up by sharp rocks as you try to move from tide pool to tide pool.  David got several good scrapes on his arms and I have a nice cut on the palm of my hand.

It was worth it though, the coral here was amazing!  Brightly colored and growing across the rocks in every direction!  It was even growing over itself.  In several places one type of coral was slowly taking over another type of coral.  It mostly looked like brains to me but there were plenty of sea urchins and anemones clinging to the rocks.  I even saw a sea cucumber hiding among the rocks.  It looked like a tube shaped rock to me and I lowered my flippers as I tried to correct my direction and my “rock” went swimming away.  It gave me a good start!

Ready for the list of fish from both places?  Apart from Sea Turtles we saw Moorish idols which look a bit to me like angel fish.  There were Bluespine and Orangespine unicorn fish, Achilles tang, Bullethead parrotfish, Redlip parrotfish, Hawaiian cleaner wrasse, Yellowtail coris, Saddle wrasse, Bird wrasse (I saw mostly females) and one other fish that I can’t find on this handy fish watcher’s field guide.  It was small, pretty round and brown spotted.

There were fewer large and impressive fish at the tidal pool but there were more of them.  Lots of Convict Tangs and BlueSpine Unicorn fish.  This is also where I saw the most Bird Wrasses.  It was very very cool.

Today we have another day of rest.  We plan to walk down to the cliffs again and look at the ocean.  Tomorrow, our last full day, we get to go and see the a black sand beach!

Hopefully I’ll be able to post before we leave on Saturday morning.

Tuesday June, 26 2007

Seeing the Sights in Hawaii

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 12:27 am

Hawaii has been a marvelous change over Beijing.  I think I’ve actually gotten a little bit of sunburn on my shoulder and nose.  That’s pretty amazing considering the fact that I don’t tend to burn easily.  I think it’s time to bust out the sunscreen and the broad hat.
The flash rains are fun.  It will start raining and then rain really really hard for about five seconds and them stop.  It’s very strange.  Sometimes it will rain steadily for awhile and then suddenly stop and all the clouds will just blow away.

So let me catch up on what we’ve done so far.  First day in we slept and took a short walk to the cliffs to look at the ocean.  Very cool.
Yesterday we went to see the Volcano.  Very, very cool.

We went to the state park and saw Kilauea.  It’s an active volcano but it’s a slow volcano.  It’s still erupting but it’s a very slow eruption.  It’s the kind where lava flows and you kind of just walk slightly faster to get away from it.  We couldn’t see the Chain of Craters because just this Sunday they had 200 something earthquakes in 10 hours which means that something big is happening under the surface.  J was disappointed because it interrupted the active lava flow so we couldn’t see it.  I’m not that disappointed really.  Dried lava is pretty cool in my book and far less dangerous.  We saw everything else though, including the crater where Pele (the Volcano Goddess) is supposed to live.  Pele has some pretty nice digs.

We got to walk over the 1975 and 1960 something lava flow which was equally cool and groovy.  The whole island is of course built on old lava flow.  There are lava rocks in the backyard.  It’s very much an interesting experience to me.

We also saw four waterfalls.  All were amazing and very beautiful to behold.  And even with stupid people swimming in one of them.  SWIMMING.  In a National Park.  Where you are NOT SUPPOSED TO SWIM because the current is fast and the water is DANGEROUS.  Swimming with SMALL CHILDREN!  It made me mad but that’s ok.  I’ll edit them out in photoshop.  I hope a Park Ranger happened along and fined their asses.  Stupid people.

Today we had a low key day with more sleeping and then shopping.  Shopping is always fun.  I picked up all my souvenirs and a few small gifts for people.  J always dreads unleashing me on tourist areas.  I think I managed to be well behaved.  She may have a different story.

Tomorrow  we’re going snorkling and feeding the fish.  I can’t wait to see Sea Turtles!

Saturday June, 23 2007

Aloha from Hawaii

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 7:40 pm

Hello from Hawaii! It’s beautiful and somewhere in the low 80s with a nice breeze (thanks to the Trade Winds) and a CLEAR blue sky! What a treat after Beijing.

First, the flights. The first flight was from Beijing to Osaka. That went pretty well. Beijing airport is a little hard to navigate but we found our check in counter after some time and then headed for our gate. It was a short flight, I still got airsick but we landed and headed through the Osaka airport (which was much harder). See, in Beijing the only boarding pass that was available was for the first plane. Our luggage was checked all the way through, but we still needed our passes.

We were told to contact ANA (our airline) people in the airport. Well, first we had to find our way. We got off the plane and followed everyone only to come to the place where it said international travelers and they wouldn’t let us through. We needed boarding passes. Ok, so we look for a place to check in. No dice. An older man, an airport employee, continues to herd us through the little door for international travelers. After awhile the people at the security desk for international transfers asked for our luggage claim tags. I handed those over, and they believed us that at some point in the future they would let us on a plane and let us through.

Then we had to find an ANA desk. We found one, but no one was there. So I called a number using the phone on the desk. I finally got some one who told us to go to gate five. So we go to gate five and an hour before the flight we finally manage to get our boarding passes. AND even our connecting flight boarding pass. Yay!

Now the flight from Osaka to Honolulu was awful. It was only 7 hours long thanks to that handy international Date Line. So we only managed three hours of sleep because they didn’t turn the cabin lights off until 11:30 by our watch (we left at 9:45) and turned them back on again three hours later.

Also the plane shook like a rattle. This is a big 747 that’s shaking. The turbulence was awful. At one point the plane just fell for a few seconds. I was so scared I was shaking. Everyone on the plane went “Whooo!” like we were on a roller coaster or something. Needless to say the heavy turbulence did nothing for my airsickness. (I haven’t thrown up on a plane yet. I don’t know how or why, but I haven’t. Now that I’m in the States again I’m getting some motion sickness pills. Why don’t they sell those in airports? They’d make a mint.) The captain did get on an apologize for the turbulence and assure us but I was already shaking worse than the plane. It shook the whole flight. It shook the whole three hours the lights were out and kept waking me up. I know it’s just one of those things that happens with planes but I never want to repeat that flight.

We landed with no trouble and picked up our luggage for the customs check. Customs went fine. They didn’t even search our bags. We told them we’d brought some apples. The guy told us to come around the X-ray machine, with our bags. He took our apples gave us a minor scolding and sent us on our way. So that went well. No explaining my bronze dragon is a cheap fake. Yay. The airport is lovely. All green with palm trees and stuff. I wish I could’ve appreciated it more.

We took our luggage and checked it back in and headed for our next short hour long flight to Hilo. We wandered through the airport, went out of the building, across a short parking/pickup place into another building and to our gate. It was fun but the signage could’ve been a lot better. We found our gate and boarded our flight. That went very smoothly. Big 747s are the planes I get really sick on. The little planes, not so much, it seems. We got off the plane and headed to the baggage claim. We got there and stared at the little merry-go-round of bags. Our bags never appeared.

Yes, indeed. All four of our bags just never made it. I was airsick, tired, probably hungry (couldn’t tell with the airsickness) and shaken after the 747 rattle plane. I almost broke down into tears. The woman at the claim counter was very, very nice and told us that we’d probably have our bags by that evening. It was especially hopeful since we’d actually laid hands on them in Honolulu. Sure enough our bags were delivered by about 7pm. My guess is that they just never made it on the same plane with us. Still, very nerve wracking for me after all that flying.

Today. We sleep. We woke up at 8, went back to sleep until 10, got up and ate and then I went back to sleep again until 12. I just went out like a light. Hopefully after some lunch I’ll be more awake and we’ll go for a walk. It’s beautiful here. We start all our sightseeing tomorrow because D and MB both work today. They offered us use of a car if we’d just drive them to work but after all that flying I just didn’t feel like driving around in a brand new place.

The next email should be more exciting and filled with rapturous descriptions of the sights we’re going to see. Volcanoes, scuba diving, feeding fish, all that good stuff. Until then!

Wednesday June, 20 2007

Last Check before Hawaii

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 8:40 pm

This is just a last post before Hawaii.  Thursday (today) is our last full day.  We’re spending it packing and getting ready to go since we’ve already had a full time here.  We certainly haven’t seen every possible thing but we’ve seen a lot and I’m pretty damn happy about that.  There are things that if I came back I’d want to see but I’m not going to let the fact that I missed them bother me.  I’ve seen so much I’m at a bit of a overload.  (I’m starting to have the “meh, you’ve seen one Temple you’ve seen them all…” thing.)

I have to say even though I’ve had a great time here I’m really ready to go home.  China is fabulous but I miss the states.  I’m getting tired of getting stared at and I’m getting tired of people pretending not to understand me.  (Look I know you can read, buddy, I’m pointing at the character don’t say you don’t know.)  I know my Chinese is terrible but sometimes you know they understand what you’re saying they just don’t want too. 

Yeah the food is great and for the most part the people are great but I’m happy to go home.  There’s no place like home after all.  And in this case “home” is Hawaii for a week.  Whoohoo!

Our flight actually takes us back in time.  On our way over we lost a day in the flying on the way back we leave at 2:15pm on Friday and arrive Friday at 12pm.  Weird.

Until Hawaii.

Tuesday June, 19 2007

Opera Face Paint

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 8:50 am

Well the haze is back and worse than ever.  The temperatures are cooling down a bit though.  This is the first time in almost our whole stay that we actually have the windows open at night to let the cool air in.

This email will be rather short since we’re wrapping up our time here in China and getting ready to try and pack up our suitcases and head to Hawaii for a well earned rest.  (Or, more likely more site seeing, but it will be relaxing site seeing and I’m almost certain that there will be a beach involved at some point.)

Today we went and had our pictures taken dressed as Chinese opera singers.  First of all, even though I am a fan of Chinese opera I am far from being able to tell which people are who.  I know one pair of Chinese opera stars.  Bridal Du and Willow Scholar and that’s it.  They were actually available and the lady looked surprised as I struggled to name them.  We didn’t dress up like them because I didn’t feel like debating the fact that yes I am a woman and yes I want to dress up like a man.  Monkey King was right out so I settled on the options available to me.

They only had simple face paint ie the white with red/pink around the eyes available.  This is because it took a good hour and a half to get us both made up and into costume.  I shudder to think how long it would’ve taken them to apply elaborate color.  Still it was pretty amazing to watch the transformation.  We looked completely different.

So I have NO IDEA who J and I dressed up as.  I dressed up as a warrior woman in blue with two swords.  J had a very colorful and elaborate costume of red and yellow with plum branches, a tea cup and a fan.

Getting made up took longer than having our pictures taken but getting the makeup off will probably take even longer.  My arms and hands still have a pink tinge to them.

All of this is better illustrated with pictures which I will post as soon as we’re back home.

Tomorrow we’re off to the Pearl Market to try our honed bargaining skills.  Thursday we pack and Friday we’re on a plane.

I can’t promise anything exciting until we hit Hawaii.

Monday June, 18 2007

Almost out of China

Filed under: General, China Trip 2007 — makani @ 6:34 am

I’m actually almost done with my trip in China.  I’ll have a very long post made up of my travel log emails sometime in the future (I will post date them).

 Suffice to say I’m having a great time.  The sites and food are just amazing.  I’ll let my emails speak for me once I’ve gotten them into some kind or order.

Edit: Or I’ll just do it while J is watching Pirates 2: Dead Man’s Chest.  Enjoy.

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