Tuesday, May 29, 2012

April 28 “It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with”

Day 83
After yesterday’s hysterics, we sat at the breakfast table to discuss our plans for the day: The Yellow River Scenic Area in Zhengzhou in the day and then return to Kaifeng that evening since Zhengzhou has no youth hostels. 
Our hysterics last night foreshadowed the misfortunes that happened to us today. It all started with the bus ride there.
Waiting at the terminal for our bus to Zhengzhou 
10:30 A.M.
A station worker was kind enough to help us get tickets. Sh even lead us through the confusing bus terminal to the waiting area. She told us to wait at bus stop next to ours and that is how we missed the first bus.  When we noticed the bus was 15 minutes late, we knew something was wrong. After we investigated the area and interrogated people, we decided to exchange our tickets. We got the 12:00 instead of our original 11:00. Time lost: 1 hour.
1:30 P.M.
Once we arrived to Zhengzhou, we successfully got our ticket back to Kaifeng for 6:00 that evening.  We quickly got a packed lunch from KFC (again…) to eat on the long ride to the Yellow River Scenic Area. 
so good! TO take note.
KFC shrimp burger = 16.5 RMB
3:45 P.M.
After we found the damn bus stop and took the 60 minute bus to the Yellow Scenic Area, we unfortunately had one precious hour to explore the area before having to turn back.
The road from the bus station to the Yellow River
The Yellow River
Lots of fancy rocks.
If I had more time,  I would have loved to:
 climb that hill to reach the pagoda,
go down that giant slide,
 walked on the suspended bridge,
and ride the cable car. 
Oh well, maybe in another visit.

5:00 P.M.
Tanjin ugly crying
We boarded the bus that would take us back to the station by 6:oo to get the bus back to Kaifeng.  The estimated time of travel was useless as we missed the bus home. This was when things started to break me.

6:15 P.M. 
We stood in the chaotic/anxiety provoking Chinese line ups to see if we could get a refund for our tickets. We decided we would get a train home instead as trains are supposedly more frequent than buses. As we reached the counter, the lady scribbled something in Chinese on our bus tickets and redirected us to another booth to get a refund. A little confused with what was going on, a nicely dressed man offered to help us. I was torn between “let’s do this on our own” vs. “someone help us”.  After a bit of hesitation, we let the man help us by taking us to the other damn booth. I was feeling really paranoid so I wanted to do everything myself to make sure no one was scamming us/things got done right. I told the man that I wanted to practice my Chinese, in which he encouraged me. He helped translate the lady’s further instructions and so we went back in line to get a refund. So far so good. We lined up in a shorter line only to find out we had to line up in the huge ass “refund/exchange line.” The man said we could go to the front so we tried to but noticed Chinese people yelling (like that’s not usual). We kept our Canadian principles (we’re polite people) and decided to ditch, besides 18 RMB isn't much anyway. We thanked the man and ran off towards the train station.
Help is offered by two types of people: creepers and non-creepers.
 Yesterday, the lady who followed us was a creeper. Today, that man who helped was not a creeper. 
I guess it’s a vibe you get from the people… Also, creepers follow you while non-creepers leave you in peace.

7:00 P.M.
We found the train station and saw there was a huge ass line to buy tickets. We asked a lady in line if this was the right line just to confirm and she said yes, surprisingly in English too. She told us there was another place to get tickets.
Travel tip: Chinese people who travel in groups usually split up and stand in different line ups and the person who reaches the front first hollas at their peeps. They save time that way. Good advice indeed. 
Tanjin and Kristie’s line was shorter/moved faster and they called bearing unfortunate news. Apparently, the train tickets were sold out. *SIGH* The lady who gave us advice used her phone to check the train schedule after she heard about our situation. Although the schedule didn’t matter at this point anymore, it was still really nice of her to offer. So many helpful people. We met up with the other girls to find out we would be spending the night in Zhengzhou. On the up side, we had tickets back to Kaifng the next morning at 7:20. The best part: we don’t need train tickets anymore.

8:00 P.M.
Goal for the rest of the evening: have fun and don’t miss that f’n bus the next morning!
On the verge on breaking into hysterics, tears, and laughter, I became overly “unangel” like as the girls described me. We made rules for the night:
-     No talking to strangers (I broke that pretty fast as you’ll see in the next rule)
-     If someone stares at you for 10 seconds or just noticeably staring, we say hello
-     No crying
The beginning of our all nighter adventure in Zhengzhou started with a trip to the bakery called Fagiyo.
enjoying their bread
Croissants – 8 RMB
          Special drink of the day – 2 RMB
TanG got her watermelon
Dudes getting fake tattoos on the street. Only in China..
9:00 P.M.
As we were wandering the streets looking for a place to kill time, we found a night market.What a better way to forget our worries than shopping therapy. We found a store whre most of the items were 2 RMB. I ended up buying tacky jewels to decorate my phone case with later in the night.  Clothes wise… This place was like an outdoor version of the zoo market. It was harder to bargain here, but it didn’t matter all that much since things were already so cheap.
I finally got my bunny shirt
Asking price -29 RMB 
Selling price = 25 RMB
I liked the message on the shirt and the way want is spelled “wanr”. Beijingers add uncessary “r” sounds at the end of many of their words.
Asking price - 19
Selling price -15
A dress. I bought so many dresses from zoo markt but haven’t worn a single one… ugh, bad habit.
Asking price - 29
Selling price - 20
Stockings – to wear with the dresses/hide my bruises
2 for 15 RMB
11:00 P.M. (ya, we spent a good 2 hours shopping)
Catherine got hungry so we found a Chinese restaurant where she got noodles and w got to chill and play school girl games(mash, never had I ever, truth or dare) to keep us awake and entertained. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

April 27; Iron Pagodas and Yellow River

Day 82
Goal of the Day: See the Yellow River Area and the Iron Pagoda Park

On our way to the Yellow River Area, a lady on the bus started talking to us. The lady on the bus was kind enough to give us a free city tour, pointing out all the places around the area and the significance. Surprisingly, I could understand what she was saying – but only in bits and pieces. I think my Chinese is improving at a very minuscule rate.

The Yellow River Area was off the beaten track so there were virtually no tourists there at all.
It was actually a pretty empty park. Besides us, the foreigner/student/expats, there were:
Chinese teenagers having fun and hanging out on the beach and bathing themselves in the questionable yellow river…
a group of Chinese men eating meat on a stick - perhaps a company picnic?
Grandparents and grandson
The grandpa came and talked to us a bit. All conversations with Chinese people usually end up the same. They are obviously curious about the foreign faces (i.e. Tanjin and Kristie), and so they usually turn to me asking some basic questions: if I’m Chinese/sometimes they just assume I’m Chinese, where they’re from, where I’m from, are you students. NO matter how many times this conversation happened I have yet to be bored of it.

Back at the farm! Papa John approved.

path to see the yellow river.
The Yellow River
Trying to create wind
ghetto change rooms


After seeing the Yellow River with our very own eyes, we headed out to the Iron Pagoda Park.
Entrance Fee = 25 RMB with student discount

The main attraction: The Iron Pagoda.
You could climb the pagoda with an extra fee and a whole lot of energy.

Shaolin monk statues doing their thing, while I try to do mine.
My favourite area: the pond.

After a day of exploring, we headed back to the hostel for a delicious linner (who knew hostel food could be so delicious) and then hit the night market! To me, it was pretty much a street meat market… not my scene but it was still pretty interesting.
Meat and other things on sticks
You can choose your own ingredients.
Locals love it.
Special flat breads which are cooked by sticking the dough on the ceiling of the big stone oven.
Back at the hostel, we tried to finalize our plans for tomorrow. I never realized how complicated and even stressful travelling was until then. At that moment of realization, Tanjin and I broke into hysterical laughter. It was time to call it a night. 

Otherwise, today's goals were met with great success.