Thursday, February 11, 2010

Driving in China... random video 3

Lanes? We don't need no stinking LANES!!! One of the most difficult adjustments for Westerners in China is the beautiful chaos that is traffic. :)

Here are two videos that give you a glimpse...

(upload in progress)

This first short video shows my taxi driver in Chengdu driving down the left side of a major fact THE major road in Chengdu. The entire drive to the airport was some form of creative driving acrobatics, which you will get a taste of in this video...

The second video is a typical Beijing moment in traffic...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Creepy Chinese toys on Witch Mountain Random vid - 2

WuShan is a little city located on the 3 Gorges Damn project. My guide and I walked around town in the evening and I was surprised to see so Creepy toys, mind you.

As a bonus this video captures my failed attempt at humor, which is probably why many foreigners end up talking aloud to themselves... but that's another story. ;)

My comment: "What is That?" (Taken from the Princess Pride "What is THAT THING...")

Serious response: "Pedestrian Walkway."

Thinking to myself: I know this is a ****** walkway, what is that THING that just went by with a person on it????

Random China videos - take 1

Random things native English speakers are asked to do in China? How about being asked to give a Chinese company an English Name? Haha.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chengdu, China - Pandas and The world's biggest Buddha

I met my friend Hana in Chengdu to go see the Pandas and check out the city. We also made it to Leshan to see the world's biggest Buddha statue/sculpture, which rests in the side of a mountain. Chengdu is a pleasant city located not too far from Tibet. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but it surprised me to see such a commanding military presence there.

The center of the city features a massive statue of Mao whose hand is slightly larger than normal proportions. It seems to be saying "In your FACE." but most people think it is a friendly wave...

We stayed in a Hostel that cost something around 10 dollars for two evenings. The first day we walked around and looked at the city-center and The People's Park.

We only had one full day in Chengdu and woke first-thing to see the Pandas. I was a bit critical of the setup at seemed more of like a panda prison to me, but It's hard to know if they would even be alive if not for places like this. It's pretty funny to watch pampered Pandas...humans cut their bamboo for them and serve it in bundles where people stand around and watch.

That afternoon we went to Leshan with two awesome Danish travelers. It was a 2.5 hour car ride from Chengdu and totally worth it. Leshan's big buddha truly is...big!

My acquaintance in Beijing suggested that I contact his best friend when I arrived in Chengdu and he was kind enough to show us some of the refurbished tourist areas.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton's speech on Internet Freedom

Text of Clinton's speech:


Only a week after Google's announcement to the world that it would no longer censor in China, the timing of Clinton's speech likely makes the relationship between Google and the US Government seem closer than it actually is.

Not to mention that..historically The Chinese have not taken all to well to direct confrontation or any challenge to their absolute authority and Goggle's move followed by Clinton's speech makes me, as an Emerging Media and Communications Graduate student, a bit uncomfortable.

I'm currently living in Beijing and have had an opportunity to ask many locals what they think about the Google 'threat' (as it is now being called). For the the most part, people think Google's decision is entirely motivated by profit. And, quite frankly, those inside China do not have access to, so how would they be able to read Google's post? On State-run news? No.

While many netizens in China use a variety of means to circumvent the 'Great Firewall of China' the majority of the population only have access to a censored or 'harmonized' Internet. What this means is that while the rest of the world is patting Google on the back, the Chinese people are getting the impression that Google is abandoning them for the sake of their bottom line. Many of my Chinese professors and Beijing Yuppie friends use Google services and it seems that the middle class will be hit hardest if Google decides to close shop. Though, I've also been met with great hostility from individuals while trying to discuss the topic. One person told me: "WE HAVE OUR OWN! We don't need Google!"

While I think this is short-sighted, it sobers my enthusiasm and causes me to ponder on the long-term ramifications of Google's announcement.

Two personal insights from Clinton's speech:

While I resonate with the description Clinton used of the Internet being "a new nervous system for the planet." I was disappointed at her lack of sensitivity when she cited that Internet freedom as a "god-given right."

Personal beliefs aside, that was a diplomatically irresponsible statement to make when you are having a conversation with the world and particularly the Chinese. The ground of conversation is simply doomed to fail if diametrically opposed from the beginning - and makes finding a common ground difficult, if not impossible.

While living in China I would benefit more from a REASONABLY PRICED international DATA service plan - one that didn't cost me over $100 additionally per-month. The cost of global, mobile internet service is more crippling to me than the Chinese Firewall. I can get around the Firewall! I cannot, however, get around my AT&T International Data charges!!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harbin Ice Festival - China - 2010

The temperatures in Harbin today were a high of 1 and a low of -22. If you're thinking about visiting to see the ice festival, you might want to find a better strategy for keeping your feet and hands warm than I had! Even with warm boots, thick wool socks and an under-layer of cotton socks my toes went numb in less than an hour!

There are about 10 tourist hot spots outlined for Western eyes and I managed to see three of them today. I first ventured to Zhongyang Street during the daytime. There were a variety of shops, nothing special for most Western shoppers, but there were several ice sculptures along the street. Though, my favorite was a statue that displayed the frigid temperature!

I headed back to the Shangri-La hotel where I was staying and had a Cappuccino to warm up. Here's a tip: when you're in China - drink tea. The coffee is terrible.

After resting I ventured out to a smaller park called Zhaolin Park. My favorite part of this park was that it had ice sculptures from different countries. Team USA had two sculptures. The first was sort of an abstract thing and the second was mind-numblingly simple: a squirrel. Though I found it endearing!

Next I went to the main park which is called the Ice and Snow World. This place is amazing! Though be careful walking around. I fell on the ice and smacked me head on an ice sculpture. No, I wasn't taking a photograph or doing anything silly...I was just walking! My feet began to go numb and when it felt like I had no toes...I knew that wasn't good so I headed for a taxi. It should have cost 15RMB to get to my hotel, but a crowed to taxi drivers tried to rip me off at 50RMB. I ended up getting back to the hotel for 20RMB...Anywhere there are Westerner tourists you've got to really be mindful of getting a fair deal. ALWAYS ask the hotel how much things should cost!!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Breath taking Beauty of Three Gorges - China

I visited Three Gorges University in Hubei Provence, Yichang - China to check out the campus and see the area.

The countryside of Yichang is beautiful with every square meter of land being farmed - I love how they farm the hills! This is the 'low season' so we were one of very few people on the tour circuit that day! Luckily we were allowed to tour the caves with no one else around, what a treat!

The next day I ventured to Fengjie and Wushan with my guide, Ginger. She was EXCELLENT!

Ginger is a Yichang local and she and her husband provide tours for visitors. She is well versed in the area's history and was great company during the weekend. We took a 2 hour boat ride to Fengjie from YiChang on a Speed-boat, those things are FAST! The sit up out of the water and almost glide on top.

Fengjie is a county with a dense history. Since the Xia Dynasty (21st - 16th BC), people have been living in this place. The county was named during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) in honor of Zhuge Liang who answered the call to take care of the son of Emperor Liu Bei during the Three Kingdoms Period (220 - 280). Zhuge Liang was a clever strategist and there is a video below that tells how he got arrows for his army when they did not have any!

Fun story:

Wushan is a county located in the Three Gorges Dam Reservoir Area through which Yangtze Cruise ships pass. As the eastern gate of Chongqing, Wushan has a long history and abounds with rich resources. My favorite part of Wushan was watching the ladies dance in the town square with kids and people all about.

Last stop was The Ancient Town of Dachang! Located in Wushan County, in the middle section of Daning River, the Ancient Town of Dachang is the only well preserved town in the Three Gorges Area of the Yangtze River. Built in the Jin Dynasty, it has a history of over 1,700 years. Although the site of many wars, it has retained much of its original appearance. The town was literally relocated after the damn project and they moved a section of the ancient city and re-built it on higher ground.

Thanks to: