Going Back to China, China, China… To Get My $$ And The Great Wall Marathon

Living in China for years and being paid in RMB can be a pain. It is even more of a pain when you move out of China and want to take money with you. I am not talking thousands here (well in RMB I am) but in USD it is not ridiculous by any means.

To get what I earned those last few months,  I had to return to China. Good thing we did something crazy last year and signed up for the Great Wall Marathon I have done nothing sporty in the 4.5 years I been in China but hey this is a good idea! I am full of them. The 7th hardest marathon in the world, well at least 1/2 of it.  The timing worked well as the tax documents, one of the 5 pieces of paper I need to produce to even be considered to take my money out take 3 months to get to you. I left in January so they were ready in April. Perfect timing. The Marathon was meant to be!

It took me 2 days to get my money out. The Chinese Banks don’t like you to take money out of China so will tell you everything to prevent you from taking it out. I think they try to wear you down and hope you will just give up. I had to do this for 2 days, play their games and finally I got my money and ran! Ran the Great Wall Marathon! Well more of a hike/run/walk of the Great Wall, farms, construction, and neighboring village.  It was awesome!

The Adventure to Beijing

After a 4 hour flight delay to Beijing, how I miss traveling in China. When the airlines and airspace is owned by the same entity, you are bound for ridiculousness. Glad to see it hasn’t improved any since I left. We finally made it to Beijing and had a 3 hour car ride to the race site, in the dark now because of the flight delay, driving along a windy, mountain road. It was nice to open our eyes when the car finally stopped at the hotel.

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Maybe should have kept our eyes closed. It looked like something out of a horror move, a little Chinese Horror Story Asylum like, on the grounds it even had what I swear was an incinerator. It could have also been a brothel. They had some interesting art in the room.

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It had a bed which in some places are called a board and my favorite the bathroom where you can shower and use the toilet all in one. I never like this as once you shower, any time you go into the bathroom you can either fall down, because the tile is all wet or you just make a mess because the floor is wet. How many people just give up trying to use the toilet and just go? Hmm… I didn’t bring shower shoes so don’t want to think about that.

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Only 1 night and not even a night because it is that late at this point and COLD. It is Cold up on the Great Wall and daylight couldn’t come fast enough.

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Isn’t that lovely.. isn’t that an incinerator?

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The sign of the place we are staying at during the day

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The front

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Day time view of the hotel

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The incinerator

Race Start Time 8AM!

One thing the race has going for it, in addition to being a clear day in Beijing with a blue sky is that the race start is 8am. Seriously, 8am none of this 5am get in your corral BS at other races, 8am. Although I was ready to go at 5am, up and out of the hotel. The hotel was also a 3 minute walk from the start. The price you pay to be close.

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There it is the Great Wall!

What Is That Line?

OK the hotel is not that bad after all because in 3 minutes I can be back in my room and use the bathroom and not have to wait in this line! That is a long wait for a squatter!

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The Band Played Christmas Music!

There was a band providing pre-race entertainment and motivation with Christmas tunes. OMG! I just loved it. Nothing gets you psyched to run a marathon like Rudolph and Jingle Bells. YESS! This is the greatest race ever!

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The Start of the Race or As I Call It, a Chipped/Timed Hike

This is not a typical marathon/race. It is what I a chipped/timed hike. It is not about time at all, it is about finishing. We had 8 hours to finish before they cut you off. They say what your normal time is for a race, double it. I am proud to say I was less than my doubled time!

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Everyone starts (half and full) by heading up, up a road and onto the Wall. You really can’t start running at this point unless you want to hurt or take yourself out early. So we walked and enjoyed the blue sky and worked on my 1st sunburn in 4.5 years of living in China. I didn’t think to put sunscreen on, why would it have been sunny? It is China?!? I was thinking doing this much breathing of polluted air was the equivalent of smoking 64 packs of cigarettes in one day and shorten my life span even more.   Silly me. Always have sunscreen.

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The Wall- 5,164 Steps Into History  

Very soon, you arrive at the wall. You really can’t run it, there are a lot of steps and stairs. It is also pretty slick and dangerous in some spots.

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That’s my call me shaka, presenting the Aloha State now, wearing my flowers

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When you wonder which way to go on the wall, follow the directions of the volunteers, better to follow the signs with arrows that match your bib.

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Volunteers working hard!

His hand gestures were helpful!

His hand gestures were helpful!

Hiking along the wall was just amazing! It was a beautiful day.  There were times there was congestion in narrow parts and uneven, and difficult. An odd thing experienced, my phone was sticky and I couldn’t figure out why.. until I realized, it was gel packs. EEWW! They were all over the railings, yuck and gross and I hate gel! I did like talking to the volunteers giving out the gels and asking in Chinese if they were delicious? A proud moment of my years of living in China, I can ask if something is delicious.

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The race folks did a nice job of having lots of water stops along the way.

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The Village, Via The Road, The Coming Soon Road and The Lettuce Fields

After you come off the wall you run along the road to get to a village. Yes, you can run at this point! The road is not closed… it is still open so you are running with traffic. Like running of the bulls, China style. Only fearful a few times. Cars would pull over as you were running, folks would take photos of you. It was a little nuts.  Before you get to the village, you go through a future highway under construction and through some farmers fields. Just in case you think you aren’t going the right way, there are signs!

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Finally you get to the quaint village where the locals are just checking out what is going on. Some collecting water bottles and the most fun were the kids! The kids would cheer you on, give high fives, say hello, offer candy, they were super sweet. If to do it again, I would bring candy to give to them! if I was a kid.. I would probably have moved the directional signs and got the runners going the wrong way. Good thing they didn’t.

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Yup a chicken checking out the racers too!

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The Finish!

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We did it! It was amazing! So much fun. We finished much quicker than we thought and felt super after. Like really super. Strange as I never felt this way with other 1/2s I have done and those I trained for. I felt broke down in the past and a squat toilet would have killed me.  After the Wall, I could still walk and I used a squatter!  So weird! I credit our “training” through spinning and my weekend hiking in Hawaii and our attitude of we have nothing to prove, just to finish. That is the attitude from now on! I would do an adventure marathon again, it was so fun. I am thinking Bagan… who is with me? The running bug is back!  I will do my 1st full marathon in Hawaii. The HNL Marathon. Medals & malasadas?! I am a sucker for malasadas but it will be hard to beat Jingle Bells.

Full/Half/Fun

You might be wondering what is different between the Full Marathon (26.2 miles), Half Marathon (13.1 miles), and the Fun Run (5.5 miles). They all go up the wall first! There is nothing Fun about that Fun Run, it is the hardest part of the whole course. They go up the wall and done. The half goes up the wall and through the village. The Full goes up the wall, through the village, does an extended village run (to get more distance in) and since you are not there yet, goes back up the wall on the return. No thank you. Once was enough and I applaud those folks who did it. You are CRAZY and incredible, jiayou!

Innovative Scooter Child Seat

I remember when Britney drove with her child on her lap and people lost their damn minds. At least she was in a SUV. In China, people, babies, pets or packages are not strapped in. I know about the packages my heater arrived to me as if it fell 3x off a scooter from the top of the Jin Mao building. Even in cabs there are no car seats. What you do is chain the chair to the scooter, not the child to the chair here is an example spotted on the sidewalk ready to go.

Scooter Child Seat

It does amaze me how when expecting a mother in China may be on bed rest the whole time, wears a special smock everyday to prevent radiation and such from computers, tvs, cell phones, to keep the unborn baby safe. I understand where this comes from having a one child policy for so long, it is precious cargo. What I don’t get is once birthed the child travels in a chained chair on a scooter. The baby is protected from harmful rays from TVs and computers yet you drive around with your once precious in a lawn chair where there are no traffic rules, just guidelines. Doesn’t make sense to me but what do I know I don’t have kids.

Hold A Panda? In Chengdu You Can Do!

Panda Taxi

Even the taxis in Chengdu have pandas on them!

Where in the world can you hold a giant panda, a bear, and an endangered species? In China of course! In the US I am pretty sure you can’t even look at them because they are endangered, well in China for a donation you can hold one. This is something I had to do and it is the last big thing on my list of places to go and do in China. When you go through airports in Asia I noticed slogan signs for Chengdu and it is “Chengdu Can Do” want to make sure I give credit where credit is due, I didn’t make that one up but catchy!

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 Panda Facts

  • Pandas are the National treasure and they hate noise (according to the sign) That doesn’t stop the tour groups from using their Mr. Microphone to give a tour of pandas. What are they even talking to the group about?  “There is a panda, he eats bamboo shoots” I don’t think a tour is necessary but regardless it is loud and annoying.  Anyone with sound experience looking for work, China is a big opportunity because I hear they make things you can put in you ear and listen to someone talk.
  • There are only 47 pandas in the world that live outside of China and only 1600 remain in the wild. Darn shopping malls, there are a lot of malls in China.
  • In the US there are only 3 zoos (Washington, Memphis, and San Diego) that have pandas.
  • Pandas can eat up to 82 pounds of bamboo a day but prefer bamboo shoots. That is the equivalent to eating just the lobster tail in my opinion. Of course they only eat bamboo shoots if someone made you the option to just lobster tails wouldn’t you just eat that? Of course! Who has time and energy to deal with claws and such…. to be the National Treasure.
  • More panda facts can be found at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and if you want to sponsor the pandas they will take money too!

 

 

 

Getting There Panda Entrance Panda Sign

We stayed in downtown Chengdu and took a cab to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. It took around 45 minutes one way and cost around 50RMB. We went early in the morning because we heard that is when the pandas are most active. By active it means eating from a pile of bamboo shoots place in front of them so they can be seen by tourists. That is all they do. We had friends come at 2pm for the holding session and after that walked the panda park and the bears were all passed out. After you eat 82 pounds of food what else is there?  Best to go early to see them. To get back home, there is not a taxi line but lots of taxis out front, they are shady cabs meaning they don’t want to run the meter and try to get you to pay a  flat fee of more  than it cost to get out there. At first I was mad and argued but then realized a much higher fee is like $2 more and just paid it. Principle, principle, shady cab drivers!

Donation

The donation in May 2014 the cost to hold a panda was 2,000RMB (approx. $320) per person. I said to the lady, I want to hold the panda, not buy the panda. I think it was lost in translation. I did ask for a fapiao (another favorite ridiculous thing in my opinion about living in China, the damn fapiao) because this is a donation I will find a way to have it take off my taxes and I has a donation certificate to prove it. For your donation you do get a panda swag bag full of goodies. I guess in a way I did buy a panda, a panda plush. That is one expensive panda plush but he/she is wearing a t-shirt.  I have heard the price is so crazy because it limits the number of people who will do it and what is even crazier is how much it has gone up! I swear when I moved to China I heard it was 500RMB.

Park Experience

It costs 58RMb to get into the panda park and holding the panda is an extra donation. We did not make a reservation to hold the panda. We were told we could just walk up. So we did and trekked to the panda donation center. They do 2 holdings a day. One around 10am and the other around 2pm. We we were unable to get into the 10am but we did get into the 2pm. That goodness for if I didn’t get to hold a panda after the trip to hold a panda that would be a disappointment. Why else would I be in Chengdu? For the food, maybe some people not me, heck no.  If you want to do this make a reservation, your hotel can make one for you or call the Panda place (speak Chinese or have someone to for you).  So we spent 4 hours, until our time to hold a panda walking around the large panda park. It wasn’t too hot of a day and the grounds are really nice. They have red pandas which I read on a sign are not even pandas but called that, doesn’t matter they are cute! and the giant panda. and a peacock.  That is all. The park is well maintained and have the nicest restroom I have ever come across in China. There was a fish tank, a robo toilet, incense burning, clean, the nicest ever in china. Between panda looking, using the amazing toilets we were able to spend 4 hours until our panda holding time.

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Another funny in the park all the panda have a bio sheet talks about their weight, their hobbies, what they like to eat. It is like dating profiles and if interested their stud number is listed. Cracked me up and we spent a good amount of time reading the signs.

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Ai Li Ke Bi

Panda Holding Experience

At 2pm we went back to the panda holding center where we were placed into 2 groups. 1 was Chinese speaking and the other English speaking.  We had about 10 people in our group total.  The experience is made of 3 parts.

  1. Talking about pandas and what they do at this facility
  2. Prepare the panda food
  3. Hold the panda for 1-2 minutes

Experience 1: Talking about pandas. We went into a room and watched some videos about pandas, what they do at the center, how pandas do not like to mate and what they do about it, watched some panda mating what we call panda porn (proof that have gotten pandas to mate I guess), panda births, and then some cute videos of little pandas wrestling. In typical China fashion the videos were just that videos and pulled up one by one to show us. You would think they would have had them edited into one video to show. Any video editors looking for work? Call up the Panda place.

Experience 2: Prepare the panda food. We left this room and walked outside to where there were 2 crates of bamboo shoots.  A demonstration was given on how to wash the bamboo shoots where they spray it with a hose and move it from one crate to the other. I didn’t understand this much, why the 2 bins. We were then asked if anyone wanted to prepare the food. This was a lame preparing in my opinion, this is really how you prepare the food for the National Treasure? Oh and heck yeah I want to do it, I want to do everything in this experience after paying 200oRMB, I held that hose and sprayed the bamboo shoots! I don’t think these are the ones used to feed the pandas. I think it is all a farce.

I am taking my work very seriously

I am taking my work very seriously

Experience 3:Hold a panda!  After preparing food, we finally get to the main event but before we do we are given booties to put over our shoes, gloves, and a smock, what are we doing with these pandas? Never told why.. I assume it is because they are endangered and they don’t want our germs up on the pandas but I do wonder why we didn’t wear masks and/or maybe it is to protect us from panda poop. The pandas do need a bath they are dirty.

Julie, Jeff, Todd and I waiting in our suits to hold a panda

Julie, Jeff, Todd and I waiting in our suits to hold a panda

It seems many are confused as to why we wear the surgical suits (minus the masks) to hold the pandas, telling the story to a friend back in Shanghai  (not Chinese) he said the reason is to protect us from getting syphilis. Say what? He said it is because of panda pee and panda pee contains syphilis. Huh? That is nuts because we didn’t sign a release of any kind and we didn’t wash our hands before or after (then again TIC-this is China) and I have been married a really long time but I thought syphilis is a STD. I did pay a lot of money… maybe it is not buying the panda but buying a different kind of panda experience… After this declaration of the reason for the protection protocol, Todd declares if he gets syphilis it is because of the panda not because of any other reason.  Nice Todd, nice. After our questioning and probably looks of you are crazy our friend looked it up, got back to us and said he couldn’t find anything on it and that he might have dreamed it. 🙂

Looking at the photos you may think how cute! The panda is holding a bamboo shoot, how stereotypical and a great photo op. Not the reason, the reason is so he doesn’t claw you eyes out. After all it is a bear and this may not be the smartest thing to do, hold a bear. Although I am sure there is some risk that the bear could claw you eyes out, the bamboo shoots are covered in honey and given to the bear as a treat. This is to keep him still, on your lap so you can have the money shot taken. Tell me you wouldn’t be a little pissed after buying a panda donating to panda research and not holding one. How do you get a panda to sit in a strangers lap? Honey on a bamboo shoot. When people say oh how cute just sitting there, on your lap, eating bamboo. I am like give me a bag of M&Ms I will sit on your lap and be quiet too. After the bag is gone, look out! Isn’t that parenting 101? Give them sugar to keep them quiet. What do I know about these things.

Todd's Friend

How cute! Todd is not too bad in this photo either.

You might be wondering how old this panda is. He is 8 months old. I have heard you hold them when they are around this age and not younger because of  syphilis their immune system. I got to hold him for like a minute and they had someone taking photos and our guide had my camera and took lots of photos. They are really nice, they take lots of photos and allow if you are with a group to have a group photo with the panda as well as individual but must be fast. My panda boy did get a little fussy, I said he wanted to claw my eyes out, Todd thinks he wanted more honey, same thing in my book and the handler picked him up and would say “maa, maa, maa” to him. Similar to the sound of a sheep but “maa” instead of “baa”.  I wonder if this is “maa” is the soothing sound a mama panda makes to her young or was the trainer speaking Chinese to the panda?  In Chinese when asking a question you put a ma at that end of the sentence and that is like the question mark  in a way and how you know it is a question. Maybe the trainer was like maa? maa? As in whats up? Whats wrong baby bear? Do you want to claw her eyes out?

Proof that he was trying to claw my eyes out!

Proof that he was trying to claw my eyes out! His paw had to be restrained.

To get through our group 3 different pandas were brought out. Some didn’t mind to be held and the last one, the final panda when all the others have had enough of being held and in a sugar comma of honey covered bamboo shoots and want no more of this, the one panda who doesn’t like to be held was brought out. The last folks in our group had to sit next to him for photos.  Well thank goodness we didn’t get him! I would be mad if I didn’t get to hold the panda after all that!

The one that didn't want to be held but of course he will eat bamboo

The one that didn’t want to be held but of course he will eat bamboo

After the experience we were able to take off our surgical gear and were given our panda swag bag and that was it.

All the panda swag you could ever want

All the panda swag you could ever want

We held a PANDA!!! Where else can you hold a panda. In Chengdu you can do!!

Holding a panda

 

I have panda fever and had to get a panda hat

I have panda fever and had to get a panda hat

Scooter Child Seat

Check out the child seat, pretty fancy and clever a folding chair and look like it has some storage underneath. I am sure it is nicer to sit than to stand which is how a good number of kids roll. I grew up before click it or ticket laws and I don’t have kids so I  really have no experience with safety, other than it begins with me 🙂 but I don’t think this is safe. How is the chair attached to the scooter? One quick maneuver and I suspect he would go flying off chair and all. It concerns me but I am obviously in the minority for it is seen often.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, Tigers and Popsicles

In Orlando, FL  a hotel for the past few years host a holiday tradition called ICE! I remember reading about the exhibit that artists from Harbin, China  (never heard of this place before yet I found out since living in China it is the 1oth largest city in China) were flown in to make the exhibit. I never went when I lived in Florida not because I wasn’t interested in seeing ice sculptures, going down slides of ice and wearing borrowed ski parkas  the exhibit provides for who has such things in Florida?  I didn’t go for it is ridiculously expensive, I think a ticket is nearly $30 US PLUS you have to pay for parking. I will show them… I will go to Harbin, China to see one of the world’s largest ice festivals in the world in person. It would have been cheaper to see the ICE! exhibit but not the same experience. Here is a photo of me in part of the experience which is putting on the layers to be out in -11 degree weather. I have on 3 pairs of socks, 2 hats, 2 gloves, tights, 1 thermal pants, 1 pair fleece pants, fleece lined snow pants, a thermal shirt, a heat tech turtle neck, a fleece, a fleece jacket and a ski jacket. I looked like a Chinese baby all bundled  up with every piece of clothing I own, not really but if felt like it! If only I had split pants.

All my layers

All my layers

We flew from Shanghai Friday night after work, many fellow foreigners had a similar idea to go to the ice, I haven’t seen so many foreigners in one place in a long time. Our plane was delayed, typical for China domestic travel but only by 1 hour so I will call that on time. Coming out of the airport we had our first ice sculpture sighting. It was very exciting! In Alaska, I remember seeing the bald eagles and at first so exiting to see these beautiful birds, at the end of the trip folks would point out eagles and we were like, yeah yeah another eagle. That is the same feeling about the ice sculptures they are everywhere in Harbin. You wouldn’t even need to pay to get into the ice and snow festival park to see sculptures but if you came this far you need to go and see the tigers as well.

Siberian Tiger Park

I have a soft spot when it comes to animals. I prefer furry children over other options and I refused to go to any zoo things in China. When I see the man on the street with his monkey asking for money I want to ask how much for the monkey and take it home. Todd doesn’t let me. One of the things to do in Harbin is to visit the Siberian Tiger Park. I heard stories of this park where one of the attractions is you can buy live animals (chickens, goats, cows) and feed them to the tigers. No way I am going there! I did enjoy when a co-worker said how stupid people are for the park is going to feed the tigers a cow anyway ( really a cow?) and the tourists are funding it and paying $441 US (2800 RMB) to do it. I decided I had to go not for the live feedings but where else in the world can you see hundreds of tigers and even ligers!

Boo to the live animals. I also like that the sign says Religious People get a discount and that if you are 71 or older no discount

The Tiger Park wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  You start off by going on a lion safari ride in a bus with cages/bars over the windows and you go through gates with guard shacks, it reminded me of all these things 1. a prison (or a school) 2. my visit to Dachau 3. Jurassic Park. There are hundreds of lions just hanging out as you drive through the various gates.

The gates to enter the Lions Jurassic park like, right?

The gates to enter the Lions Jurassic park like, right?

What keeps the lions in and away from us

What keeps the lions in and away from us

Lions hanging

Lions hanging

After the lion safari you walk on an elevated platform around the park, looking at the lions, the white lions, the liger, jaguars, etc. In one section you can pay $10 USD (60RMB) to put a live chicken in a basket and send it over to be released over the lions. It was going on, I just kept walking past it. I did have to tell the boys they were not allowed to buy any chickens to feed the lions. Thank goodness nothing else was being fed to the lions while there.  Overall the park was better than I thought it was going to be in regards to kept animals and to see so many tigers, a liger and other cats was pretty cool.

Liger

Liger

I love this I have has a similar photo with a gator now a lion!

I love this I have a similar photo with a gator mouth now a lion!

Central Street (Zhongyang Dajie)

We headed to Central Street where there was promise of delicious snacks and just a fun pedestrian street. It was a beautiful street with a lot of European influenced buildings makes sense as Harbin is called “Eastern Moscow” for its heavy influence from Russia.

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Snow Psy

One of the promised snacks on this road is the homemade milk popsicles. Who would eat popsicles in -30 degree weather? The belief is eating them keeps you warm? It is big business and it is a thing to do on the street. In addition to being delicious so good some of us had them 2x even thought they come with no wrapping and in a giant plastic tub. Things you do in China that yo wouldn’t do anywhere else.. That adds to the fun experience. What do they taste like? Todd called them pudding pops.

The other street snacks is the sugar-glazed fruit (bing tang hu lu) back in dynasty days they were used as a form of medicine. Who says TMC is all crazy? I love these! I had a strawberry one which costs more than the others for I guess they know it is delicious so supply/demand. They are really tasty! You need to be careful though it is so cold that the fruit is frozen, the sugar hard, it is a disaster for your teeth waiting to happen and I am sure a dentist favorite time of year. A co-worker who went the weekend before we did broken off half her tooth on one. Having been warned I took it easy and had 2 total on this weekend trip.  If you don’t want to put your teeth at risk try the banana skewer it doesn’t freeze all the way.

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Ice and Snow World

After our walking food tour of Central street we made it to the river to take in the frozen river sports this river is where the ice blocks are taken from for the ice sculptures. On the river there was a lot of activity from skating, horse carriage rides (on the ice!), top spinning, sliding, etc.

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We didn’t have time to do that we had ice sculptures to see and we wanted to see them during the day light and all lit up at night so we headed over to the park.  Seeing them during the day I enjoyed more than when they were lit. Hard to believe for my love of Vegas and the over the top and lights but it is a little much all the lights. We spent approx. 2 hours at the festival, did some ice slides, no one broke anything so left when we had enough of the cold and it was getting crowded.  They did have little snack shacks that served beverages and microwave popcorn and  you could go in and get warm.

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I think that says welcome to ice sculpture world

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St. Sophia & Snow Sculpture Park

Our next day we visited St. Sophia church and I fed pigeons like I was in Mary Poppins! No bird poo accidents either.

St Sophia

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The highlight of the trip for me was the snow sculpture park which also pricey $41 USD (260RMB) when in Harbin… and when am I going to be back? It was incredible the sculptures amazing! There were so many of them and some HUGE and some with a slide.

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For approx. $5 (30RMB) we hauled a tire tube up the top of a sculpture and was sent down an icy, snow covered death chute. OMG it was incredible! We rode it only 1x, didn’t want to press our luck we were all standing and nothing broken. We did have to walk back on the icy and slick paths back to the entrance, walking in Harbin is a little dangerous.

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Harbin Summary

2 days is perfect to see Harbin and the ice festivals. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, it is located across from one end of Central Street making it very convenient. The hotel is fine, nothing too fancy but good for a quick weekend trip. We did hear getting taxis can be a challenge. A colleague who worked in Harbin previously hooked up with a guy with a taxi and for 1300RMB ($205) he was our private driver for the weekend.  He picked us up at the airport and took us where we wanted to go, helped us get tickets, waited for us, keeping the cab warm (and taking a nap) at the attractions to come out and off to the next place and brought us back to the airport.  Worth it for we saw the people on the street trying to get a cab in the freezing cold. The cabs in Harbin are smaller than those in Shanghai so the 4 of us were snug but it kept us all warm.  Fun weekend, glad to have done it and it is now checked off the list on to the next.

Weekend in MORGANshan

For our anniversary this year Todd got off the island (Oahu)!  We spent the weekend in Moganshan (which I have renamed to Morganshan). It is a 3 hour drive from Shanghai where there are tea fields, clean air (I think it was clean, maybe clearer is a better word), chickens, and not much else.  We have heard about the place from others saying how beautiful it was so we had to give it a try.

Tea Fields

We stayed at Naked Stables Private Reserve. It is not a nudist place, as the name would lead one to believe but an eco resort. They offer a bus service from Shanghai. The 3.5 hour ride was not that bad. The highlight of the bus adventure was the stop at a highway rest stop! They are similar to ones elsewhere. You can get gas, use the restroom, and buy snacks. I was hoping for a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or as found along the Florida Turnpike Earl of Sandwich but no such luck. Not even a KFC. That is how you know we are in the middle of no where, No KFC!  Tea eggs and boiled meat on a stick and other convenience store items are available.  We arrived at the place just in time, the last 15 minutes of the bus adventure up the hills got windy and wavy I couldn’t get there fast enough but we made it.

The resort is beautiful surrounded by tea fields and hills. Steep hills you have to walk up and down to get anywhere, it can get very tiring. If you want to be lazy you can call a host who will come pick you up in a golf cart but that is just silly (and yet I still get pizza delivered from across the street).   The resort did freak me out for all over the lobby and other public spaces were cow hides. Cow hide rugs, cow hides lining the walls, and cow hides covering furniture. I think they were cow hides, they may have been horse since it was the stables and all. No matter what it was it freaked me out and I refused to step or sit on them. Is this eco? PETA would have a field day at this place.

We did take in a good dinner show at the pool bar restaurant that overlooked the pool. We watched crazy people at the pool with their full on swimming gear, as if they were Olympic swimmers (swimming costume, nose plugs, goggles, swimming cap) to go into the fancy infinity pool to do laps. The pool is packed and we watched this one guy in his full gear get out of the pool, line his toes up on the edge, dive in (it is full of people) as if he was starting a swimming race but he didn’t have the grace of an Olympian his legs were all over the place, splash, swim a lap and repeat the whole performance. Splash. OMG we just watched and laughed waiting for him to stop doing it, it didn’t stop. We also saw another person take a laptop into the pool. Why? It was a great show.

It was so hot I think it had to have been the hottest weekend ever in China. Everyone says go to Moganshan to escape the heat of the city. It was not cooler at all. Or course there was nature and we had to go for a hike to explore. We did a 4 hour hike through a rural village. Overall a good weekend despite the heat it was nice to get out of Shanghai.

More photos of our trip to Moganshan click here

The hills

Family That Rides Together

Britney was given such a hard time when she rode with her baby on her lap in an enclosed vehicle. Here is how I have seen many families travel. Missing is the Mom in this photo.

Anyone more worried for the dog than the kids? I am, is that wrong?

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