Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Beijing: The Great Wall

November 30, 2014
So the plan for the next day was waking up super early (4:30AM?) to go see the Great Wall and have time to go to Tiananmen and possibly the Summer Palace. But knowing us, we overslept and didn't actually get out the door until like 8:30AM or something.

So we went to Dashengmen again and the guy in the metro uniform told us to line up, but we were the first ones there, so it was just us. And he told us that it's 70块 for the bus, even though I read online that it was only 12 (even cheaper with the Metro card) so it was really weird. The bus also took a while to even come and so we kept waiting. Then that same worker told us that we can always just carpool with others for, I think 100? Or something like that. That was getting super suspicious because why would a Metro worker suggest private carpools? Wtf. 

So I walked over across the street to where the police officer was sitting outside the parking lot and asked him so where exactly is the bus to the Great Wall (八达岭) and he pointed over into the parking lot. So turns out that where we were standing was a fake T_T;;;; So fucken sketchy how that even happens, that scammers openly have fake signs and bus right at the station and it's not regulated. Probably bribed off or something. I thought it was legit because the bus stop was there, but the thing with the bus number was STUCK onto the sign, so it wasn't a legit sign. The real bus stop actually had a lot of people waiting there and the bus was full and everything. Don't be almost fooled like us and make sure you get on the bus with the real sign and there will be a lot of people lining up. We got lucky because it was just the two of us, so we were able to catch the bus because other people had larger groups. Tbh, I actually suspected the police officer to be a fake too WTF. Oh yeah the Metro guy had a legit looking uniform too, so that's why it's hard to tell with people posing and all. 

It was really cold and windy that day. We bought out tickets, 17.50块 for admissions (I think there was a student discount on this one) and 100块 for sliding cars. I read that they were only supposed to be 60块 or something though, so I was a bit surprised they were 100块, because I think that's how much they charge cable cars, but it was too windy for those. 

It was a good, 10-15 minute walk from the bus stop to the sliding cars because you go through all these food/souvenir vendors.

The ride was like 5 minutes, and it's like sitting on a roller coaster, the part where it slowly goes up in preparation for a big drop except there's no big drop. I'd recommend it if you didn't want to hike like 2? hours to the main part of it. But it was also really cold, so I wouldn't have done it. Or if you're hardcore and want a better "feel" of the Great Wall then I'd hike it.
The Great Wall...was unimpressive. I think I was expecting like something amazing and wonderful, but then it's probably too overhyped for me. It was just kind of meh and honestly I didn't expect the whole thing to basically be steps so it was like hiking because every few minutes I was getting tired :(( It was also hard to get a decent photo because it's actually quite...spread out o_o That or I'm just a bad photographer. Wish I had nicer photos here though >< Feel like a normal person would...

We didn't stay for too long. Just enough to hike around for a bit, be super cold, and get tired. When we came, there wasn't that many people either. We didn't have an issue with taking the bus back. We then went to pick up our luggage and made our way to the train. We were kind of rushing there but we made it in the end :) Took the high speed train back to Shanghai (¥553).

Done with Beijing posts! So until next time :)

Monday, February 9, 2015

I Want a New Camera :(

So I probably dropped my camera one too many times...

It started acting weird after I got to Japan, where half the time, the color of the screen would turn weird for maybe two seconds before it went back to normal. There was also this one instances where one of my photos saved ahead of all my new photos. Like, say I took photo A, then proceeded to take a bunch of photos. Photo A remained as the most recent photo, so I thought the other ones didn't save ><;;; If that made sense. Lastly, my camera would randomly vibrate... it either went away on its own or I had to smack it to make it stop.
Then finally in Singapore (I think) the screen just remained that weird color :( It's not just the green part that's discolored...but it's like the whole thing >< It's over saturated. It's hard to tell from the lighting since it's dark, but my fingers were like super red and stuff.
Since the other photo was kinda dark, here's a lighter one.. The bottom one being the photo displayed.

It kind of gives me a new excuse for a new camera because I've been wanting a new one but wasn't able to justify it because mine still worked fine and the quality is pretty decent for my needs. But I guess I desired something a bit more. Still.. 

But even now it's a bit hard to justify it because my camera still functions.. just the screen is a bit..off. It's somewhat of a big deal because I can't really tell if the photos are nice or not until I upload them. But at the same time...the photos that I take are just as good as they usually are. Derrrp.

I've been doing some research though for potential new ones, but they're so damn expensive $$$

First on my list is the Sony RX100 III (M3). It's $800 T_T But it's a high end compact camera, which is kind of what I want. Well...in terms of, I don't think I really want a DSLR. It's too bulky for me and I don't really know how they work either. And then there's the whole thing with needing many lenses. 

Err, I can always just settle for the M1 ($500) or M2 ($600) of the RX100, which is significantly cheaper, but... I have this obsession with having the newest model if it's available. Not looking to get a second-handed/refurbished model either, so that's not an option even though it saves HUNDREDS. But that doesn't mean I'm spoiled, because if I was, then I would have the M3 by now. And just because I want it doesn't mean I'll actually get it :(

Another option that I looked into was...

The Panasonic Lumix LX7. It's "only" $400 but it came out in 2012, so it makes me feel so... outdated. Even though it's heaps better than my current camera though. If you gave me the same camera and labeled it for 2015, I'd probably go for it. Wtf. Thinking about it this way, I should reconsider and maybe just get it then. I saw some sample photos of it and it's pretty nice..

Friday, February 6, 2015

2014 in a Nutshell

Hehe, guess I should've done this a few days ago before 2015, but whatever. I thought this would be a good change in pace with all the spam of trips lately. Actually, after going through all of this, I think it ended up just being a summary of my travels basically, whoops. But I think 2014 was definitely a year of travels, so it only makes sense hehe.

But here's a summary of my 2014.
1) Went to Toronto 
2) Reconnected with old friends and made new ones
3) Participated in my first fencing tournament
4) Dyed my hair back to "normal"
5) Went to Knoxville, TN
6) Declared my concentrations and minor for my degree
7) Survived through core (though bitterly)
8) Attended a wedding for the first time
9) Went clubbing for the first time for my birthday (lol)
10) Studied abroad in Shanghai
11) Got an internship for the summer with my 1st choice company
12) Traveled through parts of China and Asia:
Lijiang (Yunnan Province)
Shaxi (Yunnan Province)
Hong Kong x2

There's an entry to most of these, only exceptions being anything past Beijing, but if you're interested... just do a quick search at the sidebar and it'll pop up. Didn't really want to link them because there's like multiple entries to some of them, so it'll look messy, ehh.

I guess I slacked off quite a bit, so this is like a month late, but oh well... Chinese New Year's is coming up, so maybe I can count that instead or something. I dunno. Okay. Bye.

Work Resumes!

Err...not résumés...realized it after I published it -_- but don't really feel like changing the title.

Finally went into work today after over two weeks :O It was canceled a lot because of all the snow days and weather in general. 

Speaking of the weather...it's supposed to be snowing for the next few days, with another big snowstorm on Sunday night, I think. Like I said in the last post, I'm not really that affected by the snow, so I actually like it ^^; It's very wintery. 

A bit off topic, but I saw a post on Facebook last night or something about how the city cleared the snow for the Super Bowl parade, but failed to do so yet for other parts of the city. Ehh, like calm yourselves. So what if the city prioritized that section of the city for the parade? It's not like that's not a part of the city that needs to be clear of the snow and why is a central part of the city any less important than residential areas..? Not like they're making you shovel lol... 

Anyways, work today was super relaxing because only three kids came and they're the little ones too. One of the kept crying though :( For like a good half an hour and kept calling for his mom. It's so weird because he never cries. But eventually, he calmed himself when we played this alphabet game together on the iPad and eventually he got comfortable with being in the classroom and I didn't have an issue with taking the iPad away from him.

I also talked to my coworkers a bit. I feel like I usually never do rofl because we all usually do our own thing, but since there aren't a lot of kids today, it was way more relaxed. 

It was so cold after work :( The 20 second walk to the van was super windy and it was only like 30 degrees out too, which isn't even that bad, but it felt way colder T_T;;;

Okay, have to do my reading now :( Good night.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Finally Home

A bit late to be saying this, but finally got back home three weeks ago after missing two flights lol. I had an 8:00AM class the day after I landed, and I got back at night too, whoops.
Didn't really have to adjust from summer weather to the cold. Still have lots of posts to write, especially all the ones after the semester ended.

The past week, my school already had three snow days :0 I haven't had to go into work for two weeks now... I feel like it's not even as bad as it sounds though, but probably because I'm not as affected by it as some people who drive or experience delays in their commute.

Hmmm. I don't think I'm really that glad to be back though. I liked being away and being abroad. I actually never got homesick while I was in Shanghai/traveling. But I did want to go back while I was traveling because it was a struggle lugging all my stuff (and I didn't even have my big luggage) and I just wanted to be back home to unpack. But..that was the extent of wanting to be home. Hopefully next year I'll be able to go study abroad again, but it probably won't be the same. 

Overall, feeling super grateful that I had the opportunity to travel to all the places that I wanted to go to. ^^

Monday, February 2, 2015

Beijing: Stumbling Upon the Forbidden City

November 29, 2014
Okay so after surviving that train ride, we took the train and bus to where we were staying. We booked a place on airbnb for $16/night + service charges. Quite cheap! It's just a private room and there was another guest staying next door but that's ok.
Breakfast. We go to Beijing to eat McDonald's and Wedone (pastries). We always end up traveling and eating KFC or McDonald's lolol.

So we were researching last minute things and then headed for The Great Wall. We took a cab to Deshengmen for the bus that takes us there. But when we got there it seemed like we missed the last bus even though this travel site I found said there were still supposed to be buses running..
So we decided to switch around our plans and tour around the city instead. The pollution was bad anyways (it looked foggy even at ground level) so hopefully the next day would clear up for the Great Wall. 

We took the train to Tiananmen to look around that, since that to me was the place you think of when you think of Beijing (the Mao portrait and all). 
At the midpoint, we saw this building that looked important because there were soldiers in front of it.
Me: Can we go inside? 
Him: No
Me: Uhh...so what is this place?
Him: -Chinese gibberish that I didn't understand-

Eh, I guess it doesn't sound as funny when I type it out >< Maybe I'm just not funny D: But Cory laughed at me for asking about it as if I knew what the place was, but really had no idea. Oh yeah, it's actually the 中南海 (Zhongnanhai) where the government officials are, apparently.
But there's an East and West to it so we ended up going West and planned to go down that way and make our way back East. Halfway through we got distracted and ended up at the Forbidden Palace at one of the odd entrances (usually an exit). 
I felt like.. "Oh, this is it...?" So we spent a good 10 minutes walking to the main entrance and still didn't see anything good about it! And the whole time I was wondering why it's such a big deal when it's just a giant square gated with palace-like doors. Not impressed at all. 

So we walked BACK to the middle of the square wondering what to do next. We saw that they were selling admission tickets for the Palace Museum. 

Me: Eh.. Well they have the Palace Museum, do you want to go to that?
Cory: I don't really care 
Me: Eh I'm not really into museums though
Cory: Me neither
Me: And its 40 kuai... ($6.50)
Cory: I don't really care what we do
Me: Ok, let's just go since we're already here
Bought the tickets and it was only 20 kuai because of the student discount (make sure to bring your student ID!)
When we walked into the Museum, we realized that this was the Forbidden City. There you have it, two idiots who couldn't find the Forbidden City and found it only because we felt obligated to go to a museum because we were already here. -applause- 
Photo courtesy of Cory
Garden place at the end of the Museum. The rocks remind me of 豫园 if you remember from [here]. 

Erm the palace itself was very pretty. I want to live in a palace that big :( but a house would probs be like one room of that place because it was huge. There was so many sections to this place! Like you go in and see the palace and surrounding rooms and then there's a back which turns out to be like the same thing, and there's more and more behind each section. It was really cold that day so we tried not to stay too long. I'm not sure how long we spent here but it felt like it was enough. 

We wanted food...so we tried to figure out a way to go back to the train station but the thing was far and I forgot how much the bus costs, I think maybe 10 RMB per person? Wait was it really 10? If yes we're such cheapos LOL. I swear it seemed higher though, but normal bus rides are only 1 kuai. And it wasn't that far away either (3km) so we decided to walk... Heh..

We ended up catching a different bus to the station. We wanted to hail a cab because it was starting to rain a lot (my poor Uggs...) but we weren't able to in the end because they were either all full or just not that many around grr.

So we navigated our way to Jing Yaa Tang (京雅堂) after trying so hard to find it. Damn you misleading maps!!! We ended up walking around many consulates looking for it, even having to ask these military guys for direction. When we got to the building, we were confused as to where it was and it turned out to be in the basement. 
It was still quite early so it was empty and we got away without a reservation. We ordered  烤鸭 because eating that is a must in Beijing imo, even though we just had it two days ago for the Thanksgiving dinner. 
A guy brings out the entire duck and cuts it in front of us. Cool, yeah? Except after the initial minute of excitement, we stopped paying attention. And we ended up with a small plate of 烤鸭 and wondered what happened to the rest of it while we weren't looking. 
You can see through the window thing that that's where they roast the ducks :0
Sticky rice stuffed chicken wings

When we paid the bill, it turns out that the girl only put in an order for half a duck >:( while that saved us a bit, considering how expensive the duck ($30 for that dish, I think) was, I wanted my duck D: tbh it does taste pretty similar to the boxes that my mom buys except it's more expensive here and seems to be smaller portions it seems ^^;;;; I'm not sure if I preferred this one or Lao Beijing from the Thanksgiving dinner.

Address of Jing Yaa Tang if you're interested:
The Opposite House, 11 Sanlitun Lu Fl. B1, Chaoyang district, Beijing 100027
We walked about the plaza next door but not like we can afford anything there cuz it's like high end stuff :( we walked toward the station after that and found a more...affordable shopping plaza, so we spent some time looking around there as well before finally going home for real.