Monday, May 30, 2005


i am no longer in asia. that is how everyone reacts to shanghai. glitzy and new and full of old french and british buildings. my hostel is cool. it is right on the bund and has a great view of pudong. the first two days here though, i was ill from the fruit and soju in xian. i even went to see star wars yesterday and had to leave for the bathroom the last half hour of the movie, i missed everything. oh well, i feel good today and am looking forward to sitting in the sun.

view from my hostel of the bund in shanghai Posted by Hello

inside the grande hyatt on the bund Posted by Hello

xian - the city that sold itself to the tourist

i arrived in xian alive and made it to a hostel right near the train station. this is another walled city that, if you can believe lonely planet, used to vie with constantinople and rome as one of the greatest cities in the world. i wouldn't say that anymore. not to say that it wasn't a fun city and to be perfectly honest i was only there a day, but it was crowded, dirty, sleazy and a giant tourist trap. the main attraction is china's second most visited site after the great wall, the terracotta warriors. i bused out to see them and was pretty dissapointed. they were old and the history and everything is quite awe inspiring but the government has built this disneyland museum complex to house them. it is all shiny and new and full of metal and glass but i felt that this took away from the warriors themselves because you had no sense that they were created hundreds and hundreds of years ago for a chinease emperor. they just look like clay statues behind glass. anyway, i was really hot and sweaty and maybe was a little jaded by that. but it was cool to see. i shared a room with a korean guy who didn't like chinese food. he had a suitcase full of soju though so we drank and ate a lot of fruit and these little dried fishes that you pull off the head and dip them in some paste. the next day when i woke up at five to catch my flight to shanghai, i realized that maybe the fruit had parasites or something because i couldn't stop going to the bathroom. my stomach wouldn't hold food and i looked a mess on the plane. soju and fruit are a bad mix. again i can't load my pics on yahoo. sorry.

xian children Posted by Hello

the terracotta warriors and a modern day soldier in xian Posted by Hello

a child in a cart in pingyao Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 26, 2005


so i arrived in pingyao on the overnight train from beijing at about 7am. a man on the train gave me his card and said he has a hotel inside the city walls. i told him that i wasn't planning on staying the night and that i was hoping to catch the overnight to xian that same evening. he told me that he could help me book the train though and that i could stash my bags at the hotel so i jumped on the back of his motorcycle and headed off from the station. pingyao is the only city in china with its complete wall intact. it is a poor city though and so the buildings are all a thousand years old. i met a tourguide who spoke english and she said she would give me a free tour just so she could practice her english. i thought 'bonus' and told her i would meet her after i biked the 7km around the top of the wall. we spent the day going to really old temples and china's first banks (back in the day pingyao was a capital). the hotel manager in the meantime booked me a ticket (or so he told me). apparently, there are no hard sleeper beds available from pingyao to xian because the train is in transit from some other city. well, he ended up sneaking me into the station, bribed the security at the tracks and basically stowed me away in the back car. i had to go in from the tracks instead of the platorm. i spent 14 hours in a top bunk hidng all evidence of my existence from the train staff. pretty crazy. i haven't slept or showered really in three days and counting. for most of you, you probably think 'big deal jamie' but i think my bed from beijing had mites. i really want a shower.

Monday, May 23, 2005

my apologies

i just wanted to apologize to those of you who care for the quality and size of my pictures of late. also for the fact that, other than what you see on the blog, i haven't been linking to my photo albums. this is because of the infuriatingly slow and unreliable internet in this country. i can assure you i have spent hours trying to figure out the problem to no avail. anyway, just thought i would let you know so that you didn't think i was slacking. maybe in shanghai it will be better.

temple of heaven

a little south of where i am staying is the temple of heaven, which houses the main shrines used by the emperors to pray for good harvests and stuff. it was cool in its architecture and colour and had a pretty nice park area. it was basically just a giant lawn with tries planted evenly in a grid but it was peaceful. not much more to say about it actually. pictures won’t load so maybe later.

temple of heaven

summer palace

went with two ladies from my hostel (irish and signapore/thai) to the summer palace in the north west of the city. my god what a beautiful and relaxing place. maybe it is because it was the first time since i came to china that i could find myself in any sort of seclusion or hear birds instead of jackhammers but the place was huge and had a giant lake and a series of gorgeous imperial palaces atop a very large hill. if the chinese are good at anything it is the sculpting of nature. the landscape architecture was so uniform and eerily constructed but on a colossal scale too. i don’t know, think of a bonsai tree the size of high park with paths, canals, a lake with an island and intricately detailed thousand year old buildings placed symmetrically around the pot. add some distant flute playing on the wind and a few cute kids chasing squirrels into bamboo thickets. there you have it – the summer palace. i think i really messed up my ankle more too. so much walking.

lots of bamboo at the summer palace

roof at the summer palace

beihai park is soooo nice

the sun was brilliant and warm on this day so i took to the streets of beijing solo in search of some greater understanding of the universe and blah blah blah. i don’t think i found anything concrete but i did find a great park. there were many private walled gardens with ponds, lily pads and even turtles and i just strolled along with my mp3 player providing the soundtrack. into the first 10 minutes i badly sprained my ankle and thought my day was through but mustered enough machismo to endure the pain for another four hours. my camera battery died early though so not many pics. also, i am having trouble loading anything today. i met a guy in the park who came up to me and sat down. he introduce himself in terrible english as jack and we tried to converse about what i was doing by myself in a romantic park such as this one. i explained as best as i could that i was soul searching. i think he understood that as meaning i was looking for a soul mate. he proceeded to tell me i was very handsome and that his girlfriend broke up with him recently because she didn’t think he was very good looking. it was a touching story actually. i excused myself politely and went on with my walking, trying very hard not to attract anymore sexually confused chinese boys. i will show the pics once i figure out why nothing is working online in this country.

giant buddha in a shrine at beihai park

Monday, May 16, 2005

biking is fun

yesterday was fun. just rented a bike and rode around to some markets. got lost. the smog here is pretty bad right now and my lungs hurt a lot from biking. after, i met up with my friend chris who i met on the train from weihai. ate some great food. went out for beers at this really cool bar. it was like a house you would imagine a really cool hippy friend to have, decorated with all sorts of odds and ends so we just drank and watched locals workout on the outdoor, public gym equipment. the nightlife in beijing is great. pics here.

raj (in the orange) and i biked to some markets in beijing. fun times Posted by Hello

the great wall of china

so on my first day in beijing i thought i would take it easy and do a 10km hike along the only man-made structure visible from outer space. wow. the day was a little cloudy but man was it beautiful. i can't really explain it. you could feel ancient ghosts of patrolling soldiers as you walked along the broken stone relic, mongolian rice fields cut into the hills on the left and chinese forests on the right. the walk took all day and was at sometimes pretty dangerous. this wasn't the touristy part of the wall but one that was way out. we started in a remote village and hiked up to the first tower. in total we passed 30 towers, each on a different mountain top. at the end we took a zipline to where our bus was waiting. the pics might be a little repetitive but trust me, this wall is huge. here are the photos. only some would load. i will try to get the rest on there soon.

yeah, i guess it's kind of great:) Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

in weihai

you have to understand the extraordinary luck i have been having (knock on wood). i am the only foreigner on the ferry to weihai, a relatively sleepy town of 2.5 million in china, and apparently the only english speaking one, until my friend G walked into the bunk room. he and i hit it off very well and, though he doesn't think so, his english is really good. the 14 hour ferry went by relatively fast. he is a 'home-stay' student living with two other korean girls who are also studying chinese. he introduced me to them and they invited me to stay at their place. i can't begin to tell you how relieved i was because i had no plan and haven't picked up mandarin very well. the four of us had a great time. i played basketball at the university, we hung out at the beach, i made spagghetti, we watched movies, played pool, did karaoke, and despite the language barrier, managed to have a really fun three days together. hopefully G, Ju-Ju and Julie will find the time to come to beijing for a visit. they put me on the 20 hour train to the capital and that was that. the train ride killed me. i have had no sleep, i am getting a cold and i think the chinese coal miner sleeping next to me gave me tb. i did meet another friend though. chris lives in beijing but goes to school in thailand. he speaks english really well too and hopefully he will be able to show me around the city a little. anyway, i need sleep. i think i am hiking the great wall tomorrow. will fill you all in. here are the pics. j

l to r - me, G, christen, julie and ju-ju. great people, great new friends. Posted by Hello

last days in korea

first off let me say that the connections in china are less than great. i can't even see my own blog because it is being censured but i can still post. that means that if anything is wrong with it i need you guys to email me and let me know. so i took off to the western island of yongyu in the yellow sea to get some sun and relax on a quiet beach. turns out that it was cold and rainy and that beaches in korea don't have the same sanitation standards as others i've been to. so anyway, i did meet a bunch of korean kids who are studying german and they invited me to hang out, play some games and drink with them. they left the next day though and i found myself clambering up wet rock faces high above the water. it was a grey day and i couldn't keep myself occupied so i went back to my hotel and tried to write. i cought the bus back into incheon and hopped on the ferry. that is the last of korea. (tear) great place. hope to go again. here are the pics.

Friday, May 06, 2005

bye bye seoul

so i am finally leaving seoul after nearly three weeks here. it was a great time but the sun is shining and, after a few days of heavy rain, i feel like relaxing on the beach for a few days before heading to china. i will be on a few of the islands on the west coast in the yellow sea i believe. i will update you when i get there. i must say that i have met some incredible people in seoul, you all know who you are so i won't embarrass you by saying your names. i am nervous and excited for china. i have heard some crazy things but that the experiences can't be compared to anywhere else. thanks for sticking with me for the first month of this trip and i will try my hardest to continue my regular updates. hope everyone is well and being safe. cheers, love jamie

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

suwon and modern dance

yesterday was a busy day. i woke pretty early and headed south on the subway for an hour and a half to a city called suwon. i could see myself owning a place here and coming at certain times of the year. very beautiful, very old and very cool city. it was originally a fortified city built five hundred years ago. the Japanese and mother nature weren’t kind but the government has begun rebuilding parts and it looks great. there are about 1.2 million people living there and a little less than half still live within the walls. there is a beautiful diverted river and flowers and markets and highways and thirty story buildings all surrounded by four giant ancient gates, eight strategic outposts, secret entrances and a lot of stone wall. anyway, i walked around the city and through the city along the river. i was also the highlight of a lot of schoolchildren’s day and i guess they were kind of mine too. korean kids will find any excuse to practice their english. it is a lot different than in japan. so yeah…i made it home in time to make it to my friend kim’s modern dance recital. it was really good. pretty abstract but beautiful. today i am taking it easy, getting ready for china. i have too many languages in my head now and i need to defragment my brain. here are the pics. cheers.

one of the guard posts beside the north floodgate in suwon Posted by Hello

this was some guys driveway in suwon Posted by Hello