Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So at BaiYun Mountain, the mountain (or "mountain", maybe a hill) in the northern part of GZ, which gives the airport and district its name, has an "extreme sports" area, including a bungee jump. Trever had done it a week or so earlier, and said he had a blast (after aging 1o years!). So the other Thursday I went ahead and did it, with the intent of just jogging up the part of the mountain to the "x-sports" area, checking it off my "China list," and heading back home before I went off to Hainan (see next post). As I signed up to get in the queue, I met some really cool American high school/college students that were studying Mandarin at the South China Univ. of Technology (SCUT, where Faye and Susan go), nearly all of whom were going to jump. So for about an hour I watched, still not nervous. Then one of the students, from Fairbanks, AK, told me about what it was like, and compared it to when he jumped in New Zealand...and that's when my heart started to beat more quickly. Then it was my turn to remove my wallet and shoes, and harness up, on the 50+-foot blue metal plank sticking out of the mountain, with the city in the background and trees far, far below. Techno music playing in the background, the 2 Chinese guys with broken English clicked in my foot-harness and said, "Listen to me. You start, count to 3, hold arms out, go forward. When finish, [demonstrates fastening lift carabiner] and say, 'OK.' Understand?" Then that was it. I stepped out, literally into thin air, asking myself, "Why did I just step into thin air?!?" as my body slowly flipped upside down, while falling 45 meters, then stretching the cable, then springing back up and plunging back down again maybe 6 more times...the whole time flailing my arms like a lunatic. It's all on video! It also gave me horrific dreams of jumping miles over Hong Kong at night, that night on the train to Hainan...but it was so worth it! If you haven't bungee jumped yet, put it on your "bucket list."

Macau, originally a Portuguese trading port, established several hundred years ago (the first fort was built in ~1528), is now one of two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) in China. It is also known as "the Las Vegas of China," as gambling is legal there, and there are many many casinos. I went there with Boss John and a teacher, Alex (about my age, originally from California) on the 8th (also the day Julien left China). We first drove to ZhuHai, the city next to Macau, and then hopped the border (after paying some guy to drive us to another entry port with a waaay shorter line). We entered Macau really close to the ruins of the St. Paul's church (Sao Paulo); it's just the front stone wall of this old church that burned down. Yep, just the wall. We also had these really good egg tarts (a Portuguese introduction), which are available in KFC's and bakeries in Guangzhou, but aren't as delicious and crispy as they are in Macau. We also walked through an art museum, and the Macau Museum, which had a lot of traditional Chinese displays that Boss John said reminded him of his childhood in GZ, such as getting drinking water via well and bucket. On top of the Macau Museum are the old cannons that used to fortify the building that the museum now occupies. Then we had lunch (coconut curry chicken, it was delicious!) and then walked to the Grand Lisboa, the tallest casino in Macau. After that, we took a taxi (all of which are brand new, with leather interior) to the black sand beaches...yes, beaches with black sand! But it just looked more like a dirty beach to me. Alex and I saved some sand in a water bottle. Finally, we checked out The Venetian, the grandest and most expensive hotel in all of Macau. It even has escalators that curve, and a miniature river with gondola rides! After that, we took the free casino bus back to the border and drove back to GZ.
Some fun facts: While Macau does have its own currency (the Pataca), Hong Kong Dollars are accepted, and seem to be more frequently used. There are also these creepy-looking red sheets of meat, like beef/pork jerky, sold on the streets. Cantonese, English, and Portuguese are the languages of choice, so between the three of us, it was super easy to get around.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hey everyone, it's time to fill you in on the last few weeks. I have a TON of stuff to write about. I now have over 1,500 pictures (and still growing by the day), 5 kinds of currency (American, Taiwanese, PRC, Hong Kong, and Macau), some weird knockoff clothing, and a taste for these cool little bakeries that are everywhere. It seems that every time I want to write something at length, I'm already out the door and doing something else! That's awesome; but then again it takes some discipline to just write (thanks Jon and Matt, and others...you know who you are).

I'll start with Yuexiu Park, which Julien, Trever, and I visited with Faye and Susan back in the beginning of August. I was pretty much recovered from being sick then. This is the park with the famous goat statue that is seen on all of the Guangzhou City posters/Asia Games propaganda around town. It's a large (maybe 20 feet tall) gray stone statue of 5 goats. This is from (or maybe represents) where Guangzhou gets its "nickname", the "goat city." No one knows why this is! But it's really popular. This is also where some more Chinese girls asked to get a picture with me (and Trever, seperately); one girl was super nervous this time. So funny!

There's also a monument for Sun Yat-Sen and a museum (the Guangzhou Museum) in the park, full of historical artifacts like paint powder, models of Western and Chinese trading ships, and a model of the solar system from maybe 100 years ago. Did you know, "Uranus" (I think) translates into Chinese as "asshole"? I'm learning a lot here!