Eating the Red Berries

I read somewhere that chimpanzees won’t eat unfamiliar red berries unless they see another chimp do it first. It’s a self-preservation instinct, and it makes sense; some berries are poisonous. But others are not, and can be a plentiful food source, so it’s definitely a risk-reward situation. This also means that if a troop wants to take advantage of that particular food source, one of those chimps has got to step up and try the berries, assuming a personal risk for the good of the group.

I’ve always been risk-averse, and while it’s paid off pretty well, it also means I’ve missed out on a few things in life. And so, in the spirit of our grand adventure, I’m trying to get better at throwing caution to the wind and just jumping in; in other words, I wanna be the chimp who’s brave enough to eat the red berries. It worked out well in Barcelona, where we got to try a bunch of unfamiliar foods that all ended up being delicious. The same was true in Morocco, and for the most part has been true in China, too.

Unfortunately, this behavior is not without consequences.

In a previous post, we talked about our bus ride to Yangshuo, and the tour guide who doubled as a salesman. It seemed very strange to us that this should be a part of our tour, having someone pitch to a captive audience like that. If I could have understood him, I probably would have been a bit more annoyed, but because it was all in Chinese, it was fairly easy to tune him out. We got the gist: he had stuff to buy, and he wanted us to buy it.

Then came time for the free samples. The guy had been rambling on for a fair few minutes about this particular product. It came in a fancy white box, with some nice calligraphy on the side, and a picture of some kind of fruit on the front. He put down the box and started down the aisle with a basket, handing out little samples on the way. We had eaten an early breakfast and hadn’t yet had lunch, so we were ready for snack time. The tour guy got to us, gave us his best salesman smile, and put a small white package in my hand. Without even thinking about it, I ripped it open to see what was inside.

What came out was a weird looking snack, although everything is kinda weird over here, so that was par for the course. It looked like a bunch of roasted pumpkin seeds glued together with a hard, brownish-orange paste. I shrugged, broke it in half, gave a piece to Jen, and popped it in my mouth.

It was bizarre. The pumpkin seeds still had the hulls on them, so they were very hard and fibrous. However, that’s not too out of the ordinary for plant-based snacks here; I thought nothing of it. The paste stuff was tea flavored, which, again, is pretty normal for China. However, this was very powerful, so strong that I could feel my mouth starting to burn from the intensity. They like their spices, but for the most part the flavors here are kind of bland, especially when it comes to sweets, which this kind of was. Jen and I looked at each other, noses wrinkled. It was, all in all, pretty gross, and guaranteed that we would not be buying this particular treat. Who would?

We looked around the bus, wanting to see how it was being received by the other tourists, when we noticed that no one was eating theirs. They’d all just set theirs down or stashed them away in their bags. “Wow,” I thought, “this guy must be a crap salesman. They won’t even eat his free samples.”

Jen had also noticed that no one was eating the treat. “Why is nobody else eating their snack?” she asked. Comprehension slowly dawned as we realized that the thing we’d eaten tasted like concentrated tea resin, because that’s exactly what it was. While everyone else got a packet of fancy tea to try when they got home, we got a strange new treat that we couldn’t resist eating right away. We laughed, realizing our mistake and how ridiculous we must look to the other tourists.

The tour guide brought another free sample, this time two packets, one he described as spicy, and one not spicy. This time, instead of ripping them right open, we decided to investigate a little bit more closely. There was a picture of a nicely cooked fish on the front, and in English the words “Fish scent, lingering eternally”. We poked and squeezed the stuff inside, and decided it must be a fish-flavored soup stock concentrate, another thing to try when you get home. Into the bag they went. We turned back to look out the windows, only to be met with the sight of a bus full of Chinese tourists chowing down on preserved fishy snacks. And yes, the package was correct: fish scent, lingering eternally.

The moral of the story, if there is one, is that the chimps have got a good thing going. If you don’t know if a thing is food, maybe wait a bit and see how the other apes behave. Be patient. Let someone else eat the berries from time to time. Otherwise, you might end up with a mouthful of pumpkin husk slivers and a tea-scalded mouth.

The Journey of a Lifetime – Li River Cruise Part Two

The trip I have been dying to take for years continues.

When we last left off, Josh and I were three hours in to our Li River Cruise Tour. We were blindly following a group of Chinese people wearing matching lanyards through the Dong Village Museum until our meetup time of 12:30. We merged and unmerged with the group multiple times, but everywhere we went, we were able to find someone else with the same color lanyard as we had. This made us feel comfortable, since we couldn’t actually remember which bus the man in the blue jacket said was ours. We planned to just follow the group and see where we ended up.

Catch up with “The Journey of a Lifetime – Li River Cruise Part One ♥

12:30PM – The Big Bus

At the exit of the Dong village was a bucket to recycle the lanyards. The Chinese people we were following, and thought were part of our group, scattered to their various cars and buses, leaving us in the parking lot a little concerned and questioning our next move. Thankfully, one of the members of My Six was wearing a bright orange jacket. We spotted the jacket down the block, met up with her, and got on what we hoped was the correct bus.

We sat down, and were immediately shouted at by the bus driver. I didn’t catch everything he said, but the bit I did catch was “foreigners to the back”. I did not like being told I had to sit at the back of the bus because I was different, but the back looked just as comfortable, so we did as we were told. As more people piled onto the bus, and more of My Six got individually yelled at by other riders to move farther back, we came to understand that the Chinese group we were with had previously been riding the bus and had already picked out their seats.

20180122_123204.jpg
The Big Bus was much more spacious, but equally as dirty as the mini bus.

The bus ride went smoothly enough, but the man who gave us the lanyards at the Dong village spent the entire ride standing at the front of the bus selling his wares (apparently he was going to be our tour guide for the day). He spent about 20 minutes talking over the loud speaker, then passed through handing out free samples. The samples were varied and strange, and of course labeled only in Chinese, leading us to eat something we probably shouldn’t have. Thankfully, the perfume he sprayed the entire length of the bus smelled quite nice, and no one had an allergic reaction. Then he walked up and down the aisle, taking orders. To our surprise, almost everyone on that bus bought at least one of his things, some people calling him back to buy more. It was very bizarre.

Read Josh’s funny story about the “food” we ate on the bus ♥

After an hour of non-stop sales pitches, we finally stopped… in the middle of nowhere, at a group of three nearly abandoned buildings. Now what?!

1:30PM – Lunch

We stopped in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere and were told to get off the bus. The Chinese tourists pushed their way off the bus in a frenzy of excitement. My Six calmly waited their turns, got off, then stood on the derelict sidewalk with a “for God’s sake” look on our faces. The tour guide, not finding us among the mob of excited Chinese, came back to us and told us we were to have lunch now. He showed us a menu and pushed us to the back of a run-down building.

The menu had no pictures on it and was written in Chinese, so we could only recognize a few of the options, and the prices were outrageous. Fried rice that we eat nearly every day for between ¥8 and ¥12 was being offered for ¥45. Again, the Chinese in our group were on cloud nine. They ordered food and beers, toasted each other, sang and joked, took selfies and pictures of their food. We, on the other hand, walked down the block to see if there was anything cheaper to eat, joined by our new German friends. We found another place just down the way with still-inflated, but significantly better prices. We ordered a dish of green beans, pork with green onions, rice, and a beer. We expected the price to be around ¥80, so we were surprised when it came out to ¥100! Looking over the bill, there were a few charges we didn’t recognize. Josh asked our waitress to explain. “It’s two apiece for the rice, two for the dishes, and two for the napkins.” The four of us looked at her in astonishment. We managed to argue our way out of paying for the napkins, since we hadn’t used them, but we ended up paying the rest. So lunch was a bit of a bust.

An hour later, we were ushered back onto the bus.

Read more about the food we ate while in Guilin, China ♥

2:30PM – Nap Time

It was time for Chinese siesta, so the remainder of the bus ride went on without any sales pitches or interruptions. It was a beautiful drive with breathtaking views at every turn. As my window had a rather large gob of dried phlegm on it, I put on my mask and pretended like it wasn’t there and just enjoyed the scenery.

20180122_123210

We drove past Yangshuo, over the river, then back North through some small farming villages. I got more and more excited with every turn. We were heading to Yangdi, passing the lovely village of Xingping along the way. Me eyes were glued to the window trying to catch a glimpse of Xingping. Then, way sooner than I was expecting, we stopped again.

4:00PM – “We Boat Now”

Again, the Chinese tourists were nearly bursting with excitement. The pure joy on their face was the only thing keeping me from hailing a cab to our next hotel. It was nice to take a step back and watch my fellow passengers have their adventure of a lifetime. They were tourists, too; they knew what to expect out of the trip they had booked, and were having the time of their lives.

We got off the bus and the tour guide said, “We boat now.” I asked the driver to get my backpack out of the trunk for me, but I got shooed away and beckoned to stick with the group. Well, that is why I keep my passport and valuables in my Go Bag. Who knows if I will get to see my backpack ever again. Who needs clothes anyway?

We walked through a hole in a metal fence, surrounded by garbage and what I’m pretending wasn’t sewage. Then, along a “sidewalk” lined with shopping stalls filled with craft items. Again, they were alarmingly over priced and the touts were fairly aggressive. We bee-lined for the nearest bathroom to relieve ourselves of the unintentional free sample ingestion, lost our group, and once again just kept going straight in hopes that we would know where we were going once we saw it. We didn’t find the group, but I did spot an amazing view.

20180122_151829

Besides for the heavy smell of gasoline and sewage, it was one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen. The river was shallow enough that I could see the bottom, the boats were rusted and in great need of repair, but beautiful in their own way. The mountains… the mountains… I wish I were a better writer and could explain how almost alarmingly stunning they were. I’m not sure every thesaurus in the world could help explain the beauty before me. I kept catching myself forgetting to breathe.

The tour guide wakened me from my trance, beckoning us to come join the group a little farther ahead. He spoke to the group of Chinese who, again, ran off with school girl excitement to the boat. Then he collected My Six and told us “You, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6” looked please with himself and walked away. Thank you? We followed the others down the pier to our waiting boat and, once again, hoped everything would make sense soon.

TO BE CONTINUED…

"The Places We Live - Li River Cruise Part One" text written in white over an image of the Li River and karst mountains in Xinging, China "The Places We Live - Li River Cruise Part Two" text written in white over an image of the Li River and karst mountains in Xingping, China "The Places We Live - Li River Cruise Part Three" Text written in white and red over an image of the Li River and karst mountains in Xingping, China.

The Journey of a Lifetime – Part 2

The trip I have been dying to take for years continues.

 

When we last left off, Josh and I were blindly following a group of Chinese people wearing matching lanyards through the Dong village until our meetup time of 12:30. We merged and unmerged with the group multiple times, but everywhere we went, we were able to find someone else with the same color lanyard as we had. This made us feel comfortable, since we couldn’t actually remember which bus the man in the blue jacket said was ours. We planned to just follow the group and see where we ended up.

The Big Bus

At the end of the village tour was a bucket to recycle the lanyards. The Chinese people we were following, and thought were part of our group, scattered to their various cars and buses, leaving us in the parking lot a little concerned and questioning our next move. Thankfully, one of the members of My Six was wearing a bright orange jacket. We spotted the jacket down the block, met up with her, and got on what we hoped was the correct bus.

20180122_123204
The Big Bus was much more spacious, but equally as dirty as the mini bus.

We sat down, and were immediately shouted at by the bus driver. I didn’t catch everything he said, but the bit I did catch was “foreigners to the back”. I did not like being told I had to sit at the back of the bus because I was different, but the back looked just as comfortable, so we did as we were told. As more people piled onto the bus, and more of My Six got individually yelled at by other riders to move farther back, we came to understand that the Chinese group we were with had previously been riding the bus and had already picked out their seats.

The bus ride went smoothly enough, but the man who gave us the lanyards at the Dong village spent the entire ride standing at the front of the bus selling his wares (apparently he was going to be our tour guide for the day). He spent about 20 minutes talking over the loud speaker, then passed through handing out free samples. The samples were varied and strange, and of course labeled only in Chinese, leading us to eat something we probably shouldn’t have. Thankfully, the perfume he sprayed the entire length of the bus smelled quite nice, and no one had an allergic reaction. Then he walked up and down the aisle, taking orders. To our surprise, almost everyone on that bus bought at least one of his things, some people calling him back to buy more. It was very bizarre.

After an hour of non-stop sales pitches, we finally stopped… in the middle of nowhere, at a group of three nearly abandoned buildings. Now what?!

Lunch

It was now 1:30 and we were told to get off the bus. The Chinese tourists pushed their way off the bus in a frenzy of excitement. My Six calmly waited their turns, got off, then stood on the derelict sidewalk with a “for God’s sake” look on our faces. The tour guide, not finding us among the mob of excited Chinese, came back to us and told us we were to have lunch now. He showed us a menu and pushed us to the back of a run down building.

The menu had no pictures on it, so we could only read a few of the options, and the prices were outrageous. Fried rice that we eat nearly every day for between ¥8 and ¥12 was being offered for ¥45. Again, the Chinese in our group were on cloud nine. They ordered food and beers, toasted each other, sang and joked, took selfies and pictures of their food. We, on the other hand, walked down the block to see if there was anything cheaper to eat, joined by our new German friends. We found another place just down the way with still-inflated, but significantly better prices. We ordered a dish of green beans, pork with green onions, rice, and a beer. We expected the price to be around ¥80, so we were surprised when it came out to ¥100! Looking over the bill, there were a few charges we didn’t recognize. Josh asked our waitress to explain. “It’s two apiece for the rice, two for the dishes, and two for the napkins.” The four of us looked at her in astonishment. We managed to argue our way out of paying for the napkins, since we hadn’t used them, but we ended up paying the rest. So lunch was a total success.

At 2:30, we were ushered back onto the bus.

Nap Time

The Chinese siesta, so the remainder of the bus ride went on without any sales pitches or interruptions. It was a beautiful drive with breathtaking views at every turn. As my window had a rather large gob of dried phlegm on it, I put on my mask and pretended like it wasn’t there and just enjoyed the scenery.

We drove past Yangshuo, over the river, then back North through some small farming villages. I got more and more excited with every turn. We were heading to Yangdi, passing the lovely village of Xingping along the way. I was glued to the window trying to catch a glimpse of Xingping. Then, way sooner than I was expecting, we stopped again.

“We Boat Now?”

Again, the Chinese tourists were nearly bursting with excitement. The pure joy on their face was the only thing keeping me from hailing a cab back to the hotel. It was nice to take a step back and watch these people have their adventure of a lifetime. They were tourists, too; they knew what to expect out of the trip they had booked, and were having the time of their lives.

We got off the bus and the tour guide said, “We boat now.” I asked the driver to get my backpack out of the trunk for me, but I got shooed away and beckoned to stick with the group. Well, that is why I keep my passport and valuables in my Go Bag. Who knows if I will get to see my backpack ever again. Who needs clothes anyway?

We walked through a hole in a metal fence, surrounded by garbage and what I’m pretending wasn’t sewage. Then, along a “sidewalk” lined with shopping stalls filled with craft items. Again, they were alarmingly over priced and the touts were fairly aggressive. We bee-lined for the nearest bathroom to relieve ourselves of the unintentional free sample ingestion, lost our group, and once again just kept going straight in hopes that we would know where we were going once we saw it. We didn’t find the group, but I did spot an amazing view.

20180122_171859

Besides for the heavy smell of gasoline and sewage, it was one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen. The river was shallow enough that I could see the bottom, the boats were rusted and in great need of repair, but beautiful in their own way. The mountains… the mountains… I wish I were a better writer and could explain how almost alarmingly stunning they are. I’m not sure every thesaurus in the world could help explain the beauty before me. I kept catching myself forgetting to breathe.

The tour guide wakened me from my trance, beckoning us to come join the group a little farther ahead. He spoke to the group of Chinese who, again, ran off with school girl excitement to the boat. Then he collected My Six and told us “You, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6” looked please with himself and walked away. Thank you? We followed the others down the pier to our waiting boat.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey of a Lifetime – Li River Cruise Part One

My trip of a lifetime was nothing like what I expected.

I went on a Li River cruise today. This is something I have been looking forward to for years. The majesty of the karst topography is featured on the ¥20 bill and the landscape is renowned for being some of the most beautiful in the world. I did a lot of research. I knew how much it should cost and what to expect. It is China, after all, so there will be people spitting and nothing will be clean, but I was ready for that. I was ready for my Journey of a Lifetime.

20180123_113240

Booking a Li River Cruise

I booked the cruise through a travel agent one week in advance. I didn’t understand everything she said, but it was clear that a car would pick us up at our hotel at 7:00AM. We would then take a bus South to Yangshuo, with a couple of stops along the way at “parks(?)”. Once in Yangshuo, we’d be given time to grab some lunch. After lunch, the bus would take us back North up the other side of the river to Yangdi. From there, we would catch a large and beautiful boat, featuring a dining room, complete with large round tables covered in white tablecloths. Once on the boat, we would be treated to a 1.5 hour cruise down the river to the beautiful town of Xingping. Finally, a bus would take us from Xingping to Yangshuo, where we could walk to our hotel and enjoy some dinner. All of this for only $25 each!!! It seemed too good to be true…

InkedGoogle Maps_LI
The travel agent drew a picture like this to help me understand the details.

 

9:15AM – The Pick-Up

At 7:30AM (half an hour late), our travel agent appeared at our hotel lobby door. In broken English, we heard “No bus. 9:00. Maybe 9:30 be bus.” China strikes again! But, we were in a great mood. We told her not to worry and went for a nice early morning walk around the lake in Guilin. At 9:15AM, the “bus” arrived.20180122_100431

My view from the back seat of the mini bus. I have Josh on my right, a Chinese man on my left, and my bags on my lap. Delightful…

I know I specifically confirmed that we would be riding in a “da ba” (big bus), but perhaps she didn’t think I knew the difference between a big bus and a mini bus. This was a mini bus, which is really just a van. We spent about 45 minutes driving all over town picking up two other groups of people… all foreign… and all way too tall to fit in a mini bus.

Read: “What Not to Do in China” ♥

I went out of my way to introduce myself to everyone in the car (Josh and I are in desperate need of some outside conversation). We were joined by a German man who has been begrudgingly living in Shanghai for almost a year for work, and his girlfriend who was visiting China for the first time. There was also a young man from Nigeria, who was studying as a medical student in China, that was traveling with a Chinese friend. Even though none of us knew each other before that van ride, we ended up being grouped together for the rest of the day. For the remainder of this story, we will be known collectively as “My Six.”

10:00AM – Cornwall

After only barely leaving town, the van driver pulled over and asked us to get out. We stood on the sidewalk for quite some time while the driver looked confused and frustrated that he couldn’t speak Chinese to all of his foreign captives and even more frustrated when he found out that the Chinese friend of the Nigerian didn’t speak English. That said, he was very helpful to have around, as he would use his phone to translate the driver’s instructions for us. We were also a little frustrated, as we didn’t know where we were or where we were going next, and had our hundred-pound backpacks with us.20180122_102752

Josh and I called the stop Cornwall after seeing that the only landmark at this stop was the tall wall made of dried corn.

Turns out we had arrived a little early, and had to wait for the rest of the group to get there. We were eventually told to take our bags and “walk down the block. Just there. Yes, there.” My Six walked and hoped we would know where we were going when we saw it.

10:30AM – Dong Village

Thankfully, we were able to work it out. We didn’t know what this place was, but it was different than everything else in the area. Also, it helped that there was a Chinese man in a blue jacket impatiently waving for us to hurry up. He haphazardly gave us a lanyard; then, as a large group of lanyard-wearing Chinese people started walking away from us, he told us to go with them and to be back by 12:30.

Everything was in Chinese, so we had no idea what was going on. At first, it looked like we were being ushered to bathrooms and lunch. Then, what we thought was a restaurant turned out to be a museum. After nearly half an hour, we put all of the pieces together. We were in a replicated village of the Dong minority group… and stuck here for two hours.

The Chinese group we were with were having the time of their lives. The village gave off an Epcot vibe, with people dressed in traditional Dong garb taking pictures with tourists and giving demonstrations. All of the little village buildings had rows of what looked like classrooms, with other tourists sitting down for the lectures (at least, we think that’s what was going on). We wandered around and took in as much as we could. I am sure it was all very interesting, but without any context, it was mostly just weird.

Learn more about the Dong minority group ♥

And of course, at the end of the village, a maze of gift shops selling silver trinkets, rock art, and other bits and bobs. The Chinese tourists were going nuts, with a line at nearly every cash register. In that confined space, it was super loud, with all the tourists yelling at each other, and the salespeople yelling at the tourists. In all the chaos we sort of lost My Six.

After later research, I think I would have found the museum to be very interesting. The Dong people are a minority group of nearly 3 million that live in the area. I wish I would have known that this was going to be a stop on our trip and what it included, so I could have prepared and been able to really appreciate it when we arrived.

I also wish that this wasn’t our only surprise of the day.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Li River Cruise Part One Li River Cruise Part Two Li River Cruise Part Three

 

The Journey of a Lifetime – Part One

My trip of a lifetime was nothing like what I expected.

I have been looking forward to this day for years. There is little that I have wanted more in my adult life than to take a cruise down the Li River. The majesty of the karst topography is featured on the ¥20 bill and the landscape is renowned for being some of the most beautiful in the world. I did a lot of research. I knew how much it should cost and what to expect. It is China, after all, so there will be people spitting and nothing will be clean, but I was ready for that. I was ready for my Trip of a Lifetime.

The Booking

I booked the cruise through a travel agent one week in advance. I didn’t understand everything she said, but it was clear that a bus would pick us up at our hotel at 7:00AM. We would then take a different bus to Yangshuo, with a couple of stops along the way at “parks.” Once at Yangshuo, we’d be given time to grab some lunch. The plan was to stay in Yangshuo for a few days, rather than return to Guilin, so I hoped we would also have time to drop our bags off at the hotel. After lunch, the bus would take us north up the other side of the river, where we would catch a large and beautiful boat, featuring a large dining room, complete with large round tables covered in white tablecloths. From there, we would be treated to a 1.5 hour cruise down the river to the beautiful town of Xingping. Finally, the bus would drop us back off in Yangshuo, where we could walk to our hotel. All of this for only $25 each!!! It seemed too good to be true…

The Pick-Up

 At 7:30AM (half an hour late), our travel agent appeared at our hotel lobby door. In broken English, we heard “No bus. 9:00. Maybe 9:30 be bus.” China strikes again! But we were in a great mood. We told her not to worry and went for a nice early morning walk around the lake in Guilin. At 9:15AM, the “bus” arrived.

20180122_100431
My view from the back seat of the mini bus. I have Josh on my right, a Chinese man on my left, and my bags on my lap. Delightful…

 

I know I specifically confirmed that we would be riding in a “da ba” (big bus), but perhaps she didn’t think I knew the difference between a big bus and a mini bus. This was a mini bus, which is really just a van. We spent about 45 minutes driving all over town picking up two other groups of people… all foreign… and all way too tall to fit in a mini bus.

I went out of my way to introduce myself to everyone in the car (Josh and I are in desperate need of some outside conversation). We were joined by a German man who has been begrudgingly living in Shanghai for almost a year for work, and his girlfriend who was visiting China for the first time. There was also a young man from Nigeria, who was studying as a medical student in China, that was traveling with a Chinese friend. Even though none of us knew each other before that van ride, we ended up being grouped together for the rest of the day. For the remainder of this story, we will be known collectively as “My Six.”

Cornwall

After only barely leaving town, the van pulled over and asked us to get out. We stood on the sidewalk for quite some time while the driver looked confused and frustrated that he couldn’t speak Chinese to all of his foreign captives and even more frustrated when he found out that the Chinese friend of the Nigerian also didn’t speak English. That said, he was very helpful to have around, as he would use his phone to translate the driver’s instructions for us. We were also a little frustrated, as we didn’t know where we were or where we were going next, and had our hundred-pound backpacks with us.

20180122_102752
Josh and I called the stop Cornwall after seeing that the only landmark at this stop was the tall wall made of dried corn.

Turns out we had arrived a little early, and had to wait for the rest of the group to get there. We were eventually told to take our bags and “walk down the block. Just there. Yes, there.” My Six walked and hoped we would know where we were going when we saw it.

Dong Village (hehe)

Thankfully, we were able to work it out. We didn’t know what this place was, but it was different than everything else in the area. Also, it helped that there was a Chinese man in a blue jacket impatiently waving for us to hurry up. He haphazardly gave us a lanyard; then, as a large group of lanyard-wearing Chinese people started walking away from us, he told us to go with them and to be back by 12:30.

Everything was in Chinese, so we had no idea what was going on. At first, it looked like we were being ushered to bathrooms and lunch. Then, what we thought was a restaurant turned out to be a museum. After nearly half an hour, we put all of the pieces together. We were in a replicated village of the Dong minority group… and stuck here for two hours.

20180122_105701

The Chinese group we were with were having the time of their lives. The village gave off an Epcot vibe, with people dressed in traditional Dong garb taking pictures with tourists and giving demonstrations. All of the little village buildings had rows of what looked like classrooms, with other tourists sitting down for the lectures (at least, we think that’s what was going on). We wandered around and took in as much as we could. I am sure it was all very interesting, but without any context, it was mostly just weird.

And of course, at the end of the village, a maze of gift shops selling silver trinkets, rock art, and other bits and bobs. The Chinese tourists were going nuts, with a line at nearly every cash register. In that confined space, it was super loud, with all the tourists yelling at each other, and the salespeople yelling at the tourists. In all the chaos we sort of lost My Six. I didn’t see them shopping, and we definitely weren’t going to buy anything.

20180122_111451

After later research, I think I would have found the museum to be very interesting. The Dong people are a minority group of nearly 3 million that live in the area. I wish I would have known that this was going to be a stop on our trip and what it included, so I could have prepared and been able to really appreciate it when we arrived.

I also wish that this wasn’t our only surprise of the day.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

 

 

 

Jen’s Least Favorite Airport Award

It’s important to set a firm ranking system.

I like ranking things. For as long as I can remember I’ve been creating little lists and putting them in order. On one level, it’s a helpful skill to be able to judge something based on explicit criteria. On another, it’s just fun to say that some things suck more than others. With that said, I’m going to have a little fun and create a list of my least-favorite airports.

Newark and San Francisco have been at the top of the terrible list for quite a while, but after my layover in Chicago yesterday, I had to do some recalculating. The San Francisco airport in particular has long been a smudge on my list of frequented airports, but with the recent remodel, it has slowly started working its way out of the bottom. It’s biggest downfall is the lack of Starbucks.

Dear San Francisco Airport,

Peet’s Coffee is not a suitable replacement for Starbucks. Get your shit together.

xoxo, Jen

Chicago O’Hare, on the other hand, is littered with Starbucks and other restaurants (Point #1 ORD). Plus, our plane drove on a bridge over car traffic (Point #2 and #3, because it was that cool). Finally, it has a walkway between terminals that brightened my day (Point #4). However, there’s one big, BIG downside that puts it in contention for the worst. Let’s tally up the scores and separate the merely meh from the truly terrible!

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Newark Airport (EWR)

Score: -3

-1 for cleanliness (or lack thereof)

-1 for charging way too much for beer

-1 for having no redeeming qualities

San Francisco Airport (SFO)

Score: 0

+1 for a selection of dim sum at the food court

+1 for the Japanese restaurant we like in the international terminal

-2 for not having Starbucks (seriously, get with it)

Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD)

Score: 0

+1 for plentiful restaurant selections

+1 for the fun walkway between terminals

+2 for runways that make the airplanes drive over traffic

-1 for charging too much for beer

-3 for no free wifi! What are they thinking?!


So there you have it: a tie for second-to-last! Newark is still the worst for being gross and having no potential. Chicago O’Hare is actually pretty great, unless you like using the internet during your layover. SFO is barely, barely off the bottom. As we keep traveling, I’ll add more airports to the list. Surely, we’ve just begun to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to air travel.