Monday, 5 August 2013

goodbye china. . .

we're back in the good old USA!
china was incredible and we were sad to leave, but now it's back to texas
and back to reality:)
on our last day in shanghai, our friend tanner went with us to the bund & took
some pics of us there.
the lights of the city are amazing & i'm glad we had time to sneak
a few pics in there.
don't even worry that the pics look like engagement shots, but our 
anniversary is this month so instead of
engagement shots we'll just call them our anniversary shots:)

goodbye china!
i hope we get to come back and visit you again!

Friday, 19 July 2013

quick trip to beijing. . .

we took a quick trip to beijing this week!
we left early tuesday morning and got back late thursday night.
the train ride was pretty nice-we had tons of leg room, freedom to walk
around & we got to see a lot of china as we made the journey up to beijing.
the train station was huge and super crowded!
something i'm still getting used to is just how many people there are here!

when we arrived in beijing we took a taxi to our hotel.
it was in a great location within walking distance of the major tourist attractions.
logan had two meetings to go to right when we got there, so i explored the
 area around our hotel and found the most insane street food i've ever seen in my life!
they had everything strange and disgusting that you would literally NEVER
think about eating!
if you could put it on a stick-it was there.
pretty much everything was raw & if you decided you wanted something
they threw it on a big skillet and cooked it up right in front of you.
i could not believe my eyes as i walked up and down the street just 
staring at all of the crazy food there! 
i knew i had to take logan there the next day because he is far more
adventurous than me when it comes to trying new foods.
i ended up getting some tasty noodles and veggie pot stickers & walked back to the hotel.

we headed out early wednesday morning for the longest day of our lives!
we planned to see the great wall, tiananmen square & the forbidden city all in one day.
we took a train ride up to the great wall from a train station fairly close to our hotel.
you can travel to several different locations of the wall, &
we chose a section called badaling because it seemed like the easiest one to get to.
there is a special train called the S2 that takes you right to the wall.
we bought our tickets and were waiting in this giant line till they opened the doors
leading out to the train platform.
we noticed while standing in line that the tickets didn't have seat assignments.
we figured the train was so huge everyone could easily find a seat wherever they wanted & we didn't
think much about it till they opened the doors for people to walk onto the platform to board the train.
i kid you not i have never laughed so hard in my entire life.
just imagine black friday combined with godzilla.
the second the doors opened people starting pushing, shoving and sprinting to the train
like their lives depended on it.
we were basically at the end of the line so we were pretty shocked to see how aggressive
people were getting.
as we shuffled closer to the doors we decided that if people were acting this crazy we had
better put our game faces on too.
the second we exited the doors onto the platform we starting sprinting.
logan started singing the theme music in home alone when the entire family is
trying frantically to catch their plane in the airport.
i felt like we had just started a marathon.
people were everywhere!
pushing, shoving, racing, yelling-all so they could get good spots on the train.
we decided to sprint to the farthest train carriage in hopes that not as many people 
would be trying to sit in it.
we were wrong.
people were filing down the aisle of the train, throwing their bags in seats
from half way down the aisle.
a lady right in front of us ducked into the last 2 seats we saw together right as i
flung my camera bag into one of the seats.
our eyes met.
her face was like a brick wall-there was no way she was letting me take those seats.
we backtracked a little and ended up finding two seats near each other.
it was the most hilarious memory & we still laugh when we think about it:)

the great wall was incredible-it is by far the coolest thing i've seen here in china!
the badaling section of the wall is easy to get to therefore it's also one
of the busiest sections of the wall.
i couldn't believe how many people were there!
some sections were also really steep which i wasn't expecting.

something funny we've encountered while in china is people who
want to take their picture with us.
i think people in china love seeing foreigners-so literally every 5 minutes we
would get stopped and people would pull us next to them for a pic.
teenage girls were the funniest-they would ask if they could
take our picture in broken english and then when we
would say yes they would squeal with delight & start talking 1,000 miles
an hour in chinese to their friend taking the picture. 
we made another special friend on our journey to the great wall:
a little girl who was probably 6 or 7 was sitting in front of me on the train & would
turn around like every 5 minutes to look at me.
when i would smile she would laugh & turn away.
when we got off the train her mom asked if i would take a picture
with her & she was so stinking cute i had logan take one of us too!
asian kids are adorable-i want to take one home in my suitcase:)

after we spent a couple hours on the wall, we hopped back on the train & went back
to finish our whirlwind sight-seeing extravaganza.
we went to the forbidden city where a guy our age who spoke very good english
starting chatting us up.
he told us he was an art student & showed us some of his calligraphy.
he showed us around the emperor's palace & painted the chinese
character for love on some rice paper & gave it to us.

after walking around the forbidden city & tiananment square-we were beat! 
we walked back to the place i found with all the crazy food & we tried to find
something to eat.
i had told logan all the crazy things that were there and he was excited to try something weird.
pretty much the only things i was willing to eat were noodles, pot stickers & fruit, but logan
had his heart set on something else:
squid, shark & lamb.
i've had lamb before so that wasn't freaking me out-but squid & shark?!
i'm proud to report that with very little coaxing from logan, i tried a bite of shark.
there was no way i was trying the squid, but the shark didn't taste like
anything weird because they covered it with so many spices it just tasted like spicy chicken!

we walked around the area near the street food carts for a while before our eyes
were so heavy we had to turn in for the night!
the area reminded me a lot of times square-it had big buildings with bright
lights & tons of shopping.
we slept like babies that night & our feet were killing us, but we both agreed
it was the best/most fun day we'd had in china thus far!

the next day we slept in a little later than we should have but we were exhausted!
we checked out of our hotel & finally got out the door around 11:00.
we needed to get tickets for the train back to shanghai so we went to the train station to buy them.
on the way logan spotted this dwayne wade statue & really wanted me to take
a picture of it.
apparently a bunch of NBA players are in china right now doing some promotions & logan
is convinced we are going to run into one of them:)

we bought our tickets & still had time to visit one last thing before we headed back to shanghai.
we jumped in a taxi & headed over to the temple of heaven.
on every street corner there are little shops and vendors selling cold drinks & popsicles.
we had been noticing this one flavor that looked like peas & whenever we saw it
we would dare each other to try the "pea-sicle".
logan was still feeling adventurous so he bought one on our way into the temple.
he liked it & said it tasted like pistachos.
i tried it & thought it tasted literally like mushy peas in popsicle form-not a fan.

the temple of heaven was beautiful!
the colors were so vibrant & i loved walking around the grounds.
we spent about 2 hours there before it was time to head back to the train station.
on the ride home we looked through all the pics we had taken
on our short trip there & couldn't believe everything we saw in such a short period of time!

only about 10 days left here in china!
we've had so much fun here & we will definitely be sad to leave!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

our first adventures in shanghai. . .

 i can't believe i've been here in china for about 10 days now!
logan came out here about a week before me to figure out
where we were staying etc. & i am super glad he did!
he went to church the first sunday he was here & met a lovely
family who was going home to utah for the summer & graciously 
offered to let logan & i live in their house while they were gone.
it's about 40 minutes from downtown shanghai & we've loved 
getting to know this area:)

my first full day in the city was pretty much a blur.
i was struggling with jet lag and it was a little hard to keep my eyes open
by mid afternoon!
we went to the bund which is a beautiful waterfront with an amazing view.
i'm excited to go back at night & see all the buildings light up!
the next day we went to the other side of the river and got an up-close
view of all the buildings in the financial center.
it's insane how many people there are here!
a ton of people ride little electric motorcycles around the city & they pretty
much don't stop for pedestrians, so you have to be careful when crossing the street
or you'll get flattened by a little old lady.

 while in the financial center we went to super brand mall which is
one of the largest malls in asia.
every time i say 'super brand mall' in my head i just imagine a really excited
asian person saying it really fast with their hands in peace signs.
try it-it's fun.
you'd think that after perusing 13 floors of shops logan would find something he 
liked to take the place of his beloved 'texas twang' shirt he 
bought one day on a whim... but alas, he didn't find anything he wanted. 

 we randomly decided to hit up the shanghai zoo one day.
literally 30 seconds after we bought the tickets it started pouring rain.
we were super excited to see the giant pandas there.
we figured they'd probably be walking about, thriving, eating bamboo.
this is what we found when we got there:

by far the cutest & most active animal we saw there was the lesser panda.
so cute!
the monkeys were also hilarious-they just came right up to the 
fence and stuck our their little hands waiting for people to
throw them little chips and popcorn even though they had
signs everywhere telling people not to feed them.

dinner that night was probably one of the most entertaining 
experiences we've had here so far. 
we read about this place online & knew he had to try it out. 
it was in a pretty busy part of town which was fun to see.
we walked in & they put us in an elevator and took us to the top floor
of this tall building.
the waiting room there was half the fun!
they had everything you can think of-manicures, shoe shines, massages, 
board games, wi-fi all for free while you wait!
when we were seated at our table the waiters were trying to explain
to us how the restaurant worked. 
it's a hot pot which means you pick your meat, veggies & whatever & you throw
it in a big pot of boiling water right in front of you.
you can add whatever spices or sauces you like!
the waiters got a kick out of logan's chinese.
he took some classes at BYU for fun & knows enough conversational chinese to get by.

the coolest thing was when this guy came over to our table to make fresh noodles.
he just whipped out this little plate with a block of dough & started spinning & stretching it
to make them.
it was like he was doing some sort of kung-fu dance or something-swinging the 
noodles back & forth and spinning them in the air.
and they were delicious!
then the waiters said they had a surprise for us.
they brought us out this fruit plate & sang a little song complete with hand actions.
it was pretty hilarious:)
before we left they said they had a gift for us.
it was a little white box & inside was a silver knife & fork with little hearts on them.

we wanted to see the "old" part of shanghai, so we went to a place
called qibao old street.
it's basically a big market area with lots of little shops & street food.
there were sooooo many people there walking around these crowded little alleyways. 
they sold every random souvenir-type thing you can think of from
jewelry to pet crickets in little baskets. 

we got hungry while we were there so we decided to get some food
from one of the many street vendors.
i was a liiiiittle nervous about this because there were some pretty
random things that i saw & smelled while we were walking around.
we found some little dumplings & i was kinda scared to try
them because i was convinced they'd be filled with some sort of sea food.
anyone who knows me knows that i despise sea food & i was not in the mood
to go biting into things & not have a clue what was inside.
we found one vendor & logan assured me the dumplings were filled
with pork and veggies, so i decided to be brave and dug in.
they were actually pretty tasty!
stiiiill not %100 sure if it was pork, but that's what i'm going to keep
telling myself i ate:)

we found a neat antique market one day called dongtai lu. 
most of the pieces aren't really antiques, but it is still fun to go
 walk around & look at all the things they are selling.
i decided i wanted a little buddha head statue as a souvenir to put 
on our bookshelf or something. 
 you barter for pretty much everything here.
we've probably paid more than we should on a few things, but half the fun
of going to these little markets is the bartering.
all the vendors have calculators they pull out and they wave them in your face
when they see you're interested in something.
in very bad english they tell you to name your price, & you basically just pass
the calculator back and forth until you agree.

one day while logan was at work i went out to the jing'an temple.
it's a buddhist temple right in the middle of a big shopping area.
i took a ton of pictures while i was there.
they had these big metal pagoda-looking things that had fire in them, & people
could pay for these sticks that they'd light in the fire & use for prayers.
in the middle was a big metal urn that people were throwing coins into.
people were praying all around the temple, and before walking up the stairs
they were rubbing a metal slab.
when you walked into one section of the temple there was a giant statue
of buddha that everyone was bowing down to.
it was a neat experience!

on another day we went out to yuyuan gardens which is probably
my favorite area we've seen so far. 
the gardens are so pretty-they have amazing ponds with koi fish & beautiful
flowers & trees everywhere.
the neat thing is that the gardens are near a large shopping area that has very traditional
looking chinese buildings.
once again-logan was sporting his favorite shirt:)

after walking around the gardens for a while we walked through
the streets of the market in search for something to eat.
we found this giant cafeteria-style restaurant where you took plates of
the food you wanted, paid & then sat down.
they had soooo many choices, but like %90 of them had some sort of sea food
in them so i stuck to some pork pot stickers and noodles.

one thing we learned about through talking to people was the giant
fabric market close to the bund.
you can have anything you want custom made & if you are good at
bartering get it for a fraction of the cost in the U.S. 
our friend, tanner, from church served his mission in taiwan & speaks great chinese so
he came with us to the market so ensure we got a good deal on things.
tanner ended up getting an entire suit that will be ready in a week for $60.
logan got a dress shirt made for $12.
most of the places can make anything you want if you have a picture.
i want to look online at asos or anthropologie for a dress i love & see if
tanner can help me get it made for super cheap, which would be awesome!

the food here has been pretty great!
we found a place that has really amazing steak pho.
we may or may not have gone two nights in a row:)
aaaand to top it all off i found my favorite candy of all time: percy pigs!
i probably ate my weight in percy pigs while i was in london on study abroad.
i think i brought home like 20 bags!
i will definitely be bringing some home from china.
i'll probably need to buy an extra suitcase for them-no joke.

needless to say, we've been having some pretty fun adventures here in 
good old shanghai!
if the weather would just stop being so humid maybe we could stand to be outside
longer than a couple hours.
i though texas was bad but honestly i haven't felt humidity like this in like ever.
it is pretty miserable so i end up throwing my hair up and wearing like
the exact same outfit every day because i did NOT pack well.
soooo if you choose to come to china in the summer time just beware!

i'm so glad logan's work has been flexible so we've been able to 
spend a lot of time together exploring the city, & i
can't believe we only have about two weeks left here!
zai jian!