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Updated: 2014-10-01T13:47:27.187+08:00


Zaijian Zhongguo!


Bye bye China!

Our home sweet home


(image) A lot of people have asked how our living conditions were over here. When we first arrived here last year, we both didn't know what to expect but to our surprise our first home-away-from-home here was pretty nice.

We started out first in the Longhill Hotel (picture on the left) on Jiangnan Avenue (Jiangnan Da Dao). After a month of hotel life, we finally got settled in to Rainbow City (Cai Hong Cheng), one of the larger and nicer complexes next to the Qiantang River in the Binjiang District of Hangzhou.

Our complex was in a very convenient location with our gym, grocery store, barber shop, spa, bakery, restaurants, milk tea bars and a ton of other conveniences within a few steps of our apartment.

Rainbow City @ night.
We left for Nanjing on Saturday, Dec. 15th and the next day when we came back the complex was fully decorated with Christmas trees and lights. They sure do work fast.



Our walk through the Ming Tombs (ming xiaoling)

(image) Nanjing once served as the capital of China. Most of Nanjing's historical sights (Ming Tombs and Sun Yatsen Mausoleum) are located on the southern slopes of Purple Mountain (zijin shan). We visited the Ming Tombs (ming xiaoling) during our visit. The Ming Tombs here are one of the largest in China and the only Ming Tombs located outside Beijing. Plum Blossom Hill is a pretty area to walk through (i'm sure more so in the spring and autumn months). The approach to the tomb is along Shixiang Lu, a path lined with stone statues of animals. They look a little cheesy but they are hundreds of years old.

The Rape of Nanking


(image) After more than one year of renovations, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial reopened on December 13th, to commemorate the 70th year anniversary of the events that occurred in Nanjing in 1937 where more than 300,000 innocent citizens and unarmed soldiers were slaughtered, raped, tortured and murdered. The ancient capital of Nanjing (also referred to as Nanking) suffered an unprecedented catastrophe and was turned into a living hell.

The first weekend of its reopening, we took a 4-6 hour bus from Hangzhou to(image) Nanjing as our last China trip. The memorial museum was a touching tribute to the past and the layout overall was very nicely done and foreigner-friendly. However, there were thousands and thousands of people that weekend; all crammed into this memorial. The museum guards kept telling everyone not to stop and read the picture captions or take too long looking at the exhibits. They kept urging us to keep moving but we just played "stupid-foreigner" and pretended we didn't understand what they were saying (which was partly true). As a foreigner trying to understand the events it was really difficult to fully appreciate what the memorial was there for. It was very unfortunate the way that the memorial was run but it was still worth the visit.


Last weekend in Hangzhou


(image) hot pot @ 3D Royalty 3House in Hangzhou

(image) Amit, Lili, Aleah and Mike

One of the best things about being abroad was meeting so many new people along the way. The sad thing though, was always having to say goodbye. From Mike's coworkers to other expats to fellow travelers they've all helped to create our fun experiences here.

For all of the U.S. folks left here in China, it was all of our last Friday for 2007 here in Hangzhou. After their 6-month stay, Lili and Amit were headed back to Denver, so we kicked off the night w/ a mini-hot pot dinner (can't get enough of that stuff). Then we met up with another Perficient guy, Kurt (part firefighter, part computer guy), and some of the local employees and partied it up around Dragon Stadium and Babyface till the wee hours of the morning. Shots of beer all night long didn't help our travel plans and all of us only got a couple of hours of sleep before we were off for our next destinations the following morning - them to Beijing, us to Nanjing and Kurt to Shanghai. Nights like these will be missed.

Mike's treat to the PSI team


(image) Aleah, Mike, Rainman, Wilton, Frank, Lois, Jack Yan, Jack Pan, Henry, Simon, Joseph
and the Hooter's Hangzhou girls

Last hurrah at the local Hooters. This place really isn't frequented by many locals because no one really knows what it is and it is very pricey. Expect to pay US prices when eating here...and [gasp] a mandatory 15% tip! Hence, most of the clientele you'll find here are foreigners.

We got lots of chicken wings, beer and even got a song-and-dance performance from the girls. My coworkers had a great time but were very initially surprised by how the girls were dressed. I was a little disappointed because I noticed that our servers did not give us the same amount of attention as they usually would if I was with a group of foreigners. Oh well, at least the company project paid for this team-building event. =)

There were some other guys from the China office that were away in Denver that night and they couldn't join us. So I promised them I'd take 'em to the Denver Hooters instead - it's a tough job helping to expose them to the best of American culture!



(image) another year celebrated in the Middle Kingdom

The pagoda on the hill


(image) For 1 year, every time we go into downtown we usually see this pagoda all lit up on top of the hill towards the northern part of West Lake. And every time we saw it, we always would say we have to go up there sometime. Well that sometime finally came 1 year later. It took us two buses and a little bit of walking, but we managed to climb up Baoshi (precious stone) hill and found our way next to the Baoshi Pagoda - the landmark of Hangzhou we've always seen from afar. It has repeatedly been destroyed and restored throughout its history which spans hundreds of years. The present pagoda was rebuilt in 1933.

Thanksgiving weekend in Seoul, South Korea


Kicked off Thanksgiving evening eating chicken wings and chili cheese fries at Hooter's in Shanghai. Then off to Seoul the following morning.

(image) Thanks to Rachel, Scott, Robby and Ben for being wonderful hosts. We stayed free of charge at Hotel Frondozo complete with a view of Seoul, jacuzzi and a big flatscreen t.v.

We visited a couple of museums including the war memorial museum which was very interesting. Also went up the Seoul tower to get a good nighttime view of the city. All in all it was a great trip, but too short. Miss the great BBQ meats and kimchi already. It's an expensive city though, not like many other cheap Asian countries we've visited. Wish we had more time to make a trip out to the DMZ to watch the South and North Korean soldiers stare at each other.

Mike & Aleah's Seoul, Korea Pictures



Happy gobble gobble day... enjoy your turkey!

Drifting in Hangzhou


Another "worldly" event made it's way to Hangzhou. The World Drift Series brought fast cars making their way around the track at Dragon Stadium sideways. The dj for the event tried to hype up the crowd, but kept speaking to them in English (maybe he forgot he was in China) - needless to say, the people were pretty unresponsive.

The cars were OK. Their drifting skills weren't really that impressive. The whole event would have been blah if it wasn't for several cars that crashed into the wall.

Most of the cars were S15 Silvias and older 200SXs. There was a Supra at the opening ceremony but it didn't run in any of the races. No RX7 even tho their flyers had pictures of a 3rd gen.

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one year month to go


Hangzhou Festival Fireworks Show


(image) If you live in Hangzhou, people usually think Binjiang (the neighborhood we live in) is comparatively far from downtown. But one of the advantages of living in Binjiang is the fact that we're right on the Qiantang river where we have a great view of the annual Hangzhou festival fireworks show. Sure fireworks are set off almost everyday, at all hours of the day, for any occasion here in China, but this show was actually a huge event - comparable to the 4th of July. Thousands of people came out to watch the 40 minute fireworks show over the Qiantang River. There was even a "party" at our apartment complex with performances and an open bar-free beer!

Hiking through the Yunqi Bamboo Trail


(image) In the SW corner of Hangzhou lies the bamboo lined path a yunqi, taking you through bamboo lined forests, beautiful views and tea plantations. Along the way you pass the mind purifying pavilion with a clear, water pond next to it, a mini suspension bridge that takes you to the 1000 year old gum tree, then up a rather strenuous climb to Wuyun Hill where you get good views of Binjiang (the district we live in) and the tea villages at the bottom of the hills. As you crossover the hills you'll find tons of tea fields for growing the famous longjing tea. Farmers make good money in these parts.

The entire hike took about 3 hours.






(image) One of the perks of working in China is all of the paid holidays and the 2x/year company paid outings. For this company outing we rode a bus to a "resort" in Hangzhou complete with villas that you can rent out for an overnight stay.

The best part though was the BBQ. They really know how to cook up some good barbecue here. It's really unhygienic though...bags of raw meats from chicken hearts, feet, and wings, pork chops and ribs, beef ribs, fish, tofu, lamb sticks tossed on the table with their raw juices flowing for you to just skewer up, season and cook, but it sure does make for some good eating. The sauces and spices that are used to flavor the meats make a big difference. It's nice to get paid to eat.

(image) The gang

Yiwu: the small commodities market


(image) Located approx. 1 1/2 - 2 hours by bus or train, Yiwu is known for it's huge markets of small commodities. We found stuff we wanted to buy, but unfortunately for us, we didn't really want to buy 20 or so of them. You can only buy in bulk quantities here so we left the city empty-handed.

Some things were actually quality items that you would normally see in places like the Pottery Barn or Pier One Imports. Others are the cheap knick-knacks you would normally find in cheap toy stores, bargain clothing stores, and such. Either way, these things cost at least ten times more in the US.

If you're in the market to export items back to the U.S. to sell or if you're in the market for buying gifts in bulk then this is the place to go. Most exporters go around with a local guide to help smooth out the transactions.

Hangzhou is cleaning up


Spitters face 50-yuan fine in Hangzhou by -- HANGZHOU will fine spitters 50 yuan (US$6.66) from next month as the city tries to become the cleanest city in China, Today Morning Express reported today.

The city yesterday revealed punishments for polluters...

All you hear about in local news are changes in Beijing as it gears up for the 2008 Olympics. There are programs for cleaning up the city, fixing English signs, reducing pollution, banning smoking in taxis, teaching people how to line up properly, learning English, etc. etc., . What about all the other cities, don't they deserve improvement programs too?

We came across this article in Shanghai Daily and it happened to be about Hangzhou, the city we currently live in. Finally, a city in China other than Beijing is doing something to clean up its act. Why did it take so long? We've been here almost a year now and we still get really disgusted by some people's daily habits. Spitting, for example, is everywhere. The sound of people hocking up loogies is ubiquitous. People spit aimlessly even it's directly in your walking path. Spitting inside public places is a daily occurence: on the restaurant floor while you're trying to enjoy your meal, on the gym floor as someone runs on the treadmill and decides to clear their throat, on the public bus right on the floor next to your feet. No wonder everyone squats, they don't want to sit on spit.

Another thing that gets to us is the public defecation and urination (mostly by babies and children, but sometimes you get the occasional adult male). The norm here is for babies to wear split pants and whenever they need to go number 1 or number 2, they just go...anywhere. One time we were inside a mall in Shanghai and a couple was holding their child's bottle up to his wee wee so that he could pee. Didn't know that bottles could be used for feeding and public toilets. Numerous times, i've walked in or out of the grocery store and encountered parents holding their babies butt cheeks apart so they can defecate in the bushes right in front of the store and plop the child right back on their shoulders without even wiping. If a child has to go, the parents seem to encourage the child to just whip it out or squat and urinate right then and there. It's really disgusting. So good for Hangzhou to start fining people, we'll see how effective it is in our last couple of months here.

The sweet smell of osmanthus


(image) Osmanthus is the city flower of Hangzhou and this time of year (Sept. - Oct.) the flowers are in full bloom and the sweet scent fills the air. Nice for us that we happen to have a tree right in our backyard. Sometimes I notice the neighbors walking up as close as they can to our fence, which is blocked by a hedge, trying to smell or pick at our tree.

Welcome to Krabi


(image) There are so many beaches in Thailand it was hard to pick one. We debated between Phuket and Krabi, but after hearing advice from many travelers and reading up on forums we heard many times that Phuket was nice, but too touristy, so we chose Krabi as our jump off point to the surrounding islands. Great choice.

Krabi is located in Southern Thailand off the Andaman Sea. We went during off-peak season, so it wasn't too crowded and you get great discounts on hotels. Only on our first and last days the rain was coming down pretty hard. Other than that, it was beautiful weather.

We stayed at the Aonang Princeville Resort on Ao Nang Beach. There's plenty of restaurants, massage parlors, shops and tour agencies to keep you busy during your stay. If you're sick of Thai food there's plenty of Italian food choices available. We booked all of our activities through Khun at A.P. Travel located right outside of the Princeville Hotel. Doing activities is really easy here because they'll usually provide you with transportation to and from your hotel so you don't have to deal with scamming taxi and tuk tuk drivers.

One of the great things about the trip was meeting fellow travelers and hearing their stories. We met one couple from Scotland who was taking 3 months off to travel SE Asia-Australia-New Zealand-U.S. (L.A. & NY) and back, another couple from Singapore that was on an elephant trek with us, a couple from Malaysia who hadn't taken a vacation in 3 years, we kayaked and toured the islands with them, and finally a couple from Israel who we met on Railay Beach and who just got engaged during their vacation in Thailand.

Learning to make Thai food


(image) We had some time before our afternoon flight back to Bangkok, so we learned how to make some of the dishes that we've been eating all week long. We cooked up some phad thai and tom yam soup among other dishes. Our instructor, Khun Sow, used to be a chef on Koh Lanta but said her restaurant was affected by the tsunami, so she opened up a cooking school in Krabi. The school is located on the hills of Ao Nang with a beautiful view.

Muay Thai Kickboxing


(image) Throughout the week, this little car with a Muay Thai poster advertised on the side kept driving up and down the Ao Nang strip announcing "Friday night Ao Nang Stadium, Muay Thai, Muay Thai". When Friday night came there was a free bus that corralled all the foreigners into it to watch this bloody sport. There were two seating types: first class and second class. We opted for 1st class which turned out to be soft comfy leather couches ringside. On one side of the ring there's also a group of gambling locals screaming and watching closely to see if their fighter won them some money. There's about 10 fights total throughout the night lasting around 5 rounds each or less if someone gets knocked out. Before the fight the fighters do a ritualistic type dance around the ring and then try to kick the ish out of each other. Very exciting. In between the rounds, the fighters get iced up and massaged with what smelt like good ol' tiger balm. Some of the fights involved kids probably less than 10 years old - which made all the foreigners squirm a bit. But it was all good and friendly and none of the kids got badly hurt. Unfortunately, some of the older fighters got their a$$es whooped. A good hard knee to the side of the abdomen can quickly bring the most seasoned fighter down.

[Videos to come]

Longtail boat to Railay and Phra Nang Beach


longtail boat at Railay Beach WestAo nang beach is a good jump off point to other surrounding islands and beaches in the area. We heard that the beaches of Railay were pretty. We took a longtail boat from the Ao nang to pier to Railay West, which is a nice strip, but nothing too spectacular. We walked over to Railay East, which was a big muddy mess. Lots of rockclimbing on that side though if you don't mind the heights. We searched the island some more and found Phra Nang Beach which was nice and quiet. Beautiful clear water and white sandy beach surrounding by limestone cliffs. Just offshore there's also an island you can walk to if you don't mind stepping on rocks the whole way. There's also a cave dedicated to an ancient fertility goddess that contains a strange combination of large phallic symbols, garlands and offerings.One of the most irritating things was getting off the island. If you come from Ao Nang don't buy a round-trip ticket because you'll end up having to wait for at least 6 people to leave the same time as you before the longtail heads back. We ended up getting in a little scuffle with one of the idiot boat drivers. Mike and the guy exchanged some words and out of nowhere the guy invited mike to some "boxing" - apparently he wanted to fight. He then proceeded to proudly mention that Thailand has a lot of muay thai boxers - apparently meant to intimidate. But then Mike interrupted him and said that Thailand has a lot of LADYBOYs. This apparently got the other guy irritated and started to get up on Mike's face. The toad eventually just walked away back to his corner waiting to rip-off more tourists.Eventually, we made it off the island and met a lovely couple, Shani and Elad from Israel. We just keep meeting nice people in bad situations. [...]

Swimming with the fishes


The weather was unstable this week, so each morning we would have to check on the tides and severity of the waves with Khun, our travel agent, to see if we could take boats out to other islands. Lucky for us, today was a good day for traveling to Phi Phi Islands. We ended up joining a day tour, which wasn't that bad. There was a good mix of people on board including a Korean tour group that covered up from head to toe not wanting to soak up the suns rays. Why come to the beach then? They were sweet ladies nonetheless.The tour started out on speedboat passing Chicken Island enroute to Maya Bay, which is where parts of the movie "The Beach" were filmed based on the novel by Alex Garland. We stayed for about 30 minutes and swam around. It was off season and there sure were a lot of boats... i can just imagine that peak season must make a lot of people claustrophobic.Phi Leh Bay: a lagoon in Phi Phi Leh surrounded by blue green water.Viking CaveLunch on Phi Phi Don: a buffet style lunch was provided with the tour. Surprisingly we bumped into the 3 Brazilian girls from the airport on the island. It was good to see that we all made it to Thailand and were enjoying our vacations.Jacob & Annie from Malaysia with Aleah & MikeMonkey Beach: monkeys, monkeys everywhere! Careful if you have a banana or any kind of fruit because they'll tackle you for it.Last stop Bamboo Island: more swimming, feeding fishes, sunbathing, walking on the beach or snorkeling. Whatever your heart desires.The best part of this day trip was the snorkeling. Once you get the hang of breathing through the snorkel and minimizing the amount of salty salty salt water you take in, it's such a relaxing thing to float there and watch life under the water.If you have bread, schools of fish will swim to you. You can fake them out by throwing a rock in the water or lifting your hand and you'll see them waiting to rush toward you. Aleah can't swim, so it was cool for her to be out on the open sea swimming with the fishes. Mike did a bad thing and unintentionally broke off a coral bed underwater, while pushing himself back to the surface...OOPS!Aleah's life vest is a bit big, but she stayed afloat[...]

Kayaking in Ao Thalane


(image) We headed out around 8:30a.m. and drove for what felt like more than half an hour to Ao Thalane. When we set out the tide was still pretty low, but got progressively higher as the day went on. The surrounding bay is full of mangrove forests, towering Karst formations and lots of channels you can kayak through. Our tour guide, Bao, took us the long way, which made the trip more exciting. We made a stop near some monkeys, who decided to jump on our kayak and chill with us. We got stuck in one of the waterways in the mangroves because the tide wasn't high enough to clear some of the passages. We had to wait a few minutes for the tide to rise and got a chance to chat with our kayaking group and eat fresh fruit. Many other groups simply turned around and went back to the pier. But our tour guide was pretty good and he wanted us to wait it out so we can cut across the entire island and out the other side. It was a longer trip and gave us a good workout.