Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Travels of the Imitation Rubbershoes

Equipped with a lousy outdated Sanyo 3.1 Megapixel digicam, a big backpack of water bottles, a sketchpad, a pair of imitation Nike rubbershoes and a big wide world of possibilities.. This is what happened in my four days visit to China.

My brother, after much debate, was finally allowed to accompany me since his "chicken pox" was dismissed by the doctor as some infection which could be remedied with constant care and medication.

We were in NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) by 7 am to meet up with our travel group. We would be travelling with He Hui Po Youth Association. (He Hui Po is the name of my grandfather's hometown)

This is my brother on his way down to Waiting Area 2

My brother took this picture, an aircraft behind me!

My brother inside the airplane.

We travelled riding China Southern Airlines. The plane took off around 9.20 am and landed in Xiamen International Airport at roughly 11.19 am. The ride was relatively smooth, or was it simply because I was just sleeping the whole time to avoid having to smell the disgusting aroma of airplane food.

May 20, 2006
Day 1

When we walked out of the airport gates were greeted by a video camera and the folks of our town. Picture taking galore. After that, we were escorted to our bus to first have lunch somewhere past Ocean Street.

The Gameboy Addict
(You'll see more of this..., perhaps this encapsules the entire program for my brother..)

Inside the restaurant, we were given the third floor which gives a breath-taking view of the Convention Hall. Kites were flying on the skies, but I don't think they got caught by the camera.

The stairs leading to the third floor. Our group was already being hurried out of the restaurant, so I took a split second picture of it for remembrance.

Needing to meet the call of nature, we were confronted with this little dilemma.

Yes, the toilets are embedded on the floor and the only way to piss is to squat down. Damn, there are really times when I wish I was born male... So much for being poised.

After lunch, we headed back to the bus to start the one and a half ride to our hometown.

This is the female group (well most are...) of the association, posing outside the restaurant.

My brother and I. Behing us is the bay.. somewhere along the line, you'll see traces of Taiwan, or so we were told.

I fell asleep in the middle of the ride, and woke up an hour later, finding everyone bedazzled by the accumulation of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes Benz cars parked at the side of the road, with big red ribbons decorating its hood. It turns out this is the greeting committee. Twenty something cars followed our bus as we headed towards the barrio of our great grandparents. People on the streets were watching our parade, cars were looking in our bus.. now, that's a real special treat! We felt like VIP ambassadors.

Among the places we passed by on our way, was an SM mall. The Shoe Mart business has expanded so much that it has already reached China. Henry Sy ought to be one proud man!

Try taking pictures in a speeding vehicle before you complain! :D

This is an advertisement for a Little Miss Something Contest open for little children with a 6000 yuen prize for the winner.

The bus stopped and we were requested to get down. Lines of children in parade uniforms and flowers were assembled immediately outside our vehicle. Bands began playing, some began dancing, and fireworks began to sound.

As we descended from our bus, we were greeted individually with a ring of plastic flowers to be hung around our necks by little kids, perhaps aged around six to eight years.

A quick picture of Russel and Me before the parade commences.

Another parade began, and this time, we walked into our hometown, escorted by the elders, in two crooked lines. The surprise was done so discreetly that we barely had much time to react to the sudden swoon of attention we were getting.

We were brought to a hall, which we were told to be the school room of our grandparents, where a series of speeches commenced. Most of the monologues were delivered in Fookien, but some spoke in Mandarin - their use of the language were so quick that it takes me a while to really understand what they were really talking about. Most of the speeches explained the lengths they went through to prepare our elaborate welcome, encouraged our participation in the building of the community, celebrated the success and contributions handed in by our forefathers and expressed their happiness upon our arrival, hoping we'd return to visit them.

Outside the hall, me and my bro asks a friend to take another picture for memory.

Me, outside the hall with all the parked cars.

After the get-together ceremony, we were toured around the place. I brought my father's professional camera and was shooting away since I know my digital camera cannot really be trusted (as you'd observe in my later shots). The designs of the houses were "southern Chinese" or so our tour guide said. Most of them were old and musty, some were very dark within. The WCs, which is communal, has a revolting stench that would pierce your nostrils once you venture near it's immediate vicinity.

This is roughly the size of the group I went to China with. Behind us is one of the house I was talking about... Very Chinese style, don't you think?

Flowers hanging on our necks, we look like we're going to do some hula.

The children in China are so damn adorable. They really look like the chubby little angels you see in Chinese sketches and paintings. Behind this child are, according to the child's father, rings of charcoal which will be sold to restaurants.

This is my great grandfather's house when they were still living in China. My grandfather told me that it used to be the biggest house in the area, but now it stands there abandoned and close to falling apart out of disuse.

You watched "The Ring" right? Well this is the real thing! This is where they get their water... and I'm telling you, it's deep!!

After our exploration, we were brought to another restaurant for dinner. The oldies were playing alcohol games which we couldn't understand - the only thing we knew was that whoever loses would have to drink a glass of wine. That went on until around 10 in the evening.

Eventually, we got to our hotel. We were exhausted from the trip, but the sight of the Guang Zhou Hotel was magnificent. 5 Star. Beautifully furnished. The bathrooms were comfortable (I love comfortable bathrooms!), with a glass shower..

This is the exterior of our hotel. Pretty eye-catching, isn't it? We were on the 10th floor if my memory serves me right. The interior theme are more on golds and browns.

This is the fountain area, which is at the lobby, beside the receiving and waiting areas.

May 21, 2006
Day 2

Subsequent to our breakfast, we checked out of the Guang Zhou hotel and left for Kai Wan Tien Temple. Temples often are big lots with plenty of spaces for floras. The structures come in a series wherein each building has a purpose - one for the emperor, another for the gods and another for the monks. The place was generally tranquil and quiet, although there were many tourists in the area making all sorts of cacophony and jovial play.

The dragon is so intricately carved on the column that I couldn't help notice it.

Following the visit to the temple, we were brought to a boat museum, where the evolution of boat crafting is documented and replicated for us to appreciate. It is quite a well-known fact how brilliant Chinese are in terms of travel. They were far advanced compared to European countries in their creation of boats, having created fan-like sails to master the wind's power, having invented the adventurer's must-have compass, and having invented all sorts of ingenious and innovative travelling accessories vital to a successful expedition.

This is the queen's boat, lavished with designs and wealth.

The spend-happy king's boat, compared to the queen's, is far more extravagant, with most of its parts molded out from pure gold.

I wasn't able to take pictures of most of the boats since the light from the flash of my camera reflects on the glass pane, and my camera doesn't have any focus ring so I can control the outcome of the shot.

We had our lunch after this trip, followed by a visit in a stone carving shop. Here are some of their creations which we are allowed to take pictures of.

The three dragons..

You should've seen this guy's butt! I was just too conservative to take a pic of it! :D

Compensating for Disney!

A more intricately carved stone column.

The items in this shop are a bit expensive for my taste, although I understand that in most people's view they are relatively cheap. They are selling jade bracelets (me wanting..), dot carvings (I don't know how to explain this to you) and all sorts of fancy toys, figurines and bags.

Many of my peers bought bracelets and the like. This adventure was followed by a stomach-bursting dinner, then proceeded to our new hotel, the Powerlong Hotel in Xiamen. It was directly outside a disco house, a spa and a sex toys shop, which caught the humor of many of my companions.

Since we were a shopping-excited bunch, our group decided to take on Chong Shan Lu, one of the most popular shopping areas in Xiamen, for the night.

*Charley was so sweet to call me that night, since I couldn't sleep out of homesickness. We spoke for around 2 hours on the cellphone.. and that's long distance... Oh my...

*hugs! :D

May 22, 2006
Day 3

When I woke up on the third day of our four-day China trip, our window was frosted with rain and dew drops. The day was relatively cold.

After breakfast, we went to Nan Pu To Temple - a very famous tourist spot in Xiamen. The only tourist spot in Xiamen, according to my grandmother. I've already gone there thrice for my every visit in Xiamen. It has changed little, but it cannot be denied that it still has its aura of peace and prayer. Many Buddhists come to the temple to pray and ask for assistance, unfortunately I couldn't hold a joss stick at that particular time due to some bodily limitations.

This is the view outside the temple. There are many pigeons flocking around, shitting on unwary innocents.

The procedure in praying to the gods is by lighting up joss sticks of a particular number, 1 or 3 (if I remember correctly). The smoke then would rise to the heavens and the gods would then hear your prayers.

Luckily, we saw a parade of monks rushing to the temple to pray. We weren't permitted to take pictures inside, so we just heard them chanting away.

Some of the walls have drawings/carvings of these sort.

If you're asking me what they are doing, I'll tell you that they are throwing coins at the big rock until it falls into one of the carved words. If you ask me why, I couldn't give you a very accurate answer although as I understand it, it is said to bring them good fortune.

I convinced my brother to have his Chinese name carved on this stone. It is a seal actually used by higher ranking officers to mark their letters and declarations. It cannot be remade easily and thus it would have a purpose similar to that of a signature.

Following our visit to the temple, the tourist guide brought us to another hotel to take our lunch there (it seems that every tour we go to, we'd always end up eating in this restaurant). It seems that he got a little angry at us for deviating from his prescribed schedule...again! :D

After lunch, we took a one hour ride to Riyuegu Hot Springs. It is a bigger, more elaborate and apparently more expensive outdoor version of Del Monte's Ace Water Spa. It has many kinds of hot spring baths, from milk baths, to aloe vera baths, to herbal baths. They offer massages and ear wax cleaning as well for 25 to 50 yuen.

There were many trees and flowers inside. It was like a water park. Of course, there were many tourists, as well, which was why the baths are often crowded. Unfortunately for us, even though the weather wasn't really cooperating, there were still a handful of folks interested in the swimming affair. Cameras were not allowed inside, so I just got shots of its outdoor decorations.

The spa was followed by a visit to a fish liver oil company which introduced to us many seafood candies and medicines. Free taste tests.. Love love love.

Shopping happy folks need their shopping, so I went along and got myself some stuff from the night market and stores.

I got these books relatively cheap. One for learning how to sketch human faces, another for chinese brush drawings, another for ideas in making posters and lastly one for learning Chinese designs. I also got myself a 15 yuen CD of Chinese images.

I bought a Cheomsam dress for my new born cousin, a pink viser, a black sleeveless jacket (you'll see in the succceeding photos), 2 penguin crystals and a whole bunch of socks which were being sold 4 pcs for 10 yuen. I also had my face sketched out, but I won't be posting that out in the open! :D

May 24, 2006
Day 4

The last and final day of our Xiamen visit, our tourist guide brought us to take a boat ride to Gu Lang Yu Island - a scenic spot where the rich and wealthy of times past used to reside. Our to-yu (tourist guide in fookien) wanted to take us to the paino museum which used to be status symbols before when the Westerners came to China.

It was, obviously, raining cats an dogs that day! (and I didn't even bring an umbrella!)

We're here, at Gu Lang Yu Island.

See the blue "car"? That's the mode of transportaion here. It costs 50 yuen pax.

The map of the Island, in case we get lost.

It was a unanimous decision that we would go to Xiamen Underwater World. It would cost us 70 yuen pax, but the pictures below, no matter how out of focus, would show you that it was worth it! Included in the payment, is a chance to watch a sea lion and a pair of dolphins perform (they were hilarious!). Inside, there are many sea creatures as the pufferfishes, sharks, penguins and big scary fishes that I cannot remember the names of.

The mural before the entrance of the Underwater World Area.

I don't know who this little critter is, but he's all around the place, so I guess, he's the mascot?

Underwater tank pictures.

Just checking if it's still raining... Affirmation.

When we got out of the Underwater World, we were directed to the Piano Museum. Even though I've purchased an umbrella for myself and my brother, we still got drenched in the rain. The wind was blowing hard, damn it! My backpack also got wet inside - that my maps of the city got torn a bit, and my sketchpad got all crumpled up.

All our companions were wet from the shoes up to their hairs. Squishy rubbershoes, yucky feeling. We had to get three of those 50 yuen trams to rush us back to the port and to a nearby hotel to change clothes. Thus, the piano museum itinerary had to be cancelled. (Oh well, even though it's a real pretty garden for click-clickz, I've been there before so no need to feel deprived.)

I got the idea of this shot from some artistic somebody. Not a good shot for an amateur, but at least I can point out that that is 1/2 of my imitaion rubbershoes and let you see how wet everything is!

In the tram, rushing back!!

Still rushing, but see that little statue at the background? That's the defining rock that tells you you are in Gu Lang Yu Island. Check out the advertisements for this place, and you'll more or less see that pic in full view.

Taking pictures with a bad camera in a speeding tram ain't really a good idea, but at least it caught the view.

Waiting for the boat to arrive...

It was already 1 pm when we arrived at the hotel to change clothes. Since we have already checked out of the Powerlong Hotel that morning, we had to rent another less classy room for our purpose. We also had to hassle ourselves reopening and repacking our already well packed suitcases to take out fresh or otherwise used but still usable clothes. Imagine the extra load for having to pack completely drenched clothes - heavy!! Lunch followed sometime past 2pm.

My brother at the restaurant exterior and the umbrella I bought for 10 yuen

We were given an hour to visit Shoe Mart. My, all the items are so damn expensive, if you're converting them into pesos in your head. My advice, I've seen cheaper items in 168 - which are more or less of the same quality anyway. I got myself a USB Flash Disk though, which costs 85 yuen, a lot cheaper than the 1000+ pesos my friends have been telling me about.

Our shopping escapade had to be cut short since we were expected to be at the airport by 5 pm. Notice the difference from the floor toilet, the bathrooms here - not only lets you sit down, they even have this plastic wrapped around the seat for good hygiene.

Anyways, we lined up for our flight back to the Philippines, which took us up to 6pm!

I found these cute little panda bears in their souveneir section, but lo and behold, the prices are enough to be called a robbery. But.. They're so cute!!

Once again, the gameboy addict trying to figure out how the heck could Gandalf get rid of all his weak imbicilic enemies.. or was he playing with the Urbz? hmm...

We got to the plane around 8 pm, taking off at 8.20. Since it was raining cats and dogs, we experienced some plane turbulence, although none too drastic to make me wake up from my sweet plane slumber and freak out. There was once though, that the whole plane lighted up because of lightning but nothing death defying.

Look at this kid's grin, finally going home.

The plane cabin, just before take off.

We arrived at the Philippines at 10.30 pm. And the whole trp felt like a dream. We lasted four days in China, trying to voice out our ideas in Chinese, learning how to do things the right respectable Chinese way, figuring out if we made good transactions, sleeping in cozy, well-furnished hotel rooms, etc. It felt like we've stayed there for over a month, but after the four days, we had to punctually snap back to reality - it seems that those days have so quickly passed. Have to get to classes the next day.

Until the next flight... I shall sulk in my reality once more.


At 3:30 PM, Anonymous Chachoy said...

And next time include me on your suitcase :)

At 4:09 PM, Blogger jEnn said...

wat a journey...
the pictures were awesome!!!

loved the way you took all those pictures in the speedy tram.. must have been really hard coz you had to hold your purchases, your cam, your bag and also to hold on to the pole at the same time... adventurous, arent you? must take care ah...

thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences with all of us!!



At 2:10 AM, Blogger Tanis said...

Sounds like you had a great trip. The pictures are awesome. I'll bet that'll be one experience you'll remember for the rest of you life......

At 10:03 PM, Blogger viva la pigarotti! said...

nice shot with the sm thingy! :D

i have a bit of nostalgia going on everytime i see a squat toilet. hehe. when i was studying in japan, i have to deal with the squat thingies almost everyday, and i was glad my legs never gave up on me haha!

btw, how did u know russell? i know him kasi, howe ng shobe ng kabarkada ko. (waw layo eh no?)

At 4:10 PM, Blogger jourdy^_^ said...

i wanna go to Xiamen Underwater World too! sea animals!!! penguins!

gotta love the pics, has that Com Arts touch, hehe

glad u had loads of fun and that you're back home safe

btw, how the hell are people supposed to shit on those freaky toilets?!? O_o

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Katrina said...

chachoy - there's always a next time..! u sure you don't want to just get a ticket? :D

jenn and tanis - sureness, glad u liked the pix... *hugs you both!*
it was real fun.. so didn't want the trip to end..

viva la pigarotti - oooh.. interesting.. well, the Philippine Chinese community is really a small bunch anyway.. :D

Russel is one of our "hometown-mates".. our families kinda came from the same part of China.. he's seems to be one real sweet guy.. your kabarkada's shobe is one lucky girl :D

I think the floor toilet needs a lot of getting used to. I guess, if you really have do it, you find a way to get over that eww-y feeling :D Being able to withstand that and actually get used to it everyday... you rock!:)

jourdy - glad u liked the penguins.. grabe i took penguin pictures (not included in the post) just for you ha!

how to shit on those toilets? pull down your pants and..., squat and just do it? Never tried it though.. better alternative.. hold it in until you reach the hotel! wahaha..

At 5:44 PM, Blogger jourdy^_^ said...

thanks for the penguin pics! hahaha! hug hug hug! ^_^


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