The most famous mountain in China

Hello hello.
Well what a day today! We arrived in Tai-ai yesteday afternoon after about an hour bus ride from Qufu. There wasn't too much going on for the birthday but there were lots of people in town and a big performance that night. So we decided to move on.
On the bus ride we passed through lots of farm land, corn land. Obviously it was harvest time as there were many many piles of husks and also they put the husked corn on the rooves to dry out ( i think) and then make into grain. It was cool passing all these farm houses and building with bright yellow rooves of corn...quite cool.
The bus driver was crazy. Passing onto on coming traffic, weaving in and out of the lanes but it doesn't feel dangerous. They are all very patient drivers with eachother. It seems crazy to me but I hear India is even more insane. We'll see.
Tai-an is up against some really pretty mountains. They remind me of the mountains in New Mexico...orangish with dark greenery. We meandered around until we found the cheapest place in the guidebook. They were all out of the cheapest rooms so we got two doubles with our very own squats! There are showers above the squats.hmmmmm.
We visted a bakery in the guidebook ( which we are finding to be sort of annoying) and got what looked like a pizza but when we began to ate, it had red jam on it. Like they looked at a picture of a pizza and just did what it looked like. Oh red, how bout some jam? Oh white, how bout some mayonaisse?
Utterly unsatisfiied ( but very used to the feeling) we visited the Dai Temple which is thousands of years old and was visited by many of the past emperors. It was really cool with lots of little temples and we took some fantastic photos of ourselves. Have to make your own fun sometimes. But it felt old and we liked that. An old man approached us with an english letter that said that he was trying to collect currency from every country in the world and that it was "his hope and his joy to fulfill this" and we looked through his collection and he didn't have NZ $ but either did we. Oh man, he was so kind and cute. Oh well. Know for next time.
Later we went out to find dinner...which can be daunting. We found this alley that looked like it was being dug up and there was a man and woman with frying pans and veggies and you pick from what they had and they made the best fried rice for 5 yuan ( NZ 1$ and US 70 cents)....whoa! It was sooo yummy and we ate up in prep for our next days climb! They were so cool. It has not been often that we have found yummy food.
After another evening of uncomfortable sleep ( i think we are suffereing from sleep deprivation of sorts) we got up early to walk up the most sacred mountain in China called Tai-shan. We walked to the base and just as we got there a girl began to speak to us and asked "if you don't mind I would like to walk with you and excite my english." Well I don't know any better people to excite your english with. Her English name was Dolly. She studies at a university here in Tai-an. Then a few minutes later 3 other boys came up behind us and asked if they could join in. English lessons on the go. So for the next 5 hours of walking, Dolly, Lincoln, You, and Morning were our constant companions. They were very sweet and told us about what we saw and took many photos with us. We chatted about this and that but the 6,800 did get quite steep and tiring. It was really beautiful. Like the great wall of china but up a mountain into the mist...very chinese looking scene with those ancient mossy looking trees lining the edges. It was quite the walk and was very cold at the top 1,545 meters up! It started to rain at the top but luckily we had jackets and hats...sadly the rain kept us from taking many pictures.
We started our descent and quickly realized how tired our legs were and that we weren't going to make it the whole way down so halfway down we got a bus back into town. We exchanged emails with our new buddies and they gave us big hugs and handshakes and waved us off onto our bus.
China is cool but we are finding that it's the people here who are really adding to the experience. I guess that is pretty much true anywhere though.
Great day. I am sure I have missed out on many things but I am very tired from the day. I think we will go back to the fried rice man and hopefully get a really good nights sleep for tomorrow's train ride. We leave for Beijing at 1PM and get in at 9PM. We are just going to stay for one night, go out of the city for a couple days and be back on Wednesday and then meet up with our friend Jason on Thursday.
c& m

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Bikes in Qufu

So it turns out the qufu isn't really celebrated his birthday today but just waiting until next week's national holiday. But it's a pretty buzzy little place gearing up for what seems to be quite the festival.
Yesterday we made sure to get our train tickets to Beijing, seeing as how everything is selling out very quickly, then we went to the Confucius gardens where he is buried along with 2,000 of his descendents. All the little pedicab drivers are wearing these little vests for the festival and since yesterday was a bit rainy we found these two who took us to the garden and waited for us to come out since they didn't think they would get any more work that day...felt like we had our own personal drivers. Lining the entrance to the gardens are heaps of people selling chops (seals) that they will engrave for you right then and there " many signs that say" The job is done in 2 minutes") we checked them out but went in the gardens first. Just in the gate a woman gestured to her bike and said 30. She was trying to do it sort of hush hush so we actually had no idea what she was doing. We walked on and looked back and there were three women with bikes gesturing so we asked how much and they said 20 a piece (4$ NZ dollars, 2.80US) and we walked away because that was too much. They got us to come back and suddenly they were just insistent that we take them and offerered them for 10 a piece and just pushed us on them and told us to get going...it was really weird. felt like I was in the middle of something illegal. But it just turns out that they get in trouble for doing it...bit it was SO MUCH FUN on bikes. We had these sort of beach cruiser bikes and we just zoomed all around the gardens stopping when we wanted along these pathes that meandered amidst thousand year old graves. The only way to do it! Got some cool pix amidst the stone statues and visited the tomb luckily the women emerged from nowhere and stopped us before we took the bikes to his grave which was another funny story...these three women were hilarious...a little bike hawking gang, but their own bikes! Turned out to be a really fun afternoon. and we did get a chop on the way out.
I actually have to go now because we have to check out but we are headed to Tai-an and to climb the most sacred Taoist mountain called Tai-shan with 6,000 steps! Whoa. We will stay there until Sunday and then we have a train to Beijing.
Until then.
c& M

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Ok so we made it to Qufu China¡£ It was a 11 hour train ride £¨overnight£©north of Shanghai¡£ Feeling a bit tire£äexhausted really since it was hard to sleep with the train fully booked and people talking on their phones£¬lights on and hard seats but we managed to get a bit of sleep and now we are here¡£It seems really cool¡£ I think we got a bit Shanghai-ed out after a week of going back and forth and nice to really get out into the guts of china¡£ We read that Qufu was the birthplace and deathplace of Confuscius but didn¡®t realize until now that it is his birthday in 2 days and they are having a huge celebration so that should be really cool if their celebrations are anything like they were in Taiwan¡£ So we are going to stick around here for 3 or 4 nights¡£ We found a descent hostel £¨10 NZ a night£¬ 7US£© a night with our own bathroom so Lucy is up doing her washing and we are using the computers £¨30 NZ cents an hour£© so these prices are feeling pretty good for the budget¡£Everyone seems a bit buzzed for the upcoming festival and overall really friendly £¨more like Taiwan£©and it feels more foreign£¬ like we are actually in China¡£ 
Some funny things£º
Yesterday we got our tickets to Qufu but it wasnt leaving until 9PM so we had another day to kill in Shanghai¡£ It was sunny and hot£¡We thought a river trip down the HuangPu would be cool£¬ or it seemed like the thing to do¡£ We were taken to this boat£¬ tourist boat£¬ with plastic chairs set up in lines down the middle of the deck and some tables and chairs by the rails¡£¡£¡£which is where you want to be to get the views of the buildings¡£ So we sat down but we were told that we had to buy something to sit there¡£ So everyone who sat down then just got up because you had buy like 6 beers to sit there¡£ So Mike and I¡¡went to the front of the boat to get some pix and slipped behind this sign but that was not allowed either¡£ So if you wanted to be by the edge you had to either stand or buy something¡£ I just really wanted to sit because my feet were tired but I wanted to be able to see so I grabbed one of the chairs from the middle and brought it to the edge £¨ just to see how long I got away with it£© yeah like 2 minutes later I was told Bu-wei £¨not allowed£© again¡£¡£¡£i mean it was just a chair I didn¡¯t think it was hurting anything but no no no¡£It was just a funny experience to hilite how different cultures have a differing mentality towards tourism¡£
The Shanghai harbour is the busiest in the world so there are heaps of boats going up and down and the Bund aread and across from that where the big Pearl Tower £¨the iconic sphere shaped building¡£ I think the cruise £¨ or tour£© would be a bit more exciting a night with all the building lit up and unless you are into looking at skyscrapers from a boat£¬ it could be a miss¡£
We made to sure to get the yummy steamed dumplings one last time for lunch and for dinner before we headed to the train we went to another little place where the guy makes hand pulled noodles¡£¡£¡£the kind where he just bangs them on the table and they seperate into thin noodles¡£¡£¡£pretty much like magic¡£ He also reminded me of Bruce Lee£¬ same sort of high pitch £¨wa-cha£© voice and just cool¡£ The Bruce Lee of hand pulled noodles¡£ I had Mike tell him¡£ Maybe it made his day£¿ or not£¬ could just be weird¡£
Oh and also did us up this awesome dish of cilantro£¨corriander£©stirfried with lots of garlic and some green peppers¡£¡£¡£¡£whoa£¬ awesome£¡ Never thought of cilantro and like a main vegetable but it is good¡£
And then onto the train¡£ It was long and sticky but I read an entire book and munched on skittles and cookies¡£ Now I am feeling sticky and it is really time to go do some washing¡£
I will let you know how the festival goes¡£
c and m

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Shanghai take too with some doo

Well ( my friend told me this is how all good emails begin)
we are back in Shanghai. We thought we were going to go to a Lake city called Hangzhou but I guess in the autumn is isn't very nice so we took a bus (that got caught in an hour standstill traffic jam) back to S-town.The transportation systems here are excellent...like they are use to trafficking around millions of people or something. Nice bus but sadly we have made our first travel foh-pah and left our most excellent tripod on the bus. It was Mike's last staff discount purchase and funnily enough the same one is more expnsive here. We tried to track it down but no luck. Oh well. a real pain because it was a VERY cool tripod and for those of you who know Mike, I know you can feel his disappointment.lucky we have insurance.
This morning we got up and made our way to the Shanghai museum. For 4 NZ $ you can see a very impressive collection of pottery, seals, coins, clothing, etc. We started by visiting the rooms with an exhibition from the Prado of cool stuff from Europe spanning the Renaissance to Impressionism. That was more up our alley but we still were energized for the exquisite display of chinese pottery...wow they knew how to fire up a fine pot! Some incredible colours and thousands of years ago they were doing this. Energy waned quickly and our investigation of the coins and chops was less thorough.
It was the driest day we have had yet, quite warm really and enjoyed seeing the city bloom with people and energy a bit more. ( oh last night post-tripod loss, Lucy and I went down to the river along with the other 10,000 people and got some really cool pix of those amazing/sparkly buildings....quite a site). We took the metro to Carrefoure which is a French store thinking we might be able to find some muffins or something (silly us) but did get some interesting sort of pastry items. They had a Coldstone and so we indulged ( and it really is because its like twice the price of a 4 dish dinner) but it tasted soooo good. A jolly white man walked in with a grin and sat near us. The staff all sort of chime into these singsongy rhymes every few minutes and so we were all laughing in a collective foreigner laugh and he asked us how long we'd been here etc...turns out he is an english teacher (duh) and had lived in China for a year a while back so he gave us all sorts of advice on our trip to Tibet and other things to see and things do and not do...very helpful. He was great, eccentric in a sort of endearing way. He could talk about as much as Mike about whatever subject you can think up. It was fun listening to them talk about Tibet and the history...he had some crazy stories about places he'd been but he was almost like a silly guy so very unexpected but refreshing.
So we have made plans to head up to Qufu which is the birthplace and death place of Confuscious ( I can never spell that). Next week (from the 1-7) is China national holiday so things are about to get really really busy so we are going to head north before the rest of the country get on the trains too. From there we will make our way to Beijing where we are meeting a friend on the 4th.
And for the last and most amusing story ( maybe not amusing).
Yesterday while wandering back to the train station in Suzhou we stopped at a McDonalds to cool off and sit down. We noticed this father and is son over in the corner and I looked over to see the little kid just wizzing away...see some of the kids wear these pants with slits all the way from the bum to the front for easy release. So there he was just wizzing on the floor! So we all laughed (ha ha) and couldn't believe that he was doing it right there on the floor ( as we have seen lots of people wizzing in corners and bushes but not on public floors!) but then the kid went down to squat ( he was like 2) and BOOM! right there he was doing the DOO! and this wasn't baby DOO, this was sick nasty baby DOO and a lot of it! We were stunned but just kept watching. I would look away to dry heave and then go back for another look! sick I know. So his dad takes a wrapper and covers it up like no, my baby didn't just nasty crap all over the floor here under this tissue. Obviously the kid was sick because he just kept squatting having more to go. So there it was, a floor of wiz and doo right there next to us. The woman who cleans walked by and looked and asked in suprise (translated by Mike), "is he going to the bathroom?" so the dad picked up his kid having to hold him in such a way that nothing else spewed forth from the split in his pants and he was gone leaving the woman to clean up baby diarrhea ( i know that may sound really grosse but I have to use these strong words as to properly express what we beheld). Uh yeah. So what do you think about that. Later Mike said he just really wished he had videoed it so he could put it on You tube. I just had to work all day to not remember what I had seen and throw up in my mouth!
So there you go. More later.
c & m


Meeting with Jenny and Jason

The past 2 days we have been with our good friends, Jenny and Jason, that we taught english to in Taiwan and have moved over here to their new sticker factory outside of Shanghai. It's been great but we are on our own again.
We were able to get ahold of them on Friday and they came into Shanghai and picked us up from the hostel. So there were a few other things we wanted to do in the city but it was cut short which is ok because cities start to get a bit too much after a few days. So they came in and found us. They have a driver and he drove us all over the place for 2 days. First thing Jenny did after seeing me was give me a little packet of jewelry she had got for me...pretty ugly stuff but I wore it with joy while we were with them. Their english has slipped a lot since we were with them last so Mike had to do all the talking which I think was very tiring for him. But they spoke to him a lot about selling stickers for them in the states so there are some exciting potentials there. Lucy and I have been all lined up to design cool stickers to sell to the masses. Fun to have that connection.
They drove us out to their factory which is sort of in "factory world" I don't have time to really explain what it's like but they are everywhere and everyone works for one. You can distinguish them by the color of their tops and they almost feel like high school uniforms...this is where everything we use is made. Right here in Factory world. The signs even read" Welcome to city of happy export to world" and such. They took us back into Suzhou where we went to some gardens and other really cool little canals that we had missed on our own. Then they took us to one of those wonderful (:() restaurants that I am still stuffering post traumatic stress from Taiwan...pigeon, crab, duck, beef, fish, I mean could they eat any more meat...it was all really grosse but they were so excited for us to be there so we got it down somehow...I have had worse. Then they took us to a hotel and paid for two rooms for the night. They really treated us well.
The next morning they picked us up early, took us back for a tour of their factory, talked more sticker talk ( sort of felt like we were on a business trip) and then they drove us out to this Lake where we picked oranges from a grove. You can do the oddest things with chinese people. Then we drove back into Suzhou (a really cool city) and went to this huge garden that is really beautiful full of paths, temples, little forests and the perfect example of chinese landscape gardening ( suzhou was once like THE garden city). We got some nice pictures that I wish I could load up but it's not working out. After that they took us to pizza ( the chinese version of pizza) but quite a welcome meal and then dropped us off at the Suzhou hostel which has THE hardest beds I have evern slept on...might as well sleep on the floor. I have bruises on my hips! The streets right outside our hostel are FULL of little shops with label clothing for cheap...not dirt cheap but much much cheaper than we would pay. It's cool and last night we wandered around frinding some really cool clothes for Mike (that we didn't buy) but maybe we can get him something cool. It's just that we can't bare to put anything else in our little bags. Too bad we still have weeks left eh? Got some nice mango and strawberry drinks and enjoyed a bit of window shopping.
Today, we are thinking Hangzhou...a city by a lake. We'll see where the train takes us....we need to do laundry...stinky stinky. It was so much fun to see Jenny and Jason. They were so kind and so generous to us. So if anyone needs some stickers printed (preferrably orders over 40,000 units) let us know because we have a hook up in factory world China...i like the idea of designing cool stickers and maybe having to come stop by the street of designer clothes every year! It's worth saving up for it.
That's about all. Probably over on my time in the internet.


The latest from the journey

note: this is Chris's sis-in-law, McKay, posting for her, since they can't get on to blogger from behind "the great firewall of China". Here's the latest from Chris and Mike:

Today was a nice dry day. Not to warm, not too cool and the rain sort of washed the city clean for the day. We thought we would take the dry day and take a trip to a nearby town called Suzhou which used to be China's top silk producing city. It's old town is like a little Venice (so they call it) with canals and little bridges. We took the bus (40 cents NZ, so less than that US) to the train station and got the fast train to the city. We walked into town a bit and visited a 9 story pagoda (the largest south of the Yangzi) and a cool lil garden with Turtles and carp that Mike and Lucy had fun playing with. We visited a silk museum with old silk weaving machines that are amazingly complex looking! The city reminded us more of the city in Taiwan that we all lived in and we liked it. Sort of quaint (only 5 mil) for China's standards. Then we got one of those cool old guys to pull us in his cart (seems cruel but that is his livlihood) to this other part of the city with the canals and more gardens. I can't even begin to describe the traffic here....eeeeek! Red doesn't even mean stop, it means keep going and squeeze your way across. It was quite a distance he pulled us for about 2 NZ dollars. Then we went into these beautiful gardens and got on this boat to go down the canal. As we were going, she started to sing...beautiful but rather odd as the trip went down the canal a wee ways and then right back. The gardens were surrounded by the walls that fortressed the city in and the old entrance to the city and another pagoda. Really lovely, peaceful gardens. Wouldn't know you were in a city of millions. Then Mike read about this other bridge that was meant to be one of the greatest bridges in China with 53 arches so we thought we had to go. It was another few kms from where we were so we started walking to another main road and waved down a tuk-tuk (one of those motorized scooters with covered seats for 3 or 4) and Mike explained to her the bridge and she kept trying to tell him it wasn't very nice and then that it didn't exist. She also stopped a few times to ask where it was. The clutch didn't really seem to be working very well on her tuk-tuk so we didn't go very fast and one we got going she tried not to stop (even through red lights) but people don't drive nearly as fast here as they did in Taiwan and everyone manages to get where the are going somehow...by squeezing by. So we finally make it to this bridge and it's like a dwarf path over the canal...big deal. One of the nicest bridges in China eh? Not so sure about the Lonely Planet China. After that, it was time to make it back to the train station and to some dinner at our little eating joint next to the hostel with the best steamed dumplings. Great day. We all really liked Suzhou a whole lot. I think we are going to try and connect with our friends here in Shangai, go for a river cruise on the Pudong, and check out the Art Museum. We are thinking we might just stay in Shanghai another few days. The hostel is nice and it's cheap and it's a good home base. Oh and everyone rides electric mopeds and scooters here...they are so quiet. Nothing like the noise of Taiwan....thousands of scooters blasting off. Here it is more of an electric hmmmmmmmm.


Here we go

We all went to Akaroa last night and then today we took some family pix as well. With another few randoms thrown in there. Its been gorgeous weather these past few days....really lovely! Mike bought this great tripod and this infrared remote so we can all be in the picture and take it from afar...love it! Hopefully we will have some amazing pix in the next weeks to come. We leave tomorrow at 4PM and arrive in Shanghai the next day at 7AM. Guidebook in hand and chinese speaker in tow. Away we go!


a few parting pix...

time is tick tick ticking...we've been with liz and pete for the past week crossing stuff off our to do list. it's been busy but so nice to be with the family before we head off. wow, it hasn't hit us at all. whoa! we all went to the waterslide at the pool the other night, going to see Hairspray tonight, and having a picnic and day out together on saturday. i can see the the next few days getting pretty darn hectic but luckily we've been pretty good about getting things organised. here are a few pix from when we moved out of our great little flat. oh and the weather is getting gorgeous and warming up...makes it hard to leave New Zealand.

the gorgeous flowers in our back yard...
our garage sale...
chris in an empty clean flat ( thanks to Liz!)
more yummy spring flowers!


The Goodbyes begin

Sara and Mark were getting impatient with the lack of updating on this blog (like we aren't trying to move countries and get ready for a 3 month travel) so when we were over at their house to say our goodbyes to our buddies, we took some pictures right there and right then so I could load them up pronto! They are heading back to the states for a visit this Friday so tonight is our last hoo-rah. Thanks pals for all the good times and the Burwood Fish n'chips and the downloads and the Mark Oliver meals and the late night cookies and the totally infuriating experiments and the car you let us borrow so often after ours died and the bags you are taking back to the states for us. You know where we want you to live.