Monday, June 21, 2010


Have been back in Malaysia a week and done not much else but eat and drink. Have been out to so many restaurants have lost track of it all.

Now want to mention what may be to some an indelicate subject. In Malaysia they have the most wonderful bidet system.

Picture of the bidet in the en-suite of the room I am staying in in Malaysia. It is cold water but, in this hot climate, I find it pleasantly cool and refreshing.

All public toilets in Malaysia have a bidet of some sort, similar to this, but not always as modern. As I have said previously I do not use the public toilets unless it is an emergency and then I could not imagine an emergency which would make me use the public bidets BUT I was out last Friday, all day drinking water, and just had to visit the loo.

Found a nice clean one and, and as I always say, went to the one at the end of the row because that is usually the least used and cleanest toilet. When I had finished I noticed the bidet but it was only a pipe to the tap and I could not see where the water would come out. I leaned over the bowl (first mistake) and turned the tap on (second mistake) to see where the water would come out. Well it was like a fountain coming out of the pedestal bowl with three bursts of water. One out over the bowl at about 120 degrees to the floor and the other two sort of in the air from right to left. Now had I been sitting like I should have to use the bidet, no problem, but I was standing so, problem.

I was wearing a light cotton blouse that turns see through when wet and a pair of cotton slacks that really hold the water so well. I was soaked from the armpits to the toes and my sandals were so slippery I could not walk in them. I had to take them off and with no where to dry off, I had to walk through the shopping mall (and they are large shopping malls here), dripping wet and leaving a trail of wet footprints behind.

I do not know what it is with me and toilets in Asia but I am learning.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Returned to Malaysia

Have now returned to Malaysia. Flew in on Saturday and arrived at the house at about 5:00pm. We went out for steamboat last night at a Halal restaurant. The service was incredible even though the restaurant was full.

Am having quite a lazy day today and will be looking at my camera to see how to fix the photos which are upside down. It all happened when I was rotating quite a few photos at the same time and the camera battery ran out. Will have to hope for the best.

China was interesting and the culture is quite involved. Like you can spit anywhere, even in some restaurants they have a spitting bowl at the table, but it is a great insult to blow your nose at the table, even quietly.

The best day I had in China was going to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. I did not go into the Pagoda, firstly because I had seen enough Temples and Pagodas by this time and secondly I was on my own and could not find the entry. I had a wonderful time walking round the grounds and then discovered two gardens nearby. There were not many people in the parks and it was so peaceful.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

China 9 June 2010

Well here we go again.

The hostel I was staying at had internet and it was free for the guests. Actually a lot of locals come in and drink at the bar there and I think they use the internet too. Sometimes it was so hard to find a free computer. Anyway that is how I was able to send news from Xi'an.

Now let me say at the outset of this little tale that I am O.K., no bruises or broken bones.

Yesterday afternoon I was crossing a small street, looked both ways and successfully arrived at the other side of the road and stepped onto the footpath. Now remember what I said about them parking on the footpath? Well just as I took a step on the footpath this car reversed into me! Only clipped my arm and I hit the back of the car with my hand, there was a man behind me and he was nudged as well.The driver stopped but, as I was not injured, I kept going but his paint (because I can not spell duco) was scratched by my watch. That will teach him to mess with an Aussie. As I said am O.K. and today my hand and arm is fine. I think it was just the shock of being hit by a reversing car while on the footpath!

When I related this tale to locals, nationals and foreigners, they all said I should have fallen down and insisted on the police being called. Now I can think of lots of reasons not to do that. Firstly I did not think about doing it, secondly they may have insisted I go to hospital for a check-up (not a chance) and thirdly I know I scratched his car and I did not want him after me for a re-paint.

In Xi'an I noticed lots of groups of ladies, about 8-12, sitting on the footpath so I asked back at the hostel what that was about as they did not seem to be selling. These ladies help people complete forms, write letters etc. They also do sewing, taking up hems etc. I am amazed at the ways the people find to make a little money.

At construction sites there is always groups of men waiting to be called for one or two hours casual work. I know this sort of thing occurred in Australia after the wars but it is still going on in China. Cause for thought.

Caught the train last night at 8:40pm from Xi'an. I had what is called a "soft sleeper" which means there are 4 beds (two double bunks) in the compartment. Would you believe I had to share with 3 MEN! No one here seems to think that is unusual. The men stripped down to their undies to sleep (not in front of me though, under the covers) so, not to be outdone I went into the toilet, put on 2 more pair of undies, a shirt, jumper and two pair of slacks! Oh and for comfort I unhooked my bra.

I went to the buffet car for breakfast and one of my bunk mates (the only one of the 3 who spoke English) was there so I asked him what was on the menu. He said only what was on his plate. Have a new eating rule here. If they can not make me understand what is on the plate I am not eating it! I saw a boiled egg and that was all I recognised.

Photo of my English speaking bunkmate leaving the train.

The bunk mate who could speak English got off the train about 3 hours before Tianjin and a lady came into the compartment. They do not change the bedding and she just laid down, covered herself up and went to sleep. About 2 hours later she awoke and starting eating. Cup noodles and something in a vacuum pack which I am sure were chicken feet!

Scenes of the countryside snapped during my train trip back to Tianjin. I do not know where I was at the time but this is pretty much the scenery all the way back. I was trying to snap some workers in the fields but by the time I clicked the camera we were passed them. Again, if you enlarge the photo and to the right you may just be able to make out some figures. It must be such a hard life as they may have a hoe else they work with their hands.

Arrived at Tianjin and 2:40pm today and only had had biscuits to eat so I was really starving.

Am home now, bathed fed and coffee'd.

Am tired so photos will go up tomorrow. Besides which my camera's battery needs recharging as much as I do.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

China 8 June 2010

Had the best day today.

Ventured out on my own. Was given instructions on getting to the Big Goose Pagoda by bus. Well you know me, will try anything and always seem to forget I do not have any sense of direction.

Caught the correct bus but I did not know you had to have the correct money and feed it into the machine when you get on the bus. I tried to pay the driver and he just looked at me (in despair I think) and motioned for me to get on. Same happened on the way back.

Anyway, as I said, I was given instructions but could not keep up with the turns the bus was making, and I had to stand, and my low blood pressure was starting to tell and I thought I could see a park and surely that must be it. Guess again.

I approached a policeman (always go to a cop for help, right?) actually right, he was very helpful and seemed pleased he could help me even though he did not speak English. I had a map, pointed to where I wanted to go and he pointed down the street. So I started walking, walking walking.

I knew I was not lost when I saw Ronald McDonald (what would we do without him). I passed a University so I homed in on a likely looking student and asked them how far and they said two bus stops. They actually say bus stations here and I should have taken them at their word because it is about 20 blocks between bus stops (stations)

Passed this hotel and knew I would at least have somewhere to spend the night and be able to re-group in the morning.

FINALLY I could see it in the distance (enlarge the photo and squint and you may be able to see the outline of the Pagoda!)

Getting closer

It took me 45 minutes to walk the distance.

From then on the day was great. Have lot of wonderful pictures to put on when I get back to Tianjin. Two young girls came up to me to have their photo taken with me and two university students wanted to have a conversation.

One on the park rangers (I think that is what he was, university student working part time.) wanted to talk with me and tell me how great the Big Goose Pagoda is and all about the surrounding area. O.K. but he was coughing all the time and I had to keep backing away. After he left I had a bath with hand sanitizer.

Stopped to have a cup of coffee at a little bar in the park (and I do mean little, 2 stools and that is all). I thought the guy said 2 yuen and he was getting agitated when I gave it to him. As luck would have it Andrew chose that moment to ring me so I asked him to talk to the bloke and sort it out. Poor man he wanted 20.00 yuen.

I took lots of wonderful photos around the temple and through two beautiful parks there. It was so surprising. Photos up tomorrow.

I return tonight, overnight on the train, to Tianjin and then fly out to Malaysia on Saturday.

Oh! About the Kenyan. I spoke to the staff here and they said he is a real pest. He comes in every weekend, is drunk by 10:00am and annoys all the guests. They have had to ask him to leave on many occasions.

Monday, June 7, 2010

China 7 June 2010

Have been out all day. Went to the Benpo site, Emperor Qin's Mausoleum and then the Terracotta Warriors.

Was seven of us on the tour. 2 Canadians (who spoke English and French), 3 French (who spoke French and English), 1 Singaporean (who spoke English, French and Mandarin) and little old Aussie me. I pretended I could understand some of the French, well I could, or at least every 10th word.

Was raining all day and quite cold. Did not bring a coat from Australia so borrowed a jumper from Andrew and I was glad I did.

We had a really good lunch. The seven of us decided to share a banquet for 38 yuan each (about AUD 5.50) Had 3 meat dishes, rice and four vegetable dishes. One dish was honeyed yam and it was delicious.

The Benpo site is a Neolithic village and very interesting. The first phot is a the outlines of a Benpo village, the second a food cellar and the third is a tip bottom bottle. It is suggested that the bottle is laid on its side in the water and when it is full it tips upright.

The Emperor Qin's Mausoleum (he was the first Emporer).

The grounds of the Mausoleum are quite spectacular, quite large and lots of gardens but we were all confused as to where exactly the Mausoleum WAS!

This is not the pit where the warriors were discoved and even though there are thousands of warriors they were all broken and so they are being pieced together like a jig-saw and then moved to this pit. At the other end of this pit archeologists and students are working on the reconstruction.

They were all painted but, when exposed to the air, all the paint flaked off. They are working on ways of preserving the remaining painted pieces.

This is a photo of Yang Xinman the farmer who discovered Warriors on his farm. He authographed the book on the Warriors I purchased.

Want to share with you the toilet situation here. Apart from the fact about no toilet paper down the drain most of the toilets here are "squat". Well if I can not find a pedestal type I usually wait because if I got down I doubt I would get up again or would go face first into heavens only knows what. But I found myself in a situation where I just could not wait. Did I mention the toilet doors do not have locks and the doors open OUT. Anyway, without being too indelicate and I had long slacks on, so I pulled the legs up to my knees and pulled the top down to my knees and sort of bent the knees and hoped for the best, butted the door with my head, took a step forward to balance, missed completely and then I was really in trouble. Two women just stared at me the whole time. Oh, and I put the paper down the drain, that will teach them to muck around with me. Boy do men have it easy in this life.

So much more to share but I have had a really long day and am going out for dinner with the people from the tour.

Thanks for all the emails, just love receiving them and so pleased so many are following my trip.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

China 6 June 2010

Excitement plus!

Have just traveled from Beijing to Xian overnight by train. Was a good trip and I had a really good sleep. I was met at the railway station so no problem. Got booked in, went to my room, had a shower, dressed and came down to the dining room to get some breakfast and that is when the fun began.

A Kenyan guy aged somewhere maybe in the late 30's is trying to get me to accompany him. It was a bit scary at first because I thought he really wanted my body, then I realised I was in more trouble than that because he probably wants my money and then my body! He insisted on sitting at the table while I ate and, as I could not get my head together really quick, he was there all the time I was eating. I lied and said I was married and my husband, who was traveling down from Beijing would arriive tonight, and I had business in Xian. I also borrowed my sister's two children and said I had two boys, one of whom was in Tianjin and would arrive tomorrow (thought there would be strength in numbers). When I said I would not accompany him because I had just met him (trying to be diplomatic) he said it was because he was black and racism happens to him all the time. I then said I did not wish to continue the conversation, thanks for the company so far and goodbye. As I left the dining room I heard him say hello to someone else so I guess I am easy to replace.

I have only been in Xian 4 hours!

This is my bathroom at the hostel. The green sign is in the shower cubicle, is it just me or is there some humour there(?) and disposable slippers are for inside wear. They were also supplied on the train from Beijing.

Anyway off to the Terracotta Warriors tomorrow and another trip on Tuesday then back to Tianjin.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

China 5 June 2010

Up at 5:30am this morning and traveled by the fast train (35 minutes) to Beijing and visited The Great Wall. It is about 1 hour by bus out of Beijing. Loading buses here is a bit different to Australia. When all the seats were taken the attendant on the bus started to hand out pieces of newspaper so the passengers could sit on the floor or on the steps in the doorways. Bit of a worry.

We went to Badaling which is probably the most popular place to visit the wall. The Wall is very impressive and I actually said "WOW!" when I first caught sight of it winding up and down the mountains.

There is a cable car which travels up to the top of the Wall at Badaling and then you can walk down. UNFORTUNATELY it was not operating the day we were there. Andrew and I walk up for about an hour and we were only half way. All I could see in front of me were more steps so I said enough is enough and we found a track at the side of the wall to come down which was much easier than winding our way through the crowds. Notice the walking stick? It really is a great help.

It was also very misty on the day so I did not get many good photos. I was amazed at the age of the people climbing the wall and even saw an elderly lady in a wheel chair and 3 of her male relatives were carrying her up the steps. It is not all steps, a lot of it is a pathway but it is still very steep. Also the steps are not all uniform in size, some are very short and others were that tall they would have come nearly to my knees so poor Andrew had to help me a little. I was also amazed at the dress of some of the ladies. I saw a few in stockings and HIGH HEELS! Actually on the sightseeing we did I saw many in stockings and high heels.

There were literally thousand of people there that day and most of them nationals. There were 3 cement pits about 20 feet deep and they each held about 3 bears. There were a few dead trees in the pits for the bears to get off the cement but that was all. There were carrot pieces around the wall for the tourists to feed the bears. Both Andrew and I were so disgusted I did not even take photos of it.

I have to say that The Wall is really impressive and is one of the wonder of the world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

China 3 June 2010

Ventured out on my own today. Took a taxi to somewhere I can not pronounce. Taxis are very cheap here. The ride took about 20 minutes and it was only 16 Yuen (about $2.30 Aussie)

I went to a section they call Walking Street and there is only traffic on the cross streets so I still had to be a little careful. There is really large Isetan department store at one end and about 10 blocks down, turn to the left and another 12 blocks on is a huge Walmart and all the way the streets are lined with shops of every conceivable kind. When I was nearly at Walmart I realised there was a small people mover.

I caught the people mover back and it was only 2 yuen (about 30 cents Aussie.) The drivers of these vehicles give way to NOTHING. It was more scary than being on a bus or in a taxi.

I am preparing the evening meal tonight and I am making my famous Rice Noodle Salad. Hope they like it.

The police stand under a large umbrella at major cross streets. I am not sure that they are directing the traffic and there does not seem to be much control from them either. I think they are only there to be on hand in case of an accident.

Saw an ambulance trying to get through traffic and no one would give way to it!

On the trip home the taxi came out of a lane way in front of a bus and the bus was so close I could see the whites of the eyes of the driver. I am not counting the near accidents I think I am in because I try not to look.

There is no handicap parking here but that does not matter as everyone parks wherever they want anyway.

This all sounds so negative doesn't it? It is not really so bad. I am giving the phrasebook a good going over and my charades are getting better. I have heard laughter as I walk away but I like to think it is because they believe they were so good at helping me (Yeah right!).

I went into a cake shop and bought a pastry. It was like a Danish pastry and had cheese, bacon, corn kernels AND ICING. It really was delicious so I bought some for dessert tonight. If Andrew and Mandy do not like it I will scoff the lot. I was in Isetan grocery section wanting to buy fish sauce. I finished up with 5 people who could not speak English and me who can say "hello" and "thank you" in Chinese trying to work out if they had it or not.

They have the most beautiful fans here. Just the really cheap ones (under a dollar Aussie) are so pretty. I bought two really good ones when we were in Beijing at a Chinese Craft store.