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    Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - (K) Humorous and thorough history and science behind ultrarunners and long-distance running
    *****
    Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - (K) An autobiography covering his childhood, years as a freedom fighter and incarceration. Inspiring and informative
    *****
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - (K&T) A mystery set in Barcelona involving an old book, a failed writer and murder
    *****
    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
    ***
    The Chinese by Jesper Becker - (K&T) Modern history of my peeps, from the cultural revolution to the many failed economic and social attempts to move the country forward
    ***
    Setting the Table by Danny Meyer - A "how-to" on hospitality and business acumen by the restaurateur behind such NY institutions as the Shake Shack and Union Square Grill
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    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.
    **

Out of Control

Diesel says I should post again because our readers like my bitchy posts. And being that I’m pms’ing and my peeps are driving me crazy with their capricious ways, I decided to share with you my latest outburst of frustration.

We arrived in Beijing today and checked into our hotel. We get our card keys, whereupon our room numbers are scribbled: 6411 and 6409.

We get on the elevator. We look for the button for the 6th floor. It is nowhere to be found. In fact, our building only has 4 floors.

WTF? Continue reading

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TV

I just turned on the TV to find Crocodile Dundee. Ah, this should be good. I haven’t seen a movie in ages, even an old one.

And then Croc Dundee spoke…in Mandarin.

😦

And we watched the whole thing and it was oddly comforting.

It’s Not All Fun and Games

We get a lot of posts and comments on this blog and facebook about how much fun we seem to be having or how happy we look. All in all, this whole experience is quite and adventure and a lot of fun, but that doesn’t mean that it is always awesome. Sometimes we’re bored. Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes Kelly cries.  And sometimes it just plain sucks.

We spent days trying to arrange a trip to Tibet where we talked to multiple different travel agents and got vastly different prices, are told vastly different things about what the laws are and then after all that, to see the whole thing go up in flames because somebody(or multiple people) misrepresented their services and/or to tried and get more money out of you, is incredibly frustrating and not something I normally have to go through. Back in the states, people are generally forthcoming and knowledgeable about what the sell. Continue reading

TIC: This is China

This is China

When you get frustrated by the inefficiency, lack of cleanliness or misinformation from all sides, TIC.  You just say it to each other. This is something we learned from some Chinese-Canadian students traveling through China…

You hotel offers free internet service. You ask for the password. The reception has no idea what the password is or how to get one
TIC

Your driver honks at every passing car, cyclist and pedestrian, even if they are not in his way
TIC

Your driver drives the car in the middle of the road on 2 and 3 lane roads, centering on the broken white lines, only moving over when somebody honks at him or yielding to on-coming. traffic
TIC

You have one driver who drives like a bat out of hell along a broken road, swerving to miss fallen rocks, with no guard-rails and a shoulder that plunges 1000 ft to the river below while talking constantly into his cell phone
TIC Continue reading

Tibet

on the West side of China lies Tibet. An enormous and controversial province that is the home of the Tibetan people and has been controlled by China for something like 2000 of the last 3000 years.

Look. I’m not a historian. Check it out on wikipedia if you’re interested.

One of the goals of our trip had been to go to Lhasa by the new high-speed and high-altitude train that opened in 2006. The train reaches an altitude of 15,000 feet, crossing a plateau of permafrost and is a marvel of modern engineering taking only 48 hours to reach Lhasa from Beijing. Continue reading

Lijiang

Naxi (Minority Group) Women Hanging Out

Naxi (Minority Group) Women Hanging Out

Lijiang is another new “ancient” city. Well, maybe I shouldn’t put it that way. Certainly some parts of the old city are original but many parts are “restored” to the point of having almost no connection, other than look, to the town built almost 1000 years ago. Continue reading

Dali

The next day we took the bus to Dali. We took a cab to the bus station and hopped what Kelly’s dad called a “pirate” bus. It wasn’t air-conditioned and it struggled to go up the steepest hills, but there was ample legroom and it wasn’t all that uncomfortable. That is until about 3 hours into the journey, I started to smell something foul.

I looked over and noticed the lady in the next row holding her daughter over a plastic trashcan in a squatting position. The kid was peeing. She held her there for a few minutes so maybe she was trying to do something else. I don’t know and I try not to think about it. The mother thought nothing of this maneuver and didn’t even take the “trash” out at the next stop! I was happy to be near a window but a few people in front of me were not so lucky and they didn’t seem to appreciate the situation.

The bus driver had said it would take 5 hours and go all the way to Dali, but in fact it took almost 7 hours and only went to Xiaguan, and then the taxi driver dropped us off on the wrong side of the old city, but we found a nice Youth Hostel that was clean, cheap, and was staffed by incredibly friendly girls who helped us with all of our questions without trying to pitch us on all their different services. We did look at a couple places mentioned in the Lonely Planet but they were dirty and overpriced and throughout our trip in Yunnan, we would learn that our generally trusted bible would be horribly inaccurate and out of date. We no longer feel too bad about buying a “copy” from a bookstore in Ho Chi Minh city for $2 USD.

Yes, I’m sure Mr. Chow, born in 1942, felt a little strange being surrounded mostly by a bunch of backpacker kids, but there were a few older Chinese there and the rooms were much cleaner than anything local that we found and after a few months, we’ve generally decided to spend a little bit more to have a modern toilet, warm bed, and clean room, even it means not having a true “local” experience. 

Dali IS a tourist destination, though most tourists here are Chinese and while there is a small pocket of foreigners, it isn’t anything like some of the tourist hubs of SE Asia. The girls at the hostel pointed us to a “garden” restaurant where we had some of the best meals of our trip and we spent the next couple days visiting the brand new “ancient” Three Pagodas that while built just a few years ago, are very impressive…and massive…and riding bikes around the countryside, which was filled with farmers working their fields and made for a very peaceful afternoon.

We really liked Dali. Yes, it is touristy, but not ridiculously so and it is easy to escape the old town on a bicycle, which still has a lot of charm. In hindsight, we probably should have spent another day here. But we were worried about getting to Shangrilia to late to get our Tibet permits made in time to catch a flight on the 19th and so we left the next day on the morning bus to Lijiang.