Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Osaka days 22 - 23

I was looking forward to Osaka, because I remembered being here before and getting around by myself without too much difficulty and seeing a lot. But this time I find it more confusing.  I’ve been trying to figure out why that is, and have decided it is due mostly to the weather.  Last time we were here in February.  I wasn’t expecting it to be warm and was surprised to find flowers and plum trees in bloom. I did lots of walking in parks and in the streets. This time it is January and it is quite cold, and often rainy or windy. So walking around outside isn’t as pleasant.  And walking around inside is very confusing! There are so many underground malls that interconnect. If one knew one’s way around it would be a good way to avoid the cold, but I don’t know my way around and though there are signs in English, they often don’t indicate what I am looking for.  Here is a typical picture of a mall. I think this is above ground, but the underground malls look similar.

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This morning I decided to go look for a shrine that was near one of the big subway stations/shopping areas. I found it on the map on my phone, which I took with me, but once I got off the subway, I could not figure out which way to go.  I found maps on the walls, but could not relate those in any way either to my phone or to my position in real life. The map just did not look like the underground intersection I was standing in. I went outside and braved the wind and was able to get my location by gps, but it wasn’t accurate enough for me to be sure which side of the street I was on. After about 45 minutes of this, a kind lady offered to help. I was able to remember the name of the shrine, because I had recently seen it on a sign, so I told her and she knew what I meant and indicated that it was the way she was going, so I walked along with her for a block or so and she showed me to the entrance, which didn’t look like what I had seen on Google street view or on the website I’d looked at. 

Here is what I found after entering the shrine.

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And here are a couple more pictures I took there. After spending so much time looking for it, I felt I had to at least take a bunch of pictures.

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This big marble sphere was rotating.  I think that shows in the photo.  I could not figure out how it was doing that.

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This shrine has a story with it, which I didn’t get, but it has to do with a lovers’ suicide. Here is a statue of the lovers.

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I left there on a small lane heading towards another park on my map.

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This was a small park, which I reached by taking several small and not particularly interesting streets.

I had been on my feet for a while by then, so I found a bench in the sun and sat down.

Before long I saw a school group come by and stop on the far side of the park, then a second group came into the park. These were little kids. Each one was holding a rolled up jump rope. Their teacher gave them some instructions and then they spread out and started jumping. One or two had done this before, but most were beginners.

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All of the children wore identical navy blue smocks over their clothes.

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The little girl in pink tights just couldn’t get the hang of it.  She would flip the rope in front of her feet and jump over it, then flip it around again and repeat, but she never got a fluid motion going. Everything came to a full stop before she jumped. She tried and tried though.

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From there I walked to another park on my map. The middle of this park was just an open space, but there were some very colorful flower beds near the entrances.

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Here’s the open space and a modern building beyond.

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From here I walked back to the station, where I had started out.  I didn’t have any trouble finding it, but once inside I did wander around quite a bit before finding my train.

Here’s another typical street view.

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And this is a very common sight—imitations of all the dishes the restaurant serves, I think.

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So that was my day today.  I bought myself some delicious pastries which I ate in the station and in the hotel. We bought a French press and some coffee so we could make coffee in the hotel.  They provide set ups for green tea, but not for coffee, so we bought our own.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Osaka, Japan

We’re in Osaka, Japan, now, which is nice, but I’m having trouble convincing the internet here that I actually want English and I don’t speak or read Japanese, so I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep up this blog while we are here.

Yesterday we visited Osaka Castle.

Its history goes back to the 16th century, but it has burned down and been rebuilt several times.

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We have actually been here 4 days, but two of them are just a blur, as I came down with a bad cold.  I was quite unhappy about that, but one can’t expect to go around the world and not have some troubles like that. The cold started on the day we left Beijing- Wednesday. I wasn’t expecting it, so didn’t have my zicam handy. I started taking it as soon as we landed in Osaka. I rested mostly Thursday, but was pretty miserable Friday. By Saturday I was much better and went out in the afternoon with Jim. Sunday I was over it and feel fine today. Although we have been out and I’ve carried my camera with me I didn’t take any pictures until we got to the castle yesterday.

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Osaka castle has two moats—the outer one with water in it and the inner one is dry.

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Here we are leaving the castle grounds and heading back into the city of Osaka.  The castle is right in the middle of the city.

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We walked along the river and then crossed to an island, which has the city hall and offices and some gardens on it.

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Here is a side view of the City Hall.  The sun was in the wrong place to get a photo of the front of the building.

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These are real flowers—blooming in January. It is a bit warmer here than it was in Beijing, though it is still definitely winter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stone Forest, Yunnan, China

Kathy took me to see a natural park with unusual stone formations, called the Stone Forest.


It was a fun outing. Kathy had been there before and knew there weren’t many places to eat there, so we packed a picnic. Another woman, Nancy, who was visiting from Texas, with us. Kathy hired a van to take us there. It took about 2 hours to get there from Kunming.


 We started out in an area Kathy hadn’t been before. The trails took us through narrow gorges and up and down lots and lots of steps. Most of the time we didn’t know where we were.



It was raining a little, so when we found a picnic table with 3 dry seats we decided to stop and have our picnic. We had ham and cheese sandwiches, Mandarin oranges, and dried peas.


We put the tablecloth on the dry half of the table. After our lunch we walked around that area some more squeezing at times through narrow openings in the rock. When we came to a fork sometimes Kathy and I would go out in two directions to try to decide which one we should take.  At one point I headed up some steps to explore and Kathy went down from the same point.  I came to some more smaller steps and kept going. 

In the photo above you see three round steps and then can just make out the next few going up.  The whiter spots are the steps. At the top of those I came to this narrow “bridge” across to another rock.  I’m not generally afraid of heights, but this bridge was a bit scary. It was a long way down on either side.

From the top I had a view in all directions over the stone forest.



Here’s the path I was standing on. It’s only about 8” wide in the narrow section.



I went back down to follow Kathy on the other trail. Here you see Kathy and Nancy in red and blue on the trail below me.



After this Nancy decided she’d had enough, so we took her back to the entrance and Kathy and I went back to a different area of the forest. On the way we saw this little guy posing for a photo, so I snapped one too.


In this area, there is a lake with trails and bridges zig-zagging through it.





The rain stopped and the sun came out.



 This is called Elephant Rock.

Then we climbed to this pagoda overlooking this section of the park.

Here’s a view looking down on the tops of the stones.

And looking out across the “forest” of stones.

If you go visit Kathy in Kunming, she will probably take you to see this forest too.  It’s well worth the trip.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 8-9 Dali - continued

Kathy and Gregg have gone to work today.  I decided to stay in their apartment and use their computer this morning. They'll be back for lunch and then we'll go out somewhere. 
This is a continuation of the day I started in the previous post.  We met up with the other ladies and all took a bus to the old part of Dali, where we walked around and then had delicious pizza made in a wood-fired oven, some of the best Pizza I've ever had.
You might notice that I've changed the template for this blog. I figured out I could use larger pictures, but needed to make the blog wider.  It makes the previous entries look funny, but I hope it is an improvement.

 This is not a market, but a restaurant.  You chose the fresh ingredients you would like them to cook for you and in a very short time your meal is ready to eat. We didn't eat at this restaurant, but did eat at another one with a similar system, though in that one the fresh ingredients were in a refrigerator with glass doors. The meal was wonderful.


The women who are members of the ethnic minorities in this part of China still normally dress in their traditional costume. Here are two women in traditional costume and a third carrying traditional baskets on their backs. This was a fairly common sight.

 The old town of Dali is characterized by buildings in the traditional style. It is a popular tourist destination, so there are lots of shops selling local crafts and many restaurants.The young women here are dressed the way most young women in China dress.



Here is a very narrow alley with tie-dyed tablecloths and hangings as well as embroidered items. The women here are helping one woman tie her baby onto her back, but it's hard to see.

A typical street in Dali Old Town.

Another street in the old town.

This is one of the tie-dyed and embroidered tablecloths.

At the top left here are 3 baby carriers in the traditional style. We saw many of these in use.

After our delicious Pizza supper we walked around the old town a bit more. It was a busy place after dark with lots of lights and restaurants.


The next day this woman who is a member of the Yi minority and who works for our host family in Dali, prepared a meal for us.  She dresses this way every day. 

 Here we are sitting around the table about to start on lunch. Of course it was delicious.


This is a school we visited this day. These women are some of the women Kathy works with in Kunming or who work in Dali. The women here are from New Zealand, China, Singapore, USA and Canada.

 A park we walked through on the way back to the bus stop.


The streets in the newer part of Dali are wide and lined with more modern buildings.
We had another meal about 5:00. We weren't particularly hungry so we just had fried rice with a couple other dishes. We wanted to eat with our hosts once more before going back to the bus station for the 4-hour ride back to Kunming.


I have some pictures of Kunming and will be taking more, but am not sure when I'll get those posted here.