The Longmen Grottoes

Hello all! It has been quite a while since I’ve updated and I wish I could blame that on the jet lag, but that’s certainly not the case. I arrived back from the US on July 2nd, so a little over four weeks ago. I will be writing more about that experience later since I wrote some things down I wanted to talk about concerning my reentry into American culture and such, but for now I just want to show you guys my photos from Longmen.

Sometime around mid-May a friend and I went to the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang. The grottoes are famous for housing some of China’s most famous sculptures of Buddha—there are over 17,000 in total, ranging in sizes from some as small as your thumb to others larger than your house! Many of the Buddhas are hundreds to thousands of years old. They were all truly a sight to behold. It’s a very touristy area and therefore the tickets were a bit expensive, but the park itself was totally worth it.

Because the sight has essentially become a tourist trap, I really didn’t feel like I was visiting a very spiritual place. It wasn’t very quiet because there were a good number of people visiting, but I suppose that’s for the best because it didn’t feel like we were disturbing anybody trying to pray (which sometimes happens at smaller temples and sites), nor did it feel like we were intruding upon holy grounds. The photos don’t perfectly capture the enormity of the park or some of the Buddhas , for that matter. But I hope you enjoy the photos!


Beijing–Day 3 (The Great Wall)

Welcome back reader! This post will conclude the retelling of my shenanigans in the capital of China. We actually didn’t leave until the evening of the fourth day, but much of that day was spent sitting in the train station and wandering around through the biggest mall in Beijing. On the third day, however, we set off for the Great Wall!

Before leaving Kaifeng, some research was done concerning the Great Wall. The closest section of the wall to Beijing is Badaling making it the most visited section. There are many other sections you can visit, but they are further away and are much less convenient to travel to unless you’re with a tour group. Several modes of transportation are available to get to the wall, such as a handful of buses that leave from Tian’anmen to Badaling, a train line that only goes to the wall and back, and ridiculously overpriced taxis. We opted for the train because trains have never let us down in China before, and they’re usually a bit faster and more comfortable than the buses. To catch the train to Badaling, we had to go the Beijing North Station. While there, we ran into another fellow who was travelling to the Great Wall but spoke no Chinese. This was a problem for him at the ticket window because the teller didn’t speak any English, so we helped him out. The tickets were surprisingly cheap—each one was under $1! Unfortunately, we missed the first train and had to wait a few hours for the next one.

The train ride took about an hour or so, and we arrived at the Badaling station around 1 PM or so. From the station, it’s a good mile or so up to the entrance of the wall itself. It was surprisingly chilly that day: the sky was filled with clouds and there was a pretty constant wind blowing, but I suppose that’s better than unbearably hot weather. There was also a mist or fog that settled over the mountains that made photo-taking a bit frustrating. I was really hoping to get some nice, clear shots of the wall winding over and through the mountains, but most of them didn’t come out so well due to the obnoxiously passive grayness that stubbornly covered the landscape the entire time we were there. But it’s okay—I’m not bitter.

When we finally reached the entrance to wall, we decided to go to the right. Because the wall is, well, a wall, when you enter it at Badaling you enter in the middle and can choose which side you’d like to climb. I want to take a moment to briefly comment on the use of the word “climb” when in context of the Great Wall. Before I myself climbed the Great Wall, I always thought that people who used the verb “climb” to describe their journey on the wall were over exaggerating the effort required to tackle a big old fence. I mean, it has stairs, right? Right. But after visiting the wall, I can honestly say “climb” is the most accurate word to describe how this wonder of the east is tackled. There are parts of it that do not have stairs yet the surface is slanted at a 50 degree angle or so, and the bricks are quite old and have become slick and worn with age. At the sections where there are stairs, they are inconsistently spaced and are often not level. Some of the stairs might be only a few inches tall and others over a foot. The only thing more difficult than going up the wall is going down it—particularly on those stretches where the Chinese felt stairs weren’t necessary even though the wall was slanting at a 45 degree angle. In fact, most people just ran down those parts because it was easier than taking your time and trying to walk down it.

We hadn’t picked a specific spot to end at or specified a certain amount of time we wanted to stay on the wall, so we ended up turning around at North Tower 8. It’s one of the higher points of that section of the wall, and we were pretty tired by that point so after resting awhile and getting some photos, we turned around and worked our way back down. There’s a cable car that goes up pretty far along the wall, so that’s always an option if one is pretty tired and doesn’t feel like walking all the down. They also had something that looked like a little roller coaster that one could take down if they so chose. Dannysha and I declined these options but did take another way down: along one side of the wall, a newer and less intense path has been constructed that lacks the crazy dips and uneven stairs that make the wall a challenge. There are still many, many steps though.

We caught the 5:30 train back into Beijing, grabbed some dinner and then headed off to Wangfujie. We weren’t heading there originally, but I could find the street market I’d originally looked up and so we ended up at one of China’s biggest tourist streets. It was lined with many different stores and restaurants, some of which I knew and some I didn’t. We did find a little night market down one of the side streets, but it wasn’t all that impressive. Some vendors had live scorpions on sticks that they would cook for you if you so desired. I didn’t get any photos of this, however, because it was really all stuff I’d seen in Shanghai.

The next day we checked out of the hostel, went to the Joy City Mall, got some lunch and much needed Starbucks, then headed off to the train station after we grew tired of looking at overpriced American brands. This ended our trip to Beijing. I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and hope you enjoy the photos below! Again, the weather wasn’t perfect but that’s part of traveling. I hope to update again in a few days, so until then, 加油!

Beijing–Day 2 (The Summer Palace/The Temple of Heaven)

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed my photos from the previous post highlighting my first day in Beijing! On the second day we set out to explore The Summer Palace and the The Temple of Heaven.

The morning started off a little rough–the old woman living in the same room as us woke up around seven and began rifling through all of her bags for something. This was a task she did on a constant basis. When she would get back to the room she would look through her bags, when she woke up in the morning she would look through her bags–and these weren’t even the bags she left in the hostel! They were the ones she had with her the entire day! I think Mary Poppins could learn a thing or two about magic purses from this woman. Anyway, we left the hostel and found the weather to be less than desirable: it was raining. Just harder than a drizzle and enough to get you pretty soaked if you were out in it long, but not hard enough to cause us to want to change our plans. While walking to the subway station, we stopped at a local restaurant to try some dandan noodles. They were not as tasty as I thought they were going to be, and seemed a little bit overpriced. After breakfast we bought a large umbrella to share that we didn’t end up using because by the time we got off of the subway at the appropriate stop, the rain had subsided.

I want to talk about the Beijing metro system for a minute. It is absolutely huge, and can be very convenient. Every single stop is only two kuai, which means one ticket costs about $0.33, and the price is constant whether you’re just going one stop away or twenty. I found that to be very nice. Some of the trains had AC and others did not. Some of the lines were consistently crowded while others were not. The biggest problem I encountered with the metro system was purchasing the tickets and the machines you put your ticket into to allow you in and out of the system. The machines to buy tickets would only take the one kuai coins, so any one kuai paper notes were essentially useless. They were often out of change, so you could not use anything other than the coins at times. Towards the end of our time in Beijing, the almost all of the machines were broken and we had to go to the women at the counters and buy our tickets there. When we were exiting the system, sometimes the electronic turnstiles would eat our cards, emit a high pitched screeching noise but not let us out. Other times they just wouldn’t accept the card. It was a bit frustrating, but mostly just an annoyance. The metros in Shanghai and Taipei were much better.

When we got to the Summer Palace, the rain had cleared up but a sort of mist or smog had then settled around Beijing. I say smog because the US Embassy reports that the level of pollution in Beijing is usually around 180 or so, which is pretty bad. So the weather wasn’t as nice as I’d hoped it would be, but at least the umbrella wasn’t necessary. The Summer Palace was built for Empress Cixi and she would go there in summer to relax and hold parties. It is without a doubt the most glamorous and exuberant summer house I’ve ever seen, but I suppose that’s what one would expect after living in the Forbidden City. We only ended up going through about half of the gardens, and that alone took around four hours. Parts of it were very confusing–I recommend buying a map once inside. I would also recommend buying the comprehensive ticket at the front gate. You’ll end up saving yourself a few bucks. The gardens were absolutely wonderful. In the middle of the lake is a small island that you can either walk to via a bridge or rent a paddleboat and paddle your way to it. There are many structures surrounding the lake, along with different shops and monuments and structures. We visited the Buddhist temple and some other buildings along the way. All of them are absolutely wonderful, built in the traditional Chinese style with trees and flowers all around. After about 4 hours, though, we were ready to move on.

We grabbed something to eat and then headed out for The Temple of Heaven. The park surrounding the temple came as a bit of a surprise, because it very much reminded me of American parks in the sense that there were large manicured areas of nothing but grass. They have grass in China, but it is very coarse and they cut it maybe once every two months, so it’s not like what most people have in their lawns. Besides the grass, there wasn’t much going on in the park. It was very flat and very boring with lots of people yelling “HELLO! LOOKY!” as they waved novelty items in your face, but they thinned out as you got closer to the Temple. The entrance cost was pretty low, which is fair because there really isn’t much to see at the temple. It’s famous in China partially because of it’s shape–I’ve seen at least 20 other temples by this point, and their shape is always rectangular, but the Temple of Heaven is circular. Inside is a beautiful sculpture of a Buddha, but they said that photo taking wasn’t permitted so I did not grab any photos of it. Inside another building off to the side of the temple there was a description of the sky worshiping process. What I gathered was that the people would sacrifice gold, jade, and other people to the gods and light seven fires and do some other spooky stuff. The Chinese description seemed to be more in depth than the English translation, but I couldn’t comprehend much of it.

We left around 5:30 or so and headed back to the hostel to eat dinner. Our hostel was a good half mile away from the nearest subway station, with lots of restaurants and shops in between. On our way back we stopped to get some authentic Chinese wonton soup. Unlike the dandan noodles, I was not disappointed. It was amazing. Because they’re essentially jiaozi in a broth, you can get may different kinds of wontons. I had some sort of pork wonton that was reminiscent of those that Chinese restaurants serve in the States. After dinner we were pretty exhausted and quickly passed out in the hostel, thus ending our second day in Beijing.

A word for those planning to visit Beijing–most of the tourist sites close around 5 or 6 PM, so plan accordingly. Enjoy the photos below, and be sure to come back tomorrow to read about our day at the Great Wall!

Beijing–Day 1 (Tian’anmen/Forbidden City and The Olympic Park)

Well hello there! It has been quite some time since I’ve updated my blog, and for that I sincerely apologize. After getting back from Taiwan, I began preparing for the HSK which is a Chinese Language Proficiency Test. Before Dannysha and I left for Taipei, the school told us we would be taking HSK level 4, but when we returned they informed us we would be taking level 5, which is much more difficult. We took the exam on May 12th, and until we reached that date much of our free time was spent studying, though I did take a little trip to Taiyuan to free my mind a bit (I’ll make a post about that later). So, again, I apologize for my absence, but I plan to post quite a bit before I leave, particularly since my departure is looming ever closer.

About a week ago, Dannysha and I jumped on sleeper train to head up to Beijing, the capital of China and probably the most famous city in the country. From Kaifeng, it’s about a 14 hour train ride to get to the thriving metropolis. Fortunately, this ride wasn’t so bad–we left around 8 PM on a Friday and arrived around 10:30 AM the next day. This was not my first time on a sleeper train, but I did take a photo for your viewing pleasure. They aren’t necessarily the most comfortable, but it’s way better than a hard seat. What I really enjoy about them is that people won’t bother you because you’re white–they’ll still talk about you, but people book the sleepers because they want to sleep, and sleep they do.

When we got to Beijing, the first order of business was to get to the hostel. We found ours off of and the cost per night was only around $6 per person. This is, of course, for the dorm style room which means you’ll be rooming with other people and using a community bathroom. But for $6 a night, I am absolutely okay with that. We took the subway to the appropriate stop, missed the entrance to the hostel at first but eventually stumbled upon it. The girl working the front desk knew very little English (not a problem for us, of course) and was not very helpful. She forgot to give us our key and gave us the password to the wifi begrudgingly. When we entered into the room, we noticed that there was indeed an air conditioner (just as it said online) but it did not work. There was also a 127-year-old woman that was apparently living there. She seemed nice at first and it’s always useful to practice Chinese–I found the Beijing accent to be much easier to understand than the Henan accent–but then she just became a bit annoying. She would ask us where things were in Beijing even though we explained we were just there to sight-see, and she would go to sleep very late with the TV blaring and then have the audacity to be the first one up the next morning, usually clambering out of bed around 7. The bathrooms were nice–but there was only one shower per restroom. This was apparently not a very popular hostel because this never became an issue, but the shower itself wasn’t too pleasant: the temperature options were Direct From the Arctic or Straight Out of Hell. Needless to say, I will not be patronizing that hostel again.

After checking in and putting our stuff down, we decided to head out for lunch at the fine American establishment, Burger King. No, seriously. It was in the gourmet food section of the mall instead of the food court. Burger Kings are much more difficult to find in China than McDonald’s and are far superior in quality in that they are less Asian and retain more of the American fast food feel. After dining on a delicious Western meal, we set out for the Forbidden City. Tian’anmen is located directly in front of the Forbidden City, so it’s essentially a two-for-one deal. It was a Saturday so the palace was pretty packed. I was a little bit disappointed, to be honest. The Forbidden city has three main palaces, and two out of the three were blocked off for renovation. It also wasn’t quite as tall and grand as I thought it would be, the Chinese movie Curse of the Golden Flower being the cause for my disillusion (which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it). But it was much much bigger than I thought it was going to be. The spaces in between the palaces were absolutely huge, and it’s not hard to believe that there actually are 9,999 rooms within it’s walls. My favorite places in the Forbidden City were definitely the smaller alleyways in between buildings. The walls were maybe 30 feet high on either side, with random gates and intersections that seemed to have been placed there for the sole purpose of confusing the person wandering through them. After meandering through many of the palaces and smaller chambers, we exited into Tian’anmen. Tian’anmen also wasn’t too impressive, though it was also quite large. There were some nice looking buildings surrounding it, but because there was not even a sliver of shade to rest under and it was about 90 degrees that day we left pretty quickly.

That night we went to the Olympic Park to check out the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. Since the 2008 Olympics, the Water Cube has been converted into a large indoor water park. The cost of admission running on the high side, so we settled for some photos outside. The Bird’s Nest is still mainly a giant stadium, though a 5-star restaurant has been installed somewhere inside, and I’m fairly certain there’s a large gym in there too. You can take a tour of the stadium during the day, but, like the Water Cube, it’s a bit expensive. The park was nice though–lots of people selling cheap novelty items, many people were rollerblading, and most interestingly, there were some karaoke set ups. People came out with their own flatscreens, generators, microphones, etc and set up a little karaoke area. You told the guy what song you wanted to sing, paid him the appropriate amount, and then waited for your song to come up and sing. It was fun to watch, but looked very intimidating to participate in.

And that concludes day 1 in Beijing! Tomorrow I plan on writing about day 2 and post the corresponding photos!

Taiwan–Day 3

Hello all! 新年快乐!It is now the year of the Snake! I really have to be honest—I was let down by Taiwan’s celebration of the New Year. There were almost no fireworks that I could see, or hear. It’s very possible I was simply in the wrong place to see them, but I was let down nonetheless. I would recommend, therefore, those wishing to experience a Chinese New Year to go to mainland China.

Today we wandered around the city for a bit, along with visiting some famous places in Taipei. For lunch we stopped by the Modern Toilet restaurant. The food wasn’t outstanding, but let’s be honest—you go there for the experience. After that we went to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. It was pretty outstanding. The crowds weren’t terrible at all, particularly for this being a holiday in which many people seem to go sightseeing and such. It was a fairly exhausting day filled with much walking and photo-taking, my favorites included down below.

So far, I am absolutely loving Taipei. It’s not really as clean as Shanghai was, but it just seems much more…me. I can’t really describe it, but I just feel a sense of belonging here. I know I said the same for Shanghai, but this is true love, I think. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

My Journey to Taiwan–Pit Stop in Xiamen

I am now comfortably settled into a small, nice hostel for the night in the rather large city of Xiamen. It was no easy trip getting here, though. In preparations for the trip, I purchased a large travel book bag from taobao to act as a second piece of luggage. I over-packed it and had some issues with straps–mainly that they unwound themselves from the small plastic device that held them together. Because we only had an hour and a half to catch the train, I decided to bother with the straps later. On our way out of the dorm, a wheel fell off my carry-on. I checked to see if would be fixable, but it seemed irreparable and we now had about one hour and twenty minutes to get to the train station. So instead of wheeling one bag and carrying another on my shoulders, I ended up carrying them both to the station. Fortunately, I had a 26 hour train ride to rest my weary muscles.

When I woke up this morning on the train, we were in Southern China and the view outside the window had changed drastically. It looked sort of like Jurassic Park out there. I grabbed my bag to find my camera and take a few photos, but could not find it. I apparently left it in my dorm, along with my beard trimmers. By this point, I was fed up with this trip. When we got to the Xiamen station, we grabbed a taxi and gave him the directions for the hostel we wanted. He took us to the correct street but not to the hostel itself. We asked shop vendors in the area where it was, but no one seemed to know. We opted for hostel number two then, but our “hostel” according to Google turned out to be an apartment complex. At that particular point in time, I just wanted to rip my beard off my face. My luggage was broken so I was carrying everything around a few large streets in a large city I didn’t know, and we couldn’t find a hostel for the evening. I was ready to call it quits and traipse my way to the nearest McDonald’s (they’re open 24/7) and camp out there for the evening when Dannysha miraculously got the address for a different hostel on her phone. When we finally hailed a cab, I told him the street and he took us to the hostel. I didn’t even mention the name of the place or the address besides the street name–I guess being foreign travelers is enough sometimes.

We got a place to stay for the evening at a decent price, and I found a new carry-on that seems of decent quality for a decent price, so I’d say things are looking up right now. As for forgetting my camera, I brought my iPhone so I plan to just use the camera on that. The photos won’t be as good, but they’ll suffice. Wish us luck for leg two of the journey!

My Journey to Taiwan

Hello all! I’ve been absent on here for a while, and I must apologize for that. I’ve become quite lethargic over winter break and have sincerely neglected my blog. Not much has been happening here in Kaifeng. Almost all of the students have left, so campus is incredibly quiet and empty. Because the school’s student body is the main source of business for the shops and restaurants surrounding campus, many of them have closed until the spring semester begins. Thankfully, my journey to Taiwan begins tomorrow which means a plethora of tantalizing food stuffs will soon begin their journey through my stomach. I’ve already done my research–Taipei has more than a handful of Mexican restaurants. I cannot put into words my elation at this discovery.


Even though the promise of Taiwan shimmers with the foods of the world and a thriving metropolis, the journey to this promised land will be long and arduous. No, really. My train from Kaifeng will leave tomorrow around 2pm and will arrive in Xiamen around 4pm the next day. Yes, that is a 26 hour train ride. China has these wonderful sleeper trains where they have bunk beds stacked three high instead of seats, but I was not lucky enough to get one of those. I only found out a few days ago that there’s a Chinese site where one can reserve tickets and then pick them up at designated location, so by the time I was able to buy tickets at the office due to the time restraints (refer to an earlier entry about this) the sleeper train was completely booked. Before hand, the only site I’d been able to find concerning train tickets in China charged an outlandish service fee and could not guarantee the actual tickets. Obviously, I elected not to purchase anything from that site.

After arriving in Xiamen, I’ll be staying in a hostel for one night. The next morning I’ll be taking a ferry to Kinmen Island and will then be taking a plane to Taiwan. Total travel time: about 48 hours from point A to point B. The reason I’m not simply flying with a commercial airline to Taiwan from mainland China is because a one-way ticket with one of those would have been more than my tickets to and from Taiwan.


Well, I should get back to packing. I may have dropped the ball on my train tickets, but I’ll be damned if I leave my lucky socks in Kaifeng. Look forward to some great photos from Taiwan, and possibly a check-in in Xiamen! Until next time.


大家好!Last week I mentioned on Facebook that Kaifeng saw it’s first real snowfall of the year, and that I had the chance to go out and take a bunch of photos of the snow covering campus. I only uploaded my favorites here (along with one of me trying my hand at printing a kind of Chinese lithograph).

Christmas is quickly approaching, although it doesn’t feel like it much in Kaifeng. Some stores have Christmas trees displayed inside or put up some decorations, but the overall holiday atmosphere is severely lacking. I have yet to hear a single Christmas Carol or see any Christmas Lights put up, which are two of my favorite things about Christmas. All of the foreign students have been asked (by this I really mean coerced) into performing something for a holiday program the school is apparently having on Christmas Day. Despite my not wanting to have to perform anything, all of the foreigners are essentially being forced into it so at least we’ll all be able to laugh at each other. Our finals are just around the corner now, my first exam landing on the 7th of January. It seems extremely late by America’s standards because Chinese New Years is the biggest holiday of the year, and that is the holiday the Chinese school system works its semesters around. My second semester doesn’t begin until the end of February so I suppose I can deal with having class through my usual Christmas break. Happy holidays everyone, enjoy the holiday atmosphere, and let’s hope we make it through the impending Doomsday.



English Speaking Competition

A few weekends ago, I was invited by one of my Chinese friends to attend an English speaking competition. It was a little awkward at first because some of the people running the competition thought that I (along with a few of the other Americans in attendance) were judges, and we had to explain that we were just there to watch. There were a total of 13 contestants, and each contestant was to have a memorized speech no longer than 3 minutes prepared, and were then given a question that they had to answer in under two minutes. After this, the judges asked them questions concerning both their speech and the contestant’s answer to the question. I thought that watching this competition was going to be like pulling teeth, but it ended up being an incredibly eye-opening experience.

All of the contestants were students, naturally, and many spoke English rather well. This alone gave me renewed vigor and drive in my studies of Chinese because if these students can obtain such a firm grasp of the admittedly difficult English language, then I, surely, can become fluent in Chinese. Chinese is, after all, much easier than English particularly in terms of grammar. Listening to the students give their speeches really gave me insight into the Chinese way of thinking and (what feel to me as an American, at least) cultural abnormalities. Many students spoke of college life, and one topic in particular really stuck with me. It is still very rare in China for student to take out student loans to pay for their college education–the parents are supposed to provide that for their children. Working during the semester is also very frowned upon, because it would distract from studies. This contestant’s speech was about how he would like to do more for his parents right now, but he cannot. He can only see them every once in awhile, and how he wants to repay them for everything they’ve done for him, but he cannot because he’s still a student. So, he studies even harder–he wants to be the best student he can be so their money isn’t wasted and that he can find a good job after graduation to provide for them in their old age. I can’t say I’ve met a single student in the US who have a similar feeling of responsibility towards their parents concerning their grades or their future careers. Similarly, another contestant’s topic was that growing up means relinquishing your dreams and studying something you can use to find a good job to care for your family. This seemed like a very Chinese thing to say. Often in America I hear it said or see on television shows to “follow your dream”, even if it’s not very pragmatic. We don’t like telling people to put their dreams on the shelf and to get a job that isn’t glamorous or fun but pays bills because America is the Land of Opportunity (or used to be). Chinese people cannot afford to think like that, and so you are urged to go with the option that is more likely to produce the most financial gain. It isn’t necessarily that money brings you happiness in China, but money definitely brings you comfort, and that is something that many people still don’t have. In Kaifeng, many of the houses do not have heat or AC, and with temperatures currently at about 4 degrees Celsius, I can’t imagine these people are living in any sort of comfort.

Some of the contestants’ topics paralleled my own thoughts–one of the girls’ topics was that she thinks the media stresses thinness too much, especially in women. She stressed that everyone should love themselves for who they are and what they look like, and not to hate themselves for who social media reminds us we aren’t. This message is something that is really being stressed in America recently, and it just seemed so amazing to me that even in a culture completely different from my own and about 7000 miles apart that there are so many people who share similar ideas and views. It’s nice to know that, even on the other side of the world, there are people who, despite cultural differences and a language barrier, are just like me. 


Chrysanthemum Festival (Part 1)/Pizza Hut in China

大家好!我希望大家的身体是很好!Yesterday (October the 18th) began the start of this year’s Chrysanthemum Festival! During the past week or so skeletal sculptures were erected along the sidewalks and in front of gates and storefronts. They looked a bit odd at first, but things quickly became clear–they are now being used as vehicles to displays thousands and thousands of chrysanthemums. We had a small presentation about the festival in class, but I didn’t catch much of it. The orator was speaking pretty quickly, and I’m fairly certain smoke began wafting out of my ears towards the end of the speech because my brain was completely fried. I did understand that the city will be displaying the flowers for a month and that all of the foreigners are going to be taking a class trip to one of the historic parks next weekend to wander around and see the flowers.  It may be a tad on the boring side, but I plan to take many pictures.

This afternoon, we decided to go on an “adventure”. The original plan was to catch the number 6 bus out of town which would take us to the bank of the Yellow River. However, we arrived at the bus stop after it had been there for awhile so it was about as packed as it could get. We asked a local how long it would be until the next bus, and she told us it would be about 30-40 minutes, so we ditched the plan and began walking towards another park. By the time we got there the gates were about to close because it was 5 o’ clock at this point, so we opted for plan C which was to take a bus to the downtown area. This then turned into plan D. Plan D was exactly the same as plan C but instead of a bus we caught a cab because we didn’t want to waste our time with the bus. You’ve probably guessed by now that within our little group patience isn’t our strongest virtue.

We finally arrived downtown and walked around a bit, coming to rest at a crepe shop. It was pretty fantastic–they even used real whipped cream! That was a shocker, since almost all other sweet dairy products in China (ice cream, yogurt, smoothies) all have a fermented sour taste. Eventually, we found our way to the Pizza Hut in Kaifeng. They had some of the most interesting pizza topping combinations I have ever seen. This was also the classiest Pizza Hut I had ever been to, and the first time I have sat down to a meal in China with a butter knife included in the place setting. Fast food chains in China are not like the ones in America–they are some of the most expensive places to dine. A glass of soda at the Pizza Hut cost 12 kuai, whereas buying a bottle in a little restaurant would be about 1.5 kuai. And the meals seem outrageously expensive too–30 kuai for a chicken sandwich, compared to 4 kuai for a large bowl of beef noodles. The meal was a bit on the pricey side, but the thick, buttery crust and stringy, greasy cheese was worth every fen I paid. Nothing has tasted like home as that pizza. Also, if you would like to get a better feel for the decadence that is Pizza Hut in China, you can try looking at their website here.