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In the days after Joe and Du Xue’s nuptials, the lot of us (Joe, Du Xue, myself, Joe’s dad, Craig, and Du Xue’s brother) spent a few days milling around Ganyu taking in the sights. One such sight was a nearby mountain made popular in the story “Journey to the West.” Originally a Chinese folktale, this story has been made into a popular children’s book and has recently become a 3-D animated movie. The mountain itself, however, has always been in 3-D…something to which our several hours of hiking can attest.

Following his father’s example of hospitality put forth the previous day, Du Xue’s brother, Du Yang, was adamant about paying for everything: our taxi to the mountain, our admission to the mountain, bottled waters, and some fun and games on the hike up. The mountain was fairly developed with a paved trail and several monasteries, temples, and other sights along the way up to the top. A few roadside stands had archery games for those who wanted a break from hiking. Once we reached the top and enjoyed the scenic mountain tea terraces and the hazy riverbeds, we were relieved to find that the foot of the climb was only a short gondola ride away.

    

    

Lest we forget, there were actually a few monkeys on monkey mountain. Go figure, right? Anyway, not 100% what type of monkeys these guys are, but if you force me to guess, I’d say macaques. Professors Tappen and McNulty, if you for whatever reason are taking a break from teaching Anthro 1001 and to read this, please let me know the correct identification. As for the rest of us, we’ll just admire how cute they are.

    

   

On Tuesday we left Ganyu. Du Xue’s family had arranged a van to take us to the airport in Lianyungang. Craig and I parted company with Joe and his dad at the Shanghai airport, and the two of us continued onto Macau. We originally woke up at 6:30 that morning in Ganyu and traveled via cars, planes, trains, buses, and a ferry for nearly 15 hours before arrive in Macau. When all was said and done, we dumped our bags at the hotel and treated ourselves to a huge late night dinner at a nearby Korean restaurant.

Macau is a unique melting pot of different influences. Until recently a Portuguese colony, Macau gives off an “East meets West meets Vegas” kind of vibe. There are highrise apartments with clothes on the line on every block, the streets all have Portuguese names, and many of the tourist attractions here are either preserved colonial buildings, big open European style plazas, or casinos. In general, Macau seems pretty small and very walkable. We did much of our sightseeing yesterday before heading to Coloane, the much quieter, southern part of the Macau peninsula.

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We checked into our posada after some brief difficulties trying to figure out which bus stop we wanted, and found ourselves a big Portuguese meal in the village of Coloane. Our digs here are much swankier than in the hotel in which we stayed the first night.

Tomorrow morning and afternoon we’ll spend in Macau, taking the evening to fly to Bangkok, Thailand. Once there, we’ll connect with an old high school friend, Jean, before hitting up the beach town of Hua Hin for a weekend in the sun.

I hope everyone back home is doing well! Joe’s father, Tony, arrived in Shanghai a day late after an ice storm delayed flights in MSP and various Canadian airports.

There’s been tons of great food at every meal. Highlights from Shanghai include: peppers and chicken stomachs and diced lotus roots. We’ve also had some traditional Uigur food (muslim Chinese ethnic minority) and our fair share of street food: Chicken Kabobs, jiaozi (steamed dumplings), and jien bing (a traditional flatbread from Ganyu, see below). One of the more memorable dishes was a cold tofu and egg dish called Pidandofu.

This morning we arrived in Ganyu, the hometown of Joe’s fiance Du Xue. Craig and I met her for the first time today, but as she doesn’t speak much English, we didn’t have a whole lot to say past the standard greetings. Her family was kind enough to arrange a van to pick us all up from the nearby airport and get us to the hotel.

Du Xue’s father took the lot of us out to a massive lunch today, in a generous display of his hospitality. He also complimented me on my proper use of chopsticks…so that was legit.

We walked around the town a bit so Joe and Du Xue could purchase the final necessities for their nuptials. One boquet and a shirt and tie later, they were all set. They’ve already been legally married in China for several months now, and lived together for longer, which I suppose helps explain their fairly relaxed attitude towards finalizing the last little details.

Although it happened to a lesser extent in Shanghai, people are very unabashed at staring at westerners in Ganyu. Many younger people just giggle and say “hello,” but most people will stop in their tracks and stare openly. I had a woman at the market today come up to me and say “foreigner.” I’m not entirely sure about the sentiment behind that, but I think most of it is just plain curiousity. Right at this moment, Joe has a small entourage of Chinese teenagers animatedly talking with him.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now…the wedding ceremony is tomorrow morning (aparently it’s bad luck if the ceremony goes past noon), and we’ll have an additional two more days in Ganyu after that. The internet cafe is right across the  street from our hotel, so you’ll probably be hearing from me again in a day or so.

***Although I have since returned from my journeys abroad, I thought it might be nice to do a few posts on the experience for those of you I wasn’t able to keep in touch with over the past few weeks. These are loosely based on the emails I sent home at that time, except these will have pictures! That is all.***

Wanted to let you guys know how things have been going out East. China does their New Year in a big way. Our first night here, we watched fireworks explode all across the city from “The Bund,” a boulevard overlooking the river and much of the Shanghai skyline. Fireworks were lit off in the streets, off of balconies, and off of the roofs of the buildings. Craig and I left the Bund after about a half an hour and found quite another large fireworks display off the beaten path.
The past two days we’ve spent wandering around the city and taking in the sights. The metro here is very manageable and has been helpful in navigating the city. I won’t recount the entire trip minute by minute, but here are some of my impressions so far:
  • Many of the shops and restaurants here have been closed, as most people get a week off for New Year’s
  • There are a lot of people in Shanghai – but I think most of the crowds we’ve seen have been Chinese tourists
  • There’s a convenience store just about every block
  • People like to stare at westerners – I usually just give them a wave
  • The piece of advice that has served me best so far is: “If it looks good, eat it” (Soup dumplings and hotpot are my favorites so far)
  • I’m not so good at speaking Chinese…and I haven’t a clue how to read it
Fortunately for me and Craig, our friend Joe (the groom to be and reason we came to China) arrived in Shanghai last night. It’s been great to get to see him again and spend some time learning about the country he’s lived in for the past 2+ years. We’ve got dinner plans so I’ve got to run. I love you all!

As always, feel free to forward to anyone I may have missed.

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