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Published: March 17th 2007
From the Balcony
We walked up the third floor of some monks residence in order to get a better view of this temple. Beautiful!
Part 1 of our trip
We had a great trip. We started in the afternoon in
Suzhou and took a car to Shanghai. We then paid 450
RMB per person each way for our bus ticket. Joe (our
boss) said that usually it costs around 150 but since
it was the peak of travel for China prices were much
higher. This didn’t make sense to me, because I had
read in the newspaper earlier in the week that the
government was not allowing travel services to charge
higher prices during the New Year. This was in direct
violation of government regulations. We thought
either, 1) the people organizing the bus ride were
simply violating government restrictions or 2) we were
purchasing a ticket through the so called “black
We arrived in Shanghai around 5 for our 6 o clock
departure. Joe led us to the train station, down some
stairs, and into a small room where there were people
collecting money. At 11 o’ clock, we finally left
Shanghai. Being late is definitely not a
characteristic of centralized transportation. There
were a line of people following the organizers of the
trip. We crossed the road, then entered a
The Black Market Bus
Overloaded, overcharged, and maybe on the run if we got caught. Here we come Fu'Jian
building, then went through a dark alley only to find
our bus in a dim lit enclosure. This was definitely
As you walk into the bus, the driver requests that you
take off your shoes. This was a sleeping bus, so
there weren’t any chairs; three rows of bi-level beds
lined the bus. We were on the top level, which beats
the lower floor level. The beds were quite narrow and
exactly 5’7 ¾”, not for the restless sleeper, but
As we got settled we noticed the bus was filling up
quicker and quicker, and could plainly see that there
were more people on the bus than beds. Apparently we
didn’t know that the floor of the bus was perfect for
sleeping. You simply buy 1 ticket for you and your
wife and simply use a little of the walkway. Since
this was a Black Bus, the proprietors weren’t
concerned with the oversell. However, they did their
homework. We were a bit worried when they unloaded a
van load of people off the bus—including our host,
Joe—but later realized that they needed to do so in
order to pass any government checkpoints. Very
A Little Nervous
What are we doing?
We arrived sometime in the morning, and immediately
boarded another bus to Quanzou, a larger metropolis on
the coast which is well known for being on the famous
silk route from ancient times. We stayed in a 4 star
hotel for one night. It was nice to have a warm shower
and not have to worry about it running out of heat. We
went out to a couple of nice seafood restaurants, and
also visited an ancient Buddhist temple. It is
difficult to describe the temple. There were lots of
colorfully painted buildings. There are many golden
statues where monks and devout worshipers come to
pray. There are many stories about each statue that
Joe’s wife, Yen told us, but it is difficult to
The next day we went back to Joe’s hometown. They
always referred to his hometown as a small, small
village. We thought this was funny, because the
“village” had to have several hundred thousand people.
Just goes to show you the different cultural
perceptions. I consider a small village Darr, home to
34 people. The Chinese consider a small village
100,000 people, or the third largest city in Nebraska.
The 2 Guards
When we walked into the Temple, the first thing we saw were these 2 huge guards. Apparantly 2 guards are very common before you enter the actual temple. They are supposed to guard the temple from evil spirits.
the fact that everyone insists this city is a
small village, it did have the feel of a village.
Things were much less advanced. The bathroom was an
outhouse. They had a well in which you need to pump
your own water. They still used animals to till the
small fields. People had all sorts of animals tied up
in their back yards. Chickens, bulls, cows, etc.
The food. It seems that every Chinese person likes to
boast about the delicacies which are only found in
their province or village. The Fu’Jian province is
famous for very thin noodle dish and also a special
dumpling soup. We joked around about this because in
the US you would never hear “Oh, you can only get this
type of chocolate chip cookie in this city!” In the
US, we just share recipes, “you want to know how my
mom makes her chicken soup? Sure, here’s the recipe.
In fact, why don’t you just post it in on the internet
so that everyone can give it a try!” These sort of
words apparently aren’t used in China and recipes
aren’t inter-provincally shared. Provinces are known
for different dishes, different spices, and different
Palm Trees and Pagodas
A great combination of the two. Quanzou's climate is much more tropical than Suzhou's.
noodles. When you travel from NE to CO, you basically
get the same food. This might not be the case when
traveling in China. Every city has its specialty that
you can’t get anywhere else. It makes things
All of the food was homemade or home grown. Joe’s
mother left Suzhou 4 days before him to start
preparing. Pork is very common here. Every family in
Joe’s village buys a pig and incorporates it into
every meal. When every part of the pig has been
tasted, leftovers. They also served us stir fried
cauliflower and spinach. The veggies were delicious
and so was the fish. We really liked the fish and
inquired about the type and preparation but were
simply met with a “You can’t get this fish back in
Suzhou.” Fair enough.
Celebrating the Lunar New Year in Joe’s village was an
amazing cultural experience. We heard the word
“tradition” a lot. Everything was based on tradition.
On the day before the New Year, the house is
thoroughly cleaned and everyone is dressed their best.
Walking down the street we could see large bushels of
dry grasses and wood on every driveway. Right at
Every inch of the temple area was colorful. There was excellent workmanship in the roof sections. Dragon carvings cover the buildings, and sometimes even the roofs.
fires lined both sides of the street and the
rapid machine-like bursting of firecrackers fills the
air. It felt like World War 3. It was our 1 year
anniversary and we couldn’t think of any better way to
spend it. Joe took us up to the 4th floor of his house
to get a better view of the fireworks, which by this
time had progresses to a artillery shells of all
kinds. It was wonderful.
We visited the house the Joe grew up in. It was pretty
run down. There were coffins being stored in it now,
which we thought was interesting. The government
doesn’t allow bodies to be buried, so they must make
and hide the coffins or else government officials will
confiscate them. Apparently when someone dies, the
family takes the body up to a mountain in secrecy.
They build beautiful mausoleums for their dead. We
visited Joe’s father’s site and had a small picnic
On New Year’s Day, we visited people’s houses in the
village that turned 50, 60, 70, or 80. Age is
different here. You turn 1 when you are born, and
another year is added to your age once the new
A View of the Village
Looks like about the size of Kearney or Lincoln. No, its just a small village!
begins. So Ely and I are 24 here.
The people at the parties greeted us with oranges,
which symbolize the sweetness of life. They would only
give us the oranges if we greeted them with “Happy New
Year,” in Chinese. They were all packaged in red bags,
which symbolize good luck. We were seated and served
sweet olives, seeds, fresh tea, and smokes (for the
men). It is disrespectful to not accept a cigarette.
Aaron refused a light and just threw them away later.
Joe told him about not accepting a cigarette being
disrespectful, but didn’t tell him you can refuse to
smoke. Sadly, before Joe told him this, he smoked his
first offered cigarette (and probably the 5th of his
lifetime). It was pretty funny me smoking—doesn’t look
The food served in the home on New Year’s Day was all
served uncut. This symbolized longevity. The
cauliflower and spinach were very long on New Year’s
Day. We thought this was also interesting. The women
and children also wore red, which symbolizes good luck
for the year. It is fun to see cultural traditions
completely different from our own. We learned so many
This is a picture from the top of Joe's home. Most families have their own crops. Things are definately not organized into sections. Very small micro-farms.
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