my new Flickr page, in backwards chronology. (i'm anal about order, so you might start out on the right hand side). I'm posting highlights. Heza posts lots more on her flickr page.
Anyhow, you've got a few pix from China, and some from the recent trip to Chengde, 230km NW of BJ.
We had a gongshow of a trip out. Major issues trying to get directions to the train station from the subway. One cabbie kicks us out 'cause the trip was too short. We proceed to get lost trying to cover that short distance. We end up trying to buy tickets for the trip at the cargo side of the train tracks from a cranky woman w/ no patience for non-Mandarin speakers. Eventually a nice employee takes us behind the scenes and under the tracks since we can't figure out that where we're supposed to be. Then we find ourselves locked IN, and unable to get off the platform to the ticket sales/waiting room. We get our tix ($2.43 each!) and then later discover we are on a milk run train that takes 7 hrs to arrive. Our booked hotel turns out to be full, and we chaotically get one rebooked via the phone (and ended up in a ridiculously deluxe joint w/ a piano player in the lobby most hours). A train employee seems quite drunk and he makes "friends" with Heza and i (but mostly Heza), talking fast and loud in our faces, though it's obvious enough we comprehend little to nothing. He is eventually dragged away by coworkers twice.
As for Chengde, it's a small town of 500,000 peeps, and it houses a veritable forest of temples to check out. The largest wooden statue in the world, a 23m tall buddha, was unexpectedly awe-inspiring. (Bigger is better in buddhism? Oh, those mahayanas!). But it did feel really humbling to be in its presence.
The other temples were alright, though you get squeezed for cash every step of the way, and i did have it out w/ our tour guide who was intentionally stretching things out (can't blame a guy for making a buck, but still...) The park temples were actually created as a sort of Disney park for the Qing emperors, so they lent themselves well to tourism.
Now we're back, and (as w/ splitting Canada) are reminded how good it is to have even just a tiny bit of outside perspective.