Day 589 OUT OF Beijing: Upwardly Vagabonding.

 

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

 

As most of you know, Jill and I are traveling around and only staying with friends or family.

I’ve titled this new way of finding a place for us as “upwardly vagabonding.”

A vagabond is someone that is essentially homeless and is just trying to find a place to live and survive.

We are more Upwardly mobile about our vagabonding so I’ve joking called it just that.

We are staying in nice places, with good people, and don’t have to worry about shelter or really being homeless.

As Jill continues to build her site, SF Tourism Tips, and we are now building our new website together (to be released to the world in a month or so) we want to stay as frugal and with as little limitations on us as possible.

We also are traveling by plane, train or bus wherever we go unless friends are driving and we can hitch a ride.  We also use uber or taxis if needed to get around.  It saves us money and saves us mental strain as we don’t have to worry about driving and possibly being in a car crash, paying insurance or worrying if we are going to get lost.  We leave the work to the driver or pilot.   We also then have time to enjoy the scenery or work on projects while we travel.  Win-win.

We have gone through another round of minimizing our stuff and donated all our winter clothes and whatever we think we won’t need.

Our plan is to be down to one good sized backpack and one daypack each by the time we head off for Los Angeles on February 28th.

It is rather amazing we’ve been home for a month already because it seems like we just arrived and are still settling in.

Part of that is the reverse culture shock after being in China for 1.5 years but it is also that we have stayed in 4 different places in one month so we didn’t really “settle” down in any one place and feel at home.

We will be staying at our friends, Randy and Alethea’s house, for most of the the rest of our trip in the bay area so that will make life more comfortable and easy on us.  Hopefully it will on them also as they are being incredibly generous letting us stay and hang out with them.  Randy is like a second brother to me so it is wonderful to spend time with him and his family and just be “home.”

Here are a few pictures from the Golden Gate Bus as I was upwardly vagabonding home to Randy and Alethea’s recently.

 

Day 491 In Beijing: The Istanbul Funicular.

 

The view from inside the funicular.

The view from inside the funicular.  I love the look on his face.

Jill and I love trains and subways.

It just makes life so much easier when you can let someone else do the transport and not have traffic.

That is one of the true benefits of Istanbul and other major cities in that we can just relax, cruise around, and see the sights instead of stressing out and driving.

Our plan, when we return back the USA, is to live carless and be as mobile as possible.

As I’ve written before, we stayed for a full month in Turkey and Greece with only one carry on luggage each.

We don’t want to stay locked down to one particular location and want to be as free as possible.

Jill’s business, San Francisco Tourism Tips, is one of the ways we can accomplish this endeavor.

Istanbul has a funicular underneath one of the major hills and it makes travel very easy.

The hill that it hides under is the same hill that has the Galata Tower on top of it.

It isn’t a terribly tall hill, but it is steep, and in the heat and humidity of the Turkish summer, it can be a nice little respite.

We ended up taking the funicular about 10 different times, in our 2 week stay, and it cost about 2 USD per ride and took only about 60-90 seconds. It travels about 2000 feet.  If you see the hill we were able to remove from our travels, it was worth it.

By the way, make sure to watch until the end of the video as the gears that move the funicular are quite beautiful and painted by people that are very artistic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 484 In Beijing: Trip to Tianjin, Part 1.

 

Another shot of the South Beijing Railway Station.

Another shot of the South Beijing Railway Station.

After spending a week back at work, the Golden Week holidays arrived and we decided to head down to Tianjin to see our dear friend, Nuria.

We bought the train tickets about 4 days ago and love that we can buy tickets, on a High Speed Train, so easily and so cheaply, whenever we want.

The tickets cost us about 60RMB each, or about 10 USD to go 150 kilometers on the fastest possible train in China.

That is really pretty cool.

The only problem with traveling in China during the October Golden Week Holiday is that about 150,000,000 of my closest friends are also traveling at that time.

Just for information’s sake, Golden Week is the world’s largest human migration.

And it happens every single year.

The actual number may be more around 200,000,000 but whose counting 50,000,000 people?

The trip was actually amazingly easy and we have to guess that most of the Chinese nationals actually traveled the night before and were already heading to their destinations.

It was still pretty busy, and there were lots of people, but it wasn’t the insane crowding and pushing we’ve seen on movies and videos.

 

 

The train ride down was great and incredibly smooth.

After we got off the train we found our friend Nuria and hopped on the subway.

We then grabbed a cab to her apartment and had a delicious lunch that she made based on Spanish dishes that mixed in some yummy Chinese foods also.

As we’ve learned, you make do, and make your own recipes, when living in China since so much of what we are used to isn’t available.

It is one of the joys of being an expatriate because you learn to make new things and live outside the box.

We also had a Chinese sparkling wine with lunch and were surprised at how it tasted.  It was a bit too sweet but, overall, was drinkable and an excellent value at 28RMB (about $5 USD).  One can’t argue with that when having a fun meal with a dear friend.

 

 

 

Day 483 In Beijing: HSR to Beijing.

 

The nice subway attendant who took Jill's luggage.

The nice subway attendant who took Jill’s luggage.

Jill and I love train travel in China.

It really is fairly simple, fairly fast, and fairly inexpensive.

Especially the HSR.

HSR, which I still call “Bullet Trains” from the time when I lived in Japan (which is a whole different blog post and would be it’s own website since I lived there from 1996-1997 and taught English in the JET program), stands for High Speed Rail here in China.

Therefore, HSR is the abbreviation.

As mentioned previously, we took an overnight train, which took about 13 hours, to Xian but we decided we wanted to be back Friday evening and get a good night’s rest on the return trip so we booked the HSR.

The train ride to Xian, on the slower train, cost about $70 USD.

The HSR back to Beijing, which took about 5.5 hours, cost about $90 USD.

It is about 1000 kilometers away and would cost $180 USD round-trip if we did both ways.

I wish trains in the USA would be so cheap and so easy to use but they aren’t.

I honestly love train travel as you get to meet people, hang out, see the countryside, and just relax.

The beds on the 13 hour train were soft enough, even though they weren’t really that soft, to sleep but we prefer the HSR so we can get where we are going and just be done with it.

It is also very cool to see the speedometer, in each car, showing “304 KPH” as we fly through the countryside.

Speaking of the countryside, and 1000 KMs of it, it is pretty sad.

So much of China is being turned into massive cities, in the middle of nowhere, with these buildings that all look the same and are just huge blocks of boring concrete.

I’m talking about building cities of 10 million people, not 100,000, being made in 5 years.

That is a lot of displacement

China is trying to become a 1st world country, at light year speed, and is actually killing all the culture and style that made China beautiful in the past.

It also is producing loads of toxins, pollution, and waste as they do this.

An example of this is Tianjin.  We will be going there for the October holiday.  It is about 30 minutes, by HSR, from Beijing.

It has over 15,000,000 people living in it.  And I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it.

I know I sure hadn’t until I went there for my job.

And that isn’t even called a “first tier” city in China.

Jill and I really enjoy the quiet side of China and there is less and less of that around as it “progresses” into the 21st century.

We arrived in Beijing at 10:45 pm and were cutting it very tight as the subways all shut down at 11:30 pm here.

We ran to the first subway, caught it as there were 2 more trains after us but we didn’t want to chance it, then got to our transfer station and caught the last subway train to our final transfer and ran like mad to get to it and made it with about 30 seconds to spare or we would have had to get a taxi, on Friday night at 11:29 pm, and that is not easy because so many are full and many won’t stop to pick us up.  So, we sat down on the final train, relaxed as it was almost empty, and then walked to the exit.

As we did this, a nice young gentleman noticed Jill’s slight limp, from her fall that morning, and offered to walk her bag for her.

She accepted and he helped us out of the station and then locked the gates closed for the night.

After 2.5 days of pure madness and wildness, we walked 3 blocks from the station and were home in Beijing.