Leaving China

30 04 2010

We spent the majority of the last two days in China shopping.  We went to the Pearl Market and again to the Silk market and managed to get some great deals (in our opinion :) on bags, shoes and watches but most importantly we got some cheap useless crap, some looked-like-a-good-idea-in-the-store-but-will-probably-not-work-at-home kind of stuff that always makes you feel good. 

The Pearl Market was similar to the Silk Street market, just a bit smaller and had fewer tourists and thus was a bit cheaper.  We managed to spend all our remaining Yuan (sans some dinner and ride to the airport money ;) but could easily have spend loads more.

Between the shopping we went to the Olympic park where all the main buildings constructed for the 2008 Olympics reside.  The park is a vast, gray, concrete park with a few impressive highlights.  First of course is the Bird’s Nest or the Beijing National Stadium – an unconventional, beautiful building that surely catches the eye.  Next to the Bird’s Nest is the equally impressive Cube, especially after dark, where Phelps won eight gold medals during the Olympics.  The other buildings in the park were just huge piles of concrete, steel and glass.

On Wednesday we had planned to go and see Chairman Mao in his mausoleum but we were a bit intimidated by the line and decided to come back very early Yesterday.  The mausoleum opens at 08:00 in the morning and we planned to beat the crowds and arrive early on Thursday.  We managed to get there around 08:15 and the line was already enormous!!!  It was about three times as long as the day before.  I measured the line on Google Earth and it was almost exactly one kilometer long and had about 4,000 people cuing up to see the mummy.  It was probably extra long due to the long weekend around the first of May, which is especially important here in China.

This was our last chance to see the Chairman so we had no choice but to cue up.  Fortunately for us the line went pretty fast and we went through the kilometer long line in about fifty minutes – not bad.  After passing the extensive security check, where Elínborg was thoroughly body searched, we got into the mausoleum.  Apparently they’ve had recent problems with Scandinavian blonds harassing the Chairman :) 

We entered a smallish hall with a grand statue of the Chairman flanked by a great painting of a Chinese landscape.  I was a bit afraid, after a few disappointments with over-hyped Chinese tourist attractions, that this was it but fortunately we exited the hall and went into another smaller one where Mr. Mao rested.  We had heard that the mummy was unnaturally yellow so we were prepared for anything. 

It was a bit strange that there were signs everywhere telling us to be quiet, respectful and courteous and then there were plenty of guards yelling at the people to hurry up and stay in proper lines.  So many people long to pay their respect to the chairman that there isn’t a lot of time allocated to each individual and the guards have to keep the line moving.

I thought the whole experience would be creepy but when inside I just thought of how the mummy was unnaturally real and untouched – that’s all.  It just seemed like chairman Mao was just sleeping peacefully under the thick red blanket embodied with the hammer and the wheat cutting instrument which English name escapes my memory right now …maybe a bit orange rather than yellow… but it wasn’t creepy at all – at least not until we got out and started processing the experience.

We were very happy that we stuck with the cue and saw the chairman and now it is one of our biggest regret of the trip not to have visited Ho Chi Minh’ in Hanoi or Uncle Ho as he is called in Vietnam.

We have now left China.  It has been great three weeks and I’m sure that we’ll return some day.  Thank you Yong and Amanda for welcoming us to your cities and thank you for the hospitality!

I’m sure I’ll continue to write about our trip through South-East Asia and China as I continue to digest the whole experience.  This has mostly been a travel blog I’ll continue to blog on my travels – be that back home in Iceland or abroad so stay tuned!

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Have you seen Jackie Chan in person?

6 04 2010

We we haven’t either seen Jackie Chan but we are in his home town – Hong Kong – and saw his wax statue :)

When we arrived in Hong Kong our first impression was that of high organization and that everything seems very efficient and just the way you like it.  The airport is ultra modern and easy to navigate and the public transport system is very effective.  It has busses, trams underground trains and boats and everything works extremely well.  It is obvious from the start that the there is a lot of money in Hong Kong.  Nothing is done half way but without overspending either.

Another thing we noticed when we arrived in town is how many people are in Hong Kong.  This small “country” has over seven million inhabitants and is the fourth densest country on earth after Macau, Monaco and Singapore.  Since I was looking this up I checked how Iceland was doing on the list and we were eighth from the bottom or eight least dense country by population, just after Australia.  Can you guess what country is the least dense?  I’ll put the answer at the bottom of the post :)  Since I was looking at lists I looked where Hong Kong stands according to size.  I was surprised to find that it came in 179th of 233 countries so there are 54 countries that are smaller than Hong Kong – did YOU know that?

Anyway, today we have been exploring the city.  In the morning we went to Victoria Peak, a mountain that offers majestic view of Hong Kong.  Unfortunately there was an overcast so we didn’t get as good a view as we hoped.  That should however not be a problem because here is a photo service at the top that can “fix” the view for you for a few dollar so even if you arrive in dense fog your pictures will be beautiful.  The sights were impressive though and we might shoot back tomorrow if the the sky will be clearer.

After the peak we walked down town and checked out a few shops.  Hong Kong is a shopping heaven – if you have the money – with many shopping districts, big malls, flagship fashion stores, markets and some small alley-ways with some cheaper stuff.  We ended however in familiar territory in H&M.  After picking up a few items in H&M and eating the local specialty – dumplings – we took the boat to the mainland.  The mainland offers a fantastic view of the Hong Kong skyline which is quite impressive with the most amount of skyscrapers compared to any other place on earth (106 buildings above 180 meters).

We’ll only be two whole days in Hong Kong so I’ll have to go back to planning what to do tomorrow.  There is plenty to do and see here se we have to choose wisely…

To answer the question above: the least dense countries of the world are Greenland, then Falkland Islands and third is Mongolia.  There you have that.

The smallest countries of the world are Vatican City, then Monaco and third Pitcaim Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean.  The largest are however, as we all know, Russia, Canada and China or the USA depending on definition.