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ChinaFor centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under MAO Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor DENG Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight.

(This information is taken from the CIA The World Factbook)


Bye-Bye Bejing
Submitted by bugsly on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - 22:19 Car | China | Core | Fly | Foreign Language and Music Study | Hong Kong | Train | Walk

Today we woke up at four thirty in the morning (yawn) and set out to board our seven thirty flight. Cmoe Qiu picked us up right on the dot as usual and we were off. We arrived at the airport said goodbye and scurried off to catch our flight in time. There were already people getting off of flights even though it was only five thirty! Our flight prepared for take off as scheduled and we quickly downed our blueberry muffins and drinks from Starbucks. As we landed in Hong Kong airport we once again entered the crowded yet clean and organized hubbub. As we were going through passport control we even had these men with a TV camera come up to us and ask us if we would smile for the camera because they were making a “Corporate Video” I think I will type “Going through passport control with the Levy’s” into Google and see if we are universal movie stars! Afterwards we grabbed our bags (the only ones left on the carousel) and sped through customs. Eventually, we finished with all that airport stuff and moseyed on to the train platform that will take you to the center of Hong Kong. After a fast thirty minute ride we were out of the airport and into a taxi and on our way back to the JW Marriott. Finally, we were back in a hotel room swimming, napping, and lazing about!

Bugsly


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Great Wall Mountain Climbing
Submitted by bugsly on Monday, May 15, 2006 - 22:35 Car | China | Core | Walk

This morning we got up very early and joined every other tourist walking up along the great wall. We arrived at the most popular (and renovated) site, Badaling, after a forty five minute drive through hills and mountains. The slope on the wall is incredibly steep and if you are pregnant or suffer from a heart disability I would not suggest climbing it (not kidding!). The view was amazing from the “top” (in other words at the point where we could not take one more step) and there were lookout windows that also serve as great air conditioning on hot (and windy) day. We went back down avoiding the hoards of salesmen except for one nice gentlemen selling postcards. Michael and I slid all the way down the railing on the side of the wall.

Our next stop was a quick lunch and then the Summer Palace. The main attraction there is a very large, tasteless, marble boat. An empress spent all her money on it and I am surprised that it even floats! We were quite tired (even thought it doesn’t seem like much in one day) by the end of our marble boat excursion. So we all went back to the hotel, although Dad and I went back out ten minutes later to meet some friends of his at Starbucks. We had a delightful conversation, but eventually we had to go. We said goodbye and stayed at home for the rest of the day.

Bugsly


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Tiananmen Square and Chairman Mao
Submitted by bugsly on Sunday, May 14, 2006 - 22:59 Car | China | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Physical and Health Education | Subway | Tea | Walk

We set off for the short drive to Tienanmen Square first thing in the morning. When we arrived, it was already crowded. The biggest line was to see Chairman Mao’s mausoleum. We wandered around the square and looked at the enormous portrait of him on the outside gate of The Forbidden City across the street. One odd but interesting thing that happened to us twice while in Tiananmen Square was that people from the area asked to have their photo taken with us.

After Tiananmen Square, we crossed the road underneath and came up on the other side at the gate for The Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is where the emperors lived with their families and servants for hundreds of years. Anyone outside the royal family was not permitted to enter.

When Chairman Mao came to power, The Forbidden City was opened to the public for the first time. We wandered through many ornate and intricately painted gates and buildings.

After The Forbidden City, we went to lunch at Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant built in 1864. We ordered our duck and when it came to the table, we were handed a certificate of authenticity bearing its serial number. They have served more than one hundred million roasted ducks in the restaurant. The chef cut up the duck at our table, and sliced the head in half, left and right. Upon studying its brain, our duck appeared to be less artistic and more intellectual. The duck was tasty with plum sauce. My Dad enjoyed eating the crispy fatty skin. I, on the other hand, did not.

After lunch, we headed to The Temple of Heaven where we even more people asked to have their picture taken with us (with their camera). The building itself is designed under the ancient circle and square motifs. The circle represents heaven and the square, earth. The main building had just been freshly restored. It was magnificent.

After we left there, we went back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Bugsly


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Intense shopping and bargaining
Submitted by bugsly on Saturday, May 13, 2006 - 23:14 Car | China | Core | Life Sciences | Physical and Health Education | Tea | Walk

Today was our first day in Beijing.

Our driver, Mr. Cmoe Qiu (pronounced “Cho”), picked us up and took us to the Friendship Store in central Beijing. We browsed through the store which had interesting as well as odd things in it. We finished up there and made our way to lunch with our new friends, Iris, Stellar, and Claire, Stellar’s seven year old daughter.

They ordered lots of good food for lunch and we had a great time getting to know each other. I taught Claire how to make cootie catchers and she really liked that.

After lunch we went to a clothing shop called SZBR that had locally designed and made jackets, pants and shirts. I found a great jacket and can’t wait to wear it!

After that, we went to the YaShow Market, which is a very intense experience. It’s four floors of presumably copied brand-name items. I bought myself a Paul Frank teeshirt and a skirt. My brother got two Ferrari shirts and my Dad got frames just like his own glasses. We had fun but were glad to get out of there.

By the way, nothing is the price that they say at first. So, be sure to haggle with them!

Bugsly


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Fun Fact...

There are three types of "Kiwi's" in New Zealand. Kiwi birds, Kiwi fruit and the New Zealanders call themselves "Kiwis"!

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