Places we visited: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuzhen, Qufu, Tai'an (Tai Shan), Beijing

Length of stay: 18 days

High point: Buying Longjing tea directly from the front porch of local's homes in the tea
village outside Hangzhou, playing an impromptu game of Ping Pong with Qufu locals
outside their shop and then being invited back to play with the town's top player the
next day (who taught Jarrod some wicked Ping Pong techniques), gorging ourselves on
amazing dumplings in Tai'an, enjoying a "mid-range" hotel in Tai'an after some very
strenuous negotiations (the owner of one hotel marched us to another hotel to show
us what a good deal he was offering), eating steamed pork buns from Beijing street
vendors for breakfast, being adopted and taken care of by a Chinese couple during our
rain soaked day in Wuzhen, 50-minute foot massages for $4 in Shanghai, the overall
friendliness and interest in Westerners that the locals displayed (if you are ever having
a bout of low self-esteem we recommend traveling to some of the smaller towns in
China. We felt like movie stars as locals often asked to have their picture taken with

Low Point: Avoiding the hacking and spitting that occurs everywhere in China!!, Jarrod
catching a cold in Hangzhou, running into a typhoon in Hangzhou, waiting in the
Hangzhou train station for our 1am train in a "lobby" filled with trash and spit, finding
out that the beds in Chinese hotels are as soft as cement,

Local food/flavor: Meat and vegetable dumplings, fried dough sticks, steamed pork
buns, Dongpu Pork, Hot Pot, delicious stir-fry dishes, and of course lots of rice and

Language: Mandarin

Currency: Renminbi

Unique Sights: Seeing children in pants with slits in the crotch use the bathroom
wherever the urge hit (on Tiananmen Square, on the sidewalk, etc.), reading the
words 'dog meat' on a dinner menu, men walking around with their shirts pulled up to
their armpits exposing their bellies, locals wandering around in their pajamas (we
eventually realized locals who live in some of the traditional hutongs do not have
indoor plumbing, and therefore have to walk to a neighborhood toilet).

Purchases: Longjing Tea

Things we did:
  • Received a first-hand view of old and new China along the Bund in Shanghai.
    The Bund is the area along the Huangpu River, which divides the city into the
    Pudong side, filled with futuristic skyscrapers and the Puxi side, reminescent of
    Shanghai's past with French colonial architecture.
  • Gawked at the flourescent glow of Shanghai's Nanjing Road, sporting everything
    from McDonald's and Starbucks to prototypical communist relics like the
    creatively named "No. 1 Department Store".
  • Travelled across the Huangpu River in an extremely odd underground tunnel
    surrounded by a bizarre lightshow, inflated animals, and strange music. It was
    like the Chinese version of the cave ride at Six Flags.
  • Enjoyed $4 USD foot massages in Shanghai.  We had to do this two days in a
  • Visited the Shanghai Museum and Yuyuan Gardens.
  • Were hit up for the "Chinese Tea Festival" scam five times while in Shanghai.   
    Luckily we had been warned of this scam and were able to avoid falling victim.
    By the third time we played along long enough to get Jarrod's picture taken with
    the scammers for memory's sake.
  • Strolled around scenic West Lake in Hangzhou.
  • Attempted an all day excursion to the water town of Wuzhen, where a
    downpour ruined what would have been a great town!
  • Visited the beautiful Lingyin temple in Hangzhou
  • Spent a day strolling through a beautiful tea village outside Hangzhou.  Partook
    in tea tasting and even purchased some longjing tea from the stash of a local
  • Slept all day in the uncomfortable dorm beds in Hangzhou while Jarrod overcame
    a cold and the rains of a typhoon passed.
  • Enjoyed two slow days in Qufu, the small hometown of Confucius, by visiting the
    Confucius temple, mansions, and tomb; and enjoying numerous games of Ping
    Pong with the Qufu locals.
  • Checked out the street market in Qufu.  We passed on the fried scorpion!
  • Hiked up over 6,000 stairs to reach the top of Tai Shan mountain, a sacred
    Taoist mountain, near the town of Tai'an in the Shandong province.  
  • Enjoyed the best dumplings in China at a Tai'an restaurant.
  • Visited Tiananman square and the Forbidden City in Beijing
  • Enjoyed four hours hiking on an authentic, unrestored section of the Great Wall
    with only our tour group in sight.
  • Visited the very impressive Summer Palace in Beijing
  • Visited the Temple of Heaven in Beijing
  • Stumbled upon a small restaurant in one of Beijing's hutong's (traditional
    neighborhoods) which served delicious stir-fry dishes, spicy eggplant and cheap
    bottles of Tsingtao beer. The food was so good we ended up eating here four of
    our seven nights in Beijing.
  • Utilized a friend's Slingbox connection to watch CAL beat Oregon in football
  • Settled in on the 2-day train ride from Beijing to Lhasa, the world's tallest
    railroad which reaches 5072 meters (11,158 feet). There is even oxygen
    available onboard.
China Overview
The Great Wall