28 February 2011

Chinese laundry

Now that our travels are over for awhile, we're back to the everyday stuff, including the piles of laundry that awaited us. Since washing clothes is a bit different in Baotou, we thought we'd highlight this domestic task. We start by wheeling the washing machine, a new model that is popular here, into the bathroom.
Fill the wash tub on the left with with water from the shower head, add soap, and set the timer; then transfer contents to the right tub to spin, refill the wash tub for the rinse cycle, and repeat. The little machine can become quite active during the spin cycle, so Daniel stands at the ready. He's head laundry person.
 Hanging sheets is his specialty

while Diane assists with the lower items. It works rather well and by next day everything is dry. We haven't seen any clothes driers here, and most folks either hang them in their apartment as we do, or have a pole and hang them out the window. Some of our friends insist on ironing, but we've passed on that one.

17 February 2011

Good Day Vietnam

Our 5-week holiday is in wrap-up mode as we look forward to the next semester at Baotou Teachers' College.
The Vietnamese zodiac celebrates the Year of the Cat (whereas in China it's the Rabbit), and here are a couple of the felines floating on the river in Hoi An, a World Heritage City in the south. In the background you can make out the 16th century covered Japanese Bridge, a city landmark.
Not to be outdone, canines have a shrine in the Bridge, attesting to either the dog as a sacred animal to ancient Japanese or that the Bridge was built in a Year of the Dog (take your pick).  
The three most popular home shrine gods are (left to right) for longevity, prosperity, and happiness.
Temple worship includes prayers, altar gifts (fruit and Oreo cookies are popular), and lots of incense. Large incense coils hang from the ceiling with yellow cards noting special prayer names and dates. 
And the market was full of all kinds of wonderful things, including ducklings.
We're at the bottom of a dragon bannister at the citadel in Hue, which was the capitol of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945. 
Here's the moat and entrance to the Hue Citadel, with a large picture of Ho Chi Minh at the entrance to this forbidden city (reminiscent of Mao overlooking Tianamen Square).
Folk singers reminded us of those on a boat trip where we released our votives on the Perfume River to bring us a year of prosperity. 
Back in Hanoi, where the Cột cờ gave the city's name to the Tower of Hanoi puzzle which stuck in Daniel's mind.  The connection doesn't get local attention -- a marketing opportunity not yet developed.

12 February 2011

Hello Hanoi

Hanoi celebrated its 1000th birthday last year, so we had to check out the center of the world in this city of 6.5 million. 
Don't let this quiet scene fool you because in Hanoi's Old Quarter the noise is second to none and the motorbikes rule the streets.
The mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, where he's on display just like Mao in China, ensuring these comrades will be around for a while.

Even though he hasn't been around for over 40 years, billboards like this of "Uncle Ho" abound. This street vendor let the tourist carry her bananas.

Women performing traditional music at the Temple of Literature -- now where would you find a Temple of Literature in the US?

We really enjoyed seeing with city with our friend Elizabeth, who's been living in Hanoi for the last five years teaching at the Diplomatic Academy. She just finished editing a book of Canadian women's literature translated into Vietnamese which will be introduced by the Canadian embassy.
We toured Ha Long Bay which has thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes.

We spent overnight on one of these boats and visited one of the floating fishing villages which dot the area. 

Some of the islands are hollow with enormous caves; the French named this Grotte des Merveilles, but on the English-speaking tour it was the Surprising Cave, as we indeed found it.
It's all a matter of perspective, as this Vietnam-centric globe proves.

10 February 2011

New Year in Hong Kong

Hong Kong bills itself as "Asia's World City," and it's easy to see why.
The Chinese New Year fireworks over Victoria Harbour were spectacular with many number 8's in the sky, especially auspicious since in Chinese "8" sounds similar to the word for wealth and is visually similar to the word for happiness.

Happy Year of the Rabbit.

The air was full of incense and prayers as we followed the throngs visiting one of the Buddhist temples.

And Hong Kong was festive with orange trees covered by red envelopes for money.

A taxi driver told us the hill where we stayed was full of spirits, and we discovered why.

We met up with one of our teaching colleagues and took a walk in the waters of the South China Sea.

 Followed by a great pub lunch of fish and chips.

Leaving Hong Kong for Hanoi.

03 February 2011

Hello from Hong Kong

We arrived in Hong Kong Jan. 26 and made our way to Tao Fong Shan, http://www.tfss.org/.  We'd been told it was an affordable church-linked guesthouse, but realized when we got here that it is especially Lutheran.
The center was founded in 1930 by a Scandinavian missionary and today continues to work with inter-religious dialogues and the study of religion. This is Christ Temple, an octagonal structure reminiscent of the two temples leading to the Altar of Heaven in Beijing.
We're staying in this mountain-top guesthouse which comes with a great view, a labyrinth close by, and the Lutheran Theological Seminary up the hill.  
Hong Kong is definitely not like our part of China, and there's a lot of talk about one country, two systems. This poster prohibiting spitting and littering, among other things, caught our eye. 
We were treated to lunch at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club with a marvelous view of Victoria Harbour. The half-size Little Mermaid scupture on the left was a gift from Denmark.
At the Flower Market we joined thousands who were shopping for new year decorations. The bamboo plants for luck are next to the five-generation fruit plants, auspicious when the entire family gathers to celebrate.

A tram ride up to the Peak.

Goldfish pond next to the Museum of Tea Wares.

An hour on the ferry and we were in Macau, originally a Portguese colony. The icon of the city is the Ruins of St. Paul's, a cathedral built in the 1640s and destroyed by fire in 1835.

But like all parts of China, the new and the old go together as in this view from Mount Fortress (a military defense structure built in the 1630s) targeting a lotus-shaped building (one of the many casinos that will relieve you of your HK$, Chinese RMB, or MOP$). 

Greetings from this part of China, as we continue to enjoy our winter holiday.