Archive for April, 2011

China Day 8: The City of Eternal Spring or Where is the Bloody Bank?!

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

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And thus the Yunnan portion of our journey began in the city of Kunming, one of the largest cities in Yunnan and the central hub for any exploration into the high altitude wilderness of the Tibetian plateau.  The much higher elevation meant cooler temperatures (a welcome respite from the humid torture that was Guangxi) and much clearer skies! Actually Kunming is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because it enjoys one of the highest numbers of blue skies anywhere in China (which is quite a rarity in China, particularly along the populated eastern coast).

So our first day in Yunnan commenced with the bluest sky we’d seen thus far (and would see for the remainder of the vacation).  We chose to spend this lovely blue day by leisurely wandering about the city… and vainly trying to find a bank to exchange money.

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China Day 7: Mist on Karst or Shoot For the Tree, Land on the Moon

Friday, April 29th, 2011

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Today marked our last day in Yangshuo and our last day in Guangxi proper. It was also the first day that featured rain. Dreary gray skies greeted us in the morning and dampened our spirits. We had initially planned on hiking to Moon Hill. After some discussion, we opted to go to see the 1000 year old Banyan Tree instead, which was next to Moon Hill but wouldn’t require hiking.

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China Day 6: Along the Li River or Hiking on a Shoestring, Literally

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

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We rose bright and early (6:30am!) to head out for our long hike along the Li River. Our driver dropped us off at Yangdi, a sleepy, rundown town north of Yangshuo that sat on the banks of the Li River. Yangdi is a dingy place that is of note mostly as the starting point for the hike down the river to Xingping.

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China Day 5: Longi Sunrise and Liu Sanjie or I’m Going to Kill Puppies

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

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We rose just after dawn to head up the hill toward the Nine Dragons and Tigers lookout (the place where the lights had almost caught us the previous night) to watch the sunrise over the town and terraces. Many of the village-folk had already risen, cleaning their stores or transporting things back and forth up the mountain. The haze still lingered over the terraces but the soft light of sunrise peaking from behind the hills and glinting off the terraces filled with water still looked lovely.

After admiring the view, we headed back down to our hotel to enjoy our last meal before heading out to Yangshuo. It was here that Chris made a rather fateful mistake.

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China Day 4: The Rice Terraces of Longi or Are Those Lights Shining At Us?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

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Morning found us in a slightly better mood than the previous day. I had somewhat come to grips with the fact my iPhone was stolen and was determined to make the best of it. We had originally planned to go to Solitary Beauty Peak that morning, but since it involved traversing through the dreaded pedestrian arcade we decided to sit back, relax, and wait for our ride that would take us to Longsheng and the Longi Rice Terraces.

Rice is grown everywhere in China and rice terraces aren’t exactly a unique phenomenon. There are two locales, however, that are known as THE Rice Terraces of China, the ones that have inspired art and breathtaking photography. One is 5 hours south of Kunming in Yuanyang. This is the number one place for panoramic beauty that attracts photographers everywhere. The other is equally as beautiful but more touristy. That place is Longi Rice Terraces, about 2 and half hours north of Guilin, home of the Yao and Zhuang  minority people.

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China Day 3: The Sweet Aromas of Guilin or God Damn It My iPhone Was Stolen

Monday, April 25th, 2011

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We awoke bright and early to enjoy our first day in the city of Guilin. Guilin is the hub of Guangxi, the center of the karst peaks. Despite it being a bustling, crowded city like any other Chinese metropolis, the ever-present scent of modernity is covered by rows of osthamthus trees– small yellow flowers that give off a sweet scent, not unlike that of jasmine.

After a leisurely breakfast by the Peach Blossom River consisting of various oily Chinese pastries, we decided to do a little exploring on our own before getting picked up for our half-day tour of the city. Our first stop on the tour was the famed Elephant Trunk Hill, an overrated, over-priced tourist attraction that has become the symbol of Guilin. I knew what I was paying for, but I had wanted to see this piece of rock for another reason.

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China Day 2: Foray into Guangxi or Yay Karst!!!

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

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Having spent a fitful night split between honking horns, loud Chinese voices and being attacked by mosquitoes, I was less than chipper. Nevertheless it turned out not being nearly as full of bad karma as the previous day (even after braving the hotel’s public bathroom).

We woke up bright and early and headed to the Bundt for a haze-filled, but interesting view of Shanghai’s famed skyline. Then was breakfast and I remedied last night’s previous problem by buying some underwear from UNQLO.

Owing to yesterday’s copious amount of problems, we decided to head to the airport early for our flight into Guilin, the first stop in our adventure into wild China.

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China Day 1: Hello Shanghai or Holy Shit I Have No Underwear

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

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As all adventures of epic exploration into uncharted territories of mystic mountains and deep hidden valleys, it began with bad luck, and haze, lots of both.

Gray, dreary, rain-filled skies marked the beginning of a two week journey deep into the heartland of classic China, a place of towering karst peaks and meandering river valleys. This is archetypal China, the scene painted endless times on silk wall scrolls and ink paintings. This is southern China. Chris and I had been planning this trip for years, and Alissa was along for the ride.

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The Top 10 Old World of Warcraft Videos

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

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To follow-up on my last post, yes, I still believe people are obsessed with the Apocalypse. But I think it’s time to leave behind these morbid topics of real-life disasters (we can read enough of that on the news) and move on to other cataclysmic news. Of course, I’m talking about World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

7 years and three patches after its original release in 2004, World of Warcraft continues to enslave the souls of millions of gamers. Cataclysm has reworked the face of Azeroth and players now explore a more hostile and changed landscape. But no matter how new and shiny the new content is, old players still yearn for “Vanilla WoW,” the nostalgic glory days when it took ages to get one level or enter a battleground or even find a party for a dungeon. The days when the max level was 60 and it took 40 players to complete a raid.

So let’s take a moment to look back at the “glory days” through the most popular WoW videos of the time. I chose these videos based on their nostalgic value, overall popularity as cult classics, and how they affected later versions of WoW (based on achievements and quests). All of these videos are from the original World of Warcraft (pre-Burning Crusade), the vaunted “vanilla” days. So now I present to you, the Top 10 old World of Warcraft videos!

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Human Obsession with the Apocalypse

Monday, April 4th, 2011

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The nuclear mushroom cloud we now associate with the Apocalypse

24 Days after a 9.0 earthquake and devastating tsunami struck Japan’s coastline in Tohoku, and after auxiliary cooling systems failed at Fukushima’s Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Japan’s nuclear crisis continues to unfold.  While the plant has been reconnected to the electric grid, cooling systems in the most damaged reactors have yet to be restarted.  Not to mention the crippled facility has been spewing radiation into the atmosphere, soil, and now the ocean for the past 24 days, with no end in sight.  There’s been a bottled-water buying frenzy in the markets, and only until recently have I begun seeing the return of bottled water to the shelves.

Yet, while the crisis has yet to be solved and still just as bad as it was even 5 days following the disaster (maybe worse), it appears foreign news has turned elsewhere.

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