In a word: Top

Spinning like a …  yes, had a few of those dizzy spells, especially after too much to drink.  It’s where you say, ‘stop the world, I want to get off’.

And, ages ago, I think it was a musical production.

But…

Top, well there’s sides, a bottom, and a top.  Have you been to the top of the world, I think I’ve been to the bottom, and it’s not the poles I’m talking about.

But then the top of something is the highest point, such as a mountain.  For some odd reason, I’ve never had the inclination to climb to the top of a mountain, but I’m guessing the view from the top of Mt Everest would be interesting.

Are you at the top of your game?

We say this when a player, or athlete, is winning or playing at their best.  I just keep hoping this year will be when the Maple Leafs will be playing at the top of their game.

Especially when I personally attend at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

If you read thrillers then you’ll know the assassin is always about to top someone, that is to say, kill them.

Will you top up my drink?  It’s where someone asks you how many glasses of wine you’ve had, and the correct answer is one, it just never got empty!

Can you put the top back on the bottle?

I’m headed straight to the top of the company.  The roof maybe, certainly not as CEO.

Top gear, aside from being a motoring show on TV, it could also be third, fourth, of fifth gear, depending on the type of gearbox.

And, of course, there are about another hundred ways it could be used.

Confusing?  to say the least.

Have you another?  Let me know…

Searching for locations: The Erqi Memorial Tower, Zhengzhou, China

A convoluted explanation on the reasons for this memorial came down to it being about the deaths of those involved in the 1923 Erqi strike, though we’re not really sure what the strike was about.

So, after a little research, this is what I found:

The current Erqi Tower was built in 1971 and was, historically, the tallest building in the city. It is a memorial to the Erqi strike and in memory of Lin Xiangqian and other railway workers who went on strike for their rights, which happened on February 7, 1923.

It has 14 floors and is 63 meters high. One of the features of this building is the view from the top, accessed by a spiral staircase, or an elevator, when it’s working (it was not at the time of our visit).

There seems to be an affinity with the number 27 with this building, in that

  • It’s the 27th memorial to be built
  • to commemorate the 27th workers’ strike
  • located in the 27th plaza of Zhengzhou City.

We drive to the middle of the city where we once again find traveling in kamikaze traffic more entertaining than the tourist points

When we get to the drop-off spot, it’s a 10-minute walk to the center square where the tower is located on one side. Getting there we had to pass a choke point of blaring music and people hawking goods, each echoing off the opposite wall to the point where it was deafening. Too much of it would be torture.

But, back to the tower…

It has 14 levels, but no one seemed interested in climbing the 14 or 16 levels to get to the top. The elevator was broken, and after the great wall episode, most of us are heartily sick of stairs.

The center square was quite large but paved in places with white tiles that oddly reflected the heat rather than absorb it. In the sun it was very warm.

Around the outside of two-thirds of the square, and crossing the roads, was an elevated walkway, which if you go from the first shops and around to the other end, you finish up, on the ground level, at Starbucks.

This is the Chinese version and once you get past the language barrier, the mixology range of cold fruity drinks are to die for, especially after all that walking. Mine was a predominantly peach flavor, with some jelly and apricot at the bottom. I was expecting sliced peaches but I prefer and liked the apricot half.

A drink and fruit together was a surprise.

Then it was the walk back to the meeting point and then into the hotel to use the happy house before rejoining the kamikaze traffic.

We are taken then to the train station for the 2:29 to our next destination, Suzhou, the Venice of the East.

Searching for locations: The Henan Museum, Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China

The Henan Museum is one of the oldest museums in China.  In June 1927, General Feng Yuxiang proposed that a museum be built, and it was completed the next year.  n 1961, along with the move of the provincial capital, Henan Museum moved from Kaifeng to Zhengzhou.

It currently holds about 130,000 individual pieces, more of which are mostly cultural relics, bronze vessels of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, and pottery and porcelain wares of the various dynasties.

Eventually, we arrive at the museum and get off the bus adjacent to a scooter track and despite the efforts of the guide, there’s no stopping them from nearly running us over.

We arrive to find the museum has been moved to a different and somewhat smaller building nearby as the existing, and rather distinctively designed, building is being renovated.

While we are waiting for the tickets to enter, we are given another view of industrial life in that there is nothing that resembles proper health and safety on worksites in this country, and the workers are basically standing on what looks to be a flimsy bamboo ladder with nothing to stop them from falling off.

The museum itself has exhibits dating back a few thousand years and consist of bronze and ceramic items.  One of the highlights was a tortoiseshell with reportedly the oldest know writing ever found.

Other than that it was a series of cooking utensils, a table, and ceramic pots, some in very good condition considering their age.


There were also small sculptures

an array of small figures

and a model of a settlement

20 minutes was long enough.

Searching for locations: The Pagoda Forest, near Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, China

The pagoda forest

After another exhausting walk, by now the heat was beginning to take its toll on everyone, we arrived at the pagoda forest.

A little history first:

The pagoda forest is located west of the Shaolin Temple and the foot of a hill.  As the largest pagoda forest in China, it covers approximately 20,000 square meters and has about 230 pagodas build from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Each pagoda is the tomb of an eminent monk from the Shaolin Temple.  Graceful and exquisite, they belong to different eras and constructed in different styles.  The first pagoda was thought to be built in 791.

It is now a world heritage site.

No, it’s not a forest with trees it’s a collection of over 200 pagodas, each a tribute to a head monk at the temple and it goes back a long time.  The tribute can have one, three, five, or a maximum of seven layers.  The ashes of the individual are buried under the base of the pagoda.

The size, height, and story of the pagoda indicate its accomplishments, prestige, merits, and virtues. Each pagoda was carved with the exact date of construction and brief inscriptions and has its own style with various shapes such as a polygonal, cylindrical, vase, conical and monolithic.

This is one of the more recently constructed pagodas

There are pagodas for eminent foreign monks also in the forest.

From there we get a ride back on the back of a large electric wagon

to the front entrance courtyard where drinks and ice creams can be bought, and a visit to the all-important happy place.

Then it’s back to the hotel.

The power of words

They can destroy relationships

They can tear apart friendships

They can start wars

We are sometimes at a loss for words

Sometimes we can’t find the words

And then there those horrible things called crosswords.

There are antonyms and synonyms

Sometimes we use words we don’t know the meaning of because of their similarity with others we do

Then there one or more words that make other words as in anagrams

There are substitute words, words we use around children like fudge instead of, well you get what I mean

There’s no doubt we would be lost without words

Words are to be chosen carefully and thoughtfully

They need to be delivered in an appropriate manner, not in haste, and not in anger

We need to believe in what we’re saying before others will believe it

We need to learn how to express our feelings

We should take advantage of learning English (or any other native language) when at school

We need to start reading as soon as we can and keep up reading as we get older.  One should never underestimate the power reading and writing gives us no matter who we are.

Always have a dictionary by your side.  It is the most valuable book you can own.

And always remember the power of speech can at times move mountains

Searching for locations: From Beijing to X’ian by bullet train

Beijing West train station.

Beijing west railway station is about eight kilometers from the Forbidden City, located at East Lianhuachi Road, Fengtai District.  Most trains traveling between south central, southwest, northwest, and south China are boarded here.

This place is huge and there are so many people here, perhaps the other half of Beijing’s population that wasn’t in the forbidden city.

Getting into the station looked like it was going to be fraught with danger but the tour guide got us into the right queue and then arranged for a separate scanner for the group to help keep us all together

Then we decided to take the VIP service and got to waiting room no 13, the VIP service waiting room which was full to overflowing.  Everyone today was a VIP.  We got the red hat guy to lead us to a special area away from the crowd.

Actually, it was on the other side of the gate, away from the hoards sitting or standing patiently in the waiting room.  It gave us a chance to get something to eat before the long train ride.

The departure is at 4 pm, the train number was G655, and we were told the trains leave on time.  As it is a high-speed train, stops are far and few between, but we’re lucky, this time, in that we don’t have to count stations to know where to get off.

We’re going to the end of the line.

However, it was interesting to note the stops which, in each case, were brief, and you had to be ready to get off in a hurry.

These stops were Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou East, Luoyang Longmen, Huashan North, and Weinan North.  At night, you could see the lights of these cities from a distance and were like oases in the middle of a desert.  During the day, the most prominent features were high rise apartment blocks and power stations.

A train ride with a difference

G Trains at Wuhan Railway Station

China’s high-speed trains, also known as bullet or fast trains, can reach a top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph).

Over 2,800 pairs of bullet trains numbered by G, D or C run daily connecting over 550 cities in China and covering 33 of the country’s 34 provinces. Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train link the two megacities 1,318 km (819 mi) away in just 4.5 hours.

By 2019, China keeps the world’s largest high-speed rail (HSR) network with a length totaling over 35,000 km (21,750 mi).

To make the five and a half hours go quicker we keep an eye on the speed which hovers between 290 and 305 kph, and sitting there with our camera waiting for the speed to hit 305 which is a rare occurrence, and then, for 306 and then for 307, which happened when we all took a stroll up to the restaurant car to find there had nothing to eat.

I got a strange flavored drink for 20 yuan.

There was a lady manning a trolley that had some food, and fresh, maybe, fruit on it, and she had a sense of humor if not much English.

We didn’t but anything but the barrel of caramel popcorn looked good.

The good thing was, after hovering around 298, and 299 kph, it finally hit 300.

We get to the end of the line, and there is an announcement in Chinese that we don’t understand and attempts to find out if it is the last station fall on deaf ears, probably more to do with the language barrier than anything else.

Then, suddenly the train conductor, the lady with the red hat, comes and tells us it is, and we have fifteen minutes, so we’re now hurrying to get off.

As the group was are scattered up and down the platform, we all come together and we go down the escalator, and, at the bottom, we see the trip-a-deal flags.

X’ian,and the Xi’an North Railway Station

Xi’an North Railway Station is one of the most important transportation hubs of the Chinese high-speed rail network. It is about 8.7 miles (14 km) from Bell Tower (city center) and is located at the intersection of the Weiyang Road and Wenjing Road in Weiyang District.

This time we have a male guide, Sam, who meets us at the end of the platform after we have disembarked.  We have a few hiccups before we head to the bus.  Some of our travelers are not on his list, but with the other group.  Apparently a trip-a-deal mix-up or miscommunication perhaps.

Then it’s another long walk with bags to the bus.  Good thing its a nicely air-conditioned newish bus, and there’s water, and beer for 10 yuan.  How could you pass up a tsing tao for that price?

Xi’an is a very brightly lit up city at night with wide roads.  It is very welcoming, and a surprise for a city of 10 million out in the middle of China.

As with all hotels, it’s about a 50-minute drive from the railway station and we are all tired by the time we get there.

Tomorrow’s program will be up at 6, on the bus 8.40 and off to the soldiers, 2.00 late lunch, then train station to catch the 4.00 train, that will arrive 2 hours later at the next stop.  A not so late night this time.

The Grand Noble Hotel

Outdoor scene

Grand Noble Hotel Xi’an is located in the most prosperous business district within the ancient city wall in the center of Xi’an.

The Grand Noble Hotel, like the Friendship Hotel, had a very flash foyer with tons of polished marble.  It sent out warning signals, but when we got to our room, we found it to be absolutely stunning.  More room, a large bathroom, air conditioning the works.

Only one small problem, as in Beijing the lighting is inadequate.  Other than that it’s what I would call a five-star hotel.  This one is definitely better than the Friendship Hotel.

In the center of the city, very close to the bell tower, one of the few ancient buildings left in Xi’an.  It is also in the middle of a larger roundabout and had a guard with a machine gun.

Sadly there was no time for city center sightseeing.

Searching for locations: Hutongs, Beijing, China

What are Hutongs?

In Beijing Hutongs are formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences, called siheyuan.  Neighborhoods were formed by joining many hutongs together. These siheyuan are the traditional residences, usually occupied by a single or extended family, signifying wealth, and prosperity. 

Over 500 of these still exist.Many of these hutongs have been demolished, but recently they have become protected places as a means of preserving some Chinese cultural history.  They were first established in the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)Many of these Hutongs had their main buildings and gates built facing south, and lanes connecting them to other hutongs also ran north to south.

Many hutongs, some several hundred years old, in the vicinity of the Bell Tower and Drum Tower and Shichahai Lake are preserved and abound with tourists, many of which tour the quarter in pedicabs.

The optional tour also includes a visit to Shichahai, a historic scenic area consisting of three lakes (Qianhai, meaning Front Sea; Houhai, meaning Back Sea and Xihai, meaning West Sea), surrounding places of historic interest and scenic beauty and remnants of old-style local residences, Hutong and Courtyard.  

First, we had a short walk through the more modern part of the Hutong area and given some free time for shopping, but we prefer just to meander by the canal.  

There is a lake, and if we had the time, there were boats you could take.

With some time to spare, we take a quick walk down one of the alleyways where on the ground level are small shops, and above, living quarters.

Then we go to the bell and drum towers before walking through some more alleys was to where the rickshaws were waiting.
The Bell tower

And the Drum tower. Both still working today.

The rickshaw ride took us through some more back streets where it was clear renovations were being made so that the area could apply for world heritage listing.  Seeing inside some of the houses shows that they may look dumpy outside but that’s not the case inside.

The rickshaw ride ends outside the house where dinner will be served, and is a not so typical hose but does have all the elements of how the Chinese live, the boy’s room, the girl’s room, the parent’s room, the living area, and the North-south feng shui.

Shortly after we arrive, the cricket man, apparently someone quite famous in Beijing arrives and tells us all about crickets and then grasshoppers, then about cricket racing.  He is animated and clearly enjoys entertaining us westerners.

I’m sorry but the cricket stuff just didn’t interest me.  Or the grasshoppers.

As for dinner, it was finally a treat to eat what the typical Chinese family eats, and everything was delicious, and the endless beer was a nice touch.

And the last surprise, the food was cooked by a man.

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday the dark clouds were swirling overhead, and there was an air of impending doom all around.

Much like those few hours before a storm is about to hit, one of those really big ones with very loud thunder that feels like it’s over your roof and not moving, and, a short time later, the deafening sound of torrential rain.

You know the feeling, you could cut the air with a knife.

I’ve been in that state of mind for some time now, but yesterday something changed.

It wasn’t the internet, that was still as dreadful as ever, despite the assurances we get that we will have the best internet in the world.  The best joke, I think they mean, after spending $50 billion on it, I had better speeds on my 300 baud modem 20 odd years ago.

Sorry, I had to have another whinge about it.  Politicians are such liars.

No, it was not something I could put my finger on.

But…

What was it?

I found I could write again.

Well, I could always write, but it was a matter of forcing myself to sit down and do like it was a chore I really didn’t want to do.   And how easy it was to get sidetracked in social media.

Not today.

Today I simply looked at the writing I wanted to do, and it all came to me, without having to stare at the blank screen before the words would come, and then find myself deleting them over and over.  Yesterday, writing 500 words really meant writing 5,000 crappy words and continually revising.

Today I could write 5,000 words and it was all good.

Let’s hope it continues into tomorrow.

 

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday the dark clouds were swirling overhead, and there was an air of impending doom all around.

Much like those few hours before a storm is about to hit, one of those really big ones with very loud thunder that feels like it’s over your roof and not moving, and, a short time later, the deafening sound of torrential rain.

You know the feeling, you could cut the air with a knife.

I’ve been in that state of mind for some time now, but yesterday something changed.

It wasn’t the internet, that was still as dreadful as ever, despite the assurances we get that we will have the best internet in the world.  The best joke, I think they mean, after spending $50 billion on it, I had better speeds on my 300 baud modem 20 odd years ago.

Sorry, I had to have another whinge about it.  Politicians are such liars.

No, it was not something I could put my finger on.

But…

What was it?

I found I could write again.

Well, I could always write, but it was a matter of forcing myself to sit down and do like it was a chore I really didn’t want to do.   And how easy it was to get sidetracked in social media.

Not today.

Today I simply looked at the writing I wanted to do, and it all came to me, without having to stare at the blank screen before the words would come, and then find myself deleting them over and over.  Yesterday, writing 500 words really meant writing 5,000 crappy words and continually revising.

Today I could write 5,000 words and it was all good.

Let’s hope it continues into tomorrow.

 

In a word: Green

Of course, it is a colour, one used for traffic lights, grass, and a lot of different shades.

It’s made up of blue and yellow, adjusting the amounts of each to get the shade you want.

I once had a dark green suit.

I don’t have any green emeralds.

When you get a green light, it means to go ahead, or just go, in traffic, or for the starting of a project

And a green run on the ski fields denotes the easiest run – just about my level!

Green with envy, yes, though I’m not sure why they picked green for envy

In England especially, green is a patch of grassy land, usually in the middle of a village

A green worker is one that is new to the job, and usually gets all the rotten jobs

Then there is the biggest money-spinner of all time: going green, which means eco-friendly.

I have only one question, why is it to go ‘green’ is to charge far more than normal

Oh, and by the way, political parties that are eco-centric are usually called the greens

And, these are the same people who chain themselves to trees, deterring bulldozers

The blue sea is really green, believe it or not!