Monday, July 30, 2012

My China Trip, part 5

From my last post, you know I went go Guangzhou. Guangzhou was a cool place, but I couldn't wait to go to my hometown. 台山, Taishan. The thing was that the day before we left, we watched the news and it said that there would be storms in Taishan. My mother was hesitant to go the next day, but we called my cousin who was at Taishan, to see how the weather was really like. He said it was hot, sunny, sticky, just like any other summer day.

We actually took a bus to Taishan. My mom's aunt took us to the bus station,which was really nice of her and she showed us how to buy the tickets and everything. We barely made it on time to the bus because the tickets we bought, the bus would leave in about 10 minutes. We didn't want to wait for a couple hours at the station with no air conditioning. There were actually tons of people there who seemed like they had spent the night there, with their sleeping bags out and everything. 

The bus was actually quite nice. The seats were pretty comfortable and there was air conditioning. I actually fell asleep on the bus ride. I think I've gotten used to sleeping on the bus because there were long bus rides while I was on tour. 

Anyway, when we were close to Taishan, my dad started pointing all these places that he recognized after not being there for about 20 years. Of course, there were new things, but he recognized the area. My mother, on the other hand, didn't. It took her a while to remember.

Anyway, when we arrived in Taishan, it started. It's normal for it to rain at this time of year. We waited for a family friend to pick us up. As it turned out, we had a taxi van take us to my grandparent's place, where we stayed during our stay in Taishan. Taxi vans are common throughout Taishan. There are even taxi motorcycles (but I don't suggest taking those because mainly men drive them, and who knows what other things they have in mind).

After meeting up with a family friend and settling into the apartment, we went out to eat lunch. We walked to the restaurant, which wasn't that far. My cousin joined us too (he's also staying at the apartment). The food was actually yummy and I loved the mochi like dessert they had. It was brown, shaped like disks, and it was made with rice flour, stick brown sugar and some other things. I wish I knew how to make it, but oh well. Walking around Taishan, you really see some of the poverty around. You also see how dirty the streets are and how much people either ride their bike, motorcycle or walk to the places they need to go to. There are so many people on the street. No wonder why Asians are so skinny, unlike me. I feel so fat compared to them. I still feel fat...

Anyway, we went back to the apartment after. The food in China tastes so much better in my opinion, even though some of it is street food. You have to be careful because sanitation is unheard of on the streets. I'm scared how they prepare the food, even though they cook it right in front of you. You just have to trust that the heat will kill the germs. Their steamed buns are awesome. I ate red bean buns, lotus buns and sesame paste buns, almost every morning. They're pretty cheap too. The steamed buns were sold on the street. However, there  are actual bakeries, where they sell baked buns, cakes, and other baked goods too. The bolo bao was delicious, especially with the red bean filling. They even added some shredded coconut to the cookie part. Delish! The street fried noodles too and the cheung foon was good too. They did have rice porridge, but I was disgusted how they put it "to go". Instead of putting the porridge in a container, they poured it into a plastic bag, and doubled bagged it. I didn't eat it.

Anyway, we did many things in Taishan. For one thing, we went to one of the shopping streets there. We called up the same taxi van person to drive us there. He's pretty nice and we ended up calling him most of the time for when we needed someone to drive us. Anyway, at the shopping place, it was really hot but the clothes were so cute. It's kind of scary though because the sales people watch you like a hawk and follow you around, trying to get you to buy stuff. ANyway, there was also an indoor shopping center too, with McDonald's there too. McDonald's is seriously taking over Asian. They also have this Kung Fu fast food place everywhere in China, but we never ate in one of their restaurants. I actually like the McDonald's in Asia better. They have better customer service. They even bring the food to you and clean up after you. Their food options are so much better and more variety and they use REAL ingredients. Iespecially love their ice cream cones, and they're pretty cheap too. It's less than 50 cents American money.  Anyway, I always got their iced coffee and, guess what. They put ICE CREAM in it. Not CREAM. It was delicious.

Anyway, the indoor shopping center had more modern clothes but it was so expensive. I was actually on a lookout for a cute Asian dress, but I never found one, even though we went to all the shops there, in the center and the outdoor shopping area. Well, I did find one, but it was expensive, in Chinese standards, at least. It would be pretty cheap for American standards. Anyway, we even found a mini dollar tree there. Well, it's actually 2 yuan, but that's basically a few cents in American money.

What really got me annoyed was that whenever I went into a local shop, the owners automatically spoke to me in Mandarin. Not the local dialect, Taishanese. However, they would speak it with other customers. I think it's because I look like I'm not from the area. It could have been the way I dress or just my skin color. They actually judge by skin color too, to see if you are from the area or not. But, in Beijing, they thought I was from Taiwan because of my more western clothing. Anyway, seriously though. I thought that I blended in with the rest of the Taishanese people. But, some people could tell by the skin color too. I lie, actually. Only once in Taishan did that happen, but still, I felt offended that someone thought that I was an outsider.

 I ended up buying a dress the first time we went shopping at that area. We went at least 4 more times and I bought 2 new shirts, spandex shorts and a new sleeping dress/shirt. Twice, I bought the hong kong waffle from the street vendors in the area. It was delicious (but not as good as the ones I ate in Hong Kong and the ones I tried here in the states, which had banana filling in it).

Anyway, we went to my dad's village a day or two after we arrived in Taishan. My dad hadn't gone in almost 20 years and yet, he still blended in with the village people. You can tell they were villagers. The buildings were basically right next to each other, some made of bricks and that stuff. The locks were pretty secure too. They had rice grains laid out on the ground and peanuts as well to dry them out. Chickens were roaming freely and the ground dirty. It's really hard to explain. Anyway, the people still farm and wash their clothes in the river. They had tans, the women with hunched backs, and their teeth, you can tell they were villagers. The guy farmers actually had abs, at the age of 50. It was quite a surprising sight. But, my dad's house was actually bit more modern, since it had a real bathroom. I did meet a guy there, whose house was actually quite modern in the inside, besides not having air conditioning. He had a big screen tv, computer and all that stuff. I was quite shocked, since I didn't expect that in an old farming village, where everyone was connected to each other somehow and that most villages didn't modernize. There's internet and running water.Everyone has the same surname  in the village and there are really strong and close ties with one another. Anyway, the guy happens to be the son of my dad's friend, who was a teacher.  By the way, we bought tons of candy and crackers there and all the villagers divided it among themselves.

We ended up taking half the village out to eat for lunch. We somehow crammed 18 people into a van to get to the closest restaurant. At the restaurant, you could really tell who the villagers were. The way they acted and how they dressed seem really out of place from the others. My dad's village friends ordered tons of food, soda and cigarettes and that stuff. They did order a lot of eel rice, which Taishan is famous for. They didn't really even eat that much. They took home the leftovers, which they put in bags and not boxes. It was quite an experience dining with them. 

Anyway, we went back to the village. We walked around the village, took pictures but then it got too hot, so we went back inside. We even walked into their community center, where they had names and pictures of the people that have lived in the village. They had my grandparents names and pictures up there. I was so surprised but touched by it. 

We walked around the farming fields and stuff and then, we finally, we decided to go back to the apartment. We had someone drive us back. Surprisingly, my dad's friend's son tagged along, since he said he would be hanging out with friends in that area where our apartment was. I think he had more than that in mind though (me) since he stayed with us for a couple hours in our apartment. 

Anyway, most of the time in Taishan, it was either eating out with my mom or dad's friends or family, shopping, and staying home in the apartment. We started walking more to the places now, instead of having someone drive us. There was this one restaurant that we almost always went to whenever my mom invited either family or friends to come talk and eat. The place was actually pretty decent and more modern though. I really loved the vegetable dishes they cooked. 

So, we stopped by the supermarket a couple times in Taishan. We bought one of their shampoos and liquid soap to use and I have to say, I like it a lot better than the American ones. They work so much better and smell better too. I also looked around their snacks and everything and guess what. I found something I hadn't eaten in 10 years. They were Iced Gem Biscuits. I used to eat them a lot when I was a little kid. They used to sell them in the Asian stores here in Cali. But, the stopped selling them for some reason and I missed eating them. So, I bought a bag. Boy, they are delicious, just how I remembered  how they were when I was a child. It brought back so many memories.  One of them was that, a tooth fell out when I was eating the hard icing once. It was actually a crown on a tooth, but I still remember that clearly. Boy, I wish I had bought extra bags to bring to the states. I even found red bean kit kats there, but I didn't buy any. I wish I had. I love red bean. I also love kit kats. Hopefully, I can find some here in California, but in the meantime, I'll just have to hate myself for not buying it. We also found Chinese Oreos with random fruit flavor fillings. It tasted okay. I should have gotten the strawberry filling, but we got the mango/orange filling. 

I forgot to mention that in Taishan, my parents bought cooked dog meat from restaurants to eat. They love dog meat. I didn't eat any though. Another popular item besides dog meat is eel rice in Taishan. Everyone seems to love both of those items. 

Our family walked to so many places, it felt so natural and I actually knew my way around the area. My dad found his way around on the first day, actually. He's really good with direction and he has been to that area before when he walked around and biked there a long long time ago. Anyway, we went to my mom's village another day too. It's so sad how not many people live in the villages anymore. There are very few people in the villages. Mainly the older people stay while the younger ones move out for to get their education or move to the city to have a better life. My mom's village was the same but different than my dad's. The house was really old  and not modern, but it was modern and advanced when my mom lived there as a child. It's made of bricks, the cooking is over a hole thing while you need to start a fire to cook. 

There is no running water in that village and the population was so small. My grandma's relative helped us out. Her married son was also very helpful and their granddaughter was just adorable. Anyway, my mom's house that she lived in when she was little had stairs, which were quite small. She remembered running up and down the stairs with her siblings and running around the dinner table. There's also baskets hanging in which they store food.  Anyway, we went out to eat and then we went to the son's place, which was in an actual part of the city. Most people have moved out. Their house was pretty fancy. It was an actual house and not an apartment. There were gates, fences, they had pet dogs. They had real couches, big screen TV, smartphones and there were these fancy chandler lights. Their little daughter had tons of toys and always wanted to talk and play with me. I guess she gets lonely being the only child. However, their bathroom was quite old fashioned, having to pour water into the hole after using it.

WE also went out to another city around that area to visit my mom's other aunt. Both aunts would be there to have a mini reunion, but my grandmother was still in the USA during that time. Anyway, that aunt's place was really nice too. I'm guessing big screen TV's are the norm in China. This place was an apartment. All of the apartmens have a mini outside patio thing with bars for hanging clothes to dry and that stuff. That aunt had 2 grandsons that were also there, around my age. The older one's English was okay though. Anyway, the whole big family went around town, ate lunch and went back to the apartment and then, we took a bus to the bus station and then took the bus back to Taishan. By the way, my cousin tagged along too, that's also staying at the apartment we are.

Anyway, that was pretty much it. We visited family, friends, shopped and walked around and went out to eat. We had McDonald's ice cream cone a lot though. We also went to a fancier part of Taishan, where there were these 5 star hotels and an amazing restaurant.  We just looked around though.  We also walked around this man-made lake, which was pretty and nice. We also walked around this huge park area. We saw bamboos, banana trees, taro plans, guava trees and these cool plans we don't see in America. It did rain on us though, but then, it become hot and sunny.

We stayed at Taishan for about 2 weeks. But, we did go to Macau for one day during the 2 weeks. We went to Hong Kong after staying in Taishan, but that will be in the next post. I guess that's all I'll write about Taishan. There's so much to say, but this is all I will say since I might have forgotten some things. I hope it isn't too long.

Stay tuned if you want to hear about Macau (the gambling city) and Hong Kong.


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