A Travellerspoint blog

February 2007

This Beers for You...In Memory of Billy Thorpe

Hey Hey and a Sad G'Day to ya

Very sad indeed!

Whilst living and working on Queenslands Gold Coast I worked with a guy named Matthew.

He was a very quiet guy, an art freak.

Most nights we chose to sit beside each other. We would feed off each others desire to help those who needed it most.

In Australia natural disarster such as fire and flood takes away everything a family ownes. We would be there the next evening raising money to help them. Those who were born deaf or blind and one of our major raisings was for those who were born both deaf and blind.

Sit and imagine what their life would be like!

Hospitals in need of funding, those with cancer, those with AIDS those with anything that seperated them from 'normal' society, we would sit side by side and raise money to help them.

Most nights Matthew spent drawing.

For hours his greylead would scatter around his scribble pad. Some nights he chose to have a picture before him and he would produce the same yet he would add so much more.

Most nights though he would draw from within.

By smoko everyone would gather around to see what his pencil had produced.

Everynight he would leave us in awe!

When I chose my pathway in life to become a Foreign Teacher I left him alot of my belongings. I left with him my beloved bike. My sturdy steed that had taken me everywhere and shown me how beautiful that part of the world really is. I also left with him my surfboard. A triple fin thruster, just what he liked. I always chose to body surf so my surfboard always got the raw end of the deal.

On several occassions I got to toast life and all that it offered with his family.

Matthews father... Mattews father was for a long time a bass player for one of Australia's greats. He was the bass player for Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.

Billy passed away last night. 100% healthy yet the stars chose to reclaim him and share his star dust amongst us.

It's been along time between beers Matthew my friend. This beers for you and your family.

Beers and noodles to you...shane

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

An Adventure to Sunchang Town N Huayang Shan

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to you

On the train on the way home from my coastal adventure I met a very beautiful uni student named Eva who was on her way home from Beijing for Spring Festival. Her English was fantastic and if you were speaking to her on the phone you could almost believe she was American due to the accent left by several American English Teachers and friends. Her stop was about an before mine and after swapping details I accepted her offer to visit her home town. Yesterday morning I joined the endless Spring Festival cues at the Shaowu bus station.

I finally walked away with a ticket to Sunchang Town at midday. A little later than I wanted but looking at the amount of people in the bus station I had to be happy I got a ticket at all. What should have been an hour or so ride turned into a two hour ride due to all the stopping and starting picking up people and dropping them off on the roadside. I couldn't believe the amount of people the driver actually squeezed into the little bus without the help of a Japanese Peak Hour Train helper.

Though I had a front seat I could barely see the road in front of us due to the people squeezed in in front of me.

With two young kids already on my knee and the guy's knee beside me, surprise to me when a family of around seven waved the bus down and the driver actually stopped. I have no idea where they actually found a space each but when we left there was no one on the road side so they actually were all on the bus. Finally two hours after leaving Shaowu the bus arrived in Sunchang Town where I was met with a happy hug from Eva and warm welcoming smiles from her mother, Aunty and Eva's friend Shania.

Sunchang is built along the Min Jiang River which is the same river as Shaowu is set beside. It is an old town with an arch still standing from the Song Dynasty so that makes some of the town around 500 or so years old. To me it felt pretty much like home as it was like a bigger Tianyang. In a huge way I have been blessed by spending my first year and a half in a small and dusty farming town. When I arrive in towns like Sunchang I really do feel very comfortable. First stop was Eva's mothers 'Tourist Guide office' for the mountain 'Huayang Shan' where we sat for the days first 'Green Tea' stop. Eva's mother had organised a car and driver to take us to the mountain so soon we were driving under grey skies that soon began to slowly open. Thankfully the rain was gentle so there was no need to return to the town. We were all in very safe hands for the afternoon as Eve's mother is a local tourist guide for the mountain.

It really was a pity my bus was at midday and that the skies would soon open as I would now miss the long walk and only walk the 'half' walk (maybe less). Huayang Shan (Shan meaning mountain) is only a quick ten minute drive from town. At the moment it is only 5 Yuan to enter but soon it will be added to China's 'National Tourist List' and the price will rise to maybe 20 Yuan or more. Still a small entrance fee to pay for a day of walking and peace. I didn't hear a single car horn or festival fire cracker! The walk was beautiful and the mountain so green. There were vines hanging everywhere and small waterfalls could be heard and seen all along the walk. It's a pity places like this are missed by 99% of tourists, not by choice but the fact is they are just not known about or difficult to get to. They are in no guide books and unless you are Chinese or like me lucky to meet a beautiful English speaking Chinese girl on the train, you will really have no idea a mountain like Huayang Shan exists. So I thank the stars above for my beautiful life. Not only did I spend the afternoon walking the mountain but I got met the beautiful girls mother and spent the night with her friends. After sitting in the Tea House at the bottom of the mountain we headed back into town. Around six I gave Eva's mother a huge thank you for her time and warmth and Eva, Shania and I headed to the open air eating area to meet some of her friends for dinner. As it was raining small waterproof tent like Tee Pees's had been put up. Friends dropped in and all shared several dishes over heaps of photos and conversation. I was then lucky to be included in the 'Yearly Spring Festival Reunion'. Each year after Eva and her childhood and school friends arrive back in Sunchang they will share a night together catching up in a beautiful Tea House. Some friends Eva hadn't seen for four or five years. The tea bar was clean and bright and the tea was poured by a happy guy named Panda. All night he cleaned, brewed and poured tea into our tiny tea cups from a tiny tea pot. I couldn't add too much to the conversation as they found it hard to speak English. They could understand me well enough but like most Chinese, their speaking ability was small due to the fact that they never really have a need to speak English. I spent most of the night talking to Eva and Shania who translated a lot of what was being said. Plus it wasn't my reunion so I really didn't want to interfere or use their precious time on 'me'. It really was a most awesome day and evening. It's hard to thank a family who opens their arms to someone they don't really know. I know Eva and her mother will read this sometime soon, so I thank you both so much for your warmth. Huayang Shan is a beautiful mountain and if you ever do visit hopefully Eva's mother will be your happy guide. This morning after spending the night in the hotel where Shania's mother works, I met Shania for brunch and we then happily chatted our way around the little town of Sunchang. Her afternoon like yesterdays was to be spent catching up with friends she hadn't seen for several years. I said my sad good byes to a pair of beautiful eyes at the bus station and slept my way back to Shaowu. Pity as the drive along the river can be very peaceful while watching the reflections of the mountains opon the water. It is now time to head out in search of the evenings noodle feast. Even though today many in China began their slow and very long journeys back to where they came from I can still here endless fireworks going off all over Shaowu. I thing now though they won't go into the early hours of the morning. Beers N Noodles to you all.....shane

Sunchang - Eva & Huayang Shan

Sunchang - Eva & Huayang Shan


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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Spring Festival Lunch in a Beautiful Village

Spring Festival Village Lunch

Spring Festival Village Lunch


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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Chinese New Year N Spring Festival Information

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to ya

As each of the million Chinese celebrations come along in the year I like to read about what they are and where they actually came from. Spring Festival really is a most amzing time to be here in China. For some it would be too much especially in a large city and for others they would become totally lost in all the different ways it is celebrated.

Also like you've read in several of my last enteries, it can be so frustrating as well.

When the celebration begins most stores will close for several weeks to allow families to reunite, prices for accommodation rise in some parts, ticket sales for almost anything are impossible for one or two weeks...

...Yet it really is a most beautiful time...

Familes are together again and for most it will be their one and only time for the year. In the rural regions all sharing the same family name gather for a huge meal (see tomorrows entry for my experience), a lot of fire crackers are thrown around town by people of all ages, each night colourful lights and sprinkles fill the sky to accompany the loud BOOMS and most importantly of all, there is more than enough food to go around.

The food is not only plentiful but it is more delicious than you can imagine!

Anyhow, I've gathered together a little information and if your interested in what the Chinese New Year is all about, read on. If not, grab a beer and read on! Tee hee

Beers N Noodles to ya...shane

<u>Traditional Celebration of the Chinese New Year</u> </b> Of all the traditional Chinese festivals, the New Year was perhaps the most elaborate, colorful, and important. This was a time for the Chinese to congratulate each other and themselves on having passed through another year, a time to finish out the old, and to welcome in the New Year. <u>Turning Over a New Leaf </u></b> The Chinese New year is celebrated on the first day of the First Moon of the lunar calendar. The corresponding date in the solar calendar varies from as early as January 21st to as late as February 19th. Chinese New Year, as the Western new Year, signified turning over a new leaf. Socially, it was a time for family reunions, and for visiting friends and relatives. This holiday, more than any other Chinese holiday, stressed the importance of family ties. The Chinese New year's Eve dinner gathering was among the most important family occasions of the year. <u>Sweeping of the Grounds </u></b> Preparations for the Chinese New Year in old China started well in advance of the New Year's Day. The 20th of the Twelfth Moon was set aside for the annual housecleaning, or the "sweeping of the grounds". Every corner of the house must be swept and cleaned in preparation for the new year. SpringCouplets, written in black ink on large vertical scrolls of red paper, were put on the walls or on the sides of the gate-ways. These couplets, short poems written in Classical Chinese, were expressions of good wishes for the family in the coming year. In addition, symbolic flowers and fruits were used to decorate the house, and colorful new year pictures (NIAN HUA) were placed on the walls (for more descriptions of the symbolism of the flowers and fruits. <u>Kitchen God</u></b> After the house was cleaned it was time to bid farewell to the Kitchen God, or Zaowang. In traditional China, the Kitchen God was regarded as the guardian of the family hearth. He was identified as the inventor of fire, which was necessary for cooking and was also the censor of household morals. By tradition, the Kitchen God left the house on the 23rd of the last month to report to heaven on the behavior of the family. At this time, the family did everything possible to obtain a favorable report from the Kitchen God. On the evening of the 23rd, the family would give the Kitchen God a ritualistic farewell dinner with sweet foods and honey. Some said this was a bribe, others said it sealed his mouth from saying bad thins. Free from the every-watchful eyes of the Kitchen God, who was supposed to return on the first day of the New Year, the family now prepared for the upcoming celebrations. In old China, stores closed shop on the last two or three days of the year and remained closed for the first week of the New Year. Consequently, families were busy in the last week of the old year stocking up on foods and gifts. Chinese New Year presents are similar in spirit to Christmas presents, although the Chinese tended more often to give food items, such as fruits and tea. The last days of the old year were also the time to settle accumulated debts. <u>Family Celebration </u></b> On the last day of the old year, everyone was busy either in preparing food for the next two days, or in going to the barbers and getting tidied up for the New Year's Day. Tradition stipulated that all food be pre-pared before the New Year's Day, so that all sharp instruments, such as knives and scissors, could be put away to avoid cutting the "luck" of the New Year. The kitchen and well were not to be disturbed on the first day of the Year. The New Year's Eve and New Year's Day celebrations were strickly family affairs. All members of the family would gather for the important family meal on the evening of the New year's Eve. Even if a family member could not attend, an empty seat would be kept to symbolize that person's presence at the banquet. At midnight following the banquet, the younger members of the family would bow and pay their respects to their parents and elders. <u>Lai-See</u></b> On New Year's Day, the children were given Red Lai-See Envelopes, good luck money wrapped in little red envelopes. On New Years day, everyone had on new clothes, and would put on his best behavior. It was considered improper to tell a lie, raise one's voice, use indecent language, or break anything on the first day of the year. Starting from the second day, people began going out to visit friends and relatives, taking with them gifts and Lai-See for the children. Visitors would be greeted with traditional New year delicacies, such as melon seeds, flowers, fruits, tray of togetherness, and NIANGAO, New Year cakes. <u>Everybody's Birthday</u></b> The entire first week was a time for socializing and amusement. On the streets, the stores were closed and an air of gaiety prevailed. There were numberous lion dances, acrobats, theatrical shows, and other diversions. Firecrackers, which symbolized driving away evil spirits, were heard throughout the first two weeks of the New year. The Seventh Day of the New Year was called "everybody's birthday" as everyone was considered one year older as of that date. (In traditional China, individual birthdays were not considered as important as the New Year's date. Everyone added a year to his age at New Year's time rather than at his birthday.) - info taken from www.c-c-c.org/chineseculture

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

One Rainy Night In Fuzhou

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to ya With a ticket to Fuzhou leaving at 1:25pm I said a huge Thank You to the hotel owners for allowing me to stay in my room paying the same price as I was paying prior to Spring Festival and then slowly made my way towards the bus station.

First stop was a Wok Em Up Noodles stop and then to find some fruit for the journey. I arrived at the bus station around 1:00pm, showed my ticket and was pointed to bay number eight. Lucky for me a couple left their seat and I quickly filled one of them. There were people everywhere. They were sitting on newspaper on the floor, squatting in any space possible and standing to fill the gaps the others left. So to get a seat I was very lucky. There were many station staff walking around in their blue uniforms and as soon as they spot a westerner I'm sure it is their duty to look at your ticket to make sure you are where you should be.

I was told another three times that I was in the right bay. The time to leave Xiamen arrived so I joined the line beside me. I boarded the bus and then a lady wanted my seat. I pointed to my ticket and the seat number, she pointed to her ticket and the seat number. Both said the same destination and seat number. The bus driver came to intervene.

In a previous entry I explained how noisy the bus can get and if you've never been to China then you'll not understand what happens if you try to take the seat number that is on THEIR ticket. It really is like they MUST sit in the seat allocated to them! Later in the afternoon when I boarded my SECOND bus out of Xiamen I watched as the mother put her three or four year old next to someone else and then went to sit in the seat allocated to her.

Seriously, wouldn't you ask to swap tickets with the other person? You would wouldn't you! You would, you would, you would!

But she didn't and for the entire journey to Fuzhou she got up and went across to make sure the kid was ok and to cover him with her jacket. And what really got me was the person sitting next to the child was crazy enough to have the mother lean over them and do this the entire time... ...AND NOT EXCHANGE BLOODY TICKETS! It seriously frustrated me so much that I couldn't watch it anymore. I just wanted to yell, YOU! Get out of the bloody seat and move over there. And YOU, for gawds sake, sit next to your child. But of course I didn't say anything and if I did they probably would have thought I was ordering take away noodles. Anyhow, the winner of my seat was the Chinese lady. Why? Because I was at the wrong bus station. GRRRRR! You see, I could sit here and say the bus station staff was stupid and no one out of the four looked at the bus station, but instead I will blame myself as I usually do when there is some sort of confusion. Why do I blame myself? Because I'm too freakin lazy to learn Chinese. Too busy walking, riding or travelling. I can get by traveling from place to place but that's about. Two freakin years mate and I can barely recognize a character. I should have stayed in the 'Asian Character Museum' on Gulang Yu for longer! Anyhow, the bus driver got a young guy to explain everything to me. He went and changed my ticket for me and put me on the bus that took me to the other bus station. The young guy came with me and held on to the ticket the entire way. Cool I thought, obviously the bus must be waiting for me and he's coming to sort it out. We arrived and he waved me good bye, I grabbed the ticket and walked into the 'other long distance bus station'. I then looked at my ticket and what time was it for? It was for six freaking thirty. FARK, why put me on a bus and rush me here when I still had four and a half hours to wait. I decided to head out and see if I could find a Net Bar. Nothing, there is nothing at all around the bus station. Not only do I mean there are no Net Bars but the only thing around the bus station is apartment buildings. So what does one do in a situation like this. One goes on an apartment building adventure.

What would I suggest others do if the same thing happens to them? Get back on bus number 816, head back into the city and go shopping or laze in the park. Only an idiot would go on a Chinese Apartment Building adventure! After amusing myself by watching apartment buildings, girls, couples, girls, cleaners and girls go by six thirty finally arrived and I found MY SEAT and watched as the mother placed her son beside someone else and then went to take HER seat. I passed the next four hours listening to my phone MP3's and watching the rain drops crazily slide down my window. Usually here I'd say, Rain, that's a real bugger for me! But as it was my last day traveling I thought Cool, the real rain held out until now. It knew I had to get as much out of my days as I had to get my passport home early. I smiled and it faded as I then thought...BUGGER, I don't want to go home! Anyhow, where to stay in Fuzhou? You could head towards the train station where there are a heap of little hotels OR right next to the south bus station is a large hotel. I chatted to a taxi driver who could speak a little English for awhile until the rain stopped. We then jumped into his cab where I thought we must be heading down the road a little but we drove next door and he organised my room for me.

A beautiful plush room complete with its own stove etc for less than I paid for any of my hotels over the past few weeks. Nineteenth floor too with a great view and sparkling clean everything. After throwing my pack on the bed I headed back to the bus station and had seafood laksa and a beer with the cabbie and his buddies. A perfect end to a perfect coastal 'Earth Building, Ancient Granite City, Temple and Beach Frolicking' Romantic Adventure. Beers N Noodles to ya The soundtrack to this entry was: The awesome stoners 'Monster Magnet' The album '25.......TAB' Along with one of the greatest bands ever, 'World Party' The album 'Dumbing Up' I can't get enough of this band and Carl's lyrics!

One Night In Fuzhou

One Night In Fuzhou


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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)