Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gulangye Island

Today, Yessi and I visited Gulangye Island.  Gulangyu Island is renowned for its delicate natural beauty, its ancient relics, and its varied architecture. The island is on China's list of National Scenic Spots and also ranks at the top of the list of the ten most-scenic areas in Fujian Province.  Close to Xieman, Gulangye has a population of 20,000 people, while the city itself has a population of  3.61 million people.

From Yessi's home it was a 10 minute walk to an elevated busway (China Bus Rapid Transit) to get to the Gulangye Island ferry.  The 10 minute ride to the ferry cost 2 yuan or 32 cents.  

The view of Xiamen from the elevated busway

Gulangye Island is a popular tourist island.  The ferry, a 7 minute ride, is the only way to access Gulangye Island.  It is free on the outward journey.  On the way back it costs 8 yuan or $1.29.  

Passangers wait for island ferry

Looking back at Xiamen from Gulangyu Island

Looking back to Xiamen from Gulangye Island

Another scene looking back at Xiamen from Gulangye Island

This car-free island is a hot spot for weddings.  On this off season, mid week day that Yessi and I visited we saw 3 wedding parties.  According to one source, Gulangyu Island is being developed as a "Honeymoon Island" and honeymoon-themed activities have been launched.  To protect the island from over development, it is waiting for World Cultural Heritage status.  

Charming Walkways on Gulangyu Island

On our visit to Gulangyu Island today we enjoyed a unique "traffic-free island". It is connected to the main island of Xiamen only by ferry.  Neither cars nor bicycles are allowed and the only vehicles on the island are several fire trucks plus the newly introduced electric tourist buggies.  Watch out for the  electric tourist buggies.  They drive like race cars!  Freight is pulled on wheeled buggies up the often steep lanes by strong teams of men.

Fabulous walking through lovely architecture.

Brad & Yessi

My Wonderful Hosts

Knowing Yessi, spending time with her family, and experiencing China as I would experience it if I lived here, has been enriching and memorable.  I'm so grateful for this opportunity to get to know this wonderful family and to be a part of their daily lives.  

Yessi and mother prepare meals 3 times a day!!  
Every morning they all work together to get the two girls taken care of.  China still strongly encourages only one child.  As a result the second baby was born in Hong Kong at a cost of 250,000 yuan or $32,000 usd.  Since born in HK she has a HK passport which is more versatile and less restrictive.

Yessi; Fang Fang, Yessi's sister-in-law; Celin, Yessi's niece on Dan Feng, Yessi's mother's back; Ye Biao, Yessi's brother; and Yessi's cutie pie niece, Elin
Celine, calls me nothing but happily drools all over my arm.  Perhaps cuter than a button!
Elin, she calls me uncle and she's cute as a button!

On Transportation

In China there are many new and big foreign luxury cars like Lexis, BMW and Porsche Cayanes everywhere you look. The rest of the vehicle are well used trucks, buses of all sizes, a multitude of motorcycles, and bicycles, most of which are electric and look like they should have stopped working ten years ago. Batteries are held on with wire; baskets and racks are welded to gas tanks, handle bars or whatever; bamboo armatures are taped on holding umbrellas and tarps; wheels that are far from round and often at funny angles, wobble as they ride down the middle of the road.  And, not a single light on any of them.

Xiamen traffic jam
At night they are more like invisible ghosts but still in the middle of the road and often going the wrong direction.  You couldn't pay me to get on one of these things, let alone ride it in the middle of the road, often on the wrong side of the road, and without lights.

Going the wrong way

Driving here is unbelievable.  How there aren't more accidents I truly don't understand.   So far as I can tell, there appear to be no rules or traffic laws but neither are there police or traffic accidents.  It's as if the vehicles on the road are ants -- part of a hive mind.

Yes, there are accidents

There seems to be a hidden code where cars turn in front of others.  Right of way is not a given and all vehicles have equal right of way.

You want to do a U turn.  Just do it!

Pedestrians cross as needed.  Bicycles and even cars are regularly on the wrong side of the road as if the lines and lights were suggestions.  Need supersedes 'intended use'.  So, what is easiest or fastest or makes the most sense becomes the "right" thing to do.  This allows open areas, free lanes, and any unused spaces to be used as needed.  If there are no cars  moving, people will simply park their car, even on intersection corners or the wrong side of street.  Likewise they drive on sidewalks, plazas and alleys one wouldn't initially think were suitable for any vehicle.

Street scene in Xiamen

The result -- less wasted space, more efficient travel, perhaps planning is even simplified requiring less thought for intended use but instead creating the "zones" that allow people to use them how they want.  Kind of like my philosophy for architecture.  That is, create wonderful spaces that lend themselves to multiple use and the varied needs of users.

Gas here is 2.70 yuan/liter or 4.50 per gallon.  But, with all the alternative transportation options, including a fabulous rapid bus transit system where buses run on dedicated streets, through tunnels, and on elevated roadways, one can easily avoid driving if desired.  

In a city of 3.61 million people, all forms of transportation mix it up in a fascinating move-the-people-dance. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tree on a Step Pedestal

The most perfect tree since NZ

Brad and the Perfect Tree

Uncle Brad

Yessi's Niece, cuter than a bug!

Calls me uncle  and seems to have a bit of an infatuation with me

Child Care

Many children are left sitting, and sometimes tethered, while their only parent works.  

In this case grandpa was sorting garbage for recyclables 150' away.

Brad tethered to keep him out of trouble!!

Distribution System

With no seats but bunks only, this bus stopped several times to pick up boxes and styrofoam containers needing delivery.  The distribution system here utilizes trucks, busses, cars, vans, bikes, mopeds, three wheelers, and even pedestrians.  Everyone is moving something somewhere.

Brad anddYessi on bus

A maze of wiring

As in any city, Xiamen has areas needing attention.

Wiring Simplified

Xiamen, China

I've never seen so many buildings being built at the same time. Some projects have perhaps a dozen identical 20 to 30 story buildings and there are 10 if not 20  such projects being built in Xiamen.  Xiamen is a modern, thriving, beautiful city.

Why Visit China? Some Ideas you can sink your teeth into.

I visited China for a number of reasons, but most important is the fact that in New Zealand I met a wonderful woman from China and she had invited me to visit.

Better than any dentist I've visited in the states.  Excellent equipment,  very clean, and very skilled people 
Also, my year of hiking was one continent and just a few weeks short of 12 months, 3 continents and 5000 miles. So when I decided to visit Yessi to have dental work done, we decided to take a trip to Nepal where we would hike the Annapurna Circuit.

View from my chair on 23 floor
But the true instigator to it all was that I needed dental work done, after years of neglect and 11 months of questionable hygiene  living on the trail and hiking all day, every day, my dental plan had a few holes in it.  The costs Yessi provided me with were so incredible, I was able to purchase a round trip ticket, get all my dental work done and take a vacation for less than one root canal and crown done locally.

Dental Waiting Room
As I edit this posting, over one year later, my teeth look and feel great.  I still look back on my time in the dental chair with fondness as one of the best medical experiences I've ever had.  The doctor studied in America and has good English, and several of his workers speak English too.  The workers all specialize in one task, cavities, drilling, tooth removal, crown fitting, casting, cleaning, etc.  That is all they do and while I feel that perhaps having a well rounded set of skills may make for more interesting career, I have never seen such young people wielding tools with such skill and confidence.

From elevator dentist day 2 
For those interested, the Dentist is in Xiamen, south China Fujian province, along the coast, due West from Taiwan.  It's an amazing city of 3.5 million, with 1.5 million living on the island proper.

Yao Dental Clinic Centre

Dr. George, DDS PhD
email-  yaodental@yahoo.com
1 315 921 6330

姚森 博士/院长

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bicycles as far as the eye can see

Hong Kong

Play and Exploration in and around Hong Kong

Hong Kong from Bay 
Airport below from tram on top of Lantau Island

Brad in the land of make believe

Brad & Yessi
Getting on Ferry to Lantau Island 
Brad & Big Buddha

Big Buddha

A real tree that's not.  This tree died but is now covered with ornaments and fake leaves.

Yessi & Brad at Big Buddha

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mukilteo Coffee in Hong Kong

Our very own Whidbey Island coffee company, Mukilteo Coffee Roasters, has been working in China to develop,  expand and export coffee to China.   Gary Smith, owner of Mukilteo Coffee, has been spending lots of time in Hong Kong these past few years, and can now point to 120 Pacific Coffee shops in Hong Kong.  Plus three containers of roasted coffee leave Whidbey Island for China monthly.  It's amazing, awesome and fantastic.  Mukilteo Coffee Roasters is also employing 20+ folks on this small island.   Hats off to Gary!

Pacific Coffee's flag ship shop in Hong Kong

The taste of Whidbey in China
Prior to my departure for China I met with Gary to see what I could glean about Hong Kong.  Lots as it turned out, including learning about the location of Pacific Coffee's number one shop.  Thanks Gary.  It was fun to "feel" a little at home on my first day in China.

Hi Tech China

Hong Kong is quite the awesome city.  High tech, modern, solar, new construction, outstanding transportation...
A huge, fancy, solar powered Apple store in Hong Kong
Lots of toys --  Construction Galore.

Hong Kong

I'm in Hong Kong.  I love it!

Hong Kong view from Brad's hotel room