Saturday, September 30, 2006

China and Thailand

I'm back from my trip and way behind blogging, so I'll start posting and making links when I sort my pictures out. ;) There was internet access over there, but between busy days and convenience matters (I didn't bring a computer to take advantage of free WiFi) I didn't really have the time until late in the trip in Bangkok.

So I'll start posting and linking here... it'll take me a while!

9/27 Four Faced Buddha (Bangkok)
9/26 Reclining Buddha (Bangkok)
9/26 Golden Buddha (Bangkok)
9/23 Floating Market
9/22 Grand Palace (coming soon...)
9/21 Maglev Train (Shanghai)
9/21 Where is the Watermelon?
9/18 Shànghǎi
9/17 Hángzhōu
9/16 Nánjing
9/15 Yángzhōu
9/14 Sūzhōu

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Four Faced Buddha

At a busy intersection in downtown Bangkok is a Four Faced Buddha. There are several throughout Thailand, but this is the best known one. As you can see it is a busy outdoor shrine.

Four Faced Buddha
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

The dancers are a money-raising method for this temple - the women dance in exchange for a donation.

Temple Dancers
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Worshippers buy a dozen incense sticks, a candle, and four garlands. Then they pray to each of the four faces, leaving a garland and three incense sticks in a tray of ashes.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

It is considered good luck to release fish or birds, and just outside was a vendor selling cages of small birds. My mom bought a cage and we took turns releasing the birds, who I'm sure were very happy to be free again!

Free Bird
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha Head
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
The Reclining Buddha is enormous - the head rises 15 meters above the ground.

Reclining Buddha Feet
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Each foot is 3 meters high and 5 meters long.

Reclining Buddha
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
A friend took this slightly fuzzy picture of me, which shows how large it really is! The total length is 46 meters.

Pot of Coins
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
For a donation you receive this pot of coins. By the side of the Reclining Buddha are 108 small pots, one for each auspicious sign of the Buddha. The tradition is to toss a coin into each pot, thus blessing you to live to be 100+ years old!

Golden Buddha

Golden Buddha
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
This large Buddha weighs 5.5 tons and is plated with pure gold.

Gold Leaf
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
For a donation you receive incense sticks, a garland, and three gold leaf squares. This leaf is 24 karat gold, and sticks to skin very easily, thus the paper enclosure.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
By the side of the large Golden Buddha are three smaller ones. What you do is take the gold leaf shown above, and carefully apply it to these smaller ones, by pressing the gold against the statue and rubbing it for a few seconds through the paper.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Floating Market

Orchid Farm
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
One side trip outside Bangkok was a trip to a floating market, and we passed this orchid farm on the way.

View from Boat
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
We got into long boats and sped to the floating market via a series of narrow canals.

Country House
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
A typical house along the way - easy access to the canal!

Kids Playing
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
They were blowing soap bubbles and tossing rocks into the canal, and waved as we passed by.

Floating Market
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
A portion of the floating market. People would sell their wares or cook food as we wandered by. While many vendors carried their stock in boats there was also a larger permament building with various souvenirs for sale... that portion of the market had all the signs of the classic tourist trap. ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Maglev Train

Here is a (blurry) shot of the top speed the Maglev train in Shanghai reached - 431 km/h, or 267 mph! This train turns the 30 km trip from the depot to Pudong Airport into an 8 minute journey.

I'm positive this is the fastest I've traveled on land.

Speedy Train

Where is the Watermelon?

Our trip included meals, and they have been delicious and very large.

About to Feast

A typical meal that we were served in China was 20 to 30 courses of food - no kidding. Each course was a plate shared by the whole table, but even still, if you average eating 1/10th of each plate that still comes out to 2 to 3 plates of food. And sometimes there was an individual soup (or two) brought out! What is pictured above are just appetizers...

One thing that remained constant through every lunch and dinner was the last course: sliced watermelon. It became a little joke when we were stuffed and couldn't eat anymore, people would start to ask if the watermelon was coming soon. ;)

Monday, September 18, 2006


We took a river cruise one evening in Shànghǎi, along the Hangpu river. The city district is called the Bund, and it is a very scenic waterfront area. Especially at night, when dozens of skyscrapers put on light shows!

The Bund at Night
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
View from our river cruise.

TV Tower
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
I think the guide said this is the tallest TV tower in Asia.

Big Ching
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
The clock on the right is modeled after the Clock Tower at London's Parliment building (nicknamed Big Ben). This one is nicknamed Big Ching.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


West Lake View
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Pagoda view from West Lake.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Interior Lake
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
We visted this very fancy home/estate of a wealthy merchant. His house was so large it had this interior lake and several pagodas around the perimeter!

Ornate Table
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

City View
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
View of Hángzhōu from the pagoda at Lingyin Temple.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


We had a busy day in Nánjing. We started off at the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum, a popular attraction since Sun Yatsen is recognized at the father of modern China. Hordes of people climb the stairs to the top where his tomb is. The coffin inside is sealed with a marble statue of Sun Yatsen.

Sun Yatsen Mausoleum
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

After spending some time here we went to the neary Ming Xiaoling tomb, which was finished in 1383. A series of courtyards lead to this large rectangular structure, behind which is a mound which has been fully excavated.

Ming Xiaoling Tomb
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

While there isn't a lot to see at the tomb area, the avenue leading up to it is lined with various stone statues of animals and people.

Stone Guardian
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Elephant Statue
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Our last stop in Nánjing was the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum. The Taiping Rebellion was a civil war between the Qing empire and the Taipings, led by Hong Xiuquan. He built a palace in Nánjing complete with a very ornate throne for himself! The museum now takes up the grounds, and was originally a garden complex.

Heavenly Throne
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Garden Building
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Rock Garden
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
This rockery is in a bamboo (Ge) garden built by a wealthy salt merchant. The rocks were from a nearby lake, and used because they were expensive to get. This Ge Garden has four areas that represent the four seasons, and this area is "winter".

Slim West Lake
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
This lake is a "slender" or "slim" version of the more famous and scenic West Lake in Hángzhōu.

Slim West Lake Bridge
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
A scenic bridge at Slim West Lake.

New Business
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
These bright streamers announce the grand opening of a new business!

Thursday, September 14, 2006


In Sūzhōu we started by visiting the Humble Administrator's Garden, built by a civil servant in the 1500's. He could afford to built such a nice complex of streams, buildings, and bamboo lined walkways because he embezzled the money and then retired!

Humble Administrator's Garden
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Lookout tower where ladies could view men without being easily seen themselves.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Detail in the walkway at the Humble Administrator's Garden.

After that we drove over to Ruiguang Pagoda, which is near the only remaining section of the city gate. The gate featured a double set of doors that could slide up and down, with a courtyard in between. In the old days, the city guards would let you in, shut both doors, and then verify you were allowed to continue in.

Tea House
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Near Ruiguang Pagoda and the city gate.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Vacation Reading Material

Today was just a bunch of errands, from visiting the bank, to cleaning and laundry, to packing (well that isn't quite finished yet), to stopping the mail, etc. One thing I spent some time on was selecting reading material for the plane trips.

I have the thick Lonely Planet China book, which will keep me occupied. But I also want to bring along other reading material. Plus, my bookshelf is jammed with novels I have been meaning to read.

So while I have many books I'd like to read (Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre, Lurulu by Jack Vance, Frek and the Elixir by Rudy Rucker, The Tour by Dave Shields, and many many others) I can't take any of those with me! Why? That is because I expect those books to be really good and earn a spot in my library, while the ideal novel to take on a trip is "disposable" - the kind I don't mind leaving in some distant hotel or airport when I'm finished with it. :)

So after combing through my "to read" section, I picked out Positively Fifth Street by James McManus, and Deception Point by Dan Brown. I'm expecting to be entertained by them, but they don't seem like novels I will really miss if they don't return with me. If I'm wrong and these books just blow me away, I suppose I will lug them back.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Miracle Miles 15K

This morning was the Miracle Miles 15K, a fundraiser for a children's hospital. I hadn't been doing many long runs at all; this one was nearly twice the length of my longest run in several weeks. Thus I didn't really expect to set a PR or race it - instead I just wanted to stick to my planned marathon pace, ~9 min/mile.

That worked out pretty well, because I did 1:22:39 for an 8:50 mile, finishing 31/67 in my division. I'm actually shocked I placed that high in the division with that finishing time.

I ran with the Forerunner 305, but unfortunately I didn't get a GPS lock until about 2/3rds the way through the race. Argh, next time I'll turn it on earlier.