Picture
I don't usually use Alaskankangaroo to link to my other writing on the Web, leaving that to my writer's site--bethgreenwrites.com. 

But I thought it might be interesting for readers here to take a look at the travel article I've written about Foshan, the Chinese city that Dan and I have lived in for most of our time in China.

You can find the link to my article on eChinacities.com here: http://www.echinacities.com/guangzhou/city-life/guangzhou-s-beautiful-neighbour-foshan-city.html

We first came to Foshan in 2006, fresh and new to Asia.  We left for awhile but came back in 2011 to remeet old friends and rediscover the city. And has it changed! Foshan In the past six years Foshan has grown, modernized and beautified.  Take a look at the article, and browse through some of my old blogs about it on Travelpod.com, to learn more about this fascinating, changing city.

 
Today, AlaskanKangaroo's Beth blogs over on Novel Adventurers (http://noveladventurers.blogspot.com/) about a festival that we came across by accident when traveling through the minority villages of southern Guizhou Province, back in 2009. 

If you've got time, take a look both at Beth's post, and also at the other posts written by the site's bloggers. They're all novelists who love travel--and, of course, adventure--and they tell great stories there every weekday.

Picture
Scaring away spirits with firecrackers.
 
[Editor's note: Please welcome Dan, the usually silent "kangaroo" part of "Alaskankangaroo," as he guest posts on his excursion to watch the last local Chinese Basketball Association game of the season.]


By Dan P.



Tonight I went to watch the final local game of the basketball season, the Foshan Long Lions versus the Qing Dao Double Stars.

While I am not a huge basketball fan, when I was a boy we would watch the local team, the Perth Wildcats, on TV. and I would get excited over the games I watched. During these games, I learnt the rules and some of the strategies of how to play basketball. So, when I saw a poster in the CITS travel agency window advertising the local Foshan Team, the Long Lions (lit. Dragon Lions), I knew I had to go and enjoy my first live game of basketball.

Tonight's game was close until the end, with the Long Lions winning in the game 107 - 101. There were a couple of calls that made the audience erupt in jeers and feet stomping! There were even a few slam dunks. The fans all beat their plastic clappers together, which was entertaining to watch too.

While televised basketball, especially NBA, is popular all over China, I asked a lot of people I knew if they had gone to see the Long Lions play live and they said they hadn't. This is probably because the team isn't at the top of the ladder. However the game I saw was exciting and fun.

There were even cheerleaders! Yes, little dancing princesses in pink bikinis twirling pom poms! The cheerleaders were ready to entertain at every break and time out—though the music was a little dated and uninspired. Also, everyone standing up for the Chinese national anthem at the beginning of the game was great! I like it when I see people being proud of their country.

The season's over now, but next season, you can get tickets from Qionghua Da Ju Yuan,( 佛山琼花大剧院 ) it's on Zumiao Lu. Just ask for lan qiu piao - basketball tickets. I got third row seats for 180 RMB. VIP tickets, complete with player's sweat, are 500RMB each and basic tickets in the back somewhere start from 60 RMB.


I think everyone should go see the Foshan Long Lions, and take their friends with them! We should support the local team, and even if you are only mildly interested in basketball, it's a live sporting opportunity afterall and it's the CBA—just as important here as the NBA is in the USA. You just never know. You may get to watch the next Yao Ming or Jeremy Lin in action.


Long Lions 加油 jia you! Long Lions 加油 jia you!

 
Just when the West thinks it's all over for the holidays until next year (with the exception of a card for Valentine's Day or a good Halloween party), Asia is gearing up for Lunar New Year. Called by various names like Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, this holiday signals renewal, rebirth and another chance at a lucky year. This Monday will begin the Year of the Dragon, and, as usual, decorators nation-wide (well, probably continent-wide) are going nuts for Dragons. 

I've found the debate in the China Daily newspaper over whether Chinese dragons should be fierce or cute to be very interesting. Here's some more links if you'd like to check them out.http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-01/18/content_14465416.htm, and  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-16422945

Also, near our apartment, the city has set up its yearly Flower Street, where entrepreneurs and school groups man booths to sell flowers and trinkets to people before the New Year. Prices were high when we checked out the street on Thursday.  If there are any left, we may go back when the street is winding up on Monday and buy some jonquils and chyrsanthemums for half price.

Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐!


 
I often see some strange English translations around town. When I have the camera with me, I take a picture of it:
 
This year has just zoomed by, while we tried to be stationary here in Foshan, China.

I hope all our readers also had a great 2011.

Happy Travels!
Picture
 
Hello everyone!

Yes, the rumors are true. Alaskan Kangaroo has made it back, full circle, to China.

While the Big Trip through SE Asia and family living rooms has eaten its final pad thai, we are still living life in 'travel mode' although now it's on a neighborhood level and not a national one. 

I promise to get some more stories up soon...my goodness I haven't even posted the one I wrote about our trip to Vegas in December, or our 23-hour mad stopover in Tokyo, or the 100 beers on tap in Portland...until then, Happy Chinese New Year!

 
Picture
Tourists bathe their feet in scenic Yangshuo
We are under siege.


Cold water attacks us, in long, crystal snakes from left and right.


“Get the foreigners!” one of our enemies cries.


“Get the Chinese!” Dan yells, dipping his gray and red water-gun in the river again and again, trying to defend our bamboo raft if not our diplomacy.


One of our attackers from the right flank, a tee-shirted, balding, soaking wet man gives up on his flimsy water pump and starts flinging water at us with a baseball cap, and finally his hands. His girlfriend opens her umbrella against us in a feeble attempt to protect herself from the deluge, only to get shot with water in the derriere by my father, whose bamboo raft has sneaked up from behind. She squeals so much her boyfriend calls a truce; the left flank attackers are by now laughing so hard they can't lift their water-guns.


They surrender, for now.

* * *

My father sidled up to the shifty-looking man on the street in Yangshuo, a sneaky expression on his face.


“You wanna buy a watch?” he asked, mustache twitching.


“Hey friend!” The man remembered Dad. “You want another watch?”


“No, no,” Dad said. “Do YOU want another watch?”


With a flourish Dad presented his arm, no less than three watches on it. “Wanna buy a watch?” he repeated. And started laughing. The man, a pushy watch salesman, joined in.

* * *

Yangshuo was our last destination in China before my parents flew back to Alaska and Dan and I began the second leg of our Big Trip, jetting off to Malaysia.


A tourist town tucked in the knobbly karst hills of southeastern China, Yangshuo seems to be on every tourist's itinerary. Dan and I visited once before on a three-day escape from Foshan, and liked it enough to go back for four days—and, with it's touristy bars and restaurants, it was a good way to transition between the East and the West.


The main event for us in Yangshuo was the river trip—floating down a placid stream on bamboo rafts and drinking beer while we drifted by the karst formations. Well, it was supposed to be placid and relaxing, but the waterfights livened things up. Dan tried to make it even more entertaining by always aiming his watergun at girls in white tee-shirts.


On land, my parents also caught up on their souvenir shopping, and Dan and I made a last-ditch effort to lighten our bags before our international trip.

A good end to our three-year adventure in中国.



**Click here to see our photos from Yangshuo**
 
For our last train ride in China—and it was a doozy--soft sleeper was the way to go.


The equivalent of first class in China lands you a four-berth compartment, often with a lace doily on the little table, wider if not noticeably softer beds, less fellow passengers to share the toilet with, and if you're lucky, a plush VIP room to wait for the train at the station.


We were attempting to get from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, all the way south to Guilin, Guangxi province, a thousand miles to the south. A mammoth journey using any kind of transport. We briefly considered flying, but since that would take two flights and about the same amount of money anyway, I decided to take us across country so at least we could see something along the way. The problem was, as I have written before, that it's difficult (read: usually impossible) to prebook tickets for the train, especially if it is for a train originating at another station. So, the ticket office in Hohhot could only sell us tickets to Zhengzhou, a major rail hub in central China, but not tickets from Zhengzhou to our final destination. The other option was to go east for several hours to Beijing and change trains there.


Not wanting to waste time going east when we really wanted to go south west, I decided to take our chances on being able to buy tickets to Guilin when we arrived in Zhengzhou.


We set off from Hohhot on a beautiful sunny day, a great contrast to the murky skies on our aborted riding-Mongolian-ponies-on-the-grasslands trip. Mom and I followed the train line on the guidebook map with our fingers, trying to discover where we would again cross the Great Wall. Meanwhile, we munched on dried beef (Genghis Khan's Army brand) and drank rum and coke with unsuspecting passersby.


We were enjoying the beef and the drinks and the fleeting glimpse of the Wall on both sides of a sunlit valley, when it occurred to Mom and I that we were heading pretty much due east and not south, as the map seemed to show the train tracks going.


Sure enough, just after nightfall we pulled into Beijing station,


Beijing! After all my planning to avoid it! We could have stayed over, seen the Forbidden City, eaten roast duck...Oh well. After three years of fighting to make sense of the train times and schedules, I should have known better.


The train carried on into the night, past dozens of power stations (nuclear?), countless villages and ancient ruins.


Thankfully though, when we arrived in Zhengzhou the next morning, I managed to make the easiest of all the train transactions we had experienced in China. We were able to get a soft sleeper cabin on the next train out to Guilin, and I didn't even have to wait in line to get the tickets. We fortified ourselves with a McDonald's breakfast and hit the tracks.




 
It's a hard life out on the grasslands of the Inner Mongolian steppe.

Summer flowers flourish amid the hardy roots of grass carpeting the undulating hills, but a vegetable patch might not. Horses and sheep have plenty to graze on, and the lack of timber means horse droppings are used for fire fuel.


Traditionally, people lived in collapsible yurts and moved location with the seasons. Now, to hold jobs and send kids to school, they weather life out in brick and concrete structures. Satellite TV has made it here to the Xilamuren district, as everywhere else in the world, and between tending for the sheep and carrying water from the well, our hostess' children watched Chinese game shows and Korean soap operas.


We took a guided tour from our hostel to an area of the grasslands near Hohhot. The idea was that we'd spend some time wandering in the plains, ride Mongolian ponies across the hard packed earth and have a barbecue over a horse-manure-fueled fire. A taste of local culture for modern-day nomads.


The weather had other ideas, and we spent most of our time huddled in blankets and coats. There weren't enough to make it warm. The grasslands were beautiful, but the late summer weather shrouded them in a gray mist and needling rain that made us loath to spend too much time appreciating them. The rain made it too slippery to ride horses, the guide said to our skeptical faces. He wasn't very helpful. The sun went down and it was too cold for the barbecue, he said. We pushed for it, and by midnight had a few chicken skewers painfully grilled over a reluctant fire. I lent him my umbrella for the task, and it came back full of singed holes.

We left early the next day, chilled and understanding perhaps why the early Khans pushed the borders of their empire to more clement climes.



**Click here to see photos of Inner Mongolia**
Picture
Our yurts.