31 August 2009
On the train to Shanghai. Just left Beijing 20 minutes ago. The
train actually left 2 minutes early! Don't know why.
I can hear restful Chinese music playing as I lie on my sleeper. I
can smell the instant noodles I'm waiting for. I hear and feel the
train moving along the tracks fast enough to let me know this is no
old train. It's less than 1 year old. Ten hours to get between the
destinations. TV screen in front of me and 2 channels to choose from.
Air con. 4 beds in this cabin. It's a soft sleeper... not hard
sleeper. I wanted the cheaper hard sleeper (you could say, economy),
but there were none left. It was about 600 RMB (Chinese Yuan) which
is about $100 in Australia.
I feel sad leaving Beijing. Not exactly sure why... Maybe the music I
hear now... I made good friends at the hostel I stayed in... and
friendly staff. Met a good old friend. Saw some nice beaut spots
during the 4 days I was here: Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, Tiananmen
Square, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Olympic Stadium.
It was my first place to visit in China. I won't forget my first
memories of China.
My camera decided not to work yesterday when I was in church (strange
place for it to stop working... it's totally dead now). So, after
walking for a while in the rain trying to find the Olympic stadium, we
found Wu-Mart which provided a good place for me to get a new camera!
So, that was good. The price was 1400 RMB but bargained a bit and got
it down to 1250 Yuan, with 2Gb card and case, so, not bad for about
AUD 200. It's a Nikon, so I'm happy with the quality.
Time to get to those noodles. I'll miss the people I met in
Beijing... Chinese, hostel staff, old friends, church people, other
foreign travellers. I'll remember the nice sights I saw. I'll miss
30 August 2009
Tiananmen Square. The main road that goes past it is so wide! About
5 lanes each way with turning lanes, cycle lanes and pleeenty of space
on each side, and then when the road goes past the square, it doubles
The Square is so large! It's one of the largest in the world. I felt
the awe and power of the state of China as I rode my bike past it. I
could see the photo of Mao. Quite impressive! China is a world power
and you feel it when you're in the Square.
Rested Saturday afternoon. At night, ate a few noodles, then went
bargaining! Yes, it's lots of fun. Prices might start out at 180
yuan (about $40 Australian dollars), and I got a leather belt for 40
yuan. Then looked at a shoe shop... it's apparently leather (I'm
still not sure), but got 480 yuan shoes for 100 yuan, and then today
went back and got (apparently) 800 yuan shoes for 90 yuan! It's fun,
Today, went to the Forbidden City, which is where the Emperor used to
live for quite a number of years. It's the centre of Beijing. And,
just opposite, is Tiananmen Square. "Tiananmen" means "Heaven Peace
Gate". Took some photos, ate some lunch and got a taxi back to the
hostel (less than $2).
Now, packed, ready to go to Olympic Park. Then, catch overnight train
to Shanghai. Monday and Tuesday there. Tuesday night, overnight
train to Hong Kong. Thursday night, flight to Thailand.
Beijing's been great! Happy Dragon Hostel is really good, friendly,
clean, safe, good atmosphere, really good staff, English speaking, and
good price (about AUD 12 per night).
Glad I could come to Beijing.
29 August 2009
hostel here. Made my way, checking the map a few times, to one of the
Christian churches in Beijing. The outside of the church had an old
look to it. It wasn't cathedral style. Someone helped shoe me where
to park my bicycle and I headed inside.
I was greeted by a smiling member at the door who showed me to a seat.
Almost every seat was full, and there was another large room next to
the main building I was in. There was well over 500 people there. I
arrived about 9:30 am, I think, and it looked like they were having a
group Bible study.
Then we sang a song, that part of the program seemed to be over, and
the main worship begain about 10 am. About 25 members in the choir
entered as we sang a sacred opening song. People didn't sing quietly,
they sang with volume and spirit. The songs were familiar tunes, but,
of course, in Chinese. I couldn't understand the words, but I could
work out a few of the meanings of the Chinese characters (since I knew
some Japanese), and I could sing the odd note here and there.
Once or twice, as I was singing the songs, I recognized the words
"blood", "wash", and "white", and another time "Jesus", "love" and
"you". As I realized the meaning, and saw the large number of people
wanting to know God having strong faith, and that God is everywhere
(Australia, Japan, China), I couldn't help but feel my eyes become a
little watery. I felt I was closer to God and that it had been a
while since I'd been united in worship. All this, even though it was
all in Chinese and I didn't really understand.
But, one young man was able to translate the worship for me. He could
speak English and Chinese and I'm very glad he could help me. The
message was about being happy, and how our joy comes from Jesus. When
we are happy, our body's health and spiritual health is much better.
Sadness can cause more sickness. Jesus loves us, has forgiven us, and
we can have the joy from knowing He cares for us. It was a simple
message, but one that helped me.
At the end of the message, the pastor asked who had come for the first
time. About 20 or 30 people raised there hands. The pastor asked
them to come to the front; the choir sang; the pastor prayed for them,
and invited them to know more.
After church, was ate some of our own lunch and some others shared
with us. We saw people praying together and some with their Bibles
open as they ate lunch. There were at least 4 different programs that
afternoon: pre-baptism classes, post-baptism classes, youth classes,
English classes etc.
This church seems dynamic. The Spirit is working in this church.
People are coming to know Jesus.
I felt really blessed to attend. After lunch, I chatted with the man
who translated for me, and also another young man who'd just moved to
Beijing for work. It was pleasant to share lunch and to chat
together. I was encouraged. I'd like to attend again, but next
Sabbath, I'll be in Thailand.
God is Lord of all. He is in each country. His Spirit is available
everywhere. I want to be near this God who created all things, who
loves me deeply.
28 August 2009
the place. Plenty of history.
Temple of Heaven was my favourite. The icon of Beijing. As the sun
was getting lower in the sky, the buildings were a beautiful sight to
behold. I sense it may have its roots in the original religion of the
God of heaven. A must-see for visitors to Beijing.
At out for dinner with Mike, good friend from Beijing who I got to
know in Melbourne. Hadn't met for 2 years... real nice time catching
up. We then walked along a hutong (traditional, small, old
Chinese-style street) and ate some yoghurt. Pleasant evening.
Just gained an hour of time as we crossed over the into the Chinese
timezone. I can stay up another hour! :-)
We're cruizing west in the ferry between Korea and China. It's a
large ferry! I'd probably call it a ship. It's maybe about 100 m
long, 8 stories high. It's so large I can hardly feel any waves.
It's pretty flat all the way. If it's windy and stormy, it might be a
bit different, not sure. But, this ride is quite smoothe, with the
It's not super clean, but it's a fairly clean boat. Toilets are ok,
but have to get toilet paper from outside before going in to sit down.
Drinking water available. My own bed (like Japanese capsule hotel).
Restaurant, karaoke room, club area, lounges, shops for snacks, travel
books, souveneirs, showers and info desk.
It's nice being outside on deck at night in the middle of the sea.
Good time for feeling small, thinking about life, being close to
nature and close to God. Back inside, good place to meet people.
Mostly people are Chinese, I think, with good number of Koreans too.
There are a few other westerners too. I met a couple from Europe who
are cycling around the world! I kind of envy them, haha. Also, met a
couple of Korean guys who'll study in China for a year. Met one of
the shop assistants who taught me a bit of Chinese (yi, er, san, si,
wu, liu, chi, ba, jiu, shi; which is one to ten).
Already, I've felt the difference between Korean and Chinese people,
just as I did when I got on the ferry in Japan to come to Korea and
noticed how Koreans were different from Japanese. Chinese are louder
people, on average, and don't seem to worry as much about what other
people think, whereas Japanese people seem to be very conscious and
concerned about what other people think, hence, a much quiter and less
obvious way of conducting themselves.
One of the nicest things I saw this afternoon on the boat just as we
were getting out of sight of Korea, was of a father and her daughter.
She was throwing small pieces of food in the air to the birds who were
gliding in the wind behind the ferry. She was smiling and enjoying it
a lot, as a number of other took photos.
And, for some reason, my Japanese phone still works out here in the
middle of the sea, so I called one of my Chinese friends in Melbourne
to say "Hi!".
And, as the sun set, I took my last photos of my few days in Korea.
Now, for some rest, ready to wake up and begin 9 days in China.
10:30 am China time Wed
Had a goooood looooong sleep, got up couple of hours ago, saw all the
rain outside, couldn't see anything except sea, clouds and rain. Then
showered, ate a few instant noodles for breakfast along with some
nuts, fruit someone gave me, and peach drink. Did some stretches and
then some Bible reading, some prayer and focus thinking for the day.
Just finished now.
I looked up and saw the rain had stopped, and. Feels like we're
getting closer to China now, because there are many of these little
boats (don't know if they're fishing boats or what) and also a few
large tanker ships in the distance. This large ferry has to weave
between the little boats, one or two of which cut across our path,
slowing us down.
Now to practice a bit more Chinese.
27 August 2009
26 August 2009
Drive on opposite side is the easiest thing.
Much more pushy, in front to turn left and sideways. Cutting off is part of the game. Taxis and this bus I'm on and trucks join the game. beep!
Now on 110 km/hr expressway to Beijing where it's bumper-to-bumper and 2 lanes have turned into 3 or sometimes 4. Most vehicles could do with a good wash.
Road surface is pretty good. Let's just see how long it takes to get to Beijing.
25 August 2009
23 August 2009
The first thing I noticed was actually on the ferry before leaving Japan where there were a few Korean people. Naturally, I'll contrast Korea with Japan, since I've lived in Japan for 2 years and hadn't been to Korea yet.
Japanese people tend to be quieter, less subtle, not so verbose, and indirect in their communication. I noticed Koreans are more upfront, bit louder (but not loud), more aggressive, and not so shy in comparision. Koreans seem to be more relaxed in their movements and in how they conduct themselves, in contrast to Japanese people who have relatively more social protocols and pressures (although I'm not very familiar with Korea yet to make fair comparisions).
Respect for people older than you is also very strong in Korea. In Japan, there was still respect, but no like in Korea. Also, people of different ages don't mix as readily in Korea.
Things in Korea and Japan which are similar, include the "group" and "club" structure of society and thinking. Clubs are very important. Outside of the a group, there is not much reason to talk with a stranger. There seems to be more social expectations and "respects", compared to Australia.
Of course, Japanese and Korea people look very similar (from an Australian point of view), but I do notice a difference and can sometimes tell if someone is from Japan or Korea. I notice that glasses (for your eyes) in Korea typically have the thicker dark-rimmed simple style. Girls do their hair differently (the pony-tail tied up higher is quite common). Japan fashion seems more "out-there", modern, and crazy.
Korea seems more dynamic than Japan. Japan seems more closed and conservative in personal interaction, but when it comes to entertainment, Japan is more open, allowing or accepting more.
The mountains in Korea are less steep and tall, compared to the mountiains in Japan. Both countries have a lot of rice fields. The KTX train in Korea (from Busan to Seoul) I think was a little bit faster than the Shinkansen in Japan, and the Seoul metro is more simple and navigable than the Tokyo train network, but Japan overall has a more extensive fast-train and local train network.
Twice I've seen men in trains trying to sell something, which I never saw in Japan. Also, this morning when I went to buy a ticket, I saw junior-high school aged girls or guys (obviously employed by the train company) at the ticket gates standing there, helping people buy tickets. It was kind nice to see. In Japan, you would only see officially dressed, mature aged (or at least over 25) staff employed.
Anyway, the buildings are brighter, more colourful and have more variety than in Japan, where the buildings are closer to greys, browns and creams. They drive on the opposite side of the road in Korea (ie. US and Korea are the same and drive on the right-hand side, but in Japan and Australia cars drive on the left side). I have to be careful crossing the road!
I've enjoyed the time so far. Quick rundown on events:
Thursday night: Ferry from Shimonoseki, Japan overnight to Busan, South Korea. At Shimonoseki buying tickets, realised a few young Koreans were just a few yen short on buying a ticket to get back home. I lent them a few yen, and enjoyed chatting with them on the ferry over dinner and after. I enjoyed the ferry ride. Plenty of stuff on the ferry (baths, karaoke, dance room, restaurant, lounge area, games rooms). You can also go outside to see the night sea. Nice feeling. No rough sees. Slept really well. Woke up to rainy Busan.
Friday morn: Get of ferry. Breakfast with few new friends. Went to Beomeosa Temple in Busan, one of the most famous in Korea. It's a Buddhist temple, which is the dominant traditional religion in Korea. There are many churches in Korea also, with maybe about a third or a bit more Christian.
Friday afternoon: Caught KTX express train to Seoul. Travels at 304 km/h! Nice. About 3 hour trip. Comfy train, and has internet, but have to pay for it. Found my way to Mok-dong station and met Jason, my friend. Met some students, teachers and friends and enjoyed Friday night meeting.
Today: Slept really well, and woke up and met some good friends, and made a heap more friends. Played some games tonight and ate pizza!
Time to get a bit of rest. Seoul is a nice city! It feels quite safe, is quite beautiful from what I've seen, and has a good feel about it.
Off for a bit of sight seeing tomorrow and Monday!
21 August 2009
20 August 2009
Last night, arrived here in Nagoya to catch up over dinner with a good Japanese friend who I hadn't seen for a year. It's always sad to say good-bye, but I'm very thankful for the friends I have.
Just about to sneak in another hours sleep here at an internet cafe (and manga, or Japanese comics, cafe) before catching the first train towards Osaka.
After dinner last night, my friend showed me the cafe near the station. For a short night's stay of 8 hours, you cough up 1480 yen plus 100 yen for first time comers. When you walked in, I could smell the tabacco fairly strongly (not that I can see anyone smoking). The music playing is fairly quiet and similar to a normal cafe.... light jazz, etc.
Reclining chair in a cubicle with computer and internet, and the network let's me plug my own laptop in... handy. Free drinks... juice, softdrink, tea, coffee.
The funny thing... it's so quiet (except the odd click and keyboard clatter, another person slipping by for another cup of something)... but, with your eyes open, you can tell there's a whole lot more happening...
Well, it's a mange cafe too. And, many of these Japanese cartoons lends themselves to interesting depictions of the human body, along with magazines (which are not cartoons, but photos). I need not say anymore.
I guess for those who are seeking a life of purity and morality, this is disappointing. In the place of the world, these kinds of things are quite freely available with not much restriction.
It simply calls us to be even more careful not to slip into what we know is not right and will lead to dissatisfaction. May the reader of this blog be encouraged to life a pure life.
Time for a bit more sleep. Spent a bit of time just before planning the next part (or at least finalizing the details) of my trip.
It's very sad to leave Japan. I hope I will come back to Japan to live here again. Not sure what the future holds.
I'll trust in God.