marjorieinchina: (Default)
When I left off, it was Wednesday and we were arriving in Xi'an. (Here is a tiny bit of background info about Xi'an! It used to be the capital, way the heck a long time ago, and there are a lot of old things there! Okay, here is a little bit more background info about Xi'an, with my guidebook at hand so I can be sure I'm not messing things up: Xi'an is very near the capital of the Qin dynasty, which was the first dynasty and only really had one emperor, but since he unified the country and built the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors he gets to be a dynasty all by himself. That was a couple hundred years BC. Xi'an was the capital off and on for the next thousand years. There is, consequently, a lot of really really old stuff in Xi'an, and it's better-preserved than the old stuff in many other cities.)

It's strange to start a day by tumbling off a train into an unfamiliar station instead of, oh, taking a shower and having some tea. But once we found the taxi queue and got to our hotel we did all the usual morning things, and then, fortified with showers and oolong, we Set Out to See Xi'an!

Read more... )
marjorieinchina: (Default)
I flew to Beijing from the Quzhou airport on a Saturday evening. The airport here in Quzhou is very tiny and is frequented almost entirely by tour groups. I fell into the middle of one of these when going through security, but it still took only about twenty minutes to go from my apartment to the gate. It would be fine with me if this were the case every time I flew. The flight was full of shouting voices and passengers in matching baseball caps; I spent it writing in my paper journal and making small talk with the woman next to me, who had never been on an airplane before. "You are always writing!" she observed. This is not really true, but maybe it is something I should aspire to.

Read more... )

More pictures at my Flickr page.
marjorieinchina: (dragon)
(Holy verbosity, Batman, this entry is LONG. If you want to skip the words and just look at my pictures, you can hop over here.)

I have to make a confession before moving on with this narrative, this story about my travels all over Asia: I'm not really brave enough to go traveling alone all over Asia. Try to send me on a solo trip through, say, Vietnam, and I would probably discover some urgent other thing I had to do. What I really did was a tour of the former British Empire in Asia. This meant that I got used to looking right before crossing the street, but mostly it meant that there was widespread English everywhere I went traveling.

I spent a moment feeling slightly guilty about this imperial manner of travel and how it stuck, if not within my comfort zone, then as close to it as I could reasonably get on this side of the world. But I got over it as soon as I arrived in the Hong Kong airport on Friday morning, after a sleepless overnight trip from India, and found a place to buy a blueberry muffin and a pot of Earl Grey.

The western food in Hong Kong was more or less the best thing that had ever happened to me. I've been eating Chinese food pretty happily since October--there is weird food, but it's hard to get tired of rice and noodles; the dumplings are always decent, vegetables are plentiful, and I've gotten rather fond of some of the more distinctly Chinese flavors even though I don't know what to call them. (Just today I had some tofu in a sauce that tasted kind of...caramelized? Weird, but good.) And the food in India was marvelous, except on the couple of occasions when it was too spicy for me. But I didn't realize how much I missed pastries and the coffeeshops where you can just sit and have a slow cup of tea and read your book or check your e-mail and everyone else is doing the same thing. As I recount this part of the trip, you can assume every day starts with "First I went to Starbucks/Delifrance and had a muffin/scone/croissant and it was amazing."

So, I went to the Delifrance in the airport and had a muffin and it was amazing... )

Bangalore

Apr. 24th, 2010 04:44 pm
marjorieinchina: (Default)
Bangalore (officially Bengaluru, but I never heard anyone call it that) was my last stop in India. We flew down there from Delhi, a relatively short flight (and a direct one, which was a relief after some of the traveling I'd been doing recently).

Delhi is part of north India and Bangalore is part of south India. Stating this probably has some of you rolling your eyes, but I didn't know this sort of thing before traveling to India, and the distinction is important. In Delhi, the predominant language besides English is Hindi; in Bangalore, it's Tamil and also Kannada, which are written in entirely different alphabets. The food was spicier in the south, too, which is something that seems to hold true in most places.

Read more... )

I had two weeks in India but this was barely enough to scratch the surface. I need to make a list of places to visit, so that I can put "back to India" on the list. But the trip wasn't over yet! Hong Kong was actually better than I expected it to be, and I'll be back to tell you about that sometime next week.

Delhi

Apr. 20th, 2010 12:33 pm
marjorieinchina: (Default)
Hello friends! I'm sorry I've been so absent in this space, and I hope some of you are still reading. I've been all in a tizzy about deciding on an MFA program, which together with teaching has kept me rather preoccupied all the time. But I have decided I will be in St. Paul to start an MFA in the fall, and I have my lesson plan set for the week, and I am going to pick up the thread of my travelogue where I left it off lo those many weeks ago.

So! When last we saw Our Heroine, she was on a bus from Jaipur to Delhi. We got to Delhi late in the evening and were greeted by Sam's parents' driver, who brought us to Sam's parents' house. The next day (Tuesday) was India's Republic Day, and we basically spent it at the house, watching the parade on TV and making plans for the next week. (My paper journal reminds me that we also watched Nigella Lawson on TV.) On Wednesday we went shopping at a number of markets, which were very crowded and characteristically Indian, and I bought some clothes for vanishingly small amounts of money. (Thanks are due to Sam for haggling for me.) I kind of wanted to take pictures, but didn't want to stop in the crowd with a camera in my hands. Then we went to an incredibly strange dance performance, where we spotted a number of people who had been at the Jaipur Lit Fest.

Read more... )

More photos can be found on my Flickr page. The Delhi photos start with this one.

Jaipur

Mar. 12th, 2010 12:40 pm
marjorieinchina: (Boffin)
So after I went to Shanghai I returned to Quzhou, taught for a couple more weeks, said some good-byes, and left for India.

This was a long trip, because as it turns out, Asia is really big, and two countries that are both in Asia can still be far away. I spent a super-awesome night in the Mumbai airport and eventually got to Jaipur, where I collected my luggage and got into a taxi and then sat in the backseat staring dumbly out at the autorickshaws and camels and signs in Hindi and women in saris until I was dropped at my hotel.

I spent a good part of that day resting until my dear friend Sam, who lives in India and whom I hadn't seen for three and a half years, showed up at the hotel and we COMMENCED ADVENTURES. First Sam took me along to lunch with her publishers, including a German who knew someone from Red Wing. (I could not adequately convey to him how crazy this was.) Then we went to a place called, I think, Albert Hall (Sam and I could not associate this with anyone except Prince Albert, but it was apparently named after a *different* English person from colonial times) and saw a bunch of cool statuary, plus some dumb-looking fake classical statuary. Then Sam's aunt arrived and we all went to a book launch party in a candlelit garden surrounded by people speaking at least three different languages. So, you know. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff.

For the five days we were in Jaipur, we stayed in a beautiful little guesthouse, sort of midcentury colonial with a lot of historical fragments on the walls including an army commission signed by King George V.

CIMG0850

We had breakfast there in the mornings, eggs and toast and marmalade and pots of chai, and then went out to the street to hail an auto-rickshaw and haggle for an acceptable fare to Diggi Palace, where the Jaipur Literature Festival was being held.

CIMG0879
Part of the festival venue, in the morning when there weren't crowds of people there yet.


I didn't know this, but the Jaipur Lit Fest is a big deal. Here is one news story about it, and here is another. That's from the US: the more local press, including the Times of India, was all Jaipur Lit Fest, all the time. Sam and her aunt and I appeared on the front page of a Hindi-language paper in Jaipur, in a photograph where we were all craning our necks to stare up at Girish Karnad. Sadly, I failed to find a copy of this newspaper to buy.

I was probably predisposed to enjoy this event because 1) it was in English, 2) people were talking about books, 3) I was hanging out with Sam, and 4) it was my first time in India. So it all kind of ran together, the little terracotta cups of chai and the brightly colored tents and the literary megastars all over the place and the flawless weather and the conversations about mythology and class and Jane Austen. It was just a big gobsmackingly cool five-day-long swirl of events. I didn't take all that many photos, but I took a lot of notes.

The days were full up of literature: usually three panels in the morning and three in the afternoon. Mostly these were conversations between a moderator and one or more authors, with Q&A sessions at the end that ranged from interested to impassioned to diametrically opposed. The crowd was highly mixed--Indian (which itself is a mixed group), Pakistani, a lot of British visitors and expats, a couple of notable speakers originally from Africa, the queen mother of Bhutan...There weren't many Americans, so I still stuck out when I opened my mouth, but the diversity of the crowd was both a shock and a treat after a few months in China.

At lunch and dinner time there was an extravagant spread of local Rajasthani food. Sometimes we ate here and sometimes went outside the festival venue for food, although wherever we went there were people who were obviously also Lit Fest attendees. At night, there was music! Wonderful music. Rajasthani folk music with dancers. Susheela Raman, who was glorious. William Dalrymple reading from his latest book, with Bhoul singers accompanying. On the last night there was Italian food. We had, by this time, three delegate passes left to us by publishers who'd been exhibiting but had left the festival early. Delegates get their meals free (or pre-paid), so we used the three passes to get refills of middling red wine and rather horrid sparkling white wine and heaping plates of Italian food that we shared--me and Sam and her aunt and some cousins and two French guys who'd let us share their table. I pointed out later that, according to script, they really should have been the ones offering food and drink, but sobeit, we broke script. In related news, I'm happy to report I can still speak some French.

There were more speakers than I could possibly write about. I couldn't resist writing about a bunch of them anyway, although I'm aware that "listening to writers speak in India" is perhaps a bit distant from the "teaching in China" theme of the blog. Click through to read the long version of the entry, which consists of me being a huge nerd: Seriously, so many authors! )

The last session I went to was with Vikram Chandra and Alexander McCall Smith, discussing detective fiction. They were having such a nice time talking to each other I was quite sorry to leave, but Sam and I had to slip out to catch the car to the bus station, even though the bus was late. On the ride to Delhi I found I had no space left in my brain to allow for reading, so I looked out the window at India passing by instead and chewed over the previous five days' conversations. This is a process I am nowhere near completing.
marjorieinchina: (Default)
I'm alive! I'm back! I want to tell you about my trip! But it will have to happen in installments, in order to avoid creating the Livejournal Entry That Ate Chicago.

I'm going to start with Shanghai, which is where my travels to India and Hong Kong and Malaysia really started. Way back in January, I had to go to Shanghai to get a tourist visa to India. This was the first time I had traveled anywhere in China alone. For at least the first month after I got here, other teachers were nervous to hear about me even taking the city bus by myself. So it was an important first step.

Click for more! And for pictures! )

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