China


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How does one describe a country like China? Facts and figures do not adequately measure the immensity of the world’s most populous nation, its third largest by size, and one of its most ancient. Grandiose statistics do not do China justice. China is perhaps best described as “China.” The name itself conjures images of the Great Wall, megapolises, Zodiac calendars and complicated characters, sumptuous cuisine, exotic scenery, manufacturing might, exquisite artisanship, and many more. From the Middle Kingdom to a People’s Republic, China is a dragon both awe-inspiring and fire-breathing that has reawakened from its slumber and is now stretching its wings to reassert itself in the world. Like the 21,196-kilometer (13,171 mile) Great Wall stretching from the Yellow Sea in the east to the far western interior, the breadth of this land is difficult for anyone to fathom. An ever-growing number of foreign tourists flock to popular destinations like Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, or Guilin to immerse themselves in the Far East – or so they think – but they have only begun to discover what is truly China. Few ever will, for this dynamic land is always on the move, heading into the future and out of reach of full comprehension.

More About China

The Great Wall

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Pudong District, Shanghai

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Forbidden City, Beijing

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Terracotta Warrior, Xi’an

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Celebrating New Year of the Dragon in China!


My wife Jing, son, and I spent the 2012 Chinese New Year with Jing’s family in Shanghai, China. It was a special New Year’s for us, not only because it ushered in the auspicious Year of the Dragon but also because it marked a first for our family—the first time we had been together with Jing’s family in China for the holiday. My wife had not spent New Year’s with her family in almost two decades, and it would be the first time my son and I joined them. The happy hearts and big smiles of my in-laws when we arrived January 21 foretold a joyous reunion.

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Click here to read the original article on MG Edwards. Visit MG Edwards for more great travelogues, photos, and videos from around the world.

Happy Chinese New Year!


新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Wooden Horse or the Year of the Green Horse. Why a wooden or green horse? The Horse is one of twelve animals representing a twelve-year cycle in the Chinese lunar calendar. Combined with the five elements in the Chinese Zodiac, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth, the calendar goes through a 60-year cycle where each animal is associated with a different element every 12 years. Visit HanBan for a great summary of the Year of the (Wooden) Horse. Click here for more information about the elements.

This year may bode well for those born in the Year of the Horse with some promising personality traits such as being outgoing, energetic, active, friendly, trustworthy, and popular with friends, family, and acquaintances. The same may hold true for all of us during the Year of the Horse if the Green Horse appears this year and proves auspicious. However, as Wood can burn Red with flame, 2014 may also bring turmoil and crises. Who’s to say which Horse will cross the chronological plain this year. 没关系 (méi guānxi). No problem. Party on! It’s time to celebrate Chinese New Year!

How do the Chinese celebrate the New Year? Well, it starts with days of shopping for and buying any and all things red, gold, and (this year) green to make the holiday more festive. Shoppers stock up on food, drink and treats for Chinese New Year dinners, fireworks to blow off at stroke of midnight, and hongbao (红包 or red envelopes) to fill with money for the children.

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Chinese New Year is a time for families to celebrate the holiday together. Families who stay home and host festoon their houses with New Year decorations and prepare huge meals for extended family who join them for an evening…or often longer. It’s a time to enjoy great food and holiday delicacies, to catch up with family you might not have seen for a while, and to give hongbao to the children. If you’re lucky, your child will bow before you and promise to be behave as they ask for their red envelope.

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Going home to visit family by train, plane, or bus is a holiday tradition not often mentioned. The week-long lunar celebration triggers the world’s largest annual mass migration with an estimated 3.6 billion trips made, including 225 million Chinese who traveled overseas for Chinese New Year.

After dinner, many Chinese families relax and watch the annual New Year Show on Chinese Central Television (CCTV). Part variety show, part music concert, the event is watched by an estimated 750 million people.

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Just before midnight, millions of Chinese take to the streets, rooftops, or any open window to blow off fireworks to usher in the New Year. The spectacle is unbelievably loud and beautiful. The fireworks during the 2012 Year of the Dragon celebration in Shanghai were incredible! Click on the video below to watch.

2012 Chinese New Year in Shanghai, China

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The next day, many Chinese families venture out to enjoy local public festivities. They may go shopping, watch New Year parades, or tour old, familiar places. The Lunar New Year is a time to remember family, friends, and ancestors, and many visit places that have been an important part of their families’ lives. These photos were taken in 2012, at the Temple of the Town Gods in Shanghai.

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新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy New Year to you and yours!

Map of China

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mge-kili-cover-front-thumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander, Ellie the Elephant, and Zoe the Zebra, three books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, and a 3-in-1 collection featuring all three. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2014 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Eurasia: Austrian Express


This is the eighth installment of a story chronicling my travels in 1994 as a college student. The six-month journey took me to 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

Wednesday, March 2, 1994

I stood freezing on the platform at the Rosenheim train station awaiting the train to Austria and chilling under the bright morning sun too cold to warm the air. My frozen breath swirled thick over the tracks at the platform’s edge. Bystanders waiting nearby chatted with hearty laughs.

“How can they be so cheerful at a time like this?” I grumbled to no one. Shivering, I let out a faint cheer when the diesel train with a handful of passenger cars chugged into the station and screeched to a halt in front of me. It waited long enough for me to toss my life on board before taking off again. Pausing in the sheltered breezeway, I cupped and blew on my gloveless hands to warm them. The frosty air trapped inside my jacket and pants rebuffed attempts to unthaw.

In a passenger car filled with commuters, I found one seat next to a friendly, sixty-something German woman named Gertrude. She seemed excited to serve as my impromptu tour guide while the train chugged through the Bavarian countryside. A native to the area, she gave names in English to the scenic towns and villages, forests, meadows, and lakes that passed by. I marveled at how beautiful and orderly the southern German landscape was. Every town was like a Potemkin village and every farm a tourist showcase. Even the jagged, frosty mountains looked fashioned by hand. The grazing cows that shrugged off the cold weather seemed to have their own assigned places in the pastures; every forest tree planted by hand. Bavaria was like all the gorgeous rural scenes I’d ever seen rolled into one, from the grasslands of the Midwest to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the soaring peaks of the Cascades, with picturesque Alpine villages thrown in for good measure. Daylight painted Bavaria in a broader, more colorful brush than its reputation for beer, sauerkraut, and Oktoberfest.

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As Gertrude described her home, she piqued my curiosity about what life there must have been like in days past. Peaceful and pristine, Bavaria was once wracked by the tumult of two World Wars, instability, Nazism, division, and a Cold War. Fresh from reunification, Germany had only recently undertaken its most recent post-war transfiguration. For a moment I wished that I could have glimpsed the past through her eyes. She kept talking about the beauty of her country, unaware that my mind was contemplating the past as much as listening to her present.

Gertrude said farewell at her home village not far from the Austrian border. I smiled and bid her Tschüß. Once again, the luggage resting above my head was my sole company.

In the early afternoon, Austria appeared in the window as the German train ended its journey at the border. Reluctantly vacating the warm compartment for the brisk winter air, my belongings weighing me down, I felt like a penguin waddling on a frozen beach on the way to Immigration and Customs. A policeman and two plainclothes officers stopped me in front of the Salzburg train station and demanded to see my passport. Handing it over, the thought crossed my worried mind that they had singled me out for special scrutiny because I looked like a vagabond. The fear that they would strip search me or rifle through my bags nagged me. I stood stoically, silent, as they examined my travel documents. They handed them back a moment later and waved me on without a word. Out of earshot and across the border in Austria, my exhaled sigh of relief billowed like a cloud.

I barely made it on the train to Bischofshofen before it started moving. Winded and feeling fatigued, I sank into a seat and glanced out the window at my adopted homeland. The quaint city of Salzburg filled with baroque architecture evoked images of Mozart and The Sound of Music. Then it disappeared like every other beautiful place I had seen. Feeling a bit despondent, I lamented that the trip was so rushed it left no time to enjoy what could have been a spectacular visit.

Austria

As the train crawled eastbound through the valley away from the Alps, the rugged landscape crumbled and gave way to decaying terrain recovering from dormant strip mines and unsightly factories strewn between the towns of Leoben and Brück an der Mur. The grayish Mur River followed the train like a shadow. Uniform pine trees marched by like a dispassionate military parade.

The village of Bischofshofen was little more than a quick stopover to catch the train from Vienna to Graz. As I sat alone with my thoughts at the deserted rail platform, loneliness and longing for my fiancée weighed on my mind. The realization that she wouldn’t be waiting dawned on me as my final stop drew near. We wouldn’t see each other again for six long months until our reunion on the other side of the world in Shanghai, China. No one, friends or family, would be there when I arrived in the city of Graz. Nothing would be the same for the next six months. This unfamiliar world promised to be new and different, yet the newness would undoubtedly grow old.

Time crept to a near standstill in the late afternoon as the train I caught in Bischofshofen approached Graz. It coasted casually into the Hauptbahnhof train station as if it didn’t have a care in the world. The city spread out and fell away from the train window into a valley where the old town clustered below a tall hill adorned with a clock tower. The view seemed to shimmer in a postcard panorama lit up by the sun peeking through the clouds. Seeing my adopted home for the first time triggered the same emotions — anticipation, weariness, impatience, curiosity, and frustration — that I felt when I touched down in Europe.

Suddenly, the city disappeared behind a grassy knoll. The train slid into the station and ground to a clanging halt, an unceremonious end to my journey. Home at last, I thought.

Graz (small)

To be continued.

Previous installments of Eurasia:

1. Leaving America

2. Vancouver to Frankfurt

3. Adventures in Frankfurt (Part One)

4. Adventurers in Frankfurt (Part Two)

5. On to Munich

6. A Respite to Rosenheim

7. Rosenheim, Germany

Images of Bavaria courtesy of Microsoft. Photo of Graz property of M.G. Edwards.

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clip_image0013M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

You’re the Adventurer


Welcome to an experiment. You’ve been reading my travelogues about life overseas from Korea to Zambia, but so far you’ve been a spectator. Now it’s your turn to go on your own adventure! Immerse yourself in the story and make key decisions by choosing from among several options. Your selections could make the difference between a great trip or a travel disaster! Read and make your choice, and stay tuned as your story unfolds.  

You’ve been busy. Work has been stressful, and you haven’t had a real vacation in months. Life has become mundane, and your spirits need a lift. You think about finishing those nagging assignments left undone and taking a break. At home after another long day, you decide that you need to go on a trip somewhere. You’ve been saving up to travel, and it’s time to spend it!

You could visit family or get away to someplace not far from home. The thought crosses your mind that you could get away from it all and go overseas. Spending time with family could be fun, which of course you have to do, but it wouldn’t be as exciting — or at this point, as fulfilling — as traveling. You could head to somewhere nearby, perhaps a tourist attraction or an interesting site you’ve wanted to visit but haven’t yet. It might be enjoyable, but will it be a vacation?

After an internal debate, you decide that you need something more. The thought nags at you to go abroad and see more of the world. Where would you go? You think about visiting a popular tourist destination. Thoughts of iconic monuments and glamorized moments captured on film cross your mind. The Eiffel Tower lit up over the River Seine on a drizzly night. The New York Skyline. A cruise on the Rhine River to see German castles. A café on Piazza San Marco in Venice. A quaint Swedish village made famous by a Stieg Larsson thriller novel. Those would make great trips. Then it occurs to you — what about heading someplace that’s not so touristy? You remember pop culture references to people who go to exotic places to “discover” themselves. That’s not me, your head shakes. Suddenly, your hectic life tells you that something more exotic will do you some good.

You decide to go on vacation to someplace out of the ordinary. Somewhere, but to where? There are so many places to experience around the world, but where do you really want to go? You think about countries you’ve always wanted to visit, such as Brazil with the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, beaches, and the buzz of Latin America. You think of Michael Caine blaming it on Rio, Carnival parades, and Blue the Parrot from the movie Rio.

And China, that big, enigmatic country in the Far East that seems as far away from the West as you can go, yet growing closer by the day; a place with more than 1 billion people steeped in more than 5,000 years of history. You can’t help but think of the 2008 Olympic Games, Terracotta Warriors, and the films Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Mulan.

And South Africa, a diverse country that has come into its own with a mix of African and western cultures, scenic beauty, and wild safaris. You recall Table Mountain in Cape Town, Kruger National Park, the 2010 World Cup, and Animal Planet episodes filmed in South Africa.

All three are very different, and you can only visit one. Which trip would you choose? Make your choice. Where you go depends on you.

Click here to visit South Africa.

Zhujiajiao, the Venice of Shanghai


On January 26, 2012, my family and I traveled to Zhujiajiao, an ancient village in Qingpu District about 45 minutes west of Shanghai. Zhujiajiao bills itself as the “Venice of Shanghai.” Why not the “Venice of China”? Well, perhaps because China has hundreds, if not thousands, of traditional villages like Zhujiajiao scattered throughout the country.

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Founded over 1,700 years ago, Zhujiajiao has canals, wooden oar-driven tour boats, stone arch bridges, and plenty of traditional Chinese architecture. However, it bears little resemblance to Venice, Italy.

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Some of the village’s attractions include a Buddhist temple that rises above town, a small Temple of the Town God dedicated to the spirits that protect the village, and a theater that offers performances of the Chinese classic play The Peony Pavilion during the summer months and on Saturdays.

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The traditional Qing Dynasty-era architecture that lines a picturesque network of canals is a main attraction, as are the Chinese foods, beverages, and souvenirs for sale from many vendors. Lotus root, soy beans, pork, toad, and seafood are local specialties.

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The toad was delectable.

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The snails aren’t your garden variety escargot.

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Dried, not fried, chicken is also a local favorite. Not recommended for tourists.

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The crowds during Chinese New Year were horrific. We thought we were going to be crushed in an alleyway! Fortunately, body heat kept us warm on a cold winter day.

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In spite of the crowds, the atmosphere was festive during our visit. Dragon boats with drums beating sailed in the canals, and well-groomed dogs sported bright red Chinese New Year coats. Red lanterns with gold tassels festooned the streets.

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Zhujiajiao is a nice daytrip from Shanghai along with Da Guan Yuan, a park on the shore of Dian Shan Hu (lake) that replicates the garden featured in the classic Chinese novel The Dream of the Red Chamber.

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Just don’t go when it’s busy!

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Here are some short video clips from our visit.

Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Dragon boats in Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
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P.S. This has been a busy week in China with family and Chinese New Year’s festivities. Last night we could barely sleep as the locals blew off rounds of fireworks to welcome the god of wealth on the 5th day of New Year’s. I have to say that I’m looking forward to some peace and quiet – not to mention warmer weather – back in Thailand. We return home to Bangkok tomorrow.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. Visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or contact him at me@mgedwards.com. Find him on Facebook or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Temple of the Town God–Shanghai, China


Happy New Year! It’s the first day of the Year of the Dragon in China. Today we visited the Temple of the Town God in Shanghai. It was crowded! I haven’t seen so many people in one place in a long time — which means a lot in a place like China with more than 1.2 billion people.

Thousands converged on this popular attraction to see the lighting of the lanterns on decorated floats on the water and other Chinese New Year’s festivities. The lights were simply spectacular. The traditional Chinese architecture added to the ambiance.

Enjoy these video clips of the Temple of the Town God. Happy New Year! 新年快乐!

Temple of the Town God, Shanghai, China–January 24, 2012
Temple of the Town God, Shanghai, China–January 24, 2012
Temple of the Town God, Shanghai, China-January 24, 2012
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