Category Archives: Travels

The Tang Paradies in Xi’an

During our first visit to China we went together with MIL and my parents to the Tang Paradies in Xi’an. The Tang Paradies is a huge cultural theme park all about the Tang Dynasty located in the Qujiang Resort in Xi’an with the Big Wild Goose Pagoda very nearby.

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Mother-in-law invited us for a full day program in this cultural theme park so we left in early morning to avoid too long queues at the ticket stands. However the entrance area was already filled with people and while MIL tried to get us into a group for the group ticket discount my parents and I became famous with a deaf school children group. Thanks to them the time flew by pretty quickly taking all kind of group pictures and writing down our names and where we are from.

First things first. If you plan to visit this park really make sure to have the whole day time as just walking the main path around will take already several hours. I would even go as far as saying you won’t even manage to visit each little interesting corner of the park in one day!

After going through the entrance gate it really felt like entering another place entirely as the city and the noise vanished and the Tang Paradies was all around us. You might imagine it is boring to walk around a park which is about such a topic but really it was really nice to go around and see the different sections of the park. The only thing which was bothering us was the heat but there is nothing else to expect when traveling in China during July!

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MIL and her best new friend

 

The Park has many scenic areas with different cultural themes. What made it very enjoyable at least for me was the smell! No bad city smell around as the path has every few meters incense burners to fill the air with a nice fragrance. All around the park you can encounter interesting things such as poetry, song and dance or also the most important thing: Food! Why am I emphasizing this? Well, as mentioned before on that day it was incredibly hot and during midday MIL and my wife got hungry so they got themselves some hot and oily noodle soup. Meanwhile my parents and I were just suffocating by the heat and could only eat some ice cream. Even looking at my wife and MIL eating this warm dish made us sweat even more.

All around the park are places with water. In the middle is a lake in which the main Palace is reflecting like a mirror. There are little rivers near the paths which help to survive the heat at least a bit. You like to see some little fishes? There is a section of the main lake filled with hundreds if not thousands of coloured carp fishes. You can also buy some fish food and feed those greedy monsters which will result that the water appears to be boiling by all the movement the fishes are making. I can’t say what was more amusing for me, those monsters fishes or MIL trying to tease them by throwing very little food at a time into the water and laughing at the same time nearly hysterically.

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Interesting performance

 

In the evening there is another very interesting thing, a water movie. It is a movie screened on the water spray created by several fountains. In the end of the movie when people start to leave the park there is still a nice firework display. I am no expert when it comes to fireworks but I think it is a pretty decent one and also worth filming.

I can just recommend visiting this place when you have enough time in Xi’an. It is a wonderful theme park and most importantly it is also clean (at least in 2011) something I often miss in China. But in case you stay till evening time to see the water movie and the fireworks I have to warn you that it will be pretty impossible to get a taxi. There are just too many people trying to get home that there are no taxis or buses free however if you like some risk you can take one of the many “black taxis”. We took one of them and it was surely a crazy car ride back home as the whole vehicle was basically a three-wheeler transformed into a mini bus without any security measurements…

I got the idea to write this post because I found my old camera again with all kind of nice pictures of our first trip to China. So prepare yourself for some more articles about my first trip to China!

 

Have you ever visited the Tang Paradise before or are you planning to travel to Xi’an someday?

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Holidays in Greece

WP_20140803_16_28_08_ProThe past week I was with my little family on holidays in Greece, to be more precise on the famous island Rhodes. Right from the beginning I must admit that we were more of the lazy tourists kind as we did not go out to see any sights such as the city of Rhodes itself. Okay, maybe not only because we were lazy but because traveling with a little baby in +35 degrees celsius/ 95 degrees fahrenheit is not really the smartest option (hey, I need at least some kind of excuse for just sleeping at the beach…).

 

Our plane left Helsinki on sunday afternoon and we arrived in our hotel room in late evening hours. Due to the late arrival we had no dinner but we had a great view over Rhodes (city) by night which is pretty impressive! The hotel itself was advertised as a family hotel and there were a lot of families with their young kids there. The hotel/ trip organizer offered for kids a daycare option to give the exhausted parents some rest. This was no option for us a Nathan is just too young for that and anyways he is perfectly happy by eating and sleeping the entire day.

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View from the beach

 

Our days were actually really busy even though we had mostly nothing but being at the beach, at the pool, eat and go during evening hours to the nearby village. For me being lazy and at the same time to be feeling busy and exhausted at the end of the day is something new to me! Usually I went for a short 2km swim in the “action” pool each morning before breakfast, went with my wife and baby to the beach and later on to the pool area and finished the day with a great dinner and stroll around the village.This was the first real holiday I have ever had. Before I only went to sunny places for swimming camps, in my childhood I went during summer holidays to our cottage which is in the end mostly work and the China trips were usually to be with the Chinese family, eat a lot and go overweight back to Finland.

 

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Someone wants some dessert?

 

Remember that my wife belongs to that Chinese majority who can’t swim (I know, it’s very embarrassing for me as a former professional swimmer)? As she really wanted to enjoy the ocean as well we got her an air mattress to float at the shore. No, she was never in rhodos5danger as I watched out that nothing happened and besides, she was also only as far as her feet could touch the ground. To her dismay her skin got tanned! To my amusement no day passed where she didn’t complain about her dark skin (he he!). Now you may wonder what did little Nathan do the entire time. He sometimes enjoyed the pool in his full body suit and extra thick layer of sun screen and of course mostly only in shadowed areas or slept in his stroller always nearby us. As he can not speak for himself yet I must say that he looked pretty damn happy when going for a little swim with me. At least the different crazy sounds he can do were all of the happy kind, not the upset heartbreaking kind.

 

During our time spent at the beach we got to know another Chinese guy who is going from beach to beach and offering massage for the tourists. At first we thought he might be employed by the hotel but later on he told us his not so happy tale. As many other Chinese in Greece he came illegally to the country to find work. Before the economic crises it was actually pretty okay till he lost his job and ended up doing the massage at the beach during summer times. This apparently happened to many other Chinese and there are whole crews going around, waving their little pamphlet with the prices of the different massages. He said also that the bigger beaches are mostly controlled by Chinese black society (when it comes to services Chinese can offer there) which leaves people like him only some smaller beaches with less business possibilities. He also wants to go back to China but he first wants to make a little profit before going back as the illegal way of getting out of China is very expensive. I just hope for him, the other Chinese and any other people who suffered due to the economic crises there that their situation will improve again over time.

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Hotel area by night

 

What else to say about this trip other than it was pretty much perfect for us? The food was great, the area was wonderful and everything was working out well. Everything? Okay, there was this issue with the terrible internet connection which was driving me insane sometimes but then again it was a holiday, so why did I care so much about having a good internet connection and getting annoyed by not being upload stupid pictures to twitter…who knows…

 

Anyways, I am very glad we took this trip and I am also surprised that everything went to easy with Nathan as you usually hear that it can get pretty rough to travel with a baby.

 

Going to Stockholm

One of the few trips we did with my in-laws together last summer was to Stockholm, Sweden. My wife’s parents stayed with us four weeks, usually enough to get something decent done however we had in between a wedding to manage which took some resources from us. In the end we only managed to go to my parent’s cottage, Tallinn and Stockholm. The trip to Stockholm was already something my wife had planned before but our ever-changing schedule that summer made it nearly impossible to go anywhere.

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Our ship (the red one!) in Helsinki

 

Some Basics

Stockholm is a place nearly every Finn has visited at least once and this has a very simple reason: The ship cruise! The usual way to go from Helsinki to Stockholm is by ship, either leaving from the capital city itself or going further to the west coast to Turku. This cruise is so popular for Finnish people due to the tax-free store, snus and drinks. During the night hours the ship can be divided into two groups. The one group, made up mostly by families and tourists from around the world, tries to get rest for a day of activities in Stockholm and the other group, mainly consisting of the younger generation of Finnish and Swedish people partying and drinking the night away.

 

Our Trip

Right from the start we got into some trouble due to lack of parking lots at the harbor. This led to a situation in which we nearly missed our ship. Calls by my wife (as I was too unstable already by driving around the different parking lots) to the service line of the ship cruise company solved the issue right in time. These cruises are for most people something fun, they go around, eat in the restaurants, go shopping in the tax-free, sing karaoke or relax in the bar. This cruise was everything but relaxing for us. You see, once MIL discovered the tax-free store we had to go with her there several times to help her around. During that time she was in some kind of shopping frenzy as she was not able to buy any clothes for three weeks already. This resulted in her looking at each clothing item with manic eyes, trying the same pieces on several times even though she knew they wouldn’t fit or didn’t match her taste. This all didn’t matter to her, she needed to buy something! However even after the fifth time going to the store she could not find anything to buy or got convinced by her daughter not to buy this or that useless item.

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Too many people again

As you can see, there was not so much relaxing up to this point for us, so what about going to eat? Oh no, we did not go to eat. We actually wanted but each restaurant we went to my in-laws had only one comment “Too expensive”. Well, there went the good food part of the trip as well. Karaoke? Sorry, nothing for me and I had also no interest in going to the bars so we ended up staying the entire trip (except the many visits to the tax-free store) in our cabins.

Last but not least we arrived next morning in Stockholm and experienced our very next disappointment. We took the tourist bus tour around the city but, unlike in Helsinki where the same company is operating, only a few buses had the tour offered in Chinese and we ended up on a bus without it. This meant a lot of translating work for my wife for the entire time and to make matters even worse, our bus broke down towards the end. Slightly annoyed we made our way from the last station towards the city center to grab some food. All the while my in-laws made the often repeated comments of “It is so clean here”, “Such a blue sky”, “How can they keep their windows so clean” and then one comment we hadn’t heard in Finland “So many people here”. Yes, there were many people in the streets and it felt sometimes as busy as in Xi’an but that could be because anything more than 2 people on the street is busy when living in Finland.

Usually it is fairly easy to find a nice place to eat, especially when you are really hungry. But this does not apply with my in-laws around. Usually it is something like this “We don’t want to eat Chinese”, “We want to eat something new”, “This looks so strange”, “Too expensive”, “Too foreign”, “This looks good!” and as you may guess, this last one is a Chinese restaurant…

With filled stomachs we started our journey anew through Stockholm or let’s say, our journey from clothing store to clothing store, MIL viewing each item with ferocious eagerness. Through some unknown magic she was once again not able to buy anything, making her even more crazy than usual. More crazy as we now started to go through all souvenir shops so she just could buy something, at least something little but now again, nothing. To make her mother feel better my wife came up with the idea to buy chocolate on the ship for her friends as a gift. What a terrible idea but more about that later.

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My last grey memories of Sweden

As I knew already that we would spend the entire cruise back to Helsinki just in our cabins I decided to get my family exhausted by taking the long way back to the ship. This meant also we would be walking through the beautiful old town of Stockholm were the Royal Palace is located. As expected MIL had something weird to ask again “Can we go visit the King, I would like to see him”. No comment.

Thankfully we stopped at a supermarket before the harbor to buy some food for the cruise which included some sweet pastries covered in jam. The biggest and sweetest looking one we had planned for FIL (he has a real sweet tooth) but we would not know the fate of this delicious pastry until the next day. Once again on board the tax-free shop mayhem started and this time focused solely on the chocolates. As promised my wife guided her parents to the chocolate section but little did we know about the plans my in-laws had created during the past hours. We expected perhaps ten to twelve 300g chocolate bars for their friends, oh no, we spent in the end over 100€ on these chocolate bars. Can you guess how damn heavy so much chocolate is? Well, it resulted later on to some trouble when packing for their flight back to China, yes, too much chocolate. Furthermore this chocolate shopping easily took us close to two hours as my in-laws were fighting with each over whose friends would get how much chocolate, how much they would keep for themselves and so on. Let’s just say it was a basic fight over useless things as always.

 

Conclusion

In the end we managed to arrive in Helsinki unharmed. Carrying our luggage I felt like I could open a chocolate store and have supplies for at least a month. I do believe the trip might have been much more enjoyable without my in-laws, at least we could have done everything on our own pace and actually eat nicely. Oh and remember the pastry for FIL? He threw it away as he thought the jam was meat. D’Oh!