Tag Archives: Xi’an

Poor little cousin

Let me tell you a story of my mother-in-law. I know, there have been many stories about her in this blog but she just gives me so many things to write about. I do not know how she does it but somehow something happens nearly every day to write about and I believe she is far from being done with crazy.

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Uncle, distant relative, Granny and Aunty

This particular story happened last summer when we were in Xi’an. It was once again one of those days when we visited my wife’s grandmother. Not only is the grandmother living there but also her uncle with his wife and daughter. This little girl is about four to five years old and the younger cousin of my wife. Basically every time we visit MIL has something to complain about such as granny is playing too much Mahjong, granny is not drinking enough water, granny is spoiling the little girl too much, and granny is not doing enough for the little girl. In case it’s not granny’s fault it is either MIL’s brother, or my wife or father-in-law who has done something wrong.

 

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My wife feeding her little cousin

Where did I stop? Oh, everyone is doing something wrong. Alright, so we visited last summer once again. We were playing with my wife’s little cousin and MIL noticed the clothes of the poor little girl. She took a closer look at the girl, turned her about and then said to her brother “What are these for ugly clothes, how can you make her wear something like this?

 

As you can see MIL is very delicate when forming accusation and taking always the highest care not to make anybody feel bad. Naturally all people were looking at the little girl and her clothes, then at uncle who looked confused and then at MIL who was still poking the girl and observing the clothes. What came then would be pretty weird for other people but is just another usual day for MIL.The uncle just looked at his older sister, smiled and replied “But older sister, you bought these clothes and gave them to her last time you visited”

Of course MIL just tried to deny it as she never ever does anything wrong and has much better taste than this but father-in-laws comment about his wife makes more and more sense “She has water in the head” 脑子进水了 or “She has fishes in the head” 脑子养鱼.FIL is indeed a very wise man.

 

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MIL with her niece

This brings me to MIL and how stubborn she is. However she must have gotten her stubbornness and weirdness from somewhere and  granny comes into the play here. Grandmother is also really weird and stubborn, sure no competition for MIL but still playing in a high weirdness league. For example one of the main discussions they have when visiting granny is that she should not cut the little girls hairs anymore. For unknown reasons she always cuts the hairs of the girl very short and very unprofessional. The result is that the girl always has some really crazy hairstyle when we visit. Everyone is telling grandma to stop doing it, she then agrees but as soon as the girl’s parents are out at work she goes back to practice her hairdressing techniques on her. Thankfully the little girl doesn’t seem to mind it yet but I have the feeling that the combined influence of weird and stubborn grandma and MIL visiting will create yet another crazy family member I can write about in a few years.

The Gao Family Mansion, Xi’an

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Xi’an has much to offer besides the main sites such as the Terracotta Warriors, the Small and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Beiyuanmen “Muslim Street” with the Great Mosque and numerous burial sites. Not every attraction is suitable for everyone so you got to choose what you really would like to see in case of a short visit as usually two or three days are just not enough to see much. And believe me, there is so much to see that it takes months just to visit all the places advertised in city guides and other sources.

During all my visits in Xi’an I have probably visited all major tourist spots and multiple locations which are more known to the locals. This resulted during my last visit that I felt kind of empty. I wanted to see more of the city but my wife had no motivation to just go through the streets, she wanted to visit only spots she hasn’t seen before. So I started my research on search engines for some place we haven’t visited yet and after a long day I found it; something called the Gao Family Mansion located in Beiyuanmen. Wait, what? Located at the Muslim street? I had been several times and never ever saw anything like this Mansion nor did my wife or her parents have any idea about it.

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One of the many rooms

Next day we headed to Beiyuanmen (just 5min walk from my parents-in-law’s home) in search of that building. We walked about and down there for around 30min with no luck until we saw a little tourist group going through an entrance between food vendors. We followed them and there it was, the place we had been searching for: The Gao Family Mansion

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As you can see, he did well with in his exams!

Now first some basic information about the Gao Family Mansion:

  • Built over 400 years ago during Ming Dynasty
  • stretched over 2.500sqm (~26,910square feet)
  • 86 rooms of which 56 or so are opened for public
  • Due to a Project of Sino-Norway Historical Districts Protection in 1999 it was completely repaired (Thanks Norway!)
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Lovely Myna Birds

I don’t remember the entrance fee anymore but it was very cheap. Inside the mansion you can spend some more money on a tea ceremony and a shadow puppetry show but we skipped those. I guess we walked around for nearly two hours there, going through the several rooms and floors (my wife loved the talking myna birds because of their compliments to her beauty and I was fascinated by the turtles).

I can only recommend a visit there, it is pretty much in the middle of Beiyuanmen, there is much to see for little money and most importantly it is very quiet there. As long as you don’t look up to the neighbouring buildings you can’t believe that you are actually in the center of bustling city with over 8 million inhabitants.

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Do you have found any wonderful places which are not heavily advertised in other cities?

Some more information of the Gao Family Mansion:

The China Guide

Horticultural Expo 2011

China Highlights

Sino Impressions

You can overdo it sometimes (Mount Hua)

Most people say that you can never be prepared enough for a task ahead. I found out the hard way that you can be over-prepared.

Last year we were once again for a few weeks in China, visiting my wife’s family. As usual we had some plans regarding which places we would love to visit. Number one location was Jiuzhaigou 九寨沟 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiuzhaigou. This changed after we arrived as my wife got too lazy (it is just too tempting for her just to hang out on the sofa, watch TV and eat snacks whole day). So in order to not disappoint me too much we agreed at least to go to Mount Hua 华山as it is just an hour or so away from Xi’an, my wife’s “hometown”.

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Foggy Mountain

The Planning begins

I had watched some information about Mount Hua before so I was excited to go there. My parents in law were shocked. How could we visit such a dangerous place (as if crossing a street in Xi’an is any safer than climbing the mountain…)

It took some time convincing mom in law but we were “allowed” to go there in the end. Dad in law wasn’t so happy about it. He said it is too dangerous. After some time we got to know he had been there several times. Even using the infamous Plank Walk before any security measurements have been installed (Check out http://www.wherecoolthingshappen.com/huashan-crazy-plank-walk/ to see more about the nice little path). Him using that path strikes me as fairly unusual as he is more the safety first type. Actually he is more the type not to do anything remotely dangerous. But then again, he was just 20 back in the days, trying to proof the world something.

The day prior to our climbing adventure arrived. With is also the preparation started. I received some huge backpack from some friend of the family. This backpack was filled with food, much food and a huge vacuum flask. I estimated that the weight exceeded 30 kg easily. Sure, you need some things when climbing a mountain. But that much? The whole duration on the mountain would never exceed 5 hours in our planning and yet we had food and drink for a whole week. Yet, I agreed to it, to make parents in law happy.

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The heroes of the mountain

We left next morning and went to a village nearby the mountain. The in-laws got themselves a little hotel room, because they had to wait for us (they didn’t want to join us). In the little hotel we had some food which was enough to sustain me for two or three days. They said that I would burn much calories on the mountain and I need all the food. They also advised us to eat something every 30-45min, or we would be too weak. Mom in law also wanted us to wear thick jackets, as she was afraid we would get sick due to the low temperatures in autumn. Low temperatures are in her opinion everything under 28 degrees Celsius so the 25 degrees in the morning were life threatening. I didn’t complain and after that we set out to the entrance where we said our goodbyes.

Chinese really like it red
Chinese really like it red

Up the mountain and the suffering

The view was great, you could see the smog layer covering the countryside around the mountain. And fresh air, so wonderful, finally being able to breathe normally again. Basically I was happy, my wife not so much.

Another Peak
Another Peak

Now I don’t want to tell you all about the great mountain, as you should go there better yourselves. But in my opinion it was worth the high entrance fee + cable car fee. Cable car as we didn’t want to climb up the whole mountain and back again, due to our limited time and my wife’s fear of getting big leg muscles….

The climb to the different peaks on the mountain were manageable (we only went to two peaks). The main problem for me was the backpack which was getting heavier and heavier each hour. My in-laws said that we needed all the food and drink so we tried to use it. We really tried to eat and drink much, seriously but there is just so much a body can fit. In the end I still had roughly 9/10 of the stuff left when arrived at the base of the mountain in the evening again. I still wonder why we had so much mantou and meat with us. With all the food I could have fed probably half the tourists on the mountain.

The whole trip was a struggle for me to take the next step and the weight was dragging me down. Remember the jackets mom in law wanted us to wear? Oh, I was so glad we didn’t take them. It was so damn hot going up with all the weight that I might have melted with some jacket. The worst part was the way down. Due to the high weight I had to carry up my legs were a mess when we arrived the south peak. They were just shaking. Each step on the way down again I was afraid to just collapse.

Those stairs are no joke, perfect for getting nice leg muscles
Those stairs are no joke, perfect for getting nice leg muscles

All preparation was not for naught

Yes indeed, all the stuff prepared found still a use. Nah, we didn’t sell it or gave it away but we actually used it. Mind you, not the very same day but two days later we went to some zoological park. It was useful because mom in law didnt had to prepare new food and terrible because I ended up carrying everything once again. Another surprise, we didnt manage to eat everything this time either so mom in law gave it to her friends who came with us. In the end I was carrying supplies, meant for one mountain climbing adventure, over two days just to give it all away.

And before I forget, I got my revenge. When they came to visit us, I made sure that they have enough food to carry :=)

P.S. I must excuse the poor pictures, but back then I only had my Nokia N8, resulting in pictures with rather much noise.