Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dalian - Day Trip to Shenyang

An excursion from Dalian to Shenyang, the capital city of the Liaoning Province of China, was planned for the afternoon of Bob's final day of meetings.  Shenyang was established about 300 BC, and was conquered by the Manchu people and briefly used at the capital of the Quing Dynasty in the early 1600's.  We traveled by train about two hours northeast to reach the Muken Palace; also known as the Shenyang Imperial Palace.  It was designed to resemble the Forbidden City in Beijing, but is built with some Manchu and Tibetan characteristics.  It is very similar in design to all of the other palaces we have seen in Korea.  I think I had more fun admiring the dress-up clothing intended to resemble what would have been worn in the 1600's.  My feet would have never survived those shoes!  This was also the first time I noticed that the dragon heads which adorn many of the palaces actually have a body, too!  Can you guess which building was the library?

That evening we were scheduled to have dinner at a North Korean restaurant.  Apparently, the North Korean government selects a few girls from among the aristocrats to have a work experience - similar to an internship - in China.  The young women are sent to work in restaurants which are fairly close to the border and are quite heavily monitored and controlled.  The women are not allowed to have much social interaction and were even a little hesitant to have their photos taken.  These young ladies cook, serve, and perform for their patrons, and all the while there are videos running in the room which show the high quality of life in North Korea.  The meal consisted of all kinds of meat such as venison, fowl, ox bone, pork and beef to seafood such as turtle soup, shrimp, fish and some kind of squiggly uterus.  There were also vegetables, rice dishes and soups; and the meal ended with fruit for dessert.  We were not able to stay for the performance since we had to catch our train back to Dalian.  It was an interesting experience, and in all honesty, it felt like a big propaganda stunt to me.  I am quite certain they don't live like that in North Korea.  But the young ladies were very kind and fun to visit with.  They said they miss their homeland and will be happy to return after their two to three year experience in China is finished. 

My heart yearns for the people of North Korea to know the freedoms and lifestyle that we currently enjoy in the southern end of the peninsula. We continue to pray that we might soon see the lights turn on in the north and witness that dream become a reality.


Dalian, China

Not even three weeks passed back in Seoul before we were packing our bags again and headed back to China.  Because we had obtained a two-visit visa when we traveled to Guilin in the spring, we needed to return to China before October.  Since Bob had business meetings in Dalian the first week of September, we decided that we would take the opportunity to combine that trip with a visit to Beijing, where our friends, the Davis', now live.  Unfortunately for us, they were in the states at that time welcoming a new grand-baby into their family.  What a blessing it was that they let us stay in their beautiful apartment and use their driver, Mr. Ma, to help us see the sights.  Beijing will be the subject of another post.

Dalian is the southernmost city of northeast China and from Seoul is about an hour flight slightly northwest across the yellow sea to the Liaoning peninsula. It was a nice city and is considered one of the most livable places in China and a top tourist destination due to it's beaches and shopping.  When Bob and I arrived on Monday, September 2, we went for a walk and discovered Friendship Square with it's iconic ball sculpture, along with Zhongshan Square surrounded by Russian style financial buildings.

The five-star Intercontinental Hotel where we stayed was much nicer than many places we've been.  Yes, the perks of business travel!  You've gotta love the Lamborghini out front.  I think it fits Bob well, don't you?

For dinner that night we dined on seafood in typical Chinese style.  Seafood was selected from tanks and then cooked and served to the group.  We were grateful that most of the options did not make it onto our table!

The following day, while Bob was in meetings, I walked around the city and came upon a beautiful large park. Asia is known for developing huge parks where the crowds can go to enjoy some "green space" and time in nature.  Labor park featured not only water features, trees and trails, but a big amusement park, a cable car to a tower on top of a mountain, and a sled ride down the hill.  Of course, the cable car and sled couldn't be ignored.  I had to chuckle at the artificial flowers "planted" around the park, as well as the locals picking "weeds" to take to their restaurants as additions to their green salads.  We still have not become accustomed to those bitter leaves they seem to love in Asia.

 The view from the top of the tower provided some fabulous views of Dalian including the coast and shipyard.  The green rolling hills look just like those in Korea.

That afternoon, I got a peek at some additional recreation activities and endless shopping that was available in the city.  I visited an underground fashion market that was the largest in Asia!  Snacks could be purchased at the "Hello Kitty" cafe in a local mall, or from a popular bakery on the streets.  I did purchase a small Mongolian woodcarving as a souvenir.

Mongolian fare was the selected cuisine for dinner our second evening in Dalian.  The cute restaurant featured lots of traditional wood work, and our dining room was no exception.  The presentation of their famous Mongolian beef was quite a sight, and the flavor of the tender cuts were equally impressive!

  (To be continued . . .)