Design Finalized!

It’s been a few years since I last looked into any kind of design for Thusgaard.com. Over the past year I’ve been trying to get the most out of multiple content management solutions and the problem always ends up being the same: The time that I’d need to invest in figuring out how they work is just usually out of proportion with the importance of having a private website that runs OK. After all I don’t depend financially on the well-being of anything ending with .thusgaard.com.

With WordPress.org the scenario changed a bit. WordPress has a huge user base, is freeware, has loads of independent developers that write load of little tweaks, hacks, plugins, and themes for the software package. This meant that I could go ahead and “design” a new site with very little knowledge of PHP and little knowledge about using stylesheets. Even without this the new site has a few special features, that I’d like to talk a bit about:

WordPress.org: The key to the whole thing, the blogging solution that makes it easy for private people to have a dynamic website which is easy to update.

Neat!: The design that I used to adapt WordPress to my needs.

Flickr.com: Photo service which you can use for free to upload pictures, which you can post and integrate with your blog – either directly from Flickr.com or with plugins for WordPress.

FAlbum: GREAT plugin by Elijah Cornell for integration between Flickr.com and WordPress. Today I just needed to find out how to post a random picture instead of the most recent one, and that was solved with an upgrade.

del.icio.us integrator: This plugin by Eric Anderson helps you post all your del.icio.us links in the sidebar and on a seperate page. Very helpful to show what you’ve been surfing!

StatTraq: Solid statistics plugin by Randy Peterman that shows all you’d ever want to know about your visitors.

Subscribe2: Skippy’s plugin which lets you create an e-mail news alert that goes out to subscribers to news from your blog!

WP Flickr Post BarWP Flickr Post Bar: If the posting feature on Flickr.com doesn’t quite do it for you, this plugin by Joe Tan gives you the ability to post Flickr.com photos straight from your WordPress Write Post page.

43 Places.com : At 43places.com you can post your list of places to go or places you’ve been or where you want to go. In addition you can make a seperate page with a map of your 43 places as it is seen on 43places.com. Finally it’s possible to make individual posts from 43places.com to your blog.

WordPress Database Backup: Skippy finally delivered yet another plugin. When you’ve set it all up and it’s all running, what should not happen? That it all disappears without a recent backup being available. This plugin allows you to do a full backup of your database in order to make sure that you can upload it all again if things go wrong.

I now consider the work for done. I have very few things that I’d still like to get in place. One of them is to figure out how to make sure that Thusgaard.com is updated with the posts from all members of the page. It has to do with posting to different blogs at once or cross-posting or something like that. Not sure. But for now, my work here is done…!

Finally: Pictures are online!!


Pretty late in the evening and after a few days of looking through our photos from our trip to China we’re finally ready to post the best of the best online!

Basically viewers have two options – an external slideshow from Flickr.com and a thumbnail gallery on China.Thusgaard.com. The links are both available in the menu on the right hand side under “China Trip”.

Feel free to ask questions to the pictures and comment online either on the blog or directly on the pictures.

Enjoy the viewing !

Jolanda & Jakob – not on tour right now

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23 Hours after getting up: Finally at Home

This post might look a bit unstructured. The main reason is that at this point in time we’ve been awake for almost 24 hours, and have been packing, checking out, checking in, checking out and then in again, and to make a long story short we’re back home in Amsterdam without any injuries to ourselves and only minor damage to the bikes. Luckily the damage to the bikes came now and not in the beginning of our holiday. It seems that the holders for both bike computers cracked in baggage handling – it would have made the route through China very challenging indeed not to have kilometer indications available.

Now we’re going to bed ’cause we both need to work tomorrow morning, which we obviously look extremely forward to 😉 !

Xi’an: Goodbye China

Xi’an, 08/10/2005 at 16:56

We still have a few days to write about here in the blog, but rather than spending our last evening in China writing blog, we’ll be updating it with the last couple of days, more stories, more info, photo gallery , etc. when we come home. To mention a few things from the last couple of days, though, one of the strangest and most challenging things has been to get our bikes onto a train in Beijing and one of the most beautiful and amazing sights has been the thousand terracotta warriors outside Xi’an. We were very happy to have a talk yesterday with two Canadian English teachers and their Chinese students at the South Gate in Xi’an. We could ask the Chinese students about their life in China, and they learned a bit about our life in Europe.

For now it’s time to say goodbye to China, and we’ll do that in the streets, restaurants and shops of the former capital of China, Xi’an. We have to get up tomorrow morning at about 04.30 local time to be about 18 hours later in Amsterdam – approximately 17.00 Central European Time.

It’s been a fantastic holiday!! Still we look forward to our traditional European rhythm of life (and soft beds). Looking forward to see you all and tell the full story !!

Day 23: Beijing – Xi’an: Arrival in Xi’an

Amsterdam 23/10/2005 at 15:30

Day 23: Beijing – Xi’an: Arrival in Xi’an
At the station in Xi’an we found that there were absolutely no problems with the bikes. As usual the gears had been changed, but we were getting used to that. Outside the station we met hordes of sales people who wanted to sell anything from hotels and taxis to maps of the city. Once having checked in we took a bus to the Bell Tower Hotel to arrange a guided trip for our next day to the terracotta army.
Having arranged our final day in China we went to the Drum Tower. Eventually we ended up at a very western looking café. Everything was like in Amsterdam incl. the crappiest service that we received in China. Finally done at the café we took at stroll down the moslim alley where food and “antiques” were on sale. There we found the Great Mosque and back alleys used for trading all sorts of stuff that tourists would want to buy. A group of Danish tourists from Kuoni Travel advised us to go to the south gate and take a walk on the city walls.
At the south gate: Didn’t feel like walking on more walls. Instead a couple of Canadian English teachers with their Chinese students bumped into us and we started talking. During the conversation we drew a crowd on Chinese by-standers and beggars. The talk went on about China-, Canada-, and Europe-related topics, differences in customs in the three cultures, and much more. One of the many differences are found in the procedures for international travel. Where Europeans generally very easy get their hands on a Chinese visa, the Chinese have to go through a lengthy process, which by far exceeds our troublesome bike-check-in in Beijing a day earlier.

In the evening we enjoyed dinner at the colorful street restaurants in the moslim quarter and the spectacular water-lights-music show on the fountain square at the pagoda.

Day 22: Beijing – Xi’an: Chinese Bureaucracy

Amsterdam 23/10/2005 at 15:30

Day 22: Beijing – Xi’an: Chinese Bureaucracy
***** 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY *****
– Although we didn’t realize that ourselves until on the train to Xi’an. Instead we got the day going with in-the-room “home made” breakfast and got busy packing, making final arrangements with the Vlieg & Fiets agent in Beijing, and eventually checking out of the Hademem Hotel.
We still had a few things that we wanted to shop for, so we went to a few chopstick shops in the center to get chopsticks, and to the silk market to shop for silk and a fake Rolex for Jakob.
In the early afternoon we passed by the hotel to get our bikes and luggage. With everything packed we made our way towards the Beijing West railway station. At the same time Beijing – and we – got rained on.
At the station first thing to do was to check in our luggage – the bikes. We arrived in the basement of the station and the railway employees down there were unable to help us. Only a single person managed to understand the Chinese note we were carrying with us, which was supposed to say that we wanted to check in our bikes. He guided us to a small shed-like house in a dirty back alley across the street from the station where we wouldn’t have liked at all to leave our bikes! He then took us to a more official looking parcel and luggage office at the station (a bit east of the main station building). Here we would have been absolutely lost had it not been for two guys who helped us with everything – every single procedure. In addition a girl came along to sort out a few translation problems. The staff was helpfully flexible as well although unable to speak any English. Basically the procedure went as follows:
1) We went to counter 1 for a form to fill out. The form was only available in Chinese.
2) We got the two guys mentioned above to help us fill out the form.
3) We taped the cardboard pieces to Jakob’s bike.
4) We went to counter 2 and got a piece of paper as for checking in the bikes.
5) Then we went back to counter 1 with the bikes which were now suddenly not allowed to be checked in.
6) Back at counter 2 (again) we got a woman to help convince the railroad man at counter 1 that it was OK to get the bikes on the same train as us to Xi’an.
7) At counter 1 the bikes were now let through, but only after all the cardboard was taken off again.
8) Discussion about whether the bikes can or can’t go on the same train as us. Eventually they’re cleared for the train.
9) Final visit to counter 2 for payment and to get the ticket for the bikes.
10) At counter 1 the bikes are now taken back out through the gates and we take them – still helped by the two guys – about half a kilometer to the right platform.
After this the guys said goodbye and left without making any claims for any reward or compensation whatsoever for their invaluable help.

Day 21: Beijing: Tai Chi in the Temple of Heaven Park

Beijing, 05/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 21: Beijing: Tai Chi in the Temple of Heaven Park
Getting up very early we left the hotel at 06.00 to see people do Beijing wake up in the Temple of Heaven Park. “Waking up” in Beijing includes various sports including easy gymnastics, running, tai chi, kung fu with and without weapons, singing, screaming, tennis, badminton, and walking backwards. Quite different from Europe!! The rest of the (early) morning we saw the rest of the temples – unfortunately the Temple of Great Harvest was closed for restoring until April 2006, so we had to do with lesser buildings. The rest of the day we spent shopping for jewelry, chopsticks, tablecloths, watches, traditional Chinese clothing, but we didn’t realy find the right things except for a Chinese shirt for Jolanda. This evening we’ve been to a show at the Lao She Tea House. Singing,, comedy, opera, magic, and acrobatics while having dinner – quite an experience.

Tomorrow evening we’ll celebrate our 5 years anniversary on the night train to Xi’an!

Day 20: Shanhaiguan – Beijing: Back to the Base

Beijing, 05/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 20: Shanhaiguan – Beijing: Back to the Base

As agreed our contact in the taxi underworld of Shanhaiguan had kept his word to arrive with a mini bus to bring us to Beijing. We hadto take the bikes partly apart, but at the end everything fitted and we were brought safely to Beijing. The driver apparently knew all the tricks in the book about avoiding road tolls, including changing license plates and driving through tolls so closely following cars in front of us, that the gates closed on top of the car (but did let it pass). Despite all of this we checked in at the hotel relatively early and spent the rest of the afternoon tourist shopping including having our own special “chop” made (due to illiteracy people earlier needed another form of signature than chinese letters. The chop would be a graphical signature in the form of a stamp made with red ink. ). In the evening we enjoyed a delicous Peking Duck dinner at the restaurant next to the hotel.

Day 19: Shanhaiguan: End of the Wall

Beijing, 05/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 19: Shanhaiguan: End of the Wall

Finally ready for a bit of sightseeing in Shanhaiguan this day was about seeing the first part of the Wall. We started out early in the morning at “The First Pass Under Heaven”, which is the first important tower on the Wall. Having enjoyed this we took the cableway up the first mountain pass that the Wall crosses. At the top we had spectacular view of the entire area including the ocean, lake Yansai, and a monastery. You could see how the Wall, crawled its way down the mountain, through the town of Shanhaiguan into the ocean – a bit like a very long dragon. It leads to the “Old Dragon’s Head”, which is where the Wall begins or ends and where we went afterwards. We were standing on the very first part of the Wall – practically in the ocean. A very special feeling. To finalize the day we went to the Temple of the Sea God to enjoy the sunset. In the evening we had our most spicey dinner so far, which we tried to drown with Great Wall wine.