Thursday, October 31, 2019

The First Night

For me it is ALWAYS about the least that is my focus when I travel. In China, the week of October 1 to October 7 is their national holiday for celebrating the formation of the government of the PRC (Peoples Republic of China), and this year was the 70th anniversary of that celebration. We arrived in Shanghai on the night of the 6th! The streets were full of tourists from all over rural China, rather than locals!

The lobby of our hotel had a crystal eagle to celebrate the 70th anniversary.

We had been dropped off by our guide with plans to meet the next day, so we settled in our room and then decided to leave
 the hotel to head to the "Bund" which was just across the street. The Bund is the walkway along the river and we were told there was a light show every hour on the hour. Unbeknownst to us, we were going the wrong way as we left the hotel and could not cross the street which was just in front of our hotel. You can see the light show in the distance and we were going counter traffic.  You cannot see that there were many police and some military blocking crosswalks and directing people around. We had to walk about 4 blocks our of our way, take a left for 3 blocks, go down another half mile and eventually follow the crowd. We did finally get across the street!

The people were mostly families or millennials with sometimes a grandparent or two which they protected. Everyone was calm and polite even though we were crammed into small spaces. They all politely took their photos and then left space for those of us in the back to get our pictures.

When we were done and realized we had better get some sleep before our morning walk of the city, we started to head back.  To our surprise guards blocked every single shortcut we wanted to take.  We reached the street to the side of our hotel after getting lost and saved by a young Chinese lady with her phone map, and we still were not allowed to cross directly into the front door of the hotel!  I took a chance arguing with one of the policemen and showing him my hotel key card, but he refused to budge.  He looked all of nineteen, as did most of them.  There were lines of young men standing just a few feet apart insuring that we still had to walk another two blocks to wend our way finally back to our hotel.  I saw other elderly Chinese ladies giving the police a piece of their mind as well.  I did not take photos of the guards as that is frowned upon.

We finally made it to our side and were so glad to get back into the hotel.  During the whole experience, jet-lagged and disoriented, I truly felt very safe.  We later learned by our guide that these strict walking patterns had been put in place two years ago due to a crowd rush that killed 100 people!!   So much for my naive view of crowd safety.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A First Summary of an Epic Journey

We left on October 6 and returned on October 26. During this time we cruised, bussed and walked a large chunk of China. The map below covers our trip, except we traveled the exact opposite direction beginning with Shanghai. We also added an extension to the trip by flying to Guilin and Hong Kong shown to the south of the map below. We will probably never be able to return, so we went "whole hog".

There was little jet lag on our part upon arrival and we seemed to be able to join right in. The schedule was heavy. Half-day and full-day activities were the normal routine except for some of the days on the cruise part.

First impressions: China is large, not just in size, but in population. I will not bore you with the differences in municipalities, prefecture-level cities, and county-level cities. Since China is able to move millions of people and build a city in a year or less, these various levels of the population tend to run into each other physically. Shanghai, where we landed, is over 26 million people! Beijing where we began our end, has 6 beltways or city "rings" around it! More than 100 cities are over a million in population. China's government owns all the land and it is leased by the builders or the people who live on it in 100-year contracts. We felt the pulse of China at each stop. Even our guide would say his visit to certain areas was visibly different than the last time.

Below, just a hint of the buildings from different stops!!

The above pictures are a bit deceptive as there were many more I took with building cranes everywhere like long-legged grasshoppers. 

There was a discrepancy on whether the buildings were filled or awaiting tenants. China builds ahead of the curve.  We did not get to see inside the buildings but I will later write a post about two very different home visits we made. The apartments are 400 to 700 square feet in size housing families of 3 and 4. We saw laundry hanging on balconies, meaning there are no dryers in them. We were told by several people that the kitchens are quite small and therefore Chinese eat out most of the time!

The next post will be our first night of arrival and gentle chaos.

Friday, October 04, 2019

And She Is Off, In More Ways Than One!

Only one larva crawling across the pantry ceiling this morning.  They will have three weeks to reproduce and restore, but I have done the best that I can.  This pantry is the cleanest and best organized it has ever been. I will make every effort in the future to not overstock.

I have made garlic chive salt from the scapes that I cut last week.  This should be a stimulating spice in the cold days of winter.

And I am packed for three weeks across the vast country of China.  I have not figured out the app situation, but maybe I will just be offline most of the time.  I think I have packed pretty efficiently.

zài jiàn !

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

The Devil and the 10 Details

Circling the wagons?

The list of detail things to be done before our trip is endless. I have a house sitter who came by two days ago when we did a walk-through and today emailed to ask when she could pick up the keys...which I GAVE her two days ago! Hope she finds them.

Our tax man is helping us with a delayed filing and has spent today attempting to send us some additional forms to sign through an encrypted email, but each time we only get one of the two emails. Finally, he is going to just send a PDF and have us physically scan and sign tonight.

I have a bag full of charger cords for Kindle, phone, and camera batteries. I have to sort through all my various plugs for China and add all that weight.

I will be in the high cold mountains of Tibet for two days as well as tropical Hong Kong for two days with mainland travel in between.  What a crazy wardrobe I will need.

Hubby's laptop died last week and he is learning to use the new one this week, which means I am routinely interrupted helping him learn it.  I wish I was a more patient person.

I have worked for two hours trying to download WeChat as the only China-friendly app for communication on my phone with my fellow travelers texting and been totally unsuccessful.  My "account" is now blocked.

My wristwatch died and I do not like the Fitbit as it gets crazy with changing the times via satellite, so I had to rush out and buy a new watch this morning.

I have gotten an invasion of moths in my pantry and each time I think I have found the culprit: some old barley? a plastic container of mung beans? or the really old box of graham crackers? the little larva appear a day later along the ceiling!  At least my pantry is the cleanest it has ever been.

I have no ability to buy Yuan in the boonies but hope we can exchange once we get there.  It seems that our new credit card bills had been mailed to our physical address and not our P.O. Box and thus we were in payment default and the two new cards were being blocked for use!  Another half-hour at the bank has now corrected that little anomaly.

My SIL recommended we use compression stockings since our flight is 15.5 hours long after the transfer.  I have two more still thinking about that.

(It does not help that every time I turn on the TV that old man is in his front yard in his underwear shouting at everyone.  I look forward to getting away from this circus.)