2005 September 10th to 22nd
With Em's job vacations must be planned at least 6 months in advance. However, once her vacation time was secured we couldn't decide where we wanted to go and in fact didn't decide until 2 days before we left. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing since we planned the time off to coincide with the longest international trips allowed through United E-fares and as the vacation approached things looked good. Every Tuesday morning I would check the e-fares and there were always trips to Asia for around $500, Mexico City for an unbelievable $200 plus other options to South America. On the Monday night before we would buy our tickets we were so excited that we woke at midnight to the sound of NPR and groggily booted up the computer to see our choices.
Zero, zip, zilch, nada! That week United offered no international e-fares at all. Needless to say, we were crushed. We quickly checked a last minute vacation package destination, Site59.com, only to find that trips to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America had significantly increased in price in the last few days.
However, it turned out the Emily's dad was in China at the time and her mom was going to fly over the day after we planned to start our vacation. For her parents the trip represented work but they said if we tagged along they would show us around. In short order we exchanged our airline miles for tickets, got visas, and on a clear and cool Saturday evening, after Emily had worked all day, we found ourselves walking from our apartment to the Berkeley BART station, the first leg of what would turn out to be a very long day.
The following was our rough itinerary:
- Day 1: Berkeley-San Francisco-Hong Kong. A night flight on Singapore Airlines across the Pacific followed by a tour of Victoria Peak.
- Day 2: Hong Kong-Shenzhen. After many hours and 3 drivers we end up in the boom town of China.
- Day 3: Shenzhen-Nanjing. A pleasant 100-minute flight on a Chinese airline followed by an alteration of our pants.
- Day 4: Nanjing. A bus tour of the city with 19 other Chinese tourists, several of which have very bad hair.
- Day 5:Nanjing. A surprise visitor shows us around the city and we climb on 700 year-old animals.
- Day 6: Nanjing. The food catches up with us so we decide to get beaten about the head and shoulders, again.
- Day 7: Nanjing-Shanghai. A 3-hour train ride to Shanghai then a taxi ride to our hotel with giant beds.
- Day 8: Shanghai. We explore the Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, and Jinmao Tower
- Day 9: Shanghai. A 6 km walk from our hotel along Nanjing Road to the Bund.
- Day 10: Shanghai. A morning stroll with the locals in Luxun Park followed by an afternoon thunderstorm.
- Day 11: Shanghai-Tokyo-San Francisco-Berkeley. A 1-hour bus ride, a 2-hour flight, a 9-hour flight, and finally a 1-hour train ride and we are home.
After a full day on prep, I rushed home, took a shower and we grabbed our bags and headed on foot to the BART station to catch a train to Glen Park. Lau-lau was waiting for us at the top of the hill, and we spent the next several hours having dinner with her and just hanging around. Mom called us in the middle of dinner and promptly called us crazy for walking up and down the hill from the BART station. At around 10:30 p.m., we left Uncle Bob's house (he was in Las Vegas at the time) and set off for SFO. At this point we'd like to point out that to get from Berkeley to SFO takes 57 minutes and costs $5.50, but going from Berkeley to Glen Park and then to SFO costs $3.30 + $4.60 or $7.90.
Our flight wasn't until 1:25 a.m., Sunday. We made good time and checked in with almost two hours to spare. The Singapore airline representative was very surprised when we told him we had no checked luggage. Then he smirked at us and said, "Ah, well the shopping in Hong Kong is very good." Not one to argue, I just nodded my head, but actually, we would not buy anything on this trip and we are just very light travelers. We waited at the gate for several hours, by-passing the duty-free shops along the way, and just as we thought we could stay awake no longer, we boarded Singapore Airlines flight to Hong Kong.
We thought that as soon as we got on, they would just turn out the lights and everyone would go to sleep. Well, we were wrong. First there were the squalling babes (IN STEREO) we had to contend with. These screaming (and I DO mean SCREAMING) infants started just after we sat down and continued for an hour after takeoff. Shortly after takeoff, the cabin service started, first with a hot lemon-scented towel for a refresher, then drinks and dinner. We were excited to see three choices for dinner and then breakfast. They were Indian, Chinese, and Western choices for both of the meals served, but we shortly realized that the Indian choice had to be pre-ordered. Still, we persevered and Casey scored an Indian dinner. It was good, but being that our systems are only supportive of strongly spiced foods when we're not hurtling through the air (with a good amount of turbulence), we decided that perhaps the more bland Chinese and Western options were the way to go.
After dinner, Poobie went to sleep and I explored the entertainment system. I have to say that it was one of the best entertainment systems I've ever come across. The selection was astounding with everything on demand! There were 60 movies to choose from, 103 TV programs, 225 CD's and 85 video games. The controller popped out of your arm rest. I watched 3 movies, Mr. & Mrs. Smith,The Longest Yard, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (because I read the books too...) Note that all of the movies I watched weren't yet out on DVD in the U.S. Half-way through the flight, an attendant came by with little snack rolls, apples or FULL SIZE 3 MUSKETEER BARS. Can you guess which one I went for? At this point I was thinking "Singapore Girl, You're a Great Way to Fly!". I had brought an orange as a snack for the flight and as we were debarking, Poobie noticed that the orange was from Australia (I thought it was from California). We bought an orange in California from Australia and then brought it all the way back to Hong Kong...
We landed just before 6:30 a.m. local time, and it took us no time to clear customs and immigration. We headed for the Maxim's restaurant on the top floor of the airport to wait for my dad. Maxim's is one of my mom's favorite dim sum places. Little did I know that it would take my dad 2 hours to arrive. But he finally did and we bought our Octopus passes (a rechargeable transportation pass) and took the double-decker air-conditioned bus to Hong Kong. Our first taste of the heat that was to come started at the bus stop right outside. It was just unbearable. It was 87°F but with close to 90% humidity. We thought we stepped right into a steam room. On top of all that, it was pretty smoggy. As we set off, Poobie kept gasping every time the bus driver made a turn or stopped a foot away from the bus in front. Those drivers were experts at getting the most out of their 6 inches of clearance!
On the way to Hong Kong proper, we passed by a slew of motorcycle police and then an enormous motorcade going the other way. We were to discover later that the motorcade contained the Vice President of China and Michael Eisner on their way to the Grand Opening of Disneyland Hong Kong. The bus dropped us off right in front of our hotel, the Majestic. I was familiar with the hotel since I'd stayed there several times before. We dropped our stuff off and then headed out. We took the MTR from Jordan to Tsim Sha Tsui and then walked to the Star Ferry. Then we took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong side followed by a short bus ride to a funicular that would take us all the way up to Victoria Peak and the best views of Hong Kong. The funicular itself was insane. Some of the track was so steep (nearly 45 degrees) that we were pressed really hard into the benches we were sitting on.
When we got to the peak, my dad said we should walk around Lugard road, just to check out the views. We didn't know it, but that walk would take us pretty much all the way around the peak. The views WERE amazing though. The road was mostly pedestrian, really kind of like a paved path, sometimes barely clinging to the rocks. Poobie was amazed that much of the hill was shotcreted up, even around the trees. It was SO hot. We sweated and sweated and sweated some more. At the end of our loop, Dad made us have a snack at Deli-France (which was not so good). We took the funicular back down and the air-conditioned subway back to the hotel.
We all decided to take a nap and try to contact Terence Yin. He said he would meet us around dinnertime. My dad decided not to join us so we were on our own for the night. Various and sundry calls later, Terence said he would be delayed and that we should meet for drinks later that night, so we set off to find our own adventure. We walked through the night market, but not seeing anything that interested us, we ended up having dinner just across the alley from our hotel at a little eatery I'd been to before. That night we had chicken and salted fish fried rice (a classic for sure) and a Malaysian style curry chicken. They were both very good, especially the curry if you didn't eat the chicken.
Tired and done with the heat, we went back to the hotel to wait for Terence's call. We watched an interesting show on MIT blackjack card counters and promptly fell asleep. Adding the day we spent in Berkeley, plus the time on the flight where I didn't get any sleep, plus the day spent in Hong Kong, I was up for 46 hours!
Behind us is Hong Kong... You can almost see it through the smog....
On Lugard Road which circles Victoria Peak. The sign says "Slope Registration #..."
You wouldn't know that I was just above one of the busiest cities in the world tickling a banyan tree.
Hong Kong from Lugard Road. We didn't take this picture.
We found this little guy having lunch...
The water bottle is hanging vertically, the window sill reflects the slope of the hill, and the shiny face represents a lot of sweat.
We were up at the crack of dawn, or 5 a.m., unable to sleep a second more. We waited until 5:30 a.m., just out of courtesy, and then called my dad. We decided to go to breakfast at this congee place my dad had gone to the night before. When we got there, we noticed that they accepted the Octopus pass as payment! Our breakfast consisted of congee, fried noodles, Chinese donut, Chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle sheets, radish cake and sweet soy milk. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Tin Hau (Queen of Heaven) temple, only to find it closed. Right behind the temple was a huge market street, just starting up for the day. We wandered around, looking for fruit, but alas, nothing great was to be found. Went back to the hotel to gather our stuff and check out. Today was the day we were going into China! But first we had to pick up my mom from the airport.
When this day started, we didn't know it would be a day of planes and a train of automobiles. We got my mom from the airport (the plane) and arranged a ride from the airport to the border of Shenzhen. Our first driver was relatively safe, but made me sick by pumping the gas pedal repeatedly. (I just can't understand why you can't just keep your foot on the stupid pedal!) He took a relatively un-congested route through the countryside to the least busy border crossing. There he dropped us off and we had to walk across and get our passports stamped and our bags checked. On the other side, another driver was waiting to take us into Shenzhen (Long-gang). This driver was much better and the ride was smooth as silk. This was also my first lesson about the differences in Taiwanese and Chinese etiquette. In Taiwan, you address the drivers as "xian shen" which basically means "mister" but in China, you address them as "shi-fu" which has a totally different connotation and means "master." Anyway, the master drove us to the Lailai Restaurant in Long-gang where we were met by our factory driver and our friend Ms. Martha Chang. We had a small snack there (Poobie was stared at the entire time by the uniformed staff) and drove to the factory (1/2 hour) where we stayed for an hour as my mom dropped stuff off in their room and my dad packed for the trip to Nanjing and Shanghai. (Everyone who works at the factory lives there too.) We were then ferried back into Shenzhen proper to the Zhong Ge Cheng Hotel where we would stay for the night. Before we went to dinner a travel agent delivered our tickets to the hotel for our flight the next day to Nanjing.
A couple of first impressions on driving in China: first of all the roads were blessedly smooth and clean. The drivers are, to our "civilized Western eyes," safe, but insane. The lanes mean nothing, mere suggestions on where the cars should go. There are pedestrians on the FREEWAYS. Casey saw 4 people on ONE motorcycle. (I contend that you can fit at least 1 more plus a dog.) We passed a semi going the wrong way on the freeway in the right hand shoulder. There are tons of bicycles but also tricycles and some things that look like the bastard child of a riding lawn-mower and a tractor, but with a really big bed for hauling stuff (I think my uncle used to drive one of those things when he lived in SuJiaWan). No one wears seat belts or helmets of any kind. Not everyone turns off the ignition when fueling at a gas station. Tiny cars, huge cars, everything in between and the funniest looking domestically produced cars with Mercedes styling in the front, but a Japanese hatchback in the rear (lime green).
Dinner that night was "Taiwanese" style, but not really. What I mean is that the best Taiwanese food is not overly greasy and is relatively simple. This stuff was "Chinese-ified." More fancy and greasier than it should have been. We did have some classics, but it was just OK. After dinner we went for a massage. Martha went with us and if she hadn't, I would have been seriously sketched out. There were young ladies greeting us at the door in full length red dresses. It had the feeling of a place of ill-repute. But it wasn't. The ladies that worked on us were very professional and the massage was conducted while you were fully clothed and covered in a giant towel. The entire time we were there the lights (and consequently the A/C) kept going out. We were stretched and pummeled (it kind of hurt, but apparently that's how the Chinese like it) for three hours and it cost us 76 RMB per person ($10). We left around 10:30 p.m., perhaps a little looser than when we got there and went back to the hotel. When I asked what time they closed, they said that they didn't close until 3 a.m. and that their nightly rush hadn't even started yet.
Back to the hotel for the night. Our bathroom had a sauna, a fancy elevated porcelain bowl sink and a shower with curved, sliding french doors. Poobie could even plug his shaver in as they had a 110v outlet as well. We both took a much needed shower and then crawled into bed, only to discover that the bed was rock hard. It was springy, but about as firm as firm can get. Still, we were tired and fell asleep rather quickly. In the morning we would marvel at how comfortable the hard, hard bed really was.
The ubiquitous double-decker bus traffic in Hong Kong.
On our way to get my mom from the Hong Kong airport. Bean is looking back at me from the front seat on the upper level of the bus.
A view of cable-stayed bridge while on a suspension bridge somewhere after leaving the airport.
The previously mentioned suspension bridge...
And another cable-stayed bridge. This one is different than the one in the previous picture which we saw but didn't pass over.
Dinner with some business associates. This was to be the only "Taiwanese" dinner we had. My mom is sitting to my right and Ms. Martha Chang to Casey's left. Directly behind Casey is one of the millions of portable AC units that cool all of China.
Our hotel in Shenzhen that night. Looks like Vegas to me! Hey, what happens in Shenzhen....
Ahh.... relaxing in a luxurious hotel room with the super firm yet surprisingly comfortable bed....
Up at six unable to sleep, again. We cleaned up, packed and decided to go downstairs for breakfast as it was included with the price of the rooms. The Salley Palace western-style restaurant in the lobby had a breakfast buffet with a selection of Chinese and Chinese-style-western dishes. What do I mean by Chinese-style-western? Take for instance the hash-browns made of taro, or creamed fish with bones like fish-hook barbs. The toast was good, but the selection of cakes and pastries were dry as plaster dust. This perplexed me since there are any number of excellent bakeries in the area and the birthplace of Chinese baking just over the border... After breakfast Mr. Wong, our printer and the host of last night's dinner, picked us up and drove us to the airport in his fancy Honda Accord.
The Shenzhen airport was nice and modern, reminding us much of the Ontario airport in SoCal. Our flight was on Shenzhen Airlines to Nanjing. Before takeoff, the announcements were made by recorded message and my mom remarked that the voices were very pleasant. We were served a small snack onboard consisting of some juice, a package of Chinese Chicken Crackers (very much like Chikin-in-a-Bizkit), some lightly sweetened puffed corn, and a sweet brioche-type roll. The flight took 1 hour 40 minutes and was largely uneventful. The plane was new, clean, and smoking was not allowed in either the airport or the plane.
In Nanjing, my father's childhood friend Paul Chang met us at the airport and drove us to the hotel in his Buick (made in Shanghai). We checked into our room ($20/night) and found that there were only twin beds, not just in our room but all rooms. We also found out that Paul has been living in this particular hotel (part time, his family is in Singapore) for about 10 years. On our way into town we noted some tree-lined streets, conspicuously absent in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Nanjing is very proud of its city greening projects and especially their French "Wu-tong" trees (actually native to Yunnan and brought to France by a Jesuit missionary, then brought back to Chinese cities by Chinese exchange students).
To settle in, we decided to go and get our hair washed across the street. My dad decided to get a haircut. The washes came with a half hour shoulder rub and head scratching by girls in yellow shirts. For the four of us it totaled about USD$12. After the washes, Poobie and I walked around our neighborhood, intrepid explorers and found the perfect little day-pack for RMB20 and a pair of light-weight pants for RMB68. The pants needed to be altered, so we went in search of a tailor and found Mr. Wu on the 4th floor of a department store. He was so amazing, altering two pairs of pants in under 7 minutes. It normally would have cost us RMB8 for the alterations, but Poobie wanted to take a picture with him and after the picture, he wouldn't accept payment.
Dinner that night was as follows: Gizzard of Sparrow with Peanuts, Black Trumpet Mushroom Fricassee Chinoise, Thousand-Year-Old Quail Eggs, Ziggurat of Braised Pork-Belly Stuffed with Preserved Mustard-greens, Giant Meatball in Mustard Green Broth (delicious!), Morning Glory Greens with Red Fermented Tofu Sauce, Spicy Napa Cabbage Stalk Stir-fry, Duck Blood Stew, Steamed Salted Duck (Nanjing specialty also delicious), Poached Grass Shrimp, Herbal Soup, Soup Dumplings, Pork Ribs Muslim style (lots of cumin, red chilies and garlic). We did not know half of the people there, mostly Paul Chiangs mahjong buddies, but we were on our best behavior. We drank beer while everyone else drank "Endurding Pulchritude" by Yunnan Shangli-La Winery (a fine "Tibetan dry") red wine cut with Sprite. I kid you not. I even spelled it exactly as it was on the bottle. We were flabbergasted and hadn't seen anything like that since Budapest and the "Borosh colas."
We went to bed that night stuffed and thankful for the AC.
Mr. Wang and the altered pants. Another satisfied customer!
Our first banquet style dinner. Note the tower of belly and the peanuts with ball of goosefoot behind. The tower is not surrounded by marshmallows, but by little steamed breads.
The one on the right pummeled Casey good...
We started early this morning with a very watery porridge breakfast and more eggs than any person has a right to eat in a day. Still, beggars can't be choosers and at that time of morning (around 6 a.m.), only the porridge place was open. We went back to the hotel and packed up our little day bag with a package of Chikin-In-A-Bizkit, two bananas (courtesy of the hotel), and two small bottles of water. Promptly at 7 a.m., a small bus pulled up to the front door and two young ladies came out to take our tickets and usher us onto the 19-seater bus.
The second we got on, there was a loud commotion. A lady with Very Bad Hair was yelling at the driver. It quickly became apparent the conflict was about the air conditioner. I had a good giggle in the back as I translated for Poobie. After about two exchanges, he told me I could stop. Once the VBH lady was calmed down and somewhat appeased, Ms. Chu, our guide, made an announcement. On some stops she would lead us and give an explanation, but on some we would just have a bit of "free time," but on all, we were to be back to the bus at the appointed time. If anyone was late, 2 or 3 minutes, that would be fine, but if you were late 3-5 minutes, you would have to sing a song or tell a joke as penalty for making everyone else wait. If you were 10 minutes late, you could either take a taxi to the next destination, or draw a circle and sit down in it. The next tour would be along in 24 hours and you could pick up where you left off.
Our day went as follows: TS1(Tour Stop 1), Confucius Temple AKA Temple of the dueling megaphones. There were about 3 tours going through the temple at the same time and each had a guide with a mini megaphone. None of the tours were more than 10 feet away from each other at a time, therefore I couldn't understand anything our guide said because it was drowned out by the other two. Before we got out, we were warned that the "antiques" on sale on either side of the temple were most definitely fakes and some were even "pre-broken" so when you picked it up, it looked fine, but when you set it down, it was broken. In any case, DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING.
TS2, Yu Hua Tai Scenic Spot and jewelry mart. We were dropped off in front of the jewelry mart, all thinking that this was what we were there to see. Only after you got through the first few yards and the displays about gemstones did you realize you were supposed to BUY stuff. We both hightailed it out of there and went to the actual scenic spot, a fog-wreathed pagoda, built on the spot where a monk delivered such a moving sermon that a rain of flowers came down from the heavens. The woods nearby was also a place where thousands of early Communists were "martyred."
TS3, People's Memorial Sculpture just on the other side of the hill from Yu Hua Tai to commemorate the struggle of the people and liberation from blah blah blah (pretty much the likes of my family and the horrible fate that has befallen the PROC now... Gasp! Free market! GAAAAHHHH!!!).
TS4, Zhan Yuan palace and famous gardens. Very well preserved with an old carving of a "tiger" symbol the emperor Qian Long wrote. We sat down to a very bad show of traditional Chinese instruments with electronic music accompaniment and refreshed ourselves with weak tea and dried soybeans as a snack. Then plate spinning tumblers entertained us a bit. Just a little bit as we figured out pretty quickly that the girls were just contortionists with plates stuck to the sticks they were holding... Where's the skill in that!?!
TS5, Communist propaganda museum and original headquarters. 'Nuff said.
TS6, Wu Xi lake and forced family-style lunch for 20 RMB per person. It wasn't too bad, but during lunch there was a sad auction of brush paintings (sad cuz no one was bidding) with the artist sitting and looking morose. One of the ladies at the table asked me if I was Poob's tour guide. I just smiled and told her I am his wife. :) Raised eyebrows all around.
TS7, Stopped at the other side of lake to enjoy view and look at fake rockery.
TS8, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, father of modern China, his mausoleum was huge and impressive and beautiful. We were given 1-1/2 hours to climb to the top and take a gander. There were three hundred some-odd stairs and it was hotter than hell out, but we were the first of our group to make it to the top. The views were impressive and the grounds well-kept. When we got back to the bus, we were told that his body is actually in Beijing.
TS9, Tea tasting! Nope just kidding, we got one pot of tea and a 10 minute sales pitch for Zhi Sha teapots. Shoulda seen it comin'.
Most people were gone by this part of the tour, and after the tea tasting, there were only six of us left. The other four guys were going to the Presidential Palace and we were given the choice of either taking a taxi back to the hotel or tagging along. We didn't have anything better to do, so we went.
TS10, Presidential palace, like many such places is full of history and interesting only if you know the history. Otherwise, it's just a building. The tour took maybe 40 minutes, with the tour guide saying a piece about each room. For us, it could easily taken less than 10 minutes. We were given taxi fare (RMB15) to go back to the hotel and hailed a green VW Santana. The ride only cost RMB11.
Later on that night we went out to walk around and came upon a night market, but were dismayed to find no good food-stuffs. Went to bed at 9:30 p.m.
Ms. Chu and Mr. Wu, our tour-guides in front of our conveyance.
Lady on left with the Very Bad Hair and her friend.
TS2: The Agate Market where we were supposed to buy stuff.... Yeah right!
TS2: The Pagoda that is the real attraction to Yu Hwa Tai or Rain of Flowers Platform. Of course Poobie insisted that we climb to the top, so we did, only to find a non-descript room with a woman selling drinks.
TS3: Hmm... Typical Communist sculpture. The nine figures are supposed to be symbolic of something.... what I forget.
We loved this kid's haircut. It's very traditional and you usually only see it in picture-books. What a cutie.
TS4: The horrible show we endured at Zhan Yuan with weak tea and snack of dried soybeans.
Casey as emperor with a member of our tour. He dressed up first and then persuaded us to. The fee for putting on the FILTHY robe was 10 RMB but it was worth it to get this great photo.
TS5: Peekaboo! A wax replica of a very serious Communist meeting is invaded by the enemy...
That was a damn lot of steps to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial.
Hi! I just saw the tomb of Chiang Kai Shek. He's not really in there.
A better view of what it was like going up to the mausoleum. Poobie can be seen with his blue shirt (which he wore every day!) halfway up.
Ah, beautiful. And the scenery is nice too! Poobie was ready to die when this photo was taken. It was a long, hot, propaganda filled day and by now he didn't even have the energy to muster a smile.
The phone rang at 7:30 a.m. while we were still in our separate twin bed. It was Paul Chiang's niece here to show us around town. We rushed down stairs and were greeted by Big Sister Chiang (that's what I called her because I can't remember Chinese names and it's good manners and tradition besides). BSC started off the morning by finding breakfast for us in the form of noodle soups.
Stop 1, Bean got a beef noodle soup and I got shredded pork with pickled mustard greens. They were both good and half-way through, we traded. He was enthusiastic about this form of breakfast.
S2, Yue Jiang Lou, a replica pagoda, built upon the ruins of an earlier pagoda. We climbed all the way to the top and were rewarded with views of the city as well as the Yangtze River.
S3, Ming Xiao Ling, tomb of emperor Zhu Yuan Zhang, on the other side of the hill from Sun Yat Sen's mausoleum. There is a wide cobbled path leading up to a large structure with a tunnel and a flight of stairs up to... nothing. Just a brick wall. Later, when we got back to the hotel, we caught a program on TV explaining that no one really knows where the emperor is buried and excavation of the site is unlikely because of the damage heat and humidity might cause to the artifacts currently sealed in a tomb.
Water seeps out from the inside of the tunnel, giving it a damp coolness that causes more skittish people to think of hauntings. I, however, was glad for the respite from the heat. Poobie decided to go on the walk around the top of the hill and when he got back, we went to the path of stone animals. This tree-lined path has pairs of animals in identical poses facing each other. Horses, camels, elephants, lions and some mythical animals as well, kilin and "unicorns." BSC encouraged us to climb up and take pictures atop the animals. So we climbed around and goofed off and took pictures. More than half-way down the path we saw a sign explaining that the tomb and the statues dated from 1383... They are more than 700 years old! We felt bad about climbing all over them, but couldn't take it back.
S4, Lunch time and we went close to the Confucius temple and had a 20 course meal for RMB 58 per person. Each course was very small, perhaps one spring roll or one bun, a small bowl of noodles or soup, but all of it was very well-made and delicious. And good thing each course was only one or two bites. Poobie liked it a lot, saying that he was glad it wasn't just an assortment of exotic meats or fried things (reference dinner Day 3 and night market Day 4). After lunch we took a walk around the Confucius Temple. They were redoing the roof tiles and just as we stepped over the threshold, a giant bag of grout fell down behind us and splattered us a bit. The gewgaw vendors all started yelling at the workers for splattering the tourists. It was kind of funny. On the way out, we spied a McDonald's ice cream walk-up window. Since we had been dying for a "safe" soft-serve cone for several days, we succumbed to the temptation. I got a coke float and Bean got a cone.
We walked around a couple more historical buildings, but as we had been going since 7:30 a.m., we started to fade from fatigue and heat. BSC had to pick-up her son from school, and we headed back to the hotel. She headed out with son in tow to grab some ice cream. My parents were at the hotel when we got back with lots of crab so we had crab for dinner that night.
After dinner we all had foot massages and then went to bed.
Crossing the street to get back to the hotel...Gaahhh!
Wonderfully restored pagoda.
Fabulous architectural detail. Although the pagoda was a replica of an earlier one, they did an amazing job of staying true to tradition.
Up in the reconstructed temple with Ms. Chiang. Behind us is one of the Nanjing train stations.
Roof decorations, all children of the dragon...
A reconstructed portion of the Nanjing city wall.
The bricks are all inscribed by their makers.
The tablet tortoise entertaining a young visitor. His rear end sticks out on the other side of the wall.
Giddyap horsie! Oh, you must be tired being 700 years old....
I like elephants because they give shade...
I almost died climbing up this 700 year old camel...Whee! Look at me!
If I could walk with the animals....
Lunch for 7 bucks a person. More than 14 items per person, a wonderful assortment of sweet and savory and pretty much 2 bites per item.
Note the splat of grout to the left. That actually got me...
When you're climbin' up a ladder and you hear somethin' splatter..... Yep, we woke up early with upset tummies. It wasn't the worst ever, but bad tummy is never something anyone wants to deal with, especially in a foreign place, etc. etc. So we decided to take an early walk to clear our heads and hopefully find a remedy. After just a little bit, Poobie started to feel bad, so he went back to the hotel and I continued on to the grocery store. I picked up some drinking yogurt (with live beneficial fauna) and some saltine crackers. On my way back I also passed by a lady selling steamed buns, so I bought half a dozen of the veggie and sesame (3 for RMB 1) thinking that since they'd been steamed, they should be safe. When I got back to the hotel room, Poobie was just reemerging from the facilities. We opened up the yogurt and found it to be delicious and just what the doctor ordered. The buns were equally so.
Today turned out to be a much needed rest day as we were both pooped from the heat and the activities of the days before. We walked around our area a little bit to get exercise and finally came upon a vendor selling Magnum bars. Poobie was feeling better and settled on a chocolate/dark chocolate bar and we went back to rest some more.
That night, my father invited Professor He and his family for dinner. They came bearing gifts, and a few ancient scrolls that my mother had entrusted to them thirteen years before. They were glad to be rid of them because the responsibility was weighing heavily. They had a daughter, Ye Er, with them and she spoke excellent English. We went to dinner in a restaurant a few doors down, constructed to look like an outdoor courtyard (complete with giant tree) surrounded by food vendors and a stage. You could order food from a menu and also walk around to the vendors and order what you saw there. Much to our relief, Uncle Paul and his mahjong cronies were no where to be found.
After dinner we said our goodbyes and went across the street to get our hair washed again. A man was being carried across the parking lot, drunk out of his tree and occasionally bending over and giving the techni-color yawn. To avoid the unpleasant sight, I wove between the cars and emerged only to be brought up short by the man, still being carried by his friends, projectile vomiting in my path. Narrowly avoiding a splattering, we braved the busy street to the beauty parlor.
That night Poobie came up with "Hair goggles".
Mmm... Yoghurt does a body good... Pass it on!
Oh hello! I was just admiring the new gate they put in front of our hotel...
The pedestrian street/gourmet ghetto. The gate under construction in the previous photo is right behind us.
The true gourmet ghetto, Mrs. He's vegi buns were delicious and CHEEEEEP! 3 for $0.125. This literal hole in the wall was just one minute from the hotel.
Tofu on the sidewalk. You could take pictures for the rest of your life and never get better expressions than on these three. Check out the motorized bike, where the heck is the person supposed to fit?
Now where did I park...
My family and the He family.
VEGAS, BABY! What happens in Nanjing, stays in Nanjing.
When we figured that my parents were up, I persuaded them that the buns I bought the day before were the way to go for breakfast and ran across the street to get some. Uncle Paul told us that they were probably not edible or made with the finest of ingredients, but when you can see the dude making them, what more is there to say? He argued that the place around the corner had better buns, they were bigger and tasted better. My mom contended that the buns I bought were every bit as good as Ding Tai Fong, the great bun place in Taipei (and up until now, my favorite). We all consumed several buns (Mrs. He thought it was so hilarious that I went back the next day, she gave me a couple extra), Uncle Paul set off to prove his point and dragged us all around the way to taste the other buns. LOOOOOOSER! Not only were they not better, the place had no air-conditioning and eating hot porridge in a hotter room was torture.
After breakfast, Uncle Paul drove us to the train station where we took a three-hour ride to Shanghai (RMB 72 per person). On the train, although we weren't hungry, we bought some lunch boxes, just to see how they compared to the ones in Taiwan. Although the veggies were pretty good, the ham was disgusting and couldn't hold a candle to the pork chops or chicken leg of the Taiwanese Rail Line. The day was the hottest Shanghai had seen in a while, 38°C. The newspaper the following day said that it was a 130 year record-breaking 35°C, but we think they were lying because the law says that if it gets to be over 37°C, everyone gets to go home from work.
Once we arrived, we made a quick decision and went to the west exit. This is where we lucked out for the first time that day. As we exited, we saw the familiar face of John Sun, my parents' friend from childhood. He was delighted to see us as we could have gone to any one of the other three exits, each separated by about two city blocks. We took two taxis to get to our hotel in the suburbs, close to John's in-laws.
The hotel was small, but sleek and modern. As we checked in, we were given the choice of one large bed or two twin beds. John found it funny that without hesitation or consultation, I immediately blurted out, "One big bed." We found it funnier that the one big bed could sleep three people. There was so much room, we all felt a little lost when we went to bed. We went to the cafe for a little snack and then got two taxis and went into town to have dinner with John's in-laws. This was when we got lucky for the second time. The metro station we drove to had seven exits. On the way, our driver lost the other driver. We thought for sure we were doomed. Five minutes later, the other driver pulled up. We hopped onto the subway and took a 10-minute ride down the line. Here's where our run of luck ended. The restaurant was not close to the metro stop and try as we might, we couldn't get a taxi. We waited half an hour for a taxi, but they were all either occupied or off for the night. Eventually, John's brother-in-law came to get us in his minivan.
Dinner was a fancy affair, tons of courses, like most Chinese banquets. Poobie ate stinky tofu for the first time (3 pieces) and deemed it not too bad. (I contend that the stinky tofu wasn't that great because it wasn't stinky enough.) And because it was John's sister-in-law's birthday, her husband had gotten a cake from Paris Bakery in Shanghai. The cake was coffee flavored but with a cheesecake-type filling. Poobie ate 3 pieces of that too, to offset the tofu.
After dinner, we took the minivan back to the in-law's 7000-square foot house (No, that is not a typo. The house was that large and the community it was set in was exactly like you would find in Southern California with wide, palm tree lined roads leading the gated communities) and after a nightcap there, they dropped us off at the hotel. Thanks Uncle John, Johnny and Jessica!
Mmm... lunch box.... please disregard the gray part of the meat where the brine did not reach....
Look! A bed for three!
I don't know why the toilet needs reassurance....
This morning we moved into town from the suburbs and rented out a "service apartment" at the Allison Apartments. The hotel "La Residence" provided us with two bedrooms, two baths, a living room and a kitchen for RMB 580 per day. Once we settled in, we took a taxi into downtown with my parents and then split up. Poobie and I headed for the south end of the Bund where we bought a map and proceeded to do all of the crappy touristy things they listed in the book. We took a bad ride through the stupid "laser light show tourist tunnel" but were pleasantly surprised with the excellent sex history exhibition. We went up the Oriental Pearl Tower and visited the Shanghai museum underneath. Both of us were very pleasantly surprised at the great exhibits at the Shanghai museum. It was really extensive and had great displays.
We decided to take the metro home and found out that the station was just a 15 minute walk from the apartment.
That night we indulged in a little western style food and had pizza and steaks at a pub.
Can you identify the Oriental Pearl Tower? How about Jinmao Tower which houses the world's highest hotel?
Strolling on the bund. Two Magnum bars in my tummy....
Strolling on the Bund in the other direction with the 20 RMB bag purchased in Nanjing slung over my left shoulder.
Better exhibition than the Sex Museum of Paris. Admission to the exhibit was included as part of our tickets that took us under the river into Pudong in silly automated cars with an even sillier light show.
Interesting sign for Communist China. Sorry about the blur, photos were forbidden so we had to take these covertly.
Throughout the trip Poobie carried the small notepad with pen and took bullet point style notes which I am now using to refresh my memory as I write about this trip. What kind of bullet point do you think he is writing here?
In the 350 meter high "Space Module in the Oriental Pearl. To my right, the Jinmao Tower. The top of the pearl is at 468 meters making is smaller than the tallest towers in Toronto (553) and Moscow (533) but taller than the Eiffel Tower (321). To get to this level of the pearl cost 100 RMB each.
Looking down at Shanghai, specifically the Bund, from the Oriental Pearl. This major river, the Huangpu, flows to an even greater river, the Yangtze.
An ancient convenience store in the Shanghai museum in the basement of the Oriental Pearl.
OK, I know this is not PC, but I actually grew up with this toothpaste!
Poobie at the base of the Oriental Pearl. The young women who attended the elevators spoke phonetically memorized English.
Our morning started bright and early at 6:30 a.m. with a walk along Nanjing Road, the busiest in the world according to our guide book. Our hotel sat at the beginning of the road and we walked toward the water at the end. On the way down, we found a lady making Chinese egg crepes and ordered two for RMB 2 each. Passed by a Starbucks and got a mocha for RMB 28 which was not so good...actually pretty bad. Passed by another coffee shop, Dante's and got an iced mocha (I'd only drink it after I saw a bunch of other foreigners drink them) for RMB 20 which was much better.
On a particularly wide part of the tree-lined street with vast sidewalks, elderly Chinese people were taking their morning constitutionals in the form of waltzing, sword dancing, jazzercise and tai-chi.
We ended our walk at the Peace Hotel (done in the Art Deco style from the 1920's) where Poobie proceeded to clean his pipes. We regrouped and measured that we'd walked 6 km from our hotel to the Bund. We hopped on the metro back to the hotel and were more than happy to escape the early morning heat by watching Monday night football, live at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
In the middle of the day, we took a taxi to the metro (it was too hot to walk for my mom) and then took the Metro to Pudong. There, my parents went to the museum at the bottom of the Oriental Pearl Tower and Poobie and I went to Jinmao Tower. It cost us RMB 50 each to go to the top of the tower and look down into the building and also out over the town. Then, intrigued by the view inside the tower of the Grand Hyatt, we took the elevator down and went around the building and took the Hyatt elevators up. Everyone in the hotel was impeccably dressed. Poob and I were in flip-flops and "casual attire." But with my typical American moxie, we went up to the restaurant on the highest floor, just under the observation platform, and proceeded to inspect the menu (expensive, but not outrageous). Then we went to the highest floor with rooms and took some pictures (note the Matrix picture). After descending and harassing the maitre'ds a bit from the other restaurants, we decided to go look for my parents.
When we got to the Oriental Pearl, we learned that even to get into the building, we had to buy tickets. So we each paid RMB 35 to get in and wait for my parents in the basement. They took their sweet time! We had agreed to meet at 1:20 p.m. give or take half an hour and they were 30 minutes late beyond that! But we found out that instead of just going to the museum, they decided to go up the tower as well.
We all took the metro back to the west bank and walked along Nanjing road. It was so hot, I succumbed once again to the McD's coke floats. We went shopping and both my mom and I bought Chinese cleavers for RMB 135 each. After a while, we needed a rest and we took tea on the 7th floor of a department store. In the search for one Shanghai-nese restaurant, we found a different one and had dinner. It was time to go home and clean up, so we took a taxi back to the hotel. With everyone showered and changed, we sat down in the lovely AC to eat some ice cream and watch a little HBO.
This particular night we went to the Bund and found it to be wonderful. The buildings, while stately in the daytime, at night were beautifully lit up and made us feel very much as if were were walking along the Seine. On the walk along the water, hawkers were selling everything from postcards, to photographs to little LED doohickeys and wheels that attached to your shoes to make roller-skates that lit up when you wheeled around.
Tired and sticky, we took a taxi home.
Locals dancing in a shady area along the sidewalk of Nanjing Road.
They ALMOST got it right.
Strolling along the pedestrian end of Nanjing Road.
Therapeutic Chinese medicine. The lady uses a vacuum cup to give the man the equivalent of hickeys all over his back.
Only in China do you have a dozen "landmark" type skyscrapers in a row. This photo was taken while walking from the Oriental Pearl Tower to the Jinmao Tower.
Look! The Pearl Tower is so cute! Yesterday we paid 100 RMB each to go up to upper pearl, 350 meters above the river.
It's the MATRIX!!! This is hotel that occupies the top of the Jinmao Tower.
Views of Pudong taken from the Bund at night.
Our sweaty, shining faces after a long, hot day.
This particular morning we got up and left the house at 6:15 a.m. and took a taxi to a large park.
The park is packed and busy with thousands of people doing group exercises, no fees, just join in. People were jogging, walking, doing calisthenics, tai-chi, kung fu, kung fu with swords or fans, fan dancing (not the burlesque kind), ball room dancing, tap dancing, aerobics, on the monkey bars and on the public exercise equipment. The funniest thing we saw was an old man exercising by pushing his wheelchair about. When we'd seen just about everything and the noise and heat became too much, we took a long hot walk to the nearest Metro, rewarded ourselves with a Suntory Litchi flavored "Gatorade" and a coffee float and went back to the apartment.
Poobie had started to feel a little stomach cramping and some body aches, so once we got back at around 10:30 a.m., he tried to take a nap. We also drank a quart of yogurt to put his system back in line. When lunchtime rolled around, my mom made noodles and Poobie went to the Cafe Tima Harbor and got himself a club sandwich on wheat bread. I got myself a slice of cheesecake.
In the late afternoon, the sky fell down. It got almost as dark as night and then the lightning started in the distance. We were so high up in the apartment (30th floor) that it seemed as if the lightning was cracking right before our eyes. For a while, Bean took a chair out to the balcony to observe the storm, but then the winds got too high and I called him inside. Then he decided to go down to street level and observe. We went downstairs to watch buckets and buckets of water rain down. Poobie even went out to the street and got soaked.
That night we ate dinner across the street from our apartment at a fancy restaurant. We were not dressed exactly right, but they gave us a table anyway and my mom finally got to eat the fancy little Shanghai snacks that she had craved the entire time. Casey said that dinner was the only one we went to where we weren't hot and sticky before we arrived.
Another fine start to the day with Egg Crepes. This photo was taken just outside the park that we explored first thing in the morning.
Despite the appearance, it's not dancing, it's a martial art.
And the prize for the ultimate-splits champion goes to....
Poobie taking his ease among a bunch of geriatric exercisers. It was still early but the heat and humidity was really taking its toll.
The jasmine seller we encountered on our very, very long walk from the park back to the metro station. This is one of Poobies favorite photos.
What irony...a life insurance company advertisement before a sign telling you not to jump into the metro tunnel.
Hey! Anyone see the guy who threw all that water? Poobie was only out in the storm for about 20 seconds.
A different kind of rice crispy...this photo was taken at our last dinner of the entire trip. It was the first time we didn't show up to the restaurant hot, sticky, and sweaty since it was so close the apartment and the storm had cooled the city considerably.
Our last morning in Shanghai and not a moment too soon. We leave our apartment at 6 a.m. and take a taxi to the bus station and the bus to the airport. We arrive too early for the restaurants to be open but find a noodle stand and have a noodle breakfast. Poobie was sad that we didn't take the magnetic levitation train the the airport. Instead of 45 minutes on the bus, the train would have covered the 30 km in 8 minutes reaching a maximum speed of 430 km/hr!
We wander around the airport for a little while, admiring the odd architecture and shopping a little, but not buying anything. We say goodbye to my parents who are on their way back to Shenzhen and we get on our ANA flight to Narita, flight time 1 hr and 48 min.
In Narita, I am pleasantly surprised to see a new airport. We take a shuttle from Terminal 2 to T1 and after confirming that we are not allowed to take an earlier flight, hunker down in the sushi bar to partake of some "genuine Japanese sushi." It's good, but not any different than we are used to, at least the nigiri sushi. We did not see any Godzilla Rolls or Caterpillar Rolls on the menu for which I am eternally grateful. It was a little odd that they accepted Japanese Yen or American dollars equally, but we were happy as we only had US $. After puttering around a little more, we decided to have another snack in the form of a Haagen Daz "Crispy Sandwich" in Green Tea flavor. This particular ice cream novelty/confection would prove to be the most delicious pre-packaged ice cream we have ever had. The green-tea ice cream itself was very good, but the embellishments on it were an epiphany! The ice cream bar was enveloped in a brown sugar flavored shell (I think it was cocoa-butter) and then sandwiched between two crisp wafers, very much reminiscent of oblaten. Gaahh! It's torture just thinking about it. I'm sure it will be a culinary obsession of mine to recreate it in the U.S. as only Haagen Daz Japan makes it!
We finally board our United Airlines flight to SFO and nine hours and 5 minutes later, we are finally in home territory. We would have arrived a bit earlier, but the pilot missed the first landing. Or so says Poob. Truthfully, I was asleep. Back to our apartment by 1:15 p.m.
The view from the 30th floor apartment overlooking one of the many the elevated highways the circle Shanghai. Incidentally, this is on the outskirts of the city looking away from the city center. Shanghai is HUGE!
Just before we went our separate ways. Thanks for dragging us around China!
Poobie was very interested in the structural system used to support the roof of the Shanghai airport.
With time to kill in the Tokyo Airport what would we do? Mmm... Sushi