Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Final posting

This blog describes in words and pictures our 21 day tour of China. To begin with day 1, go to the bottom of the page and select "older posts", then do the same on each page until you get to the beginning. It will take a while for each page to load, but you will be able to follow along on the trip day by day.

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Day 21 Flying home

We arrived at the airport in time to be near the front of the line for check in, which is important when you fly Air China. They don't allow early seat selection and it's first come first served. At least we were able to select seats on our flight from Beijing to San Francisco. NOT!

We were late getting into Beijing, so they had a special bus to take us to the check-in. When we actually got to the gate to check-in, the attendant tried to change our seats, but we told her we wanted it the way we had arranged it. Of course, when we got on the plane, one of our assigned seats were already taken--by someone who was also assigned that seat. It turned out to be great though, because the we ended up with a row all to ourselves -- and we were in front of the wing! As Paul said, this was the best situation we could have had. There was a very long line of planes waiting to take off from the Beijing airport, but we finally got in the air and had an uneventful trip home. Even though it was a 12 hour flight, we were able to relax a little because of the empty seat in our row and it went very quickly.

It was exciting to see the California coast and the Golden Gate bridge as we arrived in San Francisco! The trip was wonderful and we loved just about everything about it, but it was definitely good to get home.

Day 21 Leaving China

After our final breakfast, we took the bus to the Meglev train for a high-speed ride to the airport. They claimed it would take 8 minutes and that it was about an hour and a half bus ride. We had to wait 15 minutes for the next train, but it got up to 431 Km/hr, which was VERY fast. The biggest surprise came when we passed the train going the other direction. The air currents really rocked us, and it happened so fast, we didn't even see the other train.

It was also a bit strange to see no track, since the train runs on a cushion of air.

Day 20 An evening on the town in Shanghai

As we were leaving McDonald's, we ran into John from our tour group, who had a subway map. Even though our guide said that the subway was too difficult to navigate and that a taxi was the way to get back to the hotel, John said he had done it and it wasn't difficult at all--that it stopped in sight of our hotel. He gave us the map and we determined to try it at the end of the evening.

We had planned to meet several of our group at the top of the Hyatt Hotel to watch the sunset and the city lights at night. To get there we took a tunnel under the river that was called the Tourist Light Show. It was a little like a Disney ride, but a downgraded quite a bit. The first picture shows some of the lights.

When we got to the other side we had to walk quite a bit to get to the Jin Mao Tower, and when we got there, they told us that the Hyatt didn't have a restaurant on the 88th floor. They sent us up to the Observation Deck, which WAS on the 88th floor. By then we had missed the sunset, but the city lights were breath-taking.

After walking all around the Observation Deck, we left and walked back to the Light Show tunnel, and then to the subway station--at least where we thought it should be. We went back down Nanjing Road, and finally found the station--exactly where the map showed it. Fortunately, everything had English subtitles, so we found the train we needed and the right direction to go. John was right--it was quite easy, and because it was later in the evening, it wasn't even crowded. When we got back to the hotel, we found out that we were suppose to go to the BAR on the 87th floor--not the restaurant on the 88th floor. Oh well, we still had a good time.

The last picture shows the night view out of our hotel room. We were further away from downtown, but there were still pretty lights.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Day 20 The Shanghai Museum and on our own

The Shanghai museum was an historical museum of clothing, furniture, currency, jewelry, and minority handcrafts. There were many beautiful exhibits, and we could have spent all day there. In fact, some of our tour group chose to stay instead of exploring the town on their own.

After lunch, we chose to go back to Nanjing Road, but explore some of the side streets. It was interesting that the shopping area was very western and upscale, but the side streets immediately off the main road were very Asian and often run down.

As in all areas of the country, the laundry was hanging from poles and people were carrying out their daily activities on the streets.
Apparently the men were unemployed, and some were perhaps even homeless.

We were also on our own for dinner, and I think the entire group went to either McDonald's or Pizza Hut! We got hamburgers and chocolate shakes, and even though the girl at the counter didn't speak English, she pointed to the menu, her way of asking "do you want fries with that?"

Day 19 ends with the Chinese circus

After our "shoportunity" at the bazaar, we visited the Chinese Acrobatic Show, or Circus. It was interesting that we sat next to another China Focus tour group. They seemed to be on a 10-day tour and had a lot more people.

The performances were traditional Chinese acrobat routines and were a lot of fun to watch.

At dinner, we were treated with a dinner show, with a number of young performers. Unfortunately, they sat us right next to the speakers, and it was VERY loud.

Day 19 More of Shanghai

After lunch, we visited the Yuyan Garden Bazaar, which was an old style market. The main distinctive of the old city is that the buildings are only two or three stories tall. As in all the other areas of China we visited, there was deconstruction and construction everywhere.

In the bazaar, one of the interesting shops was the dumpling shop. They had windows to watch dozens of employees making dumplings. There was a long line to buy them too.

Day 19 continuing around Shanghai

After the Bund, we had the opportunity to walk down Nanjing Road, a famous shopping area.

The Peace Hotel was along this road and was getting ready to close for renovation the next day. This hotel was originally known as the Cathay Hotel and opened in 1929. At the time, it was considered the most luxurious hotel in the Far East. It's guests included leaders and celebrities from all over the world.

Several blocks of the road were closed to private vehicle traffic and were a pedestrian mall. There were lots of people shopping, and even more just hanging out.

Day 19 touring Shanghai

We began our visit with a walk along the Bund, which has been a symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years. It borders the western waterfront of the Huangpu River and has a beautiful view up and down the river. Most of the buildings along the road are European architecture, giving it a very cosmopolitan feel.

In the first picture, the tall building in the background is shaped like a Lotus blossom. Our guide told us that there are about 3000 high rise buildings in Shanghai. He indicated that the city is growing so quickly that in five years, there will be 5000-6000 high rises.

This area is very popular with both tourists and locals. We found that many Chinese people want their picture taken with foreigners. They don't even seem to care if they get a copy of the picture.

In the picture of the eastern side of the river, you can see the Oriental Pearl TV tower. The next tallest building is the Jin Mao Tower. This building houses the Hyatt Hotel from the 57th to the 87th floor.

The last picture is the view down the atrium from the 88th floor observation deck.

Day 19 a ride to Shanghai, our last stop

We had a very full day today. We began by driving into Shanghai. The first picture is of the toll area of the freeway. There were flowers everywhere. Of course, statues of Mao are also everywhere.

Our driver was the king of U-turns and he showed us his talents several times as we made our way through city traffic.