A Travellerspoint blog


Last hours and Observations

Day 11- Intrepid China Express - Shanghai


We started our day early hoping to save some sleep for the long 15 hour flight to New York. We stopped at Isaac's favorite vendor and grabbed some breakfast, a dough like thing with an egg spread on top, all spread thin and grilled (yes, we probably should have skipped the eggs but forgot that until it was gone). I had mine with chilli. Really good.

It is a gorgeous sunny day here so we met Mark and walked to the People's Square and once again I was amazed at all the people out in the square dancing, doing Tai chi, doing something with swords. They were in groups and all alone. Sometimes couples dancing together and sometimes two woman, or simply alone. It is crazy how in this ultra-modern city, the old traditions remain. There are parks everywhere and they are packed with people exercising and socializing. I love that.

I am really smothered with a cold so I stopped at the pharmacy and got some cough medicine and then came back to the hotel to pack up. We leave shortly for airport which should be a hoot on the subways with our bags.

So as I get ready to leave China, I thought I was reflect on some of the things I learned, observed and was surprised by on this trip. Sort of a list of what I have learned about China and myself along this journey.

1. The cities in China are way more organized and clean than I expected. Of course there is some poverty but really no different than any other big city I have visited.

2. There is a lot of money in this country.

3. Like many who have traveled, I had found the Chinese to be pushy and loud (and I am not referring to all my Chinese colleagues and friends) but come on, you have experienced it on vacation when a Chinese bus tour arrives. I can honestly say, I have found the people to be kind, helpful and gracious. They seem to really welcome Westerners. How great is it that travel opens your eyes and removes stereotypes?
4. The need to be able to communicate is huge! I have never been anywhere that I really could not communicate with people. Even my best sign language left me cold here. You can't even use your fingers for numbers because the number symbols beyond 5 are different. We stooped to having Isaac pull off his sock in a pharmacy and point to a band-aid to be able to buy more and to me going to the front desk with a wad of toilet paper to get more. Taking pictures also helped. For this reason, I am very glad we decided to do a tour, a guide made a huge difference.

5. Squat toilets provide a lot of humor and interesting conversations and I didn't even tell you that I tripped up in the lip of one almost falling in.

6. The wonders of the world are wonders because they are magnificent.

7. Never take fresh air for granted!

8. I had always heard that Chinese food in Canada in nothing like real Chinese food. Not true. Many of the dishes are familiar and it is easy to see where our dishes come from. Saying that, the Chinese eat everything and I gotta say I could not be so brave.

9. The Chinese English on signs makes NO sense. Why can't they ask some white person on the street to proof read before publishing? I do appreciate the English on the subway signs.

10.Traveling makes me very happy no matter the destination. Traveling with good people enhances the experience. I am grateful to have shared this with Isaac and with all my new friends.

That's a wrap folks.

Posted by curlygirl 19:21 Archived in China Tagged children kids china shanghai intrepid Comments (0)

Skyscrapers and So Longs

Day 10 - Intrepid China Express - Shanghai


Although today was our free day and his, our guide wanted to take us to the observatory deck on the highest building in Shanghai with a 360 degree view so we opted to join him. It was worth the trip despite my trepidation about going up so high. In the pictures you can you can see the building we went up between the building with a hole at the top and the one under construction. I nearly died waiting for the elevator when I saw that it went 9 meters per second but you honestly couldn't feel any movement and we were on the 88th floor before I knew it. I could definitely feel it in my ears, and I hope that is not an indication of what flying will be like tomorrow. The view was great even with the haze. This city is just gorgeous.

From there, Isaac and I broke from the group to wander in the market a little but we didn't really buy anything. Some of the markets are like visiting a dollar stores at home and some are really expensive. I can't believe we are coming home with half empty suitcases.

We grabbed another sandwich from Isaac's favourite street vendor, the guy with the Chinese styles gyros and came back to the hotel for a short rest before meeting Justine to go in search of our final massage. The last was not the best but I am not complaining because it was still great. It was a little harder to find here downtown except extremely high end and mega $$$. Our previous one was high end and cheap. Oh well, it was good but you can see from the rooms, not the top of the line. LOL.

By the time we finished it was still cold but the sun had come out so Isaac and I headed down to the Bund to get a look at the skyline under clear skies. Pretty impressive. Then it was back to the hotel to pack up before meeting the gang for our final supper. We had an awesome group. They have all been very accepting of Isaac and made him feel like part of the group. They have tons of travel experience, especially in Asia, probably because of the proximity to Australia and almost all are going on to other adventures before heading home to places like Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, India, Hong Kong and South Korea. Traveling with these people has not been helpful in curing my travel bug in fact; it makes my bucket list longer.

Supper was excellent. Robert ordered about 20 different dishes that included a number of Shanghai specialities. See the picture of the fish with peppers. Yummy! He concluded our dinner with a recap of all we have done. Hard to believe what we fit into 8 short days with the group. We travelled over 3000 km across China!
We decided to end our time together with a walk to the Bund for some night time snaps. Incredible.

So that's it. It's over. We are heading out for a while in the morning, and then braving the subway and the Maglev, the only operating magnetic levitation train in the world. Why not, we have tried all the other forms of transportation in China.

I have included some snaps from the subway, a photo of our new medical products and yay, we found Pepsi Max.

I am already working on my corny summary and final email for tomorrow, so stay tuned.


Posted by curlygirl 19:20 Archived in China Tagged children kids china shanghai intrepid Comments (0)

Spectacular Shanghai

Day 9 - Intrepid China Express -Shanghai


I am pleased to say that we are all alive without any food poisoning. With such good results we were ready to go at it again today. Both Isaac and I are nursing head colds but not feeling unwell. We have acquired some meds with the help of our guide and the local pharmacist although we are not exactly sure what we are taking. We continue to test our resilience. We have decided to avoid chicken, that is if we know we are eating it, given the outbreak of Avian flu. They are mass killing fowl around Shanghai.
We had an early rise to catch our train to Shanghai. It was the easiest transfer yet. The high speed bullet train station is very well organized, not crowded and the trains are great

It was a short 25 minute ride and we arrived at yet another empty station. This time we all took cabs to the hotel which only took about 10 minutes and cost 20 yuan ($3 and included in our tour) Too easy.
Every once in a while you arrive in a city and its energy just takes over. Shanghai is one of those cities. I knew within an hour I would love it here. Completely different that the other places we visited in a way that is hard to describe. It is ultra-modern with all the top stores and neon lights. There are 25 million people here yet there is no evidence of chaos. Even with the ultra-modern feel, China's personality is ever present in the markets, temples, and of course the amazing street food.

Our hotel is right in the city center and located on a wicked street with all kinds of local food. Even though it rained we had a great day and can't complain about the weather because it is the first day we saw rain. Besides, there is a big difference with rain at 16 degrees than Newfoundland's RDF at 2 degrees. We opted to do our walking tour today despite the weather so that we would have our bearings and a full free day tomorrow. We walked to the Bund, the famous area overlooking the Shanghai skyline which was still pretty cool despite the fog. The forecast is for sun tomorrow and as it is just 10 minutes away, we will go again tomorrow to compare if the forecast holds true.

Our next stop was in the Oriental Market. A true tourist area but full of energy and incredible architecture. We decided as a group, to go to a tea demonstration. It was really interesting. Every tea is made in a different type of pot and made differently. Seems like a lot to remember but there was some really nice teas so I guess it is worth the effort. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around poking in shops and tasting the local cuisine. We tried the famous dumplings with the sauce inside that you drink with a straw. Not the best but good. After getting back to the hotel we grabbed some more snacks on the street. I really enjoyed the little balls that appeared to be made from egg, octopus and shrimp and served with wasabi sauce. Watching them make them was really amazing.

After a short rest, it was off to the acrobatic show by subway. I have yet another story about my sweet boy. He managed to get a seat on the subway to rest his aching feet but shortly after, an older couple got on and were standing. Isaac, without prompting, got up and offered his seat. The gentleman was in shock. He had a big toothless grin and gestured to me as if to ask if he was my boy and I nodded. I got a big thumbs up. He went on to speak to others, pointing to Isaac with a huge smile. Isaac had a fan club and got big waves when leaving the train. I was proud.

The acrobatic show was pretty good. Tremendous talent but a little cheesy. The final act had a ball of death, which was 5 motorcycles doing stunts inside a metal ball. Unfortunately, two of the motorcycles crashed. This was a little disturbing to me, but Isaac and some of the guys found it a little exciting.

Needless to say, another great day. It is hard to believe tomorrow is our last full day in China. We have to make the most of it so I should get to bed.


Posted by curlygirl 19:19 Archived in China Tagged children kids china shanghai intrepid Comments (0)

By train,by buses, on foot, by rickshaw, by gondola,by taxi

Day 8 - Intrepid China Express -Suzhou

We arrived in Suzhou slightly behind schedule at about 9:15 am. By the time we navigated the train station and got our bus back to the hotel, it was 11:00 am. Robert gave us 90 minutes to clean up for our very busy day. When they named the tour China Express, they were not kidding.

Suzhou is a beautiful city. Considered a watertown, it is built on a network of canals. Our first stop was at a special garden with many old trees and bonsais. It was simply beautiful. From there we were picked up in rickshaws for a tour of the town and were then dropped at one of the canals for our gondola ride. This was really amazing. Our lady driver even sang to us. Along the way, many locals took our pictures, as if we were movie stars.

From there we had an hour to wander the streets and browse. Justine, Isaac and I decided to use our time tasting our way through the street food. We couldn't resist any longer. It was our best supper yet. We had the best steamed pork buns, quail eggs on a stick, some sandwich type thing. Honey toffee. Absolutely a trip highlight. Hopefully we'll feel the same in the morning.

We then walked about an hour to the bars by the canal. This city is just gorgeous and I am so disappointed we only have one day here. Suzhou is our favorite stop. Getting a taxi home was insane. It was near impossible but thanks to our amazing guide, and the others who let Isaac and I have the first cab, we are home safe and sound.

We take the high speed train to Shanghai at 9am. I am exhausted and still suffering from a sore throat so that's all you gets today.

Talk to you from our final stop. Shanghai.




Posted by curlygirl 19:18 Archived in China Tagged kids china intrepid express suzhou Comments (0)

Train Mania, Man versus Warrior, and Going down the Shitter

Day 7 - Intrepid China Express - Xi'an


I am writing once again from the train. Tonight we are on our way to Suzhou. I don't think I have taken time to explain the train situation and it is worthy of some description. First of all, I have to say that one of the biggest surprises I had in Beijing is that it never seemed overly crowded for a city of 20 million people. Outside of being packed onto a subway car, it paled in comparison to places in Italy and even London. Certainly not what I expected but I now know the reason. Everyone is at the train stations. I don't know that I have ever seen such mayhem in my life. To start with, because private buses are not allowed at the station, we were dropped about 10 minutes away. Approaching the station, the masses thickened. I have added a couple snaps from outside but I have a video that I took over my head as I attempted to meander through the mobs, while not losing Isaac or my group. I love how people sit around on the ground on their packed rice bags. I liken it to a group of Newfies sitting on their string tied cardboard boxes. We were lucky to upgrade to the first class lounge for about $1.30 and you can see all the extra space it gave us. OMG, when I got up to board the train, I was almost run over with people racing for my seat. The whole area around the train station is equally as congested. A few of us followed Robert off site to go to the pharmacy, needing something for our sore throats and I was thankful Isaac stayed inside because it was like taking your life in your hands. Hanoi was nuts but this was insane. I so wished I had my camera but probably would have been run over trying to use it.

Anyway, we had a wonderful day in sunny +20 temperatures. We had time to sleep in. Well, I never sleep here, but time to get sorted out and eat MacDonald's breakfast before leaving for the Terracotta Warriors. This huge archaeological site was only discovered in the late 1970s by a farmer digging a well. To date they have uncovered over 8000 life size soldiers, chariots and horses that were created for the Emperor to protect his soul in the afterlife. It is easy to see why this is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world. Very impressive and only partially uncovered.

We did have a very eventful afternoon however when Mark (pictured with his face of shame) dropped his camera lens into the pit, where it bounced of one the 2000 year old warriors heads. Well, when I found him, he was in a state of shock, rambling on about how he lost his lens while I am trying to figure out why he wasn't out looking for it. I really thought he was joking when he said it was down in the pit. We finally convinced him to tell our guide who was immediately concerned that he may be detained for attempting to damage antiques. Thankfully he did no damage but it was quite dramatic. With the help of our guide, they rounded up an archaeologist to go into the pit and retrieve the lens. This is highly shunned upon resulting in police involvement. Poor Mark has taken the roll of the group idiot who came to China and almost damaged one of the world's greatest wonders.

We finished our visit by going to the home of one of the farmers relocated due to the find for a delicious home cooked meal with about 15 different dishes.

I hate to dwell on the toilet stories and perhaps this will not translate on email but I had the best laugh today when 3 of us went to the washroom together in the worst bathroom yet. Well, it had doors but it stunk! So as we are all in position, holding our pose and our breathes, Clodagh (one of my tour mates) says, "Can I ask a question?" (Now , this is 7 days into our China tour), "Are you ladies facing the door or the wall?". She was trying to confirm that she was in the right position. Well Justine and I almost fell over laughing as did Clodagh, resulting in the most horrific sound, "clunk clunk", the sound of her glasses hitting the ground just on the edge of the squatter. Whew! Oh my, perhaps you have to be here to appreciate the horror.

I have to apologize for that lame email yesterday because had I not been exhausted, you would have had the play by play on the massage. It was quite entertaining beginning with the lady demanding I "try it" in reference to the massage pyjamas that were clearly not going anywhere near my ass. But I did, and I tried my best but they just wouldn't go. I was not intimidated and grabbed a blanket and told her I'd wear that. The other really funny moment was when Justine and I, not paying attention to what was going on with Clara, heard this desperate plea, "There's a man on my back, isn't this a foot massage?" As we looked in her direction, there was indeed a man on her back. It was a hoot. There were others moments, like having sticks stuck in your feet that nearly raised us to the ceiling. Perhaps we'll fit one more in before we go.

Anyway, I should crawl in to my bunk with my 5 roommates, while the 4 who upgraded, (see photo) enjoy their 4 bedroom bunk with softer beds and a door, as we have another full day tomorrow.

Shelley and Isaac

Posted by curlygirl 19:18 Archived in China Tagged kids china xian intrepid terracotta warriors Comments (0)

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