China Trip, October 2017

A short trip to China.

Shanghai Trip, September 2016

This was a short trip to beautiful Shanghai mainly consisted of visiting good friends and dinner out.

China Trip, October 2015

This wasn’t a site seeing trip, but more of a dinner out with numerous friends and family. This trip started in Hong Kong moving north to Xian, east to Shanghai, north to Beijing and then back home to Seattle. I have flown into Hong Kong before, but never spent any time there until this trip. Unfortunately, it was cloudy the 1 1/2 days we spent there. As usual and par for the course Linna and I didn’t read up or book any tourist activities but relied on our natural instincts and just started walking.

We did some shopping in the Causeway neighborhood and then found Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum restaurant – Maxim’s at City Hall. Once we saw the long-line, about as long as some homeless line in Seattle for free food, we knew we should have left our hotel earlier. Our total wait was a little over 2 hours…was it worth it? Oh hell no, but we were committed by this time.

During our walk to the renowned Maxim place, we were wondering why there were so many woman hanging around chatting and having lunch in such odd places. Approximately 300,000 foreign housekeepers (maids) are working in Hong Kong and by law they must live in their employer’s house. Every Sunday is their day off which means they are not allowed to stay at home, almost like being thrown out every Sunday. So they end up spending the day outside in all types of weather and seasons. They congregate year-round on Chater Road in the center of Hong Kong Island and it’s closed to traffic. Every place near the metro station Central where there is a few yards of available floor space, a maid will rolled out her carpet and put up camp.

After a few hours in Hong Kong (it seemed liked) we flew off to Xian, which is located in central China. You think the middle of China would be smog free, but for some reason the area becomes unbearable with smog at times. Xian has a population approximately 8 million people and was the starting point for the Silk Road. We spent four days in Xian which is plenty for any city; we spent most of our time visiting friends and family over lunches and dinners.

Another Chinese flight and we were in Shanghai which is probably my favorite Chinese city due to its cleaner air and Shanghai’s magnifignat skyline, great restaurants and of course the famous Bund Street. I had day excursions to Wuxi and Wujiang but was back in my hotel in Shanghai each night. I had a great dinner with my friends Jiapei Qin, Rong Li, Jie Qi Cao and his wife Quane Luan at this new restaurant in Wuxi called the Fusion Club.

I had a conference in Beijing later in the week and I decided to take a train to Beijing from Shanghai this time…and after this experience I will probably never take an airline flight between the two cities again. For the same price you can experience a business class seat with good food and a completely folded out seat versus a cramp coach airline seat in a stuffy hot airplane. The ride was a relaxing 4 ½ hours but I was able to get some work done and squeeze a peaceful nap in too.

Beijing was raining when we pulled into the Beijing South train station, I was actually happy to see the sky filled with grey rain clouds versus the heavy grey smog. This city usually runs well over 250 AQI (air quality index), but during the rain it was actually in the double digits. But it doesn’t take long for the smog index to creep back up, the next day it was already in the three digits.

Shanghai Trip, June 2014

This was my third trip to Shanghai this year and traveling in the raining season worked out just fine for this Northwest Seattle boy. It rained every day I was there which created horrible traffic but also provided clean fresh air.

If you looking for huge views and a hotspot for a cocktail with friends or guests, you will need to check out Cloud Nine near the Bund. You will need to step on 3 different elevators to reach the 87th floor in the Jin Mao Tower, this sky lounge will give you a 360-degree view of Shanghai from one of the highest points in the city. After a cocktail was dinner at Mr. & Mrs. Bund with friends enjoying the French cuisine from Chef Paul Pairet.

Shanghai Trip, April 2014

A trip to Shanghai in April can be a bit cool for most people, but high sixties during the day was fine for me. This was a 6 day visit which is almost perfect for an international trip. I stuck around Shanghai most of the time except for a day visit to Wuxi and Xuzhou via train and car.

Shanghai Trip, January 2014

I started my 2014 travels with a direct flight from Seattle to Shanghai and met up with a friend the next morning. We took a taxi to the fairly new Hongqiao train station located next to the domestic airport and subway station. We took the G-series bullet train up to Xuzhou, China for the day. This city is most well-known has a transportation hub and is located between Beijing and Shanghai.

Any train designated the G series will be China’s new bullet trains. For a business class seat you pay much less than you would a crowed coach airline seat. Even though the train ride is three hours long, you get a non-crowded quiet car with very comfortable wide leather seat that lays flat for sleeping. Plus you get an electrical outlet for your computer or phone that also works with the American plug. You receive a full meal which reminds me of a TV dinner growing up. I highly recommend G series train travel when roaming in China. Please keep in mind that foreigners will need their passport to purchase their ticket.

This was another enjoyable trip with friends, travel and fantastic dinners.

Beijing Trip, October 2013

It’s not every day you get a clean, clear blue sky in Beijing, in fact…we had two beautiful smog free days back to back. But, we were not that lucky on the third day and beyond…it was back to its normal filthy pullulated self. I was visiting Beijing for a few days with a couple of other friends, Rick Massie and Brendan Jackson both from Seattle too.

Besides visiting the usual Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square, you must visit the 798 Art District, www.798district.com this place has some cool funky ass shit and you will need three hours or more to see it all.

Of course when dining, one must experience Beijing Duck….which I did three nights in a row!

China Trip, August 2013

This trip to Shanghai started off right with an upgrade to First Class because of an overbooking on this Delta flight. My wife Linna dropped me off to the airport much earlier then I needed because she didn’t want to miss her favorite gym class. This gave me a chance to grab a bite to eat at the Dungeness Bay Seafood House restaurant, about the only restaurant in the S concourse at SeaTac Airport. You will not go wrong with the Wild Salmon burger and fries.

The flight went well and slept quite a bit due to my seat location…First Class baby. This was another short trip, I was heading back to Seattle in two days.

China Trip, May 2013

The month of May is a decent time to travel in China, the weather is near perfect and most students are still in school. This trip was mainly based in and around the Shanghai area. I flew into Shanghai via Tokyo/Narita airport; after a 175 RMB tax ride from the airport to my hotel I checked in around 10:30 p.m. When I first started traveling to Shanghai 2002, the airport taxi ride into the city was 50 RMB.
More to come….

China Trip, October 2012

This was my third and last trip to China this year and again I found myself flying the old worn Boeing 767 direct flight to Beijing. I truly believe in direct flights from Seattle, so I don’t have much choice from Delta when it comes to flying direct to China. The last few international flights I have flown I have been fortunate enough to get upgraded to first class; this makes a huge difference when you are on an 11 hour flight. Leaving customs with my one piece of luggage and heading out to the taxi line I got that familiar sniff of Beijing’s nasty polluted air.

Delta has one of the latest time-slots for landing at the Beijing Capital Airport, which usually lands around 11:00 p.m., but coming in late does have advantages…a short taxi line and considerable less traffic. The taxi line was maybe a 5 minute wait and when it was my turn, the airport taxi porter pointed me towards an unofficial taxi or a non-metered taxi. I quickly bellowed out bullshit and a few other 4 letter words; he got the message that I was only driving off in an official metered taxi! I am not your usual blue-eyed tourist and I wasn’t about to let these local yokels scam me. China is on a national holiday and if I was actually leaving the airport during the day, it would have taken me at least one hour to my downtown hotel, but…at 11:30 p.m. it was only a 15 minute cab ride.

The next day started off with a huge buffet breakfast and an hour workout at in the hotel gym. I was very surprised when I walked out for the first time to catch a taxi to the 798 Art District, the sky was actually blue and air smelled clean. When in Beijing, one must visit the 798 Art District www.798district.com. Linna (my beautiful wife) flew in on the same flight I did but just a day later; I took a taxi to meet her coming out of customs.

Since I had business in Xuzhou, Wuxi and Wujiang the following week we were off to Shanghai. After landing we started our day at the Yuyuan Market area for a little shopping, it’s part of the beautiful Yu Garden. I picked up two oil paintings and one of the paintings was a fake Van Gough, cheesy in a way…but vogue in my world. Linna picked up a bunch of silk scarfs for herself and for gifts. For all the times we have been in Shanghai Linna and I haven’t been up to the Pearl Tower together. The last time I was up in the Tower was 2003, during the SARS outbreak; they had heat monitors that you had to go walk through.

We finished the day off at a restaurant on the Bund with views to die for called New Heights, which is part of Three on the Bund restaurants www.threeonthebund.com It has a gorgeous terrace overlooking the river and the Pudong District. The food didn’t match the view though, it reminded me of a local restaurant in Seattle, Salty’s…great view but the food can be a hit or miss. The next night we had the opposite dining experience; food to die for and the view only so so. Lost Heaven www.lostheaven.com.cn is located in the Bund area and specializes in Yunnan dishes that are incredible. The dark, rich décor and romantic spotlighting provided the perfect atmosphere for a wonderful dinner; after dinner we headed to their cozy outdoor lounge for a nightcap.

Our last day in the Shanghai area was spent mainly in Wujiang, a city due west. After my business meeting we found ourselves exploring Tong Li; this beautiful water town is about an hour train ride due west of Shanghai.

The last full day was spent back in Beijing visiting Linna’s good friend Rebecca Liu. We had dinner at 1949, one of the best places to eat Beijing Duck.

China Trip, June 2012

I took a Delta flight from Seattle to Beijing direct on a timeworn Boeing 767; Delta has been using this same airplane for the Seattle to Beijing and back since they opened this direct flight up a couple of years ago. I officially complained the first time I took this flight and out-of-date plane to Beijing; I was surprised they would use a plane with small overhead bins and no personal video at your seat for an 11 hour flight. Since my first complaint I have been on this same plane now approximately 8 times, I am a sucker for punishment! Equipped with my new iPad3, it took some of the suffering away.

This trip I was lucky enough to be upgraded to first class…over booking on Delta’s part. Of course they stated the upgrade was for my loyal business with Delta, I didn’t care how they spun the story I was pleased.

The smog index wasn’t nearly as bad as the last two trips to Beijing, but the heat was 30 degrees higher than Seattle’s current temperature; Beijing hit a high of 99F/37C. I got up early the next day and did 1 hour work-out trying to knock off that jetlag. Nice brunch and back to the airport for a departure to Shanghai. I landed in a downpour and it continued to rain for the next 24 hours….torrential down-pours at time. After checking in at the hotel and a cool shower I headed down to the famous Bund Street to meet up with a few friends and have dinner at the famous Jean Georges www.threeonthebund.com/dining.php. After dining, we strolled along Bund Street to take in the beautiful skyline across the river.

This was a short trip for me and I was back home in 5 days.

Bund Street

China Trip, May 2012

To travel to China during a national holiday is either brave or just plain stupid. Linna and I decided to visit her family during Golden Week or also called Labor Day holiday which starts May 1st of every year. We took a direct flight from Seattle to Beijing and landed at 10:30 p.m. Even though we flew coach, we were both lucky enough to have our own three row seat. By the time we got to the hotel and I did a few emails, it was about 1:00 a.m. when I hit the sack. Only slept 5 hours, must have been the jet-lag or the 6 hour nap I had on the plane…so I decided to head to the gym for some treadmill action.

Our first day out we headed to the Temple of Heaven which I have never been to. After many pictures, we ventured out to the 798 Art Zone, www.798district.com this was totally cool and I plan on going back when I am in town again and highly recommend this for young and old. I was told there was a huge car exhibition in town, but according to one of our taxi drivers the lines were so long just to get tickets and the traffic to get there was horrendous. I was a little disappointed to skip this, especially when I am in the market for a new car.

Again I woke up early on the second day and decided to head to the gym again; this might be a first for me going to a hotel gym in two consecutive days! We got an earlier start on our taxi ride into the city center and got to Tiananmen Square by 8:30 a.m. We were not the only ones with this idea; about a million other Chinese people were thinking the same thing. The Square was filled with a sea of black round hair tops. This might have been my sixth or seventh visit at the Square, but for some reason I had many young kids and their parents wanted to take a picture with me on this visit. Could it have been country people that came in for the national holiday and have never seen a foreigner before? At first we decided that the numerous lines into the Forbidden City which is directly across the 8 lane street was so long we decided to forgo it, but I wanted somewhere high enough to get a great shot of the amount of people in the square….so we braved it and actually got into the temple in about 30 minutes. After a bunch of photos and touring the Forbidden City for my fourth time, we headed to the Jing Shan Park on hill, this provided a great view of the whole Forbidden City compound; it would have been a much better view if it wasn’t for the damn smog. It was another nasty day for the smog, which was the same on my last visit in October when I was visiting with my friend Rick Massie. I got on the US Embassy’s website goo.gl/GtRpn and checked out the smog index for Beijing and of course there was no surprise here, the alert level was at hazardous.

Our third day we flew to Xian to visit Linna’s parents and her two brothers, a two hour flight from Beijing. The whole family was waiting for us when we landed; it’s always a treat to see all of the hands flying when you come around the corner into baggage claim. The rented van we had was old and beat-up, but there wasn’t a lot to choose from. Linna’s brother Lin Bo was our driver through-out our stay in Xian, it took me a little while to get use to his driving. It took us about 45 minutes to arrive at Linna’s parents’ house via a well maintained highway; most all new highways have tolls and they are expensive in Chinese terms and even quite high for us Americans. We ended up paying out nearly $250 in tolls throughout our stay in Xian.

We stayed in a Chinese hotel in Linna’s hometown of Yao; it was probably the best hotel we have stayed in so far in this smaller city which is just North of Xian. Linna’s brother Lin Tao bought me some lovely Vietnamese ground coffee knowing that Chinese hotels never have coffee in the rooms. Next day I put this coffee to use, but I didn’t have any filters to strain the ground coffee so I used one of Linna’s hose stockings, it worked quite well. After coffee and breakfast, we took off to see family out in the countryside.

The trip to the countryside is part of every visit when we visit Linna’s parents. This is really a treat, because when you visit anyone out in the country, you know you will be treated with a homemade meal with fresh hand-picked vegetables and handmade noodles. During our visit there was a three day wake going on for a local villager that passed away a couple days ago; we walked about five minutes to another household where the deceased was at. People were chatting, some were preparing food and others were kneeling down around a small memorial crying. Of course when I walked in, people were staring…for good reason, what was a blue eyed foreigner doing here in the countryside of China? We finished the day off with Chun Bing at a local restaurant in Yao. Chun Bing is almost like a huge crepe that you get to fill with pork, vegetables and noodles. The next day we took our piece of shit rental caravan and drove over 200 miles north to go see the Hukou waterfalls. This is part of the Yellow river and the exceptional beauty was worth the trip.

China Trip, October 2011

I had a direct flight to Beijing from Seattle which landed around 10:00 p.m. I have been staying at the Beijing Hilton Capital near the airport for the past few trips, so…..since the hotel is near by, I was checked in by 10:30 p.m. The next day I was off to Shanghai to meet up with a few friends.

A few of us went to Xitang, one of many watertowns near Shanghai; this was about 1 ½ hour drive from Shanghai. I am told that Xitang has less tourist people than other watertowns, if that is the case….I wouldn’t want to visit the other watertowns. Of course, I was visiting on a Saturday and I highly recommend visiting any watertown or tourist attraction in China during the midweek. The waterways were actually very cool, but….once the sun set it was even better. The waterways were lined with lighted red lanterns, it made for beautiful photos.

The next day, a co-worker (Rick Massie) of mine and a few other friends rented some bikes during the afternoon, I wasn’t for sure how I was going to handle the traffic, but….we actually had a blast peddling along in traffic. Rick and I both agreed that a couple of lightweight road bikes would be entertaining cruising through traffic. I flew back to Beijing and stayed at the Hilton Capital again, about a ½ mile from terminal three. This Hilton is the newest of Beijing Hilton’s and it’s wonderful, I highly recommend this place. It has a 25 meter pool and it was always empty when I was there. I had a couple of issues coming back in a taxi at night, the taxi driver will take you to the terminal instead of the hotel. Since the hotel is new, when you hand-over your hilton like business card with the address, they assume the airport.

Linna and I like to hit around the shuttlecock in the backyard during the summer and I have been wanting new rackets and shuttlecocks for sometime now. So, I did a little shopping and purchased two new bad-ass badminton rackets (Weierfu) at the North Star shopping center. When it comes to shuttlecocks, there are so many varieties to chose from. I myself love speed, so I purchased the “fastest” variety I could find; Aerosensa 40 made by Yonex.

After shopping, Rick Massie (he was also in Beijing with me) and I checked out the Birdsnest and Cube. I have visited this place maybe 5 times now, but…I have to admit, it was disappointing this time due to the heavy smog. Beijing is well known for its smog, but todays index was hitting the highest level according to the US Embassy’s website; ranging from 320 to 350. It was hazardous, which is not a good thing. It was supposed to be a full sunny day, but due to the smog, the sun was barely visible; it gave you a weird feeling.

China Trip, November 2010

We spent 3 days in Beijing and then onto Chengdu to meet up with Linna’s family.