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.

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, 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 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.