China, 2007

Itinerary  15 July—>30 July 2007

15 July Depart Chicago American Airlines Flt. 0289
16 July- 22 July Shanghai JHI Asia Pacific Conference Jin Jiang Hotel

Jul 22 SHA-  Suzhou Drive to Suzhou, visit the Master of the nets and the Humble administrative garden. Suzhou Gusu hotel (3*)
Jul 23 Suzhou Visit the Forest of the Lions Garden and the Lingering Garden and first Silk factory. Same
Jul 24 Suzhou – Xitang Drive to Xitang ancient village.
Jul 25 Xitang – Hangzhou Drive to Hangzhou, overnight close to the lake and the town.
Full day tour visit Yuewang Temple, Tiger Spring, SixHarmony Pagoda and Tea House Hangzhou Lily Hotel (3*)
Jul 26 Hangzhou –Huangshan Visit the Flying Peak, Linyin temple, take a cruise on west lake. Then transferred to Huangshan directly- 3 hours drive by a private car.
Overnight in downtown Huangshan Huashan hotel (3*)
Jul 27 Huangshan Today you will take a cable car up to the Mt. Huangshan. Visit Shinxin Peak, Lion Peak, Paiyun Pavillion, flying stone and Brightness Top. Overnight on the Summit Huangshan Beihai Hotel (4*)
Beihai Scenic Area
Jul 28 Huangshan –Shanghai Take cable car down to the foot of Mt. Huangshan.  Visit Traditional Village – Hong Village. After sightseeing, transfer to Huangshan railway station.
Take the overnight train to Shanghai:N 520 (10:33pm/arrive at 9:46am next day) Train
Jul 29 Shanghai departure  AMERICAN AIRLINES, AA 0288 4:10PM Arrive O’Hare 4:50 PM 29 July. This is a 40-minute flite!July30…Begin recovery from social, cultural and gastronomical experiences (and jetlag).

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18 July

Well, we arrived, and we have nearly caught up to our bodies, timezonally speaking.

Shanghai is quite an interesting place. 18 Million people live here; another 6 million commute inbound to work every day. TO say “big” is really not fully doing justice.

The frenetic activity is quite amazing to watch. Traffic markers and lights are considered guidelines only. We wait until a mob of Chinese decide to cross the street, then try to mix in, figuring the trucks, buses, cars, bicycles, scooters and other vehicles will pick off only the outer envelope of people. I now understand exactly how schooling works for fish.

We visited the Bao Steel plant. This “plant” sits on a land area of 90 KM (35 Sq miles approx). For frame of reference, Minneapolis has a land area of approx. 50 Sq miles. Iron Ore and Dolomite are all imported from Australia and Brazil. China provides coal/coke, HUGE port to service the plant. The plant was not as dirty as I expected, given China’s reputation for environmental care. No huge chimneys belching black smoke anyway. This plant is apparently highly automated 15 thousand workers “only.”
Air pollution in general is all you’ve heard, but more. In Shanghai, add this to 95 degeree temps and humidity. The haze is quite thick all the time, more so in mid afternoon. SOmetimes hard to see buildings a block away. It is not a “comfortable” place.

Yesterday we visited the “Bird and Flower Market” on a whim. Turned out to be an old winding street of shops hard by the new J.W. Marriott building (I think 75 stories). The street is home to vendors selling all manner of plants and critters. Tanks full of Koi and other fish. huge buckets of turtles. Cages of cats. A cage with a Piglet. Birds aplenty, though we avoided close proximity having been asked at customs if we were in close proximity to sources of avian flu… It is not 100% clear to me, but I THINK that the various animals were meant to be sold as pets. However, at our JHI dinner last night ther was a roast suckling pig that looked a lot like the one in the cage.

One unusual pet with a whole series of shops devoted to its care and feeding: crickets! Hundreds of small cages, each with a huge green cricket chirping within. These stores have strings of crickets for sale in little cages hanging from their awnings….looked like bunches of grapes. Probably the perfect pet for a place as tightly populated as Shanghai…don’t take up much room or eat a lot. No need to take them out for a walk.

Most of Shanghai is pretty new (relative to the rest of China, anyway). The “Old parts” are about 100 or so years old. There are 3800 skyscrapers here, and I was told yesterday that over 50% of the world’s construction cranes are here building new skyscrapers.

It is clear to me from our first few days that the Chinese will run the world, economically, and very soon. The hardworking middle class that is fueling the immense explosion of cities like Shanghai has barely begun to tap the 1+ BILLION people in the country. The investment (and energy) in education is remarkable, and is going to truly change the world. Might as well start learning Mandarin now! Except that 100% of everyone from grade 6 onwards is required to learn english. In fact, our tour guide said that the are so many dialects of Chinese in China that when she goes to other cities, she and the people there speak english as realistic a common denominator.

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25 July

Probably the best description of China was the sight of a small boy — maybe 10 years old — sitting in the open kitchen at ancient village Xi Tang.  House in the same family for 23 generations. He was working on school assignments on his computer — a recent model, and fully connected to the internet.

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26 July

Huanshan.  No Blackberry Data service!  Most of the drive was quite “Rural” but only in the city did my BB stop working.   But a free workstation in our room for accessing internet.
TIps are definitely expected here.  The bellboy refused to leave our room until I gave him “5RMB minimum.”  Our new guide (not Sharon, but Jessica) explained that tipping is more expected here, being a tourist place.  It’s not that I mind tipping,  just that I kind of liked not having to think about it.
Went to an “inkstone/InkStick” factory.  There they tried REALLY HARD to sell us all the requirements to take home to enhance our calligraphy skills.  Never mind that noone I know does calligraphy.  Then to a wood-carving and painting [place.  Where they tried really hard to sell us that stuff.  I told our Jessica we were not buying anyhting, but we appreciated the opportunity to experience the local artisans.
Our guide took us to  a local restaurant.  There we ordered Hui-style specialities such as:  Smelly Bean Curd,  Smelly Fish and Pork with Dried Bamboo.  I would venture to guess none of those would have been ordered WITHOUT our guide’s assurance.  And,  the fish and bean curd were a bit “smelly” (I thought maybe a cross between old sneakers and blue cheese).  But tasted really good.
The journey continues tomorrow to Yellow Mountain.
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28 July
Well, some things are apparently universal. We are too early to go to the train station for our overnight train to Shanghai. Coffee shop does not have “official” Internet. But, sure enough, someone within 300ft is being kind enough to provide the service…I would leave my card because someone obviously needs my help. But the commute would be a BEAR.Last night in the hotel, we were treated to the scariest sight you can imagine…Sponge Bob in Chinese. I am bringing home video to prove it.A few other points of interest included:— Westerners in the Yellow Mountains (There is a story behind all the padlocks behind us — very Chinese)
— Sunrise in the Yellow Mountains
— Hong village used in filming of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. 800 years old+
— Typical traffic scene in China. No signals. Pedestrians, cars, trucks, scooters, bicycles. All going every which way. And it just works. My guess is, if you haven’t been here, you can’t understand, even from the pitchur.Well, soon we leave for Shanghai, and then for the States. With luck we’ll be home in 48 hours. Gotta tell ya…it can’t be too soon. the beds here are absolutely ROCK HARD.

 

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