Greetings from Shanghai!! This is Lisa tonight as Charlie, Rita and Kyle “hit the streets at night” to find the knock-off designer bags that Rita wants…We are playing a few days of catch-up tonight. Our last full day in Guangzhou was Wednesday. We had to wait until 4:30 for our guide to deliver Ryan’s passport and immigration papers. After breakfast, we took a walk through the Hotel’s back gardens to feed the fish in the pond.
And of course, that day it chose to be SUNNY all day in Guangzhou so we had a nice long day at the pool.
Ryan and His Friend WeiMei (they were good friends in the Dongguan SWI). To her parents…please send us an email with your email address so that we may send other pictures directly to you.
Last Day at the Pool!
Mom & Ashley
Last one in is a rotten egg! (Ryan’s already keeping up!)
That night they all begged for a last spin through the Chinese arcade, so we hit a few games and rides, before we made the last trek back to the hotel.
Of course, we could not bypass the final lobby ice-cream runs either (although there were no underwear salesmen around that night!)
On Thursday, we were all up at 5 am to leave the hotel at 7 am for our “expected” 9:30 flight departure. At 6:15 am as I was trying to down lots of caffeine, the hotel clerk frantically flagged me down and was pointing at her phone. Our guide was on the other end, telling me that our flight had randomly been cancelled and that we were now booked on flight 2 for 10 am. We made our way to the airport only to wait and wait and wait as Hongqiao airspace was “too clogged” aka “they were running military exercises in the area.” To board the planes in Guangzhou is quite the comedy. You go down an escalator, wait in a random line with about 50-60 others, and then madly cram in a small space to board a BUS that takes you out to a plane on the tarmac. This bus is full of the entire plane full of people, so the kids are about knee high to all adults laughing and laughing as we are trying to protect them from being bonked in the head with purses, bags etc. Everyone is staring at us, as we are the only non-Chinese with 4 Chinese kids in tow!! Once on board, the ride was uneventful and the kids promptly fell asleep. Then the lunch wagon came through and the woman next to Kyle was very taken with him and Ryan so she had her ipad happily snapping their photos. As Kyle downed 2 plates of some non-edible food for Mom, the woman told him in Chinese something to the effect of “it was nice you ate 2 plates of chicken, but how about some vegetables” as he had left all of those behind.
Once we hit ground, our poor driver who had probably been waiting for us for 2.5 hrs, flagged us down. He spoke no English but promptly got us to our hotel in downtown Shanghai – after first leading us and our luggage upstairs to the Parking Garage, then back downstairs to the street level. It was so nice to be in cooler weather with much less humidity and no rain. We can deal with the clouds and fog. We are in a cool area right next to People’s Park and one block from the Pedestrian Street (Nanjing Road).
That road is really a closed off road lined with lots of shops, bars and restaurants – many of which are very high end and all American brands including…the M&M Store of Shanghai – we had a lot of fun in there although Ashley told me tonight that the “Blue M&M Guy” was a bit scary for her and Ryan.
The road is also filled with folks hustling all kinds of toys from light up roller skate bottoms to flying fairies and minions to Chinese soldiers crawling on the ground with a Chinese flag in tow while shooting a red flame from a toy gun (?!) They all race up to you and shout price after price in USD and CNY. The kids all got very good at shouting “no thank you” at the top of their lungs. With 4 kids doing this, the hawkers would start smiling and laughing hysterically. Dylan was getting quite exasperated with the whole thing and why they just “wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Charlie and I were tempted to try the light up skates to perform a skating duet, but chose to pass! While all of this was going on, mini “tram cars” go up and down the street beeping as they have riders in tow (sort of like the AC boardwalk tram), motorcyles zoom around you, and people dance in the street (we think that we saw a Chinese zumba class where the age minimum was probably at least 65 and another woman who looked like she was trying to attract single men with her dance routine!) It was a mini Times Square but so cool to watch.
Today (our Friday), we were back up at 5:45 am (no rest for the weary), to start our Hangzhou tour. Hangzhou is about 2 1/2 hrs SW of Shanghai by van. We set out racing down the elevated highways, while the BULLET TRAINS raced past us on the right hand side. Our guide drove both ways like he was a Chinese Indy 500 driver — had to have been going at least 80 mph while all cars raced around each other with about an inch or two to spare, and often speaking on a cell phone. They all beep and cut each other off, but there is no evidence of road rage nor many accidents. They even have the Chinese version of EZ Pass here. While on our race to the “burbs of China,” we saw lots of rice farms, trucks jammed full of chickens, pigs and lots and lots of cell towers (we never saw fewer than 5 full bars -cell signal – the entire way.) The kids promptly went to sleep again but about 1/2 way there, the guide asked if we needed a rest stop. Kyle said “no, our family is built for long road trips!” On our way into the city, we even saw a Chinese hitchhiker. Our guide, Mark, also asked Charlie if we “knew” about Ryan’s eye situation before we adopted him and seemed surprised that we went ahead and adopted him anyway. Quite an interesting reaction…
Anyway, we arrived in Hangzhou at around 10:15 am and promptly headed to West Lake. One of the 4 “scenic wonders” of China – we have hit 3 of the 4 so far – Great Wall, Forbidden City, West Lake and then the 4th is Guilin (we’ll hit that next time!) West Lake is a huge man-made lake with 3 islands in it. The lake water is changed via a tunnel every month. We did a small walking tour of the lake including a stop at the Fish Pond of koi and then hopped aboard a boat to do a circle tour.
The lake and sky were very foggy but it was a neat little trip and we saw the restaurant (a famous one) where Nixon ate when he was in China. Dylan and Ryan were flagged down by a random man to pose with his son for a picture and the next thing I knew, the paparazzi arrived to also photo.
After our boating excursion and lunch (where else but KFC!), we went to Lingyin Temple – very cool area. There were lots and lots of statues of buddhas built into the rocks (this is the home of the famous Laughing Buddha, too); we several pagodas and we learned a few facts – pagodas only have odd numbered floors, monks used to bury other monks ashes in the base of pagodas (and several ashes are buried here), Buddism started in India and migrated to China where it is still practiced by many Chinese. We had to visit a few temples and light our prayer incense (I always love this part – the smell and atmosphere of the temples is just so neat and you only make your wish after the incense starts to smoke).
We saw lots and lots of buddhas (at least 100 of them were in one location alone. Rita and I got turned around and they all started to look the same as we tried to get out of the building, so it took us an extra 10 min. trying to find the “right” exit door while Kyle was sent in to find out what the heck had happened to us!) There were also several monks at this temple.
As our final stop, we stopped at a Tea Garden Farm. Each family has their own row of tea planted into acres and acres of tea that went on for a few miles. The best tea is harvested one time of year in April. This particular farm was the home of Dragon Well Tea – the only tea good enough for a national gift to foreign dignitaries. We then went to the tea sampling room where a woman promptly poured us 7 cups of team – 2 pinches of tea leaves and EXTRA hot boiling water. Ryan was like “what am I supposed to do with this?!!” We found out that you can use the tea leaves 5 times before you throw them away; that you can eat them (they smell a bit like spinach but don’t really taste too good); and that you can mixed the used leaves with honey and egg white to make a good facial — the boys’ looks at that were hysterical as the woman is patting her face. The tea is a green tea with no caffeine and seems to cure almost every ill that you might ever have from colon cancer to smoking to digestive issues! It was good but very expensive, so we only bought small amounts. It will freeze up to 5 years in a ziploc bag, but we think that Dylan already has his dibs on a nightly cup!
China’s Mr. Tea
Terraced Tea Farming
Even though Mario Andretti was breaking speed barriers to get us back to the city, it took us almost 3 hrs with rain, a stop at a crazy rest stop area and traffic, traffic and more traffic. By then, we were all pretty much beat so we had a non-descript dinner at McDonalds (you can tell that we are great samplers of local food – ha.ha) and then 1/2 of us hit the streets to shop while yours truly and 3 kids are sleeping and/or typing.
Handling Tea Leaves