china tour part 1

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back in 2004 g/f and i went to mainland china.  at the time just your typical 12 day tour.  i’ve never blogged about it before other than a quick something here or there.  i have nothing else going on in my head at the moment, blog wise and other wise as well.  just the usual.  so i guess just because it’s 2008 and the old limp dicks(OLYMPICS) are coming up in china i may as well run the deal down.  some of you might even be going to the old limp dicks or just going to visit china.  you may want to hear about stuff.  fine.  i’ll do what i can for you.  although it was 4 years ago it should still be helpful.

the only stuff i have written down from that trip is a series of emails i sent to my friend, dfr, when we got home.  the emails were based on notes i took during the trip.  the notes were sporadic at best.  this blog is being written from the emails and my faded memories of thing trip.  i must say that while i was reading over the old emails i had completely forgotten some of the stuff that happened.  age, hits you hard.  where to start?

the beginning

the trip to the airport, lax, was uneventful.  we hired a car with a chinese driver.  no, we weren’t in china yet.  just easier to do than trying to get someone to drive you to the airport and then pick you up.  or parking your car there for 2 weeks.  then driving home exhausted.  but i’m already getting ahead of myself.

the trip through LAX wasn’t too bad.  actually much better than our trip through LAX last year when we went to chicago in june.  for the china trip everyone working at the airport was friendly and helpful.  no shoe check for bombs, dog, and or cow crap or whatever.  though you can expect the shoe check now.  we flew china eastern one of the many state run airlines in china.  i think they are all the same company just different names depending on where you are flying in china.  nice take off and the trip to china was under way.

thankfully, our seats weren’t anywhere near the ‘facilities’.  we’ve been pretty lucky in that regard for just about all of our trips.  for some reason or another we were mislead as to the length of the flight.  we were told it would be only 14 hours.  yeah, only 14.  i wish it had been only 14.  by the time we ended up in beijing we were pretty close to 19 hours in the air and a good 24 hours worth of travel time had elapsed as we traveled into the heart of darkness.

it indeed took us only 14 hours to get to shanghai.  however, we needed to change planes and carry on to beijing.  our first or second stop depending on just how you want to count stuff.  the chinese customs or army guys ran us around the shanghai airport by bus and foot for what was probably an hour or so.  i’m not sure to this day what was going on but it was not unlike a chinese fire drill.  if you get my drift.  hustled here.  wait.  hustled there.  wait.  some other little guy wearing a big hat comes in and says something and we are on the move again.  3 or 4 trips around the airport.  literally.  a 19th nervous breakdown of running up and down the stairs for sure.  finally we are told to sit and wait in this waiting room for our plane.  thankfully, there were restrooms handy.  my bowels were still on california time.  speaking of time.  china has only one time zone.  it’s the same time in china from one end to the other.  interesting.

it was another 4 or 5 hours of air time to beijing. after clearing customs and being driven to the hotel it was around midnight or later.  just bone tired.  head full of cob webs the size of pittsburg.  everything just a huge purple tinted haze. 

we were ensconced at the tianlun dynasty(not sure if i’m spelling it right but i don’t feel like checking, sorry) in downtown beijing.  a truly 5 star hotel or at least it was then.  at the time, rumor had it that when the old limp dicks rolled into town in 2008, rooms would be going for 2 grand US a night.  g/f didn’t think so but i heard it from a reliable source at the hotel.

i’ve already mentioned this was a tour.  i suppose you could go to china on your own if you were just going to one city or something.  getting around might be a chore if you weren’t hooked into the ‘tour’ network.  driving a car on your own would be fool hardy at best.  more on this later.  plus if you don’t speak chinese you are at a distinct disadvantage.

the rest of the folks on the tour were mostly all chinese from all parts of the u s of a.  there were two other round eyed men on the tour which was nice.
we could get together for some laughs and beer.  both very nice gentlemen with lovely chinese wives.

ok.  so it’s a 5 star hotel and we spent 3 nights there.  breakfast everyday at all the hotels was a buffet.  a mixture of western and chinese stuff.  actually pretty good.  nothing like eating a few stir fried veggies or steamed veggies for breakfast along with some decent sausage links and a croissant or two with aussie butter and jam along with a few chinese steamed veggie buns.  some fresh fruit and juice as well.  chinese coffee was ok.  nothing like here though. 

as for lunch and dinner it was always a chinese banquet style deal.  lots of food and generally speaking all very good.  always a fresh fish but a non saltwater fish so tons of bones.  not my fave.  and lots of eel as well.  it’s ok but the sauce makes eel.  that’s for sure.  plenty of veggies and some tofu if you were lucky.  perhaps some chicken or duck or maybe beef or pork stuff.  i don’t know.  well, i don’t remember to be really fair.  g/f and i both agree the chinese food in general is better here in socalif.  though some of the meals in china were just as good if not better.  for the most part it was way too much food but no one gained any weight as we were kept on the run most of the time.  sometimes literally.  up at 6am and maybe hit the pillow at 11pm if you were lucky after a very full day of going here and there with lots of walking about thrown in. 

there are almost as many starbucks in china as there are here.  i never had a starbucks while we were there.  though i did go into one someplace or another.  i think it might have been in shanghai.  i was in desperate need of water.  bottled water. 

we were told not to drink the tap water.  not even brush our teeth with it.  oh, we were told the water was ok, it was the pipes that were bad.  someone was shitting someone.  at any rate, the tour provided some bottled water and each hotel left 2 bottles in the room every day.  but after brushing your teeth a couple of times there wasn’t much left for drinking. 

when time would allow bottled water shopping was at the number one spot on every ones list.  especially after i got hosed by our beijing hotel when buying a few bottles of french stuff for $10 US.  regular chinese bottled water, even the high end stuff, was only 75 cents a bottle.  a travel tip, when in china and you ask for bottled water at a meal make sure the bottle is still sealed when it’s brought to the table.  if it isn’t send it back and ask for another.  a sealed bottle.  capitalism being what it is lots of places are not above refilling a bottle from the tap.  though i suppose having a number of chinese speaking folks on the tour helped considerably in this regard.  after a few days the tour provided more bottled water but at times it still wasn’t enough. 

having a number of chinese speakers on the tour also helped with the important beer drinking at lunch and dinner or other times as well.  if you don’t ask for cold beer you get room temp beer in most places.  not pleasant.  perhaps for the english and germans but not me.  you also want to see them open the bottle of beer.

alright we are in beijing.  things are cool.  time to hit the sights.  

jmh

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