Zai Jian, China! (Goodbye, China!)

Here we are (finally!) at the end of our trip to China! It was such a fun trip, but we were excited to get home to see our kiddos! Our first order of business was repairing our suitcase that had a large rip in it. We left our hotel and walked towards the subway. There was a little convenience store, and they had some tape!

We stood on the corner and taped up our suitcase. Crazy Americans!

Not pretty, but better than having our stuff fall out. 😉 And, thankfully, there weren’t many people out and about on a Saturday morning.

We could have taken the subway all the way to the airport, but we got off early so we could ride the fastest train in the world, the Shanghai Maglev Train. The Maglev is a magnetic levitation train that goes from the Pudong airport to kind of nowhere. 😉 So, we got on at nowhere and rode to the airport. We got some more views of the city on a rainy day.

We went fast! About 268 mph! And it was a very smooth ride.

I didn’t really get pictures of the train until we got off at the airport.

And one of our favorite signs:

I suspect most people don’t want to leave their stuff on the luggage trolley, but you never know.

We checked out the snack store again.

We got some snacks for the flight home. 😉 (Not really.)

At least this one says it’s “natural.” Whatever it is!

As a little side note, I’ve realized I rarely go into a convenience store in the United States. On our vacation last summer, we occasionally bought some snacks when we stopped to fill up for gas. At one gas station between Iowa and Florida, I saw a package of “Fried Pork Fat.” It looked like onion rings. So, we Americans eat weird stuff, too.

We wanted to eat some lunch before our flight, so we opted to stop at Burger King. On the menu … Jack Daniels. No wonder they guy we met on an earlier flight thinks Americans drink Jack Daniels all the time! 😉

Our flight departed on Saturday at 12:45 p.m. and we arrived back in the U.S., at the San Francisco airport, on Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Talk about a long day! 😉 I must say, our 10 hour flight seemed rather short, thanks to our crazy long trip going to China. Unfortunately, we weren’t home yet. Our next stop was Denver and then, finally, Des Moines. Our flight in San Francisco was delayed and eventually changed to a different gate on the opposite side of the airport. I managed to leave our boarding passes in a bathroom, and realized it after getting over to the new gate. We had to race back, find that the boarding passes were gone, and get new ones issued. Thankfully, someone had turned them in at the closest gate, and I was able to get new ones. Our connection in Denver was going to be tight, but thankfully people actually let those with tight connections off the airplane first and our connecting gate was very close. We did not want to miss getting home! It was nice to see the familiar sights of Des Moines from the air!

Thanks, China, for a fun trip and memories for a lifetime! Andrew wants to visit you sometime, so maybe we’ll be back!

Shanghai — Day 2 (Part 3)

We left the Yuyuan area and took in a little shopping. We scored a few cheap DVDs, some of which did not work when we got them home. It was still a good deal, we figure, as we spent less than it costs for one movie in the U.S. for several DVDs. We then met up with Endeavor’s wife for supper.

Our supper was quite good. The basket on the left had some sort of corn patties and the other basket had beef with a coconut coating. It was delish! There was also an assortment of veggies, and I believe some pork. The plate on the middle of the table has green beans and potatoes. Apparently that was a dessert.

The area around the restaurant was all lit up for the night. We walked around for a while through a shopping area, neighborhood and park. We noted how safe it seemed to be walking around in a ginormous city, even though it was dark.

We eventually ended up back across the river near the super tall buildings for a few more photo opps.

And how do you get a photo of the top of the tallest building while also getting people in it? See below:

The little star lights above were hanging in many of the trees we saw. In the picture below, you can (maybe) see a kite flying in the middle of the picture. It has multiple pieces flying in the air. A woman was selling them and tried to get me to buy one for a very high price. I said I’d pay 20 RMB (roughly $3 U.S.) and she was OK with that.

Later, we were walking by the river and someone selling kites offered 3 for 10 RMB. How could we pass this deal up? ha ha! So, four kites for 30 RMB ($4.75). Not bad. 😉

So long, tall building. We enjoyed visiting you!

Shanghai — Day 2 (Part 2)

So, where were we again? Ah, yes, on our way to the Yu Yuan or Yuyuan, depending on where you look. It means “Happy Garden.” The area nearby included numerous shops, food stands and restaurants. And, of course, statues.

Inside the garden we, of course, got a chuckle out of the signage.

In looking through my pictures, they seemed very jumbled and disorganized, but that is fairly representative of the garden. Construction on the garden began in 1577 and it covers about 5 acres. There was no “one path” to follow, and we sometimes felt like we were going in circles or hitting dead ends. There are several areas, and I think we got to them all. As we were ready to leave, we got a bit lost and weren’t sure how to get out. As with everything we saw while in China, the greenery would have been greener later in the season, but it was still fun to see the architecture and plants that were blooming. There were paths, doorways, dragon-topped walls, very old trees, “rockeries” with caves and tunnels, waterfalls and buildings. It would have been an awesome place to play as a child!

This tree is 400 years old! His friend (below) was old, too. He had an elaborate bamboo scaffolding surrounding it. We were unable to determine what the scaffolding was for.

The sign below was quite funny. The “slope” is on the side of a stairway that has all of three steps.

The new city buildings can be seen behind the old garden walls.

We finally found our way out of the garden and wandered through the nearby shops. I kind of wanted some red lanterns, but I didn’t want to pay what was being asked or take the time to bargain with people.

And I couldn’t convince Ben to ride one of these. Ha ha ha! 😉

We did settle on a little treat.

Shanghai — Day 2 (Part 1)

We started our second day in Shanghai with Endeavor and a driver picking us up in a Musco van. We drove to the Musco office, which took about 45 minutes. It was interesting to see the sites along the way. Below is the “business park” where Musco is located.

Someone ditched their load in the middle of a lane of traffic.

Hello, Musco!

Ben got right to work, since the desk looked just like his in Oskaloosa.

Of course, there is a hat signed by Yao Ming.

Musco has it’s headquarters in Oskaloosa and it’s main factory in the town of Muscatine. In China, the office and factory are in the same place. So, it was a fun opportunity for me to better understand how Musco makes lights! Some of the areas were “no photo zones,” so I can’t share any top secret processes.

After our tour, Endeavor took us to a nearby restaurant for lunch that had American food. It has a variety of options, including “burgers better than Blue Frog” according to the menu. I think Ben got a burger, but thought the Blue Frog one was better. 😉 According to Endeavor, there are many international companies in the area, so there are many things catering to foreigners. While we were eating, a group of students from a nearby international school came in. It was a very diverse group. You might recognize some of the other restaurants we saw.

They deliver … on bikes!

Next, we headed back to downtown. I took a few photos along the way. It was some fairly typical sites we saw while in China.

Typical cars and traffic.

Apartment buildings everywhere.

These roads reminded me of southern California.

That’s probably good for now. Up next is some more sight seeing! Stay tuned! 😉

Shanghai — Day 1 (Part 2)

After exploring a bit of downtown Shanghai, we met our friend Endeavor and his wife for supper. Endeavor works for Musco and has been to Oskaloosa and to our house. When we hosted him and other Chinese co-workers at our house for supper a few years back, I’m pretty sure we never imagined we would visit him in China!! Endeavor is his English name. His Chinese name is Yin Daiyu and his wife is Zhang Ning. (And I only know that because Ben forwarded me an email when their son Shunyi Yin was born in June, and it contained all of the proper spellings. ;))

They took us to a restaurant not far from our hotel that they said was Hong Kong style food. I don’t remember much about the food from this meal except that we had dumplings and they ate seafood. I do remember talking a lot about Andrew with them. He was a little chatterbox when Endeavor visited Oskaloosa, and apparently he made quite the impression! So, I had to search through some old photos to find out when he was here. It was April 2007, and Andrew was not quite 3 and Morgan not quite 1 1/2. It brought back some memories. One of the gals pictured below was actually in Oskaloosa two different times. We must have had a few outings with them, because they liked Andrew enough to get him a gift (a toy airplane).  They made sure to tell us that this was OK because Ben is not their boss. They were very concerned about that, as it would not be acceptable to give your boss (or boss’ child) a gift in China. In fact, they gave us a gift in China and had us bring two back to the U.S. for a couple other co-workers who have been to China on business trips, but not for Endeavor’s boss.

We talked mostly about differences in our cultures, which really is very interesting. And since Endeavor had been in our town, he could talk about specific things he remembered from experiencing America. It was a fun cultural lesson. 🙂 One difference I remember him sharing was how hard it was for him to order at American restaurants. In China, the menus are books! Every item on the menu is pictured, which was extremely helpful to us to see what we were ordering! He wasn’t always sure what he was ordering in the U.S. He also remembered that we had very sweet food at our house. I think I made some chocolate chip bars for dessert. They have pretty much zero sugary foods in traditional Chinese meals. (The influence of Western restaurants and fast food is changing that.) We wanted to order a green bean dish at one meal with them and they pointed out that it was a dessert. We thought that was odd, but we’d probably be healthier if we had green beans for dessert! 😉

After supper we walked to the Bund, which is a historic district with more European architecture along the river. We enjoyed the sights of the Bund and looking across the river at the lights of the tall buildings we had seen earlier in the day.

This model had to be cold, as it was chilly for her photo shoot.

Another guy posing with the bull on the Bund that is like one seen near Wall Street. We’ve seen them both!

Lights in the wall along the Bund.

A little camera fun.

Then, we called it a night and headed back to our hotel. This was a funny sign where there were a few steps.

Two more days to go. I’m not sure I’ll make my deadline. We came home on the 19th. I’ll keep plugging away, though.

Shanghai — Day 1 (Part 1)

Are you handling the suspense OK? Have I left you hanging long enough? As I said, we spent about 20 (ish) hours on our own between departing Craig & Nicki and Jamie & Lars in Hangzhou and meeting up with a Musco co-worker/friend in Shanghai. We set out on our own on a Thursday morning! The previous day, with the help of Craig and the hotel staff, we had purchased tickets for the train from Hangzhou to Shanghai. The hotel staff had suggested a time we should leave our hotel to get to the train station on time. They also, after much discussion, had said that once in Shanghai we would have to take a bus from the train station if we wanted to get to a subway station. We were hoping that would be an easy thing to do. The staff wrote out a little note in Chinese that we could show someone that said something like, “We need the bus to the subway.”

So, we checked out of the hotel and were preparing to take a cab to the train station. Only, the hotel staff now thought we were not going to have enough time to get to the station in time. So, the entire cab ride, we were concerned we were not going to get there in time. Thankfully, we were there with plenty of time and needlessly worried about what might happen. We found our train platform and compared tickets to the numbers on the screen.

We were supposed to be on a 10:09 train, but our ticket said Shanghai and not Nanjing, as listed on the screen. I tried asking some people in uniform nearby, but I wasn’t sure they understood my question. A quick jaunt to the customer service desk confirmed that it was, indeed, the correct train and ticket. Nanjing was a stop past the stop we wanted in Shanghai.

The train ride was very smooth! It was a high speed train or “bullet train” and took us to Shanghai in about 45 minutes. It also gave us our first look at a more rural area of China. The pictures are a bit blurry, as we were traveling at speeds around 349 km/hr (216 mph).

When we arrived at the train station, which was actually at the Shanghai Hongqiao airport, we found that we could just walk through the terminal to the subway line. We were glad we did not have to find a bus, too. We knew the general area of our hotel, so we picked what we thought would be the right subway line and subway stop and hopped on the subway. The downfall of riding the subway is missing the sights of the city. The benefit is it is cheap and fairly fast.

We arrived in downtown and ventured from the subway up to street level. Our next goal was to get a cab to our hotel. There didn’t seem to be many on the street we were on, but eventually we flagged one down. He opened the trunk for our luggage, and I showed him the address for our hotel. He started talking to us in Chinese, and we had no idea what he was saying, but we could tell he was not planning on taking us to our hotel. He shut the trunk and drove off.

We weren’t sure what to do, and we may have disagreed on what to do (I think you would call this our “Amazing Race moment” of the trip.) From where we were standing, Ben recognized a building he had seen while putting our hotel address into Google Earth before our trip. It is the building with the circular top that looks like a sunshine or something in the picture below. Ben thought that either was our hotel or was near our hotel, so we started walking towards it. (We would have been a few blocks past the top of this photo.)

We got to the building, went around it and ended up on the left side (in the picture) at the entrance to a hotel. It was not our hotel, but there was a friendly-looking door guy, so I asked if he spoke English. He did enough to look at our hotel’s address and point us in the right direction. It was just a few blocks away. Thanks to Google Earth for helping us find our hotel in a round-about way. 😉

We checked into our hotel and decided to explore some more of the city. We found the subway again and took it under the river in search of some tall buildings. It was one of the clearest days we had in China, so it was great timing. The Oriental Pearl Tower is below.

The other two tall buildings are the Shanghai World Financial Center (left) and Jin Mao Tower (right) below.

The map we had only listed the Jin Mao tower, and we couldn’t remember which one was the tallest  — and it was impossible to tell from the street — so we were thankful we could give Craig a call and ask him. He also had recommended a restaurant in the tallest building that had good burgers, and since we were interested in some good Western food, we wanted to make sure we got the right building. The World Financial Center is the tallest one, so we headed inside. There was a model of downtown.

And then we went up, up, up! There are various ways of determining if one building is taller than another.  A building in Dubai is considered the world’s tallest, but the World Financial Center has the tallest observation deck — 1,450 feet!

[An even taller building is under construction and scheduled to be opened in 2014. It looks pretty cool. Maybe we’ll have to go back. ;)]

The views were pretty amazing! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

There are some “windows” in the floor.

Our hotel was across the river this way:

Buildings as far as you can see:

Below is some photos stitched together. If you click on it, you can see it larger.

Not sure I would want this job!

I had to take a picture of the toilet options I had available in the building. As with many things in China, the most primitive to the most modern. You can ride a rickshaw or the world’s fastest train. You can use a squatter or one of these. (And, no, I did not try out the options.)

We enjoyed our burger at Blue Frog and then wandered around the area for a while.

These buildings were across the street from the two tall ones.

A giant round-a-bout with an elevated walkway around it. This was right next to the Oriental Pearl Tower.

We went inside a shopping center in hopes of finding some deals at Best Buy. The Best Buy was gone, though, and we later learned the chain has not has much success in China.

A shadow of the Oriental Pearl Tower.

And, there you have it. How we survived 20 (ish) hours on our own in China!

Hangzhou — Day 2 (Part 2)

We enjoyed our time at the botanical garden and then met up with Craig & Nicki outside the entrance for a walk over to the famed West Lake.

Across the street from the botanical garden was a bamboo forest. We stopped for a photo opp. I think someone asked a passerby to take a picture for us, and the person said no. So, my trusty mini tripod was put to work. It actually made for a fun angle that captured the bamboo.

We enjoyed the “bamboo” light poles nearby.

We saw some engagement/wedding photos being taken.

Craig felt inspired to get a portrait taken as well.

We watched some fisherman, too.

Then, just around a few bends in our path, we came across some women who were sitting together and knitting. I do not remember what happened exactly, but we ended up sitting with them and Craig & Nicki were able to chat with them, for the most part. They later filled us in and said the ladies talked about the fresh air, the size of our noses (to determine if we might be Russian), and that they thought Nicki was carrying a baby boy (which she was.) It was really fun to sit and listen to the conversation, even though I had no idea what was being discussed. During the conversation, a few more ladies that were walking by stopped to chat, too. I took all of the photos from my camera sitting on my lap, because I generally felt weird taking pictures of Chinese people.

We eventually kept walking and found more wedding photos. We wondered if they should have waited a few weeks for green grass, but, to each his own, right?

We found some food on a stick but didn’t stop to eat. We did get some snacks at a convenience store.

It was the year of the rabbit, and they were moving these fluffy bunnies to make room for a new flower display. Jamie was glad we got to see them.

There was a tunnel to cross under a street, but we were not allowed to bring our exploding suitcases. 😉 (Oh, and notice the F & C of KFC in the background. It’s everywhere!)

Some bonsai to welcome us to the West Lake area.

In a previous post, I mentioned that you should remember this photo and the small strip of green that crosses the whole lake. To the right of the strip is where we spent our time by the lake. The strip is the trees to the left of the water in the picture below. There were some walkways and paths to cross this area of the lake.

Here is a closer shot of a bridge seen in the distance in the photo above.

Here is the strip, as I keep calling it, that goes the length of the lake. You can kind of see the water on either side. We just walked part of the way until we crossed the bridge pictured above and made our way back around in a loop.

Looking over to the other walkways we saw before.

A view across the main part of the lake.

There were many boats and various arched bridges (you can see one in the background.)

As always, people on bikes.

Here is our group! (Thanks, Craig. I stole this one from Facebook.)

I’m not a big fashion person, usually preferring practical shoes when walking for miles in a day. Maybe this gal didn’t walk as far as we did. 😉

The picture above is actually on the bridge in the background of the group shot above. When we crossed over the bridge we found a very pretty area with a variety of plants, pathways and more bridges.

And a group shot here, too. (Thanks again, Craig. I stole this one, too.)

There was a music and light show scheduled for that evening, so was we were leaving we saw lots of work being done to prepare for the show. Some guys appeared like they were walking on water as they set up some sort of floating stage. There were also floating lights on the water and props along the paths.

Nicki and I got to work.

A shop near the lake offered some wireless coffee. We aren’t coffee drinkers, so we decided to pass. 😉

There was a temple nearby, and we stood near it to try to catch a cab.

I thought I had a picture from inside our cab, but I guess I don’t. All six of us got in a very small van, much smaller than an American mini van. It seems Craig had to do some negotiating, but I don’t really remember. We headed back towards Jamie’s campus and she took us to her favorite place to eat. She called it “Pac-mans” and at there often because it was very cheap. Someone had translated all of the menu items, and Jamie had a copy, so we sort of knew what we were ordering.

We said goodbye to Jamie & Lars, as they had a class to attend that evening. We headed over to a nearby park area to eat our supper. Several people asked us if we were college students, which of course we took as a great compliment. (It was getting dark, although not quite as dark as it looks in this photo.)

As we were eating, a group started gathering nearby. They were dancing together. We enjoyed watching and even tried to join in. Kinda.

We headed back to our hotel and said goodbye to Craig & Nicki, as they flew back to Dalian that evening. It was so great having them as guides!! We would have never made it in China without them! We were going to spend the next 20 or so hours on our own, so we were a little nervous about that. Stay tuned for the Drosts in Shanghai!