Day 21 - Thursday June 19, 2008

Farewell to Kaifeng:

One of Michael's great night photos

So still in our hotel in Kaifeng, we got up around 5 am, checked out at 5:40 - but we couldn’t communicate with the staff. The two young girls at the front desk (one was asleep on her arms on her counter when we first got there, the other was on a cot). They were very confused and looked a bit worried that they couldn't handle what they were sent to do. They called someone on the phone who might be able to translate for us, but that person spoke with Michael and still couldn't make us understand. It took until 6 am and a call with Chunhong (our translator back in Zhumadian) before we realized all they wanted was our deposit receipt that they gave us when we first checked in. We had given them 700 rmb at that time as a deposit and after all was said and done; our total for the 3 days, including breakfasts was 714 rmb (around 100 dollars). You get what you pay for.

The trunk of the little taxi couldn’t handle all our bags so my big one had to sit in the front seat. The taxi driver ran a few red lights on the way from Kaifeng to Zhengzhou (it was a one hour drive), and when we finally got to Zhengzhou, he had to ask for directions three times before we got to the crowded train station (and with just enough time). The fare was 180 rmb - about $25. The taxi driver couldn’t get very close to the station it was so crowded on the street, so we had to get out and walk for a bit with all our stuff.

Inside the station there was English on the signs (what a relief!), and there were lots of people in uniforms who stand around waiting to give directions to people like us who don’t know where to go.

But here we were again, needing to go down quite a few stairs with all our luggage to get to our train. There was a ramp at the side of the stairs to allow suitcases to descend more easily, but it was made of marble and a heavy suitcase can become quite unwieldy. My suitcase (actually I was handling Michael's because mine was heavier) turned over a few times while I was descending the stairs and there were so many people that I lost sight of Michael.

I had a few frantic seconds but I showed my ticket to a “helper” and she waved me down to the end of the train. I had to run to catch up with Michael who was waiting for me, and my bag turned over a couple more times, but soon we were in our seats. Unfortunately, our seat numbers put us across the aisle from one another, but an older couple with a grandchild switched seats with us so Michael and I could be together - and then they got to be together as well. How nice.

Our second trip with the bullet train.

So, we cracked open the fruit and the pitas and had a good breakfast on the train. I took lots of pictures and slept a bit - this was our second experience with the bullet train - fast and smooth. However, although we were in a non-smoking car, we were in the last one and the smoke from all the cars in front of us wafted back to our car every time the door was opened - and that was a lot.

Pictures that I took from the train - in my mind, I'm imagining their lifestyle...

If the roofing tiles leak, I guess you replace them with galvanized steel or aluminum and since you have no screws or nowhere to screw the roof to, you use bricks or anything else that will weigh down the "new" improved roof. Where there's a will, there's a way.

There's always someone when you look out the window - there's lots of space but I never saw a place in the countryside where I didn't see one or two or more people .

This could be southern Ontario - where I grew up.

We arrived in the Beijing train station around 1 pm and took a taxi to the hotel.

This was a photo I took from the taxi on the way to the hotel - I think we were passing close to Tiananmen Square. Please go to Youtube and type in Tiananmen Square and see the tragedies from June 1989.

This was the Novotel - very posh - and I saw more westerners in the first 1/2 hour in the lobby than I had seen in 2 and a half weeks!

One view

Another view

Another view

The hotel restaurant - was I still in China?

We got changed and went for a walk down a pedestrian mall. Very tourist and shopping oriented.

Someone was posing for a picture, so I took one.

We went into one jewelry store and on the third floor saw some coral for the first time (I still wanted to get some for Christel). They were having a “sale” and the prices were marked down 90%, hmm... that’s suspicious, isn't it? We were just looking though. Sometimes I couldn't help but feel like I was in a dollar store.

Then we went into a silk fabric store, they make clothes for you there if you want. They also had scarves and some ready made clothes. I tried a jacket on - XXL was too big, XL was too small. I suppose if I really wanted one I’d have to have it made - but that’s ok, I don’t need a jacket and it takes a couple of days.

We walked around the block and stopped in a tea shop on the way - they offered us samples of 3 teas, I liked the Jasmine tea the best and decided to buy some before we left Beijing.

This is a Hat Store - oh ya, you can read the English on the sign ...

I thought these two trucks were so cute! Maybe they're made for use on sidewalks ...

Amy and Steven

Then, in the lobby of the hotel, we met Amy and Steven - friends of Michael - a Chinese couple who live in Vancouver most of the year, but visit and do business for a month or two in Beijing - Steven does work in information technology and is self employed. Michael met Amy through Bonnie who teaches teachers of English (ESL) at Simon Fraser and one of her students was Amy. Amy came to the presentations in Beijing last year where Michael was making presentations and talked to the students about learning English.

The four of us (Steven, Amy, Michael and I) had dinner in a small room in a restaurant (with all smokers right behind us - that empty table in back of us is where they sat).

We saw Amy’s artwork - she’s a VERY talented draftsperson. She’s 28 years old but could pass for 18. Her English is excellent, she was great to chat with and she gave me a few shopping tips: for example if they want 600 for a scarf - offer them 100 or walk away.

By the way, the fingernails I got painted the Friday before in Zhumadian still looked great a week later! I guess the secret is not doing dishes or laundry or cooking or cleaning. Hmm...

More strange things in Beijing.

Does this look like the building has been plastic-wrapped?

Out with the old - in with the new. The story of China I guess.

Great poster!

No comments: