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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

China First

Dear Family and Friends,

I arrived home in Cuenca yesterday. I had quite an adventure getting back here.

Chuck is still in the USA for a couple of weeks. He will be back in Ecuador on Tuesday, August 18th. I can't wait for him to get here, I miss him already.

I am so excited to share our trip with you. We had a wonderful time and saw the eclipse in all it's glory. I have been sorting through pictures and there is no way I can fit everything into one blog posting. I have decided to do posts on each country we visited and then do a post on the cruise ship and the eclipse.

This first post will be about China.

We left Seattle for China on Monday July 13th about 2:00pm. We flew Korean Air which means we changed planes in Seoul, Korea before arriving in Beijing. We got into Beijing around 8:00 pm on Tuesday, July 14th. (we crossed the international dateline so we lost a day in transit).

Chuck had arranged a hotel near the airport for our first night. We hopped in a taxi and went straight there. We were both very tired so we showered and went straight to bed. I had noticed that there were shower shoes in the bathroom. What a nice touch I thought. When I got into the shower and read the posted sign, I went back and put on a pair before I started the water.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel, went back to the airport and got directions for taking the bullet train to Tianjin. Tianjin is a large city near where we would board our ship. We arrived in Tianjin before lunch. Got a taxi to and checked into our hotel and then started exploring the city.

I've put this picture first because it is so typical "tourist China." This is a market for tourists to buy souvenirs.

Actually Tianjin is a very large, modern city. Tianjin's urban area is the third largest in China behind Shanghai and Beijing. The population is more than 10 million. Even though this city is big, we had never heard of it before we took this cruise. It is not a city that is usually visited when touring China.

Here is a picture of some escalators inside a modern shopping mall we visited.

Yes, they do have Wal-Mart. We couldn't imagine what Wal-Mart would be selling to the Chinese. We went to visit and found that not one thing there was anything like the goods they sell in the USA. China exports "special things" for us I guess.

They have so many bicycles in China that the bicyclers get their own traffic cop.

You can see why they need them. This is what it looks like much of the time. Somehow it all works out. (You can double click on the picture for a better view).

To give you an idea of the number of people who ride bicycles, I shot this video from the street corner.

The weather was very very hot. We walked all around town even in the heat. Chuck says it is the best thing you can do for jet lag. I guess he is right because we adjusted just fine. We met a man who wanted to practice his English on us. He was kind enough to take this picture of us down by the river.

We discovered a restaurant about a block from our hotel that was really fantastic. We went there twice before we left on our cruise and even once after we returned. It was quite an elegant restaurant to us. The chairs were covered in white slip covers, table cloths, linen napkins and lots of service.

We loved the food and we loved the staff. Every night we were given special treatment. They seemed so happy to have "Americans" there. I know we provided them a lot of entertainment because we were completely clueless about Chinese customs. They lined up and watched us eat with chop sticks. A lot of giggling was going on.

Here they are, all lined up. Every time we went there, they lined up and watched us.

After we returned from the cruise we stayed in Tianjin another day. Chuck had the hotel desk help him with getting a taxi to drive us to Beijing. Another round of laughter with poor communication, but we ended up hiring a taxi for the trip the next day.

Since a picture is worth many is our comment about the air pollution. The air was so polluted you could look directly at the sun in mid day. It was really bad.

Here is our taxi driver.

Chuck had written the name of the hotel in Beijing on a piece of paper and had the hotel desk clerk translate it into Chinese to give to him.

As we started out I started having doubts by the way he kept looking at the piece of paper.

When we got to Beijing, he had to make several stops to ask people where the hotel was. This is a funny picture I took from inside the car. A lot of discussion was going on over the piece of paper.

Eventually, we got to our Beijing hotel. It was a Best Western and we had stayed in it when we were touring China about three years ago. We wanted to stay there because it is within walking distance of a fantastic market.

Unfortunately, the market is only open on the weekends and we only had half a day Thursday and all day Friday. Our plane departed Beijing on Saturday.

We went to the Pearl market on Thursday afternoon. We did the Silk market on Friday morning. The Pearl and Silk markets are multi-story buildings packed full of vendors selling fake high end name brand items. Watches, clothes, shoes, jewelry, purses, luggage, electronics and about anything else you can imagine.

We returned to the hotel around noon and went to lunch at a great restaurant. We were so near the weekend flea market we decided to walk over and look at it for old times sake even though it would closed.

To our surprise, about a third of it was open. All the shops were open and there were vendors there too.

Here is Chuck standing among some of the stone statues they have for sell. Talk about covet, Chuck was salavating.

At one of the shops Chuck found a big Budha head. He fell in love with it and spent a long time bargaining the price. I set down beside the shopkeepers wife and we laughed at all the batting back and forth. Finally a deal was stuck.

Here are the shopkeepers packaging up Chuck's treasure. The guy with the black bag is an onlooker. He got caught up in their antics and stayed around to see how the bargaining would turn out.

Here is Chuck teasing about how heavy it is and complaining about his back as he walked away.

Luckily we had bought another suit case just that morning at the Silk market.

We had a great time in China.

In my next post I will share with you about Cheju, South Korea.


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