Friday, October 27, 2006

The Buildings of Wuhan

No explanation necessary, just click here to view.

Day 8 9 10 Wuhan, China

Day 8-9-10 –

UPDATE: We have figured out the pictures a little. Click here for a fun slideshow of our pictures from Wuhan.

Bob: Beijing was a tourist city, when you stepped out of the hotel or off the bus, vendors appeared out of nowhere selling everything under the sun. Wuhan is the total opposite, here we are in an incredibly modern city of 11 million people that we never heard of, there are no souvenir vendors, and we are basically ignored. And there are not too many big noses here (what the Chinese people call Caucasians). We are staying in a 5 star hotel, and we have never been so well attended to in our lives. There is a person assigned to everything. As near as I can tell, they are working at demolishing the old dingy four story buildings and putting up high rise apartments. The streets are crowded with autos, traffic flow is handled very nicely, lots of red lights, turn lanes, informative flashing signs (in Chinese). Very hazy, but I don’t think it is pollution, just haze like the great Smokey mountains in USA. Yangtze River runs through the middle of Wuhan and there are lakes everywhere, but no mosquitoes, I wonder how they do that.

We have been in a couple of modern department stores, Carrefour is the Chinese equivalent of Costco, very modern packaged foods just like USA and same brands in a lot of cases, bakery, prepared foods (although definitely Chinese), clothes, appliances, bar code checkout, everything in a modern atmosphere. By total contrast, Walking down a small blvd, we saw an iron gate leading into a side alley which was an open air food market, fruit and vegetables, live fish, crabs, frogs, turtles, eels, chickens and lord knows what else, total contrast to the Carrefour. There are obviously two strata of citizens here, the old generation which lives in the squalid apartment buildings which are maybe 4 stories high and shops in the sidewalk markets and the new generation which drives cars, shops in Carrefour and lives in a 30 story high rise.

Stopped in front of a real estate office (just like CA?) 1000 sq ft “used” apartment costs 30,000 yuan and has 4 rooms. Figure that one out. 8 yuan to the dollar. Our guide says that one of the brand new apartments in a new high rise with a river view costs 10,000 yuan per sq meter. Works out to about 1,000,000 yuan for 1000 sq ft. (125,000 USD).

We also stopped in a little bakery, typical with so many employees, one girl figures out the cost, another girl makes the change, I handed my money to the girl who figured out the cost and the change girl snatched it.

Today, Friday, we made an expedition to the River Beach Park on the shore of the Yangtze River, this is a beautiful park several kilometers long filled with statues and trees and grass (a rarity in these large cities). R and M were carrying the twins and you would think they were celebrities, so many curious people crowded around. We got some Yangtze River water and earth to take home, according to Chinese lore, this will bring luck and good fortune to always have a little piece of their homeland. And then we went to the biggest and fanciest Chinese restaurant that I have ever seen, the dining area must have been 100 yards long and 10 yards wide. Tai Zi (Prince) Restaurant. Four parking attendants in gold braided uniforms out front, parking the Buicks and Fords and Mercedes and Hondas. And our guide ordered us quite a feast, several things that I have never heard of. TDSCF6338The final dish was a fish on a platter, somehow the flesh was braided into sticks to make the fish look like a porcupine, quite incredible. By the way, the local beer (Snow beer) is quite good. Total cost, 449 yuan (about $50) for 11 people and 4 kids. So we can eat in the 5 star dining room for $20 for the buffet, $5 at a fancy restaurant, and if we had the nerve, probably $1 at the street stalls. Something for everybody.

By the way, the French have a presence in China, especially in Wuhan which is where the French Consulate is located. All the taxis are Citroens, the airlines have a lot of airbuses, and apparently talks are going on about nuclear power. In fact, we are sharing the streets with Jacque Chirac for the last couple days. Yesterday, we saw this really big motorcade of black cars and vans full of policemen going down the street and today when we came back to our hotel, Chirac was in the dining room and the place was crawling with security. There was a half inch thick red carpet laid down from the curb, through the lobby and into the dining room.

Day 8 – We received the precious girls yesterday and they couldn’t sleep the first night, therefore M didn’t sleep either. It is tough to be a new parent with 22 pound twins. We had to leave the hotel at 8:45 to go to the interview for new parents. Well, we left at 9:30 and just barely. The grand parents look like pack horses for the new parents and their daughters, but that’s why we came to support them in all ways. Of course I was very emotional at the interview especially when they asked M questions regarding the girls’ future. R and M are doing a great job for new parents in a very different kind of situation. They are ordering room service because they can’t leave the room yet.

Day 9 – M and R and the girls leave the room to go to breakfast. Everyone loves seeing the twins. Grandparents went on a bus trip to a department store for clothes for the girls. Now this was a bit confusing. I had to pick out my articles get a bill from each little counter and then go to a cashier to pay and get a receipt. Then I had to remember where I picked out my items and give the clerk my receipt before I could get my purchased items. What an ordeal. Then we went to the basement for the grocery items. Bob found a jar of salsa for R, yea.

The girls are dressed in cute denim jumpers and off to lunch in the hotel. They take R and M and the girls to a special room in the back with a divider. I wonder why?

All the Chinese children walk by and say “Hello”. Many shops were cooking in front of their little shops. People were on their way home from work and eating from the shops or taking the food home. Found a neat street for shopping and looking. Passed a line of people paying money and receiving a different stub of a ticket. Then they went to the next line where there was a large cauldron about 4 feet in diameter with sections like pieces of pie and a center of boiling broth. In each section there was a different type of sauce and meat or fish. The clerk had a cone shaped basket with a long handle full of noodles. She would dip them in the broth and put them in a bag for the customer, very strange

Then we found an alley that was an open food market. Oh my! There were bins of live shrimp, fish, eels, turtles, frogs and crabs. It was quite a place, no I didn’t buy anything but we washed the soles of shoes when we returned and then wiped them with handi wipes.

Back to the hotel and dinner time. This time all 6 adults went since Ro knocked R’s dish on the floor at lunch, they needed help. I love it. What a difference in the girls, lots of smiles, teasing and facial expressions. They love to eat.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Beautiful Twins

Yahoo, yea, wow, the girls are here and yes, they are beautiful. The parents are a bit busy and the grandparents are in awe. Take a look at:

Monday, October 23, 2006

Xian to Beijing – day 4 and 5

Xian to Beijing – day 4 and 5

Click here for slide show..

Not sure what day it is, but on Saturday, caught a China Eastern flight to Beijing. Plane was packed with business men. Arrived at Beijing airport and no guide to meet us. Scratched our heads for awhile and found a friendly counter clerk who called the phone number we had. Murphy’s law, lapse in communications, our guide had our hotel keys and everything but had no idea where we were coming in from. Finally made contact and motored into Beijing on a high quality freeway. Incidentally, certain things are missing in China, like rental cars, no such thing. Nice hotel, and we met up with R and M, who were wondering what happened to us.

Sunday dawned with blue sky and cold clear air, and our guide told us an interesting story about that. When the government was in the competition for the Olympics, the Olympic committee was worried about the bad pollution in Beijing. As a result, all the steel mills and polluting industries were moved out of Beijing and the traditional coal fired furnaces and stoves were discouraged from use by providing subsidies for using electricity instead. As a result, last year there were 260 blue sky days in Beijing.

Beijing is a surprisingly modern city, high rises everywhere, cars, taxis and buses jamming the streets, good roads, we haven’t been on a potholed rough street yet. There are still lots of bicycles though. I suspect that the cost of living is probably going up fast, lots of stores selling western products such as clothing electronics, etc. They are in a crash renovation for the Olympics, everything is in the process of being painted and freshened, half the Forbidden city is done, the other half is under scaffolding and tarping.

Sunday we did some major touring with the adoption group in Beijing, 35 people so we had our own tour bus. Tienenmien Square, Forbidden City, a rickshaw ride through Hutong Village, and a Chinese acrobat show. The Hutong village is quite interesting, it is a section that is very old and represents the way life in Beijing used to be, alleys, tiny dwellings, but it is also a way of life that is vanishing, being replaced with the high rises and modern stores. The result is that the government has set aside several large sections to be preserved. And it is a big tourist attraction, to take a rickshaw ride through these areas.

We went by bus back to the city to see an Acrobatic Show. This was very colorful with feats that awed the audience. Bob is convinced that the one young man who did a running jump into a somersault through a hoop about 8 ft high could compete for the high jump at the Olympics. The show was an hour long. Then we were stuck in a traffic jam and felt we were back in the USA. Returned to the hotel about 7 and the “old” folks did better than most younger ones. We opted for KFC, choc and ice cream for dinner, definitely Americans.

pictures coming, check back later.

Sunday, October 22, 2006




Spent the day touring the area. Xi’an is the ancient capital of China, home to many emperors of long ago. It is a mix. Hard to describe: Toll roads, potholed roads, no roads, a new blvd so damn bumpy that 15mph is top speed, a modern freeway, traffic in the city beyond belief, smog so thick you can cut it with a knife (worse than LA on its worst day), modern university surrounded by extreme poverty, a space satellite tracking center, vendors everywhere willing to barter down to practically nothing, high end stores, dingy cubicle stores, incredibly squalid alleys that I would not venture down, beautiful high rise apartment buildings, ancient structures from the dynasties, very well preserved and maintained, every store and museum seems to be loaded with staff, way more than necessary, (I am guessing that unemployment must be very high), lots of fancy tour buses carrying Japanese, lots of bicycles and motor scooters and motor scooter trucks carrying incredible loads. And mixed in with the Nissans and Toyotas, a few Buicks, Fords, Chevys and Mercurys, must be a status symbol for those few afluent entrepreneurs.

This day we saw, Xian old city wall, Banpo village ruins, terracotta warriors, a silk factory, a jade factory, and our last stop of the day was at the emperor’s hot springs palace where he kept a bunch of his 3000 concubines. (Does that make for a long life or a short life?)


We were also supposed to go to a wonderful place for a dumpling dinner, a Chinese play and then stop at the Bell Tower for night pictures! The country mice yelled no more take us to our beds...... Our tour guide, Emily, is a student of history and is very knowledgeable of ancient times here in Xian. I can’t imagine a better guide but she has way too much energy for us. Emily was disappointed that we “couldn’t” go on. She then wanted to send someone to our rooms to give us a massage! Bob quickly went to the hotel room and locked the door. Guess that meant enough.

While Bob took a snooze, Pat decided to try to pack all of the new purchases into the overweight suitcases. I, Pat, have decided to buy a very large dress today and tie my Xian purchases onto my body. What do you think, will it work? Don’t tell Bob. Idea, we will just leave the girls clothing that we brought in our bags here in Xian. Oh lots of room now.

While in our hotel room, we could be in the USA. It is difficult to realize we are in China. But once outside the hustle bustle of everyday life is unbelievable.

Having problems with our damn computer again, no pics possible today.

Thursday, October 19, 2006



It does pay to have someone who knows the area take you in hand. Our friend Masako who lives in HK came over at 8:00am and away we went. Today we rode in multiple taxis, a tram (up to 1300 ft), double decker bus, a trolley, a ferry, a train, a jet plane and a mini-van. And went to Victoria Peak, old Hong Kong (Kowloon), tea at the Peninsula Hotel and lunch at the Marriott and more in between. We saturated on sights and sounds. $3 US will get you almost anywhere in a taxi, 30 cents US gets you the top deck on the ferry, 15 cents US gets you the bottom deck. We saw a junk cruising the bay, but they are a curiosity now owned by rich men.

From Victoria Peak, you get the vista of all the high rises, the population per acre must be phenomenal. We walked through a high end mall like nothing we have in CA, we had a buffet lunch at the Marriott that ranks above the best in Tahoe, we had a white linen napkin, silver and fine china tea at the Peninsula Hotel, we walked some in Kowloon, packed with shops and teeming. Notice the angle in the interior tram picture, and also the one picture is the goods displayed in a pharmacy window.

Last night we caught a plane to Xian, in mainland China. We were met by our tour guide that we had arranged in SF, and thank the lord for that, we are now in old China and even though they have jet age runways and some toll freeways, I am not sure we could have found our way at night to a hotel in downtown. The sights and sounds are totally different in Xian, cars, trucks, bicycles, motor scooters, tiny shops lining wide boulevards (some open late at night), taxi repairs taking place on the curbs, people playing cards? under the street lights, incredibly hazy. But wonder of wonders, the hotel has a DSL cable. Can’t wait for daylight.

We met up with Rod’s parents at the Xian airport, they had been traveling for 30 hours. Also was a horde of screaming fans for someone named Koko who was on our plane, must have been a rocker celebrity or something, gotta look that one up

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

To China and back, day 1

Hong Kong

Oh my gawd, we have done it now. The country mice have sure ventured out of the country and into the big wide world.

So far, we have taken a jet (that seemed like about a week), an express train, a mini shuttle and walked to get to our hotel in downtown Hong Kong.

We are in a really big city, very cosmopolitan, and very vertical, unbelievable number of high rise apartment buildings. Nothing like getting off a plane in a foreign country and being on your own as far as finding your hotel and how to get there. Right off the bat, we discovered that our ATM card does not work in Hong Kong, it needs to have a 6 digit pin number. One little gal said to add 2 zeroes either in front or in back or the regular 4 digit number, but she also said the machine will keep it after two mistakes. Having already tried the four digit number, we decided to forget that, and changed some cash.

The express train from the airport to Hong Kong Island and downtown is really modern and fast. We bought two round trip tickets. Nobody checked them on the train but in order to get out of the station, you have to insert them into a turnstile. A friendly attendant who saw us looking at the turnstile as if it were a space alien finally showed the two farmers the difference between one that does magnetic passes and one that reads round trip cards. This reminded me of the old Kingston Trio song, did he ever return, no he never returned and his fate is still unlearned. Moral, buy the ticket before you get on.

The shuttle from the train station to the hotel was definitely an E ticket, traffic with inches to spare, twisty turny little streets, hordes of taxis, braced with one foot to the side and holding onto the luggage rack bars.

We arrived at our hotel at 5:30am (CA time), October something or other, maybe 18 in CA, anyway, we went to bed at 8:30pm local and woke up the first time at 11:30, the second time at 1:00, the third time at 3:30 and finally got out of bed at 3:40. So far this morning, we have had tea, Ghirardelli chocolates, peanut butter crackers and we are waiting for daylight and breakfast.

Now it is 5:30 am October 19 (we think) in Hong Kong. We have a gorgeous view of the harbour outside our window. Patti thought she was on a cruise ship because of the water view out the window and the size of the bathroom. We will have breakfast and tour with our friend Masako today, (see, we do actually know someone in HK).

We have also discovered that the electric plug adapter that we bought for China does not work in Hong Kong, so we have to hurry and post this before our computer croaks.

A note to M and R from Wela, just wait I’m making my list of wants.
To Jane and Bobby, send money and give Harley a hug.
To all of our wonderful friends stay tuned and hold the search parties we are still alive.