Four Days in China

We’d heard from many other travelers and some friends that Beijing was the city with the most smog & pollution that they had encountered. No ones comments prepared us for the heavy set haze and absolute lack of view that we encountered. The ride from the airport to Jim & Letty’s apartment was pretty quick though, only about twenty minutes or so. Major roads along the route had side lanes for bicycles and animal carts. We know this of course from the pictures signs indicating such. Jim had helped us book a flight to Shaing Hei (sp???) for a week over Christmas starting two days after we arrived in China. So we had a complete Veg day, and watched a whole bunch of movies at their place (along with a quick spurt of grocery shopping across the street). We arranged with the same driver that picked us up from the airport to take us back early (5:30 AM) in two days. Their apartment has a spectacular view! It is nicely done up as well, but Claudette and I both noticed the lack of Mexican or Spanish adornments.

At the airport we had trouble figuring out which domestic airline counter to go to as their were about fifty of them. When I was at the cell phone counter for a minute, Claudette started receiving help discerning our tickets from a couple Chinese ladies who seemed to know English fairly well. They took us to the counter to check us in, and verbally accosted me for trying to help with baggage or trying to communicate with the ticket counter lady. They had name tags, but only from some hotel. I tried to get ahold of my tickets again after we had checked in to no avail. Instead they led us to the correct entry gate, which was helpful but still something we could have stumbled through ourselves. After I got my ticket back her shrill arrogant voice could be heard demanding a “Tip?”. Instead of making a scene in front of my darling wife at being held hostage by this petty criminal, I sent her to Claudette to get some cash for being “helpful”. Of course I kicked myself afterwards for not remembering the hotel name so I could vehemently complain to the management about her behavior when we returned to Beijing. Luckily Claudette sternly negotiated her down from the $30 tip she originally wanted to a little over $10. The flight was a larger plane packed full, but pretty uneventful. It was raining in Shang Hei when we arrived, but that still didn’t dampen our spirits cause we were about to ride the FLANE! The airport here is about 30km from the edge of the city proper and we were gonna be taking the MagLev train (or “floating Train” as Luke called it). It is supported and propelled by electromagnetic currents along the track at a top speed of 341 km/hr we soon found out. To say that the scenery absolutely flew by is rather an understatement… It was amazing! The ride only took a few minutes and when we started slowing down to approach the end station it seemed as though we were crawling along at a human running pace even though the digital speed readout still said 95kph!

It was still late morning when we had arrived so we leisurely made our way by Taxi from the MagLev station to Jim’s friend Neil’s home. They had taught together previously and Jim made (Awesome!) arrangements for us to stay in their vacant apartment while they were home visiting for the holidays. Luckily there was another huge grocery store just across the street and this home was incredibly nice as well. I’d love to ask about the cost of rent just for curiosity sake. They have a tonne of movies and a maid who visits every day to do dishes, laundry and cleaning ‘n stuff. What a way to go! Jim has one too, (a maid) and I mentioned to Claudette that we gotta look into this phenomena as well! This family has a beautiful Christmas tree set up unlike the infidel Gerber’s…

After a (yet another!) day of relaxing we went touring a bit yesterday and visited the Oriental Pearl Tower. It is such a cool design for towers that makes it still worth visiting even though it’s small than the CN tower in Toronto. We had a pretty good buffet lunch up in the rotating restaurant before heading up even higher to check out the even better view from the Space Pod deck. While the pollution wasn’t as bad as it was in Beijing, it was still fairly dense here in Shang Hei. Luckily, the day we chose to go up the tower was not too bad for smog (plus it had stopped raining!). We could see “city” as far as the eye reached in all directions, which was only about 15+ km I would think. Still a pretty cool experience.

After the tower we went across the street to a ten story high shopping mall and got pushed and shoved around by the crowds there for a couple of hours. We didn’t really buy anything, just checking the place out. They did have a skating rink on one of the upper floors which looked pretty cool. We’re gonna go back on boxing day for a skate. Other than that we don’t seem to have any other major plans here. Once we get back to Beijing it’ll be gangbusters tours again though.

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