amethyst73: (China Temple of Heaven)
     Before I begin, I apologize to my non-LJ readers for the delay between the last China post and this one. I've been dealing with a semi-feral cat that we're trying to socialize and getting ready to start a new job. Those have taken up a lot of time recently!

NEXT: Chinatown in China, the Jade Garden, Tea, and Laundry
amethyst73: (China Temple of Heaven)
(A note from one of my non-LJ readers: she finds that it works well to click the first picture in one of my posts and view the whole slideshow before reading any of the post. Then she'll recognize the small versions of the pictures when she comes to them in the post itself.)


NEXT: Rain, pearls, and a concert
amethyst73: (China Temple of Heaven)
 -------
NEXT: Rehearsal at the Shanghai Performing Arts Center, and the Jade Buddha Temple.  My apologies for taking so long to post!  
amethyst73: (China Temple of Heaven)
    About a week before we left for China the huz picked up two copies of what was formally known as the Tour Bible, a booklet with suggestions of what to pack, how to behave, what not to talk about, etc. It was bound in red, which quickly earned it the nickname of the Medium Red Book (after Mao Zedong's Little Red Book). It had the following Ten Commandments for Travelers, which I reproduce here:

1. Thou shalt not expect to find things as thou hast at home, for thou has left home to find things different.

2. Thou shalt not take anything too seriously, for a carefree mind is the start of a a good holiday.

3. Thou shalt not let other travelers get on thy nerves, for thou hast paid good money to enjoy thyself.

4. Thou shalt bring twice as much money and half as many clothes as thou thinkest, as the one shall become the other by the end of thy trip.

5. Thou shalt know at ALL times where thy passport is, for a person without a passport is a person without a country.

6. Remember that if thou hast been expected to stay in one place, thou wouldst have been created with roots rather than feet.

7. Thou shalt not worry, for she that worrieth hath no pleasure, and few things are that fatal.

8. When in foreign lands, do as the natives do.*

9. Thou shalt not judge the people of a country by the person who hath given thee trouble.

10. Remember thou art a guest in other lands, and he that treateth his host with respect shall be honored.*

(*These two commandments are those most frequently broken.)

    In addition to the usual clothing, bug spray, and other material goods, the Medium Red Book also suggested packing a supply of "patience, kindness, and good humor." Keeping this instruction in mind helped us keep our sanity on a few occasions!

Mountains, maglevs, and dinner and hotel strangeness )
    The night before we left, I had the ill luck to hit the first 'wet symptoms' night of the cold that I'd been fighting with for the past few days. This meant that I slept rather less than I would have liked; fortunately, all I had to do was to sit on a plane all day. Our wonderful friend and neighbor [info]nezumiko drove us to Stanford campus to catch the bus to the airport, for which we arrived in plenty of time. While waiting for the bus, we made our first new chorus friends, a theme that would continue throughout the trip. Stanford Symphonic Chorus rehearses once a week, and both the huz and I have been singing in it for years, but there's a strong tendency throughout the group to get to know the five or six people with whom you sit, and not much of anybody else. There aren't any organized social gatherings as such, and rehearsal time is pretty focused on rehearsal. But during the trip, we were thrown together with different members of the group more often than not, so we got to know the names of a lot of people who before we'd only recognized as "someone in the chorus."
    The plane flight to Shanghai was close to 13 hours long, but it turned out to be a really neat 13 hours. Practically the entire back half of the plane was filled with members of our chorus and of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus (LACC), who would be singing with us for all our concerts. (Do click that link, by the way - you'll be treated to the sound of their singing, which is utterly divine!) Because of the ready-made camaraderie of traveling with such a large group of people, all of whom were going for the same purpose, the flight turned into an all-night party. We made friends with our seatmate (naturally another member of our group) and an 11-year old boy who was in the LACC.
    Partway through the flight, someone looked out of the window, and found we were flying over the Kamchatka Peninsula, sticking out from Russia to the northeast of Japan. We got a couple of great pictures of the snowy mountain ranges:





    (Clicking on any image in this post will bring you to the slideshow of larger pictures in my Picasa account.)
    It was 5:30 PM, Tuesday June 24th when we arrived in Shanghai's Pudong International Airport. After having been repeatedly told about how crowded China was, it was kind of a shock to find the airport completely empty! We retrieved our luggage, walked through a metal detector and had our baggage X-rayed on the way out of the airport, and were taken in our bus groups to the first leg of our transportation into the city: the maglev train.
    China started building a maglev system some years ago. At present, it runs from the airport to the very edges of Shanghai, about 20 miles. When it performs its run at top speed (peaking at 400 km/hr, which it does only during certain times of day), it covers that distance in a mere 7 minutes. Because it was so expensive to build, that's all the distance that goes, making the train into the equivalent of an adult thrill ride and forcing the passenger to transfer to some other form of transportation if you want to get anywhere in the city proper. We'd loaded our luggage onto the buses prior to making out way to the maglev; if the buses weren't at the other end of the line before we were, they certainly weren't far behind. Clearly, we were taken on the maglev sheerly as a 'cool thing to show the Americans.' I attempted to take photos of the LED readout of the train's current speed when it peaked at 270 km/hr on our ride, but they came out too blurry to read.
    Next, we were delivered to a hotel different from the one at which we were staying for dinner. In typical Chinese banquet style, we were presented with a variety of traditional dishes: sweet and sour pork, beef and beans, lemon chicken, and... French fries???!?


French fries. Er, yum.

    The huz's assessment of the dinner overall: "Huh. It tastes like the Chinese food we get at home, only less authentic."
    Finally, the buses took us to the Jin Jiang Tower Hotel, a modern high-class hotel 42 floors high. The elevator buttons were sensitive to the lightest touch, enough so that we quickly learned to physically block our fellow elevator riders from accidentally leaning against the panel and lighting up half the buttons.
    Our room was on the 22nd floor. When one first entered the room, it looked like a totally standard 'nice' hotel room: a hall-like entrance with a door to the bathroom, followed by the main space of the bedroom. We were a little startled when we reached the bedroom proper and turned around to look at the wall separating the bed area from the bathroom:


Can I have some privacy, please?

    Fortunately, there was a shade that could be pulled down on the bathroom side! 
    The final surprise of the room was in the bathroom itself.  As we looked at the toilet, we noted with horrified fascination the electronic seat attachment that controlled not just the seat temperature, but the direction, general area, and temperature of water jets should one wish to use the seat as a bidet.  With blow-dry option, yet.  We never explored these options; we also failed to take a picture.
    That night I hit the second night of wet symptoms of my cold, and largely failed to sleep; happily, the huz slept just fine.

-------------

    NEXT: Our first full day in Shanghai!  The building that moved, a giant advertisement, the Shanghai Museum, and a dinner cruise.  These writeups are turning out to be huge amounts of work, so it'll probably be a good few days before it's up.

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