08.11.2012 49 °F
Lots of grumbling as we board a 6:00 bus to take us to the airport. 4:30 & 5:00 wake-up calls can make you grumpy. Breakfast on the bus was dull, dull, dull - roll, yogurt and a piece of fruit. During our stay here; most of us eagerly awaited the hotel breakfast buffet. No matter what nationality; you could find all sorts of tasty treats.
I'm in a window seat for the 2 hour flight between Beijing & Shanghai. As I look out the window I can't help but want to pinch myself - I'm in China and as far as I can see; it's China. I simply never expected to be here and I'm so grateful that Philip understood how much I wanted to see these places; even if China wasn't on his short list.
Beijing airport is enormous and beautiful. I believe someone told us it's the second largest airport terminal in the world and the fifth largest building in the world by area. So far everything in China is almost the biggest or about to be the biggest...that seems to be the mantra. I'm constantly on my blackbberry; checking out the facts and figures I'm hearing.
Arriving in Shanghai, it's raining - and it won't be stopping anytime soon. As our plane comes down thru the clouds I can see villages and rice fields in every direction. I used to love the color of the rice fields in the central California valley and these don't disappoint - they are golden before the harvest.
Shanghai airport located in Pudong
Besides our ever present guide, Bruce (for some reason, all the guides use weird english names; as tho we're too ignorant to learn to pronounce their given names) we are met by Ken and Vivian. Ken turns out to be a wonderful story teller.
We have a 3 hour bus ride to our next stop, Hangzhou. Ken tells us Marco Polo pronounced Hangzhou "the finest, most splendid city in the world . . . (see there's that better/best thing going again!) Since the bus windows are fogged over and it's misty and rainy outside; I'll take his word for it. We have two rest stops. You have to imagine roughly 20 women trying to use the one western toilet. I do know, from reading, Hangzhou's claim to fame is West Lake (Xi Hu).
Our bus arrives at the lake and it seems the mist has settled on the ground. I have my trusty LLBean, bright pink, rain jacket but I give in and buy a cheapie umbrella - it's the only way to protect myself from all the other who are carrying umbrella with the apparent intention of putting out my eye. We take a tour of the lake on a lovely old boat. I loved Ken's stories but you really had to imagine what the scenery looked like as visability was maybe 30'.
Our hotel is on the lake - glad we're only here a day. The rooms are huge - 20' ceilings views out to the lake but they are also musty smelling and cool. Someone said the heat doesn't come on until 7 PM. I don't think ours ever came on. I'm beat but roommate Linda still has energy. Her excitement and energy often revives me but not this evening.