25.07.2014 - 26.07.2014 33 °C
Well, our adventure to China has begun and for the most part our first impressions have been very positive. The drive from the airport had us wide eyed and marvelling at the modern highways (relatively free of traffic jams) and large vehicles (everything from Buick Lacrosse to Audis and Mercedes Benz).
This does not seem like a Communist country except for the blocking of Facebook, Twitter, Google and anything else that might link to the outside world. Let the Facebook detox begin. It is amazing of the extra time you have without Facebook and Twitter.
We have no complaints with the hotel, Ritz Carlton Portman. The hotel prides itself on outstanding service and they deliver. We accidentally put the electronic Do Not Disturb sign on our door this morning so the room hasn't been made up. A quick call to housekeeping had them scrambling to make up our room. And they were the ones apologizing!
After a gigantic breakfast with more varieties of food than anyone can ask for we found our tribe for the next 2 weeks. Viking River Cruises have sold the entire ship to about 250 people. We are divided into 8 groups of 30 passengers who will be our travelling group for the entire trip. We have a great group of mostly Americans and mostly from the east coast, Rhode Island and New Jersey. There is one other one other Canadian couple from Vancouver. Interestingly most of our tribe are teachers......seems we are the only ones crazy enough to travel during the height of the hot season.
Today was spent sightseeing in Shanghai our tour guide, Iowa. Yes, just like the state. His Chinese name is Aihua and Iowa is the closest to his Chinese name. It is always interesting to see how the Chinese select an English name. His Chinese name translates to "love China". He makes a good point that a tour guide who does not love their own country cannot be a very good tour guide.
Our first stop was Old Shanghai. We learned of how everything symbolizes something. I hope I get them right - I would hate to mess up my Feng Shui. Here are just a few; tortoises for long life, cranes for prosperity, lotus flower for clarity and many more we can't recall. Maybe I should get a lotus flower for some more clarity! We toured the Yu Gardens and then were released into the market area. It is total craziness and you want to go into the stores, otherwise you are hounded by the street salespeople. Add to that we have these wonderful Viking name tags making you an easier mark because they can call you by name. I heard this person talking to Marty on the street with, "Hey Marty, wanna buy a watch?" I wondered how the guy know his name already!
Our afternoon was spent on the Bund (river walk), seeing silk embroidery art, silk carpet making and indulging in a Mongolian barbeque lunch and a stop at the Shanghai Museum to see the ancient calligraphy, furniture and ceramics. Our night was capped off with a 90 minute Peking Acrobat show. We are still a bit jet lagged but managed to see most of the show. Very interesting And very similar to what I remember seeing in Calgary when I was very young.
There is so much more to write about. But first back to the delicious breakfast and our flight to Wuhan and our Yangtze River Cruise.