Hi Senior Newbies,
It's been a month and a half since me and the family returned from China. Its taken that long to process the trip. It wasn't really a vacation it was something more like a wierd day at work or an educational trip your dad took you on, even though I am the dad. The whole trip was exhausting. It was definitely one of those vacations you that need a vacation after the vacation.
Our itinerary: Beijing to see all the big sites - the kids loved the great wall and the fact that I got scammed by one of the vendors, # 49 to be exact, I paid way too much for a t-shirt. Lesson learned I never got taken again, probably "bargained" too hard with everyone else - and yes I could do that in Chinese.
We took the overnight train to Xian. The Beijing North train station is bigger than any station I have ever been in. It is loud, cacaphonous and filled with every class of people, many of them staring at us. Later in the trip I heard that the tour companies were not recommending train travel probably because the station is so scary. It is so not like anything western tourists would have ever experienced. The train itself was just like any European overnight train birth but the station is like a scene from one of the Starwars movies. Looking backwards I would love to do it again, kind of like going see the movie again. Needless to say the soldiers at Xian are amazing and so is the old wall and the rest of the city.
Next, Chengdu and the panda preserve. We lucked out. It was drizzly and cool, only in the 80's. We saw dozens of panda out and about.
Shanghai was back to being hot, really hot like most of our trip. The day we visited the Shanghai World's Fair it was over 100, luckily bottles of water were only 3 or 4 yuan and we found the Irish Pub for lunch. If it had been a pub in an American expo the food would have cost 3 times as much. One of our guides explained that food was one of those regulated things that the governemnt keeps affordable.
In the taxi on the way back from the Expo it took me several minutes to compose a question in my mind about a nice looking car driving next to us, I asked the driver if the car next to us was Chinese. He asked me if I was talking about the red one and I said yes. Then he launched into a response several sentences long. From the back seat I could hear my 12 year old laughingly say to my wife, "Dad doesn't have a clue what he is saying." If I didn't already know the answer, she would have been totally right.
Unfortunately that was my experience with a lot of my Chinese. I could talk a tiny bit and people could understand but I couldn't understand the response and I was usually too flustered to ask them to speak more slowly. It would be great to go back and stay in some place where no one could speak English for a while.
A trip to ChinesePod's office was one of the few times we did something without a guide. The other was Expo. Although once you have an address there is not much adventure in taking a taxi. Meeting Jenny in person was great and seeing the studio where the lessons are recorded was great too. Jenny gave us addresses for a big tea house and also to the Pearl Market to do some bargaining. From there we went across the street to the Famous Beef Noodle House where we had gigantic bowls of soup for lunch.
The next day there were monsoon like rains As we drove to airport through the sheets of water, we were worried that our plane wouldn't be able to take off on time but we did and 30 hours later we were home.
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