Archive for July, 2007

A note to my wife (she told me to share)

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

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Hello my Sweet,

It’s 11 AM Saturday morning (Friday night your time), I’m sitting on the train to Hong Kong and we should be pulling out of the station shortly. My sponsors bought me a “Special Class” seat so I’m on the top level of a double-decker coach with room to spread out and a large window. I anticipate a relaxing 2-hour ride with the goddess and a beautiful view. This is not the thrill I get with the upstairs of a 747 but it will do. Actually, it is quite special after all.

So writing this note to you is my way of taking you along for the ride. I will email it later today from the hotel. By the way, I will stay at the J.W. Marriott in Hong Kong.

So to randomly catch you up on some things I keep forgetting when we talk:

My new shaver works amazingly well. The shave is incredibly close without razor bumps so far. The difference has been my skin tingles more after and it itches some. I think the remedy for that will be using some type of lotion, maybe vitamin E, to soothe my skin. I really like the look and feel though. What I’ve used for 20 years or more is not made for shaving and may have affected my skin with the excessive rubbing to get a close shave. Once I solve the after efect, I think it will work. So far, I’m happy I made the change.

The train is finally moving and the smoothness of the ride is noticeably different that the high speed trains in Japan. I remember not feeling the sensation of moving, it was so smooth there. Here it feels like a wheel is unaligned because there is some trembling with an annoying rattle. Kind of makes it difficult to type. But I’m not complaining… I am in route to Hong Kong.

This is another example of how Japan and China are so different. Here you see old cell phones, big old TV’s, antiquated computers and dated technology. China is able to mass-produce and manufacture technology and goods for other countries but I don’t think the Chinese have access to much of what they produce. I really noticed it while working in the newsroom of the local newspaper. They use a generation of computers and technology that we used awhile back. And I don’t mean last year. Japan is the opposite; they have access to and are all about utilizing advancements.

We have passed though a few small cities (glad I got my shots) and it’s different. The buildings look old and basic. Don’t get me wrong; many areas of Guangzhou have old communities, right next to new developments as well. The difference here is, people are living in more of a horizontal world as opposed to a vertical world in Guangzhou. In a city with 9 million people, everything is built straight up to better utilize space. People are stacked on top of each other. In the small towns we’ve passed, they seem to spread out a little more, but in a lot of squalor. I see trash stored on a lot of roofs. I wonder if that is to keep it from rats or more cover for the roof.

We hit a rural community quickly after leaving the city and it looks like a predominantly farming area. I have only seen one or two cows but a lot of crops I can’t identify. We crossed a few rivers that have some boat movement but they all look very commercial.

And speaking of rivers, the Pearl River runs through Guangzhou and the traffic on it is amazing. Starting in the early morning, large barges and ships constantly move up and down it. It looks like an accident waiting to happen but they know what they are doing. Most of the ships are sitting low in the water so I would guess they are full of products. The Pearl has a very rich history too. This river was once the center of commerce for China. Most imports and exports came through their port. The world’s richest man once lived here and he prospered because of the trade business. The leaders are very proud of the city’s rich history. Normally after toast number 10, with shots of rice liquor, they love to tell it. Our group of westerners tried to hide our glasses after toast number 3. That’s when the steamed chicken feet started to look edible.

I told you 2 reporters took me to an authentic Cantonese restaurant for dinner but I’m not sure if I finished the entire story. We later went to the square (quad) at the main university. It’s a gathering spot for not just students but the surrounding community. People were roller-skating, exercising, practicing Thai Chi and just socializing. There was a large group of people doing ballroom dancing. Anybody could walk up and join in. The teacher looked Cuban, very dashing and handsome, tight pants and all. He would show the group 2-3 steps at a time until they had an entire routine. It was fun to watch. You could tell some of the participants were regulars because they wore dance shoes, had scarves around their waists, wore leotard tops and had that damn duck-walk, like dancers. And those were just the men. Dancing With the Stars has definitely reached China.

The high point of the evening was the last stop at the Pink Room. Imagine a very cool club, low lights, trendy decor and full of nothing but Chinese people with funky hair in their hippest clothes. Okay, that doesn’t seem unimaginable. Now add the dj who is spinning nothing but hip-hop. I’m talking all-the-way-live Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Ludacris and Tupac. Must have been edited versions because I heard every a-thru-z word except the n-word (I applaud them on that). It was surreal.

I had to wait a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the low light, and then it took me almost an hour to adjust to what I was seeing. Chinese people getting down and mouthing hip-hop. And that’s not all. Now imagine the wildest, sexiest, in-your-face rap video you’ve ever seen and that’s what I saw when the Go-Go girls came on. They were working it. You know my theory about butts and why they are now universal because of McDonald’s food. Yep, there are McDonalds aplenty in Guangzhou.

I’m not sure where we are along the train route but parts have been very pretty. A lot of rolling green hills and farms. Probably only 30 minutes more to Hong Kong. I should have looked at a map to trace the route (Ron would have) to know which cities we pass through.

It’s now 7 PM Saturday, I checked in earlier, went to Shanghai Tang (good call), walked around taking pictures and I’m about to meet George and his wife for drinks and dinner. I am having a blast but wish you were here.

Earlier I didn’t understand why the cab driver from the train station and the ones to and from Shanghai Tang gave me funny looks. It appears I’m the only person who did not know they do not use the same Mainland Chinese money in Hong Kong. Sorry guys… now I know.

I love you darling

John

Now that I’ve told you what I’m doing…

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

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It just dawned on me that I have no idea what’s going on in your lives. I’m sure I can count on each of you to comment with one thing that’s happening with you. Hit me up, pleeze.

Link to China photos

Shanghai, Beijing, Atlanta and Tokyo?

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

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And don’t ask me which day!

I haven’t updated the blog since July 3rd and since then I have logged over 15,000 miles, watched 5 in-flight movies, landed in 2 different countries and now have 4 hours to kill, might as well do it now. I’m at the Tokyo Narita airport awaiting a connecting flight to Guangzhou, China. Since the last blog, we returned to Beijing for 2 days, flew back to Atlanta for 3 and now I’m in route back to China.

SHANGHAI:
It felt like someone slipped kryptonite in my hip pocket because I hit a wall on day 9. I never felt sick but totally devoid of energy. You know it’s bad when you’re nodding off at the same time you’re downing cups of strong coffee and that’s exactly what happened. I could not stay awake. Fred left me in the hotel room and she hit Shanghai by herself… which explains the 10 shopping bags when she returned.

BEIJING:
We flew back to Beijing on day 10 and it was her turn to hit a wall. We chilled and took that day to plan our next day excursion. We met our driver Tuesday at 7:30 AM and made our first stop at the Temple of Heaven. The sights and sounds around the park were mesmerizing. There were people dancing, practicing Thai Chi, tour groups and even a large impromptu choir circled and singing Chinese folk songs.

Next stop was the Summer Palace where the emperor(s) would sorta vacation during the hotter months. The emperor and his stable of concubines, that is (It was good to be the emperor). The palace is a magnificent property with a large lake and beautiful garden, right in the middle of the city. We were told wonderful stories about the different emperors and Empress Ci Ci

We stopped for lunch at one of the government run restaurants and it was by far the cleanest place I saw in China. It may be the cleanest place I’ve ever dined in life. But lets just say the cleanliness factor was the bright spot there.

We hit the Great Wall around 2 PM with high humidity and an even higher tourist count. But there is something about going almost vertical that weeds out the weak. The crowd thinned out the higher we got. There are sections of the wall where each step is about the height of 3 normal steps and buddy you have to work hard. We went up the East Mountain wall and I was soaking wet after 50 yards. Being the caring wife she is, Fredi would occasionally stop her skipping up the wall to allow me to catch up. It’s a good thing I don’t have an ego. We reached the highest point along that section and just marveled at this wonder. How did they do it?

Caught a flight to Atlanta the next morning and arrived just before fireworks time on the 4th. Too pooped to go watch, plus the little man was so excited about our return and we didn’t want to take him out

So here I am in Tokyo on July 8th heading back to China.

Old Shanghai, New Shanghai

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

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Shanghai, Day 8

Today it feels like we walked or taxied around most of Shanghai. With what seems like every other tourist in the city, we started the day with a loud, hurry up and wait, shoulder-to-shoulder tour of the Oriental Pearl Tower, but ended the day with a quiet, relaxing, romantic dinner at M On The Bund. Between those two stops we were mostly grabbed, chased, stalked, harassed and propositioned by vendors selling designer wares. Rolex, Kate Spade, LV and Gucci have definitely cornered the street sales market.

We visited Old Town and Yu Garden then walked to the Bund area to find a cobbler shop featured in Departure magazine. Huang Mengqi (everybody calls me Denise) sells her beautiful hand-sewn silk slippers out of a shop that’s the size of a walk-in closet. It was like musical chairs in the shop when 4 other customers arrived. I’m convinced one of the women shoppers is a Chinese actress I have seen on the big screen.

The highlight of the day was definitely dinner at M On The Bund. The restaurant’s terrace overlooks the harbor and has the most amazing view. The night view of Shanghai’s skyline, neon and bustling streets is alone worth the trip. This city is alive, oozes decadence and is what an international city should be. We enjoyed our dinner and of course Fred, who hardly drinks, sipped her cocktail like it was a slurpee.

After a short spell on the terrace enjoying the intoxicating view, we tried to outrun the gauntlet of aggressive, touchy feely street vendors to find a cab. Believe it or not, one of them tried to shine my shoes while I was walking.