A Travellerspoint blog

We arrive in Hefei

Tomorrow is Hayley's day

We rose at a decent hour this morning, everyone was refreshed by the restful day on Tuesday, and went to breakfast around 9. By now, we know our way around the Marriott breakfast buffet bar. It was a morning for,( and this was everyone, not just me!) raisin bran, toast, omelets, fruit, juice, bacon, steamed meat buns, and other sundries. It's the best we have seen so far, though we hear that the Holiday Inn one here in Hefei, at the rotating restaurant on the 29th floor, is pretty good. It's nice to have a certain amount of familiarity, but we seem to be just getting used our surroundings when they change again!

Hannah showed up around 10:30 to give the girls one last go over to make sure they are packed and readyIMG_0634.jpg, and we were off for the airport. She also helped us negotiate a reasonable price for the embroidered laundry bags here. IMG_0635.jpg They are really neat rough cloth bags, and so each of us got one. Bruce also paused to get some more US currency exchanged. The Chinese hotels are really funny about this. They won't accept anything but bills in near mint condition. Any kind of tear or serious mark, they won't take. It's kinda funny; if they are worried about conterfeits, the older bills are the safest. Counterfeiters spend a lot of money to make their product look worn. It's more likely that that fresh new bill is fake, than an old worn one...but, we don't make the rules. We were later able to get the Holiday Inn to accept some that the Nanning Marriott had rejected.

We left a little later than we had wished, and traffic was pretty hectic for noon in Nanning. There is a ton of construction going on in all of the major Chinese cities (Your Walmart dollars at work) and Nanning is building a subway. If I know the Chinese, it will be fabulous...and heavily used.

We got to the airport late and had a hectic time going to the check-in,IMG_0637.jpg through security (lost to bottle of precious water) and ran to catch the bus to take us to the ariport out on the tarmac. (most Chinese airports don't pull up to runways, but have the old style movable staircases and have you run out, or off, on buses. See my pic of one back at Hong Kong.

I just want to say that Bruce and I are so grateful for everything that Hannah did for us. There is a lot that wasn't talked about in this blog. Hannah and the girls really bonded. We hope to be able to keep in touch with her by email. IMG_0639.jpgWe were the last to get on the plane, and were thus scattered around the plane. I was frantic as I was tracking the Cardinal game at home and it was reaching the 14th inning when I had to turn off my "portable electronic device". I didn't know we had won until we hit the ground in Hefei.

We breezed through luggage and were out to meet our new guide, Faye, and our driver, Mr. Chen. IMG_0641.jpg The Hefei airport is very new. It's only a few months old! Everything looks up to date. We drove down a few 6 to 8 lane wide boulevards to get to the downtown area.IMG_0651.jpg All along, there were buildings in differing stages of destruction and construction.(Note the "Golden Arches" at the bottom of this picture) Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes abounded. What is going on here? Hefei was nothing like this, says Bruce, the last time he was here in 2005. It's a boom town. I hope to find out more about what the main source of growth is. Also, every car looks like this one.Covered with the dirt of the distant Gobi, and the dust of construction. IMG_0649.jpgMany more people are riding scooters and motorcycles...with medical face masks or bandanas across their faces. The sting and stress of air pollution is palpable. But there are lots of cute scenes as well. IMG_0650.jpg

Faye got us settled in with the staff at the hotel, we unpacked a little and relaxed. Bruce, Laurie, and I when through the hotel. IMG_0658.jpgThere are several types of restaurants, fitness club, swimming pool, and an indoor mall on the 2nd and 3rd floors of all the blue blood nose in the air variety. One thing was clear to us: the clientele are no longer the Europeans; it's Chinese. Interesting stuff, indeed.

Eventually, we came back from our scouting excursion and made a few decisions.

1) We would eat at the reasonably priced noodles place tonight
2) We will be eating breakfast at the rotating restaurant on the 29th floor tomorrow and Friday.
3) God bless 50 Yuan coupons. WE saw the menu, and it would devour us.

The noodles place was a great choice tonight. I had the beef fried rice, Laurie and Hayley had beef noodles, and Bruce took over Hayley's noodles with beef and cumin because it was too spicy. Bruce dunked his head in ice water afterwards and all had a nice time. We notice that Chinese like to talk a lot over dinner, and it's a good thing we don't know what they are saying because we wouldn't be able to avoid hearing the whole conversation. They are great fun and easy to make connections with , but it's also hard to have a quiet moment to yourself unless you are in your hotel room.

We tried to get an ice cream to defeat the Mt. Vesuvius sending magma down Bruce's mouth but we were out of luck. We did find the coffee bar open, and I got an ice vanilla latte.IMG_0666.jpg It was made old style with the syrup on the bottom. We all spontaneously applauded when the little girl finished. I think she was a little embarrassed, but also quite proud and pleased that we had noticed the attention to detail she was giving my latte which was served in a tall parfait glass.

It was now time to go to bed, but before we did, the kids got a couple of gourmet chockys at the coffee shop, and we went up to the swim pool to give Hayley a look at it. Tomorrow, I have promised to go swimming with her, and I think I'll look forward to it after the two hour trip to the Anhui Province SWI. Four total hours in the car. Bring something to do!

See you tomorrow!

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 07:22 Comments (0)

Nanning Day One.

We see the Social Welfare Institute and meet Laurie's foster family

semi-overcast 94 °F
View Preston Family Trip to China on Kwpres's travel map.

A groggy foursome emerged from their berth to a mad scene of the train emptying onto a boiling sea of humanity. The Chinese do not have a tradition of forming queues, so you had best be calmly persistent on gaining a spot in a crowd and holding your own. They are used to bumping, pushing and being aggressive without antagonism. As we exited the station, we were met by our guide, Hannah, and found that she had been given the wrong train number and train information. She was quite relieved to have found us at 5:35 am!

We were led to an open parking lot where our luggage was loaded in a van and off we went to the Marriott Nanning!large_IMG_0601__1280x276_.jpg We arrived at our hotel at 6am, and as you can imagine, they did not have rooms available for us yet. We were told they would be available for us to shower and get ready for our day at 8am. So we decided to get our included breakfast while we waited. IMG_0606.jpgIMG_0604.jpg

We headed over to the Nanning Social Welfare InstituteIMG_0270.jpg IMG_0287.jpgand Hannah led the way interviewing people at the buildings to see if anyone could help us locate Laurie's files and identify any workers who might have remembered "wan ping" or "pingping" as some knew herIMG_0283.jpg. While there might have been a few who knew her back then there was no definite connection and the files remain confidential. This is understandable. We toured the grounds and spoke to many who do work there, wandered over to the area where Laurie was for a while. IMG_0278.jpg The building has been torn down and we were told that the lot will soon have new construction on it.IMG_0276.jpg

Later, she took us back to our hotel for some rest. We were still a little groggy after our all night train trip, so it was nice to have a little down time and get a nice relaxing lunch at the Marriott. A burger, a club sandwich, and some fries later, Laurie went to the room for some quiet reading while Bruce and Keith blogged and Hayley swam in the pool until she pickled.

At 5:30, Hannah met us in the lobby and we walked over to the Red Forest Hotel for our dinner with Laurie's foster family.Here we see Hannah with the foster daddy and his sisters in law.IMG_0614.jpg The foster mother had passed on a number of years earlier, but the father, aunties, and spouses joined the four of us and Hannah for a delightful dinner.

Chinese dinners are a communal affair. Meat dishes are often served with all body parts intact so that you know it was fresh.IMG_0620.jpg I won't show you the chicken dish! Several dishes and courses are ordered and put on a rotating glass center table that is turned by the diners so that you can get a taste of all the wonderful local dishes.large_IMG_0619.jpg There were lively discussions a plenty, and much of it was not dependent on "language" communications. We exchanged gifts, stories, laughter, recieved advice on raising two little girls, and said farewells.IMG_0613.jpg It was clear that they were very happy to have seen "Wan Ping" again and to know she was happy, healthy, and with a loving family. IMG_0616.jpg It was one of the high points of the trip so far and one that we were unsure was possible. Once again, it was Hannah who tracked the family down. Bruce and Joanne had kept writing to them for a number of years, but things disconnected when the mother became ill.

It was time to head back to our room and get ready for a busy Tuesday seeing museums and other "air conditioned" sites!

I have been having quite a bit of trouble accessing this site from my tablet (which is how I get my pictures loaded up. I'm going to go ahead and post this one even though the pictures stop in the middle of this post because that's when I lost connection through my tablet and am finishing this post through my iPad (for some reason, it's getting through. Go figure) Hopefully it will be resolved and I can add more pictures to this post later on.

But I want to get caught up, so here's Monday's activities!

More later,

Keith

UPDATE: I seem to have better connectivity, but can't see the new pictures I have uploaded. How do they look? Tell me in the comments section

Posted by Kwpres 04:43 Archived in China Comments (0)

A quiet day in Nanning

Owing to some weather and environmental issues, not to mention a good opportunity for some quiet time together, our 2nd day in Nanning was a quiet affair. After a nice breakfast this morning, we spent time
relaxing, reconstituting our luggage, and doing laundry and other necessary items! Hannah has been a great help in getting needed items here in Nanning and we look forward to taking her to dinner tonight.

We will be checking out of the hotel early Wednesday morning and look forward to our time in Hefei even though it should be hot!

We will have a regular blog post Wednesday night (Wednesday morning for all you folks in the USA).

Xai Jian

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 04:16 Comments (0)

Xia Jian Guilin, Ni Hao Nanning

A cozy train ride takes us to Nanning

sunny 95 °F
View Preston Family Trip to China on Kwpres's travel map.

We knew that there was a lot of excitement that had been generated over the last few days and the girls needed some rest. They both slept through most of the outdoor show, which was a shame, and so we let Sandy know that we would start our last day's sightseeing in Guilin after lunch.

This was a wise move because they both slept till 9:30. We finally got downstairs for our "breakfast" at around 11,large_IMG_0548.jpg and just took time getting repacked for our night train to Nanning. We took the opportunity to have our breakfast by the side of the river that passes Moondance Boutique Resort. IMG_0555.jpgWe want to thank Roland and his staff. I promised to put a nice review on Trip Advisor in the future. It was an extraordinary experience.IMG_0552.jpg

Sandy took us on a long car ride to the other touristy area of Guilin: Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Park, and Fubu Hill. The Reed Flute Cave reminded me of my first date with my sweet wife. We went to Meramec Caverns (Hey, it was January 2nd, nothing much was open, and it was warm for a January excursion. Neither of us had been, but we had both seen the billboards!) We left that experience almost convulsed with unintended laughter because of the schmaltzy light show. The Chinese have taste. Every main area is lit with muted colorful lights in a way to literally illuminate the formation before you. Think of it like the Chinese version of watching clouds go by and using your imagination as to what it portrays. IMG_0567.jpg It was delightful and awe-inspiring. It was also nice and cool. The days are usually in the mid to upper 90s and the humidity is near 100%. It's clear that we will need to be on our toes to stay well hydrated. Tap water is not potable for foreigners (who don't have a built up immunity to little critters in the water supply) so we are going to have to keep after our guides to help us find cold bottled water as we progress.

After the cave, we were asked if we would like to see how silk is made from cocoons or how pearls are recovered. We were prepared for this. In Korea, they asked us if we wanted to view a cloisonne factory. We took a pass. In China, our guides are often compensated by the government and tourism is a critical part of the economy now. We like Sandy a lot and we want to keep him in good stead with his "employer, so we said yes to the silk business. It was a soft-sell/hard sell (if you know what I mean)IMG_0247.jpg but we took a pass on most of the "suggestions" and let the girls pick out a couple of scarfs to meet our obligations. IMG_0249.jpg I looked at shirts, but the kind of silk shirts I like were not there. They were much more...uh...sheer.

Next up was a visit to the Elephant Trunk Park,IMG_0252.jpg so named because of a big elephant-shaped rock formation that looks like the elephant is drinking in the water. The heat wave and accompanying dry weather of late has led to a lower level for the river, and the locals joke that the elephant has drunk much of the water!IMG_0257.jpg Hey, that wasn't us, that's some of those locals! We get revenge by staying on the bridge. Don't believe me?808776802219AC6817090899CE726197.jpg The park was nice, but also full of hawkers who saw the foreigners come their way. One learns to be nice but firm unless you see something you want. I think I will be doing a lot of my souvenir hunting at the panda reserve in Chengdu.

Finally, we went by a statue of General Fubu of the Tan Dynasty.IMG_0264.jpg He looks like Chou Yung Fat should be portraying him by the looks of his statue. Meanwhile, Keith Too Fat was seen accompanied by Hayley Tu Hungry and Laurie So Happy. IMG_0573.jpg The hill in his name has 290 steps up to the top. After realizing what is within my current state of conditioning from the Infiltration Tunnel, I took my leave of the group at the mid-point pavilion and got lucky with this incredible panorama shot of the city you see here. It was worth the trip.large_IMG_0574.jpg

We then had dinner at a little restaurant that had "less adventuresome" food, called the Left Banke. No, there was no French cuisine, but we did get spaghetti bolognese, grilled ham and cheese, and open faced grilled cheese with bacon. It was necessary because it was a quick turn-around in order to get to the stage show with local talent in ethnic minority costumes. IMG_0584.jpg Acrobats,IMG_0587.jpg dance, even a pretend Yao wedding (the groom was recruited from the audience and all had fun with the joke). Again, we didn't understand much of it, though some songs had wonderful large screen projected background complete with english translations,IMG_0591.jpg but we didn't need that. We had front row seats (we paid the premium price) and a great time.

Finally, we decided that we were out of gas and asked to be taken to the train station early. Sandy was surprised but complied, and he stayed with us and even came on the train to help us find our "cozy" little cabin. large_IMG_0600.jpg The girls slept well, IMG_0598.jpgBruce got some shut eye, and I failed to get comfortable, but nonetheless was comforted and rested by the wonderful experience of our time in Guilin.

Ok, Nanning, the bar has been set high!

Tomorrow, a day in Nanning, the Social Welfare Institute, and a nighttime dinner with Laurie's foster dad, family, and friends.

Xai Jian,

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 16:30 Archived in China Tagged landscapes mountains beaches bridges art skylines people night trains Comments (1)

A day of wonder

LI River Cruise, Yangshuo County, and the Cultural Impressions of Liushanjie

sunny 95 °F

We got started a little later than we had intended, so when Sandy showed up on time, we hadn't had breakfast. The buffet area is on the second floor of the atrium at Sheraton GuilinIMG_0202.jpg, so Sandy suggested we run up there and put together some to go boxes (since we had paid for a buffet!) They returned with a smile on their faces and a bounty of tasty treats for a quick breakfast on the run.IMG_0212.jpg

Like a typical tourist, I was snappin pics of all the karst mountains around us on the road to the dockIMG_0215.jpg, full aware that things were going to be amazing on the cruise, but there is no preparing one for the reality of the Li River Cruise. We followed Sandy to our boatIMG_0440.jpg, among dozens getting ready to leave at the same time, and found our way into our air-conditioned cabinIMG_0442.jpg and our seats lined up.IMG_0445.jpgIMG_0231.jpg

Once on our way, we quickly went above on the roof to see the glorious landscapes. At this point, it's best to let the pictures speak for themselves. This is a taste of 4 hours on the Li River.IMG_0219.jpgIMG_0227.jpglarge_IMG_0458.jpg
large_IMG_0459.jpgIMG_0218.jpgIMG_0224.jpgIMG_0230.jpg

After the cruise, we went through the gauntlet of hawkers wanting us to buy every little thing on West Street before coming out harried but no lighter in our pocketbooks. IMG_0505.jpgMany will buy something just so they will leave them alone, but it only makes it worse. We will find more civilized places to get our souvenirs for family. We decided to spend several hours letting the kids play in the pool and even Uncle Keith swam and floated with the glorious karst peaks in the background. We got showered and came downstairs for dinner at 7.

Dinner at Chinese hotels is often one course brought after another. IMG_0518.jpg It was a mixture of Western and Asian dishes and was much more than the four of us could even imagine trying to down. By 8:10pm, Sandy came and picked us up for the journey to an outdoor theater. large_IMG_0521.jpgThere is a local legend of a young girl, and mean landlord, and family strife that is inspiring for the locals and containing folk songs that EVERYONE knows, and many sing along with. It's very Asian sounding to westerners and I find it wonderful.

The show we saw has been performing here since 2004. I'd guess it's like China's Fantastiks. The lights, costumes, and backdrops are stunning. The surrounding peaks are softly illuminated at different parts of the show and it's an indescribable feeling to witness such a moving spectacle. I have no idea what they are saying, but the commonality of spirit is palpable. Bruce bought the DVD CD set and I look forward to seeing if it can communicate any of the sense of wonder one has.large_IMG_0538.jpg The Chinese love it too. It was a mad house, and we were at the second of three show that were performed that night! I will post more pictures of this in an update in a day or so. I am in a hotel with internet, but we will soon be picked up by Sandy for a day of sightseeing in the karst mountains with it formations, caves, and cottages.

Tonight, we will take a night train to Nanning for the first visit to a social welfare institute where the girls were cared for before being placed into our family for adoption. I think it likely it will be more than 24 hours before I can post again, but I will add more photos then. It just takes too long to upload them as we need to check out of the room in a few minutes!

Zai jian! (goodbye!)

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 21:05 Archived in China Tagged people Comments (1)

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