Monday, October 29, 2012

Direct from China

Hello, world! We have finally been reconnected/unblocked with the rest of
the universe. Communication has been difficult in China, from lackluster Internet access to restricted access to lack of sleep and willpower. And for anyone who didn't know, Courtney and I took a trip to China to visit our longtime friend Kate Chandler. We left on October 20th and are on our way back home today (10/29/12). So we thought we'd share a few quick tidbits and photos that we have easy access to.

We had been trying to think of a good international trip for us for a while now since it would be our first (we don't count Mexico and Canada). We thought it would be perfect to knock out two birds with one stone and visit Kate AND have a personal tour guide that speaks the locals' language, and that's not always solely Mandarin. We grew up with Kate in Daphne and she has been one of Courtney's best friends for a long time. She was super excited to receive us and show us her life in Shanghai. We stayed with her in her apartment in the Four Seasons and as we quickly became accustomed to, even it was a knockoff. I will say though that the Chinese are very talented at replicating existing products. It was a super nice pad that would rival any luxury apartment in the States.

One if the first things we did was shop around at the "fake market." The market was real, but the authenticity of the products, let's say, could not be verified. We also got familiar with the city at the Urban Planning Museum, of which the contained a model of nearly every building in the city laid out in a gigantic room.

She then set us up on a tour of Shanghai, where we met up with one of her friends, Irene. But it's Kate Chandler, so it's not just any tour. It was Shanghai Sideways, and sometimes quite literally. We had two motorcycles with sidecars, each with it's own driver (more pics to come). Courtney and I traded out between sitting in the sidecar and behind the driver. We both agreed that it was one of the coolest things we've ever done. There's really nothing like a genuine close encounter with Chinese traffic.

Another obvious excursion(s) is the food in China. From street food to world class cuisine, we had it all. We always seemed to land in the best spots in town. Kate also had connections in Beijing that we took advantage of. One of the first phrases I learned was how to order another beer, 把另一瓶啤酒. Or "Zai lai ē ping PGO," as I phonetically recall it. Thanks Kate!

Of course getting around town on our own was usually by subway. As you can imagine, we were packed on there like sardines in a test tube. It was super cheap, like $1 for both of us one-way, so we did that when it was convenient.

The last 3 days of our trip were spent in Beijing. We all took the high-speed rail line on Friday and were completely overwhelmed by the intense pollution when we arrived in Beijing. The good thing is that it all blew away by the next day when we toured the Great Wall. Kate hooked us up with a driver all day that took us to a slightly less touristy part of the Great Wall. It was a lot of work, as I've never see so many steps in my life, but an amazing experience nonetheless. The skies cleared up even more as we continued our travels through the city.

Kate left us late Sunday afternoon to ride back home to Shanghai and work the next day. We don't know what we would've done without her. Well, maybe something along the line of "wait in this line, get lost here, get ripped off there, get lost again, get sick, repeat." China exceeded our expectations in nearly every way. Having said that, we are both extremely excited to get back home to see Max and Lucy!!

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