Been back a while now but thought I would continue sharing my “Notes from the Road” so here goes….Part 1 is here if you missed in, onto the next part now.
When I last shared notes from the road, I was still talking about the flight over there. On the long haul flight, I sat next to a two year old. Now, when I say that, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, poor you! You lost the airline seat lottery or at least somehow deeply angered the great Gods of roaming gnomes!” But, in this case, you’d be wrong. She was quite fun to be with, this little girl was. She only cried or made a fuss one time and that was when she bumped her head (in all fairness, I would have cried too had I bumped my head.) What a charming little lady, I still can’t believe it.
I had my first dumpling on the plane. They served us two meals, as they frequently do on those long haul flights. The first was some kind of fish, I think tilapia with potatoes. Nothing to write home about but not bad either. The second meal was fried rice and a chicken dumpling. Oh, now that was fabulous! Probably one of the better meals I’ve had on a plane in a lone time. It had fresh fruit and ginger cake. Really very good.
After the long flight it was onto Shanghai Airport. This was quite an adventure. I had to switch terminals. I had no idea Shanghai Airport is one of the larger airports in the world or some such thing. It had been described to me (by the Internets…never trust the Internets) as being “small for a city of such size.” Don’t believe the hype. Phew! What an airport. It’s big. It’s divided into two terminals: Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Logically named, yes, but logic does not get you too far in terms of airport terminals these days. One terminal is reserved for mostly international flights, while the other is mostly local transport. The international airport was bustling with shops, restaurants, lots of people mulling about, and all sorts of activity. Luckily, I had six hours of layover. I had to go through customs and inspections, baggage claim, switch terminals, and meet up with my contact. Phew! I needed about two days for all of that. The customs line took about an hour. It was slow moving with a lot of pokes and prods here and there. Then, I had to do baggage claim which was fun and go off to security but first find the other terminal. Turns out they have a shuttle bus going between terminals so I had to juggle all luggage onto and off of the shuttle bus, not to mention find it first. I mentioned I had six hours, right? Yeah, there goes one right there. Eventually, I found my way to the local terminal where it was a bit strange to be the only non-Asian person for what felt like miles. Welcome to Shanghai! It’s China now and I loved it. Actually, it reminded me a bit how the world is a small place. We are all interconnected people and people are people where ever you go. Bustling airports tend to resemble each other the world over but it still felt a bit like magic being lost in this new one, completely on the other side of the world.
I planted myself next to a potted plant and waited for my contact Beth to arrive. I had no idea what she looked like so I just walked up to any non-Asian female and asked, “Beth?” I stopped three people in as many hours before they announced the plane loading. I was getting a little worried when I saw a lady walk up. I shouted, “Beth?” and she replied, “Carol!” She was very happy to see me and I was super happy she had made the flight. She told me about her ordeal, of sorts. Luckily, she had met a German tour guide who helped her navigate customs and she made the flight as it was boarding. Thank goodness nobody got left behind in Shanghai and we were on our way to Guilin now.
The plane was very modern and nice, the flight short, and we touched down (hard I might add-turns out the pilots in China like harder landings than the rest of the world) in Guilin at 11:55 pm, just before midnight. We met our guide at the airport who took us to a waiting car which would transport us to the hotel. It’s about an hour from the airport to hotel, really that much time between the airport and anywhere else in the city, but a little bit less at midnight without traffic so we clocked in at 1 am. The hotel is lovely, more to come on this later.
While in line in customs, I heard somebody behind me talking English. Turned out to be a couple from Toronto. She was on a cruise with about 100 more Canadians and I had somehow gotten in the middle of this group of travelers as we passed into customs, waiting in line to process. She was very rude and loud and all I could think was, “Phew! At least she’s Canadian.” She kept insisting the “airport people” speak English. I told her that it was China and she should learn Chinese if she wanted to converse. She kept insisting, “But it’s an airport. They should all learn 50 words in English!” Yes, lady, it’s an airport, but it’s a Chinese airport. What do you expect? Do you even speak one word of Chinese or make an attempt? Have a phrase book? Try to learn or even slow down while you’re speaking? At one point, she used the dreaded, “these people” expression. Really? “These people!” I really hate that expression and personally try to ban it while traveling. Yes, I know we’re all tired, it’s late, you’re hungry and have been stuffed on a plane for what seems like an eternity but, come on, “these people.” Don’t blame the people who work in the airport. They are doing a job and trying to help you. For the most part, the world over, I have found that people who work in airports are trying to help. “These people” are just like you, lady. Enough on my soapbox, let’s just say I’m glad that I did not get strip searched because I was standing next to her as I passed through customs.
While in line in customs, I also heard a familiar language. Sounded a bit like Spanish but not quite so I asked, “Italiano?” The man, just having heard my accent and recognizing it, he responded, “No, we speak Portuguese.” He was very nice and went on to tell me they were visiting from Brazil and that Portuguese is a beautiful language. A nice “ambassador” for Brazil right there. It amazes me how some can be so pleasant and some so harsh although this is a first for me. Nasty Canadians? I’ve not heard that before but there you have it.
The hotel is on a side street which is nice, kind of off the beaten path. It’s more quiet although I should point out they like to light off firecrackers at all hours of the day and night. It’s loud but part of the story. While I could have done without the firecrackers at 3am I can’t claim to want to banish them completely either. VPN access is spotty and I wind up spending most of my time away from the computer so no worries there. I have to, at some point, upload some pictures, right?
These are my notes from my arrival and landing in Shanghai and my very first night in Guilin. I’ll continue with my notes from the road, Guilin version at some point in the near future.
Until next time…
PS This image taken in the apothecary aka “medicine market” in a quiet little hidden area of Guilin. It was most charming down this way and I really enjoyed strolling through this part of the city.