China Trip October 2017

There is so much to report that I'm overwhelmed. I'll start with some observations and comments.

Comments

Chronology -

Oct 11 - To SFO
Oct 12 - Missed this date crossing the international dateline.
Oct 13 - Beijing, Hotel. Croque-monsieur.
Oct 14 - Tienanmen square, Forbidden city, Peking duck dinner
Oct 15 - National Museum of China, Birds nest, Great wall, dinner buffet
Oct 16 - Rickshaw ride, Old Chinatown, Home visit, Tea ceremony, Bell tower, The Temple of Heaven, Afternoon off.
Oct 17 - Beijing airport! Xi-an, Tomb museum, Muslim market, Mosque, Hotel.
Oct 18 - Hotel, Terracotta warriors! Cave house, art museum, dinner, music show.
Oct 19 - Shangxi History Museum, Wild Goose Pagoda, Buying items, Xi'an city wall, lunch, Statues, French dinner.
Oct 20 - Hotel, Fly to Guilin, Reed Flute Cave, Lunch, Irish Pub, Great Wall wine.
Oct 21 - Li river cruise,  Beautiful Guilin, Wedding, Buffet dinner
Oct 22 - Village market, Lunch, (Chongqing J.W. Marriot)
Oct 23 - Pandas, Lunch, Dazu Rock Carvings
Oct 24 - Flower market, Lunch, Chinatown market, Three Gorges Museum, Hot Pot Dinner, Boarded  the cruise boat.
Oct 25 - Cruising on the Yangtze, Visited Precious Stone Fortress/Red Pavilion, Crew show.
Oct 26 - Cruising on the Yangtze, A side trip, Happy Birthday Debbie, Crew show, Locks.
Oct 27 - Tour of the Three Gorges Dam, pause at a hotel, Coffee, Flew to Shanghai
Oct 28 - Walking tour, Communist revolution museum, Beautiful Yuyan Garden, Lunch, Art and History Museum, High rise hotel, Acrobat show + motorcycles, drink at the top
Oct 29 - Bund tour, Silk shop, Hike/metro/tower, Last dinner
Oct 30 - Fly home

After thoughts

Oct 11 - Picked up by our taxi buy - Pratap. He gives us a discount so we won't take Uber and we pay him in cash.

Got on our United flight about 1pm. It looked like a new plane so I assumed it would be very nice... Nope. It was configured 3,4,3. We were in the center with an aisle seat and next. The seat braces were such that there was no room for my feet. The seat was narrow and hard. The trip was one of the most difficult I've ever taken. No sleep. (back)

Oct 13 - Arrived in Beijing. A normal looking airport. We went through customs, got our bags and walked out looking for our Smithsonian greeter. Michael was there. We were the last people at this time. A few others had been waiting. On the bus and to the hotel. Traffic was suprising. Beautiful freeways, large cars from all over the world, bumper to bumper. Looks like Silicon Valley traffic.
   Amazing! Wow! A big beautiful Hotel Sofitel Wanda. We checked in and went to our room.

We were on our own for dinner. We ordered two Croque-monseur sandwiches from room service. It took a while but when they showed up they were the most amazing Croque-monseurs we ever had. We had brought along a plastic flask of gin. With a bit of our gin and some mix from the mini-bar and a bucket of ice, we had a great meal.

Meeting time - 8am tomorrow.
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Oct 14 - Elegant buffet breakfast on the fifth floor. Deb had a personally made eggs benedict. A large spread of American and Asian dishes.

On the bus and off to Tienanmen Square (link). We parked and hiked in. Michael led us quickly through the security line. The square is huge. Purportedly the largest in the world. It was pretty busy because last week was Golden Week. Many people go on vacation and travel during this time. Apparently many were still on vacation.

It was decorated with a large flower display. The picture of Mao had been refurbished for the big once in five years meeting of the Peoples Congress. Security was tight. We could see the building where the meeting was going to take place. (extras)
   Between Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden city we had lunch in a back room of a local looking restaurant. I like these Chinese lunches with the lazy-susan and many dishes.

We then visited the Forbidden City (link). This guard was not happy with me taking his picture. This was the Imperial Palace from the Ming to the Qing dynasties - 1420 to 1912. I'd read about it but it was far larger and more magnificent then I imagined. I'll put a collection of pictures here. (extras)

Back to the hotel for a break then off to our Peking Duck dinner. Ducks are fatty and not much meat. A fun experience.

I ordered ice and we had a bit of our gin before bed.
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Oct 15 - Once again a beautiful breakfast. I've found the Roquefort cheese and it's fantastic - of course in a French hotel.

We bussed over near Tienanmen Square to go to the National Museum of China (link). Michael led us through security and crowds to enter. Rose led the tour. This is one of her specialties so it was quite good - Thanks Rose. (extras)
   It was spectacular! As I was looking at things a guy came up to me and indicated he wanted a picture with me. (??) I cooperated. Deb took a picture of him. We exchanged cards. Michael said he was a CEO of an oil processing company. Later he grabbed me again for another picture - he asked a passerby to take it.

Many ancient and beautiful things.  One room was a special exhibit for the Peoples Congress.

We rode out for a glimpse of the "bird's nest" of Olympics fame. Then another great lunch.

We took a pretty long trip out to the Great Wall (link). Michael took us to a less touristy area. An interesting drive out. We hiked up a pretty significant hill then took a tram up near the wall.
   Of course amazing. We could see the wall rambling over these steep hills for miles. Rose said it wasn't for defense but to mark the end of the territory. An engineering feat.

I hate to admit I had trouble here. The steps were steep and uneven. No real handrails. I think partly from jet lag I didn't feel stable. I mainly hung around one area and looked around. Deb wanted to hike out. She wouldn't go without me. We met an Indian band who was going to play in San Jose soon. I really did enjoy this adventure and would have been sad to have missed it. (extras)
   On our way down we stopped and shared a beer and glimpsed a kitty.
   Once down there was some mix up so we stood around waiting for a while. That was interesting too.
   Back through the market and to the bus. As usual things are the same but different.

We had the buffet dinner at the hotel. The buffet is amazing! The wine was pricy and French.

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Oct 16 - Spectacular breakfast buffet again.

Off to old Chinatown and a bicycle rickshaw ride. Quite entertaining. (movie) We hiked around the area gawking at things. Some wealthier residents had fixed up their places. We wondered why many cars had cardboard or plywood covering their wheels - it's to protect them from peeing dogs. (link)
   We visited a "typical" house and had a brief lecture. The owner is a rather famous artist and calligrapher. Some in the group bought some of his works. We took pictures and observed. (extras)
   There is a bar area here. Some of the few bars I saw in China.

We then went to a bell tower where we participated in a tea ceremony and lecture. A very nice lecture. (movie) We looked around at the wares and tea for sale.

We then bussed over to the "Temple of Heaven" (link). A large beautiful collection of temples and pagodas built before America was discovered. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site - too bad the US no longer support UNESCO. It was beautiful and in a beautiful garden. (extras) I noticed Trump visited here.
   When I got home I built a model of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests Pagoda. We bought it while leaving the Beijing airport

As I do this report I realize my small paragraph about this place, the wall and others are woefully inadequate. I'd have to do a book to cover it. I, once again, suggest you look at the links, click on the picture on the right and step through the professional pictures.

Another wonderful lunch.

Back to our spectacular Hotel Sofitel. This may have been when we dealt with the money thing... We nipped over to the Wal-Mart. We bought a few things including a small vodka to supplement our gin. The Wal-Mart was different but the same.

This is when we hit the ATM. I suspect this may be when we were concerned about getting counterfeit bills.
When we got back we looked at the money and wondered if it was counterfeit. Rose had told us how to tell. At some point, maybe later in the day, we went back and the bank explained we had some older money with some different marks but it was ok.

Not sure what we did for dinner. We probably did the buffet again.

BTW - Michael had given us a nice French wine for Deb's upcoming birthday.

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Oct 17 - Off to the airport to fly to Xian (or Xi'an pronounced Shi-an). (link)

Beijing airport security was tight because of the People's Congress soon to convene. It was jam packed. Women in one set of lines men in another set. It was very slow moving. Suddenly there was a big commotion in the woman's area. Security was wrestling with a guy, with much shouting. I'm guessing he was missing his plane!
   It took forever to get through security. When finished with my thorough search I grabbed my belt and things and began running for gate 39. Yikes! My pants were falling off! I may have been the last person on the plane. Three other guys were with me in this adventure.

Xi'an's claim to fame is that it was the capital city of China for hundreds of years. Very historical. One of the oldest of the four ancient capitals. It was the eastern terminus of the great Silk Road (link).

We then boarded a bus and went to the Han Ying Ling Museum (link). This area has several large burial mounds for emperors. Most not excavated. We visited one where the museum is located - the tomb of Emperor Liu Qi. We saw many miniature statues. Apparently representing people, things and animals to assist the emperor in the next life. Kinda dark but amazing. (extras)

Our guide took us to the Muslim Quarter where there is an incredible market. (movie R3799) Lots of interesting foods. She told us to not eat anything here. If she hadn't told us that I would have tried a few things. We did visit the mosque. It looked old and a mix of Chinese and Moslem. This was an eye opener. (extras)

Then to our incredible hotel. I've never been IN a hotel this amazing! Beautiful - The Windham Grand.

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Oct 18 - I don't remember breakfast. I'm sure it was a buffet.

Off to the terracotta warriors (link). It was pretty crowded. We got our views. The trenches were filled with hundreds of warriors. Every one had been broken by the succeeding emperor. The site had been underground. The ceiling had collapsed then grown over so nobody knew it was there. A farmer digging a well in his field ran across some shards and reported it to authorities.
   The statues were created about 210 BC.
   It was incredible! It went on forever. They are still excavating here. Some of the most beautiful and significant items were on special display.
   This was the MOST significant sight of the trip. A singular highlight. I can't say enough.

Off to another great lunch.

We visited a "cave" home. Actually they no longer live in the cave. There was a active stinky outhouse. They were raising pomegranates and seemed to have quite a few ready for pickup. On the side they were selling some touristy things. The family is quite poor. Fairly interesting. I saw a "Mad Max" vehicle go by.

We stopped by a small museum where we learned a bit of calligraphy - fun.

Back to the hotel for a bit of rest. Tonight we are going to a music and dance performance.

We had a nice dinner including some strong rice wine (110 proof). It tastes like saki with a lot of alcohol. Dinner was a bit rushed so we could get to the show downstairs.
   We had a bit of a hassle. Deb was a bit late from the bathroom and didn't like our seats. In fact we thought about taking a taxi back to the hotel. The theater people found us two seats on the right side in rows 4 and 5. The people sitting there changed seats so we could sit together - thank you. We were off to the side and practically leaning on an air conditioner. The show was fun and interesting. Difficult taking pictures and movies because everyone else was holding up their phones.
   All in all an interesting experience. Others in our group had problems with inconsiderate teenagers using their phones and talking too much. (extras)

Back to the hotel where we had a drink in the lobby bar.

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Oct 19 - Off to another incredible museum - The Shanxi Provincial History Museum (link). Lots of excellent artifacts including some of the best terracotta warriors. One of the four largest museums in China. (Extras)

We stopped by the Wild Goose Pagoda (link). This originally held sutras and figurines of the Buddha. A 1556 earthquake damaged it. There is a bell here that people like to ring.(movie P1130974) The grounds were interesting. There was an artist at work doing wood carvings. Deb bought a piece from him. I believe others also bought some items.

We then stopped by the old city wall to take a look. We enjoyed the walk around. There were several photography shoots going on including some brides and grooms. Very much fun and relaxing.

Another elegant lunch.

We had the afternoon to ourselves. We walked over to these wonderful statues of musicians in an orchestra. We spent quite a bit of time looking them over and taking pictures. (Extras)

I believe we rested and took a nap. We have reservations to go to a French restaurant for a change from our Chinese fare. It was a bit of a hike. Look a Tesla. When we arrived at Lotus they seated us in a sort of private area. We looked over the menu and ordered some rather expensive wine. We struggled a bit with the menu, though it was in English. They had three or more pre-fixe price levels. Not quite pre-fixe because we had some choices. The waiters did not know two words of English and I'd left my phrase book at the room.
   We finally got things ordered. We were a bit early. When the manager showed up she spoke perfect English. We had a nice meal. I had a rib-eye steak - a bit small, rare and strangely not very tasty. They did offer multiple flavored salts - we used the rosemary infused salt. Pretty upscale.
   Over all a nice experience. To be honest I could have stuck with the Chinese food.
   Others in our group went to a Mexican restaurant and others to an Italian place. I think we had the best.

I had a struggle getting back to the hotel. My Achilles was kicking up. The statues of the orchestra area is a light show in the evening with dancing waters and music. Unfortunately I couldn't walk that far.

When we had first gotten into our room it smelled of cigarettes. We actually found a window open - apparently to let the smoke out. I mentioned it to the desk because I didn't want to get in trouble for smoking in the room. I actually told them twice. They said they would make up for it. They gave us a basket of fruit and a pass to get to the special lounge on the top floor.
   We went to the top floor to see the light show. Here are some movies. (movie,movie)

   One more picture of the hotel. Here is Deb in a rickshaw.
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Oct 20 - To the airport to fly to Guilin (link) considered the most beautiful city in China. It's name means "Forest of Sweet Osmanthus" (a small fragrant flower that grows here). It is a major Chinese tourist destination. The airport was small but convenient. (is this where we had lunch in the terminal?)

We visited the Reed Flute Cave (link). A limestone cave. They have walkways, special light shows and scenes. It's not Carlsbad but it was nice for what it is. (Extras) You can rent a boat and pole around.

On the way to the hotel we could see the city is among these fabulous mountains with a beautiful river. The mountains and formations are because this once was the bottom of the ocean and the limestone has eroded.

The hotel is nothing special but nicely located. The river walk and local boat tours are within walking distance. Also it is right on the edge of a busy tourist area.

We hiked into the tourist area. We found an Irish pub. We collect Irish pubs around the world. I had the local beer and some local strong rice drink. Deb had a Guinness. Somebody said Irish pubs are like Chinese restaurants, every city has one.

We also stopped at a "supermarket" and bought some "Great Wall" wine. We got the expensive ($30) version and a small vodka seeing our plastic flask with the gin had disappeared - maybe stolen from our bags.

The room had a balcony but no chairs so we lugged a couple out and had a drink outside and looked down.

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Oct 21 - Today is our boat ride on the Li river. 


Off we went with dozens of other boats. We have a box lunch supplied by Michael. We can buy beer, soft drinks and snacks on the boat.

The views are wonderful and endless. We took way too many pictures. The formations are amazing. At one spot is the view that is on the 20¥ bill. Very relaxing and scenic. I'm wearing my UV shirt.

Quite a hike back to a shuttle that took us to the bus. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (movie)

The city itself is built among these amazing mountain/hill things. Beautiful.

We saw the famous elephant mountain rock formation. There is a lake here where you can tour and see a collection of the world's most famous bridges in reproduction. We didn't do this, others did.

When we got back we found a wedding being set up. We went to the patio and had a glass of wine.

We nipped over to the supermarket and got another (cheaper) wine and some snacks. They offered us a discount. I didn't know you could bargain in a 7-11 type store. I don't remember dinner but it was on the second floor and was a buffet. I have a difficult time picking stuff at buffets.
   Here's an observation... In several different places I ran into the situation where the top or bottom step of a stairway is either a little short or a little tall. This place had a stairway where the bottom step was a little short.

The wedding was in full swing. Apparently it ended early. I think they were done by 6pm.

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Oct 22 - Today we went to a country style market. People here are poorer then other places we've seen. In scouting out the place I spotted a double Buddha that I liked. The guy was asking 100¥ ($15). I said "no". Bernie piped up and offered like 30¥, he said 80, she said 50, he said 60 and I said "ok" ($9). Worth it. Now we have to lug it home. Deb was unhappy.
   We went into an old wealthy house/workshop. We walked around and looked at some local gardens. I noticed a guy cleaning a chicken in the river. Lots of fun stuff. We should have bought more and left some money for the people.

Once again an upscale lunch.

Apparently we flew to Chongqing this evening. Guilin airport is very nice and peaceful.

We rode into Chonqing (link) and entered our hotel. Once again a big fancy western style hotel - J.W.Marriott. Amazing!
   Apparently we opened the bottle of French wine we have been lugging around. Our little unopened bottle of vodka is missing - apparently stolen from our bag.

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Oct - 23 - Chongqing is the largest city in the world with 33M people. Well it takes in four cities and several counties so it has a very large area. None the less it's amazing. The buildings and building never stop. It is also called the bridge city because of the number of bridges. Many bridges are double decked with rail lines underneath. The Jialing river joins the Yangtze here. The city has few bicycle because it's so hilly. It's a major manufacturing center and transportation hub. They have a monorail system that appears to be inefficient, only one line of three is currently running.
   The city has a lot of modern history. During WWII the Flying Tigers supplied the city with food. Chiang Kai Shek was based here. It's known as the "city of heroes".
   The city was famous for organized crime. In 2009 the city cracked down and arrested nearly 5000 gangsters.

The view from our hotel room was the back of a high rise condo. Not too inspiring.

We are off to see the pandas. We saw about one tenth of the zoo I'm sure. You must go in the morning when they are active. They eat most of the time. What's that joke about "I can tell the crime was done by a panda because he eats, shoots and leaves"? Really fun seeing the pandas. Don't you love this kids haircut?

We drove a long distance towards the Dazu Rock Carvings. On the way we passed through at least three tunnels each more then a mile long. We stopped for lunch at a fancy hotel in a city that appeared to be one of the famous empty cities. Apparently we were the only group here for lunch.
   We then continued to the Dazu Rock Carvings (link). Another UNESCO site. Pretty fabulous. It's a series of carvings influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist beliefs. The two most interesting are the reclining Buddha and the Golden Hands Buddah. (extras) We entered and took a shuttle down to the site. Wow! Pretty impressive.

Now a long ride back into rush hour traffic.

I wanted to get a small gin or vodka seeing our small vodka had been stolen before it was even opened. I took my phrase book, went to the desk and pointed to "liquor store". They didn't understand. As I gave up one of the people ran over and said there was a supermarket attached to the hotel. Really? I went into this tiny general store. They had Chevis Regal and Johnny Walker Black. Only in 750ml. JWB was about 300¥ ($45). I bought it knowing we'd be lugging this around for the rest of the trip. Much hassle paying for it.

I don't remember dinner but it was probably one of those wonderful buffet's. As I recall lots of seafood. I think I had some pretty good fried steak.

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Oct 24 - Great buffet breakfast. I've finally figured out to stick with eggs, bacon and toast and maybe a bit of fruit or pastry.

We were given the morning to explore. It was suggested we go to the nearby flower market. We hit an ATM which rejected us. We looked at stores and street activity. We walked part way into the flower market. A group coming out said it was crowded so we turned around. We wandered around and found another bank/ATM and got the usual 1000¥ ($150)

We had lunch at a touristy Chinatown. Then off to another super crowded market - always interesting. (extras)
   While waiting for the group to gather I sat down on a bench with a bunch of Chinese folks. A friendly guy wearing a suit struck up a conversation. He knew enough English so we could sort of talk. He couldn't see my phrase book without his glasses. With a little help from our guide we had fun talking. His wife and my wife seemed a bit perturbed.

We went to the Three Gorges Museum (link), apparently to prepare us for our cruise. The museum was huge, modern and beautiful but confusing. Hardly any English. It was interesting enough. We were a bit rushed.

Dinner was at a place that specializes in hot pot cuisine. We each had a divided hot pot thing flavored with spices on one side and plain water on the other. We were supposed to cook our food. I have a problem fooling around preparing my own food. The beer was good. I suspect if we'd had a Chinese person directing us it would have gone better. Still, a good experience. No complaints.

We now proceeded to our Yangtze cruise ship. A fair amount of fooling around getting on board. A brass band welcomed us. We checked into our cabin - pretty nice. We then went to the safety muster and introduction. Deb and I took too many pictures of the city. (extras)

The ship left about 10pm. I suspect they leave at night so you don't see the industrial area along the river. I'm sure we'd have been shocked by the pollution. Deb commented on the sunset in the south - nope it was a smelter behind a hill. Chongqing is one of the most polluted cities in the world.

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Oct 25 - Pretty good buffet breakfast and lunch. We mainly gawked at the river scenes.

We went to the captains reception.

The Smithsonian/Odyssey group had a special area where appetizers and drinks are available. Rose had a couple "I Ching" items to play with. We played with them for a while. Fun. Thanks Rose.

We got off the ship to visit the "Precious Stone Fortress"/"Red Pavilion". After an introduction we hiked out across a wobbly cable supported bridge called the "drunken" bridge. It was 199 steps up the Pavilion to the temple/fortress at the top. The base is in a coffer dam. We had a great view but not much time at the top. There are some nice reproductions here. Quite a climb down the back of the hill and across the bridge. Most went to the market. We went back to the ship. It was reported that this was a particularly good market - next time...

We had a couple happy hour teeny martini's with BJ and Bernie. Dinner. There was a very good production by the crew. (extras)

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Oct 26 - Today we mostly gawked at the wonderful Yangtze river sights.

Today we took a side cruise down the Daning river on small sampans. We saw beautiful sights along the river. We stopped and exited the ship and listened to some traditional entertainment from the riverboat crews. (movie) A fun diversion. Our guide is a local and speaks good English. Deb had brought a few things to give to kids (it was suggested). She had the guide wait on the ship while she went and got the items (there is more to this story - you have to ask).

Back to the ship where we had appetizers, played with the I Ching and gabbed.

Dinner was nice. They had champagne to celebrate Deb's birthday and Dave & Gale's 40th anniversary. Everyone sang Happy Birthday in English and Chinese. They even had cake. How nice.

Later we watched another crew show featuring ethnic costumes and dances.

The highlight was passing through the 5 locks of the Three Gorges Dam (link). It took from 11pm to 3:30am. The locks are so large there was a barge next to us and other ships behind us. Lots of squealing as it sounded like the ship was rubbing on the side of the lock wall. We slept through it pretty well.

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Oct 27 - This morning we rode the bus over for a tour of the dam area. We could see there are two sets of locks - one set going up, one going down. We looked over a model of the dam. We hiked out and looked over the area. There is a ship elevator to lift the ships much faster then the locks. It's worthwhile to look at the "link". (extras)

Back to the ship for more cruising down the Yangtze. Many beautiful and interesting sights. (extras) Lunch.

We disembarked at Wuhan. Our flight isn't for a few hours so we had an impromptu tour of a Chinese historical/railroad museum - small but nice. I took a break and stood on the sidewalk and nodded at the locals - they looked grumpy but would give me a nice smile.

We then stopped at a hotel to pass more time before going to the airport. Many had the famous Chinese foot massage. We walked around a small park gawking at a musician and many people playing cards for money as well as observing people exercising and kids playing.
   Michael came over and led us on a walking tour. I nipped into a Bank of China to get some cash. The ATM was confusing. A guard came over to help. He spoke perfect English - I swear his pronunciation is better then mine.
   We hiked over to a shopping center where we had some coffee and a break. It took longer then expected. We practically ran back to the hotel. Some local teenagers wanted to practice their English on us - we were too busy...

On the plane and off to Shanghai. We landed in terminal 2 - huge and new. We checked into our hotel - The Shanghai Hilton. Wow! Our room is on the 28th floor. Quite a view and a very nice room.

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Oct 28 - We met our very nice guide. She walked us through the French concession - lots of fancy international restaurants and European architecture.

We visited the museum memorializing the First National Congress of the People's Communist Party (link). Security was tight - probably because of the meeting going on in Beijing. A very interesting museum. Loved the statues of guys around a table. I could study this more. (extras)

We toured the beautiful Yuyuan Garden (link). We crossed a zig-zag bridge that confuses evil spirits. Unfortunately we came back across it so I guess the evil spirits following me found me again. Lots of beautiful scenes.

Lunch. Then to the largest museum in Shanghai (link). It celebrates several Chinese arts - painting, calligraphy, furniture, bronze, jade, sculpture, coins, etc. We looked it over in some detail and enjoyed it a lot.

Back to the hotel. Here are some views from our room. (extras)

I don't remember dinner. We went to the acrobatic show. It was set in a rotunda. We sat in the middle about half way up - excellent. There were several amazing acts.
   The most amazing was motorcycles in a steel sphere. First two then three and up to eight motorcycles flying around. I could hardly look. I have a rather long movie of it (movie).

Back to the hotel. We went up to the bar for a drink and a view of the city at night. Very nice.

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Oct 29 - A very nice setting for our buffet breakfast.

Off to the Bund which is an historical and interesting area along the waterfront (link). Busy rivers are always interesting. There is a Wall Street bull here - no little girl. We went into an art deco hotel to look and gawk. We observed photo shoots going on.

Off to the silk shop. Supposedly it's less expensive then the government shop outside the city. An interesting lecture on silk production plus a demonstration of some actual silk production.
   We thought we'd seen it when they took us through a curtain into a gigantic silk shop. Everything silk - ties, shirts, comforters, you name it. Deb cracked and bought two future duvet's plus some material for future projects. Interesting and fun. Nearly everybody bought something.

Back to the hotel and free time. We decided to go to the viewing deck of the worlds second tallest building - The Shanghai Tower (link). 128 stories.
   We hiked through a rather beautiful park. Besides sights we ran across an ad-hock band playing (movie). We are taking the metro to the tower area.
   We found the station - no problem. I was having some problems figuring out the machine when a kid who spoke no English helped us get our two one-way tickets. He handed me the change from a 100¥ minus 10¥ ($1.50) - no problem. After much study we finally got on a crowded train going the right direction.
   We got off and gawked around, mostly at the TV tower. (extras) Finally we hiked the mile or more to the building. We apparently could have saved a bundle on a senior discount if we'd had our ID's. Oh well, it was about $20 each.
   A bit of a line then up the worlds fastest elevator to the 121st floor observation deck. It was a bit overcast but the views were still good. (extras)
   Back down and to the metro. We met a girl who wanted to spend time talking English with us. We now know how to buy tickets. Unlike most metros you have to indicate your stop/destination. No problem. We got off and were a bit confused as to which way to go. Duh. We got lost. We started hiking around. I asked some police guys - I don't think they knew where they were. We asked at least three other groups and people for directions. I was pooped. I finally hailed a taxi and gave him the card with our destination. It seemed like we were driving around forever - I wondered if he was taking advantage of us. Finally he pulled into the Hilton.
   I was concerned about the cost. In NY this would have been a $20 ride. I gave him 100¥ ($15). He gave me back 80¥ ($12). Really? Only $3 for the ride? I gave him a 10¥ tip. He was thrilled. Guess we should have taken more taxis. Actually a taxi ride from our hotel to the tower would have been quite expensive because of the traffic delays across the bridge.

Tonight is our farewell dinner. It was French. Very nice and elegant. Good wine. I believe somebody (Anna?) bought more wine. A nice farewell.

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Oct 30 - To Home. Off to the airport. I'm dreading the flight home. I notice we have the same airplane a 777. We were among the last people on. Turns out it is configured 3,3,3. A comfortable seat with room for my feet. Nice! After a few hours I began talking to the guy next to me. He's a fairly young Chinese businessman. He's going to Las Vegas for a convention. He has a plant in Alabama. They make professional tool boxes. He was interesting to talk with. He charged my Kindle on his portable power supply - thank you.

We got to SFO. Our taxi guy is busy so we took an expensive Uber home. Home sweet home.

An amazing adventure.
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After thoughts -

Being the oldest person in the group was a bit disconcerting. I seemed to be walking behind the group. I had some concerns on the Great Wall with balance. In Chongqing after a big day on my feet I couldn't walk out to see the evening light show. I'm in pretty good shape so I wasn't a burden.

A very compatible group. We talked to everyone. I liked asking Dave questions about his sailing days - he's an old sea captain. I think he was mostly on oil tankers. Lots of interesting stories and comments. Loved his smiling friendly wife.
   We were probably the poorest people there.

I can't say enough good things about the Smithsonian tour. Michael was amazing. I really enjoyed talking and joking with him. The hotels were fantastic. Lunches were really good. Loved everything.

Interesting seeing all the American companies here. KFC seems to be everywhere. (extras)

I hate to admit it but when we got home we found the flask of gin in the suitcase. However, the small vodka was stolen.
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