Ice Cream Expo
3/24/2005, China trip day 1: Overview, arrival in Shanghai
From 3/24/2005 to 4/7/2005, my school's spring break, I took a trip to China. One of the nice things about the JET program is that you get both the time off and the money to travel around, especially in east and southeast Asia. The main purpose of the trip was to see my friend, David, who lives in Hangzhou. I went to China alone, but I spent the whole 2 weeks with David. David has lived in China for about a year and a half. He has a Chinese girlfriend there and has started a company, ChinaForge. His company connects customers in the United States with factories in China for manufacturing plastic things. But, he was able to break away to run around with me. We spent time in Hangzhou, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Wuhan. We spent 2½ days on a boat going down the Yangtze River. And, we stopped briefly in Fengdu and Wushan.
Outline of the trip
Here's a brief outline of the whole trip. (Note that I wrote these China entries after I got back.)
- Day 1 3/24/2005. Arrived in Shanghai. Shocked by dangerous traffic and dirty streets. Walked around and saw city lights.
- Day 2 Shanghai Museum, nice park. Train to Hangzhou.
- Day 3 Toured factory in Hangzhou where my friend David does business.
- Day 4 Hangzhou's Westlake park. Met some friends of David.
- Day 5 Hiking in mountains on the edge of Hangzhou.
- Day 6 Airplane to Chongqing. Park. Got on a cruise boat that goes down the Yangtze River and through the Three Gorges and the new dam.
- Day 7 Boat on the Yangtze River. Stopped in Fengdu.
- Day 8 Boat on the Yangtze River. Stopped in Wushan. Saw the new dam.
- Day 9 Got off the boat in the morning. Bus to Wuhan. Yellow Crane Park. Ate hot pot.
- Day 10 Airplane back to Hangzhou. Walk a few hours around Hangzhou's Westlake Park. Tagged along with David to a business meeting.
- Day 11 Hiking in mountains on the edge of Hangzhou. Nice dinner.
- Day 12 Train to Yiwu. Saw marketplace where cheap goods (like you'd find in a drug store or 99 cent store) are sold to exporters.
- Day 13 Train to Shanghai. Buy gifts and other souvenirs.
- Day 14 Airplane back to Osaka.
Help from a friend - visa, plane tickets
Getting the plane tickets and (especially) the visa was a pain. Fortunately, Akemi helped me - a lot. When I checked airfares, it looked like it was going to cost around $850. When David checked in China, it looked like $750. Akemi found me a ticket for about $450. She took care of the whole thing. And, she researched the visa, left work to go to the Chinese consulate in Osaka twice, and ultimately helped me get the visa. She also went to the library and checked out books to help me plan. On the day of my departure, she took the day off work and went to the airport with me. I couldn't talk about the trip without mentioning Akemi's help.
So.... as I said, Akemi took me to the airport on the day of my departure. I've never missed her as much as I did when I got on the plane. The flight was smooth and short, like 2½hours. Immigration in China was a pain. Very long lines. They realy scrutinized my passport, too. Guess it's because I've got a beard now. I was 19 when my passport picture was taken and I had no beard.
David met me at the airport. Interestingly enough, it took him longer to get from his house in Hangzhou to the Shanghai airport (108 miles or 174 km) than it did for me to get from Akemi's house in Osaka to the airport in Shanghai (847 miles or 1364 km). He left the house at 7:30 AM. I left at 10:30 AM. We met around 5:00 PM.
We caught the magnetic levitation (aka "maglev") train back from the airport into the city. It was the first commercial magnetic levitation train in the world. We paid about $6 for the ride, about 0.00000005% of the $1.2 billion it cost to build, which is itself about 4% of China's annual military budget. I think somebody in the government there decided to make a big investment in bragging rights. The maglev gets up to 270 miles per hour (430 km/hr) in its 19 mile (30 km), 7 minute trip into the heart of Shanghai. I didn't take pictures, but I found some photos online here and here, among other places.
So, we went for a walk around Shanghai. The first thing I noticed was how dangerous the streets were. I couldn't believe how aggressive drivers were. As we tried to cross the street, they'd come straight at you honking their horns with no indication that they'd ever stop for you. Bicycles weaving through traffic and cutting in front of buses and big trucks. These people seem to have no concern about killing somebody or being killed themselves. You instantly get the feeling that human life is cheap. I felt so bare, just walking around. I wanted a huge, bright red armored tank, or at least a reflective vest. Shanghai is nuts.
Well, after I got myself accustomed to being almost killed every ten minutes, we went for quite a nice walk in a somewhat touristy place known for city lights.
|Here, we were looking across the river at a lot of lit-up buildings in a relatively new development. I used time exposure to make this picture a little brighter than it actually was.|
|I was surprised to find this big advertisement for Amway. I knew Amway had a presence in Japan, but I was surprised to find a pyramid scheme apparently flourishing in a supposedly communist country. Very strange. But, since China has been increasingly allowing private businesses, I guess it makes sense that they'd want to capitalize on the new market.|
We stayed at a decent hotel in Shanghai for ≈$22.
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