Saturday, September 02, 2006

Journey to Hangzhou

We arrived in Hangzhou around 6 pm Saturday, via Shanghai and Vancouver. We left the house at 5:20 am on Friday to meet my mom - who very generously volunteered to keep our dog and drive us to the airport. (Thanks, mom!) We had 3 big bags to check, each one of which just barely squeeked by under the 50 pound weight limit.

Thanks to an overzealous gate attendant in Denver, we almost missed the flight completely. You see, we got multiple-entry visas into China, with a maximum 60-day single stay. The gate attendant (let's call him Mr. Stickler) said we couldn't board the plane since our return flight on December 15 was more than 60 days away. With 30 minutes til departure, Stickler told us to go to the United customer service desk, where we were they told us they couldn't help - we had to pick up the phone to talk to someone else. The folks at the friendly skies of United said they couldn't help either, since we booked our itenerary with Air Canada (United operates this leg of the flight). So Amy and I split forces; I went back to the gate to work on Stickler while Amy tried to reschedule our return flight. At about the same time I convinced Stickler to let us on, Amy finally found someone who was willing to reschedule our return flight. With 10 minutes to spare, we boarded our plane to Vancouver.

Shanghai to Hangzhou
It's a 2-hour van ride from the Shanghai airport. Our driver, Shen Ming, didn't speak any English -- as expected, since few people here do. The section of Shanghai we saw was a sprawling jumble of enormous apartment buildings, interspersed with small plots of agricultural land, all obscured by a thick haze - mostly clouds, I think, but part smog too - that reduces the sun to a dull glow. In fact, when Andrew saw the sun through the fog, he said "look, it's the moon!"

I'm surprised by how modernized the country is here - even in the rural areas between the cities. Our aparment is across the Qiantang river from the city center in a booming new commercial district - akin to Denver's tech center, maybe. And I mean booming. There are probably a dozen high rises - both residential and office space - going up within a mile of our apartment, with crews working even at 7 am on Sunday and 6 am on Monday.

Our apartment is nice, and surprisingly roomy - 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Each room has an air conditioner with a remote control. Good thing, too; it was 36 Centigrade here today (that 's 97 Farenheit) with wicked humidity. We've got about every modern convenience, except a dishwasher. With so many options for cheap food nearby, we'll probably eat out a lot, though. We had our first meal here with Peter Liu, a co-worker who kindly helped us get oriented, at a nice restaurant. The bill for four of us was 138 Yuan, about $17, and that's probably 3 times what we'd pay at the typical local joint.

Here are views of our apartment.


Anonymous said...

Hi guys- I'm glad you made it there safely. What a long trip! You're new home looks great!
God Bless, Beth

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting us follow along - next best thing to being there! -June Shaw