Monday, July 03, 2006

Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai

Did I happen to mention that every single night we’ve been here so far there has been a torrential down pour? Thunder and lightening. So much for finding that perfect martini, which I had sworn off last year, and there is only so much bottled water and local beer one can drink. Maybe I'll just stick with tea. Tonight in Xian, where temperatures are in the upper 90s and the air, usually very dry (a nice break from the humidity) we decided to walk to the center of town where yes the skies open on us once again. We just got to see a little of the town center with bell and drum towers. I think this is going to be a bad hair month.

It is now 11 PM and we are sitting in the hotel lobby bar, in front of the England vs. Portugal match on a big screen TV. I, with my laptop and Raf glued to the game. I think the staff was getting ready to close just as we walked in but were gracious and didn’t say no. Not sure how long before we are asked to leave, if they can communicate that to us. Most people in the hotels don't speak Eglish very well, but service in exrtemely important and everyone tries hard to please.

Earlier today we visited the site of the Terracotta Warriors, with our new guide, Ruby. Although we had seen pictures and read about this place, we were awestruck. Only one warrior was found in tact and all the others had to be reconstructed from fragments. When they were found they had color that disappeared quickly from exposure to the elements. Many will not be uncovered until the technology to preserve them becomes available.
Next day, the sun is out and we stop to visit the preserved city wall that takes about 1 hour on bicycle to ride around. Unfortunately, we did not get to visit the Moslem quarter, but I guess you have to leave something out to make you want to come back. Everyone stares at Raf, but in the Xian Historical Museum, a group of American students were really checking him out. Out of nowhere we hear…Mr. Trinidad!! An ex student of his, Julie, from Miami Beach was on tour with a student ambassador program. What a small world.

Hey lady, watches, shoes, handbags, good price!!! Welcome to Shanghai. Nanjing Road is a shoppers paradise, just a few blocks from our hotel, with lots of lights at night and tons of tourists walking around. Most of the clothes are size 0 and very lacy. There are tall department stores advertising every major cosmetic on the planet. Even Maybeline and Loreal are sold in the department stores. This is the largest hotel room we’ve had so far but the carpets are really dirty. (not like the Xian airport where the floors are polished every 5 minutes. We got a good workout lifting our legs while waiting for our delayed flight) The view of the city and the financial district from our window on the 15th floor is breathtaking. Our original guide, who picked us up from the airport, was very different from the ones we had in Xian and Beijing. He was a little flamboyant and claimed to be a shopaholic who enjoyed the nightlife. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it back in the morning but his replacement, who usually caters to the business crowd, was very nice. So far we really like Shanghai and are excited to be able to spend 3 nights here before we leave. Did I mention that its hot? Our guide said it is hotter than what the weather report says because the government does not want the people to panic. The hottest that is reported is 37C, but it really is much hotter. The Jade Buddha temple and gardens were beautiful, but it was hard not to think of going somewhere cooler. We walked on the Bund, which would have been much better if it wasn’t so hazy. Here you find all the designer shops and financial institutions. Although businesses can buy or rent buildings, and many have returned, the government still owns all the land. We made arrangements to be picked up at our hotel at 5 pm by the people from Suzhou so with some time on our hands decided to walk back to the hotel. One last visit to our old friends…hey lady, watches, handbags, shoes, good price!