Have you ever seen the movie Terminal with Tom Hanks? We got to live it for one night and it was not fun. For our last night in Japan, we could not find a hotel room for under $500CAD. Apparently, it was Golden Week, a massive holiday in Japan. No matter where we called, everything was booked. We went to the airport at 8pm for a flight at 2pm the next day. Unfortunately, none of the carts required money so I couldn’t make any cash bringing them back. We watched a few movies and slept on the benches.

During our restless sleep, a policewoman took all our information and then left us alone. At least we knew we were safe for the night.


Bikes in China

Today in Guangzhou it was 27°C and cloudy

There are not as many bicycles in China as there were in the past but they still have them. My favourites are the ones adapted to transport children and the one used to transport water bottles. Check out the slide show below to see bikes used to transport paper, water, a ladder, books, fruits, and of course a bike to repair bikes that break down on the way to somewhere.

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For Neale

I have a brother-in-law that we consider a fanatic when it comes to the environment and biking. When I saw this bamboo bike in Vietnam, I knew it was for him. A steal at about $65. To top it off, all profits from the sale go to an NGO that helps women earn a living in their own villages.

West Lake, Hangzhou

Today we travelled 190km in 57 minutes by train from Shanghai to Hangzhou. This included a stop to pick up more passengers. The train reached speeds of 300km/h but it was as if we were going 40km/h the ride was so smooth and quiet.

Once in Hangzhou we checked into our hotel and tried to find something to do. We had ample information in English from a travel guide published by the city but the guide itself was poorly conceived. Lots of interesting stuff to see, no valuable information on how to get there. The guide refers you to a website for the city bus which gives you the mission statement and other useless information about the system but no bus schedule or routes. The guide maps have little thumbnails of places to see but hardly any street names and no distance scale, so you have no real idea where anything is. On top of that, none of the names are given in Chinese so you can’t even get a taxi driver to take you where you want to go.

After over 30 minutes of fruitless searching for information on how to get anywhere (the hotel staff were useless and the woman in charge of sightseeing tours would just point her finger towards them when we would speak to her) we just went outside and found a road that led to the lake. The city is “world renown” for the lake yet the 3 people we asked to point us in the direction of the lake (up or down the street) had no idea where it was.

West Lake is a World Cultural Heritage site. The blue waters are “mythical pearls dropped from the heaven”, “make you feel like in heaven”, “are peaceful and brimful”. We got lucky and walked right onto a setup of lawn chairs pointing towards the lake. We sat down and found out that a water show was scheduled to begin in an hour. We waited and chatted with 2 young teachers from the USA and England.

Tomorrow we will try to rent some bikes and cycle around the lake.


Today in Shanghai it was 10°C

We started a 10 day stay in Shanghai yesterday.

We took the subway from our house to the airport in Guangzhou, a 40 minute trip, at a cost of under $1CAD each. From the airport in Shanghai we took the subway downtown (again under $1CAD) to a stop that is a 5-minute walk from our hotel. Both subways had stations right in the airport. You gotta love it.We have been in China for over 90 days now and I have not missed my car, nor would I ever have needed it. Sure, I could have used one when I went to IKEA and bought everything necessary for 2 lovebirds to set up a nest. But we had bought more than we could carry in one trip. Still, the 20RMB ($3.50CAD) taxi fare to get everything home was quite reasonable.

The Subway system in China is fantastic. We use it whenever we need to go anywhere that is too far to walk.  Human nature being what it is, we walk 10 minutes to the subway and pay 0.15 CAD each to get to Zhihong New Town because we are too cheap to pay the $2.50 CAD cab fare instead.

To pay for your trip, you can pay as you go or buy a pass. The pass is an electronic card that you fill up with money and scan before entering the station. You can even use your cell phone as a pass card. The only negative, the subways are not very user friendly for anyone with a walking disability. Often there are some stairs to go up or down and I am talking about the old fashioned kind, not these escalators.

Many times Chinese people have asked me why I don’t take a taxi instead of the subway. I tell them, why would I want to miss all the excitement of boarding and debarking a subway car and waste money sitting in a taxi stuck in a traffic jam. Plus, I get to see the most amazing people and sometimes even chat with them.