picture of a chunk of tree with the word "log" on it
Feb 12-19
Shanghai to
Ho Chi Minh City
Fred Hansen, Winter, 2005

Saturday, February 12

7 PM arrive Shanghai (DVG, new airport)
(daylight all the way, but crossed International Dateline, so arrival the day after departure)
2 hour transfer from airport; had to wait a long time for the last four to get through from the plane to baggage
10 PM straight to bed in Hotel. Supposedly a four * hotel, but our first assigned room was already occupied. I was tired and snapped at S. Sigh.
Lots of fire crackers going off for New Years. They did not keep me awake.

Sunday, February 13

I wanted to walk around, but let myself be talked into taking a tour w/ S. It seemed easier. Mistake. The first two stops were revisits to the first two stops last time I was in Shanghai: Yuan Garden and temple with Jade Buddha. Not bad. Lots of pictures in shopping center around garden because it was Chinese New Years.
Next stop a silk "factory." Same old scam: short demo, long shopping time. Then on to the Bund. Lots of fun. S brother Brian wanted a fake Rolex from China, so I bought one. As I write this (Mar 5) it is still keeping perfect time. The heat of Cambodia did stop it once. And once when I left it sit for a day, I found the second hand moving BACKWARD. Watch cost $4, about right, but maybe could have gotten for $3.
Walked thru park while waiting for bus to airport. I said "nihau" (hello) to a kid and his parents smiled and told him to say "nihau" back.

One interesting fact at silk factory. The worker looks at the little cocoon bundle and actually finds the end of the silk thread. This end is slipped into the machine and the machine unwinds the bundle. The bundle just sort of bobs up and down in a cylinder as the machine unwinds it.  Eight or nine cocoons feed a single spinner and then the outputs of two spinners are wound (in the opposite direction) to make a silk thread. Even with the leavings of eighteen worms, the final silkthread is amazingly thin.

When a cocoon has twins, the two threads are intertwined and won't unwind. These cocoons are just stretched over a frame to make the innards of quilts. One sto on the our is where a few westerners are invited to stretch the cocoon fabric into a quilt. Sort of fun to do once, but not a pleasant thought as an occupation for a full day.

S bought a silk jacket.

On the plane I started reading Deception Point, by the Dan Brown who wrote the Da Vinci Code.  Not bad, though a bit far fetched.

plane arr Guilin 7PM  arr hotel 9PM and got dinner. Right to bed.
Before bed scanne dthe telly. Chinese opera again on channel 11.
Here are the buttons on the between bed console (as in all Chinese hotels of a certain class):
    o  x x x  o  o  x x x  o
    a  b c d  e  f   g h i   j

    a, h, j - not noted
    b,i - if either of these is on, the night light is on
    c - table light (between beds)
    d - TV power
    e - four channel radio selector
    f - radio volume knob
    g - floor lamp
There were a few of the usual sorts of complimentary items. Then there were the itmes marked: "uncomplimentary," meaning we'd have to pay. Sign above water says "non-potable." On my previous visit to China we weere given thrmoses of hot water to use all day. In this hotel there was a kettle and we were to boil our own water, as needed.

Monday, February 14

Guilin. Gray morning. Disappointing breakfast: western food, same as on ship
Big day, too big:
    bus to boat, boat down river, bus to Banyan tree, bus to "pearl factory", bus to ATM -- no money because machine has not been refilled over the new years holiday -- bus to hotel

The trip down the river was nice. The "gum drop hills" were startlingly steep at the edges. Vic Fisher and Rene de Hon, the faculty geologists, explained that the landscaped resulted from the merger of sinkholes. The sides of the hills are not carved as theyh would be if the river had worn down through strata. Instead the edges have been successively undermined and fallen off. The geologists said it was a karst landscape. Water runoff was swift; the river got higher quite quickly. Horse statues across from our hotel were ashore in the morning and half covered by evening.

Food for our lunch was prepared on the back of the boat. Conditions were not sanitary, as we could see from looking at the kitchens on the backs of the other boats going down the river. They even washed the pots inthe muddy river waters. Ellyn was a trip leader and ate an apple without peeling it. She thought she could--if sickened--pass duties on to her mother or I. Nope, we both ate apples the same way. We thought we were probably okay until we noticed our guide was carefully peeling his apple. In the event, however, none of us did get sick.

The Banyan tree was just a big old tree. Many visitors had pinned wishes to it because old trees have some sort of useful property. In this case there was a fence around the tree and wishes had to be placed on a billboarrd instead of the tree. The tree is failing from too much touching and pinning.

The area around the tree was a sort of permanent fair. Shopping stalls. Boats on the lake, museum, camping area, various picturesque items for which one would be charged to take a picture beside: monkeys, donkeys, peacocks, girls in tribal costume, ...  Since the day was gray many of theshopping stalls were empty. Some had computers. But business was slow so the main use of the computers was for playing solataire. I walked around to the other side of thelake and found an undershot water wheel. Another gimmick to be posed beside for a payment. Long bus ride home; the river trip had taken us from a point not too close to the city to another point even farther away.

Dinner at 7 and then on to a show: ballerina between acrobats. More like Cirque du Soleil than the traditional Chinese acrobat show, but not better than the traditional show. One great act was two kids doing various tricks with throwing and juggling hats. The final act was the tower of chairs bit done by a little kid. He was not facile and it dragged. There was too much western music for my taste, though that may attract Chinese tourists, of which there were many.

Stayed up too late finishing Deception Point. The end was really hokey.

Tuesday, February 15

We were supposed to go up a mountain today, but it was so cloudy grey that nothing could have been seen.  Instead we went to Reed Flute Cave. Pretty. Better than the caves we travelled so far to see in Australia. Probably not as good as the glowworm caves I didn't get to see in New Zealand.

They sell reed flutes, but we can't play them because the reeds are soaked in river water to make them playable. And the river water is not something you want in your mouth. When  the flutes dry out, they don't sound good anymore.  I bought a large pink crystal. Probably just a large rock candy kind of thing. Too heavy, to boot.

"Silk factory" and shop. At least the shop was all silk instead of the mishmash in the factory shops on my last visit. Part of the "factory" was the place where the workers stretched the twin cocoons into the insides for quilts. When I walked through the exhibit ahead of the crowd, the workers were just sitting around. When the crowd came near they popped right up and appeared hard at work when it arrived.

I saw fence posts looking like logs with bark. All made from concrete.

"Wahaha" bottled water does not taste good.

In the afternoon we finally did go up the mountain, altough it was still too cloudy to see anything. The sign of rules posted at the bottom of the chair lift was hilarious English. I got a picture of it.  On the way up we passed pine trees with scars like maple trees. I hadn't realized it, but turpentine is made from pine tree sap much as syrup is made from maple sap.

Later in the afternoon we had a short "art lesson" followed by an "opportunity" to shop in the art store. This was so close to the hotel that I walked rahter tha take the bus. Got there about the same time as the bus, too.

Dinner and sleep.

At one point I asked our guide to write my name in Chinese characters. He came up with something like this:
Chinese character for "han"    Chinese character for "sen"
The first, han, means "sun" and the second, sen, means forest. The second is three repetitions of  the symbol for tree. So our family is the sunny forest.

Wednesday, February 16

We did some other toruisty thing in the morning and then flew on to Hong Kong. At the airport I had to wait for four students who had managed not to follow directions that had been simple for everyone else. So I was on the last bus. When we got to the Panda Hotel in the city they were taking three to four minutes to check in each student and I was behind 200 students. When I estimated it would be midnight before I got checked in, I went upstairs to the main lobby and stretched out on a sofa. "Sir, sir?" questioned a most polite, thin old gentleman.  "Are you okay." I pretended to sleep, but eventually responded. I told him I had a room, but I didn't know where it was. I returned to resting. Some time later, he returned with reinforcements, a more hefty younger guy telling me that I was not allowed to sleep in the lobby. Once again I explained that I had a room, but I didn't have a key. We were about to come to some sort of resolution when I found that S had pulled rank and had acquired our key. It didn't take me long to get to sleep.

Thursday, February 17

Hong kong is ALL skyscrapers. The MTR mass transit system is great. (I've always liked subways since my youth when my grandarents would take me into New York City on the subway.)

Today's itinerary: 
    MTR->cnter of Hong Kong, on  the island itself.
    ferry -> Tsim Sha Tsui (the huge shopping area on the mainland across from the island)
    S and Edith shopped.
    I went to an information booth and got the address of a go club.
    We rejoined. We found a stationery store with rice paper for S to do painting.
         (She claims to have used it. Between then and Apr 4)
    MTR back to Tai Wo Hau and the Panda Hotel.
        On this ride I sat next to a child.
        The only child we saw in Hong Kong.

Friday, February 18

Global Studies: Vietnam/Cambodia, Penny Campbell

Hotel shuttle to Tsim Sha Tsui. S and E shopped.

I walked the long-way-around to MTR and then to go club. Played one game with the resident master (lost). And several games with a student. Then MTR back to hotel. The doors to the first trained closed right in my face. Wait for next train: 45 seconds; MTR is good.

Long pre-port meeting for Vietnam. Leave Sunday early.

The food at the Panda Hotel was the same every day and not that exciting. Much like the ship's food.  They did have smoked salmon, but I usually had too much on my plate already by the time I got to it. I'm a slow learner. I failed to resist the desserts despite their being repetitious and unpalatable.  My notes say I weigh between 250 and 260.

Saturday, February 19

Global studies: continue Vietnam w/ Penny Campbell; Fessler on Cambodia

In the afternoon, I spent $14 for 24 hours worth of internet and borrowed Pat Curtin's computer. Mostly I downloaded source and documentation for work on Mozilla Composer. {Mar 28: I've yet to get it going. Lousy internet access has prevented the sorts of e-mails I might have used from home to get help.}

S did her email on Pat's computer and I hit the exercise room.

My email was not cheerful. Our roof was not completed, S got some bad news, and our Cincinatti daughter was unhappy. Then Bill Gates ate S's first email response to Cincinatti.

Exercise: treadmill 2 mi  40 min

Although Hong Kong was British for a hundred years, the population seems to be mainly Chinese. Most speak English. S speculates that Hong Kong is beeing allowed some independence so that Taiwan can be led to believe in possible semi-independence after returning as a province of China. I will leave it to those in Taiwan to judge; they are far more familiar with China than I. All I know is that Tibet has not had much in the way of independence; indeed many Tibetans no longer exist.  And there is a huge war memorial in Shanghai to those lost in the fight with the forces that went to Taiwan. And even while we were in China, the legislature passed more threatening laws about the future of Taiwan.

What is it that drives the mainland to continue pursuing Taiwan after all these years? Even if thehy win there will still be a government in Taiwan making laws for the Taiwanese. Perhaps China is just stubborn and cannot give up a grudge. Perhaps there are some resources of value in Taiwan.  Maybe it is important for the mainland government to focus on Taiwan so the mainlanders don't notice local problems. Would the US do such a thing? Well, we did fight a civil war to retain the South. And the government does do things to distract the populace. The Iraq war drowns out social and economic issues at home.