Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Local Chinese Neighborhood Tour

Monday we were able to go on the most wonderful tour. We met up with some other tourists and expats and our three guides at a subway station. After that we headed to a wet market (it's wet because of the water that they run over the live fish that are for sale there) and after quite a bit of walking we ended up at Aunt Chen's house. We made some wonton or dumplings, learning how to fold them so they would stay together, and then cooked them. After that we had a variety of traditional Chinese foods. On the table you can see Stir-Fried Peanuts (with my chopsticks in them), Deep-Fried marinated Tofu to the left of that, some Marinated Beef, and some Tea-Soaked Hard Boiled Eggs. The eggs look rather bad because they've been soaking in dark tea, but they are actually quite tasty. They're one of the things that you see for sale from the street vendors. I had been interested in trying them for awhile and was glad to have an opportunity to try them in a "safe" place. We had a wonderful time with the Chens and enjoyed their hospitality. We continued on down a few other alleys and eventually made it back to our starting point. It was a wonderful tour and will surely be a highlight of our trip!

Monday, March 20, 2006

We can never pass an opportunity to eat Dairy Queen. Here we are enjoying a Green Tea Chocolate Chunk Blizzard at the Yu Yuan Market in Shanghai.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Flower Doggies!

We made it safely to Shanghai, spending many hours in the air on the way. Thankfully, we were able to fly in World Business Class much of the way which made for a much more pleasant experience. About 36 hours after we got on our first plane we arrived in Shanghai, where we met my Aunt Louise, Uncle Garry, and their driver, Mr. Li. They presented Laura with a beautiful flower arrangement, probably the only kind of dog that she'll ever like. (They don't bark, they don't need much attention, the won't bite...)

We spent our first day (Thursday, Tuesday just didn't exist for us) seeing some of the sights of Shanghai including the Fabric Market, the "Fake Market" (lots of stuff with logos on it that may not have been manufactured by the owner of the logo), an overwhelmingly large Chinese grocery store, and Century Park in the middle of Shanghai. It was all lots of fun and we're enjoying the weather. It's in the low 60s. Yesterday was fairly clear, with a bit of smog. Today (Friday) looks a bit more overcast, but perphaps that will change. We are heading out soon for tea. Lots more to come! -AA

Monday, March 13, 2006

Chinese Visa Saga

We are really excited about our trip to China which starts in just a few hours. We've been cleaning, planning, packing, and getting ready for the last few days as we prepare to head out. We will be visiting relatives of mine who are living in Shanghai for a couple of years while my uncle finishes his career. Laura has been busy reading guides to travel in China and we’ve been e-mailing back and forth to figure out what we need to do as we prepare. We never thought we’d visit China and are quite excited to have the opportunity to do so and to have relatives to be our guides! Of course, we may be exhausted by the time we get done because my Aunt Louise has about a million things planned for us to do!

In order to travel to China, it is necessary to have a Chinese Visa. Many countries either don’t require visas or they sell them at the point of entry. China requires you to get one in advance. We figured that we could just fill out a form online, maybe send a copy of our passport, and we’d get our visas back. It’s just not that simple. You have to either go in person, or send someone on your behalf, to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. or to the Chinese Consulate General’s office to which your region of the country is assigned. Ours needed to go to the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco. You can pay someone a fee to go and represent you, you can go yourself, or you can get lucky and have friends who live in the Bay Area. As we do have friends who live there, we picked the third option!

Now we just have to hope that the spots of mold that are growing on our passports because the USPS dropped them in some water don't keep us from going anywhere that we want to go!

It sure seems wierd that we'll get on a plane in Portland at noon on Tuesday, get off ten hours later in Tokyo during the late afternoon on Wednesday! Coming back we get in about six hours before we leave! This will be my first trip across the International Date Line!