This post is the preamble to the pictures and stories of events from our trip to China. Overall, we had a nice vacation and I am proud that we took the proverbial bull by the horns and took full advantage of this opportunity. However, this will not make our top 10 list for favorite vacations. When I was 14 (and too cool to be seen with my parents and pretty much a brat for a large portion of the day), we took a family vacation to Disney world that reminded me of this trip. It was a whirlwind tour. We woke up every day with a full schedule of activities planned and crashed every night. Our tour guide met us at the airport, and we hit the ground running with a full day of sightseeing, shopping, and a show. We knew we were pushing Adeline's limits by the time we put her in bed that night.
China is dirty. You can almost feel the pollution in the air and on your skin after you have been outside for a while. After being in Pakistan, I was really hoping to never encounter a squatty potty again....so glad I brought the hand sanitiser. Those who know me, know I abhor smoking. It makes my eyes itch, I hate the smell, and I hate the way it lingers on my clothes and in my hair. No one was happier than me when laws started changing in many cities/counties in the US to outlaw smoking in public places. Well, the "smoking can kill you" ads must not have made it to China because people everywhere were smoking. There was not a non-smoking section in any of the restaurants, and people were even smoking in the airport!
The combination of the above things and the fact that Patrick (who NEVER gets sick) has been battling, and losing the battle with, a horrible cough for several weeks, resulted in us all having pretty bad colds by the second day. This made sleeping in the same room a disaster. Patrick would cough and wake up Adeline, who would then cry, and I would lament the fact that I had to get out of my warm bed to comfort her and wish they could both just be quiet so we could all get some much needed rest. I have to interject a very funny story about our hotel...when we opened the door to our room, we found two single beds separated by a table (all secured to the wall). We called the front desk, and they told us they would fix it the next night. We didn't put up much of a fight considering we were all tired and we really needed to get Adeline to sleep. They never mentioned it again, and we just let it slide since we were all sick by the second day. Considering she was sick and completely out of her normal routine, Adeline did great. She was a real trooper.
Our vacation package included airfare, hotel, all our meals, a tour guide, a driver, admission to the historic sites and tickets for an acrobatic show and an opera. The itinerary also included shopping. Of course, they take you to select factories with outrageous prices. We later learned the tour guide is required to take you to these places, keep you there for a predetermined period of time, and gets paid commission if you buy something. My favorite example is from the jade factory. It was an interesting tour, learning about the art of carving jade, how you can tell quality jade from imitation, etc. At the end of the tour, they had me try on bracelets. They found "the perfect one" for me. It was just a plain ring of jade, about a half inch thick. I was SURE we had done the conversion wrong when figuring out the price. It was $10,000!!! They acted surprised when I didn't want to buy it. The story was the same, just change the merchandise at the pearl factory, silk factory, cloisonne factory, and tea house.
Despite all of this, we had a lot of great experiences, most of which I will expound on in the next post with pictures. However, I can't close this segment without telling you about the amazing shopping on the last day...of course they save it for the end. We went to Lido Market which is the center of bargaining, knock-offs, and great deals. It is a two-story building with tiny stalls everywhere with cashmere, brand name coats and backpacks, shoes, purses, clothes, sunglasses, watches, and kids clothes. I never owned a cashmere sweater before, and now I own several. Are they real? I don't know...but who cares when they are super soft and dirt cheap!?! I also bought the classic $20 North face coat that around here is a sign that you have probably been to China. Again, probably not real, but it seems like great quality, and is extremely comfortable. Patrick was amazed by my ability to bargain. He always thought we would pay twice as much as I did, and I was never turned down for a price. You just have to shoot SUPER low. For example, I would say "$8", and they would throw a fit and say, "you must be joking, this is great quality. It is worth at least $90, but I will let you have it for $65." I would say, "okay, I'll give you $10." They say, "no really, what is your best price?" I say $10 and walk away. They yell, "$20.... (keep walking) $15...$12...$11....Okay, Okay! Madam, $10." Too fun!