July in China (with kids)

Old Aug 1st, 2007, 06:08 PM
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July in China (with kids)

Just arrive home from a month in China with a 9 year old and almost 7 year old.

We spent two weeks at summer camp in Shanghai, then touched down in Kunshan, Yangzhou, Chengdu, Wolong (where the pandas are), Xi'an and back to Shanghai via overnight train before returning to Canada last night.

Very jetlagged right now but looking forward to posting trip details soon.

Thanks to all who offered info and advice in advance.

CanadaKate
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 07:14 PM
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welcome home....will anxiously await details
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:27 AM
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As a kid in the UK 45 years ago we had a week or two in a caravan 50 miles away at the coast and a lot did not even have that. How things have changed. It makes you wonder what kids 50 years from now will consider a good vacation? Space? Virtual worlds?
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:36 AM
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Kaneda... My kids get "dragged" to Europe and other long haul vacations, because otherwise Mom and Dad wouldn't be able to go either. So, at least in my case, it's not the kids asking to go on a 20 hour flight! I'm sure they would be happy on the beach for two weeks.

CanadaKate, I am looking forward to the details of your trip. I will take my currently 8 & 10 year olds to China for about 6 weeks in 2009. (I don't think I could handle going next year.)
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 04:56 PM
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CanadaKate -- Rest up and get the kids ready for "back to school", we will patiently wait for your TR!
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Old Aug 6th, 2007, 09:03 AM
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Trip Report – Part 1

On June 28th, the day after school ended, my two daughters and I headed off to China for a 34 day trip that took us to Shanghai, Kunshan, Yangzhou, Chengdu, Wolong and Xi’an. My husband joined us for the second half of the trip.

Before I launch into a chronological narrative … some general comments.

We found the summer heat, humidity and pollution challenging but we had a wonderful time with much tasty food and many interesting experiences. My daughters deepened their understanding of and connection to their birth country on their second trip back since joining our family as infants via adoption. We’re already thinking about our next trip in two or three years.

I made most travel and accommodation arrangements in advance via the internet. I’ve heard of people having trouble booking one room for four people (2 adults, 2 children) at Chinese hotels. Some hotel websites couldn’t handle such requests but all were fine with it when contacted directly by email. Direct contact also worked to negotiate reduced room rates or to get breakfasts included in some cases.

Our hotel costs varied, before taxes, from under RMB300 to over RMB1,000 per night -- different amenities for different prices. Mixing it up a bit worked fine for us. We enjoy having a pool but didn't need one every night. The one thing I missed at cheaper hotels was not having a safe in the room which meant carrying more of our valuables with us each day.

I don't have a laptop so I depended on hotel business centers for sporadic contact with family and friends. The least expensive was an internet café in Wolong – RMB2 for a half-hour. The most expensive was at the Radisson Plaza Xing Guo in Shanghai – RMB2 per minute! In between, I encountered rates that ranged from RMB18 to RMB120 per hour.

Another example of variable costs:

An air-conditioned van and driver for a 50 minute drive, door to door between our Shanghai and Kunshan hotels, cost RMB600.

The airport express from Yangzhou to Nanjing Airport, a journey of 2 hours 10 minutes cost a total of RMB186 (2 adult tickets, 1 child’s ticket and 1 free child). The very comfortable bus left from a spot about a 10 minute walk (even pulling suitcases) from our Yangzhou hotel.

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Old Aug 6th, 2007, 09:05 AM
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suitcases) from our Yangzhou hotel.

Trip Report – Part 2

Thursday, June 28th: Although there’s a direct Air Canada flight from Toronto to Shanghai, we flew Toronto/Chicago/Shanghai, saving about CDN$800 in total for three tickets. I did wonder if the saving was worth the hassle as we inched through the United check in line and then joined hundreds of people all waiting to go through U.S. Immigration. We made it to our gate almost two hours after arriving at the airport and just ten minutes before departure. The connection in Chicago was also rushed but then, happily, we were on our way.

Both girls are good travelers. It’s much easier traveling with them now that they’re old enough to each pull their own small rolling suitcase and to carry a backpack with airplane amusements. Children’s stories on the MP3 player helped them pass the time, along with napping, reading, enjoying the pre-ordered kid’s meals and a bit of sisterly squabbling.

Friday, June 29th: Fast forward to Shanghai’s Pudong Airport: bright, clean, spacious and uncrowded. We cleared Immigration and Customs without difficulty or delay. Despite being an experienced China traveler with a smattering of Mandarin, when arriving with small children after a lengthy flight, I enjoy the indulgence of being met and taken directly to my hotel without having to find a taxi, negotiate a fare and calculate payment while in a tired fog. We were happy to see a sign with my name on it as we came out of the baggage area.

The ride to the New Harbour Serviced Apartments -- www.newharbour.com.cn -- was long, primarily due to delays at the point where multiple lanes of traffic merged to enter the Yanan Road East tunnel under the Huangpu River. Our two-bedroom apartment included a living room, dining table and small kitchen. Most welcome was a water cooler in the living room filled with drinkable water. After a dinner of french fries (eaten with chopsticks of course), steamed rice, chicken noodle soup and a plate of fresh veggies, we ventured out for a walk around the block to stretch our legs and dip our toes into the experience of China.
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Old Aug 6th, 2007, 09:07 AM
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Trip Report – Part 3

Saturday, June 30th: We spent two nights at the New Harbour. Good location in an area with lots of stores, restaurants, and laneways, a short cab drive from the Bund (walkable in less hot and humid weather), with a small park a short walk away. Our first morning, up early, early, early, we wandered over to the park while waiting for the New Harbour’s restaurant to open for breakfast. We watched people jogging, using exercise equipment, walking dogs, doing Tai Chi, playing badminton, twirling hoola hoops, chatting on benches and watching us.

We were the only people in the pool which was clean and comfortable although too deep for the girls to touch bottom. Fortunately, they’re both good swimmers and we’d brought the younger one’s inflatable armbands.

Our day’s excursion combined the Bund Tourist Tunnel and the Ocean Aquarium. The Tunnel is an attraction many people love to hate – it’s a strange combination of flashing lights seen from gondolas moving slowly along. The girls loved it, it’s quicker than a taxi over/under the river in busy traffic and, best of all on a hot day, it’s air-conditioned.

We found the heat overwhelming, later learning it had hit about 35 Celsius. We put the small spray bottle we’d brought with us to good use as we sprayed each other with water in an attempt to cool down.

The Aquarium’s attractions include a long moving sidewalk that passes through a large tank. Our visit coincided with shark feeding time which gave us spectacular close-ups of sharks taking food from a diver. High drama when one daughter realized she’d left her backpack in a washroom. Since the Aquarium is set up as a one-way visit there was no possibility of retracing our steps. Multiple staff with walkie-talkies, a visit to the surveillance-camera-filled security office, a quick trip past barrier ropes via behind-the-scenes shortcuts and the backpack was happily found.

Sunday, July 1st: Happy Canada Day! We considered attending the Canada Day celebrations being held at a stadium in the French Concession but decided the heat would be too much. We swam, re-packed, then moved to our home for the next two weeks: a Motel 168 in the southwest suburbs of Shanghai (not far from Hongqiao Airport). I’ll write more about Motel 168 in my next post.
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Old Aug 6th, 2007, 10:32 AM
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Oh Canada Kate -- It's great to hear you and the girls were immersed in the culture and enjoying it so much. Yes, the heat can be oppressive and annoying. Can't wait for you to post more. Does Toronto have a support group for your type of family? In California there are activities each quarter and a big annual re-union. I met a young girl from Guanxi who spoke english, chinese , yiddish, and was karaoking to Alicia Keyes.







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Old Aug 6th, 2007, 01:26 PM
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Hi, Shanghainese,

Yes, there's a quite active FCC (Families with Children from China) Toronto chapter that organizes Lunar New Year and Autumn Moon banquets, other cultural activities and a summer picnic. I write a column called "Homeland Travel Thoughts" for their quarterly newsletter. Many families have already traveled back to China or are planning future trips.
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Old Aug 7th, 2007, 04:24 AM
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Trip Report – Part 4

July 1st to July 13th: Motel 168 (Shanghai)

The Motel 168 chain offers simple accommodation at an affordable price. There’s a Motel 168 a few blocks from the Bund as well as a very large one being built right at Pudong Airport opposite the passenger terminal. Nightly rates start at <surprise> RMB168. Our split level room with a queen size bed upstairs and a double downstairs was RMB 268. Nothing fancy but we had a television, a fridge and lots of space. No business centre, in-room safe or swimming pool. Some rooms had closets; ours had a couple of drawers. Apart from the other summer camp families, we only saw one non-Chinese guest during our two-week stay.

The on-site Merrylin Restaurant had surprisingly good food – much better than one would find at an equivalent North American motel restaurant – especially at lunch and dinner where a wide variety of really tasty Chinese food was served. The breakfast buffet alternated between Yangzhou fried rice and fried noodles along with hard boiled eggs, a big platter of fried eggs, congee, several types of pastries, veggies, a meat dish, and some mini-sausages that were as artificial as any North American hot dogs.

The motel is located on a large divided road (2 car lanes in one direction, 3 in the other plus separate bicycle lanes in both directions). I spent a lot of time after the girls fell asleep and before they woke up looking out our fourth floor window at the flow of people below: prosperous-looking joggers passing tired people pulling heavy carts of building materials or vegetables, bicycles and motorcycles carrying a single helmeted rider alongside similar vehicles loaded down with several people, and a constant stream of pedestrians. The ever-changing but constantly busy scene made concrete the concept of China’s large population.

Chinese, Korean, Japanese and pizza restaurants were all within a short walk. Very handy for bottled water, fruit and other necessities was a large Lotus Supermarket. A dozen or so well-established stalls selling inexpensive clothes, DVDs, toys and the like were located along an outside wall of the supermarket. Early one morning, truckloads of construction workers and police arrived and tore all the stalls down. Within a few days, several of the same vendors were back, selling their merchandise from spots on the sidewalk.
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Old Aug 8th, 2007, 06:58 PM
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Trip Report – Part 5: More Shanghai

As well as visiting the usual Shanghai tourist spots, we discovered a great place to escape the heat -- Dino Beach Water Park is huge! There are water slides for children large and small, lots of dinosaur statues, a wave pool, an artificial beach, and a long, wonderful river to float down on rented inflatable rafts. It’s definitely not a lazy river as there are many waves – at one point my 6 year old and I were bouncing off padded walls high above the river but every time I checked, she was loving it! There are many entrances and exits to the *river*. We floated almost twice around and that consumed more than an hour.

On another note
... Shanghai traffic!&$$#!!!

It's much worse than the congested traffic we experienced two years earlier in Beijing. It’s hard to know whether Shanghai’s roads are more crowded than Beijing’s -- or have conditions worsened significantly in both cities over the past two years?

Any Fodorites who’ve visited both cities recently who’d care to comment?

From my taxi receipts, I know that it took us 8 minutes to travel 1.8 km, 20 minutes to travel 3.8 km, and 36 minutes to travel 5.7 km.

At least moving at that speed, accidents are unlikely to be too serious! The subway would have been faster but there wasn’t a stop out in our suburb.

CanadaKate ...
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