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Pilates Jul 18th, 2006 05:34 PM

Hi TG: I was talking to a friend about the reaction you and your boys are getting in China. Are the boys blond? Tall? Light eyed? I think you mentioned that you had blue eyes. Before you leave, please ask a native (perhaps a guide) why they think the boys are getting such attention. Has anyone wanted a photo of your husband? I hope he doesn't feel left out. :-)

The reaction that they got prompted me to look on the Fodors asian board to see if any other Fodorite experienced the same. Marija posted a good trip report and mentioned that her mother received so much attention. Even the waiter came to the table with a camera to take a picture of her. The open way in which they express their curiosity just cracks me up.

Waiting for the next chapter......

noe847 Jul 18th, 2006 06:11 PM

Back in the late 70's my sister went to Japan to teach English in Okayama City, a very large city that had very few westerners. She is 5'2" with straight dark brown hair, but instead of blending in she stuck out. I think it was her blue eyes. Not only did people stare at her, mothers shielded their children from looking at her or being looked at by her.

travelgirl2 Jul 19th, 2006 02:14 AM

noe847 - Oh my gosh. Nobody seemed to hide from us, luckily.

Pilates - I did ask the guides and they both said it is because we are foreigners. Sometimes, I am more popular (blondish from a bottle and blue eyes), but usually it is the boys. No one cared about DH unless they wanted a picture of our whole family, but I didn't realize that until just now when you asked. I won't mention it to DH. With his height over 6 feet, I would have thought that would be unusual. DS1 is pretty tall, dirty blonde/light brown hair and blue eyes. DS2 looks a lot like Harry Potter, with brown hair, as Clarence's son pointed out.

missypie Jul 19th, 2006 04:54 AM

Gosh, what would they make of my two red-heads (and a blonde)?

CRAZY4TRAVEL Jul 19th, 2006 07:04 AM

Your experience with the locals was similar to what my sister decribed as the reaction she got in parts of India. She is fair skinned and blue eyes. Everywhere she went, she would be the center of attention.

I am so enjoying your adventure. What a great way to bond with your family.

travelgirl2 Jul 19th, 2006 03:16 PM

Day 18 – Shanghai

Due to our luxurious surroundings, DS1, DS2 and I refused to leave our room today. Room service was our best friend. DS2 did let in the man to check the mini-bar and forgot to alert me, so I was surprised while watching a movie in bed in my pajamas by a strange man charging into my room. That was our excitement for the day.

Oh, and also I have won a ‘Bad Mother of the Year’ award. No, I did not kill DS2 for letting a strange man into my bedroom. My precious children’s innocence has been soiled by watching an R rated movie. It’s their first. None of us meant for it to happen. We just happened upon the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” on HBO. I told them this was a movie I’d always wanted to watch and convinced them to watch it with me. I did not realize it was rated R or how violent it was until we were deep into the movie and people were being graphically murdered left and right. Oh well, it was an interesting movie anyway, but I felt kind of bad about that.

To keep up with our Fodor’s responsibilities, DH went touring by himself. Here is his trip report for the day:

He was most impressed with the JADE BUDDHA. There are twenty or more Buddhas that are gold and about 30 feet tall. On the second floor, there is a giant Buddha carved out of jade and covered with jewels. He also went to YUYUAN GARDEN, which he described as a smaller version of the Summer Palace in Beijing. There is an extensive street market surrounding the garden, which you have to go through to get to the garden. He thought that THE BUND was like an elevated walkway along the river, with a small section of buildings from the 1920’s and 1930’s. You can also see the new buildings across the river. He said that if you’ve been to Paris or London, it’s nothing that you haven’t seen there.

One thing I noticed about Shanghai was the architecture. The skyscrapers are amazing. There are so many creative buildings, in such a variety of shapes and sizes. (I wonder what Benedict O’Looney would have said about them?)

I would like to have toured Shanghai a little and was sad that we had to leave without seeing too much. Tomorrow we head back to London, en route to Athens and Santorini.

travelgirl2 Jul 19th, 2006 03:17 PM

My impressions of China:

It is not easy or relaxing to travel here, but it is infinitely interesting and rewarding.
You can travel independently, if you choose.
I think it is helpful to arrange some tour activities.
Bring cash to change into Yuan at the hotel front desk.
Taxis are very cheap.
There are usually no seatbelts in the back seat of the taxis.
Always have your destination written in Chinese, to show the taxi driver.
Be very careful crossing the street.
People spit a lot.
People smoke a lot.
People hang out on the street corners a lot. They squat a lot.
It is pretty polluted here.
People will stare at you or talk about you or follow you around.
I felt very safe here, as a foreigner. I felt that we enjoyed a kind of ‘protected’ status.
I felt the presence of the government everywhere, in ways large and small.
The people seem circumspect and sometimes the tiniest bit sad.
Some people will try to make as much money off of you as they can.
The disparity in disposable income is very difficult to reconcile. You know that by giving someone a 20 yuan tip, which is only a little more than $2, it will be considered outrageously excessive, but sometimes you just can’t help it.
Some, but not too many, people speak English. Some people that can speak it will still not understand you when you speak to them.
The place is amazing. The people are amazing.
I’m so glad we saw it now.

tower Jul 19th, 2006 07:10 PM

T-Girl...a very good summary hit it on the've armed me with some excellent data for my return to China (first time since '84)..especially liked your comments on Jane and the tour guy in Xian...I 've copied all that.

Mucho thanks!!

By the way, don't be concerned with the boys seeing "R" rated stuff...all my grandchildren were completely unrestricted in watching movies and TV...they are now 25, 23, 19, 15 and 10...and wonderful human beings..the 10 year old will turn out as well, I'm sure.

<<I’m so glad we saw it now.>>>

I made this same comment in spring I'll see the difference 22 years can bring to China!

Anxiously awaiting your next letter from London or Greece! Happy voyages!

Stu T.(when do we get to see the pix?)

tower Jul 19th, 2006 07:14 PM

P.S...if you want to see some photos of Old China in '84 I'd be happy to send you digitals back then so I would scan a few and send them along (Xian, Shnaghai and Beijing, maybe some from Guilin.....need your e-mail which you can send to me at
[email protected]
Stu T.

amaclise Jul 19th, 2006 07:34 PM

Were the cigarettes and the watermelon for the man you went to see in the cave?

Loving that pedometer. I'm sure you're getting that friend a special gift from your trip!

Thank you so much for your report!

travelgirl2 Jul 20th, 2006 02:31 AM

Stu T. - sent you an email. I'd love some pix. Thanks!!! I imagine you will notice so many changes since 1984. It will probably seem tame to you.

amaclise - yes, the cigs were for the elderly man and the watermelon for the elderly woman. They seemed very happy to receive them.

Travelbug13 Jul 20th, 2006 05:05 AM

Travelgirl, I am loving your trip report. it brings back so many fond memories for me. I lived in Korea for a year and have been back now for about 6 months. I travelled to Japan and China (among other south east Asian countries). I had to live with the pointing and starring day after day whilst in Korea. Especially b/c of my naturally curly hair and blue eyes. The reason for this is mostly because they don't see foreigners much, but also b/c they have a distorted view of westerners. What they see is mostly from American movies, so they either thnk we are famous, rich or both. After a year of it, it is what ultimately got on my nerves the most. I loved China and would go back in a heartbeat!
Also my friend got ripped off from the vendors on the outside of the temple of heaven. They gave her back change in Russian currency and she never noticed.
Lesson learned the hard way I guess!
Can't wait for the next post!

missypie Jul 20th, 2006 06:27 AM

I'm so glad that the three of you took a rest day at the hotel! Good for you to not feel "obligated" to drag yourselves around when you needed a break!

escargot Jul 20th, 2006 06:47 AM

what a wonderful trip report to follow along - excellent - I'm really enjoying it all -

moolyn Jul 20th, 2006 06:48 AM

Still enjoying your report, Travelgirl!

I've experienced attention too in Japan and Central America because of my blonde hair and blue eyes. I felt like a celebrity for the moment but I'm sure it would get old pretty fast.

And that currency exchange thing doesn't only happen in foreign countries. Just last week in my home town I gave someone a quarter and discovered to my embarrasment that it was a rupee. I hadn't noticed receiving it. I still can't think of where it was passed to me but then who expects it at home.

travelgirl2 Jul 20th, 2006 05:52 PM

Day 19 – Flight to London

We took at taxi to Shanghai Pudong airport. It was a very uncomfortable ride, with a heavy suitcase on our laps for the 45 minute ride. We arrived in plenty of time for our morning flight to London. At check-in, we were told that the VIRGIN flight was delayed by 6 hours. They had been unable to reach us or our travel agent to let us know of the change. I booked this ticket through We were very disappointed that neither CheapTickets nor Virgin sent us an email to let us know of the change. It is possible that someone may have tried to call us at home, but that didn’t help us, if they did.

The change in our flight was very unfortunate, because our 12 hour flight was originally to get us into London at 4 pm London time, which was 11 pm Shanghai time. Now, we would arrive in London at 10 pm London time, 5 am Shanghai time. Our nice daytime flight had turned into a red-eye. It is especially hard, because we will be staying overnight at the airport and taking two more flights to Greece tomorrow.

The check-in agents gave us a coupon for a meal in the airport and a letter for 20% off the published fare on a future flight. Big deal. They apologized profusely for the change, which I appreciated, but it didn’t really help our situation at all. I asked if we could wait in the Virgin lounge, but they gave a circuitous answer which we eventually understood to mean they were concerned that it may be crowded in there for the first class passengers if they also accommodate everyone who was not informed of the departure time change. Well, DH is usually very easy-going, but this time he was not going to take no for an answer, so he told them that we are passengers too and we have been inconvenienced too and we would like to wait in the Virgin lounge, etc. Finally, they relented. They said we would be allowed into the lounge 3 hours before the flight, at 1:45 pm. It was now 8:30 am.

[As an aside, I have noticed in China that no one answers our questions directly with a “No”. Even when someone means “no”, they either give an answer that seems like yes (until you think about it) or they give you a circuitous answer that seems to make no sense. We eventually learn that if we don’t understand the reasoning behind an answer, the person probably means “no”, but is too polite to say it outright.]

We headed off for our free breakfast. We sat for 2 hours in an empty restaurant, in a nice setting, under a glass domed roof. We were resigned to our fate, so decided to relax and enjoy the downtime. We were also very silly. I told the kids to hurry up and eat because we had a flight to catch. They started to hurry and then realized I was kidding them. We played hangman together, making up silly sentences, like “please pass the sushi and sashimi” and “… zebras and nymphs”.

Then, we heard an announcement that they were boarding a British Air flight to London. We ran out of the restaurant and zoomed back to the Virgin check-in desk to see if they could put us on the BA flight. Only now it had been changed to a United check-in desk and no one knew what we were talking about. As we walked away, DH and I then started to get mad. Why hadn’t Virgin offered to put us on the BA flight? Why had they given us such a hard time about waiting in the lounge? But, there was really nothing else to do except wait for our flight.

So, we went to get a FOOT MASSAGE. They put us in a little private room with 4 chairs. DH, DS2 and I had massages. They were nowhere near as good as the massage I had had in Beijing with Jack. But, it was nice way to pass the time. So was the shopping we subsequently did. As I’ve noted previously, we are not shoppers, so this was a good opportunity to finally pick up some little gifts for people at home.

Now, it was 1 pm, so we went through security and to the Executive Lounge. The lounge seems to be shared by several airlines. It was not too exciting, but at least we had some drinks and found a semi-private area to sit and wait 3 hours for the flight. When we finally got on the flight, it was fine. But it seemed so long. We all had trouble sleeping too.

In London, we took a taxi to our airport hotel, the SHERATON SKYLINE HEATHROW. The taxi was 11 GBP, almost $20, for about 5 minutes. Ouch. This was a shock after the Chinese taxi rides which cost $4 or less for 30 minutes. At least I had gotten the Sheraton Skyline on Priceline, for $92 ($72 plus $20 taxes and fees). And the four of us could fit into one room. We checked in and immediately fell asleep. It was 11 pm London time, 6 am Shanghai time.

amaclise Jul 20th, 2006 06:01 PM

I think I know where the next day's post is going and it isn't pretty! Too many hours in the air, too many time zones, hotels, taxis... but then you've all been so darn unflappable, I'm sure I'm wrong.

LoveItaly Jul 20th, 2006 06:49 PM

Travelgirl, I am in awe of you and your family, especially your children, you are certainly fantastic travellers.
And your trip report should be highlighted on Fodors' is fantastic.

About Stu, anyone that goes onto Google will see the books he has written plus a photo, he is quite a handsome gentleman. I plan on getting his latest book. How fortunate we are to have him on Fodors.

And travelgirl, although I don't want your trip report to end I can hardly wait for your next installment.

tower Jul 20th, 2006 07:01 PM


Curses!! Foiled again!! Paparazzi at every corner, talk show hosts behind every pootted palm! Alas, the terrible price of!

(p.s. the photo is an old one of Rudy Giuliani)

tower Jul 20th, 2006 07:03 PM

...potted palm, that is....

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