The best advice I've received about how to survive an Alaskan winter is to "get out IN it" and "get out OF it". We decided to get out of it with a trip back to China in late January. How's that for far, far away? It wasn't exactly an island destination, but low 70's feels like summertime to an Alaskan. Besides, Matt found killer airfare, so China it was.
But, first the getting there. Anchorage to Seattle to Hong Kong.
Somehow, the travel stars aligned, and we got two whole rows to ourselves for the fourteen hour flight. The extra room was soooo nice.
That moment, when it feels like you have been flying forever, and your flight tracker says that there are ten hours remaining. TEN! Even the extra room doesn't help console you at that point.
Whew, we made it!
After arriving in Hong Kong, we caught a ferry to the city of Shenzhen, our first stop.
A quaint little city of 12 million (NYC is 8.5 million), Shenzhen is a major financial leader in Southern China, with one of the world's busiest ports. I find the number of enormous cities in China to be just astounding.
While riding through the night in a cab to the hotel, with the windows rolled down, Eva took a deep breath and said "Ahhhhh. We're home." She could smell the restaurants, pollution and the humid sea air, and after three years in Asia, maybe that will always seem comforting and familiar. Ahhhh, a bed- finally! Goodnight! (Don't even get me started about the modern, open floor-plan of many hotels these days!)
Ella had cooked-to-order ramen for breakfast, something I don't normally whip up at home on a regular basis.
Her happy place.
After a LONG, leisurely breakfast (wide awake at 5am....jet-lag is no joke!), we headed to the electronics market. Shenzhen is one of the largest electronics exporters in the world. The market had every kind of knock-off imaginable, and then some.
After the market, we just wandered the streets, which is one of my all-time favorite traveling activities.
Street food anyone?
Eva's go-to is always a steamed pork bun.
Ella is usually a tad more adventurous. This bun had some sort of sweet potato(?) paste inside, it was sweet and good.
Then we went for what seemed to be the crowd favorite, fried bread with sesame seeds. Who wouldn't love that?!
We walked through a city park and bamboo forest,
and ended up at a well done museum on the city's history. There are always reminders about what a great idea communism is in China. Hmmm....not sold yet.
But I always find great joy in English translations, for instance "When you are intoxicated with the brilliance and magnificence of Shenzhen today".....How can you not love that?
One random museum exhibit showcased animals from around the world. We felt right at home!
Another day, another EARLY breakfast.
(***Side-note- So many hotels in China are new and modern and gorgeous! This particular Marriott had the best sense of texture in their decor, I just loved it!
China is frustrating because they have censored most popular US internet sites, and I felt totally disconnected from the world. No email, Google, Facebook.... you name it!
We had to use the hotel business center to look up information about a tourist site in the area. So frustrating!
The child rate for the train in Shenzhen was based on height, not age. This did not bode well for two tall American gals. Get out your cash, Daddy!
I guess we really are all the same, world over.
To walk out of the train station and be confronted with this very '80's (check out the mullet!) version of David, was kind of an assault to the senses.
After seeing the real thing in Florence a few months prior, I laughed out loud at the "replica".
Pretty sure Michelangelo would not be laughing at these proportions, however.
Where were we? Window of the World theme park. This should be interesting.
Window of the World was basically a park of miniatures. All of the world's wonders in one convenient place. There was Singapore's Merlion,
la Tour Eiffel,
some USA favorites,
not to mention a beautiful Japanese garden.
Complete with a koi pond,
and fake cherry blossoms. Made in China, perhaps?
One of my personal highlights was a very unique Chinese "Native American" performance.
We especially enjoyed their use of silks in costuming, very indigenous to the American plains region.
And last but not least, the "Snow White-ish" sculpture with Santa Claus. Is Disney receiving the royalties? Just wondering....
All joking aside, my favorite attraction was Polar Adventure. There was a huge ice skating rink,
an indoor tubing hill,
and a small ski hill, where kids were taking lessons. We loved watching the kids, clad in their rented snow gear, run and shriek with excitement at playing in the snow.
It wasn't even close to experiencing the fullness of God's great outdoors, but it gave these kids a glimpse of what a snow day must be like. Pure joy.
After three years in Asia, I was proud to have avoided the use of a squatty potty. That luck ran out this trip.
All in all, Wonder of the World was a bit cheesy, but we enjoyed walking the grounds nonetheless. Ella decided to try chicken feet on the way home. Uh, okay...
I'll pass, thanks.
The verdict? The preparation was not her favorite, as it was boiled, but she would like to try a fried version. Maybe next time.
Kelly was our favorite hotel friend. She learned English in school and worked SO hard to communicate with us and be helpful. We adored her.
And we even ran right into the hotel's newest help staff. This guy delivers toothbrushes, etc., to rooms. So fun.
Not a bad way to end the day.
Time to move on, but only after one of my favorite Asian delicacies for breakfast- passion fruit!
Zhuhai was our next stop, and is also part of what's known as the "Pearl River Delta" region of China. Zhuhai is also called the Riviera of China, I learned to harness my expectations...
But first, back on the ferry.
Sometimes while traveling, McDonald's is a welcome sight. Good or bad, you know what you're going to get.
Except maybe in the case of the German Sausage Double Beef Burger. I guess Matt deserved this for straying from the tried and true.
I did enjoy watching this table of darling boys celebrate a birthday, though.
On our stroll to the beach, I couldn't help but realize how different the Chinese and Japanese cultures truly are.
Many Chinese buildings are in serious disrepair. Something that could be beautiful, just gets neglected and rundown. Property in Japan, on the other hand, is cared for in a perfectly meticulous manner. Always.
Th beachfront park was exactly what you would picture of a lazy Sunday afternoon.
There were families and friends out flying kites, riding bikes, and picnicking. Seriously, we're all more alike than we are different.
There was even a small fishpond, which drew a huge crowd.
This little gal was very proud of her days catch.
Ahhh, finally, the water. It was strange though, the beach was full of people- but not ONE person was in the water. Pollution or wintertime? Couldn't tell. I probably wouldn't swim there, though...
Westerners were apparently VERY unusual in this part of China. We were stared at, pointed at, and secretly selfied with.
This group, however, was bold and asked for a groupie. I adored the guy on the right in the sweatshirt. He walked right up, extended his hand to Matt and introduced himself, (practicing his American customs, no doubt). We did some small talk and then he told Matt that he doesn't have to use a map, there's an app for that!
We didn't have the heart to explain that because of China's crazy internet censorship, we were old-school by necessity. But we laughed about how ancient we must have appeared.
Matt ended the night with some NFL play-off action in Chinese. You don't get that everyday...
Zhuhai was an interesting place, definitely not glamorous, and the 'Riviera of China' nickname? As long as there is no comparison whatsoever, to the French Riviera, then sure why not?
Next up- we conclude our tour of China with stops in the very Vegas-like, Macau, and the exotic city of Hong Kong, one of my favorites!