September 29th, 2011, 4:17 pm PDT by Greg

We have now had our first full day in Hangzhou (plus an afternoon after the flight). With apologies to the Beijingers out there: it’s better here.

Wednesday night (after the flight), we took a walk around the city: north along the lakeshore and back through the city. Somewhere in there, we realized we were all hungry and found this fast food place upstairs (at Yan’an and Qingchun roads for anybody keeping score).

When we went in, it was immediately obvious to Oli and I that ordering was impossible: you seemed to have to buy tickets (from a Chinese-text-only menu) and then go to the prep area and give them your tickets to get food. The text-only menu was a dealbreaker for us and we suggested moving on.

Kat and Tina went up to the food-getting area and started pointing at things. Some dude that worked there took pity on them, led them to the cashier, ordered the things they had pointed at, and took them back to get food.

Oli and I were left thinking “what the hell just happened? Why are we eating?” Then they somehow ordered seconds.

This illustrated the strategic difference between our coping strategies. I want to have a plan, like I did with the great wall driver: I’ll translate “lunch noodles” and then reply “yes” to whatever he says next. Kat is much more comfortable going in guns-blazing (with a note pinned to her chest that says “sorry I don’t understand Chinese”). I believe these strategies are complementary.

Other than that, good first day here: paddle around the lake and tour of the tea fields (by taxi). It’s pouring rain and I was really a lot wetter than I was comfortable with yesterday, and today promises more of the same.

Beijing: check.

September 27th, 2011, 7:26 am PDT by Greg

We’re leaving Beijing tomorrow at noon, so that pretty much wraps up this leg of the trip.

On Monday we got a driver from the hotel to take us to the Great wall (Juyongguan section). That was excellent.

After the wall, we were thinking about lunch, but the driver spoke no english. Through the magic of Pleco, I translated “lunch, noodles”, to which he responded (thanks to its handwriting recognition) something that translated like “noodles with bean sauce”. We said yes, and he took us somewhere back in Beijing. We convinced him to eat with us and had something I have since learned is called “zha jiang mian” and was amazing.

Pointers to good zha jiang mian in Vancouver would be appreciated, since the idea of not having it again makes me sad.

Today, we walked through Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City. Then back south through Wangfujing.

To Hangzhou tomorrow, where I honestly hope there is less to see, since I don’t think we can keep up this pace: I think the combination of walking everywhere (including up the wall) and mental overhead trying to figure out how to do things without sharing a language with the locals is taking its toll.

Pictures are being posted, daily(-ish).

China day 1

September 25th, 2011, 2:13 am PDT by Greg

After 24 hours on the ground in Beijing, it’s finally really settling in that I’m in a whole other country. For the first few hours, I was so tired I might have just taken an 11 hour plane ride to Richmond for all I knew.

But here we are: me, Kat, and our friends Oli and Tina. We’re staying at the hotel where Tina’s conference was. (The conference was the original seed of the idea for the trip.) The hotel is around NW 3rd ring road, near Peking and Tsinghua Universities, for those who care.

Today, we met a friend of a friend who grew up in this part of the city. He showed us around the two Universities. It really seems like they have a Harvard/MIT thing going on: Peking is the top-ranked school, but Tsinghua is right next door, a close second, and has more of an engineering/applied focus.

Kat and I always seem to swing by local Universities when we’re on vacation. Having spent just about exactly half of my life around Universities, there’s a comforting sameness about them. What differences exist are always glaring.

In the name of not packing too much into this trip, that was our day. We’ll probably do something after dinner: plans still unclear.