Our family's stay in Shanghai, China

Archive for January, 2012

Our Visit to Tokyo

It wouldn't be a Disney trip without a picture with Mickey!

In mid-January, we left on a 12 day trip to Tokyo and Hong Kong.  Monday we flew to Hong Kong and spent the night there before flying to Tokyo the next day.  Dad had a show there for work, so Mom, Jenna and I spent 3 days at Disney.  Tuesday was a really long day because after the early morning flight, we had to take several trains to get the hotel near Disney.  We stayed in one of the hotels inside the Disney area, but not in the park.  We had 4 suitcases, and since Jenna is so little, she often had trouble with hers.  We had to switch trains several times, and getting on and off with suitcases during rush hour can be a hassle.  I think we spent more time getting from the airport to the hotel than we did flying.  But we finally got there, and when we did, we were more than ready than to collapse into bed.

In the Hundred Acre Wood with Pooh Bear

Disney was incredibly fun.  They have two parks, Tokyo Disneyland, and DisneySea.  The Tokyo Disneyland was similar to the ones in the States.  Not everyone spoke English, but we were able to manage.  The hardest part was that we couldn’t do any of the shows, and couple of the rides because it was all in Japanese.  It was kind of

frustrating because they’d see us get on, but not tell us everything was in Japanese and you had to understand what they were saying to really enjoy it.  But besides that, it was a fun few days.

We were going to do a two-day pass, but realized we didn’t have much planned for Friday, so we upgraded to three days.  The first day was beautiful, a little chilly, but sunny.  We spent the entire day in in Tokyo Disney, and stayed till closing time.  There were a couple parades we watched, and lots of rides we went on.

On Aladdin's Flying Carpet

The second day was little colder and cloudy, but we were still able to enjoy it.  We spent it at DisneySea, and while some of the rides were familiar, many weren’t.   But one of my favorite parts of the day was the nighttime show we watched called Fantasmic.  It was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of DisneySea, and it was so cool.  They did it over a small man made harbor, with lots of lights and water effects.  There was a tall Mickey Magic hat, and other floats the characters would dance on.  At one point, they even shot off flames into the water, and did several neat water affects.  It was amazing to watch.

I don't want to get wet!!!

The third day was a little disappointing because of the weather.  Dad’s show had finished, so he joined us.  It was raining, windy and pretty cold, so we did mostly inside rides.  We even saw snow showers!  We spent the morning at DisneySea doing some rides we hadn’t gotten to, and that Dad wanted to do.  We had lunch together, then he went back to the hotel to get some work done while we went over to Tokyo Disney.  It was still raining, so we did a few rides, a little shopping, then decided to call it a day.  Leaving Disney is always a bittersweet feeling, since you’re kind of sad to go, knowing it may be a while before you’ll come back.  And we might never be back to the Tokyo Disney.

The biggest difference between the Disney in the U.S. and the one in Tokyo was the food.  We expected to see Japanese food, but we thought there would be more Western food than we found.  It’s a Disney park, and we expected it to have more of the kind of foods we are used to seeing in an amusement park.  We found one location for hot dogs and hamburgers, a couple for churros, (Mickey-shaped of course) and many popcorn wagons.  The interesting thing about the popcorn was the flavors it came in.  Besides the typical butter, caramel and chocolate, we saw curry, soy sauce, cranberry, strawberry and milk tea.  We also found pizza.  But, not quite like the pizza we’re used to.  The Mickey-shaped pizzas we had for lunch had corn on them.  Our biggest problem in both parks was that we never seemed to be near the western food when we were hungry!  The one thing we didn’t see (and were looking forward to having) was cotton candy.  We love it, but it doesn’t seem to be here at all.

Because of earthquakes, Tokyo has a lot fewer very tall buildings than Shanghai.

We had a late flight Saturday, so we spent the morning doing a bus tour of Toyko.  We were able to see the highlights, like the Tokyo Tower, which is similar to the Eiffel Tower.  Tokyo Tower is a TV tower that is now too short.  They are almost finished with a new TV tower almost twice the size of Tokyo Tower.  We also saw the Imperial Palace and a Buddhist Temple.  We learned a little about Japan’s history and more about the two major religions in Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism.

Saturday was incredibly long.  We had a 6:30pm flight, so we didn’t land till in Hong Kong until around 10:30.  By the time we’d gotten through immigration, customs, got our baggage, and took train from the airport and then a taxi to the hotel, it was around 1am.  We were exhausted, and slept in late the next morning.  The Tokyo part of the trip was really fun, and it might be nice to go back and see more of Japan.

The moat, stone wall and guard house around the Imperial Palace. All are several hundred years old.


My Chinese Dance Recital

On January 14, I went to my dance recital in Shanghai.  My ballet school is called JZ Dance School.  We wore pink tutus with gold beads along the bottom and a black and gold design.  All of the class and even our teacher wore the same tutu.  I was in the last class so we had to wait a little while before we danced.  First, we did pliés and cartwheels to warm up.  I have a little trouble with cartwheels; my legs don’t go up in the air very high.

Then, we did our dance.  We used green hula hoops with pink flowers.  We ran out and did an arabesque.  Next, we skipped in a circle.  Then, we all stood in two different lines.  Person by person we all twirled and knelt down.  Then we took our positions.  I was kneeling with one leg stretched out.  We all got up and formed a line. Then, we curtsied (my teacher calls it “thank you” to the audience) and ran around the stage and then off the stage.

But the show was not over yet.  One of the parents was late because our recital went faster than planned.  Our class had to wait about 30 minutes, then do our show all over again.  But it was worth it.

I liked the recital and cannot wait until I start lessons again.

Happy Chinese New Year!!!

Good Morning from Hong Kong and Happy Chinese New Year!  2012 is the Year of the Dragon and dragons are everywhere!  We haven’t written anything recently because we are traveling.

The girls and I went with David to Tokyo last week.  We visited Tokyo Disney and saw the major sites around Tokyo, and learned a little about the history of the capital.  Tokyo was very interesting and so different from China (more about that in a future post).  This week we are in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year.  Hong Kong too is very different from mainland China, primarily due to the strong British influence while it was a British territory.  The biggest thing we have noticed so far is how much more English is understood and spoken here.  It will be an adjustment going back to Shanghai.

Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival in China and most companies, including David’s, are closed for a week.  They really celebrate Chinese New Year!  We were hearing fireworks for at least a week before we left China.  Hong Kong has decorations up everywhere.  There is a parade tonight that goes right by our hotel.  Tomorrow at noon the hotel has a “Lion Dance” for good luck for the hotel and its guests in 2012.  Tomorrow night is a huge fireworks show over Victoria Harbor, about a 10-minute walk from our hotel.  We are looking forward to all the festivities and experiencing the celebrations here.

In the next week or two, we will definitely have lots of photos and new posts about our travels and celebrating Chinese New Year.  And, those of you in Noblesville can expect to see Chinese lanterns next January at 1083 Logan Street!

Happy Chinese New Year!!!


The Oriental Pearl

Laura & Jenna at the top of the Oriental Pearl

The Oriental Pearl

Last week Mom, Jenna and I went up in the Oriental Pearl Tower.  The Oriental Pearl is a TV tower near the Huangpu River.  It was built in the early 1990s and was the tallest building in China until 2007.  We hadn’t planned to, but the aquarium didn’t take as long as we thought it would, so we decided to go up.  It isn’t too often that we have beautifully clear, sunny skies in Shanghai.  The pollution, haze and clouds make it hard to see much from the observation levels of the tall towers here.  But, that day was just about perfect, sunny and pretty clear skies.  It was so cool.  The tower is a really unique shape, with large pink pearls and columns.  We started at the top and worked our way down.  It was a really clear day, so we were able to see for miles.  We were really high up, and it was so cool to look around and see miles and miles of Shanghai.  The Oriental Pearl is very close to the Huangpu River so we could see the skyline and the river traffic.

The next level was even better.  There was a glass floor that went around the edge of the pearl, so you could stand and look 30 stories down below you.  It was incredible.  Mom took lots and lots of pictures, and in one, Jenna was lying on the glass, and it really looked like she was

Laura "floating" on the glass level

sleeping on air.  Apparently, several other Chinese thought she looked cute too, so she’s now in even more Chinese photo albums.  It was just so cool seeing streets, and smaller buildings right beneath your feet.  It was also neat to see the shadows of the Oriental Pearl and several other tall buildings.  We stayed up there for a little while, but since it was semi-outside, it got really cold with the wind.

We continued going down, and went outside another ball to get some more pictures.  It was even

Jenna "sleeping" on air.

colder and very windy there, so we didn’t stay outside very long.  Eventually, we got the to the elevator that took us to the ground floor, and as usual, people just kept pushing so everyone was crammed up against one another.  It’s the “personal space” thing here.   Basically, you don’t get much.  I had been dying to go up in the Oriental Pearl, and it was definitely what I hoped it would be.  I can’t wait to go back at night, since it’s supposed to be really pretty seeing the tower, and the city all lit up!!

The Shanghai Aquarium

Two different types of stingrays that Jenna said looked like they were kissing.

Last week, we went to the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium.  There were zones with marine animals from all over the world.  There was a China zone, a South America zone, an Australia zone, an Africa zone, a cold water zone, a polar zone, a sea and shore zone and a deep water zone.  We saw many, many kinds of marine animals, some things we had never seen before!

To start our tour, we rode a loonng escalator to the 3rd floor.  This floor had China, Australia and South America.  There were lots of fish, eels, turtles,  sting rays and alligators.   We even saw black swans.  We saw tiny shrimp-like animals whitish clear color.  We saw fish that were blue with a red strip and they seemed to glow.

To get to the 2nd floor, we rode down an escalator that went under an arched tank with fish.  On the 2ndfloor we saw Africa, Southeast Asia and the cold water zones.  One fish was blue all over and seemed as if it was glowing.  It was a pretty small fish and was in a tank with lots of other small fish.  We watched a horseshoe crab that was on its back swimming upside down.  Most of the horseshoe crabs were

Horseshoe crab swimming upside down

sitting on the bottom of the tank or swimming normally.

One of my favorite things we saw at the aquarium were the jelly fish.  There were tiny ones, medium ones and HUGE ones.  Some of their tentacles were so long they got knotted with tentacles from other jellyfish.  We learned they don’t have brains, heart, circulatory system, or digestive system.

We rode another escalator down to the next floor to the deep sea zone.  We rode on a moving walkway through one of the longest underwater tunnels in the world.  We saw sharks, turtles, coral, lots of different kinds of fish and something that looked like an ell resting in a crack in a rock.

We didn’t learn much about the penguins because their zone was closed for

Laura & Jenna enjoying the underwater tunnel.

cleaning.  We were very disappointed.  They had statues of penguins that we had our picture taken by and they had a video to watch, but it wasn’t the same as seeing the penguins.

Right before we left, we ran into a large group of students.  They stopped us to talk.  They were from South Korea and were visiting China.  It was neat to talk to them.

I liked visiting the aquarium.  I enjoyed the way they organized it into areas.  Riding the long escalator up two floors and riding on the moving walkway through the tunnel were fun.  We are definitely going back before we leave Shanghai so we can see the penguins.

Resourceful, Economical, Creative and Hardworking

Several loads of cardboard lined up along a street in Chengdu

In the short time we’ve been in Shanghai, we have found the Chinese people to be resourceful and economical, creative in how they use what they have to do what they need to.  They are not, by our observations, a “throw-away” society.  Nor, are they lazy.

Many, many Chinese ride on unenclosed vehicles like bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles.  Shanghai seems to have a lot and Chengdu had many more.  They get through traffic faster, are less expensive to own and are easy to park.  However, Shanghai doesn’t have perfect spring weather with no rain 365 days a year.  It gets cold and we’ve had a few rainy days since we arrived.  Yet, the bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles continue to crowd the streets.  When the temperatures started to drop, long mitten-type gloves appeared on the handlebars to keep their hands and lower arms warm.  Most of these appear to be commercially-made, but we’ve also seen homemade versions and sometimes simple plastic bags over gloves.  Kids riding on the back often have enclosures to keep them warmer and dry.  Quite often, we see riders with a second coat, on backwards, to keep the cold air out.  It looks a little odd, but comfort is more important.

When it rains in Shanghai, out come the ponchos in every color of the rainbow.  They get draped over their legs in the front and packages in the back.  Amazingly, some bicyclists are adept at handling their bicycle one-handed while carrying an umbrella (or cell phone).  Doing this on a smooth road with no traffic is one thing, but maneuvering the often bumpy streets of Shanghai during rush hour is quite another.  In Chengdu, we saw umbrellas on top of a thin metal bar attached to the front of mopeds and bicycles.  The cyclist was covered, but also had both hands free to drive.

Several years later, a refrigerator on a bicycle is still an amazing sight!

Bicycles and mopeds may look like they are going to fall apart, but as long as they are functional, they keep going.  Rust, missing paint, torn seat and broken carriers have no affect on the bicycle or mopeds functionality to transport its rider(s).  In other words, appearance matters little; function is everything.

I haven’t seen duct tape in the myriad of fashionable colors found in the U.S., but it is a well-used product for holding together just about anything bikes, backpacks, moped seats and much, much more.

The owners of the vast array of vehicles are amazingly resourceful and hard-working in transporting what they need from point A to point B.  What Americans would “need” a pick-up truck or huge SUV to carry, they transport in/on various types of bikes and mopeds with and without trailers.  We’ve seen bikes and trailers with stacks of cardboard or Styrofoam, 2 or 3 times as tall as the guy pedaling.  We’re amazed it’s stable and doesn’t fall over!  I saw one guy on a three-wheeled bike with a trailer and a large bunch of flexible tubing.  The tubing was tied to the front of his bike, stretched past him on the seat and was then tied to the back of his trailer.  We routinely see three-wheeled bikes carrying 8-12 containers of water for office water coolers.

In a two-block area around our apartment, there are at least three guys with shoe repair shops on the sidewalk.  Plus, a high-end shopping mall near us has a shoe repair shop inside.  Shoes we would probably throw away are repaired instead.  By our observations, the shoe repairmen stay pretty busy.

We can only imagine how many loads of firewood he carried this way.

David took this photo on a recent business trip.  He described the basket as a bamboo backpack.  The gentleman used the post to support the basket until he started moving again.  It’s quite a load of firewood, and quite likely was not the only stack he had to carry that day.

Materials and household items at construction sites, by apartments or outside neighborhood stores, may look in poor condition, but are not thrown away.  Instead of using new chain-link fencing with gates, well-used sheets of corrugated metal or other sheet materials are tied together with twine to dissuade people from entering.  Buckets, chairs, brooms or tools that we might toss out because they seem worn out, continue to serve a useful purpose, although that purpose may change as their condition worsens.

One apparent deviation from this way of thinking, is the lack of household recycling.  Like many US communities, in Noblesville, we have curbside trash and recycling pick-up.  Materials we don’t need anymore are re-used for another purpose.  When we moved into our Shanghai apartment, we asked about recycling and were told, “no, no, no, just throw in the trash.”  We’ve recycled for so long, that it feels wrong to toss a glass bottle or aluminum can in the trash and yet there is nothing else to do.  With the millions of Chinese households, that is a lot of glass, aluminum and plastic going into a landfill.

Unless, like so many other things, they are re-using those bottles, cans, etc. in their household.

Our Trip to Chengdu – By Laura

Pandas seem to be able to sleep just about anywhere.

The trip to Chengdu was incredibly fun.  While the city wasn’t much to look at, the pandas certainly were.  They were the highlight of the whole trip.  Chengdu, sadly, is a city that’s been deeply affected by pollution.  It stays hazy, and foggy pretty much all the time.  We were there 3-4 days, and we didn’t once see the sun except at the panda breeding center.  The city is really rather dirty, but the pandas were completely worth it.


We had planned to spend 3-4 hours, and wound up staying 7.  It was absolutely amazing.   We were the first people into the park, and it was so quiet and peaceful.  We got lucky, and saw a panda eating stick after stick of bamboo.  We were the only people around, and it was so much fun to watch him.  He would stick his whole face in the bamboo, and just eat, and eat, and eat.  He was completely oblivious to the fact that he was the center of attention.  We stood there for several minutes, just watching him eat.


The red pandas were just as fun.  We saw several of them, some walking around, some playing, some just sleeping.  They were adorable.  There was one point when we saw these two play fighting.  They’d pounce on each other, jump around, and pounce again.  One eventually decided he had had enough, and started to walk off, but his friend had other plans.  He reared up, and landed right on top of the one trying to leave.  The poor little guy didn’t have any choice but to defend himself.


The areas they lived in were pretty big, with tons of trees, bamboo, and wooden walkways for them to climb on.  And they apparently were incredibly itchy.  They’d keep stopping by a pipe or branch, and scratch their bottom.  It was hilarious, and we couldn’t help but laugh at how silly they looked.

Several baby pandas, most are "hidden" in the bushes.


We wandered around for a while, just visiting different enclosures.  Eventually, we stumbled across the baby giant pandas.  So cute!!  They were inside, in 2 different rooms.  While we watched, one of them tried to crawl up on this plastic rocking horse, the kind meant for young children.  He had nearly gotten to the top, when he just toppled over.  He got back up, and tried again, this time successful.  All of them were really roly-poly.  They didn’t seem to be exactly sure how to really move their bodies.  They just kind of rolled, and stumbled around.  There was one who was trying to get through this gate in the room.  He had nearly gotten through, when he suddenly just popped all the way over, and wound up falling on his head.  It was so cute.  Another one climbed up a small ladder, as if to do something, but when he got to the top, he just laid down to go to sleep.  It was if he was thinking, “All that work to get up here was tiring.  Time for a short nap.”  Unfortunately, it was dark inside, and we couldn’t get a good picture.  We could have stood there for hours, but we eventually moved on.


It was nearing the end of the day when Jenna and Dad found a cool area while Mom and I were shopping.  They had gone off to explore, and discovered an area we hadn’t seen yet.  It was a bit of a walk there (up 2 big hills), but so worth it.  The first panda we saw was named Lin-Lin.  He had apparently decided he wanted one of the wooden supports against a tree, and was yanking if off.  He’d bat it back and forth before it finally came free.  He dragged it over to his small pond, jumped in, and started gnawing on it.   It was so funny.  He’d hit it around, then bite some more off of it.  He eventually got bored and wandered off.


But the best part was still yet to come.  We found more babies.  There were about 5 of them, and they were so cute!!!  There was one that was crawling by his friend, who was asleep.  He kept pushing on him, trying to get by, and eventually got stuck.  The one kept sleeping, though I have no idea how.  The other panda was caught between his friend, and the bamboo.  He eventually freed himself, and padded off.  One was moving around, and as we watched, just toppled over.   They really haven’t gotten full control of their arms and legs yet.  We stood there for several minutes, just mesmerized watching them.  We could have stood there all day, but finally went on to see the rest.

Doing laps around his enclosure.


Overall, it was an amazing day.  The pandas were so cute and adorable, and so much fun to see.  I think, if offered the chance, I would go back any day.  I can definitely see why China’s trying to protect such a beloved and peaceful animal.

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