Today I returned to work, although as luck would have it, Wednesdays are the day I usually can work from home! Yay! And I really needed it because I was so sleepy, I nodded off a couple times during the day. But overall I did ok fighting the jetlag. However, the creative part of my brain was not operating at high capacity so I busied myself with planning and reviewing other designs.
But enough of that. I rarely mention work on my blog and I don’t intend to start now. 😆
Tonight’s dinner was a simple but delicious chicken and rice meal, with three different types of sauces: sweet chili, soy/oyster, and soy/sesame/cilantro. They were all tasty. 😋
Well, I’m back home. It has been a great trip but unfortunately, vacation’s over. As my friend told me, “Even banquets have to end”. 😢
The trip from California to Texas was actually quite good. I made it through security quickly, and while waiting at the gate, the Jetblue gate attendant asked me if I’d like to switch my seat to an “Even More Space” type if I was willing to be in the exit row. I agreed, and the gate attendant assigned me his favorite seat, which is special because the seat in front does not recline! It was so nice. Even though I have short legs, the extra space is welcome. 😀
To add to the “luxury”, I got to feast on a pastrami sandwich that my mom made for me. So good… 😋
It was nice to see my family again after over two weeks of being away. And the super-bonus was that I got to enjoy my favorite meal, oyakodon. ❤
Today our China tour comes to an end, with our scheduled departure from Shanghai at 2pm. But that gives us the morning in the city! So, we start with breakfast at the hotel, which has a wonderful buffet. I have been eating small breakfasts of coffee, juk (rice porridge) with pickles, and maybe a dumpling or two. But today I “splurged” and had some beef noodle soup. It was delicious! 😋
Oh, by the way, the hotel has this display which shows the current air pollution level in the city, and the air quality inside the hotel. Pretty cool, but also kind of sad that it is needed. 😒 Speaking of the notorious air-quality in China, I don’t think it has been that bad. Perhaps it’s been due to the time of year (winter is supposed to be the worst for air pollution), but even though it is relatively good, blue skies were rare.
I still needed to do some shopping, so my brother and I headed to the nearby grocery store to stock up on goodies, including Japanese Kewpie in Chinese containers, some hotpot mix, spicy fish mix, durian candy, chocolate, noodle snacks, and curry. A pretty decent haul. I can’t wait to try the hotpot later. 🌶🔥😀
After saying goodbye to most of our tour group who were on an earlier flight, we waited for our own motor coach to take us to the airport. By the way, I’ve been to eight different airports during this trip: Austin, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Beijing, Xi’an, Chongqing, Wuhan, and Shanghai. 😮
The long flight was without incident and we arrived at my parents’ house in Torrance at around 5 pm the same day we left. Pretty cool traveling across the international date line from west to east!
For dinner, we decided to get Mexican food at a nearby restaurant that we hadn’t been to in a few years: Alfredo’s. The deluxe carnitas burrito I had really hit the spot! I’ll indulge in a huge meal before returning to my smaller portions again. 😁
I technically have one more day of vacation (a travel day) but since I’m no longer in China, I consider my trip over. Very sad… 😢
Today I woke up early to go on a short run to The Bund, hoping to catch a nice sunrise, and I was pleasantly surprised to find some amazing weather. Well, maybe it’s always like this, but I’m just happy there were some cool clouds and no rain. 😀 Other early-morning bonuses included seeing some Tai chi and kite-flying. Both were very cool!
Our official morning excursion was to the Yuyuan Garden, which includes beautiful pavilions, shaded grottos, and incredible architectural details. I recommend getting there early to beat the crowds! Plus the morning light will be best for photos.
Adjacent to the garden is Old Shanghai, which is filled with souvenir shops and food vendors. I bought a couple gifts there but didn’t find anything really cool for myself. Still, it was fun to check out all the things for sale!
The afternoon activity was a trip to Shanghai Museum, which features four floors of Chinese treasures, but my favorite exhibit was the collection of ink paintings and scrolls. They were beautiful! Also of note are the various costumes of the different ethnicities of China. They were so interesting and varied… well worth taking a look.
Before dinner, we had a couple free hours so I went in search of some shoes that I had seen earlier in Beijing. Luckily, we found a local shoe store just a few minutes away from the hotel, and I was able to try these on before buying them for $20. I thought they were really cool!
Oh, we also spotted a CoCo Curry house:
The last item on the agenda for the day was a Chinese Acrobat show, which was pretty good! I didn’t take any photos since they weren’t allowed, but that’s ok. I’ll just keep those memories stored in my head. 🤣
This morning we woke up extra-early to depart the ship and head to the airport for our flight from Wuhan to Shanghai, and as a good omen, there was a beautiful sunset to accompany us!
It was a quick trip and by noon we were on the famous Bund waterfront. The skyline on the other side of the river was stunning! What an amazing introduction to Shanghai. 😮
After that, we had lunch, then checked in at our hotel. We didn’t have any other official activities planned (besides dinner at the hotel) but a bunch of us headed over to an underground shopping area to check out the items on sale. This shopping area is famous for its counterfeit goods and there were plenty to choose from! The most popular items were handbags and backpacks, t-shirts, shoes, and watches.
I had a fun little adventure when I was led to the back room of one of the stores to check out their selection of “Rolex” watches. I actually had little intention of buying one, but I wanted to check them out and haggle a bit on prices. Of course, I left without buying a watch, but it was an interesting experience, for sure.
I’m not a hardcore watch enthusiast, but I don’t understand why you’d want to buy a fake Rolex… I mean, do you really intend to fool people? Because you are still paying a lot for a nice fake, but at the end of the day, it’s still a fake. I’d rather pay $1 for a “true” fake and have a laugh showing it to friends than pay $300 for a high-quality fake and keep up the charade. But that’s just me.
That goes for the shirts and backpacks as well. If you look at the quality of these items, you can tell quickly that they aren’t real, but they still cost about $10 after bargaining. And do you really want a backpack to use every day that isn’t that great quality, and whose logo is kind of wonky?
After shopping, it was time to head back to the hotel, but instead of taking a taxi, my brother and I decided to try out the subway system. From purchasing tickets to finding the train and taking it to our destination, it was really easy and efficient. A great way to get around town!
Back at the hotel, we had dinner before heading to The Bund again to check out the skyline at night. There were a ton of people there enjoying the view, which has to be one of the most spectacular cityscapes I’ve ever seen. It was awesome!
Today was a bittersweet day for me because it is our last full day on the ship, which has been an absolute blast. The reason it has been so wonderful is that I have enjoyed spending time with the crew and getting into a daily routine.
For instance, we wake up and head to Taichi for half an hour, then to breakfast, and then enjoy the planned excursions. In between the scheduled activities, I enjoy hanging out on the sundeck editing photos, or running in the gym, or having a drink in the bar. And because we see the same crew, we have plenty of opportunities to chat and joke around with them. It’s so much fun!
But knowing that it’s our last day makes it bittersweet and a bit sad. 😢
Today’s morning excursion was a walk into the port city of Wuhan. There’s a popular shopping area that our tour leader brought us to, and then we split up to explore the area on our own.
But before we separated, I saw a haircut place which was only 10 yuan, so a spur of the moment decision had me sitting down for a quick trim. It was fun, and I can now say that I got my haircut in China!
After that, I walked out of the modern shopping district and wandered around the local area, where I explored narrow alleys, a small sewing/tailoring street, and an indoor meat market. It was pretty cool! I kind of got into the groove of asking locals if I could take their photos, and everyone I asked was willing and happy. That was so fun!
The afternoon excursion was to the Hubei Provincial Museum to view a set of ancient bells that were found in a tomb and then listen to a performance on a copy of the bells at the museum’s music hall. The bells were pretty cool, but I enjoyed the accompanying traditional Chinese flute and Guzheng zither even more.
For tonight’s meal in Wuhan, we had an extra-special treat because my brothers, mother, and I were invited to dinner in town by the ship’s Program Director. We ate at a hotpot restaurant, which was such a great experience. The hotpot itself was divided into two sections so we could have a mild broth on one side, and then a spicy broth on the other, and when asked what level of spiciness I wanted, I went for the maximum!
Both Angie (the Program Director) and I love spicy food, but the rest of the group doesn’t eat it so much, so they suffered a bit when eating from that side of the pot. But for this special opportunity, I would have a HUGE regret if I didn’t go for the maximum spiciness. I have to say that it was indeed fiery, but not unbearable for myself, so I was really happy. 🔥🌶🤪 Anyways, we had plenty of cold beer to help us with the spicy food. 🍺
So now it’s time for rest, and as I mentioned before, I am filled with a bittersweet feeling because we are leaving the ship tomorrow… but the journey will continue for a couple more days in the city of Shanghai. Onwards!
Today was a special day of the vacation because we made a visit to the local school here in Wuhan that the cruise line sponsors. During the visit, the elementary school kids held a musical performance for us before we visited the classroom for some fun activities, such as singing and English lessons.
Honestly, when I read the description for this “excursion”, I didn’t know what to expect, so I went into it with an open mind. But after meeting with the school kids, it was readily apparent how much this sponsorship means to them. I believe that the visit from the guests is a highlight of the kids’ school year, and happily, it happens with regularity as long as it is cruise season.
You might not know it, but I was a teacher for a few years, and I thoroughly enjoyed the job. It was so satisfying to know that you have a direct influence on people’s lives and that motivated me to give it my best effort every day. I have a tremendous respect for teachers because of this.
The school visit ended late morning and we returned to the ship for lunch and a couple onboard activities, one of which was a visit to the bridge of the ship. We got to learn about the chain of command, the navigation tools used, and even a bit about the nature of the Yangtze river. Although it was a short time on the bridge, it turns out there’s not a lot about it that you wouldn’t expect. 🙂
The next activity was a presentation by the chef about how to make Chinese dumplings, complete with recipe sheet. In our house, we don’t cook dumplings so this was new to me. I think the filling is similar to gyoza, but the skin is doughier and since it is boiled, the dumplings are juicier and softer. Honestly, though, I prefer the gyoza we make at home, which is steamed and fried in the skillet.
The evening featured a performance by many of the staff members dancing in ethnic costumes. It was fantastic to see the beautiful types of clothes.
Later in the evening, we ended up at the dancefloor once again, but now the musicians/DJ were used to us and played a bunch of reggae and some calypso as well and we did the limbo to close out the night. Another wonderful day in China!