Thursday, August 12, 2010

China Visit - Day 2 - Wednesday, August 11

I'm writing this at 5AM on Day 4. I'll try to record as much as I can remember. The trip hasn't been entirely eventful so far:

We landed in Hong Kong almost an hour early, which was great because I had had my fill of sitting in coach for the time being. The views as we flew in were spectacular, with all of the little islands with steep, abrupt-rising hills and mountains and skyscrapers crammed in wherever possible.

The airport looked like any other airport I've seen. Immigration was easy and uneventful. I met up with my driver on the other side of customs.

When we stepped outside together I got my first taste of the heat and humidity. The air was much denser and wetter than what I can ever remember feeling, but I'm sure it was skewed by the fact that a) I came from dry southern California, and b) I had just spent over 12 hours on a plane with recycled air.

The driver shuttled me toward the Chinese border in some kind of Toyota van that they don't sell in the states. He was friendly enough. I think he said his name was Willie. We talked about Shenzhen and how he was from Hong Kong. Willie looked quite young.

The route from the airport to the border snakes around a few different islands, with great views of the lush Hong Kong countryside. We arrived at the border, where I had to get out of the van, go through an immigration line, and meet back up with the van on the other side of the building, all the while Willie taking my things through customs. It was a 15 minute, uneventful affair.

On the other side of the border, we were immediately immersed in urban Shenzhen. We drove through the Futian district, toward Nanshan, where my hotel is. The streets were nice and clean and everywhere was packed with cars, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Willie dropped me off here at the Crown Plaza. I had no trouble checking in. I went up to the room, showered, and looked around for something to eat. The only things in the minibar were candy bars I wasn't interested in, and a bag of "mixed snack" that had some prawn sauce crackers in it. Instead, I got dressed and went across the street to the 7-11, where I found some cucumber flavored Lay's potato chips. I got those and a Carlsberg beer and took them back to my room as a little dinner. The chips were very strange tasting. I don't think I'll buy them again.

The little trip to 7-11 was my first taste of Shenzhen. I don't know why, but I had imagined I'd see a bit more English on signs to help me through, but there wasn't any. The streets were packed with people and I had no idea what shops were what. At 7-11 the girl behind the counter gave me a strange scowl when she discovered I didn't speak the language.

I went to bed at 10PM and slept like a rock. I thought my ploy to stay up all night might have helped me avoid jet lag, but here I am typing a post I started at 4:30AM. I'm sure my body will adjust to the time zone just in time for me to go back to California, in the less forgiving direction (losing time rather than gaining it).

China Visit - Day 1 - Tuesday, August 10

Here are the notes I took from my first day of travels, typed on the iPad on my flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong:

The night before my flight, I stayed up all night doing chores, packing, playing games, and trying to avoid jet lag.

I left with Kimberly for the Flyaway at 5:30AM. I was at the airport and through security by a little after 7, with over 3 hours till boarding.

Ate a Clif bar for breakfast and joined the a conference call. I was even able to see the presentation with my iPad via the WebEx app. I got in a small nap before boarding.

I saw the San Fernando Valley from the plane after take-off. L.A. had a thick layer of fog/smog, and there was a legit fluffy white marine layer colliding with the basin way out into the ocean. As usual, the San Gabriels peaked up above it all, crystal clear.

It was otherwise an uneventful flight to SFO. The plane made its way between the marine layer off the coast and the dirty smog of the central valley. I did see the Romero Canyon trail snaking up to El Camino Cielo on the ridge of the Santa Ynez mountains behind Carpinteria, which we hiked once. I slept most of the rest of the short flight after that.

I walked a long way from the domestic to international terminal at SFO, but still had about an hour before boarding the plane bound for HK. The only food choice next to my gate was a little French/Italian cafe. I had a caprese sandwich, which I salvaged into something relatively tasty with some brown mustard and black pepper, and a conspicuously good no-name Italian-sounding pale ale. I found out when I was leaving that it was actually Sierra Nevada branded especially for their restaurant.

I'm on a 747 for the big flight. I slept for a bit after take-off, unfortunately missing a snack and drink of some sort, but before I could ask for something anyway they started serving lunch, which was lettuce with some decent sesame Ginger dressing, a roll, and very lackluster pasta with red sauce and too much cheese.

Iron Man 2 had just started whe I woke up, so I watched the rest of that. Other than that, I:

-listened to several albums
-read my book and magazines
-read an article that was still open on wikipedia on the iPad about the Frontier strip
-ate a couple granola bars
-did some training slides on the laptop
-watched a couple episodes of the anime Trigun on the laptop
-watched the movie Date Night with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey, also presented on the plane
-played games on the iPad
-watched the only movie on the iPad, the short part 1 of Wes Anderson's the Darjeeling Limited, called Hotel Chalier
-took a bunch of notes for my meetings in the coming week

All that and there are still four hours to go!

The laptop is nearly dead but the iPad still has 53% charge. I'll have to try to port some of my backed up DVDs to the iPad while I'm here so I have more entertainment options on the long trip back. Now they're playing some Miley Cyrus movie that I'm unlikely to give a chance.

Now I'm listening to Headlights, an album purchased at their show with David Bazan in Santa Barbara. I suddenly miss Kimberly and California quite acutely. We're almost done flying by Japan, though not close enough to spot any land, as far as I've seen. I dozed off when we flew over Tokyo.

Bleck. I was served rice and veggies, but the veggies are in some kind of sauce and there's no way to tell if it's animal based. Doesn't taste right to me. I'll have to plan my travel back a bit better than I did on the way out. I have a bunch of protein bars, but eating so many is doing a number on my digestive system. One can at least find some nuts and pretzels that are safe, I'm sure.