Thursday, August 13, 2009

July 21st, A Tillman Clan Arrives in China

The weekend before the travelling began I unfortunately fell a bit ill and sported a fever on Sunday while in Hangzhou visiting Jean. Luckily Jean helped take care of me and scored me some aspirin, which did help to break my fever, but unfortunately it returned, and I wasn't feeling well enough to return to Huzhou that night. Monday morning I was feeling a bit better, but not 100%, but I had to return to pack my things for the trip and get my passport so I could fly.

Tuesday morning, July 21st, I left my house at 8:30, arrived at the Huzhou bus station at 9:10, and bought a bus ticket to Shanghai. However the next bus was to leave at 10:20, so I had to just kill some time. As soon as I sat down in the lobby, I realized that after all I had remembered to pack, I had forgotten my passport. So I rushed out, grabbed the nearest taxi, told him I was in a hurry and to go to the Huzhou Vocational and Technical College. We got there in about 15 minutes, and got to the front gate of the school. I asked the guards if they would let the taxi go inside the school because I was in a hurry and needed to fetch my passport, but they said no. The taxi driver had already said he would wait, so I told him I would run. So, I got out of the car and began sprinting the nearly half a mile back to my apartment from the front gate and up the 6 floors to my apartment. I say began sprinting because I wasn't able to spring the whole way. I definitely didn't pace myself well. Half a mile should not begin with a full-on 100% dead-out sprint. In any case I did run the whole way there, grabbed my passport, drank some MUCH needed water, shut off some lights I had forgotten to turn off when I left the first time, and ran back.

Altogether the driver waited for me about 10 minutes, the last part of which I seriously began worrying about whether or not he had waited. If he hadn't it could be EXTREMELY difficult to find another taxi from there in a short period of time, and there wouldn't be enough time to catch another bus. Luckily he still was and upon seeing that I decided I'd give the driver a tip. This may not seem like much, but tips in China are essentially non-existent, so when a service-person we would usually tip receives one, their reponse is usually one mixed of surprise and confusion. In retrospect, I imagine he would've waited for me as I had not yet paid him when I ran to my apartment.

Anyhow, I did finally arrive back at the bus station at 10:00, 20 minutes to spare, plenty of time before my scheduled departure. After boarding the bus, however, I began to question my timing, and soon figured that I might be late. The bus to Shanghai needed about 3 hours, but that is just to arrive at the south station. That put my arrival at 1:20pm assuming nothing went wrong along the way. My family's flight, according to the Delta website I had checked before I left, however, was to land at 1:15 . I knew that there would be a 20 minute delay for checking everyone's temperature on board (a policy China has implemented on all incoming flights from the US and Mexico due to the H1N1 flu), perhaps another 20 minutes going through customs, and then, I guessed maybe 15 minutes getting their luggage.

But I knew that it would take be about 90 minutes to get to the international arrivals terminal once I arrived at the Shanghai South Station, meaning there could've potentially been about 30 minutes difference after their exit through the "Nothing to Declare" gate and when I would arrive, leaving them wondering where to go and having no way to contact me. I really began to stress about this, and so I called my American friend Nellie in Shanghai, to see if maybe, on the off chance that she was free, if perhaps she could do me a solid. My luck had seemingly changed as it turned out she was actually free for a few hours, wasn't too terribly far from the airport, and was willing to help me out.

I finally arrived in Shanghai at 1pm, not 1:20 (so it's 2:40 hours, not 3), called Nellie and tried to coordinate. We then agreed that I would make my way to the non-airport side of the Maglev station. Then I'd give her a call if I had not already heard from her. If my family had arrived, she'd take them to the maglev to me; if not, I'd hop on the maglev to the airport. I got to the maglev station at about 2pm, and she said she still hadn't seen them, and that it was beginning to worry her. She said the boards show that their flight landed at 1:12pm, and that people from other flights landing about the same time had already come out. I got to the international arrivals gate at about 2:20 and saw Nellie but no Tillmans. Nellie had been free up to this point, but did have something else to do later, so she had to go, and I thanked her again for helping me out. I, however, was beginning to worry too. It had now been OVER an hour since they landed and they hadn't shown. I was nervous they'd been quarantined or something. Luckily my fears were not founded and sometime around 2:45 they finally came out. Whew! Turns out it was a combination of A) taking people's temperatures, B) Stopping to take pictures, allowing others to get in line in customs before them, insuring C) a long line at customs, and D) simply having to wait a long time for all their checked luggage.

Tillmans Arrive at Customs

So, we began schlepping our stuff from the Shanghai airport, through the Maglev, then the #2 subway to Peoples' Square, switched to the #1 to the South Railway station, and landed a train to Hangzhou. This bit of travel is not too harrowing if you are one or two people travelling lightly. But if you are 5 people and 4 BIG pieces of luggage, it can be rather more troublesome.

On the Shanghai MagLev Train at 430 km/h
(That's 269 mph in, as Katy put it, "real life")

Anyhow we arrived in Hangzhou, snagged a minibus (a van) to our hotel, the Best Western Premier, showered and cleaned up, and waited to meet Jean to go to dinner. She gave me a call when she arrived at our hotel and I went down first to meet her.

I couldn't find her at first, and we were trying to figure out where the other person was. It was at the moment when we said we were both at the door that I realized that we could not possibly be at the same place. As it turns out there were TWO Best Westerns in Hangzhou, and she was not at ours. So, poor Jean had to hop ANOTHER cab to ANOTHER Best Western hotel in ANOTHER part of town that she didn't know very well. But she did finally arrive, beautiful as ever, and everyone was introduced, and we made our way to dinner. We weren't sure where to go to eat as the restaurant Jean had previously selected was convenient to the other Best Western. So we decided to take a stroll and push our luck. We shortly found a place that seemed nice and took a table.

There was no menu, the plates and foods were either on display or on display being cooked and you could choose what you liked. Jean and I chose for our party, and chose carefully for our recently arrived and certainly tired and weary (and perhaps somewhat picky) guests. While we were waiting on the food Katy said she'd like to take a look at some of the things they had, what I had ordered. She approved of the choices, but while looking at the dishes, Katy noticed some caged chickens. Katy mentioned that she thought it was strange to have the live chickens out where the patrons could see them, as if they would point and say "Ooh! I want that one!", and that you wouldn't see that in the states. I replied, "Sure you do. Have you ever been to Red Lobster?"

The food was good and everybody enjoyed most of it. I say most of it, because when selecting, I wasn't sure if deer was too outside the mainstream for my family, and as it turns out, it is. I ate it, but it looked better than it tasted. It was actually kind of bland.

Anyhow, we went back to the hotel, where upon opening the mini-fridge, Katy noticed that the Red Bull cans in China are short, fat, and yellow, as opposed to the familiar, chic, tall, skinny, and grey and blue. There at the hotel, Jean helped us negotiate a better rate from the minibus for a ride to the airport the next morning, and we all took a few pictures, after which Jean went home, and we all went off to bed for an early, action-packed next day.

Jean and the Tillmans


  1. nice. no, deer is not mainstream here even in the south. I have tasted it myself actually and the venison I had was chewy...but then that's me!
    looking forward to more blogs.
    This is fun!

  2. What's different about the pick your own lobster is that you eat it in the whole state. I don't really know how the patron who picks out a chicken can tell it is the same one after it has been cut-up and cooked. Still I guess you know it's about as fresh as it gets.


  3. Glad your having so much fun. Had dinner with the folks and everyone seems to quite impressed with your language skills. Went to Costa Rica with my son Scott (15) and had to drag him with me. "who wants to go to a third world country" was his response. Well at least some of the younger generation have that wonder lust.

    Bruce and roberta