China Once, China Twice

What I had never planned to do

High end designer stores and shopping in China October 1, 2011

Xi'an - Ceiling in shopping center

As Bloomberg reports, two more developers have announced plans to build more of these high-end shopping malls and stores in China.

If you physically go out, there are two ways to shop in China.  You can price bargain back and forth with street vendors in the outdoor, or back-alley street market style of shops.

In high-end retail stores and shopping centers, there is no bargaining.

The retail rental space however, is based on a percentage of the store’s sales.

These same photos can be seen in an earlier post of mine here.  I have plenty more I might share later.  And by the way, only one  journalist has permission to use my photos.

Shopping mall in Xi'an

High end stores in Xi'an

A view from my hotel room

Again, another view from my hotel room

A shopping center in Xi'an


The Endangered Panda Bears, A Letter Of Commendation August 12, 2011

Please, don’t let this one disappear on its own!

1 of the 1,600 remaining panda bears still left in this world

So far, I have given six presentations at Vacation Bible School camps.  I took this task on myself.  From a newspaper, I learned a local church would be having a Panda Mania camp week.  The children would use their imagination to travel through China, the land of the endangered panda bears.  Nope, I could not let that happen.

I have over 1000 photos from my own trips to China.  Specifically, I had been very ill the day I was scheduled to be with the panda bears.  Only through sheer determination was I able to see and photograph the pandas in Chengdu, China.  I dearly wanted these children to learn through my own experiences.

Pandas International backed me up with incredible promotional and educational information.  I was good-to-go and off I went.  What I knew about panda bears would surprise both children and their adult staff.

The feedback I received has exceeded my own expectations.  This commendation letter came through.  It says it all.

This letter of commendation says it all.


Panda Bears, Chengdu, a Black Tongue and Ms. Sara August 6, 2011

My son chose to teach English overseas and moved to Qingdao, China in early 2008.  My second trip in 2009 was planned around his birthday, September 9th and my own on September 14th.  I used the same on-line travel agency,, who had successfully planned my first visit.  They knew I was a single female, spoke no Chinese, traveled alone, and would want to tour parts of China.  I was very flexible.  Only two dates and places were non-negotiable.  I had to be in Qingdao on my son’s birthday and the Panda Bear Reserve Center in Chengdu on my birthday.

Before landing in Shanghai, all passengers had to complete and sign a lengthy health form.  Specifics were on flu-like symptoms.  I felt perfectly fine the whole time I was in Shanghai.

Happy Birthday 25 years old

Head cold

Sam and Daisy at home

When I arrived in Qingdao, my son was accompanied by a miserable head cold. His Chinese girlfriend, Daisy, was also a new, wonderful addition to meet. She had purchased the Chinese OTC (over-the-counter) cold pills Sam was taking.  I took his head cold with me to Chengdu.

I felt lousy!  Absolutely I was NOT going to be the planned panda bear caretaker for a day.  It was too great of a risk.   I might pass onto the panda bears, what my son passed onto me.  I agreed that I could see the pandas, but no hands on care.

Having checked I had no fever, my guide in Chengdu called Daisy.  He got the OTC product name and off we went to a pharmacy.   I also wanted a nasal spray, something like Afrin, to help me breathe.  I got something, but the clerk and my guide were confused; they never heard of using a nasal spray for congestion.  So Happy Birthday to me!  China Highlights surprised me with a birthday cake.  Somehow I managed a half day, taking as many pictures as possible of the endangered panda bears.

The panda bears are endangered

They have been here for 3 million years

Only 1600 panda bears are left

The next morning I felt like I should be dead.  Went to brush my teeth, saw my tongue was totally black and thought “Yup, I’m going to die.”  The hotel staff took me to hospital #1 across the street (what we would call a walk-in clinic).  They looked at my tongue and sent me to hospital #2.  It was a cab ride away, but a hospital by US standards with English speaking physicians.  They knew right away the black tongue was from the nasal spray.  That spray was putrid; I had only used it twice.  I was given two other Chinese medications and released.   I had classic flu symptoms, except no fever.

Generally, I stay at 3 star hotels in China, fairly equivalent to 4 stars in the US.  In Chengdu,,  felt more comfortable booking me at a 4 star, they knew me well, I was “Sam’s mother.”  I stayed at the Tianfu Sunshine Hotel where I met Ms. Sara, young, caring, and kind.

Sara was a waitress in the hotel restaurant. Her English was fair, her sensitivity astounding.  I was having lunch, reading a book.  It was a Chinese novel, she had an interest in the book too.  We chatted, Sara sensed something was wrong.  She learned I had just left my only son the day before.  Physically, I sure didn’t look so great either.  There was a wedding taking place in the hotel, she led me through the back entrance. I watched the wedding with other hotel employees, while Sara explained different parts of the ceremony.  Later that evening, she called my room to see how I was feeling.

Another day while sitting outside, Sara came by.  We chatted again, she gave me her cell phone number just in case.  The morning I decided “Yup, I’m going to die”, I threw on some clothes and went down to the restaurant.  I found Sara, showed her my tongue.  She stopped serving, found the hotel manager, who took over from there. When I eventually returned later, a warm bowl of congee was in my room.  The rest of the day was sleeping and packing, I had a flight to catch the next morning back to the US.

That evening, back in bed, Sara quietly came to my room.  She sat gently on the side of my bed.  Carefully she peeled, cut, and hand-fed me apples.  That was the last time I saw Sara.  When I checked out the next morning, it was her day off.

Twice I have traveled alone in China.   I’ve seen The Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, and a whole lot more.  By traveling alone, I have had one-on-one experiences with Chinese people.  There were others, with different, meaningful memories.  This time I want the whole wide world to know.  In Chengdu, China there is one, special, young Chinese waitress with a tender heart, known only to me as Ms. Sara.  If you see her, you have met an angel on earth.


More of Shanghai April 10, 2011

Here's Shanghai

I’m behind in keeping “pace” with updates to this blog story.  Pardon my tardiness, life has kept me rather busy; it is about to get busier too.

So here is more of Shanghai.  Sure had no idea what to expect besides lots of cars, buildings and people.  When the Olympic Torch relay passed through while I was there,  I spent an hour in a cab that morning……going nowhere…from my hotel and right back to my hotel!  The only truly crowds I saw on my first trip to China.

Biking to work

The Biking Lot

Count Down to the 2010 Expo

View From The Bund

The Pearl TV Tower

Sam flew down from Qingdao, we had two last days together.  He had the opportunity to practice his skills in speaking & reading mandarin Chinese with our guide Felix.


Felix helps Sam understand the characters

Sam and Felix in a Buddhist Temple

The most difficult encounter was Felix’s arrival to take Sam back to airport.  All three of us felt the powerful parting emotion.  I had visited and spent time with Sam twice on this trip.  He was leaving now, neither of us knew when we would see each other again.

When would I see my son again? I didn't know.

I flew the next day from Shanghai to Beijing to the USA.

Wisely I accepted Felix’s advice to use a wheelchair escort throughout the airports.  My leg injury was too severe, I had no choice and changed my economy fare flight home to first class.   The 14 hour flight home turned into 17 hours.  Bad weather in New Jersey delayed the landing, but  I was home and safe.


Shanghai October 13, 2010

Filed under: China,Travel — Ginny @ 6:18 pm
Tags: , , ,


A walkway cross over in Shanghai


I am in Shanghai now, my son would be meeting me later in the week.  I set aside touring the top highlights until he arrived.  You will see later the Zhou Zhuange Water Village I visited while waiting for him, and other photos taken throughout.

And yes, this photo might seem unusual as a first introduction to Shanghai.   There is no glitz or glimmer, you see people walking an intersection street crossover.  It has special meaning to me.

With my blondish hair and blue eyes, I was walking up (yes, slowly) the steps onto the top.  A very elderly Chinese woman began to descend the steps.  The instant she saw me, a brilliant smile came out.  Her eyes sparkled, her gait increased as she diagonally came towards me.  We exchanged hearty handshakes.  She was so thrilled and excited,  I was obviously not Chinese.  It was the warmest, most kind and sincere  “Welcome to China”  I experienced.

Small things often create big impressions.


Fengdu, A Ghost Town July 14, 2010

Filed under: China,Travel — Ginny @ 8:30 am
Tags: , , , ,

It is a ghost town

May 19, 2008 we docked in Fengdu, disembarked and knew to expect a 3 minute siren would sound from our ship.

We would then join 1.3 billion Chinese and stand quietly, marking the exact time the earthquake struck one week prior in Sichuan Province.  Three minutes of inner silence, inner reflection and remembrance.

Fengdu is located high above the Yangtze River; chair lifts are used for transportation up and down.

I have snow skied in my life, a chair lift was not a foreign object to me.  Cheryl (from Michigan) got on one side and I, onto the other side.

We pulled down the safety bar. I never saw what slammed in from behind and clobbered my right leg calf.  I let out a shriek of pain and our ship’s siren began.

That night I did question my sanity, perhaps traveling alone in China wasn’t such a bright idea.

The bone was not broken, the injury was tantamount to surgical varicose vein stripping without anesthesia.  That was not a foreign concept to me either.  It would take at least  2 months to recover. I could finish this trip, the two most important treatments were 1)”keep the leg moving” to prevent blood clots and 2) “keep the injury tightly bound”.  My refrigerator list back home, do-not-forget items, I had listed support hose. I could wear two pairs, and my friends from Michigan had packed Advil!

Fengdu is truly noted in history as a Ghost Town!

Now check out these photos…..

hotel built and later abandoned

a window that looks like a picture

strange statues

my leg 5 weeks later

the chairlift

Greetings to Fengdu Ghost Town



The Yangtze River June 21, 2010

Three boats in a row

I flew from Xi’an to Chongqing, and boarded the Victoria Cruise.  I would travel by boat down the Yangtze River and disembark 3 days later in Yichang.

In the dining room, I was seated at a table with some folks from Michigan.  Paul lived and worked in Shanghai.  His brother and sister came to visit him.  His sister brought her husband, who brought his mother.  Together they were traveling through China.  This great family, more than once, shook their head in disbelief.  I must be one gutsy gal to be traveling 24 days alone in China.

The brother and sister,

her husband, his mother

they all came to visit Paul.

I never thought of myself as “gutsy”.  I wanted to see my son, didn’t know anyone who had the time, money and desire to visit China.  I had to travel alone if I wanted to see my son.

In the next post, I’ll describe an accident that occurred during this cruise.  Call me “gusty”, call me anything you want.  Sometimes things go wrong, and to complete my trip I had to think carefully and not panic.

For now, just enjoy these photos from the Yangtze River going through the Three Gorges Dam.  It was spectacular one night.  Paul, his brother and I went to the top deck.  We watched the gigantic doors of the channel locks slowly open and close.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

You get on the boat, starting here in Chongqing

All onboard

Going under a bridge

Yangtze River View 1

Yangtze River View 2

Yangtze River View 3

Yangtze River View 4

Yangtze River View 5

The locks at night

The final view