It is going to be a hot day. My watch says the high will be 82 F. We are boarding the train to the north back toward Beijing, but will get off about 2/3 of the way there. I would really have liked to spend some time in Nanjing. Kai wanted to take me out on the town last night, but I told him I am too old for that kind of nonsense, and since I will invariably wake up in the middle of the night is would not be a good idea. Here is a picture from my hotel room last night:
Like I said, a hopping place. Chinese train stations are a great place to plan updates to your wardrobe so you can keep up with the trends. It looks like I might have some unfinished business in that area. . These train stations are pretty slick. They all seem to have a very large room upstairs, a room that could hold a few thousand people. You purchase your ticket somewhere outside or perhaps on the level below, just follow the signs. You will need your passport. You will need your passport again when you enter the big room to get through security. You put your ticket in a slot, or unless you are a foreigner you show it to a guard with your passport and they punch the ticket. They you follow the short line to a belt upon which you place your luggage. You walk though a metal detector and they always wand you with another thing on the other side, or give you a brief pat-down, with no warning, so be prepared. You grab your bags off the belt and you are in. Purchasing the ticket seems to take the longest; the whole rest of the process takes only a few minutes. This really beats flying. For example to fly from Beijing to Shanghai would take about 5 hours when you include the usual airport nonsense. It would cost a $150 or $200 or more. You can take the train in 4-5 hours total for $100 first class. You have easily twice the room as on a plane. It you have the option the train beats flying hands down.
Surrounding the large room you will see gates, like in an airport. There are doors at each gate and turnstiles you will need to walk through after inserting your ticket. It will spit the ticket out he top when it is done – be sure to take it because you will need it. Above the gates you will see writing in yellow, red or green. Your gate number is on your ticket and the screens in the big room. When the writing above your gate is yellow, it means you need to wait because the entrance to the gate is not open yet. When it turns green, you go. You go now. Yes, now. The gate will be open for 5 minutes after which time the writing will be in red and you are SOL. If you had followed the rules you would have been just fine, but you didn’t did you? Forget about American individualism. So when the light turns green you go, and line up by the turnstiles. Remember that lines in China are more dynamic than at home. The Chinese DOT does not have to coach people how to zipper merge. Everyone gets it. If you let that little old lady next to you in with her four bags 16 others with draft her in right before you can blink. Just observe the way everyone drives here and then do the same thing when in a line and you will be fine. All the tourists from Lake Wobegon can be found in train stations staring up at red letters in front of train gates. Don’t be one. Once through the turnstiles you need to hustle. Kai sees me hustling. He says, “No worry, plenty time.” Then he turns and dashes off to catch the closing door of the elevator 200 head in front of us. I am not making this up. I hustle. I bought a new suitcase with better roller wheels because last time in China my old one was too slow – I am not lying. This one doesn’t hold me back so I can keep up with people here my age. You can be sure that little old lady has fast roller wheels. You only have about 5 minutes before the train leaves after entering. You will need to find your waiting spot. You have a number on your ticket that corresponds to a number in the concrete. The tricky part is that there may be more than one number per spot, so look up to the screed above and observe the color of the writing, or if you can read Mandarin, just read it. Ours is yellow, which is close to orange, so we line up at the orange 16. If you are in first class, you may need to hike it a ways, so wear good shoes to the train station. Trains come in lengths of 8 cars. To make a larger train they hook two together, thus the number 16, in our case. This train station has 29 tracks, and it is only for high speed trains. The larger stations in Beijing have 40 tracks or so. I find this remarkable. Forty high speed train lines in one station. This transportation system is no small endeavor. You can apparently go a whole bunch of places in a hurry in China. Pretty cool.
This gate system works well because on you are on the platform it is hard to get on the wrong train, and since they restrict access to the gates, everyone on the platform should be going on the same train.
The guy in front of me pulled down the shade, while covers two seats, so he could sleep, which PMO since I want to see the countryside, so no pics for you from this journey. After a bit, I slowly inched the shade up a tiny bit at a time, figuring he wouldn’t notice. Worked, for a while, then: Bam, he slammed it down. OK. Fortunately for me he got off an hour later and I quickly pushed it all the way up. The lady next to me has seemed kind of uncomfortable the whole trip. I showered this morning so I don’t think its that. Once we got rolling again and she saw the row in front was unoccupied, so up there she went. She immediately pulled the shade down again. Dang. I am pretty sure she is wise to my inch by inch strategy, since she saw me do it, so I am not going to try.
Today we will be going to a large farm, don’t know anything else. Last night at the hotel, which was a very nice, swanky place where if you don’t hold onto your bag in the lobby some young Chinese fellow will snatch it and wheel it away to somewhere he things you need to be. While I was waiting for Kai, I noticed the doorman. He was holding the handle in anticipation of getting some business. I kind of mosied that way for no particular reason, and he opened the door. I was 50 feet away. I back up. He closed it. I had a nearly unresistable urge to walk ahead a couple of steps again and see if he would open it, and then step back, but I did not. It was a very nice place, and everyone except me was dressed to the nines. When I was learning the ropes in my room – a good share of which is finding the correct light switches- I read the “message to our guests” pamphlet on the desk. There was an English part. It explained that this was a non-smoking room and if you wanted to smoke you could call the front desk and they will find you a smoking room. If you smoke in this one you will be fined as per the regulation of the Chinese government. It also said, “Please do not bring smelly foods into the hotel.” However the government does not seem to have a fine for that one.
Our train took us to Tia’an. This is home to Tia mountain which is the most sacred of the 5 sacred Tao mountains (in Taoism). Thus it is a good place to practice your Tai Chi, if you know how. We got to the hotel just before lunch with gave me 10 minutes for a very short walk..There was a nice path along the river by the hotel.
I ran up to the room to drop my bag before the walk and make a quick pit stop. Unfortunately I confused the toilet. What? you say? My toilet displayed an error message like this.
You see, this is an electric toilet. It would not flush. So what do you do when your toilet does not work? Well, reboot it of course. So I pulled my room card out of the power slot and counted to five, and we were good to go. Flush away. Well, actually that is not exactly what happened. It is what I thought was happening. What really happened: The toilet would not flush. No dice. I pushed the button, twisted the button, tried to get my head between the wall and the button to read the directions, all to no avail. Then I had remembered that I had neglected to put my card in the slot because I was in a hurry. I put my card in the slot and saw what I thought was an error message. Then I rebooted it. I guess an “E” on your toilet is not an error message, but I thought it was – and I thought rebooting a toilet was such a hoot that I had to write about it. So I didn’t really reboot it, just thought I did. Did I mention that my toilet had this?
Of course everyone needs one of these. I did not try all the buttons. I was curious about the “dry” button, but not curious enough, and in a hurry too. What I don’t understand is why one needs a remote, since just about everything one needs a toilet for requires being very near or actually on the toilet. The only reason I could think would be to give on to your teen age son to keep in his room. When you notice that he forgot to put the seat down for the 1000th time you can just yell at him and he can put it down while lying his bed watching YouTube. Cool beans.
This hotel was very nice. I thought it looked like a church. See above. They had this great seafood buffet for lunch. Absolutely fabulous.
There was a lot more too, including a kid’s section with hot dogs and pizza. The price? $14 per head. What a deal. Then there was this couple who were serving barbecued beef:
We all, of course know that barbecued beef is a great Native American tradition…. Welcome to China.
After lunch it was off to the farm. This was a very nice dairy with 5400 lactating cows. Most dairies in China have all the cows calves, and heifers on one site, which is a small part of the reason for my confusion regarding herd sizes.
We had a really fun afternoon talking and walking about. A few of the staff could speak pretty good English, which was a relief. The management staff here was really impressive. This was a very productive farm. We went to a conference room and talked some more and then Kai informed me that they had invited us to dinner. Dinner was of course great. The only two new foods for me were river sturgeon, and pork kidneys. I loved the sturgeon. The kidneys were pretty good too, but had a pretty hot pepper spice that made my nose run. Here is the crew
When I take group pictures I always insist everyone say “cheese” like at home, since whatever the Chinese say does not seem to result in a smile, and I am always on the lookout for another opportunity to marked US dairy products. By the way, the seat to the right of the host (mine, now empty) is the VIP spot. To the left of the host is the #2 VIP spot. Three and four are at about four and eight o’clock. Of course the dinner became a very long affair, with lots of toasting and laughing. I had some Chinese liquor that was made from a ” Wolf Berry” . I did a lot of slow sipping. We did not leave until well after 9 pm, so I estimate it was a three to four hour meal.