We don't make mistakes we just change our plans-

Carla Rodio

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Traveling in China

My grandson, my daughter, Cherie, Son-I-L, Ryan, me, Hubby, my co-Mother-I-L, Penny at a German restaurant in China. The food was fantastic. Note the glasses of water; they bring you hot water. The water in China isn't so great for you so they boil it and bring it out hot. My grandson prefers apple juice.

My Son-in-Law, daughter, and grandson live in China and my husband, myself, and my co Mother-in-Law traveled there on Feb. 28 for 2 weeks. One of the unusual things about our visit is that my SIL has a drivers' license. Few foreigners are able to get a license because you have to pass a written exam and few people read mandarin well enough to pass the exam. Ryan did a little finagling and managed to obtain one. Now he drives like a native. Really scary.

This is a carved stone pig that I purchased at a souvenir stand/cafe/toilet/gas station reststop
on the toll road. It's a boy pig. My daughter thought it might be made from red jade and it cost about $7.50.

This is a view from the the high speed train on the way up to Xian. You probably can't see them in this photo but there are caves in the hillsides fitted with doors. People still reside in them.
The driving habits in China are surreal. The city that we were staying had all manner of 2, 3, and 4 wheeled vehicles intermingling with pedestrians all playing chicken. Many of the large intersections don't even have traffic lights and people and vehicles just make their way across any old how. Vehicles of all sorts think nothing of driving the wrong way in the traffic lane. They pass on a double yellow line honking and or flashing their lights to warn other vehicles to stay out of their lane or that they are passing.

Rural housing. Pretty grim. There were a lot TV satellite dishes, though.
We took a 5 1/2 day, 4 night trip from Changzhou(3 hours from Shanghai) to Beijing and back taking mostly the toll roads. Their toll rads are new and fine to drive on except for the other drivers. The roads are two lanes each direction with a wide right shoulder. As it turned out that shoulder came in mighty handy as the trucks like to take up both lanes with truck drivers (and most of the car drivers) not seeming to undestand that the left lane is the passing lane. No, the slow drivers, and by slow, I mean 20, 30 MPH slower, just amble along in the left lane or the right lane, whatever, so that wide right shoulder comes in real handy for getting around the rolling behemoths.
We left Beijing well after 1PM and the GPS said that we would be home in about 12 hours. Unfortunately when the sun disappeared so did most of the rest of the passenger cars and the trucks took over the road; our progress slowed greatly. Almost nobody in China turns on their headlights at dusk, they wait until full dark and then they turn them on high beam and leave them. It was like an eerie Sci-fi movie, us and the big trucks jostling for postion across two lanes and a shoulder with Ryan crossing back and forth in between all the trucks. Us visitors made an unpleasant discovery when dark fell. A very high percentage of the trucks did NOT have taillights not even reflectors. Most trucks had open beds, very few enclosed trailers, usually they just have a tarp thrown over the top with a cargo net secured over the top of that. But there were a significant amount of trucks that just had their cargo plopped in and not secured; bags of stuff, scrap metal, logs, etc. So we had the added stress of wondering if something was going to pop out and come bouncing through the windshield. There were a lot of trucks transporting live animals in cages; we saw chickens, ducks, rabbits, and pigs all crammed into tight little cages and stuffed into the backs of the trucks and exposed to the elements. Around 11 or 12 we had a major slow down fortunately we managed to thread our way safely past a rear end collision between two trucks and then just a little ways past that there was an over turned pig truck with several of the pigs milling around on the shoulder and right lane. Lots of squealing.
The scariest thing about traveling the toll road was negotiating the toll booth plaza after dark. After you pass through a province you have to pay a toll and take a ticket for the next province. After dark you're hemmed in by all those trucks; they are all backed up and impatiently jockeying for position to get through one of the booths and I felt like we were at the bottom of a canyon with moving sides. At times they were just inches away and moving closer. We ended taking 13 1/2 hours to finally complete the journey and the next day the muscles in my shoulders were sore from my muscles being all knotted up for the entire time.
My SonIL asked the guys he worked with why the trucks ruled the nighttime. Many of the cities have regulations about delivery times. They do not allow trucks to drop stuff off until after 9:30 at night so they time their toll road traverses accordingly. And the Chinese people just opt not to travel under those nighttime conditions, competing with the trucks.

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