MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2011 Where to start???? What an “evening”! Got up early and had time to Skype again. Good way to start the day. Went for a nice jog along the river in perfect weather, showered, had breakfast and checked out of hotel. Everyone was on time. Lots of staff and friends showed up as usual to see us off. As I have mentioned many times, this is one of my best festivals. The people are just so nice and the artists cannot believe how well they are treated. It was another great year! Bus ride was about 1 hour and 45 minutes and we arrived before the check-in counter opened – 15 minute wait. Keiko who was our head interpreter for Country Gold for about 17 years met us at the airport to say hello. She still looks the same….so beautiful and never ages. And her “spirit” is the sweetest I’ve ever encountered. I let Seiya go back to Kumamoto and she stayed to help us get checked in. There was only one issue. The airlines would not give us the baggage allowance we were told would be approved. We were told 2 bags weighing 50 pounds each for coach and 2 bags weighing 70 pounds each for business. They insisted on a total of 30 kilos for coach and 40 kilos for business. I knew it was going to cost a fortune so I made them count the TOTAL weight that we had and then just pay the overage because a couple of the guys were only checking one bag. When they finished adding everything up, they said we were “under” the maximum weight. I knew there had been a mistake, so we ran all the way to the gate before they changed their minds! 🙂 flight was on time and the food was edible because it was prepared in Japan. When we landed in Shanghai, we were supposed to pick up our bags and clear customs because that was our first point of entry into China. Nope! It was just the opposite. Remember, I couldn’t understand why we had to do that when we were just transferring through? Well, this time they gave us “stickers” to wear and checked our bags all the way through to Xi’an (as we did when we left Nashville)! I guess if we had the “sticker” last time we would not have had to pick up our bags. Who knows? We still had to go through Passport Control and walk through baggage claim out the door for Customs. Then all we had to do was walk upstairs to the gate area! While we were waiting for our flight, we met a man from Atlanta who was attending a huge “Broadcast” convention in China. We shared “China travel stories”! He loves country music and we told him to tell people at the convention and try to attend the concert. The “Broadcast” convention is one of the reasons we lost our hotel rooms. It is the Government owned broadcasters. Our musicians were allowed to carry their guitars on China Eastern Air for all the flights. It took quite a bit of negotiation, but we always won. Saved us a lot of money and broken instruments! The food on the flight was even edible! Always scared when it is prepared in China and very careful about WHAT we eat. We landed and “Cynthia” (the American name she chose for herself) who is Anders assistant and helped us last year and this year was waiting for us. She is an unbelievably tall girl for Chinese. I saw her waiting outside the Customs area for us. “Horse” (also his American name) is our interpreter and I am in love! He is awesome. He is a University student in Xi’an and loves country music. He speaks great English and was a life-saver! He volunteered to help with our group – not getting paid – although I will make sure I pay him! He also plays guitar and writes songs so this will be a great adventure for him. The “pickup” was well organized – two vans for passengers and one cargo van for luggage. About a 40 minute drive from the airport to the hotel. Now, this is a hotel that the original hotel (Lotus Hotel) found for us after they threw us out. I emailed the general manager and copied the U.S. Embassy about what they did to us and suddenly they became very accommodating as far as helping us find other lodging. This hotel is supposedly a 4 or 5 star hotel. Lilly Woo from the Xi’an Concert Hall met us at the front desk and helped with check in. Horse and I took all the keys and went to check the rooms. There were about a dozen people with luggage waiting for the only 2 elevators, so we took the stairs. When we got to 3rd floor, the stairs ended! He asked several people how we could get to 6th floor and they all said we had to take the elevators. I knew we would not stay here if that was true because of it being a fire hazard. The rooms were large and “clean” but old with stained carpets and the SMELL was unbearably. I forgot to mention that the “haze” here looks like a thick fog because the air is so polluted. The rooms smelled like “mold” and “garlic” and “smoke”. We went back to the front desk to ask if there were better rooms available and were told they were sold out. I had to turn into “Dragon Lady” and get the front desk manager involved. He went with us to each room and had them “sprayed” with air freshener which didn’t help at all. He did show us where the stairs were that went all the way to the 6th floor and beyond. We had to agree to stay here because we had no other options. Then, 2 hours later when I was finally through arguing and negotiating, Lilly Woo tells us we can move to the Lotus (original hotel) tomorrow! It was only for one night that they couldn’t accommodate us. I could not believe it…. No one at this hotel speaks any English so it is a challenge. Thankfully Horse stayed and helped us order something that passed for “dinner” at around midnight. Most of us ordered a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and fries. The fries were edible. One guy asked about “drinks” and was told there were not any drinks available at that time of the evening. I, of course, did not believe them and they finally came up with large bottles of Orange Soda that was surprisingly good. Then there was an “issue” just getting our bill. By the time we finally got it and paid, it was after 1 am. I worked for about 2 hours and then slept for 2 hours, and I’m back at it. So far behind with my “work” and have to get caught up!!!! Noticed that there was very little toilet tissue on the roll when I finally got into my room. I took what was left and my room key and went to the front desk and held up the tissue roll then the key. By the time I got back upstairs, the maid was standing outside my door with another roll. The floor is softer than my bed, but then with only 2 hours in it, I survived. The people here are so very nice that it’s hard to be “mean” but I have to take care of the people in the group as well. Lilly Woo told Horse that she totally understood and agreed. The hotel should not have canceled our rooms and we should not be treated so rudely. She said that she and Horse have no choice but to live in China but if she could, she would take her husband and child and move to America. Said I should continue to complain until things were as we agreed. I like her a lot. 🙂 Jude
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18TH – SOUND CHECK DAY IN XI’AN: okay, that was a record. One hour of sleep. Not going to feel so great today! Was able to answer lots of emails before showering and having breakfast. No time for exercise this morning either. Breakfast was “okay” but really hope we like the other hotel and move today. Met Horse and LillyWoo in the lobby at 10 am and we went to the Lotus Hotel to check it out. Delighted to report it is 100 times better than where we are now. And it is in a great area. Lots of history – statues and pagodas – very, very clean and safe neighborhood. We moved out of the hotel and checked into the new one immediately. I made sure we weren’t going to get kicked out before we depart on Thursday before we made the move! At about 9 am, there was a noise outside our window that I swear sounded like an airplane coming straight for the building. Several of the others heard it, too. Later found out it was something called a “wedding bomb”. There was a wedding taking place at that hotel and they set off these huge explosions at various times that sound like a bomb going off. Very impressive. 🙁 We walked a couple of blocks away from the hotel – snapping photos the entire way – to a great area. There was a mall and a long strip of restaurants. Everything from Papa John’s and Dairy Queen to noodle shops, sushi, you name it. Everyone except Renae and I went to Papa Johns. Renae, LillyWoo, Cynthia and I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. The menu said the food was from Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan – where we just had the Country Gold Festival. The meal was amazing. Very, very happy with our choice. Sound check was next and the Xi’an Concert Hall is spectacular. I met “Eva” (pronounced Ava) our Production Manager. She is very, very young. Don’t think she is even 20 years old yet. She was nice and helpful until I asked for the bottled water. She refused to provide any for the stage. I reminded her that our contract requires it but she said she would only provide on show day. Unbelievable and with the language barrier, I was tired of arguing. I pulled out a 100 Chinese note and told her to “GET IT”. She took the money and within 30 seconds, the water was on stage and in the dressing rooms. Money talks around the world. Sound check went well but without Horse, it would not have happened. Thank God he is with us 24/7. Since he is a singer/songwriter, we asked him to sing one song at the concert. But Eva said “No, we have our “standards”! “ So, we are going to bring him up to sing during the finale “Country Roads”. The tech crew at the venue are nice and helpful but don’t understand one word of English. We had about 2 hours after sound check free. Since it was rush hour traffic, we did not go sightseeing but opted to go back to the hotel. I had borrowed a jump drive from Cynthia at the venue and was able to log onto the internet and answer some emails during sound check but still had a lot of work to do. Got into my room and got my desk set up and plugged in the internet cable. Hmmm…my desk is on one side of the room and the internet cable plug is on the other. Horse asked the front desk for a longer plug but they insisted they do not have one. So, we moved all the furniture. It was heavy and I’m sure the hotel will freak out, but it was necessary! My friend Anders and his friend Mr. Foo (or Fu?) were meeting us for dinner. Actually Mr. Fu was hosting dinner. Anders flight was late, so we all took taxis to the restaurant. We were trying to order but the menu was totally in Chinese and a very extensive menu. By the time only a couple of people had ordered, Anders and Mr. Foo arrived. Anders ordered numerous dishes and we all shared – Chinese style. I did make him order fried rice so Amber would have something she could eat! It was a really nice meal and fun for the group. Got back to the hotel late and started trying to answer emails again. Internet seems to be twice as slow at night. Finally gave up and went to bed at 1 am and set alarm for 5 am. Jude
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19TH – PERFORMANCE IN XI’AN CONCERT HALL:
Got up and was finally able to get on line without having to sign off every few minutes because the internet was frozen. I guess people stay up late on the internet and take up all the band width. Then they sleep late in the mornings which seems to be the best time to get on.
It is supposed to be cloudy and rain today. I went for a jog at 7 am and sucked in all the pollution. Can’t really tell how cloudy it is because of the haze that is constantly present. Much worse than in Hong Kong, I think. Still it was a beautiful jog. The street the concert hall is on is one of the most scenic in the area. I jogged past it and then turned around and went down to the little area where we ate lunch yesterday. Keep in mind, this is one very long “boulevard” surrounded with all types of Chinese architecture and ending at the Golden Goose Pagoda – which is incredible. There were people everywhere practicing “Tai Chi”. Behind the Pagoda was a huge block filled with fountains. Statues were everywhere. Later in the day, a long line of souvenir stands would open to the tourists but this morning, it was quiet and beautiful. There were a lot of workers out washing the streets. It was a nice way to start the day.
I had a quick breakfast with Anders and Cynthia – if you can call it that. We arrived at 9 am and breakfast closed at 9:30 am. The coffee was cold in the pot and when Anders told the server, they pulled on the plug to show it was unplugged and then their answer to the “cold coffee” was to plug it back in. Anders berated them in Chinese and pointed to the coffee maker. They reluctantly started another pot of coffee. Shouldn’t have bothered. It was horrible coffee. I decided to drink the orange drink – big mistake – it was HOT.
Several of us left with Horse, Anders, and Cynthia to go shopping on a street that is predominantly Muslims. That’s where they have the “copy” bags and “copy watches”. Anders refused to let me make any purchases because he kept reminding me that my next few days will be spent in Shenzhen – shopper’s paradise. Amber was able to negotiate a great deal on a Louie Vitton copy bag and wallet that was great quality. She also got a beautiful fitted North Face jacket in deep purple. We broke off from the others but heard later they also got some great deals. We ended our excursion at the Starbucks where I did not buy my boyfriend a mug with Xi’an or China on it because I’ve been told that it doesn’t mean anything if he has visited the area and purchased it as a souvenir himself. Fine with me since getting them home has always been a hassle anyway. More room for my purchases for the twins. J
We spent quite a long time trying to get a taxi and couldn’t find one. Finally walked to a hotel and “hired” a private car that cost all of $10 U.S. to take us back to our hotel.
I forgot to mention the shower at this hotel. There’s no “stall”. Just a long curtain running the length of the bathroom and a huge “rain head” shower. The water goes directly on the floor – a lot like I’ve encountered in Norway only this hotel doesn’t provide a squeegee to clean up the wet floor. It was too hot to close the bathroom door (the front desk controls the air conditioning, which means “it’s not turned on”!), so the door swings back into the shower curtain. The entire bottom half of the door is warped and the wood is peeling off and rotting because it is constantly getting soaked by the water from the shower. Great planning, huh?
So, we got back to the hotel in time for me to do some work before having to dress for the concert. Left the hotel at around 6:30 pm for a 7:30 pm performance. I finally met Nina – the person who booked us for the event. She was very sweet and hospitable. I wish I had been dealing with her instead of Eva – who obviously does not know how to treat visiting entertainers. There were more people attending than I expected but very “spread” out. The ticket prices ranged from $75 U.S. (about half a month’s salary for most Chinese) to $10 U.S. I had given Horse 3 tickets for his mom and family and he was thrilled because they were the $75 tickets.
Just as we were about to take the stage, Billy informed me that Eva was refusing to allow them to unwrap the mic cord from the mic stand! If they left it as it was, no one would be able to walk around and sing…just stand directly in front of the mic. I tried to explain this to Eva and her answer was “no”. I looked at her and very slowly and clearly said, “Fine. We are leaving and going back to the hotel. If you change your mind, please send someone to pick us up”, and I walked away. Within 30 seconds, she grabbed my arm and yelled, “Why did you not tell us this at sound check yesterday”. It was the last straw. I yelled right back at her, “Because the cord wasn’t wrapped around the stand at sound check! It’s our show and if you want a concert, you’d better let us do it our way”! I felt bad about yelling later and was standing beside the stage when Horse walked up to me and patted my on my shoulder. He said, “That was awesome. I wish I could do that”! Reminded me of how “controlled” they are and it’s pretty sad.
The concert was awesome. We did all the things that would be considered “hokey” back home but worked for them. The group started the show singing “Jambalaya” together. Then Ray sang, followed by Amber, and Billy closed. Amber sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” which is one of the most famous songs in China and the audience actually sang along with her. During Billy’s set, Renae played Orange Blossom Special and totally brought the house down. I had gotten Nina to give me a “key” so I could go out into the back of the room and watch some of the show. When I tried to enter, the ushers told me “no”. Of course, I didn’t listen and went in anyway. They didn’t want the door opened during the concert. Then I started to take a photo and another usher put her hand on my arm and said “No”. I said “yes” and snapped off about 10 photos. Didn’t use my flash as I knew I’d go to prison immediately. Did I mention that the second the concert began, all cell phone service was blocked by the Hall? I had to go up on 3rd floor and out on the balcony to get service. And no one in the audience was allowed to take photos.
The show ended with the group singing “Country Road” – second most popular song. Billy was supposed to bring Horse on stage to sing and forgot. I was freaking out because I knew how much it meant to Horse so I literally ran to the backstage. Thankfully Ray remembered and they brought him on at the end. He was so nervous, his voice was shaking, but he did great. The audience loved this part of the show….no thanks to Eva who had told us they had “standards” at the concert hall and we could not ask Horse to sing!
After the concert, I had everyone go out front and take photos and sign autographs. When we finished, I asked Amber, Ray and Billy if they wanted to take the little “signs” in front of their seats as a souvenir because their names were written in Chinese. When they picked them up, they figured out why everyone in line had been handing Billy the cds for Ray – they had been sitting in the wrong seats. J
Billy mentioned that Horse had taken him to get a massage that afternoon and they had ridden back on one of the little “electric scooters”. If I had known that, I would have had a heart attack. These little scooters have no “rules”. They ride on the sidewalk…do not stop at stop signs or traffic signals…either do not have a light or don’t use the light at night…weave in and out of traffic…you name it. There has to be hundreds of deaths a month from those things. I learned while jogging that morning that pedestrians have NO rights. I waited for the walk signal to come on before crossing and almost got killed by cars turning right! Anyway, Billy said the masseuse was a little blind man. There were rooms that looked like hospital rooms and everyone kept their clothes on for the massages and no doors were closed to the individual rooms. Evidently, his masseuse was standing by his shoulders working on him when he very loudly passed gas! Billy is so sweet, he said he didn’t know what to say or do. I would have cracked up.
So much happened during our short visit that I feel like we have been here a week instead of a couple of days. I hate that we didn’t get to go see the Terra Cotta Warriors (truly the 8th Wonder of the World, I am told by Beecham!). It was an hour’s drive from our hotel and we just didn’t have time to do everything. We got back to the hotel at around 11 pm and I tried answering emails. Again the connection was so bad, I gave up at 12:30 am and went to bed. Set the alarm for 4:30 am so I could do some work before leaving for the airport.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20TH – XI’AN TO HONG KONG – FINALLY!:
Up at 4:30 am and lots of emails to deal with before showering. Grabbed a really quick shower, finished packing and answered what emails I could before checking out. We met for a quick breakfast at 7 am and then loaded the bus (not vans this time) for the airport. It was about a 1 hour drive and traffic on the other lanes going into Xi’An was backed up dead still for about 10 miles!
Took Horse and I several minutes to figure out “where” we check in. Evidently, I had to check in for an “international flight” to Hong Kong – although Hong Kong is supposedly now part of China. They wouldn’t let the group check all the way through to Nashville – only to Shanghai! Because they are flying China Eastern to Shanghai and then United on to Chicago, they will have to pick up all their luggage and equipment and re-check it in Shanghai. Fortunately, they had plenty of time to do so. However, had I known this before I left, I would not have left them to go to Hong Kong. When I questioned this, the travel agent assured me that the bags could be checked all the way through to Chicago. It also meant we got stuck with excess baggage charges because we were only allowed to check 20 kilos each. I was stressing but their “charge” was so low because it was in Chinese currency, that the 100 kilos we were over cost less than $35 U.S. Whew. Dodged that bullet.
Got everyone checked in and then headed over to my international check in. They only had a couple of lanes open and it took forever to get checked in. I was sending one of my bags back to Nashville, but after the excess fiasco, had to check both to Hong Kong with me. There were some people in line behind me from Bozeman, Montana. They said they would have attended the concert last night if they had known about it! I was not charged excess for my two bags. The line for security was also really long and when we exited, I couldn’t find Gate 22. The gates began at 15 and ended at 17. I finally found a tiny sign beside the elevator indicating that Gate 22 was downstairs!
Flight left 25 minutes late and was full. The man in front of me in business class kept slamming against the back of his seat and hitting my tray and computer. I am now at the point that if he does it one more time, I’m going to slap him on the top of his bald, pointed, head! Can you tell I’m ready to leave China and get to Hong Kong? Iris will land several hours after I arrive this afternoon.
Landed 20 minutes late but no problem getting through Immigration. The hotel had my car waiting for me. As we were driving into Hong Kong, my cell phone rang and I noticed the caller was Amber. I KNEW that wasn’t good! The group was in Shanghai and United had canceled their flight back to the U.S. because of “mechanical problems”. United told them there were NO other flights available until the same time tomorrow. They did not offer to put them in a hotel or anything else. I told Amber to tell them that they needed to find flights on other airlines for them since they all had performances booked and missing those performances would result in numerous law suits. In the meantime, I called the emergency number for our travel agent. They found flights on several airlines that would get them to the U.S. today. Called Amber back and gave her all the options. Hoping that SOMEONE turned into a “Judy Seale” and got it done. I was feeling terribly guilty about leaving them. I spoke with her again about an hour later and United and found flights on American and everyone was leaving at 9:45 pm tonight. Whew!
The hotel is fabulous….a big room, slamming internet, big shower stall, slamming internet, lots of closet and drawer space, slamming internet, big kingsize bed, did I say slamming internet? J Was given a beautiful pink rose upon arrival, too. Iris arrived about 3 hours after I did so I got some emails answered while waiting for her. We walked over to see Peter (my tailor who loves Charlie Daniels) and she ordered a beautiful blazer. Have to go back tomorrow evening for her first fitting. Then we got lost trying to find a steakhouse she ate at last year. Of course, we get lost every time we walk out the hotel room door. Finally found it, but there was a one hour wait. So, we walked next door and ate at an Italian Restaurant. The salad was good, but the pasta we ordered was not what was listed on the menu. It was filled with black olives – which neither of us like! Iris picked hers out but I could still taste mine in the pasta, so I complained. I did not want it and was feeling nauseous just from eating a few bites. They took it off the bill. We walked back to the hotel and I’ve been working for hours now.
We are going to Shenzhen tomorrow so Iris can get her glasses ordered and we can shop, shop, shop.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21ST – SHOPPING IN HONG KONG AND SHENZHEN, CHINA:
Still only got 4 hours sleep because of “work” but felt pretty good after working out in the hotel gym….it’s a great facility. Worked arms and I’m going to be sore tomorrow.
Met Iris for breakfast at 9:30 am. The breakfast buffet (which is included in the cost of my room) was unbelievable! We had egg white omelets and fresh fruit, Asian food, fresh sushi. I tried to eat enough so that I would not be hungry before we got back to the hotel tonight.
We grabbed a taxi and went to the train station. Had a moment’s panic because we weren’t sure where we were supposed to be going, so I called Anders. Purchased roundtrip tickets and headed out. Train was about a 45 minute ride and since we only sit in First Class, it was nice – crowded but nice.
Then the adventure began. Immigration refused to allow me to enter because I didn’t have a stamp where I had come into Hong Kong! I have 2 passports – a military and a regular. Since I had to get a Work Visa for the Xi’an Concert, one of my passports had that visa. The other passport had the multiple entry tourist visa. I had used the one with the work visa when I came in at the airport then brought the other one with me. I ALMOST brought both just in case but felt safer leaving one in the safe at the hotel in case I had my pockets picked…which is a huge problem here. They detailed me for over 30 minutes asking all kinds of questions. At one point, they had Iris and I sit in a little “waiting area”. While we were there, a man comes out with a lady and a trash can. She squats over the trash can and throws up for about 10 minutes. Iris and I were both gagging like crazy. Then he just walked off and left the trash can sitting there! And this was still on the Hong Kong side – not China.
A customs official (T. F. Chang – like P. F. Chang J) finally approved my entry but said I may have a problem next time I enter a country – any country – because of the stamps. I have about 100 entry stamps in both passports, so I doubt anyone will notice. He also said that since I am an American citizen, I really didn’t even need the “visa” for entry. Good grief.
We headed into the shopping mall to see Allan for watches/bags and Anna for glasses – the people Anders set us up with last night. Iris still impresses me…she purchased 23 pair of prescription glasses – 20 of them for herself. I bought a couple of pair of reading glasses and sunglasses and that was it. Keep in mind that the “shopping mall” is 5 floors of “stores”. Since it is built in a square, the aisles go 4 or 5 rows deep. Iris and I stay lost all the time and can never find what we’re looking for! We walked across the aisle to Allan’s shop and looked at bags and watches. But they are so slow! They want you to sit and sit and look at books of bags and watches and then when you pick what you want, they say they are going to get it. But most of the time, they don’t have the one you selected. A very loud lady came in while we were there and started talking to us. She said she was from Miami but there was no way – Cuba maybe! She insisted on taking us to meet her “shoe” person up on the 4th floor. Iris purchased a few pair but I just “looked”. Then as we were walking back to Allan’s we found the shoe store where we made purchases last year. Iris purchased even more shoes. She had 12 pair when she got back to the hotel!
We had to go by the tailor’s for her first fitting and were supposed to be there no later than 6:30 pm. We were running late getting on the train and I was still in a panic that they were going to detain me but everyone went smoothly. When we got off the train, we had to go to the Taxi line and somehow got in the wrong line. By that time, we were definitely late to meet the tailor. Finally got a taxi and went to see the tailor. Iris’s blazer is beautiful. She has to go back by on Monday afternoon for the final fitting.
We were supposed to meet Anders and Loretta at the hotel at 7:30 pm to go somewhere close by for dinner. We were late and so were they due to traffic. We agreed just to eat at the really nice restaurant in the hotel. Traffic was so bad, Anders and Loretta were almost an hour late. The food was excellent and it was great to see Loretta again. Iris decided to go get a massage after dinner and Anders dropped her off at a place he frequents.
I was in the room by about 11 pm and then the nightmare began. Had emails from Kuwait about the upcoming tours plus added another tour in December. Finally had to go to bed at 4:30 am and slept for 2 hours, then back up to work some more.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22ND – MORE SHOPPING IN SHENZHEN:
Felt horrible after only 2 hours of sleep and no time to exercise. Plus, half the things I accomplished for the upcoming tours last night had to be re-done. Was dragging when we had breakfast and then headed over to Shenzhen to shop some more. We are NOT going to spend all our time sitting in Allan’s today.
We decided to take the train near the hotel instead of taking a taxi to the train station across town. Of course, we got lost and walked about a mile out of the way in the underground. Finally got on the train and didn’t have any trouble changing trains and arriving Shenzhen. I didn’t have any trouble with Immigration today but I did fill out the wrong “side” of one of my forms and had to go back to find the correct one. As luck would have it, they were out of forms and there was a long line of people looking for them. I had to get back in the end of the line once it was complete. Whole process took at least 30 minutes!
I purchased a few beautiful watches for gifts and then we started the search for UGGs and bags. We went back to 4th floor but had trouble finding the shoe stores from yesterday. Finally found one that has the “knock-offs” behind a secret door and make our purchases. We started at the top floor and worked our way down. I could not find the “bag” I wanted and must have gone into 50 shops looking. By about 3 pm, we were hungry and walked over to the Shangri La Hotel for lunch. We both had club sandwiches and it was good food thankfully.
Went back to finish “bag” shopping. Finally, a girl asked if we wanted to go to the warehouse and look for one. She said they had “everything” there. I called Anders to make sure it was safe to go there and he said it was. She took us a long way from the shopping mall, past the Shangri La Hotel where we had lunch. I was very apprehensive. We went into a dirty building and up to the 6th floor. There was a gated door and she had the code to get us in. Said there would be lots of customers inside shopping. When we arrived, we were the only customers and the selection wasn’t any better than in the shops at the mall! Very disappointing. I refused to make a purchase because the quality also wasn’t very good. The girl was furious. She basically sent us to the elevator and then deserted us. I was just glad we knew where we were, although it was NOT a good part of town to be in. We made it back to the train station and decided to call it quits for the day.
Didn’t have a problem getting back to Kowloon and our hotel. Iris gave me the phone number for the masseuse she went to last night. She said they were great and would come to the hotel. I opted for the acupressure instead of the “oil”. A man does acupressure and a female does the oil. He arrived and had me lie face down on my bed. After about 30 seconds, he said, “Oh no. What have you been doing”. Nice! He worked on me for an hour – really hard, deep tissue massage. It hurt terribly most of the time but definitely felt better when he finished. Only cost 300 HKD – less than $40 U.S.
Now I’m hungry and there’s nothing open. Going to do as little email as possible and get some much needed sleep!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23RD – NO SHOPPING IN SHENZHEN TODAY!:
As little email as possible turned into me getting into bed at 3 am and up at 6:30 am. Was doing great until Kuwait woke up and started working.
Had a very light breakfast with Iris since we are having “brunch” with Anders and Loretta. We took the Airport Express train from Kowloon Station to the airport. It’s such a great way to get to the airport. Also, you can check your bags at the Kowloon station as much as 24 hours prior to your departure and then you don’t have to deal with checking them in at the airport! Because I can’t let go of mine until I leave, I won’t do that but will keep it in mind for the future. It takes 24 minutes to travel from Kowloon to the airport and the train departs every 12 minutes.
We had pizza at a really nice restaurant at the airport and then went to the World Expo (one more stop on the airport express train) to look at all the new “gadgets” available. It was a huge exhibition and had advertising and promotional items, housewares, baby products, pet products, furniture, you name it! Since this as the last day and everyone started closing up their booths at around 2 pm, many were willing to sell “samples”. We picked up some great items at really inexpensive prices. Anders bought a chain saw for $50. Since he doesn’t have any trees, I asked him if he is going to use it on Loretta! J
Left the Expo and took the Express Train back. Somewhere along the way, my “real” Prada sunglasses fell out of my purse. These are the only sunglasses I’ve ever paid big money for and have had them since 2007. Can’t believe I lost them. L Iris and I walked around the shops in Kowloon for a couple of hours and then met my friend Peter Fredenburg for dinner at BLT Steakhouse. I met Peter about 15 years ago when he wrote an article about Country Gold. Have stayed in touch off and on but haven’t seen him in at least 10 years. He still looks the same and it was a fun dinner. The food was excellent, too.
Got back into my room by 10:30 pm and again had great expectations of going to bed by midnight. At 3:30 am, I turned out the lights! L Going to Shenzhen again tomorrow for one last shopping trip and then I leave early Tuesday morning. A military pilot friend of mine who flew me around Europe in 2001 (I think) will be coming through Hong Kong Monday night and I’m hoping to see him for dinner. Haven’t seen him in years either. Anders is taking Iris and I to see an acupuncturist this afternoon at 6 pm. Sure I’ll have some stories from that visit.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 24TH – LAST DAY TO SHOP IN SHENZHEN:
Lack of sleep and not being able to exercise is really affecting me. Don’t see anything changing though. Met Iris for a quick breakfast and then we headed over to Shenzhen one last time. She is supposed to be able to try on one pair of the glasses she ordered. This time we didn’t have any trouble clearing Immigration – now that we’re leaving! Lines were much longer than they were yesterday.
As Iris suspected, they did not have a pair of glasses ready for her to try on! Now it means that they have to mail them to her and if they are correct, then they will make the rest of the glasses and ship to her. If they are not correct, then they have to try and fix the problem or return her deposit. If not for having Anders on the ground here, she would have asked for a refund immediately. At least Anders will be able to stay on top of the situation for her.
We were frantically trying to finish all our shopping and I was looking for one bag in particular. No one seemed to have it. As I was leaving a shop, a guy told me he had the bag and asked me to follow him. I figured it was just a way to get me into his shop to sell me something else but I followed him to a shop at the back of the building. And guess what…he had the bag! I negotiated a great deal for it. When I showed it to Iris, she wanted one, too, so we went back to try and buy another one. Of course, it was the only one they had.
We left Shenzhen at 2:45 pm but got stuck in Immigration until after 3 pm. Had to RUN to the tailors when we returned so Iris could pick up her blazer. Peter did a great job with it….absolutely beautiful on her. We then RAN back to the hotel and ordered a sandwich to take with us to see the Acupuncturist. Anders picked us up at 5:15 pm and drove us to North Point. Iris was literally scared to death. We kept telling her it wouldn’t “hurt” but she was not convinced. She was being treated for pain in her back and neck generated by stress. I had a strange situation called “Golfer’s Vasculitis” and was hoping she could work a miracle. Also have a problem with one eye that I wanted her to investigate.
Iris thought the treatment was unbearably painful but I actually fell asleep during mine. I think hers hurt so much because she “tensed up”. The doctor even put 2 needles around my eye and I didn’t feel it. The good news is, Iris felt immediate improvement. Said it’s the first time in years she has not hurt in those places. I hope I can find a good acupuncturist in Nashville so I can continue the treatment.
Anders was meeting a client from Paris so we walked with him to meet him. Had a great chat with his client about Paris – my second favorite place. The client is here to produce a book that will be a life-size guitar book featuring over 200 guitars. At some point he will come to Nashville to take photos, too. After dinner, Iris and I stopped by the Night Market. I was able to finish all my “power shopping” a little before midnight.
Of course, I didn’t get any sleep because the office is open in Nashville and emails flow constantly. Got in bed at 2:30 am and up at 5:30 am. Going to a quick breakfast with Iris and then off to the airport at 9 am. Hate to be leaving Hong Kong but I will be back!
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25TH – FLYING HOME FROM HONG KONG:
Got a couple of hours sleep figuring I could definitely sleep on the plane since I’m flying First Class. Met Iris for a quick breakfast and then took the hotel town car to the airport. Love this airport. It’s beautiful and very efficient. No problem checking in and had time for coffee in the First Class United Red Carpet Lounge.
Our flight departed on time and First Class was awesome. It was full but lots of “individual pods” for everyone. Flight attendants were even nice and “attendant”! Nice surprise. Food was good but I really didn’t eat anything. I watched a great movie “The A Team” about a Special Ops Team and a covert mission they had in Iraq. It was awesome and I could certainly relate to lots of it. Hardly any turbulence the entire flight and I slept for 6 hours! Boy, did I need that.
Landed early in Chicago and I breezed through the Global Entry aisle to baggage claim. Since I shipped all my purchases home, I didn’t have to worry about being searched. The only down side of the flight was the fact that my baggage was among the last pieces to come out on the belt! Still had about an hour in the Chicago Red Carpet Lounge and got some emails answered. Can’t wait to get home and hug the twins!
Flight to Nashville left on time and arrived early. Wish all my flights could be like this one today! Waiting to hear from Iris and see if she got busted with all her “knock-off” purchases. I’ll be home for a few days and then just slammed going back and forth to Kuwait for shows for the troops. L