Friday, April 18, 2008

A While Away -- Mom Visits China, We Visit Japan

It's been a while since I managed to get an update written. It's been a busy couple of months, with mom visiting and our trip to Japan last week. I think that mom enjoyed her stay, although we made absolutely certain to keep her busy while she was here, giving her little-or-no downtime. Lunch with Liz's parents, a trip to the aquarium, seeing the Chinese acrobats, going to church, and a dinner with an unexpectedly long trip through Chinese history, it was a good visit. Even if mom and Liz enjoyed talking about me, perhaps a little too much, while I found my way around the buffet.

Japan was a great trip, although somewhat last-minute. We'd been wanting to go, but didn't really know how to plan it. Given that I speak even less Japanese than Chinese, and Liz just remembers the occasional word from her classes, we weren't really confident we could manage on our own. Luckily, a tour group was found for us. Being based out of Shanghai, it was a Chinese tour group, which left us with the tradeoff of "language I can't understand" for "cheap". With my own personal translator, it seemed like a decent tradeoff.

And when she realized that we could spend a day in Tokyo Disneyland, Liz was excited to be going too.

We managed to visit Japan at the end of the cherry blossom season, so got to see a lot of really pretty trees, and a lot more people that were enjoying the sight of all the really pretty trees. Places were incredibly crowded for the first couple of days, but once the weekend was over it wasn't too bad. With a couple of stops a day, we got to see a very large number of temples (and cherry blossoms). We also got the joy of staying in a Japanese hotel with grass mats on the floor, and no beds. I'm not that used to sleeping on the floor, even if the bed in Shanghai is pretty much just as hard. I may not have slept well that night, but I enjoyed it, at least. And I was happy that, even though I may have found much of the food odd and not really to my liking, the doughnuts with banana icing were really tasty.

The wind the day we arrived in Tokyo was not so much fun, though. It broke my umbrella, which cut up my finger and left me bleeding all over the place pretty badly. I enjoyed being pushed around by the wind, which helped make up for it. Even with my cut hand, I still enjoyed it more than some people on the trip.

Disneyland in Tokyo was fun. We were a bit worried about getting there and back, as the tour was only going to provide transportation if 10 people wanted to go, and only 7 ended up wanting to. (We're still not sure what everyone else found to do that was better.) It was apparently going to cost ~$50 (that's 50 US-dollars, not 50 yen. $0.50 wouldn't have been bad) to ride a cab. Each way. Plus tickets into the park, lunch, and souvineers. It was going to be an expensive trip. But we learned that the hotel had a shuttle to the park for $10/person each way. Better. But then the night before Disney, more people decided to go, and we ended up getting to ride the hotel shuttle both ways, no charge. Yay!

We got to Disney before the gates opened, and planned on hitting Space Mountain to use fast passes there, running to other places while we waited for the long line at Space Mountain. The <5-minute wait encouraged us to just get on the ride; Liz was disappointed that there was no music, and there were no working fast pass machines anyway, so we skipped using fast passes there. Instead, we spent most the day using them at Thunder Mountain Railroad. And still road Space Mountain (with it's 5-10 minute line) four or five times anyway. Wednesday early April is apparently a good day to Disneyland, in Tokyo at least.

I tried watching a movie on the flight to Japan, since we got personal video screens, but the 2-hour flight was too short. The 3-hour flight back was long enough to finish my show and watch another, though, so it worked out.

Other news from Shanghai--I got probably the cheapest drink I've ever ordered in my life. We ran to Papa Johns a couple weeks ago for lunch, where we were pleased to discover a new, cheap lunch menu. Sadly, all of the personal pizzas came with drinks. Sodas, which I still don't drink unless I have to. So we ordered me a pizza, and requested that they don't bother bringing a drink, even though the stated price was for pizza+drink. We weren't expecting the pizza to be cheaper without it.

We were surprised to find the pizza to be significantly more expensive without a drink being served than with, though. 28RMB menu price, 42RMB charged because I didn't get a drink. Liz complained that we ordered off the menu, but they refused to lower the price because we "didn't get the drink." Finally we gave in. We didn't pay, we asked them to deliver the drink.

I, of course, left the -14RMB coke sitting untouched on the table.