So I made China. Guilin to be specific. It is pretty cold here (not NYC temps, but after 80 plus in Bangkok, 48 or 9 seems pretty cold). China is much like I imagined it, at least based upon the little piece of it I have seen thus far. The drive from the airport was about 35km, on a lovely, flat highway worthy of any interstate in the States. After Laos, Cambodia and India particularly, it was a nice change. I had a female cab driver (something I hadn’t seen anyplace else) who took the liberty of hauling ass (maybe 70 or 75 mph) down the road while chatting away on her cell phone.
I arrived at my hotel ( I had booked ahead, I have made a habit of doing so for the first place in a new country) and found it to be big and well staffed. The desk staff and travel office people spoke little English, but I managed to get checked in and book my train ticket for Shanghai for the 21st (I hope). I found my room to be clean and nice, what one might get in a Hyatt or Marriott in the states, and I settled in with my book of Sodoku puzzles, and surfed the TV channels. Only 2 were in English, the "most" interesting being a news, general info station. I gained some insight to this place when the news spoke of a concert by one of the most popular singers in China, a man described as "for the ages"- Michael Bolton. I admit a laughed out loud.
I awoke this morning, and went down for the breakfast that came with my room. Done buffet style, it had some dishes to which I was familiar, and others that LOOKED like things I knew, but weren’t. It was like dim sum, kinda.
I went for a walk this morning, looking for an ATM, as I couldn’t buy Yuan in Bangkok, and the place at the airport only took the last $60 of my travelers checks, leaving me needing some $ to live on. Credit is not commonly used in China apparently, and while my hotel took visa, they didn’t like the AMEX. The walk from the hotel was greeted by what one might expect from china- lots of bikes being ridden to work (or wherever). The roads are wide, lined with tall neon lit buildings and ads. Traffic was orderly after the rest of SE Asia and India, and they drive on the right here, as they do at home (or so I recall). I managed to find an ATM, only to discover that my bank card doesn’t seem to work in China, and so I will be living off Cash advances from my credit cards for a while. Luckily for me, Chinese law allows foreigners to withdraw 2000 Yuan a day (about 350$)...
I had planned to wander a bit, and see more places, but I am going to extend my hotel stay here at least one more day, hole up and rest, and then decide how adventurous I feel when I am not sure where I am going, can’t ask anyone, and have little idea if and when I’ll be able to find any more $$. Just the same, I am in good spirits, the weather is lovely, there are sights to be seen here, and the hotel can get me a car and English speaking driver. Worse case, I stay here and then wander up to Shanghai to meet my folks on the 23rd.