Published: August 30th 2009August 29th 2009
skyline from 4th aunt's kitchen
Took about 3 hours to drive from Beijing to Qinhuangdao. Very lush green the whole way and just about the entire way is fully landscaped with trees and flowers and it is very impressive. I never knew China was so lush with greenery everywhere and perhaps most people don't notice but when you live in Phoenix, any lush green landscapes stand out.
The city streets, whether Chengdu, Shangliu or Beijing have a wide variety of cars and there is a fair number of very little Chinese cars that obviously sell for much less than the type of cars sold in Europe and America and have to meet the western safety standards for collisions. On the highway from Beijing to Qinhuangdao it was entirely different. It became obvious to me that I was seeing a very large number of imported cars and very few Chinese manufactured cars. The trucks seemed to be only of Chinese manufacture but the cars...I saw everything you would see in Phoenix. Volvo, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, BMW and of course the one car universally revered...Benz (they only say Benz in China as if Mercedes name didn't exist).
SUV's and pickups seem to dominate in America
more skyline...note the contrast of new and old, almost always side by side
but are fairly rare sights in China. But the 4 door sedan of any popular brand can be found in amazing numbers on the highways. After about 2 hours, I asked Lisa why so many of them were black. I gather that black and dark metallic gray are the only colors that people want to purchase so the dealers charge a hefty premium for them and judging from this one road trip, the black must outsell all other colors perhaps 5:1.This is just downright weird.
We arrive in Qinhuangdao and once again I see an incredible number of construction cranes. I would probably not want to be living in China if the recession hit but it's clear that they aren't feeling any recession because construction is just booming. I gather that most of the cranes I see are residential high rise towers which has become the main housing for the Chinese. Since each of these cities have very ancient core areas, much of the construction I see is where they have knocked down old housing and are putting up very high density housing units.
We go to Lisa's fourth aunt's house. Relatives are numbered by birth order. China
grandmother on the right, mother back center, 4th aunt on the left, L-R middle, Lisa, cousin and Lisa's son
building codes apparently require elevators for buildings 7 stories or more so there are lot of 6 story residential buildings that are simply climbing and climbing and of course this aunt lives on the top floor. This is a pretty old area so the 'street' that you use to get there looks more like an alley and isn't going to permit 2 way traffic but we pull in and park. Once again, I am looking at a group of buildings that are underwhelming and Lisa has warned me that her family is not wealthy like Wang Jian's family. But first, I have to do 6 flights of stairs. Please just kill me now before I begin.
We get inside and once again, the exterior fools me because inside it is quite beautiful. White tiled floors, nice wood furniture, etc. I go to the bathroom and once again, you have a combo toilet, shower and I am getting the picture now but this one isn't 4x4 like the Shaungliu apartment but perhaps 5 x 12 and of course a floor drain for showering.
I am told to smoke in the kitchen and her uncle is preparing dinner so I
Mother, grandmother, Lisa and her son
get a real treat to see how things are done and he is very workmanlike. There is 2 gas burners and a range hood above and the kitchen seems kind of modern and obviously they take cooking seriously. I can see that basically everything is already prepped and there are about 10 of us and there is easily enough food to feed 25. I am sure that once again there are people going entirely over the top to impress us and it worked again. I am treated to a tremendous dinner though instead of the Sichuan I would get in Shaungliu or Chengdu, the food of Qinhuangdao is dominated by seafood, obviously because it is a coastal city. Another killer dinner...I have eaten so well this trip that even all of the walking cannot help me lose any weight.
We get back to her second uncle's house to sleep and when I described the hotel bed in Emai as concrete...I was wrong. It was by comparison, soft. This is clearly concrete and I lose my breath just laying down. Surrender...I am besides myself with the fear that I will never again get a decent sleep. Then I realize that
Mother, grandmother, Lisa and her aunt
the couch we were sitting on would work for me. A little after midnight, exhaused from the lack of sleep for over a week, I fall right to sleep. 6:00 in the morning I discover that right outside the window in the living room where I am dead to the world on the couch is the start of the Chinese construction day. No more sleep to be had today but I got close to 6 hours of sleep and was grateful for that. Apparently construction work in China is 7 days a week and this being a Sunday, the 6:00 AM start was clearly not my choice but what can one do?
Alongside each door to people's apartments are the stamps of what I presume are collections. I have included photos of them because they are truly curious.
There are more photos below