Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tea, Food and Traveling by Train in China

The Chinese people are extremely courteous and once again my trip has been made delightful due to the polite concern of Marco, the young man who ended up my bunk mate on the train. Mr. Fong and Will got on the train with me to be sure that my luggage was attended too and that I was set to travel. We said our heartfelt goodbyes and off I went. While the soft car travel allows for 4 people in a compartment there was only Marco and myself. Marco spoke no English but immediately called a friend of his, Tracy, in Shanghai, to see if I needed help getting off the train with the luggage and to my hotel in Nanjing! We went back and forth on the cell phone talking about what I needed etc. and both of these wonderful young people gave me their phone numbers and said if I needed anything while in China please call them. The people here really know how to make their guests, whether they know them or not, feel right at home and well taken care of.

The train ride was loud but uneventful and arrived on schedule at 5am. Marco indeed help me off the train with my luggage, deposited me in a taxi and got me on my way. I don’t know if he and Tracy will read this blog but if so THANK YOU, you are great representatives of China hospitality. If you are ever in the states please contact me so that I can extend the same to you.

O.K. now that I have been traveling around China for 2 weeks I must say that it is nice that all of the hotels have kettles to heat water for tea and there are no coffee machines, a pleasant change. On the other hand I have been very disappointed in the tea that is made available to brew. All but one hotel has tea bags and one even had Lipton! This is China the tea Mecca of the world what is up with that? Well as usual I am traveling with my own stash, green tea, oolong tea and relaxing blend for the evenings not to mention that you can buy tea everywhere and until I shipped them all back yesterday, I had enough samples to keep me afloat for at least 1 month. I am just surprised that better tea is not made available for hotel guests, especially in the nicer 5 star hotels.

In terms of food we have just had one feast after another! The food is outstanding! I understand why the Chinese people are so trim. We have had vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner in unending variety. Each region, as you may well imagine, has different dishes and utilizes their local produce so it's always fresh and delicious. I don’t think we have had one meal without mushrooms, a treat for me, again in an awesome array of varieties.

Eating customs are very different here and take a little getting used to but we seem to have adjusted nicely. My use of chopsticks has gotten much better. As a matter of fact I have only used a fork and knife once since arriving and that is when I made the mistake of ordering from the "Western Menu" in one of the more remote areas. The larger cities have plenty of Western fare but we have chosen to experience the traditional food of the country while here. Although I must say that a dish of ice cream would be fabulous.

I am off to begin exploring Nanjing and can't wait to see what is next. Until next time, Beth

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