August 22

Today was a day of travel into China.  My least favourite part of our vacation.  This time around, we have decided to try the ferry boat service to get to Heshan, and then Dannyís cousin is picking us up (about 10 minutes from Jiujiang).

The ferry was due to leave at 8:30am, and it did.  Luckily, we were in plenty of time for it, since the taxi ride took less time than weíd thought.  No problem, since the ferry terminal has a 7-11 store, and washrooms, so we were ok with the wait.  Boarding was quick and orderly, and we left Hong Kong for China.

The tickets originally said the journey would be 3hours 45minutes.  That seemed reasonable, given that the bus is supposed to take 4 hours, but usually ends up closer to 6 hours.  In fact, though, shortly after we left Hong Kong they announced that weíd arrive in Heshan by 11:10am!!  Yee ha!!!  Thatís freaking amazing.  So why the heck have we been suffering through the bus ride every damn time?  Iím wondering that too, but live and learn, I guess.

The boat ride was great, quick and painless.

When we got off in Heshan, we had to wait in a seemingly endless line to get through Chinese customs/immigration, but we did eventually get through, and Dannyís cousin and his wife were waiting there for us, when we got out.  They had their car waiting, so it was a terrific way to travel.  Ten minutes later we were at the hotel-from-hell.  Many of you remember this hotel, the only game in town.  Itís old, filthy, stinks of smoke and is generally a very unpleasant experience.  In fact, itís been so dirty up until now, I have refused to open the bed, and slept on top of it fully dressed.  Well, since our last trip the hotel was bought out and ďrenovatedĒ.  Why the (ďĒ) you ask?  Thatís because renovated has a different meaning in China than in Canada.  The room was quite a bit cleaner than other visits.  The bed did not stink, and the carpet was new.  The bathroom was still disgusting and old, with a shower curtain that was past itís prime so long ago, it is shameful.  Oh well, thatís what we get for under $20 CDN per night.  The good thing is that internet is free, the bad thing is that itís slow and wired, and censored.

We quickly dropped our bags in two rooms (splurge eh?) and headed right back out for the first of many meals.  Dannyís cousin took us to a new restaurant in town, where his brother and family met us.  The lunch was really good, and there were two young girls that Emily and Stephanie took a liking to, so the time passed fast.  Right after lunch, his cousinís brother wanted us to come to his home for tea, and despite my protests that we really just wanted to get to the hotel and settle for a bit, off we went.  His home was very typical of Jiujiang, although it did boast a western style toilet!!  No air conditioning, though.  They served us tea, and outside his home there were banana and papaya trees!  How cool is that.  Itís easy to forget how tropical the climate is here, but then when you see tropical fruit trees everywhere, itís a fun reminder.  He and his wife have several pet turtles in an outdoor pond, too so Emily and Stephanie, along with their new little friends, spent lots of time watching the turtles.  Right after we drank tea, I begged to be allowed to leave.  The kids were tired and hot and fed up.

Danny and his cousin had to head out to a government office to do something related to changing the documents for the old house, so they dropped me and the girls off at the hotel for the afternoon, and they left.  We didnít have much to do, but we did walk around a little, getting a few things at a bakery and some cold drinks.  There arenít many other things in walking distance, so that was it.

Believe it or not, the next thing we did was eat again, in the same restaurant!!  Yes, they took us to dinner at the very same place, with the very same group of people.  Oh well, the food was good.  And itís not like there are many good places in this tiny city.

Overall, it seems the town is in better shape than our last visit.  In fact, I feel safe to walk around outside so that is already a big improvement.  Dannyís cousin said itís because Guangzhou is bidding for some Pan Asian games or something, so they have cracked down on vagrants, etc.  I donít care what the reason is, Iím just glad to be able to walk around a bit and not feel fearful.

By the time we finished dinner, my kids were ratty and tired.  We had a good travel day, but it is still tiring.  I had Stephanie in a room with me, and Danny had taken Emily to his room. Stephanie was in bed, and sound asleep within minutes of arriving back at the hotel.