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Tuesday May 15 - Up again at 0545 to see heavy overcast outside hotel window - cannot see the sun despite the fact window faces east. Bags packed again and left outsided the room for Vantage to take to next town. Big buffet breakfast with many glasses of orange juice, pinapple, French toast, eggs.
Bus ride then to airport - pass statue that marks the local origin of the Silk Road. Statue of Emperor Qin just west of the city wall. The highway outside Xi'an is already a super highway prepared for extensive city expansion and future building. We had entirely too short a visit and missed seeing many important places and museums. This time we have a chance to explore the modern Xi'an airport. Here we find among the many tourist items models of the Qin emperor's chariots and the Terracotta soldiers - an amazingly less expensive than at the museum.
It seems in the airport that the Chinese don't stand in line but simply crowd up at any gate. The fllight on Chinese airline is fine with lunch of chicken and rice on board. We fly to Hangzhou, from 1030 to 1230. It is too hazy and cloudy to see the ground until practically landing. Then we see a river and many canals and lush green, irrigaged fields with black earth so much different from Xi'an region. Surprisingly, for such a large city and tourist destination the airport is smaller than that at Xi'an. The drive into the city is very interesting as we pass rows of colorful and very modern style homes. They each have an extensive garden. There are also many shops. This is clearly a rich area. We cross a river and enter the downtown. Here the homes are older, crowded apartment buildings with laundry hanging from the upstairs windows. Most buildings are 6 to 8 stories. The scene is much as expected from seeing photos of old China. But there are also areas with new, higher apartments and moden office buildings with much glass and many construction cranes. As in Beijing the concrete is being poured floor by floor as the construction rises. They are not using prefabricated concrete construction. There are also two story brick buildings under construction. The streets are full of traffic despite the broad highways.
We arrive at the hotel at 1415. This is the gorgeous Radisson Plaza at 333 Tiyuchang Road in the downtown area. It is the best hotel yet. We have a two-room suite with separate toilet and bathroom, shown and tub. There is a wide screen TV on a wall in the bedroom and another in the living room. Each hotel also has a small built-in safe. The furniture is excellent. Complementary drinks await. Plus there is a well-stocked refrigerator. All the hotels have the modern pass card key system. Here it also turns the lights on automatically and when it is used on leaving it turns them off. The heavy cloud cover obscures the city making photos from our 18th floor room difficult. But we can see much of the city is filled with the older style, lower height, appartments. There appears to be less widespread clearance of older areas than in Beijing. But interspersed with the old there are some very modern, tall buildings, including one next door to the hotel. The city is located around a lake and next to ranges of wooded hills, some quite large. We see several pagodas on the hill tops.
With time to spend prior to dinner we immediately get a taxi to the Zhejiang provincial museum (a complex of Chinese architecture) next to the West Lake. This has many excellent Neolithic and Bronze Age displays and in several attached buildings there are galleries of modern art. Although we did not ask him, our enterprising taxi driver is waiting on the street to drive us to the Mausoleum of Yue Fei, a Southern Song general who was a hero in defense of the city and dynasty against the invading Mongols. Unfortunately we are too late and the mausoleum is closed. So back to the hotel via the lake and some hills, and then a short walk to buy Coke and water. Then it is time for dinner. The hotel staff is large andexcellent, helpful and cheerful. It is getting dark here at 1800. The rain starts again around 1900. The Radisson Plaza buffet dinner in their modernistic restaurant is the most incredible yet. We find seven different types of sea food, plus several fish of unknown type. The counters have lamb, pork, ham, steak, roast beef, multiple types of noodles one can order and a huge salad bar. Another area has many types of desert. There are six or seven chefs on duty in the huge, elaborate room plus many waiters and waitresses eager to please. After dinner we talk with the tour director (Kelly) about China and the future until around 2100. We are too tired to do more, so it is back to the room for sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day.


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