To say that I was surprised when I saw my parents in China is an understatement. As I’m writing this, I still can’t believe they managed to pull such a surprise off! I will try to quickly recount everything leading up the surprise.
About a month before my birthday, my parents informed me that they had graciously planned a weekend getaway celebration for us. Billy and my parents were aware of the destination but I was not. I was so anxious as to where we were going! About a week before my birthday, Billy told me that a couple of nights before my birthday we were going to briefly have drinks with one of his extended family members who was traveling through China. His name was “Randy” and he was an elderly man with a long white beard.
Two days before we were supposed to leave for our trip, we headed to the hotel where we were to meet this “Randy.” Billy informed me that his flight was running late so we were going to have to wait a few minutes. After an hour of waiting I started to get sleepy and after two hours told Billy that it was getting late and we had work tomorrow. My chair was facing the front entrance of the hotel and Billy told me to switch seats with him so Randy wouldn’t see me looking so sleepy. Just when I was about to throw in the towel and go home, Billy said “oh Randy is here!” so I stood up, brushed myself off and turned around to face the front lobby.
There before me was my mother, brother and father all beaming and laughing. I truly couldn’t process what was happening. I hugged them in disbelief and couldn’t take my hand away from my mouth. They laughed hysterically as I continued to remain speechless. After a couple of minutes I finally embraced them and told them how shocked and surprised I was!
I don’t want this post to be a novel so I will cut to the chase and tell you that my parents planned for us to travel to Shanghai and Hangzhou for four days!
The day after next, we hopped on the fast train to Shanghai. Apparently, this train is one of the fastest in the world and it only took us five hours to get there! Also, traveling by train will always be my favorite form of transportation because there is so much to see out of the window! Please check out Sam relaxing on the train.
One of the most eye-opening aspects of the train ride was seeing just how much new construction is happening in China. Although this phenomenon is visible in Beijing, never had I experienced it on this level. My dad was astonished to see crane after crane as we chugged down to the South of China. We were later informed that more than half of the world’s cranes are in China. Woah.
Upon arrival in Shanghai, we went antiquing. Which, if you know my family, is customary for any Schooler vacation. It was so much fun to explore the markets with my family! My mom found some stellar items such as this one below:
When we checked into the hotel, there was a lovely cheesecake waiting for me and a personalized birthday card! It was so wonderful. We all had the cheesecake for breakfast the next morning!
Everyone should have cake for breakfast on their birthday
We had drinks in our hotel and the view was spectacular. I think one of the most incredible aspects of Shanghai is the incredible view you get from both side of the water. We also went to an incredible restaurant called T8 and had a one of the most spectacular dinners I’ve ever had! Being treated to Fois Gras and Good Wine in China is pure happiness.
The next day we explored the Bund and went to the old part of Shanghai where we enjoyed traditional southern Chinese architecture and walked around some gardens.
We then hopped on the train again and headed to Hangzhou. Hangzhou is a city about an hour from Shanghai and it is famed for it’s incredible West Lake. Our hotel was a ways from the city center and built-in traditional Southern Chinese architecture which is characterized by white walls and clay roofs. The rooms were elegant and had a Chinese flair to them. I immediately felt relaxed after walking in. It was such a nice contrast to the pace of Shanghai and Beijing! I spent my birthday evening lounging and reading in my robe and i couldn’t have asked for a more delightful way to spend it!
Obviously Sam found his robe
The next day we took a tour of some ancient medicine shops in the old part of Hangzhou and then visited some of the traditional buildings as well. In the afternoon a guide took us to see some more contemporary architecture at one of the most famous art university’s in China. The whole University was a piece of art in itself! Our guide was an expert on Chinese architecture and it was really interesting to hear how there is a huge push to move away from the uniform, replica like, mega structures around China and more towards a unique Chinese modernity.
We were starving by lunch time and feasted on a traditional Chinese meal by a tea field and afterwards we spent a few minutes meandering through the tea fields.
That evening we were planning to go to the night market but we were all so tired that we decided lounging by the indoor pool was better! We rounded out the evening with a traditional Chinese dinner which included Peking duck and a few other traditional Chinese dishes.
The next morning we headed back to Beijing and it was wonderful recounting all the wonderful things we experienced that last few days.My parents spent a few more days in Beijing and I was lucky enough to spend every waking minute that I wans’t working, with them.
Their visit was really special particularly because I wasn’t expecting my parents being able to see my life in China. I had hoped and prayed that they would be able to get a taste of what I’ve been experiencing the past six months! Parents truly are the most wonderful people in the world!