(Ed. note cum Side note: Since I have now officially taken over the writing of this blog, it is no longer appropriate for the asides to be known as Ed. notes, so I have changed it to Side Notes. These are still critically important, yet mostly irrelevant asides which should be shared with you, but don’t necessarily connect directly with the main thrust of my point.)
Well here we are again, spending more of someone’s inheritance, just to make ourselves feel better. We are on Westjet Flight 1876 headed for 10 days in sunny Maui. How good is that!
Being the frugal-minded souls we are, rather than paying for Park ‘N Fly, we took a cab from our house to Lougheed Mall to catch the Skytrain down to Waterfront Station. This gave me an excellent opportunity to compare, in a fair and unbiased manner, transportation systems in Vancouver and Shanghai/Jiaxing.
- In Vancouver (ok, ok, Port Coquitlam) you can call a taxi and book them in advance. I did this at 11:00 am for a 1:00pm departure from our house. At 1:05 I called to ask where it was. “Hmm, oh yes I see. Ok. He is on his way and will be there in just a couple of minutes.” Now right then I knew we were in trouble. No one EVER says, “I see. Ok” in a good way. Five minutes later he shows up. He drove a maximum of 5 km/hr below the speed limit, stopped at every yellow light and charged us $42.00. (Side note: I went online for interest sake checked how much a cab all the way down to Waterfront Station would cost us. It said 30km and $70.00. Either we got ripped off big time or – unbelievably – you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.)
- In Shanghai you can’t book a taxi in advance, they drive like maniacs, may or may not stop to pick you up and arbitrarily add money to the meter if it is night time, raining or some other reason you can’t understand because they only speak Chinese and I don’t. (Side note: Come to think of it, the meters are like the white lines on roads and traffic lights – merely suggestions to be followed – or not)
- Where to start? Skytrain moves people from A to B. It runs on rails. Since the majority of the line is outside, the views are spectacular.
In Vancouver, the Millenium Line has cars which are about one-third the size of any Shanghai subway car. The majority of the people in our car were Chinese (Side note: I am not being racist – I recognized the language, even if I don’t speak it, so there).
There are two – maybe three cars to a train. The cars hold maybe 50 people sitting and another 50 standing and run every 6-7 minutes. It cost $2.75 to go from Lougheed Mall to downtown. I understand that the “honour” system of paying is going away. Now they have actual turnstiles into which you will eventually put your ticket when you enter or leave. I say eventually because right now the turnstiles are wide open. Apparently it will take Vancouverites another month to learn how to use them. What they will learn then that they can’t learn now is beyond me. Is this just another example of how incompetent Translink is? Close the damn turnstiles!
- Shanghai Metro moves people from A to B. It runs on rails. It is 99% below ground – no views. The other 1% just has apartment towers and smog to see. The majority of the passengers are Chinese. (Side note: I am not being racist – we were in CHINA!) Shanghai subway trains are 16 cars long. They hold 60 – 80 people sitting and another 150 – 200 standing. You do the math. They run every 5 minutes. You can go from one side of Shanghai to the other – a trip of about 1 ½ hours on the subway for about $1.00. There is no honour system and they use the “tap-in tap-out” method quite successfully. God help the person who tries to jump the turnstile.
- You may still be wondering why we left PoCo yesterday for a flight today and took Skytrain to Waterfront Station. Good observation. Our very good friend Ken lives a 5 minute walk from the station, so we stayed overnight at his lovely home (Side note: Thus avoiding paying for Park ‘N Fly! YES!). In order to enjoy the “downtown experience” we took the bus from outside his front door to the Fifth Avenue Cinema and then back (Side note: We went to see Spotlight. A little background for you. I have a belief in God – whatever He or She may be and a healthy respect for what churches, all legitimate churches, try to offer their congregations. Ken and Terry don’t necessarily share my beliefs. Based on these differences, I thought we might come away with a little bit of interesting dinner conversation. Spotlight is the true story of the uncovering of a major scandal within the Roman Catholic diocese in Boston at the turn of the century. [Seems weird to say that about the year 2000.] Anyway, I came away stunned at what was discovered. Perhaps even more disturbing than what they discovered in Boston, was the list of incidents shown at the end. I cannot recommend this movie enough. If there aren’t at least 62 Academy Awards out of this then it is fixed by you will know who! This was a story I was totally unaware of ie Boston. It still gives me goosebumps thinking of it. GO! Anyway I digress – back to the buses.)
Vancouver buses are clean, comfortable, convenient and quiet. They cost $1.75 a trip if you stay in one zone. You may exit from either door on the bus. They only stop if someone is either at a stop or someone pulls the little cord. (Side note: Last time I was on a Vancouver bus was almost exactly 50 years ago – same cord!)
- Chinese buses. Hmm. Sort of clean – when the driver decides to use his dirty mop and dirty water to “mop” the floor and no Grandmother has held her grandchild over the litter basket to do either #1 OR #2. I swear. (Side note: Want proof? Search “images chinese kids poop on buses”) Sort of comfortable – if you aren’t forced back into the final row with about 6” of space between your head and the ceiling or 30 university students going home for a holiday don’t get on with their luggage and fill up the aisle. Convenient – I’ll give them that – lots of them, they go to lots of places with minimal transfers, lots of stops and generally on time. Quiet – not a chance in hell. First, anytime answers their cell phone, it is with “WEI!”. (Side note: I said this while I was chatting with a woman who came from Hong Kong 15 years ago and I thought she was going to wet herself. It is absolutely universal in the Chinese culture) The rest of the conversation is at just a few decibels lower – I mean the only people on a bus who didn’t know what they were talking about was us. Additionally, if you are sitting at the front and I am at the back, who cares – let’s chat/yell. The bus stops at every stop – whether or not there is anyone there or not or whether or not anyone on the bus is planning to get off. There is no cord. You may ONLY exit through the back door – God help the poor foreigner who has the audacity to try and leave through the front. On the other hand a trip anywhere in Jiaxing cost you about 23 cents.
- We are flying on Westjet. First of all – THEY LEFT ON TIME. There were no – “We are just waiting for a few more passengers” or (1) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (2) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (3) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (4) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (5)“Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (6) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” announcements – You get the idea.
Since the flight was full, they asked if anyone wanted to check their baggage at the gate for free to create additional overhead space, it would be greatly appreciated. We did.
They announced even before we boarded that we could use our cell phones/tablets/laptops as long as they were in Airplane Mode and that there was Internet available for a small cost onboard ($4.99 for 30 minutes or $7.99 for the entire flight).
I thought I had purchased a couple of sandwiches but when the flight attendant came by, it appeared I bought them for the flight home. No matter, here are two on Westjet, since I wasn’t grumpy or snarky with her. Just imagine. (Side note: ie. the free sandwiches, not me being grumpy or snarky)
- We have flown China Eastern, China Southern, China Western, China Northern, Air China, China Air and every other possible derivation of Air, Direction and China. (Side note: We flew so much while we were in China, that this morning the US Customs officer, when he looked through our passports trying to find a blank page, commented that we travelled a lot. He stamped the last one!)
Anyway, THEY WERE NEVER ON TIME. eg “We are just waiting for a few more passengers” or (1) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (2) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (3) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (4) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (5)“Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (6) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” – You get the idea.
We often – and I mean often, had to wait for at least 30 minutes to turn any and every kind of electronic device on and then, just as often, had to turn any and every electronic device off 30 minutes before they even started their “final approach”. That final approach must have put us on glide paths so shallow that we skimmed treetops for 15 minutes before the runway.showed up. (Side note: I know what I mean – you figure it out)
Check your carry-on baggage? How the hell do you check 27 bags of Duty Free plus carry-ons plus clearly oversized baggage – let alone oversized carry-ons?
Purchase edible food before hand? If only! We often had trouble eating anything even included on our flights.
Well there you go – a fair, balanced and equitable perspective on two transportation systems.
(Final Side Note: If you find yourself downtown looking for an excellent restaurant, GO to Chambar on Beatty Street at Dunsmuir. Ok, maybe you better find yourself downtown looking for an excellent restaurant after making a reservation. Ken made the reservation on Monday morning for Wednesday evening and it was either 6:15 or 7:45*. It is superb – not inexpensive, but superb. Now we have been away so it may be old hat to all of you, but we thoroughly loved it. It is essentially a Belgian theme – tons of beer offerings and 4 different Moules Frites dishes. So of course, I had a Beety – a fantastic beet juice based cocktail. Terry had Moules Frites Vin Blanc, I had Moules Frites Congolaise and Ken had Sturgeon with a description so long I gave up trying to follow what the server was saying.. As they say in China – A Delicious Meal! Then go next door to the Devil’s Elbow for a drink and some great music! I want to move downtown but more on that in a moment.
*As I said, we stayed at Ken’s. He has a spectacular home overlooking the water in Gastown so we walked back to his place, a total of 6 blocks. I was amazed at the number of packed restaurants and cool looking bars on a chilly Wednesday night in late November at 9:30. As I said, I want to live downtown. I suggested to Terry that we could sell and then rent and move every three or four years to a different area of downtown. Gastown, Yaletown, False Creek etc. After considering my idea for a good 3.2 nano-seconds, she said no. Sigh.)
The Shoe Blog
IT IS BACK!
This is a Public Service Announcement!
One of the positives of travelling ANYWHERE in the world with the exception of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is that you are NOT required to remove your shoes. However, when travelling to the Home of the Brave, Land of the Free but Afraid of the Syrian Refugee, is that you do have to take your shoes off. Now, when you are older (like, say, 64) and struggle with back issues and are unable to bend over and tie up those shoes once they are off, you wait until you are able to sit. If in the interim you have a choice to take a people mover/moving sidewalk or walk, then walk. Otherwise, when you come to the end of said people mover/moving sidewalk, your untied lace will catch between the bed and the cover, causing you to come within a hair’s breadth of falling flat on your face, much to the very vocal amusement of the 20 or so people in line at Tim Horton’s (Side note: Why? They are the servers of the world’s worst coffee)
Ok – next issue: (Bearing in mind both Terry and I have been to Hawaii once each and I was in 1986) All About Maui!