Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 16 - Back to Shanghai

With the weather turning colder yesterday, so did my hostel room and I awakened sometime in the middle of the night feeling very cold.  I hadn't seen any source of heat for the room except a wall air-conditioner with a remote on the desk.  So in my desperation, I thought perhaps the unit also provided heat.  I grabbed the remote to remedy the cold only to see that every button only had Chinese characters on it.  I tried everyone of them, trying to play a guessing game with the remote but all I accomplished was adding even more cold air to the room.  I debated with myself for a few seconds as to whether I should get dressed and go to the desk to figure it out -- but decided to resolve my predicament by just getting dressed and crawling back in bed.  That worked.  I warmed up and slept soundly the rest of the night.

Since my only goal for the day was to get back to Shanghai, I had a leisurely start and even had time to Facetime with Deb in Williamsburg, VA and daughter Debi and granddaughter Amelia in Portland.  Thereafter, I loaded by backpack and set out on foot for the train station.
 I followed my electronic mapping program to find my way walking to the train station (about 15 minutes away) and proceeded to the long ticket lines that I've now gotten comfortable with.  This time I was armed with the needed Chinese characters that Hongwei had texted me for everything I needed.
As I waited in one line, I got a tap on the shoulder by a uniformed officer indicating I should follow him.  I did as he indicated, and quickly learned that he was leading me to a line farther down the row of about 25 that had a "bilingual" sign above.  He smiled when I said "xiexie." Once again, somebody going out of their way to help me.

The ticketing went easy this time as I both spoke in English and showed her the characters Hongwei had sent me. Finding the departure gate was much easier. As I settled in my seat, I thought the advertiser's saying on the back of the drop down tray was appropriate to my life and trip.
Of course, I also reflected for a moment on the oddity of the saying (albeit for advertising) in a country known for its internet censorship (this blogging site, run by Google, as well as Facebook and others are blocked from access in China).

My ride back -- now familiar to Shanghai's rail station and then on the subway -- was super easy and comfortable.

DOES A SIGN ARROW POINT UP OR DOWN FOR "STRAIGHT AHEAD": For the record, I also came to realize why I was lost when I had arrived at the Hangzhou train station.  The "Taxi" sign had a down-pointing arrow, so I assumed it meant to take the nearby stairs down.  Instead, the down-pointing arrow meant "walk straight ahead."  I think the same sign in the USA would probably have an up-pointing arrow but as I write this, I'm not certain.  It is something I'll pay more attention to when I get back to the USA.

A TECHNOLOGY DIVERSION FOR ANY SO INCLINED: Now a little technology diversion to share a few details on how I've moved about so easily on this trip.  As I've previously mentioned, there is a wonderful map app called "MapsWithMe" (for iPhone and Android) that allows you to have detailed destination maps on your phone or device without need for the internet.  While it won't actually route you (like a dedicated GPS or a cell phone with access to data), it does show you a GPS indicator of direction of travel (included with free/lite version) and allows you to pre-mark the points you want to retain if you pay for the Pro version/$4.99.  Once I started walking in any direction, the arrow immediately shows me where I am AND my direction of travel -- so I can instantly correct my course.

  This app is better than any other map when traveling outside the USA where data, when you can get it, is slow and/or costly.  One caveat:  iPhones won't use GPS unless you are connected to carrier (for example, not in Airport mode) but Wifi only iPads and mini-iPads can't use GPS unless on a WiFi network !  The Google Nexus 7 tablet has built in standard GPS.  It is the perfect traveling companion.

*For the real techies who may challenge me:  iPhones, iPads and mini-iPads have what is known as A-GPS -- a non-standard (after all they are Apple's) assisted GPS which means it first finds you on the cell connections -- then works.  This is ok in the USA (as long as you are not in Airplane Mode) and if you are traveling where you have a cell connection.  But it makes the GPS non-functioning in these devices without a cell connection. MapsWithMe works as a detailed map whether or not you have a functioning GPS -- you just don't get the actual direction of travel (blue arrow) unless the GPS is working.  For me, since my iPhone is connected (roaming) here in China -- I can effectively use it and the GPS works. The Android driven Google Nexus 7 (a 7 inch screen pad - now $171 on Amazon ) has a standard GPS -- it works all the time and doesn't require a cell connection or wifi connection at all. Initially Amazon Fire tablets did not have GPS -- but now there are several models. I'm guessing that perhaps the cheapest still don't, but the more expensive may.

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