Searching for locations: From Beijing to X’ian by bullet train

Beijing West train station.

Beijing west railway station is about eight kilometers from the Forbidden City, located at East Lianhuachi Road, Fengtai District.  Most trains traveling between south central, southwest, northwest, and south China are boarded here.

This place is huge and there are so many people here, perhaps the other half of Beijing’s population that wasn’t in the forbidden city.

Getting into the station looked like it was going to be fraught with danger but the tour guide got us into the right queue and then arranged for a separate scanner for the group to help keep us all together

Then we decided to take the VIP service and got to waiting room no 13, the VIP service waiting room which was full to overflowing.  Everyone today was a VIP.  We got the red hat guy to lead us to a special area away from the crowd.

Actually, it was on the other side of the gate, away from the hoards sitting or standing patiently in the waiting room.  It gave us a chance to get something to eat before the long train ride.

The departure is at 4 pm, the train number was G655, and we were told the trains leave on time.  As it is a high-speed train, stops are far and few between, but we’re lucky, this time, in that we don’t have to count stations to know where to get off.

We’re going to the end of the line.

However, it was interesting to note the stops which, in each case, were brief, and you had to be ready to get off in a hurry.

These stops were Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou East, Luoyang Longmen, Huashan North, and Weinan North.  At night, you could see the lights of these cities from a distance and were like oases in the middle of a desert.  During the day, the most prominent features were high rise apartment blocks and power stations.

A train ride with a difference

G Trains at Wuhan Railway Station

China’s high-speed trains, also known as bullet or fast trains, can reach a top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph).

Over 2,800 pairs of bullet trains numbered by G, D or C run daily connecting over 550 cities in China and covering 33 of the country’s 34 provinces. Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train link the two megacities 1,318 km (819 mi) away in just 4.5 hours.

By 2019, China keeps the world’s largest high-speed rail (HSR) network with a length totaling over 35,000 km (21,750 mi).

To make the five and a half hours go quicker we keep an eye on the speed which hovers between 290 and 305 kph, and sitting there with our camera waiting for the speed to hit 305 which is a rare occurrence, and then, for 306 and then for 307, which happened when we all took a stroll up to the restaurant car to find there had nothing to eat.

I got a strange flavored drink for 20 yuan.

There was a lady manning a trolley that had some food, and fresh, maybe, fruit on it, and she had a sense of humor if not much English.

We didn’t but anything but the barrel of caramel popcorn looked good.

The good thing was, after hovering around 298, and 299 kph, it finally hit 300.

We get to the end of the line, and there is an announcement in Chinese that we don’t understand and attempts to find out if it is the last station fall on deaf ears, probably more to do with the language barrier than anything else.

Then, suddenly the train conductor, the lady with the red hat, comes and tells us it is, and we have fifteen minutes, so we’re now hurrying to get off.

As the group was are scattered up and down the platform, we all come together and we go down the escalator, and, at the bottom, we see the trip-a-deal flags.

X’ian,and the Xi’an North Railway Station

Xi’an North Railway Station is one of the most important transportation hubs of the Chinese high-speed rail network. It is about 8.7 miles (14 km) from Bell Tower (city center) and is located at the intersection of the Weiyang Road and Wenjing Road in Weiyang District.

This time we have a male guide, Sam, who meets us at the end of the platform after we have disembarked.  We have a few hiccups before we head to the bus.  Some of our travelers are not on his list, but with the other group.  Apparently a trip-a-deal mix-up or miscommunication perhaps.

Then it’s another long walk with bags to the bus.  Good thing its a nicely air-conditioned newish bus, and there’s water, and beer for 10 yuan.  How could you pass up a tsing tao for that price?

Xi’an is a very brightly lit up city at night with wide roads.  It is very welcoming, and a surprise for a city of 10 million out in the middle of China.

As with all hotels, it’s about a 50-minute drive from the railway station and we are all tired by the time we get there.

Tomorrow’s program will be up at 6, on the bus 8.40 and off to the soldiers, 2.00 late lunch, then train station to catch the 4.00 train, that will arrive 2 hours later at the next stop.  A not so late night this time.

The Grand Noble Hotel

Outdoor scene

Grand Noble Hotel Xi’an is located in the most prosperous business district within the ancient city wall in the center of Xi’an.

The Grand Noble Hotel, like the Friendship Hotel, had a very flash foyer with tons of polished marble.  It sent out warning signals, but when we got to our room, we found it to be absolutely stunning.  More room, a large bathroom, air conditioning the works.

Only one small problem, as in Beijing the lighting is inadequate.  Other than that it’s what I would call a five-star hotel.  This one is definitely better than the Friendship Hotel.

In the center of the city, very close to the bell tower, one of the few ancient buildings left in Xi’an.  It is also in the middle of a larger roundabout and had a guard with a machine gun.

Sadly there was no time for city center sightseeing.

I always wanted to see the planets – Episode One

I’d been on the starship for almost three hours when…

The captain was coming up from the earth station by transport, not wanting to trust the transporters, and I’d just finished the orientation of the ship by the second officer, and had arrived on the bridge to see various crew members hunched over their consoles.

The captain had told me, before stepping onto the transport, that we would be leaving the dock shortly after he arrived.

Nothing I’d seen so far had led me to believe it would be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Nevertheless, the crew briefing had run smoothly, the second officer assigned to correlate the complaints/problems list, and everyone else had taken their assigned positions. 

I was waiting for the captain, standing beside the ‘chair’, ready to hand over.  In any other situation, we would be off to an illustrious start.

Until the dulcet tones of the Chief Engineer rang through the bridge, uttering those fateful words, “the warp coil has had a catastrophic failure”.

This was at odds with another statement he had made earlier when I was in Engineering, and given I was told the Chief Engineer was prone to hyperbole; his statement ‘they just don’t make warp coils like they used to’ hadn’t exactly filled me with confidence, but I had been expecting we would be ready to depart.

I had been looking at the screen, an overlay of the window that looked out over space, or at this moment, the space dock, where there was a representation of the planets that were ‘out there’.

I had been curious about M75, but the helmsman, a rather taciturn chap who seemed to resent the fact he was assigned to this ship, just shrugged and said, “it’s something, somewhere, but not of much interest,” then went back to his console.

If this was Star Trek, we’d be ejecting the warp coil by now, but in the space dock, that didn’t seem to me to be a viable option.

“How long before we can get this bucket of bolts moving,” I ask the Chief.

“I’m going as fast as I can.”

Yes, words ripped right out of the script of a Star Trek episode, I thought. A sad case of life imitating art.

A strange whistling sound emanated from the speakers, then the whoosh of the elevator just before the doors opened. OK, new ship, squeaky doors, another item to be put on the ‘look at’ list after the shakedown cruise.

The Captain had arrived.

“Why are dock workers still on the ship, Number One.”

For a moment there, I thought I was talking to John Luc Picard.

“Faulty warp coil. You know how it goes, save a billion by outsourcing to the cheapest supplier.”

The captain didn’t appreciate my sardonic humour, or my apparent disdain in outsourcing what we had once built ourselves.

He gave me a frown, a slight shake of his head, then said, “I’ll be in my quarters. Let me know when we’re about to leave.”

He didn’t wait for acknowledgement and disappeared through another squeaky door. More repairs.

The Chief’s voice then came over the speaker. “I can give you impulse speed, warp speed will take a little longer.”

“Doesn’t that refer to miracles over the impossible,” I ask.

“Perhaps.  But in the meantime, I need a specific spanner and the replicators are down. So, now we have to fix them first, before moving on. Might take a while.”

I look around the crew, seeing their expectant faces drop with disappointment.

Outer space was going to have to wait a little longer.

© Charles Heath 2021

Searching for locations: West Lake, Hangzhou, China

West Lake is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou, China. It is divided into five sections by three causeways. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake.

Measuring 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) in length, 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) in width, and 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) in average depth, the lake spreads itself in an area totaling 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles).

The earliest recorded name for West Lake was the “Wu Forest River”, but over time it changed to two distinct names.  One is “Qiantang Lake”, due to the fact that Hangzhou was called “Qiantang” in ancient times.  The other, “West Lake”, due to the lake being west of the city

It’s about to get busy, with a number of activities planned, and the warmth of the day is starting to make an impact.

The tour starts in the car park about a kilometer away, but the moment we left the car park we were getting a taste of the park walking along a tree-lined avenue.

When we cross the road, once again dicing with death with the silent assassins on motor scooters.

We are in the park proper, and it is magnificent, with flowers, mostly at the start hydrangeas and then any number of other trees and shrubs, some carved into other flower shapes like a lotus.

Then there was the lake and the backdrop of bridges and walkways.

.

And if you can tune out the background white noise the place would be great for serenity and relaxation.

That, in fact, was how the boat ride panned out, about half an hour or more gliding across the lake in an almost silent boat, by an open window, with the air and the majestic scenery.

No, not that boat, which would be great to have lunch on while cruising, but the boat below:

Not quite in the same class, but all the same, very easy to tune out and soak it in.

It was peaceful, amazingly quiet, on a summery day

A pagoda in the hazy distance, an island we were about to circumnavigate.

Of all the legends, the most touching one is the love story between Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an. Bai Suzhen was a white snake spirit and Xu Xi’an was a mortal man.

They fell in love when they first met on a boat on the West Lake, and got married very soon after.

However, the evil monk Fa Hai attempted to separate the couple by imprisoning Xu Xi’an. Bai Suzhen fought against Fa Hai and tried her best to rescue her husband, but she failed and was imprisoned under the Leifeng Pagoda by the lake.

Years later the couple was rescued by Xiao Qing, the sister of Baisuzhen, and from then on, Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an lived together happily.

The retelling of the story varied between tour guides, and on the cruise boat, we had two.  Our guide kept to the legend, the other tour guide had a different ending.

Suffice to say it had relevance to the two pagodas on the far side of the lake.

There was a cafe or restaurant on the island, but that was not our lunch destination.

Nor were the buildings further along from where we disembarked.

All in all the whole cruise took about 45 minutes and was an interesting break from the hectic nature of the tour.

Oh yes, and the boat captain had postcards for sale.  We didn’t buy any.

Lunch

At the disembarkation point there was a mall that sold souvenirs and had a few ‘fast food’ shops, and a KFC, not exactly what we came to China for, but it seemed like the only place in town a food cautious Australian could eat at.

And when tried to get in the door, that’s where at least 3 busloads were, if they were not in the local Starbucks.  Apparently, these were the places of first choice wherever we went.

The chicken supply by the time we got to the head of the line amounted to pieces at 22.5 RMB a piece and nuggets.  Everything else had run out, and for me, there were only 5 pieces left.  Good thing there were chips.

And Starbucks with coffee and cheesecake.

At least the setting for what could have been a picnic lunch was idyllic.

Searching for locations: West Lake, Hangzhou, China

West Lake is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou, China. It is divided into five sections by three causeways. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake.

Measuring 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) in length, 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) in width, and 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) in average depth, the lake spreads itself in an area totaling 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles).

The earliest recorded name for West Lake was the “Wu Forest River”, but over time it changed to two distinct names.  One is “Qiantang Lake”, due to the fact that Hangzhou was called “Qiantang” in ancient times.  The other, “West Lake”, due to the lake being west of the city

It’s about to get busy, with a number of activities planned, and the warmth of the day is starting to make an impact.

The tour starts in the car park about a kilometer away, but the moment we left the car park we were getting a taste of the park walking along a tree-lined avenue.

When we cross the road, once again dicing with death with the silent assassins on motor scooters.

We are in the park proper, and it is magnificent, with flowers, mostly at the start hydrangeas and then any number of other trees and shrubs, some carved into other flower shapes like a lotus.

Then there was the lake and the backdrop of bridges and walkways.

.

And if you can tune out the background white noise the place would be great for serenity and relaxation.

That, in fact, was how the boat ride panned out, about half an hour or more gliding across the lake in an almost silent boat, by an open window, with the air and the majestic scenery.

No, not that boat, which would be great to have lunch on while cruising, but the boat below:

Not quite in the same class, but all the same, very easy to tune out and soak it in.

It was peaceful, amazingly quiet, on a summery day

A pagoda in the hazy distance, an island we were about to circumnavigate.

Of all the legends, the most touching one is the love story between Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an. Bai Suzhen was a white snake spirit and Xu Xi’an was a mortal man.

They fell in love when they first met on a boat on the West Lake, and got married very soon after.

However, the evil monk Fa Hai attempted to separate the couple by imprisoning Xu Xi’an. Bai Suzhen fought against Fa Hai and tried her best to rescue her husband, but she failed and was imprisoned under the Leifeng Pagoda by the lake.

Years later the couple was rescued by Xiao Qing, the sister of Baisuzhen, and from then on, Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an lived together happily.

The retelling of the story varied between tour guides, and on the cruise boat, we had two.  Our guide kept to the legend, the other tour guide had a different ending.

Suffice to say it had relevance to the two pagodas on the far side of the lake.

There was a cafe or restaurant on the island, but that was not our lunch destination.

Nor were the buildings further along from where we disembarked.

All in all the whole cruise took about 45 minutes and was an interesting break from the hectic nature of the tour.

Oh yes, and the boat captain had postcards for sale.  We didn’t buy any.

Lunch

At the disembarkation point there was a mall that sold souvenirs and had a few ‘fast food’ shops, and a KFC, not exactly what we came to China for, but it seemed like the only place in town a food cautious Australian could eat at.

And when tried to get in the door, that’s where at least 3 busloads were, if they were not in the local Starbucks.  Apparently, these were the places of first choice wherever we went.

The chicken supply by the time we got to the head of the line amounted to pieces at 22.5 RMB a piece and nuggets.  Everything else had run out, and for me, there were only 5 pieces left.  Good thing there were chips.

And Starbucks with coffee and cheesecake.

At least the setting for what could have been a picnic lunch was idyllic.

Searching for locations: The Lingering Gardens, Suzhou, China

The Lingering Garden

These gardens are very tightly put together and are interspersed with buildings that you can go in and look at as distinct from just looking in from the outside.

There are lots of paths that wind around interspersed with rocks which may or may not be sculpted, and equally interspersed with trees, bushes, and small plants.  In the middle is a lake which usually has lotus plants in bloom, but they are not in season.

The gardens were built around a small lake that was filled with fish of all sizes and colours

The buildings were also a contrast for those built for the men

and those for the women

In the middle of the garden was a significant rock pillar

surrounded by certain areas of the garden that had smaller rock formations

 

At the end of the garden is a large collection of bonsai trees, some of which are quite exquisite.

Searching for locations: The Lingering Gardens, Suzhou, China

The Lingering Garden

These gardens are very tightly put together and are interspersed with buildings that you can go in and look at as distinct from just looking in from the outside.

There are lots of paths that wind around interspersed with rocks which may or may not be sculpted, and equally interspersed with trees, bushes, and small plants.  In the middle is a lake which usually has lotus plants in bloom, but they are not in season.

The gardens were built around a small lake that was filled with fish of all sizes and colours

The buildings were also a contrast for those built for the men

and those for the women

In the middle of the garden was a significant rock pillar

surrounded by certain areas of the garden that had smaller rock formations

 

At the end of the garden is a large collection of bonsai trees, some of which are quite exquisite.

Searching for locations: The Beijing Zoo, and Pandas, China

Beijing Zoo

Founded in 1906 during the late Qing dynasty, it is the oldest Zoo in China.  It also has an aquarium and has 450 land-based species, some of which are rare and endemic to China like the Giant Panda, and 500 marine-based species.  Other rare animals to be seen are the Red Panda, the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, the South China Tiger, the White Lipped deer, the Chinese alligator, the Yak,, and the Snow Leopard.
Most of the original animals were bought in 1908 from Germany by the viceroy of Liangjiang Duanfang.  The Zoo first opened on June 16th, 1908.
Currently, the Zoo grounds resemble classical Chinese gardens, and among the attractions are a number of Qing dynasty buildings to view, as well as an Elephant hall, a Lion and tiger hall, a Monkey hall, and a Panda hall.  In all, there are 30 halls.
The Zoo is located at 137 Xizhimen WaiDajie in Xicheng district, near the 2nd ring road.

We are primarily at the Zoo to see the Pandas, and there is a specific hall devoted to them, and by the way, it costs extra to see them.  Everyone in our group is particularly interested in seeing them because it’s rare that any can be found anywhere else in the world.
Perhaps if there had been more time, another hour, maybe, it might have made all the difference, but I think that extra time might have clashed with the pearl factory, and that, for obvious reasons, was deemed to be more important.

Our first stop is in the Panda hall.

There are two pandas that we can see, one of whom is a little camera shy, and the other, above, who is demonstrating how pandas eat bamboo.  They are behind a large glass wall, and you have to wait for the opportunity to get a good photo, and, sometimes only enough to include the top of the head of the person in front of you.  Unfortunately, the Chinese visitors don’t understand the polite excuse me in English, and, can at times, be rude enough to shove their way to the front.

What is also a problem is the uncooperativeness of the pandas to pose for photos.  I guess there’s no surprise there given the thousands of visitors every day with only one purpose in mind.  We counted ourselves lucky to get the photos we did.

The hall itself is built on to the external enclosure where there are a number of giant pandas some of whom that were on show were relatively lethargic, as though they had a big weekend, and we’re sleeping it off, like this panda below:

Then, remarkably, we came across one that decided to be a little more energetic and did a walk in front of hundreds of Chinese who had undoubtedly come to show their children the animals.

This Panda was also easier to photograph whereas the other panda, one chewing on a morning feast of bamboo, saw a lot of pushing and shoving by the spectators to get the best spot to take his photograph.  Having manners just doesn’t cut it here, so do what you have to to get that photograph.

We also saw a couple of monkeys that were also in the panda enclosure, but they were not much of a side benefit.  They may have been there to use the Panda’s exercise equipment, though it was not quite like what we use.There was no time really to wander off to see much else, but apparently, there were also red pandas, and surprisingly, a category call Australian animals.  But, who goes to another country to view your own animals?The cutest animals were the stuffed pandas, and they were quite reasonably priced.

Searching for locations: The Beijing Zoo, and Pandas, China

Beijing Zoo

Founded in 1906 during the late Qing dynasty, it is the oldest Zoo in China.  It also has an aquarium and has 450 land-based species, some of which are rare and endemic to China like the Giant Panda, and 500 marine-based species.  Other rare animals to be seen are the Red Panda, the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, the South China Tiger, the White Lipped deer, the Chinese alligator, the Yak,, and the Snow Leopard.
Most of the original animals were bought in 1908 from Germany by the viceroy of Liangjiang Duanfang.  The Zoo first opened on June 16th, 1908.
Currently, the Zoo grounds resemble classical Chinese gardens, and among the attractions are a number of Qing dynasty buildings to view, as well as an Elephant hall, a Lion and tiger hall, a Monkey hall, and a Panda hall.  In all, there are 30 halls.
The Zoo is located at 137 Xizhimen WaiDajie in Xicheng district, near the 2nd ring road.

We are primarily at the Zoo to see the Pandas, and there is a specific hall devoted to them, and by the way, it costs extra to see them.  Everyone in our group is particularly interested in seeing them because it’s rare that any can be found anywhere else in the world.
Perhaps if there had been more time, another hour, maybe, it might have made all the difference, but I think that extra time might have clashed with the pearl factory, and that, for obvious reasons, was deemed to be more important.

Our first stop is in the Panda hall.

There are two pandas that we can see, one of whom is a little camera shy, and the other, above, who is demonstrating how pandas eat bamboo.  They are behind a large glass wall, and you have to wait for the opportunity to get a good photo, and, sometimes only enough to include the top of the head of the person in front of you.  Unfortunately, the Chinese visitors don’t understand the polite excuse me in English, and, can at times, be rude enough to shove their way to the front.

What is also a problem is the uncooperativeness of the pandas to pose for photos.  I guess there’s no surprise there given the thousands of visitors every day with only one purpose in mind.  We counted ourselves lucky to get the photos we did.

The hall itself is built on to the external enclosure where there are a number of giant pandas some of whom that were on show were relatively lethargic, as though they had a big weekend, and we’re sleeping it off, like this panda below:

Then, remarkably, we came across one that decided to be a little more energetic and did a walk in front of hundreds of Chinese who had undoubtedly come to show their children the animals.

This Panda was also easier to photograph whereas the other panda, one chewing on a morning feast of bamboo, saw a lot of pushing and shoving by the spectators to get the best spot to take his photograph.  Having manners just doesn’t cut it here, so do what you have to to get that photograph.

We also saw a couple of monkeys that were also in the panda enclosure, but they were not much of a side benefit.  They may have been there to use the Panda’s exercise equipment, though it was not quite like what we use.There was no time really to wander off to see much else, but apparently, there were also red pandas, and surprisingly, a category call Australian animals.  But, who goes to another country to view your own animals?The cutest animals were the stuffed pandas, and they were quite reasonably priced.

Searching for locations: The canals of Suzhou, China

This morning is a boat ride that will take us along a small portion of the main canal, and we head through a number of back streets, to a landing where there are a number of boats all vying with each other to get us passengers on boats.

But…

These boats don’t have a wharf to tie up to and then put out a stable gangplank.  No.  They just more into a concrete step and you take your life in your hands getting on.  One wrong step and you’re in the canal.  And not a very clean one at that.

That’s if another boat doesn’t come along and bumps you, knocking you off balance.  We managed not to lose anyone in boarding the vessel.

This is where we get on the boat

We go along what appears to be downstream towards another larger canal, past tree-lined streets until the canal narrows and we’re looking at the backs of houses, which look very dilapidated.

And the canals?  Well, it’s not quite like it is in Venice

Though some parts of the canal look better than others

What doesn’t bear thinking about is the electrical wiring which is a nightmarish spider web of cables going off in all directions.  How anyone could troubleshoot problems is beyond me.

We pass under a number of bridges, and then, about 30 minutes after leaving, we reach a larger canal and do a 180-degree turn, and head back to a drop off point the will enable us to walk through a typical everyday Chinese market for food and the other items.

This drop off point is much the same as the starting point, a concrete step which is as hazardous as the first.  At least we don’t have to compete with other boats for the landing spot.

We take a leisurely stroll down a small section of Pingjiang Road with small shops on either side, selling all manner of goods

but my interest is in the food and the prices, which at times seem quite expensive for so-called local people, so maybe because the tourists go down this street every day, the prices have been inflated accordingly.

I find it rather disappointing.

We walk to the bridge, go under to the other side crossing the canal and find the coffee shop which is also the meeting place.

So…

When is a coffee shop not a coffee shop, when it takes an eternity to make a cup of coffee, we waited 25 minutes?

We also ordered beef black pepper rice and it took 20 minutes before it arrived, but it was well worth the wait.  Strands of perfectly cooked beef with onion, carrot, and capsicum, with a very peppery and spicy sauce, with a side of boiled rice.

A pizza was ordered too but it did not arrive at all before we left.

Searching for locations: The canals of Suzhou, China

This morning is a boat ride that will take us along a small portion of the main canal, and we head through a number of back streets, to a landing where there are a number of boats all vying with each other to get us passengers on boats.

But…

These boats don’t have a wharf to tie up to and then put out a stable gangplank.  No.  They just more into a concrete step and you take your life in your hands getting on.  One wrong step and you’re in the canal.  And not a very clean one at that.

That’s if another boat doesn’t come along and bumps you, knocking you off balance.  We managed not to lose anyone in boarding the vessel.

This is where we get on the boat

We go along what appears to be downstream towards another larger canal, past tree-lined streets until the canal narrows and we’re looking at the backs of houses, which look very dilapidated.

And the canals?  Well, it’s not quite like it is in Venice

Though some parts of the canal look better than others

What doesn’t bear thinking about is the electrical wiring which is a nightmarish spider web of cables going off in all directions.  How anyone could troubleshoot problems is beyond me.

We pass under a number of bridges, and then, about 30 minutes after leaving, we reach a larger canal and do a 180-degree turn, and head back to a drop off point the will enable us to walk through a typical everyday Chinese market for food and the other items.

This drop off point is much the same as the starting point, a concrete step which is as hazardous as the first.  At least we don’t have to compete with other boats for the landing spot.

We take a leisurely stroll down a small section of Pingjiang Road with small shops on either side, selling all manner of goods

but my interest is in the food and the prices, which at times seem quite expensive for so-called local people, so maybe because the tourists go down this street every day, the prices have been inflated accordingly.

I find it rather disappointing.

We walk to the bridge, go under to the other side crossing the canal and find the coffee shop which is also the meeting place.

So…

When is a coffee shop not a coffee shop, when it takes an eternity to make a cup of coffee, we waited 25 minutes?

We also ordered beef black pepper rice and it took 20 minutes before it arrived, but it was well worth the wait.  Strands of perfectly cooked beef with onion, carrot, and capsicum, with a very peppery and spicy sauce, with a side of boiled rice.

A pizza was ordered too but it did not arrive at all before we left.