After a Tranquil Goodbye to West Lake, Travel Hell

This morning I got up early to pack and check out of my hotel. I asked my driver to deposit me at Hangzhou's West Lake. I strolled along with the early crowd and took mental notes of how the area and the people have changed. I remembered my first visit in the early 1980s: the water was dirty and stinky and the area was full of people. The area around the lake is still full of people, but the water no long stinks. The Hangzhou government has done a good job diverting water from the Qian Tong Jiang river to keep the lake clean.

After taking in the scenery one more time, I quietly said goodbye and started my drive toward Shanghai's Pudong International Airport, where I would take a flight to Hong Kong and transit to Taiwan. On the way to the airport we got into a fender bender and it took a good hour, with the help of a traffic cop, to get everyone back on the road. By the time I arrived at the terminal it was getting close. After dismissing the driver I rushed into the terminal, only to find that it was the wrong terminal! With two big suitcases I couldn't get on the shuttle bus to Terminal One, where my flight was checking in, so I ran with the luggage cart and barely made it on time to Terminal One and China Eastern Airlines.

I ran up to the counter and was told matter of factly by the young woman there that the flight had been canceled! I stood there sweaty and tired and wasn't in any condition to put up any kind of fight, so I got on the next plane, rearranged my flight from Hong Kong to Taipei, and after a full day of travel, finally got to my hotel. I now have a sore throat and my nose is dripping. I am not sure if it was the running around and air conditioning that gave me this pounding headache or if it is just that I am no longer near any tea or in China, where I always feel grounded.

Tomorrow morning I plan to meet with my Taiwan teaware supplier and have a cupping session with my farmer from Nantou County. He is bringing the early harvested Imperial Green Oolong for a look-see. I hope I can bring some home, it will undoubtedly make me feel better. I hope to spare enough time to visit Ying Ko Old Town, where beautiful teawares are always on display. I have a late flight and will be back home after 11 hours of flying. Grace and, I hope, my daughter Emily will meet me at the airport. Although China and tea whisper in my ears, there is no place like home and family. With this I sign off for the night.

By the way, if the nice stewardess asks if you would like a serving of fish and noodles, pinch yourself so you can still smile and say thank you, but hand it right back to her! Fish and noodles just don't work in airplanes! That would be my don't say yuk moment, just hand it back and hope she goes away...