Thursday, November 29, 2018

Switzer Family Christmas Newsletter 2018

“At Christmas, all roads lead home.” ―Marjorie Holmes

For the first time ever, we welcome Seth's entire family to Enid for the holiday this year.  We wish you and yours the very best this Christmas season and although we may not get to see each and every one of you in person from year to year, you're never far from our hearts.

- Seth, Eve, Amina, and Rhys

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Adventures by Disney Enchanted China Adults Only Tour (9 - 21 Sep 2018) - Final Notes and Thoughts

When "researching" this trip, I searched high and low for any blog I could get my hands on about the Adventures by Disney Enchanted China tour.  I found very few but did glean some really good information from them.  So, I told myself that I would make sure to write a no-holds-barred account of our almost 2 week trip to China including spoilers and everything for those who are, like me, consummate planners.

To start, here they are where I really tried to concentrate on the details of what we did and what we enjoyed rather than including the more nitty/gritty intense details or things we didn't really like:

Day 0-1 (7-9 Sep 2018)
Day 2 (10 Sep 2018)
Day 3 (11 Sep 2018)
Day 4 (12 Sep 2018)
Day 5 (13 Sep 2018)
Day 6 (14 Sep 2018)
Day 7 (15 Sep 2018)
Day 8 (16 Sep 2018)
I've uploaded almost all the pictures and videos that were taken (still need to add a few from Seth's camera as well as the ones from our ABD guides).

Here's a summary (TL;DR version) of the tips that I've sprinkled in along the way in my blog posts for those who are considering or planning on taking this wonderful trip:

(1)  Arrive early for this Adventure.  The travel from the US is pretty long and brutal. Our friends, Wade and Charlie, arrived into Hong Kong on Saturday before the tour started on Sunday.  We also left the US on Friday but took our time getting to Hong Kong and ended up arriving early on Sunday morning. And, also, Hong Kong and China don't allow online check-in.  Boarding passes have to be issued by the airline at the airport.

(2)  It's not a vacation.  It's an Adventure.  We had very few days where I felt like we "slept in" - we were constantly getting up early and always on the go.  I don't normally set my alarm at home but on this trip, the snooze button got hit a lot.  This isn't really different than any other ABD (and I'm not complaining at all about this - I normally run and try to keep my mileage in the 10-15 miles per week range), though, but I thought there was a lot more walking, climbing, and the number of airline flights we took was pretty intense and exhausting.  According to Seth's iPhone app, we walked about 90-100 miles during the entire trip with about 30 of those miles over just 4 days.

(3)  We always fly business class overseas.  I realize this probably sounds snotty but these were 8 and 10 hour flights in our case.  It's been a long time since we've flown economy overseas and all I remember was constantly looking at my watch to see how much longer we had.  I can't overstate how much more comfortable and accommodating business class is - the time really did seem to fly by.

(4)  If you arrive into Hong Kong at the Peninsula early on Sunday morning, breakfast is not complimentary.  We found this out after the fact.  It's only complimentary after you've spent the night.

(5)  Even though both my American Express card and my Capital One MasterCard specifically say there's no need to notify them of travel, I found it a pain to get cash from the ATM.  In retrospect, I should have called them up, let them know about our travel destinations, and find out specifically how to use the ATM the first time around.

(6)  China is a bit fanatical about airport security.  They focused on not only electronics and liquids but also every charger, converter, and, oddly, umbrellas that you may have in your carry on.  An umbrella in your checked in luggage would be immediately confiscated.  Seth got held up at security for a charging battery that he had slipped into a pocket of his backpack and didn't remember having brought with him  - this frustrated him to no end because he didn't speak Chinese and had no idea what the security guard was saying.  He also had to remove his iPhone from its case because it had a battery and magnet in it.  They also stopped another Adventurer who had a coin purse in her bag.  Also, expect to be thoroughly frisked/patted down when you pass through security.  They do it fast but aren't shy about touching you.  Our fingerprints and pictures were taken with some frequency as well.

(7)    The bathroom struggle is real.  "Squatty potties" are the norm.  Western toilets are not.  Ralph and Daisy were heroes in making sure that the bathrooms they pointed out to us were at least 3-4 stars but even if they were, it simply took too long to wait for the Western toilet (there were, after all, about 20 other ladies on our tour) as there were frequently only 1 or 2 in each particular bathroom.  I ended up using the squat toilets at nearly every stop I went to just to avoid the wait. If you have trouble squatting (or simply don't want to), expect to wait.   I made the mistake twice going to the restroom without tissue and Daisy/Ralph were not nearby.  Fortunately, other Adventurers were generous with their tissues.  Charlie stated it well towards the end of our trip - we seemed to have developed a degree of pee anxiety - or maybe, more like potty anxiety:  getting caught having to go potty without a decent potty nearby.  "Pee when you can, not when you have to" really is the best motto to go by.

Toilet stop at the Forbidden City

Squat potty - the norm and the vast majority of toilets

Everyone is discouraged from putting even toilet paper in the toilet

5 star western public toilet - one of the only ones I used
 (8)  Be flexible.  Our plans didn't follow the advertised itinerary to a "t".  We had to make a few dining changes for a variety of reasons.  Also, there hasn't been a single Adventure that we've taken where there aren't some Adventurers who are more difficult to get along with than others.  This is everyone being human beings.  We had some challenges on this tour as well and that's all I'm going to say about that.  Overall, our fellow Adventurers were awesome and, just to give an indication of just how comfortable we got with each other by the end of the tour, the bathroom in Club 33 only has 2 stalls.  We all had to switch out of our park clothes into our dinner outfits and most of us were comfortable doing this in the bathroom without a second thought.

(9)  In Guilin on the river cruise to see the gumdrop mountains, we sat at  the far end of our private deck right by the door that went out to our private balcony.  People were constantly going in and out this door and this part of the deck did get warmer than the rest of the air conditioned deck.  Also, use the bathroom early rather than later.  The more people that used them, the more stars that bathroom seemed to lose.

(10)  Don't be afraid to try things.  I'm willing to try most everything as long as it doesn't have any cilantro in it or on it (tastes like soap).  It's mind boggling to me that anyone would choose this particular Adventure if they either don't like Chinese food or have significant food restrictions.  It might just be me but we live to eat and part of exploring a culture is definitely exploring their food.

(11)  At the Shangri-La in Guilin, families get more than one room key.  I would suggest leaving one of the keys in the slot by the door that powers the room when you leave.  Without that card in the slot, the AC turns off.  Our room was very very warm when we returned.

(12)  When we say "Szechuan spicy" - that's really really spicy.  Beware the spicy broth at the Hot Pot restaurant.  Even though I love spicy food, even this broth was too much for me and I primarily ended up using the "mild" side of the broth to cook with.  If you aren't sure, I would opt for the combo or mix.

(13)  There were quite a few nights where we had bag pull scheduled which meant that we had to leave our checked luggage outside our room to be picked up the night before we left and only keep things that we could pack in our carry ons for the evening.  This is where I found the toothbrush and toothpaste that every hotel provided to be particularly handy.  In other words, you really don't even need to pack a toothbrush/toothpaste.

(14)  Heat + Humidity = Ugh.  We went in September - getting to the tail end of their summer.  Ralph and Daisy kept remarking on how nice the weather was but there were days that I thought were really hot and everyone was sweating.  I can only imagine what this adventure was like during the months of July and August with temperatures in the high 90s and exceeding 100F.  Seth soaked through his shirt each and every day.  This is just something to keep in mind when booking as well as in terms of packing.

(15)  Soarin' in Shanghai Disneyland is different than the ones in California and Florida but not really worth the wait as it's not all that much different.  We didn't get fast passes (I suppose we could have stopped to try to get some) but this was the only ride where we waited about an hour to ride.  Even Tron and Pirates were pretty much "walk ons".

(16)  This was, by far, the best trip in terms of the amazing hotels we stayed in.  I think this was one of the primary reasons our friends, Wade and Charlie, elected to travel with us on this tour.  Disney is all about service and class not only in the selection of hotels but also the food and the whole VIP experience which we appreciate very much and why we've been on 5 Adventures so far.

(17)  Of course I have to mention our Guides - Daisy and Ralph.  Adventure Guides that are with you during the entire trip are the quintessential piece of how the whole tour works.  Both of our Guides shared a similar sense of humor and passion about their work and were a great team.  I'm sure there were many many things that happened behind the scenes that we didn't even know about.  They approached queries, requests, and complaints from Adventurers with that Disney style we've come to know and expect and never appeared tired or unenthusiastic or annoyed.

When we accidentally left the tea we had purchased in Xi'An on the restaurant table, Daisy arranged to have it shipped to the Peninsula in Shanghai.  This was absolutely seamless.  I felt like Daisy took a special interest in my background having parents who were both born in China and she helped me brush up on my Chinese quite a bit.  I enjoyed getting to use my rusty Mandarin on this trip. There were many times where she "went Daisy" (in Mandarin) with certain non-Adventurers to make sure that our experience went well/smoothly.  Daisy is so very proud of her country and heritage and it shows.

Ralph made sure everyone was clear on what the daily plans were and greeted us every day on the bus with "Ni Hao Adventurers".  As the tour progressed, it ended up being "Niiii hao, Adventurerrrrrrrrrs!” and we all came to expect this greeting every day.  Ralph got a good deal of ribbing for his comment how the amount of walking we would be doing in Beijing at Tian An Men square and the Forbidden City would be like a couple of football fields.  Most everyone agreed it was way more walking than that (we walked over 7 miles that day) and joked with him on how a football field was smaller than he thought.  I so appreciated his sense of humor, patience, infectious enthusiasm, and photo bombs.

Both Guides were constantly circulating at any meal, stop, and event making sure everything was great and that we were happy.   There were stops that they offered to take pictures for us and expertly juggled up to 4 or 5 iPhones and cameras at the same time.   I really can't give Ralph and Daisy enough credit for making our trip so unique and memorable.  

(18)  I almost forgot, the winners of our "Hidden Mickey" and "Lost in Translation" contest:

Cinci's Hidden Mickey

Shawn's Lost in Translation submission
My biggest regret about this trip was that we didn't take our grown kids with us to share this experience.  Just one more thing to add to our bucket list.  Oh, and the wasp I was stung by almost 2 weeks ago.  That sucker had some potent venom.  I left out all the details about how my arm swelled, my fingers went numb, and I lived on ibuprofen for a week.  Just when I thought my arm was feeling better, the redness, heat, swelling, and itching would start up again.  At one point, I couldn't wear my watch and tried to keep my arm elevated as my wedding ring was starting to hurt.  Then on the way home, I developed a hypersensitivity reaction with hives all over.  I started some oral steroids the night we got home and am feeling much better.  Probably TMI but best to avoid those Chinese wasps!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Day 12-13 (20-21 Sep 2018) – Shanghai to OKC, Adventures by Disney Enchanted China Adults Only Tour

We were up by about 4:30 am to finish packing and got our suitcases out by 5:15 am then headed down to the lobby where both Daisy and Ralph were waiting for us. We were the only ones leaving at 5:30 am and had a private car that took us to terminal 2 at the Shanghai airport for our Finnair flight.

It wasn’t tough to get checked in and we breezed through thanks to priority check-in as we were flying business class from Shanghai to Helsinki. The group that was taken to the airport even earlier than us weren’t able to check into their flight (they were flying to Tokyo to visit Tokyo Disneyland) when they arrived into the airport and we actually beat them to passport control. We got to the border patrol officer and were directed to step back and fill out a Departure Card. This wasn’t made clear before we got in the passport/border control line.

We hung out at the airport lounge for the next couple hours and ate breakfast which, for me, included noodles with bok choy and sauce. It was really quite good.

Our flight to Helsinki was about 10 hours and followed the typical pattern for all each of our flights: “breakfast” was served and then lights out for rest followed by “lunch”. I didn’t really sleep much and watched a couple of movies and almost finished a third one by the time we landed in Helsinki.

We arrived about 45 minutes early into Helsinki which was great because it gave us plenty of time to get through passport control and find/check-in to the Hilton at the airport. We waited a really long time at passport control – the border officers were super serious about scrutinizing everyone coming into the country. They looked over Seth’s boarding pass for tomorrow, quizzed him about what our purpose was in Finland (just a 24 hour lay over) and where we were staying even asking if we had already made a hotel reservation. By the time I got up to the desk, it was much easier as I had the same story as him.

We navigated our way to the Hilton and checked in then stowed our stuff in our room. I had received another email from Sussy, our tour guide, who was taking the train up to the airport to meet us. We met her in the lobby at around 3 pm and headed out to Helsinki city center via train which took about half an hour and cost us about $14 Euros each for a 1 day pass.

Sussy took us to visit a number of different buildings including a music hall, a stone church ($3 Euros per person entrance fee), a conference center, several markets, and described to us what it was like to be a typical resident of Finland. We stopped in a shop to buy a magnet and concluded our tour at around 6 pm.

Even though our reservation wasn’t until 7 pm, we went ahead and walked over to Finlandia Caviar and were seated at the window on barstools. There was a group of business men in the small cafe that were particularly loud and obnoxious – one of them kept repeatedly inviting us to join them and their language (they were speaking in English) was pretty salty.

It took quite a while to place our order and get our food. We ordered a tasting of 4 caviars – 1 oz each with condiments, 2 vodka flights (one Russian and one Finnish), and a caviar truffle egg.

Russian Vodka Flight

Finland Vodka Flight

We enjoyed our tasting but decided we probably needed more than this for dinner. So we paid for our tasting (it was only $140 Euros) and decided to head back to the train station to have a Hesburger – what Sussy described as being very popular in Finland and similar to McDonald’s. It was really cold outside – low 60s – nearly 50s and windy – as we made our way back to the train station which was only about 5 or 6 blocks away. We each had a hamburger and shared some fries. It was pretty good but quite distinct from our McDonald’s burgers, fries, and ketchup.

The Helsinki train station is pretty easy to navigate and we had different choices of lines that would take us back to the airport – we couldn’t make the next train that was leaving – the platform was too far away so we opted for the next train on platform 1. We easily made our way back to our hotel and called it night early. We didn’t have to be up at any particular time in the morning as our flight didn’t leave until after 2 pm.

We were both up by about 8:30 am and took our time getting ready, taking advantage of the Hilton’s complimentary wi-fi, and took showers. We decided to head over to the airport a bit early to grab something to eat at the Finnair lounge. This time, passport control wasn’t nearly as bad and we relaxed in the lounge for quite a while as I got all of my pictures and nearly all of Seth’s pictures uploaded to my smugmug account.

It was another long flight back to Chicago – about 9 hours and during the flight, we passed over Greenland which was pretty cool to see. It also gave me the chance to finish my vacation blog.

As with all of our Adventures by Disney trips to date, this adventure was certainly no exception – it met and exceeded our expectations and will be a trip that we’ll remember forever and look back fondly at. We’re so glad to have been able to share this adventure with Wade and Charlie too (their first ABD) as we realized during this trip that we had been travel buddies with them for over 10 years now. I think we successfully converted them to ABD Insiders with Charlie talking about how he wanted to do the South Africa ABD in the future. Up next: the planning and saving for my 50th birthday trip in 2019 – we’re looking at Sonoma for a week to eat at the French Laundry and check out the wine train, wineries, and maybe a cheese tour. We’re planning on the Teskes joining us on this one next year.

Here are all the photos and videos we took on this trip uploaded to my smugmug account
(We haven't received the pictures from ABD yet and I need to finish uploading pictures from Seth's camera - as soon as those become available, I'll be incorporating some of those into my blog as well as uploading them to this smugmug folder)

Day 11 (19 Sep 2018) – Shanghai, Adventures by Disney Enchanted China Adults Only Tour

Our last full day in China – what Ralph and Daisy referred to as our “Finale Day”. Breakfast was as early as 6 am in The Lobby and Ralph mentioned several times the waffles were amazing so I ordered those. We had been warned that any cooked to order breakfast items off the menu would take some time to prepare – 15 – 20 minutes was what the wait staff let us know. I also had some fruit from the “continental buffet” and tasted yet another fruit that I’d never tried before and had to ask the waitress what it was. It looked like a small paper lantern – she called them golden berries which I had to google and look up. They were good – consistency like a cherry but no pit in the middle.

The waffle was yeast based and tasted just like a crispy donut and came with syrup, real whipped cream, raspberry sauce, and some fruit. I’m no waffle connoisseur but they were really good.

We had allowed ourselves some extra time this morning for cooked to order breakfast and still had some time to walk over to the Bund for some daytime pictures. It was a little cloudy today and going to be pretty hot.

We met everyone in the lobby one last time at 8:30 am and our motor coach took us out to “Old Shanghai” and the Yu garden about 20 minutes away. It was pretty hot and humid today and we would be outdoors for at least several hours. We were given “Quiet Vox” units on the bus again and Flo narrated our Old Shanghai and garden tour.

The architecture was absolutely amazing – a mix of old and new everywhere. It was close to their Mid-Autumn festival and everything was decorated highlighting the year of rabbit. Even though it was so hot and humid (I actually had to get out a tissue to repeatedly wipe the sweat off of my face), I really enjoyed the Yu Garden tour.

Following our tour, we were given about an hour to do some shopping. After a bathroom stop, Seth bought a Shanghai t-shirt for 80 RMB. We also picked up an abacus for Rhys and I found an black Asian style top to wear with my skirt for the farewell dinner tonight. Seth also picked up some souvenirs for his office staff.

Slippers with rocks to walk on and "massage" your feet

We met up at about 11:30 in the center square and walked back to our motor coach for our last and final stop: Shanghai Disneyland with the largest castle in any Disney theme park). On the coach, Ralph told us that we would be given tickets that had 3 fastpasses incorporated in them for Tron, Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and Roarin’ Rapids. He highly recommended 3 rides: Tron, Voyage to the Crystal Grotto (which is the only Disney ride to go through a Disney castle), and Pirates (no fastpass for this ride).

Maybe it was the day of the week along with the fact that it was pretty hot/humid that really worked to our favor as the ride wait times were minimal – most were 5-10 minutes. We had the option to eat lunch in Old Shanghai or at the Disneyland park and we decided to get something to eat at Disneyland.

Our coach didn’t just take us to the bus stop at Disneyland (Ralph said it was a 20 minute walk without any shade from the bus parking lot to the park) – it took us, instead to the VIP entrance where we walked up the steps and were in Disney Town (Shanghai’s version of Disney Springs).

Our first order of business was taking a group picture in front of the castle – our final group picture of the trip. We then made our way to Club 33 where we dropped off our bags with our change of clothing at their valet and had the opportunity to use the bathroom upstairs. Disney’s Club 33 is an exclusive club with a 10 year waiting list and costs about $30,000 to join with an annual fee of $15,000 to be a member. Getting access to the Club all day and then having our farewell dinner here was very very cool. We were also given the opportunity to buy Club 33 items. Unfortunately, the polo shirt embroidered with “33” only went up to a US size of medium.

We headed out and stopped at the Mickey & Pals Market Cafe for lunch. When we entered the cafe, we were met immediately by a cast member named Darlene who welcomed us and asked if we needed any help with ordering. Darlene inquired about our lanyards and asked where we were from so we explained that we were on our last stop of an Adventure by Disney. Soon, she was joined by another cast member manager and then introduced us to the chef. It turns out that Darlene was the director of food and beverage operations at Shanghai Disneyland. We were given her business card and invited to enjoy some complimentary ice cream from Il Paperino after lunch. That was really cool.

We ordered some braised pork ribs with rice which apparently came with drinks. Even the hard boiled eggs and carrots were cut to the shape of a Mickey head. It was actually an enormous amount of food and, in retrospect, we should have just shared one order instead of getting two. We were too full to get ice cream afterwards but the cafe manager took our picture to send to the manager at Il Paperino so we could stop by later to get our complimentary ice cream.

We found our way to Treasure Cove planning to ride Pirates first. I had read on other blogs and we had been told by Ralph how the Pirates ride at Shanghai Disneyland was completely different than any other Pirates ride we may have been on and he was so right. We basically walked right on to the ride which started off looking just like the same boat you board at Pirates in Disneyworld. The storyline was completely different, of course, and was in Chinese but you got the general idea that it was based on the movies highlighting Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow. What was particularly cool about this Pirates ride was the fact that the boat turned in circles (much like the Mystic Manor ride in Hong Kong and at one point, we went sliding down backwards in the water and there were at least 3 different Imax type giant screens that we went by that simulated being in the ocean. We even got sprayed with water at one point.

We then backtracked to Adventure Isle to ride Soarin’. This was the longest wait that we had at the park all afternoon – it was supposed to be 40 minutes for standby but actually took us over 45 minutes to get through the queue and a total of an hour to actually get on the ride itself. The experience was pretty close to the other Soarin’ rides we’ve been on with a few different destinations thrown in. The smells were more intense than on the other Soarin’ rides that we’ve been on.

We headed to ride the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto ride but got blocked by the parade going by. The Voyage was very cute and did take us underneath the castle for a part of the ride.

Next, we headed to Tron Lightcycle Power run and had just a little difficulty finding the entrance to the ride. This was possibly the only complaint we had about Shanghai Disneyland (besides the heat/humidity) – the directions and queues weren’t always very well marked. We had to stop and ask a cast member how to get to the ride entrance. There are lockers outside of Tron to store bags in. Seth opted not to ride this one. We basically walked right on this ride too but, again, there was a little bit of confusion when the line split into several different chutes. The people in front of me mostly went off to the right but some chose to go down the 2nd “chute”. I stopped to decide which chute to go down – the right one that the first group went down didn’t seem right as there was a garbage can partially blocking that chute which didn’t seem very Disney to me so I chose the 2nd chute from the right. We eventually formed 2 lines next to each other when we reached the next checkpoint but the Cast Member there, instead of just merging the guests in the right sided line in with the guests in the left line, he made them walk all the way back to where they had chosen the wrong chute and made them get in line behind us. This caused confusion in our line as I heard saw some guests start to turn around and go back as well saying that we were in the wrong line too but then realized that we were in the right line.

At any rate, we finally reached the boarding area for the ride and guests were directed to put their bags and other larger items into a basket before getting on the Tron cycles. I had my lanyard/pins on and a small crossbody wallet so just took those with me onto the ride. You had to position yourself with your shins on 2 pedals that moved you down and forward so you basically had to slide your rear end down the bench and allow 2 small metal bars glide up over your calves to sit behind your knees. There was a large back bar that basically sandwiched you in. I was leaning forward pretty hard on my chest and after the ride was over, was pretty sure I had imprints of the backs of my lanyard pins on my chest.

The ride was so cool. It took off like the Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Disneyworld and took you outside immediately and then back in. It was kind of like Space Mountain but there seemed to be more turns and accelerations.

After this, we rode Buzz Lightyear which was better than the one in Disneyworld - the targets were easier to aim at and shoot - I narrowly beat Seth's score - we both scored over 1,000,000 points.

We decided to stop by and get our ice cream from Il Paperino. It was peach flavored and really hit the spot as we were pretty hot at this point. I ran back into Club 33, which was right around the corner, to get some Lactaid out of my backpack for the ice cream. It was only 5:30 so we still had a bit of time before Club 33 would be open for us. Dinner was at 7 and we were told to come by as early as 6:30 to change and get ready for our Farewell Dinner.

We walked through the shops on Main Street looking for a t-shirt for Seth and a magnet for our collection. The shops were amazingly few in number and we didn’t find anything we were looking for. We decided to exit the park and go to Disney Town to the World of Disney store that we had seen on our way in.

The World of Disney store was still pretty tiny compared to the one at Disney Springs. We found a stuffed Mickey and Minnie each dressed in Asian costumes that I just loved. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any t-shirts that Seth liked. We also picked up a Shanghai Disneyland magnet to add to our collection.

We went back into the park and headed to Club 33 where we both changed into clean clothes. I’m glad I had brought an extra pair of (dry) underwear to change into after being so sweaty today. We stopped to place our order for Club 33 pins and then were seated in the restaurant with Charlie and Wade.

It was a fixed menu for dinner tonight with a choice of entrees. I opted for the cod. Our pin of the day was on our plate under the menu. Daisy came by our table and had on really cute Minnie ears so we took a photo op with her for one of the last times. During dinner, they delivered our Club 33 pins to us.

We were then invited out to the Club 33 private balcony to watch the fireworks show at 8:30 pm – when the park closed. The show was amazing and included projections onto the castle, lasers, colored water fountains, and fireworks. We had the perfect view of the show from our balcony and, for the second time on this trip, this experience brought tears to my eyes.

But, we weren’t done yet. After the fireworks show, we shared with each other our most memorable moment from the trip. For me, this was our first adult only ABD and, for the most part, this was one of the friendliest, polite and punctual groups we’ve ever traveled with. The “feel” of the group, without kids, was different to me than any other Adventure we’ve been on. There were also kudos to some of the older Adventurers who did a significant amount of walking, climbing, and hiking during our almost 2 week trip.

Daisy shared with us that she took the time to write all of our names in Chinese calligraphy – something she didn’t do for every group. This was a really touching thing to me as Daisy handled so much. It was such a travel intensive trip and she, being the one who took care of our luggage for every flight we took, was constantly busy yet took the time to translate everyone’s name into Chinese and writing them out on special paper.

We were treated to a slide show of picture highlights which was shared with us via email later after we concluded our trip. Ralph had also collected everyone’s email address and shared that with us via a group email later. Final pins were handed out to everyone – it was the Chinese saying for “so long”. Our pin collection was now complete from the trip.

We reluctantly left Club 33 after 10 pm and exited via the special Club 33 door from the now completely deserted park although the lights were still all on and the music was still playing. I had written some personal notes to Ralph and Daisy on Peninsula Shanghai stationary and put their respective tips in the envelopes – we went ahead and gave them their envelopes as we boarded the bus. It had been a magical day and a really awesome trip overall. During dinner, Daisy had shared departure cards with everyone (yay for Air Drop) that let us know what time bag pull was (5:15 am for us) and what time to meet in the lobby for our ride to the airport (5:30 am for our 9:40 am flight).