Monday, December 10, 2007

China Odyssey - Reflections


As you are aware from the preceding posts, we recently parked the motor home near Boston, and flew to China for a four week tour. During this time we visited Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Wuhan, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Lhasa, Tibet, and cruised the Yangtze River, through the Three Gorges.

What follows are our impressions of China.

The Chinese People

The essence of China is, of course, the Chinese people. They are anything but inscrutable, being open and friendly and anxious to be helpful. Even the street vendors (and there are thousands of them) try to be good natured in pressing their very assertive marketing initiatives. But the most notable thing about the Chinese people is, there are so many of them; well over a billion, in fact. More than four times the population of the United States. Four hundred million people, more than the US population, live in the lower Yangtze river valley, which has a land area roughly equal to Massachusetts. In China, city is a place with more than 500,000 people. The population of the largest Chinese city, Chengdu, is 30 million. A town has between 500,000 and 50,000 people. Any population center with less than 50,000 people is just a village.

But these are only numbers. What really brings home the Chinese population density is the heavy crowds; in the streets; in the train stations; in the markets; everywhere! Negotiating these milling, jostling, shoving crowds is what makes the Chinese population density seem real.

The Hutong

Iin Beijing, we toured the Hutong district. These old residential neighborhoods consist of acres of low, flat roofed buildings crisscrossed by narrow lanes. An family of three or more generations may live in a single room. Cooking is done over a coal fire in an exterior courtyard. There is no indoor plumbing. A community toilet and a public shower serve these needs. Small vendor booths and storefronts line the major alleyways. These are not slums; they are traditional Chinese residential areas, with respectable, hardworking residents. They are gradually being replaced with modern high rise condominiums in the city, and with larger modern houses in the villages.


The Chinese are obsessed with westernization. Many Chinese people adopt an anglicized given name, usually in their early teens. The urban Chinese dress also reflects western tastes, especially the young ladies, who wear designer pants, high healed leather boots, tailored jackets, etc. Only in the rural areas is the "traditional" Chinese peasant garb seen.

Another facet of westernization is bilingual signage, not only in the port cities, but in the interior as well. The second language is always English, which appears to be gaining ground as the international language of business.

Yet another manifestation of westernization is urban traffic congestion and pollution. Smog is endemic, in part because so much coal is burned, for cooking, and for electric power generation. Chinese traffic is chaotic. Cars, busses, bicycles, and pedestrians all mill together in the roadway. Chinese drivers dart in and out, expecting others to yield. We called it “toot and go”. It seems very dangerous to be a pedestrian in urban China.


Industrialization is a major element of the Chinese obsession with westernization. When we landed in Shanghai, we thought the pilot had lost his way and taken us to Cleveland. The Chinese industrialization appears to be based in substantial part on the joint venture approach. In this paradigm, a foreign company sets up a factory staffed with Chinese workers, and teaches them how to make a product; Buicks, for example. In addition to generating goods, foreign exchange, and profit, the Chinese workers and managers learn the technology of the product and the manufacturing process.

We asked ourselves how the Chinese have achieved so much progress in so sort a time, since the Cultural Revolution. Based on over 20 centuries of empire, the Chinese mindset seems well adapted to the authoritarian paradigm. This makes it relative easy for the government to motivate people to all march in the same direction, in pursuit of a stated goal. During the Cultural Revolution, the stated goals were destructive. In more recent times, this "national force" has been harnessed more positively, in pursuit of modernization, westernization, industrialization, and profit. The Chinese Communist Leader Deng Xiaoping set the tone after the Cultural Revolution, with his famous pronouncement that “Profit is Glorious”. If you think about it, that is quite a statement from a communist leader!

Contrasts and Contradictions

Contrasted with the almost frenetic drive into the 21st century, much remains unchanged in China. While the Chinese government drives relentlessly to send men to the moon, there are one hundred thousand bang-bang boys in Chongqing who will carry heavy loads of groceries up 10 flights of steps for a quarter. (High rise residences in China are not required to have an elevator if less than 10 stories tall.) While hundreds of modern joint venture factories spew tons of goods across the ocean, almost a billion farmers continue to till the soil behind a water buffalo. There appears to be little initiative to mechanize farming. We speculate that the government may be concerned about what to do with the billion idle hands that would be created if the Chinese soil were tilled with gigantic farm machines like those seen in Iowa. All the above notwithstanding, China now has enough food for everyone. Food rationing ended about 10 years ago.

Rapid industrialization has created problems with air and water quality, and the greed which accompanies the pursuit of profit has created problems with the quality of construction in new public works. The Three Gorges dam is magnificent, but the water is polluted and the concrete is cracking. The Chinese use the term "tofu construction" to designate projects that are seriously deficient as a result of management corruption. The Chinese president Hu Jintao recently stated pollution and corruption as two of his greatest challenges, and has declared zero tolerance for corruption.

But then, we recently lost a bridge in Minneapolis, so we can't be too critical.

Tourist Destinations - History, Scenery, and Pandas

There are many historical and natural wonders to see in China. While much was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution, some cultural treasures were preserved, and many have been rebuilt. Among the most imposing are the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Three Gorges and the Three Gorges Dam, and the Potala Palace, which is a huge Buddhist Temple in Tibet, once home to the Dali Lama. Our impressions of these destinations follows.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall is a 4000 mile fortification between China and Mongolia, originally constructed over 2000 years ago by the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. Tourist access is available at two points near Beijing. One access, called the "Wild Wall" is an isolated, un-restored but mostly intact section where the tourist may climb and hike a short section of the old wall. This is a delightfully peaceful place to see, touch, and feel the original wall.

Down the road a piece stands the restored Great Wall, complete with hoards of tourists and the hoards of vendors and gift shops needed to satisfy the insatiable tourist demand for retail therapy.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is a palace complex in Beijing that was, for many centuries, the residence of the emperor, his many concubines, and his army chiefs. Ransacked during the Cultural Revolution, the Forbidden City, is undergoing a complete restoration, due for comletion in 2020.. The restored buildings are magnificent.

Terra Cotta Warriors

The Terra Cotta Warriors are a large army of life sized clay soldiers created over 2000 years ago by the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (the Great Wall builder), to defend him in his afterlife. Buried shortly after the emperors’ death in a peasant uprising, the warriors were rediscovered about 30 years ago by 3 peasants digging a well. The find has been extensively excavated, and a large museum has been built to preserve, display, and interpret the findings, and to provide a venue for another gift shop. In the gift shop, one of the original 3 finders will chop (autograph) your souvenir book, for a suitable tip. The creator of these warriors was the same emperor, by the way, who burned all the books, and buried alive all the scholars and intellectuals in the 2nd century BC. Seems Mao was just a copy-cat.

The Three Gorges

The primary purpose of the Three Gorges Dam is flood control. Electricity generation is an important secondary benefit. Prior to the dam, passage through the three gorges was difficult and hazardous. With the rise of water behind the dam, commercial vessels and cruise boats can now transit the gorges safely. We were concerned that inundation would destroy the natural beauty, but it has not. We were told that the number of people displaced by the rising lake is less than the 33 million people drowned in two devastating 20th century floods.


Kathy says not to forget the Pandas! In Chengdu there is a large natural preserve where Pandas may be viewed and photographed in their native habitat. It is not only a preserve but also a working breeding facility. China is struggling to maintain and grow a small population of these endangered animals. The preserve also is a pleasant place to stroll among the bamboo trees.


Tibet, while politically united with China by government fiat, remains culturally a world unto itself, but probably not for long. Recent completion of a rail link to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, promises to "modernize" the landscape.
Spirituality is alive and well in Tibet. While the predominant religion in all of China is Buddhism, it's practice is not much evident most places. In Tibet, prayer flags and pilgrims are everywhere. The Tibetan people are especially open and friendly, having not yet been jaded by modernization. In most of China, if a small child pulls your coat tail, he or she is begging. In Tibet, the child just wants to say "hello" to the "big nose" visitor. The Potala Palace is a huge and impressive Buddhist Temple in Lhasa. Spared from the depredations of the Cultural Revolution by high level intersession, it remains an imposing tribute to the spirituality of the Tibetan people.


To summarize, China is a land on the move, but with much intellectual, cultural, and political baggage in tow. It is a beautiful country with good, hard working, hard suffering, friendly people, catapulting itself into the twenty-first century on the back of a water buffalo. We pray that this most recent "Great Leap Forward" culminates in a soft landing.

(Editorial note – The above words were drafted in December 2007, on our return flight from Hong Kong. Subsequent events have demonstrated that the Tibetan minority is not likely to escape forced cultural integration with the Han Chinese majority. We were able to recognize landmarks we visited in some of the photos of the rioting which have surfaced on the internet. Our heart bleeds for the warmhearted Tibetan people.)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

China Odyssey, Days 24-26 - Hong Kong, and the Trip Home

Day 24 - Hong Kong
Saturday December 8
Hong Kong Whirlwind

Our hotel in Hong Kong is named L'Hotel Causeway Bay Harbor View. It is very modern, but we are still looking for the harbor view. We were told that there is a top floor VIP lounge, from the corner of which it is possible to glimpse the water. The hotel has very modern furnishings. There is a lot of wood, chrome and white. There also is free internet in the lobby. The bathroom is a bit odd. The bathtub is shaped like a trough, and it is not possible to stand flat in the shower. The wash basin is very deep and stands on the sink. The beds are comfortable and the breakfast buffet is very good, and we have a signed designer toilet.

Our Hotel in Hong Kong

Our tour includes two days in Hong Kong; one day of touring, and a day of rest (on Sunday, by coincidence).

The one day tour was a true whirlwind, but very well organized and executed. We did and saw a lot of stuff, without feeling overloaded or exhausted. It was a model of how many of our prior days of touring could have been organized.

Our day started at 7am with a good hotel breakfast (mostly western stuff). The bus arrived at 8:30 and we drove to the city center, the hub of business and finance in Hong Kong. First stop was a very long escalator, which descended from the hillside residential area to the business district. With pauses for photos, it took about 10 minutes to ride down a series of traditional escalators and sloping slidewalks. Stand to the right please! The locals, late for work, run down on the left. Retirement is next best thing that ever happened to us! There is a good view of the Hong Kong World Trade Center at the bottom. It is 88 floors, the tallest building in Hong Kong.

A Long Way Down

Hong Kong world Trade Center

At the bottom of the escalator we re-boarded our bus for a short ride to an open air street market. Located on several narrow streets and long, narrow, steep alleyways, this market caters to the locals, offering all manner of meat, fish, and produce for sale. It is very colorful, with a pungent aroma. There are some odd foods, like dragon fruit, century eggs, lotus root, etc.

Hong Kong Day Market

A Variety of Offerings

Dragon Fruit

A Chinese Delicacy

We witnessed a big fight between two shopkeepers. Out guide refused to translate. It looked serious, so we moved on quickly.

The Chinese buy fresh food for the table almost every day, rather than stock up for a week or two, as we are accustomed to do. They have refrigerators, but they tend to be small as a result of the traditional daily buying pattern, and to save electricity maybe. The street vendors seemed somewhat resentful of the tourists. I don't know if they felt we would be likely to snitch something, or maybe we were just blocking foot traffic enough to interfere with business. George said life is very expensive in HK, so the vendor business takes on a hard edge. Prices were certainly a lot higher than on in mainland China.

Unhappy Day Market Proprietor

Our Hong Kong guide took us by a paper shop (we suspect operated by his uncle or some such). Kathy bought paper lanterns.

Our next stop was a Dao temple. Daoism seemed much more new age than Buddhism, despite having co-evolved with the latter many centuries ago. The air in the temple was thick with smoke and incense. For 20 Hong Kong dollars, the visitor could shake a container of bamboo sticks and learn their fortune. No thanks.

Dao Temple

The next stop was a jewelry "factory", with special bargains for OAT tourists. Another big No Thanks.

Jewelry Artisan

Our last stop of the morning was Aberdeen, a waterfront community on the north side of Hong Kong. The waterway is littered with working boats, mostly of the fishing variety. Many people live aboard their boats. We were told that some residents are born on the water, live on the water, and die on the water.

On arriving at Aberdeen, we debarked the bus and transferred to a couple of powered sampans for an absolutely delightful water tour. We turned to port, and there were magnificent views of the high rises and the mega yachts parked in front of them. We reversed direction to cruise in among the working and residential boats, with an intimate view of life on the water.

Harbor Tour Boat

Floating Restaurant

Live-Aboard Work Boats in Hong Kong Harbor

We arrived back at the hotel about 1pm, passing the Happy Valley Race Course and the Happy Valley Cemetery on the way back. We also rode by the Hong Kong Yacht Club. Not as nice as the WCYC, but OK.

Hong Kong Yacht Club

A member of our tour group recommended the noodle shop across the alley from the hotel. Their recommendation was a god one. The food was inexpensive, and very tasty. After lunch it was nap time.

After a restful afternoon spent studying the inside of Keith's eyelids, we assembled in the lobby at 5:30 for a bus ride through the tunnel to the "Kowloon side" of the water. The tunnel replaced the car ferry as the main traffic link between the island and the mainland in the late 1980's. Prior to that time, no transportation was available after the ferry shut down at 1am. This tended to strand the occasional straggler, who then had to call home and inform his wife that he would not be home until the next day. After it opened, the tunnel soon acquired the name "no excuses tunnel".

Dinner was at a very nice Thai restaurant on the Kowloon side. Grapefruit salad, satay (chicken and beef), spring rolls, yellow beef curry, pad Thai, and all the other usual Thai suspects. Excellent!

Following dinner we rode to a nearby night market. Two long blocks were closed to traffic, with well lighted booths lining both sides of the street. Everything from soup to nuts was available. Clothing of all varieties, watches, samurai swords, cutlery, electronics of all descriptions, etc. Prices seemed very high compared with all the stuff we saw on the mainland, reinforcing George’s comments about the high cost of living in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Night Market

From the night market we drove to the Star Ferry terminal, where we again debarked for a short boat ride to the "Hong Kong side". The views of the brightly lighted high rises reflected in the water was nothing short of breathtaking.

Night View From the Ferry Terminal

On the Hong Kong side we re-boarded our bus for a long ride up Victoria Peak, which rises several thousand feet above the downtown level. The road up is narrow winding, but well marked and well lit. It would have been a piece of cake, if it hadn't been for all them damned tour buses going the other way!

The view from the top was worth the ride. It is just breathtaking to look down on all the brightly lit Hong Kong high rise buildings. It was breezy and a bit cool on the mountaintop. To warm up, we bought cups of Haagen-Dazs ice cream at one of the many shops in the mountaintop mall. One of our tour group, Charlene, was here before commercialization hit the peak. She said it was nicer before. We believe her.

Christmas Decorations Atop Victoria Peak

Night View From the Peak

The Japanese occupied Hong Kong in the 1930's, and built a military observation post on Victoria Peak. Not so nice.

After a long ride down the mountain, behind another damned tour bus, we debarked and boarded a double decked electric trolley for a short ride through the city. It was somewhat noisy and bumpy, but Keith enjoyed it. Kathy did not.

The finale of our evening was a ride through a short and somewhat tame-seeming red light district. One block of glitzy strip bars, with performers sitting out front to lure the patrons. After you've seen the red light district in Amsterdam, everything else seems tame by comparison.

We fell in bed exhausted, but very satisfied with our one day tour of Hong Kong.

Day 25 - Hong Kong
Sunday December 9
A Day of Rest

After our whirlwind tour on Saturday, Keith and Kathy both were exhausted, and so chose to spend a lazy day in and near the hotel Sunday. We walked around the neighborhood and took a few photographs, then had lunch at a good Thai restaurant across the street from the hotel. Our afternoon was spent napping and repacking for the flight back to the states.

The London Influence

Interesting Tree Roots Outside Hotel Lobby

Bamboo Construction Scaffolding

Day 26 – Hong Kong to Seattle
Monday December 10

Our return to Seattle on Monday was every bit as easy and uneventful as the outbound flight. We were both exhausted from 3-plus weeks of nonstop touring, and mostly dozed our way across the Pacific, with one interruption to change planes in Tokyo.

Our Ride Home

Between naps, Keith roughed out a narrative to summarize our impressions of China, while it was still fresh in his mind. The result of these musings are included a subsequent post. We arrived in Seattle early in the morning of the same day that we left Hong Kong, after crossing the international date line. We went straight to bed at the hotel, being very tired, but very, very satisfied campers.

Friday, December 7, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 23 - Chengdu

Day 23 – Chengdu
Friday December 7

The highlight of today’s activity was a visit to the Sichuan Panda Sanctuary. In Chinese the word for Giant Panda is Da Xiong(shung) Nao(niow). The panda is said to be the oldest living fossil, being more than 8 million years old. Keith is wondering about the alligator, little changed for 200 million years, and much more adaptable than the Panda. There are 56 sites set aside for panda sanctuaries in China. On Friday we left to visit the Sichuan Panda Sanctuary.

The Sichuan Panda Sanctuary is set in a bamboo forest of rolling hills about 50 miles outside of Chengdu, in the town of Wolong. There are about 20 pandas on view in their natural habitat. they range in age from 6 months to 25 years. We were able to view them eating, sleeping, playing and scratching, and performing other natural bodily functions. The sanctuary is a large natural preserve. This was one of Kathy's favorite places in China. The environment and setting are very pleasant. We both enjoyed walking around, although the walking was somewhat strenuous for us decadents.

Panda Sanctuary

Panda Eats Shoots and Leaves

Panda Hams for the Camera

We also saw a very informative film on the breeding of pandas. We learned that there are 4 major reasons why pandas are endangered and may become extinct:

>One- Their natural habitat is shrinking.
>Two- There is an acute food shortage of bamboo. An adult panda needs to consume about 44 pounds of bamboo per day. The Panda is a very picky eater, and will consume only select varieties, adding to the problem.
>Three- There is a very high infant mortality rate among pandas. First time mothers are not able to nurture correctly very often. The incidence of twins is also a problem as 1 cub will be abandoned by the mother.
>Four- Panda infertility. There are only 2 weeks every year when a female panda is able to conceive, and they sometimes aren't interested (headache, too tired, not in the mood, etc.). To help with this problem, the Chinese Government is showing the Pandas graphic films (Panda Porn), playing soft music, and feeding them wine. Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.

In addition to the black and white pandas at the sanctuary, we also viewed Red Pandas. Red Pandas are much smaller than their black and white counterparts. Their facial features resemble the American raccoon.

Red Panda

There was also a museum and gift shop at the sanctuary. Huge surprise.

After lunch we headed for the airport and our flight to Hong Kong. We arrived at out Hong Kong hotel about 9 pm, after what seemed like an interminable bus ride. The airport is located about an hour from downtown Hong Kong.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 22 - Lhasa, Tibet to Chengdu

Day 22 - Lhasa to Chengdu
Thursday December 6
Travel Day, Western Dinner

Our trip to the Lhasa airport was highlighted by a stop to photograph mandarin ducks and a Buddha painted on rocks. The Tibetans are the most spiritual people we have ever visited.

Mandarin Ducks

Cliffside Shrine on the Airport Road
Hanging in Tatters are Many Prayer Shawls

Our flight was delayed but uneventful. We arrived in Chengdu and were met by our local tour guide Charlene, who happens to be George's fiancée.

Tour Guides George and Charlene

Charlene gave a brief history of Sichuan province and the city of Chengdu. Si means four and Chuan means river. There are 4 major rivers in Sichaun province; hence the name Sichaun. Chengdu translates into “becoming a city”. It is the home of many tea houses, which are used for 3 purposes; business, news exchanges, and socialization. Tea houses are an integral part of Chengdu life style.

After a luxurious hot shower at our very nice hotel, we rested and took some pictures.

Chengdu Hotel Lobby

Juxaposition of the Old and the New
As Seen From Our Hotel Room

At 6:30 we had what was billed as a western dinner. New Zealand steak and Boneless Pork Chops. Dinner was good; the steak had an au poivre sauce, and the pork chops an oriental flavor.

Hotel Dining Room

Alternate Chengdu Dining Opportunity

Keith is beginning to crave meat loaf with mashed potatoes and brown gravy. No soy sauce, please!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 21 - Lhasa, Tibet

Day 21 - Lhasa, Tibet
Wednesday December 5
Home Visit, Orphanage, and Crazy Yak Show

K&K both slept in - up at 7, breakfast at 8. Worst breakfast of the entire trip, so far.

Our morning tour included a home visit and a tour of an OAT-sponsored orphanage. Keith crawled out of bed to go, but stayed on the bus. It was cold waiting! Keith was glad to have his scarf, gloves, and down jacket. There is more snow on the mountaintops than was visible a couple of days ago; winter is approaching! The scenery around Lhasa is breathtaking. Stark brown mountains and hills surrounding broad alluvial valleys with braided rivers flowing through them. The air is crystal clear and the sunshine is brilliant at the 12,000 foot altitude.

Tibetan Mountain Scenery
Kathy's first stop was a home tour of a middle class Tibetan family. The middle class are said to comprise about 30% of the population. The family consists of 3 generations, grandmother, mother, and daughter. No men in this household. Income is from sewing wallets & aprons, silk embroidery of the Buddhas, and painted masks. The group was first led into a large room lined with comfortable couches and draped with yak rugs. On the table were a dozen different Tibetan snacks. Most had a cereal base (barley or bean or corn or rice). Some tasted like sugar smacks without sugar, puffed rice, or plain popcorn. Kathy's favorite was fried Barley sticks.

The home was quite spacious and consisted of a living room, kitchen, sewing room, and bedroom located with a private courtyard where they had a solar paneled wok. Yak tea and barley beer were served. Kathy thought both very good. Kathy was guilted into purchasing a home made apron (dos anyone use aprons these days?).

Modern Tibetan Home

Welcoming Hostess

In the meantime Keith sat on the bus, shivered, and watched the street scene. A guy on the corner of the alleyway leading to the orphanage was polishing shoes. For locals, not tourists. Another guy up the alleyway operated a very small bicycle shop. He was out front, crouching over to mend a bicycle. Across from the bicycle shop a huge pile of trash, just behind the bus. Most interesting was an enterprising sewing lady, with a treadle-powered sewing machine on the sidewalk, hemming pants. While Keith watched, a modish, young Chinese Barbie brought a pair of pants to be hemmed. The sewing lady gave the Barbie lady her seat and provided her with a piece of cardboard so she could take off her stylish boots and try on the new pants, on top of the leather pants she rode in on. She stood up, zipped up the pants, put the boots back on, and pulled the new pants down over the boots. The sewing lady marked the hem, then took the pants for sewing, while the fancy lady sashayed on down the avenue. Can you spell micro-business?

Lhasa Street Side Entrepreneur

Our second stop was an orphanage run by Grand Circle (parent company of OAT). K&K both stayed on the bus for this one. Keith can stand only so much cultural immersion. Kathy becomes despondent over the hoards of poor, needy kids. It makes her feel inadequate and helpless because she can't fix the world. Also, the kids remind her how much she misses her own grandchildren.

Last stop was lunch at the snowbird hotel. We ordered from the menu, which included continental, Tibetan, Indian, and Chinese entrees. The good news was Keith was able to eat some. Keith ordered chicken tiki, while Kathy ordered yak curry. The chicken was ok, the curry pretty good. The quality of the meat throughout China is not what one expects in the US. Much of the meat is tough and gristly.

K&K both opted out of the optional (read extra cost) afternoon tour to the Sera Monastery. Keith slept while Kathy went shopping, of all things. She bought 7 little hats to be worn by the grandchildren, in the back yard out of sight of other children.

Tonight is the Festival of the Creator with the Yellow Hat, a major annual Tibetan event. We keep hearing stories about a lot of drinking and rowdiness, so we plan to sleep through it.

An interesting little tidbit; we have 1 English speaking TV channel in Lhasa. This morning, we heard Leominster, MA mentioned in the context of an ice and snow storm. I guess we will have to shovel out the Condo when we get home.

Supper tonight includes a musical revue called the Great Yak Show. Food was poor . Keith hated the show and waited in the lobby. Kathy enjoyed the show very much. It lasted about 30 minutes. Each musical act was dressed in a traditional native costume from a different part of Tibet.

Traditional Tibetan Entertainment

Crazy Yak

Tomorrow we leave Tibet for our return flight to Chengdu, then Hong Kong. We are looking forward to the warmer climate. We are both chilled to the bone, and wonder if we will ever be warm again.

Reflections on the Shangbala Hotel. It was located in a perfect place. Great shopping was within walking distance. The hotel, however was dirty, had no heat, no hot water, worst breakfast yet, and Keith's special little pique - there were 4 cats that wandered about at will throughout the hotel. But, we are glad we stayed there, because of the location, in the thick of things.