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Back to China - Shanghai - Nanjing - Hangzhou - August / September 2012 - Page 2

Day 4 - Thursday, 30 August 2012

There is no museum

Due to being burnt and tired from yesterdays trek in the dusty city, today I decided to try and keep indoors.
First up I walked in the blazing sun for a couple of hours and spent a small fortune on coffee.
If you want to make 1000% profit, open a coffee chain in China. A cup of coffee from starbucks costs the same as a 3 course meal, yet all their stores are still busy.
Before anyone says try a local chain, there really isnt one. My hotel claims to make coffee but I think they add coffee creamer to coffee flavoured pudding cups. Theres Pacific coffee from Hong Kong which is too hit and miss, one time I think they forgot to put the coffee in, and theres Costa coffee from the UK that costs even more!
I did try a new place today, read on for that in the photos, it was a total failure.
Hence my travel tip, if in any asian country, Starbucks or brace yourself for an unpleasant new experience in beverage disasters.

After getting just a bit more burnt, I headed into the metro station for a game of station roulette. I studied the map for a while, and spotted the last station on one of the lines is called 'Aerospace Museum'. Double win for me, get to go to the edge of town and see some rusty old jets.
So I boarded the metro and settled in for the 30 minute or so ride, transferring twice.
Nearing the end of the line the train came up to the surface, amongst big fuel tanks, cranes, piles of asbestos and rubble and an endless sea of unfinished identical buildings. Strange place for a museum I thought.
Eventually the train got to the last station, and theres a sea of scooters and busses to ferry people beyond the reach of the metro. They eye me suspiciously.
I look around, and cant see any museum. I study the station map which is all in Chinese, and it seems to show theres nothing at all there, in fact theres really only 3 or 4 streets on the map.
Suspicious now, I head off towards the only large finished looking building I can see, passing what I think were pop up villages where construction workers live, in amongst some really old and small looking farms with old men singing to themselves looking after them.
The building turned out to be a concrete factory. As I head back, people are laughing at me, one guy crouching in the shadows speaks in perfect english.

Him: just admit you are lost already
Me: Never! You speak good English
Him: Yeah, Im from Chicago, Im here visiting my sick grandfather, I wish he would hurry up and die so I can go home
Me: OK...wheres the museum?
Him: I am pretty sure its one of those piles of rubble you are walking around, it was bulldozed a decade ago
Me: Fantastic.

Still one of my favourite buildings. There will be boring photos today as I never found my desired destination.

A sea of floating plant things in Peoples Square. Theres more to this square than I knew, including a fun park with a roller coaster, a waterfall, a lot of guys walking backwards, and guys who appear to be molesting trees.

My second coffee came from Marks and Spencer. It cost more than Starbucks. I went here because it was open, and the air conditioning was great.
Unfortunately, I dont think it was coffee. It tasted more like crushed ants. It certainly looks great, and I watched the guy using the manual machine freshly grind the beans, use the tamper, run water through it first, all the things you would expect. But wherever he got his coffee from, they must have accidentally cross bred it with ants.

This is my kind of street garden. Hundreds of metres of this street is lined with Chillies. I dont see any reason why you couldnt eat them? I could add them to my coffee to improve it.

Descending into the metro and there was a fancy underground mall with an excellent looking Xiao Long Bao place, and they were indeed excellent.
I only accidentally pierced one out of 10 with the chopsticks before it got in my mouth, which is a sign of good quality.
I also got a mystery soup, which I think may have been duck blood. It was very rich tasting, I added a lot of street chilli, ginger and vinegar.

The site of the former aerospace museum, now a transport hub and construction site. Why not change the name to FORMER aerospace museum?

I promised more waste management pics, this is the local recycling centre. People bring piles of cardboard and bags of cans, and get some sort of card stamped by the guy in the chair. I have seen my future.

Bottle opener

I never went up the giant pair of pants whilst in Beijing, and until now I havent been up the bottle opener in Shanghai.
These are both names of large buildings in China. The bottle opener claims to have the worlds highest observation deck, as awarded by an Irish beer company. I kind of doubt this claim because Dubai managed to construct a building nearly twice as high as any before it, and so long as no ones planning to blow it up that day you are allowed to go up it and look out the window.
None the less, Shanghai seems especially proud of their bottle opener. Getting up to the top goes in many stages.
First you line up for your ticket, strangely at dusk which I assume is the most popular time, there was no line, there were however bollards to allow 1000 or more people to line up.
Then you descend downwards and watch an interactive diorama about Shanghai.
Following this you get to watch a short movie, which is reminiscent of the North Korean mass games. I especially liked when smiling babies heads came flying through the top of the bottle opener itself, vomiting rainbows of joy!
Then you get to go to see a presentaion on how the double decker lifts work, in 3 languages (Chinese, Japanese, Chinglish). Finally you are allowed in the lift, but before it starts moving theres a flashing lights presentation.
You alight at only the 94th floor before going up a long escelator to the 97th floor.
Then finally, one last lift, with strobe lights for effect, and you are allowed out onto the 100th floor!

Time to reflect on the bottle opener. I rank this only the 3rd best massive building observation deck I have been up, here they are in order!
1. Osaka Umeda sky building - gets the top spot cause you are allowed outside on the roof, its nowhere near as high but its just so much better because you are outside.
2. Taipei 101. Its 1 better. No actually Taipei 101 is super impressive because its just so much higher than everything else in Taipei. Plus you get up close to the counter weight thing they stick in there because of daily earthquakes.
3. Bottle opener, proper name Shanghai World Financial Centre. I forgot to add above that exiting the building requires walking a labyrinth of expensive restaurants over 3 floors!
4. Tokyo metropolitan building. Dont ignore it, its free!

Interactive diorama. The rainbow was a preview of the movie you get in the next room, which I didnt photograph.

View from the top, looking down on the nearly as high dark and mysterious building they constructed right next door. I think it has an observation deck too.

Those are all very high buildings. Tom cruise did something on the roof of one of them in one of his mission impossible movies. Not the recent one, that was Dubai. Anything Shanghai can do, Dubai can do better, well except for food, culture, value, proximity to other places, history. Both cities have a lot of wealthy scary Russians getting about though.

This is the view in the very top. Its really not that crowded at all.

Sections of the floor are clear. This website is brought to you by New Balance.

Bonus photo with less glass reflections.

The best view I ever had whilst relieving myself. Girls dont get this luxury. Not only do you have to figure out squat toilets, but now you get no view either.

The top of the scary building lit up in white. OK no more photos from up here.

I was up the top of there somewhere. You cant see the actual bottle opener opening, google it if you dont know what it looks like

Food photo! I had one of my favourite meals for Lunch, so why not another for dinner? In the bottom of the super enormous super brand mall I found a Taiwan noodle joint. The beef noodle soup was great, thick hand cut noodles. Tea was good too.
Too many places to eat, not enough time to try them all.

Yet another tourist photo. Along the boardwalk theres lots of very annoying people selling high powered lasers. They shine them on you to get your attention. I had to walk for most of the night with my eyes closed.
These are seriously bright, eyeball damaging lasers, they shine them up at buildings to prove how bright they are.
I have no doubt they would happily shine them at helicopters, which in Australia nearly brought about the re introduction of the death penalty a few years ago.

Day 5 - Friday, 31 August 2012

No train pictures

Today I moved from Shanghai to Nanjing.
Nanjing was the capital most recently until world war 2, the name literally means southern capital. The Chinese moved the capital to Beijing because Japan murdered every fighting age man in the city, some 300,000, mostly by beheading them with swords to save on bullet costs, and raping every woman of child bearing age.
True story, look it up! Having said that, I havent seen too many Japanese looking people getting about. I will learn more about this at some point, which means boring museum pictures to come! Probably with swords?

I planned to document my train journey, cause I like trains. I dont like old steam trains, those are for small children and old men that have an unnatural liking for small children. Instead I like bullet trains and the massive stations that house them.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, as I got onto the platform with my camera, a police looking man (you cant tell who are cops, who are security, who are parking attendants and who are gardeners), told me NO TRAIN PICTURE!
OK then.

The train journey was nice, my seat was comfortable, and I had plenty of room to lay back and look out the huge windows.

Arriving at Nanjing was hilarious, 3 other bullet trains arrived simultaneously and the crush was ridiculous. Everyone had massive bags, some dragging huge bundles of stuff, and some people pushing sack trolleys. They had sack trolleys on the train with them to, I think they had sacks of potatoes on the trolleys. I guess its important to get the potatoes to Nanjing as fast as possible!
Anyway, once on the subway platform everything was fine, I walked to the very far end beyond all the lazy people crushing for the first carriages and even got a seat.
Nanjing looks like a cross between old and new Shanghai, being a former capital it has wide tree lined streets and its obvious a lot of state money has been spent on things at various points in history.
I havent seen any of the old stuff yet, so the pictures will be of modern Nanjing.

No train pictures, so you get an illustrated explanation of my new fold up cup. I dont buy myself things often so when I do its exciting. This cup gives me hours of joy. I look forward to using it every night when I get back from walking.
This is it in its cup form, for drinking out of or eating things (I will use it for breakfast in Sydney).

Here it is folded, ready to slide into my suitcase. I cant really explain how much I like it. I might name it.

Heres where I came out of the subway, its a few hundred metres to my hotel (in the opposite direction to this photo). The street is very busy and full of computer stores.
Like the rest of China, all computer stores are branded and identical, they go in order, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Apple licensed reseller, Asus, repeat 100 times for kilometres.

Here I am, looking lost, trying to figure out which way is east by the sun. I guessed right. Soon I am going to write a series of guides on urban survival.

My hotel room, its very nice. The bed is enormous and theres a strange glass divider that looks like its smashed. Internet works great.
TV is an IP TV streaming box, all in Chinese, menus and everything have zero English. 200 or more channels and the only English language is CCTV News. Luckily I love amateur Chinese opera.

Another view of my room. They lose a point for having a clear glass table that no mouse will work on. Many hotels are guilty of this crime against humanity.

Not my thing lately, but who can pass on cucumber flavoured chips? They were actually great!

Waste management picture of the day. Why recycle when you can burn it. This seems to me like it should be getting attention, its a big pile of plastic and stuff on fire and smells terrible.

Theres a first time for everything. Its late and I dont want real lunch and already had chips. So I finally can say I have been to KFC. For quiche. They had run out of custard tarts or else I would have got one of each.

Example of wide tree lined streets. Both Starbucks and Costa coffee on the right in the restored old buildings. Are they owned by the same company in China I wonder?

The above photo of the tree lined street is deceiving, there is still a lot of tall buildings, many under construction. There is still big holes in the ground where nice old stuff has been torn down to be replaced by monolithic structures.
One such structure is right behind my hotel. A giant supermarket.
This excites me, because I am not wired quite right.
I already spent an hour in here, it was quite an experience. I had already bought apples elsewhere and when entering the supermarket the security guard insisted on putting them in orange zip up bags with sealed tags on them. He also did the same with my camera, NO PICTURES!
So when I got to the register with 6 bottles of water, my hands were full. My wallet was also full of small coins which went everywhere.
This caused a great deal of hilarity amongst the housewives and children. I think the 20 or so coins that went flying were worth about 10 cents in total.

Bed turn down service

How can I turn down the bed turn down service?
When I arrive in a hotel, I dont unpack my suitcase. I take the dirty clothes out I have already worn and put them under my suitcase, get my glasses and contact lense stuff out, toothpaste etc.
I then put all the pamphlets, welcome documents, notepads, pens, tourist maps that lead you to jade factories, pillow menu etc. in one drawer and shut it, never to open it again.
Then I take all the stuff out of the mini bar I am not ever going to buy so I can put my own stuff in it.
Then I put my useless Automobile club card in the slot thing to keep the power on whilst I am out, leave the tv and most of the lights on, and turn the air conditioner and fridge to near freezing.

This works well for me! Until whilst I am out in the evening, someone sneaks into my room and puts it all back again, in exchange for a chocolate on a folded down corner of my bed. They even put my dirty clothes back in my suitcase.

I dont really understand why anyone would want someone coming into your room to do this, but then I see on tripadvisor lots of Americans complain that the hotel has no bed turn down service and that they had to wheel their own bag to their room. I hate it when someone does that for me too, leave my bag alone!

Nanjing is the nicest place in China I have been to yet. Its streets are very much like Paris, only no one has tried to rob or stab me (and almost certainly wont). The food is also much better, the streets are cleaner, and people are a lot happier, really too happy, maybe they drink the tap water here?
The place I went to this evening was a fashionable part of town, lots of boutiques and things, with me looking under dressed but it was hot and I have limited clothes with me.
As a result, theres no interesting photos, so its a good thing someone snuck into my room whilst I was out so I would have something to type about.

Hunan road is where I went. It has many signs such as this. Lots of brand name stores but then some 'funky' laneways where clothes are mixed with Japanese trinkets and men with perms walk their poodles.

The far end has this pedestrian mall running off it, that has some enormous restaurants. Many have bullfrog as the star attraction, good for virility. Others have snow crab or some other sort of crab, good for virility. Theres a real virility issue in China.

I found this neighbourhood style restaurant one street back. The guy was so happy to see me. He was even happier when I could order in Chinese without even seeing the menu, I knew what they had, I could see someone out the back hand pulling noodles.
Lanzhou nu rou mian I said, shir san kwai he said, pyen yi I said, bu ker chi he said, I speak good Chinese for ordering noodles

Heres my noodles, they were good, but too many noodles, I didnt eat them all. More beef compared to Shanghai, but then it was almost $2 so a bit more expensive.

The sign out the front told me what to order.

Later I had dessert. Under a department store there was a place with just 10 or so dessert shops. I must have looked ridiculous amongst all the young couples sharing enormous heaps of ice cream whatever but I dont care. I selected via the art of pointing, mango, black sticky rice balls and coconut. Floating in the coconut milk were frozen shards of coconut. It was really delicious.
Whilst I was recovering from brain freeze, I saw a guy storm into the area, go straight to a table and have an argument with another guy who was busy feeding something to the girl he was with.
It seems there was some sort of disagreement as to who was the rightful boyfriend of this girl. Rather than one suitor challengeing the other to a dual at dawn with pistols, the angry guy just stomped the other guy on the foot and ran off.
The girl never flinched throughout, she knows what shes doing.

chocky on 2012-09-01 said:
I see you found the chalice of Mendes at the top, hail the spear of hades. When jesus returns in his pyramid spaceship on dec 12th this year, we will crucify him on a burning cross atop this monument of blackness.

David on 2012-08-31 said:
Eastern Pearl Hotel Nanjing
I think its about $60 a night

My Shanghai hotel was actually an apartment with a full Kitchen, 200 metres from Peoples square, Citadines Jinqao. Also either $60 or $80 a night depending on which day.

yuki on 2012-08-31 said:
what is the name of your hotel and how much is it per night?

Day 6 - Saturday, 1 September 2012

Sombre please

There will be no jokes today, as I went to the Nanjing massacre memorial hall.
In 1937, Japan who already occupied north eastern China pushed south, determined to take the capital, which was Nanjing at the time.
They over ran Shanghai very quickly and then pushed on to Nanjing, surrounding it on 3 sides.
Interestingly, much like today, this caused a media frenzy in Japan, with reporters entrenched with the 3 units desperate to be the lucky unit who advanced on Nanjing first. Wild stories of heroism were posted back to Japan each day.
After sustained bombardment, the city fell quickly, but that was really the pleasant bit for the Chinese.
Japanese troops, keen to make a name for themselves and be on the front page of papers, decided to come up with the most barbaric acts possible.

It is believed 300,000 people were killed in 6 weeks, much of the cities female population were raped, and then imprisoned in 'comfort houses' for years to entertain Japanese soldiers.

You might think that this would be glossed over and there would be poems and flowers and some dioramas, but you would be wrong.
It would seem that pre world war 2 Japan was already at the forefront of photographic technology, and many soldiers were carrying cameras.
There are photos on display of soldiers smiling and laughing as they behead children, mass rape, huge piles of bodies, you get the idea.
Two of the more creative ways invented by Japenese generals to make heroes of themselves were to tie people together, hands and feet bound, and push them into ponds or to tie people in a group and pour kerosene on them and set them on fire.
There are countless stories and images of people having their heads cut off, and then their heads on road blocks to remind people to keep out.
So there will be no jokes today.

I read that this place is always crowded and you cant move, it wasnt really crowded at all. I originally intended to go on Monday because of the crowd warning, but my research paid off, its closed Mondays, so bear that in mind.

Giant statue of woman holding dead baby. The statues are stylised on photos you can see inside, which includes an infant breastfeeding off its dead mother.

Lake with many of the statues.

I managed to do the whole tour backwards somehow, the memorial is on top of a mass grave, where its believed at least 10,000 bodies are. These are a heap of real bones recovered in the 80s.

And this is a more recent excavation. There are Japanese tour groups who get shown around here. I think they get escorted still due to fear of reprisals, they sob respectfully.

These are LED candles which was a bit dissapointing. Theres a grand piano that plays itself, it seems to play pieces of music composed by survivors.

The peace lake. I can never take a straight photo.

Inside the main hall they ask you to not take photos, but everyone else was. I didnt take photos of the massacre photos though. This is a battlefield re creation thing, a bit like the Canberra war memorial, with projections and sound.

Behind this they have a dripping water thing. Each drop represents someone being killed, one every 12 seconds for 6 straight weeks on average.

On the way back to take care of my blistered toes, I passed a neighbourhood beef noodle place. Who can resist? I ate only about half but I think I got my dollars worth.

Twice as lost

I actually managed to get properly lost twice. The first time is fun, the second time (when hungry) is infuriating!
The first time I got lost, I came out of the metro and went in completely the wrong direction. So much for urban survival tips, but then the sun had dissapeared and I couldnt see any stars.
As it turns out theres a heap of roads called nearly the same thing, variations of Zhongguo which simply means China.
Normally getting lost is no problem, in most cities you find your way to another subway line and realise where you are. Not the case in Nanjing, it only has 2 lines, so heading away from a line means you wont hit another one.
I went for an excellent tour of scooter repair shops and random people welding in the street, all the time looking for the confuscius temple region. It was indeed confusing.
Eventually having walked a huge loop, I found the train line which was above ground at this point, and walked along it.
Now you would think, given that I have a map on my phone (but no GPS because blackberry cant make phones to save themselves and the GPS rarely works), and starting again from the same point after I caught the metro back to the same station, that I would do better the second time?
I mean I was looking for a huge temple area with a giant shopping centre and square kilometres of shops and restaurants in a giant pedestrian area.
No, wrong again, eventually I saw the tall buildings and recognised I was heading North back into the city centre, this is all I needed to get back on track.
I blame the tree lined streets actually, when you cant see landmarks its hard to find your way.

Its dusk, the light was good, this is a back street, but as you can see its still quite wide and comparitively nice to other parts of Asia.

Racist hardware store dog went absolutely crazy as soon as he saw me. He was spinning around barking his head off. His owner thought this was hilarious, he has trained him well.

I am not sure what this place is, as it was shut. Their collection of old tv's is great, they are above a door leading into a basement. A huge impressive door. Perhaps this is the secret communist party gentlemens club.
Old men with wizard length white beards sit around smoking opium discussing how they once saw Mao go past while concubines slowly comb their hair.

Ultra futuristic building looks especially special in the final light of the afternoon.

Part of the reason I got lost, I thought this was the confuscius temple, but I couldnt see the neon shops and restaurants which were promised. Still, I walked all the way around it before I discounted this theory entirely. Turns out it was the city gate.

Eventually I found this super modern mall and knew where I was (its on my map). The confuscius temple area is not really visible from the street as theres a lot of construction going on all around it of high rise apartments. You have to go behind a temporary wall to get to it.

The temple has become largely an area for selling the best of made in China plastic goods. The area is huge! I got lost again inside the complex but in comparison to the 10 or so kilometres I had walked to get here, this was not a problem.

Pretty much everything is covered in neon and theres people everywhere enjoying themselves.
If you value 'personal space' this isnt the place for you. I read a lot of website reviews of people complaining their personal space was invaded when they visited China. I think those people should probably stay home.

There is also more canals going around the area, with neon coated boats seemingly racing each other along them under all the old low bridges.
The line for a boat ride was long, so the captains of these boats maximise profits by going as fast as possible. I think you could water ski behind them.

I was starving by now and considered deep fried snack food from one of the hundreds of vendors such as these. The most terrifying thing is the deep fried dough that gets wrapped in a flat bread, then the whole thing gets re fried and then seems to get coated in some sort of syrup.

But I resisted! This nice restaurant was 3 floors underground in that nice mall. Somewhat alarmingly, underneath big fountains and pools as this is the aqua mall.
There were lots of nice looking places to eat here.

My dinner was boney pork cartilidge with sour beans. It was delicious. You crunch through the bones and eat them.
The waiter was fascinated by me and wouldnt leave me alone. Every time I took a sip of the warm water he provided he would refill it. When my food came to the table and I reached for my chopsticks he would grab them first and hand them to me. However pulling out my camera had him flee in terror?

Water is the theme, pools such as this snake through the entire place, with big fountains that do stuff synchronised to lights and lasers. Kids have these water pistol plastic tubes they fill and squirt each other with, similar to the things I photographed in Wuxi used to feed goldfish.
I guess if we had these in Australia someones kid would drown in them and that would be the management of the stores fault. Or we would need the surf life savers to have more ads on tv every 5 minutes begging for money to pay for their ads whilst they complain they cant afford to save kids drowning in fountains.

David on 2012-09-02 said:
Japan eventually lost and retreated, when America dropped nuclear bombs on Japan. The photos were taken from surrendering and retreating Japanese soldiers.

japanophile on 2012-09-01 said:
I'd like to know how the chinese managed to get hold of photos taken by the Japanese of them to rturing and killing them

Page 3 is now ready for your viewing pleasure


Latest Update

Day 1 - Monday, 27 August 2012
  Time to go
  Getting here
Day 2 - Tuesday, 28 August 2012
  I forgot my passport
  My bag arrived
Day 3 - Wednesday, 29 August 2012
  Wuxi, the dusty city
  More canals, far canals
Day 4 - Thursday, 30 August 2012
  There is no museum
  Bottle opener
Day 5 - Friday, 31 August 2012
  No train pictures
  Bed turn down service
Day 6 - Saturday, 1 September 2012
  Sombre please
  Twice as lost
Day 7 - Sunday, 2 September 2012
  Purple haze
  Sleep now please
Day 8 - Monday, 3 September 2012
  Panda dead, again
  Cool weather is cool
Day 9 - Tuesday, 4 September 2012
  Wet, lost and confused
  Rivers of mud
Day 10 - Wednesday, 5 September 2012
  The lake in the fog
  Best meal ever?
Day 11 - Thursday, 6 September 2012
  The great buddah scam
  Somehow no pollution
Day 12 - Friday, 7 September 2012
  My own personal cave
  Almost missed the best bit
Day 13 - Saturday, 8 September 2012
  Back to the start
  American TV advertisements
Day 14 - Sunday, 9 September 2012
  Mao's plane
  Its raining but thats OK
Day 15 - Monday, 10 September 2012
  Humble administrator
  Bike crash
Day 16 - Tuesday, 11 September 2012
  Expo of urban decay
  Still walking
Day 17 - Wednesday, 12 September 2012
  Countdown to deportation
Day 18 - Thursday, 13 September 2012
  No legroom photos