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Back to China - Shanghai - Nanjing - Hangzhou - 2012 - Page 1

Day 1 - Monday, 27 August 2012

Time to go

Its about time to go on another holiday. Asia of course, more specifically China yet again.
This means I have actually managed 4 overseas trips in 1 year, perphas something to be proud of.
The goal this time - dont die of heat stroke or drown in floodwaters from a typhoon.
Today I am going to Shanghai and there is actually a typhoon forecast.
The immediate goal however is to actually make my connecting flight in Sydney, the connection time is only 1 hour, during which time I need to transfer terminals on a bus and clear customs. Unfortunately there are still no direct flights from Adelaide to China, and theres only 1 flight a day on Qantas to anywhere in China.
It does seem ridiculous that Qantas can only sell 300 tickets a day to China, out of the total 10,000 or so that are sold across all the other Chinese airlines that fly between Australia and China, but thats the strength of our once great national carrier for you.

On this trip I will be spending some more time in Shanghai, as thats where the plane goes, but also will move around to Nanjing and Hangzhou. I dont really know what to do there other than eat lots of things and walk a lot until my feet turn into festering blisters, photos to come.
I have also bought a new camera for this trip, it does all sorts of useless things like turn photos into water color paintings, in camera HDR (clown vomit), photo stacking, auto crop etc. So you can look forward to some awesome effects that render the subject matter unrecognisable.

I had to break the news to my missus that I was again buggering off to China. Chocolate seems to work well in such circumstances. She was a bit surprised I only bothered to tell her the night before.

Me, in my red colored street at 4 AM on a Monday morning. The red lights are to help the homeless people that live in my street get some well earned rest from all their drinking, can collecting, pissing on my fence etc.

Qantas recognise how awesome I am once again, with a free business class upgrade.

And here I am. Looking thrilled to be on holidays!

Getting here

Well, I am here, but my bags are not. I kind of knew that would happen.

The connection in Sydney went smooth for me, my flight from Adelaide was even 10 minutes late and I still made it with ease. The bus was waiting to do the whole transfer thing, and then I had a priority pass for customs etc. and then someone met me with a sign etc. Thats too many etceteras.

There were other people on the Adelaide to Sydney flight who didnt have priority passes (because they are not special) but they still made the flight. I ended up sitting on the plane after transferring for a good 30 minutes, until the people I had left at the customs queue got there, looking frazzled. They headed way down the back whilst I sat up the front refusing champagne.

The flight itself, about 10.5 hours. The business class section was full of white business men in suits, and an old couple going to meet a cruise. They were clueless about everything, and couldnt get the on demand video to work for love or money. The old man threw the remote at the screen at one point.
They then proceeded to have a heated 8 hour debate over which of the Bee Gees are dead, I believe the old lady thought John Lennon was in fact one of the Bee Gees.

There was too much food to eat it all, so I took photos of only some of it, out of boredom. There is however a self service bar where you can top up your water if youre me, or help yourself to spirits if youre the business men. One guy drank 20 whiskeys in the 10 hour flight.
Whilst I was at the bar getting water, a small Chinese child from the back section came through the curtain, and took the entire basket of chocolates with him back to his seat. He stared at me as he grabbed it waiting for me to stop him, I just smiled at him and gave him a thumbs up.

Amongst the crap I watched, The Avengers. Worst movie ever. I havent seen the latest batman so that opinion may be updated if I ever bother. I dont understand how anyone can watch comic store idiot movies.

OK, enough crap about being on the plane, customs was no drama, but then the bags didnt come. I recognised a few people from the Adelaide flight that morning, and knowing that the frequent flyer loser websites say the bags never make it due to the short connection time, I headed over to baggage services.
They were too well rehearsed for this, knowing which flight I was on and that it connects from Adelaide etc.

I was OK with this, but a guy of a specific ethnicity (somewhere near Israel and Syria) was complaining loudly in the line. He exclaimed 'Im gonna stab a slope for this, this shit would never happen in Australia' with a few other F and C words too. He was also wearing a baseball cap, stereotypes, how do they work? I asked him if he realises the bags are in Sydney, and that I am not sure if Sydney airport ground services is run by slopes (as he put it) or not, but I kind of doubt it.

Thats probably enough text for now, its late, I am tired, and I am rambling like a maniac.

Lunch entree was pretty good, a carrot soup. They put cream in it which was annoying.

Lunch main was a bit weird, its a chicken breast, skin on, with walnuts (those dark things) and snow peas cooked for what must have been 2 or 3 weeks. Theres also a potato and celeriac gratin, which was quite nice, but largely it was just potato.
Dessert was offered, some enormous slab of cheesecake, I opted for fruit, and didnt take a photo of fruit.

The light dinner turned out to be a rack of lamb. It was very nice actually. With roasted parsnips and other things. Again I had fruit for dessert. The larger choice was rhubarb and peach pie with creme fraiche and a selection of cheeses and desseret wines etc.
OK, enough food photos. I didnt even take a photo of the outside of the plane!

Here I am, on the Maglev. I rode it last time too so didnt bother with photos, just photos of me, looking thrilled.

The maglev doesnt go all the way into the city, as they ran out of magnets. So you have to transfer to the metro instead. My carriage buddy is enjoying a rest on a pillow of cans and bottles with a mattress made of newspaper. He seems to be enjoying the air conditioning.
Actually its not too hot, but its certainly windy!

After checking in, I headed into town to buy shorts, as who knows when or if my bag will get here (they say 11am tomorrow).
I didnt buy any underwear though, so I got commando colored shorts because tomorrow is commando day.

This actual photo is Nanjing Road East. Full of people offering you all kinds of services if you are a single male. However now I speak Chinese. I can tell Chinese peasent girls that not only do I not want their services, but I also have no money as I am a train ticket and I like noodles.

I stopped on the way back to participate in some mass line dancing. By now due to the wind, and 10 hours on a plane, I looked like young einstein, so the line dancing grandmas were terrified of me. More than usual.

There are currently 3 comments - click to add

Fi on 2012-08-28 said:

What a cack! That story about the old couple & the Bee Gees cracked me up!

bobgruel on 2012-08-28 said:

young einstein? more like robert smith

Leo on 2012-08-26 said:

Ho ho...

Day 2 - Tuesday, 28 August 2012

I forgot my passport

I totally forgot that you need your passport to buy train tickets. You are actually supposed to carry it all the time and there was a recent crackdown in Beijing where people of a certain skin color were rounded up and thrown in jail for not carrying there's.
Despite being far too pretty for jail, I still choose to not carry mine, as losing it would be very annoying. What this does mean is I walked to Shanghai station to buy tickets and couldnt. At least I remembered before I waited in line for ages.

Not to worry, theres actually lots to see around the station, and the metro goes there, so I can try and lose my passport in the evening when hopefully the line to buy is shorter too.

Rather than add a huge amount of text no one including me reads, I took a heap of photos which I will now use for a caption contest with myself.

The hotel room comes with breakfast. The room is great by the way, its an apartment hotel and has a kitchen, big tv, huge bed, full bath, you get the idea.
If you dont have the breakfast the receptionists chase after you to remind you. I choose the healthy things as ever, beans, egg and fruit. The egg goes really well with apple.

OK, time to make this all a tax deduction. This is as far as I can tell a Chinese grease trap truck, the drums on the back seemed to have waste cooking fat in them, and it certainly was a familiar smell.
I also noted the driver was getting his next job via a smartphone, but im pretty sure it was just an SMS.

Next up, the wheely bin electric transport scooter. The workers sort the recyclables on the spot, no need for sorting at recycling centres etc.
OK, thats enough for today, there will be more waste management stories to come.

This is the Shanghai central station, which is smaller than the new Hongqiao station which I have been to before. I couldnt really find a way to take photos of the platforms without a ticket. I will probably be back later to go to Nanjing.

Despite warnings that pickpockets can remove your wedding ring with chopsticks without you even noticing, a large number of people have no issue sleeping outside with all their bags piled up nearby. This method also works for me, if you look poor and homeless, no one will rob you.

I presume this monument is dedicated to all the girls who talk on the telephone and forget that their skirt has blown up in the wind. And thats as good a reason as any for a monument.

In a nearby park, to save money for old people, they put the daily newspaper behind glass and you can walk along and read it before you head off to do your ribbon dancing. Perhaps they put the ribbon dancing championship results in the paper.

Nanna is contemplating doing the right thing by her children who have to support her.

All hail Chinese genetic engineering. For it is the hybrid elephant / rhino / shark. I shall call you SHARKEPHINO!

Theres a massive line to buy steam pork buns from this place at 10AM. I joined the back of the line but it didnt move for 10 minutes so I left. Most people use lining up as a social activity I think.

This alleyway and the museum off to the right is the site of the First communist youth league. In the early 1900's they went to Beijing and protested at Tiananmen square. This seems to have been somewhat more succesful than tank boy was in the 80's.
I was surprised to be thrown out of here by security, at first I was outraged, but he was saying something about 11 and hour to me in Chinese. The sign out the front confirms they are closed between 11 AM and 1 PM. Presumably to go over the road and line up for steamed pork buns.

Lanzhou style beef noodle has taken over for me from Taiwanese style as my favourite. Mainly because Adelaide has an awesome place called Noodle Kingdom on Gouger street. I was keen to find out if the Adelaide version is the same as the Shanghai version of the Lanzhou favourite. Lanzhou is a city in western China, one day I will go there just to have soup.

The good news, Adelaide does it the same as Shanghai. The flavour of the soup and style of hand made on the spot noodles were the same. There was less beef here in China, and at first I was annoyed at that. Then when I paid and it was $1.20 I was less annoyed.
As long as I dont grow a second eyebrow or need a stomach transplant as a result, then I will be back, who can turn down a meal for $1.20!

This last photo is for all the c++ people I work with. Your jobs have been outsourced and migrated to a new gelato beverage platform.

My bag arrived

My bag got here from Sydney. According to the tags it came via Hong Kong and Taiwan. I have never been so happy to brush whats left of my hair in my life. I then celebrated by shaving and using the Malin+Goetz moisturizing cream Qantas put in their amenity packs.
Thrilled with the results of my makeover, I was considering doing some eyebrow re shaping, but thought I had better go and get my train tickets instead. This time I remembered my passport.

In the evening, I went to a place called Xujiahui, I have been there before at 9AM in the morning, before anything opened. At night its a fairly crowded area with many interlinked shopping malls. So theres not much to tell.

What I did see however, without getting a photo, is heaps of people jumping the metro barrier. Its a bit of a farce, security guards blow their whistle and wave their baton but everyone ignores them calmly. Theres also x-ray machines at every entrance you are supposed to put your bags through but no one does.

The chaotic and hot Shanghai train ticket office. Every line has its own loudspeaker system. The usual Chinese queue rules apply.
1. Barge straight up to the window in front of everyone and make as much noise as possible.
2. Get yelled at by everyone in line and grabbed and pushed to the back.
3. Periodically push to the front again and plead your case with everyone as to why you get to push in.
4. Be moved to the very back, losing your place.
5. Explain to those now in front of you that your rightful place is in front of them.

Multiply this by 3 or 4 people trying this simultaneously in each line and it becomes confusing to remember whos pushing in and who isnt. Once they start crossing lines it becomes a debacle.

Mcdonalds in China has also adopted the slider hype for mini burgers. Only theres are a bit different. I havent worked out whats actually on them, I may have to go to Mcdonalds!

Xujiahui at night. I took more photos for myself to enjoy as I know no one else does. The text on the globe is animated, it says 'Giant globe has animated text'.

Rather than show you my dinner, I will show you it being prepared. It may be a foodcourt but everything gets made from scratch while you wait, with a lot of yelling. I ordered beef and lotus root but was given something else. I actually think I was given someone elses order, I showed my receipt but the chef insisted.
I got a heap of mystery meat of all different colors, possibly bullfrog as that was on the menu elsewhere. It was nice enough, I couldnt eat it all.

I couldnt eat all my dinner so I thought I would have dessert.
Unfortunately this was some nice looking fruit with cubes of grass jelly, which would have been great. But once I ordered it a series of sauces was poured over it for no good reason which turned into a thin brown goo.
The grass jelly was nice though, you can really taste the grass.

Wandering around back streets near my hotel, I stumbled upon an illegal card game. I think they were playing for real money, everyone was deadly silent.
For no good reason, they have set up in the middle of the road, leaving barely enough room for a car to pass.
The game was thrilling, as every now and then the men would gasp, and eventually a cheer erupted. I lurked in the shadows hoping it might turn into a fight when someone played a 5th ace, but left dissapointed.

There are currently 1 comments - click to add

#Fan on 2012-08-28 said:


Day 3 - Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wuxi, the dusty city

I must really love the train ticket office. For the 3rd time in two days I went to Shanghai station to line up for a ticket. This time I was heading to Wuxi, which means 'without tin'. The city is about 200km inland from Shanghai, which is no problem when theres bullet trains.
According to wikipedia and wikitravel and wikiwhatnow the city is in the top 10 domestic tourist destinations. However the text that states this fact is very poorly written and has no source. Time to find out the truth. I know one thing for sure, there better not be any tin.

There was of course a neat line of people waiting for the boarding of the train, until boarding was called. Then chaos ensued, complete with whistle blowing officials being ignored.

Here I am hanging out at the bar, chatting up the waitress. My pickup line was 'I dont like beer, give me tea', spoken in half assed mandarin of course. This was required because as I approached the bar she immediately took a Heineken from the fridge. Thats racist.
I found myself at the bar because I was seated in the middle of a group of 3. In the aisle was presumably a sumo wrestler on holidays from Kyoto, and in the window a mother with her two children on her lap, one of them looked about 12 years old. The younger of her kids then threw a 2 litre bottle of water on the ground and a river started running down the aisle. Thats when I headed to the bar.

Look closely at the picture, I had to get down low to get in the photo. The guy behind me has no idea what I am doing. He has no right to judge me though, hes carrying a man bag!

The scene when exiting the station. Hmmm. I have no idea which way to go. I can see that the other side of the station has lots of big buildings and nice looking areas. This is a common trick at Chinese train stations, they always force you to exit on the shitty side and make it exceptionally difficult to get back under the tracks.
The reason for this as best I can tell is to make you pay for a coach tour, hundreds of such tours are leaving from under the train station, complete with people on loud speakers racing around touting for suckers.

I refuse to be defeated, and walk through the highway tunnel. This is an exact mirror of my trip to Suzhou on my last visit to China.

Once on the right side of the tracks, literally, things look a lot nicer. The down town area is sort of finished, but many shops are still vacant.
Wuxi is very much a city undergoing a rapid transformation. Everything is covered in construction dust.
By the end of the day I had turned a strange shade of grey, possibly one of the 50.

Here you can pay to catch gold fish with a mini fishing rod. I am not sure what happens if you catch one as no one did. Read on for another chapter in Wuxi fishing.

The place is known for its canals. There are indeed many canals. Many have bridges over them. I followed these for many miles. If you like canals you will like Wuxi.
I dont advise following this canal, its a big circle that goes nowhere. It was also hot as hell.

China, leading the way. Even B grade cities have free bikes to rent, using solar power for you to register on the touch screens to borrow one.
By the way, Wuxi has a population of 6 million. Its considered a small city comparitively for this region.

Eventually the canal lead to here. I think parts of it were original, but much of it is fake. It is of course a tourist shopping mall, specially built for coaches to park at and have Chinese people spend up big on inflatable novelty hammers.
There was no food except deep fried snacks. I remained hungry.

Theres a large grid of streets all selling the same stuff. Underground theres a market selling fake handbags etc. I dont think I am the target demographic for this area.

I found a way to get up to the top. I dont think I was supposed to as the cleaners and old men without shirts laying on the ground sleeping up there seemed genuinely shocked when I arrived on the scene.
This doesnt phase me though, I have time to pose and look cool. Those are my new shorts, I like them so much I bought another pair in grey. I already spent $20 on myself. I blame Qantas for this, if they had not lost my bag theres no way I would have bought myself clothes.

Some of the many many cranes. If you like cranes you will love Wuxi. The new part of the city has massive empty malls filled with Gucci and similar stores. But no people, they also hide the bathrooms.
I started just going through exit doors looking for one, a security guy yelled at me, but I have learnt to just ignore that. Eventually I found a bathroom, a good thing as I had drunk over 6 litres of fluid since arriving!

Time for another adventure in fishing. Only look closely, they are feeding them with baby bottles on the end of the poles.
My theory is, if you are smart enough as a fish to survive being caught by kids in the paddling pool, as per the photo above, you graduate to the rock pool and live a life of luxury being hand fed by tourists.
Society rewards only winners, in human and fish. Which are you?

Go back a couple of streets and you find the edge of new, and the beginning of old. This looks like Beirut. I never actually went to Beirut but its my stereotype for bombed city.
Theres no one actually living in these places, presumably they came home one day to find all their stuff packed in a crate and a note explaining which bus to catch to their new home.

Final Wuxi picture, the train station. It was an exhausting day. My back is killing me, I am officially old. Im starting to worry that I am shrinking and will soon be a hunchback.
The train ride back was a lot less chaotic, but then once you get off at Shanghai station the exit is as far away from the metro as possible and the tunnel to get to line 1 is closed. So I had to walk another mile or so to get to the metro, with half a dozen guys on scooters following me offering a lift, busy explaining to me that the walk to the metro is far.

I probably wont walk too far tonight so dont expect too many photos, right now I am enjoying some orange rehydration salts I bought with me from Australia.

More canals, far canals

I ended up walking much further than I thought. It was nice and cool, a giant 30 storey high thermometer told me its 26 degrees. There was a nice breeze too so after dinner I walked along a Shanghai canal that led to the bund.
On the way I messed around with my camera, which was fun for me at the time. The canal is all done up with walk ways and seats and trees, its mainly used by young people to escape their parents to make phone calls or play angry birds. People in China actually hold 7 inch tablets to their ear to use them like telephones.

Now for some tips.
Tip #1 - Dont ride a scooter in China.
Everyone rides a scooter and they do so without helmets. As they are mainly electric they are also silent.
Tonight I saw a guy get hit by a car at great speed, but it was amazing! Somehow he went flying through the air, like an olympic long jumper.
I actually think he started running in mid air, and when he hit the ground he was going at a full sprint and was totally fine.
Then the owner of the car decided to scream at him for a while, then all oncoming traffic just held down the horn whilst he removed the various pieces of his scooter.

Tip #2 - Your local corner store style travel agent never pays for your room in advance.
I cant count the number of times I have seen people, normally from Europe where apparently theres no internet, standing at reception desks of a Hotel complaining loudly that their accommodation is already paid for.
They always hold up paperwork that shows that they booked through their travel agent in Wales or some place, and that this is proof enough that the travel agent has paid in full.
Tonight when I returned to my hotel this was going on, I decided to sit in the lobby and listen in for my own amusement.
Of course they got their travel agent on the phone, and of course it turns out that he hasnt paid for the room, just booked it on their behalf.
Then you get the inevitable 'We dont have a credit card' drama. Who the hell doesnt have a credit card these days? Are they carrying travellers cheques (do they even still exist?) or thousands of dollars in cash?
If you are booking travel in far off lands, use a website that books 50,000 rooms a day, expedia or agoda should be fine.

My dinner (only food pic of the day so shut up), Japanese curry. It was decent, most expensive thing on the menu at $4. It has good quality beef in it, still like all places in China they leave the skin / sinew on, but as its been stewed for ages it was tender.
If you have not had Japanese curry before, the omelette is stuffed with rice.
Also they like to put pickles and a salted plum on the plate as well. If you dont know what a salted plum is you might think someone chewed something and spat it back out on your plate.

Time for some in camera hand held HDR. Its a shame the van was parked there.

Cheers club is closed. I like this photo though.

I am not afraid to take my own photo of someone elses fashion shoot. Actually there were heaps of people around like this, I think they might have been students of some kind, high school formal perhaps?

The bund in HDR. I took what looks like HDR and added HDR to it. Oh yeah, hand held. My camera does cool stuff. Most of its useless, but its cool the first time you do it.

The other end of Nanjing Lu. Tonights response to the massage touts was (In Chinese) 'I am a poor student from Russia, I like apples'.

There are currently 4 comments - click to add

bobmule on 2012-08-31 said:

i for one, miss your mothers comments. for now i have to wade through your endless stories about hair..

David on 2012-08-30 said:

HDR is high dynamic range. The camera takes 3 shots and overlays them, one under exposed, one at correct exposure, and one over exposed.
And now I am confused, I assumed #1 fan was my mother, but since shes supposed to be a photographer of sorts she should know what HDR is?

#1 fan on 2012-08-29 said:

brilliant night shots. What is HDR?

#1 fan on 2012-08-29 said:

cool shorts

PAY ATTENTION! This is not the end. Theres now a page 2. Theres multiple ways to get there, choose one.


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