Monday, July 31, 2006



Lunch was pretty good. I find eating out here a bit lonely because Chinese food is best eaten in groups with people shouting across the table and waving cigarettes. The menus are geared to that, with dishes meant to be shared. It's damn good food though, even if I always end up ordering too much.

I just got back in from a visit to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower, that tall odd looking structure in a couple of my pics with the baubbles and flashing lights. The Chinese love flashing lights. Even in the few areas where there are still clumps of tress, er, parks, they're all decked out with christmas lights.

To get over to Pudong I took the tourist tunnel under the river. My guide book said it was a psychedelic experience, but i wasn't prepared for the wackiness of it. You buy your ticket then head down the stairs. There are blinking disco lights in the floor, and a turn around area for these little stubby rail cars. I got in one alone and set off through the tunnel. All along there were lazer shows, blinking lights, coils of light, and voices, first in English then in Chinese, describing each section like "Hell and Paradise" "Assault in the blue sea" "Meteor Shower" and "Massive Magma." I bet the Chinese will look back on this and groan.

Since I've been here I've known the air was quite acrid, but it didn't seem quite as dirty as I'd imagined. Parts of Delhi were worse, and in other cities like Cairo I could barely breath. But once I got to the tower observation deck the view of the smog was dramatic. It did make for a pretty awesome sunset though.
Tomorrow morning I get up bright and early to spend a day with a source for one of my stories. I'm looking forward to getting some real solid work done, rather than just planning, planning, planning.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hotel bound on the Bund

I've been tied up at my desk in the hotel a lot over the past couple of days. That's my excuse for not posting much. While I landed with no firm times for my meetings, and many of my sources seemed to suddenly vanish, today has proved productive. My week is now planned out. Arranging this trip is mind-boggling. I am skedded to be in Beijing, Mumbai and Delhi, yet I don't have plane tickets for any of those cities because I haven't nailed down all my interview times. It's like that chicken and its stupid egg.

Speaking of eggs, I'm hungry now, so I'm going to go out and grab lunch. There's a little restaurant tucked into a side road I passed yesterday that had lots of soups. looked good. i'll let you know.

I've taken to wandering down little back alleys and peeking into people's homes. everyone leaves their doors open. it's another world, just 5 steps the bright lights.

There was a big black humvee parked on one of Shanghai's flashy tourist strips. I have no idea how you navigate a vehicle like that around here. Cars may be everywhere, but the practical Chinese still boot around on their mopeds.

From a second floor restaurant last night I watched a busy intersection for one hour. Yes there were stop signs. No they didn't get much use. At any moment there were cars, trucks, bikes, mopeds and pedestrians criss-crossing in front of each other. In all that time I saw just one bump between two mopeds. No words exchange. They just putted away from each other.

tonight I'm going to head over to Pudong, that's the financial district which isn't actually in Shanghai, but another city altogether. a couple of decades ago it was muddy farmland. Today it's what many of China's other million-plus cities (there are 200 of them)aspire to. I'm going up the baubled tower for what is supposed to be an amazing view of the city.

Oh, by the way, my dad is circumventing the Chinese censors and reproducing this blog on his website, so I can see the comments after all.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Spaghetti for breakfast...

I think I conquered my jet lag. I did it by walking myself until I was a zombie yesterday. Passed out at 11 pm and was up at 6 bright eyed. Just got back from breakfast in the hotel restaurant, a buffet of bacon, sausage, spaghetti, bok choy and congee soup.
I saw a bit of Shanghai yesterday after getting off to a slow start. The GSM phone I bought in Canada, that I was assured was unlocked, won't work here. I bought another used phone, paid way too much, and it doesn't turn on now either. good grief. I have a SIM card and a phone number, just no phone. I spent yesterday morning dealing with that, and my quest continues today.
It is blazing hot here. Everyone warned me, but it's muggier than Toronto on the worst day of the year. Everyone is soaked in sweat, so I know it's not just me. The Bund (the walkway along the river) is a sea of umbrellas as people desperately try to stay out of the sun.
After leaving the hotel yesterday I walked down the Bund to Nanjing, the famous shopping street. It's a pedestrian only road, like Sparks St. in Ottawa, but about 10,000 times as big and busy. But after a bit I was ready to move on, since the couple of shops I went into were priced way above Canadian prices. (I checked out a photo shop and the guy asked how much I paid for me lens and he was shocked how cheap it was in Canada!?!?) Plus Nanjing is full of prostitues cruising for tourists. Every few meters a girl would come up and try spark up a conversation "You vewy hansum."
I did stop at the McDonald's for an icecream cone. They sell plastic cups of corn kernels. McCorn?
I also hit the subway. Jamie, you'd be impressed. It was busy, but very clean and fast. 3 yuan for a ride (7 yuan is C$1.)
Things change fast here. I looked for a market that my travel guide said was great for luxury knock offs, and wandered around the area for a while trying to find it. Turns out the whole city block was demolished to make way for a tower. Another camera store I'd looked for earlier was the same. Whole block gone.
I did find a nice little park with shade, and heard some strange sounds from the back. A group of retired men and women were jamming under a pavillion, so I stopped and visited and listened. People would come up, bug the musicians to play a song and they'd sing. It was stranegly like high school and playing my guitar in the council room. At one point this old man with liver spots walks up and starts to sing. He was hitting notes I don't think even Freddy Mercury or Hawksley Workman could reach. It was a bit disturbing.
Grabbed a good dinner of sliced pork and vegetables in black pepper sauce. Yummy. And the beer I ordered was a foot tall!!
Last night I took a night cruise on the Huangpo river, met some Chinese tourists from a far off province who spoke about 10 words of English, but we had fun.
Today I'm staying in (except for phone shopping, I'm going to buy a new one and get it over with). Have lots of work to do.
Can't remember whether I mentioned in an earlier post or not, but I can't view this site. The Chinese gov't don't like it seems, and they ban access to it. (Don't ask me why I'm allowed to create posts but not look at them.) So comment if you like, but until I get home I won't be able to read them. I heard there's the same ban in India. It's very strange what sites do get blocked here, and there are quite a few. They banned Skype for a while, but it works now. The web sites that talk about the censorship don't though.
I'll post some pics below. For some reason I can't manipulate the photos or give them captions from China, so they'll just flow below.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I had no idea...

Yawn, good heavens I'm tired. it's 6:42 am on Saturday. What a whirlwind. My flight over was ok, though Air Canada didn't fail to live up to its reputation -- it was a ratty old plane, the headrest kept falling off my seat and there was no seatback entertainment consoles (just a VHS player that obviously didn't have a functioning tracking button. They tried to show a music video from Bon Jovi, but it kept jamming 3/4 of the way through, so they'd start it over again -- three times.)

The Shanghai airport blows away anything in Canada. Very efficient, my bag was waiting for me once I cleared customs. I had to dash to an interview before the gentleman I was to see left Shanghai for Beijing, so I grabbed a taxi and we headed over.

Again, I couldn't believe how modern everything was. One of the guys I'm going to see gave me a few tips before coming, and number one was "be prepared to say: I had no idea..."

We'd kill for highways like these, and the taxi driver occasionally almost sometimes stayed within the white lanes. I know this is Shanghai and not at all representative of the rest of the country.

I made my interview on time, but only had a quick hour with the guy. Then it was back across Shanghai to my hotel, the Astor House. It's a grand old stone building built in the 1840s. I've got hardwood floors, free high-speed, a king-size bed (though the mattress is so hard you can play it like tom-toms). I have realized though that China blocks certain websites, such as Blogger. I seem to be able to write posts, but I can't see them.

I got about 6 hours sleep last night but was up by 2 am. Time for TV movies! (Hell Boy on your first night in Shanghai is a little wierd).
Today I have to find a SIM card for my phone, get a map, and check out the neighbourhood. (Oh, and write a column that I promised to file to the magazine before I left -- writing about Canadian business on my first day in Shanghai promises to be even wierder than Hell Boy.)

The Astor House Hotel --

Thursday, July 27, 2006


We're at the airport waiting for my flight. I could launch into a rant about Air Canada, because they've already ticked me off and we've only been here for a few minutes. But I'm going to remain calm, Lord knows I have enough other stuff to stress out about.
I woke up this morning and my first thought was "Six weeks, am I nuts?" Perhaps. I'm not wedded to staying away that long, and if things move fast I might come back early. No doubt Donna would love that, but she's been awesome in encouraging me to travel far and wide and explore the country. I'm really going to miss her.
Ok, it's time to go through security now. Next stop, Shanghai (after a gruelling 12-hour flight.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The first post

Greetings all.
At the suggestion of my great pal Jamie Dew I have poked my nose into the world of Blogs to document my upcoming trip to China and India.
This, of course, means none of you are getting post cards.
Instead with my trusty laptop and camera I'll aim to post as many photos and entries as I can during my travels.
As many of you know I'm generally awful at keeping in touch, so this could all go no where fast. But I'll do my best.

A test photo: yours truly en route to Oregon in our rented Mustang convertible. Whipeeee!