adventures in the people's republic of china and beyond

Saturday, November 25, 2006


The Frozen Northlands

I did it! I survived my 26-hour travel ordeal and arrived in Kingston, Canada!

Overnighting in O'Hare

From El Paso, I flew to Dallas, then Chicago, then stayed overnight for 8 hours, then flew to Buffalo, then took a taxi to the downtown bus terminal, then got on a long-distance bus, which headed to the Canadian border.

Pssh, Canadian border. Come on, I've been over the North Korean one, and illegally, at that.

I was then hassled by Canadian border authorities who asked me if (a) I had ever met the girlfriend I was visiting (b) how long I had known her (c) if I had a job (d) what my major in university was (e) why I didn't have a return bus ticket and (f) if I was carrying any firearms on my person. What gives? I've never been hassled that much crossing borders before, not even in China(where the guy just stamped my papers and let me through). In fact, the North Korean border crossing was probably the most hassle-free one I've had the pleasure of experiencing.

The Canadians let me through anyway, and from there it was a three-hour bus ride to Toronto, where I stopped for an hour and got colorful Canadian money and a hot dog. I also saw TONS of Asians, more than I've ever seen in any North American city. Everyone up in Canada seemed to be so...fashionable, with their black winter coats and elaborately tied scarves.

Niagara falls was cool, but not cool enough that I would want to spend more than like five minutes passing by on a bus there.

Would you let this scruffy looking guy enter your country without hassling him?

My first time in a major North American city!

Another three-hour bus ride, and we pulled into the Kingston bus terminal, where I was greeted by my darling Rebecca.

Canada in late November is really not as cold as I thought it would be(today it's 32 degrees outside). Wearing my jacket is usually quite enough, and I have plenty of sweaters to wear if it gets colder. I think New Mexico can feel colder at times because of the windchill, but I do need gloves here in Canada.

Yeah yeah, all the way in Kingston ,Canada, representin' LAS CRUCES!

Kingston is really quite a nice town, compared to Las Cruces anyway. The downtown area feels very lively, with lots of people walking around and lots of nice little shops. There's also lots of international cuisine here: we've already had Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese food, and we saw Cambodian, Greek, Arabic, and Indian restaurants around, all within walking distance.

Kingston downtown

It's North America all the same, but it's so different: the houses are multistory and made of brick, there are lots of trees around with their leaves fallen off...I even get to wear a scarf! it feels like I'm in one of those movies set in northern North America, you know?

Scarves are soooooo cool, and everyone up here wears them. I feel like I'm on the set of a Korean TV drama or something. BaeYongJoon, watch out!

Alright, that's all for now. Greetings from Rebecca and Pravit!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Farewell to the old

After parting with my instructors and classmates at UIR, we headed off to the train station to board our Z-train to Shanghai.

As soon as we stepped into the "Soft Seat Waiting Room", we knew this was going to be a different experience from our train ride to Dandong.


And how! Comfy seats, lots of legroom, stewardesses with cool headset things, seperate handwashing rooms, western-style toilets, and get this: the toilets had FREE TOILET PAPER! I only figured this out after trying to go to the bathroom(which was locked before departure) twice, carrying a big roll of toilet paper in my hand as I walked down the aisle. I guess I would feel pretty weird doing that now, but it felt perfectly normal over there.

Inside a Z-train!

As soon as the train pulled into Shanghai, you could see ramshackle old houses next to the tracks with the 折(it's a character meaning "demolish") mark on them, and in the background, huge, glittering skyscrapers. You can tell the difference as soon as you get out of the train station - you feel like you're in the middle of Manhattan or something.

We were about to walk across the road through oncoming traffic as we usually would, but were stopped by a man holding a rope to stop would-be jaywalkers!! Later on, we noticed some people waiting for the signal to cross a narrow two-lane street with absolutely no traffic around. Apparently the Shanghainese actually obey walk signals.

Really, it's not such a bad idea. People walking in front of cars in Beijing is one of the major causes of traffic jams there.

We stayed at Sun Island resort, a half-hour drive from Shanghai. Owned by a distant relative of mine I've never met before who was nice enough to let us stay the entire week for free. Hey, when you're Chinese, you're family!

Introducing the new Volvo G300.

The Shanghainese are so pedestrian-conscious that, in addition to employing the above mentioned anti-jaywalking guys, they also build escalators for walkovers.

Foreign shops in Xintiandi.

The subway in Shanghai is way cleaner and more modern than the Beijing one, but where's the heart? Also, you can buy tickets using a computer vending machine, which half of the people around here don't know how to use either, so don't feel embarassed. You may even receive a hands-on tutorial from some impatient guy behind you in line!

In the future, subways will have Chinese bakeries...wait, the future is today!

It's almost impossible to get these machines to accept bills, so you have to use coins, which you will be short of if you've been living in Beijing(for some reason, they rarely use coins there).

Shanghai skyline.

The Shanghai museum has lots of cool exhibits of ancient bronzes, porcelain, and calligraphy, among other things. Definitely recommend it.

It's a pillow! Made out of porcelain! And shaped like a little kid!

Outside of the museum, some guy congratulated me for having a foreign girlfriend. I took this picture to celebrate.

Nanjing Donglu is a pedestrian shopping street.

A commercial! We ran into these people in two different places! We also ran into this one foreign couple in two different places.

Obligatory "We took a picture in front of the bubble tower" Shanghai pic. I think it's a nice one. By the way, the area behind us(Pudong) was boggy farmland until 1990.

And, for your enjoyment, the same place, but at night!

Views of the Bund. These buildings were all built by foreign powers during the colonial era. Pretty, huh?

The Peace Hotel, a stunning example of Art Deco architecture. I only know that it's Art Deco because the Lonely Planet guide told me so. On the right, another view of the Bund.

View from the top of Jinmao tower, the tallest building in the PRC. Unless you count the Taipei 101. Because Taiwan is totally a part of the PRC, and you know it! Next pic is on the ground, looking up at the tower.

Inside the Jinmao tower, looking down from the 88th floor observatory.

Yuyuan gardens. Tons of Japanese tourists in here.

Xiaolongbao are to Shanghainese cuisine as Goethe is to German literature. In other words, it's all you ever hear about, but it's not THAT great.

Zhujiajiao, a "canal town". Filled with foreigners wearing conical "rice farmer" hats. I think I like the look of this sunhat on Rebecca better, though. I was a bit more attentive to the color of Rebecca's clothes this time, you see!

Zhouzhuang, another "canal town", with an exorbitant 100yuan(12 bucks) entrance fee. We thought of sneaking in(what's an unsecured canal town to the NORTH KOREAN BORDER?!), but decided on just taking some pictures and leaving instead.

And so it was on a rainy Sunday at the Shanghai train station that they parted, she to the west, and he to the east...

So that's it. I'm done. I had an awesome trip to China, and hope to return soon.

Until next time!

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