Published: February 13th 2007February 9th 2007
Shanghai at night!
The east side of the river is uber modern since the government wants the city to surpass Hong Kong.
Ni Hao China! Delving into the depths of my memory I have tried to recall all the Mandarin that I learned from Ms. Chan back in the Hillcrest days. Damn but I wish I had paid more attention because the only thing I remember is how to say hello, goodbye, thank you, my name is Ryan and the numbers 1 through 7. For the first time since our days in Mexico English is useful only in rare occasions and I have no clue what the hell anyone is saying. In situations like these I am glad to have learned from the best at communicating with hand signals, gestures and poiting to words in a book: Jordan. Booking buses or train tickets I have resorted to just saying the name of the city, which thankfully is the same in both languages. I can put up one finger for one ticket, rest my head on my hands to say that I would like a sleeper even though I know there will not be one because it is Chinese New Years and a billion people are traveling to their homes, and I can write on a piece of paper what date I want it
Out and about!
In the countryside outside Yangshuo, just me, my bike and the mandarin orange fields.
for. The vender will try and tell me something, or ask me a question and you pretty much just have to guess at what they are trying to hint at and make an appropriate response. It adds to the fun and I love it! At hotels I have resorted to just pointing at one of their signs where the prices are listed with regular numbers thankfully, and then hold up the appropriate number of fingers for how many nights I want to stay.
These of course are in the worse case scenarios and there are a ton of young people who are learning English and who love to practice speaking it. These youths seem to all have taken up jobs in the hostel industry or as tour agents although the better speakers I have been told work at important positions for international companies Regardless, the people here have been extremely helpful whether they can speak english or not and they are all too willing to smile. Maybe it's because I am traveling on my own and look like a lost puppy half the time, or maybe it's because the government supposedly is very protective of foreigners, but I've got
A couple cool looking buildings in Guilin, supposedly one of China's most beloved city although I didn't see all that much special about it.
the feeling that people are looking out for me. The only real 'touts' (people who are friendly only to get your money) that I have encoutered so far that even resemble those in neighbouring countries were in the town of Yangshuo which reminds me of Whistler or Banff - lots of boutiques and restaurants catering towards tourists - set in a setting more like that of Hope. English was widely spoken here, although not very well, even though the place receives far more Chinese tourists than english speaking tourists. The other noticeable difference was that I would say 75% of the English tourists were actually English teachers who had been working in China for at least a year. They all have a month off in February and flock south to warmer temperatures. My path lie in the north, however, and after a few days relaxing in the beautiful mountain setting, biking out to the local villages and drinking with some of the teachers I hopped on a train for Shanghai.
Now at the best of times train tickets are hard to come by in China as over 10 million people are said to be riding the rails at any
Shanghai West side
Left over from the days of the British these buildings still house very posh restaurants, government buildings and shops.
. To acquire a hard or soft sleeper for a long train ride usually requires booking days in advance. As I said before though, Chinese New Year's is on the 16 of february so many people have taken time off to go visit their families around the country. Unlike our New Year's where people throw huge parties and go to clubs or bars, Chinese New Year's is more like our Christmas than anything else. Lonely Planet suggests to avoid being in China at all during this time of the year, but if you have to be in China to bunk down for a couple weeks while it roles over. Considering myself a hardened traveler I ignored all information and went ahead. The first real long train ride, from Guilin to Shanghai was, well it was interesting. I had only managed to get a hard seat and by the looks of the ticket vender, I was lucky at that. A hard seat is exactly as it sounds: hard, straight and does not recline in any way. On one side of the aisle are two seats facing each other, and on the other it's three seats. I was lucky enough to
Huge neon billboards cover almost all of the buildings in Shanghai. This boat with it\'s huge tv screen patrols up and down the river showing various commercials!
be seated with 9 older gentlemen who all seemed to have once known each other at one point in their lives and who had accidentally just come together on this train ride north. For the next thirty hours they chatted about this and that, laughing, playing cards and eating noodles. Luckily the train attendant was courteous enough to leave the lights and music on throughout the night so that the old men could re-acquaint themselves. Even better we had vendors coming through at all hours trying to sell pig noses, socks and gyroscopes that played a horrible version of happy b-day and glowed while they spinned. To the old men, this was the greatest invention ever and they asked for demonstration after demonstration trying to figure out how it worked. Oh the Joy! I read an entire Robert Jordan book on this train trip, having started it only the night before leaving! Yeah, I know.
I'm now in Shanghai which is a massive modern city with high rises everywhere. I took a stroll down the Bund - a term used to describe the river front area of the city - and became quickly enamored. Bright neon lights and huge
Packed and ready to be shipped and culled by those lovely folk at Extra Foods!
modern sky scrapers line the east side of the river, while on the west you can see the buildings of the colonial days when the British and the French had set up shop. Looks like I will have a week to really check the city out too because I went to buy a train ticket to Xi'an for the 15th and they just laughed at me. They didn't even have standing tickets until the 18th.
1) The roads and sidewalks are WAY wider here than they were in Hanoi, and there are far less scooters and almost no honking. Plus there are actually little green men, or red hands that tell you when it is o.k. to cross and when it is not. Ah the little things!
2) On every ride, be it train or bus, I don't think that it is possible to pass JUST countryside without at least one house being in it.
3) Aside from around Guilin and Yangshuo in the southwest the countryside has been flat and barren of any tree. Crops, small and big spread out as far as the eye can see. Until Guilin it was simply sugar
Even here some of the grey bombs are culled out. I was so sure they just sent us everything, crap included.
cane fields, and now it is more diverse with no one crop being of the majority.
4) Unlike vietnam there are western fast food chains, mostly KFC but McDonalds too. It's pretty much all I've had so far even though my stomach, and even fryan's stomach gringes after every meal. So tired of rice and noodles it's not even funny.