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China

Shanghai Part 2

rain 12 °C

The next morning is particularly wet, great to see the cyclists out in their mega ponchos. Today there is more walking, up to Jing’an and then across to Nanjing West Rd. Here I looked around, but there is nothing to grab me with excitement. I had read about AmyLin’s Pearls in the Fen Shin Accessories Plaza, and there was plenty there to go through. After a long search there was a great string of pearls for L, earrings for Mum, all sortsa stuff. The Plaza is three floors of clothing, bags, luggage and a few electronics things. All I could find was a Mao Purse for L. I’m not much of a shopper unless I have a particular object in mind.
After all this time on the shopping strip, I am happy to get away to the south to some pleasant plots of green near the intersection of the two elevated roads – Yan An and Nan Bei. Here the parks are not big, but they are very well set out and quite tranquil, despite all the traffic and everything else around. If it was dry, I could have stopped here a while longer.P1110443

P1110443


I thought I would go to an electronics “mall” to have a look at getting myself some headphones. The so called “mall” is four floors of stalls packed solid with deconstructed laptops, PCs, printers, etc, etc. The closest they have to headphones are used ones on a clothes line or empty beats by dr. dre boxes – the genuine article no doubt long gone. Not my place.
Just around the corner is my kind of place – a model shop. This is Xiangyang at 595 Nanchang Road. Everything is packed to the ceiling over 2 floors, mostly the Chinese (Trumpeter etc) and some other Asian companies.
I worked my way back to the French Concession, having a late lunch at Sichuan Citizen on DongHu Lu. At the time it is delicious, great soup and a spicy pork and chilli dish. In the end I had ordered way too much and had to waddle out. Just up Fumin Lu, I did my final ceramics shop and took all the loot back to the hotel. At this point i was a bit weary, so rested up for a short while before heading back out to the Bund.Bund at night

Bund at night


I started taking photos, but the Bund lights all get turned off fairly early, so soon I was standing there in the semi dark. At this time, plenty of touts start to appear, offering all sorts of services to single white males, and no doubt others too. There are some shops still open and in one of the big modern malls I buy myself a pair of headphones from Audio Technica. Head for home and bed. I nod off briefly before the Sichuan makes an appearance, and I spend the next six hours on and off the loo (fortunately ensuite) trying to purge it out. This is the only time I have had an issue with any food in China street stalls, countryside, anywhere and it only because my body cannot cope with the amount and concentration of the chillis from the Sichuan.
I have a late start in the morning after a tiring night. I leave tonight, so the bag is packed and left with reception. I head back to the Bund for a day time view, walking south past the Bund Observatory. From here head inland to the YuYuan gardens. All around here is very much a tourist area, packed full of souvenir shops and fast food places. Inside the gardens themselves there are still plenty of people, but the further you get into the gardens, there are some places where you can take a bit of a rest in a peaceful corner. So I enjoy the different tableaux with the 4 elements of Chinese gardens – Water, Plants, Pavilions and Rock, and how there are new views at each corner. And they have nice clean toilets which is important with my stomach still active.
At some point this morning I have put down the Shanghai Guide from the local library – $40 I don’t get to spend out here...yu yuan gardens

yu yuan gardens

in yu yuan garden

in yu yuan garden


From the Gardens I catch line 10 up to Tiantong Rd, and work my way east along the Suzhou River to the HuangPu and the Hyatt on the Bund. Again they are supposed to have an elevated bar with great views, but it is not open for another hour. Instead, I collapse into the tea room and do not much there for the next few hours, gathering my strength and having fragrant white tea. When the bar is open, I could not be arsed anyway, so I have more tea and a hamburger (something I know will not send my stomach off course.)
By the time I move, it is dark and I finally get to see the Bund at night, with the lights on. The photo tour over, I head back to the Old House Inn and saddle up my pack to head out to the airport. I am leaving from Pudong, so I have to head out on the Maglev from LongYand Rd station. It is smooth, and we get up to over 300km/h during the ride, so it does not take too long to get out there. At the airport, it is the last chance to buy up, but my remaining money will only stretch to a small panda and a pack of lollies. Once on the flight, I am quickly asleep.
In Singapore I buy a headphone to in flight converter, and it is a good investment, as I am on one of the new 777s back to Melbourne – big, clear screen on which I get through at least 4 movies!
And now back home and back to work after a great time away.

Posted by lostagain 05:33 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai part 1

overcast 20 °C

I have a good sleep in and am late down for breakfast, so just a light one today. I am in the French Concession area, and I start out by walking the neighbourhood and looking at some of the shops. Just here in FuMin Lu there are some great porcelain and ceramics shops, as well as Mrs. Mao’s Dowry where there are some modern souvenirs.
Head up along JuLu Rd to Brocade Country where there are some of the traditional crafts, particularly woven and embroidered fabrics from the Yunnan area. I can appreciate the craftsmanship, but they are not for me, or for anyone I know as souvenirs.
After this I kept walking across town. The streets are not crowded; there are lots of bicycles still, and loads of delivery vans. In the French Concession area, the streets are lined with plane trees so they are quite cool and green. It is not at all what I expected in my happy ignorance. I am working my way across town to The Former Residence of Dr Sun Yat Sen. Here I get to have a look at some of the history behind the 1911 uprising - a cause for special celebration on this, the centenary. There is plenty to see and English translations for the permanent exhibits. Next door in the residence itself, the rooms are well preserved (or restored?) showing that this was a modest residence that he lived in.Sun Yat Sen's Museum

Sun Yat Sen's Museum


For a break I see there are the Fuxing gardens next door. I head in and have a bit of a sit down. Here there are people spending their Saturday relaxing, playing mah-jongg or reversi. In other corners, families are having picnics on the grass (well rugged up though) and others are dancing to music being played. A very happy place for all concerned. Dancing in the park

Dancing in the park


Next stop is the old trendy alleyways in Taikang Lu’s Tianzifang where there is a real crowd, wall to wall people, this is more what I expected! There is plenty of stuff here, I pick up a Mao Slogan shopping bag, 110Yuan, not particularly cheap. I also head up to the Dongtai antique market and have a look around there. Not much I am set on, but some good fried samosa like thingies off a street cart keep the fires fed.
It is starting to get dark so I head over to Xintiandi. The place I am after here is Din Tai Fung. I arrive and there is a queue, but being a single I get through quickly to one of the small tables. I have read this is the place for great xiao long bao - a broth filled dim sum. They are good too, with the hot broth bursting into your mouth and mixing with the flavour of the pork or shrimp stuffing. BUT they are HOT and can burn the roof of your mouth if you are not careful. The meal has been really god, now it is late and I could do with rolling myself home.
The next morning I am down earlier so I get more breakfast, and a chat with a French family. Today I am off to the Shanghai museum, but I have learnt enough not to walk all the way there. So it is onto the metro and off to people’s square. Shanghai Museum does not look big from the outside; the entry atrium is a square, four floors high, with galleries off on each side. I have to select what I am going to look at, unless I can cycle through. There is a great display of traditional clothes from all the different regions, and a map showing just how many regions there are in modern China. The range of costumes is naturally wide, even including one suit of tanned salmon skins.Costume gallery in the Museum

Costume gallery in the Museum


The jade collection also has a great breadth of pieces on display, showcasing the increasing skills of the craftsmen over the aeons. The many uses of jade from funerary, ceremonial and decorative are all explored. It was complemented by the display of Maori green stone in the ground floor exhibition space. Next was the ceramics. And although some were not to my taste, there were a few porcelain bowls where the depth of colour in the glazes was just amazing.
After all this, I went quickly through the different collections, including painting, calligraphy, bronze, furniture and coins. Last stop was the museum shop where the souvenirs and reproductions are good, and not bad prices.
I watched the kites flying in the people’s square, and then spent some time in the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre. Here they have the Master plan of how Shanghai will look in 10 years time – and details of the plans for reducing pollution (move the coal burning power stations away from the city – no mention of cars?) Increasing the green spaces in the city, cleaning up the creeks and rivers, particularly the rotten Suzhou River. Having walked around part of town yesterday, there is still plenty of the old neighbourhoods being closed down and boarded up ready for the bulldozers and tower blocks to move in.Ready for the wrecking ball

Ready for the wrecking ball


From here I head across the Huangpu to the new side of Shanghai. At this point the plan is to decamp into the bar up on the 79th floor of the Grand Hyatt for dinner and drinks and watch the city change through sunset. At ground level, the sky looks quite blue and clean, but looking out of the hotel, the smog layer is very plain to see. Having paid for the view, I head back via the bund tourist tunnel, a very interesting if strange experience. Halfway across, the camera battery runs out, so the planned photo session on the Bund will not happen.up in the Hyatt bar

up in the Hyatt bar

bund by night

bund by night

Posted by lostagain 05:26 Archived in China Comments (0)

From Earthwatch to West Lake

semi-overcast 22 °C

Earthwatch and Amcor at Gutianshan

Earthwatch and Amcor at Gutianshan

T & J

T & J

After breakfast there are fond farewells to those who are staying on at the CRCC to continue their work, and the rest of us hop onto the bus. From here it is six hours on the bus to the airport, and an hour into Hangzhou by taxi for some of us. At the airport we bid a fond farewell to LH who is straight on the plane back to Singapore. We regroup at West lake, were some of the group are staying a few nights at a great looking hostel, down a street behind 103 NanShan Rd(opposite the Porsche dealer) that gets to the edge of West lake.
From here we have a very pleasant promenade along the lake shore, heading north through the gardens, over bridges and through pavilions. It is hard to say if there is an afternoon mist on the water, or if it smog from the factories in the area, but I am having no problem breathing. It is easy to see why this has been regarded as an area of natural beauty for over a thousand years. It must be famous, it’s on the one yuan note.On the far shore there are wooded hills with tall pagodas rising over the trees. On the lake there are traditional small boats plying their trade, larger modern tour boats and lots of McDonald’s wrappers.At West Lake

At West Lake


The area is very picturesque and could use a lot more time than I have available. We head south along NanShan Rd, turning east onto HeFang St (Turn at Orioles Singing in the Willows (East Gate) or the Aston Martin showroom and you will be right). HeFang St is not much to look at early on, but after a while you reach the Wushang Square (not great in itself) where there is a view up the hill to the City God Pavilion. Here also start the stalls lining the street before you go through a large gate into the tourist shops area. There is loads of stuff here to pick up for souvenirs at any price point you can imagine. We all wander up the street until the reminder goes out that we have not had any lunch today. So Justin locates us a restaurant and we stuff our faces again. Then it was back to the shops to spend a few more red ones (100yuans) but pretty restrained overall. Then it is time for me to leave the group, so there are some very fond farewells, and I head off to the train station.The shopping street

The shopping street


Following Emily’s directions, I get to the train station and get a ticket. The ticket hall for Hangzhou station is way outside the station, and is a mass of people trying to get through. I spy another whitey, so I go to where he is, in a very short queue, way out on the right hand end of the hall. This seems to be the foreigner’s line as we are dealt with quickly and by someone with great English (and French, for him). I head through the crowds and into the express train, in first class at 301km/h.
After a quick journey I am in Shanghai and I get lost searching for my hotel. Well, I am in the spot that I think I want to be, but the place I am trying to be is not the place I am supposed to be. I am trying to get to point 10 on the map, but the hotel is at point 16, so when I get directly to point 10, point 16 is not there. A bit of help from the locals see me work out the problem (me). I soon find my way to the Old House Inn, which is very hospitable, and I have asmall comfy single room just fine for me. Slight problem with the bed side light which turns off when I stand on just the right floorboard.Comfy single room at the Old House Inn

Comfy single room at the Old House Inn

Posted by lostagain 05:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

Earthwatch week 2

sunny 24 °C

The next couple of days we head back out into the forest plots. We first get to climb up to pick up leaf debris out of the sample catchers in our first plot. Again scrambling around is necessary on the steep slopes to get around. We have dropped T off the roster as she is a bit crook. It takes us all morning to do one plot. When we head down, Jiang Shi Fu heads up to do the dreaded plot 12 afterwards. We are told it is too much for us, but he is done and back down in the time it takes us to wander back to the lodge. Back out to plots 8 and 9 to continue on leaf litter.lunch at plot 12

lunch at plot 12


We get to head way up the mountain to plot 12 and do wood debris surveys. The steepness of the plot, T being crook and LH unsteady on the slope, this is much slower work than some of the earlier plots. We are slipping, sliding and scrambling all over the place. T is no better, so she is helped down by Mr Jiang, L and Ad after lunch in the field. We keep on working through, and make our weary way down the mountain at the end, helping LH down.
The next day we do not let T up and out - she is not given the option, despite her objections. Different work today we are surveying standing dead wood. This is slow work, sorting through every trunk and checking if it is still living, even though this is one of the ‘flatter’ plots. For the last time we head down the mountain, leading LH and her sore leg down the steep bits. After lunch we leave LH and T looking after each other whilst we do lab work.
During these days we have plenty of things going on, with LH giving Chinese lessons, going for dawn walks, sitting around talking, drinking beer and sharing our experiences. We get to watch more climate change documentaries, including No Impact Man, Home and Wake Up, Freak Out. These all reinforce the need for action to start now, and be as big as possible. Earthwatch has this effect on people

Earthwatch has this effect on people


The second last night, we head out to Mr Jiang’s for dinner. He is one of the rangers working with the research team and has been essential in helping us in the field and the lab. When we head out to his place for dinner, it is a lesson in low impact living. All of the food we eat has been grown by the family in their garden, the only stuff bought in was the fish and the pork. And it was the best food I had eaten in China, great flavour and texture. And Mr Jiang had the big bottle of myrtle plums soaking in wine. He served this up and it was very smooth, sweet and flavoursome and I lapped it up. We ate dinner with Mr Jiang, his wife and granddaughter, a great night.Dinner at Mr Jiang's

Dinner at Mr Jiang's

It's my plum liquor, mine

It's my plum liquor, mine


On the last day T is much better, and we all spend the morning in the lab, before walking around and saying goodbye to the support staff, students and researchers who had been our guides over the last fortnight. We have the summing up of our fortnight and run down on the results of the past five years of research – the big takeaway is that Primary forests are nearly twice as productive as plantations, and support a much greater range of flora and flora. And we are the best ever lab team! Go US!!
We spend the remainder of the afternoon sharing around all our photos and doing the final packing of our belongings and loot. Dr Pei takes us to the village where I pick up the army uniform that most of the locals use out in the field. He also picks up a big cake for Anna’s birthday, more of that later...
A pleasant tipple

A pleasant tipple

Drs Ren and Pei - thank you

Drs Ren and Pei - thank you

At the final dinner we give out Amcor gifts to the all the lovely folks here who have made this fortnight a very special time. After this we head over to the HSBC common room to do a (kinda) haka for every one there, as taught by T, and to sing happy birthday to Anna. The cake is a massive confection with loads of cream, fruit, icing flowers and topped off with a lotus flower candle. The celebrations all go very well until the cream from the cake starts to fly around the room... The Amcor contingent beat a strategic retreat to our own celebration. There may have been one or two drinks, because Angus went red again, but not too many as Ren, R, L and I are left discussing the work at the CRCC until past midnight.
Happy birthday Anna

Happy birthday Anna

Posted by lostagain 04:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

Weekend around Gutianshan

sunny 22 °C

After a light breakfast, we head out to the Wuyuan tourist village area. We are travelling mainly on local roads and the curves, bumps, braking and swaying all add up to me being sick. All motion sickness, honest injun. Feel much better straight away and as soon as we are off again with me in the front seat the road straightens, but too late for me.
We arrive at the village and have a nature break, and the state of the toilets is breathtaking. Inside the village there is nothing but trinket shops lining the main laneway, which is about 1.2 metres wide. The shops have stuff along two or three limited lines. If you want bracelets, fans, combs, necklaces, compacts, weapons, carvings, tea and stonework you are in luck. We have a quick look around before lunch. Lunch is in a little restaurant just off the main drag, and we have pleasant food not unlike we are getting at most meals.
We head out to the actual village. There are a number in the Wuyuan area. There is a long walk through rustic fields draped with electricity lines to the village. We head past the village dam and into the village proper. There are some buildings that look just the same as most we have seen throughout China, but also some older places. These have not been renovated or lived in for a while which adds to their atmosphere. We wander around looking at the houses, photographing the people and each other.
J in Wuyuan

J in Wuyuan

Courtyard

Courtyard

LH in Wuyuan

LH in Wuyuan

P at Wuyuan

P at Wuyuan

It is pleasant but there are new modern houses being built right amongst the old ones which seems odd as they try to encourage tourists. There are some early wooden houses, then some more elaborate stone buildings too. It is a very pleasant interlude, but it is time to risk the shopping lanes again. With all the little stores selling tat, if you show interest at one, you get hassled at every stall to buy more of the same. I did come out with a few purchases, but not nearly as much as L who came back with a sword and a massive jewellery box – he will be in the good books. Stuff here is cheap, even at their first price, which can then be bargained down, but I keep thinking how much stuff we have at home, why get more just because it is a bargain?
So we head back to Gutianshan and the hotel in time for a wash up before dinner. The bus trip back is decidedly easier than coming out in the morning...
Sunday is a free day and we start off after breakfast up to the Observation tower, Dr Pei tells us he can get up in 30 minutes. We start off and it is quickly apparent that it is going to take us longer.
Taking a breather

Taking a breather

The track is an impressive construction of stone steps which ascends 325m in 900m length! We are very impressed with the people who hauled all the stone for the 1000 steps into place, then more impressed with those who hauled the 250kg concrete power poles up there. After an hour and 15 minutes, we reach the top and the observation tower. I cannot describe how good the view was from the tower...because the bloody thing was locked!
R leads the way

R leads the way

P and Angus at the observatory

P and Angus at the observatory

After discussing how to take out our frustration, we settled for sitting at the bar out the front, drinking water and eating snacks. The climb down was quicker, especially as we have lunch waiting for us.
After lunch we get domestic and do washing and since it is Sunday, crack a beer.
Getting relaxed, LH breaks the mood when she reminds us this is cooking day. Between us and the HSBC crowd, we are taking over the kitchen to provide meals for both teams.
This proves to be chaos with too many cooks. LH is guiding our team in our endeavours, and despite my help, we are quite productive and have all our dishes finished only 30 minutes later than normal service time. The HSBC teams who started after us seem to have chosen more elaborate dishes and as a result we are finally sitting down for dinner at 8pm! The final meal though is great with loads of different meals from all the different countries represented by the teams.chef!

chef!

Posted by lostagain 05:21 Archived in China Comments (0)

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