Photos from China, page 1 of 2

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      I had imagined mainland Chinese people to be humorless, boring, hard-working and preoccupied with just trying to survive in a cut-throat land of a billion others. When I crossed the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen I took an 8-hour bus up to Xiamen and this girl was working on the bus. She was a real nut, constantly goofing off and with such positive energy and aplomb at her thankless job I was taken aback. My assumptions were challenged and then quickly forgotten in short order because she was hardly unique, I soon learned.
      I could wax poetic about such a discovery being reason enough to travel, but I will spare you that for now.

      The famous Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong. This is the scariest building in the world. I never feel so close to death than when I am on even just the 3rd floor of this fire hazard. Few elevators, stairways going only a few floors before disappearing, filthy ventilation shafts, water dripping everywhere, dank, dark, decrepit, etc.
     Everytime I visit (it's THE place to change money and eat Indian food and I like to marvel that such a place exists in downtown Kowloon) I remember the Swedish guy who was staying at a guesthouse on the 11th floor when a fire broke out. He tried to escape by tying bedsheets together and rappelling down the side of the hotel, but they came apart and he died. He was the only one to die, as I recall, but no matter, I'd probably be doing the same thing. I can never bring myself to sleep here, and I have very low standards.
      You have to love their chutzpah: The best place to stay in town!

      Look at me in the lower left trying to be all artistic in Macau. This is Day One of 30-plus days in China and I don't remember seeing the sun once.             Another artsy photo in Shanghai.
      The old and the new. Ooooo...

      Monetarily I was running on fumes by the time I got to China so I was hardcore scroogish with my money. In a month of traveling I spent more than a dollar on a meal only a few times, but I rarely felt like I was slumming it. Basic food in China is quite good and eating in local places is fun. Initially I was hesitant to go into shady noodle dens, but walking into a restaurant brings out the entrepreneur in the Chinese and they would eagerly try and show me what they had to offer, language barrier be damned.
      These quasi dumplings are called siumay and I ate more than a rational man should. I believe these were 5 jiao each (6 US cents).
      I am ashamed that the only decent Chinese sentence I learned was, "Wo bu yao weijing" (I don't eat MSG).

      This is a closeup of sludgy grease on the walls above a restaurant in the old part of Shanghai. Look at how thick it is!
     This was the only time in China that I was shooed away from taking a photo.

      Laziness is the worst trait you can have and industriousness is sexy. At 9am in a park in Shanghai I saw 50 or so people ballroom dancing like this. This light-footed guy in the foreground was revelling in being in demand by all the women. As for the guy in the other photo, I have no idea what he is doing. Chinese have a refreshing lack of shyness in this sense.
      On the other hand, this also means they will take the paper out of your hand to see what you are reading, for example, but annoying things like that fade over time and instead you selectively remember stuff like the girl hula-hooping in the middle of the street and the old man rollerskating in figure 8's around drink bottles.

      Also in the lack-of-shyness category, sex shops aren't hidden away; they have open storefronts on the street as if they were clothing stores.             I would have preferred to have a picture of me instead of my backpack here, but everyone is in a mad rush to get on the train--despite most people having reserved seats--so I couldn't ask anyone.


      I think these signs show a difference between relatively more sophisticated Hong Kong and straight talking Shanghai.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong

      Some photos from my favorite place, Gulangyu island off of Xiamen. It's a great place to get acclimatized to China since there are no cars on the island and yet there is a community; the city doesn't totally go into hibernation when the tourists leave for the day. I only wish it didn't rain nearly constantly for 7 days. Also, AirAsia flies there directly from Bangkok for less than US$100, so you're set.
      When the girls running the hostel in Xiamen found out I like dumplings (because I like to say the name loudly--Jiao ZI!!) they organized a homemade jiao zi night where a bunch of us sat around and FEASTED! Hao Tzu, Hao Tzu!      
Go on to Page 2 of the photos.

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