A Travellerspoint blog

A couple of museums


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After completely ruining my Wednesday, I had a new mission to see as much as possible in the time left. So, I delved into the Shanghai Museum and the Urban Planning Museum, which was full of futuristic propaganda leftover from some expo they had done a few years ago.

The other museum was massive, but very familiar to me, as it had the same layout and contents as every other provincial capital museum, except this one was much larger. I especially enjoyed the minority exhibit on the top floor. I should've started at the top instead.

I was famished, so I got me some real Shanghai dumplings at Yang's nearby. I stil had a little energy left, so I went down to see the "Coo Docks" described as a "backwater" in the guide book.

After being sent the wrong way by some sort of security guard, I got extremely lost around a subway construction site. Finally, I found it, walked around for a few minutes and then went home, predictably unimpressed.

Posted by baixing 02:04 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai Happy Hour International Hostel is violent!


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I was informed at the last minute, of course, about a five day vacation which resulted from the school's sports week. I made a quick decision to go to Shanghai and check off two of Lonely Planet's top 30 things in China. The Bund and the French Concession.

So, after class on Tuesday, I went down to the train station with my expired passport and hoped to get a ticket. My passport was still in Beijing, on its way to me, hopefully to arrive in the evening. I surprisingly got a ticket for 10 p.m. and went back home where my passport was just arriving. How lucky! I went straight back to the train station and slept all the way to Shanghai.

As soon as I woke up, a woman selling noodles was walking by. How lucky again!

I was not looking forward to tromping all the way to my hostel when I arrived at rush hour. They had already tricked me into booking with them by listing a really cheap price, however, the fine print stated that I could only have that price on my birthday. Since it was not my birthday, I called booking.com's customer service and they changed my reservation to a more regular price of 55 yuan, which is fine, but I don't like being tricked. Just goes to show, if it's too good to be true, it probably is!

Here's the email I sent to Booking.com to which they responded with a very feeble apology and did not remove the hostel from their website.

First off I booked this hostel's very cheap "birthday rate" not knowing what it was. When I read the fine print I realized I could only get the discount if it was my birthday. Since it was not my birthday, I realized I needed to change the booking. It was non-refundable, so I talked to "Mehdi" at the "Genius" customer service number. He changed my booking to a single bed in a dormitory and changed the price to 55 CNY per night and I was happy with that. I had read the reviews and clarified with him that this was indeed a bed and NOT a sofa bed. Which I would not accept. He assured me it was not a sofa bed and then told me to call back if there's a problem.

When I got there, of course, they told me I had to sleep on the sofa bed at this rate. I refused and asked to borrow the phone so I could call booking.com again. I was on hold for a very long time and the receptionist became angry and demanded his phone back. My phone didn't have much money on it, so I needed to use the hostel's phone to resolve this issue. Twice I refused to give him the phone and twice he violently pulled and grabbed at my arm to try and rip the phone back from me. He screamed that it was his phone.

At this point I needed to find another hotel but my iPod's battery was about to die. I plugged it in and then used their wifi. This man began to push and hit me out of the way and then ripped my plug out of the socket. It was at this point that I started screaming and hitting back. I needed to use the wifi to find a new place.

He took my bag which I had left on the floor and threw it out into the hallway. Then he shoved me into the door, which I resisted and shoved back. Eventually he shoved me out into the hallway and turned off the wifi so that I was completely screwed out of even finding a new hostel.

I reported everything to the police. They told me this hostel is illegal and I hope they will press charges.

Here's the sofa bed that I refused to sleep on
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Luckily, I had the address of the new place the woman at booking.com told me about. Thank God they were there. I put my stuff down and went to the police station.

It took them forever to take my statement, but at that point I didn't care anymore, I just wanted this guy to get fired or for the police to shut them down.

When I finally got back to the new hostel, I decided it was time for a trip to the Bund to have a fancy dinner. I needed to revive the day. Hakkasan was a highly rated place right on the river and they had a simple tasting menu which was awesome, because I wasn't in the mood to think anymore at that point.

So I took a well deserved shower, got dressed up and went down there. I was seated at a small window table facing the river.

Here's my review of the restaurant;
I had a terrible day so I went to hakkasan to try and revive my evening. It helped a bit for sure, but there were some elements of disappointment. I was seated at a nice window table beside an obnoxious family who gave their toddler a spoon to play drums with. I politely asked them to stop their son, but they didn't. I requested to move to another table, which caused me to lose my place at the window. It would've been nicer if staff had respectfully asked the parents to control their child. But fine. Chinese saving face yadda yadda.

(I forgot to ask his name) A kind manager reseated me and I told him about my day. He made me a complimentary mojito for my troubles and that was very appreciated. I didn't think the food was that amazing, maybe I ordered the wrong thing. I had the duck salad and cod from the tasting menu. I didn't realize the cod was all the way from Alaska, I mentioned that I regretted ordering it to the manager because id rather have local food, but he didn't offer to change the order. Fine I guess, again. It was good, but I've had better in Macau of course. The lemon pot for dessert was a lot better than expected i really enjoyed all the different tastes in the pot, sweet sour crunchy chewy, perfect.

I want to give it 4.5 stars but I can't so I'm giving this only 4 stars because of the women's uniform. I thought the dresses the more "attractive" women had to wear were sexist. I noticed only the more "Chinese" looking women wore them. The darker skinned, shorter women dressed all in black t shirts and pants as the men did. And they were given less "glamorous" jobs. Please correct me if my assumption on this is wrong, but from my perspective it looked really bad.

After dinner, I walked around for a couple hours then came back to the hostel exhausted and ready to do it all again the next day.

Posted by baixing 01:47 Archived in China Tagged shanghai Comments (1)

Wangkou, the first of many quiet villages in Wuyuan


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The teachers' shuttle bus got me to Qingshan bus station after work. I was pretty sure there wouldn't be a bus leaving until tomorrow, but I tried anyway. A retired international business professor sat down beside me and she spoke quite fluent English. It was surprising, I can't say I've met any older women speaking any English ever, in three years in China. My enthusiasm for meeting her was extinguished however, when she said that having twin boys is preferable to girls. (We were taking about another foreign teacher who had brought his twin baby boys to China).

Like I suspected, there were no buses leaving for Wuyuan until Saturday morning at 9, so I bought a ticket and went home.

The next day, I finally got to Wuyuan by lunchtime, and I went straight to Wangkou, hoping I could find the hostel I saw on Ctrip. I won't be using Booking.com ever again, and you'll see why in subsequent blog posts from Shanghai. The way they dealt with a violent situation, was less than satisfying.

I didn't book the hostel because I try not to use my credit card when I can pay in the local currency. Unfortunately Ctrip doesn't operate the same way as Booking.com, so I will be taking my chances again, just showing up and paying in cash. Of course, the hostel was full, so I lumbered back down to the road to find another one. They made me lunch of bamboo and weird leafy things. They laughed when I ordered two beers, and then brought me to a super cute room on the river. We ran there, and I was confused until I realized we were hiding from the guards that charge 60 yuan to get into the village. I went to bed early, enjoying the warm sunset from my twee window.

I woke up super early, took a shower, and strolled around with a warm tea, as the village was waking up. I lost all my photos because either my camera or my SD card is broken. I got a new one, as you shall see in the future.

Across the bridge, through the mist, there was a riverside hike that ended abruptly under a collapsed tree. That was also really peaceful.

I watched a couple of women do laundry in the freezing river, and then went home. It turns out the Lonely Planet was wrong again. I even had the 2017 version this time. I got back to Wuyuan in time for the so-called 10 a.m. bus to Nanchang, but found out it didn't leave until 2 p.m. I made the best of it and took a nap in the park by the river. Also enjoyable, although not ideal.

Posted by baixing 20:37 Archived in China Tagged wangkou Comments (0)

Ancient Yaoli Village

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I took the teachers' shuttle bus downtown right after class on Friday afternoon. This worked out pretty good because it dropped me off just down the street from the main bus station. Of course, I had to have some beer and noodles at a little restaurant before I left. Then, after three hours snoozing on the bus, I found myself at the most disgusting binguan I've ever seen. I was too tired to change it, so I just slept in the tiny room with mouldy bathroom and musty smelling blankets. It was only 50 yuan, I didn't argue.

I woke up at around 4:30 a.m. and left as soon as possible. It was so warm and strange feeling in there, I was glad to get out into the cool morning. I walked across town for an hour or so, to what I thought was the bus station for Yaoli. It turned out they had changed it and the bus left from another bus station now. However, a couple of retired school teachers had made the same mistake and were getting into a taxi which would take us directly there.

At first, I wanted to stay at the binguan in the Lonely Planet, but then when she asked for way more money than is quoted in the book, I declined. I found another one a few steps away for 100 yuan and decided that was good enough. I had a cozy little attic with a nice duvet and a view onto the roofs.

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I was too tired to do any meandering at that point, so I took advantage of my nice bed and had a little nap and listened to some podcasts. It was peaceful and nice.

When I got up, it was time for lunch so I wandered around and took some photos of all the little animals and old stuff around town.
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I met some cute art students who were painting there for a whole week. They helped me order some amazing chewy rice cakes. Love them.
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I was still sick so I felt like sleeping some more, and skipping the ancient kiln, 3 kilometres up the road. I didn't feel like buying a ticket and sniffling my way there at all. So I woke up again at night time and saw that the bridge was lit up, that was nice.

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I bought some osmanthus wine. It was made from the flowers that look like this.
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Probably not from that exact tree, but that was interesting. It wasn't very strong but it was tasty.

The next day it was raining like crazy. I took a lot of buses to get back home again. Yaoli is a very peaceful and restful place.

Posted by baixing 19:54 Archived in China Comments (0)

Sculpture museum

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I met up with Shylo and her dad at the sculpture museum in the morning. It's a new place, built right underneath the city walls. Most of the walls are brand new, but you can see original fragments of it inside this museum. I thought it was really great. It was a cavern full of boundark pushing work, done by art students from around the country.
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We walked back to the train station and had lunch at East Wheat. I guess it's mandatory in Datong. Ha. I had something called Mama Rice, it was pretty good, but took a while to prepare. By the time I picked up my bag at the hotel, it was time to get back on the train.

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We played heads up, which is hilarious, and I'm sure we annoyed everyone in the whole car with our antics. I think I slept for three hours on the way back, and finally we made it to the Marriott right beside the train station. It was real nice to finally have a soft bed and decent shower for once, haha.

I said goodbye to Shylo and her dad in the morning and took the fast train all the way home to Nanchang. It was a really fast, but really great trip.

Posted by baixing 19:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

Heng Shan and Hanging Monastery

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We booked a driver through the hostel downstairs from us and went to the Hanging Monastery and Heng Shan with him. I thought it wasn't really worth the trip because there are a ton of temples in the sides of cliffs that don't require a driver to see. The thing about this temple is that it sticks out and is balanced on wooden beams.
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It started out cool, but then became really hot once the sun came out from behind the clouds. At Heng Shan, I didn't really feel much like hiking, but we went up to the main temples and it was alright.

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Finally, I got the Shanxi noodles and found Jimmy again at the bottom of the hill. We had been texting all day, unable to meet up until the end of our trip.

When we got back to the hotel, Shylo got another place because the shower really sucked in ours. It was far away and I didn't feel like tromping around looking for another hotel, so I stayed put. I think Shylo felt bad about it, but I tried not to take it personally even though it stung a little bit.

I met up with Jimmy and his friend for some street snacks and mahjong. Something I had been trying to learn (and failing at) for a long time.

Posted by baixing 19:23 Archived in China Tagged datong Comments (0)

Datong and the Yungang Grottoes

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We slept alright on the train, but Shylo had contracted my illness and I felt terrible about it. It was an awful flu that I wouldn't wish on anyone. We found our hotel thanks to a friendly guy with a smart phone. Then, we went to Yungang Grottoes. I had been there before, but I thought it was a really special place, so I went again. There were a few new paths and some newly renovated caves that weren't open last time.

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On the bus back to town I met a friendly Chinese guy named Jimmy. He wanted to go around with us the next day to Heng Shan and the Hanging Monastery.

After another feeble shower and a nap, we went to the old city and wandered around some more, looking for Shanxi shaved noodles. We found one place, but there was a huge line. Eventually we settled on the "make your own" soup.

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Posted by baixing 19:15 Archived in China Tagged datong Comments (0)

Summer Palace

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We went to the Summer Palace and I had never been there before, so I was really glad about that. It was teeming with people and the number of boats on the lake seemed infinite. Shylo finally got her fancy tea (for 200 yuan!) and that also became the running joke of the trip.
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We went back to pick up our bags and decided to head down to Ghost Street for dinner, where the number and size of restaurants is incredible. We had some barbecue again and went back to the train station for our midnight train to Datong.

Posted by baixing 19:03 Archived in China Tagged beijing summer_palace Comments (0)

Meeting up with Ranald

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Shylo and her dad got up early and I just couldn't do it. They went off on their own for the day. I had a leisurely breakfast and snoozed in bed until Ranald made his way down to my hotel. We went back to the same hutongs I was in last night, to find Mr. Shi's dumplings, supposedly the best in town, but I wasn't too impressed. The creative flavours like curry and fruit were interesting, but they were really expensive. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Punk Rock Noodle with some equally overpriced microbrew and then I headed back to find Shylo and "Uncle Joe" waiting up in the room.

I found out the Forbidden City was sold out for the day and Mao's mausoleum was closed. I think they still had a good day looking around at Tienanmen Square etc.

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We had some barbecue and beer at a beer garden on Wangfujing and called it a night.

Posted by baixing 18:49 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

Back to Beijing again

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We all woke up early again and took the bus back to Beijing. I had learned how to use Baidu Maps specifically for this trip, because Google is so terrible and often totally wrong in China. I don't mind if I get lost, but I didn't want to lead anyone off the edge of a cliff, especially if they only had a few days to enjoy China. On top of that, I also didn't want them to leave frustrated from a place that deserves more love than it gets. So, the bus connections were fine and I don't remember getting too lost at any point (more than the normal amount anyway).

Back in Beijing, we stopped for a coffee, checked in, and went to the Lama and Confucius Temples. I waited for them at the Lama temple after going to the bank and getting the aforementioned hawthorn candies for a snack.
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Afterwards, I talked Shylo out of getting some fancy tea, and it became sort of a joke later. I felt bad, so we stopped in at a cat cafe instead.
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Then we walked around the completely tourist-swamped hutong area, where we got hot pot since it was cold enough for that. Another running joke of the trip. Ha. We walked all the way back to our hotel and had a good sleep.

Posted by baixing 18:28 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

Crouching Tiger is a no go...


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All of us woke up crazy early and Shylo noticed some blood droplets on her sheets! We immediately started looking for bed bugs, but found none. When her dad woke up, we saw he had a large, fresh cut on his elbow. Definitely the cause of the droplets, mystery solved.

We had breakfast with a couple of exchange students living in Hong Kong for a few months. The German one was confused about which mountain she had hiked and wasn't useful at all. She was also telling me my Chinese should be better, and didn't believe that Chinese people eat candied hawthorn, not tomatoes, on sticks at every street corner. I've only eaten a million of them, I can't imagine anyone would even try to assert anything about food they've never tried, but I digress.

We wandered around until we found our way to the trailhead. The stairs by our farmstay were sternly guarded by elderly women under umbrellas. Another woman at another entrance also told us the mountain was closed for National Week, because it would get too busy. We walked back dejected, but then found a group of people in a van who also tried to talk their way onto the mountain. We followed them back to the coiling dragon trail when all their attempts also failed.

For a while, we walked with them, my "nose rag" in hand, sopping up the horrible mucus dripping out of my face all day long. Shylo and her dad wanted to hike from end to end, but I just couldn't do it, so I waited in a dusty tower for them to return. I did however, manage to keep up with them to the other end of the trail. An endless serpentine path of repetitive watchtowers and hills, until we found ourselves back at the parking lot. I was completely drained, but surprised I made it. On the other hand, there was no way to really make a short cut back, so I didn't have a choice but to slowly tromp on, and finish the entire thing anyway.
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They were the best two popsicles I ever had in my life.

Shylo and her dad still seemed to have energy, so they went off watching people fish and stopping at a wedding after dinner.
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Meanwhile, I collapsed into bed after a long scrub down in the feeble shower.

Posted by baixing 18:03 Archived in China Tagged gubeikou Comments (0)

Back to Beijing and third time at the Great Wall

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  • **MOST PHOTOS FROM THIS TRIP ARE STOLEN FROM SHYLO***

I took the train on Thursday night to do some resident permit stuff in Beijing. Shylo and her dad were meeting me in the early evening at their hotel. I waited for three hours in the police station with Sheila, who I hate, so that was awkward. I spent the whole time trying to be pleasant so that she wouldn't suddenly stop helping me switch all the paperwork over to my new job.

Shylo's plane landed at around 3:30 p.m. and that's about the time we got out of there. So, I slowly made my way to the hotel, the Wangfujing Crowne Plaza. It was very swanky, but I sat in the lounge for about four hours, listening to a piano player who only knew five songs. I was getting a little stir crazy, so I called my mom at about 6 a.m. her time, in case someone had called her with anynews. I didn'tknow when I should start panicking.

Finally they arrived and it felt so strange to see them in my hemisphere. It was a disjointed feeling. Anyway, we went out to get some duck, but I got lost of course, and it was closed by the time we got there. Disappointed, we stopped at the next open one, and it wasn't half bad. We took the subway home exhausted. I forgot just how far away everything actually is in Beijing. It's pretty tiring there.

I started feeling feverish and sick that night, sniffling and freezing. I had to turn off the air conditioner and huddle with hot water in my bottle, while everyone else sweated in the warm room all night. Sorry.

We all woke up really early but Shylo was the one to get us going. We had breakfast on the run, Shylo and Mr. Pruyn's first tofu crepe wrap thing. It was great.

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We made it out to our small farm stay by 10 ish. The owner wasn't there, so Shylo and her dad wandered around while I took a nap on this random lady's couch. I had a full on flu/cold at that point. After they came back, the owner still wasn't there, so we went out again together to the coiling dragon section of the great wall.

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The undulating hills looked like the back of a dragon with towers and turrets sticking up all along the ridge, like the dragon's spikes and scales. I was about to die of illness, so I just waited for them at the bottom , passed out on a rock beneath a spindly tree.

We got back to the hotel and had a homecooked dinner of beef, potatoes and tofu, along with lots of vegetables. I must've went to bed at 5 or 6 p.m., I was so tired. The others went soon after me. I was exhausted and worried about climbing another, taller mountain the next day, Crouching Tiger Mountain.

Posted by baixing 17:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

A couple of lakes

On Saturday, I felt a bit better so I went on a very gentle 10km walk around Qingshan Lake. It had been severely polluted in the past, but lately they have cleaned it up and it's now quite pleasant. There are a few parts which are annoyingly full of speeding cars, but most of it was nice to walk around.
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The next day Leona took me out to Xiang Lake where there are tons and tons of lotus flowers. We rented a four person bike and pedalled slowly around the lake. It was insanely hot and I was probably feeling the beginnings of my illness come over me, so I never took any photos. We went to a nearby mall for Hong Kong style lunch in air conditioning. Ha.

Posted by baixing 06:15 Archived in China Tagged nanchang Comments (0)

Bird flu epicentre aka "Migratory Bird Sanctuary"

The next day I had off was Thursday I think. I went to an obscure "migratory bird sanctuary" at the extreme opposite end of the city. It was more of a zoo than sanctuary, with flightless birds pooping on everything everywhere. The place was filthy. I chased some of the ducks around and then ran away screaming when one of them had the guts to attack me right back. Oh good lord. I ran so fast out of there after that.
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They were setting up for some sort of light festival, probably on account of the upcoming National Week holiday.
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I woke up the next morning feeling dizzy and achy, so I stayed in bed the rest of the week. By the end of the week, I was sure I had overcome whatever it was I had contracted from those horrible creatures.

Posted by baixing 06:00 Archived in China Tagged nanchang Comments (0)

Moving to Nanchang

I quickly found another job in Nanchang, back down in the southern part of China, where it's quite warm most of the year. I packed up my stuff as best as I could and then mailed what I didn't feel like carrying. Three huge boxes filled to the brim. It ended up costing about $30 for that.

I had couchsurfed in Nanchang three years before and made a good friend, Leona, who now has two young sons. She said it was fate that brought us together again. I'm not convinced of that, but it sure was nice to see a familiar face after all the job drama.

The first night after I moved in, she had me over for dinner, and we caught up while trying to pacify her crazy infant. He's very active and completely exhausts his mom every day, unlike her oldest.

On my first weekend in town, I stopped at the revolution museum. Nanchang citizens are proud that they were the first to overthrow the Kuomintang government during the cultural revolution on August 1, 1927. There was a brand new museum, complete with hologram soldiers, telling the story of the fight in Chinese only of course.

Visitors could climb up the mountain, just like the soldiers did, when they retreated into the countryside after the Kuomintang took the city back on Aug. 5.
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The headquarters of the People's Liberation Army was established in a posh hotel, which is now pristinely restored, and thousands of people visit every day.
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Posted by baixing 21:09 Archived in China Tagged nanchang Comments (0)

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