Building Up a Superiority Complex

With China’s changing economic situation and the influx of wealth that has hit the country like a bomb in the last thirty years has come a steadily building superiority complex.

With Monday’s departure for Vietnam looming ahead , various people have asked me about my plans for the Communist party’s week-long bash. My answer like usual is to get out of China. The sheer brilliance of giving almost everyone in the nation’s most populous country time off equals an insane migration of people and massive crowds. However , when I tell them where I’m going , they seem to be less than impressed. Keep in mind that these people aren’t China’s wealthy. They make around a little less than $500 USD a month.

My Co-workers.
Me – I’m going to Vietnam!
C (Co-workers) Vietnam? It’s too dirty!
IMH ( In my head) And China isn’t dirty? The newly found wealth in the country is pretty much the direct result of the sacrifice of the environment.

My girlfriend’s brother.

GFB – You’re going to Vietnam? Vietnam doesn’t have any fun places!
Me- Hanoi’s eclectic old french quarter , Halong Bay , hiking in Sapa , beautiful remote beaches , the upcoming Phu Quoc island resort center.
GFB – China has beaches too! Go to Sanya ( on China’s tropical Hainan island)
Me- What ? With the 5,000,000 rich people who descend on the island every year? With the full hotels and the quadrupled prices? Anyways, I enjoy the experience of going to a different country with different languages , architecture , and culture.
GFB – CHINA!

(Chinese beach courtesy of Chinatoday.com)

My girlfriend’s co-workers.

While my co-workers are nice to me for the most part , my girlfriend works in an extremely competitive office and she is on the low ranking side of things. These people are mean to her.

GF- I’m going to Vietnam!
GFC – HAHAHAHA , POOR YOU! YOU CAN ONLY AFFORD TO STAY IN POOR ASIA. TALK TO ME WHEN YOU GO TO EUROPE.
GF (Angry but trying not to show it) – Well ,where are you going?
GFC – Staying in Shanghai .

Now China , it’s best to remember that you have more peasants than the entire population of Europe. Just because there is an (admittedly) strong elite with vast amounts of wealth , and you have a huge military doesn’t make you number 1.Living in a relatively expensive city like Shanghai with a relatively low wage doesn’t make you superior to the Vietnamese who have a low wage but live in relatively cheap Hanoi.

Let’s quit with the superiority and enjoy the holiday!

Joking About the Anti-Japanese Government

I haven’t been on my Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) lately but greatly appreciate http://www.shanghaiist.com for pointing out this joke making its rounds on the web. In case you don’t know what this is referring to please read my conveniently provided post

Said the (Chinese) government official to his secretary, “What Japanese products do I have on me? Run a check.” The secretary reported, “Check complete. Not a single item. Your car is from Germany, your watch is from Switzerland, your clothes are from France, your mobile phone is Apple, your child is in the United States, your property is in Australia, and your bank account is in Hong Kong. And your mistresses — they’re all made in China.”

“Great,” said the official, “Then let’s unite the people and let’s all boycott Japanese products!”

领导让秘书査:“我身边有什么日货,要主动自查。”秘书汇报:“查了,一件都没有。你的车是德国的,表是瑞士的,衣服是法国的,手机是苹果的,你的孩子在美国,你的房子在澳洲,你的帐号在香港。还有你喜欢的那几个小姐,都是国产的。”领导放心:“那就全民一心,抵制日货吧!”

I’m glad there are some free thinking cynics left who will question the way things are.

Nanxiang Old Town

Live in Shanghai and looking for something new you haven’t done before? Looking for classic Chinese culture but don’t want to leave the city? Head up to Nanxiang. Nanxiang is one of the four great ancient towns of Shanghai and a place that’s been totally off my radar for the past 2 years here. You can conveniently sample the staples of Chinese culture all within a few blocks. Nanxiang has a classical Ming Dynasty Garden , one of the largest temples in Shanghai , a newly built ancient town , and just happens to be the home of the famous Shanghai “Little Dragon” dumpling (小笼包). Foodies rejoice!

Nanxiang is located in the northwestern Jiading suburb and has its own metro stop. A 15 minute walk or a quick bus/taxi ride will get you into the heart of things.

First we stopped into Guyi Garden (古猗园)which was first constructed some 500 odd years ago in the Ming Dynasty. This was the most impressive garden in Shanghai for me , it easily beats the famous central town Yu Gardens. It was a very nice way to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having. Not many foreigners make it out this way so anyone stopping in will definitely give the locals something to gossip about. During our time the Othsmansus trees were in full bloom and the entire park was pervaded with a sweet smell. I couldn’t help but breathing in deeply and making satisfied noises. So much better than the usual city smell! While this is a very nice garden , those looking for the best of the best should take the quick train ride to Suzhou ( a city renowned for its gardens) . Those of us not looking to leave the city can take the trip here.

The park even has a few black swans and an interesting human man tourist person trying to squawk and gain the birds’ attention. This man may be seasonal but keep an eye out. He is freakin’ hilarious.

After enjoying the serene , verdant environment , it was time to search out the ancient town. It’s a quick walk away, and upon arrival the ancient town was under going construction. The town has been a seat of civilization for the past 1500 years but it was time to make things spiffy. China has enough history to be able to construct new ancient towns. My girlfriend and I often have a laugh at this , ” China , building ancient water towns in modern times”. Techically this is a water town with its running canals but as a water town it can’t hold a match up to any of the others I’ve been too around Shanghai. Don’t come here for the canals (go to Zhujiajiao for that) but do come for the XiaoLong Dumplings. There are a good two streets devoted to the dumplings (Guyiyuanlu) as well as numerous within the small “ancient town” center. We stopped in a store to grab some homemade peanut sesame brittle and when we asked the owner where the best dumplings were at, he kindly recommended next door. (Hmmm, go figure. Kickbacks).

We devoured two bamboo steaming baskets worth of shrimp and crab roe dumplings while sipping our cups of tea.

YESSS.

After this it was too late to visit the temple and the other garden in the area but one of these lazy weekends I’ll definitely make the trip again. I’ve been enough temples throughout China so they don’t have that first time in Asia awe to them anymore. It will be interesting to come back once construction is finished to see how things turned out.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

Let’s face it , it’s hard to find some solitary time in the city. Especially when you live in a mega-city of 23 million people.
These photos were taken in Pingyao, China , an ancient walled city in Shanxi province where with the exception of beer advertising umbrellas looks much the same as did it half a millenium ago. It’s very easy to lose oneself while wandering through the ancient stone corridors , thinking about who else has strolled this way in the centuries before.

This last one isn’t a person but it seems to be enjoying its solitude too!

GuCun Park Field Trip

Sorry about the past politricks post. In order to apologize , I leave you with these cute pictures from my Monday field trip to GuCun park with the kindergarten.

Senkaku aka Diaoyu Island Tensions

Right now , China is undergoing the most heated anti-Japanese sentiments in decades. Various simmering issues and resentments have come to boil over the rocky , uninhabited , uninviting , islands called Senkaku (in Japanese) and Diaoyu ( in Chinese) .

These guys are causing protests , egg throwing , rock throwing , Toyota smashing , Nikon destroying , convenient store closing , and hot noodle attacking.

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Let’s take a look at the physical location.

Well , it’s very close to clusters of other islands that Japan owns , and it’s closer to Taiwan than mainland China. What’s the argument all about?

It’s a simple one very short word answer. It fuels many of the world’s problems as well as most of our vehicles.

Ahhh, oil. Of course!

As far back as we can trace in history the islands were ruled by the Ryukyu kingdom (14th century). This kingdom was its own political entity but had a special relationship with the Chinese and was a tributary of the Ming Dynasty. Vietnam was also once a tributary kingdom of China but no one is arguing that now. In the 17th century the kingdom found itself in sort of a dual subordination to the Chinese and Japanese. The kingdom was dissolved in 1875 and Japan annexed the entire kingdom in 1879 ( Senkaku islands being a part of the kingdom). A private Japanese family straight out purchased the island in 1930. History passed pretty quietly until 1968 rolls by and oil is discovered. Let the fighting begin. China previously had no contention on the islands until this key point in time. Mainland China made its first claim of sovereignty in 1971 but until the 2000s thing were pretty calm. In the last decade there have been some protests and activist movements which have slowly built up tensions until July of 2012 when these events : 4 July, Coastguard vessels from Taiwan and Japan collided in waters near a disputed island chain Wednesday, as the Taiwanese vessel was escorting activists to the area.
On 7 July, the Japanese Prime Minister stated that these islands are an integral part of his country and the Government is considering their purchase from the Japanese owner.
Three Chinese patrol vessels entered the disputed waters around these islands on 11 July 2012. On 15 July 2012, Japan recalled their ambassador to China to work on the response to the transgression. In late July, Japanese officials have raised alarms regarding increased Chinese military expansion. (from Wikipedia) , dramatically increased the tensions between the two countries.

The situation in China is going insane right now.

Around August 12 or 13th in an attempt to ease tensions, Japan outright purchased the islands back from the private Japanese (JAPANESE ) owner. This sparked the current rage currently ongoing.

There is government sponsored protests (let the people rage against other countries but not their own shitty government) , smashing of Japanese things , attacks against Japanese , and a bunch of other ignorant and embarrassing things causing Family Mart ( Japanese own the majority of stock) family mart to fly Chinese flags , the search engine Baidu to support the CCP , and Zhonghua toothpaste to declare the islands to be part of China.

It will be interesting to see how things develop , and I’m drinking a Japanese KIRIN beer while using my SONY PS3 . Japan, you rule. China , sometimes I wonder why I came here.

Check these Shanghaiist links for some awesome coverage

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/09/18/shanghai-japan-consulate-general-protest.php

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/09/18/baidu-diaoyu-islands.php

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/09/16/china-anti-japan-protests.php

Dongping Forest Park

The last four weekends I’ve visited the four forest parks in Shanghai : SheShan , GongQing , BinJiang , and now DongPing Forest Park. I fell in love twice and ate some BBQ in this latest journey. What better way to enjoy the tail-end of summer? Already the nights have turned chilly , and the humidity has been dispelled with crispness. Mmmm , almost hoodie weather!

DongPing forest park is the hardest to get to , the furthest away from the city center , the most expensive (by far) , but I like it the best. It just about captures the real forest vibe I’ve been searching for , the skies are blue , the air is fresh , plus the bus ride to get there is long but has some pretty cool parts to it.

The forest park is located in the center of Chongming Island. It’s easy to forget just how long the island is. From the Eastern part with the connecting bridge to the middle port town of Nanmen is about an hour. Add this time in with the metro ride to the bus , and the following connecting bus ride from the port town to the park and travel time from my house is hitting about 3 hours. Yikes. I can make it to other cities in China via bullet train in much less time. Working in the park’s favor is that for a minimal fee you can pitch a tent and sleep overnight , there is a huge central fire pit available for the highely overpriced fee of 500rmb but with enough people throwing down it would be okay.

The gamut of entertainment from the electrical boat rentals , to the water ball rolling , grass skiing , and paintball are all available here. I didn’t do any of these , and instead choose to barbecue , and take in the nature. The nature part is awesome! So not Shanghai. Tall pine trees that stretch on and on , and after 5 o’clock there was a not a soul around. 20 minutes walking around in trees without seeing a person is pretty much the antithesis of my China experience. More please!

Earlier I mentioned falling in love.

First is Stubbs

I coaxed her out of the woods to discover a missing tail! Looked like it had been somewhat recently lost and healed. I tried to give her food but she just wanted a scratch.

The next time was with Wild Goldfish

It took her a bit to get her to come out from her bamboo grove but after I started petting her she wouldn’t let me leave. AFter walking away , her cries brought me back 3 times before I could bring myself to leave.

In between meeting these two kitties , the wild BBQ cats entertained me. Immediately after people are finished and leave the grill , the cats move in. A group of 5 moved in and made off with every scrap of food possible. I spied a cat waiting in the bushes for me to finish , and I made the move to give her some food. She ran off , and I discovered she had already been devouring an uneaten fish on a skewer.

Yea , I ignored the ziplines , paintball , and rollercoasters to play with a bunch of cats.

This park is seriously great. I will be back , and next time I’m bringing a tent and “roughing” like this group.

The three-hour trip is do-able for a day trip but I would recommend staying overnight. If tents aren’t your style there are plenty of hotels in the port towns , and country-style farm stays everywhere else.

To get to the park :

1. Take the metro to line 6 JuFeng Lu

2. Just outside the metro is a bus station , hop on the NanMen 南门 bus (18 rmb each way).

3. A 9 kilometer underwater tunnel , and a nearly as long bridge ride later , plus an hour on the island travel and you will arrive by the NanMen travel bus station. Walk a bit forward from where the bus stops and you will see the 远客站 or bus station。

4. Hop on the NanDong Xian 南东线 and tell the conductor you are going to 森林公园 senlingongyuan。 Ta da you made it!

For return trips the last bus back from the park leaves at 7 , there are plenty of illegal taxi guys to negotiate a price with if you miss the bus , but expect to pay a premium , and the last bus back to Shanghai from NanMen leaves at 9.

Now that I’ve made it to all the forest parks of Shanghai , what next?

I’ve been scouting google maps and have located plenty of forest parks in nearby cities ! This will last until the winter settles in. Then it’s mad DVD time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

Everyday life in a big city like Shanghai can be stressful : packed subway rides , idiots driving motorbikes the wrong way through a green pedestrian light , and various other acts of idiocracy. I choose to present a simpler life from a simpler place.

These are from a small village outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia where the villagers weave tapestries much the same way they did hundreds of years ago , and the daily diet consists of rice , fish , and mango.

The pictures with the large crowd are from another small village 15 minutes or so by motorbike away. The locals gather at the Buddhist temples , hang out , pray , and organize sumo-wrestling matches between 5-6 year old kids. Seriously.