Tagged: China Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • hardie karges 12:12 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alipay, China, , Jinghong, Mengla, Sipsongpanna,   

    Indie Travel Update: Surviving China 

    20180804_204240China must be single-handedly keeping the Lonely Planet franchise in business, you know: they of the 5-pound, 50-dollar, 500-page ‘survival’ guides, most of which is largely obsolete, simply the idea that ‘survival’ is an issue in most of the world, unless you’re talking about survival of traditional cultures, languages and tribal peoples in a world increasingly homogenous, and frankly, pretty friggin’ boring. The only thing in danger of survival are reasons for travel itself…

    Except for China. This is the one country where you can actually use a little help from your friends, they of the world’s only non-alphabetic language, which makes Greek look like a weekend at the beach. Hey, I learned the Greek alphabet, but not the language, of course, in four days of reading road signs in Athens (and we thought all of our vocabulary came from Latin, haha. Tell that to the Russians)… (More …)

    Advertisements
     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 2:03 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, my. Too deep for me. How in the world do you survive?

    • hardie karges 2:11 am on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hibiscus for high blood pressure, meditation for stress, haha. I persevere…

  • hardie karges 2:03 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China, , ,   

    Yangshuo, China: Paradise Lost, Innocence Regained… 

    20180712_074435But you can’t swim in that river again…though you can try…and you should…but it won’t be there, not like you remember it, anyway. Everybody’s gone elsewhere, just like they always do, and those that stay behind are not necessarily the ones you want to see, anyway. Everything changes, all the time, by habit, and tradition, if not by design. The little things that endeared you to the place are the first things to go, being that they were so hard to define anyway, more phantoms of consciousness than features of existence, the mind easing itself into submission…

    It’s not often that I get to re-visit a place I used to go, used to know some twenty years ago, or even ten, but it’s usually interesting when I do. Sometimes things seem little changed. Other times the changes seem drastic, especially in America, which is known more for its changes than its pro-active response to them, more often than not seeming more like blind flailings than direct failings…

    20180720_212413But nothing prepared me for China. If the China of twenty years ago was defined by its bicycles, poverty and primitiveness, it’s defined now by its smartphones, traffic jams and forty-story apartment buildings, people stacked upon people endlessly vertical, an entire nation drawn in from the fields and stacked on end, cities taking on a life of their own, like monsters from a futuristic sci-fi novel, ‘rise of the machines’ or something like that, or maybe ‘evil erections’, so sci-fi porn…

    And then there’s Yangshuo, which was always a little bit different, even way back when, but not in the same way as now, then because it had class, and tradition, and a lively backpacker scene that could appreciate it, and the lovely landscape, something the average work-a-day communist Chinese hardly had time or money for, as the Chinese economy was merely nascent in 1997…

    20180718_115319But that was then, and this is now. China has a booming economy and Chinese tourists are flooding the world, but nowhere like home, threatening to make a mockery of their own culture, anything slightly different from the mainstream culture a prime target for tourist dog-and-pony shows, and if others are willing to maybe pony up more, nobody can dog it quite like the Chinese. Authenticity is not the overriding concept—just the opposite…

    So the bucolic burg where I once found sympathy and succor in the arms of a mug, a nod and a wink, and an invitation to drink, has now long since sold its soul to the highest bidder, shops once selling the most righteous crafts from the most righteous tribes this side of the Yangtze now given over to cheap carnival rides and the most hideous displays of hubris, humans acting as if they owned the universe of which they are only a small almost insignificant part…

    20180723_143021And the European and other Western backpackers who rescued the burg from oblivion long ago are but a footnote in the town’s history now, nothing but the English language a legacy of their one-time prominence and predominance, making it one of the few places where you can have a genuine English-language conversation with some very fluent locals, mostly older, vestiges of the classic period. There’s only one catch…

    If you’re a Westerner who knows Mandarin, you just might have a hard time convincing the locals of that. We’ll see, maybe a year or so from now, when I’m next there—maybe. I’ve been through this all before, and it isn’t always pretty, having to fight for the right to speak the local language, even when you understand every word they say, just because it might make them lose face, once they’ve identified themselves as English speakers. Welcome to Thailand…

    20180728_103400I know that now, what I didn’t know then, back when I was looking to ex-pat myself to Asia, and trying to decide between Thailand and Vietnam, then China, Indonesia and/or Cambodia. Follow the money, and so that’s what I did, straight to Thailand, and a few solid years of compensated efforts, mischief and misgivings, until finally finding some solace in the Buddhist forest temples, and a new lease on life that is my current status…

    It’s better this way, as I have a clean start, older but wiser, knowing now what I didn’t know then, ready to start over again in China—or not. I only know that it won’t be in Yangshuo, but somewhere open-minded to foreigners, with neither the English language nor the silence in its absence, as neither will do for me in the long run. In places unspoiled by tourism, locals just assume you speak Mandarin, so speak it to you, no English and no awkward silences, and that’s the way it should be…

    Only innocence will do, the innocence of open-mindedness and belief in progress, that one is not limited by false narratives and quick conclusions, but only by his own honest efforts and willingness to succeed. If that is a sin, then I am guilty. If not, then I am vindicated, for in the long run there is no other way. China’s frustrations and disappointments only propel me to fight another day—or not. Meanwhile, forget Yangshuo, and the other backpacker centers that Chinese party animals have turned into hedonistic playgrounds. It’s hideous, not kinky…

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 6:24 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      How you come up with such descriptive writing is phenomenal!!

      Esther

      • hardie karges 10:41 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Esther. I’m having trouble sharing this one to FB, so wasn’t sure you’d see it…

  • hardie karges 11:29 am on July 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Canton, China, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Pearl River, Zhuhai   

    Pearl River, the Delta, and Canton (China, not Mississippi)… 

    20180701_114935Hong Kong the Air-Conditioned Nightmare…

    July in Hong Kong is hot sticky syrup languid lethargic sweaty crowded cramped colic putrid protuberant, bodies stacked on moldy mattresses on elevated platforms the underneath of which has never been cleaned, inhabiting warrens and rookeries in nameless mansions of the homeless, countless cribs of the incredulous, trite testimony to the temptations of time-keepers, dubious debts to the denizens of doubtfulness, humans reduced to automatons sucking electricity for sustenance, the breakfast of champions, until…

    Chill! A cold blast from the refrigerators of a million industrial units, humming in unison, the Christmas carols, reindeer and New Year anthems that herald the arrival of winter, blast out of the open doors of thousands of shops and studios and multi-level department stores full of the trappings of satisfaction and convenience, gifts and clothes with ribbons and bows gift-wrapped for that special occasion, sure to be repaid in kind if not kindred, a place in the sun in the ‘burbs with a three-car garage, consumeristic gleanings no subtle barrage…20180704_095357

    But Macau is more subtle…

    …and different in the same sort of way that you would expect a Portuguese colony to be different from a British colony, Latin and Iberian, with small city parks scattered around the business district, very un-Asian, but well-used by the locals, and the locals only, as there are few non-Asians here, no commonwealth people from the subcontinent, nor any from Portuguese Africa, either, as that was never the plan, apparently, just maybe a few Portuguese immigrants from Europe itself, here to uphold the legacy if nothing else…

    I like Macau, even if the cribs are a bit more dear than those of Hong Kong, you’re bound to get more for your money here, if not the obligatory Wi-Fi guarantees that should be de rigueur in 2018. And the food is cheaper, too, even if no obvious Portuguese influence, hearty Cantonese fare available at three bucks American, don’t think you’ll find that in HK whether Chinese or Indian, and here you’ll even have room to stretch your legs. But supermarkets are the only trade-off, so must be some causal connection to explain the dearth…

    20180705_103948Zhuhai butts up against tiny Macau…

    making an easy crossing into China, and vice-versa, the alternative to Shenzhen and Hong Kong, if you want a slightly sparser alternative to those densely populated burgs, the Gongbei district right there a lively walk on Lianhua’s pedestrian street, though none of the open-air bars that the Wiki-travel guy boasted of, must be out-dated information, otherwise not so much to do…

    So I planned to go back to Macau for the day just to download a VPN to circumvent the Great Firewall of China, but finally blew it off, hate to be separated from my stuff, as you just never know what can happen, so found a niche in the border wall where I could get 3G from Macau and did the whole schmear right there, works brilliantly, and the best part is that I have 10 GB per month free! Thank you, Windscribe…

    20180709_105941But the real surprise of the Pearl River delta…

    …seems to be the Big Burg itself, Guangzhou, aka Canton, China’s third-largest city, and always the one most attracted commercially to the exterior, due to its status as the original port, and its connections to Hong Kong as China re-emerged from the shadows of communism in the 1970’s. Well now they’re the tattered cousins, illegitimate sons of the northern mandarins, and as independent as that distance from the centers of power would suggest…

    More importantly: they’re friendly! Wow! That’s the last thing I expected, but there it is, a wonder to behold, over and over, people not only chatting me up, but chatting me up in English! Which is good, since, as Cantonese speakers, their mandarin may be not so much better than mine. What else? They’re not so attached to the Ali-pay of elsewhere, and the women smoke. WTF? Yes, but the men seem to smoke less, so that’s a reasonable trade-off. They’re not such fashion hounds, either, in other words: less economic and social miracle here, for whatever reason…

    20180709_095144China doesn’t call itself ‘China’, of course, but ‘Zhongguo’…

    …the Middle Kingdom, i.e. the central government, and that’s an important part of the dynamic I suspect, in any and all transactions. You can’t do much without flashing your ID card—and telephone number. I bought some meds, and they asked me for an ID card! WTF!!?? I flabbergasted, of course (that’s transitive), and they said a passport would be okay (did she really think I was a PRC citizen?)…

    Fortunately there’s no such drama buying hibiscus sabdarifa, already sourced in HK, Zhuhai and Guangzhou, too, like a magic salve for overworked hearts. China is in love, even if that is love of self, and each other, open to foreigners only on its own terms, but still love, so that’s a beautiful thing, even if it won’t last. It never does. They simply don’t need us ‘rich Westerners’ anymore, if they ever did, and if you want them, then you’ll have to go the extra mile—on high-speed trains, of course…. 🙂

    20180626_122653So yes, the high-speed trains are nice, but they come with a price. And the food is hot and fresh, but what once cost a dollar is now up to three, and that’s okay with me, I guess. But the $10 room is fast disappearing in China, and that is a fact, but you can still do pretty good, if you book far enough in advance, and/or bargain for bulk. The only real problem is that many hotels can’t or won’t take foreigners, for reasons unknown, and not always indicated on the top booking sites, so whether this is a deal-killer is still open to debate…

    And there are few Ph.D.’s in English at Beijing U age 15, if that makes you feel any better, but they’ve all got the app, lol, English language support probably less than anywhere else in the world. But there are attractions here. I’m just not sure what they are anymore, now that the rooms are getting expensive, and the tribal peoples are all moving to the city, the only thing saving them the same thing that is killing them—tourism. I persevere…

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 3:38 pm on July 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      How do you do it?…Coming up with words?

      • hardie karges 12:19 am on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Sometimes I just free-associate, let them come together as they will, hoping that whatever is lost in strict logic will be compensated for with enhanced feeling, while still communicating, which is the ultimate objective, of course. Communicating feeling is always the challenge, of course, something for which strict linguistic equations, i.e. sentences, seem ill-equipped. Have you ever read the French poet Rimbaud and particularly his poem “Vowels” (‘Voyelles’)? That’s an inspiration, explaining his idea of synesthesia in language. Mostly, though, I try to emulate what a good painter or a good guitarist does, painting with words, and bending the strings of language–on a good day. Sometimes it works, often not so much. My poem ‘Consonants’ didn’t do quite as well as Rimbaud’s, hahaha…

  • hardie karges 1:08 pm on June 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Agoda, , China, Emeishan, Google, Leshan, ,   

    Little Trouble in Big China: still not ready for prime time… 

    20180622_094150There are so many things that can go wrong for an indie traveler in China, that I’ve been rather amazed that it’s been going so smoothly, if arduous and time-consuming, the process of booking rooms, and travel, and then actually ending up exactly as planned, with little or no language support…

    The only time I really sweated was the time I was on the bullet-train from Langzhong to Xi’an and then all of a sudden so many people got off in Guangyuan, and then the trip number changed on the overhead display, that I seriously wondered whether I was headed off the map into the wilds of Qinghai province—but no, we arrived in Xi’an on schedule, whew, still no major snafus… (More …)

     
    • Esther S. Fabbricante 12:16 am on July 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      It’s a really tough life! I’m glad you are about to retire, right?

    • hardie karges 12:28 am on July 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, right, haha…

    • tom de canada 10:45 pm on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hey man china has changed in 20 yrs. Blew my mind! I met a few people in yangshuo staying in aptmts up a hill to the left when you hit the river in the old town. But theres a few cheap hostels near each other going
      right at river off main walking zone then right again ablock or 2 later up a small alleyway. Have great vi3ws and good views at rooftop bar. Lotsa european rock climbers were there who found it on booking.com.
      Its a very pretty an touristy rebuilt original old town. Very busy cause of pruximity to vietnam. If ya get the neew train there be sure to follow everyone else to the bus that takes you to town 10 kilometers aaway! Lol
      Take care and good luck hardie! Tom

      • hardie karges 11:02 pm on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        HSR train goes to Xingping, right? When I saw that I booked a couple nights there. If I like it I may stay there instead of Yangshuo, especially if it’s changed too much. We’ll see, thx for comments…

    • Norbert 10:56 am on July 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      “China is a happy place…” Sounds credible here, but try to explain that to those exotically grinning Western fans of Tibetan separatism (read “Free Tibet!”) and their favorite mascot, the Dalai Lama (also grinning), or to fans of other mascots such as the multimillionaire/entrepreneur/art professor, Ai Wei Wei….. In one word, there is not enough China-bashing in your report !!

  • hardie karges 10:34 am on June 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, Ramadan, , ,   

    Lunch in China, Continued—Part II, Xi’an at Ramadan… 

    20180610_144744.jpg“Couple in the next room, bound to win a prize, they’ve been going at it all night long”–Paul Simon

    Except that here it’s downstairs on the street right below my window, and what they’re going at is mindless and noisy chatter, Meavis and Muttonhead yakking and yukking it up until the dawn comes, about what I don’t know, holding court over a kebab stall as if this is their meaning in life, I stuffing wet tissue in my ears with limited effect, tempted to open the window and yell, but ultimately holding back, it making little difference to my quantity of sleep anyway…

    Mornings in Xi’an are a riotous confusion of boiled eggs, corn on the cob and steamed buns, with filling and without, spicy meat most typical of the infrastructure involved, but you never know for sure until you actually bite in. It’s hot here in June, so best to get an early start if you want to get serious about walking 3mi/5km to the Big Goose Pagoda or whatever it is your tourist jones are hankering for… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 2:02 pm on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , China, , Langzhong, , ,   

    Breakfast in China: Life behind the Great Firewall… 

    20180607_092124.jpgSo what’s the attraction with China, anyway? Chinese tourists in other countries don’t have a very good reputation, e.g. in Thailand, where they are often characterized as loud, boorish, rude, crude and obnoxious, so what’s the deal? Oh, I get it; they’re just like us. They’re the new ugly Americans! Just like we were Chomsky’s ‘New Mandarins’ half a century ago, the old mandarins have returned as the new mandarins, and we have returned to our rightful place as the white barbarians…

    The simple fact is that they no longer need us—if they ever did—and they probably like it that way: just like Americans! To Hell with the rest of the world!! And maybe that’s the attraction, if there is one, that this is a place not homogenized for mass consumption, reduced—or elevated—to the world’s common denominators of English language, French kisses and what else? Chinese fast food, of course. But seriously, though, much is lacking in the way of offerings to foreign travelers, especially if they speak no Chinese… (More …)

     
    • Richard 3:38 pm on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Good to see you were able to jump over the wall for a moment. Was missing your regular Sunday sermonettes…

    • Esther Fabbricante 5:51 pm on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Wow is all I can say. You are a genius.

      Esther

    • tom de canada 6:01 am on June 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Nice deetails of china. I wish you well my friend. Im still at home finishingf work on the ole car. Needed a cam shaft. Big job for one hand. May heaad to india in fall?

      • hardie karges 8:36 am on June 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Just been thinking about you, man, and about what brass cojones you have, to be riding around China on a motorcycle. It’s difficult enuf for me on buses and trains, can’t get up to speed in mandarin fast enuf. But you missed the high-speed trains, wow! Like doing China by subway! I got a 10-year visa for the asking, also available for Americans in India, don’t know about Canadians. Good luck with that, I may have another stint in that area myself…

  • hardie karges 1:52 pm on May 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, Doi Mae Salong, Kuomintang, , Santikhiri, ,   

    Doi Mae Salong (Santikhiri): Thailand’s Best-Kept Secret… 

    IMG_2407For most people, travel is a special activity that you do maybe once or twice a year, with elaborate preparations and financial considerations, nail-biting calculations and apprehensions of misappropriations. But most of all: it’s exciting! It’s fun! You’re enthusiastic! But for some others of us, who travel so much that it’s more ‘normal’ than ‘ab’, sometimes we just can’t get it up for the journey, especially if we’ve already ‘been there done that’ and there are no screaming kids to disappoint…

    So I did something a week or two ago that I’ve never done before in forty some-odd (all together now: “some very odd”) years of travel—just canceled; called it off; yanked it; scrubbed; pulled the plug; I feel so liberated now that I don’t have to do all that travel—aaahhh!!! I can relax now. And that’s about the size of it. When you’re tired like the end of a trip, before the trip’s even started, then: do the math, take a bath, put the baby to sleep… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 1:33 pm on January 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Biman Bangladesh, China, Dhaka   

    HARDIE’S HYPER-AWARD: for worst airline (and airport) of 2016 goes to… 

    peking-waiting-14915662_10211567525522998_1568822102406527730_n

    PEK gives new meaning to the term ‘layover”

    …Air China, of course, and Beijing, for bad service above and beyond the call of duty, a total lack of concern for passenger comfort, and incompetence bordering on malpractice. For that honor, they not only had to totally change my return flight LAX-PEK-BKK, and do it not only with no prior notification, BUT NO NOTIFICATION AT ALL!

    I caught it in plenty of time, though, worry-wart that I am. But if that wasn’t bad enough, the real problem was that the two flights didn’t even connect, the initial leg due to arrive in Beijing after the connecting flight has already left! Well, they must’ve been anxious to correct that little spot of bother, right? Yeah, right… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 11:46 pm on January 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China, Gem Show, , ,   

    The Chinese Are Coming! It’s Hypertravel, Baby; Hostel, that is… 

    IMG_0416But they’re not manning warships and they’re not carrying guns. They’re doing business, of course, and cooking up a storm. You can do that at most hostels, at no extra charge, eat food just like Mama makes and maybe bring Mama along, too. All the ‘Air BnB’s in the world are no substitute for a good hostel, and VRBO’s don’t even count. Those aren’t ‘sharing economies’. Those are vanity economies, in which a group of uber-rich teenagers decide to rent a house for a rave, when most have never even signed a lease in their life, and many of us sellers are looking for a new lease on life. Caveat venditor…

    Hostels are the true sharing economy par excellence ab origine. You hang out with others, eat with others, and even sleep in the same room with others, if so inclined. And when those people come from all over the world, then you’ve got something pretty special. Unfortunately the USA has no hostel culture, of course, and little experience with them, not provided for in building codes and left to dangle and die for no certain reason. Some people seem to think they just aren’t American, I guess… (More …)

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 12:14 am on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I have reserved an AirBnB in Franklin, TN for May 4-9, for my family to help celebrate my 91st birthday. They are taking me to the Grand Ole Opry on May 6. There will be 11 of us.

      Esther

    • hardie karges 12:43 am on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like fun, Esther; Happy 91!

    • Norbert 7:20 pm on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Good luck for the future, Hardie! I had visited a number of Buddhist temples in Kyoto, about 10 years ago. Some of the rituals there strangely reminded me of what I remember from Catholic churches, like how the monks ceremoniously entered the place (of course, without the presence of a Christian-style altar).
      Besides, I have had some good to very good experiences with AirBnB, even a few interesting interactions with hosts. I think although cooperation with others and group consensus are very good ideas, putting individuals together in one place is not enough to get there. They also need to have the right mind-set and mentality. Alas, many of today’s (mostly Western) individuals are too much self-centered and focused on self-promotion, even in situations when they have nothing to gain from appearing “competitive” or “see how unique, interesting and important I am?” (like when in a hostel). This “market-conform” behavior has become a “second nature” to them, difficult or impossible to chase away. I guess the underlying problem is that the spreading of capitalism, especially in Europe and North America, was particularly easy under conditions of simultaneous conquest, colonialism and post-colonialism, which facilitated the development and incrustation of an “individual robber baron” mentality first among the big and small robbers themselves, then among those who objectively and/or subjectively benefited from their robbing activities, as the conquered and colonized were being marginalized or exterminated. Nowadays the world has become so small and crowded that unrestrained “help yourself and grab what you can” behavior is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain unless more and more violence (= “all against all”) is applied, again; and even “at home”, which exposes the uncivilized character of this approach more clearly than ever. An approach that may not even be close to functional, as evidenced by the Russian crash landing of the 1990ies. To some extent, China, where a party officially called “Communist” is still in power, seems to have skipped this ultimately illusory, individualistic phase of development, or, at least, dampened its excesses. On a much smaller scale, also Cuba is trying to get a soft landing, which was at least my impression during my 2000 visit there. We’ll see if this is the last word of history…. (well, of course there is no last word in history).
      How about opening a hostel in La Habana, in a “collectivist” country? C U there…. (Just kidding)

      • hardie karges 7:22 pm on January 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thx, Norbert, things getting crazy here now, full house in a couple days… (I agree with most of what you say, BTW)… 🙂

  • hardie karges 5:30 pm on January 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , China, rivers,   

    Rivers Meander 

     

    Tibet waters Asia. From its 20,000 foot plateau flow the headwaters of the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Huang Ho. The headwaters of the Indus and Brahmaputra almost meet, almost making of India an island reminiscent of its former history as a transient sub-continent looking for a home plate to slide into. The upper waters of the Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze run almost parallel for 250 miles, only fifteen to thirty miles apart as the crow flies. Those three empty into the Andaman, South China, and East China Seas, not far from the cities of Rangoon, Saigon, and Shanghai, a distance of over 2000 miles on that same crow’s odometer. It would be much farther than that by boat, and an immeasurable distance by yardstick. How long is your coastline? That depends; how short is your ruler? Napoleon’s ears prick up and Zeno’s paradox takes over, and you never really get there, because the halfway points are infinite. I’ll take wise old crow; he cuts to the chase.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel