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  • hardie karges 2:02 pm on June 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chengdu, , hostel, Langzhong, Mandarin, Sichuan, Xi'an   

    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…

    20180605_215027.jpgSo for all the modernizing that has occurred in China during the economic miracle of the last quarter century, in a very real way, little or nothing has changed, for the traveler, at least. Very little in the way of language assistance is offered, anywhere at all. The average hotel desk clerk speaks little or no English, much less any other language, and that’s where you would expect it the most, as they have the most to gain—or lose—and are little hampered by the slow wheels of unforgiving bureaucracy…

    The addresses are cryptic, the rooms are cramped, the holidays are crowded, social media is taboo, and the prices are no longer as low as they once were. And upon further glance, it seems the rest of the world knows that already, for after subtracting tourist arrivals from dependencies such as Macau, Hong Kong and (gulp) Taiwan, China’s robust sixty million tourist stays (of more than one night) are reduced by more than half, or less than tiny Thailand’s thirty mil, one-third of which are Chinese, lol…

    But the people are pretty nice on an individual basis, even if as a group they can be noisy as a baseball game at Fenway. And that’s my strategy, to approach them individually, on a personal basis, to the limits of my linguistic capabilities. Because if you want to be in China long-term, you better learn the language, or else you’re limited to fancy tours or hostel hang-outs, and even those are mostly locals now. So don’t get excited about all the foreign-travel facilities by counting hostels, because the locals are way hip to that for a long time now…

    20180607_104642Before I forget, though, there is one thing at which China beats most of the others: the taxi drivers actually use the meter, so a three-to-five mile ride around town may only cost you two or three bucks, depending on the flag-fall rate, and the need to negotiate, in a city that you probably don’t even know, is largely unnecessary. So taxi drivers are the saving grace for all the hassles to be incurred from traveling in China, during which every city, every trip, every hotel and every mouthful will be a challenge unless and until you become proficient in Mandarin, or die trying, lol…

    Because when you find one available enough to actually try out your Western shenanigans, you will likely be rewarded by his or her perseverance at bringing your episode to a successful conclusion, and all at reasonable prices! Did I mention that they actually use the meter? So this is my first real trip to China in twenty years, unless you count the quickie to Taiwan and a series of stopovers in Beijing five years ago as a connection point to Mongolia and North Korea, nice enough but hardly significant…

    It’s changed, in many many ways, mostly in the nature of material progress, specifically the high-speed trains and thousands of high-rise apartments, the hardware of progress, but also the ubiquitous smartphones, e.g. translation apps and digital pay-schemes which are standard procedure in every 7-11, this in a country where everything Google is forbidden, and Facebook and Twitter, too (along with many others). China is not scared of Trump, it seems, but Google is another matter…

    20180607_101732Unfortunately the price of progress is that cities are rather boring now, with the traditional alley hutong culture largely erased or diminished. So my hub city Chengdu generally gets high marks for tourism, but is in fact rather boring, like Denver without the new downtown get-down. Still it IS the gateway to Tibet, and with plenty of Tibetan culture close by in Sichuan province itself, so I’ll get back to that later, satisfying myself for now with the historical town of Langzhong, on the way to Xi’an…

    Langzhong is a pleasant small town (less than a million pop.) a few hours out of Chengdu by bus, and one of the four or five best preserved traditional towns in the country. I like small towns, especially if they rate high for intelligence, since aesthetics are generally nicer and people are friendlier. And Langzhong is no exception there, once I actually found my place, non-descript digs above a massage parlor in the old town, reasonably priced and lovingly managed even if cramped to the gills and new meaning given to the term ‘water closet’…

    Did I mention that to get a room for less than twenty bucks, you’re probably going to have to share a bathroom, either that or learn how to poop standing up, and might as well shower while you’re at it, since you’re already there anyway (and don’t drop that expensive bar of beauty soap down the hole!). But the big news is that the exit to elsewhere is not a rather circuitous bus ride and dubious connection as planned, but a straight shot on the new train from the new station, straight to Xi’an like a bullet. Oh, boy! Stay tuned for part deux

    To be continued…

    (Note to Facebook friends: if you read this far and want to comment, please realize that not only can I not respond there, I probably won’t even see it. If you comment right here on the blog itself, I will, hint hint)…

     

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    • 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 2:32 pm on July 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , hostel, ,   

    It’s Official: Hypertravel Hostel Says Goodbye—for now… 

    IMG_0036

    Socializing at Hypertravel Hostel

    Well, score one for divine intervention. The last thing I expected a short two months ago, when the sale of my historic house/hostel/dream-crib in Tucson, AZ fell through after six months of ‘due diligence’ on the part of a certain buyer, who was dedicated to the proposition that homeless people need lunch…

    …was that an entirely new sale would be complete by now. The first sale was cancelled not due to city rules and regs, BTW, rather due to the actions of disgruntled neighbors who’d rather shut down the neighborhood than help the hapless homeless—did I mention that the affected group was specifically homeless women? Tucson has a mean streak; it’s true…

    So it’s been a long hard road (actually not so long and not so hard, either), the better part of two years, but all good things must come to an end, and if there’s a happy ending, then the story must be a good one. Even though I thought I wanted a flagship hostel as the template for many others, what I really needed was a ‘starter hostel’ to test the feasibility of an essentially European institution in Mainstream Amerika, and the results are… (More …)

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

    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 9:29 pm on September 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Celsius, Fahrenheit, hostel, , ,   

    Hypertravel Hostel News: Good-bye Summer! High Time for Travelers in Tucson… 

    Hypertravel Hostel, Tucson

    Hypertravel Hostel, Tucson

    Right now it’s 99f/37c degrees in Tucson, Arizona, USA, and counting: 99.1, 99.2, 99.3, etc. Bottom line: it’ll probably hit 100f before the day is over, which is significant for a couple reasons, 1) It’s the first 100f day of September, and 2) It’ll probably be the last 100f day of the year, إن شاء الله

    To say the least: Tucson is one hot mother, and that 100f threshold is one convenient standard, maybe TOO convenient. I mean: this is a city that gets almost 100 of them per year, and that is the stuff of fame, or rather infamy, so I use 40 Celsius as a kinder and more sympathetic standard, ONLY 104f. That way the number of days go WAY down way fast, (Brit: rather a lot, and rather quickly)…

    Hypertravel Hostel: back view

    Hypertravel Hostel: back view, in January

    It’s a nice skill to have, too, to be able to convert temps from one to the other scale, far more useful as a hostel owner (Hypertravel Hostel) than any of the small handful of languages that I’m conversant in. After all, most foreigners don’t come to the US, at least not alone, unless they’re at least conversant in English, and once they do that, they sure don’t want to condescend to speak the native lingo with a gringo (call me ‘rhyme-a-dime’)…

    But temperature conversions are another thing. Almost no foreigners know Fahrenheit, except for a few older Canadians and Brits. The ablility to do rough sums in one’s head comes in handy then. The ability to withstand Tucson heat is another thing. You can have June and July. If I’m here next year, it won’t be in those months; that’s for sure… C U soon, I hope…

    http://www.hypertravel.biz/

    323-347-9003

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 9:53 pm on September 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Do you own this hostel? Looks nice. Hot in Brandon, too, but only 81f at 4:50 p.m. and forecast is 54f tonight. Will watch the MSU/LSU football game tonight on TV. Ole Miss is winning this afternoon over Fresno State – 49-14 so far.

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