From May 27 2009

Shanghai and Beijing Part 2

Did you refill your coffee cup? Here is part 2.

Shanghai and Beijing (Part 2).
We were now able to check Beijing and Shanghai off of our bucket list.

All Chinese cities are big by American standards. A "small" city frequently
has 3-5 million people. I guess this is small when you are talking about an
overall population of 1.3 billion. Shanghai is the largest city in China with
16,740,000 people. The city is growing very quickly and is expected to be the
fiinancial center of Asia by 2020. Shanghai is hosting the World Expo in 2010.
Extensive infrastructure work is being done to accomodate the event. (When you
look at our photos and you see the buildings across from the river in
Shanghai...known as the Bund...this was all built in the past 10 years. That
area was rice paddies previously. This gives you an idea of how fast Shanghai
is growing.)

Shanghai has a U.S. Consulate so we decided to get Jacky's new passport their.
This meant that we had 2 weeks to wait for it. We found a great hostel close to
the Bund in Shanghai. The view from the roof terrace was spectatcular. The
Shanghai skyline was beautiful and at night the skyscrapers put on a light show
that was unbelievable. This internatioinal city was alive and we felt really
safe as we explored Shanghai. The food was different offering more dumplings
and fried noodles. We used the subway and buses to get around and it was very
easy. It was much easier than trying to bike in the chaos.

Captain's Hostel (New sitcom coming your way.)
Our most memorable part of Shanghai was our stay at the Captain's Hostel. It
wasn't the hostel itself that made it so special. It was because of the people
staying there. There was a magic! The hostel had no welcoming lounge or
television room and the majority of dorm rooms were on the 4th floor. This
floor only had 2 park benches in an open area. This created a magical place to
meet. During the day you would typically find many computer addicts lined up
against the only wall that you could tap into some unkown Wifi source. We named
this area the internet cafe. After 7pm in the evening the open area became
Daniel's Bar. This is where you would share a beer, smoke a cigarette and the
tell the story of your day. (One rule...only 50% of what we would say had to be

Let me set the stage for this sitcom. The Captain's Hostel is quite different
from other hostels. Normally a hostel's guest's profile is someone that stays
for 3-5 days, touring the city. At this hostel there are many long term guests.
These people are working in Shanghai and staying at the hostel because it is
cheaper than an apartment. We ended up sharing a room with Daniel and Sebastian
who both were working in Shanghai.

Introduction of cast:
1. Daniel is a Chinese student in his senior year of college. He is doing some
side work translating Chinese to English at an art museum. He knows 4 languages
and has a very fun and pleasant personality. If you need to know where the
night party is, he is your source. We named him "Alien" because of his new

2. Sebastian is a 28 year old from Argentina. He has worked in China for 2
years as a pilot and as a flight instructor at a Chinese flight school. He
likes to get things stirred up. He is the instagator.

3. Johnathon is from England and teaching school in China. He was at a turning
point in his life and Ward became his counselor. (Jacky's note: Ward's
counseling someone?? This is scary.) He comes across as a reserved,
conservative guy but once you get him dancing or singing karoke his second
personality steps in. He has a fantastic dry sense of know, the
British type.

4. Annie is 67 and from the state of Ohio. Three years ago she moved to China
and is teaching English. She is a classy lady and drawing sketches for a knew
golf clothes line.

5. Pang Fang (Jen) is a beautiful and sweet Chinese woman in her 20s. She is a
stockbroker and trying to figure out which direction to go next with her life.
Her beauty attracted alot of attention from the westerners. Ward and Sebastian
were her protectors.

Because there were only two benches to sit on it became a constant joke that we
were "waiting for the bus". Lots of lies were told and friendships made. While
Daniel, Sebastian, Jacky and I shared a hostel room, there was constant
bantering back and forth. Jacky made the guys, "her new bros". We felt like we
were back in college and had a great time. It was a nice change!

Karoke singing is huge in China. KTV is the karoke place to go. It is very
different from what we are used to in the U.S. In China you rent a private
room by the hour and have it to yourselves (you and the friends that you came
with). So, in other words, you sing to your immediate friends. One night a
bunch of us from the Captain's Hostel went to karoke. We all knew each other
well except for one Chinese guy that had been invited by someone else. The
night was a blast. The Chinese take karoke quite seriously and sing very well.
As for my singing, it was considered a form of Chinese torture to some. Great
fun until....the camera disappeared. As we were singing one of the girls noticed
that her camera was missing. It was dark in the room and we assumed that it had
fallen in between the couch cushions. We pulled up all the cushions, searched
every dark corner, had everyone empty their pockets in case they accidently
grabbed it, etc. After 1 1/2 hours of searching high and low we decided to ask
KTV if we could all view the security tape that had been running in our room and
the outside hallway. We certainly didn't think it was any of us and so it had
to have been a staff member that was delivering drinks. The police came. Jen
was our translator. Soon all the guys were stripped down to their underwear and
Jen was asked to search through all their clothes. (The girls weren't searched
because we had tight shirts, etc on with no where to hide things.)
The camera was found in the inside zipped pocket of a member of our group. It
was the guy that no one really knew. The police took him away and he is now in
jail. (A really funny part of this story is that Daniel had some of his
underwear previously stolen at the hostel when he was doing laundry. This thief
ended up having Daniel's stolen underwear on.) It ended up that this guy was
never staying at the hostel. He was pretending, hence...trying to befriend
people and then steal from them.

Because we had to kill 2 weeks waiting for the new passport we left Shanghai and
bicycled a loop that included Hangzou and Suzhou. Both of these cities were
extremely beautiful with lakes, canals and temples. They call Suzhou "China's
Venice". Both cities are huge tourist attractions. Again, we were the only
westerners in these cities. (Needless to say, most of the tourists are

As we cycled this loop we ran into some problems. Because we had a Chinese map
we never knew where we were. We decided to check into hotels while we had
plenty of daylight in case we would have troubles. At 4:00 pm we came to a
quaint town and tried to check into a hotel. A young lad was showing me the
room when an older man came down and said "no". We didn't understand why. We
left and we were really annoyed and angry. We thought it was because we were
bikers, white, etc. (personal reasons). So we moved on to the next town. We
arrived there at 6:00pm and we were happy to find a nice hotel and staff. WAIT!
Grandpa comes in and tells us we cannot stay there. Through a computer
translator we were informed that no foreigners can stay in that town. They said
we would have to go to a town that was licensed to have foreigners but it was a
2 hour bike ride for us. Not what you want to do in China when you are
approaching sunset. We expressed our concern and the grandpa called the police,
explained our situation and asked if they would make an exception. They said,
"No". So, grandpa started to call people that he knew had a truck that could
haul us, our bikes and our bags to this town. We found a hotel and had a good
nights sleep. God bless you "grandpa"!

Government regulations on foreigners: They only license certain hotels to
accomodate foreigners. Every night the hotel has to give the police a list of
all the foreigners staying there and their passport information. That's how
they keep tabs on you. We've had a couple instances where either the police or
the hotel owner has come knocking on our hotel door stating that we need to
follow them to the police station. We know that we have proper visas, etc. but
its still unnerving to have Communist Police wanting to see you. Last night
was another instance where we arrived in the city. We finally found a hotel
after 2 hours of asking everyone we saw where one was. We were exhausted and
just wanted to shower and sleep. After we finally got relaxed the police showed
up. Oh yes, they were there to see us. They told us we had to leave the city.
They wanted us to take a taxi and couldn't figure our why we were saying that a
taxi was not an option with our bikes. A young guy that Ward had talked to
earlier, just happened to come to our room to bring some welcoming food to us.
He saw us packing and getting ready to bike on, even though sunset was in 20
minutes. He asked the police if we could stay at his house. Luckily they let
us. He was 2 sheets to the wind and wanted to drink more beer. Not what we
were in the mood for at this time. We agreed that we would go to his friends
for a small barbecue but then we needed to sleep. After a nice feast he brought
us to his parents. We stayed there for the night. But, at 7:00 am the police
were right back knocking at the door. They wanted to make sure we were leaving
ASAP. The policeman also indicated that he wanted a bribe, gesturing money. We
played dumb like we didn't what he was saying because we don't know Chinese. We
left quickly and kept looking over our shoulder to see if he was following us
out of town.

China has been an extremely cultural experience and by far our most challenging
country. The friendliness of the Chinese people has given them a 2nd place
ranking out of the 40+ countries that we have visited. Regarding the government
and its regulations, we saw Communism in full. There was never a dull moment.

Today we are take the ferry to South Korea. It should be relaxing. We hope
tensions don't rise any higher between North and South Korea. We fly to Alaska
on June 7 and then the overseas portion of our trip is over.

Hope you are all enjoying the spring weather.

Ward and Jacky