Here's part two of my trip to the Far East. Part one was yesterday.
Took the “Shanghai by Rumor” tour once we had arrived. Rain,
fog, and steamed-up windows in our bus. Shanghai is now very modern (I
understand). There are over 3,000 skyscrapers (I was told).
Apparently, the Chinese call all Westerners “Big Noses.” (It’s not just “us”
for once.) This we learned from our delightful Chinese tour guide.
I’m sure it’s a sign of affection, as is harassing us in immigration and
blocking the internet. I constantly felt I was the center of
attraction. First of all, I do have a schnoz, plus I’m 6’ 2”, which
made me a giant. People were constantly staring – the way you would if
you saw Kim Kardashian in a library.
We went up to
the Jin Mao Observatory on the 88th floor and saw… nothing. The town
was completely sopped in. Save your money. For the same experience
visit Visalia during Tulie Fog.
Day two was better.
Granite grey but no rain. Debby, Lauren, Bonnie, and I set out to
explore Shanghai. We strolled the Bund along the riverside, visited a
Jade Buddhist temple (the incense was so thick I thought I was back in
my dorm room), scarfed down delicious dumplings at Din Tai Fung (very
authentic and even better than their branch in Arcadia, California), and
shopped at a local marketplace. “No, I don’t want to buy a fucking watch! Or matching Hello Kitty luggage!”
There should be an app for clean bathrooms in China.
night in every lounge aboard the ship the same musical act seemed to
appear. A lithe singer was a foreign accent and a keyboard player who
looked like Stan Freberg. I called them Captain and Tunesia.
up was Xiamen (pronounced: I have no idea and was there for two days.)
Happily, Chinese immigration did not subject us to cavity searches.
Xiamen was one of the highlights of the trip. First of all, it was 70
degrees and sunny. We scrambled off the ship like Chilean miners.
Xiamen is known as the Miami of China. Judging by the number of
people wearing long pants on the beach I’d say Miami is the perfect
comparison. This was a lovely resort town – pearl white beaches
framed by palm trees and giant skyscrapers that are probably 80% vacant.
There are high-rise apartments with spectacular
oceanfront views, and Porsche dealerships. How is it that Communists
are making more money than me?
Went to a teahouse for an authentic sales pitch (I mean “ceremony”). One tea boasted that it “relieves your freckles.”
According to the Xiamen travel guide: “West Hexiang business street is named as a petty bourgeois street with kinds of brand shops.” What Big Nose can resist knock-off Old Navy outlets?
Hong Kong! Skyscrapers and temples are wedged between mountains and
waterways, and they have a restaurant with robot waiters. Boarded a
cable car up to Victoria Peak and saw – ready for it – nothing. Fogged
in again. At least I hope it was fog. Some days the pollution is so
bad they put masks on the statues.
A MUST-see is Hong Kong’s “Symphony of Lights.”
For twelve minutes every night at 8:00 the skyline comes alive with
multi-colored lights, laser beams, and searchlights all synchronized to
music. (For some reason “Stars & Stripes Forever” was left off the
program.) Even in the mist of carbon emissions it was phenomenal.
urban planning. There’s a 118-story building on a landfill. I guess
the one word not in the Cantonese vocabulary is “permit.”
I’m ever on death row, for my last meal I want the roast duck at Yung
Kee. And then I’ll probably send them back for more of that dipping
sauce. Warning: They don’t take the Diner’s Club Card.
a scene in the movie WHERE’S POPPA? where an African-American is trying
to hail a cab in New York and is bypassed for a guy in a gorilla suit.
That’s how I felt in Hong Kong. A Chinese person could be two blocks
away and still get my cab. One word that IS in the English
If Xiamen is the Miami of China then Kaohsiung is the Havana of Taiwan.
It’s where the squalor meets the sea. Rundown shoddy housing, old
industrial plants, seedy marketplaces – and this was the SCENIC tour.
They get 20,000 earthquakes a year, but only 40 are of any significance.
The other threat to structures is sneezing.
Our voyage headed north to Taipei. And the Foul Weather Frolics
continued. Rain, fog, cold. By then I was templed-out. Waved to
the tour buses then went to the taco bar. So for Taipei I got nothing.
The final chapter follows tomorrow. My book of travelogues, WHERE THE HELL AM I? TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED is still available on Amazon. Get yours today!