December 27, 2008

Nanjing Pictures

Confucius Temple Area at Night

Hot Food Steaming in the Cold

Statue at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial

Garden at the Presidential Palace

Sun Yatsen's Memorial

Full set here.

Nanjing was the capital of several governments of China, including the Taiping and Nationalist goverments. Its name actually means "Southern Capital" (just as Beijing means "Northern Capital".) The city is okay, I guess. There was nothing heart-stoppingly amazing about it, but I had a decent time. I think the main issue was that I wasn't motivated to do a whole hell of a lot, since I was by myself and had roughly 24 hours to spend there (thanks to a train delay).

First I went to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, which commemorates the Japanese slaughter of over 300,000 Nanjing residents in 1937. The exhibits were tastefully done and really gave me a sense of what happened, which is what I wanted it's not an incident we hear much about in the West. But of course it still plays a huge role in Sino-Japanese relations today and, for me as a Jew, has parallels to the Holocaust. There is an excavated mass gravesite you can walk around, and there are various statues, which are done to look very ragged and horrifying, accompanied by poems and prose about that time.

After that I went to the mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yatsen, the founder of modern China. The memorial is up on Zijin Mountain (Purple-Gold Mountain) and is a pretty nice place. You have to climb up 392 stairs (some of which are pictured above) to get to his blue-and-white place of rest. You can circle around his body in a manner not unlike the way in which you can view Mao Zedong's body in Beijing. Around his mausoleum are some historical artifacts and facts about the man. Later on I went to the Presidential Palace, which has an interesting history. It's built on the site of a palace constructed as the seat of government for the Taiping rebels (another fascinating story I never learned about in America -- who wants to argue with a man who claims Jesus gave him a new set of internal organs?) In its current form it was the site where Dr. Sun was sworn in as president, and it's where Chiang Kaishek did his thing while he was in power. Pretty neat historical stuff. It's built in the style of a Ming Dynasty palace, with gardens, walkways, and everything. Check out the pictures, they're pretty neat.

At night I went to the Confucius Temple area, which contains a huge night market and is all lit up with neon. There's nothing spectacular about it -- I just have grown to enjoy night markets and neon, so when I heard these two things where there in abundance, I went to eat some snacks and take some pictures. Good times :-) After that I retreated to my hotel room, where I caught Spider-Man 3 (awesome) and Good Luck Chuck (which I thought I was going to hate but, surprisingly, didn't) on HBO before falling asleep.

Another thing I should mention is the train ride I took to/from Nanjing. It was so entirely comfortable that even when we were stuck on the tracks for 45 minutes outside a smaller city, I didn't mind. I just kept reading my book. It was the "first-class" train which means the seats were super wide and I had tons of leg room. Plus the cabin was nice and quiet since the ride wasn't that full. It was very relaxing; I almost didn't want to get off at Nanjing!

Well that's it for travelling in China! It's been a great year. In addition to Shanghai, I've been to Hangzhou, Beijing, Macau, Hong Kong, Huangshan, Zhuji, Shaoxing, Suzhou, Xizang (Tibet), Kunshan, Xi'an, and Nanjing. Wow. I think that's pretty damn impressive for just one year, and I feel really good about all I've been able to do. It's certainly far more travelling than I've done in the States.

My next big trip is ... you guessed it ... back home to America on Friday. Yup -- less than a week!! Can you believe it? I can't really ...

December 25, 2008

2008 in Pictures: Part 14

Nanpu Bridge Area

Date Taken: June 8th, 2008

The Nanpu Bridge in southern Shanghai. Traveling across this bridge provides an immensely beautiful view of the city, particularly as you enter from the western side by winding up a giant corkscrew ramp.

Soccer Match

Date Taken: June 12th, 2008

Soccer!! The Dalian Shide (in white) take on the Shanghai Shenhua. Shanghai won, 3-1.

Shanghai Museum

Date Taken: August 9th, 2008

A guardian of heaven on display at the Shanghai Museum, one of the country's most renowned collections of artifacts and history. It has over 120,000 pieces in its collection. And it's free! (The museum, that is -- not the guardian.) I think they did it that way to balance out the extreme lack-of-history in the rest of the city ;-)

Beijing Opera

Date Taken: August 10th, 2008

A Beijing opera performance!! Okay, so there's a little bit of history in Shanghai ;-)

Bank of China HQ

Date Taken: August 18th, 2008

The Bank of China headquarters in downtown Hong Kong.

Me and Jen in Front of the Ruins of the Sao Paulo Cathetral

Date Taken: August 19th, 2008

Jen and me in front of the ruins of the St. Paul Cathedral in Macau.

December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve on Nanjing Dong Lu

To be fair, this place is lit up like a Christmas tree 365 days a year, so there's not too much special about tonight, except for the mutant Christmas trees that have taken root. That's all well and good, but ... where are the the 300-ft glowing menorahs?

Christmas Eve on Nanjing Dong Lu

Christmas Eve on Nanjing Dong Lu

Christmas Eve on Nanjing Dong Lu

Christmas Eve on Nanjing Dong Lu

Christmas Eve on Nanjing Dong Lu

And finally, an artsy touch-up courtesy of Picasa:

Christmas Eve on Nanjing Dong Lu

There's more: the full set is here. Damn, I love tripods.

December 22, 2008

2008 in Pictures: Part 13

Okay, I have to admit -- this blogging-every-day (more or less) thing is getting tough! I'm running out of steam to describe all these pictures. So I'm going to cut back on the descriptions (as I've been doing) and just let you enjoy the photos. That's more or less what this series is about anyway :-)

Oh and I booked my train tickets to/from Nanjing this Friday! So look forward to some pictures from there ;-)

Neon Apocalypse

Date Taken: May 30th, 2008

This is a view of Nanjing Dong Lu going out into The Bund and then Lujiazui, taken from the top floor of the Radisson Hotel in People's Square. I swear, sometimes I feel like I'm living in a spaceship!

Taikang Lu

Date Taken: May 30th, 2008

Serving baozi on Taikang Lu. When I get back to Austin I will go on a wild hunt for these delicious snacks. Failing that, I'll learn how to make them on my own. (Yeah, right.)

J Walk

Date Taken: June 1st, 2008

DJ J Walk at The Shelter.

Secondhand Rose

Date Taken: June 1st, 2008

That sure was a busy night! This is Second Hand Rose, a band from Northeastern China, playing at Windows Underground.

Marx & Engels

Date Taken: June 1st, 2008

A giant statue of Marx & Engels dominates this corner of Fuxing Park.

The Bar

Date Taken: June 8th, 2008

Shot from the end of the main bar at The Shelter, when Robert Hood was there.

December 21, 2008

2008 in Pictures: Part 12

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest

Date taken: May 1st, 2008

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the most famous landmark inside the Temple of Heaven park, Beijing.


Date taken: May 1st, 2008

The Houhai ("Back Sea") area of Beijing. Fun fact: Beijing is often considered an unlikely spot for a capital, because it is landlocked.

Hao Chi!

Date Taken: May 3rd, 2008

After a hard day of climbing the Great Wall of China, nothing takes the edge off like a little fried scorpion.

798 Art District

Date Taken: May 4th, 2008

A worker walks past some panda graffiti at the 798 (Qi Jiu Ba) Art District in Beijing.

The Bird's Nest

Date Taken: May 4th, 2008

Duh :-)

Mad Skillz Wif Dem Chopsticks, Yo

Date Taken: May 22nd, 2008

My parents eating veggie food (and demonstrating their chopsticks skills!) at Gongdelin in Shanghai. My dad spent weeks practicing his chopsticks skills -- when I was home the week before, I watched while he meticulously plucked popcorn out of a bowl. I also realized why people find it difficult to eat rice w/chopsticks -- the rice we got from the Chinese restaurant at home was dry and not sticky, which made it difficult to hold.

Also worth mentioning: He was also able to successfully ask a waitress "哪儿有厕所?"

Synagogue and Museum

Date Taken: May 23rd, 2008

My parents in front of the Ohel Moishe synagogue in the Houngkou district, where tens of thousands of Jews lived while WWII raged. The place is lovingly kept up and has an amazing Holocaust memorial out back. Really impressive. Plus, the Chinese guard at the gate said "שָׁלוֹם" and "תודה רבה" to us :-)

Impressive, yes -- but can he sing the Four Questions? I think not!! Hmph.

December 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Me!

Welcome to my first birthday in a foreign country :-) I feel quite strongly that it will be an excellent one. For those who don't know me, I'm 27 (but still feel like I'm five years old most days).

Bear in mind that although you'll likely read this on the 20th, my birthday is the 21st. Remember that Shanghai is half a day ahead of the US :-)

*blows kazoo*

December 19, 2008

2008 in Pictures: Part 11

Baoshi Shan

Baoshi Shan

Date Taken: April 19th, 2008

Two more shots from Hangzhou. The first is of people playing on top of Baoshi Shan (Gemstone Hill) which is on the northern edge of West Lake. I like the way that the tree frames the picture naturally. And the second is of the lake itself as the sunsets. I can't even fit the whole lake into one shot! I should've taken panoramic ones and stitched them together.

The Laughing Buddha

Date Taken: April 20th, 2008

This was taken at Lingyin Temple, about a half an hour's walk (or hour-long traffic-choked bus ride) west of West Lake. It's a old Buddhist sanctuary surrounded by beautiful mountains. The mountain surrounding the area is called Feilai Feng -- "The Peak that Flew from Afar." Legend has it that it was magically transported from India. Another key attraction is the hundreds of rock carvings detailing Buddhist imagery, such as this image of Maitreya, the laughing Buddha. He certainly looks happy :-)

Beijing Tigers @ Shanghai Eagles 035

Date Taken: April 26th, 2008

Wow, look at my hair! Yes I went through a small short-hair phase in April. It's over now, trust me ;-) Anyway this picture was taken at a baseball game between the Beijing Tigers and the Shanghai Eagles. I went with Tim and Laurel, who kept score on a sheet of paper (that I kept). The game was fun -- the weather was perfect and the crowd (such as it was) was pretty receptive. Shanghai lost 1-0, but I still had a good time. It sort of made up for the fact that I never went to Tokyo to see a baseball game -- I say sort of, because baseball in China isn't even half the attraction it is in Japan, although the Dodgers and Padres did play two exhibition games at Wukesong Field in Beijing earlier this year.

The NBA is far and away the most popular American sport here, largely due to the presence of Yao Ming and other Chinese players. I don't think the NFL is far behind -- lately I've been seeing game highlights on the flatscreen TVs in the subway station. I bet they're trying to do it without any Chinese players though, unless the NFL has signed some I'm not aware of? Conversely, the MLB has a few players from Taiwan, none of whom are very good. To achieve the level of success the NBA has had, some team will need to develop a superstar from the mainland. Hey, if the Pirates can sign two Indian guys who aren't even professional pitchers, anything can happen, right?

Tiananmen Square at Night

Forbidden City

Date Taken: May 1st, 2008

If you want to see 5 minutes of Chinese history, visit Shanghai. If you want to see 500 years of Chinese history, visit Beijing. (And if you want to see 5,000 years of Chinese history, visit Xi'an -- but that's another story.) My trip to Beijing was fantastic for so many reasons. Out of all the places I visited, it's the one place I'd go back to if I had time.

The first shot above is from Tiananmen Square at night. The obelisk in the background on the left is the Monument to the People's Heroes, located just to the north of Mao Zedong's mausoleun. The building in the background on the right is the Great Hall of the People, featured on the back of the 100 RMB note. It's where the Chinese government conducts legislative and ceremonial activities - sort of like a White House front lawn + Capitol Building. Just in this area you have so much history and culture about China.

The second shot is of the south gate of the Forbidden City, so named because only the emperor and his followers were allowed free access to the place. Today it's a 60 RMB tourist attraction! It contains the old Imperial Palace as well as a shitload of small museums (and even more shitloads of wide-open, empty space).

The Great Wall of China

Date Taken: May 3rd, 2008

THE FREAKING GREAT WALL OF CHINA. 'Nuff said. If you go, you are given the choice of several "sections" -- Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Simatai, etc. Badaling is the touristy section that has been fully restored and is mobbed every day. There's even a Badaling Expressway to take you there. Simatai, the section you see above, is one of the more remote sections -- a full three hours' drive from the city. It's unrestored, remote, steep, and located high up in the mountains. All are reasons why I was excited to go there instead of Badaling :-)

I could spend another day or two just walking around up there. You realize you are standing on history as you gaze off into the distant mountains. It's marvelous. Easily the coolest/most exciting thing I've done in China.

December 17, 2008

2008 in Pictures: Part 10

Wow, 10 posts and we're barely through March! I gotta step it up a bit ...

pillowfight 022

pillowfight 057

Date Taken: March 22nd, 2008

Ah Internet, how awesome you are for bringing people together for such purposes as book clubs, political discussions, scientific research, and bashing the ever-loving crap out of one another with pillows. Shanghai wasn't the only city to celebrate Worldwide Pillow Fight Day 2008, but it's where I was so that's where I went and took pictures. And my Shanghaiist post is the #1 Google result when searching for it! Rock on.

Here's to 2009!

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moganshanlu 012

moganshanlu 078

Date Taken: April 6th, 2008

These picture were taken on my first visit to Moganshan Lu, a small warehouse/art district in northern Shanghai along Suzhou Creek. People speculate wildly about the Chinese art scene, but if you come here you'll be assured that it's booming. There are tons of contemporary galleries, some small and some large, displaying sculptures, handicrafts, paintings, photography, and a lot more. It's a really relaxed place with a cafe or two that you can relax in while browsing. It's really easy to kill an afternoon here just walking around and looking at all the fun stuff. You don't even have to buy anything.

On my first visit there I spent some time walking around the back of the complex, where I climbed some stairs as high as I could go, just exploring and going wherever I felt like it, and took the first picture you see above. Because it's artsy, the area is filled with foreigners, so most people around can speak decent English. It's a very relaxing time. I remember I spent some time reading in the larger cafe and feeling so peaceful; in fact it was probably the first time in Shanghai I felt at peace like that.

Saturday Night Dinner

Date Taken: April 12th, 2008

This is the remnants (actually, we weren't done yet) of a dinner I had with my co-workers after our quarterly party. One woman had organized a scavenger hunt, so we met up at my apartment, agreed on the rules, read the items, and off we went! My team won, of course ;-) It was really fun walking around and talking to strangers, holding babies, taking pictures of random stuff like celebrities (who were easy to find on the cover of DVDs) and convincing a security guard to sing a song for us. Haha. Afterwards we all went to dinner at, um, well I can't remember the place, but the food was amazing. I remebered I hadn't taken pictures of food yet, so I did and you can see the results above and in the full set. As you can guess, even though there were like 11 of us, we couldn't eat everything and there was a lot of leftovers.

One thing I really like about China is that, as you can see by the Lazy Susan, most eating is done family-style. This is a great way to try out new foods with little risk; just sample some of what your friends ordered! Everything is very communal. And not only that, but the waiters bring out the food as it's ready, not all at once. This means you might accidentally fill up on the first 3-4 dishes because you've forgotten that you ordered 3-4 more! So when those come, you're like "Oh shit!" Haha. I do that a lot ;-) It also affects how you order food. In China, one person usually orders for everyone. So instead of the waiter going around the table and asking each person what they want, they just hover by one person and quickly write down the order. That same person usually pays for everything, too. But it's okay -- you rotate who pays, so it's understood that if you pay this time, someone else will pay next time, and it's all good. Very congenial. When I'm eating with expats, we usually go dutch though. We pass the menu around the table, and each person orders 1-2 things. It's really great and, again, a good way to try foods you never would have otherwise. I'm going to miss it; or maybe I'll just eat all my meals at Bucca di Beppo. But then I'll gain like 50 pounds :-(




Date Taken: April 20th, 2008

Hangzhou! This was my first trip in China. I rode on a train with two co-workers. It was amazing. (The trip, not the train, haha.) The thing I remember most, apart from the beautiful West Lake and Lingyin Temple, was the smell. It was the first time since arriving in Shanghai that I smelled flowers and fresh-cut grass. I remember it very clearly as we veered off the path around West Lake and into a park. That, and I realized that I hadn't really seen the sky in 4 months. Not when there was always super-tall buildings around. In Hangzhou it seemed so vast!

More here (but not all of it, because I got lazy and never posted about Day 2, haha).

December 16, 2008

2008 in Pictures: Part 9

pics 034

Date Taken: March 9th, 2008

This was taken at the Tanghui VIP club for the Infected Mushroom show. Israeli psychadelic trance always makes my night, although I really don't think they should be called psytrance. Funny story about getting here: I was told the club is located on Wulumuqui Lu. But the street sign is labeled Urumuqi Lu. The two names are equivalent; in Chinese they both describe a region in Xinjiang province. But the main effect is to confuse foreigners like me. My poor taxi driver! I don't know how many times I repeated "WU. LU. MU. QI. LU." as loudly and slowly as I could, in that I'm-trying-to-be-calm-despite-being-surrounded-by-idiots voice. (You know the one I'm talking about.) He probably thought I was insane or retarded or both. Of course I couldn't understand him when he (most likely) tried to tell me that, um hey fuckhead, WE'RE THERE. All I could see was the street sign that said "Urumuqi" so I assumed we were in the wrong place. It was even funnier (well, later on) when I got out of the cab in a huff, called Jane who didn't understand what I was confused about, and ended up asking another cabbie to take me to Wulumuqi Lu. Luckily he didn't charge me 11 RMB to go absolutely nowhere. Anyway in the end I saved myself by spotting the club and then magically understanding what the driver was trying to say.

Fun times, I tells ya!

The show itself wasn't that good. I wasn't a huge fan of the music, but my main problem was it was PACKED. I mean I could barely move. Every time someone moved past me I'd either get my feet stepped on or punched in the gut. Stuff like that tends to put a cramp in my evening. And at the end the bartender tried to charge me 30 RMB for a tiny bottle of water. Um, no thanks, I'll go around the corner and get a larger bottle of water for 1.2 RMB, thank you very much. Haha. Yeah, not my kind of place or music at all. But it was an interesting experience. (Well, to be fair, I haven't had very many non-interesting experiences here.)

* * *
I'm skipping the Xujiahui set because it's just pictures of artwork in a small museum down there -- and not of the area itself. Maybe I'll go down there and take some pictures before I leave, but I'm not feeling incredibly motivated to do so :-)

* * *




Date Taken: March 9th, 2008

The above pictures are from Century Park, which is right near my house. It's the largest green space in Shanghai and it still manages to feel cold and uninviting. I guess there's not much you can add to a park to offset having slate-gray skies overhead nearly every day :-)

Anyway that day was the only time I ever set foot in Century Park, although I have been to a couple others in Shanghai (Huaihai Park, Fuxing Park, and Zhongshan Park, that I can remember).

matrix_and_futurebound 038

Date Taken: March 15th, 2008

The above was taken at Bonbon at the Futurebound & Matrix show. F&M are two British drum & bass producers/DJs (gee, are we seeing a theme here?) that Jane brought in to play. She also invited me to dinner the night beforehand at Shanghai Uncle, which was pretty yummy. The guy holding the lighter is the MC for the evening, Whatshisface. (No that's not his name; I just can't remember.)

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xi'an_punk 011

Date Taken: March 15th, 2008

Gee that was a busy weekend! This was one of the only times I've seen a band in Shanghai (as opposed to a DJ). On the bill were several "punk" bands from Xi'an (a mythical, far-away place at that point in time!) I put "punk" in quotes because the last two I saw were decidedly more indie rock than punk, but whatever. I was just happy to see Chinese people rocking out like us Western folks do. That sounds dumb, but you know, I'd never seen a Chinese band before! So sue me ... and I was happy that the lead singer for the opening band (named, I think, The Dropkicks -- which just makes me think they're ripping off the Dropkick Murphys) is most definitely a MOT. (I can smell 'em a mile away.)

The venue was a place near Dalian Lu (which marked the first time I'd ever taken Line 4 on the metro) called the Live Bar. Like Logo, the place really reminded me of Austin. Exposed wood walls, high ceiling, loud bands with fuzzy sound, and hipsters standing around sullenly drinking cheap beer. Ahh, globalization -- ain't it grand? I remember I went with my German friend Elias and his boss's girlfriend. (Don't ask.)

The first band was the best, by far. Well, maybe because the next band was all Chinese, even the singer, so I really couldn't understand them. But I still liked them, unlike the shitty cover band who played after them. (If you click through to the Flickr set, they're the guys dressed all alike in the white dress shirts.) By the time the last band came on and began imitating The Strokes, we decided it was time to leave.

I should have gone back more to that place, I guess -- but it's pretty far away to travel if you don't know who's playing and/or don't enjoy drinking yourself stupid, and although I had a fun night, I guess it wasn't fun enough to lure me back. Ah well, soon I'll be back in the mecca of dingy bars with loud punk music! Woohoo!