Nov 8 - Entering the Belly of the Beast

Well, I'm in the belly of the beast. I may not have much connectivity while I'm in China. They've basically blocked anything where you can have an opinion--so Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, my website....all inaccesible. I think porn is blocked too--they've even cleaned up artwork from the renaissance! Argh! What will I have left?!

(As an aside, I later found out that I can access everything if I am VPN'ed into a server outside of China. Nyah nyah!)

I spent the last couple of days packing all my stuff since I had to vacate my apartment in Hong Kong today. The management at my apartment wanted to charge me 50 HKD per day to store a bag--crazy! So I found a friend to store the bag full of protein powder and spanish books. Now I'll be living out of one bag for the next 5 weeks.

Flying into Beijing was like dropping into a dense grey fog. It's pretty clear that the air in Beijing is really polluted. I thought they had cleaned it up for the Olympics, but it's quite evident that this problem is enduring and there's probably no quick fix in sight.

I was a bit worried going through Chinese immigration because I have a hacking cough that started up last Wednesday. I basically did all my coughing as I got off the plane and then held any rampant coughs as I walked through immigration. They have a couple of heat sensors so they can catch if someone has a fever. It's pretty cool to look at the monitor to see everyone's heat signature, and a little green marker automatically marks each person as fever-free. But luckily I don't have a fever so I didn't get quarantined for days.

Unfortunately, my voice is shot now because of the cough. I'm not sure if I can conduct 5 straight days of training this week. Ugh...


ATM rate: CDN$1 to 6.3Y
1 night, Otani Chang Fu Gong: C$92
- 1 can of coke in the lounge: C$7
- buffet breakfast: C$27
breakfast, Mcdonald's: Y18

I didn't realize this was a Japanese chain hotel until I was greeted at the front dest with "sumimasen". It's a nice hotel in a very central location close to all the businesses on Jianguomen (including Silk Street). I think because of the ailing economy I got a good deal on the room. The washroom is a bit outdated, but they purify the water at the hotel so drinking from the tap is fine.The bed was very comfortable, Overall a pretty classy establishment--I especially liked the live traditional chinese music in the evenings. And I even saw them performing tai chi one cold morning in the rock courtyard. The meals and extras are overpriced but it's easy to leave the hotel and check out the many restaurants on the adjoining street. They have a full gym for badminton and basketball, a pool and standard gym equipment--one crappy thing was that you have to go up and down 104 steps (I counted) just to get to the gym. It's almost a workout in itself.

Nov 9 - Learning Mandarin Part 1

When I was in Hong Kong, I actually decided to switch from learning Cantonese to learning Mandarin. The way I figure, in all the places in the world that speak Cantonese, you'll find someone who speaks English. The same isn't true for Mandarin. And apparently only 5% of China speaks Cantonese, while Mandarin is understood by everyone.

So about a week ago, I bought a Mandarin book and started to learn it. It's easier to learn than Cantonese because there are only 4 tones, compared to the 7 tones in Cantonese. And the tones are much more discernable in Mandarin. But I already learned enough to order food at a nice hotpot restaurant beside my hotel. They didn't speak any English there.



Nov 12 - Just a Bit of Recovery Time Please

I woke up this morning and Beijing was covered in a blanket of snow. Only an inch or two but enough to make scared to walk outside. I feel a bit out of commission right now. With my knee, the snow, and my cough and speaking all day, I just want to hide away for a few days to recover.

But I'm trying to stay a bit active in the evenings after work. Last night I met up with a friend to go for Xinjiang food at Crescent Moon Restaurant. It was delicious--I must say that I am a huge fan of Uigher food. It is chock full of spices and is always very tasty. I wish they had more of this food in North America.

(As a side note, I went later in the week to Red Rose Xinjiang Restaurant in Sanlitun. This place has a much bigger dining area. The prices were probably about 30 - 50% higher here, but they had fun little show of belly dancing and frenetic guitars. The food wasn't as tasty as Crescent Moon.)

I ended the night with a cup of Guilinggao at Herbal Cafe. It's a jelly that's supposedly made from turtle shell. It has the texture of jello and tastes slightly bitter, but they gave me some honey to sweeten it up. I felt a bit bad when I got home because I did a search and found that it is made from an endangered turtle species. Boo! Those damn Chinese keep eating everything to extinction! So no more jelly for me!


huge dinner for 2, Crescent Moon: 206Y
bottle Black Beer: 10Y
Guilinggao, Herbal Cafe: 36Y


Nov 14 - Chilled at the Bird's Nest

I spent my Saturday hanging out with Faye, Jeff and their new addition Justin. I also found out that Faye is preggo with a girl on the way in a couple of months. I'm getting to an age where lots of friends are having kids and it's strange still being the single guy. But the kids are always so cute, and it does make me think of how things could have been different.

We started at one of the popular hotpot restaurants. We ordered a slew of items from the menu and just cooked it all in the bubbling white broth in the middle of the table. From thin slices of fatty mutton, to a slab of shrimp paste, to skewers of whole fish. It was all very tasty.

We ended our meal with the traditional dancing wu noodle: A guy comes out with a thick noodle in his hands. He proceeds to thin the noodle out with a dance that reminds me of the ribbon event in rhythmic gymnastics. Spinning around, he spins the noodle around himself and with quick flicks of his wrist makes it jump and dance. It was fun to watch and the noodle itself was deeeelicious.

After this we went back to Faye and Jeff's place, where I met their live-in nanny. For a mere C$400 / RMB 2500 a month, you too can have a full time live-in nanny in Beijing! We all chatted and I learned some Mandarin from Justin--what a cute kid. Then we went for high tea at the Pangu Hotel (which remarkably resembles a dragon) beside the Bird's Nest and Watercube.

It's was friggin cold outside as we walked around the Bird's Nest. I wished I had my real Canadian winter clothes--I would be able to handle it no problem. But my bare hands shivered as I took some photos of the amazing buildings. The Bird's Nest is so cool with its criss cross of beams--very futuristic. At night, it's another dramatic sight as the blue glow of the plasticized Watercube stands across from the red heart of the Bird's Nest. I'm sure the Bird's Nest will become a symbol of Beijing in the years to come, alongside the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.



Nov 15 - Chinese Joke

I heard a funny joke today:

A CNN reporting was in Beijing interviewing people on the street to see what they felt about the growing food shortage problem in the world.

The first person he stopped was an American. "Excuse me, could you tell me what you think about food shortage in the world?". The American looked a bit confused and replied, "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you mean by "shortage"."

The second person he stopped was an Ethiopian. Again: "Excuse me, could you tell me what you think about food shortage in the world?". The Ethiopian shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't understand what you mean by "food"."

By now the reporter was getting a bit frustrated, he approached a Beijing man and one more time: "Excuse me, could you tell me what you think about food shortage in the world?". The Beijing man spat on the ground and said, "Huh? I don't understand what you mean by "excuse me"."

Haha! Soooo true!



Nov 16 - Random Pics

I just wanted to include a couple of cool pictures in my blog. The first is a picture of the remains of the CCTV building. The entire friggin building burned--it looks like a spent matchstick. Apparently, fireworks during the new year celebrations from its sister building lit the building on fire. Faye watched the fireworks from across the street and then realized that one of the buildings started to burn. The burned out husk looks pretty bizarre but they can't demolish it because it is on the same foundation as another surviving building.

The second picture gives you an idea of the food my clients are taking me to eat. This is my artistic rendition of the duck foot soup that I ate. It tasted pretty good. I just had to pick the toe webbing out of my teeth.



Nov 18 - Shanghai Mama

I just got to my hotel in Shanghai last night around midnight. I can see the famous Shanghai TV tower outside my window. It's a bit hazy outside, and chilly but not as cold as Beijing.

Shanghai is a more intimate walkable city than Beijing. It's not covered in a web of 14-lane roads and highways and massive wall-to-wall buildings like Beijing. The scale isn't as huge here--when you see that something is a block away on a map, it's really just a block away. In Beijing, it's like a mile away. I hope to do some walking around. My knee is getting much better--I can walk without a crutch but I still carry it to signal to everyone to stay the f*ck away from me!!

The traffic here during rush hour was ugly because the streets are so narrow. It took me 5 minutes to go to the Jin Mao Tower from my hotel and 1 hour to get back! I have to close my eyes sometimes while I'm in the cab to prevent myself from swearing out loud because everyone is constantly jockeying for position and we always seem to be on a collision course. I swear I saw a car going the wrong direction on the road, and it almost seemed normal. Drivers here do whatever it takes to get them where they are going, and they really don't care about anyone else.

But after the stressful cab ride I was able to find a massage parlour near my hotel. Got a 1 hour massage...only 10 bucks. Nice! I think I'll get a massage every day!



Nov 21 - Exploring a Bit

I'm still not feeling well because the lingering cough I have is getting worse. My spirit for adventure has shriveled up. I feel guilty because I'm in a fantastic city like Shanghai and the only thing I want to do is get into bed and curl up in the fetal position.

But I was able to muster some strength over the last few days to explore around. The traffic is actually not that bad evenings and weekends. I really liked walking around the small streets around my hotel. I think it's just that tiny underground tunnel linking the two sides of the river that causes the major bottlenecks during rush hour.

I still have to get into my head that cars have the right of way. And then motorbikes. And then bikes. And then finally the people. Make no mistake--it's the pedestrians that shoulder-check here, not the vehicles. I seriously want to hit the cars as they zoom dangerously close like I'm a pilon on the street. I was tempted to stick my crutch in a motorbike's wheel as he honked his way past me.

I also went to the gigantic Shanghai Bookstore (Shu Cheng) on Fuzhou Road. It is 7 floors packed fulled of books, cds, and people. I found a Mandarin multimedia learning program for the computer called Interactive Chinese which will give me something to do once I'm in Hong Kong and not working. I am definitely looking forward to my time off.


steamed rice bun on street: Y0.60
pasta dinner, Saizeriya: Y25
Interactive Chinese course: Y780


Nov 22 - Last Words

To whomever it may concern,

This may possibly be my last entry as I feel that I am close to leaving our cruel world. My string of bad luck has continued and the strange cough I have had for 3 weeks has deteriorated into a full blown fever. I am now battling hallicinations and dizziness.

I am stuck alone on a small island where the only outside contact I have is a friendly native who comes by every day to provide me with water and clean towels. Unfortunately, she speaks a strange series of clicks and whistles that I have yet to decipher.

I can see the natives below me--they are getting restless and I fear that they will soon decide to storm my camp and take me to their god Hini who lives in a far and lonely place called Quarantine. I can hear the whispering outside my camp--it is getting closer. I am very weak and leaving camp to hunt for food is difficult, All I can find on the rocky beaches are the foot remains of ducks. I don't know how much longer I can last.

A supply ship bound for Tokyo arrives on Tuesday. I may not survive that long so if you find this message and noone can locate me, please contact my Mom, siblings, and friends and tell them I love them.

- Akawesley




Nov 24 - Leaving on a Jet Train

Yes, I'm still alive. I feeling a bit better and I'm on my way to Tokyo. To get to Pudong International Airport this time I took the Maglev train. This baby is's the world's fastest train reaching speeds of 500kph! That's faster than Japan's Shinkansen at 300kph.

The train station is right above Longyang Station ( comment). And the station is pretty regular--it doesn't give any indication of the powerhouse it has inside. Getting on the train, again nothing really high tech here. It was very "China" with the ill-fitted blue cloth covers on all the seats--it's like my Dad wrapping all the remote controls in the house with saran wrap. It's all very practical, but just doesn't look right.

Riding the train, it was fun to watch everything whiz by. I really couldn't tell how fast we were accelerating--I thought it was going to be like riding the Hulk rollercoaster in Florida where you get shot off like a rocket. But it was pretty chill. And the ride is very quick--a little over 7 minutes to cover 30km.


taxi, Salvo Hotel to Longyang Stn: Y42
maglev, one way ticket to airport: Y50




see itinerary