2015 Winter Holiday travels: Beihai and Nanning

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Beihai and Nanning
Since I came to China, I’ve had two opportunities to visit Beihai, but instead chose to go elsewhere. This time, I decided I should go see whether this coastal city is as wonderful as some of my Chinese friends say. Well, I hate to say it, it’s not that wonderful. If you want quality beach time, especially in February, skip Beihai and ante up for a more expensive visit to Sanya in Hainan. Beihai is nice enough for one or two days, but after that it’s pretty boring. Before I get into details, here’s some perspective. Beihai is in Guangxi Province, one of the poorest provinces in China. During the 19th century, Beihai was an important international port, but went into decline during the 20th century as other cities in China — like Guangzhou — became more important international ports. Development of Beihai as a tourist city is still underway. There’s now a high-speed rail line linking it to the larger city of Nanning; its airport is new and modern; and there are new hotels and condos going up all over the city. In addition, the government is trying to develop Beihai into a passenger seaport, with daily departures to ...

2015 Winter Holiday travel: Shenzhen, again, and its tired Soviet aircraft carrier

2015 Winter Holiday travel: Shenzhen, again, and its tired Soviet aircraft carrier
BEIHAI, GUANGXI PROVINCE — OK, OK, I know I just blogged about visiting Shenzhen, but that visit was before Hong Kong. This blog is about visiting Shenzhen after Hong Kong. I know, I messed everything up by starting in the middle. I lead with Hong Kong because there was some important current events happening while I was there. My bad. So, my plan after Hong Kong was (1) stay a night in Shenzhen, where hotels are cheaper, before (2) flying to Beihai to stay a few days with a Couchsurfing.com friend. Originally, I had planned to take the high speed train from Shenzhen to Nanning, then the high speed train to Beihai. But those plans went awry, due to the coming Spring Festival travel crush. My attempts to book train tickets online were foiled, as there appeared to be none available on the days I wanted to travel. (In retrospect, the website was probably just having problems updating availability, but I didn’t realize it at the time.) Rather than deal with long lines at the Shenzhen North Railway station, which I had already witnessed dropping Sophia off there a few days before, I opted to fly to Beihai from the ...

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Shenzhen/XiaoMeiSha

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Shenzhen/XiaoMeiSha
SHENZHEN, GUANGDONG — This was my second visit to Shenzhen, as I had come through here on my way to Hong Kong in December, but this time I wasn’t staying in the downtown area, but in the so-called beach resort area of XiaoMeiSha 小每沙 (literally “little sea water”) to the east. I say so-called because, quite frankly, there’s no “there” there. Since we were there off-season, I suppose I could cut the town some slack, but in fact, there was not much to do there. My friend Sophia K. and I stayed in an inexpensive hotel in XiaoMeiSha for five days, but aside from two visits to the beach and waterfront, most of the time we took the bus to Shenzhen proper and enjoyed the activities available there. So, why did we go there? Budgetary constraints, mostly. Sophia really wanted to see the shore (only her second time) and she had only 1,000 RMB and a week of time. Sanya, in Hainan, the best place to go, was too expensive, for both of us. Her friends said XioaMeiSha was better than Beihai (correct, as I discovered), so we settled on XiaoMeiSha. It wasn’t horrible, but somewhat disappointing. DaMeiSha 大梅沙 (“big ...

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Guangzhou

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Guangzhou
GUANGZHOU, GUANGDONG PROVINCE — I spent a little more than two weeks touring southern China this long winter holiday, and Guangzhou was the first stop outside Hunan. Originally, my friend Sophia and I had planned to meet in her hometown of Hengyang to travel together to Guangzhou and Shenzhen, but she had to attend a relative’s wedding in the countryside, so I ended up spending one night in Changsha, and catching a train to Hengyang the following day. We then proceeded to Guangzhou, where she stayed with an old friend from high school and I stayed in a hotel near my friends there. Let me introduce my companions. All three were English education majors and among my first students in China. Dee (below) returned to Jishou University briefly to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business English, but financial considerations required her to abandon those plans and get a job. All three work in foreign trade at different companies, Dee and Sarah as sales people and Mary (at left and also below) as a receptionist/translator. I arrived on a Sunday, so they were free to hang out. Dee and Mary met me first at the train station and we took the ...

Winter holiday 2015: The non-political part of my Hong Kong visit

Winter holiday 2015: The non-political part of my Hong Kong visit
Since I’ve already started in the middle of my travels, I’ll finish telling about my two days in Hong Kong. To recap, my friend, Sophia K., and I had traveled together to Guangzhou and Shenzhen for a week. That was all the time she had, and so had to return home. I, on the other hand, didn’t. But the question was, where to go next? Shenzhen and Hong Kong are separated only by a river, and a political boundary. I really like Hong Kong, but the hotel prices there are normally too high for my modest teacher salary. Yet, even though I had already spent five days in HK in December to hang out with my son, it beckoned to me. Quite by chance, Hotels.com sent me a low, low price offer for hotels in major cities. Most of the Hong Kong deals, though, were either still exorbitantly priced (for my budget, anyway) or shoeboxes that make my university flat seem palatial. Most were in Kowloon and the north side of Hong Kong Island, where I’ve stayed before. But one caught my eye: two nights for the price of one at the Ovolo Southside in Aberdeen. Even at 50% off, ...

Winter holiday 2015: A Hong Kong pro-democracy rally

Winter holiday 2015: A Hong Kong pro-democracy rally
HONG KONG SAR — There was some newsworthy events happening in Hong Kong while I was there, Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, so I’ll start in the middle of my holiday travels. As you may have heard, Hong Kong has seen lengthy, largely peaceful protests in favor of universal suffrage, which was promised in the agreement between the UK and China when the British government handed its territory back to China in 1997. When I was in Hong Kong in December, the Occupy Central sit-in protest had just ended. Another protest rally occurred on Feb. 1, the same day the Hong Kong government announced the composition of the nominating committee for the next Chief Executive of the Special Autonomous Region. I happened to walk right into the rally in Causeway Bay before it began as I was on my way out of Hong Kong to Shenzhen. I snapped these photos with my cellphone as i walked to the MTR station from the bus stop. The former reporter in me wanted to stay and watch, but I also needed to move along to my next destination, so I resisted the urge to whip out my camera and play the journalist. The ...

My winter holiday journey around southern China

My winter holiday journey around southern China
BEIHAI, GUANGXI PROVINCE — It’s winter holiday time again, and time for me to venture out in the wider world. My holiday travels this time were not as far ranging as I had hoped or planned, but still I’ve had a good two weeks of travel. Here’s my itinerary in brief: Jishou – Changsha – Hengyang (all in Hunan), Guangzhou – Shenzhen (in Guangdong), Hong Kong, Beihai – Nanning (in Guangxi), then back to Hunan, for 17 days in all. The map above shows where I’ve been. My original plan was to go someplace really exotic, like Hanoi or Jakarta, but a friend asked me to travel with her for a week at the end of January. Also, my tutorial student wanted more lessons, so rather than leaving right after exams ended Jan. 6, I stayed in Jishou till the 24th. Meanwhile, I made up my mind not to exceed my budget, as I have managed to do the last three journeys. This time, I was determined to have at least a month’s pay in the bank when I returned. This decision required me to return to Jishou once my funds dipped that low. So, after scoping out my options ...

Another term put to bed

JISHOU, HUNAN — Another term is past. I put in three intensive days to plow through marking my Listening Comprehension exams, and turned in my grade on Tuesday. I am a free man! This term was relatively easy. I have four sections each of Oral English and Listening Comprehension, totaling about 160 students. I designed the listening exams to be quick to mark, so plowing through them while I watched TV or listened to music wasn’t so bad. Likewise, the spoken English final assessments were already done by the time I gave the listening exams; all I needed to do was calculate their grades in Excel. So, what now? I have nearly eight weeks of vacation stretching out in front of me. For now, I’m just going to take it easy at home, as I still have some tutorials to meet. Then I’ll go travel somewhere. Haven’t made up my mind where yet. Meanwhile, I’ve been tweaking things here at Wheat-dogg’s World, and republishing the blogs I wrote about coming to China and being in China, as The China Chronicles. They’re indexed in the Pages section your right. Each chapter covers a year. I had hoped to find a WordPress ...

Buying Bitcoin in Hong Kong with an ATM

Buying Bitcoin in Hong Kong with an ATM
HONG KONG SAR, CHINA — It’s been a year since I first bought bitcoins, and coincidentally I commemorated the event by buying Bitcoin at a Lamassu ATM here a few days ago. Reports of Bitcoin ATMs in Hong Kong came out earlier this year. One is in a café in the Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, and the other is in Mong Kok in Kowloon. I only visited the Mong Kok location. My son was in HK for a conference, so I took a week’s leave to meet up with him. While he was busy conferring, I spent the time doing my own stuff. One of my missions was to find and use the Mong Kok ATM. This website gives directions on its use, but provides only the address. It’s easier than using a regular bank ATM. There’s no keypad, no need to insert a card, provide your handprint or have your face scanned. This machine scans the unique QR code on your smartphone to determine your Bitcoin address, and waits for you to insert cash (Hong Kong dollars, in this case). When you’re done, the equivalent value of bitcoins, less a small service charge, is sent to your Bitcoin ...

A peek at a Chinese couple in Zhangjiajie

A peek at a Chinese couple in Zhangjiajie
JISHOU, HUNAN — Many couples in China choose scenic spots for their wedding photos. Few, however, choose to pose nude while doing it. This couple, who may or may not be participating in a publicity stunt for the Zhangjiajie tourism industry, has got tongues wagging here in China. They’re blue as a nod to the movie Avatar. Director James Cameron supposedly saw the rugged terrain in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and was inspired to recreate the terrain for the movie’s planet, Pandora. Whether that’s true or not, the Zhangjiajie tourist board is running with it. One of the peaks in the park was renamed “Hallelujah Mountain” shortly after the movie came out. You can see more photos here (Chinese language) and here (English language). The photos are SFW, because the couples’ “naughty bits” have been pixelated or concealed to satisfy strict censorship regulations in China. On the other hand, saturation levels have been Photoshopped. Zhangjiajie is beautiful, but the colors there are not that vivid.

The first trailer of my ‘big’ movie debut 2

The first trailer of my 'big' movie debut
JISHOU, HUNAN — Back in September, I was called upon to play the part of a foreign visitor to Xiangxi Prefecture in a movie, 《一次性爱上2》 (Yi Ci Xing Ai Shang 2 — Love at First Sight 2)*. The first trailer for this “micro-movie,” a 45-minute web-only production, has just been released. Unfortunately, there’s no embedding options, so here’s the LINK. The link will take you a Chinese video sharing site. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see it with no troubles. Meanwhile, I’ll try to download it and see if I can host from my own site or post it on YouTube. There are no English subtitles yet, but there’s not much dialogue in the trailer, anyway. It’s a movie about romance, drama, spectacular scenery and the love of music. ——— * Interestingly enough, the Chinese phrase 一次性爱上 can be translated as “Love at First Sight,” but it can also be used to describe a one-night stand or a sexual escapade. This second possibility led to some interesting comments from my Chinese Internet friends. I had to assure them I was not acting in a porn movie, which, by the way, are illegal in China. So, I figure they were not ...

It’s a wrap (for me, at least) 1

It's a wrap (for me, at least)
JISHOU, HUNAN — My first brush with Chinese film making has ended. Now I’m waiting to see the results, like everyone else. My services were needed for only three days. I’ve already related the first two days’ events. The last day was Tuesday, coincidentally the last day before a week-long break for the National Holiday. First off, consider that my schedule that day began with four hours of classes, and ended with four hours of classes. Sandwiched between these sessions of Oral English was that day’s filming in Aizhai and Dehang and a very late lunch at 3 pm. A really long day. Along the way, I got a better idea of my role in the movie. One scene on Tuesday had me in hiking clothes in Dehang, coming across a local woman drumming in the local Miao style in a canyon. This scene happened some years in the past. At the time, my character, Jason, was moved to the point of tears and wanted to meet this woman, but she refused to see me. I left disheartened. My other scene filmed on Tuesday was in the Ford used earlier. Jason is in the back seat looking at the video ...
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