Monday, April 26, 2010

Of Line 10 and the Fragrant Harbour

I was going to put off a Hong Kong post for a few days, but then realized that I did stuff in Shanghai that was exciting pre HK, and I'm leaving for Xiamen on Thursday(!) and not next week, because apparently I don't know how to read a calendar. (Shenanigans ensued when attempting to purchase train tickets so close to a holiday weekend deadline).

Before I left for Hong Kong, several things happened in Shanghai.

First, and foremost, the end of March was an exciting one for those (like me) who live in the far off reaches of Yangpu. Line 10 opened! This miraculous, lavender colored bit of amazingness connects my neighborhood directly with downtown Shanghai. Previously I would have to walk 20 minutes (or bus 10) to Line 3, which inconveniently wound me around to some other lines that I could connect to which would in turn bring me interesting places. Now I can walk 15 minutes (or bus 5) to the lavender glory of line 10 that brings me to Nanjing East, Yuyuan, Xitiandi, South Shanxi, and even Hongqiao if I'm feeling adventurous! It's truly changed my life and the first ride I took was nothing short of spectacular.

With my internship, I'm supposed to be researching Chinese attitudes towards various religions in light of the Expo. So, I got to go on a field trip to the Ohel Moshe Synagogue which now hosts the Jewish Refugees Museum. During World War II, Shanghai was one of the few places to accept non-documented refugees (many of the Jews fleeing persecution had had their documents confiscated, and had trouble finding places to go). About 18,000 of them came to Shanghai, most settling in the Hongkou (then known as Hongkew) district - just down the street from where I live now. The museum that documents this era in Shanghai history is housed in the temple and community center of Hongkew. It's an amazing museum and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who is visiting. I found it an incredibly touching and humbling experience, as well as informative. It really is underrated (you probably won't find it in any of your guidebooks, and it is small), but totally worth it. Adam Minter of Shanghai Scrap (a blog you should look into if you're into Shanghai) wrote a really great article that tells the story better than I can. Read it here:

And in final pre-HK Shanghai news, my new residence permit is valid and in my passport, and this mysterious vending machine appeared in my building. It's still empty, but I can almost guarantee it wont provide the "HEALTHY BREAKFAST" delicious-looking cinnamon buns depicted on the sides.

This past weekend I got back from chaperoning a trip to Hong Kong. The trip was exhausting, but informative. I'm glad I saw all the major tourist sites last time I was in the city, because my schedule was certainly full this time around.

Our flight down was uneventful, minus the two hour delay on the tarmac. Always a bad sign when they serve the in-flight meal before takeoff. We stayed at Hong Kong University in the Robert Black College. As far as I can tell, RBC is more of the HKU hotel than any sort of academic building, no matter what the name implies. The accommodations were quite nice, the building was beautiful, and there was western breakfast with views of Victoria Harbour!

The HKU campus is amazing! I absolutely love it. It's beautiful itself, and surrounded by amazing views (both naturally and architecturally). There are a lot of stairs, though. The school is built into a really steep hill, and it can feel like there are more stairs than anything else. From where the minibus stop is to my room, I counted 507 steps and one elevator ride. Hot asses aside, the facilities are wonderful as well, and it all feels much more western than Fudan (or other mainland universities I've visited). Associating with students is easier too. Its the same social feeling I tried to describe with my Taiwan trip earlier this year.

View from the quad:

Main academic building:

You wont see this in Fudan/Try and censor me now, Zhongguo!

On Saturday morning we met with our super nice HKU hosts and went to visit the Behavioral Science Centre, where we learned about social entrepreneurship and social work in Hong Kong. Then, since we were nearby, Aberdeen for lunch. Everyone went out for the local specialty of fish balls. Since that clearly was not my cup of tea, I headed for some random restaurant down the street. My waitress turned out to be a Shanghai transplant, so we had a nice chat. She grew up around Xintiandi before it became Xintiandi. Also, once she realized I was a vegetarian, but a Catholic and not a Buddhist, she came out with this gem: "Oh! Jesus likes the vegetarians, too!"

Saturday evening I met up with Sean and Andrew and some of their friends. It was nice to meet people outside of my Tonghe/Fudan bubble, and of course nice to see Sean and Andrew. Thank you, guys, for still being my friend.

Sunday I met up with Andrew and Sean again at the Happy Valley racecourse. I saw one race, didn't bet, but it was thrilling nonetheless. There can't be that many places in the world where you can watch the races with high rises in the background. For dinner we had Mexican, and I couldn't have been more excited! Also, in line with my when-in-Hong-Kong-eat-as-much-western-food-possible philosophy, we went to a foreign goods grocery so Andrew could stock up before returning to the mainland. Omigoodness this grocery store! It was like shopping in America! I can't believe how patriotic I can get over pretzels and hummus. After a full day of recycling my plastic(!), seeing trees(!) and birds(!), and warm weather(!) I got back to my hotel and watched the travel channel (satellite tv!!) and ate tostitos in bed and almost imagined I was somewhere civilized.

Monday we had the first of several lectures set up through the exchange program with HKU. Professor Liu gave a talk on the basics of HK from British occupation on. I wont bore you with details, since probably the 3 people who read this blog are also interested in China and likely know the story, but some highlights:
-HK colonialism was generally well accepted, but it was also one of the only British colonies that was not resource-exploitative (and thus did not rely on local hard labour etc). Plus, HK's perpetually surplus budget allowed reforms (as long as London didn't have to pay).
-Coolie trade as human trafficking, and 金山庄, 南洋庄)
-Turmoil in the mainland = prosperity in HK (Taiping, 1911, 1949, etc) ~ British colony appears more stable, business and rich people relocate. (Plus, capitalist outlet during communist lockdown).
-Figuring out how to go from Nation to being a part of a nation.
-Hamashita's theory of HK prominence based on Chinese tributary system and overseas Chinese connections thesis

In the afternoon we visited the HK Planning and Infrastructure museum and the HK Museum of History. For a geography nerd like me, the HK Planning and Infrastructure was just as exciting as the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum. I picked up a delightful packet called Hong Kong in Figures and would have spent so much longer in there, but on to the history museum we went. Oh well. After museuming a few of us went to the night market in Jordan (every time I say that I sing the Free Willy song just a little bit), and felt sad that we could no longer get the Chinese price. Cantonese! If only I could bargain through written notes.

Tuesday we had a lecture on the Hong Kong education system followed by a field trip to a school in the New Territories. The Hong Kong government is incredibly supportive of education. University students are heavily subsidized - if they attend an "in-state" school, the government pays 240,000HKD/student, and the student shoulders the remaining cost of around 80,000HKD. Higher ed makes up about 2% of GDP. With lower (that doesn't sound right) education, there is a direct-subsidy scheme (DSS), which I find pretty ingenious of the government. Most schools are private and are often run by religious organizations, NGOs or business orgs (like the chamber of commerce), but they still receive public funding. This way, the government can't be held accountable for poor management, nor can anyone say they don't put enough money towards education. Final note: HK spends a greater percentage of GPD on education than on R&D. The mainland is the opposite.

After the lecture, we saw what we learned in action. Particularly for me, that meant sitting in on a 1st grade math class and learning how to read a compass. The interactive activity was exciting, but there are only so many times I can discover that Jonathan is sitting to the west, and Brian to the North of my desk. Also, Brian was a total know it all. The main difference from the mainland clearly being that all of these children had legitimate English names.

Tuesday evening I went to Shenzhen to see Andrew's neighborhood. After some border crossing shenanigans (the guard photocopied the wrong visa page, and actually asked if the photo depicted me or someone else) it was immediately apparent I was in China and no longer HK. The toilets became squatters, the roads became wide, and people wouldn't let me off the subway. I love queueing. Andrew was a wonderful host (and except for that suspect and judged guestbed, Andrew, your place is really quite nice) and we had Xinjiang food. I also got my hair washed, something I haven't even thought of doing since the days I lived with Candy.

Wednesday we had an uneventful morning lecture on business in China (which was really more of a case study) and a visit to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. The HKMA is located in the tallest building in HK, so the view was awesome. I also now know a completely unnecessary amount about HK currency. (Can you guess why they made the 5HKD coin round instead of hexagonal a few years back? Hint, it's not because it's cheaper to produce).

Back to campus for a weird lecture on Religion in HK. I was excited for this lecture, but then I didn't learn much. And it took me a while to realize why I couldn't stand the way the professor was talking when I finally figured out that he was talking to us the way I find myself talking to Chinese people with really poor English. We did get to watch videos of people climbing the bun tower for the Bun Festival though, always an entertainment.
Tower of Buns:

Wednesday night I went to Macao and watched my friends gamble and cavorted around gambling dens of sin and sort of learned how to play craps. I'm quite sure all the exotic dancers were actually men. And I lost Jae who was not recovered for almost 48 hours.

Friday morning we had a lecture on the geography and environment of Hong Kong. I didn't realize until this lecture (but now it just seems silly not to have realized it) that HK has so much greenery and wonderfulness because of a need for reservoir catchement. Apparently when the Brits arrived it was a blighted pile of dirt with minimal fresh water sources (97% of the habitat had been destroyed). Some more exciting geography tidbits:
-HK straddles three zoographical regions: Palaeoarctic, Ethiopian and Oriental.
-Central Park is 300 hectares, and Kowloon park is only a few, but they have the same number of bird species
-Only 20% of HK is urbanized, and that number probably wont ever rise above 22%. (Although if you think about it 10% is pretty huge. Also, I doubt developers would be on board with too big an expansion since the land price would drop too far).
-I can attest that the Shenzhen/HK border is probably one of the most starkly contrasting borders ever, but I didn't realize it was literally on the line of a catchement zone, which scares me a little.
-Rapid development is what keeps HK taxes so low since the majority of government money comes from land premiums on redeveloped land.

Friday morning there was a fake massive thunderstorm, so we weren't allowed to go hiking on Lamma Island. HKU took us to Stanley instead. A beautiful town, and actually quite homey as it reminded me a bit of the Cape, but not so much to do aside from shop and drink. I did check out several of the Tin Hau temples (of which there are so many all over HK). Tin Hau is the sea goddess worshiped by a good deal of local SE Asian religions. Stanley is also now home to some beautiful buildings, including Murray House and the pier, that were moved from Central after development there got too crazy.

For dinner they drove us all the way back to the New Territories, which struck me as completely illogical, but maybe if I ate seafood I would have appreciated it. The outside of the restaurant was certainly exciting in a grotesque sort of way. And the view was amazing.

View from Dinner:

After dinner I bid Sean adieu, and went out with some people for Natalia's birthday. Then I had the joy of retiring to the hotel to call border control and the Macao police department until 5:30 in the morning when Jae was recovered. Delight.
3 countries-ish in 7 days and only one student lost to a den of vice. Success.

In conclusion, proof of Hong Kong's civility:

The Mainland really needs this one:

Thursday I'm leaving to go couchsurfing through Fujian province. Mainly I'll be going to Xiamen, but I'll also have a random 16 hour stop in Wuhan (which makes so much sense, Qunar!) and a dayish in Wuyishan/Shangrao (Shangrao?! What the what?!). As always seems to happen to me on these last-minute holiday weekends, I'll be traveling via plane, bus, train (hard seat joys), possible hitch hike, and sleeping on someone's couch, in a tent, and god knows where else. Details to follow!


P.S. I finally successfully joined a soccer team. Thus far we are undefeated.

P.P.S. I forgot to share this glorious notice that was in my elevator lobby earlier this month:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Train Travel in China

While touring my family around China last week/dealing with their culture shock, I got to thinking about all the things I desperately searched the internet for before and shortly after moving to China. So, I thought I would start a new segment of this blog for other people who are moving to China and may also be desperately searching the internet. I'm sure they're out there, and it is very literally my job right now to know these things. I'm still trying to think up a catchy name for this, so let me know if you have any ideas. I'm going to start with describing everything you could possibly want to know about train travel. I'm open to suggestion for future topics!


Often the best way to travel around China is by train. The long distance trains are for the most part cheap and efficient, and access far more places than planes (especially on the Eastern half of the country). That said, before you go all in on a train, check some flight prices, because travel between major cities, say Beijing to Shanghai, may be cheaper (and faster!) by air than by train. (Do factor in though, that overnight trains save money on hotel rooms).

(four sections of this post, short-linked here)
Kinds of Trains
Buying a Ticket
Reading a Ticket
Boarding and Riding a Train

Kinds of Trains

Before talking about how to get a ticket, I should explain the different classes of train travel. There are 4: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat and hard seat.

A soft sleeper is the highest and most expensive class - about twice the price of hard sleeper. Contrary to the name implications, the mattress isn't any softer than in second class, but there are several other amenities. Soft sleeper cars are composed of 4 person private berths. There are 2 bunk beds and a small table in each. Each bed comes with two pillows and a comforter. The cabin will also have a hot water thermos and a trash can. Many trains will also provide a bottle of water for each passenger. Most never trains have temperature control and individual television sets (5 CCTV channels, no English) in soft sleeper cabins. Soft sleeper cabins can also control their own overhead lighting and have individual reading lights per bunk. All luggage must be stored under the lower bunks.

The second class hard sleeper cars are composed of six person public berths. Unlike the soft sleeper, you cannot close a door on the public hallway. There are 2 three person bunk beds per berth. The top bunk has significantly less headroom (and is the worthy location where I learned I was claustrophobic). Each bed comes with a pillow and comforter. The cabin will also have a hot water thermos and trash can. Opposite the cabin, in the hallway, is another small table with two fold up chairs. The tray under this table is for trash. Because there are six people instead of four, there is also an overhead luggage rack that runs the length of the corridor. Since the berth is public, there is no individual temperature or light control. Lights typically turn off around 10 or 10:30 PM, and on again around 7 AM. Newer trains have individual reading lights, but I would advise bringing a flashlight as getting a reading lamp is a bit of a gamble.

Soft seats are similar to airplane seats, or upper class seats in European trains. They're typically two, sometimes three across on either side of the aisle. Sometimes they recline, sometimes they don't. There is an overhead luggage rack.

Hard seats are not wooden benches, but they aren't particularly comfortable either. THey are most similar to padded or cloth-covered subway car seats, or maybe the benches in airport gates. Often these seats aren't reserved or assigned, so it's possible to get your seat stolen if you leave it. Hard seat cars also often sell standing room tickets, so you may fight that the whole car is crowded with people, or someone might have requisitioned the space below your seat as their bed. There is not much luggage storage.

There are several different kinds of train, as indicated by the letter in the train number. Here they are in order of niceness and speed: A "D" train (动车组) is a bullet train, usually travels between major cities. A "Z" train (直快) is a direct express train. A "T" train (特快) is an express train. A "K" or "N" train (快车or管内快车) is a fast train (but not as fast as you think, it stops at all big train stations). An "L" train (临客) is a temporary train (typically less well-managed). Any train with no letter and just a four-digit number fall somewhere between K/N and L.

Buying a Ticket

So, now that you want to go by train, how do you get a ticket? First check teh schedules and prices at (for non-Chinese speakers, that means The site is all in Chinese, but you can easily figure it out!

When you first get to the site, the top bar looks like this. I've labeled what matters in English. (Click to enlarge).

Use any online translator to get the city names you want to go to. Copy/paste them into the correct spaces. Then hit the big blue button to get the schedule.

The next page will return a grid that looks like this. Again, I've labeled what matters in English.

Figure out which trains fit your schedule and budget, and then write down the train numbers.

Now you're ready to go buy your ticket. No English-speaking window, no problem! Bring a paper with you that says exactly what you want. Even if you've never written Chinese before, you can print or copy from this template:

Just add in the missing stuff. You can use ordinal numbers. Do your best to copy the city names from a dictionary or translation website.

You can buy inter-regional tickets up to 21 days in advance (starting at 3 pm on that 21st day) and regional tickets starting 11 days in advance (starting at 3 pm on that 11th day). I would recommend buying as soon as you're able. You can go to the train station. Or a ticket vendor. This character, 票, pronounced piao (or pee-ow), means ticket and will be over the windows you want. Make sure you have enough RMB before you go, they only take cash!

When it's your turn, hand the agent your paper. You should already know about how much the tickets will cost, and the agent will likely point to the amount on their cash register. Hand over the cash and they'll give you tickets. You're done! (On a side note, you can return this ticket at a main train station for 80% of the face value).

Reading a Ticket

Ok, now you have a ticket. How to read it? Tickets are typically pink squares about the size of a business card. Here are some examples:

Soft Seat:

Hard Sleeper:

Soft Sleeper:

Boarding and Riding the Train

The day of your trip has come! The train station is a bit more streamlined than the airport, so you don’t have to be there as early. But it will be crowed, so I recommend getting there at least 30 minutes before your train departs. I usually allow 45.

At the train station you’ll have to go through a metal detector and a scanner. Odd as it sounds, I would recommend putting any Swiss army knives or similar blades in your jacket pocket rather than your luggage. They seem to be a bit more lax on the boxy scan than the luggage x-ray. This is especially true of any souvenir daggers you may have purchased. Put ‘em in your pocket.

Once through security, look for your train number on the big board. The number at the end of the row (after the times and destinations) is the platform number. If you have a sot sleeper ticket, there may be a fancy waiting room for you. You will know with it is time to board because everyone in the waiting room will make a mad dash at the ticket collector. Don’t panic! Stay calm. You have a reserved seat. If you want to join the panicked dash go or it, but it’s entirely unnecessary. Show the ticket collector your ticket. He will hole-punch it and give it back to you. Don’t lose the ticket (on a general note, if you’re ever given some sort of paper or form in China, don’t lose it. You will likely need it again).

Find your car. The seat numbers are fairly self-explanatory. For the sleepers it depends on hard or soft. In a soft sleeper, ignore the cabin numbers. Your ticket lists the individual bunk number. The placards have a large cabin number with the four bunk numbers in the corners around it. For the hard sleepers, the number refers to your half of the cabin. After the number is a character: 下 (bottom), 中(middle) and 上 (top).

Once the train gets going, the conductor will come around to check your ticket. They may simply glance at it, or they may exchange it for a plastic card. If you get a plastic card, they will come around again at the end of your journey to trade back. During the ride, if you want to take a breather on the platform of other stations, make sure you have your plastic card or ticket with you. When you get leaving the station!). This typically only happens when you get off t non-terminus stations, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe.


Each train car has two bathrooms (typically one squatter and one Western, but sometimes to your destination, have your ticket handy, as someone may collect it as you leave the station (no ticket, no both squatters – regardless bring your own TP), a few sinks, and a boiling water dispenser. Most trains have a dining car, and every train will have snack cart vendors.

The majority of your fellow passengers will bring ramen with them for meals. Bring the kind in a bucket – you can use the hot water dispenser to cook it. Water dispenser is also good for tea and instant coffee. If you’re not into drinking hot water, bring water bottles with you. In terms of food, drink, alcohol, you can bring on board whatever you can carry. The dining cars and cards are pretty overpriced and not that delicious, so I would recommend bringing your own food and snacks. Other stuff to bring includes: sandals or slippers (for walking around the car), games, books, a flashlight or headlamp, etc.

Pack your suitcase so anything you might need during the ride is on top, they will be hard to access once they’ve been cosied away under bunks or in overhead compartments. Better yet, pack a small day bag you can keep on your lap or in your bunk bed.

Finally, make sure all of your ipods, cellphones, computers etc are fully charged. You have only a 50/50 chance of getting available or working outlets on your train.

Enjoy the ride! Any other questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment or email me. How this helps someone!!



keywords: train travel in China, China travel, moving to China, sleeper trains, hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper, soft sleeper, preparing for China, Chinese trains

Beijing Redux Con Familia

Last week I had my first experience at the Hongqiao Airport. Far superior to Pudong! It's just as shiny, but has so many more food options! If I could count the number of times I've almost starved to death while hanging out at Pudong... (actually, I can - about three. Since I'm a huge cheapskate and almost always take the train or overnight bus. Actually, on that point, perhaps only the Pudong International terminal is dismal).

Anyway, the subway station still smelled new, and the whole experience was bright and shiny. Even the internet was better than Pudong. The only sad part was that I kept getting redirected from the economy class check in to the first class check in where I would be time after time rejected as I'm clearly not a first class passenger. Tedious. Do I look like I have a gold card with my keens and frame pack?

I was on my way to Beijing to meet the family. Mom, Dad and Clayton have finally made the trek to China after numerous passive-aggressive comments about my friends' parents coming over the past few years. The first day we didn't do much beyond eat noodles and then the jet lagged ones passed out while I read for a thousand years. On Thursday we first went to see wax/dead Mao. First Beijing thing that's changed: I forgot a lot of stuff. Second BJ difference: my accent is so understated and Shanghaiesque now. Third BJ difference: so much security! It was crazy. Before, anyone and their sidewalk-pooping child could just wander into Tiananmen whenever they wanted. Now we had to shove our way through a culture-shock inducing mass to be patted down and metal detected. Odd.

Welcome to China, culture-shocked family!:

On to Mao, who has no interest in seeing your handbags, cellphones and other superfluous capitalist items. He is, however, interested in you not leaving your wallet behind. After designating someone to guard your personal belongings, you go through MORE metal detectors! How many death threats does this dead guy get? Then you are given the opportunity to buy 3 kuai flowers which you drop off approximately 45 seconds later in front of a statue. Not even the dead guy. I'm 99% sure these flowers are simply returned to the shop another 45 seconds later to restart the cycle. Such is the life-cycle of mayflies and Mao flowers.

Then, of course, the main event. Mao. Is he real or wax? Will the guards smile? What will happen if I stop moving? Why is he covered in a hammer and sickle and not a Chinese flag? And the most important question of them all: which capitalist communist tsotchke should I buy at the gift shop to commemorate the event?

Next up, the Forbidden City, despite gale force winds (which, while unpleasant, did blow the smog away). Less scaffolding, more red paint than last time.

Got into a chatty jokester of a cab and took my family to the Chinese delicacy that is Hutong Pizza for lunch. Place is the same deliciousness. I impressed myself, and my cabby, by remembering how to get there. My talents are never-ending. Just down the hutong though is the lamentably empty space where Jaime's bar used to be. A moment of silence was had.

After lunch we went to the Kung Fu Show. Pretty shocking that there aren't any competing kung fu performances. It was good, although a it cheesy at times and could have easily done without the ballet bits. But, it's really hard to make kung fu not exciting. It made me miss Xiao Xie who was, (for the record), way more awesome at the majority of the tricks. Especially leopard impressions and random backflips. I was also excited to see the stuff he had taught me featured several times throughout the performance.

Friday morning we woke up nice and early for some Great Wall action. I let my dad be laowai and convince me to book a private car, but forced myself to speak Chinese with the driver the whole 2 hours to Jinshanling to prove I wasn't as laowai as he. We did the Jinshanling to Simatai hike. Still strenuous, but much better weather than last time. Of course the views are to die for. The zipline was way hao wanr again and I manned up and took a video this time. It was disappointing not to spend the night this time around.

Me on the wall. Family pics all on dad's camera:

Wall being awesome:

Pretty sure this wasn't there last time:

Clayton Ziplining:

We had lunch near Simatai. Since it was good Friday, I ordered fish for Ma and Pa. To their credit, they handled the presentation very well, and uncomplainingly picked around bones, eyes, scales etc. However, i do wish I had a photo of the perfectly wonderful toilet my parents resolutely declared to be the "worst bathroom in all of China." Excuse you, but the Flaming Staircase of Death takes that award, although I can't fathom how it didn't make it into that blog post. It was that awful I guess.

We took a short detour to the Olympic stadium on the way back, which was exciting for my pre-Olympic Beijing self.

On Saturday we slept in a but and then went to the hutongs south of Tiananmen for shopping and lunch. Mom needed silk, clearly. Switzerland has doubtless ruined my parent's perception of a good deal. Then we took the subway up to the drum tower. Parents needed coffee. Luckily the drum tower neighborhood is super posh and full of fancy places capable of getting him an espresso. After momentarily considering taking them to Bed, we went to Desserts Cafe because they have that adorable rooftop seating with bell/drum tower and coal hill views.

View from Desserts Cafe:

We probably shouldn't have stopped for coffee because we got to the tower 5 minutes before closing, not enough time to get a ticket and tour. However, like I said, it's a posh neighborhood. We walked down Gulou Dajie to Nanluo Guxiang hutong and window shopped. At one point we found a schoolyard that had forgotten to lock the gates, and Clayton and I played basketball until we got kicked out (Guard: "You two are white. And CLEARLY not students her). I took the fam to Plastered and made sure Clayton got an Obamao shirt.

Next we caught a cab to Beiwai because I wanted to have dinner at The Golden Peacock. We walked though East campus a bit, although not West (too bad!). I was pleased to see that Minzu Daxue Lu remained much the same. My favorite yogurt place was gone, but the dumpling house was still there, and the zhou place. I got nervous about Golden Peacock (I had heard sad rumours!) but it still stands! Tacky signs, long waits and all. 2 hours of potato balls, pinapple rice, deep fried bananas, Dai Jia rice wine, and gads of other deliciousness later, we headed for the hotel.

Nom nom:

I spent the remainder of the evening making awkward friends with old dudes and bar managers via phone trying to find a place for dad to watch MSU in the final four at 6 AM Easter morning. Future note college ball people: Irish Volunteers was a success.

Sunday we went to the Temple of Heaven. Beijing has a 15.5 million population. On this holiday weekend, at least 10 million of them were in the Temple of Heaven. But who should I run into? Hanna and Barbara! Madness! I didn't even know they were in Beijing. Much better pollution conditions than last time I went. Tiantan with a blue backdrop!

Sunday we also went to Wangfujing for tacky tourist shopping, Beijing duck, and scorpions and seahorses on a stick. Because that's what you do in Beijing with tourists.

We took the train Sunday night from Beijing to Shanghai. My first time in 1st class! and my parents' first time sleeping on a train. Minimal culture shock for them, massive luxuriating for me. Soft sleeper is still not worth twice the price of hard sleeper, but I was impressed by the temperature control, individual tvs, and complimentary slippers! Good job, train D313.

Posts about our Shanghai adventures are upcoming.