Guyi – Shanghai’s Secret Garden

Guyi Garden is a lovely classical garden just an hour north of downtown Shanghai. It’s not as famous as some of the other nearby gardens, but that makes it feel all the more special. Avoid the crowds and relax in Guyi’s classical splendor.

One of the best things about China is its classical gardens. Stone paths meander around groves of bamboo. Strangely shaped rocks reach up to the sky like miniature mountains. Colorful fish swim ponds. Trees and flowers blossom in various colors. The entire garden fits together like a painting you can walk around in.

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An “Authentic” Hill Tribe Trek in Chiang Rai, Thailand

“Authentic.” What does that word even mean? Part of the reason we travel is to have an “authentic” experience. We want to see what the “real” locals look like. What is “authentic” daily life for the people in the countries we’re visiting?

All too often, this quest for the “authentic” is framed through centuries of backward (and often racist) stereotypes. We Westerners travel to exotic lands, expected to be greeted and delighted by foreign tribal savages, living as if they were a live-action issue of National Geographic.

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How to Survive a Self-Quarantine

Spending two weeks at home will surely teach you how to survive a self-quarantine. In the end, it wasn’t so bad, really. In the end, I was surprised at how quickly those two weeks went by.

Now, the coronavirus is spreading around the world. Here in Shanghai, things are slowly but surely getting better. New cases have dwindled to a relative trickle. Restaurants, parks, and bars are starting to reopen. People are actually leaving their homes and going out into the streets. It’s probably going to be the best spring in years.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even novel coronavirus pandemics.

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How to Vote in the Primary From Overseas

UPDATE: The 2020 overseas primary is over now, so if you just came here, sorry you missed your chance. Results still aren’t in.

Wondering how to vote in the primary from overseas? It’s actually not that hard. I’ll tell you. It might actually be easier than voting from home, because unlike those suckers still back in the old U.S. of A., if you’re overseas you can vote in the primary on your computer.

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The Coronavirus: We’re Surviving the Quarantine

When I first heard about the Coronavirus, I said a hearty “meh”. Every year it seems like there’s some new horrible virus to be terrified of, and every year the new horrible virus fails to effect my life in any way whatsoever. It’s like the story about the boy who cried wolf.

You know, he says “oh hey, there’s a wolf” so many times that when a wolf finally comes nobody believes him and all the sheeps and children get eaten. People have been crying wolf for years about various deadly diseases. Fear sells newspapers (or generates clicks), and there isn’t much scarier than a deadly pandemic.

But, now, here I am in the middle of an epidemic, quarantined in a small one-bedroom apartment for the next two weeks.

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First Time Scuba Diving, Try Not To Drown!

My first-time scuba diving, my stomach churned like a typhoon. I sat on the edge of the boat breathing in and out slowly, trying to hold back the tsunami of vomit that was building up in the bottom of my gut. Why the hell had I turned down that seasickness medication? Trying to be macho, I guess.

We were on a boat speeding off the coast of Vietnam toward the Cham Islands. I’d never been seasick before. The waves weren’t even especially choppy, but I still felt miserable.

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Da Nang was dang disappointing. But also, it wasn’t?

My Khe beach, Da Nang, Vietnam

The beach at Da Nang is considered by some to be the best in the world. We think of many things when we envision our perfect beach. Long stretches of smooth sand between our toes. The gentle rhythm of clear blue water. Miles of skyscrapers blotting out the sun. The pounding of jackhammers. The diesel fumes of construction trucks. Overpriced seafood restaurants that look like they were plucked from a truck stop and thrown on a sidewalk overlooking the South China Sea.

Da Nang had all these things and more.

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Moganshan – Prepare to Meet your new Auntie

golden yellow rice in front of Moganshan mountain, Zhejiang, China

Thick stalks of bamboo tower overhead. The tops sway back and forth in the breeze. Birds are chirping. The air is brisk and refreshing.

An old tractor, possibly built before the revolution, putters down the mountain pulling a trailer of freshly cut bamboo stalks. Stalks of vegetables lay on the stone walls alongside the road, drying in the sun. The yellow autumn rice fields look like gold as the sun lazily drifts behind the green mountains.

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Gang of Four: A Market of the Senses

Some dramatic lighting for Gang of Four in Shanghai

I’m not talking about the rulers of the Chinese Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. ( The Gang of Four I’m talking about is the late ‘70s British post-punk band.

They’ve been a favorite of ours for a while, and the album “Entertainment” is probably one of the best albums. So, when we read that they were coming to town for the 40th anniversary of “Entertainment” and playing the album in full, of course were going to go. Even if the show was a 40-minute subway ride away way up in Hongkou. Even if we had to work the next morning.

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