Lantau Island: The other side of Hong Kong

Lantau Island is not the Hong Kong you expect. When someone says “Hong Kong” you probably think of glistening skyscrapers stretching towards the heavens, and densely packed urban life. Or, maybe you think of protests. Or maybe even Bruce Lee. I don’t know what goes on in that head of yours.

Lantau Island is Hong Kong, but it’s not that Hong Kong. The airport’s there, and so is Hong Kong Disney Land. But I didn’t go to Disney Land, and I’m not really into hanging out in airports. Instead, we took a taxi to a charming little village by the sea.

Continue reading “Lantau Island: The other side of Hong Kong”

Is Winnie the Pooh Illegal in China?

Is Winnie the Pooh illegal in China? Well, that depends on what you mean by “illegal.” It also depends on what you mean by “in China.” Or what you mean by “pooh.”

The story goes that Chinese President Xi got upset at comparisons made between himself and a certain lovable, yellow bear. Soon, Winnie the Pooh became a symbol of resistance against government repression. The government scrubbed all references to Pooh from China and even banned the new Christopher Robin movie. Western media ranging from South Park to more reputable news agencies have repeated the sad tale of authoritarian paranoia so much it’s become common knowledge.

Except it isn’t exactly true.

Continue reading “Is Winnie the Pooh Illegal in China?”

Inside a Chinese Wet Market

Chinese wet market in Shanghai

Chinese wet markets are large open markets where vendors sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, unpackaged and unprocessed. Ever since the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was identified as an early source of the COVID-19 coronavirus, they’ve been vilified in the Western media. Numerous U.S. politicians and officials are calling for wet markets to be shut down. They’re portrayed as grimy, vile, places full of viruses and disease; seedy dens packed with suffering doe-eyed animals waiting to be slaughtered.

So, of course, I wanted to go see for myself.

Spoiler alert: it was great.

Continue reading “Inside a Chinese Wet Market”

Black Power in Red China

Black power in Red China

I’ve been spending the last week sitting in my apartment in Shanghai watching yet another explosion of anger against racism in American society. This time the epicenter was less than a ten-minute walk from where I used to live. I’ve got a whole mess of emotions about everything that I’m not going to write about here. Instead, let’s learn a little bit about the interesting history of the movement for Black power and China.

Continue reading “Black Power in Red China”

How is China reopening after the Coronavirus?

two men on scooters wear masks, How is China Reopening?

When the Covid-19 virus first hit, we had friends and relatives telling us to come back to the U.S. To be honest, I thought about it quite seriously. But we took a gamble, and we stayed in China. Now, the numbers are slowing to a trickle in China while rising to crazy levels in the U.S. Yet, despite the numbers, both countries are now reopening. From what I’ve been reading, the U.S. approach seems to be to just open the doors and letting what happens happen. So, how is China reopening?

Continue reading “How is China reopening after the Coronavirus?”

The Weird, Colored Temples of Chiang Rai

black house, blue temple and white temple Chiang Rai, Thailand

Most temples in Thailand are beautiful but pretty standard. Sharply pitched roofs with carved decorations, often covered in gold leaf. Inside, you take off your shoes and sit under the high arched ceiling looking at a carving of the Buddha. They’re cool, but honestly, they all started to look the same to me after the first two weeks. But then, I went north to see the three colorful temples of Chiang Rai.

Continue reading “The Weird, Colored Temples of Chiang Rai”

Chasing Elephants in Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park is full of animals. Despite being only three hours or so from Bangkok (or almost a full day if you go the way we did), the park is still a relatively pristine wilderness. It’s home to an astounding variety of wildlife; monkeys, lizards, snakes, hornbills, gibbons, and one of the last remaining populations of wild Asian elephants.

Do I like cool wild animals and jungles? Yes. Yes, I do very much. Sure, I could go to the zoo, (or an elephant sanctuary, which I did) but the zoo’s got nothing on seeing an animal in its natural habitat.

Continue reading “Chasing Elephants in Khao Yai National Park”

How the hell do you get to Pak Chong, Thailand?

lonely motorcycle outside Pak Chong, Thailand

Pak Chong, Thailand is only about two and a half hours away from Bangkok. It’s the gateway to Khao Yai National Park, which may be one of the top national parks I’ve ever been to anywhere. The park’s one of the best places to see animals like gibbons, hornbills and wild elephants. So yeah, of course we wanted to go there during our month in Thailand.

We were up in Chiang Rai at the time, doing our research in a lovely little guesthouse. “It’s easy to get to Pak Chong” said all the blogs. Just go to the Mo Chit Bus Station in Bangkok, catch a bus and you’re there. Boom, no problem. Easy peasy, as the kids say.

It turns out there was nothing easy or peasy about it.

Continue reading “How the hell do you get to Pak Chong, Thailand?”

Hold on to Your Butts: It’s Gucun Park, Shanghai

dinosaur totem pole

Gucun Park in Shanghai is also known as “dinosaur park.” Walk through dense forests of leafy green plants. There’s a rustling in the leaves. Something is lurking in the forests just beyond the shadows. Water ripples in your cup as heavy footsteps come closer. Then the leaves part. It’s a giant, animatronic tyrannosaurus! Also, a pterodactyl is playing the guitar. And King Kong is there too. And Iron Man.

Welcome to Gucun Park.

Continue reading “Hold on to Your Butts: It’s Gucun Park, Shanghai”