Postcard 6

Issue Number : vi
Date : January 31, 1996
Period Covered : 12/27/95 - 01/15/96
Current Location: Somewhere over Siberia
Future Stops : London, New York, Colorado

Tom, my travel companion for the next 2 weeks, is 1/2 Japanese
and 1/2 American. This was his first trip out of the US and he
was handling it pretty well. We met in HK and decided to
travel together from HK to Shanghai. We actually were very
compatible travelling companions. He knew 100 characters of
Kanji and I spoke rudimentary Cantonese. Between the both of
us, we were able to communicate rather effectively in southern
China. In the north, we had to resort to our charades and
Pictionary skills.

Our first stop in China was Canton. We opted for the 3 hour
train ride from HK. Staring out the train’s windows we watched
the scenery change from tall skyscrapers to modest huts in
farming villages. Old ladies with yokes and men plowing fields
flashed by as our train chugged through the breadbasket of

When we arrived in Canton we had to walk the gauntlet of
hustlers that hang around most Chinese train and bus stations.
We were warned that the railway station was a den of thieves so
with one hand on our wallets we set off finding a taxi to our
hotel. I think most taxi drivers belong at the bottom of the
food chain (along with ticket scalpers), and the ones in China
did not prove me wrong. Tom sat in the back seat with our bags
and I sat in the front with a map. The driver did not speak
English and did not want to turn on his meter. After much
arguing he relented. I was trying to follow his route on my
map but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that we were
involuntarily being taken on a sightseeing tour of the city. I
protested his circuitous route by yelling and cursing at him.
Tom was nervously telling me to calm down. He was worried that
the driver would get pissed off and drop us off in the middle
of nowhere. This scene occurred in every city that we visited.
Taxi rides were an aerobic activity for me – it got my heart

The official government policy is to overcharge foreigners. We
had to pay double for plane, boat and train tickets. Museums
and restaurants tried doing the same thing and I got into a few
arguments about this unfair pricing policy. I got away paying
the local price a few times but price gouging is an unfortunate
reality when travelling in the PRC. Since we were officially
ripped offed left and right, I channelled my frustations to the
taxi drivers. It was a convenient outlet and I really enjoyed
the verbal sparring sessions.

In Canton, we visited an open air market that was a takeaway
zoo. Every sort of animal imaginable was for sale. Not as
pets but for food. We saw dogs, cats, deer, rabbits, snakes,
rats, porcupines, bats, armadillos, anteaters, weasels,
raccoons and even live insects. The Chinese eat anything with
4 legs except tables. The whole scene shocked me and made my
stomach turn. I couldn’t watch as a man was selecting kittens
and stuffing them into a burlap sack. I even entertained the
idea of turning vegetarian but only for a fleeting moment. I
regained my senses and appetite at dinner time.

When I was growing up I was always told that people were
starving in China. Well during my trip, I definitely wasn’t
one of them. I devoured everything that came my way (except
exotic animals). The food was excellent and very cheap. Tom
wasn’t an adventurous eater and after 4 days his stomach wanted
some food that it could recognize. We raided McDonald’s and
Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch that day. The Colonel does
not travel as well as Ronald.

With all the food that I was eating, the quest for decent
facilities was always a priority. In China, they have some
really filthy squat toilets. These are basically just smelly
holes in the ground. My goal in China was to not use an asian
toilet. I would hold it in until I found a western toilet.
Some people say that squat toilets are more sanitary because
you don’t actually have to touch anything like a toilet seat.
I have no problems shitting in the woods but asian toilets
proved too difficult for me to use. Since the floors were
filthy you had to grab your clothes to make sure they didn’t
come into contact with the floor. Then you had to hold your
toilet roll with your neck or mouth because the toilets did not
supply TP. While you were doing this you had to deal with the
smell and carefully squat down – making sure you hit the target
and not your pants. I have problems squatting for long periods
so the fear of falling over was also a problem. Happily, the
bowel gods cooperated with me and I was spared an asian toilet
experience in China.

Everyone in China did not believe I was Chinese. They were
sure I was Japanese. In most of southern China, Tom and I were
stared at. Not polite glances, but blatantly rude staring. We
would be eating and we would feel everyone’s eyes on us.
Crowds would sometimes form. It was amusing at first but after
awhile it made us uncomfortable. Foreigners are few and far
between in southern China so they standout easily. My long
hair and Tom’s white skin made us the local freaks. This had
its advantages because people were curious and wanted to talk
to us. Invitations to join people for dinner and drinks were

In Beijing, I did like the locals and rented a bike. Like the
rest of the bikes in China, it was in a highly evolved state of
disrepair. My bike had a broken pedal, terrible brakes, ripped
seat and no horn. Bicycling in wintertime Beijing is very
treacherous because of the large patches of black ice on the
streets. I was proud I only ran into 2 people.

One night I was in a particularly giddy mood. I jumped curbs,
raced with the locals and greeted everyone on the street.
Coming home I had to pass through Tiananmen Square. They clear
the square at night and there are patrol guards stationed
around the perimeter. Being in a very strange mood that night,
I started yelling ‘Freedom’ and ‘Democracy’. One of the guards
started imitating me by pumping his arm and yelling too. I
told this story to some local residents and they said I was
lucky that the guards didn’t understand what I was saying. If
they did I could’ve been arrested.

Random Thoughts
Welcome Irene.
Though I am ‘walking the Earth like Caine’, I did not get to
visit Shaolin temple.
In Shanghai, I ran with the Hash House Harriers. The HHH is a
running/social club that has chapters in most major cities in
the world. They organize a fun run once a week. The run
is not a race but sort of an obstacle course/treasure hunt.
You run for an hour through the city streets following cryptic
signs on buildings, trees and lamp posts. After the run, you
stuff your face and drink like fish. A fraternity party
atmosphere prevails and it is a great way to sightsee and meet
local residents.
We took a 2 day cruise on the Yangxi river. It couldn’t be
mistaken for the QE2. Th boat was a floating rustbucket with
no heat. Definiely not a highlight of my trip. Our hotel in
Canton also had no heat. When I complained to the staff they
said we didn’t need heat because we had blankets!
I thought the spitting in HK was bad. In China you had to
dodge flying phlegm and snot. For a civilization that is
thousands of years old, I was grossed out by their lack of
refinement. People would spit or blow their nose on the floor
while they were indoors! Totally disgusting.
I saw a movie called Chungking Express this week. It was
filmed in Chungking Mansions and it even included a scene in
the guesthouse where I stayed.
I stopped by one of the GS offices in China. The receptionist
there was very professional, courteous and enthusiastic. She
let me use the phones, gave me research reports and was even
going to book a hotel for me. She was probably the most
helpful receptionist that I’ve ever met. GS should clone her.
She even had good taste in men – she turned me down for a
For those people that are interested, here is my schedule for
the next 6 weeks. As always this is subject to change.
Feb 11 London – NY, Feb 21 NY – Denver, Mar 8 Denver – NY,
Mar 10 NY – London, Mar 11 London – Stockholm,
Mar 18 Stockholm – London, Mar 19 London – NY, Mar 23 NY – SF,
Apr 2 SF – Denver
** Chandra – I guess I kind of picked up PMS. I’m moving to CO
for a few months. I know I definitely suffered from Meat
Withdrawal Syndrome. **
** Julia – Do you remember Heather from the GT trip? When we
got back to SF she asked if I wanted her address and number.
We exchanged info and I tried looking her up this week. She
gave me the wrong number and she is unlisted. Through some
detective work and a little luck I finally got the correct
number. I spoke to her father but I found out she gave me the
wrong last name too. She is in Adelaide now but I find the
whole situation very strange. If she gave u her number, I
would like to compare it with what she gave me. **
** Niels – TVM for the drinks. I hope there were no mice in
your room. **
** Megan – Aloha! Do u know when Doug will be in Vail? **
** Margarita – I met this Spainard in China and I told her
about the riojas in the park. **
For those of you in the States, I am in the market for a
convertible musclecar. It has to be a ragtop and preferably a
Chevy. Something like a late 60’s Chevelle/Malibu or Camaro
would be nice. No showcars or hot rods just a clean stock car
in good condition. I am willing to pick it up anywhere in the
States. Any help is appreciated.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Quote of the Day
there’s colors on the street
red, white and blue
there’s people shuffling their feet
peeople sleeping in their shoes
but there’s a warning side on the road ahead
there’s a lot of people saying we’re better off dead
I don’t feel like Satan but I am to them
so I try to forget it anyway I can
keep on rocking in the free world
– N. Young

The views expressed in this postcard are solely my own. They
may not be politically correct and may even be exaggerated.
Names may be changed to protect the innocent or guilty parties.
I do not have a spell checker so typographical errors will be
common. Reproduction or rebroadcast without the expressed
written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly