ARCHIVES 1997-2007  --- ARCHIVES 2007 +
  JULY - AUGUST 2012

From Late July to mid August I was in Shanghai and surrounding districts.

I traveled to an inland town
(of several million people) with daughter and two grandchildren and son-in-law. (SIL)

While SIL was involved in business, the rest of us traveled to Shanghai and stayed at a place recommended by "wotif" which was expensive and not very good.  We then used "" to find a youth hostel in Hangzhou.  Traveled on a very fast train (about 300 kph) and found that the hostel was located in a fascinating old part of the town.  (a bit like the central Paris or London or Amsterdam heritage areas.)   Daughter found a children's entertainment area with roundabouts etc that kept grandkids (18 months and 5 years)  quiet for respectable periods.

After a few days daughter booked us into another hostel in Shuzhou.  We again traveled by very fast train.  As we were leaving the platform, another very fast train thundered past on a nearby platform.   It was quite impressive to see a 500 meter long train pass in around five seconds.  And the sound effects were also impressive.

Shuzhou was somewhat a disappointment, or maybe we were located too far from the old town district.  It was here that I got a first hint as to how the Chinese financial machine works.  We paid a man beside a canal
Yuan 150 (about $AU27) for a half hour ride on a sampan and were serenaded by the oarsman.  As the ride was finishing he practically begged for a tip.  Later on from information from similar rides we deduced that the "organizer" had some sort of government "license" to sell the rides.  The people who actually do the work are expected to provide the equipment and  make their money from "tips"  This pattern was repeated in most instances of arranged tours.  The concession holder kept most (if not all) of the fee, the people who provide the hardware and do the actual work had to live on the tips.  I suppose the kickbacks go back to someone in the regulating authority.  As has happened for millenia in China.

Then we all met and took rooms in Shanghai near a district called "the bund" which contains Nanjing Street.   Nanjing street is the commercial hub of Shanghai.  We spent a few days walking along the waterfront and viewing European colonial style buildings that were separated from a nearby tributary of the Yang Tze by a Holland style "Dyke".   We crossed under the tributary on a railcar ride with lighting effects and then rode up into a tower with a view.

SIL took his family to see terracotta warriors.  I stayed in Shanghai.  That was when I had an adventure about which I emailed friends and family under the heading "Not a scam I knew about".

So there I was, walking around people's square, Shanghai.  Starbucks coffee in hand.

A young Chinese girl struck up a conversation.  Just the right touch of naiveté and enthusiasm about meeting a foreigner on her first visit to the big city.  Maybe early 20's.  From the sticks.  Studying medicine (that's popular I notice.)

Talking a bit more.  I could not see the point.  Then her girlfriend turned up.  Slightly older.  Both with broken English, but good just the same.  The second girl was a teacher of English to infants.  Just loved talking to a fluent English speaking foreigner.  Helped professionally I supposed.

I said lets sit down for coffee.  They wanted to explore, so we walked east in the park.

Then they suggested that as strangers to Shanghai they wanted to go to a "tower".  It was famous in some way.  Invited me along.

Into a shopping centre off Nanjing road.  (The main drag in Shanghai).  Into some sort of room with a lady who had a tea set.  Wanted me to try the tea.  Six varieties.  For health.  Lots of traditional looking stuff.  I got photos.

A half hour later the bill came to something over Y1800.  When I objected they were happy to split it three ways.

I gave them Y100 and left.

(It's about $AU1 = Y6.5, so they wanted about $300 for half an hour of tea tasting.)

That is not the first attempt at pickup in Shanghai.  I must say that it is quite hard for a European Male to be alone in this town.  I suspect the same applies for euro females.  Outside Shanghai, the pressure is absent.

Then we met in Chongqing for a three day cruise down the "Three Gorges" stretch of the Yang Tze river.  For the price this cruise was not value for money for a single person paying for a double cabin, (but then, even some of my family call me a "crotchety old man".)  Not included in the cruise cost were two tours that averaged $AU40 each for around two hours of temples.  Wifi was not available on the cruise ship, and the internet computer rented out for ~ $10.00/hour.

The Three Gorges Dam is quite controversial, with over one million people having been relocated, and some concern about the stability of the foundations.  However it would and reportedly does mitigate flooding downstream, and thinking of the dikes in Shanghai I can understand the urgency.  At least the Chinese engineers seem to be avoiding the Brisbane mistake of keeping the dam full when further inflows are expected.

Then back for a night in Shanghai, then back to Australia.


I greet the new news source  It appears to be the most significant new news source since the Drudge report first began reporting on matters that the mainstream US press would not touch with the proverbial bargepole.  I have provided a numeric IP link because at least one Australian provider's primary DNS server will not provide it.  If that link stops working please advise me.

RT.COM is apparently sourced in Russia. It might well be government sponsored.  What it does do is provide an alternative view to western media, which (whether left or right) is more focussed on maintaining the existing status quo oligarchy of elitist powers (trade union bosses, commercial management interests, green alarmists, etc) than in the introduction of democratic procedures to government.  Because democratic procedures would reduce the market for regulations.

Three stories published by illustrate it's position.

The first story is the breaking story about TrapWire   TrapWire is a stage in the development of a totalitarian state, and potentially the ultimate end of the human race as a small elite manages to totally determine our lives.  It is a software suite that apparently contains facial, movement and vocal recognition modules.  It draws input from public and private cameras located on roads, service stations, shops, just about anywhere.  It analyzes these inputs and determines geographic locations and personal contacts and "suspicious activities".  This data is collected into a central database that will hopefully detect any likely violent insurrection activities.  This story is being supressed by western media.

The second story is about Julian Assange.  This blog has supported Julian against the Swedish prosecutor since October 2011.  The so called "liberal" journalists should also be up in arms.  Mostly I suspect because their "hero" Hillary bears grudges and Julian has raised her ire.  And with all the power of the US state department behind her, it would take a brave foreign minister to get between Hillary and bringing that miscreant to justice.  Our Australian foreign minister is already craven, and Opposition leader Tony Abbott is also toeing the US narrative.

The Swedes say (rather innocuously to my mind) that they would not turn Julian over to the USA if the death penalty was involved.  We in Australia know all about that.  The US just promises not to execute the miscreant, and then the Swedes would then allow extradition.

RT.COM has reported that the UK government has threatened to invade the Ecuadorian embassy and take Assange.  That activity would put them on a par with Iran.  That strategy was no doubt devised to counteract the possibility that Ecuador would declare Julian to be diplomatic personnel, allowing him to leave under diplomatic priveledge.  Other South American nations are moving to support Ecuador, which has stated that it plans to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.  One can imagine the conversations in Whitehall:
    "Hmm. Before we arrest their diplomatic personnel, old boy, is our current fellow in Ecuador from Eton or Harrow?"
    "Not sure Bertie, but Algy and Smith-Weston are in South America".

The Third story is about girly punk band "Pussy Riot".  According to Western Media, this band invaded a church and sang prayers for the removal as Putin as leader.  There was also apparently some sort of "wardrobe incident" or maybe the girls were dressed like Madonna or Lady Gaga.  A sentence of two years is clearly warranted for criticizing Putin, but seems more determined to justify the sentence on the grounds of disrespect for religious places.  (sorry fellas, that scenario will only play in the west for Muslims.)