The best China travel stories from around the net

by James Weir
Posted: November 5th, 2012 | Updated: November 5th, 2012 | Comments
Shanghai photography Gazing at the image on the right, you might be tempted to say: "What is it, 1969, in Woodstock, New York? Have I somehow found myself in a state so very altered that I cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined? For I recognize many of the landmarks seen in what appears to be a photograph—I can so clearly see the World Financial Center at 3 o'clock, and is that not the top of the Jin Mao Tower at 4 o'clock? And what do I behold at 10:15? Why, that is no doubt the Oriental Pearl Tower, the prettiest building this side of an early 80's five story walk-up apartment compound in Baotou! What is happening to the world? Why does it bend and spin so?! Do I know not reality?! Is this OBLIVION?!" Don't worry; that's what we all said. But thine eyes do not deceive you, for that is indeed a number of Shanghai's most iconic landmarks, spun round and round like an unfortunate, adventurous cat in a dryer. The photo is one of Zhang Haitao's fascinating and confusing corruptions of the Shanghai skyline. How does he do it, you're surely asking? Well, even after reading the article I don't know because I've never owned a camera. Maybe you know what "digital SLR camera" means, and "tripod," and "cable release," and "polar filter," and "wide angle lens" and, finally, "Photoshop CS." Yeah, I didn't understand either. Anyhoo, however he makes it happen, happen it sure does. The photo series is numerous and endlessly confuddling, with different color schemes and artistic approaches. Personally, I'm partial to the ones that include the moon, maybe because I am a werewolf, or maybe because I find the moon romantic and a wonderful muse for any artistic pursuit. I can't remember, but it's definitely one of those two things. More China travel stories after the jump.>>>
  • One of my favorite Shanghai restaurants to take visitors is Xinjiang restaurant right around the corner from my apartment. The restaurant is delicious, but almost as important is how Western-friendly it is. Great English service, recognizable dishes, a spacious dining area, etc., things that can come as a relief to the weary traveler. One dish I invariably order is the chopped pasta, a wonderful mix of diced noodles, lamb, minced veggies and some kind of sauce that must have been made in the skillet of an angel. Now, this kind of an experience has it's fair share of trade offs—after all, you can't really say you've "seen China" if you dine only in quiet, sophisticated places with low light that serve cheesecake—but if you're new to China and don't have the wily ways and language skills of an old-hand China expat, dining in more local places can be pretty tricky. Enter Food Dragon, a smartphone app that recently added the aformentioned dish to their bilingual offerings. The app displays the English name, the Chinese name, and organizes all the offered dishes by category for easy browsing. Loosen your belt, wander to your nearest hole-in-the-wall, order up and dig in!
  • The hardest parts of moving abroad—separation from the familiar, disconnection from your support system, a jarring new routine, strange and puzzling cuisine, a baffling array of languages and local dialects, the list can go on and on—are often amplified in China (my personal hurdles were culinary: one, WHERE THE HEXAGON IS THE DARN TOOTIN' CHEESE and, two, WHAT IS THAT AND HOW DO I ORDER IT IN THIS DANGED LANGUAGE?!). The ever-vigilant and wizened expat folk at GoChengdoo have kindly addressed some of the common issues newly-arrived folk have with the city, and provide some helpful hints to overcome them.
  • The talk above of Xinjiang food reminded me of this excellent travel story from a 2002 visit to Kashgar by the always-insightful Mike Meyer. Long, but well worth the read.
  • "I hate to make sweeping generalizations that over-simplify the diversity and variation within each country, but people want you to encapsulate the experience—so I make them anyway." So begins Two Worlds: 5 Striking Differences Between the US & China, the latest post on Chengdu Living. Like all the posts on their site, the content is supplemented by a spirited and illuminating discussion in the comments section. Who knew that comparing the US and China would spark a lively and passionate conversation? Oh, you did? Everyone did? Oh. Well. Anyway.
  • Speaking of Chengdu Living, they've taken their reputation as the best online forum for Chengdu information a step further: Chengdu Places. Also worth checking out is this introduction to Chengdu Places, offering all you need to know about the new undertaking. Head over for sights, eats, places to enjoy adult libations and more.

That's it folks! As always, hold onto your hat and lean into the wind!

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