Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Get the best of Wuhan!

January 22, 2020

Out of the blue, I have received an email from TripAdvisor:

Get the best of Wuhan!

D and I went to Wuhan in Autumn 2004 after taking a boat down the Yangzi (长江) from Chongqing to Yichang before flying to Shanghai.  It’s actually a compound city of Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang.

We stayed in an enormous hotel suite (at least 5 beds) at a very cheap rate.  The streets were full of motorcyles constantly blowing their horns.  It is probably much quieter there now because the motor bikes will be all electric and even their horns more demure.

Wuhan is where the Great Helmsman swam across or maybe just in  the Yangzi to prove (or at least show) that he still had what it takes.  The museum has some ancient bells and there is a big pagoda on a hill.  Hankou was a colonial concession and has remains of that. We found a rather subdued gay bar down by the river.  That is of course a very superficial summary.

If you search for a location, TripAdvisor can pursue you with offers and updates seemingly forever.  I suppose they calculate that you might want to go back or that your dream to go there is still unfulfilled.

TripAdvisor regularly sends me messages about Kunming, which D and I visited in 2013 with Es, from Dusseldorf, and her two younger daughters, K2 and K3 (they are all Ks), then aged about 13 and 9.  It is a pleasant city though the downtown areas were  at the time being extensively dug-up for a Metro.

We took the train into deeper Yunnan from the enormous main station which was the next year the site of a deadly knife attack which left 31 victims and 4 perpetrators dead.  (Other perpetrators were never caught: one woman was injured and captured at the scene;  the others convicted of planning the incident and eventually executed had been arrested trying to leave the country and were already in custody at the time of the attack.) It’s striking how having been somewhere gives you a more vivid, even if still largely imaginary, picture of an event which took place there.

For us, though, the most memorable incident took place as we left our hotel in the midst of a downpour and with difficulty tried to find a bus or hail a cab to get to the station.

In Beijing Es had bought a natty little wheely-bag which was destined to be used by K2 and K3 for school trips back in Germany.  This was the focus of intense competition between K2 and K3 as to who should now wheel it.

K2 had the bag.  K3 threw herself to the ground on the street in the rain in a massive tantrum.  There was a train to be caught. It was blackmail.  It was spectacular.  K2 and K3 had already regularly attracted requests for photographs as two cute Western girls (by the end of the trip their patience with this was pretty well exhausted) and but for the downpour we would have attracted a crowd.

Es was striding ahead on the dug-up road in the direction of the station.

D, who was unaware of the rivalry over the bag (it had been simmering away for days auf Deutsch) emerged from the hotel and saw what he took to be the exact opposite – a contest between the Ks, neither of whom wanted to take the bag.  This he solved by taking the bag himself, which was of course the right solution even if of a misperceived problem.

I wouldn’t mind returning to Kunming.  The metro must be finished by now.  I expect I have dreamed about it with TripAdvisor’s assistance from time to time though in fact I used to book that hotel – now apparently no more.

But I can’t imagine why TripAdvisor would think I might want to go to Wuhan. I cannot recall ever asking  TripAdvisor about it.

Oh but silly me!  I’d misunderstood the algorithm.  This is not a question of demand (my desire to go to Wuhan) but rather of supply.  There must be lots of empty rooms at Wuhan just now.


Michael Spence

August 12, 2016

is the vice chancellor of the University of Sydney.

It’s been just a bit comical seeing his public road-to-Damascus moment about the “bamboo ceiling” – now that following his remarriage after the tragic early death of his first wife he has a child who might possibly come up against it one day.

Today Spence is reported complaining about the immorality of subsidising the costs of medical tuition for Australian students with the profit from international fee-paying students.  He says:

Australian universities “tax the poor families of Sichuan to subsidise the education of kids who went to Kings to become doctors and charge people a lot of money.”

That seems a bit colourful to me.  Plenty of medical students come from James Ruse rather than from Kings.

There is a university system in China, for which entry is competitive but which you can reasonably say is open to poor students of high ability.  General view in China would be that Australia is where the (relatively) dumb and rich ones come, and as to who the rich are and how they are rich there are plenty more views about that.  According to those views, maybe you could describe the origin of their wealth as a “tax” on the poor in a very loose sense.

Most Chinese would be astounded to learn that the Chinese students studying in Australia came from “the poor families of Sichuan.”

Beijing streets

January 1, 2016


Not entirely clear to me why somebody should be so attached to these chairs.


At first I wondered what the Beijing prejudice against tyre-kickers might be.


Closer inspection suggested an explanation:




A man’s motor-trike

December 20, 2015


Is his kingdom. (Beijing 2014)


Good cause in Beijing

December 20, 2015


Rather blurry shots from 2014 retrieved from my soon to be obsolete mobile phone.

Animal welfare is still a bit of a new thing in China, as is the keeping of cats as pets – you see rather harried feral creatures, for some reason more often white than is commonly seen in Australia.

This was a stall in the yuppy (and by night, night-life) area of Sanlitun.


BJ in summer

July 24, 2014


I’m back from behind the Great Fire Wall.

Feelings high in Yunnan

November 3, 2013


In Australia, our new government sedulously dissuades us from any environmental effort, particularly when it comes to global warming, by the contrary example of the Chinese.

I first went to China in 1998. Since then, I have noticed some “environmental” developments.

Public rubbish bins now routinely have a “recyclable” and “non-recyclable” receptacle. True, this distinction is almost universally ignored, but to the extent that it is observed it may make things just a little easier for the free-lancers who go from bin to bin retrieving the recyclable objects (especially plastic water bottles) and putting them into enormous sacks on their bicycles.

Styrofoam takeaway food containers and chopsticks used to gather in practically every windbreak of any sort in any public place. I can’t work out how but you don’t seem to see them or at least so many.

In urban areas, at least, the motor bike has been supplanted by the electric bicycle (though electric bicycles have probable replaced quite a lot of ordinary bicycles as well).

And you now have to pay for a plastic bag at the Supermarket (a measure also adopted in Australia in the ACT though not yet in NSW). You can buy a slightly more robust one than they used to give away. It doesn’t cost much, but the Chinese are a frugal people.

Unarmed with my own bag I went shopping this year on the main street of Dali old town(Sifangjie, a common name for a main street in these parts). I have kept the bag I bought as a souvenir.

The bag identifies the shop and its slogan, reproduced at the head of this post, which places an appropriate (especially for China) emphasis on its goods being well-priced.


It’s only today that I really paid any attention to the other side of the bag:


And again, looking a little more closely:


That’s right: 钓鱼岛 – that’s the Diaoyu Islands (to the Chinese, Senkaku to the Japanese) – are Chinese!

Those are the islands which are currently the focus of heightened feelings between Japan and China.

I’d be surprised if Japanese supermarket bags are festooned with equivalent slogans.

See also here.

This way to the shadow agglomeration pond

September 22, 2013


More from my trip behind the great firewall. The Chinese are big on these.


Apparently there is a spot (this is the Chongsheng temple near Dali, Yunnan Province) where the points of the three pagodas can come together. I couldn’t even manage to get a proper picture of all three: it is hard to find a good spot.


The fruit on the left were new to me:


This plant seemed vaguely familiar:



though a tea brewed from it (in the spirit of science: we had to try) yielded no discernible result.

One day somebody who can start to sell drinking yoghurt in Australia in the Chinese style should surely make a fortune. This is the more expensive (of two brands) widely available in this part of Yunnan:


That’s yak milk yoghurt.

From behind the great firewall

September 2, 2013


I am just back from China. I traveled to Shanghai, Beijing, Kunming, Lijiang and Dali in Yunnan Province, and to Yangzhou in Jiansu province. If I lived there I would doubtless equip myself with the necessary proxies etc, but without them, access to this blog (and many others) was denied me.

At various scenic attractions, a frequently encountered side-show is a stall where you can fire an air rifle or (as in this case) throw darts at targets or arrays of little balloons. This one was at a scenic spot and waterfall about 50km south of Lijiang on the pass which provides the entry to Lijiang from Dali.

That’s the Japanese prime minister’s picture on the board.

Seen in Shanghai

October 3, 2011

For Neil.

Just next to the Shanghai Conservatory (of music, that is):