More National Day Vacation

Just finished a marathon session of scanning and this makes me feel great. Now I just have to tackle the backlog of film to process. Going to start on this tonight. I’ll be teaching recent film convert and friend Christopher how to process B&W. Without really trying too hard, I’ve converted him to a film shooter. He’s really going whole-hog and has pretty much dumped his digital gear.

On to the photos…

These were all shot with my Leica M2, and Summaron 35mm. Developed in D-76. The first two shots are Shanghai, the Bund to be specific. On the second, is the famous Pudong view. The place has been photographed to death, but it is still a cool view. Even with the new funky bottle opener building (Shanghai World Financial Center).

Photos #4 and #5 are in Hangzhou. They are taken from roughly the same place. Hangzhou is a good mix of traditional temples in the forests mixed in with city views. It’s easy to feel a country vibe even though you are so close to the city. This is one of the big draws for me. Growing up on the edge of Saskatoon meant that I was always less than five minutes from the country. Hello midnight Grasswood Esso races. Hangzhou feels like that to a degree, even though it is close to 8 million people. I just don’t feel that is Beijing. There are no forests to hide in.

The last shot is in Ningbo. It was near my hostel. Right on the lake, and it was one of the few beautiful places in the city. Overall, I wasn’t too big a fan of Ningbo. It was pretty dirty and felt very industrial.

Until next time.

Things with Wheels

Car shows. I love them and I hate them. I am a car guy. I like nice cars. I hate the fact that I move lots and my car sits without me. I need it to go to someone who will take care of it.

On the photography front. I like having a print house that I can trust with my work. I know when I drop a file off with Bill that it is going to come back looking mint. I have no desire to learn how to make nice digital prints. I make them look good on my screen, I take them to Bill and tell him to do his magic. It lets me focus on shooting.

Once I go back to China I am going to have to find a place. I dread this. It isn’t something that you find after one trip. Repeatability is the key. How will they handle dark prints? How will they handle over-saturated colors? Do they keep their gear clean?

With that said, do any of my Chinese friends have a place that you would recommend?

What to do when you are bored?

Shanghai can be expensive.
Rain on Nanjing.
Street store on Nanjing.
More rain on Nanjing.
The lotus are in bloom right now. These flowers are giant!

So, what does any self respecting world traveler do when they are bored? Why they go to Shanghai, that’s what they do.

I really had no reason to go other than I wanted to get out of Linping for a while. I like big cities. Linping is not one of those. It is small. Around 100,000 people. Sure it is close to Hangzhou, which is sitting at around 4 to 6 million depending on who you ask. I can get to HZ in a little over 40 minutes, but even HZ isn’t Shanghai. Hangzhou is quite tourist oriented. Shanghai is flat-out big city.

Shanghai is a quick two hour bus ride. That puts me at the entrance to the metro, which makes getting anywhere quite simple. No taxi’s, no city buses, no mess. In under three hours I can go from my apartment to sipping a beer in my hostel.

China Day Three

I am now onto day three in Shanghai. Yesterday I spent the day at the school observing classes to see how things are run. it was also the first day that I saw any other white people and actually had a conversation. I forgot how much it means to talk to people in your own language.

After school I crashed for a few hours. Still feeling the effects of the jet lag, it was a welcome sleep. However, since it was only 8 pm, I decided that I needed to wake up at 9 and head out to get rid of this time / brain paradox once and for all. Too all of the people who said that the jet lag wouldn’t be that bad because of the direction I was traveling… I am almost exactly on the other side of the planet, why does the direction of travel matter?

After waking up, I was feeling hungry, the first time since arriving that I had. Jet lag does funny things to your stomach. What do I find but some glorious smelling street meat.

On the vendors cart, I spied all sorts of interesting kebabs on sticks. The only one that I could determine the origin of the meat was squid. ¥4 latter, I have a belly full of some nice rubbery BBQ squid.

I head back to the hotel, crash and actually sleep until 7 am.

Today, with a day off, I wander Shanghai for hours. Upon my departure I grab a snapshot of the street signs near my hotel in the event that I get hopelessly lost. I figure that is the easiest way to show a cabbie where I want to go.

This next big is mostly for Danielle and Brian. However, to all my faithful readers, read on!

Shanghai is FULL of markets. Small little street side stalls, one room buildings, carts and sidewalk vendors. They are everywhere. They are placed by the thousands on every block.

Walking back to my hotel, I decide to head down Anxi Road. A small side street about as wide as a car. About half way down one block, I see many people coming out of what I assumed was a back alley. After a little investigation, I realized that it was a fresh food market.

I enter and am immediately greeted by millions of eyes, all looking at me with the same expression.

“Where does this white guy think he is?”

I continue on, my iPod blasting out some Cold War Kids. This market was amazing. Hundreds of stalls. Set up with fresh vegetables in the center and meat on the outer walls. I saw duck, chicken, pork, beef, all the regular meats from a deli. Then I ventured deeper into the abyss. On the back wall was what I had come to see. The foods that you can’t get back home. Even with all the searching and specialty shops on Broadway. Eel, snake, mussels, clams of all sizes, mollusks, fish ranging from minnows to 100 pound mammoths.

My only hope is that once I make my way to Hangzhou I can find a place with half as many interesting treats as I have in Shanghai.

China – An Epic Trip


Today is the first day in Shanghai. Really I flew in last night, however, after getting my bags, waiting for my contact and the two hour bus ride and 20 minute cab ride, I really just wanted to get to my hotel, check in and crash. I had been up for over 30 hours at that point. However, I decided to try and plug my laptop in to see if I could get a wireless signal.

I grab the ol’ power adapter and power bar. First problem, the power bar has three prongs and the adapter has two… I decide to risk it and plug the whole mess in. Bzzzzz crack! From what I can tell, I knocked power out to the entire floor. I sheepishly unplug everything and walk to the counter and pantomime the lights going out. The front desk clerk looks at me like I am a big dumb white guy, which at this point I knew there was no contesting the fact. He spouts off some words that I can’t understand and points to a man wearing a maintenance jacket who promptly runs up some stairs. I meekly walk back to my room and within 30 seconds I have power again.

Needless to say, I scrapped the power bar and things work great. However no wireless…

I was tired. The type of tired where no matter what you do, you crash hard. My contact asked me if I wanted to get some water and bread, but all I had on my mind was sleep. And sleep I did. From 8 pm local time to 4 am. Then it was sporadic sleep for a couple hours.

For people that have never been to China, let me tell you about first impressions. Initially my thought was that it is not much different from a place like Toronto. There are big buildings, lots or people and street vendors everywhere. The type of place that you expect a big Hollywood movie to be filmed in.

And then… The noise.

That is the one thing that has been throwing me for a loop. All night long, different noises. Birds that just don’t sound right, people yelling things that can only be determined to be drunken salutations, and traffic.

Traffic has no rhyme or reason here. Street lights at best are taken as suggestions. Scooters rule the roads and seem to have right of way over all forms of movement. Walking included. Turning left on a red light is par for the course. Lanes are there to let you know that you are on the road. Even on coming traffic is fair game as long as you honk a couple of times to make eye contact, and even then it is more like a game of chicken to see who will swerve first. Frankly I am quite surprised that I made it to the hotel at all.

Now for todays first adventure. Breakfast. All I knew from last night is that my contact will be calling me at some point today. No clue as to when. So I wake up, get ready, watch a little bit of western TV that I have on my laptop and at 8:30 my hotel phone rings.

I grab it and say hello.

“sjkhserlkhgs sdfsh sfeiytnv” That is about as much sense as the call made. All I can determine is that it is a wake-up call. No one comes to my door and no other phone calls.

With that, I decide that I am on my own for breakfast. I grab my passport and room key and head off to the wild unknown, but not before finding something in the hotel room with what I hope is the address in case I get lost.

I first wander up the street for blocks, then down the other side. I find endless shops with steamed buns, fruit and various other local culinary treats. I almost stop and go for the steamed buns, which smell like heaven. Almost. However, fear gets the better of me and I spy a McDonald’s. The last bastion of Western civilization in my foreign nightmare.

I enter and the solitude washes over me like a warm grandma knit security blanket.

I walk up to the counter and point at the menu and order a #2. A McSausage, Hash brown and coffee. Total, ¥15. I initially curse at the price, but then do some mental math.

Carry the 7, multiply by the cosine…

$2.05. I continue on.

I wander through a park that from what I can gather is about the size of Saskatoon. There appears to be some sort of festival going on. Dancing, Thai Chi, military, haircuts, blood pressure testing. I have no idea what it is, but I watch for a while from the sidelines. Having left my camera at home, I am just another big lost white guy.

Then I see them. They giggle, the smile, they avert their eyes. Three young local girls, all with their cameras out. They try to disguise themselves and make it look like they are taking pictures PAST me. I look behind me and all I see are trees. I smile back and wave. They all giggle frantically and give me peace signs and then hurry off.

Today, I am the tourist attraction in Shanghai.

Getting Close – The Shanghai Kid

Fred Gray lost her mom to cancer while she was in high school. She agreed to be part of Photosensitive’s Cancer Project, which aims to raise awareness.

My imminent departure is fast approaching. I have just booked my ticket to Shanghai for Feb 28. I am now working on the Visa paperwork. There is so much paperwork! At least I know when I get there that I am not just dumped into a crazy world. I have a week booked at a hotel in Shanghai before taking the train to Hangzhou. Now I am just hoping the weather decides to warm up a little.

I also now have a lawyer. A friend from high school is a lawyer at a VERY prestigious firm in Saskatoon. I called him up to see what I needed to get done in terms of handing signatory power to my mother. Hard to pay bills and all that crap when you are on the other side of the world. Well long story short, my mother now has power of attorney. I also now have a will. So time to butter me up to get all my good loot.

A big problem I am having right now is deciding what to bring. I am only taking my 70 litre backpack and a camera bag. This confuses many people, however my justification for one bag is that I want to travel light. The point of backpacking across the world is to see what you can live without. Even last year at school, I packed light. I had very little of my Saskatoon “wealth” with me as any of my classmates can attend to. My room was fairly bare. This is just going to be an extension of that.