Life in Shanghai

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Panoramas

I made some more panoramic pictures with "auto stich" some of them turned out really good.


I'm home! Shanghai seems much nicer this time. We have been in some rough places.
I went to Decathalon, the local outdoor equipment store and bought a rain fly for my backpack, something I almost did before the trip, but didn't and should have. I also got a rack with a collapsible basket for the back of my bike.
Then I bought two baby turtles to add a little excitement to life at home. (Work starts on Thursday).
Erik thought of the names Rich and Rob, I agreed, they are good names. Rich immediately took to the task of escaping. He tried about five times to crawl out of the water, but kept ending up on his back flailing his arms. Rob sat idly by watching the spectacle. He then walked to the edge of the water and crawled out first try. He walked over to the corner and went to sleep. (I hope he is doing well, because he hasn't moved much).
Rich finally got out of the water, but walked right off the edge in his excitement and ended up with arms flailing again. He's still trying to get out, its been about 5 hours.



Song Kol

Our second trek was to a 3000 meter lake called Song Kol. There are pleanty of Kygyz nomads living in yurts who have learned they can make a pretty good sum of money off of treking tourists. They provide a place to stay, blankets and food and the tourists provide the funds. We thought it was a good deal, because that way we didn't have to hike with food, tents, and sleeping bags. The first night was interesting. We hiked from about 3 to 7:30 after having waited out a morning rainstorm.

We waited out the rain with this family in there wagon. (They never made it to oregon).
From 3 to 7 the day was beautiful and sunny. At about 7 a sudden storm brought rain, then hail, then lightning. We were drenched in about 2 minutes. Luckily the yurt we were headed for was about thirty minutes away. The yurt had warm blankets and a stove to thaw us out.

That wall is made out of dryed poop, thats what they burn in the stove.

The next day we had good weather. We had to cross a 3,400 meter pass. The weather reached just above freezing, and a few snow flakes fell. As we crossed the pass, the lake came in to view.

The hike down to the lake was easy. The weather stayed somewhat clear for awhile, but there were various cloud systems constantly building and passing. Right after we ate lunch, a system of dark clouds started coming on fast. Luckily a tourist yurt was present, so we ducked inside for some bread and tea. The clouds and passed quickly so we decided to keep moving. We hiked about another hour along the lake, when another storm started approaching. There was a small settlement of various yurts and animals present. As we were looking for someone to talk to, it started hailing. We split into two groups, Erik and Trey went into a yurt, and Gilles and I went into a canvas tent.

The people in our tent were friendly and served us tea and bread. The storm didn't quit. It was cold, and it started to snow after a little while. (By this time I was on my 15th or so cup of tea for the day).
We asked as well as we could if we could stay the night. This tent was small and there had been many people in and out as we sat there. We had no idea how many people were planning to sleep in it. Through various English, French, German, Kyrgyz and Russian words as well as hand signals we found out that either five, seven or 10 people slept there. I thought five would be tight. We later found out that five were in the family, seven with us and he thought that 10 was possible. So we slept seven in a row on the ground.

This is the family. The lady in the goldish flower gown came from somewhere for the picture, she didn't sleep in the tent with us.
They offered us dinner. It consisted of bread, tea, butter, some other milk product, milk, and pieces of cold sheep that they took out of a grocery bag. Gilles came up with excellent idea that we were vegitarians. Had I had some concept of when the meat had last felt heat, I would have been more apt to eat it.
The evening was passed trying to communicate. Luckily Russian, although it is not at all similar to English, is about a million times more similar to English than Chinese. We communicated some basics. I showed them my pictures from the trip thus far. I took videos and played them for them; they loved that.

Monday, August 06, 2007

We found Elvis

In the Lonely Planet it says that if you stay in Kashgar long enough, you are bound to run into Elvis. Well we met him three times yesterday, so we had to take a picture. He said he calls himself Elvis for the business. His business seems to be helping foreigners buy carpets. Which all three of us bought today. We got Kyrgyz carpets, however, they are cheaper, or at least easier for us to bargain for in China.
Elvis is the one between Trey and Erik, the other guy just wanted to be in the picture.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Social Observations

I shaved my beard and left long chopps when we got to Kashgar. I did it for fun and didn't really think about the attention it would draw. Kashgar is a pretty touristy place, so the people don't stare as much as they do in other places in China, but after the added facial hair trim, they really started oggeling. Some stare wide-eyed, some giggle and point, it's not a big deal because that kind of stuff happens regularly to us in small towns.
We met a Uighur University student who wanted to practice his English. He was home from Shanghai for the summer, and had not a lot else to do. So we were wondering around the city looking at shops when we stopped at one shop for a while looking at bills of currency accumulated from all around the world. A small crowd developed as is typical anytime we stop for too long. A lot was said in Uighur, but we don't understand any of it. Later as we walked away our new friend told us what some men had said. (Note that the Uighur people can and do grow facial hair much like the people of arabic nations). The men had taken notice of my beard, (nothing new to me) and thought it was interesting and funny. But the conversation that developed gives great insight into their social thought. One man pointed out to the other that I was from a free country where I could wear my beard however I pleased. There conversation that insued is best summed by sayting that they wouldn't dare to do something like that because they might be viewed as a radical by the government.
To us, it is very interesting to see the mix of culture here in Xinjiang (the largest province by land mass in China). The Uighur people live here under Chinese control. The government has brought in many Han Chinese to make help against any sort of uprising and promote assimilation. I don't know all of the details of what has happened good or bad, but it definitely creates for an interesting mix of culture. It is refreshing to see a difference of culture in China. There is different architecture and food here, as well as different looking people with different ways of living. There seem to be areas of town that are more Han and different areas, like around the central mosque that are Uighur. (The differences are nice, but we are ready for the variety of food that Shanghai offers again!)


We have been in Kashgar a few days now and seen quite a bit of the town.

Tonight we had an interesting experience. We went to a local Uighur Restaurant and ordered some basic dishes. The custom here is to write the price on a bill and leave it at the table. We started getting a little suspicious when everything seemed to be rounded up to the nearest 10. Then we asked how much Sprite was from a waitress who said 3 and the one who had written 4 on our bill started to pull her away. So we asked another waitress what the menu said for each item. She was honest, because she didn't know that the other waiters were trying to rip us off. The other waitress started pulling her away again, but we had a lot better idea of what was going on. So we went up to the cashier and left the bill at the table. The waitress brought it up behind us and handed it to Eric who said "bu hao" and promptly threw it in the trash. After standing around and saying whatever we knew how to say in Chinese, they started to lower the price little by little. But we still weren't satisfied. I went over to another customer with the menu and asked him to show me how much a certain item was. The waiter tried to stop me, but I kept him back. Even after seeing the correct price shown on their menu, they still would not give the correct price. We started to add up everything individually, when the cashier said 10 kuai for two bowls of rice. At that, I got pretty upset, and started to ask the whole restaurant if 10 kuai was how much rice really cost. The look of the people in the restaurant was priceless as I asked them this question. The intended effect was achieved and the guy backed down some more on the price. I turned around gave him 40 kuai and we walked out.

That's the first time something like that has happened at a restaurant. Luckily we have lived in China long enough to know how things work, but its still frustrating. (Secretly it was fun too...:)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Kyrgyzstan Pics


I've never had a caramello before, but milk chocolate and caramel sounded good. After I bought this package and opened it up, all of the Kyrgyz women around started to giggle. One finally said "Kyrgyz candy". I got the picture, they wrap bread sticks in mismarked candy wrappers. Seeing as I paid 1/38th of a dollar for it I wasn't so upset, more amused.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bishkek to Osh

We bought plane tickets for Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan. The tickets were cheap, and it makes a 15 hour minibus ride, 45 mins. in a plane. The other advantage is that the border from Osh to Kashgar is cheaper and easier to get across. The other border requires preparation and lots of money.

We plan to get back to Shanghai around the 13th of August. Hopefully we will have time to see some of central China, although it's going to be hot!

Kyrgyz Hats

These are the traditional hats that Kygyz men wear. The old married men wear these kind...

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I never knew much about those countries in the middle of the world that end with stan, and I still don't know much, but I'm here and it's not what I expected. I'm not really sure what I expected, but it wasn't this. After having lived and traveled only in Asia in the last year, I got used to being a celebrity everywhere I went. It was slightly dejecting coming here, to "Central Asia" and no one really caring to look at you. Actually, now that I used to it, it's going to be weird going back to China.

Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan has a very culturally diverse population. I think only 40% are Kyrgyz. There are lots of Russians, that is why we don't stand out here. It's a little more difficult to tell who is a tourist, but for the most part it is pretty obvious. Their clothing and the lack of facial expression give the Russians away.

The farther south we travel, the more Kyrgyz people there are. They are a nomadic people related to Mongolians I think. This country is mostly mountains, and a very large lake. The second largest alpine lake in the world (Titicaca is number one). So we have been enjoying nature mostly. We have done a four day and a three day back packing trip so far, reaching elevations in the high 3000 meters. So far the weather has been unpredictable. We have had sunshine, wind, rain, lightning, hail, and snow. It's been exciting and frustrating at various times.

More later...

Pics from China

Go to this link to see photos thus far from our trip

Sunday, July 22, 2007

MMMMMountain Spring Water!

We had to use iodine tablets to purify the water since we didn't have a filter.