This spring I was presented with a rather abrupt opportunity to spend two weeks in China for work. I of course jumped at the chance. Despite having been to foreign and exotic places like Canada, I wasn't so sure how things would go for me. After all, I'd be disoriented in a place that doesn't even use an alphabet that I'm familiar with. Fortunately for me, I was able to manage just fine with the assistance of many helpful people and the trip largely went off without a hitch. There were times when I loved it, and times when I was quite ready to leave. Even after having been home for a month, I'm still digesting the experience and I suspect I will for some time.
After a 15 hour flight over the Arctic, my traveling partner and I arrived in Hong Kong. While we immediately left the city for our other more pressing destinations, I got the impression that it was a beautiful place. This is the only picture I got, as we left the city in a hired minivan.
Upon waking the next day, I decided to venture out into the streets on my own for an early morning run. I largely had the place to myself.
There were some familiar things to encounter right away...
And some not so familiar.
Most cities I went to had wide open public places with interesting artwork.
This was a nearly constant sight; new construction was everywhere I looked.
They're usually building large apartment and office buildings like this.
The streets and highways were deserted in the morning...
Which was a bit of a contrast to later in the day. Chinese traffic and driving habits are never dull.
This was the main street in a smaller town that I visited. German luxury cars shared the road with scooters and strange farm truck contraptions.
Chinese industry has frequently been noted for copying other designs. This BYD looks an awful lot like a Toyota Corolla. You can even buy a Toyota badge right at the dealership, should you wish to complete the impression.
Many of the Taxis I saw were Volkswagen Jettas. This particular body style was last sold in the U.S. in the early 90s. I want one.
Motorbikes and scooter are very popular modes of transportation. This is an employee parking area at a factory.
Various forms of motorbike are used to transport nearly everything. Here, we have a recycling delivery. The cardboard, not the person.
Luckily there are many signs to assist hapless foreigners in their travels.
I was going to send a loogie onto the subway platform until I saw this one.
Traveling from place to place, there were always cool things to look at. Some of them were natural...
...and some of them were not. The smog was terrible at times.
A cool monument of some sort.
One of the more adventurous things I got to do was try new foods. Would you care for a pickled snake?
Or perhaps some octopus. This guy was particularly good.
I'm not sure what these are. Some sort of sea worm?
Apparently they also serve dinosaur.
While waiting in a bus station, I tried a local version of an American snack. Despite the cool looking dude on the front, the chips were terrible.
These shrimp crackers, on the other hand, were alright.
Should you wish for a taste of home, there are many familiar fast food joints.
Some even have a fleet of bicycles ready to deliver!
Or perhaps your tastes run a little more local.
In one city we got to walk around at a really nice local park.
There were many pathways through the bamboo.
Many of them had rather intricate stone work.
We were able to catch a bit of a view of the city from a hill top.
While waiting one of my flights to take off I was able to count 25 cranes out my window. There should be 9 in just this picture.
Traveling between cities we passed this enormous power plant. Those smoke stacks are well over 500 feet tall.
At one point we took a ferry and went by this cargo container terminal.
The last city on our trip was Shanghai. We spent some time at night on a river walk known as the Bund. The view across the river was spectacular.
Our side of the river was equipped with light-up waterfalls and search lights.
The riverbank in the other direction.
This is the Peace Hotel, a Western building left over from colonial times.
The boats light up too.
Even the old-style ones.
Space needles and gigantic bat buildings: they just go together.
Walking a bit further down the Bund...
...we ran across this monument of sorts.
I'm not sure what the specifics of it are...
...but I suspect it was a tribute to the communist revolution.
One of the few explicit signs of communism that remember encountering in China.
Looking up from directly beneath the monument was pretty cool too.
On the last day of the trip we visited the Shanghai Expo. It was essentially a modern day world's fair. With over 400,000 people per day visiting, the line to get in was very long.
Each country had it's own pavilion. In the interest of international peace and brotherhood, I visited Iran first.
Iran's glorious rulers.
I even bought some Iranian ice cream and had a brief but pleasant conversation with the Iranian girl who served me.
Conveniently next door was North Korea.
It was a popular place.
"Paradise for People" - nope, no gulags here.
I hoping to see a bit more propaganda.
I'm pretty sure this was Taiwan's pavilion. There was this enormous spherical television screen inside.
The United Kingdom's building was the most impressive. It's too bad that this was the best picture I was able to get. Shortly after this it started raining.
I sought shelter inside of Slovenia, which was kind of rave-like.
Too long of a line to get into Kazakhstan. No sign of Borat either.
China's exhibit was characteristically over-the-top.
Saudi Arabia came complete with palms trees and a light up camel banner.
There were elaborate sculptures nearly everywhere.
No World's Fair would be complete without a gigantic flying saucer.
On our way to the airport in Shanghai, we took an electric rickshaw to the metro station. I think the yellow sign in the upper right is telling me to watch out for someone struggling to open an umbrella.
Then we took the MagLev train to the airport. It went over 180 miles per hour, and goes even faster at other times of the day.
While I did get to see about a dozen different cities in my two weeks in China, I of course only scratched the surface. This shouldn't be surprising for a country of 1.4 billion people and thousands of years of recorded history. In the end I left in much the same state as I arrived - rather confused.