Tag Archives: Boats 船

On Wolfberry Island, Cranky Fishermen and the Easy, Breezy, Subsidized Life Aquatic


The next day, about citied-out, we finally set off on our real journey: to the islands. An early-morning bus ride took us out, one last time, across the bizarro world of Outer Shanghai to edge of the Asian mainland. Then we bought tickets for another bus, this one to take us over the 20-mile bridge to Little Ocean Mountain Island 小洋山岛, where cargo is on- and off-loaded from massive container ships that never have to bother entering a cramped port on the Chinese mainland. From Little Ocean Mountain Island we then hopped a high-speed ferry to Si Reef Island, with “Si” (泗)really just a name, but a name that can also be translated as “nasal mucus.” A beautiful place, the locals on Nasal Mucus Reef Island took one look at us and said, shaking their heads, “You’re a month early for tourist season.” It was the sweetest put-down of our travel sensibilities that we’d ever heard.  Continue reading



Filed under Fishermen and Conscripts, Foreign-er Travel, Jiangnan Style

In Lieu of a Good Photo, A Quick Note from Chongqing

In Chongqing, the attraction is YOUIt’s been a restful couple of days here in Chonqing. Being on a steep hillside, we’ve enjoyed leisurely strolls up and down thousands of stairs. And it’s been great to escape the humid summer heat for a short while. Eating the sweat-gland-stimulating peppery food really cools you off. And since the local Party Secretary’s wife didn’t have us murdered, we’ll be moving on to our next destination with only the fondest of memories. See you later, Chongqing!

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Filed under Foreign-er Travel, Up the Yin-Yangze

Up the Yangtze, Heart of Darkness

Looking upriver from Badong, our point of departure.Last night, not fifteen minutes after embarkation, I met our neighbors across the hall. (This is easy to do in China, where people routinely leave their doors wide open in hotels and trains and anywhere else where they are separate by walls: something about wanting to chat, or not miss a moment, I suppose.) “Hey,” the man called cheerfully from his bed, where he was chewing sunflower seeds and spitting shells on the floor. “Does your bathroom stink or not stink?!”

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Filed under Foreign-er Travel, Up the Yin-Yangze

Up Piss Creek

Looking upriver from Badong, our point of departure.Imagine: The “Yangtze Sightseeing No. 3 Ferry,” your mode of transportation/home for the next 1.5 days, arrives at the pier a full hour later than its 9:30PM scheduled departure. Baby is exhausted, wife is annoyed. Upon embarking, it becomes clear that the sights on this so-called sightseeing boat will actually be the drunks, tramps, and old workers calling out from the steerage section that you are a spy. Glancing toward your second-class (of three) berthing section, you see shafts of bright incandescent light piercing through thick clouds of cigarette smoke. Then, as you complete yet another registration form that lets China keep track of you, the frumpy clerk says, “Hey, Old Foreigner, move up to first class for $50USD. You’ll have your own room…” three 100RMB bills are out on the counter before she can even finish“…and a private toilet.”

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Filed under Foreign-er Travel, Up the Yin-Yangze

Xiamen, and Another Stamp in Owen’s Passport

It’s felt like a busy few days here on the Fujian coast. Not because we’ve been doing all that much, but because getting anywhere has typically involved multiple forms of transportation: train, county bus, and ferry, with city buses and cabs in between. Cabs are the weak link; they seem particularly bad around here. Most of the drivers are participating in a racket, refusing to use the meter and never under-cutting each other’s exorbitant price quotes. We figure this may be a temporary chunyun “Spring Movement” (masses returning home for the Chinese New Year) scam, and a demonstration of the locals’ famous business acumen. This is, after all, the region that sourced most of the Chinese who emigrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries to Southeast Asia, where they and their businesses became crucial to the adopted countries’ economies. If our experience had any relevance, pehaps it’s not surprising that they weren’t always welcome.

Since our last update, we’ve been to three places here on the southern Fujian coast: Quanzhou, China’s long-ago glory-days center of maritime trade and (short-lived) exploration; Xiamen, a port city with some enjoyable European leftovers from China’s not-so glory days; and Jinmen Island, a defiant little outpost of the Republic of China (Taiwan) within spitting distance of the mainland, and now with direct ferry service for the mainlanders who can get approval to go.

Of all the above places, Jinmen was probably the most interesting. We’ve been to Taiwan before, but only to the big capital city if Taibei. Jinmen is more small town and countryside, and relatively isolated at that. On the island, we were struck by one aspect of traditional Chinese culture that could apparently survive modernity but not Marx: Buddhist temples, everywhere. Not like on the mainland, with one or two big ones in each city, where everything tends to feel very superficial (chucking coins at small holes for good luck? really?). In Jinmen’s main town, by contrast, there was a little temple on practically every block. They all seemed active and well-kept, and the people coming and going looked like they actually knew how to hold their incense. Perhaps more than any museum or historical sight we’ve visited in China, seeing the Buddhism on display here gave us a better sense of its prominence in traditional (or, as the Taiwanese might say, “real”) Chinese culture.

Owen also enjoyed Jinmen. While we left with the above impressions, Owen left with a stuffed Snoopy toy that’s about as big as he is. Someday he’ll no longer have restaurant owners scrambling to give him presents, but for now he’s still on a roll. Meanwhile, he can’t talk yet, but he’s perfected a technique where he clears his throat or gives a little fake cough to get the attention of strangers he wants to smile at. It works amazingly well.

I should mention that Bayley also came back from Jinmen with something new: a cleaver, fashioned by a group of local blacksmiths, from a shard of one of thousands of artillery shells shot at the island by the Communists. I thought it would’ve been cheaper than it was, though, considering that most of the raw materials were provided free-of-charge.

We head out to Guangzhou this afternoon on an overnight train. Goodbye Amoy, hello Canton.


Filed under Foreign-er Travel, The Greater Southeast