Day 252: Windshield

Day 252 Scooters are the lifeblood of Vietnam, here a passenger grips a plate-glass window while riding through downtown Saigon. What amazed me most about watching this dangerous stunt was that is was the second time that day I’d witnessed a large piece of glass being transported on a scooter.

Day 244: The Road Less Traveled

Day 244 The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but the most interesting journeys are comprised of meandering side trips and random tangents. I rarely travel in a straight line. My walks around Shanghai tend to be guided by the four compass points, but little else. On this particular day I decided to walk home the 8 km from my chiropractor’s office rather than take a taxi, or jump on the metro. After all, the temperature was not oppressive and the air quality was not disabling. Strike while the iron is hot. I walked from Tomorrow Square, through People’s Park and then cut up a side street in order to avoid the tourist crowds and street hustlers of East Nanjing Pedestrian Street– think Times Square, New York without the annoying costumed characters. Away from that famous part of Shanghai is where the people conduct their everyday lives, cooking, cleaning, shopping and socializing. I get the occasional stare as I am often the sole laowai to be seen wandering around the narrow streets lines with shops that sell door hinges and nuts & bolts and light bulbs and toilet plungers. It is on these streets where the security guard gets his foot massage and eats dinner, where the ayi buys her live fish and fresh vegetables for the evening meal. This is the China you miss if you stay on the main roads and travel in straight lines.

Day 212: Mellow Yellow

Scooter drives by a flowering construction wall; on the sidewalk, of course.

Scooter drives by a flowering construction wall; on the sidewalk, of course.

One of the things I enjoy most about Shanghai is the way they enclose many of the myriad construction sites with living walls of vegetation; these enclosures are planted with thousands of individual plants and kept alive for the duration of the project, helping to soften the impact of yet another steel and cement tower rising in this city of 24 million people. And, yes, the scooter rider is driving his vehicle on the sidewalk, a common practice in Shanghai. Pedestrians beware.

Day Ninety-Nine: Mahjong

A mahjong game attracts some oberservers.

A mahjong game attracts some observers.

I borrowed a bicycle from the hotel and took a meandering 20 km ride around central Beijing, yesterday, despite an AQI of 250, in the “Very Unhealthy” range. The bad air isn’t really noticeable at street level, however there was quite a bit of pollen and petals from the Spring flowering trees swirling around and I did catch an occasional bug in my teeth. There was also a lot of construction & destruction taking places, small scale projects in many of the hutong neighborhoods I roamed, that added blowing dust and sand to the mix. The air quality aside, it was a glorious day to be about and about, sunny and unseasonably warm with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s (30 C). My original plan upon departing the hotel was to walk the 4 km to the Bell and Drum Towers, north of the Forbidden City, but when I exited the backside of the hotel I noticed a row of matching bicycles; the doorman informed me that they are available for guests, so I checked one out–complete with helmet and lock– and rode north. Much of the day was spent avoiding the main streets and commercial lanes of Beijing in general, focusing on exploring the side alleys of the hutongs. I did make it to the two ancient, MIng structures and they are impressive, but I didn’t bother entering, choosing instead to lock my bike and wander to surrounding hutongs by foot, where I discovered this cheerful group of resident playing a spirited game of mahjong.