Archive for May, 2008

A travel guide book that I consulted when planning this excursion said that everyone should spend at least one night of their lives at the legendary Peninsula Hotel in Kong Kong.

Well, I thought that if one night is good, 3 must be better! Indeed, it was the best hotel stay of my life, and I have rested my head in some pretty plush spots. Like the Plaza and the Helmsley Palace in New York in the 90’s when the Queen of Mean still reigned. To describe a high end hotel, resort or even a condo development, as “luxurious”, is almost meaningless. What was once considered luxurious is now so common place as to be the norm. At a certain price per night, we expect marble bathrooms, fine linens and plasma TVs. Inspired by decorating magazines, lifestyle television shows, and broader travel, many of us have brought that high end “hotel style” into our homes, most certainly into the bedrooms.

So what makes a high end hotel special? And what defines luxury in a town where “over the top” is a way of life? For me, luxury at the Peninsula is best defined by their attention to detail. Details like 2 robes and 2 sets of slippers: one light set for lounging, one terry set for just out of the bath. 2 linen garment bags: one for dry cleaning, one for plain laundry. Nothing plain about the laundry delivery however: my humble work out top was returned in a separate cloth lined basket, wrapped in tissue and closed with a gold foil seal. Needless to say, the room was huge, the white marble clad bathroom came complete with TV and mood lighting, and the LED display on the room door gave you the exterior temperature, (as did the phone by the bed) and allowed you to set your room status to privacy please, or send the valet, so you need not open the door. No flimsy paper door knob hangers here! Indeed, the papers (international and local) were delivered via a separate box just inside your door. No fear of being locked out in your robe (or worse)! The control panel by the king bed means that you never need leave the comfort of your down duvet to open and close the wall of drapes, adjust the lighting, turn on or off the TV and radio. I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Yes, I could learn to live like a “tie, tie”.

What is a tie tie you ask? (I am likely spelling it wrong, but the pronunciation is as you see) It is the moniker for the sort of wealthy woman who is so accustomed to being catered to, every minute of every day, that she brings her ama to her club to hold the towel for her as she steps daintily from the shower. She could be from anywhere, even the mainland: apparently no one nationality has a monopoly on the love of excess. Ostentatious jewellery and lots of it, is one of the hallmarks of these ladies. It also serves a practical purpose beyond simply broadcasting your husband’s wealth and proclaiming your status: it can be used to fund your defense when you hit said husband over the head with a heavy Chinese antique statue, have your 2 amas and driver help you roll him up in the Persian carpet and put him in the locker for 5 days until he starts to smell. A true story, and one that has inspired the expatriate wives in Hong Kong to threaten their husbands with being rolled in a carpet should they too become a little annoying! Meant with affection of course. I assume.

What is an ama? It is a housekeeper, cook, cleaner, nanny that lives with you, usually in a cupboard the size of the average North American bathroom. Maybe smaller. In this cupboard is the toilet, shower, and room for a bedroll. Good thing these Filipino and Sri Lankan women are tiny. ( I jest) My expat friend in Hong Kong, aka “Fabulous”, and the source of these stories, is the sort of good person who rejected most of the condos offered her family because the living quarters for the ama’s were no better than prison cells. It is expected that you will have at least one ama, and likely a driver. Sunday is the day off for the ama’s in Hong Kong, and they crowd the central parks of Hong Kong, having lunch after listening to the broad casted Mass, sitting on blankets or newspapers spread out under the trees. If you have ever been to a cocktail party with a hundred women you have some idea of the din caused by a thousand women in animated discussion.

Without their cook, the ex pat families head to their favourite local restaurant or private club. I had dinner in 2 very high end restaurants in Hong Kong and was struck by the lack of locals (unlike Shanghai). After my dinner at a private club with my friend it all become clear: why would you spend money dining out when you can come to your posh club and have a wonderful meal. away from the busy noisy city, overlooking the sparkling lights of the harbour. She certainly appreciates how extraordinary the expat experience is, and works hard to ensure that her kids know it too: life back in Canada is going to be an adjustment, and not just because of the weather!

If you don’t want to sit on the terrace, the helpful folks at the club will pack up a hamper for you to take on a private boat to a nearby island. Hong Kong is in the South China Sea, and although most visitors only see the high rises and conjestion, it is surrounded by lush tropical islands with beaches and few people. In fact, that is where I am off to now. On a public ferry mind you.

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On a rainy Sunday morning, I ventured out to explore the largest antique market in Beijing. Even if the sun had been up, I could not have seen it through the fog, smog and my jet lagged haze. But with the promise of over 1000 vendors, I felt a sense of urgency to get at the site, scout out the goods and begin the haggle early. For indeed, almost all shopping in China, is a negotiation. Even at the green grocer you might be able to ask for a 10% discount.

The exception to that rule are the stores which sell the global luxury brands, like Louis Vitton, Chanel, Gucci etc. And since I don’t frequent those stores at home, and China slaps a luxury tax on those foreign goods, well, I think I will just wait until this weekend in Hong Kong to see if tax free and duty free translates to guilt free!

As you can see from the photos, there are an almost bewildering array of goods, that seem to go on forever. The Chinese merchant seems to have missed the whole concept of differentiation a la Adam Smith. Vendor after vendor sells virtually the same goods, at pretty much the same prices. Out in the city, this translates to long long city blocks of stores selling nothing but lace, then buttons, then zippers, then fabric, and on it goes. This situation is most unfortunate if you happen to be on the street that sells nothing but trophies. Or motorcycle parts. Or electrical cable. Or wedding parlours displaying what have to be the most atrocious gowns I have ever seen. They were almost camp they were so bad. But it you happen to discover the discount ladies shoes block, well, you can be happily occupied for the afternoon.

If you are strolling along the major pedestrian mall in Shanghai, and someone sidles up to you and says “watch a bag”, they are not cautioning you to watch your bag from pick pockets, although that is a real danger. No, they are trying to lure you into a 2 storey walk up where you can see a table laid out with rows of fake Rolexes of varying quality, and prices to match. All of the “touts” have little laminated cards or catalogs they will flash at you. I suspect that all of the inventory is held in the same warehouse somewhere in the warren of slum like buildings behind the flashy mega malls. You can certainly acquire one of these er sat watches or purses which purport to be Dolce & Gabbana or Gucci. But don’t be conned into thinking any of these goods “fell off a bus” from the actual factory. It is all fake. Period. Full stop.

As with my “antique” market. All fake. You will see porcelain “aged” by having dirt rubbed in it. I almost got caught on that one. Like the counterfeit goods peddled on the street, some of it is a better quality of fake than others, so tip number 1 is to spend some time looking over the item carefully. Check for obvious cracks, zippers that work, sewn on labels rather than glued, that patterns match up. That scrutiny does 2 other things. It gives you time to think about what you are willing to pay, and it confirms you as a serious shopper in the eyes of the vendor. Serious means that you intend to buy; it’s now just a matter of settling on the right price.

Most guidebooks will tell you that you must be prepared to walk away. In my experience, only in half the time will they run after you to give you your price. It also depends how many vendors are selling same goods near by – as I said earlier, there is a lot of a much of a muchness. But if you have found something that really intrigues you and appears unique, a better strategy is tip #2: find a couple of things that you would like to take a closer look at. That disguises your real interest, and again, gives you some time to think. From an opening bid point of view, some folks advice going in at 10% of what the vendor gives as his price. Or, knock the last digit off and you might be close to what she is actually willing to sell it for.

I generally ask for the best price on a couple of items, and keep looking at them carefully. Then I ask to look at a few more. Both of us have now invested enough time that she really wants to sell me something. Don’t worry about the language; they don’t speak much English, but they have big calculators with big LED displays. So after awhile, they will ask you to input the price that you are willing to pay. So the battle of dueling digits begins!

Never denigrate the product; that means you are being a rude foreigner, and it does not help your cause. And don’t overpay; that means you are a stupid foreigner, and that does not help the rest of us! Try not to think about what you would pay for the equivalent item in North America: the fact is, it will be much, much less expensive than what you would pay at home.

So be aggressive. Work with the 10% of the asking price in a market, and 10-20% off in a shop. Cash is all that will be accepted so bring lots, and make sure you have some small bills for change. Don’t show your wad of cash after pleading poverty: that’s just insulting. Try to buy in multiples for things like souvenirs, gifts, jewellery and accessories. You could accomplish all of your gift shopping for the entire year in one morning of hard bargaining and definitely get the best price. An added bonus; engaging the Chinese in a negotiation, even if neither of you speak the other’s language, will feel like a genuine cultural exchange!

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I had 2 very different dining experiences in the last 2 nights. If I had only gone to one restaurant, I would be convinced that Shanghai is the gastronomical epicentre of the East. If my experience had been limited to the other, I would have left thinking that this city proves yet again that money can buy many things, but good taste is not one of them.

First the disappointment: the M in M on the Bund must stand for mediocre. A cheap shot at an expensive restaurant but well deserved. I had my usual order: 3 appetizers with accompanying wine, all suggested by the maitre de. I find that an appetizer and a main do not offer enough of a stage for the chef to display his or her talents, and often, it is too much food as well. 3 small plates served in courses works well for me, in volume and in variety. So the view of the Bund at night, with the river boats and high rises of the Pudong all lit up in flashing colour is spectacular. And if madam is cold on the terrace, a wrap will be provided. All around me, groups of business colleagues celebrated with champagne and cigars, and large parties of family and friends toasted their special occasions. A festive place warmly lit and elegantly presented. Shame about the food.

I was prepared not to have my culinary socks blown off: it was presented as Shanghai’s first gourmet restaurant (since 2000), not her most innovative now, but a definite must do for visitors. I was expecting something along the lines of Scaramouche or Canoe in Toronto: lovely views of the sparkling city below, comfortable surroundings, and solidly executed cuisine with luxury touches in ingredients and presentation. A place to take out of town business colleagues or go for a special anniversary dinner with family. Well, the lobster and shrimp bisque was the color of brown lentils, tasted mostly of celery and smelled vaguely of fish. If a crustacean came anywhere near this bowl, it was merely waved over the surface to satisfy the description on the menu. The small bird in the roasted pigeon salad was appropriately crisp, richly brown and juicy. Needed salt however. Or some flavour. The accompanying dollop of coriander puree and undressed leaves were green. Nothing more can be said. The final course consisted of 4 small lamb dumplings with a yogurt sauce and a bit of chili: everything was adequate alone but did not hang together as a coherent dish. And the dumpling dough was tough and thick: a sad comparison to the light and delicate pork dumpling wrappers I had that day at a dim sum chain at a quarter of the cost.

The place was packed and so they were in a hurry to turn my table: the courses came swiftly and I was seated and gone within an hour. With so successful a franchise, I suspect that the chef does not see a need to stretch himself or his loyal clientele. In fact, it does not feel like there is a chef at the helm at all, more a corporation. Indeed I understand that they are looking at opening up a location in Beijing. They should save themselves and diners in Beijing the bother and the boredom.

In contrast was my meal on Monday at T8 in the trendy Xintiandi area in the French Concession. I found the place down a dimly lit cobblestone alley, glowing with the candles of other restaurants and cafes. Decor was all Asian inspired antiques, warm wood, stone and comfortable upholstered chairs and low couches. Anyone would look good in such an elegant atmosphere, but who needs to when the food is this stunning. I was first sat at a quiet table for 2 by the window, and when I said it was a little too isolated, and asked if I could sit at the bar, I was quickly moved to the “chef’s counter”. You know, that highly coveted seat right at the open kitchen where you can watch the chef and brigade go through their paces and see everyone else’s dishes come together. A perfect perch for a food voyeur.

The young man you see on the right is the Chef: born in Hungary, Jeno Friedl trained in Austria, Germany, and spent 3 years in Marbella, absorbing the latest in Spanish gastronomy (so says the website) In softly accented English, he was the one who advised me on my meal selection and took the order from me. After each course, he came and asked me how I was enjoying my meal. Oh happy day.

The first course was marinated scallops: on an 18” long narrow white plate, the thinly sliced perfectly tender scallops were nestled in a row of crème fraiche studded with chives. Over the top he ran a wide translucent ribbon of shimmering ginger jelly. The dish was strewn with yellow and purple nasturtium petals, perfect ½ inch cubes of hot pink watermelon and pale orange melon, and sprinkles of red rice that had been popped in hot oil until crunchy. (I know, because I asked him what the intriguing little red bits were) Not only was it the most exquisite presentation I have ever seen on a plate, it tasted literally dissolved on the tongue as you inhaled the sea and spring all together.

But wait, it gets better. The next course was a beef Carpaccio with arugula. Sounds like a tune we all know the words to. Not in the hands of this man, who is literally a painter on a plate. On a large, 18” long, and 10” wide shallow platter (I mention the plates, because every dish had its own unique presentation and special serving dish ) he placed the tender deep red beef in a large rectangle, over which there was a lattice work pattern of a creamy aioli, topped with bright green baby arugula. A few petals of grilled portabella mushrooms added a color contrast and toasted macadamia nuts were sprinkled over the piece. The whole effect was like looking at a red brick wall with a delicate green vine, trained on a lattice, climbing up it: a small mound of deep crimson beet sorbet in the middle looked just like a rose. And it tasted sublime.

My last course was an arugula risotto, perfectly cooked to a al dente texture: the vegetal flavour of the rich green rice was complemented in taste and texture by the earthiness of poached quail eggs and truffled ice cream. Oh baby! The way that ice cream melted into the hot rice was a sensual experience on the tongue that I could have enjoyed for a long long time. Ineed, I was never rushed, and it was the best, most attentive service I can remember having in a restaurant anywhere.

Both meals came in at a little over $100 each, without tax or tip. I confess to having an extra drink and dessert on the terrace at M on the Bund just to prolong my stay! So the meal at T8 was more expensive: it was also more substantive in volume and in the use of luxury ingredients. And of course, in the quality of food, the inventiveness of the menus and the care in presentation, the two establishments are literally at opposite ends of the high end dining spectrum. I know where the smart money is going.

Postscript: I read some reviews online in preparation for writing this review, and discovered to my regret, that T8 is one of those few restaurants in China that does encourage tipping. And I thought it was just my charming Canadian accent that inspired such attention!

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Not too much prose today: I am in the midst of trying to capture the essence of a delicious dinner I enjoyed last night. It was at a “fushion” restaurant which was recently judged by Conde Naste to be one of the top 50 in the world. Tonight, I am dining at one of the top 10 in China. It promises to be an interesting comparison of the cuisine of 2 of China’s best Western style chefs, overlayed with the relative experience of the solitary diner (that would be me) in their establishments. A hardship I can hardly wait to experience!
As I promised some posts ago, there will be roses, and they are blooming in all their fragrant, beautous glory right now. In China, the rose is the symbol of youth; there is no one flower that symbolizes love exclusively as the rose does in the West. The peony is much revered in China: as a symbol of spring, it is also a metaphor for female beauty and reproduction. Peonies denote wealth and abundance, and in bloom can represent love and affection. According to one Chinese site on symbolism that I scanned, the leaves of the gingko tree also represent love. Novel idea for a Valentines’ day gift: nothing says “I love you” like a gingko tree planted in the back yard!
Interestingly, I discovered that our own Maple Leaf is the emblem of lovers in China and Japan. Mmmh, could be the basis for a new tourism marketing campaign for Canada. But we must be wary of overpromising. Indeed, I wonder if travellers from those 2 nations are dissappointed now when they travel to our country and find a wealth of leaves but a dearth of lovers!

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Not literally lost, as in cannot find one’s way, although that has happened during this trip to China regularly, and I have just given into its inevitability. No, the lost I am referring to comes from a very thoughtful article that I read, naturally enough, on the plane coming here. The author spoke about getting lost in a city, that is, losing oneself in the rhythm, the textures, the sound, smells, and being in a state of consciousness where you don’t react to all of the stimuli; you absorb it, revel in it, feel it, (as opposed to process), roll it around on your tongue as it were. I think that I can do that in Shanghai.

Why here and not in Beijing? After only 2 rainy days here I could sense the difference between the 2 cities. Beijing, as the capital, has a whiff of what I would call, “eau de Ottawa”. Well tended expressways for limousines to glide down, large imposing public buildings, all kinds of military presence around the embassies and government offices. Very orderly. Very controlled. A young Chinese man I just met described Beijing as a lady, dressed modestly, with many layers, who chooses to reveal herself carefully, slowly. Shanghai, he said, was a brazen young women who is all show, provocative dress and is blatantly for sale. Quite poetic for an investment broker. And just based on my short acquaintence with the 2 cities, quite accurate.

While Beijing has been cleaning itself up strategically for its big reveal in August (as some ancient hutongs became sanitized historic districts for walking tours, others are torn down so there are lovely parklike views from the limo windows) Shanghai is just on a tear, period. I could not remove the scaffolds, demolished buildings or cranes from my photos, so I just stoped trying. In fact, I have tried to capture the contrast between the new and the “about to be hit by a wrecking ball.” The same young man mentioned that his firm might take him to Vegas for a XMAS party: he will find some striking similarities. And not just the outlandish buildings, for they say that in Shanghai that you can get anything built if you pitch it to the right person with the right pockets. Ills such as prostitution and corruption have taken hold like they never left. I was walking down a dirty, neon lit narrow street of clubs and restaurants one rainy evening, thinking that if not for the modern cars, I could be in the disreputable and dangerous Shanghai of the 1930’s. Then I saw the bored young women, squeezed into too small black dresses, sitting on a dirty couch waiting for “foot massage”customers. Nothing’s changed on this street.

It is confident, daring, painfully image conscious, hardworking and resolutely commercial. Some pundits say that Shanghai is the future of China. For good and ill.

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Solo dining is an oxymoron in the Chinese culture. Food at mealtimes is meant to be shared and so a person dining alone is an oddity. The nearest nod to an accommodation that I have observed after a month in China is the large bowl of noodles, vegetables and sometimes meat which can be had almost everywhere. However, a bowl of steaming hot broth, while wonderful and warming during the cool, crisp days of early spring, does not seem so appetizing now that the weather has turned warm. And I like the variety offered by the multiple courses of a typical Chinese meal. But it does seem excessive and frankly wasteful since I can rarely finish even one of the plates offered.

The meal you see above was my attempt at a “modest” dinner. I did not realize that the “duck” meant a variation on Peking duck, with the traditional treatments of separate meat, crispy skin, the pancakes for wrapping, and couscous? Yes, the latter was unexpected. Since I had also ordered rice as the starch. A warning for diners in China: unlike in North America, serving staff will not tell you if you have ordered too many courses, how large the dishes are in volume or if your meals come with a starch accompaniment or component so ordering an additional noodle or rice dish is not necessary. Just tuckin and enjoy.

However, they will emphatically make their feelings known if you order too little! I happened on a mid sized respectable looking restaurant in the town which was home to a series of Buddhist grottoes I had toured that day. It had real cloth table clothes and napkins, as real cloth as polyester can be, and that is generally my hurdle for a dinner spot. (My standards have fallen somewhat since going on the Silk Road! Or perhaps just adjusted to my circumstances. ) Tired and dusty, I was looking for a little sustenance before heading back to my equally tired hotel . So I ordered from the illustrated menu, what looked like a half of a roast chicken or duck and some cold buckwheat noodles as an appetizer course. Well, she threw the order pad down in a huff, went off on a rant to the back office, and the next thing I knew there were 5 Chinese people, including the imposing lady owner herself, standing around my table, all trying to tell me the error of my ways.

First, they were pointing at the chili peppers in the noodles, making blowing noises, indicating heat I assumed. I nodded that yes, I understood heat, and that was OK. They made those universally understood, tsk tsk sounds, since I clearly did not know what folly I was about to commit. They then turned to a page with other meat dishes pointing emphatically at what looked like pork in a sauce of some kind. OK, I can go along with the recommendation of the house, and tried to turn the page back to the roast chicken, to indicate that I would have pork instead. No, no, no, more finger wagging, and turning the pages of the menu to the soup page. Dinner is not dinner without soup apparently. I was given a choice of two, and then I naturally picked the wrong one, and was corrected with more emphatic pointing to the other more robust choice. Well, this was 5 on 1 in a foreign country. I conceded to their greater wisdom, closed the menu to indicate agreement, which resulted in satisfied nods all round. Sino-Canadian negotiations round one successfully concluded.

The buckwheat noodles, while served in a chili oil vinaigrette, did not come with the chili peppers promised in the photo. I could see how this was going to go. It was fine regardless. The roast chicken was an entire bird, with crisp mahogany skin and globules of golden fat I tried hard to avoid. Sweet and sour pork, naturally, was that extra meat dish I needed to have. It must be the fall back dish of choice whenever a Caucasian happens by. It was more sweet than sour, being heavy on the corn syrup which was literally laced across the generous pile of pork ribs like spun sugar. And then a full sized tureen of tomato soup. The Chinese grow allot of luscious, rich red, densely fleshed tomatoes which are appearing in the markets now: none of those came near this soup during its creation. It was reminiscent of Heinz but then again, that might have just been the amount of salt and sugar I tasted, both of which are used with a heavy hand in China.

So while I was picking my way through my 4 dishes, owner lady hawk eyed one table over, an earnest young man came and sat down opposite me, and asked in not so bad English, if I liked his city. Well, this posed a wee bit of a conundrum, because frankly, his city, like many polluted post industrialized cities in China was the civic equivalent of a junk yard dog. Dirty, ill kept, smelly, noisy are few of the adjectives that readily came to mind. I chewed slowly and thoughtfully, as I crafted a diplomatic response. His hometown did have 3 redeeming qualities. The Longman grottoes of Buddhist art that I (and 2000 Chinese tourists) had seen today. It holds a famous annual Peony Festival, and large hanging banners with photos of that gorgeous flower in all variations were still hanging from street lamps. And as an effort in civic beautification, there are roses planted among the public thruways: showy floribundas were heavy with pink, red, yellow or orange blossoms in the median of every 4 lane road way and pink carpet roses filled the spaces defining the on/off ramps. So I was able to say in complete honesty that I thought that all of the the flowers of his town made a very beautiful impression, and I liked them very much. Sino-Canadian relations remained positive at the conclusion of discussions. And I think that the staff enjoyed the soup too.

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The Silk Road that is. And it was an experience. Too much to relate in one post, and too many photos to share. But I shall try to encapsulate the most powerful and lasting impressions. When I saw the world’s largest golden sand dune for the first time, I felt the same way as I do when standing on the ocean’s edge, watching the waves relentlessly pound the shore: an overwhelming sense of the immutable and immeasurable power of nature. I thought of the courage it must have taken for traders to brave that sea of sand; economic necessity then as now, a powerful motivator. The lure of the unknown and adventure as compelling.

I saw many sacred relics, still majestic despite faded paint and amputated heads and limbs. Put into historical context, many of these beautiful carvings were commissioned by the wealthy as proof of devotion (and a guarantee of a trip to paradise) during the period after the fall of Rome and before the reign of Charlemagne. The medieval period in the West historically referred to as “the Dark Ages”, that are now acknowledged as “Dark” largely because we lack historical record. But you know, you can do only so many Buddha’s: after awhile, it becomes like seeing cathedrals in Europe. The first one or two take your breath away: after that, you can let yourself become hostage to “checklist tourism”. You know, Cathedral at Chartres, check, Terracotta Warriors, check, and so goes the passion out of your travel.

I also saw the power of China’s industrial economy, both the production and the consumption sides and I can tell you right now, emphatically, that this country is not going to slow down, not even for one millisecond. Not for the foreseeable future and by that I mean 20 to 30 years. I was confirmed in this conviction as I travelled on a second class bus for 3 hours one morning, across the highway that runs alongside the mountain range which separates Northern China from Southern.

(As a side note, only when the ledge at the back of the bus had squeezed in 8 people and a baby, and every other seat was taken would a Chinese person sit beside me. I will write later about the peculiarities of travelling solo as a Caucasian in China. Definitely, being treated as an oddity to be either stared at at length or treated as an untouchable is one of them.)

From my grimy bus window, I saw coal fired plants going at full tilt, land scarred by the large open pits of what looked like mining operations, and certainly gravel extractions, up tight against ugly grey cement block apartment buildings, and diaphanous clouds hanging among countless hydro towers that went on into the horizon in every direction. (In contrast, planted among all of this industrial development were carefully tended small plots of vegetables for home consumption or possibly for sale at the local market). There were few cars on this highway since regular Chinese cannot afford cars, gas, or the tolls. But there were so many large transport trucks, hauling shiny new tractors, metal fittings, mine tailings, and all manner of industrial goods, that you felt like you were somehow in the middle of a huge military operation.

I cannot stress this enough. Everything you have read or heard about China’s appetite for resources is true. And likely underestimated. I had a vision of a massive swirling vortex of consumption, devouring every single natural resource in China. Is it possible to conceive that it might consume itself into oblivion? Rome did and the United States is considered to be on the same path, according to Homer-Dixon’s book The Upside of Down. It’s a sobering thought. Perhaps China will start to take the high ground on issues of conservation and measured consumption once it feels itself secure as an influential world power, no longer just an “emerging” market. Right now, I understand that Chinese auto manufacturers are pioneering cars that are on the leading edge of energy conservation . Perhaps for the global market. Right now, in their own country, it feels like the wild wild West. Anyone out there seen Deadwood?

I am off to Shanghai next: so called the Paris of the East, Whore of the Orient. Should be fun!

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