Monthly Archives: January 2012

Contrary to popular belief, I have not yet been eaten by a koala or gotten into a boxing match with a Kangaroo.  Immediate observations about Australia – there is a blue sky here and it’s really really warm.

I’ll answer a few questions before I jump into the pictures.  First question, is everything upside down in Australia?  I’m glad you asked.  Yes, it is.  In fact, the Australia government established the Royal Ministry of Reverse Gravitational Affairs after colonization.  To get around, we use an elaborate system of harnesses and pulleys.

Those pulleys can burn your feet if you're not careful

Second, are there deadly spiders in Australia?  Yes, there are.  And deadly snakes.  And deadly jellyfish, sharks, and fried food.  In short, the place is so awesome even nature tries to keep you out.

Small, yes. Deadly, who knows...

I’ve been taking it really easy since I arrived.  My typical day includes sleeping, sleeping by the Swan River, sleeping on the beach, reading, and, of course, aimlessly roaming around Perth in flip-flops.  Suprisingly most semi-nice restaurants really don’t like people wearing flip-flops and won’t let you in/serve you if you’ve got them on.  Oh well.  On to the pictures!

The Perth Opera House. Not quite the one in Sydney, but close enough.


A marsupial sighting!


The esplanade on Swan River


West Perth and Fremantle


In honor of the first all Female beach in Western Australia


AC/DC anyone?


The seal of the Government of Western Australia


A big tree in Northbridge


Perth's subway/train station.


Approaching Rotto Island


Rotto Island shore

I’ve got to wrap this up, since there are UV rays that need to be absorbed.  This is probably my only post from Australia.  I’ve got a busy week of work next week and then it’s back to Boston, just in time for the Super Bowl.

A final thought; I know lots of people who say they’d love to visit Australia and then follow the statement up with some sort of excuse.  If you can afford it, stop waiting, and plan that vacation.  For you New England readers, skip out-of-town sometime during the winter and enjoy a week (or more) of beautiful summer weather on the other side of the world.  There’s stuff to do here for everyone, from nothing (which is what I’ve done), to adventures out in the backcountry, to whale watches, and everything in-between.

Until then, safe travels.  And buy a Virgin Australia phone!

So many questions. The mouse. The socks. The mustache.


And on an administrative note, can you take a look through my older posts and let me know if pictures are showing up?  I’ve been having some problems seeing them, but I’ve also had unique internet situations for the past couple months.




Visual puns anyone?  Through a series of fortunate events, I’m not headed straight home from China.  I’ll be headed to Australia!  If you’re reading this, and I did the set-post-date correctly, I’m somewhere over mainland China en route.

I don’t have any funny pictures of cats or of Australia yet, so you’ll have do live with our friend Barbie for the time being.  But I’ll get some, you know I’m good for it.  Till then, safe travels.

Last weekend I traveled from Beijing to visit Xi’an.  Xi’an is the capital of the Shaanxi province of China, and is also home to the Terracotta Army.

I traveled to Xi’an via train from Beijing.  The 12-hour trip was mostly uneventful.  I watched Zombieland on my tablet and slept (like a rock).

The train station at Xi’an was a sea of people.  Most were waiting to get train tickets so they could travel for Chinese New Years.

For 7 RMB I took a micro-bus to the Terracotta Army museum.  The museum is located 75 minutes outside of Xi’an.

Entry to the museum was 110 RMB.  As you can see in addition to the 3 covered solider pits there is a museum and a park.  Well worth the 110 RMB.

The timeline of the discovery of the Terracotta Army.  The army itself was assembled for the first emperor of China.  To protect him in the afterlife, an entire army, complete with supporting staff, was built of stone.  He recruited 700,000 of his closest friends to lend a hand.  And you thought helping a friend move was bad.  In the late 1970’s a group of farmers digging a well discovered pieces of the stone soldiers.  The area was partially excavated and more of the army was discovered.

A relief of the Emperor himself.

In addition to the massive stone army, the Emperor also had a chariot pulled by bronze horses.

It’s tough to capture the size of the biggest pit in a photo.  It’s roughly 400m long by 250m wide; quite big.

After visiting the Terracotta Army, I headed to the Small Goose Pagoda, which was right next to my hotel in Xi’an.


The following day I headed back to Beijing.  Xi’an will be my last adventure in China.  I’ve got a little over a week left at my assignment before I head home.

Until then, safe travels.

Welcome back faithful readers.  Now begins part two of the epic Shanghai trip.  If you missed part 1, scroll down a bit.  I’ll wait.  Caught up?  Ok good.

Nanjing Road East

One of the nice parts about Shanghai, is that a lot of the roads are named after places in China.  Nanjing Road, Beijing Avenue, Tianjin Road and so on.  Nanjing Road East stretches from the Bund to People’s Park.  It’s mostly a pedestrian avenue, so of course I ambled my way down it.

I thought this place sold squid and ice cream.  I was disappointed to learn they in fact sold ‘squid-balls’.  Think meat balls, just replace meat with squid.

2012 is the year of the dragon, so there are lots of dragons everywhere.  Just remember, the dragon has three heads.

I personally think this is a bit of a bold proclamation, but the sign can’t lie.  It must be the number 1 department store in Beijing.

Peoples Park (Renmin Gongyuan)

People’s Park is at the Western most end of Nanjing Road East.  It’s a pretty big park (about 98,000 m-squared) that houses the Shanghai Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Municipal Government buildings, shops, gardens, and a miniature amusement park.

Uh, thanks?  You too?

Pudong & New Years

The Pudong is on the bank of the Huang Pu River opposite the Bund.  For everything the Bund has in history and awesome architecture, the Pudong has in sheer immensity.  Many of the tallest buildings in China reside in the Pudong, including 100 and 90 story hotels.  Additionally, the Pudong area is a financial hub in China.  If it were a separate country, the GDP of the Pudong would exceed Slovenia.

What is this?  A ferry?  I don’t have my flippy-floppies though.

Let me translate the Mandarin for you – “This is the Pudong.  We’ve got big buildings here”

Left – 90 floors, Right – 100.

To get to the 87th floor (where I spent the better portion of New Years Eve) you need to take three elevators.  The first elevator takes you to the 50th floor lobby.  Elevator two takes you to the 85th floor.  From the 85th you’ve got to take another elevator to the 87th.  It was awesome.  My ears popped.

New Years was awesome.  I got a bit sick from some raw fish, but being up on the 87th floor watching the city come alive at night was great.

If I’ve set this post up to publish correctly, as you’re reading this I’m on my way to Xi’an.  Xi’an is roughly 1200 miles South-West of Beijing and is home to the Terracotta Army.

Till then, safe travels (The Pudong at night, shot from the Bund)

Hello lovely blog readers.  Happy New Years!  Those of you following along at home may remember that I spent New Years in Shanghai.  Shanghai is bigger than Beijing (nearly double the population), as such it’s impossible to do the city any justice in just one blog post.  So, instead of creating a scroll-a-thon of epic proportions, I’m going to try break this up into a few posts.

The Train

Flying in China is fun.  The airlines here feed you and treat you with some amount of respect.  In fact, they even tolerate my horrible Mandarin.  I mean, it’s still airplane food (which is doubly mysterious when it’s Chinese plane food), but that’s not the point.  Everything about flying, except for the flight, is kind of a hassle.  In the lead up to the Beijing Olympics the city built the second largest airport terminal in the world (Dubai is number 1, thanks Wikipedia), which is surprisingly efficient, but still prone to delays.  Getting to the airport is a nightmare, even in Beijing terms.  2+ hours by cab is the norm.  Now what does this have to do with the approach, you ask?

Why, I took the high-speed train to Shanghai.  For slightly less than a plane ticket, I zipped down to Shanghai in the comfort of a nice big Recarco-like seat, with two whole power outlets.

My view at 0 km/h

Warp speed!

Nanjing suspension bridge at 300 km/h

The Hotel

After my 5 hour, 1200 km train ride, I made it to my hotel.

Hotel Astor is the oldest hotel in China.  And it’s also one of the cheapest places to stay in Shanghai.

The lobby. 

Over its storied history, Hotel Astor has hosted many well-known people.  President Grant, Einstein, and Chaplin all patronized the hotel multiple times.  Aside from well-known Western folks, the hotel also holds some economic significance in China.  The first stock exchange opened in Hotel Astor conference center in 1990.

The Bund

Shanghai is different from Beijing.  Aside from location and Mandarin dialect, this difference is also notable in the architecture in the city.  Hotel Astor is located just north of an area of Shanghai known as The Bund.  The Bund is a mile long park along the Huang Pu river which also happens to feature a number of differing architecture styles.

Next post, I’ll give you a tour of Nanjing Road, People’s Park and the Pudong.  Till then, safe travels.