Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Shanghai November 2011

There are many ways to get to India from North America. I wanted to go
by land and sea this time, but it was a bit difficult on short notice.
One could take a 21 day cruise on a standard ostentatious cruise ship,
last minute discount deals, from Los Angeles or thereabouts, working
your way up to Alaska, then over or under the Bering Strait, to Tokyo,
Shanghai, Phillipines etc. but cruise ships are not the reflective
industrial ship travel that it used to be. Freight ships are out of
range as they now charge some crazy $4000 price for freight ship
"adventure travel". Crewing on sailboats or yachts might be an idea,
but they require a good deal of luck and planning.

If one got a boat of some kind. one could then get off in Shanghai,
and after spending some time there either work one's way across the
great land of China in small train trips visiting the countryside and
smaller cities and towns heading towards Lhasa. Or one could take the
new brilliant speed train to Lhasa, but either way, getting into Lhasa
requires a fair amount of bureaucracy and a guide is mandatory along
with some minimum exorbitant spending amount. And one does have to go
to Lhasa to make it to India. Going via land over Vietnam, Cambodia
and Myanmar is not easy either as Myanmar demands that you fly into
Rangoon. Oh well, so it was just easier to fly to India. Shanghai was
offered as a free stopover by China Eastern Airlines so we took it.

Shanghai of course is not typical China. It's a modern fast paced
relatively clean city boasting breathtaking skycrapers and jet setting
night clubs, alongside street food vendors, narrow alleyways and clay
tile roofs that are old and musty with mould and dank rot. The smell
of sewers and urine are frequent but not ubiquitous. Street cleaners
are constantly sweeping the roads and polishing the handrails on the
pedestrian overpasses to the super wide main roads. Bits of the
revolution survive in things like streetside public exercise machines
and old people looking neat and clean in the older drab uniform style
clothes of the sixties and sventies. Like the rest of Asia, people are
mean to street dogs and crying children who, though loved fiercely,
are chastised and shamed heartlessly in public. This I always found
hard to accept and it takes a deep inhale of the breath to move on and
stay out of it and let it go. I am staggered by China's 1,338,000,000
people. I am also staggered by India's 1,210,000,000 people. I have
visions of furious procreation, as furious as the production of
dumplings and samosas, noodle soups and rice and dal to feed the
steady stream of humans, each one of us living as if we are the only
ones, caretaking our aches and pains, our dreams and visions, our
health and wealth, only occasionally looking up to the sky and
catching glimpses of a bigger picture.

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