Shanghai Pudong skyline Since Shanghai is 25 minutes by express train from Suzhou, it makes a convenient day trip. I’m already starting to think of Shanghai as the Magic Kingdom – the above view across the river toward Pudong is as stunning by day as it is by night. On my most recent trip I got to sample the famous 小笼包 xiaolongbao dumplings at a tiny restaurant that always has a line out the door. I also discovered the Foreign Languages bookstore and an art bookstore. I plan to make the city my destination at least every couple of weeks. 小笼包 xiaolongbao Shanghai dumplings
I’m leaving Chengdu, after 8 years, to move to Suzhou in the east of China. At least that’s the plan. I’ve been offered a job as an English Tutor at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University (西交利物浦大学 or XLTLU for short), a partnership between the two universities that began in 2006, and that grants degrees recognized both in China and in the UK. I’m tentative about the proposition because I’ve been through 2 months of visa hell – turns out that Suzhou has one of the strictest policies for granting Z working visas in China. The dreaded Certificate of No Criminal Conviction (CNCC) has been the sticking point, and getting this document from the Public Security Bureau in Chengdu ranges from difficult to impossible. My particilar hell involved 3 weeks of negotiation between the PSB and the SW University for Nationalities, where I studied Chinese for the past year and a half, which was required to provide documents in support of my application for the certificate. As a backup plan, I applied for a second non-criminal document, this one from the FBI in Washington DC, just to be on the safe side. All I had to do was to go to a private security company, pay them 800 RMP for a set of fingerprints, and mail them of with the application to the USA. Then wait for 6 weeks. That document has not arrived as of this writing. Driving from 成都 Chengdu to 苏州 Suzhou – 1376 miles (2215 km), about 20
On a recent Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday weekend, I took a badly needed day trip to 青城山 Qingcheng Mountain, northwest of Chengdu. The mountain is one of the most important centers of Daoism (道教) in China, as well as being a relaxing, beautiful spot to get away fromt he noise and pollution of the city. I’d visited the mountain once before, just after my arrival in China in 2006, during a hot, sticky summer when the cicadas were buzzing so loudly I imagined their deep, echoing sounds were coming from some otherworldly gigantic insects. I was with a group of teachers, but instead of climbing the mountainside steps, I took a cable car to near the top. This time I came by myself, taking the high-speed elevated train from the Chengdu North station about 40 minutes to the Qingcheng Shan station. A word of advice: on leaving the station and heading left to the bus area, don’t take the big city-bus type bus that costs 2 RMB; take the mini-bus, which will drop you off right at the ticket office for the mountain. As I found out the hard way, the big bus lets you off in a parking lot about 2.5 kilometers from the entrance to the mountain proper. It’s a pretty walk if you feel like it (or you can pay extra for the “sightseeing” tram the rest of the way), but since I was planning on
Qincheng Mountain, Sichuan, a couple of days ago.
View of the Himalaya, Tibet, approaching Everest Base Camp, 2010