HOME /// 400 Day LETS Odyssey - CONTENTS

400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

One of Shanghai's garden sculptures.

CHINA - Shanghai (Wk.5 of 5 weeks)
Week 5 of World Tour

1. Shanghai Snippets

Electric Mosquito Racquet

It's made in China, looks like a little tennis racquet or maybe a badminton racquet with a short handle. But instead of interwoven nylon strings, it has horizontal metal wires, and a couple of batteries in its handle. And its job � killing mosquitoes! Just press the button on the handle with your thumb while swinging at the flying insect, and it'll be immediately fried on impact, sounding very audibly on contact.

I almost chose not to mention this little invention because I thought it may actually already be known around the world. But when I read on the packaging that we shouldn't touch the wires when it's activated, I thought it would never get safety approval from many of the countries in the western world.

Counterfeit Money

I was always amused to see shop-keepers studying large notes (50 RMB and 100 RMB) to see if they were real or counterfeit. But when I tried to pay for my movie ticket one night, the girl at the desk quickly rejected my 50 RMB note because the machine she scanned it under identified it as counterfeit. So there I was with a dud note in my hand. I had no idea who had given it to me (who remembers those things anyway?). A thought flashed through my mind that maybe I should keep it and frame it, but the thought flashed out of my mind just as quickly, and I settled on my second thought.

I gave it to the taxi driver who took me home and accepted the change (in real cash) without any feeling of guilt at all.

Things Cook Better In Coke

Well, this was a first. Chicken wings being cooked in Coca-Cola. The taste test went well. The chicken looked very dark from the sticky black Cola coating, but it had a delicious sweet taste (literally) clinging to it.

Is this just a Chinese recipe? Or has anyone else heard of it?


In Shanghai, there are little restaurants that just sell yabbies, which are quite a delicacy in China. You are given a pair of plastic gloves and then the yabbies are brought to the table in a tray, half a kilo at a time. One night 5 of us devoured 4 kilos of these fiddly little morsels, though I was the only one not wearing gloves. Why? Because my hands were too big and wouldn't fit!

Catholic Cathedral

A Catholic Cathedral (built 1906-1910) still stands in Shanghai's Xujia Hui Business District. It's historically very significant as China's largest church, with the capacity to seat 3,000 people. It's a 2-story building with incredible aesthetic and acoustic design. Unfortunately. it's glory days are well and truly over, and on my visit, a pianist practiced her music scales while a handful of people sat in the pews trying to concentrate on their prayers.

Bus Travel

I've traveled by public transport almost all the time I've been overseas, but catching a bus in Shanghai at 8.15 am is probably not the best time to travel. On this morning we were already literally squashed like sardines, and the bus continued to stop and pick up more passengers. And it's experiences like these which cause you to believe in miracles. Because that's exactly what it took to squeeze between everyone in order to get off at your stop, and getting us all extremely well aquainted with one another in the process!

Black Man In China

There are very few foreigners in China, and only a fraction of them are black. So I was impressed to meet Daniel, a 23 year-old student from Burundi (a small African nation east of Congo) who spoke very good Chinese. He'd won a Burundi government scholarship to study Chinese at the internationally acclaimed Fudon University in Shanghai, and was already doing quite well after only 10 months study. He spoke well of his China experience, and confided that he was always happy, as long as he wasn't trying to learn Chinese writing. Because he found it immensely stressful to make much sense out of it.

Sad And Sorry Jay-Walker

Jay-walking is rife in China. So I was impressed (and amused) to see the following incident one Sunday afternoon.

A very busy and wide intersection near the center of Shanghai was being controlled by 2 uniformed policemen. They were very strict about when the passengers should cross, and equally as strict with the cars. So when a frantic man was seen running across the intersection, when he shouldn't have, he was promptly summoned to explain his actions to one of the policemen. He quickly pointed to a bus which was about to arrive at the bust stop, but the policeman was not forgiving. He ordered the man to immediately return to the side of the road he'd come from, even though he was still crossing against red lights! But the lights changed to green when he was only half way back, so the man immediately turned again to catch his bus which was waiting in line behind a couple of others. The policeman didn't agree that this was an adequate enough punishment and pointed at the man aggressively, making it very clear that he was still not to cross the road. The poor man stopped dead in his tracks, dipped his head so his chin rested on his chest and slowly walked back to the footpath � a sad and sorry, defeated man. As I got closer to him, I noticed him look up and with a glimmer of hope, ran to another crossing nearby which would take him to the bust stop where his bus obviously still remained. Unfortunately, I can't tell you if he caught the bus or not, but I'd like to think that this little battler made it after having so many obstacles thrown at him.


The Magnum Ice-Creams in China are tiny. Maybe half the size of the Magnums we have in Melbourne. But then, they probably have to be so they can compete in price with the other ice-creams on the market which sell for only about 2 RMB. These mini-Magnums are 3.5 RMB each, but taste just as good as their big brothers.


I saw 4 movies on this trip. The first one was Cassandra Crossing, a film made in the 1970s (and you could tell by the enormous amount of scratches on the film!) starring Sofia Loren. It was dubbed in Chinese, so I didn't understand a word, but I got the gist of the film (more or less). It was probably unearthed because of its deadly infectious disease plot, making it very SARS-like.

The second movie I saw was Lord Of The Rings II. I was getting nostalgic to see a movie in English, and this was the only English-speaking movie being shown. So even though this was the 3rd time I got to see it, it certainly satisfied that urge I was feeling.

The third movie I saw was DareDevil, starring Ben Affleck. Even though this movie had been released in Melbourne shortly before I left, I missed seeing it, so I was glad to catch it in Shanghai � and in English too!

And the last movie I saw was My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the low budget movie phenomenon produced by Tom Hanks. Luckily I'd seen it before on a plane some time before, so I didn't mind that it was dubbed in Chinese.


Alas, the beggars are everywhere. Not uncomfortably so, because they don't follow you around and hassle you like I've been told happens in many countries. But on any outing into the city area, you get to see several. Some are old and frail, but some are unforgettable �

Like the young boy dressed in only a pair of pants, who thanked every donation quite merrily, though he had no arms from the shoulders down. And the fully grown man, without any feet, who lay face down in the street with saliva dripping out of his mouth, and his wife sat sobbing by his side holding a donation bowl.

Sudden Downpour

Shanghai had been mostly hot and sunny for the 5 weeks I was there, with only a few regular showers in the last couple of weeks. So I was completely caught off guard when I was invited to dinner with a couple of friends on the Saturday night before I left China.

I'd already been traveling for more than an hour by bus, so I was reluctant to turn back once it began to rain. But before I could get off at my stop, the rain turned into a deluge! And I was still reconsidering my options because I was wearing sandals and socks. So, when the bus doors finally opened I had to either go or stay, so I went, and with my first step landed into 10 cms. (4 inches) of water. Then it got worse as I tried to find some cover and tried to hail a cab to take me the other 100 metres down the road. Unfortunately, all the taxis were taken, and I found myself walking through deeper puddles as I tried to get to drier ground. Fortunately my guests allowed me to keep my shoes and socks on in their apartment, and my jeans dried up slightly as I ate. The rain stopped soon afterwards, as if to say its only mission was to drench James � mission accomplished!

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

About the book

James Taris web sites