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Low Blows in Shanghai

Pudong International Airport

Pudong International Airport

It was 9:00 on a Thursday morning and I had just landed in Shanghai, the largest city in China by population and the largest city proper by population in the world. I was ultimately headed to the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. However, before I could bask in the tropical temperatures and dubiously bathe myself in sunscreen, there was one thing standing in my way: a 9-hour layover.

Hong Kong

Northeast Asia 2015 Predictions: Another Year of the Repetitive, Uninspiring Status Quo

Looking Back on What Predictions for East Asia 2014 I got Wrong…and a little Right

untitledI have always liked these end of the year prediction check-ups, and new year prediction-making exercises. It’s fun, but it also is an important check on irresponsibility in our punditry. Month after month we say this or that is important, or this or that will happen. But later when the current we thought was important turns out not to be, or the ‘revolutionary’ leader we thought would ‘change everything’ turns out to be a bust, we conveniently forget about that and say some other trend is actually what really matters.

My Top 5 List for 2104: 5 Biggest Foreign Policy Events in Korea


This is a follow-up to my previous post – a top 5 list of events for US power in Asia in 2014.

My Top 5 List for 2014: 5 Biggest Foreign Policy Events for the US in Asia


I love these hoky, end-of-the-year lists. But I don’t know much about genuinely interesting or cool stuff, like the top 5 classical music pieces or architectural masterpieces of the year. So before you read another list about the Kardashians’ top 5 lip glosses, or the 5 most repetitive comic movies of the year, here is an uber-wonky one that’s basically about the sustainability of the pivot.

The S2 train from Beijing to Badaling

I see tours all over Beijing advertising organized tours to the Great Wall, starting at 180RMB (or $30 USD). This is affordable and somewhat convenient. They often even feed you free lunch. What bothers me about this trip are the forced trips to jade or silk markets where they up sell you on cheap, useless touristy things. You are literally forced to wander a place you wouldn’t otherwise hear about or want to be at.

I decided to research going to Badaling, an area many tours are advertised to take you too. It’s a bit of work but totally doable.

If you want to do this, you’ll have to plan ahead and use your time wisely.

A train to Badaling from Beijing costs 6RMB (or $1 USD) and takes 90 minutes. The train only leaves 6 times a day though. Realistically, you could come here and back in one day though if you wanted to. Or you could stay at the Great Wall Courtyard Hostel. It’s a 5-10 minute walk from the train station.

I have been staying at the Happy Dragon Hostel in Beijing, and...

I have been staying at the Happy Dragon Hostel in Bei

My first point of action after arriving in China was getting a...

My first point of action after arriving in China was getting a SIM card for my phone. A friend recommended the company, China Unicom, to me. 3G data and a modest phone plan for my iPhone for 150 RMB. Super easy and got it at the airport. Look for the machines by the bathroom after you go through customs. An employee will be there that speaks English and they’ll walk you through the plans. I think it’s totally worth it just to get around with, since I have found no free wifi around Beijing.

Blatant Pimping: The Worst Motorcycle in Laos

We usually don’t demean the fair cyber pages of this blog by something as base as promotion, but screw it, I’ll shed my secret identity and let the cat out of the bag: I, Chris Tharp, aka “Mr. Motgol,” got a new book out YOU should stop what you’re doing right now, click on the link below, and buy it. Hey, it can’t be that bad. After all, these guys had some nice things to say about it:

“In The Worst Motorcycle in Laos, Tharp takes us on a wild ride from the neon streets of Tokyo to the dirt tracks of Indochina. The essays are insightful, humorous and unflinching. A great read for the active and armchair traveler alike.”

- Michael Breen, author of The Koreans

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