Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nearly back to normal, home is best

After months of anticipation of travelling to an exotic place and seeing a different culture with my Western eyes, we are glad to be back to familiarity. How I appreciate more the pleasant family Sundays where we go out to savour an american type brunch


The Main Street corridor is becoming very upscale, sort of like a budding Robson Street back in the 70's. The area is flourishing with many eateries like this one which is decorated as if you were transported back to the 60's


with their chrome chairs and arbourite table tops, stuff that we couldn't wait to get rid of, back then as were starting out our lives as young adults.

Even the light fixtures are reminiscent of the times


even the floors have been given the retro treatment


I nearly missed the porthole windows to the kitchen


Lucy's is not a very large restaurant


but it is open 24 hours a day. Perhaps one night we will stop by again for a hamburger and milkshake (for only $10.)


nearly forgot to post my obligatory food photo of my meat loaf dinner with mashed potatoes


and before we left we had to use the facilities, nothing unusual here, just your standard North American type restroom


but such a welcome sight after being in China for the past couple of weeks where fixtures such as this are a luxury, if you can find one at all. Unlike in China where you have to bring your own toilet paper or dinner napkins, this one comes fully stocked with the usual washroom condiments

At the Shanghai World Expo 2010 you are confronted with this sign as you enter the toilet area


Hope you don't have to use the right side. You are lucky to be able to choose between a Western or Chinese type Squat toilet. Luckily I only need to do a No 1

Washrooms, or toilets as they call them are not segregated on the Expo site but the sinks are communal which we discovered is the way you usually find them. On segregated toilets where there is a separate entrance for male or female, the sinks are outside in the middle. I found it strange to be sharing sinks with other strangers of the opposite gender


outside of normal tourist areas you will only find this


if you have good muscles perhaps you can make it back to your hotel


At the more modern hotels or restaurants you may be lucky and find a place where you have a choice


sometimes the sight of something familiar is more relieving than the actual action


I am so thankful to come back to familiarity and now notice things which we take for granted are not neccessarily the norm in other places around the world, like having FREE toilet paper where you expect to find it


During our last day in Shanghai we wandered around to areas where I am sure they don't want prying tourists' eyes. One of these places was in an area known as Shanghai Historic District. Here we have the poor going about their business of living with their meager incomes. We were told that the average wage here was around 2,000 Yuan/RMB per month (approx Cdn$320.) Because labour is cheap we noticed lots of people are hired to clean the streets, stand guard in front of stores and call out to tourists to come inside to buy something. Except for the smallest stores it is the norm to have someone stationed in the washrooms to clean the floors and water splashes on the counters, and even hand you a towel when you wash your hands. In the lobby of all of the hotels we stayed there was always someone standing on the stairs, or in front to open the door for you, or to sweep the floors, pick up trash, or clean the windows. I think the uneducated have a hard life and work long hours in menial jobs.

When I first started walking in this area I started to take photos but I got a lot of stares and some people came up to me, some shouting, but I couldn't understand their language. It was obvious to me that I was the intruder and was having second doubts about recording their lives. Many families live in this area with narrow streets and laneways which led to numerous tenaments, many of which did not have running water. You will notice sinks in the street, people walking around in pajamas, people trying to make ends meet by selling their wares.

You will have to excuse the following video as I had to go into stealth mode and make it appear that I was just walking about with my camera but obviously not taking any photos as my fingers were no where near the shutter button, nor could I obviously look at the LCD screen to frame my compositions. I had no choice but to keep normal walking speeds as I turned back and forth as I walked down the block.

It was in this area where I was unfortunately "bumped" and lost a leather pouch with some high speed memory cards when I eventually noticed that my waist pouch was unzipped. Luckily I did not lose any images as I download them each night onto two separate external hard drives. It is one of the consequences of being an easily recognized tourist in an area where people whom don't belong are easily spotted.

Hope you enjoy my video, "shot from the hip"

(note: there is 2 wheeled content in the video)


  1. Gidday Bob - great to have you back! Holidays of the sort that you and your infinitely beter half have just taken are good for the soul - probably more so than laying on a beach sipping cocktails. The trick is finding the balance I guess!

    Good to see food photos too. I'm afraid that I'm going to be an eternal disappointment to you on that front :-).

    Your upside-down friend...

  2. Bob - liked the video. I would often get the same reaction to a camera in Hong Kong, especially in the less touristy areas, so would wander the streets with a still camera around my neck and a remote control shutter release in my hand. Sometimes I'd get a decent shot, but more likely a great photo of someone's feet - but never saw any pink crocs.

  3. Fascinating video, with a lot of activity happening. I preferred seeing the video to the toilet pictures though! They have those squat toilets in rural areas in France and Spain, plus some in Russia as well. Sorry about your memory cards. I am sure China is an interesting place.

  4. Nice video and good shootn' from the hip! As I was watching the video my wife came into the room. Seeing the restroom facilities in China just cinched us not going there anytime soon.

    Lucy's looks like my kind of place. I'll bet their breakfast is good too. I use to be a salesman in the restaurant industry. There's a saying that we use to use to encourage restaurant owners to keep their restrooms clean. Women tend to judge how clean a kithen is by how clean the restroom is. So keep it clean! It looks like Lucy's has a clean kitchen.

  5. Hi Bob San,

    Those squat toilets are the upmarket ones, they all have a flush system,most in Turkey have nothing other than a dirty tap nearby and a very dirty cup or bucket..sometimes!!

    That video was just excellent, you really captured the real Asia/Orient.



  6. Interesting video. And well shot "from the hip". I couldn't tell what some of the vendors were selling. Did you sample much street food?

    That diner looked great.


  7. I think I vote for the meatloaf. Interesting display of food and toilet pictures, but I do mean interesting. I like your sneaky video. I'm surprised they let you out of the country with it.
    I think I would be glad to be home again as well.


  8. Wonderful video!! What a completely different way of life! Are those the types of food street vendors that you were warned away from?

    Thanks for taking the video! It is very telling.

    So you have mentioned what you missed about home (Lucy's, meatloaf, flushing toilets) but is there anything you miss about there?

  9. Geoff: Glad to be back, now I can appreciate the small things like toilet paper and napkins. The countryside is beautiful. I have lots of food photos from all our meals there just in case you were wondering.

    Canajun: I did see at least 3 pink croc wearers and I do have a photo or two to back it up

    Gary: I have lots of impressions but will only mention them if asked, from an outsider's point of view. There are many good things about their highway system, they make great use of solar power and other energy saving procedures. In some ways they are very advanced, but behind in others.

    Mike: You are right about the clean restroom analogy. sometimes you get a funny feeling if you notice food items stored in there. Lucy's was clean and next time I will try the hamburger and milkshake for $10., or maybe the breakfast. Time for you to venture north . . .

  10. to the landowner in Bulgaria: Hi Uncle Davie: is my room ready yet ? I hope you have western facilities.

    I was reading about Thailand and they usually have a pail of water and a scoop for manual flushing.

    RichardM: Luckily I had many years of street shooting on the Eastside of Vancouver, until it got too dangerous. The trick is to take photos without looking like you are. The best idea is to have a camera around your neck but use your other camera in your hands, or a long telephoto from across the street (John McLane style)

    I did try to purchase something, but after one bite I noticed it was not thoroughly cooked inside so spit it out. You notice no refrigeration on anything in the market, so even restaurant food may be suspect unless deep fried for a long time to kill bacteria.

    There were lots of live fish, crabs chickens and ducks. Even a few snakes all wriggling around. They kill them in front of your eyes if you want to buy one, so food is fresh as you like.

    I saw a fish gutted and dismembered even as it was still wiggling around. They didn't kill it first . . .

    cpa3485: If I were a camper then perhaps I wouldn't have minded the facilities so much, but I am not a camper. Luckily we were with an English speaking group so we had western accommodations everywhere we went with food to match, 5 star everywhere while just feet away residents live in relative poverty.

    Lori/Beemer girl: We were mainly in large cities, except when we visited "Water City" an ancient town where they have preserved for tourists to see how life was hundreds of years ago, and we also went to the Hollywood of China, Hengdien (I think). I much prefer places with less people but I don't think tourists are free to travel where they want

  11. Bob,

    Isn't there a law in China about photographing sensitive facilities?

    The stool sign made me laugh especially in conjunction with the no smoking sign: It reminded me of a friend who whilst travelling in Malaysia went into the "non smoking" loo and was promptly shooed out by angry women - in those days (and probably now still)the gents was denoted by a figure smoking a cigar with smoke curling upwards.

    Best wishes from Winston Churchill country, N

  12. I loved the video! It's very interesting to peek into the lives of others, especially another culture. A couple times I wanted to say...wait, go back, I want a better look!

    The toilet tour, interesting too! :)

  13. Bob, glad to see you made it home safely. As enjoyable as it is to travel and explore new places it's always nice to return home. I enjoyed the video, it reminded me of my travels to Japan, similar yet different at the same time. On my first trip to Japan in 1997 I was told I might find my self facing a squat toilet, but never did. I was also told to carry a small packet of tissue and a wash cloth as not all facility's would have paper or hand towels. GAW