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Old 09-19-2014, 02:36 AM   #351
chopstick
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Arrived in Beijing a few hours ago, set up a VPN to access Google/GMail/Facebook with no problems, thanks to some tips from the 2p2ers over in the travel forum.

Train ride was an uneventful 30 hours from Ulaanbaatar. Beautiful landscape coming through the mountains a couple hours west of Beijing. Coming out of the Beijing train station there was a noticeable difference in air quality from anywhere else so far. Ulaanbaatar has a terrible reputation for poor air quality, but it was fine while I was there. This is because the air gets bad in the winter due to things being burned for heating, according to the folks I asked.

Decided to step up my lodging game a bit from the $10 hostel in Mongolia to the not-$10 Crowne Plaza in Beijing. Upgraded to the top floor due to loyalty status. Free fruit, bathrobes, pool just for this floor. I can live with this for the next five days. It's right in the city center, about 500 meters from the palace area.

Tonight I'll head to the nearby Donghuamen Night Market, where according to Wikipedia:

"One can find a row of unusual food stalls. An array of Chinese food delicacies are on display with people bustling around to experience some new tastes. Items such as sheep's particular parts, offal soup, deep fried crickets, centipedes, silk worms, scorpions and lizards are available to eat on a stick."

If that night market is as awesome as it looks like it will be, I'll probably just end up eating there every night minus one night for Peking Duck somewhere.
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Old 09-19-2014, 08:48 AM   #352
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

I highly recommend doing a hike along the Great Wall. We arranged a hike with a hostel that went from Jinshanling to Simatai (although it ended a few towers before Simatai because of 'reconstruction' work).

The nice part about going to these sections is that there are WAY less tourists. My wife and I spent about 3 hours on the wall and for most of it we were by ourselves with only a couple of other people from our ~20 person group in the general area ahead/behind us. We also liked that you go through 'restored' sections and non-restored sections.

It was probably the highlight of our trip to China.
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Old 09-19-2014, 08:54 AM   #353
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

goddammit I hate you. <3

the way you tell these stories, it let's my imagination take over.

well. ****ing. done. sir.
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Old 09-19-2014, 09:00 AM   #354
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

I just ate two scorpions.
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Old 09-23-2014, 10:36 AM   #355
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

OK, no photos just yet but I do have a story for you guys about getting scammed in Beijing. Normally I tend to try to make posts that are heavy on the photos and light on the writing because who wants to read stuff when they can look at stuff, but this story is pretty solid.

I am still in Beijing. I get on the train tomorrow afternoon for Hong Kong. That train ride is about 23 hours, so I have a sleeper car again. Will stay in Hong Kong (with a side trip to Macau, of course) until October 5. Then I get on the cargo freighter bound for LA, should be 16-17 days trip.

Have been going around Beijing and seeing stuff like the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, etc. Haggled with people in the Yashow clothing market and picked up an Oba Mao tshirt for like $4. The last thing I need is more stuff to carry around, but I couldn't resist this one. The government banned them a couple of times, I figured it would be a sweet souvenir.

As mentioned, I fell for a scam and was scammed out of about $100. The scam is called the Beijing Tea Scam, click on the link for details of one version or just google for those words.

I have to hand it to the scammers, they did an excellent job. I have avoided many tourist scams in my travels over the years, but I suppose I was eventually going to have to fall for at least one considering how much travel I do. While walking near the entrance to the Forbidden City one evening, I was approached by a young man & woman who said they were tourists from Shanghai, and wanted to practice a little English. We spoke for about 20 minutes or so at the gate, at which point they suggested we get a drink. I'm very used to this kind of thing from traveling in hostels. In hostels, it is completely standard for people to meet up, chat about their travel, ask to practice English, and have a drink and chat, so I didn't think much of it.

We walked a little ways down the street, and the guy pointed to a little tea place and said "What about this one?", to which I said sure. We went inside, walked into a little private room, and hung out for about an hour drinking some tea, a couple of beers, and some kind of Chinese not-vodka. My new "friends" did all the ordering in Mandarin. We sat around and talked, just standard travel and cultural differences chats. After a while, we got the bill, and it came in at 1596 RMB. That's the equivalent of about $260 USD.

At first I thought I was missing a decimal point or something. I had been expecting the bill to be around 240 RMB (~$40) or thereabouts. For example, a can of soda costs 6-10 RMB, which is $1 to $1.60ish.

I stared at the bill for a few moments trying to understand why the number was so high, when the guy pulled 800 RMB out of his wallet and said "We'll split it, OK?" at which point I realized I was definitely reading the bill correctly and it was insanely high. That's when I realized something was definitely wrong. I mentioned that the bill seemed way too high, at which point my new "friend" immediately started reassuring me that no, it was correct, and quickly started rattling off everything we had ordered, and the price. That's when I KNEW something was definitely wrong - he was clearly prepared for that question and had a rehearsed answer, and was giving the answer to me while the owner/server stood right there.

Once I realized it was a scam, I tried to think about what to do. We were in a back room, and it was just me and the three of them. I had not been drinking very much (although in retrospect my new "friend" had been constantly topping up my tiny vodka glass and encouraging me to drink a lot - "In China, drinking alcohol is brothers!"), so I was still very aware of my surroundings. It was night time, probably around 10pm or so, and while we were close to the Forbidden City, we were on a side street a few hundred meters off the main tourist drag.

I decided to just accept that I had been scammed and pay up, rather than risk any kind of physical confrontation or having the situation escalate. I could tell they were getting very tense the longer that I sat there thinking (probably no more than 30 seconds, but that can be a long time), so I took 800 RMB out of my wallet and paid. My "friends" walked out of the tea house with me and walked with me back near the main strip which is the Beijing equivalent of Times Square. At that point they said they needed to go, and left.

After walking back to my hotel, I did some research on the scam, found out it is super common and that lone western males are the primary target, and the prime target area is right where I was, at the gates of the Forbidden City. I talked with the hotel concierge about reporting the tea house to the police but the concierge said the tea house most likely gives the police a kickback for non interference and that it would probably be a waste of time. He did offer to take me to the police station and help me, but told me that nothing would likely happen because the tea house owner would just claim I knew the prices. I decided to put it behind me and just enjoy the rest of my time here.

On the plus side, I've avoided at least a dozen other scams while here. Rickshaw scams, fake money scams, black taxis, and other even less savory stuff. Beijing is nickamed "scam city", which I didn't know until a few days ago. It definitely deserves the name.

But this scam story has a happy ending!

I went to the Forbidden City this afternoon, and while walking there, I knew I would pass the tea house again. I did, and when I got there, I went inside. The employee was not the one from the other night. I spent some time looking at their teas, and the menu, which I took a photo of. I also got a photo of their credit card machine with their Mastercard merchant ID # on it.. or at least I thought I did, it turned out later that I didn't. After hanging out there for about 5 minutes trying to decide what to do, the owner showed up. He either didn't recognize me, or thought I didn't recognize him, because we just chatted about some small tea glasses they had for sale.

While we were chatting, two Chinese girls strolled up with a western guy. I stopped them as they entered and asked the guy if he had just met them and whether or not they had asked him to get some tea. He said yes, and I warned him that he was walking into a scam.

At this point, the owner's demeanor changed very quickly. His employee just sat there looking like he didn't know what to do. The two girls immediately started insisting there was no scam. I stepped back out of the entrance door and stood on the sidewalk. The other western guy said "thanks!", and took off walking down the street and the girls went after him.

The owner started getting upset at me and saying there was no scam, what was I talking about, I needed to come inside and discuss it with him. I told him I was not stepping foot back in there, and that I wanted my money back from the other night. He refused, and I told him that I had been taking photos of his business for the last 20 minutes, including his Mastercard machine, and that I had his Mastercard merchant ID number as well. I told him that he had a choice - he could either give me back my money, or I would file a police report as well as contacting Mastercard and tell them about the scam, and that he would lose his merchant account. I had paid in cash, but I figured this was a good threat.

Interestingly, he didn't seem to care about the police threat, but when I mentioned contacting Mastercard, he immediately changed his tune and started asking me how much I had spent, how much did I want back, etc. I told him I wanted the full 800 RMB, and he countered with 200 RMB. I told him that his choice was either repayment in full, or I walk and file the police report and call Mastercard.

He kept trying to get me to come back into the store, but of course there was no way I was going to do that. He also kept arguing with me, telling me I was "the mafia", that I was shaking him down, that he was just a businessman and I was being unfair, and so on. It was comical. I just kept repeating that he had a choice to make, and the longer we stood there and argued, the more scamming business he would lose, as I promised him I would warn anyone entering his store about the scam, like I did the western guy.

It went back and forth like that for about 20 minutes or so, then finally he agreed to give me the 800 RMB back and demanded that I sign a piece of paper stating that he had repaid me, because "what is to stop you from coming back tomorrow and demanding money again" as he said. LOL. He handed me a blank piece of paper, told me to write that I had paid 800 RMB and that he had reimbursed it, and sign the paper. Obviously I used a fake name, but I did it and he gave me my 800 RMB back. I looked closely at the bills to see if there were any counterfeits, but they all looked legit, and came off a massive roll from his pocket. I'm guessing they must make at least $1000 a day scamming people like this.

Once I got my money back, I immediately got out of there and headed to the Forbidden City. Later on that day, I saw one of the girls from earlier trying to scam someone else and stopped her by pointing her out as a scammer. She told me to wait right there and walked away, so of course I took off.

After getting back to the hotel, I talked with the concierge on the phone and told him what had happened. He was very surprised and said I was really lucky to have gotten any of my money back, let alone all of it.

I'm glad I went back and gave it a shot. I figured at best I'd get maybe 200-300 RMB back, and am extremely happy to have gotten the full 800 RMB back. Not because it's much money, but rather for the principle of the matter. I guess I also got some free drinks, too! And I prevented at least one other person from getting scammed, which is my good deed for today.
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Old 09-23-2014, 10:51 AM   #356
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

doing things for the principle of it often get me into issues, especially outside of the continental US, but that was very well played.

why were you so afraid of going back into the store while arguing? I mean, I suppose I get it, but if there were only 2 employees, one being old the other female...think they would have called the triad or whatever?
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:17 AM   #357
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

The owner was mid 30s, and his male employee was maybe mid 20s. I wasn't really concerned about any kind of violence from them in the middle of the afternoon with lots of people walking up and down the street. The reasoning for stepping out and not re-entering was based mostly on two things - the first was wanting to make a scene that would draw lots of attention, which of course he didn't want. The second was related to psychological control of the negotiation. If I am outside the store, he has less control/confidence than if I am inside the store, especially if I stay outside once he has asked me to come inside.

Safety was part of it, but it was primarily for negotiation.

I was definitely concerned about safety during the evening of the scam when I was back in the little room with the three of them.
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:33 AM   #358
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Great story. I've never heard of that one. Glad it had a good ending as well.
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:21 PM   #359
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

I had exactly the same in Shanghai but with 3 lovely Chinese girls chatting up my friend and I in the middle of the street and telling us we should take them to our home country. Funny enough, WE actually invited THEM to go get a drink somewhere. They took us to some place and started doing the ordering in Mandarin just like you said. We actually got whiskey and fruit scales. An hour later, an employee comes telling me that the bill is already over 5000RMB ($800) and asks me if I'm sure we wanted to order more.

My friend and I stayed relatively calm and we went to the bathroom together to hide most of our money and ended up giving them 900RMB ($140) total, telling them that was all we had. The girls almost bursted out in tears saying they didn't have that kind of money to cover the rest, and that we should pay it because we are "the men".

We were also kinda scared that if we tried to make a run for it, they'd have some kind of security ready somewhere down the street or something. Still we felt pretty stupid about it.

If you somehow ever happen to visit Chengdu, let me know! You seem like a cool guy.
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:27 PM   #360
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

That does it! Now I'm never going to Beijing!
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:58 PM   #361
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Basically any chinese person randomly approaching you in public in a tourist area will try to run some scam on you (unless they want a pic with you).

Chinese people don't trust randoms and neither should you.

In Shanghai I had everything from an older clean cut couple claiming to have had their wallets stolen and asking for a loan to the usual "I'm a chinese student and want to practice my English" which would probably lead to the tea house scam.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:04 PM   #362
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

That story is too funny. I was a bit surprised you fell for the scam being an experienced travel and all, but even more shock you got any, much less all, of the money back.



A few months ago I had a friend who is new to China fall for a similar trick in Shanghai. Their scam was a bit less refined though: the girl simply led him into a place where several thugs were waiting who shook him down.

Glad everything turned out ok, great story.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:06 PM   #363
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

nomad - Yeah it's super common but I had never heard of it, either. I now have a new addition to my travel tools - googling "[cityname] scams" before going somewhere new.

Syndr0m - So many variants of this scam! Glad to hear you got away for a relatively low sum. Funny, I met an Israeli today in the Forbidden City who is headed to Chengdu tomorrow. He was surprised to find an American and mentioned that he rarely sees Americans in his travels, which I agreed with. Americans just don't seem to travel much internationally. My next stop is Hong Kong, then on to LA, but if I ever make it to Chengdu I'll drop you a line. I'm definitely coming back to China at some point in the future.

pig4bill - You're in Vegas, right? I may be coming back to your neck of the woods soon. I'm thinking of coming back to Vegas and living there in Jan-Feb again next year, like I did earlier this year. Then find a boat going from Panama -> Tahiti in early Spring. No decision yet, but I have a ~$250 Delta credit that I need to spend by tomorrow before it expires, and since I have no fixed plans past December, I figure a one way ticket to Vegas is as good a way as any to spend it. May end up just not using the ticket and just heading to SE Asia (Laos / Cambodia / Thailand) for the winter instead, but I like Vegas as a default. By the time I make it back to LA on the freighter, I'll have been out of the US for about six straight months, will be nice to spend a little time back in USA#1. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to forget how to speak English.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:16 PM   #364
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

straightflushin - Yeah, that is pretty much my experience in China so far. I've been approached by prostitutes, pimps, rickshaw scammers, "I lost my wallet"s, currency "exchangers", touts, etc. I think I've dodged at least three dozen scam attempts in the last five days. It's just nonstop, pretty irritating. I fell for this one due to my hostel experiences, I think. That, and my ignorance of this particular scam.

Bluegrassplayer - I was surprised I fell for it too. I've had so many scams tried on me in so many places, I've pretty much lost count. I guess I should be more surprised that I lasted this long before falling for one, considering the volume. Like you, I am even more surprised I got all the money back. I thought there was a good chance I'd get like 200-300 or so back if I put up enough of a fight, but I was not expecting to get all of it back. Very happy about that. I definitely gave the guy the full court press today at his shop. He didn't seem at all concerned about me going to the police, but once I started talking about how I'd be able to get Mastercard to revoke his merchant license, that definitely shook him. I am guessing no one has ever used that one on him. I think it also helped that I was standing at the sidewalk instead of inside his shop, because people were definitely watching the confrontation unfold and that seemed to make him pretty uncomfortable. I almost felt bad for him, but **** him, he's a ****ing scammer.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:22 PM   #365
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

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Great story. I've never heard of that one. Glad it had a good ending as well.

yep, this.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:25 PM   #366
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Hope you don't mind me asking a few questions in your thread, feel free to take it to pm if you'd like.

I've never heard of there being a guy with the girl before, probably because the opportunity for some tourist to show off to a cute girl is a big motivator. Did they frame this at all like a romantic thing? Was the girl cute? How about the other groups you stop from getting scammed?

Why do you think you fell for it? Were they incredibly personable? What type of conversation took place in the 20 minutes leading up to inviting you to the tea house?

BTW I'll be Shenzhen and HK this week if you want to meet up let me know.
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Old 09-23-2014, 02:21 PM   #367
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Bluegrassplayer - Ask whatever you want, this thread is for everyone.

The guy introduced them as brother and sister. He said he had been to Beijing before, but that it was her first time and he was showing her around. I would say she was of average looks at best. She had goblin ears. Here is the only photo I have of them, taken in the small room that night:



The other group I stopped today was two young women, and they were smoking hot. I can completely see how they easily snared the western guy I warned. They were both early/mid 20s, very stylishly dressed, and both solid 7s or 8s. No photos of them, unfortunately.

I think I fell for it because I had been staying at hostels throughout Russia and Mongolia, and it's incredibly standard in hostel culture to go out for a drink with someone you just met who is also traveling. The first words out of their mouths after hello were how they were traveling from Shanghai, so I think that was a lot of why I let my guard down, I just fell into hostel hang out mode. They were showing me photos on their phone of places they had been, schools they volunteered at, etc. All fake, of course.

They were both very personable and friendly, but not overly so. Well, maybe him a little in retrospect, but not enough to really set my radar off. The conversation was pretty much standard travel convo - where you just came from, what your current plans are, where you are going next. We talked about visiting the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, etc. All completely standard hostel/backpackerish conversation.

I leave for Hong Kong tomorrow afternoon, will get there on the afternoon of the 25th and will be there until the 5th with a side trip to Macau at some point. I'll PM you contact info after I pick up a HK SIM.

Or maybe I'll trainwreck myself and just post my China SIM cell number in the thread tomorrow and let random 2p2ers call me. I have like 4 hours of call time to use up and I'm just going to toss the SIM when I get to Hong Kong anyway, so that might be fun. I'll do it if I have easy access to an electrical outlet on the train and can keep my phone charged.
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Old 09-23-2014, 05:21 PM   #368
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

I can't remember if you've posted a pic of yourself or not (pretty sure you have), but if you have I don't remember and I have a picture of how you SHOULD look in my head, so I'm just gonna roll with that. :-)

I also don't remember where you started (west coast or east coast) but the "around the world without being in an airplane" is burned awesomely into my brain. so if you're taking a train or better yet driving across USA#1 and are taking a leisurely northern route, if you end up anywhere near northeast ohio, I'll drive to meet you anywhere in the vicinity. the stories I bet you can tell would be worth the price of gasoline and a bar tab.

or better yet, it's me and my wife and if it's still in the fall, I can offer a guest bedroom, steaks and a fire and as much liquor as you can drink, as well as breakfast/lunch before you continue your journey in exchange for stories with accompanying pictures.

fully aware that with your Chinese scam radar fully functional that sounds like some ****, but while I probably am an ******* occasionally on 2+2, wifer and I are both teachers, how bad can I be? (mwaahahaha)

anyway yeah, still living vicariously through this thread.

looking forward to hitching a ride on the container ship? or will it be as boring as I assume?
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Old 09-23-2014, 06:17 PM   #369
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Nice try Wiper. No one's falling for your "I'm a teacher" bull**** any longer
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Old 09-23-2014, 10:17 PM   #370
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

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Holy crap!

You got scammed by Doug "Toolbox" Lee?!?!?!
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:05 PM   #371
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chopstick goes for a sail

The Beijing scammers are good. We got sucked into a conversation with two girls that started by them asking me to take their picture. It was much subtler than most scams. Luckily we figured it out when they asked us to go have tea with them.

Edit: Great job getting your money back and stopping someone else from being scammed though. I love it when scammers come out behind.
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Old 09-24-2014, 02:46 PM   #372
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Yo chopstick. Hit me up if you need recommendations when you're in LA or if you want to meet some cool 2+2ers.
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Old 09-24-2014, 10:54 PM   #373
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Wiper - I try to stay out if non coastal states other than Colorado, but I'll drop you a line if I head thru your area.

JJ - Me too. I'm not a vindictive person but I really hate scammers and love it when they lose.

Dos - Sounds good, I'll drop you a line when I get to LA.


I'm in the train car from Beijing to Hong Kong just inside Guangzhou, and there are two ancient Chinese and one young Chinese in the car with me. All the ancients do is hack, cough, burp, fart, and spit. They also throw all of their trash on the floor even though we have a trash can right in the compartment. The floor is covered with tissues and what I think are sunflower seed shells or something similar.

This behavior seems pretty standard in China from what I've experienced the last few days. I was walking in the park north of the Forbidden City and people were just tossing plastic trash right into the bushes and on the ground, even with trash cans in sight just a dozen meters away. I hate littering so it was pretty tilting.

In other news, I used a flight credit that was about to expire to buy a one way flight from DC to Vegas on Jan 1, so I'll most likely go hang out in Vegas for Jan/Feb again.

Was going to look for a sailboat from the Canaries to St Lucia in November, but that would mean I need to rush the cross country trip across the US to be in DC no later than November 1-3ish. Since I arrive in LA probably on Oct 22-23 and want to spend at least 3-4 days in both Denver and DC, it seems unlikely I can do both a slow train trip as well as the sailing.

There is another Canaries departure that leaves later (Nov 23) and skips Cape Verdes in favor of a direct sail to St Lucia. It's a lot less popular so options are likely much more limited, but I'm going to look into that one instead.

I did just turn down an offer to crew the Carib 1500, which is Portsmouth, VA to the BVI. That would have left on Nov 2. Again, a timing constraint.

I don't think I want to rush across the US. I have friends pretty much everywhere and when I did the Key West -> Prudhoe Bay drive, I didn't get to see any of my Cali peeps.

Maybe the new plan is 3-4 days in each of LA, San Fran, Denver, Madison, then a week in DC. Then somewhere (Mexico? Caribbean? Sailing delivery?) from mid Nov to mid Dec, DC for the holidays, and on to Vegas for Jan & Feb. Then crew on a sailboat out of Panama for French Polynesia / New Zealand / Australia in March.

I don't really like planning so far in advance.

Pics later when I get wifi. Hong Kong & Macau, here I come!
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Old 09-25-2014, 12:07 AM   #374
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Thanks for the answers, and also lol at you having a pic of them. Great stuff.
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Old 09-25-2014, 03:09 AM   #375
pig4bill
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 28,064
Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Quote:
Originally Posted by chopstick View Post
pig4bill - You're in Vegas, right? I may be coming back to your neck of the woods soon.
Ha, no, I'm in the San Fran Bay area. I may have been in Vegas when I responded to something, and mentioned something Vegas related.
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