Meanwhile in South China…

Two people shouted at me this morning…in Chinese. I didn’t recognize the new set of words the security guard was shouting…could have been curse words for all I know. He may or may have not said something to this effect:

“Hey! Hey! What are you trying to do dummy?! Are you trying to bring the coronavirus into this apartment complex? Huh?! Whats wrong with you? Don’t you know how to properly put on a surgical mask? Think man! Put it on correctly before you kill us all!”

I had literally just completed a morning jog in a peaceful park nearby and had stopped at the front gate to regain my composure before entering.



Morning runs through Nanhu Lake Park are the best way to start my days here

I turned away from the mad security guard to get a few good breaths in. Should I put my hands on my knees while leaning over? It would be a good way to communicate (non-verbally) that I was a bit tired and needed oxygen – the reason why my surgical mask was not covering my nose and my mouth.

Nah, I thought. I’m not about to use theatrical measures to ‘explain’ my reasoning. I’ll leave that to the real actors.


“Dui bu qi” (apologizing in Chinese) I tell him as I scan the QR code (which is now mandatory) that records my entry.

At a nearby table, security guard #2 then checks my temperature with a digital thermometer pointed at my head like a pistol as security guard #1 shouts over to her…

Message recieved.

Now she begins shouting at me about my ‘sin’. More unrecognizable words… the few people in line looking on as she made her point.

Give me a break I thought…

The truth of the matter is that these security guards are under a lot of pressure. They are literally the gate keepers of this 500+ unit apartment complex – the protectors of this community. If the coronavirus infects us, it entered via the front gates – on their watch. Even though this is an invisible enemy, they take their jobs seriously against the threat. Therefore, every measure is taken to track and record the movements of all the people who live here as well as checking body temperatures of everyone upon arrival. So, I can’t be upset at them for doing their job and enforcing the rules.

This virus has everyone on alert. Especially here on mainland of China. Wearing these surgical masks are now mandatory. If your not, you are denied entry into any building or mode of public transportation – bus, taxi, metro, train, horse carriage…nah, just kidding on that last one.

Well, now that I think about it, that may apply out in the country side or in some mountain village somewhere within the vastness of this country.


Its the new fashion

I can’t help but wonder at the effectiveness of these surgical masks being able to block a virus from entering someones body…Effective or not, it does contribute to an overall collective ease of mind for the people. -Very important

On my next arrival into the community, I’ll have my mask on properly and I’ll give the guards a gift.

This will show my apology and let them know I have changed my ways. Arriving with a bag of fruit is a courteous gesture here. Chinese gift giving culture

Especially now more then ever since vitamins strengthen the body’s immunity. If there is any person who must keep their immunity up, its the citizens who serve the public that are at the forefront. Guards, nurses, paramedics, doctors, police officers, public transportation drivers, and all other citizens who serve are all at a higher risk.

Being honest with myself, my action is part apology and part support. I could have lost my cool when they were scolding me but I didn’t (thankfully).

I learned a lesson today…while in a foreign country…once again






At the entrance of every place (apartment buildings, cafe’s, restaurants, metro stations, etc. ) there are QR codes that each person has to scan with their cell phone upon entering and leaving



Pingnan, Guangxi Memories

Early October 2017

One Chinese man may have said to the other:

“If you break the seal, I’ll open the box and we will share ONLY one mooncake. You get half and I get half…deal?!”

The pair sat across the aisle from me on the packed bus headed to Pingnan. An instant after the exchange of words, they committed the act, breaking the seal of an intended gift box, halving and devouring their share of a single mooncake while giggling like mischevious children.

When their eyes met mine, I was like “share the wealth…” and gave them a grin. Truth is, dealing with the massive amount of people at the bus terminal left us all drained…

Moon Cakes are a small circular pastry that comes with a variety of fillings and may even contain yolks from salted duck eggs. The dessert is usually shared with family during this special holiday.

They were headed home for the Mid-Autumn Festival, along with millions of other people, to visit family and friends back in their home towns-usually in rural areas. One thing I’ve discovered in China is that during major Chinese holidays, all forms of transportation are booked quickly and every seat is filled – in airplanes, trains, and buses. My local friend, Emma had warned us about this Exodus-like flocking of millions of people who were going back home for the National Holiday.

Along with this years Festival celebration, her cousin would be getting married as well. Wanting to give us a cultural experience, my buddy and I (2 conspicuous Americans) joined along for the bus ride back into rural China for a memorable time with her family. All three of us anticipated events of the upcoming days while the bus chugged along into the late night.

Next morning the wedding festivities were underway…A handful of people (us Americans included) joined the groom at a hotel in town to retrieve his bride. The beautiful bride and her party would be showered with red packets full of money and the couple would play a cute game of ‘Groom finds her hidden red high heel shoes’. These activities would have to take place before convincing her to accompany us back to the grooms home village.

One happy couple
Posing with the groom

Accomplishing the task; back in the village, the bride walked the length of the main road (for nearly a mile in the recently found red heels) past the main temple to pay respect to the groom’s ancestors. Arriving at the main residence, fireworks were set off and we proceeded to enjoy delicious traditional Chinese dishes of duck, turtle, fish, vegetables, pork, chicken, noodles, rice, soups… I’m talkin’ about a huge variety of food! To accompany the meal, we shared a few rounds of rice wine in cheerful celebration.

The village temple
Take note of the firework carnage

I was in food heaven and enjoyed tasting the new flavors. Literally, all the tastes in the flavor spectrum were offered along with a variety of textures. This is what I love about Chinese cuisine (authentically prepared Chinese food). The experience is like a celebration for your senses in a unique way. You enjoy the aroma, the different flavors along with the different textures that you break down while chewing (even sometimes not chewing).

This was my first time eating turtle meat and I gotta say, its really good. Slightly tough and a little gamey flavor. Props to the many chefs who prepared the vast quantity of food for the many guests – and with such great flavor and awesome presentation!

An array of traditional Chinese foods
Enjoying good company and delicious food

Throughout the day all the guests were in high spirits and we all shared moments of laughter and smiles. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I can only hope that I’d be able to partake in another Chinese wedding in the future.

In good company
The American enjoys himself with a genuine Chinese family in rural China

During the rest of our visit to Pingnan (in total 3 days) we enjoyed many activities. Too much for a single blog post.

Other highlights include:

  • A homemade BBQ with Emma’s cool family within the courtyard of her mother’s traditional style home.
  • An excursion out on a trail that led past an ancient cemetery on a hillside.
  • Further along on this excursion, discovering a shady commercial pig farm operation that produced massive animals (presumably using scientific applications in their production methods)
  • A sundown walk through the vast plots of farmland for the large community as the owners walked back home from working the fields. (Where I saw the oldest man I’ve ever seen in my life walking/dragging his weary body out of a field of sweet potatoes)
  • Experiencing celebrity-like status while in the central shopping district of hundreds of thousands of people enjoying a free concert and local fashion show (presumably for the people coming home for the festival). Many people wanting pictures with us Americans. Even posing while holding their babies.
  • An afternoon swim in a nearby mountain resort where hundreds of locals gather for the weekend.
  • Eating many delicious foods.
  • (e-bike offroading) Driving an electric bike in the countryside through areas where they were preparing the rugged landscape to make way for a newly paved road.

All in all, the whole experience happened quickly and my time out in Pingnan was an absolute pleasure. The kindness of the people, the scenery, the food, the whole experience is something I could have never ever dreamt up. I recall Emma sharing with me that for most people, Zack and I were the very first foreigners they have ever seen…If I was ‘alien-like’, I sure wasn’t received as such. It was more like they have known me for a long time, like a friend coming home for the holidays…grubbing on mooncakes and all…

Old school water well with hand pump
Narrowing in on the target…
She makes it look way too easy to catch a chicken! Show off 🙂
Electric work wagon
A very spicy bowl of noodles with tofu, vegetables, peanuts and other goodies
Early stages of road development
Rough but navigable
This section is almost complete
Preparing the meat ingredients for our BBQ
…and vegetable ingredients
Early stage banana plants
Most people in the village have a plot of their own land to grow food on
Is not an easy job
I’m spying on the village people…
This is what its all about. Fresh sweet potatoes right out of the ground.
Coming home from the fields
Having a water source near growing crops is a must
Walking down a lonely cement path in-between numerous plots of land as nightfall approaches
Well irrigated plots of land
Posing with Emma’s mother

A short visa run to Hong Kong

First a simple question was asked.

“Need a room for the night sir’?

A different question from another malnourished dark skin Indian man.

“What are you looking for my friend”?

A scantily dressed Indian woman sitting crossed legged on a short plastic stool in front of a jewelry shop winking at me…

I think to myself “am I witnessing pimping first hand”? Walking past…

A giant black man with a strong African accent then gets my attention “I have hashish. What are you looking for”!?

Before I can give any response, a Middle Eastern guy asks if I’m hungry while he is holding an opened restaurant menu. I took the opportunity to escape the area and then he led me to his restaurant that was deep inside the ground floor of this complex.

I struggled to keep up as I took in the surroundings. Neon lights displayed signs stating ‘exchange’, ‘jewelry’ ‘gold’ ‘tailoring’ and ‘electronics’ were all lite up to attract visitors. A few salesmen standing in front of the establishments motioned for my attention. An array of people from Africa, Middle Eastern countries, Indians and others from South East Asian countries were among the owners, workers, hustlers, and general loiters. What was this place? The general vibe was sketch….I wanted to turn around…I wanted to go deeper in…

After a few turns and passing many restaurants serving Middle Eastern, Nepali, and an array of curries, we finally make it to his establishment. He pulled out a seat for me and placed the menu before me…

I really just needed to locate the place I’d be staying while taking cover from the outside downpour. It was around 10:30 pm. I was just arriving.

Using the restaurant’s WIFI, I discovered the actual location was near and called the owner. Apparently, it was a part of this ‘neighborhood’ within the few blocks of Chung King Mansions.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this place since it is a blog post on its own. Here is a link explaining the notorious area

Long story short, its a sleazy part of town and a place with the cheapest rooms in Hong Kong. So, I can’t blame my employer for booking these two nights here – too much. A visa run brought me to Hong Kong…A quick entry, 1-day stay and an exit the following day after. This was all the time I was allowed since it was on my off days from work.

“Hell, this is a part of the experience,” I told myself to help overcome my feelings of not wanting to stay in the area. And technically, I’d only spend a few hours in the room. Most of the time I’ll be sleeping while there.

After eating a huge plate of long grain basmati white rice and Lentil Curry, I gathered my things and pulled my luggage behind me. Avoiding eye contact with the hustlers at the entrance on my way out. My room (the size of a huge walk-in closet-I would soon discover) was, in fact, the next building over on the 12th floor…

Here are a few pictures that were taken the following day.

Exploring parts of Nanning while cruising an electric bike

There are many ways of seeing the sights and exploring the city. Getting around Nanning is fairly easy. You have options that is for sure…
The most convenient is using the metro. The entire system is fairly new, safe, clean, efficient and affordable. When I was there in 2017, there were two lines that went through the main parts of the city. Pick a stop and see what you will find. There is always something to discover if your a foreigner.
Other options are using a taxi, shared bicycles (using mobike, offo and other apps), jumping on the local bus or even on the back of an electric bike taxi. However, the simplest choice of transportation to get around with is an electric scooter. If you plan on living there, its worthwhile to purchase your very own. Prices start at around $350usd.
If you think an electric bike is nothing more then a toy, that assumption is wrong. Even the low end styles can cruise around 30mph. This is not that fast, but trust me, in a city among millions of electric bikes drivers, you don’t need to go any faster then this speed.
The main road infrastructure is suitable for both motorists. Vehicles have their own lanes (and lights) and the bikes have theirs. This makes commuting more efficient and generally, a bit safer.
The luxury of owning an electric bike is that you are free to explore every street, ally or neighborhood easily. Feel free to get lost! Just make sure you have a fully charged battery before taking off.
Here are a couple of photos of cool sights while out and about on the streets of this growing city.


Hongqi 60V Electric bike


Hard to tell, but there are fish in these plastic bags filled with water…presumably on the way to market


A butchered hog on the way to market…



Its hard to tell but this is a Lamborgini in a rundown neighborhood. The contrast looked cool…


Getting comfortable with my new life as a foreigner in China

I arrived in Nanning at the end of April 2017…

I would soon discover that Jack was not a mafia boss but was instead a very cool guy in charge of settling in the new teachers. He would line me up with an apartment and hook up all the monthly services such as gas, water, internet and other essentials.

Getting acquainted with my new coworkers was interesting. The teachers came from Ireland, United Kingdom, United States and eventually another from New Zealand. The wonderful teacher assistants and company secretaries that helped us teachers and the parents/clients were all locals of Nanning.  Their ability to speak both Chinese and English along with their great personalities made a huge difference in the overall experience. I would be in charge of teaching kids, teenagers and adult in private lessons. They made sure up teachers had a good relationship with our non-English (differed in levels) speaking students and their parents. They did anything for us foreigners to make sure our experience was pleasant. I’m forever grateful and hope that they will be life long friends.

Outside of work, I made it a point to connect (amidst the language barrier) with the locals-especially the business owners at the markets and restaurants I liked. Here and there were English speaking people at my local gym, library, cafes and throughout my local neighborhood.  I soon would meet many great people outside of my work circle.

One of those people was a woman approaching her mid thirties with the air of a teenager. Her English name is Ellen. I would soon call her sweet Ellen…and she enriched my experience during my time in China – even in Thailand – as you will read that she joins me along my travels back in Chiang Mai, in Bangkok and the wonderful south Thailand island of Koh Lanta.

I would discover certain areas around Nanning where markets and foodie heavens exist. Neighborhoods where bustling open air markets served its many citizens nestled in between cement built multi-level apartment buildings. Also, notorious BBQ alleys where thousands of locals and tourists flock for an array of foods and snacks.

Stick around, subscribe and read on. There is more to come about my experiences in China and my South East Asian adventure.

IMG_1865Sweet Ellen and I eating stinky tofu


IMG_7271There’s a wal-mart in this shopping mall…

IMG_7298One open air market near my apartment


IMG_7549_zoomGrandma and Grandma threw their baby on me for a photo


IMG_7592The best way to get your chickens to market




IMG_7644Foodie heaven

IMG_7665My first time at KTV (karaoke)

IMG_7696On the outskirts of the city



Nanning, Guangxi Province

Being the only foreigner on the plane making the decent for landing on China soil felt…well, like a dream…It would be the first time ever traveling to the Republic.

Looking out the window and down below, I noticed small irregular green hills and miniature limestone mountains also covered with patches of greenery mostly near the base. Some were left undisturbed while others had great big chunks missing created by nearby heavy mining machinery. Plots of farmland lay on portions of the lush land. A few streets were visible with a few vehicles driving. There seemed to not be much activity going on on this side road of the airport…

After snatching my hiking pack off the conveyor belt, I make my way to the arrivals section.

At most busy international airports, there is a cluster of people holding up signs to welcome certain passengers entering the arrival section from baggage claim. The signs state a persons name, a group name or the company the greeter is representing. Even though my future manager didn’t tell me to expect some one holding a sign with my name on it, I figured a company greeter would be there with a sign or even the company name I’d be working with.

Walking past the group and looking for an English written sign, I saw nothing helpful. So much for feeling important…

Standing nearby feeling dumbfounded and looking around, I noticed that I was the only foreigner here! On the plane its a bit understandable but in this entire arrival terminal?! There was no need for a greeter to be holding up a sign – I’d be easy to spot out by the person who would be picking me up. The best option was to stay put.

As I stood there waiting, a feeling of being engulfed by hundreds of people overcame me. I was in hiding, yet noticed by many passerby’s gazing at my foreign face, clothes and luggage of choice. I was a curiosity standing still among the many moving Chinese people. This feeling would become a familiarity I would soon discover. One of many discoveries and ‘learned’ familiarity’s that I would realize during my stay in China…

A hand grabbing my shoulder gently snaps me out of my daze. A phone was pressed to my ear from the groper…

‘Hello Robert. Welcome, this is Jack’.

My mind thought of scenes from the movies where adrenaline filled events would ensue after landing in a foreign country and speaking to a Mafia Bass named Jack on a mysterious old school Nokia looking phone…

‘Um…Hello, Jack…your guy found me’ – adding to my imagination of the movie scene…

‘Good, hope your flight was good. ******** will drive you from the airport to your apartment in the city’.

I didn’t catch the Chinese name, but I assumed the guy holding the phone to my ear was him…