Day 588 OUT OF Beijing: Xinhua has Decided that Bacon is the Cause of China’s Pollution!



Hazardous to all living creatures.

Hazardous to all living creatures.  From the app “Airpocalypse.”


Jill and I still have our WeChat accounts and are in contact with our friends back in Beijing.

One of them, Moeava, posted a wonderful article about the pollution in Beijing a day or two ago on WeChat Moments.  I’ve posted the article at the end of this blog.  For those that don’t know, WeChat Moments is sort of like Facebook’s Wall.  However, you can only see what your friends have posted and you can’t see other people’s posts or responses, if they aren’t your friends.   We wouldn’t want too much free speech or chance of an actual conversations between people, now would we?  This might lead to something called a more free society.

Perish the thought!

A side point: They’ve made it a felony, punishable with up to 3 years in jail, to have something you’ve posted re-posted 500 times or more.  This means, if something you post gets enough attention, you can go to jail.  Thankfully, I didn’t have enough readers or reposters of my blog or who knows what might have happened.

As you will see, the Xinhua News Agency, otherwise known as the mouthpiece for the government, stated that people smoking bacon is the actual cause of pollution in China.  Xinhua is famous for putting out false claims and absurd facts.  If anyone should be in jail for lying in a public forum, it is the people that own Xinhua and China Daily.

So, just imagine that smoking causes the insane amount of pollution in China.  Maybe it is just me but almost everyone in the rational world would have guessed it is because of too many cars, too much coal burning power plants, or because they keep using dynamite to blow apart mountain tops.  Why, you ask, do they blow apart these mountains?  So they can have more flat land to build apartment complexes that no one will ever live in.  Not that building massive apartments, all over China, might cause pollution from all the equipment used or the cement made to build the apartments?  Nah.  Nope.  Xinhua News Agency has declared it is because of people smoking bacon.

Another aside: China has over 64 million empty apartments, condos and houses right now.


If you think the housing market collapse of 2008 was bad, just wait about 3-5 years from now. and see what happens.  I’m not a Negative Nelly but I have a feeling there will be a housing collapse like no one has ever seen.

There is also massive real estate speculation overseas by Chinese investors.  Take a gander around San Francisco and look at the houses that are being bought, in cash, and you will see what I’m talking about.  One of our friends says a house, on her block in SF, just went for 3.2 million dollars a few months ago to a Chinese buyer.  This house is probably about 2,000 square feet and in a nice district but not worth 3.2 million dollars.

The house has sat dead empty with no renters or inhabitants since the investors bought it.

Of course, the tech money that is moving into SF is part of this but it isn’t enough to fuel it to the degree that it is raising prices.  This is also happening in NYC, Boston and Vancouver, Canada.

Back in China, the extreme wealthy, and the developers are building apartment complexes and no one is renting them out.  The owners and developers seem to believe that somehow, miraculously, the apartment prices will continue to rise and then people will rent them out when they are more expensive.

Being that 70 million apartments are empty and no one is even interested in renting them, I can’t imagine these immediately being full in a few years.

I also worry about the quality of these places.  Apartments that are just a few years old tend to look like they are 20 years old already.  I’ve been in some of the more expensive apartments (including ones that cost more than $9,000 USD a month) and they already look like they need repairs.  They have problems with hot and cold running water, drainage, and fixtures breaking.  I’m glad I didn’t live in a high rise as I’d be worried about them if an earthquake hits in Beijing.  And earthquakes do hit in Beijing.

There are also malls that sit empty, like the New South China Mall and whole cities that are dead quiet, other than a few thousand people, because there is no need for them.

However, the economic needs of the Chinese government push people to move into cities, to buy things they don’t need, and to spend money they don’t have.

Again, it sounds a lot like what happened in 2008 and I’m thinking that history is going to repeat.  I honestly don’t care who buys what, but I’d like to know that whomever is buying actually has sound currency that won’t evaporate the second it is questioned.  Heck, during our goodbye party, one of our friends couldn’t pay for his drinks because the ATM gave him counterfeit bills.  This was directly out of a Bank of China ATM.  And there is nothing he can do about it.

I hope I’m wrong but I’ve seen too many signs that point to this occurring and relatively soon.  Just be careful with your investments and what you are planning.  We could be in for some tough times ahead.


Smoking bacon is the cause of pollution in China.

Smoking bacon is the cause of pollution in China.


Day 584 OUT OF Beijing: Moving Around.


A view of downtown San Francisco from the deck from where we stayed one weekend.

A view of downtown San Francisco from the deck from where we stayed one weekend.


Since Jill and I have started to live the “vagabond” life, we’ve had to adjust to moving around already.

We’ve house sat for two different people, stayed in 4 different houses, and taken care of 4 different cats or dogs.

We will be heading back up to Petaluma, to stay with our friends, Randy and Alethea, and their son, Cyrus, for the next month or so.

It will be great to be able to relax and settle in more, go for runs in the morning, and just be in nature for a little bit.

We are giving a huge, “THANK YOU” to everyone that has allowed to us to stay at their place and will allow us to stay at their place.  It makes our life so much easier and hopefully we can repay you in some way.

We love staying in San Francisco, as it allowed us to get a lot of work done for Jill’s site, SF Tourism Tips, but it is also very stressful and hectic as she is on 24 hours a day since there there is always something more she can research, see or do while she is in SF.

We are planning on coming into SF about once a week, and if needed twice a week, so that we can continue to build the website but it won’t be as stressful or as hectic.

It will be a fantastic little break as we are still finding our way, and going through re-entry into the USA after being in China for the last 1.5 years.

It has been challenging, and yet great, to be back home especially without a car and without a home since we have so much freedom.

We didn’t realize how having this much freedom, mentally and physically, would be challenging and difficult.

It seems like it would be so simple but it isn’t.

Having to be your own boss can be very difficult and very freeing.

There are many options available to us and that can be confusing and frustrating.

Luckily, we work together to figure out what is best and when we start getting burnt out or feeling lost, the other brings us back into balance.

Off to catch the bus to Petaluma.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Day 489 In Beijing: Massage in Istanbul.


The view from Nate's house of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

The view from Nate’s house of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

Jill and I head back to Turkey, figuratively, not literally, starting again on my blog.

We have about a month, or two, of blogs about Turkey, and Greece, to catch you all up on, so wait no longer!

I was having some serious back pain for the last month and my distant cousin, Nate Shanok, lives in Istanbul and suggested an amazing massage therapist, Nemrut.

Nate is a great guy and Jill and I got to hang out at his house the night before.  Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of them, but we later had dinner with he and his wife, Emily, and I’ll post about that in the future.

I did get a picture of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which is actually just called, “The Second Bridge” by everyone we know, including our Turkish friends.

The story is that, about 5 years ago, I was up in Tahoe.  I was with a bunch of buddies and we were going to have a little party up in the snow.

The ground was very icy and I happened to slip and slammed my elbow and shoulder into the ground.

I was later diagnosed as injuring my ribs and the muscles around my back and chest.

So, every so often, this pops up and causes a lot of pain.

Sadly, it started about a week before the trip and it was making traveling uncomfortable and limiting what we could do.

So, when Nate suggested I get a massage from his guy, I agreed instantly.

Nemrut is a slab of a man and about as strong as anyone I’ve met.

His hands are huge also.

He, however, was incredibly tender and even the deep tissue work wasn’t painful.

During the massage, it started to rain and I’ve always loved getting massages in the rain.

It just allows me to let go and feel the flow.

I actually am a Certified Massage Therapist, back in California, and I’m very critical of the massages I’m given since I have a very high standard.

Nemrut was amazing.  We actually had him come back, 2 more times, and my back felt about 95% better each time.

Here’s a little video of the rain and then you can see Nemrut running to his car at the very end of it.

I had no idea I’d catch him in the video and it just seemed cute.




Day 488 In Beijing: Trip To Tianjin, Part 5.


A "view" of the fireworks.  And of the pollution.

A “view” of the fireworks. And of the pollution.


Jill, Nuria and I love fireworks.

So do the Chinese people.

Fireworks actually started in China and they know what they are doing.

Strangely enough, there is a fireworks factory near Nuria’s apartment.

The zoning regulations in China are a bit different than in the USA.

They go off, from what we can tell, about every 2 hours, without a specific reason or time, and last for about 1 minute or so.

We think they are just testing them, but we can’t see them, and we aren’t sure why they would need to test them that often.

We are guessing someone at the factory just likes blowing stuff up and realized they can fire them off, whenever they want, as long as they made up a darn good reason, like “We need to test them every 2.33 hours of the day.”

This includes at night when they are still working.

Luckily, the windows are thick enough that we don’t really hear them while we are trying to sleep.

I do feel bad for the people that live closer to the factory and don’t live in a modern apartment building like the one Nuria lives in.

That would be a bit tiresome to hear these explosions throughout the night.





Me doing the famous "KHHHHHAAAANNNN!" yell popularized by William Shatner.

Me doing the famous “KHHHHHAAAANNNN!” yell popularized by William Shatner.

Any lovers of Star Trek will know immediately why I love the title of the blog post.

If you don’t know it, here is the classic over-acted scene by William Shatner, as James Tiberius Kirk, in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.

Unlike the Khan in the movie, this Kaan is an very kind, generous and wonderful person.

He also didn’t have a J.J. Abrams movie made about him that utterly stunk and has basically shown that there should never be an English accented Khan.  And that Abrams is a hack who is going to destroy the whole Star Trek mythos.


Our Kaan met Jill in 2006 at a wedding in Istanbul.

Kaan also lived in San Francisco but they didn’t really become friends until 2010 when she came over to live in Turkey for 3 months after quitting her job and deciding to strike out on her own.

Kaan is a really funny, and enthusiast guy, who also happens to be a cheese and wine connoisseur.

Jill had told me about this but we both didn’t realize nearly how specialized his knowledge, and his skills, were until we hung out with him during the evening.

First off, we bought some cheese as a gift and then felt incredibly embarrassed by our choice since the cheeses he brought were amazing!

We bought the classic white cheese that they have in Turkey.  We love it beyond belief and it is very hard to get it here in Beijing so we thought it would be good enough.

Kaan, being the cheese guru, had bought cheeses from Italy and they were incredibly tasty.

Kaan also makes his own wine so he pulled out a few bottles, including my favorite, “the mutt” which is a blend of a bunch of different grapes, all from the Thrace region in Turkey.

It was quite yummy and went great with the cheeses.

Kaan was a fantastic host and it was a joy to meet him.   He would be traveling, most of the rest of our trip, so we sadly didn’t get a chance to see him again, but we will when we start living in Turkey in a few years.

And, seriously, how cool is it I was able to do the “KHHHHHHAAAAANNNNNNN” yell with someone actually named Kaan.

You can see he is rather bemused, and very kind to humor me, in my silliness.


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Day 434 In Beijing: Andac And His Ever Useful Combination Yoga And Camping Towels!


Andac, Jill and me sharing a few beers at 2:30 AM after arriving at his apartment.

Andac, Jill and me sharing a few beers at 2:30 AM after arriving at his apartment.

Jill and I boarded our next flight and headed off.

Jill is incredibly lucky in that she can sleep through any flight, anywhere, at any time.

I, on the other hand, barely ever sleep on flights.

I have no fear of flying, in fact I love flying, but I just don’t find it easy to sleep in those seats with lots of people turning on and off lights all the time.

Jill used to work as an executive for major corporations so she trained herself to fall asleep the second her butt hits the seat.

Who knows, with all the traveling we plan in our future, I might be able to do the same.

Either way, the flight was uneventful, and we arrived a bit early in Istanbul.

We grabbed a cab and enjoyed the sites in the moonlight as our arrival was around 1:30 AM.

Jill has a lot of friends in Istanbul, and one of them, Andac (pronounced An-DACH as the Turkish language stresses the second syllable of each word) had told us we could stay at his place.

We told him we could grab a hotel, since we were arriving so late, but he would not have it.

This is actually not surprising from the Turks I’ve met and that Jill knows:  They are incredibly kind and giving people and love to have a good time.

Our cab driver did a great job and we arrived around 2:30 AM and rang the doorbell to Andac’s apartment.

He opened the gate and we climbed up the stairs to his place.

It was a great little 1 bedroom apartment and totally perfect for what we needed to do while we were staying in Istanbul.

Andac was everything Jill had said he would be: gracious, funny, smart, and very thoughtful and forward thinking.

He is actually running his own business selling these amazing Yoga mats/camping towels on Amazon and we used them for the whole time we were there and loved them.

You can also use them as clothes as you can see in the slide show.  Honestly, it is one amazing product and well worth buying.

I want to give a shout out to his business and encourage anyone that wants to support him, and buy a superior product, to click on this link to  and check them out.


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If you want to order one, just click these links:

Nanga Soleil with Travel Bag

Nagna Serengeti with Travel Bag

Jill and I each have one and love them beyond belief!  They are amazing comfortable, easy to pack, and are the fastest drying towels we’ve ever used.

We will be taking them on our trips with us everywhere we go.

After checking out the yoga mats/camping towels, we all talked for an hour or so and then Jill and I hit the sack ready to experience a full day of Istanbul tomorrow morning, bright and early!

Little did we know, the call to prayer would start at 3:30 AM that morning.  It was a wonderful way to be welcomed into Istanbul in so many ways!


Day 416 in Beijing: Installing the Air Conditioning Unit, Part 5


Testing to see if the air conditioning actually works.

Testing to see if the air conditioning actually works.

After all that craziness, we supposedly had a working air conditioning unit.

Just like in the USA, when someone installs something, you always want to make sure it works right before they leave the apartment.

Well, this is doubly true in China because all of the controls are in Chinese script and we sure as heck can’t read those instructions.

So, we let our landlords check it and then explain it to us.

They seemed to have bought the most simple remote control because this one only has about 5 buttons and we’ve seen some that have over 20.

Yes, over 20 different buttons for a simple air conditioner.

Thankfully, when our landlord pushed the power button, the air conditioning turned on and it works perfectly.

We could not be more thankful and happy to be living where we are and to have the amazing landlords we have at this time.

Also, thanks to the wonderful installation guys and the quick work they did.

Overall, it probably took about 45 minutes to remove and install the air conditioning units.

By the way, it has been hovering around 95-100 degrees a day in the past week in Beijing.

Luckily, Jill and I have been sitting by the beaches in Turkey and will soon be headed to Greece instead of having to deal with the heat and pollution of Beijing.


Day 415 in Beijing: Installing the Air Conditioning Unit, Part 4


Hanging outside hooking up the hoses.

Hanging outside hooking up the hoses.

After they installed the actual air conditioning unit, they had to wrap up about 30 feet of hoses that would allow the water to pass back and forth from the main unit to the part that actually sends the cool air towards us inside the apartment.

This wasn’t that big of a deal until the main installer decided to jump back out the window and attach it to the main unit.

Again, all without any safety gear or support at all.

Jill and I continued to be baffled and amazed by it all.

The installers continued to take it all in stride and not even worry about what they were doing for a second.

Remember, this unit was installed about 5 minutes ago and he is standing on top of it.


Day 414 in Beijing: Installing the Air Conditioning Unit, Part 3


Hanging from the 5th Floor.

Hanging from the 5th Floor.

After they removed the broken air conditioning unit, they moved on to installing the new one.

This is where it really got interesting.

The installer guy put on some climbing gear.

Well, I guess it is climbing gear.

I know there is a huge mountain, called Huashan, here in China, where people put on climbing gear and climb up and down it, and it is supposed to be safe.

Now, I’m just saying that after what I’ve seen is “supposed to be safe” here in China, I’m not doing anything that brings up any doubt in my mind whether it is safe or not.

And, doing this type of installation, or climbing Huashan, is not going to happen in my lifetime.

Called me a nervous nellie, a wimp, or a chicken, but I don’t care.

I’ll stay alive and you can enjoy doing things like this.

I’ll see you on the beach, drinking some nice chilled wine, and relaxing after your long day of stressing your mind, body and central nervous system.

Well, they put the air conditioning unit on the little ledge and the installer hopped out and started to bolt everything down.

Jill and I continued to be amazed and intrigued by all of this action and insanity.

Day 413 in Beijing: Installing the Air Conditioning Unit, Part 2


Hanging out the window of a 5th floor apartment.

Hanging out the window of a 5th floor apartment.

Now the fun begins.

So, here is the guy hanging out the window, only by his own skill, and the strength of his buddy holding him out the window.

As you can see, his buddy didn’t seem very concerned until our landlord started scratching her head and mentioning, “Oh, by the way, he could die if he fell from the 5th floor of this apartment.”

And, if you notice, his buddy takes his time walking over to grab his ankles and make sure he is safe.

I’m guessing these guys know exactly what they are doing, and have done this thousands of times, but I’d still want someone grabbing my ankles in case I slipped or a strong gust of wind came up.

Honestly, my favorite part of this video is our landlord scratching her head and the utter disbelief she has in her voice.

We felt the same as she did and were glad she told the buddy to help out and not let the installer die.