MOP in China! Dave's adventures in the Middle Kingdom


Your intrepid salesman continues to travel the world spreading the word about filming in Canada. This year I'm meeting with production companies in Shanghai.

Alas I've had to move to a new blogging program that definitely looks slicker but isn't as versatile as good old iWeb. So apologies if I can't give you the full show this time. But if you click on a picture it gets bigger. That's nice.

First you need to get a visa. Although I'm here for business meetings I was advised to get a tourist visa. Wish me luck!

Mine only had two engines, though
Destination: Red Zone!
Vancouver to Guanzhou

Hoorah for Business Class (even though I'm a tourist, of course. Shhhh). I flew with China Southern Airlines (cheapest business seats on the planet) and it was great! All sorts of extras, too, including special glasses that make the circles under your eyes go away ("warning, may cause blindness").

The noisy man.

There was one noisy guy on the plane but although he was sitting right next to me he went to sleep soon after take-off.

13.5 hours to Guanzhou (which is close to Hong Kong) then a little flight delay and off to Shanghai. Only 17 hours of traveling. Oh my.

Ah, sleepy time

Southern China Airlines were quite generous with the beverages so I was able to get a restful sleep on the fully reclining seats (when I asked for whisky almost everyone in the business section started whispering "whisky, whisky, whisky" and chuckling - not sure why?)

Guanzhou Airport. We did a video for Tiesto once!

Then a quick 15 minute ride on the special VIP bus for Business Class (I'm pretty sure we went in a giant circle) and then an indoor bus and then a little wait. Hello China!

I had arranged to be picked up by a car sent from the hotel. Two guys came for some reason. I called them Mr. Sniffles and Mr. Wheeze. I took four drops of Oregano Oil right away, Barb!

I arrived on Halloween! It was more popular than you'd think here in China. There's a guy in a paper Sumo suit in the top right photo.

I'm staying at the Villa Moller Fantasy Castle Hotel. It's very unique. Like staying in Austria (sort of). The Moller is very close to all the TV commercial production companies and it's quite reasonable.

This trip I have a Special Guest Star traveling with me. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Mr. Erik (2 T's) Whittaker (or "Too Tall For China" - "TT"- as they call him here)

Umbrella? Check. Shoe brush? Check. Extra pillow? Check. Gas mask? Check!
The Villa Moller at night

Erik arrived a few hours before me so when I checked in there was a note on my pillow instructing me on how to find him and his friends at a local bar. Erik's friends Cheryl, daughter Laura, and Cheryl's sister Karen are touring their ancestral stomping grounds. And they all speak Chinese! Hoorah! Very convenient. A little under-proof Tsingtao and then off to bed. Tired!

And I should mention this fantastic app called WeChat. Everyone in China uses it and so should we in the West. It's saved our pork dumplings (bacon in Chinese) more than once. And the Chinese government hackers can help you by monitoring your every thought and action. Don't leave home without them, er, it!

And they have these great gifs (hmmmm).


We took in the sights while walking to the Bund (where the European Capitalist Running Dogs built their banks and insurance offices now occupied by pizza parlours, government controlled banks, and high-end hotels. Take that, Capitalism!).

Sunday was a day of rest and familiarization with Shanghai. Erik and I put on our raincoats, grabbed an umbrella and a gas mask and headed off into the city. It would take a thousand pages and a million photos to describe Shanghai. I've never seen anything like it. And it's a little odd sometimes (OK, most of the time).

1st floor (of 5) of the Button Building

One of my hopes is to get some clothes made. I hear it's quite affordable. It's challenging not speaking the language when looking for tailor made clothes, I soon discovered. We did find a huge building full of stalls that sell buttons, zippers, and hand bags. Almost a suit!

Erik also mentioned his desire to find an affordable Selfie-Stick as their sooo expensive at home.

This looks old but it was built 30 years ago and is full of trinkets for tourists. The architecture and construction was outstanding.

You see a few Western people but they try to avoid eye-contact (Maybe it's the gas mask?)

Old China is right next to New China almost everywhere you go. Just turn off any almost Western street and you're surrounded by laundry, scooters in various states of duct-taped body work, buckets of live baby crabs scurrying about, and guys welding and grinding stuff. I love it.

Ice Chicken Dinner!

We ended the day with a little dinner of chicken plunged into an ice bucket. Erik liked it (yech). And it was cheap!

Too Tall for the bed!

Then it's off to sleepy-time at the Moller. Erik is kindly sharing my room so I don't feel loneley. They have HBO (but it's pretty crappy). All the other channels are frozen on a shot of a ferry accident.

Educating the Chinese about the West


Much nicer weather today!

Our friend Scott Tate lives in a city named Kunming (quite a ways west of Shanghai). He's meeting us here on Friday. In the meantime he helped find me a student translator and guide. Her name is Xiaoluo (back of her head visible here. I didn't want to be rude). She's studying accounting. I've helped her education by teaching her to keep receipts from taxis and restaurants (Erik and I never know what's going on and she keeps paying). She's almost got the receipt thing down (sorry, Barb). I would not have found a single address without her, though. She was great.

Our first stop was the BC Trade Commission building where we met with Ellen Xin. Ellen had a lot of useful information on doing business with China. Next we were off to see Kelvin Mok at A New Life Films. Kelvin is from the Oakridge area in Vancouver! He was also super helfpul, gave me the names of some more companies I didn't know about, talked about budgets, visas, and such and even had a script to quote on. 1 for 1 so far!

Entrance to A New Life and Gwantsi

Next a cold call to Gwantsi Films (on Kelvin's recommendation) where we met the owner, Jacqueline Zhang, and one of her producers, Yvonne (actually spelled Yifan, I later discovered). They were also very warm and welcoming and everyone seems to speak excellent English. They had a script for us to quote on, too. 2 for 2! Go, MOP, go!

Gwantsi boardroom

Erik always accepts a free coffee when offered (he gets some strange looks when he asks them to fill his travel mug, though). After our first meeting he's almost as good at my pitch as I am. I'm so glad he attends the meetings with me. Otherwise I'd forget what to say. What an impression I must be making!

It turns out that Chinese TV commercial production companies shoot over-seas all the time! Mostly in Australia and New Zealand but also the US and Europe (for the bigger jobs, like cars). I think their next stop might be Canada.

Before I left Vancouver I ordered a SIM card for my phone to be delivered to the hotel. That way I have a local phone number and internet. It was a little expensive but worth it. Erik planned on finding a less expensive option on arrival. This hasn't worked out very well. So Erik and Xiauluo accompany me to my meetings for a brief introduction and then head out to find the illusive SIM.

Erik also needed a haircut so we took a little break and a nice young man named Teddy did the trim. $6! There was a lot of laughter.

And that was it for meetings that day. There are about 10 or 12 big production companies in Shanghai (and one or two in Beijing) and I've got appointments to see 7 of them during my visit (3 of the other EPs were out of town and another 2 or 3 are proving to be difficult to get a hold of. I'll have to come back!) Next stop the National Art Museum to absorb more culture.

It was a very big, fancy museum and not too crowded. Erik recommended it as it was free.

Noses hold a very high status in China. Seriously. As a result Erik is a bit of a Nose Celebrity.

We ended the day with a magnficent sushi dinner with Ann Marie's cousin's cousin, Desmond. Wonderful guy (paid for dinner) and very informative. We had a spirited discussion about Chinese sub-lease office rental policies under the new 13th five year plan.


Trying new cultural practices

Erik's search for a SIM card became a regular part of our days. Here he's begging a street vendor for help. Eventually she offered him a SIM but with no data. Learning other cultural practices can be a challenge. The hunt continues!

Erik mentioned that he really wants to find an affordable Selfie-Stick. I told him he can't use Xiauluo for that as I'm paying her.

Middle photo: Check out the lady in the wheelchair being pulled by a three-wheeled scooter.

Two meetings today. One with Black + Cameron where I met with the kind and curious Carol and then off to see Denise at Labbrand. Carol's company is Australian owned and shoots over-seas a lot. We had a great chat (over an hour!) talking about production in Canada and China. Denise is an old friend of our friend Hilary Strang. She's been in Shanghai with her husband since 2005 (they thought they'd stay 6 months!).

Part way through 'our' meeting with Carol Erik and Xiaoluo headed off to find a SIM card. I waited on the street for them to come back so I could go to my next meeting (kind of the reason I'm here, hired Xialuo, etc). I was so happy when they returned an hour later (but with no SIM). I was only a little late for my next meeting. What would I do without my friend Erik?!?!

More SIM seraching. Not going well.
High fashion in Shanghai, new developments, and more taxi rides.

We spent a lot of time in taxis (they're cheap) and walking around (it's more fun), seeing this unbelieavable place. Shanghai is a huge mix of street sweepers and über rich, Ferraris and scooters hauling wheelchairs, expensive clothing and squid stores (I might try bbq'd squid on a stick tomorrow). But everything works pretty well. Very sophisticated.

SIM: The Movie

Breakthrough! Erik has a SIM card! But it doesn't have enough data and he can't Wechat. Sigh. Above you can see Erik and Xiaoluo planning tomorrow's SIM strategy.

Eating Uyghur!

Off to dinner again with Cheryl, Karen, and Laura. This time at a Uyghur restaurant. Incredible food (try the dandelions). Fun dancing! And Uyghur music! Plus a little nose foreplay (I had to promise not tell who was involved, though. Sorry).

I wish I'd taken a photo of the restaurant patrons watching. A lot of open mouths..

This blogging program doesn't allow for video. I'll try and figure something out. I have some stuff that's really worth sharing.


Jang'An Temple

We started the day with a visit to the Jang'An Buddhist Temple (close to our Fantasy Castle). Beautiful. We arrived just in time for morning prayer. There was much burning of incense, singing, and parading. We learned that the Temple was converted to a plastics factory during the Cultural Revolution. It must have been very serene making Hello Kitty knock-offs.

Erik has a lot of requests to have his photo taken.
"Hey Girl" Diarrhea Clinic

Women only?

Erik thinks he sees an inexpensive Selfie-Stick merchant across the street.

We went looking for the French Concession (no luck, or maybe we were already there, hard to say) then met up with the ladies for one last meal and some kind of grapefruit juice. The juice was delicious and only $2. I hope I don't have to find the diarrhea clinic for men, though (Kerryn Williams warned me about eating street food but the ladies said it was OK). The ladies are off home tonight. I will miss them! Who's going to show us where (or what) to eat? No more ice-chicken for me, please.


Blood on the veranda!

Erik and I always spend a few minutes after breakfast sitting in the hotel garden. Today we discovered blood. Murder? I think the gardener did it (to the chef). Erik thinks the cat did it (to the rats).

Two more meetings to go. First with Jud Wilmot from Will Mountain and then with Maggie and Teresa at Godmother. Oh, and more SIM searching, of course.

Did I mention that Erik was with me on the trip?

Walking to the Sumerian Café to meet with Jud and his dog, Lilly. Then searching out Godmother. Taxi ride #34 and #35

Jud is an expat who's been in Shanghai since 1997 (!). He's from Boston and has done many, many things in the Chinese film and TV industry. Very interesting guy. He had some more advice on working with Chinese production companies. Look for his documentaries on the history of Tai Chi and Rock and Roll in China (different films, of course).

"Possible"? "Live Once. Live Life". Amen! China Unicorn Store Visit #8. Will Erik find success?

Victory! Erik now has 1.5 gigs of data and for only 130¥ (plus 600¥ in taxis). A great day. Long Live the People's Revolution! What will we possibly do with our time now? Oh, right, Selfie-Sticks.

Maggie at Godmother is a veteran of the TV commercial industry in China (and she's part of the Malaysian Mafia so watch out). I learned a lot from her. She promises to send us some boards. Hoorah!

Outside Tosks Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich shop and Tug-of-War competition.

There's actually one more visit. Erik's friend Mark has been here since 2003 (and is a friend of Raymond Massey. They worked with Peter O'Toole,together!). He's the founding chairman of the China Canada Chamber of Commerce. Very connected and informed guy. I feel like I've had a crash course in China from all the people I've met (although people do say opposing things so I'm a little confused. But maybe that's just China).

Then it was time to say thank you and good-bye to Xiauluo. She gave me a Shanghai tourism book in Chinese (and a little English). Good-bye, Xiauluo! Good luck with that job interview tomorrow (and don't forget to get receipts)

All done! A little time for some tourism plus a quick visit to Desmond's building.

Not sure I'd buy clothing from them until they spell their name correctly.

Erik is seeking Desmond's help to monetize his massive real warehouse holdings. Apparently I wasn't very helpful and this made Erik despondent about mankind.

Erik contemplates ending it all in a Shanghai canal but changes his mind. Phew!
Erik's old hotel

Erik cheered up when he found the hotel he stayed at the last time he was here getting bronzes cast of cowboys having sex with 1980's cell phones. It was only $20 a night and "very clean" (the hotel). It's too bad we couldn't stay there this time.

One more taxi ride back to the Moller. Here Erik provides direction now that Xialuo is back in her abacus class.

We made arrangements to meet with Desmond and his wife Anna for dinner that night. The restaurant was called "Safe and Green". They served very delicious organic Hot Pots

The address of the restaurant is inside a giant, high-end shopping mall. We were told to go to the 4th floor. Well... It does say organic. Hmmm.

A bit of a search but we made it.
I picked this broth for my pot. Do you think it's spicy?
Anna and Desmond and dinner and gambling

Some of the staff wander around betting whether you should get a free beer or a free crab by throwing dice in a bowl. Erik won a crab. The kid next to us won the beer.

Bye bye, Shanghai! Can't wait to come back. Erik and I have looked into the cost of staying in Shanghai for a few months. Maybe Barb and Ann Marie would like to come. I want that suit!

Last breakfast at the Moller. Erik takes a breath before starting in on his 3rd course. It's free! What's up with my juice? Is the earth tilting?

And this is the end of the business meeting portion of my trip. The rest is dedicated to cultural education (also for business purposes if you're reading, Mr. Tax Man).

Now it's off to meet Scott and head to Yellow Mountains!


We met Scott at the Hongqiao State Airport Hotel that we booked using this awesome app called CTRIP. We use CTRIP to book all our hotels and trains. It's works really well and gives tremendous discounts. Scott is looking well! And he speaks Chinese now.

The State Hotel was only $40 for two beds (despite all our efforts Scott insists on his own room). But the window opens up onto a wall. And no HBO, either! The cold water in the shower worked fine.

Shanghai Subway

The State Airport Hotel was near the airport (lucky coincidence) and so after checking in we headed off to drop my extra bag in the long term luggage facilty. I'll get it on my way home (fingers crossed!).

Erik sees money and salutes

Now off to the ancient and quaint town of Suzhou for a little tourism and to meet Scott's friend Jody. Jody was super helpful (via WeChat) during our Shanghai expedition. She also helped Erik with his SIM search.

A billboard foreshadowing our trip to the Huangshan (Yellow) Mountains. Guess I'd better get a calf tattoo.
Taking the High Speed Train (HST) to Suzhou

On arrival in Suzhou we took a couple of motorized rickshaws to the old town. It was fun (and terrifying) but the drivers (an old woman and her husband, I think. Or maybe friends of Satan) took us to a tourist rip-off joint so we said Xei Xei (thank you) and Good-Bye (by-by).

Suzhou is one of China's famous "Water Towns". It was very pretty. I think I might be eating too many dumplings judging from that photo, though.

We met up with Jody and then headed off to dinner (that's Squirrel Fish I'm attacking. Delicious). The restaurant had a live band playing beautiful tradditional music. I have a video but still can't show you. Sorry.

I had my palm read by a computerized ancient Chinese god. It said I could cure all my ills with a good attitude. What a relief!

Erik wanted to see a lake in Suzhou. That's when we discovered that Suzhou is a quaint little village of 13 million. Then the train back to the State Hotel before setting off on our mountain adventure.


Shanghai to Huangshan

It was a relief to leave the hustle and bustle of urban China for the countryside and mountains. A little like home. Again we took the HST, this time for about 5 hours at a speed of almost 300 k/hour. Exciting.

In the taxi on the way to the hotel Erik is indicating how big his belly feels. The hotel in Huangshan was very nice and about $50 a night. Thank you, CTRIP. In the night ladies knock at your door and giggle.
Touring the old town in Huangshan (Huangshan is actually called Tunxi but they changed the name to attract more tourists).

Another great victory! Erik finds a Selfie-Stick for $2. After a lot of bargaining on Scott's part the merchant called in help, grew weary and gave Erik two for the same price. China has no idea what it is up against.

Off to find dinner in Huangshan, also a quaint little village of 2.4 million (bigger than Vancouver and you've never heard of it! Maybe due to the name change)..

Erik (wait a second, who's blog is this????) insisted we search high and low for an "authentic" Chinese restaurant. Scott mentioned that there were no "Hey Guy" diarrhea clinics in Huangshan. I get a little cranky when I'm hungry but Scott & Erik were very supportive and only got angry with me a few times. Ah, friends.

2nd photo taken with Erik's new Bluetooth Selfie-Stick

After many trips down some pretty sketchy streets with no sign of any kind of restaurant (lots of pricey Selfie-Stick stores, though) we finally found an amazing place. Althoug it looked and felt like an abandoned bus station the food was fantastic. As always we ordered way too much but ate it anyway. Better get that rowing machine warmed up, Barb.

Now off to bed. We have a very big day tomorrow!


Another taxi, a nice stewardess/toll highway lady, and a bus to the base of the mountain.
We were happy to see the Austrians were involved.

It was raining as we rose out of the clouds in the valley and raining when we got to the top.

Finally we've arrived in the Huangshan mountains, 1,800 meters (about 6,000 feet) above sea-level. So colourful. So quiet. So peaceful. Ahhhhh, nature!

The tour guides carry extremely loud public address systems. Not peaceful but at least you can take the tour without paying. If you speak Mandarin, of course.

We checked into our mountain hotel (another CTRIP find) and prepared to conquor the Yellow Mountains. I rung out my socks, first.

It makes even less sense when you're up there

Erik was light on rain gear and splurged on $1 rain pants. Then he found some unwanted rain protection in the garbage. I bought an umbrella.

The Lost Homeless Man of the Yellow Mountains. It is said that if you listen carefully you can hear his mournful call: "SIM! SIM! SIM (with data?)"

It was a little crowded and wet but we persevered. Scott had a vague idea of what the signs said (and we all agreed to disagree on which way to go).

Incredibly all the hotels, weather stations and nunneries are supplied by porters. These guys are carrying around 80 kilos (175 pounds) up and down the 60,000 steps of the Huangshan mountains. Cabbages, garbage, carrots, fish, toilet paper, laundry, beer, you name it, are on the ends of their bamboo poles. Man, are they fit!

It was very beautiful in the mist (and don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge).

Erik inquired about the price but was detered

Eventually the rain let-up. I think the rain gods wanted the Homeless Man of the Yellow Mountains to lose a bit of colour.

The room has some problems. But it's OK, you can call and talk about them.

A little Macau Cable TV (excellent), some sock and shoe drying (smelly), and a well-earned sleep. More mountain conquering tomorrow!


Planning the day over breakfast. Far fewer people here this morning now that the weekend is over.
It was a really beautiful day. Lucky us!
The Sea of Clouds
Don't go this way
We all agreed that this sums up our entire trip and perhaps life itself.
Leading the way (from behind)

The crowds did start to show up but we found a few side-trails with hardly anyone on them. Spectacular.

Erik is one with the mountain

All conquered. Time to make our way to Tangshuin in the valley below.

A porter says good-bye and some hikers ask for a photo withe white guy.
Walking to the bus (twice).

Erik was a little tired after our big day.

Once again CTRIP helped us find a hotel. Scott said it was the best hotel yet. $50 including breakfast. We headed out to get groceries for the big train trip to Shenzhen tomorrow and stopped at a little market for a snack (above). The black stuff is fermented tofu. Scott said that once you've eaten this you will never eat any another kind of tofu again. It tasted like urine.

We thought we found a quiet restaurant but then this tour guide showed up. He checked in his group using his public address system. Dinner was good and the local beer was excellent! Here Scott is finding us a hotel in Shenzhen for Tuesday night using CTRIP. It's more expensive than our other hotels as Shenzhen is a huge, modern city. Erik is apprehensive

One last thing to do before heading to bed. Aside from a SIM card and a Selfie-Stick Erik has often talked about getting a foot massage. So why not after our long hike in the Yellow Mountains?

Scott didn't want to come. But he did help negotiate the price. Only $17!

For those of you who haven't experienced a Chinese Foot Massage it is not quite the soothing and relaxing experience you might think. It's more like the People's Liberation Army, 1st Mechanized Division, running over your legs a 1,000 times. Easily the most painful experience of my life (well maybe a dog bite when I was 7 was worse). We screamed in pain so many times the manager came running into the room to see if someone was being murdered (and so wouldn't pay). I think the massage ladies thought we were weak Westerners. Or maybe it was because we didn't support China's purchase of Canadian gas and oil pipeline infrastructure? I'm glad we paid an extra $5 for the oil (and I do have shorts on, Barb).

Nighty night (but no HBO)

Tomorrow the train to Shenzhen (it's right next door to Hong Kong)


Huangshan to Shenzhen by train was about 8 hours and kind of boring at a crawling speed of 275 k/hr

Even with his excellent Mandarin Scott sometimes has trouble communicating with the locals. Here you can see him having a very long conversation with the train ticket lady (eventually 3 ladies and a guy came to help). The delay made the people lining up behind us quite angry. We finally got our tickets just as they were lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks.

China has the largest HST network in the world and 60% of the lines are in tunnels. The stations are all huge and mostly empty when we were there.

Arriving in Shenzhen and checking into the hotel

There was a little CTRIP confusion at the Shenzhen hotel but it finally worked out. Erik had to try some meditation. The water Colour app is called Waterlogue. I like it (and make no money off this endorsement whatsoever*)

The horror! Sometime during the train trip Erik lost all of his data. From 1.5 gigs to nothing in a few minutes. Poof. Many theories abound but it's likely due to State interference in the time-space continuum (according to Scott & Erik). Now Erik has to use my phone to communicate with Ann Marie (who will be joining him in Hong Kong on Friday). This leads to many humorous moments.


The reason we're in Shenzhen is to get a painting done in the Dafen Art Village. It will be something like the one above on the left but with our faces added in.

Erik somehow found a Hong Kong based British personal shopper named Noni wandering around the Dafen area. She recommended a painter named Sammy. Sammy liked our concept and agreed to take on the project. Very exciting!

Noodle Soup in Dafen

Then a tour of some of Shenzhen's more modest structures

Shenzhen Civic Centre. Gigantic in scale. And mostly empty of people. Very unusual for China.

Erik has an amazing nose for good restaurants. He found this wonderful BBQ joint on a quiet side-street. They gave us three free pitchers of beer, too (Although the bills are always in Chinese so it's hard to check). Anyway, the pitchers kept coming. Coincidentally it was right next to a store that sold discontinued light-bulb fixtures. Erik bought five.

Sexy. You can choose different lighting. This is called "Paris".

After dinner we did a little wandering and continued to discuss the time-space continuum and how humanity is deceived into thinking we exist. Heady stuff. Apparently I had a funny comment on Erik's and Scott's theories. We also met a nice fellow who once sold agricultural machinery in Canada (typical spy cover story!).

TV in Shenzhen

Chinese TV is mostly unwatchable (due to the language barrier). But they make a LOT of movies about the War of the Defense of the Homeland by the Chinese People against the Fascist Japanese Aggressors (WDHCPFJA for short). These are fun but a little repetitive. The Japanese always lose.

Erik asks some strangers about how to get data


Our last day together in China. Sigh.

Tasty snacks in the market. Those things on the right at the top are snakes and bats. Ann Marie tells us that the Cantonese will eat everything but the table.
Tasting tea and checking out the shopping

Erik spotted some local squalor from the hotel room so we headed there in search of dinner. It might be one of the last original neighborhoods in Shenzen. We wandered down some very narrow alleys crowded with folks coming home from work. Scott felt the last day was probably not a good time to get stomach problems so we widened our search. But, really, when is a good time?

Another excellent BBQ place and some fine slogans from Mao on how best to eat scorpions ("Always wash them down with a little Tsing-Tao beer after your long march"). Scott helped some visiting Israeli engineers order their dinner (yet another typical spy cover story - there are spies everywhere!)

That's about it, folks. The next day Scott flew home to Kunming, Erik took the subway to Hong Kong (where he quickly found the data eldorado of his dreams at a place called "7-11"), and I took a 12 hour train back to Shanghai to get my luggage.

It was an amazing experience.

Xie Xie Ni, China, Scott, and, of course, Erik.

Don't you love this app? It's called Waterlogue.
The painting!
Created By
David Bouck