Hacker Abroad: A Very Long Way To China

It turns out that Shanghai is a very long way from my home in Wisconsin. I’ve traveled here for Electronica China, and although it made for an incredibly long travel “day”, it turned out to be quite enjoyable. I hacked some hardware on the plane ride, I took a maglev to my hotel, met up with Sophi for drinks, and explored the neighborhood for some Shanghai breakfast.

Two Planes Covering One-Third of the World

Our planet is roughly 24,000 miles in circumference and I flew a bit more than 8,000 miles to get here. It’s unbelievable how easy it is to get from one place to another.

My first flight was an easy couple of hours from Madison to Atlanta. I was concerned about making an international connection with just 55 minutes to do so, but the people-moving systems of that airport meant that from the moment my first flight stopped at the jetway it only took fifteen minutes to get to my next gate, well before boarding. I’m traveling with only a backpack, which will make more sense soon.

Internet was good for the entire flight — satellites are everywhere I guess. I bought a 24-hour international pass for $28, a great price considering I got a ton of work done during the 16-hour flight from Atlanta to Shanghai. Of course, I had some fun too.

After catching about 3 hours of really sound sleep I pulled out the STM32 I’ve been playing with and hooked it up to the ePaper display I got just a few days ago. I was able to get the sample code up and running through the Arduino IDE and plan to spend some time on this trip getting it working with a plain old Makefile in C.

Maglev to the Hotel

I really enjoy having good public transit to and from airports and this one is by far the coolest yet. Shanghai has a maglev train — one that floats on, and is propelled by magnetic repulsion. It travels 30 kilometers in about 8 minutes!

Seats are nice and spacious and the trains run every 15-20 minutes. The one-way ticket was 50 Yuan, or about $7.50 US. The ride is quite smooth and the turns are banked which is neat. There’s a speed readout in the carriage. This trip topped out at 301 km/h (187 mph), but during rush hour it travels at the top speed of 430 km/h (267 mph).

I walked about 25 minutes to my hotel, grabbed some Yuan from an ATM, and met up with Sophi Kravitz for a drink before bed. My head hit the pillow at midnight and I was awake again at 5:00 am but considering the 13 hour timezone difference I think I’m doing quite well.

Shanghai Breakfast

My hotel is in a neighborhood. I’ve heard that breakfast on the street is fantastic, and having awoken so early that became my mission. Just around the block from the hotel I came across my first three street vendors and my favorite food so far.

This is grilled bread with a cooked egg added, some delicious turkey, lettuce, and sauces. They put it in a paper sleeve and plastic bag so you can eat it on the go. These carts were busy with locals beginning their day.

I kept walking and sampled food at different carts that I found. It seems about every other block you’ll come across storefronts with grills, fryers, and steamers out front. The pork filled dumplings were delicious. The fried bread was slightly sweet and pleasing. I saw large flat griddles used to make egg wraps filled with sauces and vegetables. I will try this tomorrow and will be on the lookout for rice stuffed with pork as well.

Just before rain blew in I headed back to the hotel and arrived at 7:20 am to work on this article. . This afternoon I’m off to Electronica Asia to see what interesting things await. I’ll write about what I find in tomorrow’s installment of Hacker Abroad.

30 thoughts on “Hacker Abroad: A Very Long Way To China

  1. Without the context of being in the bathroom, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to press either of those switches. Remind me of the suicide booths from Futurama.

    How much did that street food cost you? I wouldn’t mind starting my day with something like that, beats my current handful of Haribo gummy bears for sure.

    1. It was about 15 RMB total, so maybe
      $2 US.

      The “shoot lamp” makes sense to me… Kind of like “put out the light” or “turn out the light”. Idiom is cool and I love to think about how it translates between cultures.

      1. 射 = shoot, 灯 = lamp, so naturally, ….

        but the Chinese words actually means that the lamp which shoots, pointing out the lamp emits a relatively tight beam comparing to a normal lamp which emit light in all direction. Spotlight should be the word…

        and the second one, I really don’t know how it got to this…it just means ventilation fan…

  2. Someone will have to correct my phoenetics, but I believe those are called “jim beam”. Easily one of the most fantastic foods made in China. In Shanghai there is also a food that’s made with rice, a churro type thing, and eggs. They roll it into a sushi mat and hit it with a mallet on either side. Get it “sweet” if you can and it’s easily my favorite thing out of the whole country.

  3. Wowow another Sconie outta the cheeseland and into the wild wild east ;) For work, we’ll go to Dongguan maybe twice a year for 2 weeks at a time to help with development of some shit. BUT on the weekends we’ll just go to Hong Kong and cause a ruckus there. I’ll be a gwailou until I die.

  4. “I really enjoy having good public transit to and from airports and this one is by far the coolest yet. ”

    You’ll notice how clean everything is. God forbid someone even attempt to graffiti that up.

    1. Exactly! Many bridges are lit up… even projectors putting patterns on the underside. Buildings lit with LED’s…. All I could think about was the futility of attempting that sort of beautification in North America, where ever miscreant has rights to pee on your parade. It may be a different political system, but I have to admit, what we have in NA isn’t necessarily working the best either. Not taking sides… just saying…

      1. It is also a eastern culture thing about respect others around you and their properties and no ant-social behavior.
        Also with cameras every where ,AI, facial recognization, social credits, they’ll caught, shamed, punished and re-educated.

    1. Ah, I wish I had time to jump over and visit you in Australia. I’m going to meet up with Sean Boyce at the end if this… Very cool to share a beer in person after working on Hackaday together in different parts of the world for a few years.

      Can’t believe you’re still about 10 hours from here.

  5. Been looking forward to this trip since you mentioned it on the podcast a few weeks back. Also, are we gonna get a write up on the stm32/ epaper project? I’m in the early stages of using one as part of a home monitoring system and love the idea of using eink as low-refresh displays for my various nodes

  6. I would have thought shoot is actually shut (hard to say), and not to be confused with that other ‘s’ word that seems to be in abundance here lately. I would hope China’s progress in AI and such should come up with a good translator that everyone there can use in business with the english speaking world. Websites, manuals, etc. Signs like this are always confusing or funny. This is easily done with 2 pictograms.

  7. First, welcome to china. Second, the roll stuffed with vegetables and chicken is called “煎饼果子”, which is a very common breakfast in China. But I don’t think it tastes good. And there is no turkey in it, because Chinese almost don’t eat turkey. It should be fried chicken legs. Third, the shoot light is really a bad translation. It is just plain “spot light”. Maybe you can hire me as your interpreter in Shanghai. haha… I am a Chinese and lives in Shanghai.

    1. Yes, came here to say that you were lucky that when you pulled it out you didn’t spend the next 10 hours in handcuffs.

      Assuming that you flew in business class to have enough space to work, coach tables won’t hold an Ardunio. .

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