Thursday, April 16, 2015

from: Monroe Mann

Hi! How are you? 

Have you seen this before? 
Oprah had been using it for over a year! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Friday, October 03, 2014

Sleeper Car!

Oh how fantastic! It turns out I have my OWN sleeper car. Beijing to Shanghai. There are four beds but noone else is here and the train leaves in 10 minutes! And so clean and nice! They even serve hot tea!

So my trip is drawing to a close. In 12 hours, the train will arrive in Shanghai. I'll ride the subway two stops to my apartment, shower, change, and head to work!

So I'm glad it's such a nice sleeper car. I truly think I will get a great night's sleep!

Galloping Over The Mongolian Plains!!

I'm in traffic in Ulan Batuur, Mongolia. Heading to the airport. 

Greetings from a country almost the size of the US, but with a population of just 3 million. NYC alone has a population of 9 million. From a country where the people are a gorgeous and exotic mix of Asian and European: the country is right between China and Russia and... that's basically what Mongolians look like. The girls are very sexy and beautiful; the men distinguished and charming. 

Greetings from a country where half the cars have steering wheels on the left side of the car; and the other half, the right.  A place where cows, horses, sheep, and dogs run free en masse.  I mean: EN MASSE.  Where Yurts are absolutely everywhere!  Where mountains, rivers, plains, clear blue skies, and puffy white clouds abound in every direction. Where Mongolian cowboys can be seen herding cattle; where eagles soar; where Cyrillic is everywhere, but no Russian is spoken: it is all Mongolian!

Truly: this must be what the what the Wild West looked like back in the US. Upon landing, I found a driver who took me an hour away to Terelj--to what was the most wild and remote place I've seen in years. The drive over there reminded me of Iraq, but with mountains and grassy plains. I can see why Mongolia is compared to Switzerland: it IS that beautiful, and it reminded me of my years there. Funny: this place reminds me of Iraq, Seitzerland, and the Wild West--all at the same time! Haha!  I also got to hold a HUGE golden eagle on my hand with a gauntlet. Wow. So heavy. So majestic!

In Terelj, I did what I came to do: gallop through the Mongol plains on horseback!  I hadn't galloped in years!  So fun!  And so exhausting: cardio; legs; BUTT!  It took me a moment to readjust to riding. I forgot that you have to basically standup when galloping and use your knees as springs. But once I did: giddiup!  SO AMAZING! SO FAST!  and.... so worth the expense of coming here for just one day. This memory will never die. 

I had lunch in a yurt restaurant near the horse place (and the breathtaking Turtle Rock). I ended up talking to one guy in Chinese and when his father discovered I could speak Chinese, he invited me and his driver to sit with his group and we all had a nice lunch speaking Chinese.  They too were on vacation here in Mongolia. 

After riding, I went back to UB (which is what they call the city here) and found the hostel. I met up with this girl Odmaa at the famous State Department Store. She is Mongolian and studied in Alabama for a year. She helped me at the airport to tell the driver what I needed thanks to her language skills. So she met up with me and showed me around the store and helped me buy some souvenirs (and two Mongolian language books!) and then we had Cinnabon and pizza together afterwards. 

I finally went back to my hostel, got ready for bed, and here I am now at 9:46 am at the airport (we finally arrived).  Just about 24 hours after I arrived here. 

It's truly amazing: This trip has only been two days. It is AMAZING what one can do in just two days. Truly amazing. AMAZING!

Next stop: Beijing!  The Forbidden City! 


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

In the Army Now... Again

It's 4:47am.

Woke up 10 minutes ago.

Dead quiet.


An it reminds me so much of my army days.


I will be leaving in 15 minutes for Beijing. Should arrive at 7am at the airport. Next stop: MONGOLIA!

One note: here, no one speaks any English. My guide spoke a little but my Chinese is actually far better than his English. So for three hours, during the entire hike, we spoke in Chinese. Talking about everything: the weather; Chinese history, my army days, our jobs, our families, and even... Game of Thrones haha. (It was hard not to feel like a member of the Night's Watch haha).

Ok, quick pitch black shower time! I wonder what language is spoken in Mongolia. Is it Russian? Chinese? Is there a Mongolian language?

The Great Wall

I just returned from a breathtaking backwoods hike of the Great Wall.

This place is VERY far from Beijing. I had to take the subway; then a commuter bus; then a driver took me another half hour.  It's on a farm right in the mountains. I paid a guide to take me on a three-hour hike of the wall. He's the one who took the photos of me. He is the son of the owner of the farm. 

It's called and a friend told me about it but he hasn't come here yet. It's really cool!!  And NO TOURISTS AT ALL!  I am really truly in the middle of nowhere!  And I love it!  

The hike was AMAZING. All the tourists are mobbing the five or six rebuilt parts of the wall near Beijing. This expanse of the wall here is much farther away, but absolutely untouched since 500AD apparently.  From the Ming Dynasty. But when was the Ming Dynasty?  I thought from the 1200s...  Not sure. 

Anyway, it is so historical.  So genuine. So charming.  It makes me feel like I have stepped back hundreds of years. Thousands of years. Even though it wa raining and totally foggy, I loved it. In fact, the rain and the cold are what made it so fun!  And I took a small piece with me. A small jagged piece of stone that was genuinely a part of the wall. What a cool souvenir. 

Right now, I'm in my room. Three beds. And drafty windows. No heat. And it's cold. And damp.  Like a one-star hostel. And yet: I LOVE IT.  There is a group of foreigners in the adjacent room--the farm is laid out like a courtyard with the 'farm' in the center and the house surrounding the farm/garden on four side. VERY small. Charming. Lovely. And I'm by myself, but I don't feel alone. I hear the ten or so foreigners all laughing together and... I don't care! I am so content here by myself, in my long underwear, eating the huge among of home cooked dishes the mother of the house made for me. Rice, warm tea, eggplant, fried eggs, Chinese vegetables, raw almonds, all so yummy!!!  And with the cold room; the drafty windows that let the sound of the rain come through loud and clear, and the general awesomeness of the place, I feel great. Like I'm camping in the Chinese mountains.  I can't believe I am literally sleeping at the base of the Great Wall of China!  This is amazing!

As for tomorrow? I'm waking up at 4am and flying to Ulan Batuur in Mongolia. It is already cold here in Beijing; it's gonna be FREEZING in Mongolia!!  It is 8pm now. I am going to jump into bed with the many many blanket they gave me and try to get to sleep since I have such an early wakeup. 

And the adventure continues!  So hard to believe I was in Shanghai this morning in my apartment. Now I am going to sleep with the Great Wall outside my window. Truly truly amazing!


On the train!

I made it onto the train. G104 high-speed train to Beijing South Railway Station. Departing from Shanghai.

Taking the subway from People's Square took about 30 minutes. Gosh, that train was packed! And to indicate how much train travel happens here: the stop before the train station was one of the airports. Almost no one got off. When we arrived at the train station, nearly everyone disembarked. And what a crowd indeed.

I am sitting in my first class seat now. No one sitting next to me. And... the train just started to move! Yippee! Off we go!

I'm in 1st class because all coach ticket were sold out. I only decided to go about a week ago. I'm glad it all worked out though. Many tell me that I'm wasting my money for all this transportation for just three days. But when else will I get these opportunities to visit the Great Wall? Mongolia? The answer: maybe never.

I'm so proud and excited of my Chinese progress. I can actually understand the announcements on the trains fairly well. Enough to know what they are talking about. Cool stuff!

And... it isn't raining! So perhaps all will be well once I hit the Great Wall.

Gosh, this train is already going reaallllyyy fast...

I only got four hours sleep. I figured I'd be more tired now. But not! Oh cool: the food cart comes to ME in first class. How awesome. See: everything works out.

If you'll excuse me, I am going to order some food. Until soon!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Great Wall, Ghengis Khan, and a Forbidden City

And so my adventures continue!  This time: Beijing, The Great Wall of China, and the land of the Khans: Mongolia.

When I tell my local Chinese friends here in Shanghai that I am going to Mongolia, they invariably tell me it's beautiful.  But in fact, they don't know where I am going.  You see, in China, there is a province called Inner Mongolia.  This is where my Chinese friends think I am going.  But I am not going there.  No, I am going to THE Mongolia.  The country.  A country where the capital city of Ulan Batuur is officially the world's coldest capital city.  It's fascinating: I was talking to my Chinese teacher today, and I told her I'm going to Beijing and THE Mongolia.  She asked what type of winter coat I was bringing.  Winter coat?  It's September!  Well, silly me: Beijing is over 1500 KM to the north; and Mongolia?  Even farther.  I checked the weather: Beijing is in the 40s; Ulan Batuur?  Freezing and subfreezing temps.  Already.  On September 30th.  THIS is the crazy place I am going to.

So I leave tomorrow morning on a 7am bullet train to Beijing.  Going over 250km/hour, it will still take about 5 hours until I arrive in China's capital city.  Then I am taking subway line 12 for one hour, to the end of the line where I will meet my driver.  He is from where I will be staying for the night.  Most people visit the tourist trap version of the Great Wall.  Tomorrow is National Day here in China: a three-day holiday begins.  Swarms are already marching on Beijing and the wall.  Not a Mongol horde, but rather, one of the tourist variety.  They are a far more fierce and ruthless clan indeed.  Well, I was determined to find a place on this wall that was not going to be crowded.  And I did: this charming little farm/B&B about two hours away from the re-built and modernized touristy great wall.  Where will I be?  On a farm in the middle of nowhere, sitting right along miles and miles of the wall, untouched and unrefurbished for hundreds of years.  And the best part: no tourists.  Just beautiful views of mountains, rolling hills, and I am hoping beyond hope: no pollution in the sky and no rain coming down from it either!  

So my driver will pick me up and drive me about another 90 minutes to the farm.  There I will have a late lunch, and then a guide (for 100RMB, about 20 US dollars) will take me on a 3-hour hike along this untouched wild portion of the Wall.

The next morning at 5am, I will wake up and my driver will drive me two hours back to the Beijing airport, where I will catch an early flight to Mongolia---a country for which I need no visa because I am an American.  It's a strange oddity: every country but five or six need a visa.  US Citizens are one of the exemptees.  This explains, perhaps, why so few Chinese have visited Mongolia, and why so many of them are so interested in hearing all about my visit: few of them have ever been there.  I'll arrive around noon, and if all goes well, I will be able to grab lunch, and then find someone to take me to the country and rent me a horse: I am determined to gallop along the Mongolian plains as my Mongol ancestors once did (apparently I have some Mongol blood in me)(Though apparently almost everyone has some Mongol blood in them because Mr. Ghengis was quite the prolific progenitor indeed).  

I plan to also walk around the capital city a bit too.  And see those Yurts I keep hearing so much about. The Yurts that still burn coal, thus making this city one of the world's most polluted.  We shall see.  

Then, the next day, it's back to Beijing, where I plan to see the Forbidden City, Tianeman Square (spelling?), and time permitting, the Palace. 

Come evening, I will jump on a slow night train back to Shanghai.  It will take 12 hours, and I booked a sleeping car (i.e. I will have a bed) so I'm hoping to be able to get some sleep, since come the morning, I have to race home to my apartment, shower, change, and get to work by 10am.  I may be tired, but I will certainly have some exciting tales to tell for sure.  

On that note, it's bed time for me.  11:20pm and I have to wake up at 5.  Sweet dreams world!  A 3-day whirlwind adventure is about to begin!

Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA <--my consulting and coaching firm <--my travel blog

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


P.S. - Forgive the formatting, if it's weird.   I have to update the blog by email, since I have no other way to do so.  Everything Google (including Blogger) is blocked here.  

Yo ho! Yo ho! The Shanghai life for me!

Greetings bootleggers! 
I've had a great day today.  Went for a run and did some pushups and
situps in 91 degree weather which is as close to as miserable as the weather was in Iraq, and yes, I know, that sentence didn't make total grammatical sense but I don't really want to waste my precious time correcting it. 
Then, I had a great Chinese class with Zhu at MH
(no pinyin!) and then went to the tattoo shop and made my deposit.  Yup, gonna do it!  I sat with them for about an hour and we came up with a final design and size for the tattoo.  Pretty awesome.  Best part: I spoke with them almost entirely in English because neither of them spoke very much English.  These lessons are paying off...  I'm gonna sit on it (the design) for a couple of days, and then gonna set up the appointment for sometime next week.  I'm really going to do it.  Crazy.

I've also been watching a lot of Scandal Season 3 too.  Via Amazon Instant video.  It's great that I can watch it, but it's annoying that because I'm in China, my Prime membership doesn't work.  So while in the states, I could watch it for free, here, I have to pay $1.99 per episode.  But it's worth it: It's nice to be 'back home' again in the USA.  The scenarios are preposterous, and I truly hope that our government is not truly run in this fashion, but the drama and suspense and writing and characters and all that are just amazing.  Makes me smile every time I watch it. 
I am again so grateful to Frederic Lenoir and
his amazing book, "Du Bonheur".  It's one of the books I bought while I was living in Castres, France, and which is truly beginning to change my life: I love that Plato thought the search for happiness was foolish, since even murderers do the same.  Instead, one should live a good life, and one with values, and beliefs, and all that.  It makes the search for and the worship of God (as a higher ideal) far more relevant.  I really love it.  I love it even more because it helps me to realize that perhaps 'the search for happiness' is a fruitless ideal, a waste of time, and a psychosis-inducing chimera.  Something that just doesn't exist, and even if it does, is irrelevant (and perhaps not a very noble or worthy goal) because even the shitheads want (and sometimes receive) happiness too.

Right now, I'm gonna do some Chinese homework, and then pedal over to my French Literature class at 6:15.  This evening, gonna try to get TONS more done.  I am honestly considering turning my phone completely off so that no invitation or message by anyone can get me sidetracked.  I have a lot to do.  Time to get cracking.
A few things have been on my mind though.  About China.
First, I read in the FInancial TImes that almost
all of Hollywood is shifting now to a Chinese focus, because China has now become the biggest market for movies worldwide.  Just watching Transformers 4, and all the Chinese product placement and references, helps to illustrate this.  So it's ironic that I'm here in China now, because just like the Army helped my showbiz career before, perhaps my being here in China may  boost my movie career somehow too. 
Second, it's NICE here.  In Shanghai. In China.  Really nice. 
Genuinely a lovely place to live.  Yes, the pollution is bad, but it's not that noticeable except if you look up and see the gray sky.  (Though I must point out that today, all I see is blue, and cumulous clouds of puffiness, as afar as the eye can see.  Pollution today is the lowest it's been in months, and wow, it's nice).  But really, I don't think I can actually 'feel it' in my lungs or anything.  I think I (and everyone) was and is paranoid.  It's actually fine here.  Though I really miss the blue sky on a regular basis, that's a fact.  Beyond that, it's great.  Anything I can want to buy is easy to find.  There's an international bookstore so I can buy tons of brand new English books.  I can see great movies in the theaters, in English.  I have a wonderful apartment looking over the river, and air conditioning that works so well, and steady electricity.  I have a wonderful subway system here (much better than New York City because it's so new here), and the high speed trains are delightful.  I took a one-hour trip to Wuxi the other night, and it was a pleasure.  If I need a taxi, there is always one available.  There's an alliance francaise here, so I'm able to continue to improve my French.  There's a LOT to love about this place.  Heck, riding my bike home from Chinese school through the narrow streets I found a lovely watermelon stand, right there, ready to eat on chopsticks.  I stopped, and for 50 cents US money (3 kuai RMB), I was able to get half of a watermelon on a stick.  SO delicious.  I ate it right there, then got on my bike and continued on my merry way, weaving through traffic; scooters; pedestrians; and whatnot.  It's funny here, the transportation.  There are almost NO traffic laws.  People run red lights constantly it seems.  One way streets are such in name only.  No right turn?  Says who?  At first, it was very scary riding around here on my bike, and I would ride very fast, like I did back home.  But I've learned that fast is a recipe for disaster here, because while riding my bike, I have to: a) look both ways, constantly, when crossing intersections, b) never veer to the left or right, because a scooter or car or person might be right next to me, but unseen in my blind spot, c) always have the hands on the breaks, ready to stop at any moment, d) never make sharp turns, because I might turn right into a car or bike or person around the corner, coming my way, and this list goes on.  Now, though, it's fun. It's like a game every time I ride my bike: don't get hit.  Don't hit someone else.  Don't die!  haha!
OK, I've already written far more than I
intended.  The third thing I wanted to say can wait.  Today, day off.  Tomorrow, day off.  Friday, part-time begins so I don't have to be at work until 5pm (until 9), which is just amazing.  I'm glad I fought for it; I'm glad they agreed.  I am really looking forward to having this extra time to proofread the first draft of my novel (I finished it three weeks ago); and put even more effort into my language studies, and my PhD dissertation.   Busy bee over here.  Lata!
Thanks for reading!  J
Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA <--my consulting and coaching firm <--my travel blog

Check out my new books "Battle Cries for the Hollywood Underdog" & "Romantic Suicide" on Amazon and  Read also my bestselling books, "Guerrilla Networking", "Time Zen", and "The Theatrical Juggernaut"!
Join my inspiring email list at and watch my music videos at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bamboo Scaffolding

Today, while riding my bike back to my apartment from the Alliance Francaise (where I am taking a French Literature course), it began to rain.  Again.  I didn't mind so much because it was SO hot today.  90 degrees, and so humid.  The hottest day yet.  And the rain cooled me down completely, despite also soaking me.  But I smiled when I passed yet another construction renovation project on a building.  In New York City, the scaffolding is big, bulky, and made of steel.  Here, bamboo.  No joke.  Bamboo.  I was always told that bamboo was strong, but I never truly realized how much so until coming here, and seeing all these men walking five stories up on scaffolding made of... a plant.  

I've been here now just about four months.  Seems like I have lived here for years already.  I'm totally comfortable now.  I know all the streets.  I know the language.  I know how to get around.  I know where to buy things.  I know where the movie theaters are.  And where the least expensive places to eat are: I have to save up all my money each month to pay for my Chinese lessons, which are growing in number and expense each month as I get better and better.

I'm very close to getting my first tattoo.  My personal slogan: No Rules, No Excuses, No Regrets.  But in Chinese.  On my arm.  I'm pretty excited.

My PhD studies are coming along nicely.  I am now in the beginning stages of actually conducting my dissertation research interviews, and that's great news: I am one step closer to the end.  To finally finishing it.  Yeah!

It's hard to believe that I only have 8 more months here.  4 months went by so quickly.  Another 8 will go by even more quickly, I'm sure.  Very shortly, I will have to more fully make my plans for what's going to happen upon my return.

Anyway, I need to get back to work: I have about 50 Chinese characters I need to write over and over again for class tomorrow morning.  May the force be with me.

Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA <--my consulting and coaching firm <--my travel blog

Check out my new books "Battle Cries for the Hollywood Underdog" & "Romantic Suicide" on Amazon and  Read also my bestselling books, "Guerrilla Networking", "Time Zen", and "The Theatrical Juggernaut"!
Join my inspiring email list at and watch my music videos at