China

I’ve thought about this, and it’s hard to do my normal like/dislike list. Everything you HATE about China is kind of what makes it China. I’ll have a go though.

Dislike:

1)      Traffic/crowds – I’ve been to Vietnam. I can cross roads like the best of them. Or so I thought.  This is off the scale however. Green mean go, red means go, one way means both ways, pavements mean scooters and so on and so on. Not good for the nerves. And this is all above ground. The subway is carnage. Surely it makes sense to let people off the underground before you burst through the doors. China thinks not.

2)      Bad month for vegetarianism – Andi’s theory was that you have a 30% success rate with any one meal. As in there’s just something odd/wrong about the other 70%. Namely meat is in pretty much everything here. And if you think it’s not, you’re wrong, it still is. That said, i’m loving the work of all street sellers on the sesame seed/crab fried things.

3)      Neon metropolis v’s bleak/barren wilderness  – The cities redefine what smog and over populating is, stars are a distant memory. The countryside just makes you thank you’re lucky stars that you live in the city. Some of the farm hamlets I passed through on the trains look like the most remote places on earth. Ox’s still plough the fields?! It’s not really easy on the eyes like some countries.

4)      Being gauped at/photographed 24/7. Here is an extract from a conversation that Charlotte that I met in Chengdu had with her students (she’s a teacher). Charlotte: (Out of interest) Why do you stare so much at foreigners, surely you see lots of people that are non-Chinese on TV, in film or magazines? (referring to the reception that anyone white/black/brown/remotely western receive throughout China.) Children: “Just because it’s different. If we came to England we would be laughed/stared at?” No you bloody wouldn’t coz it’s RUDE! Honestly, I can do without people waving camera phones in my face for a while. I’m really not that fascinating.

5)      The Terracotta Warriors.

6)      Scale! An inch on a map is a 30 min walk, the subways run only North to South, never across. To walk even a fraction of Shanghai/Beijing is on par with an Iron Man race. But I guess that’s the deal with a population of over a billion.

7)      You know you are living in a communist state gone mad when you cannot even control your own central heating. Get this. The whole country gets their heating turned on, on 15th November, and it’s turned off, on mass, on some day in spring. Too hot. Tough. To cold? Tough!

8)      Sales tactics – Even when I bought the converse trainers the girl actually threw them at me and snatched her $100 yuan bill. The customer is not only wrong, but risks getting their head kicked in here too. Shopping is not fun. We all play the game, but trying to sell me knock of Diesel Jeans for a starting price of £80, is laughable. I got them for £7.50.

Like:

1)      It’s cheap  – Can of coke (30p) metro ride (20p) hostels (£3 and nice) and so on and so on. Dad/Kris: yes your xmas present probably cost 20p from the 2 yen shop. It’s the thought that counts!

2)      Facebook –   It is possible, although it doesn’t work 100% properly – Slow/no photos/vids, (www.f3.proxymice.com) Pass it on. However try Wikipedia-ing ‘Tianinman Square protests’ and it’s another story. Dislike; supreme censorship.

3)      It’s surprisingly safe (taxi’s are so well-behaved, schooled in the art of honesty & not tuk tuk)

4)      The giant panda. They have the whole world and they only live here. That must mean something.

5)      Crab/sesame seed fried street food things. At least I think it was crab meat. I know I mentioned them already but I’m obsessed.

6)      It’s a funny night out/always a bit mad. If it’s not grown men walking down the road in PJ’s, it’s the annoying pop music and the silly panda hats. Not a lot makes sense.

None of this matters. I’m forgetting of course the ULTIMATE dislike: The banning of wordpress for nearly three weeks. Hence the mass posting!

Where I stayed: Blue Mountain Bund Hostel Shanghai, Hangzhou Hafang Backpackers, Lazybone Backpackers Chengdu, Hangtang Inn Xian, Happy Dragon Hostel Beijing, Sanlitin Hostel Beijing.

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Beijing, China

Another BFG of a Chinese city. Actually no, it’s more of a Big Un-friendly Giant, traffic and manors wise.

The exception to this a nice little ‘Hutong’ street (medieval narrow alleyway). With posh cafes, funky boutiques, the old remains of 1950’s communist posters on the walls. Also home to the culinary highlight of China so far, my rah rah ingredient salad. Mozzeralla, rocket, balsamic vinager, avocados, artichockes. I paid about a million yuan for it but it made me happy. Believe me, it’s probably the only meal for a month that certain didn’t contain secret meat. China is not really veggie heaven. Here is what else I got up to in my 6 days here:

  • Yonganli Silk Market – Tourist trap hell. Screaming banshi girls flogging knock off Gucci and Vic Beckham jeans. These chicks are spoiling for a scrap, when you bargain to low they actually hiss, spit and launch themselves at you. I’ll buy my clothes in Thailand thanks.  Although I did hack it long enough to by some ace high top Converse All Stars for £10. I’m in love with them.
  • The Forbidden City (I wish it was). The city centre palace of many an 1400 century Emperor. It’s an symmetrical, dull, million acres of extravagance. I felt like I was in a dream where you open one identical door after another. Yes it’s scale is impressive, but it’s the same problem as Tianamen Square; it’s kind of hard to feel anything. China sites are vast, dispassionate, and as a result quite hard to photograph. You can’t get across the idea of scale, only ugliness/blandness. This is perversely kind of their appeal. You have to be there. Although in summer ideally, not in the Siberian winter temperatures I am enduring. Where are my beloved Llama jumpers when I need them? Oh yeah, reaching the final few weeks of their three month sea voyage from Melbourne to Doncaster. Hopefully.
  • The Summer Palace – yes in bleakest winter. Yet the frozen lake and stone statue of a ship with blue stained glass windows made it worthwhile. This is the Chinese version of New York’s Hamptons for the Ming dynasty, and I must say i’d live here too rather than the Forbidden City.
  • Scorpion Alley (Not it’s official name) but a street in Wangfujing which serves up scorpions, crickets, donkey penis, grubs, tarantulas, seahorses and a whole insect world of delights on deep fried sticks. Will (Gets constantly mistaken for being Chinese but is in fact English and talks in wide boy London accent) is the man of the match, and sets the bar high by gobbling a seahorse. Brian, Graham, Andi and I all nibble on the tiny legs of a scorpion, whilst talking it up for the cameras. We then all shortly come to our senses and head off to the all you can eat/drink buffet for $50 yuan (£5.00).

Mutianyu, The Great wall of China

There are two main places to see The Wall from Beijing at least at this time of year. Badaling is most popular but Mutianyu has a cable car and toboggan run. Er Hello?! Easiest decision ever.

Now, it takes a lot to really stun Andi and I, having both been on the road since April we are lucky enough to be over exposed to UNESCO sites and wonders of the world on a weekly basis, ungrateful show offs that we are. So we joked that we might be underwhelmed. Not so. Not so.

I know it’s just a wall and all, but it’s a really good one.  I won’t bother describing; bricks/winding/long? It was bitterly cold but sunny which makes for lovely pics, which is all you can ask really. It is also a bit of a mission to get to, especially when we shunned the organised tour and decided to attempt the local bus. We ended up in the car of a very pleasant Chinese man, who lured us off the bus in Huairou (a city nearby) and took the remaining 30km in his banged up ford for £6 each. He even waited for us and delivered us back again. One of more successful  ‘let’s just roll with it, see what happens’ experiments.

Xi’an, China

Pronounced ‘she-an’ and famous for the Terocotta Warriors (some statues off of the olden days). They are just  an hour’s bus ride down the road and everyone bangs on about them. Wikitravel/Lonely Planet et all wax lyrical about the wonder of them; (i’ll summerize:) some crazily vain/paranoid dude built them to protect him in the afterlife, then drank mercury to speed up the death process. They are an absolute wonder, more so as they were only discover in the 1970’s as some farmers dug a well. They are all also all carved individually and have their own features, and are one of the most famous excavations in the world. And yes, after more than 2 mins and a few pic of each,  they are mind numbingly dull! Honestly, it was on par with the Colombian police museum and some caves I once visited in Sardina for the award for most overpriced snooze (well, £11.00.)

Xian is also famous for it’s city wall. Andi (he’s back) and I hire bicycles for $20 yuan (£2) for 90 mins, one of Andi’s bright ideas. I should mention that abosultely everything in China is of colossal scale. Cities are huge and what looks like a centimetre on the nice little map is in fact a kilometre or so peddling in the brisk freezing winter air. I tried to talk him into a tandom so I could sit at the back and fake peddling but he deemed it ridiculous. Spoilsport. What’s more is, we make it half an hour around, almost to the North Gate and the Train Station (we are there to book the sleeper train a day in advance) and classic fail; the wall is blocked for renovation?! We turn back having only conquered a fraction of it, but both a bit secretly relieved. There was a point were we thought it might extend all the way to The Daddy of All walls. Spot my seamless transition hey…into Beijing.

Chengdu Panda Breeding & Research Centre, Sichuan, China

The Giant Panda – yes this is what I travelled 37 hours for. Those off of looking cute/eating bamboo/being so lazy they can’t be bothered to have sex.  Silly bears.  Although we did see lots of them cuddle.

My panda friends Charlotte and Lucy (as in I met them on the way there, they are not in fact pandas), anyway, the three of us, were there a meer three hours and just took short of around 300 photos. What can we say, panda’s are cute. Baby panda are even cuter.

There are less than 1000ish of them left in the wild. They get confused when they run out of bamboo, they are too lazy to mate, 48% of the males are gay. (Not the last one. That joker of a boy Mark text me this as one of his panda ‘facts.’ I naively believed him and even dropped it info conversation at dinner which had everyone in stitches.) Anyway.  Nature is against the panda. Do them a favour and sponsor one already, they are so daft they need it.

In other news. I had the oddest experience in the famous He Ming Teahouse in the middle of The People’s Park. A man offered the ancient tradition of clearing the wax from my ears. Yes in broad daylight as people sipped their Jazmin and Lemon Twinings. Gross hey. To advertise this curious service he chimed a metal bar which vibrated on his mad scientist tools. But 2o yen (20p) why not. It was a little like Hannibal when he eats the guys brain. I exaggerate. It was actually just like a more elaborate cotton bud. I can hear the wailing Chinese synth music from miles around now.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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