Posts in Category: Travel

Beijing – Nanluoguxiang and Houhai

Nanluoguxiang is a narrow street that runs through the hutongs of Beijing (basically old-Beijing). It’s lined with souvenir shops and small food shops. A lot of Hong Kong style cooking is served here.

Houhai on the other hand is a bar area littered with live stages. Every 5 steps you’ll be indulged in a completely different sound experience than where you stood before. Bands, solo artists, local or foreign, old or young; there’s something for everyone. For those that rather partake instead of standing by the sidelines, you’re sure to find several areas with karaoke set up. Once your ears start hurting you’ll know you’re heading the right direction.

If hookah is your thing you can find the middle eastern delight in several of the bars here. Be wary though that the prices here are pretty much Western, if not more expensive. So if a budget night out is your thing you best load up before you go or dive into the hutong for a more local experience.

Beijing – Beihai and Jingshan Park

Just up northwest of the forbidden city there’s “Beihai Park” (北海公园). With a large white pagoda and several Chinese gardens scattered through it’s 69 hectares, of which half is composed of a big lake, it is one of the biggest imperial gardens in China.

Personally though I find the adjacent smaller and cheaper Jingshan park (景山公园) to be much more enjoyable. Climb up to the top of the park and enjoy the view over the forbidden city, stay for the sunset.

Chengdu Photoreport

On the 29th of July I arrived in Chengdu by train from Beijing. What follows is my photographic report of the city.

This gallery and post will be updated as I please.

Beijing Photoreport

28 Hours – Beijing to Chengdu

This Monday evening I arrived in Chengdu after a 28 hour trip by train.

While twentyeight hours might seem like a lot, it really was one of the most comfortable trips I have every had. Traveling by train in China means you get to sleep on what they call a hard or soft sleeper. Since all the other seats were sold out I was traveling by soft sleeper. The only difference from a “hard” sleeper is that you have only 4 beds per cabin instead of six.

Initially I went into the wrong cabin, thinking that the number six written on my ticket indicated the cabin, instead of the bed (4 beds per cabin means bed 6 is in cabin nr. 2). After I moved to my semi permanent habitat for the following 28 hours I figured out there was no power socket. I was ill-prepared. All I had to entertain myself were my mobile phone (charge of approx. 2 hours) and my laptop (charge of approx. 3 hours). None-the-less I didn’t feel bored at any point. Whether I slept, looked out of the window or simply lost myself in thought, I was occupied during each and every moment.

Technology has come a long way, but forcibly being removed from these luxuries can be quite liberating at times.

Drunken Shenanigans

dsc4768As I sit here half intoxicated I feel victory in my veins. I have won against an overweight inebriated Chinese guy. Sobriety has been the deciding factor in this battle.

It started out innocently; an invitation to eat together. As typical Sichuan dishes got served, well known for it’s spiciness, slowly but surely alcohol got introduced. I drank some kind of Chinese sake, a clear liquid of over 52% and a lot of beer. It goes without saying that I couldn’t decline as the Chinese can be very persuasive.

As I sat and listened to the conversations of which I understood nothing but a couple of words, I got fed until I could eat no more. Now what one might expect coming from a western background is not what you actually experience; Chinese drinking culture differs quite a lot from what we are used. Instead of the short meeting between mugs and accompanying cheers , it seems that in China you need to address a different person for every sip you take.  Clock or counter clockwise around the table even! Tell them how happy you are to meet them, wish them and their family the best of luck or even just tell them how much you love them based on how much alcohol you’ve imbibed. Everything goes!

As time passed by people got louder and louder and I seemed to be the only person left to hold the slightest bit of clear conscience (although barely, seeing as though I have drunk quite a lot during this nice but humid evening). As a result I had to wrestle a guy to bed, clean up the broken shards of glass everywhere and then wrestle the same guy to bed several more times until he had no more energy to get up; all of this while refusing to slip in his puke of course. At the same time the young girl that runs the hostel is also drunk and there seems to be no running water.

At least there’s a cute little kitten to hold me company while I write this down. Let it be known that there is no such thing as a boring evening in China.

The Man Who Stood Alive

When I first arrived in Beijing I couldn’t help but notice the fog that hung in the air. Buildings gradually fading away into a white greyish abyss. What was even more peculiar was that this mist seemed to be omnipresent. Of course I soon found out that this isn’t actually fog but a warm blanket of pollution carried in from the east as well as largely being generated by the low-grade petroleum being used in all the vehicles in China. It was not quite what I had imagined when I heard about the pollution in China though. People had made it sound so bad that in my vivid imagination I was seeing embers drifting through the sky like autumn leaves with stringy black clouds hanging at a couple of meters high, blocking out any sight of the sun. I guess my imagination was wrong.

None the less, the pollution in China is a very real thing and while it may appear as seemingly innocent fog it causes a lot of health issues. From people having skin issues or a huge amount of (young) people here walking around with grey hairs, to me suddenly forming scabs on the side of my head. Yet the people here keep surprising me. Just yesterday I was having lunch with a friend when from the window we could see a guy jump-roping in the at a busy intersection, his expensive volkswagen parked right next to him. After he sufficiently soaked his t-shirt full of sweat he decided to hang it over his car’s door, pull out a chair and sit there straddling his beerbelly. But not before he adaptly wiped himself using tissues, even going as far as putting his hand down his backside before bringing it back up again to wipe his face. Amazing the amounts of things you can see while people watching.

What gets me though, is that this guy has a car, a luxury item in Beijing, meaning he can go anywhere he likes. Yet, of all places he chooses to perform his regiment next to a busy intersection with loads of traffic and pedestrians. At least he’s exercising, I suppose!

China’s Little Emperors

A case study on the long term effects of enforcing an one-child policy

Dispite a lot of misinformation and propaganda being spread by the west about China there is one correct thing that most people seem to know: You are only allowed to have one child in China. Or at least, it used to be that way. Now more and more families are having multiple children; they merely have to pay a sum of money for every extra child. Regardless, most families don’t have this kind financial headroom to spare and as such are still effectively under the rule of the one-child policy.

The effects of such are that we have a lot of hugely spoiled children, or little emperors as they are also often referred to as. Being the only child they are the sole carrier of their families continuation and receive the full care, attention and financial backing of their parents, their grand parents, their uncles and aunts, etc. They sit on their little thrones balling their little pudgy fists, directing their parents actions with each fit they throw. The parents on the other hand kneel down to the little emporor’s feet and surrender themselves completely.

It seems that there are different types of complacent parents. Those that know it and almost seem to fear their ruthless dictator or those that still try to discipline their child but have a spine comparable to the grape jelly that little emperor just requested. More than once have I seen a parent request their child to do something only to be met with either a complete neglection or, worse, an angry snarl at which, being the servants of the emperor, they do not clock the child in the head like any normal person would do, but instead recoil in fear.

As such you have children completely disregarding their environment, only caring about the needs of themselves. It is not uncommon to see a child using the newest iPad (which in China retails for prices higher than in the west) at full blast, filling the subway/waiting room/public toilet/restaurant/cafe with the annoying beepboops of whatever crappy game they are playing.

To Get Rich is Glorious

“To get rich is glorious.” is Deng Xiaoping’s infamous statement to stimulate economic development. You’d think though that people with little money to spend, and are therefore not rich, wouldn’t care about the latest iProduct or Louis Vuitton bag.

Yet in China even the poor schmuck that can hardly afford to clothe himself properly (See also: Fashion in China) will probably be walking around with an iPhone and iPad. Now mind you, these luxury products that are already ridiculously expensive in the west (comparable or better hardware than Apple products is EASILY found for less money; just like how you can easily find a good, strong and fashionable bag for less money because it doesn’t have the LV logo on it) retail for the same or even more expensive than in the west. This makes no sense since everything is made in China, but it just cements their position as luxury products whose biggest value comes from brand recognition instead of actual functionality or quality.

So why then is the poor girl or guy buying into these products that costs them several months of salary? Because of status. China is at this moment very materialistic and more than often one of the first questions someone will ask you, right after “What is your name?” and “Where are you from?”, is “How much money do you make?”. The Chinese seem to be constantly busy evaluating their position compared to their surrounding using these kind of superfluous specifications to define their worth. In what used to be a nation that practised confucianism (albeit generally in combination with legalism), many are now completely controlled by greed and money.

Do note that I say many, not all. In my travels so far I have met people from both sides. Kind and caring people that don’t care if you’re poor or rich as well as the greedy people that care about nothing but their own status.

Edibles Out of the Ordinary

Life is cruel, no-one can deny that. The cruelty of nature is merely punctuated by the fact that we actually function in such a way that we put what used to be (or in some cases are) living material in our mouth to crush it, dissolve it in acid and then turn it into foul smelling excrement destined to be flushed down into a brown river of used condoms and miscarriages.

That being said, I have absolutely no shame of taking part in the circle of life. Here are but some examples of the weird uncommon (to us simple folks from the Western farmlands) foods I’ve eaten:

Pig feet

Pig ear

Chicken feet

Chicken heart

Duck neck

Duck wing

Duck feet

Shark lip

Starfish

Black tofu (only on this list because it has such a foul stench)

River Snail

This list is to be updated whenever I add something new to my wonderful culinary repertoire.

 

Seen but not tried (yet?):

Living scorpions

Snake

Silkworm

Cockroach