Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
case the national firewall picks the keyword out of context and think
I'm a political fussy person.
ANYWAY, it's my last full day here. Just bumming around blowing the
rest of my cash before airplane time tomorrow.
It's nice in Beijing. Lots of stuff to do, not the hostile
totalitarian place I was worried it would be, and I've managed to get
by for 5 days by myself with less than toddler Chinese. (with heaps of
help from mum!)
It's polluted here, it stinks when it rains, and people sound like
they're scolding each other when they're having a pleasant chat. Taxis
are so east to get (except when it's raining and you need the toilet,
of course) and I've found random free wifi in the sorts of places that
would never gave them back home.
Would recommend beijing for a holiday, yes. Especially for perthies. :)
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Singaporean vegefishytarian... And me. You can imagine my greedy
undisciplined heathen eyes lighting up as lunch was served and I had
the pick of the litter.
The summer palace grounds was our last stop. We took a dragon-esque
boat over the giant man-made lake to the residential grounds. Which
towered over the garden. As much as I wanted to take a look around, I
don't think I could stand another three big flights of stairs!
From one end of the residential grounds to the other is the longest
corridor in the world. And I don't mean omglongest - our guide said it
actually was the longest, like proper longest. I dunno if that's true,
but it was pretty damn long.
Beijing gets a fair share of rain in the summer, and this corridor was
built so that the emperor could still take walks when it got wet
The summer palace was built during the qing dynasty, which was the
last dynasty before socialism took hold. The Qing court were
manchurian - one of china's ethnic groups; 3rd or 4th I'm the
population ranks, according to the most recent census. The Ming
dynasty before them were Han, if that helps illustrate how the
different groups 'cooperated' to shape the country's history.
It was rather picturesque, but by then, I'd run a little out of steam.
We had to spend the 30 minutes prior to accessing the palace grounds
inside a beautiful but deadly boring pearl shop as part of a condition
to get our tickets. Pain in the arse. I love pearls but cmon man, hell
I'm exhausted now. Walking, sweating, carrying shit around, stuffing
the face, which is now starting to get a bit round - what a difficult
life! ;) looking to hit a couple more culture traps tomorrow and then
spend the remaining day.5 bumming around, buying pressies and getting
most famous Chinese pharmacy, dealing in traditional medicines.
Chinese medicine revolves around the balance of qi within your body
and focuses on preventative more than curative treatment.
Doctors practising this type of medicine 'diagnose' trouble spots in
your system and recommend how to adjust your intake and activity to
shift it back into balance. You wouldn't necessarily be 'sick', it's
that your body is not performing optimally.
Everyone in the tour group got offered a free consultation. I hell was
keen on mine; I'm not a sickly person, but I tend to feel drained
frequently. Usually I put it down to stress and people giving me the
shits cos they're dickheads, but surely it can't hurt to be a little
open to things that have been reported to work for ten thousand years...
The doctor put 3 fingers on my wrist, just off to the side. He looked
at my tongue and asked my age, then asked if I get headaches. I told
him I did, and that I used a computer for work. He said my stomach and
spleen were weak and not absorbing enough energy from food, so I would
be tired a lot and get headaches.
Overall, no real concerns. Seems I'm in fairly good nick. Picked up
the "wake up spleen" stuff he recommended just in case it really is as
simple as that.
Also got this crazy ass oil from that pharmacy. I don't know if it's
supposed to help sore muscles or just give pain relief, but holy shit
it burrrrrrns so good, and the soreness just vanishes. Fixed my right
shoulder up for the whole afternoon, gonna put some on my neck tonight.
Apparently even Chinese pharmacies have trade secrets, and I got asked
to not take photos of their secret prescription cabinet... After I'd
already taken one. :|
So here's a photo of their not-so-secret sales area, which didn't
upset their appre cart.
bloody tall city walls were home to the emperor and the court.
This place is enormous, and walking through it feels well surreal and
whicked. Good feng shui or just trippy as hell cos it's 600 years old
and big? Difficult to say, but omg go visit.
It's all beautifully aligned, adorned and ordered - you can't tell how
straight the north gate is in the photo cos my camera warped it, but
ooh. I'd love it if there were holiday tours designed for designers,
so we could get talked through proper about Chinese architecture and
theory while there instead of standard tourist guff.
Heaps of people, not just foreigners but chineseys too. I wonder if
the forbidden city is somewhere locals go to hang out, just because...?
massive park with heaps of historical and cultural information about
china's ethnic groups.
There are over 50(?) groups which make up the Chinese population, the
most common being the Han - ie. The "chinesey" ones that come to mind
when you hear of china.
It seems that much like America, Australia and the uk, china is what
the region has come to be known as, with a history shaped by the folk
populating it, which changes over time. Okay, that sounds really
obvious when said like that, but ive never really thought about it
that way til now; nationalism and heritage being two separate things.
Went for the best foot & leg massage after. AUD$20 for an hour. BEST.
Ate a beef... Tripe? Tendon? Noodle soup dinner after that, and
swappednew vocabulary with the girl behind the counter. What a nice
Today, I'll be hitting up the forbidden city and a couple other places
on a tour. Missing home a little bit cos I'm craving a hog's breath
steak and curly fries.
lazy. There were soooo many people there, think Saturday shopping
centres, but over a great expanse with homogenised appearance. Wow!
The automatic guide pack was a bit disappointing, I'm thinking a
proper tour with group would have been more interesting. On the
upside, there were food stalls all over the place. :)
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
explained to us.
The plain foods, where salty is salty, sweet is sweet, wet and steamy
instead of sticky and fried - that's northern (Shandong) style.
According to lonely planet, you ask for it as "lucai".
Spicy & sour is sichuan (Szechuan for you oldskoolers), western style
- western chinese, that is. "chuancai" is the word for this.
Sweet and salty fusion is southern style - Cantonese; "yuecai".
There was also an "imperial style" reserved only for the court, but I
didn't catch the traits of it. We finished off a batch of jiaozi
(gyoza, to the Nippon inclined) - I'm thinking that might have been
eastern (shanghai) style but wouldn't know how to pick it.
I can probably distunguish between groups of Chinese food types on ymy
own, but it's nice having a guide talk me through it and explain the
We went on a cloisonné tour after lunch. I don't like cloisonné so I
cbf talking much about it. Suffice to say, it takes a shitload of
concentration and patience and eyestrain to complete just one piece.
Quite amazing, probably wouldn't buy any for myself tho, except for
these lovely chopsticks that I didn't get cos the shopgirl wouldn't
give me a discount. ;)
Went to a teahouse after and were stepped through the 4 popular types
of tea in china - jasmine green, oolong, puerh and lychee.
Jasmine is flowery and good for the eyes. Oolong is earthy with a
sweet aftertaste, and should be smelled first, the colour enjoyed
second and finally slurped noisily for maximum enjoyment; it is good
for blood circulation.
Puerh is herby, grassy, not really drunk for taste but for it's
cholesterol & blood pressure lowering properties, and for weight loss.
Lychee black tea is fruity and is good for digestion.
We also learned how to hold a teacup; thumb and forefinger holding the
rim, rude finger across the bottom supporting the cup from below.
Women extend their last two fingers to indicate beauty and grace, men
hold fingers in to symbolize power held in one's hand.
I bought things - tea as a gift, and cool bits and pieces to take
home. I think I paid too much :( oh well.
All in all, a lovely day. Have booked a tour for Thursday to catch
other tourist traps and my motherland culture. :) more photos will be
up on flickr when i get home.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
out. It was also built by emperor Qin to keep the Mongolians out.
It has been reconstructed numerous times over the frickin many years.
Originally, it was made of soil bricks held together by an adhesive
made of rice soup and egg. Hehe everybody on the tour bus wigged out
when we were told this, but I suppose if papier mâché and egg tempera
work, of can't be that impossible. You'd be fuched when it rains
Emperor Qin was the first emperor of china, uniting all the warring
states in the Chinese region. The great wall was one of his major
contributions to Chinese cultural history.
Tens of thousands of people died to build the wall, a "double-sided"
issue, said our guide - while construction of the wall required such a
high human expense, it is a great factor in modern tourism, which
brings money into the country for Chinese people. Not to mention
keeping the Mongolians out all those years ago.
The wall is a big fat humid climb with heaps of cheesy touristy things
to buy for a laugh. I FINALLY found postcards worthy of sending, so
can't complain too much. :)
how to tell the real stuff from fakes, and to pay a pantload of money
for bits of rock.
Okay, I paid shitloads of money for bits of rock. Cheap by Aussie
standards per item, but I forgot to factor in how much it all added
up :( oh well, the pieces are cute and I wanted some keepsakes to grow
There are 2 types of jade - hard jade and soft jade. Jadeite, hard
jade, is worth more and usually used for jewellery, while the cheaper
soft jade and agate are used for sculptures because they are easier to
To spot a fake is simple - jade has four properties to look out for:
temperature, sound, texture and hardness.
Temperature - real jade is cool to the touch. Plastic and glass ,
popular counterfeit materials, would not be as cool. This means you'd
prolly need a basis for comparison, but if it's warm like a pie under
display case lights, you could probably assume it's not real.
Sound - real jade makes a lovely TINK sound when you strike it. The
higher the frequency of the TINK, the harder and better quality the
Texture - hold a piece of real jade up to a light. In the translucent
bits, you should find a snowflaky texture. These are referred to as
jade flowers. Over time, green jade worn next to the skin gets greener
- this is told in Chinese storytelling as the flowers blossoming, and
happens quickly if the wearer is in good health. Holding marble
(another popular fakey) and plastic up to a light, you would not see
jade flowers, while holding glass up would likely present bubbles from
when the piece was made. I did this with the stuff I bought today;
much to the relief of my pride, yes, there were flowers. :)
Hardness - finally, real jade is hard. A diamond blade is required to
cut it. So if you're suspicious of a fake, scratch your jade against a
piece of glass. Withbthe real deal, the glass will be quite scratched
while your lovely stonepiece emerges unscathed.
surprise since I'm in china, but it's a lovely fascination to be up
close to old Chinese architecture and put my hands on some 600 year
The tombs have been around for about 600 years. Together, there are x
in total; I say x cos a lot happened today and I forget what the guide
said. 9 I think? And each tomb is situated between a mountain and a
river - positioned according to feng shui theory.
Ming is buried underground, beneath a beautiful lush grassy hill. His
buriers transported his body to the underground chamber by means of a
well. They then left burning charcoal inside the chamber and sealed it
off, creating an airtight tomb. Clever Chinese empirical technology
that modern science explains today. :)
I expected to go right down into a musty dank tomb of ming, dusty and
cavernous, but all we saw were burial artifacts, recreated garments
from the era and a big big obelisk memorial stone.
Emperor Ming claimed the middle kingdom by killing his nephew, who was
given succession by the previous ruler, not a decision favoured by
many as it went against the tradition. The forbidden city was
constructed under Ming when he took power, but upon its completion,
remained closed for 30 years as the price paid to heaven for killing
the nephew emperor.
Although Ming's emperorhood began in violence, he contributed much to
china's literary history during his reign, collecting heaps of books n
shit, which still exist today long long after ming's death even though
other copies have been lost or destroyed by time.
On his memorial stone is written his adopted emperor name, which I've
forgotten in Chinese but means "great achievement of literary
contribution". He wished to be remembered by that name in the hope
that generations to come would forgive him for what he did.
Monday, August 25, 2008
all alone in this big city and am quite excited about getting some
hardcore exploring and massage-getting done.
Have had stupid retarded internetting whilst here. The country's
firewall makes it inconvenient to try and tell the rest of the world
how awesome this place is. It really is quite interesting. So far,
I've found it more of a culture shock than japan, which makes no sense
cos it's pretty similar to Brunei, where I lived for the first 12
years of my life.
Maybe I'm not cut out for proper Asian lifestyle, but I am enjoying
this experience for a holiday. Still trying to grow a thick enough
skin for some hardcore bargaining here, and to take home as a useful
souvenir. We'll see how it fares after some browsing this evening.
Trying to find the bank this morning was ridiculous. Took a wrong turn
and where I expected the bank to be, encountered a bakery, a shoe shop
and a shop with nurses wearing baby pink nurse uniforms. When I
finally found the bank, they wouldn't exchange the brunei cash I had
on me, and I ended up having to withdraw money from an ATM, which I
could have done anywhere. Garr!!
I'm at the holiday in for now, this place is lovely but what a drama
trying to get here. My Chinese sux, the taxi driver didn't speak
English and didn't know which hotel I was meant to go to. But made it
one piece and I'm so going to study the hell out of this mandarin
phrasebook I borrowed off one of the guys before they left.
My hotel is right next to a cultural center and there's a 24hr food
place behind it. Me rikey a rot. :)))
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
announce it til after I'd lined up in the humid airport hall for what
felt like muggy ages. Just as I got to being 3rd in line, they
announced it quietly on the departures screen.
Luckily my cousin works for the airline, we got him on the phone and
he told us about the typhoon in hk. Garr!
My auntie took me shopping and eating til the airline called us back
about my rerouting. After which, more shopping and eating. There's
been a fair bit of eating.
I have to be at the airport super early for a plane today. My lovely
grandma decided to wake up even super earlier to cook me eggs.
No, not dinosaur eggs, don't be stupid.
Friday, August 22, 2008
network here. The thought of being out of touch for a long stretch of
time has me nervy. It kinda... makes me miss home heaps. Like, heaps
So much of this place feels like home though. Lots of stuff is the
same as when I left here years ago - small things like placemats and
glasses. And this huge piggybank i had as a kid - how on earth did it
end up here?!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
you RBA BI66! I'm the only passenger here, and my host is a lovely
lass who just brought me this lovely tea with honey.
Typing this in flight mode. What fun! Also have for the first time in
forages, the Borneo Bulletin. Standout features are the Brunei Grand
Sale starting TOMORROW!! and lasting til well after I leave. :)))
Also, Gary Glitter has been released from Vietnam and sent from
Thailand to Hong Kong.
That's it for the news at six. Later on, we'll be bringing you more
Sunday, August 17, 2008
aggressive mummy's boys. Real boys; who like to get on with things, so
I can get on with things.
Today, I woke up, played some Braid, had pancakes, watched some beach
volleyball and had a nap. Then got up for a snack and played more
Braid. Tonight, we're going for giant platters of Greek food and then
some bowling. Best getting on evar.
I think I like a fairly easygoing life. I hear about share homes with
stringent rules and rosters for keeping the kitchen tidy. Seems a
little stressful for my liking. I guess you need that sort of thing if
you don't know your housemates before you move in together.
But I got to pick mine and we've been in fairly good nick so far with
our housekeeping schedules. It's nice to have a stretch of lazy days
without feeling too bad or pressured to clean up just cos someone else
cooked. A roster would be great for ensuring the place stays nearer
than it is, but I know that I for one don't notice how clean a home is
if I don't feel comfy in it.
Okay, so that's not limited to a household with boys. What I'm getting
at is that I've had a lovely chillaxed day today, and I appreciate
that I don't have to feel bad about it.
Flying off next week to sunny, humid Beijing.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
argh. waking up is so crap. I wish I could be more of a morning person; then again, maybe all one needs is a little discipline and to not complain so much. I used to wake up super early, back when I played wow and checked the auction house every day to see how much closer I was to buying a mount. ah, those were the days!
now, the only mount I get is my little orange cat falling asleep on my stomach while I procrastinate starting my day.
bloody hell, is that the time? :( good morning then.