(more photos here)
Internet has been a bit tricky to find so far in China, especially if you are looking for anything more than a 6 year old PC with a line queued up behind it. I am now in Beijing recovering from a bit of exhaustion-induced illness (I think), and trying to get a second/third/fourth wind to hit the streets again. Beijing has been my favorite city by far, but I have barely had much of a chance to wander much. Yesterday was pretty great, I went with my sister and a handful of backpackers to hike on section of the Great Wall. The part that made it really something was that there was no one else around, we didn't see another human being outside of our group all day. Granted we had to climb up the side of a small mountain to get there, and the Wall was somewhat treacherous in parts due to the state of decay, but damn it was interesting. Anyway, there has been a bit too much to get into detail, so I'll just do another highlight list like I did for Japan.
- The overwhelming response to most food and drink I've tried has been "It's not good, it's not bad, it's just weird."
- Apparently I REALLY look like a guy who needs a Rolex, or a Gucci/Prada/DolceGabana bag. Yes, it is all three together in one bag, I confirmed it.
- Old homes turning to piles of rubble next to huge high rise condos.
- Whenever I pull out my camera and tripod for a night shot, a little crowd gathers around to watch and take turns looking through the viewfinder. Including one time when a mentally handicapped man was getting the biggest kick out of trying to get me to take a photo of this cheerful garbage man, who eventually rode away on a bicycle piled 10 feet high with garbage bags, stacked cardboard, and other flotsam.
- At one point when I was hopelessly lost in south Shanghai I stumbled into a back alley noodle shop to get some food. I sat down at an empty seat and the Chinese man across from me (who was chowing down on a huge pile of tiny snails) proceeded to talk to me in French off and on for the next hour. Unfortunately I don't understand French, but he seemed very friendly.
- One homeless lady asking for money followed me for over three blocks, with one arm extended across the front of me and the other tugging on my shirt. She kept making the motion for food and pointing to her cup, so when we finally came across a restaurant that was open (this was late at night) I motioned for her to wait and went in to buy her some food. When I came back out she was chatting with some guys and barely looked at the bag of food when I handed it to her.
- I got shanghaied into the tea house scam. In Shanghai. Don't trust anyone.
- On the weird food tip, I bought an ice cream bar that looked pretty normal on the wrapper. However it turned out to be some sort of weird butter-flavored ice cream covered in a flavorless chocolate-ish wax with shelled sunflower seeds on it.
- And it seems popular to have toddlers run around in crotchless pants.
- They have some lovely parks all over the cities. Just don't stray from the concrete path or touch the grass, whatever you do.
- One of the main tourist attractions in Shanghai is a walled in garden that used to be off-limits to dogs and Chinese back during colonial rule. I tried to visit on my first day but couldn't find it. Turned out this was because there are so many shops built up around it for tourists now that you have to battle through literal fortress of commerce to get to it.
- Almost got run over by a random police escort line near the big bubble tower in Shanghai. Then watched as a bunch of midwestern looking caucasians piled out of the escorted cars into a hotel.
- They have it set up in the Shanghai subway that a breeze blows through the train car in conjunction with it's speed and movement. I looked for open windows and didn't see any. It's a very solid and consistent breeze down the middle of the car, maybe vents on the top I suppose. It's nice because you don't feel as detached from your movement/momentum.
- Advertising annoyance to a new level: the big river in Shanghai is where you go to view the skyline of modern buildings across the water, probably the biggest tourist destination in the city. So they have a large boat with an enormous video billboard that very slowly floats along the wall with all the tourists while showing ads. the main problem is that this billboard is so big it blocks out a good portion of the view, and goes so slow that you'd have to wait almost 10 minutes for it to pass. Brilliant.
- Sneaky shoeshine guys who try to polish my sneakers while I'm getting directions.
- The most overwhelming thing about China is how rude everyone is, but it is not considered rude here. What I am saying is that what is standard behavior here would be considered pretty offensive to even a NYer. The other thing that boggles me a bit is how calm everyone seems to be while being stepped on, bumped into, hit by a bicycle, whatever. I have not seen anyone give barely a dirty look even when they were cut off and almost run into a tree. You may think NYers are good at letting things roll off their back, the Chinese have made it an art form.
Bands I liked at SXSW: part 3.
• Panthers - Uncertainly
A band's place in myspace.