5.08.2007

YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO THINK THINGS HAVE TO GO BY THE BOOK

















(photos from China, the [much] larger gallery is here)

So this will be my last post from China. As you might guess from the headline, it has not been all smooth sailing over here. But it has been a great trip and a beautiful country. Seeing my sister for the first time in almost a year was awesome. I also met some pretty cool travelers, which reminded me one of the reasons why I like doing this in the first place. Although I think I'm done climbing mountains for a while. The list picks up in Zongdian (Shangri-la) and finishes in Suzhou after a few days in Yangshuo.

- Flat plains surrounded by mountains near the border of Tibet, with hanging hunks of drying meat, skulls, tails, prayer flags, and hulking wooden structures for drying skins and wheat dotting the landscape.
- The first night in Zongdian starts with the sounds of packs of barking dogs, ends with howling wolves.
- Realizing the word "Laowai" means "White Devil", realizing people have been trash-talking about me in my presence.
- In the town people gather and dance together in a big circle in the town square, every night.
- You know you're in it when you have to step over piles of shit to get to the toilet.
- Hired a Tibetan driver for a day, his name was Shababa, he had a broken watch he kept pointing to, and thought we were really silly.
- Locals are camera shy.
- It was cold near Tibet, so I bought gloves from a hiking shop. They were so crappy I had to buy another pair and double them up.
- Rode an overnight bus with bunks, the bed had blood-stains on the sheets and pillow.
- A "homemade brownie" here means "flavorless chocolate-colored cake."
- If there was ever a country I've been to where it's okay to pick your nose in public, it's China.
- Weird food I've eaten: Chicken feet, intestines, pig dick.
- Weird food I've seen but did not eat: Flayed rats, duck tongue, dog meat.
- It's amazing how many photos can be ruined by power lines.
- Bought a real expensive camera bag before the trip, it has totally fallen apart, barely usable.
- "24-hour hot shower" means "from 6 pm to 8 pm."
- Hiking up a mountain while a hidden speaker alternates between repetitive Chinese phrases and an instrumental version of "Take My Breath Away."
- A traditional Chinese temple decorated with blinking Xmas lights.
- Green pea ice cream that tastes like watermelon lip gloss.
- The only similarity between the Chinese and the Japanese is their fondness for bad pop music.
- Almost getting stranded twice (on a mountain, and out in the countryside).
- Hitchhiking with nice Germans on their hired tour bus.
- The amount of manual labor that goes into food production in this country is mind-boggling.
- Toy construction helmets are used as motorcycle helmets.
- Being adventurous with meat sticks = eating many strange and unidentifiable things.
- During the harvest the main roads are covered in piles of various crops, cars and bikes drive right over them while farmers duck out of the way.
- People throwing their trash into the aisle in the bus, so each turn is marked by the noise of rolling cans and bottles.
- Salons during the day, really obvious brothels at night, and sometimes all day too.
- One Chinese student blamed his failing a class on Oscar Wilde because "he's a gay. It's his fault" This is the same student who banged his knee on a desk during a class and exclaimed "Ouch, my balls!"
- Driving tips for China:
* Lane lines are merely a suggestion.
* Headlights are optional and seemingly discouraged.
* Honking at anything that moves (or can move) that comes within 200 feet of a vehicle is obligatory, especially at all other vehicles.
* If you can get your car up on a sidewalk, you can park there.
* And if you're in a hurry, drive in the bike lane.
- Stores that sell nothing but matching his & hers t-shirts.
- It's hard to feel bad about spitting seeds on the ground when it's already covered in bones and trash.
- Hard sleeper train car that has a light switch on the wall that turns on and off loud music for the whole car.
- Guides offering tours of pot fields.
- Chinese fondness for sunflower seeds... and mess.
- The Chinese word for "cat" is "mao," same as you know who.
- Riding a barely working mountain bike through fields and over rivers in the rain.
- Finding an abandoned overgrown house.
- Meeting some friendly Chinese bike riders and dragging them along on our ramblings, ending on a path that became impassible due to mud (a passing local saw us, laughed, pointed and said "un-winnable battle").
- Water buffalo don't like sharing narrow alleys with foreigners.
- Staying in a moist, dank room in the back alley of a back alley behind an alley, and thinking we were lucky to get it.
- Spent the last day of traveling stuck at a police checkpoint with a tour bus driver without a license. Even watching cute baby chickens scramble around chirping gets old after a while.
- Some of the most dangerous blind-bend single-lane passing maneuvers I've ever encountered.
- The "perma-haze" of China. I've been here for a month, I saw a blue sky maybe three times, and it only rained twice. Most days are just swathed in this grey, gooey haze, in all parts of the country. Last night on the highway we were driving into the sunset. Only I couldn't see the sun, just bands of color choking in the haze.
- Wandering dark alleys all night as a solo foreigner lands you meeting lots of pimps and prostitutes, coincidentally.
- Extremely long nails on the dorkiest looking Chinese guy I saw.
- The enormous deer tunnel
- Any mildly good-looking foreigners living here get very cocky very quickly.
- The way the Chinese act at the baggage claim you would think it was a free-for-all luggage give-away, hence the trampling and flying elbows. It was also funny to watch people's reactions when they discovered their luggage cart had been "borrowed."
- Sculptures of giant station-wagon-sized dragonflies, mating.
- Bars here are really service-oriented. Many of them even offer massage services.
- Babies and toddlers pee in the street, just like dogs do.
- Exploring an abandoned building, only to discover it's not abandoned. The inhabitants are friendly, and when I leave I find that one of them tried to steal my scooter.
- Apparently someone in China thinks the smell of bad perfume should be a flavor of drink too.
- In a month here I had waaaaay more cold showers than warm.
- My last night here we tried to go to a nice Japanese restaurant for all-you-can-eat. We had to walk out after the place tried to scam us into all having to pay the all-you-can-eat price when only half of us wanted it. Luckily we hadn't gotten our food yet.
- Even on the flight back, the man behind me thought it was perfectly fine to reach over the back of my seat, hook his elbow over the top, and pull himself up with it, bending the seat back and releasing it suddenly each time. Even after I asked him not to the first time, he repeated it another half a dozen.
- As a friend I met here put it, "I'd like to come back when China's finished [developing]."

- Words I've learned in Chinese:
Hello = Nee how
Thank you = Shay shay
You're welcome = Boo shay
Good = Hon how
Bad = Boo how
Don't have = Mayo
I don't understand = Tien boo dong
Yes = Dway
No = Boo dway
How much does it cost? = Dwor shauw chien?
Money = Chien
Dollar = Qwi
Cents = Jaou
I don't want = Boo yow
Excuse me = Dway boo shee
A little bit = Ee dien dien
Rice = Mifan
Check = Midan
Goodbye = Si jien
Okay = Houda
One = Eega
Two = Lianga
Three = Sun
This one = Jigga
That one = Nigga
Water = Schway
Cold = Bing
Hot = La
America = Megwa
Older brother = Gu gu
Younger sister = Mae mae
(a nice little cheat-sheet for anyone headed over here)

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MP3:

Here's all the new music that I discovered in China that didn't suck. Note that none of it is Chinese.

(upbeat African band by way of France)
•• Tinariwen - Matadjem Yinmexan

(one of the only acceptable uses of a bongo I can recall)
•• Amadou Et Mariam - Je Pense A Toi

(like fellow Brit, The Streets, but with more production)
•• Just Jack - Writer's Block

(um, upbeat hip-hop-ish stuff)
• Mattafix - Big City Life

A band's place in myspace.

7 comments:

  1. ...so you ate pig dick but no duck tongue??
    j

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  2. Well yeah, duck tongue would have been gross.

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  3. i think the cat/mao thing is onomatopaeic? kittens are "mimi." so are nipples.

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  4. Yeah, the difference was explained to me as "all being in the pronunciation." However to me foreign ears it was all the same, which is why I was amused by it of course.

    But the kitten/nipple thing is way better.

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  5. Hi, my name is Amber .. writing to you from Berlin - Germany. Just had to tell you how AMAZING your pictures are. I'm busy studying graphic design and i have seen alot of pictures/phots during my studies but none of them have left me stunned like yours. Found you over the hypmachine on this grey and rainy saturday morning - was looking for 'just jack' songs. And boom i found you and your talented photos. GREAT JOB!!

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  6. You've captured some really great images. Especially liked the dead rooster. Brings back dead memories that should have been kept well underneath,

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  7. tod, i'm sure impressed with your photography from china and i've loved following along your travels with you... esp. since i have no real interest in going to china myself - it's a nice view that i may never get personally.

    i hope to see you soon before you take off again!

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