Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

5 Things I Loved and Hated about China

We have been in China for 4 months and 1 day. Wow, that is pretty amazing espeically becuase it is about half of the total time on our trip so far! However, I am really glad we have spent so much time in the different regions and cities of China. It has been very fulfilling.

For the record we hit the Yunnan Province (Jinghong, Dali, LiJiang), Sichuan Province (Songpan, Wolong, Chengdu) and Tibet (Lhasa and hiking around) as well as these cities: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’An, Chengdu.

I decided to do a 5 things I Loved and Hated about China.

Here are the five things I loved:

1. The People. The Chinese were incredible and blew away any stereotypes or things I had heard about them. They were incredibily friendly and lively (even if a bit loud). We made a number of friends with people thoughout the country and a number of people bought as dinner and hung out and talked with us. We learned a lot about their own opinions about China and abroad. Isn’t that most of what traveling is all about?

Street Food in Beijing

2. The Historical Sites. Wow. China obviously has a lot to offer here from LiJiang and other preserved Chinese towns to The Great Wall and the Teracotta Warriors. Almost every region has some kind of fabulous historical structure. I was truly awed even though we had to miss many places we wanted to go (Pingyao, Hangzhou).

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3. The Food. Dim Sum and Buns were expected but some of the spicy Sichuan dishes were pretty incredible and some of the most hot dishes that I have ever had that were still edible. The most unexpected but wonderful food I found was in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’An (showed to us by a local who bought us dinner there). My mouth is watering again…

4. The Geography. The Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces are definitely high on my list to hit again. I really recommend to people thinking of coming to China to take a close look at the Sichuan province (especially north and west Sichuan) while planning your trip. We learned too much too late but it is really beautiful and much more accessible (and cheap) than Tibet–no permits. They have glaciers, mountains, forests and, of course, Pandas. Regardless, there were many other places that we didn’t make it to that we want to see such as Guilan (and regions around it).

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5. The cities. Ok. Let’s just say it–Hong Kong. HK was pretty amazing and I am glad we spent 20+ days there. I have always had a super-strong desire to go there and I wasn’t disappointed. The hills, the water and the food. A wonderful combination. Beijing was also very interesting and the French Concession area of Shanghai was quite cool. Chengdu was a great, green little city that is quite livable.

5a. The Chinglish or funky use of English by the Chinese 🙂

Tasty Taste

Ok. Fair is fair and here are 5 Things I Hated about China:

1. Censorship of the Media. I know, I know, an American bitching about no freedom of the press in China. What a surprise? However, during our four months here I really internalized what a big deal this is…I mean, the Chinese government tries so hard to curb all information its citizens see and this has some terrible consequences. All newspapers, newscasts, websites, blog sites (including this one or Ways that Are Dark) are limited, modified or are blocked. Of course, they seem to do this out of fear that there will be some kind of backlash (e.g. T. Square) but the resulting consequence is that people don’t have enough information to react against say, the air pollution problem in Beijing or the child slave labor scandal where kids were making bricks, and beaten for it, while their parents looked for them. This really limits the people’s power to solve some problems for its government. For example, take the Mothers Against Drunk Driving grassroot effort that has done the U.S. government’s job there about addressing drunk driving. Or, the activists role in improving the environment in the U.S. or E.U. Hey, China government–throw yourself a bone!

2. Air Pollution. Oh my god–it is bad. Worse than even Athens on a hot day. It is so bad in Beijing and other places that it has completely affected my views about the environment. If more Chinese people were allowed to travel to the U.S. you would think it would raise some questions for them to be in New York and wonder why the air pollution isn’t worse than it is. No real curbs on air quality are happening here and what will the Chinese people do when it begins to kill millions of people a year (and not just the hundreds of thousands it kills now). All travelers to China wonder about this train wreck and many of us predict that this is the biggest world threat to it’s sovereignty.

(That’s not a cool evening mist she is playing around in!)
Kite Flying at Tiananmen Square

3. Queueing. Ok. Maybe a little less important than air pollution but I cannot possibily express how much this drives me crazy so I will refer you to Francie’s post on the subject. I do want to say that, while I like the monthly practice Queue day that Beijing is having for the Olympics, I have to say it’s not going to work. Hate to be a naysayer but what I have learned is that all hope of queueing goes out the window when a Chinese person really really wants something. The second that one person gets out of the queue–everyone is going to get out of the queue. But it does leave us for that delicious moment when we read the Olympic news story about U.K./German’s reactions and incidents. Yum and fun.

4. Chinese Tour Groups. My eyes turn red with anger while just typing those words. Imagine some of the most rude people you have ever encountered. But, as one person pointed out to me, it is probably not that they are just in a tour group but that they are more of an upper class sort of people. Well, you can take that little flag you walk around with and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine while speeding down the road on your tour bus. Nuff said. The Chinese tour groups were especially offensive in The Jokhang–a religious site for the Tibetans…and while we are on this subject…

5. Treatment of the Tibetans. I was going to say something about this but instead I will just tell this little story. I was at a travel agency, in Lhasa, trying to write with a pen and the ink dried up. So, I grabbed a second pen and tried to use that one. I laughed and looked at the travel agent (who was Tibetan) and he looked at me at laughed and said “Sorry, made in China”.

Ok, that is it. We are about to get on a Bangkok Airways flight to Thailand and I am going crazy with excitement!

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September 11, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, Chengdu, China, Hong Kong, Sichuan, Tibet, Travel, Yunnan | 5 Comments

Sonic Boom Records Pics

FYI to you Seattlites and Sonic Boom Records fans;  Greg is now featured twice on the “boom around the world” page: http://www.sonicboomrecords.com/world/

Double sweet!  I need to send them a pic of Greg with a panda.  I’ll get to work on that…

August 4, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China, Laos, Travel | 1 Comment

Kite Flying in Tiananmen Square

Francie and I went to Tiananmen Square the day before we left Beijing.  We were hoping that we would get one more smog free day so that we could hang out at the Square.  Unfortunately, there was no smog free day…

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One of the really interesting things about people in Beijing is that they are pretty social and at sunset you can find them chatting on the sidewalk, dancing in groups, or taking their dogs around to meet other dogs.

As you can imagine, the biggest Square in the world would attract a lot of people at sunset–especially when there is a changing of the guard thrown in to boot.  Turns out that it is really popular to bring your child here to fly kites. 

Don’t let it touch the ground!

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A number of parents wanted Francie to pose for a picture with their kid. Those small Chinese flags are also really popular in the Square.

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Soldier preparing for the changing of the Guard.

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July 20, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China, Travel, Urban | 1 Comment

Game On!

These neighborhood kids pause for a picture before resuming their ping pong game. No net? No problem! “Someone grab me a few of those bricks!”

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As Francie pointed out to me–they set up their table right in front of those Olympic posters. 🙂

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China | Leave a comment

Panjiayuan Market in Beijing

Francie and I were able to go back to the Panjiayuan market on Sunday. I have to say that this market in Beijing is my favorite market in Asia. It really is geared to the Chinese shopper but you see 20 or so westerners there as well. The prices are reasonable and everyone is friendly-not too aggressive.

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You can buy anything here such as art, vases, furniture, propaganda posters, victrolas, scrolls, and the list goes on–in addition things are cheap. For the most part when they named a price I would think ‘oh, I can pay that’ and then begin bargaining. There is also a range of established sellers and people who just lay out a blanket with items for sale.

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Chinese scrolls

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This antique Victrola had the starting price of $333

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July 18, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China, Urban | Leave a comment

Do you want fries with that?

This young gentleman worked at a neighborhood food stand which allowed us to try the market food of Beijing. I found it really amusing that they sold a roll with egg, lettuce, and special sauce for 1 Yuan (15 cents) or you could go around the corner to McDonalds and get the same thing for 3 bucks.

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They also had lots of other goodies like these chocolate rolls that reminded me faintly of chocolate pop tarts…yum, pop tarts. On the bottom right of the picture were these mushroom and spinach stuffed pockets-also good.

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China | Leave a comment

If you want the REAL taste…

Come to… TASTY TASTE!

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China, Travel | Leave a comment

Don’t bury paper money underground & other stories from the “China Daily”

Greg picked up a “China Daily” the other day, pretty much the only English language newspaper we’ve seen thus far in Beijing. It turned out to be a hilarious read, as you’ll see when you read these news snippets (which i have copied word for word. i am not making these up)

Don’t bury paper money underground
When a women from a remote pasture area of Baotou unearthed a large sum of paper currency she had buried, she found it was unusable. Eight years ago she placed 6,400 yuan ($820) in a homemade jar and buried it. Last Friday, she unearthed the jar. To her surprise, some of the money had become so crisp that it broke into pieces when touched. She called a local bank and was able to change 5,900 yuan ($756) of the crispy cash into new currency.

Hello, news flash! You shouldn’t bury money underground in a jar… Since when is this news? How long have banks been around? Forget banks, how long have wallets been around… Also, the author makes it sound as if it is still OKAY to bury non-paper money, such as coins. Just don’t bury your PAPER money! Remember that everyone.

Man comes to grief replacing cat as ratter
Liu Xiang, a 28 year old man from Sichuan, was bitten by a big rat when a borrowed cat wasn’t up to the job. Liu tried to catch the rodent in his rat-infested room in Chenjiaqiao, after his girlfriend was frightened away by a rat who joined them in bed last Thursday. The next day, Liu borrowed a pet cat from a friend and started searching for the rat nest. When he found the nest with one big rat, the cat would not go near it. When Liu tried to catch the rat himself, it jumped onto his head and bit him before fleeing.

Now the problem I see with this story is not that Liu has a rat infested room (cause you know, it happens), but that he doesn’t try to get rid of the rats until it frightens his girlfriend that there is one IN THEIR BED. I think the cat was the smart one to stay away from the large rat. Poor Liu, I hope his girlfriend didn’t dump him over it.

Angry couples, don’t tear up proof of marriage
Staff at marriage registration offices in Wuhan are urging local couples, particularly young husbands and wives, not to tear up their marriage certificates when they quarrel. The local offices are facing an additional workload reissuing marriage certificates torn up in anger. Couples usually regret the act a day later, arriving at the marriage registration offices for new certificates.

I think this is an interesting problem to have. I didn’t know that couples tore up marriage certificates in fights. Do you know anyone who has done this? I hope this marital problem doesn’t befall Greg and I, cause we’d have to fly all the way to Bangkok to get a new one. So this is another important lesson learned people – don’t tear up your marriage certificate in anger – it leads to extra workload for the marriage registration office! It isn’t fair to them, because its not their fault that you got in a fight, is it? 😉

July 15, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China, Travel | 3 Comments

The Bookworm in Beijing

This is the Bookworm in Beijing. It is a large bookstore/library that also serves food, coffee and drinks. It definitely makes my top 10 bars of Asia list. The food is great with lots of pastas, salads and desserts.

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Their website is http://www.chinabookworm.com

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China | 4 Comments

New Books and Mandarin lessons

Francie and I finally found a bookstore in Beijing that sells English books. We bought a number of classics such as Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’, Dostoyevsky’s ‘Devil’, Wharton’s ‘House of Mirth’ (I’ve read that already–one of my favorites) and Lawerence’s ‘Women in Love’. Now I can read all the classics I missed out on in college.

We are also covered for when we get to Wolong. Now if I can only find an English version of Harry Potter. I mean this is China right? I should be able to find a copy before it is officially released. 😉 Just a little jokey joke there–I haven’t seen any evidence of illegal books, cds, or movies here. None at all. Nope.

We are also taking Mandarin lessons for 1.5 hours a day. We each have our own instructor! We are taking them at ‘That’s Mandarin’ and the lessons are excellent.

July 12, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China | 4 Comments