Yum and Yuk

Yum

The food in China is divine. It always made me ill in Britain so I never touched it. Here it’s incredible and also extremely cheap. The good thing about that is you’re free to try things without worrying about wasting your money. Only once have I not liked something we’ve tried. We thought we were buying fried potatoes and it turned out to be yakky bean curd. I bloody hate bean curd it’s just revolting, why anyone would want to eat it is beyond me!

On the other hand we chose not to try any of the more unusual kebabs on sale in the streets of Beijing. The choice included Cicadas, scorpions and sparrows. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Donghuamen’); ?>

Yuk

I have never seen pollution and land laid to waste on the scale we’ve seen in North East China. It’s like something out of a horror movie. The smog in Beijing is unbelievable, it’s difficult to appreciate anything when you can’t see it properly. I’ve no idea how the plants manage to survive with so little sunlight.

Although we’ve met some nice people here we’ve struggled with some people’s habits. There’s quite a lot of spitting going on in public and i’ve already mentioned the toilets. To be frank, the part of China we’ve seen so far is nothing short of filthy.

So then, what have we been up to since we arrived in Beijing?
Tiananmen Square is quite interesting but not stunning. We had a good stroll around the forbidden palace which was vaguely interesting but a bit over restored. I’ve been a bit off colour from our anti malarials so not really in the best mood to appreciate these things. We had a pleasant and really interesting walk around the back streets (Hutongs). Daily life all seems to take place out on the streets, watching people sell their produce and get on with things is quite fascinating. I say ‘get on with things’ but something that amused us was the number of people just hanging around watching everyone else. Children seem to be fascinated by us and like saying hello, giggling and running away. Beijing’s OK but despite its interesting culture and beautiful buildings we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, noisy vehicles and general chaos. It’s impossible to relax there and there is nowhere clean enough or suitable to sit outside. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Beijing’); ?>

The piece of the great wall we visited was amazing, a real once in a lifetime experience. We walked for 7 miles on a fairly quiet section, it was steep in places but a good challenge. There were no buildings, industry or anything unsightly. I can’t really describe how walking along a 2000 year old structure surrounded by hills with blossoming trees makes you feel. Awesome! show_random($num=4, $tags=’GreatWallofChina’); ?>

Next was our first sleeper train experience. Not much sleeping to be done on the way to Pingyao. It was pretty packed and some of the people around us were revolting. I’m not sure how much phlegm it’s humanly possible for one person to have in their body but it and about half a toilet roll were out and all over the floor by the morning. Openly farting and belching seemed to be an OK thing to do too.

Feeling very tired we practically fell off the train at 7.30. We were hassled to within an inch of our lives for taxis and other things. One taxi driver followed us for about two thirds of our 20 minute walk to the guest house. Pester power clearly works on some people but we will never give in! NEVER!

Pingyao is beautiful, although still pretty dirty/dusty. It’s one of the few intact walled towns in China, our guesthouse was a traditional Chinese building arranged around a courtyard. Absolutely gorgeous. With Pingyao being such a haven for hawkers it’s not really somewhere to relax so we didn’t want to stay too long. Unfortunately as the train tickets are such a nightmare to get hold of we had to get them on the black market. We didn’t know until the last minute whether we had them and when we did get them they were just faxed copies. Life is so chaotic in China that it does leave you feeling pretty homesick and overwhelmed. There have been times when we’ve both thought we might go mad and times when we’ve just wanted to come home. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Pingyao’); ?>

Somehow the ticket copies got us on the train and out. It wasn’t so bad this time, we were surrounded by younger people who do seem to have much better manners. show_random($num=4, $tags=’xian’); ?> We’re currently in Xian being held hostage by the train ticket black market yet again. Xian is as crazy as everywhere else and we just want to get down to the countryside to chill (maybe, I hope we’re not expecting too much..) show_random($num=4, $tags=’terracottawarriors’); ?>

Maybe we will be on our way south today. Maybe not.

At least it’s cheap and the foods good.

5 thoughts on “Yum and Yuk”

  1. Yesterday we went to see the terracotta dudes (moniker courtesy of Speake!). They were really cool – over 8000 lifesize figures, each one individually modelled and all arranged in battle formation and buried with Emporer Qin when he died. The scale of it all really was impressive. I’ll have some photos of them up as soon as I get near a computer that has a half-decent internet connection.

  2. I really enjoyed your photos of the Great Wall and markets – especially the Scorpians on sticks for some reason. Seen any dogs on sticks? Bad joke. I’ve always really wanted to go to China, their culture is so different from ours, I think it broadens the mind to try and understand why/how other peoples function. Are you finding travelling difficult because of the language barrier? My friend Petra went to China and said that you have to be very strong to survive in China: argue and not back down, push to the front of the queues – be rude in short – have you found that?

  3. Kat – Very good point.

    Jess – Glad you liked the photos. We’ve got loads more but haven’t found a good enough internet connection to load them. John’s taken some really great ones.

    Funnily enough China was in my top two places to visit along side Madagascar. When we wrote the post we’d only been in North East China. To be honest I don’t think the language barrier’s been such an issue, we’ve managed to communicate with mangled attempts at Mandarin and exagerrated acting techniques.

    We’d found it hard mostly because we were overwhelmed. Firstly the state of the environment, especially in Tianjin where we arrived off the boat, was much worse than i’d ever thought it would be. I found that pretty upsetting. It really points out the real price of those cheap novelty plastic items we see on sale all over the UK.

    Secondly, everywhere is busy. There are not really the western rules that we know. Cars never stop to let you cross the road, not even on zebra crossings. Your friend is exactly right and you do need to be very assertive, all of the time. I’m not up to that job, I just get disheartened with it all. John can be much more assertive when he needs to be but even he doesn’t feel like it all the time, every day.

    Thirdy is the transport. No matter how organised we were we did find obtaining train tickets difficult every time, no matter how far in advance we tried to book. We made it out of Xian on the evening we intended but by the time we got our tickets and had walked straight to the station our train was already boarding. Up until then we’d not known whether we were staying or going. When I write this down it doesn’t sound all that bad but it made us feel like prisoners.

    I don’t think that the whole of China is the same though, we’re now in Yangshao, near the Vietnam border. The landscape is spectacular, the people are nicer and the air is cleaner. The waterways are not filled with rubbish and oil and as I write I can hear the insects singing away their nightime chorus.

    I would encourage other people to travel to China as it does broaden your horizons. We’ve learned a lot since we’ve been here.

    Viv x

    p.s. No dogs on sticks so far (yes, I remember those little fellas!) although apparently Nanning specialises in Dog. It’s not something we’re up for trying. The lonely planet does list a street for non dog food……

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