A little late but merry christmas and a happy new year! Oh god, its 2007 already. Times ticking and the horrific thought of going back to work soon is playing on my mind...humm...
Currently, Im in Langkawi Island in Malaysia. Its north of Penang Island and just off the border to Thailand. Its a nice tourist resort Island where Im soaking in the sun and relaxing while enjoying many of the delicious local food.
Since Europe, China. Well, it has been a most interesting trip travelling through China. My eyes have been witness to some amazing, beautify, and at times ulgy things. The plan was to travel from Beijing, into Mongolia, then back down western China, and slowly down towards Hong Kong. I very much wanted to see the big cities and also the smaller towns and villages, and the contrasts between them. Unfortunately, as Beijing was very cold, we decided not to visit Mongolia which was a shame as I had been looking forward to visiting the country for a while. Well, theres also the option of resigning and travelling again in the future ..
Anyways, what you read and see in the news about China and its exploding development is true. The staggering economic development and resulting changes to the landscape of the cities, the countryside, and its people is simply amazing. Especially evident in the bigger cities, everywhere you look people are busy making money. Skyrises are being built as construction crains dominate the cities. Everyone is talking on their mobile phones while driving in their new car towards the latest shopping centres. Things are changing, buzzing, new, and the sense of freedom of capitalism is infectious. Cities such as Shanghai, Xian, and Beijing are no different than any other bustling metropolitan city anywhere in the world. Considering the 1.4 billion people compared to Australias 20 million, you can get a sense of the immensity and impact of rapid change and the opportunities which it creates for a nation of people who have been suffering for centuries under imperial and ironfisted rule. But the money, as always, is not going to everyone. It is clear that the rich and powerful are becoming increasingly so, while the poor and underprivilaged are being exploited. Even though many are making money, there are still millions of young and able workers from the country sides making their way to the big cities in search of money. Most end up in labour work such as factories making goods which are shipped overseas. Besides the poor, the other thing which was clear to me was that the environment is declining without notice as the persuit of wealth is blinding everyone. The impact of this factories and machines is evident in the constant haze of pollution in many of the cities. I can remember many a days when I would blow my noise and the tissue was littered with black dust and stuff. I could rambling on forever, so I better stop and let the pictures tell the story.
Beijing. The city is under a facelift for the Olympics in 2008. Streets are cleaned daily by an army of workers using brooms made from bamboo and branchs with leaves . I thought this was very nice considering everything else is modernising so rapidly. Cant beat the efficiently of natural products Anyways, the streets here are WIDE, which was surprising and people drive on the right side like america. There are official policemen?? or some big brother man standing guard everywhere to keep people in check. To stop people from jaywalking, causing traffic jams, making trouble.etc.. As you might know spitting is a popular national pasttime here. Its simply amazing the different noises and end product you get from everyone. The government is at least trying to stop people from doing so by placing signs everywhere. But this doesn:t stop most from doing it every few minutes! I know in Shanghai they unsuccessfully tried to put spit bowls ontop of bins so people could spit there instead..everyone just thought it was for cigarette butts... which reminds me..smoking..its beyond control here...Almost all the men, especially young and middle aged here smokes. I think the government must be encouraging them because they must be making billions from taxes! Considering prices start from 20 cents to a little over 1 dollar australian for a packet of local brand smokes, eveyone can afford it.
street markets. There are still heaps of people looking for bargains here.
While the new rich are shopping in department stores and chain store supermarkets, the poorer are continuing the tradation of shopping in street markets for fresh local produce and goods.
Tiannamen Square gates which leads into the forbidden city (where the emperor of the last dynasty lived? The square is the scene of the student led protests in humm..1989?? which saw the chinese government order killings and tanks to drive over its people. Anwyays, you can see chairman Mao in the centre. He:s even got a mausoleum with his dead body on display for everyone to worship. Considering he was probably one of the worst dictators ever, killing over 70 millions of his own people (when the country wasnt even in war with another country) i dont: think his picture should be there. How about bruce lee? hes a national hero...but of hong kong. Anyways, Maos face is on the paper currency and everyone thinks hes great because he told them he was. which reminds me, in HOng Kong i tried to change some money i had left over from china, and they said no....because some of it was FAKE..!!! dodgey!
Great Wall of China. During off peak (which is winter when we travelled), there are over 3000 visitiors to the wall a day. During peak summer season..there are over 30,000 a day!! The section of the wall we climbed seemed to be restored as it was too nice considering the tramping it is getting every day. But viewing the mountains surrounding the wall, its amazing to think what the emperor of the first dynasty thought when he decided to build this wall...i can:t remember how long it is but its long.
beijing duck (top right). the most famous dish here. You put the duck and other things inside the wrap and dip it in a thick plum? sauce.. delicious.
Food in China was very good. Most of food areas in the bigger department stores and better restaurants were clean and cheap. But you can't be too careful in China..I read in the paper that some dodegy company made fake spirits by mixing them with DDT (that pesticide chemical) and selling them off as real. So even if it looks real..you can never be sure. I:m certain worst things have happened but no one knows.
Pagoda at the Heavenly Temple i think. It was cold in Beijing. brrr
summer palace of the emperors
the jade factory. the sales trick they use is "free try. if we can:t take it out, then its yours for free".... the problem is they don:t tell you how hard they try to pull it out...you should see some of the poor faces of the foriegn ladies who seemed to be under some kind of chinese torture hehehe
lightweight travelling. Changed bag to a waterproof daypack. Its so good since we move so often. Its got my laptop, camera, sleeping bag, and all the winter gear.
kids playing around.
from beijing, we took a 5 hour train ride to Taiyuan. Its half way between beijing and xian (where the terra cotta warriors are). Thats me of course eating a lunch box meal. I think it cost 10 yuan which is about $1.50 aussie. And my hair is getter very ferral.
There isn:t much of an urban spraw in China as there is in australia. From the land of highrise in beijing, it suddenly changes to rural/industrial.
veggies grown inside the greenhouses as well. I suspect most of the rice is grown further south as its not so good climate up north for rice growing. can you also image the amount of rice you need to grow to feed 1.4 million people who eat rice almost 3 times a day!?
food vendors at the train platforms selling hot steam buns and other goodies. Trains in China is a very cheap and efficient form of transport for long distance travel. There are many classes of seats and beds to cater for your budget. Most of the soft seats and soft beds are for tourists and richer folks..the hard seats and hard beds (two tripple bunks in each carriage) are much cheaper and is recommended by me as it will provide you with a much more interesting view of chinese life VERY close up.
inside of the super deluxe carriages.
one of the temple gardens outside of Taiyuan. Taiyuan is a busy industrial city. And its very dirty and polluted especially as you travel a little outside of the downtown area. There are huge coal mines and power stations here. Anyways, the lady in the background is selling maps of the gardens for 1 yuan each..which is about 15 aussie cents. Considering there was hardly any tourists or locals there..I would figure she would be lucky to sell even a few a day. Comparing this to the folks in the city who sell coffee at starbucks for over 30 yuan a cup, someones making a lot of money.
As we caught the bus to the temple gardens we witnessed a number of accidents. Once we passed a big coal truck which crashed and was tipped on its side in the middle of the road. The driver i guess was shovelling the coal off the road and everyone just drove past as if it was a daily happening. People also smoke on buses even if theres NO SMOKING signs. On this bus, we were sitting at the back next to two young couples.. The girl was talking to the guy and suddenly she starts to build up a phlegming noise, opens her knees, and spits on the floor. She then continues her conversation as if nothing happened. You should see the look on muriens eyes! haha. mine looked just as shocked.
some random guys sitting on the streets
From Taiyuan we headed to the PingYao. Only two hours bus ride. It was one of the most beautiful country towns in China as it has been preserved with the original architecture and people living there have been there for generations. And it was COLD there too!
The ancient city is still surround by a wall which takes over 2 hours to walk around. Outside of the walls are signs of changes but at least the inside is kept as it was.
old man on top of the wall still carrying water by traditional method.
The youth hostel was inside the ancient city walls and was so cozy. We ended up staying for 6 days i think just to relax and do nothing!
All houses and the Hostel was tradition houses. So nice and different from others we have been to. oh..did i mention DVDs here in china are cheap..it cost about AU$1 each. And the Youth hostels here range from about AU$5-10 a dorm room and $20 a double.
another PingYao shot.
The streets are full of tradition crafts such as paper cutting and textiles and lacquered wooden jewellery boxes.
I read somewhere that there is about 1 bike for each person in china. So i expected the streets to be full of bikes...but in most big cities and even country towns, the number of bikes was not that many. Cars and trucks seem to dominate. A sign of changing times i guess.
Solar panels. I did notice that there were quite a few houses/buildings with solar panels. There must be at least a push for these by the government as I doubt many could afford it here privately. I think BHP in NSWs produces a large number of solar panels which are exported to china. I didn:t see any wind turbines though. Hydro is big as well with the 3 gorges dam project. And nuclear is being used. But most of the power generated would be from dirty coal. Most houses and many shops i see also use coal for heating and cooking.
tragedy. Its a poor dog. As we were walking along the street we saw him trying to hump another female dog. He seemed like he was having a good time but as he inched back a step at a time, he fell into the hole!!
We thought about trying to save him out. But we told the shop owner next to the hole a dog fell in, he didn:t seem at all concerned and said it was ok and he:ll save him later. As we left the shop, i noticed the chinese characters..."dog meat restaurant"....ARrrrrrrrrrrrr....
in the middle, dog meat stewed in earth cooking pot.
why was that dish translated into english? a foreigner has ordered it before?! i hope not..maybe by accident when there wasn:t english translations so they decided to translate it so they will know what they are ordering next time.. i remember seeing cat as well.
this is what happens if you get busted buying illegal DVDs. Btw, I walking into this DVD shop at some underground subway tunnel and was just browsing the stuff. Suddenly the staff there asked if i wanted new dvd movies in a low whisper... why not i thought..and she leads me to the back where she suddenly swings open a shelf full of dvds. Its a secret door shelf which lead to a back room full of DODGEY dvds! from tv series to latest movies..all for about AU$1 each!
From Pingyao we headed further west to Xian. This is the big pagoda.
Terra Cotta warriors. Descovered by a farmer in 1971? while digging for a well. Its quite impressive. But considering this army of warriors was only the protection surrounding the tomb of the emperor, you could just imagine what is inside the actual emperors tomb. They know where it is but have decided not to open it.
There is a big muslim quarter in Xian for some reason. Anyways, heres a local delicacy, its some kind of dessert. quite nice.
another street stall. Fried meat vegie patty thing in thin crispy wrap.
not sure if its clear but the kid is wearing pants which has a big gap in the ass region. Even in cold weather, all kids are wearing this type of pants and are exposed to the freezing cold. i never figured exactly why but had an idea. Until one day in shanghai station, when a kid suddently sat down and had a piss in the middle of the ticket queue. No one even looked half interested/shocked except us. So next time you think you stepped on a puddle you suspect is from a leaking roof, think again...
aahh..getting sleepy..just have to post these pics with less comments..
this one is at shaolin temple..home of the famous kung fu monks.
fung ku murien. you should see her with num chuckers!
using chi qong power to focus on throat and bend spears...
monks training by using fingers and punching tree.. these are the holes left from their hard training apparenlty.
longman caves... i think this is the most interesting sites in china. better than the great wall and terra cotta warriors. not many tourists come here though which is a shame.
basically they are carvings of buddas and statues and writings into caves along the river. On the other side are also more carvings and some temples.
some chinese carp i think.
city of nanjing. quite a nice city actually. Lots of markets and cheap goodies.
shanghai. Nice view from jingmao tower..which is the tallest in china.
Shanghai is probably the biggest and busiest city in China. Its the financial capital and definelty feels different from other places in China. There are heaps of shopping streets and big buildings but I found it quite boring, just like any other big city.
Inside JingMao tower.
night life is buzzing though. oh, and this is where murien was pickpocketed. she felt something in her jacket pocket and looked around.. and busted this young girl who looked so guilty. But we keep all our stuff inside the jackets so it was ok.
humm..macdonalds and KFC are also EVERYWHERE in china. So is starbucks and other franchises..
old shanghai streets.
new shanghai streets made to look old style for tourists shopping
the new generation. young, and have more money to spend on clothes, mobile phones, and shopping. Interestingly some local students told me that most students and workers get only about 30 yuan which is about AU$5 for a days work...even though people are getting paid more and becoming richer, there is always going to be people willing to work for less.
on the same street.
well, from China we headed south to Hong Kong and Macau. But thats for another update. i:m zzzzzzzzzzz..
China as you can see is an interesting place to visit. The country is changing very rapidly, especially for the upcoming Olympics as they want to project a very good image for the world to see. But for me, the picture you see is of a country adopting a new life which does not suit everyone. It seems that the government is changing the cities and lifestyles too quickly, and the people are trying to grow into something they are not. But with time things will change as they are changing now.
The government is strongly pushing nationalism and people are becoming more patriotic. The people are having an unprecedented amount of freedom now compared to any other time in the past. Yet you would expect there to be more concern about the government and its continued dictatorial rule over the country and its people. But this isn:t the case as the rich are too busy making money and dont want to cause trouble while the poor are too busy trying to survive and cannot cause any trouble. So for now, its full steam ahead with economic growth while social, political, and environmental concerns are out the window. For me, Chinas future is uncertain and once development becomes stagnant, many of the underlying problems currently being overlooked because of the strong growth will become evident.
till next time, have fun at work.
p.s. i:m undecided whether to just swim and relax at the beach tomorrow or rent a scooter and ride around the island decisions decisions...