26 April 2016

Cocks, cops and communists in China

Cockhead. I actually ate this thing and then learnt it was only included in the dish for decorative purposes. Lame.

I recently went to China for a writing residency. The time was split between Yangshuo and Guangzhou, both in the south-east of the country. Here are a few photos and observations from the trip.


Yangshuo is a super popular destination among the Chinese, many of whom come and float down the river on a bamboo raft, as seen in the picture below. Seeing so many local tourists made me realise that people working in the Chinese tourism industry have no urgent need to speak any language other than Chinese. So don't go to China expecting to find many (or any) English-speakers. Instead, prepare yourself for pictorial menus and people using calculators to negotiate prices.

Chopstick sanitiser. Because chopsticks take ages to wash manually.


Buy an icy pop from a girl dressed in a Communist Party uniform. I call these delicious treats "Party Pops".


This was my hotel in Yangshuo during the WrICE writing residency. There was a restaurant next door that would kill a chicken before your eyes, if that's what you ordered. Fresh meat.


I got stopped a bunch of times on the street and asked for photos. Apparently this isn't uncommon in China, where many people have never seen a foreigner. The young people below went selfie-mad. I kept my hands to myself, worried that putting my hands around them would be a cultural faux pas; but within seconds they were all cheek-to-cheek with me and leaning on me, trying to get in on the shot.

One time, I photo-bombed an older couple who had stopped to take a selfie. They laughed and took a few pictures, and then the woman grabbed the tip of my nose between her thumb and forefinger. Afterwards, I asked a friend whether there was a cultural significance to her gesture.
He said, "Nah, I think it's just because you have a big nose."
"Yep, that would explain it," I said.
"I don't think it's a bad thing," my friend said. "I think long noses are good in China."
I'm a god here.


Here's how this cop rolls. Don't laugh... he has a gun in that bike basket.


The boss lady of the Medicine Market. She was joking around and laughing seconds before I took this photo. Then she bit the head off a live eel and used its body as a belt.


Mao money. He's on most of the paper money in China, except the crappy low-denomination banknotes that no one uses. Notice how he looks remarkably like the lady in the picture above? Draw your own conclusions about that.


 Spices. I have no idea what they are. Please feel free to enlighten me.


Balloons are no longer allowed in the Guangzhou metro following an incident in 1993 when a young girl lost her grip on a helium balloon in an underground station. The balloon hit some electrical wiring and, because of the helium, caused a massive explosion. No shit. Here's a video of it.


Look at this beautiful cherry blossom among the mountains of Yangshou!
Don't get too excited. These are the Eternal Gardens – "eternal" because the cherry blossom and the lake are artificial. It also has a beautiful patch of blossoming fake sunflowers. I suspect the mountains are also fake. The sky too.


A happy guy in the spice market, weighing weed, or whatever. Probably weed.
 

Dried seahorses. I can hear a young child crying as I write this.


Not quite all the tea in China.
Over there, packets of tea also double as frisbees.


The pollution of Guangzhou. Before I left Australia, people from Guangzhou warned me about the pollution and advised me to wear a pollution mask. So in preparation, I bought a military-grade pollution mask online. But when I got to China, no one was wearing a mask – I've seen more people wearing masks in Melbourne, the garden city. So I didn't wear a mask in Guangzhou either.
Oh, by the way, I now have purple skin.


"Born from an egg on a mountain top, the punkiest monkey that ever popped. He knew every magic trick under the sun to tease the gods and everyone and have some fun"... such as sneaking in a cheeking cigarette while on the job.
Don't know what I'm talking about? Familiarise yourself with the late-70s Japanese appropriation of the ancient Chinese legend of Monkey.


This dodgy-looking dude was not happy when I took his picture. He marched up to me, grabbed the scruff of my shirt and lifted me three inches off the ground, and I pathetically pleaded with him and told him how handsome he is. He let me go, smoothed out my clothes and added me as a contact on WeChat. His username is SoftHairBunny888 and he immediately sent me a GIF of a cat taking a poop. He turned out to be a really nice guy.


DIY electrical wiring in China. Notice the absence shoe tossing.


This woman is trying to contact SoftHairBunny888 on WeChat. She also likes cats.


Where else would you buy your shoes?


While this kid was watching porn on his smartphone, I filled my backpack with dried mushrooms that I stole from his shop. Just kidding... porn websites are blocked in China. Try to guess how I know this.


Shamian Island in Guangzhou. You can always somehow identify the colonial, Western influence in foreign countries. Shamian was a strategic point for city defense during the Opium Wars, when Britain was bullying its trade into China. Rule Britannia! "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves", but they also never hesitated from enslaving others... with opium in this case.


Visit the jade market in Guangzhou for intricate designs carved from the ornamental rock. I pointed at one incredibly detailed piece and asked the shopkeeper how long it took.
"One week," she said.
I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping she'd say it took the entire lifetime of an 97-year-old carving master, whose body is now deformed and troll-like after completing the piece.
But one week? Pfft.


A cool-looking apartment building. One of the residents is a guy named Wu who lives there with his eleven cats. He is a Grandmaster in chess but struggles with the Beginner level of Minesweeper.


8 comments:

  1. Thanks for taking us with you on this trip, Ara.

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    1. No worries. Thank YOU, Margaret, for joining me. :)

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  2. Gold! So funny. Thanks for distracting me with pictures of explosions when I'm supposed to be writing :-)

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    1. Thanks Leigh! And CONGRATULATIONS on the book! That's so amazing. Yay!! (Oh, and sorry about distracting you.) :P

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  3. Makes me want to go there!

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  4. very interesting post about china. it is looking so beautiful and you explore china very well.
    Golden Triangle Tour 5 Days

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  5. Haha you're a crack up, Ara. Love it. OMG I watched that explosion 10 times ... going back for more.

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