Asia | China | Beijing – Going back to my Chinese ROOTS
So I smacked Beijing last Friday after a fairly uneventful journey by train. Actually that’s not entirely true. At the Mongolian border with China the police/customs woman took away my passport for a while, probably to check and see whether I was on the terrorist list. In the meantime I spent a while kacking it before being handing it back. Even wierder is that we spent a day and a half on the train and it actually felt like a short journey. After doing a number of similar stints, it seems that a day and a half on the train isn’t long enough to kick back, relax, and get into the train ride…
But we hit Beijing, and this place is fucking buzzing, man. It’s a serious backpacker hangout, which was the first unexpected ting. Everbody just spends every fucking night going out on the rampage, and heading back home somewhere between 4 and 7am, only to wake up late the next day, spend a long, hungover time getting their shit together to rush to a place they’re supposed to see, see it for an hour before it closes, then heading back to the hostel to grab some tucker before heading out again for the evening on the rampage, heading home somewhere between 4 and… and you get my gist. That’s probably why I’ve been here 8 fucking days now.
But, wow, what an 8 days. After my 2 years in Taiwan, I missed Chinese food, Chinese people, the Chinese way, etfuckingcetera, but I never realised just how much. My Chinese is coming back big-style after spending nearly five years on the shelf not getting used and growing old and rusty (and fairly wrinkly). But I’ve been making an effort to use it, and to learn more, and it’s doing well, you’ll be glad to hear. I’ve also rediscovered the food in a serious way. Ended up down a night market the other night (you remember what those were like, Jayjay and Reeeeech), picture it. A huge, bustling marketplace of only food stalls. I spent a rogerload of money eating the usual (fried dumplings, steamed dumplings, fruit sticks, fried banana, battered yams, smelly tofu) and the slightly more fucking weird (barbecued minicrabs in a spicy sauce, battered crickets on a stick (actually rather fucking nice, you eat the whole thing from it’s daftlooking insecthead to it’s cute little ass), starfish (peel off the outer layer and eat the small amounts of meat in the centre), chicken feet (chewybacca)). And tonight, a few of us ar heading out for a spicy hotpot, which is a big pot in the middle of the table where you order lots of different meats and veg, dunk em in the pot to cook, then eat them, and finish off with the soup that’s rich with the juices of the food that’s just been cooked in it). My favourite food when I lived in Taipers. Shweet. Like. Chocolate.
I tell you what as well, the Great Wall really is fucking great. 5000 kilometres long, and absolutely stunning. Spent yesterday walking along one of the untouristy, unrenovated stretches, and every inch of it you get fucking astounding views of mountains, rivers, the wall hugging the mountains for miles and miles ahead of you. And then you reach one of the towers where you can climb up and just cream your pants at the views. Picture it, I’ve got Pink Floyd, Meddle (“One of these days I’m going to cut you into LITTLE PIECES”) blasting on the CDman as I stand on a fortress hundreds and hundreds of yeas old where Chinese soldiers used to keep a lookout, looking at beautiful mountain peaks, with a bloodred sun going down in front of me, and apart from the five of us doing the walk, not a fucking soul in sight…. awesome. If we can sort some sleeping bags out we’re thinking of maybe camping out there for a few days (yeah, course you will, Omar).
I’ve finally caught up on some exercise as well. I’ve been renting a bike almost daily to cycle round checking out Beijing. And apart from the walking, I found a park near the centre where they’ve got five or six table tennis tables outdoors and where lodas of people congregate to have a game. I’ve been down there a few times and every fucking person there wants to give me a game (I got beaten 4-0 the other day by a 65 year old Chinese lady (I THINK they were her real legs) but, hey, fucking friendly people, despit the fact that they do have a genuinely serious problem with the Taiwanese and that even one of the temples here seems dedicated to proving that Tibet of the PRC).
But, yeah, really outrageously friendly people. You can enter a five star hotel looking like an unshaven, unkempt, ROUGH piece of shit, and they still smile and treat you with some serious respect. And they have some of the greatest signs and Chinglish statements in the world. I was well looking forward to this even before getting here, after the Lonely Planet had me crying laughing with a sign they quoted from one of the hotels:
Safety Needing Attention!
Be care of depending fire
Sweep away six injurious insect
Pay attention to civilisation
Genius. So I started writing some down that I saw. First day in, trying to change money: Careful hit head (missing an ‘S’, but still great).
– No burning (no smoking)
– Due to low water pressure this toilet cannot flush solid please use for urine only
– Help protect the railings
– Use this making your hair with brilliant (back of hair oil)
– non-potable water (who?)
– This door is bad
Or my favourite, on some shampoo:
Peeis, using the advanced prescription, with full nature protein and condition, moistens your hair with full nourishment, repairs your damaged hair. It can open the surface of your hair without heating (ouch), seep into the root of your hair (is this a good thing?), which you are easy to carding (ahhh, now it makes sense). you do not need to the beauty shop, instead, you can make your hair within one minute only at home (that’s no good, I’m staying at a hostel), simply, easily, conveniently. you will have hair in black, softly, shiny, lithe (good word, my friend) and springy (I was always into trampolining) after use.
Hit the Beijing opera as well the other day, and that was an experience. Weird as fuck, and not an opera. Enough said. I cannae describe the fucker at fucking all. And aside from other cultural sites and a surreal experience of smoking a hubblybubbly in Beijing with a Chinese waiter serving me the coals wearing Arabic dress, been drinking a load of money (money?), alcohol. And that’s been a laugh. Tell you what though, man, prostitution is RIFE in this place. Prime example is, yesterday night walking to the bar area one guy says to me (extremely loudly and openly) “Good massage?”. And further down, another offers “You want lady?”. Every fucking bar and disco has a load of them. To the extent that it’s impossible to tell if any of the Chinese women there aren’t hos. And a lot of the guys here have taken one home. One guy had this one woman suck him off one night, and the next night his travelling mate took the same woman home to fuck. Everyone’s been offered it. And what’s weird is, the men don’t seem to mind (yeah, that’s not weird), but the western women don’t seem to have too much problem with it either. I don’t know, but if this was England, most women I know would be going ballistic over the whole thang. Before you ask, no, I havenae gone there. Actually, I’ve hooked up with the Dutch girl I was hanging around, and am travelling with her for a little while before making it to Shanghai for New Year’s, where some guys have invited me to partake in their extravanganza of hiring a five star room in a hotel and livin’ it op, mahhhhhn.
So, yeah, I’m making a move out of Beijing the morrow neet, after spending a fair chunk of cash, and after my session at the bridge club tomorrow afternoon which I’m well-excited about. Not sure where to yet, but we’re just thinking of going to the train station and getting a train somewhere. But I’ve got a telephone number of a guy who does agency teaching work. So I may be back… this place rocks.