A Travellerspoint blog

December 2015

Christmas present hunt

My mom and dad transferred money to my Canadian account and told me to buy two specific things for myself for Christmas. One was a Lonely Planet for Brazil and the other was a Pandora bracelet bead from China.

I knew where the English bookstore was, but not the Pandora store. So, I googled it and hoped for the best. The book I found was a Rough Guide and I grudgingly bought it because it was newer than the Lonely Planet by a whole year. Task one, complete.

I met a cute Canadian family visiting from Saskatchewan and walked with them down to the subway where I pointed myself in the direction of my next target, Pandora.

The first Pandora store I had directions to was closed for renovations. Bah. I had to go back out to the west of the city to find the open one. It was in a mall called "Joy City", an awful place that was done up gaudily for Christmas with a blindingly sparkly merry go round from Swarovski and oversized Toy Story characters beckoning me inside. I found the bead my mom mentioned (which said "love" in Chinese) for about $60. Is that the right price? My god, it's insanity.

After that, I wandered around Bei Hai park, which was an imperial playground hundreds of years ago. It still is, because all of the higher ups in the communist party live there now, walled away from the proles.

It was interesting to walk by and see the soldiers marching and the high tech gates keeping everyone who doesn't own a black BMW out. I was surprised to suddenly feel a primal urge to go in there, as if it was the one forbidden fruit in the garden of eden. I guess it's only natural, and a useful recruitment tool for new officials to the party.

Joanne told me she'd be back at 2 p.m., but I looked at my watch wrong and thought it was almost time to meet her. I hurried over to the metro under the wrong impression, only to find I had an extra hour to kill when I got there, and looked at my watch again. I spent the time wandering around the picturesque lakes and watching the city staff set up a skating rink while perplexed ducks looked on.

I was getting pooped so I went to wait for Joanne at the metro again. I was early of course, so I got out my iPod and started dancing and singing with the pedicab drivers at the exit. When she came, we walked around the lake again, had some overpriced dumplings and went to meet Ranald.

We were early to meet him, so I got a crazy matcha smoothie and Ranald found us quite easily after he finished work. He brought us to an authentic Korean BBQ, where I felt like I was transported back two years in time for a while. It was pretty spot on. I treated everyone to dinner because I was still really happy about getting my visa.

After dinner we went upstairs to a soju bar where we got a kettle of lemon soju, just like back in the day, complete with anju peanuts. At one point, I yelled at some British wankers who brought their own horrible gangsta rap and played overtop of the bar's already terrible pop music They had their legs all over the table and were antagonizing the waitress to her face. I called them colonialist assholes and we switched tables. Joanne and I said goodbye to Ranald and went home soon after that.

At about 4 a.m., I woke up to pee and Shylo was calling me on Skype. I got a little excited telling her about how I found Alex shit talking me and claiming we would have sex to his nerdy, bitter friends on Reddit. I woke Jay and Joanne up in the process with this display of petty childishness. Oh goodness...

So, I sheepishly said sorry, and since it was morning anyway, I left to catch the train home. Of course I was super early and I waited around in a noodle shop for hours, only to find I was at the wrong station. Luckily there was still an hour before my departure time, and I made some fast subway moves to make it to the correct station, and went home.

I spent many hours having a pleasantly fluent conversation with an airport quarantine inspector who had just finished a three month English course in Beijing. Lucky me. He lived in Zhangjiajie, so I left him halfway through his long journey and made my way home.

Rush hour on the subway

Rush hour on the subway


Pandora is closed for renovations

Pandora is closed for renovations


Foreign language bookstore

Foreign language bookstore


Got my guide to Brazil

Got my guide to Brazil


Got my $60 bead

Got my $60 bead


Pandora is open at Joy City

Pandora is open at Joy City


Swarovski merry go round

Swarovski merry go round


Joy City mall

Joy City mall


Bei Hai park

Bei Hai park


Lots of little duck boats hmmmm provocative?

Lots of little duck boats hmmmm provocative?


Making the skating rink

Making the skating rink


Ski bikes?

Ski bikes?


Ducks

Ducks


Ducks

Ducks


Korean!

Korean!

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Picked up my Brazilian visa!

I arrived in Beijing at 5 a.m. as usual, but my host's girlfriend Joanne wasn't going to meet me until 10. I ended up spending most of the week with her, not Jay, her boyfriend, and the one who actually offered his place to me in the first place.

So, I killed some time by walking to the Temple of Heaven park. Some people say this place is the other symbol of China, after the Great Wall of course.

As I was walking, I got a text from Joanne with directions to her place. It was quite far away, so I left immediately. She met me at the subway station and we took a bus to her house, way out in the suburbs. We started talking about boys and she told me she was breaking up with Jay. That explained the switch in hosts. We prattled on all morning as she made lunch for me.

I was super anxious about going to the embassy to pick up my visa from the Brazilian embassy, so I left quickly after we were done. There had been a terror alert for that area in the days around Christmas, so I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Of course, when I got there, my visa was ready and there was nothing at all to worry about on the terrorist front, or on the immigration front. I was extremely happy that my mission was finally accomplished and I was free to go to South America!

I got myself a Dairy Queen blizzard with durian cheesecake to celebrate. Joanne was working nearby, so I wandered around the mall until she was finished. I got my eyebrows done and met Jay at McDonald's. Joanne soon followed.

We had dinner at Sizzler, a real American import, which had a real salad bar. I ate so much salad I couldn't even start to eat my burger. Oh well, it ended up being my lunch on the train home. Ha. I don't usually enjoy these chain restaurants but it was a welcome change from the norm.

The service was also astounding. After getting our meal, I mumbled "No ketchup?" and two seconds later it appeared! I don't know how the waitress did that, but it was quite the feat. Nobody else had ketchup, so she must've heard me say that, like a little condiment angel.

After dinner we just went home and I went straight to bed, exhausted and exhilarated about my future life in Brazil!

Pre-train mussels

Pre-train mussels


Temple of Heaven park

Temple of Heaven park


Temple of Heaven park

Temple of Heaven park


Got my visa without getting blown up!

Got my visa without getting blown up!


The durian cheesecake blizzard

The durian cheesecake blizzard

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Also known as Xiangyang

I met a nice lady on the train back home from Beijing one afternoon and she invited me to her house for a weekend.

After a few unsuccessful plans, finally this weekend worked out and I went to Xiangyang in Hubei province. It's about eight hours away from Jiaozuo, and I arrived disoriented at about 3 a.m. Aurora and her husband Jack picked me up and I passed out in their guest bedroom.

In the morning, Aurora had to give some exams, so they dropped me off at Zhuge Liang's house nearby. I had visited his home in Nanyang before, I think, but I might be wrong.

He was a hermit and a political strategist that helped his emperor win a bunch of wars. He also invented those floating paper lanterns that people still send into the sky.

I was super tired, and none of the signs made any sense to me, so I just climbed up to the highest point of the hill. It was quite smoggy, so the view wasn't so great, but it was peaceful nonetheless.

I went back down and found Aurora at her school, I was a little early, so I took a little nap with the security guards at the gate while I waited for her.

When we went back, we had some noodles and I slept for four hours.

She woke me up with some fresh squeezed carrot/orange juice and then we went out for more Hubei food, including okra, but I'm not sure that's local. Delicious, just not local.

After dinner, we flew one of those paper lanterns and walked around old town. More like we rolled around, we were so full from dinner.

The next day, I was so lazy. Jack and Aurora went to work again, and Aurora came back home at about 11. We started making more fresh juice but Aurora cut her finger quite badly. So, we went to the hospital to make sure she didn't need any stitches. Jack came from work to pick us up. Then, he made some mutton soup and vegetable curry which we enjoyed.

We all took another little nap and then went to Aurora's yoga class at the Crowne Plaza hotel across the square from their house. I had a wondrous shower and sat in the sauna for a while. Jack met us for dinner at the adjoining mall, we didn't even have to go outside!

Earlier, I had asked about this cold soup I had in Jiangxi province in the summer, because I couldn't find it anywhere. Jack tried to order it for me, but it was actually ice cream or "pat bing su" if you know it in Korea... ice milk with fruit on top... not the cold soup I had before. I dunno if I'll ever find it again, such is life in China. If you find something good to eat, you probably won't ever find it again. I have come to accept this as my fate.

Jack went back to work and we walked back home. On the way home, Aurora realized she didn't have the keys, so we waited for Jack to bring them to us. Then we watched Intolerable Cruelty on the Chinese Netflix with tea, and went to bed.

View of the surrounding hills

View of the surrounding hills


Me on top

Me on top


View of the surrounding hills

View of the surrounding hills


Longzhong

Longzhong


So ominous...

So ominous...


Longzhong

Longzhong


Longzhong

Longzhong


Longzhong

Longzhong


Old town

Old town

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)