Saturday, July 30, 2011

Losing shit

Okay so here's a list of shit I've lost since the start of the year (that I didn't want to lose):
- Two USB flash drives
- One working laptop
- Short spans of memory due to alcohol
- Large spans of time due to gaming
- Money, due to various shit that didn't actually result in any real benefit to me.
- Safety glasses, one pair
- Cold sore cream, one tube
- Sunglasses, one pair
- Eyesight in left eye, temporary
- Motivation to complete tertiary studies, repeatedly
- Free time, all of it, due to motherfucking everything

And here's the list of shit I wanted to lose but haven't actually lost yet:
- Virginity

Fuckin' A.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


So as you may or may not have known, I was recently back in the Motherland for two weeks :D And it was pretty fucking awesome! I think, compared to when I went back last year, the changes in the country are far more noticeable. Or maybe I've been paying more attention, but it's breathtaking the scale of China's economic and social development. It just so happened that the week before we arrived it was the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, and the very mentality that Chinese Communism has always had is changing in a very grassroots manner. Ordinary people can openly state that Mao made a mistake in initiating the Cultural Revolution, and that without the actions of moderate progressives such as Deng Xiaoping, the country would not be in its current state of ascendance. It's interesting to note how much importance is placed on economic wellbeing, both at a personal/family and at a country level. While these are often linked, especially for the increasingly large and young middle-class, there are still clear instances where the joys of market capitalism have not permeated through all layers of society.

I'll just bash through a quick day-by-day summary of events. Pictures will be up on Facebook! Just a quick note, the first six days were in Jiangnan (江南) tour group was 25 people, and the other seven days were in Yunnan (云南) tour group was 5 people. Rough guide to exchange rate, 1AUD:6.65RMB

Day One (09/07/2011) - Shanghai
Flew from Tullamarine International Airport at 10am or something, arrived in China at 6pm local (two hour time difference, ten hour flight). We flew China Eastern (东方航班), fucking NEVER fly China Eastern. Especially international. They have no entertainment system except for some flipdown screens from the ceiling that don't play movies half the time, and when they do the sound doesn't work, and sometimes the movies will cut off halfway for no apparent reason. Food was alright, staff are good. Ten hours of just sitting there is pretty shit though.
Got to Shanghai, picked up by the tour guide, went to hotel. Hotel Dijon in Shanghai, located basically in the Korean part of town. I didn't even know Shanghai had a Korean area. It's a couple of streets, with a mass of Korean restaurants and other stuff. Nothing was open by the time we got there, though, so we had dinner at some dingy alley place. I swear to God, as we were leaving this giant cockroach crawled out from under the fridge. *shudder*. Best thing was when we went into a supermarket, and they had fucking 5kg bags of kimchi. Laughed so hard.
And yeah, that was Day One. Fuckers still charged us a full day's worth of 小费 for it though.

Day Two (10/07/2011) - Shanghai->Wuxi
6:30am wakeup, 7am breakfast, 7:30am depart. Same schedule for every day in Jiangnan, for that matter. Anyway, went to the Shanghai Museum, they had some nice exhibits, especially the pottery and money ones. Otherwise, it was pretty dry stuff.
After that, went to this Chinese medicine place. As far as I could make out, we're all fucked, everything that's wrong with us is because of our kidneys, something something we need to buy medicine now now now. I don't think anyone that actually bought stuff there spent under 10,000 RMB (approx 1,500 AUD). Minimum. There was this old Hong Kong guy with us, he spent 20,000 RMB there. Those 'doctors' were really pushy, kept trying to make you buy their stuff, it was kinda...obscene, compared with how doctors are here in Australia. Didn't much care for it.
Lunch, then a three hour bus ride to Wuxi. First place we went to in Wuxi was this giant Buddha statue park thing. It was pretty massive, you could see it from kilometres away. And they had all these other things to go with it, like this revolving Buddha water show statue thing that was apparently covered in real gold dust and had to be recoated every couple of months.
Dinner was pretty mundane. We were seated with the old Hong Kong guy and his wife, and this pair of Buddhist sisters, one of whom was in the full kit (shaved head and monk robes and all), plus our family of three. So our table was kinda underfilled, and the two Buddhists meant always lots of meat left over.
Plus, at this point, didn't really know anyone else on the tour yet. Except that they were all from Sydney...seriously. All from Sydney. You'd think that with the thousands upon thousands of Asians in Melbourne, surely we couldn't be the only ones there. Well, apart from the Hong Kong guy, he lives in Melbourne too. But 5 out of 25? Let down....

Day Three (11/07/2011) - Wuxi->Nanjing
Same early wakeup and all that, first stop is at Taihu, which is this really famous lake. Walked around took some photos, then went to a place where they sell pearls. Was there for like hours. Hours. I think this is where the tour group started sorting out who was seriously looking to buy shit, and who was only passingly interested. Two that stood out was the old Hong Kong guy, and this short Vietnamese lady with her son, Ivan. Don't think anyone bought any pearls though, so then we went to this teapot museum/selling place. Almost as bad as the pearl place, except there was actually places to sit and tables and stuff. That's when this kid, Chris, who's like 14 or something, he pulls out a pack of cards and a Big 2 game starts. Fucking trust, man xD Typical Asians. That kid was a hell of a shuffler/dealer, though. I think somewhere along the tour the idea was suggested that he go work part time as a casino dealer when he gets a bit older...kid has talent. But yeah, I think that moment was a bit of a turning point, for me at least. From that moment on, whenever we got to a place to buy shit, us younger ones would find a corner and start a card game. At that teapot place, ended up with people who worked there coming to watch us play, trying to figure out the rules and how it was different to how they play (we go clockwise, they go counter-clockwise, shit like that).

Reckon here's a good place to list out the other similar-age people, to save the space later on:
Jason and Vanessa, siblings, latter in high school, former in university doing food science.
Queenie and Chris, siblings, latter in high school, former taking a gap year before uni
Ivan, law/eng at Macquarie
Cathy, vet science

The teapots were actually pretty cool, they float in water, they're watertight, they can withstand up to 200kg weight, you can leave tea to infuse in them for a week, stuff like that. Their recommendation was that you use one type of tealeaves with a particular teapot for a lifetime, so that there'd come a point where you could simply pour in hot water and the teapot would be able to produce tea without tealeaves.
Two hour trip to Nanjing or some other godforsaken amount, went to the tomb of Dr Sun Yat Sen. Weather was shit and the upper areas (where the tomb actually is) were closed off for renovations. That night, went to Fu Ze Miao or something in Nanjing, its like a tourist shopping area and stuff, and there's canals you can take boatrides on. Bought a couple of shirts...that was about it.
That night, bunch of us decided to meet up and go play cards at the hotel, since they had a dedicated chess and cards room or something. The place was really nicely decked out, mahjong table that flipped over to make a Chinese chess table, with cards and chips in lockers. We played for about half an hour, then one of the hotel attendants walked in and notified us that we'd have to pay for the room. Guy was pretty nice, offered to let us start counting the time from when he walked in, plus gave us a discount on the tea, so it came out to 50RMB for the room (for an hour), plus 50RMB for tea. Best 100RMB I've ever spent for cards, considering what happens later.
So eventually the six of us (Cathy didn't come, my sister didn't come) get bored of Big 2 and move on to something else. That something else being a variant of Baccarat that Ivan teaches to us, which basically involves swapping cards with other players to make the best possible hand of three cards. Punishments were given for lowest hand value, or for having a specific hand arrangement (three face cards meant everyone else got punished, once ace meant you got punished, two aces meant you get punished twice, three aces means everyone else gets punished twice). Punishment? Being forced to eat a juhua (菊花) flower. Fucking bitter shit. Enough of that stuff, and you want to throw up...and I kept getting two aces, trying to bet on the chance that there'd be three. Not that there ever was. Ever. Fucking. Ever.
An hour goes by, our time is up, so we shifty like half a packet of the juhua flowers and all go to Queenie/Chris's room, since they're the only one without parents in the same room. More Baccarat (no fucking clue what to call it), maybe use (read: eat) half the remaining flowers, then we start playing Spoons, or a variant where instead of grabbing an object from the middle, you touch your nose. Vanessa got caned in this...I think she lost four times in a row? She was so oblivious to everyone else xD
When we finished up, went back to my room at like 1am...and knocked for about two minutes, trying to wake up mum/sis so I could get in. Fucking taking the room key next time.

Day Four (12/07/2011) - Nanjing->Suzhou
Morning we went to the Lingering Gardens...yeah maybe cause I've been there like two times already and it never changes, but it was pretty boring. Then went to the bridge over the 长江, which is this pretty impressive feat of Chinese engineering. They initially did it to ease rail traffic over the river, which before then had involved loading the trains onto barges for a two-hour trip across, which reduced to 30-something seconds once the bridge was built.
In typical Chinese spirit, inside the place where the bridge was commemorated, there was also a guy who painted the inside of crystal balls. Not in some pansy method, he drilled a small hole into the centre of a hollow crystal ball, then used a hooked paintbrush to reversepaint pictures and words. Motherfucker had skill. Expensive as all fuck, though. 600RMB for a medium sized ball? And the guy was like, mildly autistic or something...really wasn't good at socialising with people, the people who worked there had to whisper into his ear and shit, and the guy never talked. Genius at work...
After we get back to hotel, Jason, Ivan and myself went out, with the intention of finding alcohol. Sure, a bar is nice, but alcohol. So we end up at a KTV place, considering as how it was the first place with definite alcohol that we saw. Kinda pricey, 680RMB for the room (no time limit, comes with 680RMB of alcohol), plus 200RMB for waitress/DJ and 100RMB for bellboy, so that's like nearly 1,000RMB (150 AUD). We got a bottle of Absolut Vodka, plus Sprite to mix it. Started talking about random shit...don't remember much else. Singing. Jason telling me to slow down. Not really singing but kind of singing. Eating cherry tomatoes. Something else. Being offered girls for 300RMB each. Threw up...and missed the bin. Bailed after that, walked back to hotel. Pissed against a tree. Sat around in lobby talking. Bribed a waiter 100RMB to give us tea at like 1am. Went back to room at 2am, drunksleep.

Day Five (13/07/2011) - Suzhou->Hangzhou
First place we went to was a silk factory/warehouse/outlet in Suzhou, they sold like blankets and pillows and clothes and all that nifty stuff. Produced their own silk, too, which was amazing to watch. Their machines look antiquated, but they do the job. I swear to God we spent three fucking hours at that place, though. Played cards for a really long while, while we waited. At one point, Queenie or someone is making motions for me to look to my right, and there's just this random Asian dude standing there watching my hand. Fucking random. Kinda cool how Chinese people are all so interested in how other people play cards, though. Walked around for a bit, looked at clothes. I think Ivan got drawn into the lingerie section. They had a fashion runway thing, which we watched twice. Second time a bunch of Frenchies were there, I think they enjoyed it. We happened to bump into another Aussie tour group there, though, who'd started up in Beijing and worked their way down south over the course of three weeks. Chatted for a bit, stood there feeling awkward, went and did something. Probably the most fucking boring shopping place, seriously, three hours and they were still arguing over blankets and stuff. And I didn't find out till later, but my mum bought two silkworm droppings (faeces/defecations/shit) pillows. I kid you not, fucking silkworm droppings. They'll pop up again later.
After we FINALLY bailed from there, went to lunch at this place where they also sold like paintings woven out of silk, which looked good from afar but shit up close. Anyway we played more cards there. C'mon, when you offer free chairs and tables for people to use, they're going to play cards.
Went to Hangzhou after that, don't remember anything happening that afternoon so it must not have been very good. Night was pretty ceebs too, but the hotel did have a computer in each room with free internet, so got in touch with the outside world for the first time in a while. 600 something junk emails, of which 500 or so were from Facebook. Nice. I don't think I've yet found what all those notifications were for, since Facebook deletes the goddamn things after a week.

Day Six (14/07/2011) - Hangzhou->Shanghai
In the morning we went on this boat ride of Xihu (West Lake) in Hangzhou, apparently its famous but it looked like a fucking lake to me. Something about murky water just isn't that appealing.
Left that, went to the tea area. That was awesome. Just tiers upon tiers of tea plants up entire mountainsides. What they sold there was Longjing tea, which is really well-known and therefore expensive. Coincidentally, they also sold juhua flowers, which in your mind by now no doubt have more uses than just tea. The thing with Longjing tea is that you also eat the leaves after you drink it...which is odd in Chinese tea, which often involves second and even third infusions of the tea leaves in order to get the full taste.
Fucking 5 hour trip back to Shanghai, and a boatride along the Huangpu river. Didn't really pay attention, sat on the first deck and played cards. Man, we sure did that shit a lot.

That night, 6 of us went karaoke (neither Chris nor my sister came)...and what happens in Shanghai stays in Shanghai. I will say that Vanessa, when she's drunk, is fucking hilarious. Also, karaoke in Shanghai is amazingly cheap, around 120RMB per hour for a large VIP room, and alcohol is about comparable, or even a bit cheaper, than from a bottleshop in Melbourne.

Anyway I can't be fucked writing more about Yunnan now, but the scenery there was amazing.


Uni starts soon. Hope you're all ready. Fucking, I'm sure not.