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September 30, 2005

Postcards from China

11 days is not long to get a good picture of a country but in the traditional style, here are my thoughts anyway...

"Toilets" - silly me getting all shocked about Japan's toilets. My favourite toilet experience so far has to be in Xi'an's train station - the cubicles were waist height with no doors for all to see, and the toilets of the squat variety. I am sure they will get worse in Thailand.

"The Great Firewall of China" - we were fairly worried when coming to China that we wouldn't be able to access our website and I was also quite curious to find out the extent of the said Great Firewall. From an initial poke around the internet it looked like it was just the BBC news website (and Nige's website possibly) that's blocked with no other British newspaper sites having the same restrictions. However on further research it is actually much worse. The English TV station CCTV9 (which is government run/controlled) have just casually announced that the government have introduced new laws to help regulate "misleading" news websites, internet gambling and pr0n by stopping the use of group sms messages from websites and also message boards. It seems to be aimed at bloggers (Blogger is already blocked); anyone wishing to host a website in China must first register with the government or face the concequences. Interestingly enough, I looked at this the other day (am no longer able to access it now) and the UK doesn't come too close to the top of the list.

"Spitting" - it is very common to hear Chinese men and women having a good loud spit. I do realise it's a culture thing but to the untuned western ear it's quite odd at first.

"Tunnel Vision TV" - Chinese TV is about promoting that everything is shiny and good about the country (well the English channel anyway). Everything seems to get a positive spin - e.g. A news report about a potential 100% rise in tax features interviews with people off the street only saying that they think that it's a great idea and infact they don't think that a 100% increase in tax is enough. Of course there will be people who don't think it is a good idea - where are they? Anyway, it reminds me of a certain teleco that used to send out group wide emails putting a positive spin on everything. Not that I'm bitter or anything :)

"2008 Olympics" - You can't miss the fact that China will be hosting the Olympics in 2008, there are signs of it everywhere.

"Tracksuit School Uniforms" - Was trying to work out why all kids wore matching tracksuits but then we worked out that it was the school uniform. They look like big Olympic squads walking round.

"Streetside Activities" - It all happens by the side of the road - ballroom dancing lessons, tai chi; you can even get a hair cut.

"Crazy Roads" - A good time to remember the green cross code is in china. Don't bother with crossings, or anything traffic light related - the drivers often don't either so it is a life in your hands type activity.

"The people" - The Chinese language does at first sound very harsh (even coming from Japan) and first assumptions can be that the people aren't all that friendly. On the train back from Xi'an I realised it was quite different, a guy sitting opposite me offered me some (unknown) spirit and sandwiches & opened my beer for me, some other people talked to me (in Chinese) trying to work out where I was from and a nice lady sat and talked to me for ages (patiently, knowing very little English).

"Vast Wide Roads" - Am not sure if they have always been like this, I suspect not, but most of the roads in the parts of China we have been to are very wide to make way for all the traffic. We didn't find many small winding streets that you almost expect to see.

Posted by deb at September 30, 2005 10:30 AM


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