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 10:30 AM | Comments (2)


i like a good smorking once in a while

Posted by robl at 05:04 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2005

If I could walk 500 miles

Actually we walked more like 10km but if felt a bit like what I imagined 500 miles to feel like. So many steps and steep climbs but we thoroughly enjoyed our walk from Jinshanling to Simatai apart from a minor hiccup but I will get to that in a minute. Most people go to Badaling which is the restored section of the wall + very busy so we opted for the quiet, more rustic version.

[2 Great Wall galleries here and here]

Along the way we got chatting to a guy who seemed experienced in seeing China sites etc so we didn't bat an eyelid when he refused to pay a fee midway through the treck as he said that it was a con and he'd experienced this kind of trouble in China before. The guy stood his ground and nearly ended up getting thrown off the wall (quite a drop) and had a bit of a scrap with the fee collector guy. Still, we stood by the guy and also didn't pay our fee (the collector was far too busy to bother with us). So the ticket collector followed us all the way back to the bus and refused to let the whole bus leave until this guy paid. As you can imagine, this was a very angry bus of tourists. Once the guy reluctantly paid the fee (which incidentally should have been paid it turns out), further money was demanded of him for hitting the ticket collector, which he didn't do. Eventually they agreed to an apology from the guy and we were all able to leave. As both set of people were correct (and incorrect) in their different ways, Rob and I spent most of this time hiding in the back of the bus hoping not to be spotted by either the wall security or the guy.

Posted by deb at 07:13 AM | Comments (3)

Summer Lovin'

As if the Summer Palace wasn't enough to see, it also has huge gardens and a lake to the rear. We had a wicked time in our own electric powered 1 mile an hour boat exploring the lake. As it was quite relaxing, neither of us ended up in the lake which was a bit of a relief. Actually I can see why it is called the Summer Palace, its a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Beijing. Plus it's not being rennovated which made it all the more charming.

[2 Summer Palace galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2005


the great wall

Posted by robl at 01:06 AM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Ming the Merciless

You'll notice Rob smile with glee as he rides round on his pink bicycle around the walls of Xian. A mixed bag of a weekend in Xian, the highlight being the Terracotta Warriors, the lowlight being the lack of decent cycling and a laclustre guide. Still, Rob enjoyed his bike even though it was raining. The sleeper train was actually quite good fun (even though not much sleep was had) and we met lots of nice people on the tour.

We do a 10km hike along the Great Wall tomorrow as long as the typhoon doesn't stop us :)

[2 Xian galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 11:35 AM | Comments (1)

Ni hao

Ni hao is hello in Chinese by the way. From Beijing we bring you a glimpse of Tianamen Square (currently being decorated with flowers for the Olympics 2008 - a little early perhaps), the Forbidden City (also being heavily rennovated for the same purpose) and around and about in Beijing (yes being rennovated too). Beijing is very much on the rebuild in general for the Olympics and it is happening on a large scale everywhere you look. We are yet to find what we assumed China to be, but I suspect it is hidden in the depths of the Hutongs which we are yet to see. Still, travelling is a learning process and if you see what you expect to see then where is the (Rob and Debs big) adventure in that? Actually, I lie, there are as many, if not more bikes than I imagined. The Forbidden City and Tianamen Square were both very spectacular to see and did give us an excellent glimpse into old China.

[2 Beijing galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)


suzhou street at the summer palace

Posted by robl at 04:04 AM | Comments (0)


marble boat at the summer palace

Posted by robl at 03:31 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005


the terracotta warriors

Posted by robl at 05:24 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2005


rob and his pink bike

Posted by robl at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)


can anybody spot the mathematical property of this double six square ?

Posted by robl at 03:05 AM | Comments (5)

September 23, 2005


deb on the top of 3 bunks on the sleeper train

Posted by robl at 07:04 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

On Yer Bike!

We've just booked ourselves on a trip to go and see the ancient city of Xi'an... by bike! Actually the only cycling bit is on the old city wall, but we get to see the Army of Terracotta Warriors and the Chinese Pyramids!

Posted by deb at 05:19 AM | Comments (2)


big lion - rawr !

Posted by robl at 01:29 AM | Comments (0)


entrance to the forbidden city

Posted by robl at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005

10 day takeover

It's not long now until we reach Thailand where our internet connectivity gets better but until then we're stealing ideas left right and centre to get content on the site. The idea is - you get to let us know what you've been up to while we've been away. If you have a fancy MMS enabled phone then add to your contacts and send us an MMS with a picture and a descriptive subject (to !). It will then get posted to the takeover page (it's also linked off the main page side bar). I've posted a picture from Tiananmen Square to get you all started.

Then, if you do anything interesting over the next few days send us an MMS so we can see what you are all up to - easy really :)

In other news we have updated our itinary page so it provides a more accurate picture of where we are going - you'll notice a few new destinations ...

Posted by robl at 07:06 AM | Comments (6)

September 20, 2005


1 quid for noodles !

Posted by robl at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)


hello china

Posted by robl at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)