China

The music in China was not very good in my opinion, so in breaking with normal routine, here’s some awesome music from Australia instead.

This blog is incredibly late, but in a lot of ways, it took me this long to fully digest the things I had seen in China. China was actually the first country I’ve been to where I felt true culture shock at the environment I was in. There are so many things I can’t even come close to adequately describing; you simply have to see them in person to fully grasp them. Strangely though, I’m not sure how I feel about my time in China. I learned so much, and everything I see from Chinese-Americans completely makes sense to me now, but I’m not sure I would describe the trip as ‘fun’. The culture over there is so different that there are some total and completely cultural incompatibilities, and that makes it hard not to get bent out of shape sometimes with the situations you’re experiencing. Mainly this is because you realize there’s no escape, so you have to confront these incompatibilities head on, usually by behaving in ways you wouldn’t normally behave at home. I’ll come back to that in a second.

All of this said, however, I am finding a distinct lack of culture in the backpackers over here in Australia right now. When I was here 3 years ago, there were a lot of well traveled people wanting to experience Ozzie culture by working and living over here. What I’m experiencing now is a lot of 18-22 year olds whose only desire is to drink every day and every night of the week. Many people I met hadn’t even ventured into the downtown in Melbourne, they’d just been getting smashed at the beach for weeks, if not months. Also, there are so many more people here than there were last time, that I’m actually having a difficult time meeting any Australians at all! Every restaurant, every bar, every shop, *all* foreigners. It’s even difficult to find a room! This isn’t what I came for, though I eventually did get what I wanted out of the Ozzie culture here (I had to look deep), so on I go to South-East Asia. Would I ever permanently live in Australia? Maybe, everyone is a little too laid back here for me. I haven’t found a burning drive to care about everything and change the world in people over here, which I think is something that, to some extent, exists in a lot of Americans. That’s not to say I don’t love the Australians though, they genuinely care about strangers and their country, and are super polite.

Looking at traveling from what I’ve seen this time in Australia… in some ways I’d rather be in China again. Everyone always asks me my favorite traveling spots, and that’s hard to answer, because it depends on what you want out of it, but if you want a damaged liver, Australia is your best bet. (And that’s actually not a joke, I’ve met more than one person who told me they had to stay in the hospital for a week or two after returning from their last holiday because they had drank themselves into jaundice and hepatitis. Which is crazy.)

As for China, I won’t even really comment on my own feelings, but here’s some of the cultural shock I experienced over there:

1. Everyone spits, everywhere. I mean massive nasty mucus balls all over the floor coming out of 20 year old girls in dresses and little old gradmas. I was in a museum in Xi’an that had something like an open marble court, and were spitting all over the place… INSIDE, on marble. Slippery much?

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Those marks are smashed in mucus, layered on and caked up since the last rain.

2. People don’t believe in babysitting. They take even the youngest of kids, EVERYWHERE. So it’s not uncommon to see a parent walking around with what looks like a dead child in their arms. This is because the kids get pooped out, going at an adult pace all day, and fall deeply asleep, leaving the parents to cradle them around.

3. Related to #2 (figuratively and literally), Babies wear what I can only describe as ass-less sweatpants chaps. Imagine sweatpants, but with the cut of chaps. The babies aren’t wearing anything underneath, so their butts and genitals are free to wee and poo wherever they feel like it. Parents try to catch offending poo, but sometimes they’re a little late with the newspaper, meaning you need to look where you step on the sidewalk, bcause your next step may be right into baby poo.

I was on a subway when a woman next to me started to change her baby’s diaper *in the train*, and *on my leg*. I was so mortified that I stood up to get away, but there was a violent commotion behind me. About 5 people were trying to jam into the now empty seat at the same time. Apparently I was the only weirdo that found this situation revolting.

4. People don’t line up or move out of the way, EVER. Hypothetically speaking, if a bunch of Chinese were queued up and waiting for a bus to allow them to load, and another Chinese person walked up, they would look at the line and think “oh, those are poor people waiting the bus, but *I* have important things to do and I’m worth more than they are, so I’m walking straight up to the bus” and they would just walk right on. *Everyone* thinks this way over there, the net result being that no form of lines or queuing exists anywhere, and it’s a massive scrum of pushing and elbowing to get into, or *out-of* anything.

5. Related to #4, when the traffic signal tells you it’s time to walk as a pedestrian, you might die if you believe it. Cars and motorcycles will run straight over you if you get in the way of the turn lanes. Similarly to before, the thought is: “That person is on foot, and obviously poor, so my time is more valuable because I’m in a vehicle, so they should yield to me”. Only problem is: WHEN IS SOMEONE ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO CROSS THE STREET???. And not only that, but don’t people with cars still have to walk sometimes also?!

6. People care not a bit for history and nature. I went into a cave and people had broken off every single last stalactite they could touch. The cave was effectively ruined. Forever.

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Clearly people care.

7. People will come up to you and grab you, trying to get you to buy their wares or stuffs. While this doesn’t sound bad, it’s not funny when someone has a death grip on you. There were multiple times where I had to shove someone off of me (using martial arts techniques to get out of their grip) to finally get the point across that “no, I don’t want your crap. Stop trying or you’re going to get hurt”.

8. There is a lot of racism. Some of it, mainly against Japan and the US, is even state sponsored.

9. Toilets. While I loathe squat toilets, I did figure out how to use them comfortably. My issue is that they rarely come with toilet paper, and even more rarely are there facilities for soap and drying your hands. The annoyance of water with no drying causes a lot of people to just walk straight out of the bathroom after using the toilet… which makes you think about your food, and all those doors….

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Notice what’s (in)conveniently missing? Toilet paper! This was the only western toilet in an entire mega mall. Oh, and no soap or hand drying options outside.

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Wait… but doesn’t this mean that…. but what if…. ewwwwwwwwwww. One member in our group saw it happen at full capacity. Guy finished taking his poo, pulls up his pants (no wiping), and goes straight back to eating.

And the list goes on and on and on….

So point being, if you want culture, if you want history, if you want to see something truly different to the point of shock… go to China. If you want beaches and relaxation, head elsewhere. If you want a 24/7 party, go to Australia. I’ll post more on the Australia situation before I leave, but there ya have it. As for some more China:

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The Great Wall of China. Looks impressive, but after an hour of walking over the same thing with no change, the allure quickly wears off.

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An overgrown section of the wall. Only some parts have been reclaimed for walking on.

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My Trans-Siberian group causing trouble in Beijing. Out in the middle of a huge shopping area, they decided to make a pyramid. The result was everyone in the visible distance making a huge running scramble to get pictures of the white people doing weird things. It was quite a sight watching all the commotion evolve.

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Fun things to eat, some of which I can’t identify. And yes, those are scorpions, which by the way, are still alive on the skewers. They sit there and wiggle and make pinching motions while you decide which ones look tastiest.

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Tienanmen Square.

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On one side of Tienanmen, the senate building, you may very well have seen this on the news before. This is where the Communist Congress occurs.

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The Forbidden City, right across from Tienanmen Square. Before the Communist party took control, this was the seat of the imperial government. Even looking inside was a death penalty (hence the name), so no one actually knew what was in here until the Communists took over. Now, it’s the most important tourist site in China. The last photo is the side facing Tienanmen, which has the old Communist slogans reading ‘Long Live the People’s Republic of China’ and ‘Long Live the Unity of the Peoples of the World’. The second to last photo was taken from the top of the artificial hill created in the back of the city, made from the hollowed dirt from creating the city moat, and you can see the senate building lit up on the other side to the right.

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And the imperial summer palace.

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So I checked out this Beijing city planning museum, and they had this very well done scale model of the city. That brown chunk is the Forbidden City, with Tienanmen Square in front. There were all these signs around that said “Warning, static electricity” and I kept thinking “pfft, that’s an odd warning sign” until I touched something metal after walking away and got shocked to badly that I was unable to even scream and was left standing there unable to feel my left arm (which then proceeded to twitch for the next half hour). Only after I managed to start breathing again did I realize there had been an audible, loud CRACK when I touched the metal. Signs should have read “Warning, this is going to shock the f— out of you when you walk away. Lean on something metal with a body part covered in clothing”.

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The Lunar temple.

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The Olympic bird’s nest, with the torch tower nearby.
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I never exactly figured out what this was. Looks like the Olympic torches, but unfinished, and it’s massive, like some sort of orbital launching platform.

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A kidney and some lungs from the hollow structures. If you’ve never seen the Bodies exhibit in Vegas, you should. It’s like this, but crazier. But they don’t allow pictures.

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Chinese dinosaurs.

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Oh man, this gave me a huuuuuge laugh. This is inside a shopping center that’s essentially a bunch of small stalls. Each floor is about the size of a football field, and there’s 9 floors. This sign is at the entrance, for the vendors to respect. I didn’t even make it FIVE FEET past that sign and could already count about 50 trademark violations. Hah, what a joke.

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The home of Confucianism and a huge row of prayers at another Confucian temple.

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The Beijing smog that’s making headlines right now. Crazy.

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Communism almost doesn’t look so bad when it’s worded like this? Right?
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But here’s the real sign of communism, old political slogans and history that have been scrubbed out of existence. Slogan, what slogan? There was never anything here.

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I didn’t realize this was an issue.

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At least the manholes smile at you in Beijing.

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One of the many things I wanted to take issue with. This guy is disabled, and left in the sub-pedestrian-ways all day long by himself, drooling and looking sad. The thing is, he’s being placed here by someone though. Something seems wrong with this.

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As far as I can tell, you can’t smoke, but shooting lasers out of your eyes, playing yo-yo, chucking trash out the window and getting air are all allowed on the trains.

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Oh man, so I went up in The Pearl in Shanghai, named cause of it’s circles, to get a nice view and ending up finding a lower deck where you can stand on top of a clear floor. This is one of the only times in my life I’ve ever truly been shaky scared trying to do something. It may be because I don’t trust Chinese engineering, not even a little bit, but it took me a good 30 seconds of talking myself down to finally start slowly shuffling out onto the glass, over the 800 ft+ drop below me. I was sweating profusely. After doing this a few times (at different places), suddenly it wasn’t a big deal. Yikes.

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A big temple in Shanghai.

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On the 100th floor of a building. Crazy to be looking down so far. The building I was in is the last picture. The middle picture is the Bund, which is the most famous part of Shanghai, but is really just some old buildings.

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The skyline of Shanghai is very distinctive compared to most other cities, this includes the Bund.

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Another Buddha.

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And an all jade Buddha.

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Crazy dumpling madness, all of them tasted different. If you haven’t had Chinese dumplings before I highly recommend it. There’s a couple good places in San Diego.

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The Terra Cotta soldiers in Xi’an. I would have thought this would have been more interesting, but it’s a huge warehouse of soldiers in a pit. After a few minutes, you’re left wondering “what did I expect out of this?”.

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I had to haha.

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The cool thing though, is that every single soldier has a unique face. That’s pretty hardcore. The soldiers may have actually been modeled straight off of the real army.

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An intricate moon cake for the moon festival.

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Three Gorges dam and the river behind it.

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Learning to play mahjong the real way, which involves betting and making a hand to get out of the game, done by discarding tiles and stealing them from others. The windows version is a game taught to 5 year olds. I’d always wondered about that.

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We ate this little guy, that’s his blood for shots in the bottom pictures. Yum.

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Driving around in the country side in Yangshuo, and the sketchy vehicles there.

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Snake wine. Also tasty, and apparently really good for the testicles.

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Chinese know-how at its finest.

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Yay, being in the cattle cart train carriage where everyone constantly disturbs you.

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The Hong Kong border during Chinese national holiday. This is what happens when 1.5 billion people get let on vacation at the same time. By the way, this was the waiting area… FOR THE LINE.

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So Hong Kong is technically a separate country from China, and there’s another area like that called Macau that’s just across from Hong Kong. It’s the Vegas of the east. If some of those seem out of place, it’s because they also have a Venetian Hotel and Casino there. It’s extremely disorienting.

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Did I just walk into Free Realms?

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One of the cooler things I’ve seen in the world, a Macau jellyfish tank.

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A old Portuguese church shell in Macau.

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I was walking around in a remote area in Macau, and all of a sudden I stopped cause I felt someone was looking at me, so I turned around and found this….

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Miscellaneous Macau.

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I’m eating way too much McDonalds. Waaaaaayyyyy too much.

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Super excited to see this in a museum cause you almost never see it in museums, but this is what my master’s thesis was about. Random. That’s a single laser shone at a surface with a bunch of fine lines, which makes the laser split into that pattern.

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10000 Buddha monastery.

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This is a special Buddha that you see a lot. He represents the idea that Buddha reaches a helping hand towards all people, to help them reach Enlightenment, but then he needs thousands of hands to watch over everyone.

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Hong Kong skyline.

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I agree, crocs are ugly.

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The big Buddha in HK, and the insane way that you get to him.

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The weirdly long HK airport.

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The signage here can be entertaining.

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Some random art from China.

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The Communist Evolution chart.
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Old and new.
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Wait… is that the proof for a linear equation I spot in there? What?!
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Huh…

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Lots of spicy food. Yum. In the second photo, they actually give you chili powder for your fries instead of ketchup at some places. It’s awesome! And the last picture is the spiciest thing I think I’ve ever eaten. That actually hurt. Like bad. Our guide had 6 (compared to my 3) and was profusely sweating and looked like he was going to die.

So yeah, if you made it this far, congrats! It took me a long time to get my 3500+ pics and equally numerous stories down into just this post. Things should be sweetly shorter here in the near future.

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