So here is the second instalment of my Top 10 Reasons to Go to China, basically an excuse to post photos and video from my recent trip there. If you missed the first instalment, you can check it out here.
Please don’t take this as a blind endorsement of China, or that I was walking around the place wearing rose-coloured glasses. There were definitely things there that I didn’t like too, like the air quality and pollution (which I’ve been boring people silly with) and how it made me ill. There’s also the military presence, the interference in religious practice in temples and the stark gap between the haves and the have-nots.
To be clear: I’m neither pro-China, nor anti-China. This series of posts just happens to be about things that I liked while I was there, and others might like too if they go one day. It’s not too hard to satisfy the need for a fix of China-centred negativity, though the Western media in general seem to be taking a little break in their Sino-stabbing while the country deals with the fallout from the recent earthquake. Just wait a few weeks until the quake isn’t newsworthy anymore.
Enough already! I hear you say. Shut up and get on with the list and the photos! Right you are:
Number 7 in the list of reasons to go to China is: Chinglish!
Walking around China can be really entertaining for an English speaker. The quality of the translations deteriorates the further you get away from the main tourist centres, I guess as the officials in charge are willing to pay less for the privilege.
It comes in many different forms. The funniest are probably the ones in which the translation gives a totally different meaning than the intended one, like this one. I know I posted this a couple of weeks ago, but I reckon it’s worth a repost.
Then there are those where the translation delivers English which is largely incomprehensible, like these two examples. As I was snapping the first one I got some very strange looks from some passing locals, who must have been quite confused about why the portly foreigner was photographing rubbish bins.
I discovered my grandfather’s genetic gift with money while in China. (Besides ‘gift with money’ it could also be ‘how to squeeze every last drop of value out of a dollar’, or ‘being a tight-arse’). It must have skipped a generation, because my mum and aunt barely did any shopping and what they did buy they generally paid too much for.
I did my old trick of travelling with clothes (and luggage actually) which were really old and could be thrown out. Then I hit the markets and updated the lot. I also managed to buy two oil paintings, a couple of teapots (including a $250 dragon one by a Master), and a couple of handfuls of DVDs.
The general trend seemed to be that the first price quoted was 10 times the actual value of the item. A couple of times I got told that I bargained like an Indian, and some shopkeepers were so livid with the final price that their voices were shaking with barely-contained rage. When I bought four long-sleeved shirts for $25, I had to go around the corner to pay, so other customers wouldn’t see how cheap I was getting them for. The Quicksilver thongs I bought for $8 were thrown at me and the 50yuan note snatched out of my hand. If the salesperson is happy with the price you pay, you didn’t get a good price.
I did spread the love a bit too, though. It’s important to remember that sometimes you’re only arguing about $2, and that the cheaper you get something for, the less the salesperson makes, and sometimes that isn’t very much at all. So a few times I paid a bit more than what I thought I could get it down to, especially when the sales assistant was friendly and up for a bit of a laugh. As long as I wasn’t being taken for a ride.
Number 5 is: The TV Screen at The Place
The Place is a trendy shopping and dining pedestrian strip in East Beijing. It’s got all those brand stores that I have absolutely no idea about and the restaurants are generally overpriced and under-quality, kind of like Pitt St Mall in Sydney but a hell of a lot bigger.
Its saving grace is the ‘roof’ of the walkway, which is a 4800 square metre television screen. I’m told that’s about the size of two football fields. It truly is something quite amazing. The lights from the images it is displaying illuminate The Place at night.