For the next instalment on my retrospective world travel is the next leg of my trip – Mongolia to China.
After spending two amazing months in the landlocked country, I spent the next 30 days training it though China. I walked part of the Great Wall of China, trained at a kung-fu school, got very sick and ended up in hospital, saw baby pandas and took a boat ride down the Yangzi River before getting into Hong Kong.
Last August saw traffic jam last nine-day that spanned 100km in Beijing. Nine days?! Thankfully I didn’t get caught up in that. But it was a culture shock. Within the first few days, I had a Big Mac from MacDonald’s and regretted the first bite.
Excerpts from my myspace blog
20 Aug 2006
Nee Hao everybody
Yes another country, another language. I have my LP Mandarin phrasebook, so am determined to learn something.
I took the local train in Beijing which took two days. surprisingly it was ok. The Mongolian part was just like being on the Trans Mongolian, but the Chinese train had 6 beds, instead of the four. I met a few people from UB, and we ended up getting drunk on vodka. True Mongolian stylee. No hangover for me, although I did sleep in late and missed seeing the Gobi Desert at 5am. The window was open so I got covered in the sand though.
30 Aug 2006
I’m in central China now, in a grey city called Zhengzou. Yes another city, and I’m a bit fed up with all the rush and the fact that I can’t seem to launch Yahoo music. Damn you streaming error code 14 – 80040241, whatever the bloody hell that means.
I took another night train. I’ve decided that I’d rather sleep for 8 hours whilst travelling at night than sit and watch the world go by and being board for 8 hours. Short distances are ok, but China is rather large.
Beijing is a massive city, especially when you’re used to UB, where everything is down one road. surprisingly it is more expensive than Shanghai, which means another two Chinese style tops will be made there.
31 Aug 2006
So, the reason why I’m in grey Zhengzhou was to get to a place called Song Shan to train at one of the oldest and largest kung fu school in the area. The Shaolin Temple was not far from where I was, and the school has at least 7000 students. That is 7000, all fighting, all screaming little Bruce Lee machines. I would walk around the school and though the playground where all the little children would be practicing their moves and playing with their swords. They are good! They are very good.
I was training with some other Westerners, one had been there a year already, another had done 3 months last year, and is spending 5 months this year. We were sharing with a class of Taekwondo, who are a bit mad. When the girls scream (its to frighten the opponent and using the force of chi) they sound like scary banshees.
I trained 6 hours a day, and now I now longer punch like a girl. W-hoo. surprisingly I’m not as stiff I thought I would be, but then I did lots of stretching today, cos i knew I’d be walking around with my backpack. The stretching was just as hard as the actual martial arts, but they were really good, at making sure you stretched out properly. It is so easy to hurt yourself! Getting up in the mornings were a bit of a mission, especially when your legs don’t want to move.
17 Sept 2006
So, yesterday was A Good Day. Well, apart from losing my credit card, and now realising that I have to phone England to let them know, even though I’ve emailed them, which I know will cost a bomb ‘cos of the bloody automatic voices and cheesy music they play down the line knowing how much a min they’re charging me.
I hired out bikes and cycled through the rice fields with a bloke called Andreas. It was great and the views were stunning.Unfortunately the houses in the villages were getting rebuilt to be modern looking, which just reminds me of how quickly China wants to modernise itself to compete with the Western world. However, once you turned your back, it epitomised my vision of the Chinese countryside; rice fields, mountains, women walking their cows with the typical Chinese hat and the sun beating down. The most important thing for me was the quietness of it all with only the wildlife making sounds and the air being so clean. I’ve never smelt fresh rice before and I loved it. The rice back home is always in packaging, so it was nice to see them in their natural state.
Speaking of which, down here is real Chinese food, as in having snake blood with vodka after eating the snake, having dogs reared for food, then chopping them up just like a pig. Some people have a hard time, but think about it, we eat cow etc, so its not really different.