FINALLY visited the Great Wall!
Went to the Mutianyu section, about 60km outside of Beijing. Our guide, Jack, was great (had tiny hands!) and came out with such gems as “Different dog, different destiny” during our trip. Caught the gondola up, spent awhile wandering the wall, then sped down to the car park on a toboggan (like the Luge in Rotorua, for all you NZers).
Pick up was early, 7am, but it paid off big time because the place was basically empty when we arrived and was only starting to get busier as we boosted out of the car park on our way home. Our driver yelled “See ya later, suckers!” as we peeled off.
Okay, that last part about the driver never happened, but we had that kind of smug air about us - self congratulatory - for missing the tourist hoards. The Mutianyu section is generally a lot less crowded than the more popular and more touristy Badaling section, and it was cool being able to photograph the wall without having too many random people around!
A key difference between being toilet trained in NZ and being toilet trained in China? The pants you wear.
Kids here in China wear these funny little split pants (see photo) that allow them to basically squat whenever they want to do their business. It is not uncommon to see bare little bums on the street, and also not uncommon to see little ones being held by a parent in the bushes getting on with things.
The kid in the photo is unusual in that he is wearing a nappy under his pants. During my time here he’s the only one I’ve seen wearing a nappy. Every single other kid of toilet training age or younger is wearing these split pants with nothing underneath, loud and proud. I was pleased to get this shot because I didn’t particularly want to put up a picture of some random baby’s bare behind!
Toilet training without nappies is actually a recognised practice that is apparently taking hold in the West - I read an article that said babies who wear nappies are basically being taught to go against their natural impulses when toileting, so there is a movement of parents rejecting nappies and holding their kids over the toilet when they want to go, so they learn to indicate that they want to go to the bathroom and are toilet trained from a really young age.
It’s probably a mixture of that, plus the fact that disposable nappies are really expensive here. It actually makes sense to me - what kid wants to walk around with a mess stuck to their butt?! And plus, it’s the environmentally friendly choice!
I thought I would stop seeing the split pants once the weather cooled, but I haven’t. It seems split pants are trendy year-round, the pants just get thicker and woollier in winter!
My second trip to Tiananmen Square was 100% more successful than the first. Not only was it a ‘blue sky day’ in Beijing (which means that air pollution was lower than usual and the city was free of the persistent white haze), but I also got to hang out with Chairman Mao (or, his body) for all of 10 seconds.
To see his body you have to check your bag and camera, then line up with with “a valid form of ID” - I had my NZ drivers license, but will never know if it was considered “valid” because none of the guards actually checked it.
One you’ve gone through the long long line outside you arrive at a check station where you have to empty your pockets and walk through metal detectors before you get to enter the mausoleum building.
You can buy a white carnation to place at the foot of a large white marble statue of Mao that rests just inside the front door. I’m not sure if the flowers were plastic or real. If they were smart they’ve have made sure they were plastic so that they could be recycled every day - tourists pay 3 yuan per flower, and the pile was already in the high hundreds by the time I walked through at about 10.30am.
(3 yuan x however many flowers per day) x however many days per year the mausoleum is open = LOTS OF MONEY
In an aside to do with recycling - it is really popular here, especially if there is money to be made. Public bins are divided into ‘Recyclable’ and ‘Non-Recyclable’ which scavengers go through to pick up cardboard and plastic bottles, and you’ll often see tricycles piled high with recyclables on the roadside. I guess they take them to some place that gives them money for collecting it all.
Anyway, back to Mao.
His body is housed in a glass coffin (how very Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!), and surrounded by plastic flowers and ferns. The viewing line snakes around past the coffin, but good luck trying to spend some time dwelling near it, because there is a guard stationed literally every 2 meters waving you on in a “keep it moving, people” kind of way.
Evidently Mao was a pretty small guy, because even lying down you can tell he was short. His body is draped in a red blanket with a hammer and sickle emblazoned on it, so you can only see his body from the shoulders up.
His face didn’t look real. Kind of like a wax figure from Madam Tussand’s. It probably didn’t help that his face was lit up by an orange light that gave him an unhealthy pallor. Then again, how ‘healthy’ a pallor can you get on a dead guy?!
Anyway, he looked pretty good for having been dead for over 35 years.
Photography is forbidden in the mausoleum, so here are a fewpictures from the Square itself.
They have a Hooters in Beijing. It’s “relatively famous in China”.
One of the things I’ve noticed while living in China has been that Chinese people are not afraid to stare. I’ve gotten a fair few stares over the past 3 months. Anything out of the ordinary is worthy of staring at. I guess my boyfriend, Nick, is pretty out of the ordinary, because he has gotten by far the most stares I have ever seen one person get. And not only stares, but people approach him for photos and a chat.
Do they think he is someone famous? Or are they just keen to chat to a guy who is probably literally twice their size? He’s 6’2 and a solidly built ex-rugby player of Samoan/Maori/English ethnic origin. This blend of characteristics is of great interest to passersby wherever we go in Beijing.
On his first full day here we went to the China Central Television Tower, which is the tallest structure in Beijing and has an observation deck 238m up that you can go out on. Also included in the ticket price is admission to the culture center, which has info about the history of CCTV, and news desk/weather setups where you can pretend to be news presenters/weather people for photos.
I should have known shiz was gonna get weird when we got into the elevator with a bunch of Chinese tourists and one of the woman stared at Nick and, without breaking eye contact, slowly lifted her camera and took a photo of him. Right there in the elevator. She was standing literally right next to him. He pretended he hadn’t noticed it. It was really awkward.
Then I took a photo of her, to document the moment and so she knew what it felt like for someone to take a photo of you at close quarters while confined to a small space.
This is the photo.
She’s standing with an old man wearing a fur hat. I think the old people in the group were not Beijing-ers, they looked like they were one of the many Chinese ethnic minorities I learned about when I paid 90yuan to visit the Chinese Ethnic Minorities Park that was only half finished and for some reason covered in lots and lots of dried out corn cobs (it was NOT worth the 90yuan, although I did get to enjoy some pretty stirring ethnic dances).
The observation platform was pretty cool, though it would have been cooler if we had actually been able to see the horizon. Thanks a lot, Beijing smog. It’s definitely a ‘blue sky day’ activity.
There was a giant old school ‘loud speaker’ that you could shout things through. Neither of us shouted anything, though a fellow-visitor and old Chinese lady yelled something like ‘Hao, Beijing!’, that echoed impressively out to the city. As far as I know ‘hao’ means ‘okay’ or ‘good’. So… I guess she was like “Ok!/Good! Bejing!”.
We escaped the observation deck unmolested, but upon emerging in the cultural center, Nick was once again center of attention. A bunch of men indicated that they wanted to have their picture taken with him. He obliged. Once the rest of the group saw that these people were having photos with Nick they ALL wanted photos with him.They indicated they wanted him to sit at the faux newsreaders desk and pretend to talk with each of them, one at a time, while they had their photo taken. He obliged. They indicated that they wanted him to stand in front of the faux weather forecast wall and shake their hands while they had photos taken. I was also asked to participate in the weather forecast hand shaking. It was very very bizarre.
Below are photos of Nick being paparazzi’d.
This is happened to me once, at Olympic Park, when a man wanted a photo with me in front of the Watercube, but never en masse like it did to Nick.
He’s also been approached by people in the street who just want to chat, including an old man who came up to us while we were eating Chinese bread on a park bench who said “Shaobing! Zhongguo shaobing!” Which basically means “Bread! Chinese bread!” and who was very pleased when Nick gave him thumbs up.
Just being friendly, I suppose.
Also seen at the CCTV Tower: pictures of other tall towers around the world, including Auckland’s very own Sky Tower; the Chinese version of Judy Bailey.
Let’s play a game called What Part of the Duck Can You Identify?
Head; neck; heart; guts; wing; thigh; foot
I have to be honest, there’s a pile sort of behind/beside the necks that I can’t identify. Any suggestions?
Nice outfit on this little guy. LOL at the jeans and matching denim hood.
Huixin Dongjie, Beijing, China.
I went to Beijing’s Museum of Natural History. It’s…. a bit crappy.
Don’t get me wrong, it has the potential to be awesome, and it probably was for about 3 months when it first opened, but when I visited it was in a state of disrepair and nothing really worked. All the signs are in Chinese so I couldn’t read any of the info which was a bit of a buzz kill, but if most of the exhibits hadn’t been broken/messed up it would have made up for it. This wasn’t the case.
Put it this way: anything that was protected behind glass or perspex was fine (30%). Anything that was out in the open was ruined/broken (70%).
Also, I think they need better security/supervision when they let school groups go through there because kids (and adults) were just climbing over the barriers and roaming over the exhibits - this is probably why most of the stuff was broken.
Mind you, I only checked out the fossil/dinosaur area before I got sick of it and bailed so who knows, maybe there was a whole awesome part of the museum with non broken down old ripped apart exhibits that I missed out on. Who knows.
(Click on the pics to enlarge)
Nah jokes, the cafeteria at work got remodeled so has been closed for the entire time I’ve worked here, yet a week before I leave they reopen it. Typical.
Lunch is free (though not for interns, just for ‘real’ employees) though if you want to eat there for breakfast and dinner you have to pay.
This is what we had on Wednesday. A fish (it might have been the boniest fish in the whole world), pork rib, spinach, tofu, kumera (sweet potato), bread roll things and rice if you want it.
Not bad, but doesn’t that stainless steel tray just scream PRIIIIIIIISON! to you? I guess I never had any cafeteria experiences while at school so any sort of situation where you have to line up for food that is slopped onto compartmentalized trays makes me think of prison movies.
Segway Cop. Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
They see me rollin’… they hatin’…
Patrolling, they tryna catch me ridin’ dirty…
Tryna catch me ridin’ dirty, tryna catch me ridin’ dirty…