Before we get started I will just clarify a couple of things. Firstly, regardless of the title (and maybe the original intention, I can’t remember) this is now ‘Hayley’s Blog’ and this is my first involvement beyond assisting with spelling (thanks Google). Therefore this is not the anticipated joint venture and I have been relegated to ‘Guest Blogger’, which isn’t all that bad as it requires much less effort on my part.
I decided it might be fun to just dip in every now and again to post a summary of where we have been and give you all a break from the well-written, intelligent and informative writing you are used to by providing something a little more asinine. You’re welcome!
So. China. On a scale of one to nuts it’s right at the squirrel eating a Snickers mark. Talking of which, you can get Snickers in China and it turns out watching Mulan with a beer and a Snickers bar (oh fine, two beers and two Snickers bars) is a great way to spend an evening. We were definitely prepared for a big culture shock in China but while it is absurd in lots of ways, it’s not quite as absurd as we expected. In most ways people are actually very friendly, there are just different standards about what is considered rude. Spitting in the street for instance (or just anywhere you feel like spitting really, even if that place is the hallway of a shopping centre or the kitchen of a restaurant) is commonplace. The latter of those is slightly worrying to hear should you have just eaten at said restaurant, but if you are looking for the silver lining maybe it’s not as bad as hearing someone hock up just before your food is served.
Personal space is another concept seemingly lost on the majority of locals, be it trying to walk through you on the street, physically pushing in front of you to stand in your way whilst looking at a tourist attraction or simply violating the unwritten British etiquette of a proper queue! In all seriousness none of these were genuine problems for us and it wasn’t difficult to find the humour in these situations. As a general rule the people were great, if a little different, and we didn’t ever feel unwelcome in any place we went.
I think Hayley has probably covered my next point well in her entries but I must briefly mention our almost celebrity status in China. The amount of people taking our photo for the single reason that we have white skin was bordering on the ridiculous. I honestly do not think that Hollywood stars are ‘papped’ at any greater intensity than we were over the 25 days in China. I can’t remember off-hand exactly how Hayley wrote about this phenomenon but in case she left the facts out (which is a possibility) I would like the record to show that she loved being chased by the Chinese paparazzi! Hayley was a master of turning a Chinese person’s subtle selfie or a passerby’s sneaky round-a-bush shot into a full on photo shoot with different poses, holding their babies, wearing their hats and everything. As someone who regularly proclaims ‘I love a good selfie’, she was in her element!
No spiel from me would be complete without a verdict on the food but I will try to keep it brief. A lot of the food was pretty weird to be honest but I was expecting that. I wasn’t expecting that we would actually get lemon chicken but we did (although only once) or that sweet and sour chicken could be found pretty much everywhere. Quite a bit of the food was fairly average, or sometimes ‘good’ but a little too repetitive. However, we did enjoy some exceptional meals. The Sichuan Hotpot we had in Chengdu was incredible and was the meal I would most like to have again. Sadly, I think finding an authentic one outside of China is unlikely, but I can dream. On the other end of the spectrum I tried a pig’s ear, which was pretty rough. I didn’t try the chicken feet; they looked even rougher and were everywhere. There is nothing quite as disappointing as seeing/hearing the trolley appear on a 24 hour train when you are feeling like you could murder a packet of prawn cocktail crisps but your hopes are dashed by vacuum-packed feet. Realistically any potato based snack would have done, so gutted doesn’t even cover it!
All joking aside, China was amazing. I didn’t have many expectations of the country in going there which meant that it really surprised me in lots of ways. The most significant of these is how naturally beautiful almost all of the places we went were. The landscapes were just stunning, particularly around Yangshuo and in Fujian. There are some ‘big name’ tourist attractions too; the Terracotta Army was good but very crowded (and maybe a little overhyped), the Pandas in Chendu were amazing and the Great Wall just blew us all away. I think there is a lot to be said for our specific excursion to the Wall as the main tourist areas look very overcrowded and are not even close to as impressive as the views we had on the unrestored section in total seclusion. This was definitely the highlight of my trip.
Thus ends my quick rundown of the first stop on our adventure. I’m not sure how much is new information but I really just wanted to feel involved and felt a little lazy letting Hayley do it all. It comes to mind now I haven’t actually taken any workload from her in writing this post but just added extra content and have made her wait for days to start posting the next leg (which she has already prepared). Oh well, bit late for that now. Besides, she’s currently lying next to me giggling at a video of a cow, as she has been for the last 20-30 minutes, so she can’t have it too bad.
Hayley would like to add that she spent lots of time editing this so that it made a bit of sense.