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Posts Tagged ‘china’

Day 40: Thoughts on China

May 24th, 2011 4 comments

I started composing this post while sitting on the Vostok train, heading back to Russia. I found myself refreshed to see the open countryside in Russia – without people, without construction, without roads, without trash. I realize that China is a huge and diverse country, geographically and anthropologically, and that I have only seen a minute sample of what it has to offer. I’m pretty sure I will go back one day and I will visit the south and west more, as I’ve been told enumerable times by strangers and friends alike that it is beautiful and I must visit it. But for now, I’m glad to be back in Mother Russia. This picture of the China-Russia border crossing at Manzhouli/Zabaikalsk sums up my feeling between the difference I felt leaving China and entering Russia.


The train passed through these gates. The Russian gate is the one in the foreground that has a beige post with three white stripes on it. The Chinese gate is the monstrous construction in the background.

My last few days in China were spent in Harbin. I spent most of my time just walking around the central city area and up and down the Songhua River. I ate Chinese-style shawerma (which was excellent!) and saw KFC (and the Chinese equivalent) everywhere. (Brad, Chinese seem to _love_ KFC.) I saw middle-aged and older people exercising and dancing in the parks, even in the rain. I even went to KTV (huge karaoke chain) – ack!

And a plug for Couchsurfing – if you have ever even considered it, then don’t delay and just sign up. I have met the most awesome people on my trip and have forged new friendships which I hope to keep long past our few days together. It’s like having local friends everywhere you go and it enriches the experience of that city immensely. Do it!

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Now on to Siberia and western Russia…

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Liuzhou

May 20th, 2011 Comments off

Elroy about Liuzhou, in the Guangxi province of China:

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translation (main points): 1. Industrial city, 2. 2nd biggest city in Gongxie province, 3. There is a night life, 4. It’s a typical southern city, 5. Has delicious food, 6. The LiuJian River and its ports, 7. It’s hot

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Changsha

May 20th, 2011 Comments off

David about Changsha, in the Hunan province of China:

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translation (main points): 1. Changsha is young, full of energy, 2. It’s hot,
3. It has a short history (no culture), 4. People are kind

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Hong Kong

May 19th, 2011 Comments off

I’ve met lots of people from Hong Kong. Here are some of their thoughts about their city.
Tony:

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Jan:

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JT:

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Doris:

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Karen:

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Day 34: Confucius, you’re a bitch!

May 18th, 2011 3 comments

My couchsurf hosts, Shen and Laura, believe that the modern Chinese educational system is broken and that it is destroying their son’s mind; turning him into some kind of robot that only knows how to give the desired results for specific questions but doesn’t know how to think for himself and how to solve problems. They’ve pulled him out of school for a while and are trying home-schooling but, in the end, he must pass the same standard examinations for each grade. And my hosts believe that this is all the fault of Confucius who bastardized the teachings of Lao Tzu (Taoism) and created people who are hypocrites.

I caught this on audio during an animated dinner conversation that we were having with another visiting couchsurfer, Daniel.

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My hosts (and now, friends) are not conventional Chinese, or at least, don’t fit any expectations I may have had. It’s excellent. I think, from all that I have seen in China so far, their penthouse apartment, in Dalian overlooking the harbor, has been the best sight with the best view. I’ve spent a lot of relaxed time just reading/writing/thinking in their living room and on their balcony.

Of course, I did get out now and then to tour Dalian. In contrast to Beijing, Dalian is a quiet, kicked-back, and modern sea-port city in northeastern China. It was actually built up by Russians first, before the Japanese took over, and then the Chinese. There is construction going on everywhere (though not as much as Vladivostok) and everywhere you look you can see new buildings, that are less than 30 years old, sprinkled with older colonial Japanese and Russian buildings. Public transportation is very convenient with buses and trams running everywhere. One tram line even uses a few original trolleys from what must be the early 1900s. I found it fascinating that 99% of the trolleys are operated and driven by women.

All in all, however, Dalian has still left me with many uneasy thoughts about the pace of growth and the sacrifices we make to our living conditions, health, and even traditional culture to keep up. I saw complete towns being constructed in Dalian on land that was probably once beautiful coastline and just nature. And when I say towns, I really mean it. For the number of skyrise apartments that I saw being built in one area, I estimated that it would easily house 10,000 apartment units! There are a couple pictures of the architectural model for the construction zone in my Dalian set. Who is going to come live in all these new buildings? They’re on prime coastal property and run for several thousand dollars per square meter.

I’m very conflicted about the price to tradition and culture. I went for a hike one day in the local hills and came across a cemetery that had a bulldozed road going right through the center of it. There was garbage everywhere, bulldozers, trucks, and even people wandering through. I imagine that the missing graves where the road now is were not all relocated. As I walked around the cemetery, I even came across some human remains which are in the pictures (consider yourself warned).

My lasting impression is of Golden Pebble Beach where construction dug up many beautiful geological formations (ok, they’re basically rocks). The construction is still going on. The rocks have been collected into a Rock Garden of sorts that is surrounded by new construction. I went rock-climbing on the rocks and was struck with the manufactured-ness of it all. Even amidst the rock garden, there were cement stairs and walkways. I must admit, however, that it would have made an awesome site for paintball.

View my full picture set on Flickr.

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Harbin

May 16th, 2011 Comments off

Daniel, though new to Harbin, gave an initial impression of Harbin, China:

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Dalian

May 15th, 2011 Comments off

Laura, on Dalian, China:

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Allan, on Dalian:

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translation: Dalian is next to the sea but it does not have lots of scenery, Dalian is good to live for a long time, Dalian’s seafood is very nice – fish, crab, prawn, scallop, and others, Dalian itself has its own dialect and a special history – one hundred years ago, Dalian was almost in ruin, much poverty, Japan and Russia warring here, after the World War II, Dalian revived, became a famous city

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