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what i totally meant to post last week, part one.

Hi all, I recently arrived via sleeper car in Shanghai. In less than 24 hours, I’m off to Guilin and Yangshuo1 for the next week! Plans include a boat tour, cave visit, and lots of shutterbugging. When I was packing, it dawned on me that I should probably give an update on the last two weeks. For details, ask or infer. 🙂

July 4th onwards: Rained out, American food for the fourth’s sake, flooded Tiannamen at night, non-flooded Tiannamen in the morning, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Beijing opera2, Client live3, terrible service at McDonald’s4, fell asleep shopping, KFC covered in plastic bags, last5 big splurge at Pizza Hut, yet another week of classes, a visit from the parents, Quanjude roast duck and fried scorpions6 going swimming for the first time in months, visiting the National Operahouse7, visiting the Bird’s Nest and Watercube, shopping in Wangfujing, buying all the Chinese HP books, Houhai, my brother’s birthday, another week of classes, getting Olympic tickets, and getting horribly ravaged by a midterm.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the Shanghai Internet connection makes me want to bash my skull in. And I’m definitely not counting on Internet for the next few days, but I do promise photos when I get back to Beijing! Now I must post the rest of the entries and take a long-overdue nap, for I have a terrific headache.

1: I highly, highly suggest that you look up Guilin photos on Flickr (or even Google images). Osmanthus blossoms and reed flute caves, hello.
2: The thought of Chinese opera hurts my ears, but not once did I break out that iPod like I thought I would.
3: I was serendipitously reading my friend’s Beijinger and noticed that Client happened to be DJing at a nightclub that same night. And so plans were set!
4: No, really. Since when do you get ketchup packets thrown at you?
5: Hah, yeah right. And forget about any Western notions of Pizza Hut, because it’s actually a legit restaurant.
6: Supposedly the best roast duck restaurant in Beijing, but then again I don’t have much to compare. And fried scorpions are tasteless.
7: Site of the Olympic Opening Ceremony

so many lessons learned

The Great Firewall of China2: Remember when I was upset at Livejournal and Tumblr and Muxtape and a billion other sites being blocked? Let’s add another to that list: FACEBOOK.3 Of all things that they could have blocked, honestly. Bye bye stalking-at-my-convenience, uploading and tagging photos, and whatever I used Facebook for in the first place. I guess the only things left for me on the Internet here are my email, Flickr, and this blog. I swear, I’m being chased off the Internets. 🙁4 (edit: Thank goodness it was blocked for only one day though; they put it back up on Thursday.)
Mosquito bites: I’m itching so badly.5 I’ve accumulated ten mosquito bites —- on my feet alone. TEN.6 Um, bring on the Cortizone?
Loopy weather: Rain one week, nice weather for one day, a string of disgustingly humid days, and then torrential downpour just like that? How about no. Oh, and no to unavoidable puddles that make you want to throw off your shoes and never see them again.

Carrefour: (n): supermarket on steroids. I’ve been there thrice in the past week, and let’s just say that American stores have nothing on Carrefour. You don’t get escalated ramps for your shopping carts or guillotined turtles8 or fish flopping out to the aisle9 like you do here.
KFC: Don’t hate, but how bad is it that I’ve eaten there twice in less than a week? Fries and fried chicken, how I’ve missed thee.
Kiwi floats:10 I regret not getting a photo, but one of these days I will! Oh, and I got it at McDonald’s of all places. More on that later.

Anyway, Tiananmen photos! I put them at 500px for the sake of loading time, but you can click for a larger version.

The area near Tiannamen was flooding because there was so much rain! And there were these three girls who actually stepped out in the deep puddles to take pictures with the Asian-touristy pose. Nothing like a waterborne-disease breeding ground for a photo op.

I’d go on about the weekend (which was great!) but I think I’ll just make a bunch of entries about it over the course of the week.11 But here’s a quick summary: I visited Tiananmen (twice!), the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. I watched the Beijing Opera.12 I went to this really nice bar/club and Client13 was there (!). I went shopping for 9 hours straight. And I think I might just have a cold. More later!

1: harm; disadvantage; read: BAD
2: Props to whoever coined this term! I thought it was like, one of the cleverest things ever. It refers to China’s Internet censorship; they mass-block sites like crazy. Let’s just say that I am no fan of this.
3: I was agonizing over the Page cannot be displayed message, and then a Google search of “facebook china blocked” led to sites that were last updated Jul 01 2008. Cue multiple headdesk-ing and raging equivalent to KA;SKF;LEAK F;LEKFE;ARRRRGHHHHH!!!!!!
4: I tried to go on a different proxy site, and when I typed in the URL, I got Site Error 30: You’re in china. WHAT — THE.
5: I first wrote out “I’m itch so badly”, like the “i’m die” macro. Goodness, all this Chinese makes me sound like a lolcat.
6: Most of these bites were acquired during a taichi session. In my defense, it was outdoors, I was barefoot, and I was wearing a skirt. And not to mention, I’m really prone to bug bites.
7: benefit; advantage; read: GOOD
8: There are cutting board stations around the meat section, where butchers prepare the poultry. Anyway, there was a butcher preparing turtle meat …. and I turned my head to see what was going on and he beheaded the turtle with one downward motion of the blade. And the severed turtle head kept twitching on the far corner of the board. No joke, those turtles really have some life in them.
9: They have live fish on display for people to buy, and one poor fish decided that hanging onto life by a bin of ice just wasn’t cutting it. It flopped out of the box and onto the aisle, much to the chagrin of the people nearby.
10: Kiwi soda and ice cream. They even have the kiwi seeds!
11: Yeah, a lot did happen over the weekend aka I ended up taking 83825938 photos.
12: …and did not use my earphones once. I even had the iPod out just in case.
13: Electroclash musicians. They did “Down to the Underground” with Pete Doherty and “Pornography” with Carl Barat. 😀

The Great Firewall of China

WEEKEND, SPARKNOTES STYLE: First off: I didn’t just climb the Great Wall on Saturday —- I freaking ziplined it. Can I just say, most awesome experience ever. I went to the Simatai part, which was pretty steep1. After climbing for so long, I went on the zipline2, which is a much cooler option than just walking down or taking the 20 minute cable car. Afterwards, I went with some friends to the restaurant near campus and then to a club3 owned by Columbia alums. Turns out that there was a Columbia alumni reception in town the next afternoon, so plans for Sunday were pretty much set! I had a great time at the reception4, and after that, we went to Purple Haze5, a really nice Thai restaurant. I then went back home and after writing a half-hearted attempt of an essay on Xing Ba Ke‘s6 place in the Forbidden City, I then watched the Euro Cup final (oh, Germany, my heart). Three hours later, I went to class not knowing any of the 70 new vocab words7, and now I’m posting this blog entry for everybody to read. The end.


Yeah, I definitely ziplined across that.


That is not I, but rather some random guy that happened to be on the zipline. But you get the idea.


(larger size)


1: No kidding. When they mean “climb” the Great Wall, they really / truly / honestly mean climb the Great Wall. There’d be tower after tower after tower … and the steps! The steps varied from giant to tiny to literally everything in between. Basically, if somebody missed a step and tripped and tumbled backwards, it would be the ultimate domino effect, considering how big our group was. And there would be these ramps, which weren’t a hassle to walk, but there weren’t any walls on the side in the chance that I happened to fall off. Considering how intimidating that wall was, that chance was pretty darn high. And it didn’t help that people nearby were talking about the daily death toll of Simatai. Haha, that was pretty comforting to hear when scaling the sans-side-support ramps.
2: The zipline is basically a trolley. Over the Great Wall. A trolley. Over the Great Wall. A TROLLEY OVER THE GREAT WALL (!!!). The wall overlooked this beautiful lake that literally looked like jade. I was harnessed onto a cable that ran above the lake, and I would glide along the cable. The view was amazing and totally worth the climb down and the 40 RMB.
3: Basically, we were looking in the Beijing guidebook, and when we saw a photo of a guy in a Columbia sweatshirt, we were pretty much compelled to go there. Funny how things work out that way.
4: I credit the amazing food (cucumber and tuna rolls, tiramisu-in-a-spoon, samosas in mango chutney, strawberry tartines, et al.), but in all honesty, I did meet some awesome people.
5: Yeah, I thought of Hendrix too.
6: Xing = Star. Star Ba Ke (when said aloud) sounds like a certain all-too-familiar coffee chain that starts with S and ends with tarbucks.
7: Oh, I kid you not. SEVENTY.
8: If I killed your feed / flist or just your browser in general with the dialup-unfriendly pictures, feel free to e-shout at me.