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Memories will be made of this.....

The Short Road Home

CHINA | Sunday, 2 October 2005 | Views [504]

Well..unbelievably its very near time to head back to Sunny Leeds and face the computer on a daily basis once more.  The last week has been far the quietest and also the most bizarre.
After leaving the serenity of Lijiang, I got a flight to Shanghai - I don't really know what i was expecting, but what i got in Shanghai was certainly strange.  After spending so long travelling on nice trains and seeing lots of beautiful scenery along the wy, i arrived in Shanghai (by myself for the first time in what seemed like an age too - its amazing my nicknames of the Smiler and Negotiator have also disappeared out of the window too!) and managed finally to get a taxi from the airport.  It was nighttime and it the taxi ride managed to put me off Shanghai instantly.....it was though i had suddenly been placed in some sort of arcade game with bright lights like i don't think i've seen before - the number of lights was blinding and the buildings just got bigger and bigger and bigger the nearer i got into town.  By the time i'd arrived in downtown Shanghai i was cranking my neck just to be able to see anything apart from concrete.  Shanghai has been developed at an alarming rate, so much so that developers have now realised that due to all this development, there is a significant danger that the city will collapse - as town planners hadn't taken into account the possibility that building so many skyscrapers in such a small area may lead to damaging the fragility of the surface of the town (maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing!).  After one of my favourite songs ever called 'Shanghai' by Ed Harcourt, i'd romanticised about the place, but just found it to have no soul in the slightest and just a place to make money and for the ex-pats to pay over the odds for everything. 
I only ended up being in Shanghai for a day, as due to the National Holiday Week (that started on the 1st of October), it has meant that i haven't had much choice in when i was to return to Beijing - so after having a look around Shanghai (and even the Lonely Planet highlight of the Bund didn't grab my attention that much), i got on the overnight train back to Beijing.
Beijing - i don't really know why, but i love it here!  Its certainly not for the continually hawking or spitting, the madness of the streets, or the unbelievable amount of pollution.....but there is something about it that i really, really like.  I checked back in to the hotel and so many people recognised and remembered me from before.
Since being in Beijing, I haven't done that much.  The major thing is i've been going to Silk City most days to try and haggle on just about any type of thing - and i'm coming home with ridiculous amounts of things i just don't need - bags, DVD's (I think i've got about 45!), suits, pictures, shirts, belts, cufflinks, shoes, memory cards.....the list goes on.  The place is just an unbelievably large shopping complex with every type of commodity you could ever imagine and i can't imagine going home and having to pay full price for things now - bargains galore!
I've also been sampling a fair bit of the Beijing nightlife and got dragged in a KTV bar - which is basically just a Karaoke Bar.  The Chinese are as mad for karaoke as the Japanese and got dragged onto the stage kicking and screaming to sing a Chinese song (which is so popular over here), that is literally translated as 'Mice Love Rice' - it basically goes 'I Love you like Mice Love Rice!' - and all the video is of is tow mice running after grains of rice!  It may sound corny, but it is actually a really sweet song!
The other major event this week has obviously been the National Day celebrations and i went down to Tiananmen square with the Chinese girl i've been hanging about with for the 5am kick-off of this very special event.  The Chinese go absolutely crazy for this and i couldn't believe when i was going down to the square - there were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people up in the middle of the night strolling towards Tiananmen.  People getting crushed (including myself) to get as close as possible to the Forbidden City walls and then all that really happened was that the flags were raised and the fountains started pumping out water!  Now, i've become used to people looking at me strangely and laughing incessantly at my height, but when you're the tallest person (by a country mile) out of nearly a million people it can make you quite paranoid when just everybody is pointing you out!  Tiananmen has remained ridiculously busy ever since (and apparently will be this way for the whole of the week long celebrations).
The week has also had some very sinister happenings and quite a bit of sadness - however, i can't go into any sort of detail on this, as it has been quite upsetting for me...but for anyone i know well, i'm sure the story will come out soon.
So, by the time most people get this i'll be on the plane back to Blighty again....and despite not missing the language issues (of which i'm getting better and better at - Mandarin isn't as hard as i'd thought!), the continual staring and giggling at my height and the hawking and spitting, I've had the most amazing month that has surprised me time and time again.  China has been one of my favourite countries i've ever been to (and is pushing Argentina hard as my all-time favourite!).
Top 5 Things from China
1 - Terracotta Soldiers, Xian
2 - Tiger Leaping Gorge
3 - Lijiang
4 - Great Wall of China
5 - Panda Sanctuary, Chengdu
That's all folks - until the next trip!!
PS - Top 5 IPod Tunes of the Week
Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts - Arctic Monkeys
Fix You - Coldplay
True Love Waits - Radiohead
What Katie Did - The Libertines
The Importance of Being Idle - Oasis

Tags: I should have known better!

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