Sunday, September 24, 2006

How depressing....

Yesterday was a depressing day. It started wrong when I had to get up early that morning after going to sleep at 4 or so. Our satallite lost reception, so I couldn't watch the finals game. So after wondering around Shanghai looking for a bar with the match we finally found one, who incidentally had Coopers Pale Ale. Then this was multiplied by the shocking loss and drop out of the finals run for the Adelaide Crows. Then after that it was other bad news during the day...
Needless to say I wasn't in th best of moods. But I put on my best social face and headed out to DJ for a party. It was fine, took my mind off things. I really didn't feel like going out, but really didn't feel like going home. So after my gig, it was off to Bollywood to meet the rest of the gang.

A Club called Snatch hosted a BOLLYWOOD night. So whole bunch of Indians, a few locals and expats in a club dancing as only the indian know how. The dance floor seemed to be having a good time. Those who weren't indian jumping about though just look well.... extremely camp. I wasn't even going to try. If I'd had a few drinks, then maybe... but at that time no...

Song for the moment: Punjabi MC - Bhangra Knights

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

China - test your morals...

So its been a few months in China now and in that time I've seen and experienced a many new things. Some of which have been great, others which I guess can be put down as good life experience.

Culture in China is without a doubt different. Amongst the mass of local people, each province and region carries its own sub-chinese culture. Throw in the concoction of foreigners and you have a cocktail only available here. There is no way someone can agree with every culture, just not possible. So I agree with some of the ideals and some of the ways that people think here, and some of which I don't. I'm not usually someone who is out to change the world, but I've tried discussing with some of the Chinese people the topics that I have different opinions about. Much of which is met with "but this is China."
So that makes for a huge percentage of the world who accepts these things. Does it make it right? Of course not, but when there are 17 or so billion people in one city and the large majority do it, one becomes somewhat desensitized. Let me give you an example. I'm usually very patient and I would also consider polite. We line up for things in Australia, "take a ticket, get in line." I work in a 40 story building that has 8 elevators. At around 9am the lobby is completely packed. I started out just standing in line waiting for the mass to slowly make their way to the daily grind. Meanwhile the Chinese people arriving behind squeeze their way forward past me as if I was a statue. As a result getting up to work can literally take you 15-20 minutes. After about a week of this, I had just about had it and it was on for young and old. I'm bigger than the majority of Chinese people here which helps. So muscle in there now and BOX OUT, then stand there with a "don't push me, push a push-pop" look. Not too aggressive, but they know not to mess around. Then shove my way through, even when people are getting out of the elevator, I'm following the rest shoving them back so I can make sure I get on.
China is a great test of ones character, and that’s probably the most light hearted example I could think of. Shanghai is a unique place but its definitely the sin city of the east. You learn a lot about yourself and who you are here. It tests one's self control, will power, morals and values, patients, tolerance and ability to adapt. This spans through from simple daily activities, to work life to social life and relationships. I have learnt a lot since coming here and I'm pretty sure I'll be a changed person from this experience. One can only hope that its change for the better...

Song for the moment: There could only be one and only, Michael Jackson & Friends - We are the world. (shut-up.. I like that song)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mmmm.. fermented yak's milk.

Everynow and then you get this "right, I need to leave" feeling. It was that time. Enough of the 17 million people and needed to go to some wide open spaces. So what did we do, Mongolia. Outer mongolia - UlaanBaatar. So Thursday late afternoon, I left work a little early to get packed, then off to Beijing. We (Lyndon, Julien and I ) pretty much got there at Midnight. We packed into the hotel and then off to Sambal Bar (Malaysian or Indonesian). Really nice quaint bar set in the Hutong area. The area is filled with houses which are shared by 5 or so families, not exactally Shangrila. The bar was really nice though. Not nice in a everything is new way but nice because it was old, had the chinese style tiled roof, wooden doors and chinese furniture. Old style chinese beds were placed around the bar, the kind you see the emperor with his 3 mistresses in behind a curtain. Sitting in the courtyard we had a few mojitos and nibbled on some springrolls and curry puffs. Great start to the weekend.

Early morning flight, we left Beijing headed for UlaanBaatar the capital of Mongolia. I thought RMB was annoyingly worthless, but Mongolian Togrog is worse. Under Julien's advice and mathematical calculations we each too out 15000 Tugrog and headed for a taxi. After asking what the price was to get to our guest house, he said 10000 Tugrog. Nice... he was either ripping us off big time, or Julien forgot to carry the 1. Turns out Julien is no mathelete.

Julien had organised the trip and basically was our negotiator. He spoke to the guide and got us the entire tour for the 3 days for $120 Aud. Great work I thought. The plan was to leave UlaanBaator later that afternoon and head south west toward the Gobi Dessert. That afternoon we saw a temple.. nice but after Thailand I'm done with temples for a while. We headed for the centre of town. The city is very communist, almost Russian. There isn't really anything in UB. I think I would last a week.

Being IN Mongolia, Lyndon and I found it necessary to have, you guessed it...all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ. To me mongolian bbq is always a case of the thought was much better than the actual meal. Because of this BBQ we were later for departure on our wonderful jouney. by at least 1.5 hours.

Food is, as advised by many, is shit is Mongolia. There is nothing to like about it. Mutton is not supposed to be eaten. No its not. Lard is not oil. And yak's milk is not supposed to be fermented. Stuff is not ok to cook eat when its dropped on the floor which has been walked all over by boots covered in crap. Lucky for us we brought a little emergency supply.

Our first day we drove and drove. The less than luxurious russian built van that we were travelling had an average speed of probably 40km/h. It must have weighed a tonne, most likely made of cast iron or something.

That night we drove till maybe 3am and stopped at some a friend of the guide's house. Our guide was pretty useless. Slept on the floor on some rugs. Wasn't comfortable but at least we were no longer sitting in the van and blood was able to flow to my arse again.

We woke up the next morning and our kind host, had prepared a lovely breakfast. Mutton, potatoes, carrots and rice. We were also asked to try some lovely dairy products, which were hard as rock and tasted like dried yogurt. (Its on the big plate in the picture.)

After that we were off to spend some time with the nomad family. For those who don't know, the nomads live in yurts. Tents essentially. It was a family of 4 living in a tent with 2 boys. Total floor space was about 3m radius, around 28m sq. Our whole intention was to spend some time with the nomad family and ride horses.

Most families have some horses. This family had a few.. only thing was they were a bit wild. My horse wouldn't do anything I wanted it to. Lyndons just wanted to eat grass and Julien's wanted him off its back. Mongolian saddles are made of wood. I was in pain after about 5 mins. The horses are so small that my knees were in a painful angle and my groin was screaming.

After our lovely ride around the fringe of the Gobi, we proceeded to get to know the family. Nescafe always helps conversation, but being in Mongolia it wasn't available. Instead we used vodka, a great encourager of bonding. I got rightly jolly, Julien wasn't far behind but Lyndon took lead. This was probably the best part of the trip. I'm sure we were great entertainment for the locals. (I tried to hot wire our russian van cos during this time, cos I really wanted to drive it.)

The next day we made tracks for the national park. Our intention was to ride some horses around the park and see the wildlife too. So after hours of driving at a snail's pace we finally made it to the park. However, it wasn't all good news. Out dodgy guide was trying to get us in and out of the park as quick as possible. We saw some wild horses and that was it. Our guide, tried to tell us that there were no deer because it wasn't the right season. So after driving miles we spent about 10 minutes actually looking at wildlife. In our protest, we decided we were going to get out of the van and hang around the park for a couple of hours, make life a little hard for our guide. After sunset, we headed back for UB. It was getting cold, we needed a shower and a bed. Next morning was the trip back to Shanghai.

Mongolia was a good experience. It wasn't comfortable, but its one of those places where you have to go. One to tick of on the list....

PS, we tried our hardest to get our guide fired after getting back. There is a lot I didn't write about, but she was a biiiiatch.