Posts by Country

Monday, April 6, 2015

Old Summer Palace

For our last day in Beijing, Chu Sum and I made our way to the Old Summer Palace. Having seen the other Summer Palace, we had considered other ideas but it seemed a good opportunity to compare the replica with the original. After having some breakfast and stopping by the post office, we played with the cheap flapping bird toys in the park for a bit and spent a few hours walking around the ruins.

It wasn't until we saw some depictions of the palace in original condition (from before it was sacked by the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900), that we realized just how ruined the ruins really were.

Later that evening we flew back to Hong Kong and I broke into my locked apartment with the help of building security and a crowbar... seems my flatmate had latched the door from the inside before entering a state which I can only describe as comatose!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Summer Palace

Today Chu Sum and I went to the Summer Palace with some friends. Yet again, I was able to use my expired student card to get a discount. We wandered through various sections of the palace grounds for probably a few hours until we arrived at a bridge. At that time we decided to split up from the group and visit a small island section across from one of the main palace buildings.

After looking around a bit at we decided to head to Wangfujing snack street for some... snacks.

This is China though so the "snacks" are sometimes a bit like fear factor. We ate our typical meat kebabs and ice cream of course, but I just couldn't leave without trying the scorpions.

They actually taste a bit like a buttery chip - not bad for a deadly, scary looking insect! Next we went over to the souvenir area and gave haggling a go. Now, neither of us are without experience in this department and, in general, going from 135 RMB to 45 RMB seems like a pretty good accomplishment. We walked away thinking we had made the deal of the day... until we saw the same souvenir with a sticker price of 35 RMB. We learned an important lesson there: look around a bit before you make a purchase!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Great Wall

This morning Chu Sum and I ate in a random hutong and took the MTR to a bus station. At the station we waited in line for about an hour (as you do in China), during which time I enjoyed the wonderful experience of being cut in line by a local - one of the aspects of Chinese culture, such as the spitting, of which I am not a fan. In fact, I'm not proud of this, but I may have intentionally given her one or two flat tires as we slowly moved toward the bus.

Next, after taking the bus to one of the last stops, we hired a minivan to take us to another bus (this is not the first time I've had to use several forms of transportation to get somewhere in China) and that bus took us to the Great Wall at Mutianyu! Once we arrived, we bought tickets for the chair lift up and the toboggan ride back down. Unfortunately, after walking up and down the the majority of the wall in this section, we found that we were too late for the toboggan ride... I was very, very disappointed.

We took the chair lift back down and waited in line for the bus that would take us to the car to the other bus which went back to Beijing. Overall, a really cool place to visit with lots of historical significance. Despite the setbacks, I definitely couldn't recommend it enough! I mean, it is a great wall after all ;)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Forbidden City

On Friday, April 3rd, I went out from the hostel to explore the "hutongs" - narrow mazelike alleys which probably make up a majority of the neighborhoods in Beijing. Needless to say, you can get lost in them pretty easily. Of course, if you have a reasonable memory and/or sense of direction, you can quickly find your way back into familiar territory. After having some wantons at a local hutong restaurant, I grabbed some street food as I found my way back to the hostel.

A while later we were ready to have a look at Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. On the way, some salespeople on the street tried to get us to buy tickets for a trip to the Great Wall but, thankfully, we had done our research and knew that this particular section would be crowded and slightly less spectacular than other areas.

We walked around through many security checks (nothing new - security checks are everywhere in the mainland) and eventually made our way to Tienanmen Square which, as it turns out, is right at the entrance to the Forbidden City. All in all, it all probably took about four or five hours before we finally reached the end and decided it was time for dinner. After a decent feed, we went to the Olympic Center buildings.

The Olympic Center buildings were designed and built for the 2008 Summer Olympics and for future use in 2022. The one on the right is the Beijing National Stadium AKA the Bird's Nest and the one on the left is the National Aquatics Center AKA the Water Cube. We spent about two hours there shooting rubber band helicopter things into the air and then headed back to the hostel.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


On Wednesday, April 1st, I got off work and went to Chu Sum's for dinner with his family. The next day we got up at 5am and headed off to the airport. At the check in desk we asked for an exit row but were refused. We didn't mind as we were just happy to be on our way to Beijing. We thanked the lady and headed to our gate. As we were boarding the plane the ticket guy stopped us and took our tickets. We weren't sure what was going on but then he handed us another pair of tickets and we boarded the plane. In the plane the stewardess checked our tickets and told us to go left... into first class. It was then that we realized that the nice lady at the counter had upgraded our tickets. Well, there's a first time for everything!

After a very comfortable flight with Hong Kong Airlines, we arrived in Beijing and caught a bus into the city. We wandered around looking for a couple hours and eventually found our hostel... right near where we had gotten off the bus. After checking into our super cool (yet amazingly cheap) hostel “Shindom Inn Beijing Zhushikou”, we grabbed a bite to eat and crashed at only 6pm.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Different Paths

On Saturday, March 7th, a bunch of us went to Lantau Island to hike Sunset peak. It was a rather foggy day but, despite the lack of visibility, it was actually perfect weather for climbing a mountain. As we reached the top we found ourselves in the middle of a river of fog flowing over the peak. We had hoped to reach a point above the fog, and we were certainly close at this point, but the experience of walking in the clouds would have to suffice.

A few days later, I had an interesting chat with another English professor. Apparently we both had different interpretations of a particular idiom. While languages are arguably nothing without their rules, it seems reasonable to suggest that we are all rather quickly moving away from the type of pedagogical society that cares - texting as an obvious example. Of course, colloquial language in general is informal and thus doesn't require much in the way of rules to function... just try telling that to an English person.

Now, maybe you would agree with my British friend, and indeed it is quite possible that I was being something of a "stick in the mud", but the phrase, "no use crying over spilled (or spilt if your of the pommie persuasion) milk" seems to be primarily related to the futility of "sweating the small stuff."

On the other hand, I fully acknowledge that the accepted interpretation is that there is, "no use being upset about something that has already happened and/or you cannot change."

Okay, I get it - you cannot change the past... you can clean up milk though. For that reason I might even suggest that my definition is contextually more practical... and appropriate. For example, I strongly feel that you would have to have something of a death wish (no pun intended) to go to a funeral and mutter such a poor choice of words... just saying.

My point here is that, while my interpretation appears to work 100% of the time, the official one clearly does not. What do you think?

Neither the Americans nor the British are doing a great job of preserving the language (just try talking to a scouser from Liverpool, a Louisiana Creole person, or reading anything written in English 500+ years ago,). Sure, we could argue all day about which culture is most... creative with the vocabulary, but the fact is that the main function of language has been, and likely always will be, communication. For this reason, I suppose you could say that the rules are important - until they're not.