A super-authentic Chinese restaurant on Vicar Lane, just on the edge of Leeds city centre. Crazy music, nonchalant waiters, and spot-on dim sum – exactly like being in China. The price is very reasonable too, and there’s a bakery downstairs should you want more on top of your glutinous fun.
Living in Guangzhou had many advantages, and one of the biggest was the cheap availability of food. As the centre of Cantonese cuisine, Guangzhou (previously called Canton) is more than well placed to provide some tasty treats. My brief experience with Northern food revealed a somewhat stodgy bread-based diet and combined with my return to London I discovered that I missed real Guangzhou Dim Sum.
Since then I’ve tried several places in an attempt to find something satisfactory. First was an anonymous restaurant in China Town, which in retrospect is probably not a good place to find Chinese food (aimed more at tourists than anything else). Next up was a hopeful Chinese/Jazz fusion, courtesy of Shanghai Blues. I left here feeling disappointed – the dumplings tasted bready, the contents were indistinct. Prices were also too high.
Next week sees the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Rat, and with it millions of Chinese will celebrating with their families. The rat symbolises wealth and prosperity to the Chinese, and I’m hoping this is a good sign as by the end of the month I will be moving to London to restart Life 2.0.
My feelings about this are mixed. In many respects I’m looking forward to having access to all the modern goodness that I’m used to, but in others I’m expecting severe culture-shock as I rejoin the familiar rat-race (pun intended). Like many Chinese at this time of the year I shall be catching up with family (although hopefully not hampered by extreme weather conditions). Following that I’ll be faced with the rather more difficult prospect of finding employment and a place to live.
Seeing as the internet is ideally built for self-promotion I thought I may as well mention that if anyone happens to be in the position of needing a full-time London-based developer then please do get in touch. There’s some more details about my skills here, and it should be noted that I can do other things besides PHP/WordPress. Pimp-mode over.
I’m cold. Very cold. For the past two weeks China has been experiencing the worst winter in fifty years. Much of the country has been covered in snow. Living in the relatively warmer climates of Southern China you would expect winter to be a mild affair. Last year it was, but this year the temperatures have dropped to around 4 degrees (daytime). Now this isn’t such a low number when compared to other parts of the country, but the important factor is that the South is completely unprepared for such weather. For example, the building I live in has absolutely no insulation, the windows have gaps along the edges, the door leading to the balcony is an interior door, and there is no heating of any kind. The building itself is made of concrete and this only seems to intensify the exterior temperature. I can safely say that this is the coldest winter I’ve ever experienced – cold, damp, and miserable. Prague seems balmy in comparison.
The weather has affected the country just before the main Chinese New Year holiday, and right at the time when millions of migrant workers want to return home. Apparently 500,000 of them were stranded at the main train station here in Guangzhou, due to cancelled trains elsewhere on the network. The situation is so bad that the army was called in to calm the situation. The estimated cost to the country is about 18 billion yuan. Ouch.
All I can say is roll on spring.
After two years in China I finally managed to do something I’ve been planning to do for a long time, namely visit Beijing. As Southern China is such a very long way from the North, Christmas seemed as good a time as any, and after some last-minute clicking I had a flight and hotel booked to see me through the Christmas period.
Not only is Beijing geographically distant from Guangzhou, it’s also different in most other respects. The people look different, they behave different, they eat different, and they speak different. It would be easy to convince yourself you are in a different country entirely.
Recently I’ve been trying to find examples of good modern Chinese music. It’s been a hard search. Most Chinese music appears to be made entirely for the karaoke market. The reason for this is probably one of simple economies – the karaoke market in China is huge. Almost everyone takes part in it, both men and women, young and old. Karaoke centres are vast buildings with hundreds of private rooms where people go to sing on all manner of occasions – with friends, lovers, even on business.
TV is also full of karaoke-style shows. At any moment of the day it is likely that somewhere there is a TV station in China broadcasting amateur singing. It’s taken very seriously, with big competitions and major prizes. Often a popular karaoke singer will go on to start a successful pop career. It even goes deep inside the state with CCTV7 broadcasting the unintentionally funny army karaoke show (or at least, that’s my interpretation of it).
China is an old country with a lot of history and, to an outsider looking in, with a lot of strange and alien customs.
Recently I was invited along for a foot massage at a local spa. This industry is well established in China, and they’ve been practicing these treatments for thousand of years. While having my feet massaged (which for just under one pound was a bargain), one of my friends suggested I try Ba Guan treatment. They described it as something where glass jars are attached to the back, removing moisture from the flesh. There are many reasons why someone would have this done, one being that it helps people with a, for want of better word, dodgy stomach. Aha! Sounds great, I thought, I have that.
It was Chinese New Year a few weekends back and amongst the celebrations Guangzhou had its New Year Flower Fair. This is a local tradition going back over 500 years to the Ming Dynasty. I decided to check it out in the evening and went to one (of several) locations in the Beijing Road area of the city.
My first post of 2007 will be spent talking about the last month of 2006. I realise that it’s been a shockingly long time since I wrote anything here (five months, to be exact), and also that I’ve been incredibly bad at keeping up with emails and comments (my apologies to anyone who has contacted me – I will get back to you).
I spent the whole of December in Europe. Two weeks of this was in Bratislava, Slovakia, and the rest with family for Christmas in England. After a year in Asia it was great to go back home and be able to go about my business without being a cause for curiosity. It would be very trite of me to say that nothing had changed. It would also be quite untrue. A lot of things have changed, and none more so than UK airports, which can now be summed up very succinctly: a royal nuisance. Long queues and over-zealous security made every journey an extreme test of patience. Even leaving the train at the airport’s train station was not simple, and security were unhappy that I’d thrown my ticket away between leaving the train and exiting the station.
One major frustration I find living in China is that the internet is not nearly as useful as in the West. What little information is available is hard to find, hidden deep in forums, or is covered in annoying animated pictures (a predilection of Chinese web-sites, unfortunately*).
Anyway, with this in mind I’ve been busy helping to put together a ‘Best Of’ website for Guangzhou, the city in which I currently live. It’s not complete yet, and there are big holes in the information, but it tries to give some real information (or at the very least, information that I would find useful).
Consider this a plug for the aforementioned site. If you’re interested then you can visit it at bestofguangzhou.com. Even better, if you’ve been to Guangzhou or live there now, please do send an opinion or review!
Note to any Chinese web developers – you do not have to fill every square centimetre of screen space with writing or moving images. My computer should not run at 100% just to visit your website.