Guangzhou

So it’s been a very long time since I posted anything here, and it is not from apathy. Since returning from Norway I decided that I wanted to go to Asia, and so after a lot of hard work renewing passports and obtaining visas, I am now living in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China.

I was very much hoping that China would be relatively free of the whole Christmas mania that blights everywhere in the West, but it seems not. In fact, the Christmas experience is heightened with the high pitched warbles of some child screeching Christmas songs out in every shop that are loud enough to do permanent damage to ears. Everyone seems oblivious to it apart from me. My ‘favourite’ was the adaptation of Jingle Bells:

Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells
Ding
Ding
Ding
Good every day

So why Guangzhou? Well, it’s certainly not for the clean and pollution free environment, but it is a big city with many advantages, the biggest being its vicinity to Hong Kong. Apparently Guangzhou is over 2000 years old, and is famed for it’s food (another name for the city is Canton, home of the Cantonese language and cuisine). The name itself apparently means ‘Goat Town’. Nice.

The weather averages a pleasant 20 degrees in winter, but it sure does feel cold at night with no heating.

And life in China? Very, very, strange. It’s a whole different world. I am constantly amazed by the amount of money that flows through the city. Restaurants and shops are always full to bursting, car dealers are selling 500 new cars a day, construction sites appear daily, and the whole place is alive. The eating experience is something that requires more details. Back home I’m used to restaurants and cafes being fairly small places, maybe serving 20 or 30 people. Restaurants here serve 1000’s at a time, over several floors, full of noise, chaos, and confusion (for me anyway). Need a table for two? No problem, the table folds down. Need a table for 20? Staff appear from nowhere rolling a giant table-top that fits over the smaller table.

It’s going to take a long time to fit everything inside my head.

(and I will get round to replying to all questions eventually).

And there goes Autumn

HeadsAfter a long hiatus I am back in Prague, and it’s feeling good. Norway was a fantastic country to stay in. The countryside was, to use a ropey-old expression, drop-dead gorgeous. The people were very friendly, and I enjoyed myself a lot. Living in a hotel for so long did have its downsides, and I don’t miss that at all, but I succumbed to a reward scheme and have earned myself enough points to stay somewhere lovely.

My previous impressions of Oslo were more or less accurate, but I will update them here. The most important thing is that yes, Norway is indeed an expensive place. Even compared to London. When you look at simple items such as a stick of chewing gum or a can of coke, and find that they are up to five times more expensive, you start to take notice.

A curious fact is that even though the population of Norway is only 4,604,800 (half the population of London), they have two languages (and possibly more, but the distinction escapes me). Like most places I visited I managed to derive some amusement from words with dual meanings, and particularly enjoyed ‘spare bank’, ‘god parkering’, and ‘fartering’.

Continue reading “And there goes Autumn”

Exploring Oslo

So I’ve had a few days experience of Oslo and my thoughts so far are:

  • It’s full of shiny new people and things
  • It’s very clean
  • Oslo has big traffic congestion problems
  • Norway has a lot of laws
  • The hotel has free wi-fi access in all rooms – nice!
  • It is expensive, but no more so than London
  • I’ve not seen a fish anywhere (although I think they are just hiding out of sight)
  • People get called Odd and Even
  • Most people have an almost perfect understanding of English, and can speak it with very little accent. I’ve been told that English is compulsory at schools from the age of 8 onwards. I suspect that the similarity in structure of English and Norwegian and Swedish may also be a contributing factor. Whatever the reason, I am in awe.
  • I met an old Odd guy who says his father tried to assassinate Trotsky when he was living here in Norway
  • I can once again buy goodies such as muffins and NME magazine. It really is a rock-star life-style I lead.

Continue reading “Exploring Oslo”

Organizing Norway

I am going to Norway today, for three weeks on business. I’ve never been to Scandanavia before so I’m looking forward to the trip, and especially to seeing the Norwegian countryside. My flight leaves in about 3 hours and everything is packed (excepting the computer I’m typing this on). I hate this dead-time before a big trip as I’m too jittery to do anything, but too organized to leave everything until the last minute.

People keep telling me that Norway is a very expensive country, and that I should expect to eat a lot of fish. I suspect the first is very likely to be true, and the second may just be a cultural stereotype. I’ll find out soon enough!

Anyway, here’s the extent of my Norwegian knowledge:

munch

After realizing my passport runs out in a few months, I’m feeling very much like that.