Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kitsch and Culture in Tokyo, Japan

I was watching a video on youtube the other day in which some British kids decided to document their visit to the US by going to WalMart. They showed processed lunchmeat which already had cheese in it, iced tea in what they called gasoline bottles, and rifles. What a nice video of America. Yes, those things exist, and yes they're gross, or violent, or in the case of the iced tea, totally normal in my opinion. But it's kind of mean to show that and not the beautiful things you can see in America, or the great food that can be found in gardens and at farmers markets. Why do I write the aforementioned in a Tokyo blog post, well, because Tokyo is kitschy, which I personally think is excellent, but it's not really a nice word, and I also hope to show the beauty beyond the kitsch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Incongruous City of Beijing

Our first lodging in Beijing was in a traditional area that hasn't yet been disassembled and turned into high rise, high density housing. It is an area of small alleys (Hutong) and roads just large enough for a single small car to pass.  An area where real people still live, kids play in the streets, and tourists are few and far enough between that the store owners don't speak much English, and consequently weren't keen to rip us off. Though not high rise, the housing is much more high density than most westerners would tolerate. As we soon found out, the ample public bathrooms were for the locals who apparently don't have toilets or showers in their homes. As we were told, it's a charming place to see old Beijing, save the occasional whiff of the commode.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yangshuo's landscapes are amazing

From Hong Kong we went to spend a week in mainland China in an area known for its landscapes, and we were not disappointed. Since it's the mainland, getting there for cheaper involved leaving Hong Kong by train to Shenzhen, where we passed the border, then taking a cab to the local airport, a plane to Guilin, and finally a couple of buses to reach Yangshuo. The funny part is: this was the quick way that involved taking a 1.5 hours flight instead of a 9 hours train.

The trip was worth every minute though as the area is truly gorgeous and offers tons of things to do if you like the outdoors.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hong Kong doesn't feel like a metropolis

From Bangkok we moved on to China. Our first stop was Hong Kong. Even if the British have "given Hong Kong back" to China, it's still very much its own entity with its own government and rules and so it's nothing like the mainland. For one, there is no censorship of any kind. So it's pretty much a different country.

We spent a few days there and were generously hosted by Fred, a friend from my early college years who moved there at the same time I moved to the US, and who I had not seen in 10 years. On top of being our host he was also our guide through a few areas of Hong Kong and a wealth of information about the way things work there. As always, it was really awesome to be able to hang out with someone who actually lives in the place we visited. You get a much more intimate look at the place.