A Travellerspoint blog

SHANGHAI PART TWO

MOGANSHAN LU AND A VIBRATING HOSTEL

sunny

I spent a day in Moganshan Lu on my third day in Shanghai. This was another art district. But this time it was more like an enormous warehouse mostly full of commercial galleries. It was possible to meet the artists here but there was again the question of the language problem. Or the question of yet more apathetic staff gawping intently at computers rather than informing visitors about the artist, his stuff or his inspiration. In fact these bods were largely just sales people and I lost interest fairly quickly in most of the galleries. A contrast with Hong Kong where in even the most mundane gallery the staff were more than informative, chatty, you felt like they were your mate and were really sad to leave. MOGANSHAN APOCOLYPSE

MOGANSHAN APOCOLYPSE

MOGANSGAN SADWALL

MOGANSGAN SADWALL

MOGANHAN LAUNDRY

MOGANHAN LAUNDRY


However, it was well worth a day here and I came back another two times. Partly because I found a housing enclave being destroyed behind the gallery space and I got some great photos of the graffiti some artists had thoughtfully made there. MOGANSHAN RUBBUOLOUS

MOGANSHAN RUBBUOLOUS

MOGANSHAN GRAFART1EDIT

MOGANSHAN GRAFART1EDIT

MOGANSHAN GRAFART

MOGANSHAN GRAFART

And also because to really see everything you need to come a few times. Two artists really stood out for me. The first one can be tracked down at miaowang.jimdo.com and his name is Xiang Dong Chen. Him and his wife were what I felt to be real artists. A rare breed in China. She certainly looked the part in a beautiful silk pink coat with gorgeous Chinese designs on and a jaunty peaked cap. He was at work but stopped to try to converse a bit with me in his limited English. I felt them both humble in the extreme and they tried so hard to convey the themes of their art to me. It was spiritual stuff and I presume they were both Buddhist from the subject matter. It was a lot to do with man's struggle for awakening the consciousness. BATTERED CONCIOUSNESS

BATTERED CONCIOUSNESS

I have noticed, when visiting ornamental ponds with lotus flowers, the symbol of an enlightened consciousness in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, that the lotus blossoms look a tad battered. The nature is speaking China government man. In a country like China maybe this theme is neglected when it could be a bit more prominent. Materialism and rampant consumerism is not necessarily the way forward. This artist was on the case. One picture was of what looked like an enormous stone heart floating in the ocean with tiny men trying to climb up it. Upon this heart was this poem:

Our body may be compared to the bodh tree
while our mind to a case of bright mirrors
Carefully we sweep them hour by hour
and let dust fall on them not
By nature there is no bodh tree
Nor a case of bright mirrors
Since intrinsically it is void
where can the dust fall on them.

It was written in Chinese characters and this was copied from an English translation that was very thoughtfully placed alongside the painting. You can see the picture on the website mentioned before. Make of it all what you will but it moved me.
The second artist that wowed me was not there and the language problem prevented me from getting any info. Sadly, I lost the card with his name on. Twice. I'm a twat. Here are his pictures. This is what China can produce.WIERDART2

WIERDART2

WIERDART1

WIERDART1

WIERD ART

WIERD ART

Pudong district is a must see for anyone interested in high tech, high rise, high priced shopping centres. Or over priced high rise monstrosities to go up the top of and look at the Boring Bund on the other side of the river. Not my thing really and Cecilia told me that the Pearl Tower windows are so mucky you can't see the view anyway. And it costs a tenner for that lot. The shopping centres in Pudong were mostly glitzy plazas full of designer goods produced by the likes of Dolce and Gabanna, Prada, Georgio Armani and Jean-Paul Gaultier is coming soon. Its all so bleeding eighties. I came here one evening after spending an afternoon in the Lanes with the proletariat. What a contrast. I preferred the latter. Its probably better to come here around sunset and walk down the river to check out the flashing buildings show. Oh yes and the flashing boats show. In the daytime its just concrete looming and boat loads of crap going by. I have to say though the atmosphere was very gentle all round and it was a thoroughly pleasant stroll.PUDONG PLUSH

PUDONG PLUSH

PUDONG PLAZA1

PUDONG PLAZA1

PUDONG

PUDONG


There is a market in Pudong that you will find very easily if you get off the metro at the Science and Technology museum. (Futuristic building that beggars belief) This market is aimed at ferrangs and you're assaulted and harangued before you even get there by kids prematurely trying to sell you stuff. Now I'd been to Qi Pu Lu the day before and had noticed none of this full on kind of approach there. “Hey Lady, you wanna buy a bag?” Screeched at me in a high pitched voice that went right through my noodle. As it was I did want a bag, The first price was 150 RMB for something that should be about 45. Cheeky fuckers. Go to shops that don't harangue you and tell them you came there simply because you weren't harangued by a screeching salesperson. Loads of pearls on sale if that's your thing.
On the subject of markets in Cecilia's district there was the Xiaononmen Fabric market. There were two parts to this I discovered. One totally touristy part that tailor made clothes for people and another part in the Lanes that just sold the fabric. You could also find a tailor easily in the Lanes but take a sample of what you want or a good picture. The Chinese are very very good at copying and you wont be disappointed with your final product. The fabric was mostly good quality and a great selection. Cashmere was in abundance as was silk and all manner of shirting and suiting. Prepare to haggle here. Fur traders lurk about in the streets here so don't bring anyone with you who belongs to the ALF.
It was time to check out of the Couch Surfing venue and get myself into a hostel. I wanted to meet fellow wayfarers and although Cecilia was wonderful, voyaging types just didn't pass by the 28th storey of a Shanghai high rise block. What about Ludo you may be asking. Well, we had a major argy bargy at Cecilia's one morning. I knew he'd got a date planned for that evening with one of the queens he'd found on Gay Romeo. He told me he was chronically constipated and had taken a laxative and was scared to go out in case he shit his pants. I told him this was ridiculous and the idea of couch surfing wasn't that you hung about someone's pad all day long larging it up whilst they were at work. This was taking the piss in my eyes.
“But she gave me a key.” He wailed.
“Not a written invitation to hang about her gaff all the day too though. You're supposed to be checking out one of the most up and coming cities in the world.” So we had a big argument that was very long overdue about him following me about contributing little to the trip and not really even taking any interest in any of it. I went off for the day whilst he dealt with his douche bag and I never saw him again. He stayed with the Chinese Queen he met and left China for a Goan beach shortly afterwards. I was once again a happily solo transglobal navigator.

DORM DWELLING
One of the problems with China is that cheap accommodation is not found lounging about willy nilly. In places like Yangshou someone will be lying in wait for you at the bus stop. But get to Shanghai and for budget rooms you deffo need to forward plan. This eventuates as a hostel. This means Youth Hostels International as they are usually cheap,and cheerful, the staff are friendly and helpful and the info of other hostels is always available. Get a membeership for discount. Usually they will book you in to the next place free of charge too. You have the choice of a room or a dorm. Now I don't mind a bit of dorm dwelling. So long as you go equipped with an eye mask and ear plugs its not too bad. Forget these articles and you're fucked. You have the snorer, the farter, the I'm getting up at 4am to see the sunrise merchant, the door slammer, the locker meddler, the mobile phone ring tone pain, the listener to shit music off a mobile phone fan, the plastic bag rustler, the piss heads rolling in at 3am, the early morning cleaners etc, etc,. All this in a bunk bed situation normally. This means unless your bedmate is a catatonic accident victim in a coma your bed may be the type that moves about every time they do.
Dorms are a great place to meet people. Of course they are. You're in very close quarters with people so what are you going to do? Ignore them? Course not. And the Chinese are so friendly and hospitable, even if you get a combination of the aforementioned you'll never be Billy No Mates. This Shanghai hostel was in a good location up Suzhou Creek. Near to a metro and not far from the centre of it all. The corridors were lit with UV lighting and there was a pool table upstairs and a bit of a cafe. I made friends immediately with a kid called Zhou on the desk. Anything I wanted to know he sorted it out. And with a happy smile too.
The only problems with this dorm was the lack of a window and the metro ran directly underneath it. So every five minutes or so your bed vibrated. It was in fact the early morning alarm shudder. It was here I met Mrs Tao Bao. She liked lying around until 12 noon. No window means what time is it? She bought stuff off this famous Chinese internet shop and sold it in her own shop in Fuzhou. Her boyfriend was called Eric They both went about done up in the most insane articles sourced from this site and for me they were the epitome of Chinese Chic. Explained to me all about the internet in China. They have qq for example which is their version of Facebook and every single Chinaperson under 40 is on it in their spare moments. Facebook is unobtainable in China, as is You Tube, as is Internet Movie Database and many other sites. This is all part of the Chinese government's quest to keep their people in the dark. But the internet is a www. The young Chinese kids probably have more ability to use it to their advantage and are streets ahead of the government with various methods of getting through the barriers. It wont be too long before the Chinese get their freedom and a lot of it will come from access of information, the knowledge that out there people speak their minds and express themselves without fear of the world coming to a standstill.
Zhou told me about Qi Pu Lu. This is a cheapo clothes market very close to the hostel and to get there you walk through more of old soon to be demolished Shanghai. I went up there just to see what it was like and it was a hell. Most of the clothes were in small shops in a low ceilinged warehouse with a chronic lack of light. The clothes were cheap but I'm not really a shopper and I didn't need anything. I just felt like I was going to have a panic attack from the claustrophobia. I was more interested in the surrounding neighbourhoods. This was the first place I saw some kind of organised begging drama. There was a tramp lying on the floor dressed in a patchwork outfit of rags and another young bloke going through a proper performance of pleading for money next to what I presume was an ancient dying relative. The Chinese seemed sympathetic and the cash was slowly coming in. If you're up that way go and check out this vicinity, especially the Lanes. It wont be there for much longer more's the pity.

I made rakes of Chinese mates in this hostel. The girlies in the female dorm went through such a rigmarole going to bed with potions and lotions it was quite fascinating to watch. They use these Phantom of the Opera face masks. Quite frightening when you turn round and a late nighter is sitting on the bed with one of these strange masks on. I screamed out loud the first time I saw one. A constant proffering of foodstuffs was nice too. Eve if it was a bizarre chewy meat or strange green powder you mixed with hot water. I liked to hang with Eric and Mrs Tao Bao the best. He was adorable and she was spoiled and sulky, but both on the ball. They told me about Xi Tang and it was to there I was to adjourn as my first port of call on the way South. Shanghai was getting colder and it was time to hunt the sun. The update will follow soon and will tell the tale of my experiences both hideous and wonderful as a tourist in what turned out to be an increasingly frigid dystopian China.

Posted by ellastar 05:17 Archived in China Tagged landscapes art buildings skylines people Comments (0)

SHANGHAI.. BATTLING BUGS AND TOURIST TAT part one

ART, LANES AND MARKETS

sunny 15 °C

SHANGHAI. CHINESE QUEENS, SCRAPPING BUGS AND DEMOLITION

So time for the Yangshou departure tax to be paid and organise the exit strategy. Bus back to Guilin and the purchase of tickets to Shanghai for that evening. This having yet again been assaulted by the worrymongers saying that it would be nigh on impossible to get same day requested tickets. That meant we had four hours to kill in Guilin. Now Guilin turned out to be the most boring town in the world. If you remember from previous blogs, this was the place where we had the drama trying to locate the Wada hostel. All things considered I was highly delighted that we were thwarted that day and went to Yangshou instead. I gave Ludo one last chance at redeeming himself and on sighting a tourist info office I dispatched him hence to sort out a mini tour of the town. He came back with a map and info about some hot spots to check out.
A botanical garden was very close. Free entry. OK. Let's go and have a look. It was a palm tree and a couple of pot plants down a back alley of a shopping area. Oh yes. And a bench to sit on to get the botanical ambience soaked up. So that was totally crap. Next destination was the place the clueless taxi driver took us to that time before. Turned out it was a palace cum museum. Looked minimal and completely boring. No one could tell us anything about it except that it was £7 to go in. Not on your nelly. So that was Guilin. We wandered about tedious shopping centres bored shitless. No aesthetics, no personality, just consumerism at its worst. The people milling about were expressionless, devoid of passion for any of it. Going through the motions of what was expected of them when given this concrete world to occupy. It got to me. The term frigid dystopia came to mind. I got quickly depressed. Ludo started whistling through his teeth. He stood about twirling his hair round his index finger, mindlessly. This had been annoying me since Hong Kong. Minor irritations perpetrated by your travelling companions at the beginning of your trip turn into major offences punishable by murder a month later. Especially when the annoyed one is bored and disgruntled. We'd reached that stage. The “tune” he was whistling was searing through my central nervous system with barbs attached. It was Phil Collins. Against All sodding Odds. I'm afraid I cracked. There was the long overdue confrontation over the whistling. At last I'd told him to shut the fuck up with it. He was miffed. I knew the end of our journey together was nigh. It was all over bar the shouting. It was an interminable four hours in Guilin.

On the train I started to read Marco Polo. This is a deffo must read for anyone visiting China as it shows how things were run years back. Looks like the Chinese have always had a history of being a load of subservient plebs dominated by one strong character. Swiss Family Khan for example. Ghengis then Kublai ran the show and what they said went. For miles around. Then came the Emperors and various dynasties. All holed up in an enormous palace full of untold opulence and minions by the millions. These leaders discouraged impoliteness, interloping, insubordination and infidelity. They heartily encouraged prostration, adulation, the queueing up of gift bearers and you had to lay down your life for them when told to or they'd have you slaughtered. Maybe its in the DNA of the Chinese to do as they're told with no complaint or question.
Coming into Shanghai took an age. I remembered a conversation I'd had with a tour guide in the park at Yangshou. I'd asked him if there was anything interesting to do in between Guanxi Province and Shanghai. No, he said. Nothing. Now if you consider this is a landmass of some 1000 odd km it beggars belief that there's nowt to see therein. But from the window of the train it became rapidly apparent that this region was flatter than the Benelux Realm, devoid of trees and abundant only in what could be know as the Empty Highrise Isolated Enclave. Block after block of same same concrete nightmare scenario in the middle of what looked like Bum Fuck Nowhere. What are those places all about? Why were they there? Who was building them? HAD THEY HEARD OF lOW RISE? Where were the aesthetics? What would be the consequent suicide rate of the inhabitants. And who would they be the poor sods? God it was depressing. Frigid dystopia. Ludo and me sat on those funny little seats in the aisle of the sleeper carriage and looked at these dismal developments bewildered. If this was Shanghai I'd be on the first plane anywhere else. It wasn't Shanghai. We were hours away. And all we had to look at was that lot all the way in. An horrible racket ensued from the train tannoy. It was a three tunes and jingles on a loop and it went on worse than Ludo's whistling. We sat benumbed by the mindless landscape and the chinkpop for an age before we were eventually informed our destination was nigh. WHAT WOULD THIS KIND OF CONTINUOUS SUBLIMINAL INFILTRATION DO TO US IN THE LONG RUN?????? Read on and find out.
After navigating our way out of yet another gargantuan railway station known as Shanghai South; its mother was an Olympic sports arena with a tendency to tedium and its father was an underground torture chamber at the Politburo in Moscow, we got a metro over to the Couch surfing birds gaff. Ludo was looking at the metro map. Get one of these at the tourist information office. Necessary.
“I'll have to get the hang if this if I'm going to be meeting these people.” Oh hallelujah. He'd scored of Gay Romeo. Not like him not to have mentioned it. What's the big secret? But who the fuck cares? Some time to myself at last. Our French girl wasn't due back until 7pm. So we had a couple of hours to kill. We found her area. Part of Puxi district near to Xiaonanmen metro station. It was great. How I imagined China to be in the cities. Little streets with tiny shops and vendors selling all manner of stuff, street food being cooked up, oldsters milling about in pyjamas and evidence of houses off down darkened alleys. There was a real atmosphere of community and an essence of life. A delight of the heart and a smile to the chops was induced from this ambience. A proper contrast with the dystopian hellholes in the making we'd seen on the way in whereby a prompt slash to the wrist had been induced. I couldn't wait to come and check all this lot out in the daytime.PUDONG NIGHTS

PUDONG NIGHTS

LANE SHOES

LANE SHOES


Turned out we were staying on the 28th floor of one of the new high rise blocks overshadowing this sweet little community. A community ear marked for demolition, we learned off Cecilia our CS host. I could have cried. What right has any monster got to come round a persons dwelling and bash it all down for the sake of a few dollars more. And sling up high rise hell holes!! Greedy stupid morons that's who. I have to say though, the view from the 28th floor was staggering. You could see Pudong district lit up in all its glory. Another rival to Hong Kong. Pudong reeked of big banking, power and a quest to show the rest of the world China was on the way up. The apartment was very swish. But the tower block lacked character and essence which is what all human habitation should aim to produce surely. I'd got altitude sickness and my ears still hadn't popped from the trip up in the lift after half an hour.
Cecilia was fantastic. Frankly The Hunch Back of Notre Dame or Norman Bates would have been appreciated after a month solid with Ludo and his ruddy whistling. Cecilia worked as some sort of tax advisor and had been in Shanghai for nearly two years. She also loved the Lanes and told us that plenty of ex pats wanted to get somewhere to live in that community. We went out to get some won ton soup and it was delicious. A lot of people in Chinese cities don't bother cooking. Get their grub in the Lanes. Its cheap and easy enough to find a local place. So great food and incredibly, a room of my own, A Ludo free zone. Thank you God.
We'd to go to the Cop Shop in the morning and register that we were staying with Cecilia. I told her I was mad for art and she pointed us in the direction of a place en suite to her yard. Taikang Lu is also known as Art Street. Now what's happened here is the Lanes have been saved due to poncification. And turned into art galleries, posh eateries and boutiques. Yes its touristy and its clientèle were largely ferrangs. Much of the art here was commercial stuff, not great quality and had been shipped in directly from the fake oil paining enclave of Da Fen in Shenzhen. The Laughing Faces were everywhere. This bloke Yue Mingjun paints self portraits with a massive smile. God it's horrible. Frightening even and in gaudy pop art colours. Also the crying baby by Yin Jun which is equally tacky was all over the shop too. Who the hell wants any of that shit on their wall? Mr Fish paints pictures which have a repetitive feel and you can see his stuff in other art enclaves of China and Hong Kong too. He uses very thick oil paint to create formations of zillions of people doing the same movement often overlooked by some emblem of power. This sums up China. Millions of people repeating the same stuff since way back when. And Mr Fish is continuing this theme with his art as he paints the same three pictures over and over again. Whilst initially intriguing, it soon wore thin as this artwork appeared again and again thus got boring.TAIKANG WINDOW

TAIKANG WINDOW

TAIKANG

TAIKANG

Some good photography exhibitions including the work of Zeng Li. He's actually a stage designer and worked on the brilliant film, Raise the Red Lantern. When he saw the systematic destruction and rebuilding of Beijing he started to make a photo documentary. Anyone interested in the social changes in China should check out this blokes stuff. You can find him on Art Zine on the good auld www. The hutongs in Beijing are very similar to the Lanes here in Shanghai. The Chinese wiped nearly all of them out and replaced them with high rise apartments and glitzy plaza style shopping centres. Thus copying the worst of the west in a bid to impress the world and its media when it came for the 2008 Olympics. I can tell you this China. The common consensus from the West is that you fucked up. We'd have been more impressed if you'd let those people stay where they were and improved their existing communities instead of bulldozing community spirit. But you won't listen to me like you never listen to your own people either. Your FACE has shit on it over that China government man. And let Ai Wei Wei speak his mind too. He built you that Birds Nest stadium. He's a brilliant artist. Because he has the power of expression which you don't like. So you can either have crap architecture, which you have plenty of, or let people speak and it gets more creative. AND THEY DONT WANT HIGH RISES AND CONCRETE. LAST LANES

LAST LANES


It was here in Taikang Lu that I met the Artist. I'll only call him the Artist because I don't want him arrested and tortured by the thought police for what he told us. He very kindly invited us to sit down and we spent nearly an hour talking to him about China, the psychological effects of its history on the people and therefore its art. He said that the Chinese had been brainwashed. That the level of brainwashing was so deep that it may take generations to recover. He told us there was a peculiar hierarchy regarding social command. People had to consider the response of four different mediums before they acted on any impulse. The first level was what he called the Paradise but this could be translated as God. (Also cosmic stuff which explains why so many Chinese put faith in astrology) Secondly came the Emperor or the Leader anyway. For he was God's representative on Earth. Thirdly came the teacher then lastly the parents. Think about that for a moment, If you had to give respect to that lot before sticking your neck out you'd never have time to do anything let alone the inclination. There was perhaps not so much a fear of expression, more a reticence of it. And that's why it was difficult to find any art that was radical. The fear came later as an added factor inflicted by Mao's megalomaniacal/psychotic dictatorial repression systems and the Cultural Revolution.
So Chinese artists mostly copy western techniques or stick to traditional methods. In fact, China are copy cats in every respect because they have no sense of invention or design due to this chronic wariness of self expression. So this means fashion and architecture, music, and of course art are affected. Let me tell you, their new music is Boy Bands meets Europop on a repetitive loop from merry hell.
The artist had been out of China to the States in the early seventies as part of his training. All of the artists who went with him stayed in America but he came back for his wife and child. He said he bitterly regretted coming back and that all those who stayed in America managed to get their wives and children out too. His life would have been completely different had he stayed in America. He'd sent his own son to Berlin to train as an artist and told him never to come back to China.
His son paints images of Mao. Interestingly he's not a fan of this barmpot dictator yet paints him anyway. The father thought that Mao was just doing his job and was not a bad man. That still today people idolise the man though he's been dead for over thirty years. He evidently hadn't read the Mao biography that claimed the man had murdered up to 60 million people through various means. He also didn't accept that Mao starved his own people whilst sending the crops they'd grown to survive on to support the Communists in Hungry. Then again, like he'd pointed out, the folks of China have indeed been utterly brainwashed.
The Artist was super cool. I felt like crying for him and all the Chinese people like him. With so very little complaint he'd told us his story. He's accepted his lot but made sure his son was out the frame. He gave me a lot of food for thought that day but it was the look on his face that stayed with me the most. Inscrutable. They were facts he told us and that was it. I got a sense of helplessness and inevitability and saw a beautiful deer stuck in a trap. For the real artists in China it must be an absolute nightmare to live in such a repressive society. Artists, the real ones, are sensitive souls and should be respected as such. They need freedom to think and create their unique vision. I think in China they're just put to work, like everyone else. LANE SINKS

LANE SINKS


From his shop we left Taikang Lu feeling that was enough. I felt kind of heavy minded after all that. Like Taikang Lu was a fake façade and mostly just horribly commercial. We wandered about and found some Lanes at the end of the street that were in the process of being destroyed. Amazingly, the remaining community was carrying on as usual whilst buildings were being bashed down en suite. It looked like men with lump hammers were taking the buildings apart systematically rather than just doing it over with a bulldozer. Seemed like they were saving the best bits of the construction for recycling and indeed, men with barrows and handcarts were showing up and carting off bricks, roof tiles, wood and bits of metal. I was to see this resourceful sight again and again all over Shanghai. LANES RECYCLAGE

LANES RECYCLAGE


In fact, in Cecilia's district, people were still living in houses that were half demolished. I often wandered round these areas feeling mixed emotions. Helplessness for the inhabitants. A sense of inevitability that doom was coming. The passing of an era. Utter sadness that a community was having its essence sucked out of it by faceless property developers and cash crazed Capitalists who'd bribed the corrupt, hypocritical Communists to get what they want. Thoughtless twerps who couldn't see that this place was alive with character and community whereas the overlooking high rise blocks that would be replacing these dwellings with this frigid dystopia that China seems determined to create for itself. God it was depressing. Signs everywhere of the last residents in situ. Half a packet of soap powder, An old handbag. A half demolished wall with a teenagers magazine clippings still pinned on them, A letter in a letterbox never to be opened again. It went on and on. From the 28th floor of Cecilia's block you could see huge swathes of the Lanes half gone and it was like the rest was waiting on Death Row. LANES ARIEL VIEW

LANES ARIEL VIEW


On the second day in Shanghai. I inadvertently ended up doing all the touristy shite I loathe and detest. I went to the main museum which is in the Peoples Square. Once you've been in one museum in China you've been in them all. It was free. It killed less than an hour. The People's Square was a concrete monument to Communism, its architecture and its soulless upshots. The Museum of Modern art was in the People's Park right next to People's Square. In what was actually a great space were utterly mediocre exhibitions which could have been so much better had China encouraged its artists to shout a bit freer and louder. What was here looked like it was sourced from the skip behind the local art college. At two quid to go in I expected far more. The staff were apathetic and although they spoke English knew nothing about the exhibition. It was pants.
From there I had the address of an art gallery down by The Bund. This is the waterfront and to get there I had to walk through Nanjing Road shopping centre. God it was horrible. All fast food gaffs and more shops. Hasn't Shanghai got enough shops??? The Bund, which if you research anything to do with Shanghai tells you to go directly to this marvellous spot, was just a walkway on the Humpuo river where you could watch boat loads of slag ferry by. Oh yes. And look at the disgusting Pearl Tower by day and all the other high rise nonsense they slung up in the space of five years on the Pudong peninsula. So that was The Bund. This I presumed was what the new Shanghai was aspiring to be replacing the Lanes with. God, what a horror story.
The art gallery I found eventually on the third floor of the Georgio Armani building was better than the previous one. Minimal but a barmy expo within. The girl was also apathetic, thoroughly entranced by the computer and I might as well have not been there. But when prompted she did give me some information about the artist who paints people with no faces. Blokes in suits lying down submissively with just a sphere for the head. This was the most expressive art I'd seen so far. And if the staff of the galleries were anything to go by, it depicted them. Not so much no faces, but no personalities. Or a mind.
I was reminded of a painting I'd seen in Hong Kong by a Taiwanese artist called Yao Jui Chung. The painting was part of a series called Honeymoon. It was called Facebook Talk. It was a take on the Madonna and Child approach from the Renaissance period. It showed a baby suckling at the breast whilst the mother was showing it an Ipad that was connected by a golden line to a distant father figure who was perched over a laptop. The baby had horns and was effectively being nurtured by technology. And the whole lot of this was placed within the traditional karst mountain landscape of Chinese paintings. I saw later in the subway every single passenger was tuned into their mobile phone or Ipad. Anyway, technology of some description. Frigid dystopia. What's going on with the Chinese kids that they have no voice? Just clicking away and no verbal communication. Intriguing.
YU GARDENS FAKERYe

YU GARDENS FAKERYe


I'd had enough of The Bund. From this place I tried to take a metro back to the couch surfing gaff but was thwarted at every turn even though I had a map. People kept sending me in what turned out to be the totally wrong direction. No metro. I found myself in a horrid tourist spot around a place called Yu Garden. It was totally fake old China. This New Old China has a plastic sheen on it that shimmers in the sunlight and makes it look ghastly. Its not well done and the pagodas and temples and all the old style roofs are just facades for tourist tat shops. The atmosphere was heartless and totally hard sell. The herd were there behind the flag waving controllers. Or getting their photos taken doing the victory V sign again. Seems they're easily satisfied the Chinese tourist. Just give them a vile plastic geegaw to pose in front of and they go home happy. Do they know any different? It seems not. Chinese folks that I have consequently met who have been out of China go in the herd. The exit visa in fact comes with a herd clause. They may do twelve different countries in two weeks, Stopping just two hours in Belgium then half a day in Paris for example before off to Amsterdam. They don't have time to feel the vibe of a place, check out art galleries or museums or interact with the local populace even. Just get off the bus, pose next to the relevant tourist attraction and back on the bus. That's fucking insane!!!!!!!!!!!!
On the subject of tourist tat in Shanghai there is a market up Tibet road where they sell a load of fake antiques at grotesquely inflated prices. And I'm sure some gormless morons pay those prices probably thinking the stuff is the real deal. Well its not. A Chairman Mao alarm clock should only cost 20 RMB but 80 will be the first price. TIBET MAO TAT

TIBET MAO TAT


You will also find the Bug and Bird market thereabouts. Believe it or not they sell incredibly large grasshoppers and other insects which they then train in the same was as cockfighting. Well this is the only thing I can think of that has any similarities to what they do here. They also sell quaint little bug huts for your prize fighting flyweight creature to inhabit in between scraps. This has been a tradition in Asia for years and wouldn't it be great to find a bug fighter to hang out with to see exactly how he trains his bugs. With crickets, the victor will be the one who is able to do a cart load of jumping and get his opponent out the ring. Beetles use other tactics. The Bug market has a vibe of its chirrupping own. Visit this place if only for that. The place is heaving with smoke and you can hardly breathe unless you get an oxygen tank on your back and a mask on your fizzog. There is also an interesting array of birds for sale. This is another Chinese phenomena. They do love a bird tweeting in a cage outside their front door. You can see them tuning into the birdsong having a quiet moment with their pet all over Shanghai, especially down the lanes. Puppies, kittens, hamsters and other cuties on sale here too. God only knows what the ALF would have to say about this place. BUGS

BUGS

BUG HOUSES

BUG HOUSES

BUG SELECTION

BUG SELECTION


These markets are an interesting gateway to the French Concession and get off into that area whatever you do. Fuxing Road is fantastic as are all the roads on the periphery of it. Tree lined boulevards, art deco architecture and a style of Lanes all of their very own abound here. As do art galleries. Use the indispensable art map which you can pick up all over Shanghai in arty venues to locate the smaller but very interesting galleries here. I can tell you I felt like a right tramp, bowling about this locale in my backpackers bog standard combat shorts and boots. The women folk were incredibly chic and the blokes were nothing other than gorgeous. Well groomed, well heeled and obviously some sort of elite of Shanghai frequenting shops making hand made shoes, top of the range cuisine and bank account shagging haute couture. Its all part of Chinas rich tapestry. And I'm sure its safe from the bulldozer brigade too.WEI HUA VIEW

WEI HUA VIEW

WEI HUA LU

WEI HUA LU

WEI HUA 698

WEI HUA 698

WEI HUA ART PLACE

WEI HUA ART PLACE


696 Wei Hai Lu is on the periphery of the French concession and has the art gallery/studio complex where you can see expos and maybe meet the artists. I met a Chinese artist here. He spoke hardly any English, gave me a fabulous book and let me hang about his gaff for a bit. He seemed inspired by the Berlin wall. Unfortunately the language barrier prevented me from ascertaining exactly why this was. Which was a crying shame. A lot of the work in the book was pseudo political. I had to use my own imagination to interpret that lot which is what art encourages one to do surely. Will have to go back there with a translator. Sculptors and photographers were there and I think the frame changes all the time so its always an interesting spot to check out. Hit an opening to see the OK yah brigade chuffing Chinese wine.
Stay tuned for part two of the Shanghai excursion.

Posted by ellastar 04:33 Archived in China Tagged landscapes art buildings skylines Comments (0)

YANGSHOU, THE CHILL OUT ZONE

MAGNIFICENT MEN, GORILLAS AND WINNIPEG

sunny 18 °C

YANGSHOU

MAGNIFICENT MEN, GORILLAS AND WINNIPEG

The train was cool. Shenzhen to Guilin. Around 24 quid. Top berths in the hard sleeper. Great. But fall off there and its a long way down. You'll break your spine for sure. In the next compartment was a gang of Ferrang lads all bawling at the tops of their voices about Vietnam. Normally I'd have gone down and quizzed them about what they knew about Guilin and its environs. But this mob were having one of those conversations that was actually a competition to see who could impress the others the best with action man tales of derring do. Awesome was the preferred term to describe anything I noticed and I soon got bored of all the yawping. Whilst waiting for the toilet I struck up a conversation with a man who told me he was from Guilin. Perhaps he could tell me something useful about the place. No he couldn't. His English was limited to “I'm from Guilin.” All I knew about the destination was that it was in the direction of the karst mountains that was everywhere in traditional Chinese art. And the famous Longshen rice terraces and limestone caves too. I was hoping the hostel I'd got ear marked would give me some onward hints regarding quiet spots to head for. Impressed with the comfort and cleanliness of my berth I stuck my ear plugs in and got my head down. We were due to arrive at 6am.

The Wada hostel was only ten minutes walk from the station. I'd got a map drawn off Hostel Bookers website. Looked totally simple stuff. Do a right, left up Shanghai road and there we are. As we emerged from the station we were harangued by folks shouting a place name, something I couldn't quite make out. I passed the throng steamboats and WATCH OUT!!!!!! Ruddy ada. What's this with motorbikes and pushbikes on the trottoir?? Yes. In Guilin pedestrians run the risk of being ploughed down by the two wheelers coming at you from all angles especially on the pavements. So keep your eyes peeled. I started asking folks for Huanchengxi Road. Blank looks. Showed them the map. Wada Hostel? Blank looks multiplied by 20. I navigated myself using the map's instructions yet after ten minutes and more besides no sign of this road. We met a kid with a proper map who spoke great English. He confessed to also being completely mystified and that no one here around knew anything about the place he wanted either. I'd actually got bus info but wasn't sure which direction the bus we needed went or where to get it from either. No sign of a bus stop only the mob of tourist buses at the train station.
After half an hour of total frustration we approached a taxi. I said “Wada Hostel.” He said “I know, I know” and we hared off. In the totally wrong direction. He took us to some tourist hot spot instead. No one spoke English there either and it was a tourist place! Maybe those folks who'd forewarned us about the language problem were right. Shenzhen was a paradise because it was en suite to Hong Kong but venture further afield and you're fucked.
We were now at least two miles away from the station and even further away from this elusive Wada. Ludo was wailing he'd had no sleep. Someone made a loud and lengthy phone call at three am, the rude cow, and woke him up. Then some kid roused him to ask him to be his friend at 4am. Plus a baby had been howling for at least an hour and the mother, the horrid wench should have given it the teet to shut it up.
“Well I need a coffee before anything else,” he announced petulantly and went marching off in the direction of a well positioned MaccerD. When all those people start whining on about the shortcomings of this establishment I tell them that there have been the odd occasion when I've been unbelievably grateful to their shite food and not bad actually coffee in a strange land. This was one such moment.
Once we were fed and watered with some filthy fare I pointed out to Ludo that this was exactly the reason why forward planning was totally necessary. I'd planned and here I was buggered whilst he'd just sat about twirling his hair. He got stroppy, had a poofy hissy fit and accused me of blaming him for our misfortune which of course I wasn't. I was just making a valid point that was centrifugal to the forthcoming education he was going to be receiving regarding transglobal meandering. I'd have to have a word with him about tantrum throwing as well but this certainly wasn't the time.
I decided to fall back and regroup at the station. Start again. The bus back there was easy. It was written in lovely English at the bus stop that the number 306 went to the station. Pointing to the correct symbol in ludo's phrase book, our destination was verified by the driver. Hurraaahh!!!!!! We'd got somewhere. On the way back we passed Huancheng something Road but that same something urged me to stay on the bus. I didn't give a shit about this road any more. Or the Wada Hostel and their daft piss take of a map. I found out afterwards that this road had a north, a south and west part and that it was one of the longest roads in the city. Yet no one five minutes away from it had ever heard of it and it wasn't on that kids map either. So its true. In China the language is an enormous problem as is finding your way about. BE PREPARED with directions stuff written in Chinese and then some. Get the phone number of your destination and call them if you're lost. I had no phone number as I had no phone.
I met a local kid at the station who spoke English. He told me that there was nish in Guilin anyway and to go to Yangshou. This was the name of the place the throng pertaining to the tourist buses were shouting out. This seemed to be my destiny. There was no way out. Totally touristy venue here I come but anywhere was better than here. I got on a bus. £1.50 after a piss easy haggle. On the way there the words of my China travel advisor yet infortunately psychotic friend came back at me with bells on.
"Go to Yangshoo Toni. Whatever you do don't miss Yangshoo."
No other details and no directions either.
"You'll find it after Hong Kong", was about it. I realised that this was the place he'd been on about. He might be a certified and registered nutter but he knows his onions when it comes to globetrotting. Just pronounced the place name with a Coventry accent. Plus a vague recollection from Wikitravel came back to me too. This was all meant to be. I was happy. Ludo was asleep.
Trundling through the Guangxi province environs I have to say that it didn't really cut the mustard. If this was supposed to be a staggeringly beautiful landscape I'd seen better in Coventry. Had that photo on Wikitravel been a figment of my imagination? The karst mountains started to appear but none of it had the wow factor. Little townships had been built with not much thought given to town planning in relation to the surrounding environment. Bog standard blocks, functional concrete and probably fairly new. Life seemed to be going on at a fairly slow pace. Like the bus, in fact. I've spent a lot of time in India and whatever people say, I can't help comparing everywhere else I go in Asia to India. India has colour and energy, bustling life and character. Plus a lot of spiritual influence from their 330 million gods. There simply wasn't any of that in evidence here. However, it was far cleaner, the roads in better condition and no one asked me what country I was from or what I thought about the cricket.
On arrival in Yangshou, a kid approached us at the bus stop and asked us if we wanted a room. Upshot was we got a room with a view, cheap and cheerful. We ended up staying here for three weeks. We both had six month visas and wanted to chill out somewhere before traversing the rest of south China. We weren't going North as the only research Ludo had done regarding this trip was about temperatures. He reckoned it would be minus 13 in Beijing and I wasn't up for the fluid in my eye balls freezing. However, with hindsight I wish I'd come earlier, flown to Beijing and come down here later.
Now Yangshou revealed itself fairly rapidly to be the totally touristic hot spot I normally avoid. Macdonalds and a KFC blotted the landscape. Loads of shops selling overpriced tourist tat. Women hanging about asking you to rent a bike or go on a bamboo boat. The Chinese are kind of just discovering mass tourism as part of this whole new Consumerist Communist stuff. If you speak to them on this matter they will tell you that it's extremely difficult for them to go out of China and anyway, they want to see their own country first. On this score they're intensely proud of China. On the other hand they haven't got much choice have they?
Therefore droves of tourist buses arrive every day, spill their load into the streets of Yangshou with a flag waving guide at the helm of the herd. Oftentimes, the herd guide will have a microphone through which they give a robotic, mechanical running commentary of the sights the herd are privy to. I've since met a Chinese lad who is studying tourism and he was totally bemused when I told him the Euros don't do like that. In fact we take the piss out of the flag stuff. He was also gobsmacked when I told him we might arrive in a tourist bus but generally get off and do our own independent thing. The herd here don't do independent. They tend to keep to a route which is good to know as you can avoid that route like the plague if you want a bit of peace. However, when you consider the amount of people who show up, especially at weekends, the vibe still remains calm. BOAT BAMBOO PLASTIC

BOAT BAMBOO PLASTIC


This lot aren't anything to do with the millions of rural peasant Chinese living on a dollar a day. Oh no. This lot have got top of the range cameras with long lenses taking pictures of each other standing next to some vile tourist geegaw performing the Paul Macartney/Winston Churchill victory V sign. They may load themselves into giant golf carts and whizz electronically round the town intrigued by it all. They may take a trip on a bamboo boat. These boats are powered by an engine that sounds like an oversized mosquito and they plague the tranquillity of the beautiful river. When, on closer inspection, you take a look at these boats, you'll see that they're not made of bamboo at all. They're cunningly made out of plastic drainpipes. The question here is; is it recycled plastic? If so, very good. Uses up old plastic and saves bamboo. Although bamboo is hardly an endangered species. And on that note, I will also say that Yangshou was very clean too. Not on a par with Hong Kong mind you. Look a bit closely and you'll see plenty of litter strewn down the sides of walls or in bushes. The HK cleanliness Fascists would have had their guts for garters over that crime. Bicycles loaded up with cardboard and plastic for recycling were everywhere. There were even spots for restaurants to leave leftovers for folks to avail themselves of, I presume for animal fodder. Or tramp fodder. I saw one sadly afflicted individual perched over the pig bin one day with a pair of chopsticks having himself a gourmet feast. And on that note I'll add that begging was very thin on the ground here. Yangshou is rich. Tourism here has ensured prosperity. Parts of China will grow thanks to the billions their own people are spending on it. The local villagers are all getting themselves new homes and new cars on the proceeds. And why shouldn't they indeed?BENT BAMBOO IN YANGSHOU

BENT BAMBOO IN YANGSHOU


They call Yangshou Heaven on Earth. The River Li is a beautiful deep blue/green in colour, clean and surrounded by those famed karst mountains. Hang about down by the river, over the other side from the main event and the bamboo boat hawkers, and you can indulge in a bit of going back in time. The old style boats are anchored there with people living on them. Fisherman use cormorants to fish with. They tie a thread around their neck to prevent them from swallowing the the fish then give them one as a reward after a mornings work. You can see the birds sitting on bamboo boats waiting for action. Or a fisherman gently punting back to base with his cormorant standing proudly at the helm of the bamboo plastic boat. Nice. Really nice. Yangshou oldsters occasionally happen by wearing the old Mao jackets and pyjamas complete with the bamboo hat the Chinese are famous for. They're called Dolly hats. Do li actually but I've anglicised it. No one will ask you if you want to go on a plastic drainpipe bamboo boat ride even though this is the place where they make them. Wander off into the blue beyond behind and friendly villagers, if you even see any of them, will give you no bother at all. NET ON THE RIVER

NET ON THE RIVER


The trip to the Longshen rice terraces was shelved when I found out that the rice was harvested and therefore not an aesthetically pleasingly good time to go. Also you need to pay to go there which is a bit of a piss take as the locals get none of the spoils ripped off the tourists. The trip to the caves were shelved when I discovered that it was a minimum of £8 to go to a cave. £30 to go on a tour complete with mud bath. Photos showed the innards of the “natural” caves were lit up with fluorescent lights and other day glo colours. So here's my question. Is it a cave or is it Blackpool illuminations? And on that note, of an evening the whole town lights up like with a light show which could compete with Hong Kong's record breaking light and laser show thus thwarting anyone who seeks the purely natural chancing a glimpse of the stars. LI RIVER BOAT AND NETS

LI RIVER BOAT AND NETS


With regard to the prices of Chinese tourist hot spot destinations, the starting price for even the most pathetic garden with a pagoda in it can be around £7. If you delve into the world of economics there is a thing called conspicuous consumption. This means that people will concur to pay a certain price for a product; too little means its crap, too much means its a rip off. In the world of Chinese tourism there is a thing called the Idiot Price scheme. Only an idiot would pay £8 to see a gaudily lit cave. Or a new to tourism Chinaman who's bright eyed and bushy tailed, got a very long lens on his brand new camera and has nothing else in the world whatsoever to compare it with. I've seen karst limestone caves like these in Laos and its a case of seen one seen 'em all. I've been in the caves of Cappadoccia in Turkey which are more than incredible and all free to explore. I've paid to go into Ancient Buddhist caves in India wherein I spent the whole day at the site and felt like I'd learned something historical and spiritual from the visits as well as experienced the wow factor. Or I happened upon caves in their totally natural state where no one whatsoever was exploiting them. I'd no need to get involved with flag wavers, herds and idiot prices here.
I therefore spent most of my time getting away from the crowds into the villages on foot or a hired bike. If I saw a sign pointing somewhere I went the other way as what was to be found in the direction of any sign at all was an overpriced cafe, a herd, plastic bamboo boat trips and very little of real interest. One of the best places I found was Liu Gong. It was supposed to be an ancient village and it was one of the oldest I found around these parts. Not very much to it though. Just some old stuff that had escaped being bashed down like so much of old China has been. It was on the river Li and there was a temple in the middle of it that was not at all touristic. A woman showed me the way to it and left me to my own devices. You can get there by two different routes on a bike. The road way or the river way. The river way brings you back through really rural China and in the right light the truly stunning landscape takes your breath away. Makes you feel that maybe it is heaven on earth after all. liu gong three colours pool

liu gong three colours pool

lui gong village

lui gong village


In Liu Gong you can find the three colours ponds. There is a battered sign in the village path which shows you its off to the left as you enter the village. These three ponds are bright blue in colour and you'll probably have them to yourself. Nice little natural spot to marvel at how wonderful the world can be without concrete and highrise blocks. You can get fed and watered in Liu Gong at the inevitable overpriced caff.
I'll say this again and again. The Chinese are some of the best people on the planet. Harmless, inoffensive, humble, polite, respectful, good sense of humour, disciplined, friendly, hospitable, non complaining, non cheating and with no hidden agenda in the mix. Maybe this doesn't go for the Tibet thwarting apparatchiks but certainly the general populace at large.
I made a real effort to learn Chinese so's I could communicate with the locals but I can tell you its not that easy. You have to get the tone and the sound exactly right otherwise they really don't have a clue what the hell you're on about. I got a Chinese lesson on my MP3 which helped me out a treat especially in the restaurant. I found a good place to eat. Choose your own meat and veg from selection and they'll cook it up for you with rice or noodles for under a quid. If you don't want MSG be sure to tell them Bu Yow Way Ching, or they'll load it in. The girl who worked there was called Li. She was one of the sweetest people I ever met in my life. Li helped me learn a little bit of Chinese every day and slowly, very slowly I was getting the hang of the tones. Sugar and soup are both called tang. But you sing the soup version and the sugar one is lower. I can tell you, we had a right laugh over the tangs.
Other stuff to do in Yangshou besides chilling out? Get on a bike and get off in to the sticks is about it. There are some tombs round the back of the village you may find if you go exploring. They still bury their people in the side of the mountain then seal up the door forever. There's plenty of overpriced bars if you want a beer but well cheap in the supermarkets. The Chinese aren't heavy duty boozers so don't get pissed and make an arse of yourself here as its not really cricket. There is a People's Park in the town centre which is a great place for people watching and an enormous indoor market for cheap fruit and veg. Be very careful in this place. If you are an animal lover you will not want to go in there or what you see may spoil your trip. Live rabbits, cats and dogs all caged up waiting to be inhumanely slaughtered then cooked up. I was privy to one such horror and it fair buckled my knees. The details of this horror I have never spoken of as it was so awful and I can not even bring myself to write on the subject either. TOMBSVILLE

TOMBSVILLE

tomb very new liu gong

tomb very new liu gong


Not much else to do here really. There is an ex pat community I'm sure you can insinuate yourself into if you have a mind to and some ferrang run restaurants that will no doubt play decent music and do western nosh. Be warned that if you want to chill out here bring your own supply of books. A very nice man has a good second hand bookshop in the town but it is preposterously overpriced. Like everything in Yangshou except the accommo which is really cheap at less than £3 a night for a dorm and maybe £7 for a double. You can find for less and I'm sure you can stay out of the town more if its peace and quiet you want.

So what about Ludo and his foray into the world of globetrotting. Well first of all I think he sabotaged his laptop. Whenever he went on Wikitravel something happened to it. i.e. The text went enormous. The page could not be displayed. The internet went off. etc etc. But on top of that Ludo was still calling it Winnipeg. After a week of being here I asked him the name of the place we were in and he didn't know it was called Yangshou. It was clear he had a problem. Either that or he was simply as thick as pig shit. I persisted. I told him to get on Yunnan province and see what he thought of that as a possible next destination. After ten minutes of deliberately titting about, I felt, he finally got on it. Only to tell me that it was really boring as it was all writing and no pictures. This happened on a day when he'd followed me aimlessly round the town whistling Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines through his teeth. You know, that fucking tune is still stuck in my head weeks later. It was becoming very hard not to scream.
I showed him how Google maps worked but he had similar problems largely of his own inept making. Couldn't get on with the zooming system so gave up at this first hurdle. Conversation over dinner became somehow increasingly surreal. One evening I was talking about the art on the Berlin wall.
“Why is it called the Berlin Wall?” Ludo asked me. I looked at him in disbelief.
“Because its in Utoxeter,” I told him, OK, I admit with a larruping of sarcasm.
“But it was built by the Russians,” he wailed. On another occasion he almost fell of his seat when I mentioned that it would be interesting to know about the effects of the Chinese one child policy. I thought the whole world knew about this infringement on the Chinese peoples right to breed. Not Ludo. In fact he didn't even believe me. Had to get back up confirmation off our hostel manager. Only a day later he asked me about Communism in South America by way of confusing Cuba with Panama. Thought Castro had been the dictator of the latter. We got onto Banana Republics and Guerilla warfare. But after about five minutes he said, not without a look of feigned interest about his visage,
“I didn't realise they had so many gorillas in South America.” Yes. He thought I'd been talking about ape style creatures and the bananas were what they ate.
“Please tell me you're taking the piss.” I hoped against hope. He wasn't actually and he told me quite seriously that nobody in his world would have heard about this other khaki clad, jungle dwelling, rebel rousing guerilla that went about bawling 'Viva Communista' either. I started to hallucinate and the whole world went into slow motion. It was like trying to communicate with an ageing aunt in the premature stages of senile dementia. I would simply have to put an end to all this before my hair fell out.
I started looking at Shanghai as I was keen to go there for some serious culture and urban perusal. Hopefully meet some other wayfarers who could converse like normal people. I'm on Couch Surfing. I thought that I could liaise with some fellow CSers and get some useful info about Shangers. But hey. Guess what? There were loads of ex pats living and working in Shanghai who were well up for entertaining some passing wayfarers. This would be great and we could save some dosh on accommo into the bargain. Once again I was presented with the problem of Ludo. He wasn't on CS. After untold problems with getting him registered on the site; wouldn't accept his home address, wouldn't accept his password, couldn't upload a profile picture, we finally got round to doing his profile. Once he'd finished he asked me to give it the once over. He'd basically babbled bollocks about being five foot nine with blue/green eyes and grey hair and that he wanted to travel and meet people I really lost my patience.
“It's not a fucking Miss World contest Ludo”, I bellowed, to the bemusement of our lodging's cleaning staff. “You're supposed to say what's interesting about you and things you've done. Swam with sharks in Mexico or climbed pissing Everest for example.” It hit me that he'd got nothing to say here as he took so little interest in anything except ogling men and only ever laid in the sun as an activity. How the fucking hell had I got myself embroiled with this nitwit?
During these moments a Finnish lesbian showed up fairly fresh from the Shanghai Gay Pride. Said it was wild and one of the best events she'd been to. I was slightly miffed that as Ludo is gay he hadn't known about this shindig for his number. I'm hetero myself but like a bit of homosexual partying in a foreign land. He really was useless on the research front even for things he'd surely be interested in. Although part of me felt very sorry for this man, baffled by a totally new concept of human gorilla, deleting him from the agenda became paramount before he drove me up the wall. How to do it though without being a thoroughly cruel bitch? I needed intelligent conversation desperately. And my own space for Christ's sake. This became my dilemma.
Now luckily I found a lovely French girl on CS who kindly said we could both stay with her. We were to be her first ever surfers. She had spare rooms (plural) and lived in a great area. Fucking A! I started Googling the art scene in Shanghai and looking forward to being in a big city after this rural backwater. I turned to Ludo who was twirling his hair and chewing gum nonchalantly on his bed.
“Get on Gay Romeo Ludo and start arranging some queenie rendezvous in Shanghai. Its about time you branched out.” Funny enough he never had one peep of trouble out of the Gay Romeo website.

POST SCRIPT: The train price quoted earlier in this blog has now gone up to around 35 quid for a hard sleeper on the Shenzhen to Guilin train. And hey you Mr Chinese government man. That's a fairly steep increase to be implementing overnight on the general populace of China. Are you increasing their wages at the same time?????. Be aware that China is getting very expensive and inflation is running away with itself at the moment. Trains in the south of China have gone up in price due to the removal of the old trains. In other words a whole system of old style train has simply disappeared and been replaced with the high speed bullet train. In fact what existed last week now doesn't. Incredible to see such a rapid development literally day by day. The old style ticket pricing has gone too meaning that if you're a budget traveller, prices are more Euro than Asian here now. I never heard any Chinese people complaining about this price rise but then again they never complain about anything. They say no one would listen and they are scared of repercussions anyhow. I would imagine that very soon the sleeper trains of old will be replaced by far more expensive bullet trains as part of Chinas quest to catch up or overtake the rest of the world. But hey China. You're not impressing me much with all this development. It cold and clinical, lacks personality, colour or essence. All the high speed bullet train stations I've been in made me feel like I was in some kind of frigid dystopia that was depressing to the extreme. Too bloody big mate! Made me want to leave China pronto actually and get to a world where there is expression, nature and some kind of reign on size of the architecture. Bigger doesn't mean better you know. More on that later.

Posted by ellastar 23:55 Archived in China Tagged landscapes mountains boats trains Comments (0)

SHENZHEN

GARGANTUAN ARCHITECTURE AND A LOT OF FAKE ART

sunny 20 °C

CONTINUED AS PART OF THE PERIPHERAL OBSERVATIONS OF ELLASTAR.

Hong Kong to China. Its a piece of piss. You simply take the MTR to Shenzhen. From Tsim Sha Tsui East you go to Hung Hom and take the blue line all the way. You have a choice of two exits at the other end but both are Chinese immigration
TONE'S TOP TIP. This underground station in Tsim Tsa Tsui is enormous. You can spend three weeks getting from one side of it to the other with your baggage. Hiring a mule might be a good idea.
I was sad to be leaving Hong Kong. I'd really enjoyed it and felt very relaxed and calm on departure. But hey! Fresh fields to navigate and here I was at the Chinese Immigration. Don't forget to fill out your arrival form, otherwise you'll be sent to the back of the queue. One month visas are definitely available in Hong Kong but not sure about six monthers. There was a lot of vague response to this so best you get a visa before hand if you want a longer validity.

China at last. Shenzhen in fact. This was a city that looked really interesting. I'd done some preliminary research on Wikitravel and discovered there was quite lot to do here around. We were planning to get off immediately to Guilin though and I can't quite remember why this previousness had occurred on that front. Ludo, my travelling companion, had been really worried that we wouldn't be able to get train tickets. Queues were ten miles long, tickets scarce, the ticket vendor won't understand one single word you say, you'll end up sat on a very hard seat with a numb arse for 68 hours surrounded by goats and chickens etc. etc. People had worried us endlessly about this and the effects were showing. There is a common preconception that no one in China speaks English, that no English is written anywhere and, bottom line, you're buggered unless you speak fluent Chinese. In fact an Australian at the ATM hammered this point home just to back up all the other worry merchants. Kindly gave me a Chinese lesson to put on my MP3. Ludo was prepared with the Cantonese phrase book. I was prepared with a laissez faire temperament on account of the Hong Kong chilled out vibe still buzzing in my veins.
The gargantuan monument that was the railway station loomed overwhelmingly. If anything is daunting about China, I concluded thereupon, its the imposing architecture not the language. Who the hell decided that a railway station needed to compete in size with Ceaucesceau's Parliament in Bucharest? But hey. We were now in Commy territory and Brutalist Monstrosity was their thang. But hello. A KFC? A MaccerD's? Hanging off the Brutalised architecture? I think we have a bit of fusion going on here between full on Consumerism and Communism. Doesn't the former plus the latter equate somehow with the resulting total of urban schizophrenia?
Pondering over this we were immediately approached by a dude who had absolutely no other intention apart from helping us out and pointed in the direction of the ticket office. The ticket issuing woman spoke OK English and we got our tickets for a night sleeper to Guilin. Job done. No drama whatsoever. Just wait until the next time some scaremongering sod starts giving it all that cobblers about the lingo problem or the ticket purchasing problem. They'd be getting savage short shrift in response. We dumped our bags and went to explore. We had five hours.
I wanted to see Da Fen which apparently is an Oil Painting Village. Intriguing. Just needed to find the right bus. Armed only with the two words which were simply Da Fen I approached a bus driver. He pointed to the relevant bus and we got on board after putting the right change, which we incredibly had, in the slot. Ludo relaxed as everything became easier and easier. The bus seemed to go on forever. It went out through the commy/consumerist shopping centre, past the mangroves and along the coastline. Couldn't have asked for a better tour of Shenzhen really. WALL

WALL


The driver told us when we were at Da Fen. It was really something. The artists who work there fake all the old masters as well as modern stuff and play about with those themes whilst they're at it. Seems they're great at copying just about anything. Most outlets had similar stuff and there was this lairy laughing face art which was simply nightmarish. All teeth and dodgy skin tones. This thing which I called the Baby Mao was about a lot as was another image of a bawling baby. Does this signify arrested development, miserable kids or a childish dictator?? The village is old style China with lanes full of workshops and pictures all piled up waiting for dispatch, probably to the likes of places a notch below Ikea. There is a little old temple in the middle of the village overlooked by the high rises that were to become a regular part of the fast developing new Chinese skyline. As was a Spaghetti Junction kind of a flyover in the making. We wandered around for a couple of pleasant hours. No one spoke English so we just browsed. The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, the people were smiling. First day in China, tickety boo.LAIRY FACES

LAIRY FACES


We found an art gallery on the periphery of the village. It was one of the ugliest buildings I ever saw. A vile, grey concrete block with the personality of a syringe. It was free to go in yet less than three minutes later we emerged out of the dark, depressing interior back into the light. I don't know when I have ever been witness to such an appalling expo in my life. It was like an amateur art groups still life representation from the fifties merged with an oil painting by numbers concept by the mentally poorly. And yet this probably unintentional faux pas by an unknowing curator was immediately redeemed by the mural exhibition on the roof. Twenty artists from all over the world, including six from China, had been invited to Shenzhen to take part and the results were great. These ugly grey blocks were transformed thanks to the imagination of those artists and let's hope the Chinese are inspired. My favourite mural was of a tiny little bloke leading an enormous buffalo. This mural expo was part of Shenzhen's drive to become some sort of creative centre in China. These artistic measures haven't gone unnoticed. Shenzhen has earned itself a place on the UNESCO list of creative cities along with Kobe in Japan and Berlin. And also its been voted as one of the most pleasant cities to inhabit. Or something like that. MURAL4

MURAL4


If the expo downstairs and all the copying that was going on in Da Fen was anything to go by, China seemed somehow behind on the modern art frontage. Well in Shenzhen anyway. Is this a sign of a lack of creativity or a fear to express themselves? The Commy history maybe is to blame. The Cultural Revolution is still having knock on effects perhaps. The flesh seems willing but the spirit is petrified??????
There is an artist/photographer called Ma Liuming who pushes boundaries. He does performance art usually up in Beijing. This chap performs nude. I saw an exhibition of his stuff in the V and A in London and was seriously impressed. Ma Liuming looks like a woman but is clearly a man. This kind of beautiful androgyny adds to the aesthetics of his art which is a good job because the art is a bit weird. He was photographed putting potatoes in condoms and then cooking them up in his garden on an al fresco stove. The upshot of this “art” was imprisonment for pornography. Berlin got hold of him of course and he's done some bizarre stuff over there too. Ma Liuming should come to Shenzhen and breath some barmy modern life into this gallery. Give him a free reign and a lump hammer. Have him photographed in the nuddy bashing life into the gaff. Because whoever the current creator is he's got about as much idea of art as I have about keeping ferrets.
Mind you, this is only my first foray into the world of Chinese art. So I won't judge too harshly. There are other art galleries in Shenzhen and I heartily wished I'd not been so hasty about booking the ticket out. I'd have gone and perused them all. I could easily have spent a fair few days here and don't let anyone tell you its an industrialized city either. Its got a great vibe and a load of nature too. I'll be back as I have to get a stamp in my visa on account of a double entry faux pas. But on a final note about artistic self expression I had noticed a chronic absence of graffiti both here and in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong though there was probably an underlying fear that those fascists who want a sterile city would come and have you knee capped for the vandalising act of graffiti. It kind of says something about the people if there's no street art. What does it say though? We will do some investigating. TEMPLE ART

TEMPLE ART


TONE'S TOP TIP: Stay in a great place in Shenzhen The Shenzhen Loft Youth Hostel. Tel; 0755 86095773... In a great area, close to the all sorts and easy to find. (Found this place on my eventual return which will be documented later) DON'T USE HOSTELWORLD AS THEY RIP YOU RIGHT OFF. Get a membership card of this organisation and it'll save you plenty of dosh throughout China. It's only a fiver. See also Guan Shan Yue gallery and the enormous park behind it.. buses 383,123,350 go there from the hostel environs. From outside the He Xiangning art museum actually to which you can walk from the hostel in fifteen minutes or less if you're a yomper. Also worth a visit half price with hostel membership card. The OCT art and design gallery is better, free and next door. SPEND TIME IN SHENZHEN.

Back to the yarn.
Whilst we were waiting for the train I asked Ludo what he wanted to do in Guilin.
“Where's that?” he asked with a vague look about the eye.
“Where we're going to.” I answered a bit amazed. “You've got the ticket. I told you to check it out months ago. In fact that was your job.”
“I told you I couldn't get Winnipeg to work.” Winnipeg. Since when has Wikitravel changed its name to Winnipeg?
I looked at him suspiciously. “What's the name of this place we're in now?”
“Oh God. You've got me there. Does it begin with a P?” Not only hasn't got a clue where we've been all day but doesn't know where we're off to either. He then said something about changing up his Japanese money and I realised he meant Hong Kong dollars. Surely he didn't think Hong Kong was a city in Japan? Now this was a new one on me. Not only a gum chewing, hair twirling, Whitney whistler but also somewhat retarded directionwise too. And how the hell had I failed to notice this level of mental handicap earlier on in the proceedings? Like before I booked the ticket to fly with him for example. During these moments he stated that he'd never have gone to Da Fen or anywhere else either if I hadn't have been there. He'd have simply sat in the station for hours. Simple being the operative word it was appearing.
Now globetrotting encompasses many fields of experience and the travelling companion scenario can be a whole story in itself. This might rapidly become one such yarn. As I mentioned before I am Hans Solo when it comes to wayfaring. I don't mind the peripheral type of companion but not a 247 merchant who adheres limpet stylie at close quarters. And here I was with a spastic regarding the GPS who admitted many times he was terrified of going it alone. Would I be getting a moment to myself in the near future? Seriously though, this kind of an acquaintance can become a proper liability. Especially regarding the health of my central nervous system. I decided the first thing I'd do when we reached a destination was get him on Wikitravel and Google maps. Get him clued up on the geographical front. Yet had I really got to show a 47 year old this stuff? I'm not the most patient person and I'd told Ludo that prior to jaunt. But I'd try to help him out and give him some encouragement. Surely he'd soon be able to navigate himself about and be learning all about China. Wouldn't he?????

Here's a a picture of a Shenzhen mural. MURAL COW

MURAL COW

Posted by ellastar 01:37 Archived in China Tagged art buildings people trains Comments (0)

Hong Kong to China

ART, POOFS AND WHITNEY HOUSTON

sunny 20 °C

The individual who sold me China was here twenty years ago. He'd told me plenty of times that China was a definite must see destination. He'd been to the far North West province of Xinjiang via Pakistan and all over the South. At the moment he's installed in a mental hospital having what's known as a psychotic episode. It was from within the walls of that institution that I quizzed him through a haze of cigarette smoke on the topic of the best way to get about China.
“Go to Yangshoo, Toni. Dont miss Yangshoo. You fly to Hong Kong and then get yourself to Yangshoo. Don't miss Hong Kong. That's your starting point.” Minimal info to say the least. But that's my usual modus operandi. I never carry a Lonely Planet. I consult fellow travellers and usually the abnormal buggers. I like to land and go with the flow. I rarely sight see and I can't stand tourist traps. I visit countries to check out things like how the people entertain themselves, development infrastructure, the local sense of humour, what kind of look they have in their eye, the local crime rate, etc. But overall I travel to see the local art scene, the slums, the nature, the religious outlook. From these viewpoints you can gain a hell of a lot of info about a race of folk. I can easily live without seeing the Great Wall therefore.
I was also rather intrigued by this weird phobia people seem to have about the Chinese. There's rather a lot of bad press in the world regarding China's exploits and how many people have you heard banging on that China are after some sort of sinister world domination? And then there's the issue of Tibet! The amount of people who looked at me like I was Beelzebub himself just because I said I was going got China was kind of ridiculous. Not P.C. behaviour on my part because the Dalai Lama is so sweet and needs his country back apparently. Although I sympathise with these kind of matters I'm also a bit pissed off about Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq amongst a hoard of other unfair atrocities inflicted on the world at large that are far less fashionable. Apart from signing emailed petitions which have no effect on criminal dictators or political powers whatsoever, I don't know what I can do to change the world. There's far more to China than the Tibet problem anyway and I'd quite like to see for myself what's afoot. But try telling the Tibet wallahs. They were the same people who never went anywhere anyhow because of their carbon footprint, dress in hemp and lived on tofu and alfalfa in a state of bewildered paranoia. Let them lot rule the world and see where it gets us all.
Hong Kong was wicked according to all the people I knew who'd been there. Expensive but wicked. I'd got the info on a cheap hostel from a serial dorm dweller from Denmark that I came across in Bucharest. The Garden Hostel in Kowloon is cheap and cheerful according to him. I got onto Hostel Bookers and there it was. Now I'm almost sure I read that they had a common garden area overlooking Kowloon where you could chill in an oriental ambience and chew the cud with fellow voyagers. Pictures of rooms looked clean and airy. So it was all systems go. Incredibly cheap flight purchased courtesy of Kingfisher travel, gorgeous and cheap hostel booked and I was all set to go to China.
TONE'S TOP TIP. You can get a visa through CBG travel down Macclesfield street in Chinatown, London. For the small fee of fifteen quid they do all the queuing and titting about for you and it's worth every penny. If you're getting a double entry, note that the form asks you how long each stay will be for. I mistakenly put 60 days so effectively now have a four month visa unless I want to be bored shitless arseing about with Chinese bureaucracy getting an extension...£16.

The thing is I usually travel as a Lonesome Wayfarer. My preferred style of destination perusal is not everyone's cup of tea. But this trip I was being accompanied by a gay Eye Tie called Ludo who has a morbid and very irrational in my opinion fear of travelling alone. He likes food, musicals and cruising gay websites and thinks travelling means lying on a beach somewhere. So we have very little in common. But I have a lot of mates from all walks of life and he was simply one of them. I had forewarned him that I go it alone usually because I like to meet a wide variety of people and found that being with a companion strangely curtails your chances of that happening. Hinting, therefore, that I need my own space. Plus, I've done the duo thing before and it always goes tits up eventually. The same face and banter does my nut in, usually after the one month period. However I thought, somewhat benevolently, that this could be his chance to learn how to travel alone and dispel all those irrational fears. We needn't be together 247 and surely he'd be out on the gay scene looking for some trouser meat to tenderise. We could meet up of an evening for a chat and perhaps laugh over the days events whilst comparing notes. And if it all did go sadly wrong I'd simply dispatch him to a beach.
So after an interminable voyage over two nights and a long stopover in Mumbai, we arrived in Hong Kong. Incredibly simple to get to the Garden Hostel from the airport. On the booking confirmation to a dear and precious customer the details were very clear The correct bus delivers you right to the door of the Chung King Mansions in Tsim Tsa Tsui. Now I'd heard tell of the Chung King Mansions. In fact years ago I'd seen a documentary about this place and what a filthy rat hole it was. Rife also with criminals, opium fiends and prostitutes living amongst untold amounts of laundry all over the shop. As we trundled into Kowloon on the bus this souvenir from the BBC passed with a moment of horror through my mind as I imagined a cockroach infested hovel with a lingering foul pong as our destination. But I was too busy gawping out the bus window at Hong Kong to worry too much about this. I loved the city immediately. It had a good feeling about it. Laid back and not chock a block traffic and people like I'd been led to believe. The aesthetics were great. Laundry was hanging everywhere on balconies. Billboards and strangely anorexic high rises that were not too imposing. All the little side roads reeked with photogenic potential. I couldn't wait to get amongst those Chinese symbols with my camera. Plus its coastal so you got the feel of a sea breeze and all that goes with a bit of shoreline. Perfect.SKYSCRAPERS 1

SKYSCRAPERS 1

POSTER

POSTER

STREET

STREET

1 SHOPPING CENTRE

1 SHOPPING CENTRE


Anyhow, cut to the chase. We arrived at the infamous Chung King Mansions. It looked like it's father was a high rise block built by Hackney Borough council in the early sixties and its mother was a rabbit warren. We plunged into its depths. The ground floor was a maze full of little wholesale shops interpopulated with Indians and money changers. There were two lifts which stopped at alternating floors and a network of stairs connected the levels. We got off at something like the thirteenth floor and the Garden Hostel was on there on a list with sundry others. We spoke to a couple of African lads on the desk. It appeared that the Garden Hostel was one of a conglomerate of hostels owned probably by some dollar fingering, gold ringed, Snake head type of gangster tycoon holed up in a real mansion somewhere on the gorgeous coastline. Certainly not here. The Africans kindly explained that the Garden Hostel was closed for a refurb but not to worry. We would be relocated within the complex gizzards of this building. We were taken, Ludo visibly nervous, to the sixth floor and we entered a dark corridor with a doorway every few steps. This was our lodge. Devoid of air, character or space never mind a ruddy garden of its title, we were shown a room. The double bed had been axed to size to fit round a deviation in the wall meaning a quarter of it was a foot shorter in length, . There was about enough spare room to put your bag down. The window opened onto an small gap and then a brick wall. There was a shower and a bog designed for pygmies.
“I'm not stopping here.” The Queen pronounced.
“Where else you gonna stay maaaaan?” drawled the African. “There's an electronics goods convention and the place is booked up to the eyeballs. And the prices all trebled since the convention started.”
“We'll take the room,” I said. I was in no mood for histrionics.
“This is supposed to be deluxe,” pointed out Ludo.
“This is supposed to have a communal garden full of intriguing types,”I rallied back. “Maybe there's a roof with a view?” Hopeful expression.
“Roof closed cos of suicides,” the African informed us sagely.
“I'm not fucking surprised if they had to stay here”, retorted the Poof with a flick of his fringe.
Then along came Moses. The African kid with the sweetest smile and softest eyes gave us our towels and the WIFI code. He had to work in this airless alleyway all the day probably for a pittance off the Snake Head Gangster owner. We had no problems in compare to this uncomplaining sweetie. .If you want somewhere else,” I said to the drama queen, “you go and look for it and I'll wait here.” That was the final word on the matter. We dumped our bags and went out.
Most budget visitors to Hong Kong are going to be installed in either Chung King Mansions or the Mirador Mansions next door. We moved to the latter two days later. Therein we got twin beds, space and air as the Mirador has a balcony system going on and no complicated intestinal organs like the Chung King. If you ever go in Kowloon, best choose the Mirador. But forget anything like luxury unless you're budget is a ton plus a day. This is Hong Kong and why are you holed up in a room all day anyway. Get out and about. There's loads to do.
First exploration is around the Nathan Road environs which proves to be shops selling luxury goods and totally shit food. I'll try pretty much anything but it all looked so disgusting. It was three days before I found a decent place to eat. I mostly had to make do with Maccers until that point. Unless you are into obscene proportions of expensive consumerism, I'd piss off out this area sharpish anyway. Nothing is that cheap.
The Kowloon park is wonderful. Especially first thing in the morning. Oldsters doing Tai Chi and fan dancing plus a pond full of flamingoes and an aviary are the main events. The open air swimming pool can be availed if you want a dip in the heat. Down to the river and the view is great. Hong Kong Island in all its sky scraper glory looms across the bay. The Avenue of Stars is a kitsch stroll along the river where you can see a statue of Bruce Lee and Hollywood Boulevard stylie stuff. Plus the odd scene of old style fishing alongside the tourist boats. Every night at 8pm there is a light show which is in The Guiness Book of Records. It is accompanied by some tacky music and lasers as all the main high rise skyscrapers perform their bit. It's better than being sprayed in the face with shit from a fertilizer machine I suppose.
But I have to say that its an incredibly clean city. Signs are everywhere verging on the almost Fascist with details of what you've not to do round these parts. That includes littering, loitering, spitting, shitting, lying down in parks and smoking to name but a few. In Kowloon Park, the public convenience is spotless. A sign in there announces it's cleaned seven times a day. The exterior sports an arty farty mosaic and I made a point of using it whenever possible. There are squads of cleaners all over the place; out in the New Territories too. That means its not just for the benefit of the visiting Ferrangi. I've since heard that they breed and then train special cattle to lick the city pavements clean at 4am every morning. But this is probably one of those travellers urban myths.

I'm in Hong Kong mainly because I know they have an international art scene. Ludo knows nish about art and claims he wants to learn. As he's a Queen with a capital Q I'm amazed he's not discovered the world of art before because any art gallery is premium cruising territory. So this therefore is his first foray into the wonderful world of art. I was secretly hoping at this juncture that he's meet one of his number and cop off so I could be left to trawl the galleries in peace. He'd been glued to me practically every moment so far plus we'd been sharing a double bed that had been slenderised for room fitting purposes.
The Hong Kong Museum of Art is in Kowloon. Its a quid to get in and a decent enough place to while away a couple of hours. Good bookshop. Here you can see all the traditional Chinese art which comprises fairly predictably of Karst mountain landscapes, rivers and bamboo. You can learn about the symbolism in Chinese art. The omnipresent bamboo is a sign of old age and modesty. Cranes mean longevity for example. (Not the cranes operating all over the shop on the reclaimed shoreline, the flying type.) Lots of attractive calligraphy for those who like all that. I like it but I'm no art expert. Just a peripheral plebiscite observing of it all.
Don't bother asking the people at the information desk about anything else arty and available locally as they have not one clue and no map either. The History Museum is also in Kowloon and has stuff relating to China's traditions and geographical formation. Loads of installations and sound effects too. Surprisingly really interesting. There is the Heritage Museum in the New Territories which I found out usually has fantastic photography exhibitions. I discovered Wong Kan Tai here. He's a street photographer or a Flaneur as this exhibition called him. Great inspiration for budding photographers and a cool insight into all aspects of Chinese culture. The buildings interior is an artwork in itself. There's a working temple nearby albeit undergoing renovation should you be interested in that. In fact make a day of it in the New Territories as there is plenty of nature up there and the area has a really different vibe to Kowloon. Easy enough to get there on the metro.
For the real art scene you go across the river on the Star Ferries. You need to head towards the district called Soho in Central. Just head for Hollywood Road. There you will find many small commercial galleries with all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff on show and sale. Seems to be a common theme of fusion between traditional Asian art and western wackiness. My favourite discovery was a Korean bloke called Lee Sanghyun. He'd got the fusion thing going on nicely. He had really grainy black and white photographs of landscapes as his background and then photoshopped brightly coloured modern day images into the mix. Everything was there from the Beatles to 007. He'd got these brightly coloured darling little doll like figures floating about on lotus blossoms in traditional costumes but with spaceman meets a Telly Tubby headgear. This going on in an ornamental garden. I loved it. Ludo said it was shit.
“I could do that,” he snorted with derision. It really annoys me when people who never produced any work of art in their life go into an art gallery and come out with this statement. I told him that whereupon he had a proper poofy hissy fit and went and sulked outside. Art, perchance, is not for everyone. Thank God just around the corner we found a portrait exhibition featuring the work of a very young artist who'd painted Tibetan people. The detail was fantastic. They were lifesize and spookily realistic. Ludo loved it. He was completely enthralled. The expressions on the portraits would have made you cry. We were both drawn in to level of speechless proportions. So it all ended happily.
Exploring this area is a way to meet bright young things who speak decent English and can give you some useful tips about local events and art in China. I've since found out that the Asian Art Archive is in The Hollywood Building on Hollywood Road. For serious enthusiasts this place should be the place to go.1 WATER CLEANER

1 WATER CLEANER

BRUCE LEE DOWN THE MARKET

BRUCE LEE DOWN THE MARKET

1 HONG KONG HERITAGE MUSEUM 1

1 HONG KONG HERITAGE MUSEUM 1


Soho is the ex pat enclave and so all manner of eateries are available as well as bars thronging with boozed up whities. It has a colonial feel, far more so than Kowloon. You don't necessarily need to be an art lover to trawl this area. Its a great place for photographing Hong Kong as you get a cool mix of modern high tech high rise and the old styles. Plus loads of nature intermingled due to the parks and the presence of numerous Banyan Trees. There is a flea market which has some oldish stuff but is actually selling a lot of overpriced tourist tat that you can find in China for a quarter of the price. A place for browsing but watch out with the snapping as they charge you for photos. The Man Mo temple is crawling with the Long Lens Brigade rather than Monks exuding spirituality and non materialist views.
One of the best things to do on the Island is to take the local skinny trams along the coastline and back. I went to Hong Kongcrete on my tour as I had no clue where I was going at the time. I like a cheap and cheerful mystery tour on the local transport. But I'll be going to Repulse Bay next time I'm in Hong Kong as it sounds like an interesting spot with a beach and poncey homesteads. Probably find the repulsive Snake Head Gangster owner of our conglomerate guest house group there bouncing a Thai tart about on each knee. Six days is not really enough time to do everything in Hong Kong especially when you have to look for a cheap room during a convention, adjust to the time difference after a long haul flight plus hunt for real fodder. It starts to make a big hole in your budget after a week but it is worth it.
During this time Ludo had begun to get on my nerves. The art gallery hissy fit was the first fissure in the flan. But he seemed to have no clue or notion of what to do, where to go or how to get there. The metro mystified him completely and if left to his own devices he simply went shopping or to eat en suite to the lodging. Thus arriving back with not much interesting to report except how much he'd spent and every detail about the food which he usually found detestable. So he followed me around the whole time as I was the one on the net looking up local destinations whilst he was drooling over Gay Romeo instead. Now Hong Kong is crawling with Queens. And yet Ludo never went out and got amongst it. I was beginning to wonder if he really was a poof. But the most aggravating thing he perpetrated was the whistling. Whistling Whitney Houston songs through his teeth. This grated on my central nervous system like you can't believe. Anyway, I tried to think of it, at this stage in the game, as a lesson in practising tolerance. This was dead hard as he'd also developed the habit of twirling his hair round his index finger in conjunction with chewing gum noisily like a disinterested girl in an American teen flick. I was beginning to lay bets with myself how long it would take me to snap. Push nearly came to shove one PMT fuelled day but luckily we were in the vicinity of the Peak Tram.
The Peak Tram is a hotspot touristy destination and consequently thirty times more expensive than the local tram that trundles along the coastline. As its name suggests it goes up to a viewpoint called The Victoria Peak. I wondered if they had a special competition to come up with such an original name for this tram. As I normally eschew anything like that I dispatched the chewing, twirling, whistling and fucking annoying Ludo up to investigate. I had to prise him off my person with a crow bar but eventually off he pootled. Bliss ensued for three hours. It was over too quickly. He reported back that the tram was rammed with the Long Lens Brigade and he that practically puked with the claustrophobia. He said that the view was spectacular, had no photo to prove this point but he did have a brand new pair of Crocs. Apparently there was a shopping mall up at the Peak, Thank fuck I didn't go there. You can walk there however if you fancy an uphill yomp with a view and a shop at the end if it.
Well that's about it for Hong Kong. Got to get off to China. See the update of this blog if you're interested for news of Shenzhen, Guilin, Yangshou and a queen called Ludo. For aesthetics see the photo gallery.

Posted by ellastar 00:45 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

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