China

5 of the Best & Worst Things I Learned About China

Best

Bodily functions like burping and farting are considered the norm. It’s fine to make such noises during moments of silence.
Almost everything these days is “Made in China”. If you can find the factory for what you’re after, you’re bound to get it cheap.
If you’re a Westerner outside of Beijing, you can see what it’s like to live the life of a celebrity… in terms of being stared at and asked to be in photographs. You may find next time you see a celebrity you won’t ask for their autograph or a picture.
Land transport is very very cheap in China. Buses 1 RMB (~10p), Subway 2 RMB (~20p) and high speed trains dirt cheap compared to planes.
Getting a local sim is easy and cheap. There are mobile shops everywhere and txts/calls are negligible. Data plans are common on pay-as-you-go sim cards too.

 
Worst

Entering into the country is too difficult. You need to have flights, accommodation and an itinerary proof in order to get the visa. If the visa gets declined, you’re stuck with (probably) non-refundable bookings. Having it arranged in Hong Kong by an agency is known to be the simplest way.
Kids have the right to pee and defecate anywhere on the street. So much so, they’ve even design trousers to make it as easy as possible to do it without a parent needing to be around. Careful where you tread.
The language is difficult to learn. Regional variations (Mandarin, Cantonese etc.. and thick accents outside of the cities), an alphabet of pictorial characters instead of letters, a heavy reliance on context with exact sounding words meaning different things, words spoken with varying tones meaning different things and difficult pronunciation even with a word written down in western letters.
Snorting […]

The Jinshanling Great Wall of China

I toyed with the idea of going to the infamous Badaling section of the Great Wall, being close by to Beijing and public buses running from town. However, I was SO glad to have chosen the Jinshanling section. Especially after returning to the hostel and asking a couple how busy the Badaling section of the wall was in their opinion. They answered “it was ok, you could move forwards” in a positive way. Gosh, that was even a week day.
Hawkers aside, the views on this section were stunning and it was quiet enough to get could get beautiful winding views without anyone else in the way. I was lucky enough to get a reasonably clear day so hopefully, the photos below speak for themselves… […]

Moving from a Small Town to the Big City of Beijing

By Monday night, my time at the Wugulun Kung Fu school had come to an end. Two months there had flown by. I can’t emphasise enough how much of a good experience it was. What I learned about myself, understanding the benefits of the repetitive traditional kung fu training, discovering the fundamentals of mastering any martial art and meeting such an open and loving bunch of guys. Before I left, I bought some gifts to give out to the students – sweets for everyone and for the students in my group – a badminton set for the young ones and some bracelets for the senior ones. When it was announced at the dinner line-up that I’d be leaving the following morning, 30 sad-looking faces turned to face me followed by questions like “tomorrow?” and “you come back?”. It didn’t last too long (realising there were sweets up for grabs) and I had a precession follow me back to my room after to find the sweets. The most senior student had them all line up outside and each one stepped forward to take the sweets, thank me with a hug and fall back into line.
It was a far cry from the initial culture shock I felt when I landed at the school. It’s amazing how things change. How much will I miss it? I’m not sure – but time will tell. 
After a two hour cab ride to Zhengzhou airport, I caught my flight to Beijing. Even at airport, I began to feel the changes moving from a small town like Dengfeng to a big city. […]

Learning About Yourself

When I told people that I’m going to China to spend 2 months in a kung fu school, most people would imagine a purely physical experience. They assume that you’ll learn to fight, perhaps learn a few party tricks, overcome pain barriers and finally come back wanting to wear a kung fu suit every day.
For me, one of the important aspects of my time here, was to learn more about myself. I wasn’t quite sure how that would happen here, but a leap of faith told me that it would. The gut feeling was that the most traditional teachings of something extremely deep was the key.
Now, coming to the end of my time here at the school, I look back and feel that I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s by no means the answer to everything, but a big step in terms of understanding. The process feels like noticing, questioning and peeling back layers in my thought process one by one, exposing important truths underneath. It’s difficult to put a price on it, certainly at this stage.
In this post, I explain how I think the time here has allowed me to do this, what I’ve learned and why I think it’s important. […]

Barefoot Half Marathon

After getting a massive blister from basketball on Wednesday, I spent Thursday inside whilst the other students trained kung fu. The wound closure strips I thankfully packed in my first aid kit did their best to hold the leftover skin in place, keeping the wound from reopening but letting the open skin get enough air to heal. I felt it was hit and miss whether it would be ready in time for my Saturday run though – my shot at my running target before I left the school.
I figured the best way to swing the balance in favour of running was putting together a new running playlist. Music has always been the ultimate motivator for me to do anything. A combination of songs from Rocky I, Rocky IV, grimy hip hop and anything else that would make me run faster were thrown together in the playlist. In my mind, I was going to at least give it a shot. On Friday, I tested the foot out with a light jog and light kung fu training. It felt good enough to hold, so Saturday I attempted to run my half marathon. […]