Wrote this earlier but couldn’t get online to put it up, so here you go:
I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Pudong airport (espresso for 20p? Yes please… I’m going to be twitching by the time I board the plane in an hour or so. One down…). I haven’t updated for a couple of days because we’ve been on the move almost constantly it seems – we left Koh Tao on Friday for Bangkok, and got to our hostel (which was really nice – highly recommend Cozy Hostel if you’re ever passing through Bangkok) at about 22:00 after walking an hour across the city because me and Stu were too tight to pay for a taxi (and wanted to abuse the opportunity for street food on the way). I personally really enjoy walking round strange cities rather than getting the metro or taxis etc, as you see lots more – not sure Stu agreed with this though, especially as we had our bags and it was over 30 degrees with humidity equivalent to a sauna even that late at night.
The next day we went to the MBK centre, which is kind of half shopping centre, half market, munching on some little sandwiches from a street vendor for breakfast. I wasn’t buying anything, but Stu wanted some shorts so we looked around a bit. He found some he liked but was fairly reluctant to try any on as apparently he’d run out of clean underwear and therefore wasn’t wearing anyway, but the stall owner seemed to find this hilarious and she encouraged him to rub his privates all over her nice merchandise anyway. (3 espressos…). Did a bit more browsing then headed over to Lumphini park to look at the massive lizards that I saw last time I was in Bangkok.
We grabbed a snack – Chinesey beef stew with noodles – from a street restaurant as we were heading back, then found a soup noodle place round the corner from our hostel where we tried a couple of bowls of thick rice noodles with pork and pak choi, in a soup with egg broken into it, which tasted great. Ordered in the normal way – had a nosey at what everyone else was having in the restaurant then pointed. By this time we were dangerously dehydrated so we thought it best to head back to the hostel and have a beer on the roof terrace before heading out to dinner in the Silom district of Bangkok, where we met a Dutch guy who we’d been diving with during the week in Koh Tao. Chicken massaman – lovely. (Ooh, they do banana cake here as well – better have another espresso to wash it down). We wandered round a nearby street market that turned out to border the slightly less family-friendly streets of Bangkok (girlie bars and dodgy massage parlours), giggled a bit at the signs for ‘Special testicle massage’ (yes, actually) then went for another beer in a restaurant because it started chucking it down. All in all a very relaxing day.
I have to say I’m really upset to be leaving China – it still hasn’t completely sunk in that I’m finished with my year here and heading home. To control my grief, I’ve made a list of things that I won’t miss about China, followed by a list of things I definitely will. Some of these are cultural differences. Some are not.
Things I won’t miss about China:
1. Spitting/hocking up phlegm. This is disgusting.
2. Shouting ALL THE TIME, especially on public transport.
3. Driving – it’s very tiring to have to treat every excursion onto the road as some sort of mediaeval combat. I have been hit by a car, have hit several cars on my bike as they’ve pulled in front of me, been run over by ebikes… It fast became common enough that I barely think of mentioning it.
But I literally think that’s it – just those three things.
Things I will miss:
1. Food. It’s amazing, and cheap, and unbelievably varied. There is more variety in this one country than there is in the whole of Europe, and none of it is like any Chinese food I’ve ever eaten in England. Will have to resort to making my own dumplings.
2. The language. Chinese seems to have been invented specifically in order to make it impossible to learn. It started off well – each character has an individual, specific meaning, which makes the language very accurate. Unfortunately you need to know at least 2 000 characters to read a newspaper. Even more unfortunately the human mouth can’t make 50 000 individual, specific sounds, so most of these characters sound very similar but are pronounced in different tones – which is great if you have a mouth like a harpsichord, but not much use to anyone else. Nonetheless, I literally love Chinese. Learning it is an incredible challenge, but it’s great fun. I’ll miss it.
3. This isn’t something I’ll miss, just an observation – the sky is higher in China. This is a scientific fact, I’ve just measured it with a ruler. I don’t know how this works, but the sky is really really high here.
4. The people. If we ignore the ones who are spitting, screaming, and running me down, Chinese people are incredibly generous and patient. They put up with my terrible tones when I’m talking, and if I don’t know a word will happily give me 27 different synonyms, all of which I also don’t know.
5. Excitement. Life in China can stressful and frustrating, yes, but it’s never boring. Something that should be incredibly complex will be surprisingly simple, then you’ll try and buy a bus ticket and will get interrogated by the police. Mental.
6. Being special. China’s great for your narcissistic side. In China I get told I’m handsome, and strong, and that I have beautiful eyes. By men. And it’s not weird. I’m taller than everyone in China, and when you go into a bar everyone looks at you like you’re some kind of celebrity, then they give you a drink. It’s a bit weird, yes, but being a foreigner in China has its advantages.
7. Prices. Life in China is unbelievably cheap. Everything apart from computer stuff, which to the contrary of what I was expecting, is more or less western prices.
I’m going to stop there, because it’s time for me to board my plane. Thankfully I think I’ve had enough coffee to make sure I spend the first couple of hours unable to sit still, but after that I should collapse into a coma which will make the 12 hours after that pass smoothly. Hopefully.