China in Photos – The Modern Toilet

15 03 2012

Where to the Chinese hip teenagers go to hang out on a  rambunctious Saturday night?

Well, I’m still not sure of that, but I found myself in the toilet – a Modern Toilet, that is. This Taiwan-based restaurant chain has recently come to China to introduce its doo-doo shaped cuisine to the locals – and it’s become quite a hit.

Ranging from the toilet-based seats to the mini-urinals used to serve drinks and cocktails and squat toilets for other dishes, this restaurant evokes a range of emotions – hunger frequently not being one of them.

Restaurant Sign

The Thrones Are A-Waiting

Some customers do appear more constipated than others

Happy customers

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The food is served in appropriate containers. Stew is delicious!

This game is called - "Guess the Ice Cream Flavor"

This joint is particularly popular with young Chinese teenage girls... and me.

So, as you’re looking at all of this, you may be wondering – whose idea was it to start this? According to Wikipedia, Owner Wang Zi-Wei, an ex-banker, stated that his inspiration for the bathroom themed restaurant came from a robot character from the Japanese cartoon Dr. Slump who loved to “play with poop and swirl it on a stick.”  Ahh, gone are the days of good ol’ meaningful Russian cartoons :)





China Musings – Looking Up

7 03 2012

Imagine that you wake up in the morning, look outside the window and there, you see the sky covered with a milky shade of gray. No clouds, but no blue sky either. Just a muddy milky cover stretched over as far as your eye can see.

Then during the day, you step outside the office or the factory where you work to go for lunch and look up. Only to find the sky indistinguishable from what it looked like earlier that morning.

And then the evening falls – but there is no sunset to accompany it. It simply gets darker, as if somebody is turning an invisible dimming switch on the entire sky.

And the next day, it repeats. In fact, it is the same thing every day for around 10 months of the year due to the pervasive smog that hovers over the city, refusing to let go. Only during the brief summer months, the sun makes an appearance – as if to tease everyone under it.

When having lunch with a factory manager the other day, he mentioned that he’s traveled once to California for a bike show. I asked him what he thought of the place. After thinking about it for only a moment, he responded: “I liked it, you could actually see the blue sky.”





China Musings – On Fitting In

6 03 2012

Orderly line for the train

Nowhere is it more evident just how many people China has within its borders, as it is on the the Guangzhou subway during the morning rush.

Between 7.30 to 9.45am, it is as if half of the entire Chinese population converges underground to partake in a sacred morning ritual.

It begins with the ding-dongs that accompany the emminent train arrival. As it pulls into the station and comes to a slow stop, the existing straphangers and soon-to-be passengers eye each other through the glass doors, mentally creating a battle strategy on how to beat their enemy in the seconds to come.

And certainly enough – each side has something to dislike the other for. For neither will wait for the other nor respect the unwritten, unofficial rules that have governed the subway behavior for decades. As soon as the doors open, the people on the platform make a collective umph as they thrust themselves into the oper doorway like a human cannon. Ironically, this move essentially ends up blocking the path of the very people who are supposed to create room for them by leaving.

Inside the train car, there is its own sort of ordeal taking place. People who have realized their time to get out is here often end up separated from the doors by a human sea that they need to part before they reach freedom. It is no short miracle either – likely akin to Moses parting the red sea. Both take a similar Herculean  amount of effort.

But in spite of themselves, some people have gotten off, some have gotten on, and life is about to move. The lucky ones who got inside are giving off a Dr. Evil-like smirk to the dissapointed folks outside who simply did not fit.

And then, seconds  before the doors shut themselves, an opportunistic guy/woman/grandmother leapfrogs from the platoform into the crowd inside the train – almost like a rockstar disposing himself to his fans by jumping from stage into the crowd.

The doors close. In a few minutes, this will repeat all over again.

Full subway car





China in Photos: Chinese Acrobats Puts Cirque du Soleil to Shame

1 02 2012

During the visit to Beijing, we’ve overheard that the Chinese are renowned for their acrobatics skills. Oh yeah? Well, we’ve been to a circus or two in our day, so we figured – how good could they really be? So, one evening we decided to swing by a show and see it for ourselves.

I will be the first one to admit that the stuff I saw there simply blew my mind. I thought I’ve seen a lot of things in my days, but nothing prepared me for this.

Unfortunately, I was a bit late with capturing it on camera, but there was one performance that I did get. Frankly, I think it was the best one anyway.

I think that this picture deserves an explanation. On that pole, there are 5 women, bent in a shape that I don’t even know how to describe, holding on their entire weight by their mouth and sheer hope… and, wait for it, still finding the time to twirl things in their hands.

As the detail may be lacking in the big picture, here’s an up close and personal shot.

How?

In the process of getting off.

Two already down and the rest are coming off one-by-one.

Last girl standing. Kind of.

And they are done!





China Off-The-Beaten Path: Wonderland – The One Amusement Park Not Meant for the Kids

31 01 2012

Walt Disney once said that there exists only The Past, The Present and the World of Fantasy. On a brisk Wednesday afternoon, we found out exactly what happens when that world doesn’t quite pan out as expected.

About 30 miles away from the center of Beijing, where the skyscrapers end and the farmland begins, there lies Wonderland – a creepy, old skeleton of an amusement park, whose construction began over 13 years ago. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter after they started building, the company in charge ran out of money.

With no sources of financing in sight, they abandoned the project and just left the structures they’ve already built as they were. Over the years, the area around it has been reclaimed by nature and converted to farmland, making it the only place in the world where the farmers get to work on their crops around abandoned castles and the like.

With a camera in hand, we set out to explore the world that could have been:

The Castle in the Distance





China in Photos: Maglev – Levitating Train of the Future

30 01 2012

China’s rail network is quite impressive. With over 90,000km of rail across the country, it is one of the most cheap and convenient ways for people to travel. In fact, rail travel plays such an important role, that the Chinese government just approved a $292 billion investment into the network to take place over the next 10 years.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that China is also paving the way with some of the most unique trains in the world. While many of them are already high-speed trains, reaching a cruising speed of 300km per hour, some of them are taking it even further with magnetic levitation trains capable of doing 430km hour (about half the speed of a Boeing 747).

The magnetic levitation trains don’t go on rails, but rather they float above ground and are pushed forward by electrical magnets. One of these trains is located in Shanghai, connecting the downtown area with the airport on the outskirts of town.

Take a look – train arriving into the station. Certainly feels like something out of the future!

Train on the approach to the station

Clocked 430km/hour!





China in Photos: Some Food is Best Served on a Stick

29 01 2012

One thing that the Chinese are known for is not letting any food go to waste. An admirable quality, indeed, it does lend to some interesting food choices.

Hidden in the alleys of Beijing, near the Tiananmen Square, there are a few streets that are known, quite simply, as Snack Streets. During the day and night, people flock to them for a snack and a bite to eat.

And, of course, vendors happily cater to the crowds with choices of their best dishes – generally, all served on a stick for your convenience (and to think that the best we’ve come up with in the U.S. in that regards is a corn dog!).

Scorpion.

Tarantula. Fried.

Not sure what this is, but I know that when I see one in my house, I get a slipper ready.

Ducks.

No comment.

Snakes. Make for a great soup.

Grasshoppers, I presume!

More scorpions.

I'll let you know what this is, as soon as I sort out where the head and the rear are...

Bats.

Bat up close and personal.

90% chance that this is a Gecko. Just basing it off what I've seen in the Geico commercials.

Starfish and sea horses.

Seahorse.

One for the road!








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