China Ramblings: Reflections and some vague insights…(I just wanted to write something…anything…)

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For me, I’ve found that I feel more peaceful in a vast spacious hall; perhaps that’s why the temples of Thailand have left such a deep impression upon me; temples in China tend to be scattered; almost cluttered places.

To my mind; I’ve only had one moment where I had the same feeling from temples in China; way back in Lijiang, Yunnan. I spent a slightly hungover morning deep in the mist; the locals were making rice wine and there was all sorts of statues of strange creatures; perhaps once you’ve cemented a moment like that in your mind; this becomes your main reference point, marring all further experience beyond ‘having a look around’ a temple.

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Despite this; seeing a new temple or building is still worth a train journey; off I went to Sun-Yat Sen Memorial hall; basically like some kind of asian theatre where no show was on display; commemorating the legacy of Sun-Yat Sen; a key figure in the communist revolution; this was besides the point for me; I merely wanted to look at his hall; poke around and feel the gubbins…

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I’m trying to drink more water lately; so checking out the bathroom was a definite feature of this trip; anyway…; yes, my greatest observation that day was how a big hall can make you feel more peaceful; more solemn and even a bit idle;

I had vowed to climb a mountain that day; but somehow; the journey over had sapped me of the feeling; there’s a vast amount of smog that seems to have taken over at the moment; so I just walked again…then I swam; perhaps too late in the day; but looking up at the skyscrapers;  I thought about all the experiences that I’ll soon have with a partner in crime; following 2 brews and a disappointing burger at Bravo; maybe it was time to get my act together;  though their lychee ale is superb in taste; it was all beginning to blend into one.

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Hipster Brew Bars…The vibe at Bravo.

The next day; I spent looking for a book; nothing particular; a bit of obituary reading on Vincent Poklewski’s picaresque life and I was developing a thirst for a book and a sit down: I can throughly recommend Guangzhou’s Books centre for all of your needs; not only was I able to get a superb ice coffee; I was able to purchase and begin Dave Eggers ‘Hologram for a King’ then my hunger for street food took over; yet all I could find was an average Thai meal; another bit of cash spent pointlessly alongside toiletries;

Therefore; what’s the conclusion here? Who is this for?  Perhaps it’s important to remember that despite the vast array on offer in Guangzhou; having fun all the time is unrealistic; work may be all encompassing; but on hindsight; saving is the new spending; lets see how we get on…

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More time in coffee shops please…

 

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Less time buying papercraft stuff when the instructions are in Chinese…Doh!

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This week…

…I’ll be making a crab papaya salad; leftovers from an average Thai; yet I’ve not gained any weight; coffee is the winner!…

On the horizon…Someone will visit soon…worryingly it could even be my mother…

Watching…American Horror Story:Cult is proving to be a return to form…I need more suggestions of things to watch! Gotta save… save… save…. 

Listening to: Lennon, The Stones; All the dead people

Quote of the week: ‘My neck, my back…my crippling anxiety attack’

 

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Baby Driver: Rambling about cinemas in GZ

Seeing a movie alone can sometimes be a great way to refresh yourself; books can offer some catharsis; but after a long day at work; sometimes all you need to do is sit in the dark and watch something exhilarating; I’m sometimes a little reluctant to watching a movie while traveling usually; seeing it as time away from the brave new world you should be experiencing;  This was proof that Guangzhou was finally becoming home;

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Baby Driver’  offered all the catharsis I needed on a Saturday night; I’d just discovered a missing filling; the result of too many White Rabbit candies and thinking about phonics; Is there anything more damaging than a sweet tooth? Backed by great insurance; I decided not to allow these kind of troubles to spoil my evening; When I was younger; I might have allowed this kind of thing to really trouble me; maybe I was becoming a sensible adult after all!

Anyway; onto ‘Baby Driver’ Edgar Wright’s new vehicle to twist the action genre and bring us a awesomely musical story about a getaway driver named Baby; It’s far away from Shaun of the Dead and the massively underrated Spaced;  But yet it’s just as entertaining; if not in the same gear of humor that the director is known for; this is not a story in which humans the size of houses deliver killer lines while putting holes in a dozen bad guys; though the marketing could throw you off;

I’m not going to spoil such a refreshingly simple movie; all you need to know is that it has Kevin Spacey, T-Rex on the soundtrack and enough to keep you going back in hope to a dodgy Chinese cinema at the very least;

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The next day, motivated by an approaching typhoon; I paid 100 RMB to see Valerian; practically one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life;  I won’t even mention the director by name; I’ve forgotten his name; the same man who made Fifth Element is nowhere to be seen in this feature; Okay I admit; I nearly had to google it; Luc Besson…robbing me of my time with cheap rubbish…

So I walked out; I had an unhappy happy hour at The Happy Monk; Wishing I’d dropped the money on having the finest lego known to mankind delivered on my doorstep; so I could drink a beer and watch old Robin Williams stand-up; So Go and see ‘Baby Driver’ China interesting only shows around 1-2 English movies per month by law; so take any great movie you can!

So what have I learnt this week: firstly; don’t rely upon any entertainment apart from two men beating the crap out of each other during a typhoon; I wandered the streets; hoping to find some kind of bar; but finding only the rain and mediocre experiences in hellish shopping malls;

From now on; it’s boxing games every time over wandering sullenly in the rain; secondly; God I suddenly miss cooking! So with this weekend fast approaching; my goals are to cook a damn fine steak and to finally buy all the model kits that I’ve started to build a relationship with; I love my job and I love the weekend: So it’s a win-win situation Just don’t ever mention Luc Besson to me ever again…

My next plan is Beijing; I’ll be visiting during the biggest migration; but I’m thinking I can handle it; I don’t have an aversion to crowds; it doesn’t find me in a state of ferment; We’ll just have to get up earlier; So bring on the crowds; the company will be good and we can pretend it’s all just lego anyway!

So as I type this up; I know it’s going to be a good one; with much more to write about; the next post will hopefully have model kits and rooftop views; See ya on the other side! Let’s put the blocks together; pose like James Bond and hope every drink is shaken, not stirred over the next 2 days;

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That;s what happens when you’ve just walked around all day; dumb joke hunting is essential for posts;

Shawan and Huangpu: Random ramblings in temples and villages as usual.

There’s an element of risk that comes with travel: One minute; you could be idly enjoying a particular scrumptious plate at some quaintly run-down noodle shop, the next you could be rushed to hospital with so many tapeworms they need name tags.

So when I lumbered onto the metro line followed by some rather dubious bus journeys on my way to Shawan and Huangpu this Wednesday and Thursday, I counted the places I had been in my head once more, maybe to remind myself that despite moments of uncertainty: I’d seen some pretty curious things in my time in Guangzhou so far.

I’ve never been very good at keeping a diary; I keep ticket stubs; I like to write about my experiences online…talking to…someone…I suppose…maybe myself…who knows?…anyway, first off: I set my sights on Shawan Ancient Village in Panyu;

 

Shawan: Sleepy old ghost town

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About an hour away from central Guangzhou: Shawan seemed another opportunity to see how the other side of China lives: You won’t find KTV booths here; there’s not even a 7/11; you get a sense of what China was like before it was thrust into the modern age of selfies, social media and hundreds upon hundreds of types of Hong Kong style waffles. 

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At first, it really seemed like the locals had given up on the village; there was certainly this overriding sense that I was the only tourist in town; therefore nobody had bothered to set up shop: There’s no official entrance; I just stumbled in; and bought a dusty old ticket; luckily, some city dwellers soon appeared to join me in a pre-amble around the historical Buddhist flecked surroundings of sites such as Wenfang Tower;

 

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Prayer ribbons abound; I’d first come across these little red ribbons of luck back in Lijiang; who leaves them there is a slight mystery; you don’t see many of the locals comign to pay their respects to the tower; 

Nevertheless, I spent a good half hour just trying to make a video blog; something I’d like to personally achieve in the next few entries; once I’ve gained enough experience my to wax lyrical, poetical and fantastical language on old stuff and golden gods of Buddha;

I am into the Buddhist faith from a strictly cultural and historical perspective; yet there is a small glimmer of faith in the power of Buddhism to change lives for the better; particularly with meditation; particularly Transcendental Meditation; a technique unconnected to to spiritual world of the Buddhism; but still a glimpse into something beyond ourselves.

 

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Anyway; the fact I rambled proves that perhaps; while Shawan may have once been a great place for a day out with the family; it’s now a very peaceful; non-touristic tourist attraction; don’t come for a glass of wine and a bit of lunch however; the shops are closed; the locals are asleep; “Everything is broken and no one speaks English” as Tom Waits once quipped.

Some people have mentioned to me that Thailand and it’s temples have lost their edge in the grip of tourism; yet, I must admit; I feel more wowed by their golden pagodas than I have felt in a temple in China so far; the most spiritual element here has to be the ‘Tobleroneesque’ incense burning all around the main temple of Shawan; You know it’s a spiritual experience when you want to frantically order the temple awnings on Amazon:

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Ancient Huangpu Port and Village

So after a long day; I lay in bed after an evening of misadventure to take on the dizzying heights of Ancient Huangpu Port and Village; an old fisherman’s town; where the fisherman have resorted to jobs in cafes or dumpling stalls; as a result of the lack of anything going on in the lake or the village itself; another long metro journey; so close to some random Chinese people it was like we were dating.

 

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IMG_2874.JPGThe most interesting part of Huangpu has to be the maritime museum and it gets worse from there; needless to say; after the quick jog around Shawan the previous day; I was at least hoping for some seafood; but nevertheless; the history of trade in China is vast and ongoing; you get the sense that it’s a nation which never stops; it may have a cup of tea and a bowl of dumplings; but still; trade is everywhere…

Yet I don’t regret each experience of this weekend;  it’s better than relaxing by a pool; though sometimes, maybe a relax by a pool; the simple taste of fresh fruit and music is all you need; I will keep this in mind for my next experience: I’m not done with temples of the villages; but it’s time to find my mojo; buy a few quilts and seek out the next experience.

I ate…This weekend, I’ve been to Social and Co to find they had something resembling a Taiwanese Bao; to be honest; it wasn’t so good; but the cocktail was photogenic:

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Secondly; I stumbled into NoodleBar in Zhujiang for a slightly overpriced Shrimp Laksa in a hipster restaurant; admittedly; I was starving after my day at Huangpu and should have walked out when the price upgrade was due to 3 more shrimps being placed in the bowl. Still good to try and I may go back for something a little cheaper sometime.

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Cocktail of the Week: Happy Monk at The Happy Monk(Zhujiang New Town)

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 A medicinal medical hit with Pineapple and odd sauces…lovely…. which during Happy Hour is worth the three quid; otherwise, stick to a beer.

Meditations on Temples: Chanting the mantra in Guangzhou!

“They say Karma’s gonna get you…”

Temples hold a great power over me, ever since a few of my trips to Thailand to see the great wats; I’ve meditated in Buddhist centres in the UK: but when the focus is paired down to a deep relationship between the Buddha, the white light and all the offerings…I usually just end up thinking about the delicious salty snacks laid before the enlightened one.

No, for me; it’s truly about the temple atmosphere; legends guarded by guardian lions; mermaid princesses and giant statues; You can’t turn your face away from this kind of imagery; it’s actually kind of an insult within the faith itself to turn your back to it;

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The first prayer ribbons encountered in Lijiang, Yunnan, China. 

I grew up in Britain; where some religions heavily featured violent or graphic images;  those memories are covered in a literal smell of dust that is hard to summarise on a social media platform…but anyway this was why I was excited to see what Guangzhou had to offer;

 

1. To Chen Clan Academy…

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My adventure started with Chen Clan Academy; which started life as a short-term accommodation space in 1888.; a sort of frat house for Chen Clan members to sit provincial exams; a wordsmith, a Mr.Guo Moruo obviously brushed up on his poetry a bit on this one; writing the following poem in praise of such an academy;

‘Nature’s engineering can be replaced by human creation, yet human creation cannot be surpassed by natural force.  The human world is created  in a way like this, a visit to this place is better than ten years learning from books’

While not strictly a temple; those ten years as a bookworm are rightly a waste compared to the rooftops of the academy; something I’ve noticed as a sure sign of a temple; a quick google search reveals Chen Clan as an academic temple; which mostly consists of a series of dramatic rooftops depicting everything from flowers, birds to scenes of Cantonese soaps of the time;

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For me; coming from a place where our history is depicted in solemn, almost dowdy or melancholic; even the statues of Chen Clan could be called fruitful; consider my bouche amused and hungry to be led by lions to the various incarnations of Gautama Buddha;

 

2.  Xiaozhou Village;

Which led to me to Xiaozhou village; a short bus ride away from the bustling; “shop, shop and eat” culture which envelops Guangzhou; Xiaozhou village in itself is a chance to see what life in China would have been like nearly 30-40 years ago; a mural of Chairman Mao smoking a fag; confirms your trip back into time;

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The shrine here is less about the pictures for WeChat or Instagram; it’s a great glimpse into local beliefs and how faith and belief is a personal thing in Buddhism; rather than something you have to spread to the rest of the world;

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Small and solemn buddhas at Xiaozhou

As a result; it ranks on the rather small scale, but it’s a good starting point and a good excuse to visit Xiaozhou; which has sort of charmingly given up on tourism. I’m a big fan of those postcard pictures; where you sort of superimpose the old and the new; or just the local site; Yes it’s a great place for budding photographers; Check out the Oyster house in Xiyuan!

Some sites in Xiaozhou

3. Renwei Temple

A quick boat ride a week later and I was heading to Liwan Lake Park; to check out Renwei Ancestral Temple; the first full temple I’d stumbled into; In China; temples aren’t the boisterous affairs that you encounter in Thailand; this isn’t a measuring contest; but things are very different in China when it comes to Buddhism; it’s on a smaller scale Temple wise.

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What was wonderful at Renwei is the little statues encased in kind of a rotating case; the closest comparison I can see is the prayer wheels of Nepal; which mainly depict the mantra over any actual depictions of the Buddha; 

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Renwei enjoys a history of over 900 years; how can you not be impressed, simply by visiting old stuff and being alive to enjoy experience how people used to live; and how the local people have made a community around the history and kept it alive.

 

4. Liurong Temple

But this isn’t enough surely? You can’t just smell the incense and give up as a Temple Runner; I took a rest and found myself the next week in Liurong Temple or more well known by foreigners as Banyan Tree Temple; I’d seen the temple from the famous Canton Tower and vowed to trade the steel building for something a bit more karma centric; So I shuffled in and lit some incense…and what a temple it is:

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It started to rain, my feet were soaked; shoes ruined etc;  but the Lotus Pagoda as it’s also, also known was a sight to behold as you can see from my random images; it’s named as such due to it’s habit of giving out light; imagine the feeling you’d have had back in old 537 AD. Seeing those 9 layers shining out…awesome!

But even more than that; the three fairly middle weight statues definitely depict some kind of teenage phase of our golden gods;  They are like naughty schoolboys rather than supreme beings dictating the life of us ‘Germs with shoes’ as Bill Hicks used to say.  The rain didn’t dampen my spirits; but it did ruin my shoes!

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Then on and on; after a delicious meal of Prawn Summer Rolls and Seafood in a coconut with boiled rice at Tiger Prawn; a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant down in Beijing Lu…or Beijing Road to the tourists…

5. Dafo Ancient Temple

…I came across Dafo Ancient Temple; right in the middle of all the chaos of one of Gunagzhou’s main eating/shopping district;  the same imagery of the lions is here; led by some fairly confident herders; again the emphasis here is on the great bounty of the Buddha.

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The most curious artifact here is the White Buddha; being attended to in a no-go zone for those who haven’t sacrificed their life to live in the temple, instead of randomly shuffle around them; this was like the VIP room of every club you ever went to as a teenager;

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Still it made you curious what the life of a Buddhist monk must be like; all the orange robes; incense burning; is it the same coveted items that drives some people to become a police officer? or a professional football mascot?  Earlier in the week; I’d come across a female monk in the street; something I found refreshing to what surely must be a little bit of a boys club.;

The construction work that goes on with temples isn’t talked about much, perhaps it’s not particularly of any importance to most people; but does it remove the magic? like a magician with his pants down and a rabbit poking out his arse? No…but it’s important to give a resounding thanks to all the effort that goes into crafting the temples as seen here:

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6. Foshan Temple

So; we are led to Foshan to encounter Zumiao Temple; where the temple lions have gnarled claws and the memory of China’s greatest Kung-Fu master Ip man lingers; a perfect mix of noble character and talent; which is historically described as a Lotus Flower in Chinese culture. Ip man’s most famous student was of course; the Hong Kong born Bruce Lee; who definitely traded dumplings for dumbbells in a quest to become a Kung-Fu master under the Ip man.

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Relics from the life of Ip man…

 

While here; I managed to get a temple to myself; where my hand was halfway to my camera phone and halfway to my timer; I’m a practicer of Transcendental Meditation and have worked on films on the subject; the mantra comes in strong in this kind of environment; but it makes you wonder; Are we here to simply record everything? What’s that all about?  Why are there statues with fake beards…? What’s it all about…

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Which is why I’ll still visit more temples…Is there anything that makes you question yourself more than a few golden statues and a mantra?

Perhaps I’ll become a temple reviewer…

A templeviewer…? No, that doesn’t quite work…

This started life as a reflection on Buddhism and temples; I’m sure it all looked better while I was writing it…

 

 

 

 

 

Bar of the week: Sun in the Sky; a wine bar for the Warhol generation; go haunt the expensive clothes; I’ll be back for a 500 yuan shirt sometime around November…Featuring Wine Tastings very soon, which I’m getting involved in.

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Restaurant of the week: Tiger Prawn
If you love Thai/Vietnamese food this is a great place to dine alone or with just one other person as it’s always packed…the prawn summer rolls were a little past their prime; but seafood served in a coconut is sublime…also everything comes with sauce; I think the secret to any good restaurant is a lot of sauce; a good atmosphere and an extensive menu; as long as it’s not ‘all over the place’

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Snack of the week: Random Jelly Lollipops…Every wandered around and fancied something a bit like eating a breast implant? Me neither…but then; it’s sticky; it’s chewy and I’m hooked…

 

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Guangzhou: Diary 1 :

Guangzhou, it’s a melting pot;

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I tried to put off writing about it until I’d photographed and examined every inch of it; I’d landed on July 9th, slightly jet lagged and walked the streets, sauntering about to observe the society I’d been dropped into;

Following the first night, where I ended up staring into Karaoke booths; freaking out the locals and thinking of all the experiences Guangzhou and China had to offer; These are just some of the highlights from my trip so far;

 街头生活  (Street Life) 

Yes, Street Life; What do I mean by that; I’ve been able to simply wander the streets, finding great colours, textures and smells; One minute there’s an old fashioned guardian lion; the next there’s some kind of market stall full of dead sea-horses; or grandma has decided to do a special chant to commemorate a sale at her Lizhi store; China is heaven if you love people watching more than watching television.  The people are great, the  and the restaurants/stores stay open; which means you can get ice cream at 3am if you chose to do so….(just like Istanbul)

 

Every street is full of stories

Characters

Sounds

Life

Windows to look through

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2. “The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue.”(Confucius) 

It’s actually cheaper to eat out than it is to shop in a supermarket; I only go in for tonic water and those prawn chips that taste vaguely obscene;  As a result, I’ve been subjected to a series of very interesting experiences; from awkward moments where I’ve had to beg my Chinese friends to translate the menu via WeChat; to that amazing time I sat and had Pig Brain in Beijing; while the bar played Marilyn Manson at full blast.  (It tasted like Tofu)

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My favourite experience so far has to be having dinner with my partner-in-crime’s parents; not only did we communicate, despite my limited Chinese (méng méng da!) but it was a pure moment; It just felt like the best thing I could have been doing with my time in Beijing;  Also; we had Roast duck and ate Mahjong tiles made out of…something.

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Personally, I think Chinese food is totally based around the sharing culture;  Every waitress has seemed a little confused as to why I’m not chowing down on questionable roadside dumplings…probably made out of the sausages they sell at 7/11 all the time as I’m alone.

While I have done the whole street food thing; my favorite food tradition in Cantonese culture is ‘Yum Cha‘   You take a menu; check a few boxes and soon enough; you are having tea and dumplings;  I guess it appeals to my English longings for afternoon tea and a bit of a show; see below for the epic Mango Cream Yam Cha and Siu Mai (I once ordered Congee by mistake …no pictures…urgh)

 

 

Yum Cha…mmmmm

3.  Adventure is worthwhile 

In Guangzhou, here’s just a small plethora of the places I’ve visited, with the notes I’d attached at the time;

Lychee Bay– Really historical; sink a coffee here and take in all the beautiful lakes; Temples nearby; I nearly got chatting to an obviously european tourist; but never could find the words; so we basically had an unspoken travel photography battle in the temple.

Canton Tower– Amazing views of the old fashioned tower buildings. a bit misty and underwhelming.

Shamian Island– The boat cruise from Canton Tower is amazing.

Xiaozhoucun– Really old fashioned, countryside town; the streets are sleepier and it’s a great escape; if only to see the house made entirely of oysters.

Chimelong Safari Park– Sleepy Pandas and Badass Bears; the cable car ride is epic.  Even the animatronics and the Longleat style ride is worth the 300 RMB price.  Lovely to see families out and about.

Party Pier–  Sun in Sky; a fashion centre with good wine; I think I will have to visit it again soon; Especially given their amazing; if pricey shirts; a great space to walk around and imagine if life had been perfect and you’d been a born model.

Chen Chan Academy (Guangdong Folk Museum) – I sometimes think of myself as a temple Runner; I love the history; nothing really compares to the temples of Thailand; mainly because they still have a genuine function beyond tourism; but again, a beautiful place to throw time away.

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 4. Beijing;

Big shout out to the wonderful people I met on the TEFL-C!   Particularly those still based in Beijing and my Texan crew; basically; a week of hardcore teaching theory, which definitely wetted my appetite to go out in the evenings; I took the metro to various areas, particularly the Xijiaomin Hutongs; where I met a woman who wants to put QR codes on food, I can’t wait to meet my Beijing crew when I’m back in October.

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5. Chinese Future;

So finally, I was able to write a vaguely coherent entry about the last 3 weeks; what do I hope for now? Tomorrow; I’ll be looking for apartment and trying to find a place I can call my own;

On Friday; I have a mock lesson for a pet store using Total Physical Response and a week long of observations; Overall, I’m excited to get a place to call my own and finally applying for the permit that will allow me to visit Shanghai and Hong Kong (or Honkers!) with ease…lets go see what they eat huh!?

Thank you to all the people at Disney English so far who have made it an easy and fun trip (Rachel, Paul,  Lindsey, Stephen etc…you guys rule!)

 

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What I’ve learnt (teaching) so far:  Be aware of different sounds animals make in different cultures.

What I’ve learnt (personal) so far; Don’t always order by pictures; it could be congee. 

What I’d like to learn;  Chinese, beyond ‘I want…’

 

 

 

Tidy Table: Bistrot Pierre

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Entering the newest addition to the Mumbles: Bistrot Pierre; I breathed a sigh of relief; Not only was it busy, it was beautiful; Bistrot Pierre is known for combining provincial French cooking with an eye for detail; not only does it feature a stunning outdoor terrace to watch the boats go by; but the inside is decorated with warm Parisian decor; which will brighten up many an evening. Making it an exciting development for the new Oyster Wharf restaurant scene.

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Usually, I always judge a restaurant by it’s bread; the latest addition to the Mumbles; Bistrot Pierre has both the freshest french bread I’ve ever had in a restaurant, alongside artisan bread which can be made even more stunning with their deliciously zingy tomato tapenade; all washed down with a crisp bottle of white wine.

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This tapenade will be in my dreams soon enough…’My bouche is amused’ as Rob Brydon once said…

Next came our starters; I started with the Salade de truite fumée which featured    Smoked trout, beetroot and fennel salad  and a horseradish crème fraîche, while my dining companion went with the steamed asparagus, ham hock and sauce gribiche of eggs, capers, cornichons and herbs;

Perfect harmonious flavours; creamed eggs and asparagus.

If there was anything that would slow down our enthusiasm for the bread/tapenade; these dishes definitely made us stop in our tracks; my favorite part of the starters was the creamed eggs harmoniously combined with the asparagus: a dish that simply had been created with real talent and flair: I should note at this point that many dishes at Bistrot Pierre are either gluten free or can be made vegetarian:  providing a haven for those who are bored of the dreaded nut roast.

So onto mains; both of us opting for the duck confit  which came with an oven mitt to stop you burning your fingers, as you dish up various perfectly cooked provencal vegetables; that will be begged for by your dining companions;

The duck was easily one of the smoothest pieces of poultry I have cut through since Powdered Duck breast at celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant in London; what was interesting is that it came with salty olives and red wine jus; making it full of flavor; this combined with the shards of potato and carrots made it a dish that was well worth the price tag.

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Duck worth migrating to the Mumbles for; Duck with red wine jus and provencal veg. 

By this point, full of lovely bread, starters and now that the duck was beginning to migrate to my stomach; most reviewers tend to give up at this stage; but my weakness for creme brulee is strong;  we first started with two unique elderflower martinis on a balcony overlooking the Mumbles;

Bistrot with view

While I love brulee; martinis are like my kryptonite; I have to say I’d be unable to say no to any of the other drinks at Bistrot Pierre and look forward to trying their take on a Bloody Mary one afternoon; again, the same talent found within the kitchen is found down at the bar and my partner in crime definitely enjoyed hers down to the last drop.

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Elderflower Martini: Really refreshing to finally get some good cocktails in a restaurant while overlooking the beautiful beach. 

Finally: Now ready to crack out the creme brûlée and it’s delicious shards of burnt caramel; We also tried the Frangipane of warm baked pear and toasted pistachio: Usually; I go for a cheese plate; which is also featured on the menu at a refreshingly reasonable price of £5.95: all in all; the spirit of French desserts lives on through Bistrot Pierre; making it one of the most well put together places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in Swansea for years.

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Sweet nectar of the gods…silky Creme Brûlée

Merci Beaucoup to Bistrot Pierre; I’m visiting Paris myself in early June; Thank you for giving us a real taste of french cooking; that no doubt will rival many of the offerings actually in the country; Overall; the standard is set high for fellow restaurants to compete with this level of good food, friendly service and a beautiful location… with a range of offers and set menus; you have no reason to not to say Bon Appétit! to Bistrot Pierre song!

 Bistrot Pierre is at;  3 Oyster Wharf  Mumbles Road Mumbles SA3 4DN

 

#Instafood is unhealthy.

We are now literally products of our time obsessed with the products of our time.

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#Jewellery has 9,623,991 tags on Instagram, while #Instafood has 83,157,881 tags.  Even more surprising;  #God has a mere 23,020,799 in comparison…Jesus was savvy when he conjured up all that fish and bread to feed the multitude; he knew that one day we’d all be applying the ‘Claredon’ filter recklessly onto everything: With so many people treating food like precious jewels or some form of higher power; the new status symbol truly lies in how you pick your dinner.

Desserts are easy; if you’ve got an overly sweet tooth; you go for some kind of puffed up version of a childhood favourite on steroids. If you are trying to be classy; or alcohol has dulled your palate; cheese is always the answer , but what about the gubbins beforehand?

I recently found myself wondering for a whole hour whether to have beef tartare as a starter or go for the trout, as a lamb wellington main was a popular choice on TripAdvisor: the reasoning being that it is correct and proper to have a fish or vegetable based starter to contrast with a meat main.

At home, my own recipe book wouldn’t even justify a pamphlet; so how had we come to such levels of pretentiousness? I had survived well in Nigeria; where moin moin followed by a bit of shortbread was my idea of a perfectly decent meal: You were lucky if the electricity was on.

Neanderthals; didn’t fret about whether ordering the Sabretooth Carpaccio as a starter because they were having the Mammoth Wellington as a main. Back in that time; I imagine procreating took a higher priority over what you put in your gullet; Eating was just a means to survive; not some kind of fancy way for the affluent, childish many to get a few social media likes.

We now want some kind of feeling to accompany the taste; it’s not merely a case of getting full or even enjoying it;  In some countries such as China; food is a rich part of the culture and it’s people take great pride in dishes that are native to their particular region; At it’s worst; food in western societies  has become completely conceptual and even fairly unpleasant as a result;

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Take for example this awful concoction, which looks like Liberace’s smoking faecal matter or the Raindrop cake; which resembles a breast implant; Most recently; Starbucks have launched a Unicorn Frappuccino; which is more of liquid fashion statement than anything palatable, containing a whopping 76 grams of sugar for a large one. #Instafood is not healthy or nourishing, it’s entirely about surface.

Yet, we still worry so much about what goes into our food, while we also mindlessly eat hummus filled with pieces of metal or rot our molars with Fruit Smoothies; The ‘health’ food industry is just as dubious as the fast food industry.  We will one day see more virtual immersive dining pushing us further into a culture where to look is everything and drones will deliver our food for us; meaning that we’ll be able to designate a place at home to take our #Instafood pics.

Lastly,  the one saving grace may well be that immersive dining encourages us to put down our phones and experience restaurants in a way that isn’t so hollo; Take http://sagaya-ginza.com and their immersive restaurant below; while I’m still fretting whether to have the meat or fish as a starter; Interesting things are happening and the future doesn’t have to be Unicorn coloured and it doesn’t have to be hash tagged;

 

…I think i’ll go for the fish