Christmas at Kang Wang by Rachel



Christmas at Kang Wang is a full sized party set in a regular sized frosty the snow globe; all the dress, decor, dancing and fun of a party, set in the smallest of spaces.

It’s just one step past too tight of a holly jolly hug, but just tight enough to feel the love.

Our eight hundred or so kids love the cup of cheer, and their laughter sparks ours! Right?

Just a short sleigh ride past the two front doors, or two front teeth, of Kang Wang, the weather outside is frightful, but it certainly makes up for Guangzhou’s lack of festive decor, which is less than delightful.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, yet still only looks just a little bit like Christmas. Most holiday music playing in public places is in English, which is nice to hear, but other than jingle bells rockin’, what do the non-English speakers hear?

For me, Christmas time in the city is a theme, it’s a season, it’s a whole month of good vibes and all things peppermint. For guangzhou, it seems to be just a fa la la la la fad, but I’m more than happy it has caught on. Even an ocean away from home, this true fad gave to me, my Starbucks red cup, an excuse for an obnoxious manicure, and twelve or so other  reasons to smile, and aside from you, that’s all I wanted for Christmas, so for these few seasonal treasures, I am grateful.



Three Birthday Poems.



I’ve had nothing to do with these; It’s my birthday today; So I’ll leave them here; it’s not a warm day; the world is waking up; I’m going out for cake and to peeve on rumors of an art gallery: I still have no idea whether to go to the wanky restaurant:  Anyway, I was going to post a longer more meandering article, possibly written after two gins in the sun yesterday afternoon.

1. Simple Pleasures

I love crunching toast

it should be available on NHS

I love the lovely mess

the world is

after gin fizz.

I love the chewy sweets and restaurant seats.

people watching and poching 

poncing about 

twist and shout

in and out.

cups of tea

mumbles sea

nasal gazing

the word 'amazing'


airports and long walks

saying hello

write and send:

happy birthday 

from an old friend.
2. Edibles:

I want to eat the beach

I want to quench my thirst on a memory

chew on rain clouds 

nibble on your thoughts

Pick at a particular flavor of sky

get drunk on walking across the sand

as an aperitif, I want to feel your hand

reaching that particular sweet spot

savor your dance 

gnaw at my thoughts

and get fat on your smile. 

open wide: 

and take a great big gob of the day

as a side dish

there's your laugh 

and then 

it's just salt and pepper

to hear the birds sing and remember

the thoughts you had on the first of December.

you know that feeling when 

you just open a shopping bag and eat as you walk down the road?

and you get to the end and you've eaten

like the end of a baguette 

or a box of chocolate?

and then you feel a bit guilty

when someone spots you

and you know it's time to go home?!

that's what life's like
3. First Poem in China

I was gonna go to the poetry night,

but I got stuck on line 10

so close to a Chinese man

I thought I was having sex with him

I wander around shopping malls 

staring in at the karaoke booths

looking for some great truths

in a love song I don't understand 

All I can ever say is ‘Wo Ai Ni’

as a couple walks past dressed the same

and I've lost face

But still I walk around 

passing five hundred menus 

trying to forget the letter

feeding my Instagram

Cause you can't live on dumplings

I've seen the consequences 

I've seen the double chins

so easy to spend your nights 

munching rice

so I wander 

putting toes through hell

the first time I tried hotpot

it's something I'll never forget the smell of:

still I wander a new Chinese bigfoot or monument

and I'm just an empty shell of...

influenced by 

a collection of people

I've never met or heard of

with a passport.


The long overdue post about China and Food!

China, one of the most food obsessed nations in the entire world; a place where the congee itself has had to have been floating wild and free before it’s devoured before a hard day of work: So what has stopped me writing about it? I’ve choked down breakfast dumplings filled with red bean, dined like a gentlemen on Beijing duck. I’ve even been unfortunate enough to try Yunnan food on occasion.

I’ll never forget my first exposure to stinky tofu, even the locals laughed at me; I love stinky  cheese, but stinky tofu reminded me in both texture and taste of eating excramant; nevertheless; stirred on by the memories of Gong Bao Chicken, Pork Slice and Dumplings; I soldiered my palate forwards to Guangzhou: If that seems a little pretentious and frankly a bit ham tongued; It’s cause I’ve got my mouth full;

So today; snacking on Dim Sum and enjoying a pijiu: I realized it was now time to reflect upon the nations culinary obsessions and my own judgements upon such a foreign landscape as Guangzhou;

  1. Dim Sum? I’d love some!

Dim Sum is the first archetype of Chinese cuisine; hyped up for its aesthetic quality and it’s ability to make you feel classy, while eating what can sometimes seem like a chopped up Greggs Sausage roll: Nevertheless: Dim sum is what Guangzhou is known for; It even saved me in deepest Kowloon in Hong Kong; when all the restaurants seemed like congee flophouses; Most noticeable are the shrimp dumplings: beautiful to look at and a proof of the Asian cultures fascination with not only taste, but with texture.




2. 7/11 Store Snacks

Okay, lets admit it; sometimes; you come home and a bag of crisps followed by an equally  crisp Asahi is heaven…I’d probably be dead in work without occasionally shoving dubious shit into my facehole…In 7/11 in China; you can basically get a full meal; plus I’m sure their vaguely stale KInder Buenos once saved me from a dreadful hangover.  Top tip: Don’t eat the M&M’s…They suck here.



3. Toast and other normal stuff.

Admittedly, it’s taken me a while to learn to truly enjoy myself here; Okay I went out and tried a lot of weird shit: but did I have toast?  No! I hadn’t had toast in months; Is there anything more humble than…TOAST! Is there anything that seems to represent daily British life than tea and toast? I doubt it…Also; Smelly cheese…Come at me…


4, The fruit of the gods


You crafty bulbous bastard;

How you look like Durian

But taste so much better;

I devour your expense arse;

In seconds flat;

Like a fruit bat;

Enough poetry:

You just grow on a tree

and that’s enough for me…

5. Okay…Noodles or rice?


Noodles or Rice? That’s what they’ll ask you at the pearly gates…For me, I’m a man of wealth and taste who prefers boiled rice over fried and thinks noodles these days may as well be bootlaces; Another interesting thing about China is the obsession with noodle houses; I love me some Wonton and believe me, I’ve tried them all: but those stringy things floating in my admittedly poor soup? Stop shoving them in everything; They don’t really taste of anything. At least spaghetti has the kind of decency to mix all it’s flavorings in-between what would otherwise be bland.


Some of the best 4am conversations I’ve ever had…(I blame the beer)


I’m only sleeping.

‘I don’t know where the weird ends and I begin’

The phrase kept flipping over in his mind like a pancake, as he went through the typical bar talk, he couldn’t think of a single thing to say that wouldn’t alter his reputation in a negative way; he was starting afresh, though it was already after a few months beginning to turn stale; he originally wanted to just leave his home, tired of the same four walls, the same four friends; trudging the beach and using alcohol as a general anesthetic ; but in typical fashion, the grass now seemed greener in neighboring isles;

The great divided Hong Kong; with the toy town streets of Central, the smell of sea and the dreaded Kowloon, where fishballs were the order of the day; he had literally sailed and began to snack upon the culture; though the taste was good; it was rich, besides; there was no market there for his profession; a uniquely trivial position; he had began researching Taiwan; a sort of crossover between Chinese and Hong Kong culture; where he could be prosperous or at least give it a shot.

He was an intensely trivial man really, the hair was sometimes unkempt, but he always made an effort to dress and eat only what was fashionable in a new city, he’d had his fair share of people; he’d found a way to connect with the world; sometimes the line was bad; sometimes; he found that with uptight people; they may as well be sending coded messages sewn on the inside of his underpants; wasn’t it strange to get on with completely strangers; meet people in bus stops and change direction; like a spinning top.

What did he miss about Wales? Nothing intensely pressing beyond the sea and libations; the great amalgamation of British life; run down measly pubs and big chains; talkative shopkeepers; London and the hipster crowd; puffing on an electric cigarette for no real reason; being incarcerated into No Sign Wine Bar as everywhere else had closed down.

Now he’d emigrated, there was a certain poetic element to everything remotely British or local; even a pork pie would be a welcome sight; This is probably the curse of traveling; you are giving up security, people that have known you and yet even things you didn’t particularly find memorable or cherished at the time have grown in their meaning and resonance; while in the last months, the trip had dangled like a sword of damocles, like the sunny morning after a few flutes of champagne in the previous evening.

Maybe things had cracked slightly and his brain had considered and touched every seam; from the sleepy dumpling sellers; the drunken belt man in the neighborhood; the late night fruit sellers; it was an interesting journey; full to the brim of culture really: all mostly an iceberg yes, submerged; but at the same time, he’d also laid incense with the local people; but the pang of faces he knew, visiting then leaving was a stronger feeling; he’d considered religion; hokey relaxation techniques and what he was going to put on his toast in this strange region.


The turnstiles still turn, the trains always run and the people always rush; they’re crazy: but that very morning after considering his entire future: with shadows on the walls; he couldn’t really analyze in-depth; so he listened to his Beatles and proceeded to eat an entire small islands worth of fruit; these were his hobbies now;

He wanted to pick all the fruits in all the gardens of the world as Wilde wrote; but he needed to work out what routine to fit this ambition into; maybe he just really wanted a cup of tea and a lie down sometimes; he didn’t really know; isn’t the whole world all really about consuming things anyway? or is there really some type of consciousness that is only touched upon through some magic trick, some man in the sky; something to put some faith into?

When you envision a perfect day; What do you see? Do you wake up after sleeping well? Immediately consume a Bloody Mary, scratch your privates and have your favorite breakfast? Does it start like this and end up with friends in the pub by around midday?  Every perfect day has a little bit of blue cheese in it somewhere; and a decent wash; every perfect day has sand and sea in it also, but not at the same moment as the blue cheese: sandy blue cheese is associated with the worst day in the world.

When you envision your worst day; What do you see? Is your hair greasy? Did you break a tooth? Are they coming to arrest you? Did you get a bad sandwich on the way to Hong Kong? Is the world shitting on you on an hourly basis?

What is the history behind these loosely connected, possibly irrational and ill-informed meanderings framed vaguely around some kind of narrative? Is writing for the sake of writing important; or a reckless waste of time; Just know I’m a Sagittarius… I apologize for posting this; Most of the notes were found rung together inside a garbage can.


The Happy Valley Chronicles: First Glimpse


Figure 1: Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark…

He’d developed a keen ear for the supermarket jingle; he could distinguish each piano key and would likely have been able to reproduce it, had he had the money to keep such an elegant object as a piano in his shoebox of an apartment.

The truth was that the only instrument Sam could now play was a checkout counter; gazing up at the shelves; full of sleeping products; waiting for the oncoming hoard; full of slumber himself; Sam couldn’t recall how he had reached a point where he’d been promoted, falling deep into the life of a duty night manager at Happy Valley.

It was this day he was greeted for the first time in a year; by something unexpected; hurtling towards him was a shopping cart; as black and shimmering as oil…it moved almost organically: First it started shoving into him and then Sam saw something which made him regret every minute spent listening to the dreaded jingle…then the jingle stopped and it was all over.

01: The beginning…

Pickles, he’d flunked out of school to dole out pickles: if life has circles of hell, Tom thought to himself; checking-in each morning to hand out samples at Happy Valley had to be one of them; probably a step above dressing as a giant hotdog and a few steps below cleaning the elderly; As he took each little cocktail stick, skewering each green and slippery piece; it felt as painful as picking oakum in a Victorian workhouse.

Tom hadn’t had to take a history major to work out that maybe it wasn’t all that bad working here; but his junior manager, a history major with hair on his knuckles at 25, had began to compare each daily task Tom undertook at the store with some historic event.

It wasn’t enough to allow Tom to simply load up a supply of cinnamon whirls; it had to be equated with the precision in-which the pyramids were built; Dealing with a customer, who had insisted that his bill was wrong had been turned into a melodrama comparable to the Watergate scandal; When the Self-Service checkout’s came into force; lectures on Mao’s Great Leap Forward soon followed.

Increasingly; this junior manager was just one of the pieces in the vast gallery of the store’s staff; that began to irk Tom; he was increasingly aware that his ‘Happy Valley Family’ were each a brutal reminder, that not everyone can achieve their dreams; just each with their own particular flavour of disappointment and regret;

During a team building; in-which Tom found himself passing a balloon through the thighs of  ‘Fat Ali’ as she was sometimes referred to; Tom swore that he would not be condemned to such a life; acting as a warning to Happy Valley customers, until he dropped dead in the Dairy section…But there he was; still handing out pickles; until one day; for no good reason he was promoted to night duty manager. An offer he couldn’t refuse, but hardly up there with The Godfather in-terms of a proposition.

02:  Happy Valley Nightfall.

So disappeared the pickles and Tom as night manager was allowed to grow his beard back; given that he was now dealing with graveyard customers and only had to answer to the unseen figure of Mr.Waters; high emperor of Happy Valley, who didn’t seem to sleep or eat anything; just gaze blissfully at the shelves below, as if he was seeing something powerful behind each of the packaged item. 

A small ceremony, where Tom cut a sickly looking frosted chocolate cake and a pimped out name tag and he was back on the beat; disturbing the frozen fish; keeping busy in the cracker section; Nightshifts meant weirder customers; college kids and smack heads mostly; or at least people who seemed to be on something; but tonight it was strange; one old lady; who seemed to vanish as she left the baked beans aisle then no customers for over one hour.

That’s when the jingle began to malfunction; something must have been up with the loop; it didn’t happen all at once; but gradually; the tune slowed down enough as to stop a staff member picking at his zits; as duty manager; this presented Tom with his first challenge, but each time he reset it; it unglued almost immediately; like a whining child determined to get their own way.

Eventually; they had to replace it with a 90’s pop soundtrack; a few generic Britney Spears tracks that Fat Ali had saved to her iPod; Mr.Waters profile hung like a dark shadow above the office; a warning sign that these kind of decisions should likely have been ran past him; but before Tom was able to inform the old fucker; a tall and strange man in a suit appeared…

What was strange about him?  Maybe if it had been 9am, he wouldn’t have sent a chill through Tom, but at 5am,this man, idly inspecting lamb chops, this man, who didn’t appear to be remotely inebriated somehow disturbed Tom;

– ‘You know, the way to tell if lamb is fresh is to look for traces of blood; if there’s blood it means it’s fresh..Do you have anything else out back?‘ the stranger purred with a hint of Southern drawl;

So this was weirdo hour once again, thought Tom but most of the cases that turned up usually bought hardcore porno or party hats; sometimes both.  It’s hard to feel menace when ‘Hit me baby one more time’ is softly taking over the loudspeaker, but today, Tom felt it in droves;

– ‘You know; it’s a strange time to be thinking of cooking…What’s the occasion?’

‘Just a little party we might be having in the valley…do you know I used to work here for a time… pride and joy was keeping that jingle ticking along nicely; I see you’ve been having trouble…but with god we should fix it for ya’

With that, the jingle sprang back to life; but turning around to see if anyone had entered the control room; Tom found the door remained closed; as he turned around the man was gone; but a strange pool had begun to form on the office window of Mr.Waters…




‘Tales from a Suitcase’ by Charlie Trotman



Can you list traveling as something which you are passionate about? 


Does this merely categorize and stick together a wealth of varied experiences into one descriptive word? These are the pretentious thoughts that fill my head; mainly whilst wandering pointlessly through malls supermarkets, in-search of the next salted snack or sweet to fuel my China journey.

These journeys have mainly consisted of wandering about, from the moment I landed in Guangzhou, China; I find myself staring into KTV karaoke booths, trying to decipher the ‘noodlese’ Chinese writing in dumpling restaurants and being laughed at by the locals.

Granted, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to eat and being bemused by the locals back in my hometown Swansea, Wales; but then, they do say that the Welsh are a little ‘weirder’ than majority of the United Kingdom; those last few months of bemusement were also charged with another feeling; the voice in the back of my head telling me;  ‘Soon you’ll miss this will be impossible’ to feel like this for a long while, if ever again.’  

As I stood on that last day, staring at the skyline of Port Eynon beach; taking the last significant photos with my girlfriend; I didn’t want to say goodbye, for what felt like the 50th time; we had a typical British ‘fish and chips’; making a secret pact not to mention the fact that I’d soon be disappearing from the U.K for 15 months.

So I got a little something in my eye at the airport…


I hauled my suitcase to check-in and said goodbye; leaving behind everything including an incontinent Jack Russell terrier; I’d worked as a supply teacher steadily for seven months in high schools, now it was time to prove I could also stand up and teach younger children, by waving my hands wildly around a classroom and jumping around a great deal.

Have I changed, or have only my surroundings changed?


Firstly: I’ve learnt to use sign language to explain say; the need for  a prophylactic, as I have used to teach phonics in the classroom.

When you first move abroad; you loose the ability to communicate, you cannot eavesdrop into other people’s lives the same way; something that was always thrilling for me; your window into the world is reduced to a mere keyhole and even then;  you have to squint to really get what’s going on.

To counterbalance this; you can learn the local language; maybe turn that keyhole into a slightly foggy window; I know how to ask for things; yet I don’t always get them; because ‘fin gallu siarad mewn Cymraeg’ (I can speak Welsh) my proficiency in Chinese is coming along okay and I’d be seeking to either do an intensive Chinese course at the end of my teaching position or gradually; take on lessons as the academic year goes on.


The thirst for adventure is greater here:


At home; I am always looking to meet with my friends; walk somewhere, climb something and try some new experience; so long as it doesn’t involve dentists or unclogging a toilet. In Guangzhou, one of the most crucial lessons I could learn is that not every weekend has to feature traveling to Hong Kong or even Beijing.

As great as it would be; I’d soon be so broke that I couldn’t pay attention: So instead; I sometimes bury myself in books and think about my lessons; dull right? Maybe…but this makes the trip to Hong Kong so much more valuable; I’m going to see the world; but I’m going to hold out for the big climax; You don’t start a love affair with a city, by getting it totally naked on your first date.

Not all those that wander are lost:

Thirdly; I am never nervous; even if I’m lost,  what seems like six-hundred miles away; where people are selling extremely dehydrated seahorses and markets which should come with zookeepers; and why should I be? It’s part of the adventure!  A frustrating; random adventure which will soon feature a visit from my mother; or what I’m referring to as ‘the day I make sure to clean the toilet’  It’ll soon be highly amusing to experience all of the things in Guangzhou with a partner-in-crime once again.


It’s made me full of whimsy: I should go to a hospital:

Oh foggy London town; how I miss you with your spires, your hipster bars and louche attitude towards…Pop…Up…Cocktail…Laundrettes?  Hang on a moment; I’m from Wales; why on earth did I choose to spend a day in my final month wandering through London with a stupid grin on my boat race? Because I’ve gone soft for all things British! This is what I miss about Britain in no particular order;

Radio 4


Good salmon

Decent bread




Music in Pubs

Good Blue Cheese.




A Steak Pie

Craft Beer


Dancing like your dad.



If someone were to ask you what single thing would improve the quality of your life; what would it be? For me; I’ve got an irrational desire to buy a push scooter and whizz through a few courtyards while I’m at it: That’s going to be my ‘one year in China’ gift; when I first arrived; while I had practice wielding a chopstick; it wouldn’t have been a crime to hang me a fork sometime: So I’ve put together an ‘Expat‘  quiz,  which might help you think about your experiences abroad;

What do you most miss about home and why?

What do you really love about the country you are living in?

Do you keep a diary? Why?

What’s been the biggest challenge you have faced abroad?

What do you least miss about your own country?

When’s the last time you spoke to someone back home?

If you had to eat only one dish for the rest of your time in your adventure abroad;  What would it be?

Describe your perfect day in your homeland

Who has moved you the most in your adventure?

How’s the weather outside?


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

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.44.51.png

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.



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…





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.


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…


More time in coffee shops please…



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


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’