Today wasn’t too exciting, though two interesting things happened.
#Interestingthing1: We had to deliver a presentation to a bunch of Chinese artists, photographers and businessmen and women. Our presentation was made up of our photographs from China. The hardest part of the presentation was that we had to deliver our presentations whilst a translator spoke to the audience in Chinese for us.
Working with a translator was a great exercise in communication theory. You need to talk whilst listening to the translator and understanding the flow of the translator. There was a number of times where I became caught up by the translator. I needed to stop and make smaller sentences so that the translator could keep up. Another skill to have is literal language skills. Chinese don’t have colloquial metaphors or similes. So you need to speak very literally.
#Interestingthing2: Dinner was a massive Mongolian feast! We’re talking LAMB, we’re talking strong Chinese liquor, we’re talking chopsticks, we’re talking more spices than you can poke stick at. I felt like a dirty Aussie tourist when I picked up the leg of lamb and started sucking off the left over lamb bits and juices.
China has its fair share of odd little amusement parks. Take the knock off Disneyland in Shanghai, or maybe the mystical, magical Windows of the World, a theme park that has miniature versions of some of the worlds most famous landmarks. Today we visited Splendid China Folk Village, in Shenzhen.
This place is amazing! Across the sprawling 30 hectares is over 100 different attractions highlighting the different cultures and traditional people of China. Separated into two different parks, one of them hosting a miniature theme park with miniature models of some of China’s most famous monuments. The second part of the park contains around 100 different exhibits all demonstrating the numerous traditional Chinese cultures and indigenous tribes.
Splendid China Folk Village was actually the single most tacky place that I’ve ever visited in my life. Though I’m totally ok with it. Folk Village helped reaffirm my ideas behind what makes China the way it is. The obscene tackiness and obnoxious dagginess suggested that China wants to illustrate their history through a very insular, pro-China way. Of course as a tourist and a student, I can see that this place is beyond tacky. It would be interesting to see what a Chinese citizen would think of the theme park.
For dinner we ate at an American tradition. Throughout the world I try to indulge in local and traditional food to the region, however when overseas it is interesting to see how different fast foods are served across the world. Tonight we would be indulging in the wonders that are Chinese Pizza Hut! Boyo they delivered monster sized pizzas! YAY for private international fast food companies!
– theme park
– pizza hut
Driving around South-East China meant we saw a lot of the country side. After seeing mainland China we would today be seeing a little of coastal China. This meant lots of boats, lots of fresh fish, and a whole new type of cuisine.
Driving towards the coast we drove through a number of large tunnels, some extending for more than a kilometre into mountains (try holding your breath as you drive through those bad boys). They’re constructed with such precision and with such workforce. Thats the thing about China. When they want a city to thrive, they’ll throw billions of dollars into working it up. Up until 30 years ago, Shenzhen wasn’t even a bleep on the radar. It was only when Beijing wanted to create a city that would rival the economic power of Hong Kong that they decided to build Shenzhen. In around 30 years the city has become one of China’s most productive cities, with one of the biggest populations of any city in the world.
Arriving at Dapeng we wandered around the sea front. Here we found many poorly constructed fishing boats ready to sail our into the South China Sea. Most of the fishing boats had blaring red Chinese flags on them. Most of the boats looked like they wouldn’t be able to weather much of storm, let alone a massive catch of fish.
An old beggar came up to us and started singing with his throat, so of course we gave him a few dollars. He took those dollars and quickly stored it in his pocket. Across my travels I’ve found that beggars have different tactics. Some like to leave a pan filled with money, perhaps in order to suggest that other people have given money in the past. Others like to take the money out of their pan, maybe this tactic is the most desperate. It seems the mentality behind this tactic is that, people give up money to beggars who have nothing in their pans. I’ve never had to beg for money so I’m yet to experiment with these two methods.
Whilst travelling anywhere in the world I’m always excited to eat things which one cannot get ones hands on in Australia. So when someone offers you sea snails and fish cheeks, you can’t turn that stuff down! Sea snails are considered a delicacy, particularly in the area of Depeng we were visiting. They kinda taste like normal snails but with a hint of salt.
One of my critiques of our Chinese tour is that we went to a lot of villages. Across our wish days in China we visited 3 Hakka villages, 2 art villages, and a handful of other tourist based villages. Too many villages and not enough of the different cultures on offer in China.
Even though we visited another Hakka/ family villages/ traditional Chinese village today, there was a little point of difference. This village in Heping was covered in pro-communist posters, fresh from the Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution was organised in 1966, and over watched by Moa Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party. It’s aims were to educate the greater Chinese population and restore true communism to China. This involved the disintegration of traditional Chinese ways, including that of the Hakka population.
We were visiting the traditional home of the Lin Family. Everywhere you turned there are big red stickers with pro communism slogans written in Chinese like, ‘long live Moa the great’, and ‘communism party forever’. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 the posters and propaganda have worn away and faded, yet they’re still impressive to see.
After another traditional lunch of roast chicken (bones and head still on the chicken), fish (whole fish), pigs bits (don’t know what it was but it was tasty), and fresh garden veggies we made our way back to Shenzhen. Dinner was another meal at a Chinese fast food shop. The Chinese love their fast food, but not like fries and burgers, I’m talking curry, whole fish, and pigs intestines with rice.
Oh how I’ve missed the classic drive day! For those who haven’t read my diary of my trip across America, a drive day is a day filled with hours and hours of driving. One difference between a China drive day and one in the United States, is that the bus in the U.S. was bigger and had better seats. Sitting in a full mini bus on a Chinese highway for 5 hours straight is not a fun experience.
Our destination was a little village/ town/ suburb/ county of Heping. It is a traditional village with a large Hakka population. Hakka people are pioneers of traditional ways of China. They speak their own Hakka Chinese dialect and populate large areas of the Guangdong provence. Some suggest that they’re relatives of Han Chinese people, who’ve migrated down to the south east of China.
We ate a very traditional and small lunch of fish, chopped up boiled chicken, and home grown vegetables. The tastes are a lot simpler here in Heping, however they did serve us a dish filled with tiny fried fish. That was actually MVP of the meal.
Visiting a Hakka village was one of the most eye opening and humbling experiences of my life. As you wander around these dirty, decaying villages, people offer us a picture of their homes, of their chickens, of themselves. They want to share with you everything they have, no matter how little they have. One of the most important things I took away from the Hakka village visit, was that people should be happy even if they’ve only got the bare minimal. No matter what, there is always someone happier who owns half as less as you.
Once we’d wandered around a Hakka village, we headed back to our hotel for the night. Our hotel was in Heping and was more of a resort than a hotel. Out the back was about 40 different hot springs, all with different temperature gradings. There was also hot stone beds, sauna, and cold spring pools. The trip to Heping was well worth it after a soak in the hot spring pools.
Despite the very arty itinerary for today, I’d like to highlight that my art skills go no further than finger painting, and calling bullshit on traditional Chinese art. However, as of today I can now call bullshit on a number of fake paintings. Today our Chinese tour would take us through 2 distinctly arty villages.
Imitation and fake copies of art, are some of China’s biggest exports. The oil painting village of Dafen, on the outskirts of Shenzhen, is one of the biggest oil painting villages in China. Taking a tour of the new oil painting museum, we sat through a very poorly translated, and nearly propaganda like film about the history of Dafen. They seem very proud of their imitation art trade, and some of the artists are really good at making the fakes. Though for every good copier, there is ten bad copiers. If you buy any fake art of eBay, there is a good chance that the artwork would have come from Dafen. Strew throughout ally and shops is fake copies of the Mona Lisa. The propaganda film claimed that they export hundreds of thousands of fake Mona’s each year. However, if I received one of the fake Mona’s I’d be asking for my money back.
Stop two on today’s art tour was at the Guanlan Print Village. This village is a little more traditional, with replicas and restorations of old Chinese buildings. Guanlan specialises in screen painting and screen print designs. They take in artists from all over the world and print designs and create works that are specially made using the techniques of Guanlan. In my not so artistic opinion, I feel the best part of the village was in fact the strawberry and tomato fields out the back of the village. Large, green, and ripe tomato fields and strawberry fields covered the back of the village. I feel this place was the place where I took some of my best photos.
One does not simply visit China without singing a little karaoke! Thanks to the efforts (and financial help) of our Chinese minders, we were treated to a night of hard drinks, bad renditions of songs trashy English pop songs, and a few red faced Chinese drunks. The hangovers did subside, but something I’m still getting over is the sore throat. Take my advice, don’t drink cognac and sing 90s rap songs. No one thinks big of you.