Speak Manderin in 3 easy steps

Trip Start Apr 08, 2005
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Saturday, September 10, 2005

We'll just quickly mention that when leaving HK, we got booked on the 16:50. The chappy at check in said that the 17:50 was cancelled so he moved us onto the earlier one. No upgrade though. When we arrived, the 17:50 came in while we were collecting our bags. Perhaps "cancelled" in Manderin means "This flight will come in as scheduled".

What we should have done when we booked our hotel on the net was read the bit that said "email us if you want a airport pick up". That would have saved us running around the airport trying to find an internet connection so as to get a phone number so we could get someone to write down the location in Chinese characters for us to show the taxi driver (this is normal behaviour, just behaviour we were unused to. Ergo: unprepared for). We got there eventually. Only to be told that our hotel was down the road. They forgot to mention that it was still being renovated. They also forgot to mention that our "private en suite" was shared, and forgot to mention that this meant that any Tom, Dick or Harry (or in our case Ming, Chow and Li) could get into our bedroom via the bathroom. We did point it out to the owner, but he was more concerned as to the whereabouts of his next fag than the state of the security of his hotel. He seemed even less concerned about the fact that it was possible to lock both bathroom doors at the same time rendering the bathroom useless. This happened every morning and received the same response from the giggling girl on reception, namely - hand on head, shaking head, getting all the keys she could find (about 1000 of them) try 3 and saying "no key" and point at the shared bathroom with the blocked toilet. Perhaps "en suite" in Manderin means "Use the communal bathroom because we don't know what en suite means" or "Bathroom via access directly from your room, unless someone has locked it from the inside" or "Easy access to locked bedroom through shared bathroom". We later learned that the true meaning was "It doesn't matter if any of the doors to the bathroom are locked or not because the lock to your bedroom doesn't work anyway".

Also commical in the hotel was the randomisation of the decor. The owner promised to sort the lock out in the bathroom while we were out. We came back to discover what he meant by "lock" was "curtains" and what he meant by "fix" was "put some up and steal a chair". No wonder Manderin is so hard to master.

For some unknown reason we got moved to another cheaper room with shared facilities. This apparently meant to us "no en suite". But to the Shakey head girl it meant "use the en suite facilities in the next bedroom". We were starting to get the hang of Manderin.

Apart from the obvious language issues we have discovered that China, or at least Beijing, is fully developed. Glitzy malls, fairy lights, starbucks, KFC, and McD all over the shop. The people are nice though and do make a habbit of welcoming you to their country. Even the "art students" who want to "Plactice my Engrish" are worth speaking to, just don't go to the "exhibition" - its a scam.

One thing that you do notice is the constant spitting. It is utterly foul. Why they feel the need to blow their noses through their throats is beyond us, but they do. Everywhere, except in the Mao mausoleum - about the only place you can't hear them do it. Perhaps they think he'l tell them off.

Tian'amen square is as impressive as it looked in 1989, only now without the tanks. Worth sitting and watching people for a while.

Mao's mausoleum is well worth queuing up for. He looks life like, if made of wax, with a massive head. For 6 hours every day they wheel him out of the freezer for tourists to gawp at. We'd queue up over and over just to see that massive head again! What is funny though, is when you walk in there is a stall selling silk flowers, you are stopped here, just long enough to stock up on a couple of bunches, then you are sent in. In front of you is a large statue of the man on a chair (it could be a life size head with a scaled up body to fit) and in front of that is a trolley into which you put the flowers so they can be easily wheeled out to the seller before the next lot come in.

The Forbidden City should have remained forbidden. The place is mobbed by little people in red baseball hats (Chinese tour groups) being herded around using a series of blasts on whistles, flag waving and loud hailers, much like a Chinese sheep dog trials. They push and shove and spit all the way around, only stopping for the convenient Starbucks in the middle, where they leave the pushing and shoving to the Americans. The City itself is vast and despite the pitfalls it is worth a look.

You can see how in the middle of a 96-hectare walled city away from all the scum and debauchery outside, you'd need to spend all the Navy budget on building a summer retreat just an hour by the 808 bus away. Also worth a visit for the extravagance. Just don't go when the French president is there as you'll get kicked out before you've finished.

On our 10th wedding anniversary we decided to do something special. So we went to your actual Great Wall. It's not straight, but don't let that put you off, it is still amazing. You look into the distance and on every hilltop there is a lookout, it seems to stretch on forever. It's too hard to do it justice in words, no wonder it took them so long to build it. Shame it didn't work too well though.

While the lakes are worth looking at during the day, the RG thinks that they are up and coming for night life. No. They are like walking down the beach front in Alicante with all the touts outside trying to beckon you in with "flee dlinks".

You can't go to Beijing without having Beijing Duck. So we had it, in all its glitzy-six-floor-neon-lit-5000-seat-over-1-million-ducks-sold-here's-your-certificate glory.

We also managed to find a restaurant "famous" for seafood. We had the fish that we chose from the tank. But apparently "famous" means "run by the triads" and we were seated next to Chan Corleone.

Getting something resembling breakfast in China is not easy. Most Chinese don't have it, they just skip straight to lunch. And when you are as tardy as us you have no choice but to join them. So we had Hot Pot for breakfast. We plumped for the mushrooms and Beancurd, skipping the kind offer of pork or beef offal. Nice as it was, Stephen decided that Beancurd was not for him, and judging by the other meat based products on offer immediately limited his diet to egg fried rice.

At about this point (day 5) we decided that the best ploy for the "plactice engrish" art students was a polite but firm "Je suis Francais", works a treat and you can say it with your best London accent!

Also mentioned in the Rough Guide was a small tea house to watch jazz. RG details the location and the arty chinese crowd, what it does not mention is the pretentious English knob that plays guitar "with feeling" and insists on speaking Manderin. Sod this, lets go watch Kung Fu. Much better.

We are liking China so far despite numerous offers of offal based products and even "pasta in the shape of cats ears" and "pork fried noodle with cat".

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