Putting Things Into Perspective

Day 30

Mao Tse Tung's complexion is no better regardless of which profile, this time electing to shuffle past his other side, he still didn't look quite right. The party congress is now over so it was possible to get entry to the Museum of China, one of the truly massive buildings overlooking Tiananmen Square. Some awesome contemporary Chinese sculptures as I took note to 'dedicate some time to studying the work of the contemporary Chinese sculptors'. Personally I think they excel at this. A rather large exhibition of photographer Brian Brake's work from his visit to China in the late 1950's and home in New Zealand during the early 1960's. Interesting to note the incredible access he had in China during this defining era.

I took some notes from a rather descriptive restaurant menu. Chinese to Pinyin translations; Particularly taken with the 'Self-restraint Sichuan sausage', but settled for the 'Dish incense roast duck' instead. Here are just a few more examples to whet your appetite: Irritable duck gizzard, The place explodes to understand shrimp ball, The elbow spends local flavour sauce, Small donkey of local flavour, Let clothes plain boiled pork cool, Pork lungs in chilli sauce, Beautiful extreme duck tongue, Humble cottage sauteed bullfrog in chilli sauce, The winter mushroom fertilises the cattle boiler, All rough blood of fog is flourishing, Beijing river stir-fry for a short time, Fragile bone of olive dish kidney bean pig.

Day 36

After a few days in Beijing Sonja & I booked soft sleepers for the 26 hour train ride to Guilin. We joined Greg in Yangshou. My intention was to take a series of portraits of villagers, families, growers out in the fields working. However I remained completely uninspired due to the quality of light, or lack of it. It remained overcast and very grey for the duration of our 3 day stay, so I skipped that one. We settled for coffee, english breakfasts and lots of walking and cycling small roads and tracks through the karst landscape instead and just had a marvellous time of it, it felt like a long weekend.

Day 37-39

The chemical reaction that creates cement releases large amounts of CO2 accounting for 5 percent of global emissions and heating materials to create that reaction takes a lot of energy, much of which is generated by coal. Cement has no viable recycling potential; each new road, each new building needs new cement. Demand for roads, dams and buildings throughout China is intense, cement factories are just everywhere. In the smallest of villages locals are building bigger houses, everywhere. Unimaginative concrete and brick three storey structures. Concrete roads raised above the surrounding fields are being laid throughout the countryside. Local townsfolk, men & women - some of them well into their 70's - gang together in work crews mixing up concrete in oversized concrete mixers powered by noisy diesel generators. Towns and cities nationwide are building out and building up. New concrete high-rise apartments and commercial buildings abound, massive cranes are on the horizon of just about every city. Bridges, roads, raised motorways and massive raised concrete pillars accommodating the nationwide implementation of a fast train network can be seen for hundreds upon hundreds of kilometres. It is unbelievable the amount of new concrete, everywhere. Undoubtedly the construction project that takes the cake is the Three Gorges Dam. We decided we were willing to have another crack at going there to view it.

Chongqing has the distinction of being THE mega-city that's never talked about, a quick search on Flickr or Google pictures will display aerial photographs of this city appearing as a contender to Manhattan. Like everything else in China, Chongqing is bazaar in its contrasts, it is both utterly grey, decaying and filthy and ultramodern and sleek in almost equal measure. One would be wise to avoid eating any street food here as it would abound with heavy metals, so too the water, however you could eat off the polished floors in the ultra-modern upmarket shopping malls. The city has a metro system better than most other major cities around the world. The guide books suggest Chongqing is perpetually foggy and it certainly was the day we were there. Grey and dismal.

I'm starting to get a better understanding why the Chinese are tripping over themselves in their quest for monetary wealth. On the face of it (removed from the wealthy and sophisticated coastal regions at any rate) life can be so dispiriting and grimy, surroundings are largely just plain butt ugly. However, inside these large new gleaming shopping malls there is a glittering display of modernity and opulence. Polished marble, floor to ceiling glass, vivid colour, all sophisticatedly packaged to represent desire for a better life. In the west I find these shopping malls and the consumerism they garner slightly abhorrent, all together unnecessary and unnatural and I'd even go so far to term them physiologically unhealthy. However everything is relative. Luckily I live in a desirable house, in a desirable part of town in a desirable country, surrounded by an abundance of nature. I often take long bike rides in the nearby national park, almost daily I'm in or at least near the ocean. Whereas here in most cases people don't have access to nature, it's been paved over, there is virtually no birdlife, the night sky is non-existent, fresh air is something of the past. Even the old charm we in the west think of as being 'quintessentially' Chinese has been pulled down and laid waste by either Mao and his thugs or by the old men who occupy the large buildings of Tianamen square in Beijing. Understandably the Chinese of today want the new and all it represents and they are going to extraordinary measures to get it, as rapidly as possible. In many regions the 'environment' has already been destroyed. Therefore this rampant growth knows no bounds as the 'environment' is no longer a limiting factor in the push toward this new world of theirs.