April 25, 2008

of great things and the great wall

peach blossoms at the Mutianyu Great Wall of China

as part of the school's syllabus, we were treated to a trip up the Mutianyu side of 中国长城. the climb up was a test of endurance for 100 odd students who either had a late thursday night at the pub, or had not quite mentally woken up from their morning slumber. it was worth the sweat though. culturally, the walls have been restored to a melancholic worn-out beauty. bricks lined in the millions snake across the slopes, so you get a different view at every turn. fortresses carry little statues of animals on the edges of distinctly Chinese roofs, perhaps more likely a shelter from rain and shine now. historically, it really is a tragic wonder how a border could have been first built just using rammed earth, construction surviving through all weather hindrances.. and of course, demand for manpower. for the millions who died building the wall.. their footprints will forever be remembered in what is now one of wonders of the medieval world. the the pictures do not do much justice to the vast stretch, but it might give you a gist of it..

vast landscape in backdrop

lonely donkey

peeking through

with class teachers

on the way up

as far as the eye can see

one of the fortresses

snaking stretch

weekends have been a blur of festivity; from drinks out at san li tun to dangerous card games with too much at stake to catch ups at dawn over instant noodles with a certain fave aussie who just arrived.. there barely is time for homework! local beer is cheap enough for daily drinks, and a great compliment to almost every meal. pyro pizza has the university crowd going in for decent food, beer pong and happy hour drinks after 10pm. shopping takes a great load of emotional strength to hold your ground for a good bargain.. so there's nothing like ice-cream in between breaks of coursing through aisles of goodies in the silk markets. have made it a point to do one destination per week.. bei hai gong yuan this saturday!

thomas' brilliant idea

weekly haunt

15 RMB meal

entrance to 'ugly but tasty gimbab' restaurant!

fish-gazing in a neighbouring uni

every meal's accompaniment

chor dai di at 'the tree house'

for aspiring learners of the Chinese Language, ChinesePod does a very decent job in enlightening you on Chinese culture, while being educational entertainment. there are different levels to suit your understanding, but i found this episode of eating out in a 'Bad Service Restaurant' interesting: a taste of BSR .. and no, it's really not that bad having a meal here. the road ethics in Wu Dao Kou however, is still a fighting case. if anything, im getting better at dodging impatient cars and angry bicycles.

much to learn..

April 10, 2008

the place to be

so i had a bite of crunchy deep-fried scorpion.
it was like eating prawns, with the little legs hanging out from the bottom.
it was quite good.
but while the experience was awfully exhilarating, courage took a harrowing turn for the worse when baby birds came into the picture. three salted bbq xiao niaos on a stick, between 6 of us. i had the head. i think i bit into the gooey brains in the first mouthful. might just go vegetarian for a week to get over the guilt=[

that aside, the exquisite taste of Wang Fu Jing is something to remember.

shopping malls line up next to each other, while casually breaking into little lanes housing stalls of sugar-coated fruit sticks, amongst others. rows of red lanterns drape the air, welcoming people of all ages into its humble abode. stall vendors beckon to you at every turn, tempting you into buying into the Chinese delicacies- be it a handful of dumplings, or meat on a stick (no, not just starfish or lizards split into half on a stick..), milk in clay jars, or even small bowls of noodles that you can finish in three mouthfuls. other retailers invite you into a bargain game for souvenir-worthy collectibles like chopsticks, handmade keychains and knick knacks of the sort. the trails keep breaking up into more and more alleys that you find yourself exploring without any realization of how fast time passes. almost like getting lost in translation.

the stark contrast between the different worlds of Beijing is also captured in the above picture. Beijing opera houses with daily performances sit next to quaint little restaurants that decorate the embellished alleys.. but looming buildings under construction tower over the delicate features, almost as though threatening an impending take-over. the two converging ends of Beijing still amazes me. on the other side, the Foreign Language Bookstore tucks neatly into the corner the Wang Fu Jing square, its name well-known among BLCU international students for being one of the few bookstores stocking non-chinese books. at night, the street comes alive with the night market that is basically a culinary adventure of local delights for dinner. best probed with a couple of friends who are willing to put anything down their throats.. the variety is endless!

coming to Beijing is probably one of the few good decisions that i have made in my life. even with intensive 6 hour per day classes, BLCU makes life here an enjoyable stay with friendly teachers, excellent books (published by BLCU Press themselves) and ample opportunity to learn. the campus is very self-sufficient, with everything you need under its banner. the volleyball courts and running tracks have been my evening haunts (the sports arena here is pretty decent). the locals indulge in plenty of exercise daily, so it is no surprise that almost all of them are fit to the bone. being one of the few Malaysians here in BLCU, the circle of friends is still mostly international and therefore very multi-cultural. it is not uncommon to have a language partner to make learning the language easier. dinner, homework and drinks at the local cafes are almost a nightly ritual with plenty of affordable retreats on campus and around Wu Dao Kou.

it has been good so far.