- Things that freaked me out in Beijing:
Someone apologized for bumping into me on a bus.
People were queueing in most subway stations.
Only a few cars went through each red light.
Someone slowed their car and waved me across a road.
Traffic in Guangzhou and Hohhot, however, was properly misbehaving itself.
- Don’t use Google Maps in Guangzhou. It lies and tries to make you hop fences and cross major highways and abandoned-looking construction zones with your luggage. Couldn’t get Bing Maps or Mapquest to pull up my hostel at all. And I couldn’t get Baidu Maps (China’s version of Google) to work in English. Basically, just cross your fingers and wish real hard so you don’t spend a couple hours trying and failing to find breaks in barriers in the dark before finding a licensed taxi driver who speaks English reasonably well. FYI, there’s a subway station in Guangzhou South train station which Google failed to mention and for which no English signs exist on the level you exit the train at.
- While walking down the street market near my hostel in Guangzhou, I noticed merchants frantically packing up their wares. I assumed the police were coming to break up people selling without licenses or something. I’d seen it happen in Beijing before, where the work migrant workers can do is restricted. But then I heard an ice cream truck playing the happy birthday song. Huh? I walked closer and the song was actually coming from a truck that was watering the plants in the planters along the walkway. Why did they pick that song to let people know to move their things? On the train back from Guangzhou, the kid in the seat behind me started singing it—in English. Huh?
- It seems Mongols living on the steppes (in the Xilamuren area, at least) don’t name their animals. I wonder if it gets confusing when you try to tell people to bring “the brown horse”. (I took a trip to Inner Mongolia for fun after finishing my dissertation work.)
- Three of the four places I slept in (not counting trains and planes) had orange and white cats. One of them liked to hang out beneath my bed and play by sticking his paw up to grab at me. Another followed me into my yurt and cuddled all night. Also licked my face a couple times. The Korean girls in there with me called her a kenyagi, which is a Korean term for a cat that behaves like a dog.
- As of my first night back in the States, I spent each night in the last week sleeping in a different place (Guangzhou hostel, train, Xilamuren yurt, Hohhot hostel, train, plane, home). That was tiring…
Last China post! I’ll be back in about a month for Germany travels.