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Rio de Emocion

Chickens in bags, group drinking and no chocolate anywhere in sight

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From the first moment I set foot in the capital of this glorious People's Republic, one thought dominated my mindscape: Beijing is a giant Chinese restaurant. The most prevailing smell after smelling exhaust fumes waste is most likely to be soy sauce.

Three weeks in China now, I've been spending most of my time in a town a hundred kilometers further to the north. About 350,000 live here, which is about one residential block in BJ.

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Nope, that's not a foggy day. That's the air pollution from the surrounding provinces.

It's the only way for me to describe the style of this smog-covered sprawl of concrete and red arches. The city has gone through massive development in the last decade and it shows in the impressive infrastructure and the shiny new buildings. Unfortunately, the development of taste has yet to follow the economic developments and it can be said that there is simply nothing beautiful to be found about the city. It's a big gray lump of concrete, steel and glass inhabited by twenty million Chinese people.

You know how Italian restaurants are often decorated with tacky items, flags and colors, intended to revoke a romantic and nostalgic feeling of Italy? The same can be said for Irish bars, American diners, etc. But Italy does not look like an Italian restaurant, I haven't seen any shamrocks in Ireland and there's barely any eagles in America. When you take this logic to the next step, a sensible person would assume that Chinese restaurants look nothing like China. Turns out that nothing could be farther from the truth.

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Wangfujian, the most decadent commercial street in Beijing. The whole place looks like a sprawling City Wok.

Chinese people love to eat. A lot. It's easily the favourite past-time of most people. Most businesses on the streets are restaurants and they're filled in the evening with Chinese coming to eat together. There's also plenty of street food. But to most remarkable thing is the chicken-in-a-bag. It's a chicken preserved in a bag and they're sold everywhere. The bags are often colored gold and red, indicating some kinda special status among products. I have not figured out yet what. A lot of products in Chinese supermarkets are packaged in similar-looking red and gold packaging and it's more common to find a gift box set of small milk packages than a normal 1-litre pack of milk, for example. No chocolate anywhere in sight, except for Dove bars which are relatively expensive. You could get a meal for the same price as a small chocolate bar. Chinese pastry all seems to taste of sand and flour. Avoid if possible.

As they really like to drink, the Chinese are good at making liquor. Most of the bottles sold in supermarkets are 40% or more, and you can barely taste the alcohol in even the cheap stuff. It's easy to get really smurfed up drinking here. In China, when you're out drinking with company, nobody just sits there and sips their drink. When one person wants to sip, you all drink together. When it's time to down your glass, everyone goes at the same time. Don't feel like drinking? You can put down your glass if you want, but everyone will think you're a pussy. And in China it seems that once you lose face, it's hard to get it back - though that's a concept I still don't know enough about yet.

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In China it's still normal in a lot of places to just dump all your waste and spit on the floor.

Most of the toilets here are of the squatting hole-in-the-ground type, even in clean Western restaurants like McDonalds. It's not just restaurants, but also schools and public places. There's plenty of places to take a dump, but you'll probably gonna have to do it in the company of your fellow man emptying his bowels. Funfact: next to the public toilets in the middle of the area around the West Railway Station you can find some really troutty looking slums, surrounded by a neat little wall to obscure the view from outside. Of course, I went to take a look and snapped some pictures.

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Little waste canal of a little slum.

That's all for now, folks. I kept it pretty descriptive for now, hopefully I'll come with some deeper insights into China later. Stay tuned!


  1. Shaibana's Avatar
    in really like readin your reports of china
    its nice to know a bit of the 'dark truth' of the (big) city's of china.

    Looking forward to the next one ^^
  2. noxious.sunshine's Avatar
    My kinda place for drinking. hahahahahahahahahaha That's awesome.