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Published: February 19th 2008
I’d like to take a minute to talk about ass-less chaps. Actually, ass-less AND crotch-less chaps. This particular piece of fashion is all the rage among the pre-schooler crowd here in China. Boys and girls, infants and toddlers, majority and minority all seem to be mad over these vented pants. In the colder areas, the ass-less chaps are (usually) complemented with a diaper or some other type of underpant device, however, in warmer climates, the chaps are worn solo allowing kiddies the opportunity to feel their bits blowing in the breeze. Not only do the vented pants afford excellent breathability, but they also serve as quick access points when one may need to relieve himself/herself in a park, on the sidewalk, outside the bus station, in front of a shop, you name it!! Riding on a long-distance train and the toilets are occupied? …no problem, just walk into the adjacent washroom and make use of the big floor vent! It’s just that simple. With this level of freedom and accessibility, it truly is a wonder why genital panels were ever affixed to pants in the first place. No toilet paper around you say? Simple!, shake what the good lord gave you
and worry about the details next time Mr. Bubble comes a knockin’.
Ahhhh, Kunming…where to start? We had high hopes for Kunming as we read there is a large and thriving Muslim community, and, it is known as the city of eternal Spring. As it turns out, Kunming is just a boring provincial capital, quite the opposite from the picture the Let’s Go guidebook painted. Apart from a couple streets near Nancheng Mosque, the city streets are uber-unexciting, the buildings are garishly concrete, and the crowds are everywhere. I assume that the eternal Spring was hibernating with the bears because it certainly didn’t make an appearance while we were out and about.
As the daylight gave way to the chilly evening, dancing neon lights, plastic coconut trees, and billboards galore combined to set the typical scene of a large Chinese city. To be fair, there did look to be a rather extensive restoration effort underway hidden behind red construction barriers and labeled with the title “Old Street Kunming” in the area of Nancheng Mosque. We were baited by the red barriers and found a way to sneak beyond them revealing what appeared to be a rather slow renovation
job either underway or stalling out. The old buildings were incredibly decrepit, but show lots of potential and could make for a nice historic area should the project follow-through. Until that time, I imagine the bird vendors will still trade birds amid the rubble and the passersby will continue to use the area as a public urinal. Other red, wooden buildings in the area that were not behind the red barrier were beautifully original, leaning crooked at all angles, giving the streets a wonderfully ancient feel…hopefully these buildings are slated for preservation efforts in the future as well!
The large Muslim community we were in search of was nowhere to be found…we eventually assumed they were all late arriving back from Hajj, or, were perhaps equally annoyed by the cold weather and hibernating with the bears. Earlier in our Chinese explorations, we were impressed by the vibrant Muslim community in Xi’an and were excited to compare that community to the one in Kunming. Unfortunately, a couple of shops, two very large and very unimpressive Mosques, and a couple of skullcapped men were the only remnants of Islam we saw in our few days of wandering. Perhaps our expectations were
too high, perhaps we weren’t looking hard enough, perhaps we don’t know how to read a map. All are equally plausible. Either way, we retired to our hotel room sad and cold where I promptly threw up all over the place (not because of our failure to find a Muslim community, but because I snagged my meathooks on some bad KFC, resulting in wicked food poisoning). Damn you Colonel Sanders, I’ll never eat your tasteless crap again! My intention was to get a healthy dose of protein after several lightweight meals of noodles. I learnt my lesson the hard way. There really is no reason to eat shitty American fast-food whether you are in the States or in China.
Unimpressed by the city, we decided to venture out a bit and explore the western hills where grottoes, temples and corridors cut into the stone facings of the mountains were waiting for our eager eyes. Lucky for us, roughly 1 million of our closest Chinese friends had the same plans, so, we enjoyed a leisurely 2-way single file hike up the mountains…Oh, did I mention this was the first day of Chinese New Year?
Happy New Year China!!!!
Yes, that’s right, not only are we traveling around China during the coldest months of the year (during the worst winter storm in 50 years), we are also doing it in conjunction with the biggest holiday of the year in the country with the largest population in the world. Most of the population takes a full 7 days off to celebrate the New Year, so, as you can probably imagine, crowds swell, transport fills up, and hotel prices double. The celebration is basically non-stop for the duration of the festival, with everyone eating, shopping, visiting sites, and lighting firecrackers.
The firecrackers are intense and start at about 5am and finish the next morning at about 4:59am, give or take about 3 or 4 seconds. During the onslaught of exploding gunpowder, it is important to be mindful of those around you, especially young kids with large fireworks who probably shouldn’t be lighting copious amounts of gunpowder in the first place. Apparently it is not a breach of etiquette to light things that explode and throw them at, or incredibly near, random people walking around. Rozy almost took shrapnel from somebody’s firecracker thrown from a window above us and we both
were saved by the grace of God as some youngster’s rocket luckily malfunctioned literally 2 feet from our heads on a busy walkway. We haven’t been lit on fire yet and still have a full set of functioning appendages, so, we consider ourselves fortunate and plan to be particularly vigilant in the days ahead.
Not sure how to segue into the next topic, so, piracy. Piracy in China is a completely different animal than we have experienced elsewhere in Asia. Sure Malaysia, Thailand and others are notorious for their piracy, however, the sheer pervasiveness of piracy in China shows that there truly is no concept of copyright or intellectual property here. Clothing, software, music, films, electronics, antiques….you name it, the copied version of just about anything can be found in China. Pirated goods pop up not only in markets and temporary street stalls but also in brick and mortar stores in small villages and big cities. Supplies are such that it seems everyone is wearing clothing that has some designer label splashed obscenely across it. Chinese piracy may be costing corporations millions of dollars in lost profits and eroding brand names, however, the fashion piracy does provide a source
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of entertainment in the form of a game called “Spot the Incompetent Pirate”. Rozy and I had a great time playing this game and came up with a couple of good ones along the way:
Puma….Pmua (really? It’s four letters long; how could you screw that one up?)
Kappa…Keppa, Kopka, Koppo, and even Tian Jing Designs under the famous back-to-back logo STATISTICS
- Flights taken = 2
- Intercity trains rides taken = 6
- Intercity bus rides taken = 22
- Times lost = 7
- Total instances of diarrhea = 3
- Total number of requests for pictures with Daniel = 2
- Total megabytes of pictures taken = 8,350
Tot: 2.229s; Tpl: 0.091s; cc: 23; qc: 99; dbt: 0.0779s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.6mb