A Travellerspoint blog

November 2012

Lost in Translation

sunny 15 °C
View Through Siberia to China and Beyond on Hawkson's travel map.

We are dining out in Shanghai tonight at a restaurant that relied on Google to translate the menu, but we are a bit stumped with some of the dishes and would value your help before we order. For instance: What about this?
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And what about the following:
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Or any of the following delicious sounding morsels:-
Brown sweet old duck soup pointed flat
Shrimp seed and the big
Brine door cavity

And here's some more...
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And there are also its cousins:-
Sweet halogen bad duck tongue
Fragrance crab clamp
JinNiang bad yellow corvinci
Five fang lent the drunken chicken
Three wire spring rolls

We couldn't make this out at all...
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Or these:-
Sweet canceled the black bears shrimp goo
Bacon evaporate hairy crabs

And what on earth is...
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..or:
Dry heating daming shrimp
Born fried irrigation with described it
Three fresh stewed leg muscles
Bad fish slipped
Hot boil in water for a while cows shutter
Palace with blasting

It looks like we will have to stick with the - Food bravery riches and honour bag with fried rice again!

P.S. Joking aside - we found all the above, and more, on one menu. Luckily for us there were pictures.

Posted by Hawkson 05:32 Archived in China Tagged food Comments (5)

Chinese Take-Out?

rain 18 °C

Lovers of Chinese food will just love the food in China, and everyday can be a culinary adventure, especially when the menu offers such intriguing items as…
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Most restaurants have no English menu and there are few waiters who can say more than “Hello”, but fortunately Sheila has a good smattering of Mandarin and we have easily managed to get what we want.
It is no exaggeration to say that we could eat very well in China on $10 Cdn.(£6.50) each a day, although there is a considerable price difference between establishments primarily catering to the locals and those attracting finicky foreign tourists. We are not finicky and we enjoy the experience of eating like the locals so, for example, for $5 each we had: spicy lamb kebabs, noodles with peanut sauce, some strange (but nice) vegetables, exquisite custard tarts, and both beer and endless lemon/ginger/honey tea.
Eating on the street can be a whole lot cheaper, but much more exciting, although we can’t help wondering if some of the foods are just intended to freak out foreign tourists. These are live scorpions waiting to be toasted…
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Snakes, snails and spread-eagled frogs are common…
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As are locusts, centipedes and starfish…
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Though we wonder who would really want to eat tiny week-old barbecued ducks…
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Peking Duck is a must for any visitor to Beijing and for just $15 a head we had a whole Peking Duck dinner, complete with wafer-thin pancakes, in an upscale Beijing restaurant…
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The supermarkets offer a Pandora’s Box of both unrecognizable and everyday products, including many straight off the shelf in Safeway or Waitrose, and prices are about 30% of what we pay at home. We are used to seeing tanks of live lobsters and crabs in Canada, but the Chinese love to make eye contact with most of their food before they eat it so it is common to find numerous kinds of live fish, crayfish, terrapins, turtles and frogs.
The range and quality of food on offer in both restaurants and stores is impressive and we have been struck by the cleanliness. Even most street vendors wear plastic gloves, hair nets or hats, and some even wear facemasks…
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Good food is everywhere here, but this ad-hoc cabbage market in Beijing took Sheila back to the 1980s when everyone stocked up on cabbages to get them through the lean winter months…
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Cabbages are still popular, and incredibly cheap, but most Chinese have everything they want today – including some of the biggest radishes in the world…
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We are now in Shanghai collecting recipes for our next Chinese New Year dinner, but James is worried that he won't be able to get live scorpions or snakes at home.

Posted by Hawkson 17:57 Archived in China Tagged food Comments (5)

Xi'an's Terracotta Army

rain 18 °C

Two thousand two hundred years ago Qin Shi Huang became the first Emperor of a united China at the age of thirteen and during his lifetime some 700,000 craftsmen were employed to prepare for his death. An entire full-size city was built for him to occupy in the afterlife – complete with city walls, palaces, temples and, apparently, a hundred faux rivers flowing with mercury. No ancient royal court would be complete without government officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians, and no emperor would be safe without his guards, so, the builder’s of Qin’s Shangri-La provided him with a personal entourage and an entire army…
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Following Qin’s death and burial the vast city was covered with huge wooden roofs and layers of woven blankets and then buried beneath an enormous manmade hill where most of it remains today. But in 1974 a farmer digging a well a mile or so from the underground city unearthed some interesting pottery shards and when the site was excavated Qin’s army of terracotta warriors was discovered…
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It is believed that there are more than 8,000 life-sized terracotta soldiers, each with a unique face, but only a few hundred have been unearthed so far…
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There are also some 770 full-sized terracotta horses with the remains of 130 real wooden chariots and more are uncovered each year.
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Xi’an was the epicenter of the Qin dynasty and must have been a huge city two hundred years BC. But it is no small potatoes today. It doesn’t loom large as far as Chinese cities go, with a population of only 8 million, but it has some of the most upmarket shopping malls we have seen so far. It also has a frenetic downmarket shopping area where stores are stocked with everything imaginable - much of it fake. But the market area is best known for food, especially its huge selection of fruit and nuts. Dried persimmons, pineapples, kiwis and dates of all kinds are heaped on the stalls while fresh pomegranates are squeezed in a just a tick...
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But it is walnut time in China and every nut emporium has an old-fashioned walnut dryer on hand to capture our attention…
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We weren’t fooled into thinking that they were actually drying the nuts – none of them had fires – but it was fun to watch. It was also fun to watch these two guys with huge mallets energetically smashing peanuts into a delicious form of peanut brittle…
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We love work – especially when someone else is doing it - but now we too have to get to work and hop on a plane to our next stop – Shanghai.
The deadline for entering the exciting competition to win a postcard from China ends on Saturday - so don't miss out. And foodies - we haven't forgotten you. We have had many incredible meals in China and will be doing a food special in the next few days.

Posted by Hawkson 06:02 Archived in China Comments (4)

Beijing Postcards

sunny 15 °C

All cities have postcard shops but we have never seen one quite as elaborate as this…
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But we have seen so many wonderful sights in Beijing that we thought we would create our own set of postcards just for you...

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The New Beijing

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Old Beijing – a hutong in the rain

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Preparing for the 18th National Congress in Tiananmen Square

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Flowers for the President at The Gate of Heavenly Peace, Forbidden City

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Coal for winter fires, Beijing

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The Birds Nest Olympic Stadium, Beijing

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Chinese lanterns in the hutong

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New Friends in Beijing

Now we are en-route to Xi’an to see the terracotta warriors so we thought it was time for a quick quiz about Beijing – with real prizes.
So - what on earth do you think these Chinese warning signs mean?
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Give us the correct (or funniest) answers and we will mail a real postcard from China to anyone you nominate. Just imagine the fun you will have when a friend or relative receives a postcard apparently from you in China.
Disclaimer - This competition is absolutely free to enter, (Wow!), and you will not receive solicitations to purchase any products or services – Honestly! Just give us your answers in the comment section below for a chance to win one of these valuable postcards.
We will choose 6 winners and email for details of the recipients, together with personal greetings, and will pop the postcards in the mail ASAP.
Good luck.

Posted by Hawkson 02:29 Archived in China Comments (8)

Beijing Twitters

snow -2 °C

We let the Twittersphere pass us by in the belief that it was a new-fangled innovation appealing only to the cyber savvy. But then we visited China’s Forbidden City in Beijing and discovered that we had deceived ourselves. There is nothing new about Twitter. It has been around for nearly a thousand years and here is the proof...
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These ancient stone tablets are inscribed with mundane bits of information in fewer than 140 characters. For instance this one says, “Hunting season over. Xiancong Qin killed a lot of game.”
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Whereas this one says, “Heavy rain stopped hunt. Waded across river and took boat back to palace.”
Each of these stones weighs a few tons so pressing “send” isn’t likely to get them very far, but now we know that twittering is actually an ancient Chinese invention we don’t feel bad about using it. These stones, called drums, are in The Forbidden City along with many others and we thought we would have a go at translating them for you. These, for instance, could be the tweets of Emperor Zhu Di the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty:
"May 1st 1406. Burned down Mogul city today. Planning the biggest new city in history – we’ll show those damn Moguls LOL…"
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"June 27th 1413 Three hundred buildings finished. How about this for a roof? Bet the Moguls never had one like this..."
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"March 4th 1418 Seven hundred and seventy nine buildings finished – one to go. Let’s make it fit for a great Emperor like me…"
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"April 3rd 1419 Gardens coming along. Need a mountain or two – so let’s get creative and build them…"
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"April 20th 1420 New city nearly complete, I shall call it Zijin Cheng, (The Purple Forbidden City). Million workers now unemployed. Maybe they could build a drum tower outside the gates…"
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"Sept 26th 1420 Everything finished. Now I am bored. Hey – I've an idea. I think I’ll have a new Great Wall."

And now for some of our own 21st century tweets, (not carved in stone).
In 1860 the Brits and French stormed the City during the 2nd Opium War.
In 1912 The last Emperor, Puyi, abdicated and was finally evicted from the Forbidden City in 1924.
In 1949 The Communists were going to destroy the Forbidden City but Zhou Enlai sent the army to stop them.
In 2000 Starbucks opened a coffee shop inside the city but was eventually forced to close it under pressure from the Chinese. LOL.
Today, Nov. 4th 2012, The Forbidden City is deep in snow – pretty, but feels too much like Siberia so we’re heading south ASAP.

Posted by Hawkson 04:36 Archived in China Comments (3)

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