Saturday, 9 April 2011

Photographing Nanning

Friday 8th April 2011

MP3 track of the day: The man who can't be moved – The Script

Weather: Cloudy and cold, but no rain.

Plastic bags should be banned from dorms. I have a couple of bags myself however you won't find me rummaging around in them, for at least thirty minutes, at 7am in the morning. The more I tried to ignore this Norwegian girl, and her bag rummaging, the more I found myself waking up. In the end there was no alternative, I gave up trying to get back to sleep and instead I got ready to go out. As I hadn't achieved anything 'touristy' yesterday I decided that I would photograph Nanning today. I started taking photos straight away; as I crossed a bridge, near my hostel, I took a few snaps before reaching MacDonalds for breakfast. Even though I was an hour earlier than yesterday my new found friends were already eating; I ordered my usual breakfast of pancakes with a hot chocolate. For some reason I was also given a carton of milk which I gave back and got refunded for. I chatted to the group for a short while before leaving; just before going I asked if anyone knew where I might be able to watch the F1 qualifying tomorrow. They weren't sure but they said that they would ask around today and let me know tomorrow.

As I left MacDonalds I got my camera out and headed into town snapping away. Once I'd photographed the shopping district I returned to the junction where MacDonalds was situated. This time I was on the opposite side of the road and walking along the edges of a small park. Within the park there were many Chinese couples dancing; different music was playing in different areas of the park, indicating different dance styles. It was nice to see this peaceful hobby taking however, being 10am on a Friday, I did wonder if anyone worked in Nanning. I continued my walk west towards Renmin Park, Nanning's largest park. The park was littered with people; some just walking, others exercising and others performing complex routines with a racket in one hand. On this racket was a ball and, I think, the idea was to turn the racket without loosing the ball to the forces of gravity. It was all very interesting. Instead of heading into the middle of the park I decided to do a grand loop around the outskirts, in a clockwise direction. This meant that I started my walk within a heavily wooded area, which was a pleasant change to the heavy urban area that I'm currently living in. As the woods cleared one single building could be seen; I turned right towards, I think, a war monument. The monument consisted of one tall white tower with a similar coloured square surrounding it. I headed to the other side of the monument where I found a giant stone staircase leading downwards.

As I went down the steps the view, over the city of Nanning, was okay but not breath taking. At the bottom more couples could be seen dancing including one couple that looked 'semi-professional'. I walked on, to complete my circle around the park. The next part of the park consisted of a huge lake which was lovely to walk around. In a city as big as Nanning you are never alone and yet, around this lake, you could find a small measure of piece. I continued my walk until I found myself back at the parks entrance. It was at this point that I headed up a set of stone steps and into the middle of the park. It is here that I found 'Zhenning Fort'; a 'round walled' building, no more than forty meters in diameter, which stood right at the top of a hill. It cost one Yuan (10p) to go in. I started off on the ground level where I found a few rooms with a small amount of information … all in Chinese. What was weird was that, if you were bored of reading the text, there were these 'fair ground mirrors', in each room, making you look either very tall or very small. I thought it odd having these within a museum however, having not seen a mirror like this since I was six, I stood in front of one. I think it was more fun when I was six. I climbed up a set of stone steps and onto the roof of the fort. From here I had a good, 360 degree view, of the city. Looking into the middle of the fort a 6inch German naval gun could be seen, erected on a turn table. Taking another set of steps you could climb up to a circular platform, above the gun, and get an even better view of the city. I didn't spend long around the fort as there wasn't much to see, and I was hungry. I left the park and headed into town.

Since I've been in China I've been stared at constantly; I know I'm pretty stunning but it seems that the Chinese have never seen a white person before. I get stared at everywhere though, a lot of stares, aren't offensive. On the whole I'd say that 30% of people stare at you with a huge smile on their face; 20% of people stare at you like you're a terrorist and the other 50% try not to look like their starring … but they are.

So far, within China, I've eaten rubbish or western food. Enough was enough; it was time to search for a Chinese restaurant. I looked through my guidebook to see what was recommended; three restaurants, that were marked, I could not find. I went past five Macdonald's (How many Macdonald's does a place need?), 3 KFC's and a Pizza Hut until I found a fast food restaurant full of Chinese people. Looking through the glass doors, at the big screens above the cashiers heads, the food looked Chinese ... and the menu was written in Chinese … I went in.

I closed the door behind me and turned around. All was quite. Chinese people held noodles, on their chopsticks, in mid flight to their mouths. People stopped slurping on their drinks and the staff stood where they were … everyone looking at me. As I looked around it seemed as though I was the only white faced person within the entire restaurant. I took off my hat, said 'hi', and walked to the cashier. A lady gave me a menu, all in Chinese, that had pictures on. I chose a soup that looked quite appealing … and a Pepsi. I was told to sit down and my meal would be brought over to me. As I sat people kept staring. I stared back though I focused on the food more than anything, interested to see what others had ordered. As my meal had only cost £1.20 it wasn't the end of the world if it was horrible. If that was the case then I would eat as much as I could stomach, before making a sharp exit, heading to KFC.

A huge bowl of steaming hot broth arrived. I opened a paper packet to retrieve my chopsticks. I moved them through the broth to discovered that, under the milky colored liquid, the soup held meat (though I wasn't sure what type), noodles, vegetables and half an egg. Avoiding the egg I got on with eating the meal … and it wasn't too bad. As soon as people saw me eating well with chopsticks, they returned to their own meals and the stairs died down. The meal was okay but soon the meat and vegetables were gone. This left me with the milky liquid and the noodles. After, what seemed like, my 100th mouth full of noodles I pulled some more out, with my chopsticks, and just stared at them. The broth didn't make the noodles taste of anything (unlike Rammen in Japan) and it was all very bland. At that point I didn't care if I never saw another noodle again. As I continually put my chopsticks within the milky liquid more and more noodles appeared. I looked under my table to see if their was a small Chinese man feeding noodles into the bottom of my bowl … there wasn't. In the end I couldn't finish it; I was nearly full but, more to the point, my taste bus couldn't deal with another mouthful of blandness. I left the restaurant with three things in my mind; firstly if anyone complains that British food is bland I'll put them right, secondly I needed something sweet and thirdly I might go to Pizza Hut tomorrow.

Back on the streets of Nanning the weather was turning colder. I switched my baseball cap for my beanie hat and continued walking. I needed something sweet to take away the taste of blandness, I also needed another camera memory card, as mine was almost full, and I needed some chocolate for the coach journey tomorrow. I therefore went back into the same supermarket as yesterday; I purchased a new 4GB camera memory card, for £8, and a small bottle of coke and two packets of dove chocolates. For something sweet I was gong to get a slice of cake, however I couldn't find anything that I fancied. Instead I purchased a packet of cheap biscuits which, from the packet, looked as though they had chocolate in them. Once outside I ripped the packet off the biscuits and started to devour.

They were horrible. They were like two pieces of cracker fused together by the smallest amount of chocolate possible. They were so bad that I couldn't finished them and I threw half of the packet in the bin. As I walked back towards my hostel I thought that, today, maybe the first day in my twenty-six years of my life that I can truthfully state that my most delicious meal, of the day, came from Macdonalds … what's the world coming to.

I only stopped at my hostel to drop off my shopping before heading out again to photograph the other end of town. This didn't take as long as I thought and I was soon heading back to my hostel once more. On the way I saw some Chinese old folk playing a board game. I had seen it in other places within Nanning, and it Vietnam, and I wanted to know how it was played. The game is played on a square board with a red grid. The pieces are circular in shape and made of wood; there are black and red pieces, each with a Chinese letter on. I asked two players if I could take a photo of their game; they asked if I wanted to play however, with the language barrier, I knew it wasn't possible. I took the photo back to my hostel and showed my English speaking receptionist. She knew the game but, sadly, she didn't play it. I decided that I would try again, in other parts of China, to see if I can get the rules. I reckon the game would make quite a unique souvenir.

Once back at the hostel I surfed the internet for a while, Google searching 'Chinese board game' with little success. After wards I sorted my stuff before watching a film and, finally, taking a shower before going to sleep. Tomorrow I'm off to Hong Kong; my coach doesn't leave until 8:30pm and so I have the whole day here. I'm not sure what I'm going to do apart from trying to watch the Malaysian qualifying ... there isn't a lot to do here.

Before coming to China I had set a budget of £30 per day. So far I've pretty much spent that however I've purchased a memory stick and a USB stick. I therefore hope that I'll be able to get to a lower daily budget before I leave China. However, with Hong Kong and Shanghai next, the week coming up will be expensive.

Toodle Pip!

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