Samstag, 25. Oktober 2014

Not out of thin air.

Some pictures from the roof of the apartment today. Smog's pretty bad, and it's been like this for a couple of days already.

It's getting worse every year, and it starts earlier every time, at least that's how I feel it.

Heating season starts in China in November, and most heating plants are powered with coal. So it has become sad normality that every winter the air is filled with smog for a couple of weeks in November and December.

But this smog is a month early, as the weather is still warm and the plants probably aren't really fired up yet. And yet the smog's already massive.

 Additionally more and more supermarkets start stocking protection masks and more and more people start wearing them. I also bought one for the first time in 3 years.

Also one can overhear more and more people talking and complaining about the bad air quality. Although Shenyang as an industrial hub is used to bad air as a lot of plants and factories caused tremendous pollution in the 90s until about 10 years ago, then it became better.

But an AQI of 300 is high. And values like this start becoming frequent. In a lot of Chinese cities.

IMHO currently China's most pressing, cause most visible and dangerously unhealty problem.

Samstag, 13. September 2014

Little apples

I don't really care that much for what's hot and what's not in the Chinese pop charts, but recently one particular song is almost impossible to avoid.

For several months now not one day has passed by where one didn't hear that song somewhere - in a radio at the little food stall, as music video on TV screens in restaurants or electronic appliances stores, out of speakers in front of hot pot and BBQ joints or fashion stores, and of course on dancefllors in bars and clubs.

Not one day.

And as I've been to places allover the country in the last couple of weeks I can say - it applies for the whole country - be it the prosperous provinces on the east coast, be it Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Gansu, or the tibetan outskirts of southwestern Sichuan and Yunnan - it's everywhere.

Reminds a little bit of the "Gangnam Style" hype a while ago.

Therefore hereby I wanna give the chance to share my mixture of amusement and ear pain that song gives me after hearing it on a daily basis for a while now.

The "Chopstick brothers" with "Little apple" (Link from Youtube):

Montag, 3. März 2014

McDonald's China hat Deutschland-Wochen.

Man mag es ja kaum glauben, aber deutsches Essen kann als exotisch gelten - man muss nur weit genug von Deutschland weg sein.

Während es in der Heimat bei McDonald's regelmäßig "Asia Wochen", "Amerika Wochen", "McMexiko", "Hüttengaudi" oder weiss der Geier gibt, hat McDonald's China in unregelmäßigen Abständen den 不素之霸 (búsùzhībà), frei übersetzt "kein-Gemüse-Mac", mit doppelt Rindfleisch, zwei deutschen Bratwürstchen und Senfsauce. Das ist hier dann exotisch. Trifft eines der Klischees über Deutsche, viel Wurst und Fleisch in der Ernährung, ziemlich gut. Und macht auch ziemlich satt.

Schmeckt sogar ganz ordentlich. Und kostet im Menü nur knapp 3 Euro.

Weiterer McDonald's China fun fact - das Zeichen das man für die Übersetzung von "Mac" gewählt hat, 霸 bà, bedeutet eigentlich so etwas wie "Tyrann" oder "Herrscher" - den "Big Mac" nennt man hier somit jùwúbà 巨无霸 - den "großen Nicht-Tyrann". Big Mac eben....

Sonntag, 23. Februar 2014

There is no bad weather, just wrong clothing.

What I admire the Chinese here in the Northeast for is their ability to brave the coldness of winter and still get to work the same way they do in summer - on their scooters. Regardless of streets being icy and snowy, and even with temperatures down to -20° C . Especially the migrant workers, who often have to get their tools with them to work and therefore neither can use public transport nor afford a car or even a cab ride.

Although I'm luckily not under this economic pressure every now and then I'm in the mood to go by scooter - if there's no ice or snow (what can happen in a dry climate like here, with sometimes weeks of no rain or snow fall) and temperatures are not tooooo low - around -10° C a 10 km-ride is bearable.

 If you wear the right outfit, that is. In the picture above you can see mine - a mixture of skiing trip and polar expedition. And benath still your regular work outfit, naturally.

above: salopettes
middle left: winter boots thickly lined, at best wear two pairs of socks beneath
middle center: lined cap russian style, below that ski googles
middle right: face mask "bank robber style"
below left: woolen gloves, worn beneath....
below center: ski gloves
and both pair of gloves in a third pair (below right), which I call "boxing gloves".

Basically a big lined sac with 2 openings and 2 laces to strap one end to the handlebar, and to put your hands into the other.  Offers additional protection for the most vulnerable spot, one's hands.

I haven't seen them anywhere else but here in Northeast China yet, but here everybody scooting in winter has a pair attached to their handlebar. Every year when winter is coming you can buy them virtually everywhere on the streets for 20 RMB, about 2,5 €.

Et voila, one is good to go. But even under all this layers, the weak point kept to be the freezing and after more than half an hour awfully hurting fingers. Can't do this every day, not if temperatures are below -10.

Life is rough, so you gotta be tough. And I'm not as tough as Chinese migrant workers. But their life's also way rougher.

And if someone's wondering why no helmet - well, we don't take kindly to people wearing helmets around here......

Just kidding - just barely anybody wears them in China - traffic safety is still an issue people are not yet very aware of. And when in Rome....

Samstag, 18. Januar 2014


As the last two posts were about our trip to Hokkaido during the National Holiday week, and the next trip to the Phillipines during Spring Festival is coming up in a couple of days, and this here is not supposed to be mainly a travel blog, it's time to actually post something about Shenyang (or at least China) again.

Last week this year's local Shenyang Ice Festival was opened - I haven't been there yet this time, but was last year in February, so here's some stuff from my photo archive. As winters are reliably long and cold in Northeast China, almost every town has its own festival, the biggest by far being the one in Harbin. (pictures from 2012)

complilation of ice towers - the guy in the front is selling "tanghulu" 糖葫芦,candy fruits on a stick.
The Shenyang Festival has basically two areas - one with (up to building-high) ice and snow sculptures:

all in one - the "大政" Dazheng government pavilion from Shenyang's Imperial palace in the front,
back right the Greek Akropolis, back left Beijing's Temple of Heaven.
and even some Great Wall to the left.
a chapel made of snow
And a bunch of other sculptures....

Additionally one can have fun with all modes of transportation imaginable (and beyond) to get ahead on and over snow and ice.

Be it....

big trikes for grownups
small trikes for the little ones
whatever that is called
bumper cars

more bumper car-tube-things
dog sleds
or even tiny tanks.

Or you could paraglide over the whole area:

And skid down a slide made of ice with your butt in a raffia basket:

Together with a gazillion kebap stalls, fun for the whole family....

Sonntag, 12. Januar 2014

Big in Japan - Well, Hokkaido that is. Part 2

Part 2 of our National Holiday trip to Hokkaido October 2013.

Day 2 in Daisetzuzan National Park - this day we didn't go up to the mountain plateau, but had a stroll along a small highway passing the beautifully autumn-coloured Sounkyo Valley:

After about an hour of walking we reached a tourist hot spot with souvenir shops and a big parking spot for coaches, bringing heaps of mainly Chinese and Japanese tourists to a place with a couple of waterfalls - they just love them:

Day 3 - we wanted to go up the mountain plateau again, hiking up some more tops, but unfortunately winds were too strong and the ropeway, only direct channel to the plateau, was closed for security reasons.

So we did only some minor hiking and stayed some more time at the hotel and enjoyed the hot springs.

As you went in there naked, I of course didn't take my camera there :-) and as almost everywhere in East Asia in such cases, men and women had separate areas. So far nothing new for us.

What we were a little anxious about were the Japanese washing rituals we heard so much about. Well, actually we heard nothing about them, really, just that they take a long time, are complicated and Japanese are sensitive when it comes to their rituals/traditions, so we were a little afraid to do something wrong the first time.

So for that I waited in the dressing room for a Japanese to appear so I could go in shortly behind him to watch and copy his every move - "monkey see, monkey do".

There was a washing area right next to the hot spring pool, with abot a dozen little plastic stools to sit on, a mirror, a towel, half a dozen different soaps and shampoos and a hand shower.

Although the Japanese took their time washing themselves before going in the pool, I couldn't recognize a particular order or system for washing or choosing soaps or something. They did it just thoroughly. So I just washed myself about a minute longer than the Japanese guy I came in with to be on the safe side, then off in the hot springs pool I went.

The next day I could also witness that nobody in the spa really cared when 5 guys from Shanghai jumped right into the pool without washing anything first. Although one could see some "not so happy with what you just did" - glances....

Another thing were the traditionally Japanese dinners - the first evening we went there with our street clothes to find everybody else having shown up in their kimonos - so from then on we did the same:

And the dinners were.... well, interesting. The whole table was covered with little bowls and cups with bite-size portions of different foods in it to discover. A little bit like an Advent calendar. Unfortunately, most of it tasted fishy and salty, not so much my favorite taste and style. But fun nonetheless.

Day 4 - Mt. Midoridake

The last hike was a little bit rougher, as basically the weather still was that day. Windy, cloudy and it even snowed (in the first week of October....) On 2/3 on the way to the top the wind got too strong, and the path too slippery, so we had to go back again. Still, it was another beautiful day of hiking in a breathtaking scenery:

And what would be a post about Japan without a picture of a Japenese toilet's dashboard.....