Oriental Newsletter 2 - Beijing
Greetings all, you homeward people with your drinkable tap water and your cities with populations smaller than my home country, salutations! My Oriental Adventures continue and have been so distracting this is my first chance to write - as such, gentle reader, I must warn you that the format of these memoirs is likely to be as rapidly fragmented as a monkey playing with a grenade.
The very first night here put me in fear of my life - myself, my guide Xinxin and her locally based cousin Yu were running a gauntlet of lake-front bars, complete with hawkers shouting outside trying to attract passersby, shining green laser pointers hither and forth. The only problem was that these beams were clearly visible in the air, meaning that either
a) The chinese have miniaturised Class 4 lasers and distributed them to the population with orders to vaporise foreigners
b) The air here is so thick with contamination you could cut it into bricks
Whichever was the case, I thought it best to get off the streets and we dove into an eatery, where - despite being so tired I actually lost the capacity for three-dimensional vision - we had some of the best food ever. The highlight was something called "Volcano explosion bone", super-spicy ribs, except when it arrived Xin asked them to cut out the bones - leaving nothing but a plate of "Volcano Explosion". And it was great. Also some awesome tumbleweed like vegetables which are the first non-meat item ever that has made me think of it wistfully after. Truly, these yellow devils work their inscrutable magic through the digestive tract.
The next best food was something called "Chili Chicken", a truly uninspiring name - you might as well call the Atlantic ocean "water pool". I haven't got the necessary camera cable to prove it to you yet, but the dish is just a giant bowl of super-hot chillis, in which fugitive pieces of chicken hide. They soak up all the wonderful face-melting capsicim while cooked, rapidly converting from "pieces of meat which are delicious" to "Anti-personnel weapons of a tongue-flensing nature, which are delicious". It's like something out of a horror movie, each bite stripping another layer of cells from your tongue and igniting the tenth circle of hades in your mouth, but you just can't stop! Luckily my Eire-blessed digestive system proved more than a match for this delectable devilry, and I defeated every last piece of food - but I can only imagine how many less sturdy bastions of caucasionality spontaneously ignited because of this tasty trap, their ashes left to join the rest of the dust in this foreign air.
We went to see the forbidden city, which was absolutely awe-inspiring. Truly magnificent stuff, epic-scale, and someday it's going to make the best bonus-level ever in a skateboarding video game. Tons and tons of incredibly sophisticated art and treasure, it expresses three central tenets of Chinese culture
b) Respect for History
c) Fuck the disabled
Every single door had AT LEAST three steps and a raised metal bar across the floor, for no other reason than to screen out people who couldn't walk. I've got some photos, you really wouldn't believe how insistent they are on this point otherwise. My favourite example was at a different site, the Temple of Heaven, where only one door has a ramp over this bar - a ramp which leads to a long walk of about half a kilometer, at the end of which is another portal - one WITH NO RAMP, and, one imagines, artfully lacquered inscriptions in the mandarin style declaiming "haha legless bastard". And lest you fear that all this talk of inspirational beauty has corrupted this loyal servant of the Queens territories, be ashamed of your lack of faith! True to an internal promise to myself I found a spot that had been reserved only for the Emperor in the past (and by 'reserved' I mean 'a commoner spotted there would be tortured, killed and all the men of his family killed, all the women sold into slavery' - seriously). I stood there, cast my thoughts to find any lingering trace of the glorious figures of the past, and gave myself a good hard scratching. It felt good. Ave Eire!
This is nothing but the wonderfully flavoured tip of the China Iceberg of my travels, but I have to go now. I won't leave it so long until next writing, as we continue on my Guaranteed Happiness Travel Plan (TM) of "Eating food" and "Doing stuff until next time to eat food".
Luke, Professor of Eireness Abroad