April 25, 2011

Fire In The Sky

The Chinese New Year is celebrated with full fervour by young and old alike. Their favourite pastime during lunar new year is launching rockets into the sky. Everyone can participate - whether it is on the streets, within the courtyard of apartment complexes, or on the rooftops of multi-billion dollar buildings that have recently finished construction. As soon as it gets dark, pyrotechnics shoot out from every nook and cranny. Beijing feels like a war zone, as explosions reverberate throughout the night sky. To usher in the Year of the Rabbit, I stepped outside from my apartment in Jin Gang Guoji to watch the fireworks and was thoroughly entertained.

April 18, 2011

Pursed Lips

When a Chinese lady goes out in public and is accompanied by a male companion, the man has one duty apart from being a walking wallet. He must also carry her purse. I am not a fan of this requirement.

Me: You are not wearing high heels.
Pretty Chinese Girl: Why should I wear high heels for you? You don't even carry my purse. Bastard!

April 12, 2011

Beijing's Best View

Beijing is a massive city. The scale of the metropolis can be experienced on the ground while stuck in traffic for miles on end or underneath via its lengthy subway system, but it is best appreciated from above. Both the Atmosphere bar in China World Trade Center and China Bar in Yintai Center provide solid rooftop views of the downtown core. Excluding mirrors and other reflective surfaces, Beijing's best view can be found in the west side of the city.

For a more detailed perspective of the urban sprawl, a journey up to the top of the CCTV Tower is needed on a blue sky day. Springing up beside the cherry blossoms in nearby Yuyuantan Park, the CCTV Tower rises to a height of 405 meters. Visitors can get a panoramic view of the city from its observation deck. Informative plaques provide hints to what famous sites are located in which direction.

CCTV is China's national broadcaster. Every Chinese New Year it hosts a ludicrously popular variety show that is watched by hundreds of millions of viewers. The whole family traditionally watches the show together. Singing, dancing, and stand up comedy performances usher in the new lunar year. The observatory has an exhibit on this annual gala, chronicling its progression through the years.


"A well-ordered life is like climbing a tower; the view halfway up is better than the view from the base, and it steadily becomes finer as the horizon expands." - William Lyon Phelps

April 11, 2011

Canal Towns: Qibao

I have a certain affinity for canal towns. The region around Shanghai is dotted with them, bringing me back time and again to enjoy the echoes of the past. The White washed buildings, narrow alleys, and soothing waterways of Qibao are just one example of these wonderful ancient villages. I dropped by for a visit while in town to see the Shanghai Formula One Grand Prix.

Within easy walking distance of a subway station, the township of Qibao falls within Shanghai's city limits. It is easy to get lost amidst the throngs of visitors milling about. Qibao means "Seven Treasures". Folk tales abound about these treasured items, but only the whereabouts of a bronze bell from the Ming era and some Buddhist scriptures are presently known.


"Like water, we are truest to our nature in repose." - Cyril Connolly

April 06, 2011

Pet Conspiracy

With restrictions on the number of babies a family can pop out, people in China tend to pour their excess affection into pets once their child leaves home. Cats and dogs are pampered to no end. The love of the owner is directly proportional to their purchasing power. Showered with luxuries previously saved for heads of state, the pets are groomed at expensive parlours and clothed in the latest trends. The pet care industry is booming in China, as I found out one night after dinner.

As I exited from a restaurant located in the second floor of a high rise building, I heard the delightful squeals of Chinese girls nearby. Usually the generator of such sounds, I wanted to know what else could engender such excitement. I walked the halls until I echo-located a group of girls looking through a glass door. On the other side was a wonderland for cats. Over two dozen of the finest felines I had ever laid eyes on were lounging about a pussy paradise. Most were sitting on the floor, some were using the upholstered furniture available to them, and others had opted for private rooms. None could speak English.

While the day care center for cats was an eye opener, it was not the strangest site I witnessed. Even among pets, there is a hierarchy. In Shanghai, three dogs were pulling a miniature chariot down the street. A flag of the People's Republic of China was proudly flying from the chariot mast, while Shanghai Expo decals had been pasted on to the sides. The chariot seat was occupied by a cat.


"Dogs have owners, cats have staff." ~ Anonymous