August 26, 2009

Guilin Grub

While I was in Guilin it rained continuously. The heavy downpour usually kept me indoors or wandering from one restaurant to another. I had a chance to barter for a variety of fresh fare, from fish to frogs to turtles. Since the precipitation was intense most of the locals had headed for the shelter of their homes, leaving prospective customers scarce at dining establishments.

The managers of the restaurants vied for my attention, energetically trying to usher me in to their eateries. I nonchalantly perused the edible creatures and estimated how appetizing they would be. One shopkeeper grabbed a toad and held it inches away from my face, but his tactic proved to be futile as I moved on to other options. I settled for a large fish after finding the exotic creatures too expensive for my liking.


"Tis not the meat, but 'tis the appetite makes eating a delight."
- Sir. John Suckling -

August 25, 2009

Temple of Heaven

Heaven. Earth. Sun. Moon.

Four elemental temples are scattered around Beijing, with the Temple of Heaven the most spectacular of the quartet. The name of the temple in Chinese is Tiantan, which translates to "Altar of Heaven". On a cloudless summer's day, I wandered its grounds for several hours. As the sun shined up above, beads of sweat graced my forehead. Rivulets of perspiration slowly trickled downwards, tracing the symmetric lines of my face. Effortlessly combining aesthetic principles and cultural values, the design of the temple was similarily well thought out. Squares, representing earth, and circles, representing heaven, serve as the chief design motifs for impressive structures within the temple complex such as the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, the Echo Wall, and the Circular Mound Altar.


“My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth's loveliness.”
- Michelangelo -

August 24, 2009

Stone Forest of Shilin

270 million years in the making, the Shilin Stone Forest is a collection of odd rock formations jutting up from the ground. Located in Yunnan province, Shilin was an easy bus ride away from Kunming. I remained steady as a rock when I entered the forest made of stone. All around me were the strange shapes. It was a dark and rainy day, so the formations seemed even more foreboding. Legend has it that the gods shattered the mountains into smaller fragments so that lovers could have some privacy among the rocks. The scientific explanation is that the area was an ocean before, and when the water subsided these rocks were left behind.


“The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.”
- Bertrand Russell -

August 18, 2009


As the global downturn continues many people can no longer afford their expensive hobbies. Instead they have sought out more cost effective means of entertainment. ARNABonics is one such beneficiary of this worldwide trend, as it is a fun, free, and educational alternative to pricey pursuits. ARNABonics is a nonstandard form of English where words in standard usage are concatenated to the tail end of the phrase ARNAB. Anyone can participate in adding new words to the vocabulary. Having rapidly gained in popularity in the past few years, ARNABonics is forecast to rank alongside solitaire, crossword puzzles, and sudoku as one of the primary pastimes of housewives by 2020.

The grammatical rules are easy to learn. The words must seamlessly combine with ARNAB following a concrete syntax. They usually start with B (ARNAB + Bombshell = ARNABombshell or ARNAB + Babe = ARNABabe), but words starting with AB, NAB, and RNAB are also acceptable, though considerably more difficult to construct. As it is a growing field, new words are being continuously created and semantically defined. There is also room for innovation. The ARNACutie provides an interesting case study. Even though Cutie starts with the letter C, and distorts the natural harmony of the five letters A-R-N-A-B, it rhymes with the already established ARNABeauty and is thus a valuable addition to the vernacular.


"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!"
- Nathaniel Hawthorne -

August 17, 2009

ARNABungee: A Moment's Hesitation

I had gone to Longqing Xia, the site of my first attempted bungee jump, with an Argentinian and an American. The Yankee was promptly declared overweight by the Chinese attendant and was not allowed to jump. The Argentine and I emptied our pockets and and handed the American all our loose items for safekeeping. I had to leave my glasses behind, leaving my world an indistinct blur of colours and shapes.

I followed the Argentinian up the stairs to the 68 meter high bungee jumping platform, grasping the railing as I could not see anything clearly. He would jump first. Ankle braces were tightened around his feet and he was led to the edge of the platform. At this point he was having second thoughts and grasped a hold of the guard rails with his hands. After waiting several moments for him to voluntarily take the plunge, the attendant calmly pushed the Argentine off the platform. A long schoolgirl shriek echoed through the gorge as he disappeared into oblivion. I was up next.



“Hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age.” 
- Ernest Hemingway -