Good news out of North Korea: newly released photos show that Kim Jong-il is alive and well.
And up to some healthy pasttimes, just to show off his excellent condition.
In China, I took this picture:
Plugs like this were in all kinds of guest houses around South China: they're weird-looking, but they'll take any, but ANY plug, whatever shape, whatever country. Howzat?
A horrible, "He's white. He'll do" model selling some kind of product. He was everywhere: billboards, sides of buses, and everthing, tantalizing us with his eyebrow like that.
Every year, at Christmas or New Years, my mom had a tradition of going from one family member to the other, asking us what made us thankful that year. Now, Christmas Eve was a travel day, but on Christmas, we sat in Shire Hobbiton coffee shop, and I asked Matt and Heyjin what they were thankful about, then they turned the camera on me.
Here's a shortened version of the video I sent to my family, of some of the things I was thankful for in 2008: 2008 ROCKED!
We took a boat trip to a town called Yangshuo, which was full of people, including a really annoying guy trying to sell his photos. He stood right beside us and barked into the ship microphone for ten minutes, and then came back for ANOTHER round. Matt cut the annoyance by daring me to punch him...somewhere.
Yangshuo was a pretty nice little riverfront village, and all it took was a bike rental to go out and see stuff like this:
Or climb a mountain and see this:
Guarded by this sign:
Or take a cave tour and see this:
and this:and this:
and this: (wacky)
I don't know how, but people were endlessly clever in finding new places or ways to sell things.
This was nice if you wanted to, you know, buy stuff, all day long, but if you DIDN'T want people to follow you around, saying, "Hello? Hello? Postcard. Buy Postcard. Hello? Hello?" it was a bit annoying after a while.
Anyway, that was a jewelry shop in a cave under the ground. Blew my mind.
They must have had trouble getting foot traffic before the cave tour opened. These vacationers (and many others) had silly plastic red flower-wreaths around their heads, which just goes to show, people on vacation will buy anything.
There were lots of shops like this in Yangshuo, too.
This one made me smile when I saw this:
Buddha and Chairman Mao, right next to each other.
We played around with putting motion into a long-exposure photo in a restaurant one evening.
This one's my favorite.
Meanwhile, if you ever wanted an Osama Bin Laden or an Adolph Hitler t-shirt, this was the artist for you.
He wasn't even the only one.
Yangshuo's main stretch was full of shopping, a bit noisy, but kind of pretty if you like shiny things.I do. Hong Kong was fun at night, too.
You could buy things like hand-made Santa Buddhas (that threw me off)
Yangshuo was probably the peak of the silliness in our trip: the initial "Hey! We're travelling!" excitement hadn't quite warn out (would soon), and the second wind wouldn't wind up until Beijing, but we got these two videos taken one goofy night.
And what china trip would be complete without two Canadians singing the "Hockey Night In Canada" theme with the word "Beer"? None, I say. None.
The two biggest downers of the Yangshuo were...
1. The second day we rented bikes, we were TIRED: we'd biked about 18km. the first day, and then did another 14 or so the next day, including a break to climb a mountain. We needed to stop riding, so we pulled over at a little corner in the road and, after getting a bit tired of being razzed for a bamboo boat ride, a postcard purchase, a scarf or a dumb, wooden toy everywhere we went, an old lady materialized out of nowhere, and robo-hawker hassled us to buy something, ruining yet another lovely lookout point. That took us from tired to completely beat -- hawkers are worse than crowds, because crowds are in your space, but hawkers are in your face.
2. The first day in Yangshuo, we wandered into the local produce market, which was really dark, dank, and fresh.
We saw this (warning: dead dog):We got another picture that was worse... if you want to be convinced not to eat dog meat any more, click here.
And I've decided I'm not eating dogs anymore. Nope. Not cool anymore. I did it once, but, uh, no. New Year's Eve was in Yangshuo, and we had a silly time that night in a bar run by a Canadian guy who was pretty cool.
Yangshuo was nice. We met a few funny and/or cool people there, had trouble staying warm (my guest house room's heater died -- but the super-warm sleeping bag saved the day).
Better yet, this coffee that we discovered on a menu in Shenzen, called "Blue Mountain," which I had heard of on one of those "foods to eat before you die" lists -- it turns out this coffee was in vogue a few years ago, it's a bit pricey, but it's a deep, lovely coffee that has a really complex, yet beautifully balanced flavor, right from beginning to end.
This was in Shenzen...But the star of the Yangshuo trip was not the brick oven-baked pizza (unfortunately), but the apple tarts at a place called "Drifters' Bar" -- you should go there if you visit Yangshuo. You had to wait 25 or 30 minutes for it to be ready, but once it came out, it was sweet and rich, with just enough crumble and just enough thickness, the apples were roasted and lovely with cinnamon, and I spent a good long time writing in my travel diary, waiting for it to come out. Happy, easy days on the China trip, dear readers.
That's it for now; next travelogue, Dali.