BEIJING

From my diary:

15th April 2012- Beijing

Arrived, snarky and bedraggled, and our crazy taxi driver nearly killed us on the way to our hotel.

Imperial Courtyard Hotel in Beijing is in the Hutongs, a crazy mix of old style buildings and a hip shopping district and all at once exactly and nothing like what you expect China to be.

Side note: is snarky a word?

Not from diary:

Last time I stayed in Beijing, it was in a big chain hotel.

This little place in the Hutongs looked like the set of a theatre, tucked away down some seedy looking alley.

I got devoured by mosquitoes which wasn’t good, but everything else about Beijing was!

Why I travel/ Culinary Adventures

This story was originally published on Allora, Viterbo and in In Brief Mag, ‘Edible’.

A wriggling, splashing fish is thrust towards my face. The man holding the net grins at me with crooked yellow teeth and says something in his melodic language.

“He wants to know if it’s ok,” translates a local into English.

“Uh… yes.” I smile at the man and nod vigorously. He slams the beam back over the wooden fish tanks that hang off the houseboat and into the murky river.

I’m with my father and his business associates in Yunfu, China. It’s a muggy rural town with banana trees and huge walls of greenery lining the dirt streets. The houseboat belongs to a local family who serve lunch in their living room.

A huge silver bowl and ladle is brought out quickly by a lady with long streaks of grey in her black hair. Inside the bowl are floating pieces of the fish that was flapping around in my face five minutes earlier.

She serves me first before moving around the table. Bobbing to the surface of my bowl is the whiskered face of the fish, eyes milky white and mouth gaping open.

The table stares at me expectantly. As the guest, I receive the delicacies of the dish and must pull the flesh off the face, dig out the eyes, and suck out the brain.

The fish head isn’t even that bad; the previous week in Foshan I was encouraged to eat slimy grey sea worms and various pieces of offal. As I didn’t relish spending the next few days perched over the toilet seat, I managed to decline without offending anyone.

Whenever I’m at a restaurant, I have to contain my reactions over a basket full of live snakes, a tank of scorpions, or a giant caged crocodile, in case my gracious hosts decide to order them for me. When I began digging enthusiastically into the pile of leafy green vegetables, they shook their head in bafflement and went straight for the ‘good bits’.

This is why I travel. I have to encounter different ideas of hospitality and generosity, reconcile them with my own and embrace them. Every meal and every encounter from the moment I leave the hotel room to the moment I return is a test of character, a challenge I delight in overcoming, or sometimes delight in failing to overcome.

I try not to wrinkle my nose, I take a deep breath, and I pick up my chopsticks.

 

Itineraries

There’s something just so darn exciting about making up an itinerary, isn’t there?

Seeing a holiday in tangible form in a diary or on the computer makes it a bit more real. It’s pretty impossible to imagine how everything will go down once you get to your destination, but it’s always good to pretend you can map out most of the details.

While planning has its benefits- mainly that you won’t be stuck sleeping in the train station because you forgot to book a hostel during the London Olympics, or Oktoberfest, or any large touristy event- I discovered in my last Europe trip that spontaneity has its charms too.

I remember in Seville, Spain, when we booked into our hostel. A guy around our age stomped in with his heavy backpack and asked if there was a room available that night, was given an apology as the whole place was booked up. That kind of thing would have sent me into a panic attack but he seemed pretty calm to just wander off to the next place.

This was my itinerary from the first Europe trip with the girls:

I posted this originally in August for a November departure. I was pumping myself up during the long winter by looking up hostels. We originally planned quite a lot to begin with but relaxed towards the end of the trip, planning only a week or so in advance.

What do you like to do when planning a holiday? Are you a go with the flow person, or do you like to have a plan so you don’t miss a thing?

Change up time!

There’s not much point in rehashing what I’m doing on my Tumblr in regards to painting and drawing and such. While I quite enjoy delving into each drawing I do in a bit more detail, I also feel that it’s a bit of a waste of time.

THEREFORE this blog is having a bit of a change-up, make-over, whatever you’d like to call it, to become all things writing related. Mainly, a retrospective travel blog.

I’ve a need to capture some of my travels in writing before they disappear entirely, and while I start as an eager journaler whilst travelling, I usually end up lapsing irrevocably (or at least it feels that way) about three quarters through the trip.

So while I may miss a few important moments on my travels, and they’ll be wildly out of order, I’ll be glad to have them down.

I’ll also add some other writing projects I’ve had published or started. After all, the goal this year is to start getting published.