Sunday, 15 July 2012

China tour with Akademiska Kapellet, part 3

The following day we waved good-bye to Beijing, and went by bus to Tianjin. Since we were free this day as well, we headed out on town to explore (at least a tiny part of) the city. Nobody seemed to speak any English at all, so we showed the adresses of the places we wanted to go to written down on a piece of paper to the taxi drivers, and hoped they drove us to the right place. Most of the time it worked, at least I never got lost or robbed or dumped at a murky backstreet. Travelling by taxi in China certainly is an experience in itself. I suppose there must be traffic rules, but either they are significantly fewer or not as well reinforced as in Sweden. Driving at great speeds down six-filed roads, taking every hint of an opening as an excuse to make suicidal manoeuvres seemed to be custom for taxidrivers. Not to mention honking all the time. And apparently they also took it as a personal insult if you wanted to use the seatbelt. It was all you could do to hope you survived and got where you wanted. At least it was cheap; about a tenth of the taxi-prices in Sweden.

Walking around shopping in what might have been the "cultural quarters", being caught in a surprise rain-and-thunder storm (they have proper storms in china!), ordering food without a word of english (thank goodness for body-language and translating smartphones). A nice thing about Chinese meal-customs is the communion of the mealtimes. We were a group of about twelve people who got seated around a big, round table, with a rotating glass slab upon it. All the dishes we ordered were brought in (including a whole duck, head and feet and all!) and placed upon the slab so that everyone could grab a piece of everything. According to our experience, the rice comes afterwards, and there are no drinks until after the meal, except for sometimes a glass of hot tea. Strange and interesting customs.
Going back to the hotel, we tried to wave down a taxi, but after having failed for twenty minutes, a moped-taxi stopped and offered to take us to the hotel. After consulting a map and reading the adress-card through a magnifying glass we hoped he was going to take us in the right direction. It was a bumpy and cramped ride; there were doubts about whether the vehicle would manage the uphill parts, but we made it home at last.

Might have seen a moon for a short moment during the evening, the rain having cleared the air (somewhat) of smog for a short while. Not even a hint of a star, though. 

The following day we played at a large concert hall, with several hundred people in the audience. The concert was fun and went well, at least the audience seemed to like us! Feels like I should write more about the actual performances since we were there on a tour, after all, but nothing out of the ordinary happened, really. I cannot quite account for the overall sound either, sitting in the orchestra.

We also had time for a back massage. Chinese massage is another interesting, somewhat painful, but at least afterwards relaxing experience. A little scary to order massage using only your body language. A bit awkward lying there hoping the masseurs didn't break anything in your body, wondering what they were giggling about all the time. We will probably never know.

There is another curious observation about Chines culture: the chinese humour. It's apparently quite different from Swedish humour. Chinese people seem to laugh about nearly everything. A man gets sick at the subway (on my shoes, for the record); people don't help him, instead they laugh at him. (Not that I was any better, I quickly shuffled away in terror...) Bad news from our tour manager were always accompanied by a row of laughter from himself. While I guess it's a good approach in life to be able to laugh about anything, it's still mildly disconcerting not knowing whether they laugh at you or with you.

Right, that's about halfway through the travel blog, I think! To be continued...


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