Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby archylgp » 10 Feb 2012, 13:15

GuyInTaiwan wrote:HH: No intention of ever visiting China. Ed's book was the final nail in the coffin in that respect. I actually have little desire to travel outside of the developed world anymore because of all the dickheads involved in the travel industry in third world countries (and I'd say this is definitely one area where Taiwan is not third world). There are nice people in the general populace, but most of the people who work in tourism are complete cunts, in my experiences. China sounds no different.


China isn't a bad place to visit if you speak Chinese; you won't need the "travel industry"...I've actually never had an overall bad experience there. It's worth at least one trip, I think, particularly Chengdu.
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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby headhonchoII » 10 Feb 2012, 13:24

I ended up in Shijiazhuang by accident. I was flying from Chengdu to Chongqing with a transfer at Shijiazhuang. Well we were flying over these mountain tops and suddenly we were flying BETWEEN the mountain tops and next thing you know we landed on TOP of a mountain. Yes Shijiazhuang has an airport built on top of a levelled mountain. Which makes for a quite an experience. We got stuck there due to the weather and stayed in a hotel in the valley, along the way got to see some great scenery and there were still Tibetan people living in tents on the mountain (there were also the usual 5 star chain hotels on the valley bottom, but the area was pretty well preserved, not the rampant consumerism and mess of a hot spring town in Taiwan for example).

It's a bit sad to close yourself off from travelling in the developing world. While you get the rip offs and the hassle it can offer amazing experiences, I still have very fond memories of hill trekking in the Chang Mai and golden triangle region. One was of turning a corner after hiking through forest for two hours and coming across a village full of kids swimming and running around naked in the local river, just a kind of innocence that you don't find in the developed world, except maybe in Sweden :eek: .
I can remember the fourth of July runnin' through the backwood bare.
And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin' chasin' down a hoodoo there
Chasin' down a hoodoo there.
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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 10 Feb 2012, 13:45

Funny you should mention Chengdu. About a year ago, I was sitting in the Air Asia terminal at KL. I had a bit of a layover, so I was just waiting for a couple of hours. The gate next to mine was for a flight to Chengdu. When they opened the gate, about twelve people (including about three white people) got up and went through. I thought that there was no way they were the only people on that flight. About another dozen appeared before they closed the gate. Over the next twenty minutes (after closing the gate, not making the final boarding call), probably one hundred people arrived in dribs and drabs. Finally, some forty-five minutes after closing the gate, when the plane was apparently on the runway and just about to take off, a woman appeared and started getting indignant when the airport staff told her it was too late. They actually stopped the plane for her. I just shook my head at the whole experience. Something about people being late for their own funeral.

On the matter of the developing world, I've been to Egypt (an absolute hellhole in my experiences), and many parts of the former Soviet Union (including all sorts of nowhere cities in Russia -- the bus station in Kazan was like something out of Mad Max 3) and eastern Europe that I would rate as semi-third world. Those were, at times hard, though to some extent, I could also blend in and be left alone. However, the trip I did for about five months in 2010 in Southeast Asia really, really put me off the developing world. Fucking awful experience after fucking awful experience. Absolutely appalling. I have very little desire to go through much of that again. Probably the one place I've been to that really bucked the trend was Turkey. It's easily in my top three favourite countries.

I don't speak Chinese (probably high beginner level at best), and I think it actually reflects poorly upon a country and its culture when outsiders get taken advantage of. It used to upset me gravely if I ever saw tourists having difficulties when I lived in Australia, and I would always try to help them. The last thing on my mind was ever to take advantage of them because of their ignorance.
And you coming in to scold us all like some kind of sour-puss kindie assistant who favors olive cardigans and lemon drinks without sugar. -- Muzha Man

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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby headhonchoII » 10 Feb 2012, 14:06

London and New York take advantage of visitors too, ever see how much all the attractions cost? Tower of London..that'll be 20 GBP thanks. Car parking, 5 GBP an hour. Paris coffee and a seat on the boulevard..10-20 USD.
I can remember the fourth of July runnin' through the backwood bare.
And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin' chasin' down a hoodoo there
Chasin' down a hoodoo there.
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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 10 Feb 2012, 14:15

Sure, it's not just that though. It's the constant presence of touts, petty scammers and so on (many of them kids) that plague you everywhere you go. People who tell you one thing and then give you another. The corrupt officials. The litter. The animal cruelty. The environmental destruction. The absolutely insane traffic and lack of safety standards there. The pimps and whores. The drunk dickhead foreigners. The foreign apologists there. The whole steaming, sorded cesspool of humanity hating humanity masquerading as a box and dice. I had some great experiences there, but overall, they were far outweighed by the horrible. These places are the most misanthropic places I've ever been, and that's from a confessed misanthrope. Christ it was depressing how much people hate other people in such places. They're trying to get ahead at any cost, without realising how much they hold themselves back.
And you coming in to scold us all like some kind of sour-puss kindie assistant who favors olive cardigans and lemon drinks without sugar. -- Muzha Man

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words "Socialism" and "Communism" draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, "Nature Cure" quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. -- George Orwell
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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby finley » 10 Feb 2012, 14:23

headhonchoII wrote:London and New York take advantage of visitors too, ever see how much all the attractions cost? Tower of London..that'll be 20 GBP thanks. Car parking, 5 GBP an hour. Paris coffee and a seat on the boulevard..10-20 USD.


True, but at least everyone gets ripped off without discrimination. In China (as in many third-world countries) they see a foreigner primarily as a wallet with some flesh wrapped around it.

I think China is worth visiting just to reassure yourself that it is as bad as (for example) Ed/Troy makes out, and that it's not just some global conspiracy to "keep China down" (they're doing a pretty good job of that all by themselves). I imagine there are some very nice bits left - I'm keen to see Anhui province before it's levelled/flooded/mined/used for landfill. Then there's the tour of S.E.Asia that I keep putting off - Guy, do you have any favourite (least favourite?) anecdotes about that? I find forays into the Third World depressing not because of the poverty etc., but because after a while I find myself thinking, "Why is it like this? There is no good reason why this place should be as fucked as it is." And I spend the rest of the time shaking my head at the things people will do to themselves (and others) to make life as awful as possible.

EDIT : ha, I just noticed GiT said much the same thing.
"Global warming is happening and we KNOW that man is 100 percent responsible!!!"
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Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby headhonchoII » 10 Feb 2012, 14:59

Well you can live like a king in the 3rd world by sealing yourself off in 5 star resorts, as some tourists do. If you travel on buses and local trains you are going to get hit up by the touts.
I travel to Mumbai once a year and I don't even bother going into the city centre because of the chaos, at the same time I always enjoy seeing new things there and talking with and observing the Indian people interacting together, fascinating. I found them much more willing to give each other the time of day and have a chat than I had expected. On the contrary of what GIT said I was very surprised to see Indian taxi drivers and motorised rickshaw drivers often stop and ask each other politely where such and such place is or share some chewing tobacco between themselves.
If you go the pyramids expect to get offered the camel ride and the papyrus , I think that is the only major criticism one can level at Troys book.

Actually I have been to the pyramids, I got the papyrus but escaped the camel ride. I loved the pyramids and the Egyptian museum and detested Cairo.
I can remember the fourth of July runnin' through the backwood bare.
And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin' chasin' down a hoodoo there
Chasin' down a hoodoo there.
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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 10 Feb 2012, 15:33

Finley: I wouldn't know where to begin with the anecdotes, to be honest. I think I really need to meet you one day and just have a very long talk about all sorts of stuff.

Malaysian Borneo (went to Sabah, cut short the trip to Sarawak) was the biggest tourist trap I've ever been to. Sipadan had amazing scuba diving, but the rest of the place was an awful experience and embodied the wallet with flesh wrapped around it experience of South East Asia perfectly. They've perfected it there. I liked southern Vietnam, but hated the middle and the north. Laos was great, but it's very out of the way, and stuff is often very inaccessible and spread out. Vientiane is a nice little city. Pleasantly surprised. Angkor Wat is really that amazing, but Cambodia is pretty fucked and I didn't like the rest of the country at all. In Thailand, I only went to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I liked them both immensely, and Thailand overall. Deliberately avoided the beaches down south. Myanmar was probably the one place I'd really recommend. It was both amazing and horrible (and fucked) up at the same time. Bagan would give Angkor Wat a run for its money any day of the week. We went out to the west coast and there was no one there when we went there. Had the most perfect beach all to ourselves. Unfortunately, for me, I spent the entire month we were in Myanmar really, really sick (as in actually pissing blood sick -- try doing hikes into the mountains in July like that). Indonesia I couldn't stand at all, but we only went to Bali and Lombok (we were originally going to keep going further east, but had difficulties organising that at a reasonable time/price). Have heard further east is really cool, but very remote/backward.

I'll tell you about Yangon. The first day we arrived in Yangon, we arrived at the guest house. Outside, someone had managed to run an enormous truck off the road into a ditch (I love watching these kind of random daily situations get resolved far more than I like going to tourist attractions). A huge crowd had gathered to watch some guys try to pull it out with a crane. Not one of the guys involved was wearing any safety gear, yet a random guy in the crowd brought his own construction helmet. They had set up a crane, but instead of setting up to the side of the truck and pulling it out that way, they set it up in front of the cab of the truck, so the angles were all wrong. They couldn't actually pull the truck out. All they succeeded in doing was ripping half the wooden tray off the truck. We, and a French guy we travelled with for most of the trip, stood and watched for about twenty minutes and then walked into town. There are all these really old cars there, with the steering wheels on the right, but they also drive on the right side of the road (and drive insanely fast, as in 100+km/h), so the driver is not near the middle of the road. There are all these amazing colonial British buildings slowly crumbling and being reclaimed by the vegetation, and we saw some guys having a shower with buckets in the yard of one. The entire month we were there, aside from soldiers, I only saw two people not wearing open-toed shoes. Even kind of businessmen (well, guys in suits, as rare as they were) wearing sandals or flip-flops. All the women wear this weird yellow paint on their faces. When it rains, the streets literally get three feet deep in water because it doesn't drain properly. You find yourself wading everywhere. Every hundred metres, I'd see the most bizarre things that I can't even begin to explain, such as three guys covered head to toe in grey mud shovelling wet mud and water out of a deep hole in the pavement, as torrential rain filled it up just as quickly, or all broken up pavements everywhere you walk, and then one guy very carefully sculpting a one square metre sized piece of fresh concrete in the middle of it all in the middle of nowhere. You can get all you can eat curry for 10NTD. The curry is excellent there. Burmese food must rate as possibly the most disgusting food I've ever had, and some restaurants don't have running water, and use the same still water for cooking water, dishwashing and hand washing (I can't remember the number of times I actually had to go looking for a place to wash my hands before a meal). They have the most amazing gold covered temples. Despite how cut off from the outside world they supposedly are, seemingly every single person speaks amazing English. Yet you go into a cinema, and people scream translations at the top of their lungs to the few people who can't whilst spitting sunflower seed shells all around you. Piles and piles and piles of sunflower seed shells. There is litter everywhere in the country.

The whole thing was like the most surreal dream, especially on the first day, but also for the rest of the month. From what I'd heard from other travellers, it sounded far more akin to being India Lite than Southeast Asian. It had a really different feel. I've never been anywhere like Yangon or Myanmar generally.

The towns and the countryside are a whole other trip again and have an equally crazy, but very different feel to Yangon. Christ, the stories I could tell about some of the really weird things that happened there! Being chased down the street by a local crazy with a fucking bowie knife and the manager of the guest house chasing her off with a machete; one town where the guest house owners actively plotted against each other and you could feel the paranoia on the streets around you; other towns with the most unbelievably friendly and hospitible people you could ever meet; asking for directions and ten hands pointing in ten different directions -- to somewhere in a town they'd lived their whole lives; one guest house owner who pissed us off so much that we went looking for other places, yet despite us returning to his because the other places were vastly inferior, he started round two so we left again; going to a cave with a temple in it, and having to walk barefoot in the dark and not being able to take a single step without stepping on a plastic bag (possibly one of the most horrible sensations I've ever experienced); travelling for a whole day along a river on a cargo ship in the most amazing scenery, only occasionally stopping to drop off or pick up goods in a place that you could not even imagine people lived in; villages out in the mountains that redefine the phrase "dirt poor"; travelling between towns on an amazingly new and modern highway and it being eerily quiet because of absolutely no other traffic other than an occasional bus. Every single day, every single experience, every single human encounter was otherworldly, and few of the other travellers there were the usual tossers on the Banana Pankcake circuit. It's a little bit touristy in some places (especially the really big attractions, the only one of which we went to being Bagan), but get in now before it becomes the next Vietnam or Bali (if it hasn't already).

If I were to travel in the developing world again, I think I would like to go to the east of Turkey, and up into the three Caucasus republics, or the 'Stans, or Iran, or maybe to somewhere like Ethiopia, or back to Russia to places like Kamchatka or Altai. Places that are pretty firmly off the trail.

HH: I was the opposite with Egypt. I hated the tourist attractions (though seeing the sufis was one of the most amazing experiences of my life) and loved the cities. Cairo is fucked, but I found the ordinary life much more interesting (albeit fucked). A lot of the Egyptian monuments have not stood the test of time well, and the Egyptians haven't looked after them well either. I actually found the mosques more interesting and aesthetically appealling.

It's been the same for me virtually everywhere. My favourite thing about the U.S. was riding Greyhound buses for tens of thousands of miles and witnessing all of that craziness. My favourite thing about Poland was going to Torun (LP gave a glowing review about its medieval town square or some nonsense) and ending up taking the wrong bus out to the middle of nowhere. I stayed in an old Prussian fort that had been converted to a workers' dorm. Every night, they enforced a curfew by releasing German shepherds onto the grounds! I went for a walk to find the medieval town square, but couldn't find it. What I did witness though, was pure gold: a father and a son stripping wires for their copper or other metals at a construction site, and putting them into a van. Fucking awesome. Russia was like that in spades, especially the first time I went there in late 93 or early 94. However, Southeast Asia was not so much gonzo-fucked, as just fucked-fucked.
And you coming in to scold us all like some kind of sour-puss kindie assistant who favors olive cardigans and lemon drinks without sugar. -- Muzha Man

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words "Socialism" and "Communism" draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, "Nature Cure" quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. -- George Orwell
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Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby headhonchoII » 10 Feb 2012, 16:01

I had to actually work in Egypt for a week, dealing with characters straight out of an Agatha Christie movie. Their elevators have no doors, just bare walls. When they move house they take the doors and windows with them. There are basically no traffic lights in Cairo, one of the worlds biggest cities. The highway policemen slept in their cars on the roadside all day. There is no public health system so hepatitis patients get tested in converted kitchens in apartments for what is a weeks wage to them. They sit and wait in the waiting room and there is a terrible feeling of depression.
I stayed in a resplendent 5 star hotel owned by the army and used for their weddings and parties with a military checkpoint to be passed on the way in or out.
The sound of horns fills the cities day and night.
To go to a shopping mall you must get everything screened by security (same in India). The best food I could find was actually Lebanese.
Last and possibly worst of all I could not get a beer the whole week I was there!
I can remember the fourth of July runnin' through the backwood bare.
And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin' chasin' down a hoodoo there
Chasin' down a hoodoo there.
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Re: Why China Will Never Rule the World, a new book

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 10 Feb 2012, 16:58

headhonchoII wrote:I had to actually work in Egypt for a week, dealing with characters straight out of an Agatha Christie movie.


Classic line.

I remember buying soy milk wholesale in giant plastic bags that looked like colostomy bags, but that probably says more about my desire to find a good deal. Did anyone take you to the airport to get packets of Cornflakes? I think I've told that story before too. How do these countries function? (The short answer is either "barely" or "despite themselves".)
And you coming in to scold us all like some kind of sour-puss kindie assistant who favors olive cardigans and lemon drinks without sugar. -- Muzha Man

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words "Socialism" and "Communism" draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, "Nature Cure" quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. -- George Orwell
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