Chicken Styrofoam

DSC03750ducks.JPG

This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, September 01, 2004 was originally posted on September 06, 2004.

DAY 319:  I was awake at 6 a.m. before most people in the Dragon Town Hostel were awake.  I was down at breakfast by 6:30, when I met the only other guy up and ready to go:  Wayne, an Australian technician for Telstra on holiday in China for three weeks.  We had both waken up for the same reason:  to get the 6:40 minivan transport to a bigger bus that would take us to Chongqing, the starting point of a three-day Yangzi River cruise we had booked.

In the bus already were German-speaking Swiss Nicole and Sabine and en route to the bus we picked up two other Australian backpackers, Natasha and Kelly, two make-up artists from Adelaide and Cairns.  We were driven to the bigger bus, which picked up two more Aussies, Mandy and Sean, plus a whole bunch of Chinese tourists — all guys — from another hotel.  Natasha and Kelly were almost immediately turned off at some of the Chinese guys, not for their presence or appearance, but for their regular, widespread habit of hocking up wads of phlegm and spitting constantly, even inside the bus.  One guy spit out the window, only it wasn’t open, and let it slide down the side.

It was about a five-hour ride to Chongqing, which wasn’t so bad since I had a book to read, plus the monitor in front showed a Chinese-dubbed version of Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery in The Rock, followed by some Chinese-dubbed classic Tom & Jerry cartoons.  (Yes, they dubbed voices in what originally had no dialogue, and rather poorly too.)

The driver stopped twice on the way for legs stretches and toilet breaks.  “I’m amazed how my bladder always has some sort of reserve every time we stop, even though I didn’t drink anything [since the last break],” I told Wayne as we walked to the facilities.  It was true; I always seem to have a little pee to release should the occasion arise — unless of course I’ve been drinking beer, and then I have a lot of pee to release, and have to go again almost immediately after washing my hands from the first time.

The shop at the pit stop had many different bagged snacks, but only one really stood out in my eyes:  a bag that had a picture of deliciously greasy fried chicken on it.  “Do you think there’s really fried chicken inside?” I asked Wayne. 

“I don’t know.”  I bought it anyway to find out, hoping to crunch into freeze-dried goodness, or maybe crispy battered chicken skins, which I had seen at some food stalls in Beijing.  I opened the bag and found these little orange square-shaped morsels inside.  I popped one in my mouth and closed my eyes to use my imagination and it worked!  With tasty ingredients of rice, flour, corn, edible palm oil (thank God they used the edible kind), sugar, grape sugar (is that like Grape Nuts, which has nothing to do with actual grapes?), and chicken powder (ah, there’s the chicken!).  I was amazed at the miracle of food science; they managed to package and sell a snack that tasted and felt just like packaging styrofoam.


CHONGQING, “SOUTHWESTERN CHINA’S DYNAMO” according to Rough Guide, is situated on a big peninsula that juts out and separates the Jialing and Yangzi Rivers.  As the largest city in the region, it was no surprise that it was a big modern bustling metropolis, and we saw it right away when we were stuck in traffic. 

“Look, they have skyscrapers on top of skyscrapers here,” I said, pointing to the hi-rises being built on higher levels of a hill just above others, almost right where the tops of the buildings on the bottom ended.  Wayne figured out it was because of the coming rise of the river water from the construction of a big dam downstream.

A team of four travel agents picked us foreigners up and put us in another minibus to take us to their office near the docks.  We individually made our travel arrangements for the cruise and onward travel afterwards and then went out to explore what we could of the city, before our boat’s departure that evening. 

The only thing the agency suggested to do in the limited time was to wander around the city center and get some food supplies at the supermarket because “the food on the boat is expensive.”  Sean, Mandy, Wayne and I hailed down a taxi and told the driver to take us to the first of three things written for us in Chinese on a card:  “city center.”  Five yuan later we were at Jiefangbei, the Victory Monument that celebrates the end of Communist and colonial rule, in the center of the commercial district, where about five pedestrian malls intersected in one point.  We split up in pairs, and Wayne and I wandered off to find a place to eat away from the KFC and McDonald’s.  En route, we encountered a group of older woman rehearsing a traditional drum dance, the usual group of guys playing Chinese checkers, and a market selling live snakes, chickens and ducks (picture above) for cooking.  Down another side street, we finally found a decent-looking small little noodle house that prepared bowls of noodle soups with ingredients we pointed to.  It might have been a mistake to point to the Sichuan pepper chili paste because they added a bit too much than we could handle.

In the remaining time, we tried to find the Luohan Si Buddhist temple for photos, but with most signs not in English or Pinyin, we only found dead ends or construction sites building yet another skyscraper over where an old building had been demolished.  Instead, we took pictures of the life-sized bronze statues in the pedestrian malls.  We headed back to the Victory Monument to meet up with Mandy and Sean, got our groceries and then split a cab back to the office.

A funicular took us down to the docks and us foreigners boarded the ship, outnumbered by the Chinese, although people assumed I was one of them.  The “cruise ship” wasn’t one in the Carnival/Love Boat sense.  It was more like a big souped up ferry with cabins in three classes:  first, with two beds and a lot of space; second, with four beds; and third, with six beds.  There was also a “stowaway” class, where peasants simply bought permission to be on the ship without accommodations — they just slept with the cargo in what would have otherwise been a decent-looking lobby area.

Wayne lucked out and got his own second-class room while I shared a quad with Nicole and Sabine that had dodgy air-conditioning.  At least there was a TV (each room had one), and we used it in conjunction with my iBook to have “Movie Night” since there wasn’t much to see in terms of scenery at nighttime, after we had pulled away from the lit up buildings of Chongqing.

As far as food on the ship, it wasn’t as expensive as the agency made it out to be.  Sure it was if you ordered specific items off the menu, but the kitchen had a “budget” buffet of standard Chinese fare all the time for five yuan a plate, with tofu, chicken and pork dishes — real Chinese food as opposed to the Westernized stuff in America.  In the end, there really wasn’t a need to pack food, although I don’t really think that chicken styrofoam snack counted as food.






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Comments for “Chicken Styrofoam”

  • HEY ALL:  That’s all for now… more to come as they get written…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/05  at  08:09 PM


  • Erik, love the pic’s and thanks for not taking pic’s of body excrements!  I saw the one from your previous trip (white toilet pic)  You must leave somethings to our imagination! Maybe you should be more careful with what you eat!
    The stomach lining must be burnt with all those spices and you have many countries left to go! LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/05  at  08:59 PM


  • Hi Erik… Leaving you my home phone number on your email (just got it yesterday). You can leave a message for me if I am not there. Looking forward to meeting you!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  03:53 AM


  • “Victory Monument that celebrates the end of Communist and colonial rule, in the center of the commercial district”

    end of Communist rule in China? seriously?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  07:02 AM


  • F.LEVENTE:  Ha, yeah, that’s what Rough Guide said…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  08:56 AM


  • AVIVA:  My yahoo is buggy here… I’ll definitely call when I have my ticket sorted out.  As of right now, I’ll probably be in HK Friday morning by train from the border.  I see on the map that your place is walking distance from the train station by the water…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  09:02 AM


  • Erik.. the apt is walking distance *just about everything is*...I just wandered over there today for the first time…Here is my #(852) 2103-1717.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  10:49 AM


  • Hey what’s up. I’m actually posting about your trip to Ecuador, and I’m Filipino too, and I just wanna say that it’s so funny and great to know that me and my cousins are not the only ones who go places and are spoken to in Spanish EVERYWHERE we go! It’s funny, especially because I have brown hair, and my cousins have light brown eyes, so even more so, when we travel to places, it’s funny. At least my Spanish is improved now and I can understand better with my daily intake of Telemundo, but I swear dude, I totally get where you were coming from with the “no entiendo”! lol.

    Posted by Rich  on  09/06  at  02:40 PM


  • Erik - I sent you e-mail about dates.  Let me know if you can’t get it and I’ll post it here.

    Posted by Liz  on  09/06  at  05:31 PM


  • HEy Erik, 3 Gorges Dam on High alert !!! 100 people killed so far because of flooding ..
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3630330.stm

    Hope your alright dude, anyhow your on a boat right?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  07:19 PM


  • Erik, are you still going to Thailand?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  08:00 PM


  • ERIK - there was a glitch in amazon and it looks like i ordered the new iMac G5 for 110 bucks!!!

    woohooo, if it’s true!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  08:35 PM


  • Hey Makyt, I’ll offer you $111 for it and a postcard from D.C.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  09:12 PM


  • SIM - I talked to Erik earlier today, so I think he’s off the 3-day boat adventure??

    Not too sure…but…he’s up to his usual “i’m crunk” IMs and “about to go get drunk tonight” ending IMs…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  11:22 PM


  • so have all the Former BH’s gone Recent SBR’s??

    WTF?

    and it’s all about PPS (thanks TDOT!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/06  at  11:25 PM


  • I know! Where is everybody?!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  12:06 AM


  • BH’s Rule !

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  12:18 AM


  • thanx for the heads up Markyt…got my confirmation email for $110 G5 iMac. Hahaha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  01:12 AM


  • I JUST MISSED THE FLOOD by two days…  I’m in the south now… WAY behind on The Blog.  Hope to catch up soon, but there’s just so much to do here in Yangshou.

    iMac G5 for $110?  Get me one too!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  08:36 AM


  • Rose -  cheap iMac = great x-mas present!  Shop early!  hehe wink  $110??!!!  Oh, I sooo want one of the new ones!

    Posted by Liz  on  09/07  at  10:52 AM


  • it looks you didn’t go totally ape$hit about Chinese food, dude…:), kinda letdown, isn’t it? plus the dirt doesn’t help either…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  01:10 PM


  • LIZ:  Yahoo is buggy on the computer I’m on now…  Quick question:  How convenient is it for you for me to arrive Tokyo on the 20th?  Is that fine, or is the 21st better?  It turns out that flight prices are cheaper in PR China than in HK, so I’m trying to sort it all out before I head there…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  01:42 PM


  • my 110 dollar imac dreams are over… amazon cancelled the order!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  04:27 PM


  • Erik: just received your PC from Siberia, Thanks 1st one from there.
    Markyt: any consolation about the Imac you can still get a PC from D.C. .. hahaha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  04:44 PM


  • Harsh!! You’d think they’d be responisible corporate citizens and own up to their mistakes…. oh well.

    How about AR5 last night. Brandon and Nicole keep screwing up! They should have finnished 2nd. It’s a good thing the twins screwed up too. Anyone going to miss them?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  04:55 PM


  • STILL NO ONE with Egypt postcards?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  05:04 PM


  • Hurray!  The twins are gone.  I want rid of Colin & Kristy!  Someone please beat them!  Although Colin did seem a little less obnoxious last night.  Liz have you seen the episode yet?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  05:05 PM


  • Rose - no!!!  I haven’t seen it >:/  It takes at least 24 hours for it to put on the net

    Posted by Liz  on  09/07  at  05:45 PM


  • Erik - can you hold off until tomorrow for good day to arrive?  Funeral thing may now be mid-week - still waiting for the priest to confirm the date.  The 20th right now sounds good though - it is a national holiday here smile  One of two that week!

    Posted by Liz  on  09/07  at  05:47 PM


  • LIZ:  Holding off ‘til tomorrow… Actually, is there a good time to call tomorrow?  Yes, on an actual telephone…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/07  at  05:49 PM


  • Erik - good time to call: between 3 and 4 or after 8:30 Japan time.  I think I am one hour ahead of you (but not completely sure on that one).  I’m usually up until midnight.
    You got the number?

    Posted by Liz  on  09/07  at  06:56 PM


  • Your adventures never cease. Now a Yangzi River cruise? Can’t wait to catch up. Stay safe. Liked the live snakes…. ‘dems good eatin’. I s’pose. Doesn’t get the yummy reaction than some of your other food pics do!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  02:14 AM


  • Markyt - been busy with work and traveling to cities where you usually are - haven’t had time to read and post. I’m back, though… have no fear. smile

    So, wait - the dam will be built and the buildings will be in the water? The new ones just out of the water? That’s crazy. I’m a bit ticked off about the damn 3 Gorges Dam!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  11:05 PM


  • NOELLE:  They did it in Egypt and they’ll do it in China….  The positive to all it is more people can get electricity cheaper…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/11  at  02:43 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Submerged

Previous entry:
Porn For Pandas




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