Hola, cómo estás señoras y señores!
My apologies for temporarily disappearing for 3 weeks as I’ve only returned yesterday from travelling overseas with an unreliable internet network and a screwy VPN.
This meant my original intention of continually uploading witty and insightful posts wasn’t possible.
I picked up a bit of Spanish as well. That’s what happens when you go travelling in China, you pick up the local lingo.
The main purpose of the trip was to visit my relatives residing there but seeing as I went with MrsFrugalSamurai-to-be, we decided to take in a few of the sights as well.
We walked everywhere because walking is generally slower than running.
The main sight which we saw over and over again was discretionary pricing.
The local vendors are sharp – they suss out how much you are willing to pay based on whether you are a foreigner or a local.
This ensures that usually they squeeze the absolute top dollar (or yuan) you are willing to pay.
This only works because of the lack of visible price quotes for products and services – you have to ask the vendor how much they charge for it.
If you look foreign – they may quote 3x where x is the price quoted to locals. You might not want to pay 3x but they will then quote 2x, 1.5x and so on until they nail you down.
Compare this with a Western country like Australia where pricing is static – what you see is what you get.
$100 for diet water? Take it or leave it. Too expensive for you? Don’t buy it. Willing to buy it? You could have afforded to pay up to $500 instead – not efficient pricing.
MrsFrugalSamurai-to-be and I were also caught up in 十九大 – which translates to nineteen big. What is nineteen big? The 19th National Congress of the CPC, a 5 yearly event and the biggest in the Chinese political landscape.
It was everywhere to say the least as everyone was talking about nineteen big, it was on all media channels, even streamed live on the subway trains so people could watch it.
You couldn’t escape it.
What’s the fascination with the politicians?
Well, it’s because in China at a nationally televised event such as the nineteen big, policies and agendas are set for the next 5 years.
When you say set, you mean they are set until the politicians get in power right?
Um, not quite – they are set as in you know, concrete.
What if the politicians change their mind?
No one changes their mind in China.
This is true to an extent, everyone believes that once locked in, policies don’t change.
Say you’ll build a bridge? Hey presto – bridge is built.
Say a whole township is moving from one region to another? Sticks and carrots until they move.
Say you’re gonna build a whole empty city? Just build it like a boss.
That’s the reason why everyone was hanging on every word. It provided the direction and policy of the country for the next 5 years.
It does bring a change compared to our Western politicians who just say ANYTHING and then about turn. You can’t just say anything in China – just saying anything might get you shot.
“There will be no GST”.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”.
“Elect TheFrugalSamurai as your new leader and there will be free pork rolls for all”.
Only 2 out of those 3 lies are actually lies.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the trip wasn’t all about politicians and being ripped off – we visited actual places also.
We also visited some relatives in Shanxi province and as such took in many of the sites there also – Yungang Grottoes with their 1,600 year old 7m high Buddhas carved in stone caves, Mount Wutai with its millennia old temples and buildings and my highlight of the trip the Hanging Temple – a temple built on the mountain cliff-face 75 metres above the ground.
Let me tell you that if you’re scared of heights, don’t go up a hanging temple built into a mountain cliff.
Especially if it is over 1,500 years old.
I am terrified of heights so you can imagine how I felt when I went up only to find narrow wooden walkways with knee-high banisters to protect you from a 75m sheer drop.
It was a crystal perfect day as well so you could see the ground ever so clearly.
MrsFrugalSamurai-to-be didn’t help or care, she thought it was an awesome place with an awesome view and an awesome chance to snap photos of her terrified fiance.
She even wanted me to take photos of her, the nerve of that woman:
“Hey, take a picture!”
“I can’t, my hands are trembling too much you FFFF”.
In the back of my mind, I knew the paths were safe – I mean it’s a 1,500 year old structure so millions of people have walked through this.
Then I thought, millions of people walked through this 1,500 year old structure built with fucking sticks off a sheer mountain cliff. No wonder it sways and creaks when you walk through it. It could fucking collapse any second.
I was this close (holds up forefinger and thumb) to climbing back down when I told myself that this is what life is all about – pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
Like a monk, I kept on chanting “push the comfort zone, push the comfort zone” and followed that narrow walkway path to its climax.
At the end, all I found was a stone wall and a fire hydrant.
It didn’t matter. You should have seen the look of triumph on my face.
It was a very spiritual experience (had to say it) and I’m proud to have extended my comfort zone just that tiny bit further.
MrsFrugalSamurai-to-be and I thoroughly enjoyed our China trip, I really wish we could have had a proper internet connection with working VPN so I could update you guys as we went but it wasn’t to be.
I’ll be more mindful of this on our next overseas trips.
Glad to be back in Australia now so look forward to more posts soon!
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