Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[travel] More random observations about China

The only place I've seen PLA (Chinese army) personnel on the streets is here in Nanchang. Since this is the birthplace of the PLA, that is unsurprising. Otherwise, there's no visible military presence, and this is a relaxed society.

Rooftops are a world of their own here, when you get a chance to glimpse them.

A city of four million people is a provincial backwater. A city of a million is a small town. People really do live everywhere.

Street food is a huge part of the culture. Many of the vendors carry baskets on a yoke, or food on the back of a bicycle. I've seen grills with open flame on bikes. I haven't been willing to try it, for health reasons, but some of it looks quite good.

Last night I saw not one but two late-night walk-in dentistry shops, with picture windows for the convenience of spectators and smiling dentists awaiting their next customer. Also late-night auto repair, scroll affixing, tattooing, and pretty much everything else you care to name.

Everywhere you look someone is playing cards or mah jong or Chinese chess. Little men sitting on overturned buckets on the sidewalk will gamble with you over a hand of cards for a few kwai.

I don't get stared at nearly as much as I did when I travelled here at various times in the 1990s, but people like to have their pictures taken with me.

There are so many more pets here today than there used to be. That must be a sign of affluence. I've been told that all pets have their own photo ID cards.

Fried chicken is huge here. KFC must be the biggest restaurant chain in China, but many of the street vendors and small windowfront food shops sell fried chicken in various forms. Nobody sells hamburgers but McDonald's.

The skies are always gray. The affluence has come at the price of tremendous pollution. But I see a lot of vehicles marked for CNG, and the electric scooters are everywhere. Some serious effort is being put into fixing this problem, much of it at a level far more streetwise than we would do in the United States.

There are very few big people here, and virtually no overweight people.

Breakfast is eccentric no matter where you go.

Originally published at jlake.com.

Tags: china, culture, food, personal, travel

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