Monday, June 29, 2009

Exploring China - Back in Bangkok

The trip back to Bangkok was entertaining, and also immediately showed us how inefficient and cumbersome Thailand is. Thai Air Asia was over an hour late, which made us arrive at 2.30am Bangkok local time.

At Subvarnabhumi, we arrived at the Domestic Terminal and had to leave the building to get into a bus to get into the International Terminal. Why could we not go there straight away?

Then, at immigration, only 3 berths were open. We waited over 4o minutes for our slow!!!

On the plane, there was an old farang who kept STARING at a Thai boy with a huge afro hair-style, and I really mean staring. Staring as in looking at the poor boy for a minute from close distance. The farang was travelling with his ex-moneyboy boyfriend who sat behind him (don’t ask me why BEHIND, there was a free seat next to him) in turn kept boasting about his newly-acquired Australian passport (received courtesy of the farang I suppose) to a teenage French-North African traveller.

Ex-moneyboy was telling the French-North African Teenager how he could not enter France with a Thai passport because his hair is long. Now with the Australian Passport, everything “so easy”. French-North African Teenager wanted to stay in Pattaya for the night with a friend (never mind it was 3.30 am by the time we left the airport) Ex-moneyboy let him graciously call from his phone. It’s easy to offer services if someone else (the farang) pays eventually, isn’t it?

Then, the bf and I took a taxi from the departures floor. We always do that. There were only 3 waiting though. The driver was extremely happy, I quickly discovered why. The meter was not on, which I only discovered after about 1 km.

I told him to use the meter. Taxi driver found an excuse. I told him very firmly to use the meter. He turned it on: 61 baht already. I asked him: Why 61 and not 35? He found an excuse. My voice got firmer and I told him that I wont accept this. He put it back to 35 and his mood dampened.

I only had a 500 baht note in my wallet and knew he would make trouble, so I told him to stop at 7eleven just outside my condo. He DID make the trouble I expected so I went to 7eleven to buy water.

The bf waited outside with the taxi driver so he wouldn’t drive off with our luggage. He demanded I give him 50 baht more, because he has to bribe the policeman. I wasn’t prepared to finance his bribe but eventually gave the man a little tip, which I normally do for taxi drivers anyway.

Both of us were happy and we managed to save our faces. It was quite relieving to get out of this situation unscathed. He was a rough guy, and these guys can get violent if you make them angry. I suppose showing a little bit of cultural sensitivity is the way to go in these situations.

Make it appear like both gave in a little bit. The “Western way” of standing up for your right and argue will not get you far here. You may spend slightly less money, but people will look down on you.

At 3.30am, we were finally back in bed, exhausted but happy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Exploring China - Guangzhou VI

On the last day we became a bit lazy but still managed to drag ourselves out into town for some sight-seeing. First stop was the newly developed town, which is meant to become the business hub of Guangzhou.

New City
It is impressive! There are new skyscrapers forming a perfectly straight line through half of the city, starting with the Eastern Railway Station, the Tianhe Shopping area and the CITIC Building through the new city to the massive 610 metres high TV and sightseeing tower.

This is how China shows its new might. And admittedly, they do it with style. They employ the best architects world-wide and build absolutely stunning buildings and areas. Nevertheless, when I took pictures of the tower, a civil-clothed watchman was stalking us. I do not know why they need to do that…what is wrong with me taking pictures of their new pride?

Guangzhou TV and Entertainment Tower

In the evening, we took the gondola up Baiyun Mountain. Sadly it rained heavily so we didn’t get to see much of the city from the top. However there was a troop of gays waiting for us at the gondola station. They stalked us, watched us, made intense eye-contacts and then disappeared to the toilets.
We on the other hand went back to the hotel and took the taxi out the airport.

Gondola up Baiyun Mountain
I must say that this was one of the most fascinating and rewarding trips I had ever done. Guangzhou is a great and liveable city, even more so than Bangkok. It has attractions, culture, interesting developments and a very rich history.

By the way, I am not employed by the local tourist bureau!! I am just really fascinated by developments in China, and even more fascinated after having seen them. It gave me appetite for a lot more…

The people were unexpectedly friendly, even though hardly anyone spoke any English at all. They were delighted at our interest for China and curious.

One prejudice is true though: Chinese people are very loud. They talk as if they were in a constant argument! You get used to this very quickly though, and back in Thailand, people seem awfully quiet…

As for the gay culture, I read that it is evolving. The gays in Guangzhou are certainly not as open as their counterparts here in Thailand. Most young men are distinctively macho, or at least act it. Me and the boyfriend got many inquisitive but also interested and flirty looks.

They must have known that we were boyfriends even though we refrained from any “PDA”. Even though bars and saunas apparently have sprung up, and internet dating is evolving (judging by the amount of profiles from Guangzhou on sites such as gayromeo and fridae), cruising still seems an option.

I even read that there are a lot of factory workers who have become moneyboys. Who would have thought, Silom exists in Guangzhou too!;)

Exploring China - Guangzhou V

At Shangxiajiu Street, the teenie shopping haven of Guangzhou, we did actually go shopping a bit. However cool the shops looked though, the interior did disappoint.

The style was just missing a bit, and a lot was copied. I don’t mind the copying but I don’t want clothes with huge writing on them anyway. We eventually did find two belts and pants though.

The sales personnel were cute! We were of course the attraction of the night, as everyone else but the person serving us kept gossiping. I did understand that they thought I am American. Everyone who is white is American it seems…

The sales boys spoke a little bit of English and were curious about me and the bf. As part of their job, they have to clap their hands rhythmically in front of the shop to attract customers. When we entered, we always got a boy following us through the shop, making sure he doesn’t lose our trace.

Shangxiajiu Street

The next day was reserved for an excursion outside of Guangzhou. We first wanted to take the bus into the provinces, we were however far too exhausted from the heat and the continuous walking.

While browsing the tourist sites of Guangzhou, I found this small village called Xiaozhou Village (difficult to pronounceJ), which looked very scenic. Apparently it was a village from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and there were old houses built on small waterways and temples to be seen.

We took the subway to a huge island called “university town”. The whole island is reserved for university campuses – talk about investment into education! From there, we tried to find a taxi or bus which would take us on the other side of the river.

Xiaozhou Village

That was more difficult than I had imagined. No one knew the village, even though it is meant to be a prime Guangzhou tourist attraction! I think most of the people we met were internal Chinese migrants, hence they didn’t know much about the city.

I also found that that much alike Thais, Chinese people do not read maps. I had a map exactly indicating where to find the village but the taxi driver decided to call his friend, who could not help him instead.

Xiaozhou Village

We still arrived somehow and made our way to the ancient village. It was not quite as scenic as I had thought, mainly due to the constant building works, which are underway to gear up Xiaozhou Village as a tourist spot for the 2010 Asian Games.

Nevertheless, wandering around freely in this ancient village with small alleyways, canals and houses we found some magic spots and the hassle of getting there was well worth it!

Xiaozhou Village

We then took a taxi to the main tourist attraction of Guangzhou, Shamian Island. Shamian Island was an enclave for foreigners during colonial times and now has developed into a tourist centre, sightseeing spot full of galleries, souvenir shops and restaurants.

We walked the tree-lined streets and passed dozens of gorgeous colonial-style buildings to find ourselves next to the river, sipping a cocktail. We were not alone though. Apparently, Shamian Island is known for being a gay cruising spot!

View from Shamian Island

We noticed that very quickly as quite a few people made distinct moves on us. However, the area just seemed to be a relaxing spot for couples and families, gay and straight, where one could enjoy the night views of the river.

Our tummies starting to rumble, we entered a fancy-looking restaurant and ordered baby pigeon soup and Lotus tea. It was a special and exquisite meal, and cheap too!

Tea House on Shamian Island

Exploring China - Guangzhou IV

The next day was meant to be the cultural day. Isnt it always amazing how many things you can do in cities? You travel there and at the end of the first day you think: “what am I going to do here for 5 days?”

When you are on your way back to the airport, you think: “Omg, why didn’t I see this/do that/go there?”

The bf and I walked to another park, where we encountered the Tourist office. This is worth mentioning. The Guangzhou tourist office is basically a desk with a frowning lady who does NOT speak English. They also have only one mini-brochure with some English content.

That told us a lot about tourism in this city: it’s mainly domestic, and if there are foreigners coming, they will be on package China tours. This should change with the Asian Games 2010 though.

We walked around in the biggest park of the city, Yuexiu Park, where we found Korean gardens, pagodas, museums, various trees, playgrounds which won national prizes and memorials.

Stadium in Yuexiu Park

After stumbling across the Dr Sun Yat-Sen memorial hall, where the bf lost “his lifeline, the umbrella” (I cite him) we continued to the temple area. Umbrella against the heat not the rain by the way!

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial to the left in the background and the Memorial Hall in the middle

Living in Bangkok, we are familiar with temples of course. In Guangzhou, there are a lot less temples, yet Liurong Temple with the Six Banyan Pagoda was impressive. It was a small haven of calm but revealed a lot about Chinese pragmatism and reality.

The visitors were only rich people – I could tell from their clothes. They are presumably the only people with a bit of time – the others are probably busy working in the factories.

Street near Liurong Temple

Six Banyan Pagoda

The cleaning ladies who swiped the floor did not like people standing in their way. They even pushed away praying people so they could clean the floor. This would be unimaginable in Thailand!

Cleaning lady doing her work without sentimentalities

We continued and wandered through markets and shop-houses, past 7elevens and giant new hospitals and finally ended up at the biggest teenie-shopping street of Guangzhou: Shangxiajiu Street.

Selling meat at the market

Selling fish at the market

Shangxiajiu Street at night

The street was alight with neon shop-signs and in the main square, thousands of people gathered to watch other people, hang out with their friends and watch CCTV on the huge screen. There were many cute guys around, but not so fashionable.

Imagine a Thai country-boy with a Chinese face, a girlfriend and without gel in the hair. Some of them however were dressing up a bit – and many were eyeing this odd couple, the Asian and foreign young men who looked so cool together ;)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Exploring China – Guangzhou and Hong Kong III

The next day, we were off to Hong Kong for a day trip. I promised this to the bf, as he had never been before and wanted to see the famous harbour view, the narrow lanes, the skyscrapers and the glowing signs.

It only takes 2 hours to get to Hong Kong from Guangzhou by train, yet we only had about 9 hours in the city, way too short of course.

In front of the train station.

Eastern Train Station.

Having arrived at Hong Kong, we were looking for my friend (we studied together) who’s promised to wait for us at Hung Hom Railway Station. She wasn’t around and thanks to the bf, who was more eager to get into the city than me, we arranged to meet her later at Star Ferry Pier.

And there it was: the famous view. A narrow stretch of water and just behind, hundreds of skyscrapers hugging the impressive peaks of Hong Kong Island. It was a cloudy and windy day, and the ferry crossing was a bit rocky. The view however is absolutely stunning, no matter how many times you have seen it before.

Then we proceeded to a Dim Sum restaurant, which is an absolute institution in Hong Kong, but is still only frequented by locals. None of the thousands Western expats of Hong Kong was seen in this busy restaurant.

Dim Sum restaurant.
Serving tea.

I didn’t like the farang expats of Hong Kong. They are mostly working in finance I suppose and I didn’t like their “I-look-so-important-look” at all. They work in finance so in their work they don’t advance humanity by one inch, yet they get the highest paycheques – that’s not right!

After having enjoyed the lunchtime experience of exquisite Dim Sum, totally stuffed with the best ingredients, delicious tea and heavy desserts, we took the tram to Victoria Mountain. The view was again, incredible, if a bit impeded by the clouds.
After a bit of half-hearted shopping and a fun tram-ride, we were already on our way back to the Mainland again.
We arrived in our Soi late at night, but hungry. The restaurant next to the hotel served humongous mussels steamed with a mix of capsicum, butter and garlic, as well as crispy fried salt & pepper prawns.

Ordering water is apparently odd in China so they brought us two bottles of beer – a good ending to a long day!

Seafood - you choose, we kill and cook.

Exploring China – Guangzhou II

The second day was supposed to be our introduction day to Guangzhou. We read that Guangzhou was full of parks, which are graciously absent in Bangkok.

The next park was only 5 minutes walk for the hotel away. Surprisingly though, it cost 10 Yuan (50 baht) to enter. Every park in Guangzhou cost 10 yuan. That’s not so “communist”, we thought. But we soon saw why they charged…

The parks were so immaculately kept, so vast, full of flowers, lakes, trees and temples – beautiful! The first park we visited had some sort of palace on an island in the lake. In front, two newly-wed couples were posing for pictures.

White palace and couple in front! How cheesy - the pose!

The guy of one couple looked very femme and was more interested in looking at me and my boyfriend than at his new wife. I think they might not have a very happy wedding…

Anyway, China seems crazy about weddings! There were wedding picture agencies EVERYWHERE. The backgrounds don’t just include a white palace but also the Greek Islands (!) and colourful flowers. Look at the pictures and you wonder who is the man and who the woman…

How gay!!!

Then, we took the metro to the main shopping street. The metro is impressive. As new and modern as it can get. Guangzhou is going to host the Asian Games in 2010 and the whole city is one big development site.

We went to the main shopping street, Beijing Street. It was Sunday so there were many couples with their children playing, walking and shopping.
We realised quickly that Chinese people are enamoured with their children, and treat them like princes(ses). We also realised that the big majority of these children were boys.

China still upholds the “one-child policy” and boys are the preferred gender to become economically successful individuals who can support the family. Hence, a big gender gap is developing!

Beijing Street

Then, we reached the Pearl River area, where the oldest parts of the town are situated. We found a thousands of old shop-houses who sold everything from bamboo to underwear, belts and tobacco.

The underwear street

Old area with colonial buildings.

Later we were walking along the river, when we noticed that four uniformed men were “discreetly” following us. When we turned around, they were suddenly interested in looking at the advertisement posters…

The constant surveillance was the only negative point in visiting China. Not only were there people in uniform sitting in the neighbourhoods, but we were also followed by plain-clothed people. I am seriously wondering what the central government is afraid of.

I really admire China and that is why I took so many pictures. If I were a secret journalist I wouldn’t walk around with a huge DSLR camera around my neck. If China wants to develop, it needs to stop being paranoid and rather show off what it has!

When I looked at my pictures again I also saw so many CCTV cameras, controlling every neighbourhood. That however is no different from the UK for example. We do not know what happens with the material, both, in the UK and in China.

Men on bikes, a common sight in China.

After visiting another immaculate park with a huge lake full of lotus flowers, we decided to visit the newer parts of Guangzhou.

It was evening and the teenies were out shopping in droves. They were curious about the farang with his huge camera and we got hundreds of inquisitive looks.

In one of the malls, we visited a cafĂ© called “Starheart” – an obvious rip-off of a known American chain…overall I was actually shocked at how much gets copied in China. Converse, Adidas, Gucci, Rover, Starbucks – all ripped-off. Not in dark alleys, in shopping malls and streets!

The boy serving us at “Starheart” looked Thai. Anyway, there is a big mix of looks in China. There were tall pasty people, tiny dark people and everything in between. The only difference to the Thais were the clothes they wore.

“Starheart” boy wore baggy jeans and acted manly, like 99% of the guys we saw. He spoke a tiny bit of English and showed it off – cute!

Tianhe area

Friday, June 26, 2009

Exploring China - Guangzhou I

I got an anonymous complaint (why cant criticisers never have a name???) about the lack of content of my blog after two posts with sexy men.

“So this blog has turned into a "not so beautiful boys" display now?” he wrote. He even announced that he is leaving me!

I want to tell you a few things, mister anon:
1. You have NO idea how much WRITING a blog with some content actually takes
2. If you actually read my blog, you would know that I was on holidays, even that I was in China (where is not accessible)
3. Leave my blog if you don’t like what you see. I don’t want demanding queens like you here.

For all the other people who haven’t left me: This blog is of course content-based, you all know that. However I felt that rather than leaving the blog alone for a week, I’d rather give you something to look at.

Yesterday night at 3:30 am, me and the boyfriend got back from our 5-day trip to the South of China. It was my birthday present for the bf and we had the choice of Guangzhou or Hanoi in Vietnam.

We chose Guangzhou because we both shared the dream to visit China for its history and culture but even more for its rapid development.

I didnt know much about Guangzhou before we boarded the plane. Normally I would buy a guidebook and pre-read for the sake of information but also to get myself in the mood.

There was no guidebook about Guangzhou or any that included a significant amount of information about the former “Canton”. I printed out the “wikitravel” article, which was actually fairly large and informative and off we went!

We arrived at the new Baiyun (white cloud) airport at about 11pm and everything was like Bangkok. It was hot, the airport new and huge, the taxis mean and I got annoyed. I didn’t fly 3 hours to find another Bangkok!

Then however, we found a bus which would take us to the city, which was cheap and convenient. The attendant lady showed us where to get off and we got a taxi for the short hop to our hotel.

Having arrived at night, we were left hungry and got some snacks from 7eleven (they do have these in China!)

Our soi!

The first steps out of the hotel, and we were in a bustling street full of roadside BBQ’s with bare-chested men selling seafood, restaurants, touts offering us prostitutes (do we look like we f*ck women???) etc. it looked like fun!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

pinoy manliness

Sometimes I wonder why we are all in Thailand... ;)

No seriously, I am really amazed by these Pinoy men. They have a manliness and pride that I have never seen in Thailand. Machismo does have its good sides after all! Maybe I should go and see again sometime?

Nice body, no?

Gracias again to manilaguy25!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gym boys Two

Mmmmmhhh, the last guy looks delicious!

Again, thanks to manilaguy25.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gym boys One

Thanks again to manilaguy25 for letting me use his gorgeous pictures!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A clothed underwear model

This man's name is Joey Beato and he was apparently in the finals of an undewear competition for the filipino underwear brand Bench. I myself own a pair of Bench too by the way:)

In this picture, I want to pinch Joey's tiny layer of bacon around his tummy. CUTE!

Joey from another angle. Note the upper arms. yum!!! can I touch?:)

Thanks to manilaguy25 for the photos!