Many people travel for personal and professional reasons. But to actually leave home, uproot yourself and plant yourself in a new country is a whole different ballgame. Over the years, I’ve met many expat kids who get hauled from country to country because of their parents’ jobs. I’ve watched many of them enter adulthood wondering where ‘home’ is. I can’t say I fully understand the sentiment.
Xi’an was once the ancient capital of China – and you can certainly feel it. No one stares at me – or even bothers with a double take. You can see layers and layers of history everywhere you turn. The city’s many historical monuments, ancient ruins and tombs give you the sense that many important events occurred here. After all, Xi’an was an ancient imperial capital and eastern departure point of the Silk Road.
Whenever I visit a place like the Terracotta Army Museum, I realise that humans are absolutely crazy. All this fuss over death – or perhaps not wanting to die? And it doesn’t just begin and end with China. My visits to the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal were equally astounding. When we have to go, we have to go – right? But I guess there’s no harm in bringing an entire army down with you.
Islam was introduced to China by Arab traders during the Tang Dynasty: which is considered by many to be a golden age in China’s history. The Muslims who settled in China married the local Han Chinese in the area. The Great Mosque was built to honour the founding fathers of Islam in China.
I’m relatively familiar with history of the Uyghur Community in Xinjiang Province – since it’s covered in the news a fair bit – but I was largely unaware of the Hui People of Xi’an. But ignorance is nothing that a bit of light reading and personal experience can’t fix. The origin of the Hui People is believed to have started on the Silk Road as a result of the intermarriage between Muslim traders and Han Chinese.
Zhejiang Province is an industrial area populated with factories, businesses and businesspeople that emit copious amounts of smoke. You simply cannot run from the grey fog. Clear skies are rare. Given the poor air quality, I still can’t wrap my head around the number of smokers around here. And they smoke wherever they like. But that’s another story for another day. Anyhow, I’m not sure if this is the right town for me. There just isn’t enough heart or soul to keep me happy – even though materially I lack nothing.
Shanghai feels more ‘Western’ than any other ‘Western’ city I’ve been to. Seriously. Nearly everyone wears dark colours. Err… whatever happened to Chinese people love red and gold? Hmm… People here are fashion and status conscious. Even the foreigners fit in like locals. No one stares and no one gives exaggerated comments when you speak Mandarin. They’ve got better things to do… THANK GOD.
Whenever most of us think of Shanghai, we always think that it is some big capitalist soulless city, but places like this remind us that even the most capitalist of cities still have that soul… if you know where to look.
I booked myself a first class ticket on the bullet train from Hangzhou to Shanghai. Whatever expectations I had to travel in class and luxury were shattered within the first five minutes. There was some guy in the carriage watching a soap opera sans earphones… (Believe it or not this is a regular occurrence in this part of the world). AND the guy next to me was talking so loudly on the phone that you’d think the person on the other end was hearing-impaired.
I generally think it’s impolite to talk behind people’s backs. If you have something to say to someone, say it to their face. Be honest and upfront. If you’re the two-faced type, ultimately people won’t trust you. But in this part of the world, this is the norm. And it isn’t even personal. Too many people would rather preserve a surface harmony – and save face – than thrash out a conflict and be done with it.