Reflections

A few ramblings on the trip, the blog, and living in Beijing.

After being on the move for nearly five months, Ge and I have settled into a different rhythm now that we’re staying in one place for longer than a week. We’ve been in Beijing for the last month, ecstatic to have moved on from living in shabby guesthouses (especially Cambodia) and overpriced youth hostels (Singapore, Hong Kong) to subletting an apartment with a working kitchen, an office, and a relatively comfortable mattress. I’ll try to post some photos of our new digs shortly, but for now I just wanted to take some time to reflect on the trip so far, my feelings about living in Beijing, and what you can expect from the blog over the next couple of weeks.

The Trip, so far…

For the last five months or so, our days have mostly consisted of eating, walking around, finding a snack while walking, eating or snacking some more, going to a market, drinking some tea or coffee depending on the time of day (hot coffee with condensed milk first thing in the morning, iced tea with condensed milk in the afternoon), hanging out in a park or public square, walking some more, usually ending with one last quest for food before shuffling off to sleep. Occasionally we would spend some time browsing through shops, flea markets or malls we happen to see on our daily quests for food, or go to an art museum or a movie – mostly brainless Hollywood garbage, but these still satisfied the need to escape the heat and the craving for popcorn.

This was our routine for most of South Korea, Shanghai, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Traveling in Indonesia, however, forced us to change up this routine and explore places in a completely different way.  Our week in and around Jakarta was unique in that we were seeing everything through the windshield of a car. This had its pros and cons of course – while it was convenient to be taken from place to place, it was also frustrating because I felt so many interesting things were passing me by and I couldn’t capture any of it with my camera. In the end, though, we were happy to have hosts who knew these places inside and out and knew exactly where to take us for authentic and amazing food. Meanwhile, Lombok and Bali were entirely unique since we were no longer traveling in big cities, but rather in small towns and remote island communities. On Gili Meno this served us well since we basically did nothing for a week, allowing us to slow down and relax a little. Bali, on the other hand, was initially quite depressing since we naively thought we’d have easy access to lots of great local food and the Balinese culture we’d heard so much about would not be totally overrun with Eat-Pray-Love-ness – seriously, there were Eat Pray Love tours!! Once we got over the initial shock of what we’d found, though, Ubud turned out to be quite the charming little town, with neighbouring Penistanan (where our guesthouse was located) providing some amazing opportunities for rice field walks and lazy afternoons. We’ll certainly go back, but the difficulty in finding good local food (at local prices and not watered down for boring Western tastes) remains a sore point.

Back to Beijing, indefinitely…

Well, we’re now back in Beijing. This time we’re living on our own (though Joel did let us stay in his room while we looked for our own place). We’re also trying to learn Mandarin, which is proving to challenging and a lot of fun, and we’re more mobile than we’ve been in months – we’ve got bikes – and a cell phone! Our daily routine has certainly changed – we’re cooking at home and making our own coffee, while doing less walking or sightseeing – though there will still be plenty more of that soon. We decided not to go see The Great Wall when we here last fall, so we’ve still got that to look forward to. We also still need to get to the Summer Palace (new and old), the Temple of Heaven, the Olympic sites, the Beijing Film Academy, and we’ve got more hutongs (traditional Beijing alleyways) to cycle through than I can count. Also, more food to try! I’ll try writing a little bit more about Beijing, and the experience of living here in the coming weeks…

Ultimately, the downside to feeling more comfortable in a place and reeeeaaaally taking it easy is that I feel less compelled to document everything, and so I’ve been leaving the camera at home more often lately…which leads me to…

The Blog

While I still haven’t finished posting photos from the trip (Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia), now that I have a bit more free time I intend to write a little more extensively on what motivated me to create this blog in the first place. So, you can expect to see a few self-reflexive (some might say self-centered – see the trio of images at the top of this post) entries about blogging, being a tourist and taking photographs, and why traveling is so important to me. Also, lots of photos of Beijing!

Stay tuned.
~D