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Saturday, November 27, 2010

A telling quote on the Sociology of Religion

"Conscience is what makes a boy tell his mother before his sister does." - Evan Esar


"A 2008 Straits Times survey of 1,000 Singaporeans aged 15 and above found that those aged 15 to 19 were the most likely to convert to a religion.

'Young people are attracted to spirituality,' says youth specialist Glenn Lim, 39, a former Anglican youth pastor of 10 years. The former drug addict and gang member now trains youth pastors at the School of Youth Ministry, where he is the programme director.

He has met many former offenders who cross easily into religion. Where they once looked for identity, significance and a sense of power in gangs, they now find them in religion. He says: 'It is almost like they substitute domains - the gang for the religious group.'"

--- Making Faith Cool / The Straits Times (27th November 2010)

France 2010 - Day 2, Part 2 - Paris: Moulin Rouge, Pigalle

"If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music." - Marcus Bridgstocke

Addendum: Another quote against the Monkey See Monkey Do theory of human behavior


France 2010
Day 2 - 4th October - Paris: Moulin Rouge, Pigalle
(Part 2)

From the Holy of Holies, I then went to the Street of Sin: the Pigalle area.

There were a lot of Halal shops near this area, and they were the first Halal shops I'd seen in Paris. Perhaps it says something about repression and deprivation (the same reason why women get groped more in conservative Muslim countries).

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Adult Cinema ticket booth: notice the various liquids on sale; 'Jungle Juice' was on sale for 13€. "Il est interdit de se travestir dans les salles" ("It is forbidden to crossdress in the halls")

All the DVDs featured at the Adult Cinema were American. How disappointing.

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Street with sauna, spa, sex shop, hotel and "Théâtre de Dix Heures. Juste pour rire" ("10 hour Theatre. Just for laughs")

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"Découvrez un univers unique dans la capitale... Un décor indien où se mélangent détente, sensualité, et libertinage... Passez les portes du Moon City et laissez le plaisir vous envoûter"
("Discover a unique world in the capital... Indian decor where relaxation, sensuality and debauchery mix... Enter the gates of Moon City and let pleasure enchant you")

Moon City is one of the few places open 7 days a week. You can see where priorities are.

Sex Shop with animated mannikins

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"Timhotel" - Great location for a hotel

Neon Signs: on the right is a bar called "Karaoke". I know it's a gay bar because of the actions of the guy represented by the neon sign - it's a secret code. And his hair is -so- gay.

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Dodgy-sounding establishments

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"Spécialiste de la poupée gonflable. 25 modèles."
("Inflatable Doll Specialist. 25 types")

This sign intrigued me, so I went in to have a look. Though I didn't really see inflatable dolls, the East Asian guy inside kept trying to sell me stuff (in English). He showed me a price tag on an artificial vagina of 149€, and claimed that for me he'd sell it for 100€, and said I could get all of them. He was very proud of them being American ("Pussy. All American"). To fend him off, I tried telling him that "J'ai encore une fleshlight. C'est américain aussi" (sic - "I already have a Fleshlight. It's also American"), but he said his vagina moulds were better, and he was very proud of the pubic hair on them. He also tried to sell me a penis pump. When I finally left he wasn't very happy.

The stuff inside the shop wasn't really impressive (after Japan, and especially after Love Merci) but they had a big collection of scato-uro and zoophilie material. And 19€ magazines (! - perhaps because they were vintage) and a 32€ (!) Tenga Cup (even Singapore is cheaper).

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"Bistro Chat Noir" ("Black Pussy Bistro")
Notice the woman in the window looking at me

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Musée de l'érotisme with "Elata: Goddess of Flexibility". I didn't have time to go in.

I finally got to Moulin Rouge, which was at the end of my route.

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People were very fascinated by this outlet vent which was blowing air. No one did a Marilyn Monroe - though there was one girl in an a line/pencil skirt. I got blown a little.

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Cold, grumpy grandma

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Crime scene

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Moulin Rouge, the famous cabaret

For some reason a van marked as carrying horses pulled up.

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More hair blowing: this camera is terrible in low light.

I wanted to have my hair blown too, but there were logistical obstacles.

Moulin Rouge cabaret, with the rotating windmill

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"Quick: Quality Burger Restaurant". Kualiti of the Malaysian sort. Though they've just released a 5 euro foie gras burger

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"Transsexual specialist"

This sign was amusing enough, but what intrigued me more was the shop beside it:

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Big Dong
Sex Pump
Vibro Rotation
Boules de Geïsha

Besides what had intrigued me, there were also some other amusing things in the shop:

One game: "3 Jeux sexy pour joueurs de 50+. La vie amoureuse active commence vraiment à 50 ans !" ("3 sexy games for players 50 years and older. An active love life really starts at 50!")

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The biggest dildos I've ever seen. I feel quite sorry for whoever these are used on. The other shop also had some like these, but the guy kept bothering me so I couldn't take a picture.

DVD: "A 42 ans, Vicky ne s'est JAMAIS ÉPILÉ LA CHATTE !" ("At 42, Vicky has NEVER SHAVED HER PUSSY!")

There was a 'Ciné Couple €16', and I heard moaning sounds.

Then there was what I'd gone inside to investigate: the Boules de Geïsha. I asked the proprietor what they were and he gave a rambling explanation in French, which satisfied me that they were Burmese Bells:

What are now known by the Japanese name of rin-no-tama, meaning "tinkling balls," are a variation of what the Chinese once called "Burmese bells,", although they may have been no more Burmese than French letters are French. They were originally as common in southeast Asia as in China. The English traveler, Ralph Fitch, described them in the Shan States of Burma at the end of the sixteenth century. The men, he said, wore "bunches of little round balls in their privy members... They cut the skin and so put them in." The aristocracy had silver ones, "gilded and made with great cunning," which rang "like a little bell"; the lead ones used by poorer people rang "but little." The king "sometimes taketh his out and giveth them to his noblemen as a great gift." Less than a dozen years later, the Florentine merchant Francesco Carletti also reported on them, this time in Thailand. "The rattles," he said, were "as large as hazel nuts" and were made in round or oval shape. When two or three were inserted under the skin of the penis, they had the result of "enlarging the member, as anyone can imagine." He added that according to Niccolò dei Conti, a Venetian nobleman who visited Burma early in the fifteenth century, there had then been "certain old women who had no other calling then that of selling these rattles." Carletti thought the original idea of the bells had been to enlarge the penis to such an extent as to "rule out and render impossible the practicing of venery in illicit parts of the body even with men" - by which he presumably meant anal intercourse - while Fitch, rather more obscurely, claimed that they had been "invented because they should not abuse the male sex, for in times past all those countries were [so] given to that villainy that they were very scarce of people." Both authors added, however, that whatever the origins of the practice it was perpetuated by the fact that women considered the effect highly stimulating.

Women themselves made use of the "Burmese Bell," at first inserting one in the vagina before intercourse, but later using them for solitary pleasure. In this case a pair of the little silver globes was necessary, one containing a drop of mercury and the other a tiny vibrating metal tongue; they gave a uniquely erotic sensation even at the slightest movement of hips or legs. Rin-no-tama bells for women became popular in the West in the eighteenth century and again in the late twentieth, though the modern set consists of three, not two, and the third is hollow.

- Sex in History, Reay Tannahill p. 173-174

Yes, there are new things after Love Merci!

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My very own Boules de Geïsha. 10€, down from 13€. This was the cheapest model, of course. The more expensive ones were metal, not polymer.

One of the free public toilets in the area had almond soap, which I experienced for the first time. It's quite nice, though I doubt it had almond oil in it.

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I love how they cater to both tastes with no fuss

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Tranny show

One tout in the Pigalle tried to get me to go ito his seedy establishment, claiming that it was free. Knowing about such tricks (note that the reviews on TripAdvisor range from bad to very bad), I told him "J'ai pas d'intérêt" ("I'm not interested"). He seemed surprised, and replied "Vous parlez français... Je suis désolé" ("You speak French... I'm sorry"). Apparently scamming tourists of hundreds of Euros is something you only do to non-Francophones, and it's blasphemy to do it if they speak your language.

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"INTERDICTION DE FUMER... Pour arreter de fumer, faitês-vous aider en appelant..."
("Smoking forbidden... To stop smoking, get help by calling...")
This would be even better if the hotline were toll-free. They should add this to all no-smoking signs.

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Rue de Dunkerque. There were no history lessons on the street signs in this area. Which was probably a good thing for this street.

On this street, as I passed a woman she cried out and she made a sudden movement. So I did the same (as I was truly alarmed). I was too shocked to tell her "Vous m'avez choqué" ("You frightened me").

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There was a place offering a "French Breakfast": 6,6€ for a croissant, hot drink and orange juice. What happened to un café et une cigarette?

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You can get laid anywhere and at any time: buy condoms in the métro

When I didn't understand people, I sometimes blurted out: "Quoi?" ("What?"). I was told that this is quite rude.

Review: Straits Chinese Nonya Restaurant

"You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there." - George Burns


Straits Chinese Nonya Restaurant (Tan Chong Towers)
15 Queen Street #01-03 Tan Chong Tower Singapore
(cross-posted review from HGW)

Had the Ala Carte Nonya Buffet (it ends end November).

Dishes sampled (spelling as per menu):
1) Appertizer set: Kuih Pie Tee, Popiah Goreng, Nogh Hiang, Sambal Timun
2) Itek Tim
3) Ban Wan (Soup)
4) Ayam Buak Keluak
5) Ayam Goreng
6) Ayam Curry
7) Ayam Tempra
8) Babi Pong Tay
9) Satay Babi
10) Ikan Assam Pedas
11) Ikan Manis (Chinese-style Sweet & Sour Fish)
12) Otah Otah
13) Udang Sambal Petai
14) Udang Mentaga (Chinese-style Butter Prawns)
15) Sayor Lodeh
16) Chap Chye
17) Terung Sambal
18) Stir Fried Green (we got kai lan)
19) Beef Rendang
20) Sotong Tumis
21) Chinchalok Telur
22) Durian Pengat
23) Pulut Hitam
24) Chen Dool

Not tried:
1) Chin Chow
2) Cut Fruits

Although it's Nonya food it's not too spicy, so those with thermophobia can be somewhat reassured, although chili lovers might want to look somewhere else (at The Arch Restaurant, which used to be at Seah Street, chili was free - but it seems to have closed down)

Also, they serve pork. There are an annoying number of so-called Peranakan places (some of which dare to brand themselves as authentic) which are "no pork, no lard". Whether this is more of a travesty than Delifrance branding itself an "authentic French Cafe Bakery" (a French cafe which doesn't serve wine?!) depends on your judgment. Outstanding dishes:

i) Ayam Goreng: the Peranakan blend is noticeably different from the Malay one. The one here was juicy
ii) Ayam Tempra: chicken was unbelievably tender, and the sour sauce refreshed the palette and was novel
iii) Chap Chye: most chap chyes taste quite plain. This one was robustly flavoured
iv) Sambal Timum: it's a bit like kimchi but made with cucumber instead. Very refreshing
v) Chinchalok Telur: You can't see the chinchalok but you can definitely taste it. It's like little flavour explosions are buried in the omelette. And it's not too salty.

Some of the good dishes:

i) Itek Tim: Flavourful and not too sour, though some said the duck was too tough
ii) Ayam Curry: the curry was quite flavourful
iii) Sayor Lodeh: smooth and the vegetables were not overcooked like most Sayor Lodehs
iv) Stir Fried Green (good wok hei, though a bit of fried garlic would've improved it)

Special note: Udang Sambal Petai is an acquired taste. The bean is extremely smelly, though the dish tasted alright. I couldn't bear to eat more than one prawn - more because of the smell than the taste. Perhaps it's like Chou Doufu (Smelly Toufu), and one should cover one's nose and just tuck in.

Most of the other dishes were not bad or alright, except:

i) Satay Babi: it tasted a bit weird. Not all satay babis I've had literally use satay sauce, but this sauce tasted off
ii) Sotong Tumis: overcooked: too dry and like chewing rubber
iii) Durian Pengat: there not enough durian - I mostly tasted the coconut and durian strands could not be discerned in the mix, and it wasn't thick enough like a good Durian Pengat should be. Namely almost thick enough to do a Dairy Queen "Served upside down or it's free" Blizzard.

Service was also quite bad. Dishes took a while to come, while people who came in after us got served their food earlier. As we were a large group and we'd ordered the ala carte buffet, perhaps this had something to do with it. We also had to change our plates ourselves, and tea refills were slow in coming. And I think I espied a waitress topping up someone else's rice from ours...

The policy of one appetizer set and one durian pengat per person was also a little annoying.

The restaurant also has Chinese food, but I didn't really try it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Inter arma enim silent leges

"Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen." - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


"Where defence is put solely in the hands of a professional army, the army sooner or later becomes a law unto itself. It becomes a ruling caste"

--- Sinnathamby Rajaratnam, dinner for first-time National Slavery recruits at Kampong Glam, 1967

Military regimes around the world which do not practise conscription (list from Wikipedia):

The Bahamas
Germany - from July 2011
The Netherlands
New Zealand
The Philippines
South Africa
The United States

Meanwhile, paragons of democracy where military men stay out of politics - which practise conscription:

North Korea

How they would find Mas Selamat

How to find Mas Selamat (a terrorist)

Addendum: This is now down, but it was contrasting how TV investigators would find a terrorist (check his family) with how the Singaporean government tried to do so (scour the island)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

N. China - Day 1

"We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else." - Tom Stoppard


N. China
Day 1 - 30th October - Hong Kong Airport, Beijing: Beichizi Dajie

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"This is not the iPhone" - shop in passenger area, Changi Airport

One of the signs in Changi: "The binocular - specialists!" It was advertising Steiner Germany. Err.

As was my custom, I dozed before the aircraft took off. This wasn't very smart (my current jetlag avoidance strategy is to pretend I'm in the new timezone once I get on the plane), as it was a 8:30am flight, and Beijing was in the same time zone, but I hadn't gotten much sleep the last 2 nights - one of the disadvantages of having work the day before. Annoyingly, the stewardess awakened me in taking out the video screen (I was in the front row so I didn't have a seat in front of me on embedded in which would be a screen for me to stare at) to the safety video could be played facing my closed eyes. And then I was awoken again when she kept it. Grr.

While I was dozing on the flight to Hong Kong, a soft noise on the edge of my consciousness stirred me. It sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it. Then, something clicked and I realised that this was my first sighting (hearing) in the wild of Herve Roy's Lovers Theme (which Wikipedia claims is from the 1971 movie La folie des grandeurs, aka Delusions of Grandeur). This is better known as the 2girls1cup theme. After verifying the song, I went back to sleep.

They gave us a pain au chocolat for breakfast. Hmmph. I was not impressed.

I successfully tried the universal airplane toilet opening trick. Kinda. I tried opening the catch and it worked.

The in-flight entertainment marked movies which involved an "Aircraft Incident" (presumably where a plane crashed). Perhaps they feared that passengers would be scared. Amusingly, political and religious stuff was also marked out. Sex and the City got an R (not for those under 17) rating, but then this rating was broad as Predators and Cyrus also got it.

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Free internet was scarce at the airport. Some of the terminal were like this - with only an onscreen keyboard, but most of them had "coming soon" signs pasted on them. Gah. Touchscreens are bad enough. Perhaps this was to limit people's usage.

I had about an hour to kill in Hong Kong airport; as not many airlines flew directly from Singapore to Beijing, I had to transit through there on Cathay Pacific.

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On the "Healthy Drinks" shelf: Kirin Milk Tea

The safety boarding announcement for my flight to Beijing talked about turning off pagers. This was really unaceptable.

I realised that I had not packed one of the most critical items for anyone going to China: toilet paper. So I took some from the Hong Kong airport toilet.

Guardian Pharmacy is Mannings in Hong Kong.

Here is a picture by someone else of the sign for the prayer room in Hong Kong Airport. I didn't take it because I thought I already did in Kota Kinabalu. Turns out I didn't, though I distinctly remember making a particular snide remark (actually I had taken picture of a sign like this before - in Hong Kong airport in 2007. However my pictures have been off the Open Web for the longest time since Mediafire deleted my account):

For some reason the Air Canada sign had a Chinese translation.

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The Arrival Card for foreigners is very interesting: they distinguish between "Return home" (the Mandarin is probably more accurately translated as "returning to place of long-term residence") and "Settle Down". Perhaps there're many Overseas Chinese and Enchanted Westerners returning, for them to have the latter option. "Visit" is also distinguished from "Visiting friends or relatives" and "Sightseeing/in leisure".

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"Steamed Sliced Pork Neck with Eggplant in Bean Paste Sauce... This menu is designed by Dynasty Restaurant of Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong"
I felt that this was the fanciest sounding aircraft food I'd ever seen (KLM had been exotic, but this one was made to sound fancy). On reflection it's not that special, but I suppose emphasising that a hotel was involved in the menu and the promotion of something as mundane as tao cheo were what tickled me.

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The reality looked pedestrian but was the most delectable tau cheo I'd ever had. It wasn't salty and I could taste the cleanness of the black beans. The pork neck was also a very tender cut.

This was the first flight which (at least that I remember) immediately on landing told you you could turn on your handphones.

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Wild Air China ad on not buying Tigers

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"Polite Notice of Inspection and Quarantine"
A sign also said to walk slowly so the temperature detector would work. Ahh, Chinese Tech!

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"Come to a world class event and connect with people like you... Tiger Woods"
I don't know about you, but I sure don't have 16 mistresses.
As I was taking a picture of this a guy carrying a Komtar Tours flag was staring at me. He was thinking: "Someone more swaku than a Malaysian? Poor thing"

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"Relax... Train comes every 3 minutes"
Maybe they've had stampedes in the airport before.

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Terracotta warriors. I think these were original.

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"Please do not climb and take care of the children". The kicker is the pictures.

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"There are many differences between Chinese cities and the western cities. Don't worry, it is not necessary to always figure out which way is right and which way is wrong. Just relax, and enjoy the cultural differences."
Translation: don't get too upset if you get food poisoning or swindled.

I was told that the way not to get conned in China was to pretend to be a native. Yet, my Mandarin was not up to scratch. This was brought home to me at the airport when I asked for a map, and was given one in English, which had more information on why counterfeit goods were bad than on Beijing.

Due to deficient language skills, I was pondering the next best alternative - pretending to come from a poor country. I considered North Korea, but that wouldn't be convincing (and Kim Jong Il would not approve of my hair). Vietnam and Cambodia were other possibilities but I decided not to pretend in the end.

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"We gratefully thank the Motherland. Accelerating development, reaching new heights of results, in order to show our respect for the Motherland... Under the Motherland's care, Bank of Beijing has had 13 dynasties [?], under the benevolent gaze of the Motherland, supporting our progress and growth... repaying it from the bottom of our heart, Bank of Beijing will have even better results to pay respects to the Motherland's motherliness"
I think this is short for "Thanks, CCP, for easy credit with no questions asked, and not jailing any of our leaders for Corruption"

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Beijing Subway: "Stay Clear from Tracks" (pay attention to the picture)
What's wrong with PRCs?! I have a series of signs called: "Sad things PRCs do to amuse themselves". This is probably the most dramatic, though.

The text was not as dramatic as in Shanghai in 2007:

"No jumping off the platform and onto the track" (both the Mandarin and English here are more dramatic, though the picture is the same)

A guy on the subway was holding a sign reading: "Request for help. I am a destitute university student. My parents are sickly. Life is hard." He would then bow and move on.

My hostel was a way off Tiananmen Square. So I passed by many restaurants and shops selling the most ridiculous tourist crap (including Panda Hats with trailing sides and Beijing Cloth Shoes) along the way.

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"Traditional Beijing Food... Good, Friendly, Neighbourhood Chinese Tea"
Apparent tourist trap

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These signs were outside what seemed like most of the Free Public Toilets in Beijing. I assume the "Defence Mask", "Safety Belt" and warning to watch out for the "Ovntilating" are not for the General Public who use the facilities. I would be very worried if they were (on another day I walked into one of them to see 2 men squatting down and shitting - there were no doors. Maybe they were scared of people falling down the holes into the shit pits).

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"The Olympic flame is in Beijing
Enter the toilet in a civilised fashion and be hygienic
Preserve the surroundings in a good shape and save water and electricity
Give servie with a smile in the East City [?]"

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Cock Three-Wheeled Vehicle. It's a motorcycle inside
The license plate seems to indicate that it's for the disabled (a sign in the background reads: "Low-Priced Supermarket")

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Sign in hostel: 'Gambling is prohibited. Prostitution is prohibited'
You'd think they'd look somewhere other than a hostel for prostitutes.

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"No dogs in public places. Keep dogs away from women, children and old people. Do not disturb people with dogs"
With their obsession with controlling dogs, it's no wonder they eat them.

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"We Have English Menu. Reasonable Price. Please Come in and Taste the Authentic BEIJING CUISINE"

I actually took these 2 pictures above earlier on my way to the hostel, but I returned there for dinner so I put these 2 here. I had talked to the lady inside (who had come out when she had seen me taking pictures). I had asked her if the items were the same on the English and Chinese menus (in the West, the English menus have items like Sweet & Sour Pork and Egg Fried Rice, and the Chinese ones things like dog meat Water-Cooked Meat), and she said "差不多" ("About the same"). It turned out that she thought I had been asking about the prices - she said that the English menu was about 2-3¥ more expensive; she had just admitted to price gouging. I clarified and she said that it was a bit smaller.

Me to Restaurant Lady: "给我几分钟" ("Give me a few minutes")
Restaurant Lady to Me: "等一会儿" ("Wait a while")
At first I thought I had been wrong, but it turns out "给我几分钟" is Kosher Mandarin after all.

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木须肉 (Moo Shu Pork), the non-spicy recommendation for me. It was mostly vegetables - meat is expensive in China.
The previous (and only) time I'd gotten food poisoning in China, it had been from the equivalent of a caifan stall in Hangzhou. I thus resolved to try to eat freshly cooked food (the rice was so hot that somehow the bowl was also burning hot).

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Chinese menu: Homestyle dishes; English menu

The Chinese and English menus were in the same booklet, which was not smart since non-Mandarin speakers would be able to compare the two and find out that they were being swindled. The difference was definitely not slight - the vegetarian menu was bigger than the whole English menu. Indeed, there were many sections to the Mandarin menu: Beijing Taste, Shop Specialities, Cold Dishes, Homestyle, Vegetables, Hotplate/Claypot, Soup and Hotpot.

I couldn't finish my food (Chinese portions are mostly quite big) so I got queried on why this was so, so I told her I was on a diet. Later I walked by another restaurant and was asked to go in and eat. When I said I'd already eaten I was told that I could eat again. Uhh.

My meal cost me 18¥ in all. I suspect she overcharged me by 2-3¥. Oh well. In comparison, a Subway ub of the day was 15¥.

The thing about Chinese food is that even if you recognise the characters, you may not know what the dish is. For example: 水煮肉 (Water-cooked Meat). This is actually very spicy beef.

After dinner I went for a walk. I saw 2 hair salons sie by side. One only had guys inside, and another only had girls. At least one if not both offered massages. Hmm.

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This yogurt drink in a jar was sold at many places. I let the guy talk me into buying one for 4¥ (it was 3¥ if you drank it there - which explains the empty jars you see). He claimed it was a bit sweet.

I'd already had a 3¥ Miranda Green Apple so I bought one for takeaway. The man claimed that the paper-and-rubber-band cap was waterproof so it wouldn't leak, but naturally by the time I got back to the hostel the yogurt had already caused a wet spot to form on the cap. Gah. Lucky I'd asked for a plastic bag instead of putting it in my bag. It was quite sour and not very nice (Miranda had been better) so I didn't finish it, and I realised that I'd called it "Bee Milk" instead of "Honey Milk" ("蜜蜂" is "bee" and "蜂蜜" is "honey").

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"Hotel Kapok"

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95% of this shop's products were cigarettes

At one shop I saw "I ♥ BJ" T-shirts. They were going at 55¥, as opposed to 90¥ in summer. The shop girl explained that during high season prices were higher.

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The World China according to China - map in hostel

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Chinese National Anthem

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China claims ownership of pretty much the whole South China Sea, up until the very coastlines of Vietnam, the Philippines and Sabah. I'm assuming "古普" is in Brunei Geo informs us that "古普" = "Kuching". Curiously, the Senkaku Islands are not clearly marked out as Chinese.

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My hostel was 100¥ a night, making it the most expensive of the 4 I would stay in (the cheapest was only 25¥), but it was nice. The lounge area was very comfy and room access was with contactless keycards. There were lockers in each room and each bed got a bedside ledge and 2 power socket panels (each having one universal 2 hole socket [with a third hole for the damn Italians] and one curved three hole socket, making for a total of 4 power sockets per bed) and slippers. Actually all my other hostels were not bad too; the quality of hostels in Beijing was quite high.

The hostel was a HI one, and seemed to work differently from how I remembered. From what I recall, non-members had to pay a surcharge. Now it seems members get a discount. Which really works out to the same thing, but it's all about marketing, y'know?

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"Walking the Great Wall... No Shopping"
"A different trip... No Shopping"

As I was amused at the above, one hostel girl (the majority of people working in hostels seem to be women) was remarking that only Europeans liked to hike, and that Chinese didn't like hiking but liked an easy time. I added that they liked to buy crap ("废物"). I don't know if she was offended.
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