So, I'm going to start telling a few stories from my life. Specifically, I'm going to tell a few stories from the year that I spent studying abroad in Hong Kong, during which time I traveled to China many times.
China is a crazy-ass place. Like holy sweet hell is China a crazy place. I have so many stories I hardly even know where to start. I guess I'll open with ...
The Chicken on a Stick Story
Never eat the food sold by street vendors in mainland China.
This is important so let me repeat it: never eat the food sold by street vendors in mainland China.
Western stomachs are delicate little flowers, used to being fed only the freshest most refrigerated and fully-cooked meats, and as such, they have no business getting in contact with street food.
Chinese street meat is unrefrigerated all day long; it is chopped up on a wooden cutting board that has never seen a dishwasher and has instead been wiped off with the same wet rag every day for fifty years.
What I'm saying is, Chinese street meat will melt a weak Western stomach faster than pouring acid on an orchid.
I learned this the hard way.
So no shit there I was, visiting Guangzhou with some friends. We'd been out barhopping all night and were good and rip-roaring drunk by the time the clock struck midnight. And like all midnight drunks, we were hungry.
Ever the good little capitalists, the Chinese street meat vendors had set up camp outside the bars, ready to pounce on all the hungry drunks looking for something salty to fill the boozy hole in their stomachs. Their sizzling wares smelled amazing to our intoxicated noses -- irresistibly so.
I knew it was a bad idea, but I wanted it so much. The meat sticks smelled like hot barbecued magic and there was just no way I was going to be able to keep walking without trying one. So I walked up to one of the vendors and, in my best Mandarin Chinese, asked him what he had and how much it cost.
He answered in rapid-fire Chinese that I could barely make out, but I did hear enough to know that he was selling chicken and that it was 10 sticks for a dollar. 10 sticks full of delicious chicken for A SINGLE DOLLAR?? I'd be a fool not to take that deal! So I handed over my money and walked back to my friends with a giant handful of chicken skewers, like a boss.
One friend bowed down before my awesomeness and took one of the sticks out of my hand. The other friend shook her head aggressively, noting that she had no interest in sharing our "food poisoning on a stick." Whatever, bitch; all the more food poisoning for us then.
We started to eat the chicken and found it to be quite tough. Oh well; they must have overcooked them a little. No harm there -- just means they killed all the salmonella, right?
Okay maybe they were more than just a little tough, though. They were very, very tough. Mysteriously and unnecessarily so.
The friend who had turned down the sticks spoke better Mandarin than me, so she went back up to the vendor to ask again what the meat on the sticks were. And it turns out that while I was savvy enough to pick up the word "chicken", I had apparently missed the follow-up word: "kidney"
So now here we are, drunk in the middle of Guangzhou China stuffing skewers of botulism chicken kidney down our throats like it's the apocalypse. The meat is so tough we can't even chew it, so instead we just suck on the pieces of kidney for a while and then swallow them whole. Five skewers apiece -- about 40 kidney cutlets into each of our bellies.
And hey, wouldn't you know it -- the next day I had horrible diarrhea in a squatter toilet at a pretty nice breakfast restaurant, threw up into a garbage can and then nearly shit myself on a bus.
Chicken kidney on a stick from a Guangzhou street vendor while drunk at midnight:
Not even once.
The Forbidden City Beggar Story
There's nothing "forbidden" about Beijing's Forbidden City. It is 100% a tourist trap and nothing else. Not that you shouldn't go see it and take a picture with Mao ...
Like all these fine people on Google
... but don't go there expecting it to be all reverent and meaningful. It's not. There's a Starbucks inside it.
I got a frap there. It was so-so.
Tourist traps attract tourists. Tourists tend to have cash on them. Disabled or disfigured Chinese people tend to not have cash on them. Therefore, the disabled and disfigured Chinese are drawn towards tourist traps to beg money from the soft-hearted Westerners.
You will see some f***ed up shit at these places. There is no government welfare safety net in China -- if you're born with a hoof coming out of your forehead, then too bad; that's your life. There will be no hoof-removal surgery performed pro bono by a slick team of doctors for the national news; there will be no welfare checks coming your way because not even McDonalds wants a hoof-head on the staff. You will have to look out for yourself, and the best way to do that is to either join some kind of circus freak show, or head on down to the Forbidden City to scare the shit out of mild-mannered Canadians with expensive cameras.
I have seen some unfortunate souls down by the entrance to the Forbidden City. I've seen a person with no arms, but rather just a pair of shrimpy little hands growing out of her shoulders; I've seen a person with no legs but rather just a pair of shrimpy little feet growing out of his hips; I've seen blind people; deaf people; people with too many fingers and people with too few.
Could have prepared me for the guy who came up on our group while we waited in line to buy tickets to get inside the City.
He had a woman with him who did all the talking for him. She came up to us first and started the usual broken English script that all the beggars seem to follow: something along the lines of "hello, no money, dis-abled, cannot work, you can help?"
My friend and I turned to the woman and immediately began our own script -- something along the lines of "sorry, no extra money, good luck to y-- AHHHHGHHGHGHGHGH!!!!"
You guys. You guys.
The man with her had no eyes.
Okay he didn't just not have eyes.
He had no eye sockets.
It was just hairline, forehead, forehead, forehead, forehead, NOSE.
Have you ever watched one of those nature shows where they explore caves and show you animals that have evolved to not have any eyes because they don't need them anymore? HOW CREEPY ARE THOSE ANIMALS.
THIS GUY WAS THAT CREEPY.
HE HAD NO EYES.
NOT EVEN AN INDENTATION WHERE THE EYES SHOULD HAVE BEEN.
So any time someone points out a guy with a really big forehead,
... just remember that it could be worse.
Yeah, we gave that guy money. What the f*** else were we gonna do, give him a pair of novelty glasses?
Yes. That is exactly what we should have done.
Ha ha can you imagine wearing a pair of those and they start to slip down your nose like a librarian?
Or maybe you get bumped in the head and they get crooked?
Or you're drunk and you put them on upside down?
I forgot what I was talking about.