Some highs and lows from China

By May 6, 2008December 14th, 2013My Travels, Photography

I flew back into Sydney from Beijing Saturday morning (yes, my arms are tired), and I have to say that the best thing about being back is being able to see the sky. In my three weeks in China I probably saw blue sky twice, and both of those times were through a haze of smog. Here’s a picture of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall taken on a lovely smoggy day.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was romantic mist, right? Hahaha, I laugh in your general direction. In general though, the Great Wall lives up to its name. I didn’t know until recently (thanks to an exhibition at the Sydney Powerhouse Museum) that the Wall is broken into lots of different sections and I only went out to one, Mutianyu, which is about 70km outside of Beijing. This map, courtesty of Maximilian Dorrbecker, shows the complexity of the wall.

There are some things that I will miss about being in China, including the people (generally lovely), the food (delicious) and especially the Chinise translations into English of things. This is generally called Chinglish and there are both books and blogs dedicated to having a bit of a chuckle at some of these poor efforts.

My contribution comes from the ticket sign in the front of the zoo we visited just outside of Xi’an. We got plenty of mileage out of this one – It kept us entertained for about three days.

We were at the zoo because we’d really wanted to visit an rare animal breeding centre, also in the area, but due to a mix-up with a translator and our driver, we ended up getting taken to this place. The conditions the animals were kept in were pretty abysmal and quite upsetting. Here is a traumatised monkey.

I apologise if this is a little upsetting, but this is the reality of a lot of zoos around the world, especially the smaller ones less visited by us animal-hugging Westerners.

I’ve been told that these conditions are similar to those that existed in Taronga around thirty years ago. It seems respect for animal life is one area where a lot of Chinese still have some way to go. On the way to Beijing airport on my way out of the city, there were a couple of teenage boys walking along the street going car to car with turtles that they were trying to sell to people.

I’ve got a few similar pictures and a short video similar to this one. Even though what I was seeing was distressing, I felt compelled to take them. If anyone knows any animal protection agencies or other groups that may find them useful, please let me know.

So there’s a couple of highs and lows of my trip to China. I started this post wanting to give a brief summary of what I did and experienced, but I’m not sure if that’s possible – it’s amazing the amount of things you can do in three weeks. Maybe I’ll try doing it in bulletpoints for next time.


  • Hello Xu Xu says:

    another good chinglish site (i love this stuff) is

    Animals are generally treated appallingly in asia. There are animal protection groups there but they have a huge task ahead of them. There are lot’s of pet shops in Taiwan, and pets are treated as “alive toys” (not by everybody, I’ve seen dogs and cats in prams, wearing socks and expensive brand name clothes), the cuter the better. Alot of big dogs are cute when they are small puppies, so they sell well and when they get too big are discarded, there is a big problem with abandoned cats and dogs. Also, people like their meat fresh, so a trip to a local market and even a big european style supermarket like carrefour or tesco can be a real eye opener.

  • sansIcarus says:

    Then thankfully I didn’t go into any major supermarkets.

    Actually, I went to a massive market when I was in Bangkok, and one of the sections had a lot of animals. Everything I could imagine – birds, snakes, fish, dogs. I assumed it was a big pet shop. Maybe I was naive.

  • phauna says:

    I went to a zoo in Japan this Winter, and lots of the animals didn’t seem to have any significant indoor shelter, in the snow. It’s strange to see elephants and giraffes standing around in a blizzard.

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