How I got duped in China

a.k.a. Monks with psychology degrees

china temple

Okay, I knew it was a tourist trap since it was one of the stops of the Li River Cruise. I wasn’t going to buy any of that crap anyway but since I was in a holiday mood and in high spirits (pun intended – was carrying a bottle of their Sweet Osmanthus Wine) I went in anyway.

joss stick

I picked one of them joss sticks (apparently they have this ritual where guys use their right hands but girls use their left hands) and it was tabulated against a book of sorts where I was given a piece of paper.

That paper, according to the people behind and ahead of me was Very Good (TM).

paper

Personally, I think the monk who attended to me is Excellent (TM). He must have a doctorate in Psychology from some Ivy League school. That or he’s just one of those who’s good in profiling people (NSA would do well to hire from this temple).

He just asked me how old I am and what I wanted to know. I answered career and romantic relationships (in that order).

laughing buddha

He looked at me and said:

I am a very ambitious person
I do not like to work for people
I abhor authority
It would be good for me to strike out on my own this year

I am not ready to settle down
I want marriage but cannot find someone that I can really connect with
Settle my career and the relationships would come along

I was a bit taken aback by all this profiling but I after a bit of thought it’s a no brainer:

I came alone to China – rules out relationships
My age and demeanour – obviously I am working and most people resent having to answer to a boss (I know everyone has a boss yadda yadda)
Striking out on your own – that’s what everyone wants, he’s just telling you what you WANT to hear

temple altar

Since I was nodding at all the right times, he rightly profiled me as a sucker and led me to a donation box. I was asked to donate RMB 300 at least. It’s either RMB 300, RMB 600 or RMB 900. I said no, but as a gesture of goodwill, I will give RMB 200 (which is about RM 100). I did that not just to go against the numbers but he has also said some things about me that I didn’t reveal and I’m still trying to figure out how he managed to profile that. smirk

He gave me this doohickey that I’m supposed to keep in my wallet for 3 days before taking it out. I forgot all about it and only remembered when I saw the imprint on my wallet.

Well, guess what? Right after I took it out, I lost RM 35,000. Lucky year my ass.

Disclaimer: I do not believe in organized religion. I would call myself an agnostic but one with ties to Christianity subtype Protestant genus Methodist. That is the official denomination of my family but I’m the only one who does not believe in a God per se. You know how it goes, using religion as a crutch. As the Scottish proverb goes “Danger past, God forgotten“. ;)

hello god

Hello God? Is that you speaking to me? I’m going to have to ask you to speak louder coz I can’t hear what you’re saying. smirk

The entire process of eating rat in China

eating rat

This is a rat. It’s a rodent, but I can’t figure out if it’s a vole, guinea pig, bandicoot rat, Sikkim rat, Lesser rice-field rat or Tanezumi rat coz all rats looks the same to me.

It’s rather large, as you can see by the size of the motherfucker. I searched high and low to eat the infamous rat in Guilin, China and finally managed to get to the damn rodent.

poor rat

The best thing about China is that you can watch the entire process!

scalding rat

…which might be unsavory for all you PETA tree-hugging types, as they first club the poor rodent you choose for dinner to oblivion. BAD RAT! BAD!

…before weighing it (all the better to charge you with).

…and pouring scalding hot water all over it (just to make sure it’s proper dead).

rat hot pot eat

It’s served in a hot pot of sorts and the waitress comes over to refill the broth every now and then so you get tender and juicy rat at a reasonably warm temperature at all times.

rat broth

D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.

rat dish

How does rat taste like? Hmm…this is kinda like the Matrix question. You’ve got to eat it for yourself. I love the parts which has tendons attached – very chewy. It tastes a bit like bat but with a lot more bones than I’ll like to contend with.

eating rat china

It sure is a good experience though! It cost RMB 400 (about RM 190) and it’s worth every single cent!

Eating snake meat

snake denuded

The slithery one who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden is served in a course of sorts in China. It’s like Peking duck, the entire snake is prepared and consumed. Your epicurean journey starts with picking the snake you want (snakes are generally quite expensive even by Malaysian standards).

a snake

The live snake is killed before your eyes (making it dead – call me King of Stating the Obvious) and the expert chef stems the flow of blood from the decapitation of the reptilian by some kung fu application to certain veins and arteries.

snake preperation

The snake blood is the first course of the meal.

snake descaling

Next comes the snake gall served in a glass of high proof alcohol.

snake skin

The snake is de-scaled and the snake skin is served as a tasty appetizer.

snake wine

You can also opt to have a snake head wine at this point.

snake

However, I’m going to get into the meat of the post (pun intended) by describing the main course – snake meat. It’s cooked to perfection, Guilin style. I chose the cooking method that is recommended by the chef, a Guilin resident.

snake meat

How does snake meat taste like? Well, I’ve had python before – that was tough and rather dry. However, this tiny little snake makes for a delicious main meal. There are bones but a surprising amount of meat attached to it as well.

eating snake meat me

I found snake meat to be juicy and while I’ll like to say that it tastes like chicken, it does not. smirk

eating snake meat

Snake meat has a very distinctive taste. Words will not do justice to it (you have to try it for yourself, just like the Matrix). It’s tender and juicy, adjectives I would never expect to describe snake meat with, based on past experience.

It’s a little bit on the sweet side too. If I was forced at gunpoint to describe how it tastes like, I’ll say it tastes like the breast meat of chicken crossed with veal. The texture is a little like eel (but not really) – it’s hard to describe, it’s kinda like that but has more of a meat mouthfeel.

snake dish

I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and finished the entire Snake Experience (TM). It is really good stuff. Do not miss the chance to taste snake meat if you come across a live one. It’s just that good!

Eating snake gall

snake gall

It is very popular to drink a concoction of high proof rice wine with the gall from a freshly killed snake in China. I’m not sure about the folklore behind it, but as with most Chinese “tonics” it’s supposed to boost your virility/gives you courage/(insert superlative).

The gall is prepared separately from the snake blood – it’s supposed to be done in two courses. The snake was gutted and the gall extracted before being plonked into the high alcohol content rice wine. The more poisonous the snake, the more sought after the gall is. I’m not sure how toxic it is to eat snake gall, I didn’t Google it before I actually ate it (and not even after that). smirk

I didn’t swallow the gall wholesale, I wanted to taste it so I bit down on it and it burst in my mouth, filling it with juicy and possibly poisonous goo. I can’t say I could taste anything though coz the alcohol numbed my taste buds and it tastes like raw offal anyway.

Well, like I said in the video, I’m still alive and I still highly recommend it for the full snake experience! smirk

Eating snake skin

snake skin

Snake skin is used for a wide variety of products – handbags, shoes etc. However, I still feel that the best use for snake skin is a quick trip down your throat and into your stomach. smirk

I bought an entire snake to have a Full Course (TM) of snake – blood, gall, skin, and meat. I hear the skin is one of the best parts of the snake.

eating snake skin

It was served as an appetizer and comes in spicy and sour tones. I really liked it. It tastes like sea cucumbers except it’s tougher and more chewy.

I give snake skin two thumbs up (would have given it three but I only have two hands). It kinda overshadows the snake meat. It’s served cold and I’ve gotta tell you, I ate one bowl of steaming rice just with this snake skin.

snake skin china

It’s delicious! Think sea cucumber – except it’s harder to chew and swallow. ;)

Fresh snake blood from a real snake

choose snake

I paid about RMB 750 (about RM 375) for a whole snake in Guilin, China. The reason I did that was coz I wanted to drink fresh snake blood – none of the bullshit that comes in jars. How the fuck would you know if it’s from a snake if you don’t see it killed before your eyes?

Being a huge fan of authenticity, I got an entire snake and watched its reptilian head cut off with my own eyes before the chef drained all the blood into a glass containing a high proof local alcohol (excess of 50%).

killed snake

There is a surprisingly small amount of blood in a snake, but it was enough to fill a glass and you’re supposed to down it in a single shot.

How does snake blood taste like? Well, it tastes like blood to be honest – all killer, no filler. Iron aftertaste to the max. I had an uncontrollable itch on my nose for a couple of days after this, whether it’s from the snake blood or the snake gall, I have no idea.

It’s supposed to have medicinal properties, but having pledged my allegience to Rx Incorporated, I don’t believe a word of it. I just wanted to drink snake blood warm from a freshly decapitated snake and proclaim that YES! I HAVE DRUNK SNAKE BLOOD. Now, I can say that with confidence since the slithery one was slaughtered before my eyes.

Yes, if you watched that last video, you’ll nominate me for the cover of Drunk & Disorderly. :p

More snake posts coming up!

Snake head wine

snake head wine jars

There are a lot of weird and wonderful creatures served with wine as a “tonic” in China. I had the chance to sample snake head wine in Guilin. It costs RMB 30 (which works out to about RM 15) per glass.

snake wine jars

It is not “wine” in the classic sense of the word. There is no fermentation here. The Chinese word “jiu” means alcoholic beverage. These snake heads are actually preserved in some sort of liquid. The snake head is taken out, along with a tablespoon of the liquid inside those jars to produce:

snake wine

Snake head wine!

snake head wine

It’s topped up with the legendary “kao liang jiu” – very high proof alcohol (in excess of 57% alcohol) and downed in a single shot. You’re not supposed to eat the snake head though – I enquired about the reason behind that and it seems that it’s quite poisonous.

This is the first of many snake posts from Guilin. ;)

Li River RMB Yuan 20 scene

guilin li river 20 yuan

The famous Li River boat trip takes you down amazing limestone formations, one of which is depicted at the back of the RMB 20 (RM 10) bank note.

gui lin li river 20 yuan

It is exactly the same scene, minus the quaint little boat of course, which probably decided to stop plying the route after the influx of larger cruise ships filled with camera toting tourists. ;)

guilin li river rmb 20

Unfortunately, I set my ISO at 400, overexposing and ruining most of the Li Jiang photos. The ones that weren’t didn’t have the entire scene due to people unfamiliar with dSLRs adjusting the lens. *cries river of tears* Okay, that was an extremely bad pun even by my own standards. ;)

yuan 20 point

I have another backup cam which I used to take a proper photo but by that time we have passed the Yuan 20 place. I also look constipated in this picture.

The place is actually at Xingping, the Li River boat cruise takes you from Guilin to Yangshou. The limestone formations are called Karst formations, a very atas word which I had to Google to understand.

I got a mint copy of the RMB Yuan 20 bank note just for this trip and after my pose, a couple of domestic tourists asked to borrow mine to pose in the same way. Heh! Here’s what the RMB 20 note looks like at the back:

rmb 20

Compare it to the RMB Yuan 20 point on Li River!

rmb 20 guilin

It’s a good thing I paid RMB 10 (RM 5) for a laminated copy of the photo taken by the ship or I wouldn’t have a proper camwhore moment.
smirk

Guilin Mi Fen with Horse Meat

There’s no horsing around in this outlet. smirk

guilin mi fen horse meat

Okay, the first thing on the agenda when I arrived in Guilin is to eat the famous Gui Lin Mee Fen (rice vermicelli) with horse meat. However, that proved harder to find that I initially thought. Rats too for that matter, but that’s another post.

guilin mee fen

Anyway, after walking 1,000 miles and nearly getting run down by several cars and buses (it’s left hand drive here in China) I decided to consult a person from the industry that knows everything about anything obscure or illegal – hard to find cuisine, the oldest profession in the world, substances, basically The Travelers Guide to a New City (TM). Your friendly neighborhood taxi driver.

gui lin mi fen eat

Within minutes (and a RMB 10 fare, which is RM 5, pretty damn cheap cabs over here) I was on my way to the oldest Guilin Mi Fen with Horse Meat establishment in town. It has reputedly been around for about 40 years (as told by two different sources) and caters to the locals instead of tourists (just the way I like it).

gui lin mee fen

Alas! How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! In the past, horses were used for transport, war machines by knights, riot control by mounted police, and prized stallions on the racetrack. It has now been relegated (at least in China) to food. Heh!

gui lin mi fen horse meat

The Gui Lin Mi Fen is not rice vermicelli as we know it, it looks more like rice noodles to me. You are free to add as many condiments, pickles and spices as you want. I highly recommend their chilli flakes – Guilin is known for its spicy food so go wild with this one.

gui lin mi fen

Gui Lin Mi Fen with Horse Meat is a soup dish, which is not what I usually eat, but since it’s the local specialty, I tasted it and pronounce it GOOD. The spring onions adds a lot to the taste of the soup while the peanuts contribute that additional texture to this dish. Best of all, it only costs RMB 6 (RM 3) for a large bowl.

guilin mi fen

I love it, mostly coz of the horse meat. Horse meat can best be described as something of a cross between beef and lamb. It’s sweet and has a nice gamey aftertaste and it’s surprisingly lean.

guilin mee fen good

Mmm…equine meat!

Posted: 7:19 am China Time (Guilin is in the same timezone as Malaysia)

Greetings from Guilin!

hotel

I have arrived in Guilin and checked into this dodgy hotel smack dab in the middle of town. The cheapest room costs RMB 150 (about RM 75) for a night and if you add RMB 20 (RM 10) more you get a room with a computer and Internet! =D

slums

I wanted to stay at Flowers Youth Hostel (RMB 55 per night for a single room – get to save RM 150!) but they were fully booked. :( Thus, I went to this dubious Guilin Swan Hotel. I can’t say the view is excellant, but you get what you pay for and it’s a pretty decent hotel.

stuff

Anyway, the reason the words “dodgy” and “dubious” is being thrown around is not just from the vibe but the ancillaries in the room itself. You have to pay for EVERYTHING – only the soap is free (and even I’m not sure of that since there is a Chinese sign above it and I can’t read Chinese).

condom

There’s also a pack of condoms (RMB 10) right by the bed within easy reach but that’s not my primary concern…

genital wash

…it’s the toiletries for sale in the bathroom which prominently displays two sachets of Mei Fu Antibacterial Lotion. That in itself is not worrying, the description of said lotion is more disturbing – “Specially designed for the health of men’s genitals. Used for relieving the itching, killing germs and usual nursing of the private parts. Please apply to genital area gently. Rinse well with water“. There is a female version too, which makes me wonder what sort of clientèle this hotel attracts.

*double checks bedsheets for stains*

Posted: 1:06 PM China time (which is the same as Malaysia for Guilin)

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