you may have made a wrong turn in cyberspace recently and found a dead end where this website used to be. The website is back but my integrity is still navigating a swamp somewhere close to sea-level. My self-appointed penance for this heinous crime is an update to the content here. Unfortunately, the drying up of said content is heavily related to a period of relative upheaval that has made working a bit difficult. Work wouldn't be building up so much if I decided to punish myself by actually doing it, but that would be too convenient.
Regarding the upheaval, I've displaced myself to a suburban area on the west-side of Tokyo known as Kumegawa. I'll be here for 3 months, working as an intern at NTT (the TT stands for Telegraph and Telephone) which is the equivalent of British Telecom in the UK, right down to the part where both companies were privatised sometime in the mid 80's. I'll leave the technical details of my work as an exercise in inference based on my past research and the possibility of interviewing close friends.
Part of the journey here incorporated a 10-day trip to sichuan and chongqing provinces, china. It was good to catch up with the place just before my 2 year visa runs out in April. Spent some time in chengdu and chongqing city -- both massive cities packing a similar population to London. They're also both packing an atmosphere featuring particles that wouldn't be out of place in Saturn's ring.
this is chengdu in the morning. You may notice that the pictures are heavily edited. I retain the right to do this. Quite honestly you should be pleased, considering the filth that my phone camera was throwing out. This is the part where I unashamedly promote the app VSCO that makes editing photos like this really easy, thank you @oquays).
This is chengdu at night, it looked better at the time. See above.
Both cities are famous for their food, and I can attest to its greatness and its fiery nature. Favourite dishes were Liangmian (Chongqing), eggs and tomatoes with hot noodles (everywhere), hot and spicy noodles (everywhere) and a slice of bread covered in butter and sugar and then grilled (everywhere). I'm not sure if the latter was authentic but it was really fucking great, you should make it -- please. Being vegetarian was also pretty easy, although we had flash cards specifying exactly what we deemed consumable. Anyway, people are super honest so just learn the words for "no meat?" and then just work your way through the menu sequentially.
Some other highlights in chengdu include some trees that literally died of old age. I think they were moved to the site of a museum, which destroyed the effect a little.
The largest building in the world, by surface area (essentially a really underwhelming, expensive shopping mall). The sight of it wasn't for the faint of heart. We also got lost on the way and ended up being escorted off a building site.
I don't have any pictures but chengdu was also the capital of the Shu empire during the Three Kingdoms period of china's history. If you've sank a large amount of time into any reputable gaming device, then you may be familiar with the game Dynasty Warriors that has helped to popularise this era. There are a bunch of statues of guan yu, liu bei, zhang fei and zhuge liang dotted around which was pretty nice, and strange. I don't have any photos so you will have to imagine them, or play the game and then strip away all the magical powers and make the beards a bit weirder.
chongqing lies at the confluence of three rivers, somewhere close to the three gorges dam. It's quite an unbelievable location, and I would hazardously suggest that it is a beautiful location for such a massive city. I would heavily recommend going if you're in the area.
This is a really bad photo, but it looks like one that nicolas winding refn would appreciate so I've decided to add it so that I can claim royalties in the future when he sets neon demon 2 in chongqing.
Unfortunately, the air was only slightly thinner here compared with chengdu, hence photos of the scenery were unpublishable due to quality constraints. There was a pretty big hill/tiny mountain known as nanshan. There is a (70m high) statue of a golden eagle standing on top of a conch shell at the summit. Again, not for the faint of heart; the silhouette of the eagle was ominously visible across the city, even through the haze. We couldn't find any pictures of the eagle on google before we went there (roughly a 40 min bus ride out) so hopefully I'm doing the internet a service by posting one here now.
I'm assured the view of the skyline from nanshan is really great, but bad air yada yada. For this reason the rest of the photos are relative close-ups of some strange buildings in the center of chongqing.
a part of chongqing's walls survived the cultural revolution -- the same couldn't be said for chengdu.
there is a terrifying art gallery that was closed on the day we tried to go
the view of some building, the function of which escapes me
in trying to be helpful
there were some recurring themes of difficulty that we encountered in china. I pledged to document some of these as we were largely unaware and came close to the brink of disaster multiple times. Most of the difficulties occurred in train stations.
chengdu south station
this is a new station that we used to get to leshan, the site of the tallest buddha in the world. the word new should be emphasised as the working operation is not very smooth. Buying train tickets as a pair of people with limited chinese was impossible. We were saved as the death knell sounded by a charming man from behind us in the queue. Make sure such a person is available when buying tickets in this station.
tea museum, near giant buddha in leshan
there is a museum dedicated to tea in a ghost town near the giant buddha in leshan. It's free but there is are english captions and we were lead around really enthusiastically by two people with similar levels of english. Make sure that you can appreciate large volumes of ceramic goods without requiring visual aids.
chongqing station is split
chongqing station is split into a north/south square. Rail tickets will not make this distinction and if you end up at the wrong one you're going to need at least 20 mins to get to the other station. This is no st. pancras <--> kings cross, this is real.
nanshan, look for the eagle not the park
don't go to the golden eagle park, the eagle isn't there. trust your instincts and look for the eagle with your eyes. Head in that direction, you will find it.
don't forget to download a vpn beforehand
the firewall is a cruel mistress and it's bigger and better than an unprepared mortal.
also pleco (translation) and baidu maps (maps) mean that the modern-day idiot can get around pretty easily.
i will talk about japan some time soon. I hope the pictures load okay and I hope that our housemate isn't burned to death by a vengeful raspberry pi.