Saturday, 18 August 2007

Ball Cupping Police of Hanoi

Three guesses why I took this picture.

Dali, China

Kunming. The old and the new

Next summer you'll be seeing a lot of these little things

Kunming at night (I love my new camera!)

The walls of Old Dali at night

This kid was a bit of a demon card player. I'm not sure what the game was, it seemed to be who could slap their card down in the most dramatic fashion.

Lijang (Did I mention I love my new camera?)

Guess who's in China now? ME! Land of 1.3 billion people and counting and at least half of them really hock one up when they need to spit. Spitting was fairly common in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (as is the man-bra style of t-shirt wearing: the men rolling their t-shirts up to just above the belly) but here they let you know about it. So far though I'm still to find a place that does sweet and sour. Maybe it's called something else. I must investigate. Or learn Mandarin Chinese. Hmmm...

Now we are in a town called Lijang, very picturesque, loads of cool looking old Chinese architecture. Cobbled streets, little streams running through them, you know the type of thing, you've probably seen it in a badly dubbed kung-fu film. Very much the old traditional style China.

Which is completely different to Kunming, the first major city we got to after crossing the border from Hanoi. Kunming is a perfect example of the speed at which China is growing, and why America knows it's days as the world's economic superpower are numbered. Kunming isn't even one of China's big cities as such, (only 3.5 million population) although it is the capital of the province we are in - Yunnan. The only problem is that you are in constant danger of being run over by a stealthy scooter. As with a lot of Asia, scooters (or moto's) are all over the place, they are a good, cheap way of getting around the city. But in Kunming they were ALL electric. Which means you will never hear them coming until you sense you are about to be run over at the last minute. And the Chinese are usually too polite to beep at you to get out of the way!

Ah politeness, a human trait which I nearly forgot about in Hanoi, Vietnam. I think I have found a place that I dislike even more than Eastleigh! (C.F.I.P.) If I can some it up in a nutshell, it's just a crap city filled with people that want to scam you and rip you off in one way or another. One example (although I filled about 3 pages of my journal with an anti-Hanoi rant) is that no-one ever just smiles and says hello to you in the streets of Hanoi because they just want to say hello or talk to you. You're lucky if 1 in 10 of the Hanoi people give a shit about anything other than the contents of your wallet. Anyway, enough negativity, Vietnam was an amazing, often beautiful and consistently unique place. It's just that Hanoi was utter arse.

But you haven't read all this way because you enjoy it. You've seen the title of this entry, become intrigued, and want to know about me having my testicles grabbed by a police officer don't you? I can tell. So, gather round and I'll tell you a tale... It all started when my camera got stolen in Hanoi by the lake. I have a new one now, obviously. Anyway, thinking it was the obvious next step, I went to the police. Just to try and get a police stamp for my insurance claim mind, I didn't expect them to actually do anything about my camera being stolen. But it seemed the stamp which I required was some elusive magical object which the other police station across town could help me with. Or they just flat refused to help and told me to go back to my hotel. So, that night after zero success with the local "police" I was in a bar, chatting to a German guy who, as it happened, was part of a team that trains the police in Vietnam. He suggested I bribe the police, just a few hundred thousand dong (about a tenner) to get the stamp I needed. Good idea I thought, maybe they are so stupid, corrupt and lazy that money is the only way a tourist in their country can get some help.

So, the next day, with renewed enthusiasm, I went off to the police station which the previous day had been the least shite, to offer an "administration fee". (This is what the German guy told me to call it). Upon me waving a bit of my dirty western money about, I at least go a reaction of semi-interest. So they ask me to go on a bike and point out the exact spot where I reckoned my camera was half-inched. Wow, I seemed to be getting somewhere. Off I go on the back of a bike driven by a police officer. On the way he starts to talk to me about England, his English isn't much so it consists mostly of Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, etc. Then he mentions how English men are much taller than Vietnamese, also with arm movements up and down to illustrate. Then he says how English men are much 'bigger' than Vietnamese if you know what I mean. How does he illustrate this point? He just reaches back and gives me a cheeky grab of the meat and two veg! Twice, in case I didn't understand his point the first time! What can I do, tell a police officer that it's not normal behaviour to cup the balls of those on the back of his bike?!?

Dodgy policemen aside, now we're heading North through southern China and should be taking a short flight to Tibet on the 23rd. It's already getting colder, I had to wear proper shoes yesterday rather than my dirty backpacker sandals which are now rapidly dying and held together with superglue. Love every minute of this travelling stuff...

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