Katherine's Trip 2005/06 travel blog

"Oh my god! Are you lactose intolerant too?" were the first words that I heard as I entered the Beijing Internationl Hostel for the welcome meeting of my next tour. These words were uttered by On - the Chinese American Homosexual from San Francisco who is allergic to everything including himself. 'On' (pronounced Hans apparently as in Hans Solo - "Oh my god, you guys do get Star Wars right ?? ") is travelling with his 'buddy' Dave (Dave is very keen to highlight his heterosexuality although he does admit to a penchant for Asian women....) On says "Like" "really" and "that's totally amazing" (latter comment first heard when he found out that we got the OC in England.) Dave looks a bit like an ugly version of Tom Cruise when he was in Risky Business and says "Republicanism" "Bush" and "nine eleven" a lot. I think you get the idea.

Also on the tour are 4 british guys (all mingers apart from 1 Oxford Grad who's quite fit but too clever for his own good)1 Kiwi guy(droll Mike P sense of humour) and 1 Aussie guy(very normal and laughs with me at the Americans). There's also an Irish couple (who seem very nice but as I can only understand 50% of what they are saying I try and stay away from them) and my new roomie (I've been americanised) called Angie from San Fran who looks like the spit of Sarah Jessica Parker.

Our guide is called Eric, he is a 28 year old Canadian guy, who is far too enthusiastic and is, "like totally 150% into his, like "responsible tourism." RT, as it is colloquially known, includes not visiting prostitutes, taking drugs or picking flowers. At least I think that was the last one...I couldn't really hear because as soon as he mentioned the first two, all the british guys got up to leave...Eric likes wearing cool dj t shirts and saying 'Awesome' 'peace' and 'harmony' a lot.

On the first day of the tour the Kiwi guy got knocked down by a taxi outside the Summer Palace in Beijing. The taxi came off worse though as Andy has a somewhat substantial build. He dealt with his concussion by drinking several gallons of Tsing Tao beer(pronounced 'Ching Dow' if you're English and 'Oh my god like this beer is like totally so much worse than like Budweiser' if you're On.) The Summer Palace itself was quite awesome - oops there I go again - apart from the fact that the Chinese seem to hold a deep rooted resentment against the English and French. Every single sign in the Summer Palace starts off with the sentence "Originally built in 1421 during the Zhou dynasty this culturally important temple was burnt down by the Anglo French in 1621 and restored in 1718..." I personally think they should start looking at themselves a bit more. By my understanding the Emperor's and Empresses lived like, well Emperor's and Empresses wanting for nothing whilst their subjects literally starved to death outside their gates. Empress Cixi actually stole, sorry 'redistributed' some money intended for the Navy and instead commissioned a lifesize boat to be made from marble and placed in the lake at the summer palace. Hmm...useful.

Anyway, besides that the Summer Palace is beautiful. It's absolutely huge and parts of it are just how you would imagine a typical Chinese garden to be; with delicately designed walkways and giant lily ponds etc. If we had had more time I would have liked to have spent a whole day there. Well truth is I probably could have returned, but I would have missed out on the opportunity of spending more time with the group which is infinitely more fun given the characters involved. This choice was rewarded with the story of On going to the Chinese traditional herbalist to get acupuncture for his lactose intolerance. After the session he felt like totally peaceful and relaxed and was like totally amazed with it until he got prescribed his 'medicine' which turned out to be Centrum the multi vitamins. On felt hurt and taken advantage of. I nearly fell off my chair.

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