July to September 2015’s posts

CXXIV: Greetings from Manchester

5th July 2015

Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do from Manchester,


Day 7 here in my homelands and Aunty Chris with Uncle Ed have been making me feel at home again.  The first night I arrived, I practically passed out and slept at Mum and Paul’s place.  I did see Astrid later on, but not for too long before seeing my brother Paul Jr (who hasn’t changed one iota).  Tuesday was a take-it-easy day at Mum’s, and Wednesday was a take-it-easy day at my Aunt’s followed by a trip to see Dad and my sister Christina.  My brother Shaun was away on work experience in Clitheroe.


On Thursday, Astrid and I went to see Minions at the cinema.  The film weren’t great.  I almost fell asleep.  As Astrid departed, I went shopping for a new shirt, shorts, a hat and a pair of walking shoe-sandal hybrids.  Somehow a Lego Ghostbusters car was purchased… luxury!


For Friday, I woke up late, visited Mum’s house againa and generally edged out the last jet lag dregs.  Yesterday, I had a trip to Aunty Sue’s Pink Party in Daisy Hill, Westhoughton.  My friend Kate Lui from college caught up with me here, and we nattered before departing after a few hours.  Astrid and I then went to watch Terminator Genisys, which wasn’t that great.  Aunty Sue’s Pink Party involved too many cakes being eaten and elderflower Pimm’s being tried.  I hope she raised lots of money for her chosen cancer charity.


Today, Uncle Ed, his sister Betty and my Aunty Chris went to a car boot sale at Holly Lane, very close to Manchester Airport.  I joined them, buying some cards and books to take back to China.  Later we’re off to The Flying Horse, a Hungry Horse owned gastropub next to Manchester Airport.


For the week ahead, I’m off to see Canadian comedian Glenn Wool at The Old Monkey in Manchester and from now until next weekend I have to decide what to do.  There’s the Manchester Aiport Festival next weekend; Rawtenstall fair; and so many other things.  Manchester City Women face Birmingham City on Sunday the 12th I’ll be off to that.


Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra from Manchester / Goodbye

The 125th Post

15th July 2015

Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do from Manchester,


Over 102,000 words have been written on this blog in many shapes and forms.  I can’t wait for the movie adaptation.


Like the legendary Intercity 125, this post arrives and departs a little later than expected with very little by way of content other than people and things.


Aunty Chris and Uncle Ed are most hospitable as always.  My residence at their manor has been extended due to Dad offering the caravan in Morecambe to his neighbour.  That’s fine, there is always later on – and it means I can slow down and do bits rather than too much in one go.


Last Friday, was spent hiking up Lud’s Church, Gradbach and Danebridge way with Mum, Paul and Astrid.  On the Saturday, I went to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Johnny Marr and Black Rivers in Castlefield’s Summer In The City concert.  I managed to say a fleeting hello to cousin Carly and her fella Ste.  On the Sunday morning, Carly’s kid Bobby gave me a laugh on his Le Tour de Living Room 12.66km cycle ride.  After this I went out, City Women beat Birmingham City by a single goal in front of a record crowd of 2102.  In the evening I met Dad, Shaun and Christina for a catch up.


On Monday, I met my brother Paul and went to watch Cheadle Town’s game at Park Lane with Maine Road F.C.  The black and green home side beat the visitors 2-0.


In amongst all this, the idea of cycling from China to the U.K. has gone from being toyed with, to becoming a plan.  I think it’ll be done in memory of and as a challenge with some sponsorship aims, but nowt major.


This Friday I’m off with Kate Lui to Pembrokeshire and Swansea, then Saturday in Borth, Sunday and Monday in and around the Welsh Mountain Zoo.  Manor House and other places will be visited.  This is all part of her plan to buy Borth Animalarium.  A kind of fact finding mission with other such ideas to follow.  I just can’t wait to see Wales.  Cymru am byth!



Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra from Manchester / Goodbye



27th August 2015

Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / AlrightChuck,

I’m back in Dongguan (Liaoxia, Houjie) eating a Curly Wurly given to me by my super Aunty Christine Bradshaw. It is bloody hot here and jet lag shall make the coming days fun. I’ve unpacked my bags and 75% of it is gifts and things for school.  20% of the contents are two sized 14 shoes (football and lounging variety).  There are 8 chocolate bars, a bag of fruit salads/blackjacks and a bundle of Lovehearts in the fridge.  I stupidly forgot to buy a large bottle of vimto and have wasted the 30 kilogramme luggage allowance by only bringing 26 kilos of weirdness.  I don’t think I have ever gathered as many leaflets about places in Britain, classroom game resources and random pieces of Manchester (mostly Manchester City related) in any task of my life.  I meant to bring bite creams and sunblock… I have plenty, and know of many places to buy these thankfully!


On walking from the taxi-limo drop off at the Hyatt Hotel Houjie to my apartment, a few new things have been spotted.  The mega Wanda plaza nearby is all lit up and the roads look near enough complete near Liaoxia.  Next, and most importantly, the new coffee shop by me is called BIG SHOES COFFEE.  It will be good bumping into familiar faces Chris Farman, Bryony Macauley, 翁峰, Marcelo Gomes, and the list goes on… and on… so plenty of excuses for good teas and coffee.


I started to write the below recently… weeks ago recently…

Words have dried up, like the Ural Sea (now desert) in North-Western China/Kazakhstan/Russia, of late.  Fear not my fans (I had two emails asking if I’d given up the blog), I am back, full to the brim of new words and old words.  None of which have ever been invented by me.  There’s no plagiarism here, it is all freshly concocted codswollop of the least prime beef variety.  Words and writing for me, is something that demands passion otherwise it lacks bite, when the teeth are hidden and the message becomes sterile.  So, what’s occurred of late?  Journeys have been had to West Wales (Pembrokeshire twice, Aberystwyth and Colwyn Bay via Borth, Caernarfon and other outposts with many syllables), Cumbria (again of the western extremes), Cornwall and Gloucestershire.  The rail network has been utilised, as has the odd lift via Audi Quattro’s and tiny little town cars.  I don’t discriminate how to get somewhere.  If someone is driving, I’m a fairly well-behaved passenger.


In Cumbria, I scrambled mountains, travelled by a narrow gauge steam train and met my guardian twins.  I am officially a guardian father (it is like a Godfather but without the religion or the moniker of a movie franchise).  My best friend Dan and Vanessa introduced me to trainee human adults Damian and Alenxander.  They strike me as potential conquerors of dreams and yet-to-be-matured girls’ hearts.  Dan, Van, the twins, Fuzzy and Baggy (cats) made me most welcome, as always.  Dan is my hero, but don’t tell him!  I love my best friend to pieces, even if he is of the ginger variety.  Further proof I don’t discriminate…


For the first of three quick visits to Wales, a land I love, and a land that feels like my spiritual home (after the M11 area of Manchester), Kate drove us south west to Pembrokeshire, via The Beacons (due to a road blocked by a car accident).  We visited Anna Ryder-Richardson’s Manor House Wildlife Park, Borth Animalarium [subject to a possible bid by Kate’s consortium – to be confirmed], Caernarfon, and Colwyn Bay’s Welsh Mountain Zoo… and a stop at Pilau Palas (in Anglesey).  The weekend featured expensive food (by my standards) and a brief glimmer of past memories at Aberystwyth.  Many folk in Aber said, it has an elastic band effect, meaning the further you go from it, the quicker and harder it slams you back.  Several years away from my former university and ATFC-supporting town and several thousand miles away make me yearn to return again.  One day.  Not for now.


A quick jaunt back to Wales and Rhyl for a friendly football fixture featuring MCFC Academy (mostly 16 year old players) against semi-professional Rhyl FC ended in a 1-0 win for the hard-battling junior Citizens.  Shaun and Christina accompanied me for a pleasant night followed by a further good night the following night watching City Women FC cruise to a victory over Durham Ladies in the Continental League Cup.  Somewhere in amongst that I caught up with big bro’ Asa and his Mrs Steph down Cam (Gloucester) for about half a day before we surged off to Pembrokeshire.  We visited Pembroke Castle, the indoor swim complex (three times) and caught up.  Steph’s generous brother (supporter of Aston Villa) Neil and his family welcomed us to stay in their 8 berth holiday chalet in Bluestones.  I’d recommend a visit to this Centreparc’s-like village come Scandinavian holiday complex – but be warned, you may need to mortgage your house – and be careful of the risk of black eyes on the water slides (due to congestion and clumsy folk).


In the last week I have visited Nikki and her family in Cornwall.  A ska gig (Rudi’s Message), some Footgolf at St. Austell, some football at Illogan R.B.L., a game of rugby league, a kayak up the river Fowey, and some beach lounging at Portreath have made for the highlights of a relaxed week away.  Due to rain (prior to this I’ve seen two days of rain in the U.K.) the cinema was needed with Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation and Fantastic Four on the menu.  Neither are groundbreaking, both are entertaining but not dull.  There should be an annual cap on superhero movies going forward though.


And here I am, sat on a train typing, returning from Cornwall.  My advance ticket allowed me to travel Redruth to Tiverton Parkway.  I missed the stop and alighted at Taunton.  Here I was told, even being almost two hours early, I could get the 17:22 to Manchester (saving changes at Tamworth and Warrington Bank Quay).  The train conductor on Cross Country Trains said this is okay after discussion with the First Great Western Train Station Manager at Taunton.  For once, on the railways, a quality service has been had – and with the effect of the landslide stalling or cancelling trains in and out of Teignmouth/Dawlish due to a landslide.  Common sense action for proper service.  Well done them.  It is 18:17, my train at Tiverton isn’t due until 18:39 (officially) but is likely to be cancelled.  So, I may beat my expected arrival in Manchester at 23:19.  We shall see, if so, I’ll write later.   So for now, I’ll break from writing.

There ends my previously typed, unpublished junk.

I managed to get home early, by a staggering two hours in the end!!!


In the time I’ve been back I’ve enjoyed TV meals watching Marvelous (an ITV production, well worth a gander) with me mother and Paul; been to the Police Museum in Manchester; watched comedian Glenn Wool in a pub (he was performing, not just drinking); ate and drank too much; seen great art; been here, there and everywhere watching football and seeing friends or family.  I’ll miss them all, but here is where I want to work for now.  In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer in Red Dwarf, “Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.”  In the meantime…


China, here we go again… #THESECONDCOMING


Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra from Manchester / Goodbye


17th September 2015

Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / Alright Chuck,


Tuesday, the 1st of September 2015 was the first official day of the academic year of Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  Naturally it started sweaty, in swelteringly humid hazey conditions.  And for me, around 7 o’clock in the morning.  Having gone to sleep at 6 o’clock in the evening and waking only for an hour or so at 1 o’clock in the morning, I was tired – and shrugging off jet lag.  Without a hearty breakfast in my belly, the day began.  My apetite has been severely affected since landing on Thursday.  I read up on jet lag and noted the effects wear off completely around the fifth to sixth day, with minor memory and diurnal rhythems completing balancing after 30 days.  So, every time I forget something I can blame British Summer Time.  Apparently going west to east is worst too.


On the Sunday prior, I whipped my timetable together slotting in eight grade six classes amongst eight grade seven classes and finishing with four grade eight classes.  That’s the twenty basic classes in.  VIP class followed far later with no mention of the previously taught Science teachers or PE teachers classes.  After carrying my new desk up five floors with some colleagues (Go team!), I settled my junk out in the various drawers and around the top.  Last year’s desk and contents had vanished in summer (losing me some games, pre-made materials and computer accessories).  I have since replaced almost everything.


The first day and second day was spent introducing myself to four new grade 6 classes, and re-introducing myself to four grade 7 classes (mostly comprised of previous grade 6 classes).  There are very few new students in the grades I teach.  I can quote Chris Cornell’s song You Know My Name.”  Following three days of graft, I had Thursday to Saturday off, due to the Anti-Facism Victory over Japan Day – here it seems to have gone under many names.  This is to celebrate China and her allies victory in World War II.  There was a huge national parade in Beijing showcasing veterans, current weaponry and lots of speeches.  Oddly this event was only established last year!  [August 15 is the official V.J. Day for the U.K. but something that has been swept away, like V.E. Day to create the Armed Forces Day… that I could not tell you the date of, because it had no real meaning to me… until I looked it up:  The date of 27 June was chosen as it came the day after the anniversary of the first investiture of the Victoria Cross, in Hyde Park, London in 1857.]


Very little happened on the days off other than a game of football in HengLi.  The previous week had seen my first game back, away in ZhangMuTou (樟木头).  Our team drew 5-5 on the day, in blistering heat and humidity, before no showers (they’d locked them up!) and a meal at a local near-Mafia themed restaurant called Good Eats.  After a sweaty journey back, an early night was needed.  Instead I opted to swig ales at Murray’s Bar and got a late taxi back.  After HengLi we headed very sleepily to Winners Bar for food and a drink or two.  Unlike the previous game, a shower was provided, and a refreshingly good win it was.  We had lost 4-3 to a very good team from Hong Kong in stupendously painfully hot conditions.  With a sore throat, I completed around my third game of 80 minutes inside 8 days… despite a sore throat, headache and our team only having one substitute following Chris having mild sunstroke (a midweek 6-a-side rout of 26-3 being the other… one in which I scored for the first time in ages).  Sunblock was kindly provided in HengLi by Sam Grubb and I was very grateful!


After that there hasn’t been any more football played.  There was a fantastic end of season football evening with Fede’s magic Argentine barbecue (sounds like a cool band name) at Murray’s Irish Bar; the awards being announced by the compere with no hair (me); the draw of prizes and the presentation of the new kits to our-as-it-stands 35-member strong squad.  I had far too many Caipirinhas (Brazil’s national cocktail) that night and had to sleep on Eddy’s sofa.  Sam also slept on the sofa, but don’t worry it is a massive L-shaped sofa.  The breakfast at Alan’s café was much needed the next morning.  Weng, Max, Eddy, Alain [Player of the Year 2015], Werner, Marcelo all picked up awards – as did I [Sportsman of the Year 2015].


I had planned to write something for the blog last Sunday… but one I was hungover, and two my password wouldn’t reset, so I locked myself out.  I have lots to write of the last 19 days or so, lots barely covered… and soon it shall be.


My experience of teaching in China inside two years has varied.  There is such diversity in teaching, student and even parental ability to encourage learning and the furthering of one’s self.  Development here is pushed and highly affected by social stigmas.  Parents do not want to lose face and there is a massive emphasis of keeping up with the Joneses.  I often read so many bad experiences of teachers here in China, and conversely I hear s many good things too.  I have very little to add to the negative camp.  I think schools have inevitably bowed to face with respect to hiring foreign teachers.  It is a positive thing, but one that should be utilised more respectfully and sparingly.  They need to be seen as providing the authentic touch that a langage school requires.  If you flip the coin to the other side, I can imagine Mandarin teachers in situ in U.K. schools would offer an insight both culturally and in teaching techniques.  Respect breeds respect and a good teacher can build confidence in a student’s ability to learn via genuine native language speakers or examples.  They can also relax to a degree and learn at a pace that suits the student.  I’ve noticed that classes develop as if part of a communal team, far easier here than in the U.K.  I suspect that Chaos Theory and education in China are massively linked.  I’ve noticed black Americans, hispanic Americans, anyone who looks remotely Asian and speaks fantastic English are frowned upon by some schools – and have seen friends ejected from schools to this end.


Private schools can either be incredibally hands on or massively hands off.  There are always summer camp and winter camp invites.  I have experienced a summer teaching and the emphasis switched from academic to entertainer very easily.  Busy parents need a babysitter.  That said, the usage of English as a second language can ony reinforce educating those at these camps.  Summer camp experience, especially in varied grades (kindergarten through to college level teaching) certainly racks up the job invites… which in my case is negative because I am happily contracted.  With respects to students in private schools, they’ll always appear sharper due to the opportunities presented to them.  There are those who have, and those who have little, like most societies.  However, I find the Chinese work damn hard to push young kids into as many extra-curricular or study classes as financially possible, often at the high expense of the whole family unit.  If they’re a male, it helps.  I think the elite schools and classes adapt and create newer, fresher activities and study topics thus always keeping the elite of the elite going forward.

So, tomorrow I’ll write more, about home comforts, money, school and being back etc

Vimto in China?  That is a question.  So is this?  Why do I want something from home in China?  Why do I want home comforts?  Why can’t I adapt and simply do as the local’s do?

Wrong VimtoVimto was going to hit ChinaImport a 1000 cases


Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra from Manchester / Goodbye


21st September 2015

Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,


I said I’d write, and writing I am.  Here we go again.  No more massive breaks from my spewed words.  Written and annoted diarrhea will plummet all over your screen and run down your monitor, all over your keyboard like an explosion at a jam factory (explosions in Chinese factories never happen, wink-wink-nod-nod).


This last Wednesday Mr Sun, of class 703, told me a student, Lucy, had invited me to her birthday party with her class that very evening.  I dutifully and curiously accepted the request.  So, around 7.45pm I tottered into school, and was promptly dragged into the large classroom (converted from the old gym, a year previous).  Here Lucy sat me with her friends and we talked, then I went around the tables.  Mr Sun told me I must sing a song for the class, I said I only knew “Happy Birthday” to which he asked me to sing both verses.  I then realised the second verse is the one about god blessing your birthday or something similar.  There was no way I could sing anything hinting at religion or creationists, out of my own beliefs and China’s strict religion rules.


After Lucy’s mother and brother Jack had presented a huge multi-layered colourful cake, Mr Sun grabbed me up.  I said in the U.K. we only have one or two birthday songs, I sang a tiny section of the Congratulations and Celebrations made famous by the infamous Sir Cliff Richards.  I explained to the students that the words were so difficult and promptly conducted the simpler Happy Birthday.  On the second attempt I managed to get the students to sing “happy birthday dear Lucy”, rather than repeating the other line!  Following this I taught the art that is hip, hip hooray.  Then the class went dark, candles were lit and a Chinese song was sang.   My Good Brother (我的好兄弟) is very famous here and tells of friends sticking together in less than happy times.


This weekend flew by, partially written off by a walk up Guan Yin Shan (a mountain) with a massive granite Buddha on top.  Guan Yin is Chinese for the Goddess of Mercy.  The park is famous globally and draws massive crowds.  The walk up the mountain does not.  Most opt for elongated golf-buggy buses.  The climb up does not give any mercy to your knees.  It can be stupendously steep.  Along the route, partially being reconstructed on my visit, there are many things to see, Ostriches, Emus and Vultures in grim enclosures… sculptures of various historical pieces and the view, upwards, seemingly endlessly upwards.  Then you reach the top, the gift shops and Guan Yin square.  Here sits the 33 metre high Goddess of Mercy and various statues, religious relics and a fantastic ornamental oriental diorama.


For your troubles a cool drink is required.  I had four on the way up.  One more at the top was swigged, as dark clouds and an increasing chance of rain approached.  Rain never arrived thankfully.  With my imbibed drink, I bounced around and looked at the view, hazy and hidden amongst dusty air.  I was told the air would be fresher here near to Zhāngmùtou (樟木头).  It was not!  The three hour L4 bus journey from Nánchéng via the L1 from Houjie did not seem like it took forever but I wouldn’t head here on a bad day!  That said there was a few of the city flowers on the slopes.  The yùlánhuā is quite a pretty flower.


After a long walk up, a long walk down followed.  After a lengthy wait for a bus, with hunger in force (I hadn’t had breakfast or lunch) none arrived.  I walked as the day set, a long stroll trying to find another bus or bus stop for some time.  On passing one junction I spotted Acton Power.  My family name has been used in China, but I suspect as a spelling error… Yang Tōng Dòng Lì is written above it… I’m trying to work out what this means… something, something maybe through/open… driving force… I’ll find out soon!


For more information about the park, I looked at http://www.guanyinshan.com/ which gave me a little more of a background.  However, I noticed that information about the construction dates, wildlife and plants in the region to be very selective and a little sparse.


Zhāngmùtou happens to be my latest township to explore [18/32 townships] and get an understanding of, with a little bit of knowledge about it too.  It is massive though.  The area of this district town is 118km2.  In perspective, Manchester’s central city district area is 44.65 sq mi (115.65 km2).  Manchester has a fairly dense population by comparison:  11,260/sq mi (4,349/km2).  Zhāngmùtou has 1,117.97/ km2The district I am in has 3,478.43 people per square kilometre.  Some have 12,553.09 per square kilometre.  Yet all seem so built up by industry, sprawling often-empty towerblocks, construction sites and housing.  Wild green areas are uncommon, often punctured by farming and parkland is vast yet overcrowded.  If the people of China could see how empty Heaton Park is in Manchester on any given day, they’d welcome with open arms the peace and quiet – but maybe not the cold dull weather.  Or the dark characters tucked away in the shadowy bleak bushes.  Or any stray Oasis fans, lost from a concert many moons ago.  Or the bags of dog foul, shamelessly tied to trees.  Or Frank Gallagher’s inspirational body doubles.


In comparison Dongguan has 17,572.9 km2 (6,784.9 sq mi) of surface area.  Greater Manchester has less than a tenth… at 1,276 km2 (493 sq mi).  Here in Dongguan there is a heavier population of 2,500/km2 (6,600/sq mi) [compared to Manc’s 2,105/km2 (5,450/sq mi)] but in the dense central regions the population can easily be double the metro area statistics.  Dongguan, China’s 8th biggest city is massive, and still growing, far above the last records of 7,271,300.  It is expected to surpass Wǔhàn and Tiānjīn to nuzzle alongside the neighbouring cities of Shēnzhèn and Guǎngzhōu.  Hong Kong may have one of the most populated densities in and around China, but from there on up to Guǎngzhōu there is little relief from the Pearl River’s ever-growing all-consuming urban-straggle.


But, what surprises me is that within all this mass of buildings, townships are built up of so many villages and communities… and somehow each area retains or has created its own unique characteristics.  Yes, the primary retail shopping areas have the same old, same old, but look beyond that and there are surprisingly distinctive areas of schools, gardens, pathways and business ventures.  Some are copy and paste but each has its own feel and ambience.  There is plenty of aspiration to the west, but every now-and-then someone bucks the trend.  A new venture pops out.  Liaoxia, in the shadow of Houjie’s new impending Wanda Plaza is blossoming with boutique cloth shops, shoe stores and a massive amount of coffee houses.  Too many, I feel.  When I arrived in February 2014, there was just one coffee shop:  Coffee 85.  Now there are many… Coffee 85 is surrounded by Tommyboy (I had an okay meal there recently), Panda Love coffee, Big Shoes coffee (their cappucino is adequate), a Taiwanese coffee place, two others I cannot read, a little coffee booth indoors, five outdoor vendors (some do very cheap teas), and Tea 86 (as wide as a door, really), presumeably the cousin of Coffee 85.  None open in the morning.  All open for the evenings and afternoons.  All do very good cups of jīn jú níng méng chá (kumquat lemon teas) and most do a variety of milky teas.


My top 5 teas (chá) are:

  • In at number 5… A tea I quite like is Teh Terik, or locally known as lāchá (it is a pulled tea) from Malaysia and Singapore.  The flavour is strong mostly of black tea, condensed milk and evaporated milk.  It can be accompanied by cinnamon, ginger and other oddities, even coffee.
  • At number 4, Xī Hú Lóng Jǐng chá is a powerfully strong tea with rich flavour, from the region of Hángzhōu (Zhèjiāng province).  I’m told Yǔqiánchá is better Lǜchá (green tea) but this is only available around April and May.
  • In third place it is jīn jú níng méng chá (kumquat lemon tea) available cold, hot and beautifully interchangeable with other fruity additions.  This is fantastic for the immune system boost that tropical climes demand.  Black and green teas are switchable.  A perfect recipe sits below:

50ml kumquat juice (around 8-10 nine small kumquats are required); 1/2 small lemon (or lime);  1 tablespoon honey (sugar is okay; as is sweetener); 1 salty plum (optional, it will add a dry bitter twist);
4-5 kumquat rinds (you should have leftovers; again optional); 1 ½ teaspoons black or green tea; boiling water.  This’ll make 500mls of jīn jú níng méng chá (kumquat lemon tea).  Squeeze the juices from the kumquats and lemon (or lime), add the sweetener or honey (or sugar).  Put the above into a teapot.  Add the tea, pour in the boiling water.  Let it stew, let it stew, let it stew… then pour (use a filter if your teapot hasn’t got one).  Enjoy.

  • At number two, all the way from Taiwan or Hong Kong or somewhere… zhēnzhū nǎichá (珍珠奶茶/Pearl Milk Tea) is available in a million flavours and forms.  Most feature tapioca.  Sometimes it is called bōbànǎichá (波霸奶茶) although bōbà can be slang for boobs or breasts.  Who doesn’t like curvy bubbly thingies?!
  • At the top, in number one tea hails from the province of Ānxī, Ān xī Tiě (Iron) GuānYīn (Goddess) [铁观音].  It is a wūlóng chá (oolong tea) and when added to honey, it is so sweet, energising and aromatic.  Like my number four choice, Ān xī Tiě GuānYīn chá features on lists grandly entitled Ten Great Chinese Teas (中国十大名茶) and China’s Famous Teas (中国名茶) – both are based on current tea trends.


In looking up the exact name of the tea, I often enjoy it is remarkably similar to the mountain I last ascended.  Up this moutain, I was thinking how I’d love to see a tea producing area.  I appreciate the time and effort put into making a cup of tea possible.  The more I read about it, the more I appreciate it as not being a simple matter…


  1. plucking tea leaves (cǎi qīng)
  2. sun withering (shài qīng)
  3. cooling (liàng qīng)
  4. tossing (yáo qīng)
  5. withering (wĕi diào)
  6. fixation (shā qīng)
  7. rolling (róu niǎn)
  8. drying (hóng gān)
  9. Possible roasting and scenting
  10. Packaging
  11. Delivery
  12. Tea-making


Right, after all that I fancy a brew… not a Typhoo, PG Tips or Tetley’s teabag is in sight…


Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Dàojiào, Guǎnchéng, Nánchéng, Dōngchéng, Hǔmén & Zhāngmùtou.

21st September 2015

Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,


So far I have explored several districts in and around Dongguan and more specifically Houjie.  Here in Houjie there are many things to see and do, go and eat (like the HJ International Rotating Restaurant, Munchalots, Irene’s Bar, etc).  Houjie boasts some odd titles:

“Town of Hygiene in China”, “Famous Town of Exhibitions in China”, “Town with the Strongest Education in Guangdong”, and a “Civilized Town of Dongguan City”.  There’s a sports park (体育馆), Fushengang (福神岗), Henggang Reservoir (横岗水库) and Dalingshan (大龄山).  More info on Houjie can be found here.

In the meantime, here are six local areas…


Area best reached from Hòujiē Zhèn (厚街镇) by bus(es) (Houjie): Reasons to visit/Places to eat or drink/Landmarks etc

Dàojiào Zhèn

沙田1路; 310路 to东莞市道滘镇西部干道旁

It is ~10km away.

The food festival around the Dragonboat Festival; the river scenery; local foods like Daojiao rice noodles, Daojiao glutinous rice dumplings, Daojiao meat balls, Daojiao porridge, Daojiao cakes and Daojiao egg pie. An old but useful link.

A HereDG guide can be found here.


Guǎnchéng Jiēdào

The L1 bus pretty much ends that way.  L1: Guancheng (Keyuan Garden)–Humen (Weiyuan Barbette Field) (6:00-19:00)

Main stops of the L1: Keyuan Garden, Guancheng Culture Square, Dongguan International Travel Service, Nancheng Walking Street, Houjie Furniture Market, Houjie Exhibition Center, New Humen Bus Station, Humen Apparel Market, Humen Square, Linzexu Park, Weiyuan Barbette Field, Naval Battle Museum

The 201/217 can be taken changing onto the 6/48 at  Nánchéng bus station.

Buses 3, 4, 7, 15, 16, 20, 28, 30, 31, 45, 46, 2A, C2, C4, L1(58), L2 (59), L3 (60), L5 pass close-by to Keyuan (which costs 5RMB to enter).

It is ~15km away.

Ying’en Gate is very old; 21 Art Space museum is modern; fancy something Turkish, then get to Anatolia; there’s the main museum; an art museum; the grand Keyuan gardens and museum (可园博物馆, 东莞市莞城区可园路32号) – an amazing place (see here).  An old source of info.  A recent link for the government.

District guide at HereDG.com


Nánchéng Jiēdào

The L1 and 113 pass through here.

Many other buses can be taken to and from Nánchéng bus station (东莞市南城汽车站, 南城区科技路袁屋边地段).

It is ~6 to 10km away.

An old useful link.  The local government site.  The Yulan Theatre, Heritage Museum, Science and Technology Museum, public library and Children & Youth Palace are very much central features.  Brown Sugar Jar music bar have just moved there.  A great source of foreign food can be found in Corner’s Deli.  For speed nuts, Go Karting is close to the Walking Street.  The visa office is important too.  Soccerworld (索福德, 南城区体育路3号东莞体育馆) is located next to a basketball arena and the old football stadium.

District guide at HereDG.com


Dōngchéng Jiēdào

Take the L1 bus, change before TiYu Lu in Nancheng, swap for the C1 bus to DogCheng bus station: 东莞市莞长路牛山村.

It is ~12 to 18km away.

An old link for Dongcheng.  Alan’s Café, Jay’s Deli, Corner’s Deli, Martin’s Bakery café, Murray’s Irish Bar, One For The Road, Roadhouse, Decathlon sports store (迪卡侬, 东城区火炼树鸿福东路560号), other massive western places like Wanda Plaza Vista and DynaCity, Turkish food at Nazar (东城区东纵路208号万达广场室外步行街(万达金街)1栋41号铺), Pal’s Bar, Subway, Papa John’s, Tangla, a charity shop called Treasures of Hope… etc

There’s HuangQi to go climbing.

HereDG.com and HubHao cover this area extensively.


Hǔmén Zhèn

The L1 bus ends at the Opium War Museum (鸦片战争博物馆, 东莞市虎门镇解放路88号).  Bus 222A路 and 201路空调 go into the town area.

It is ~16km away.

Linked deeply to the Opium Wars of 1839-1842, the Sea Battle & Opium War Museum (shaped like something from Jurassic Park), Weiyuan (Bocca Tigris: Tiger gate) Fort (威远炮台), four other forts, the Tiger Gate Huge Bridge (Hǔmén Dàqiáo).  An old link to the town can be found here whilst HereDG have added something far more recent.


The L4 bus ends at GuanYinShan.

L4: Dongguan Central Bus Station—Guanyin Mountain Forest Park(6:10-20:20)

Main stops: Dongguan Central Bus Station, Jinfeng Residential Garden, Hongyuan Industrial Park, Nancheng Hospital, Donghao Plaza, Donghu Residential Garden, Donghua Hospital, East Bus Station, Huangjiang East Station, Huangjiang Square, Baiguodong Industrial Park, Zhangmutou, Guanyin Mountain Forest Park.

It is ~60km away.

Zhāngmùtou was somewhere I visited twice in the space of a month.  GuanYinShan Mountain Park has more information on http://www.guanyinshan.com/.  Western food can be found at the spacious and luxurious Good Eats.  An old link can be found here.


Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodby



26th September 2015

The strain of the pain infused his teeth to grind without control.  His muffled screams bore into the soft pillow.  A whimper at first then an immense roar of discomfort.  The agony of a hurt so deep and relentless.  As his right leg cramped in smarting pain, his left leg joined the stinging sensation party.  The tenderness made his upper body contract without release.  His interncostal muscles tightened and oxygen appeared to refuse to travel within his blood.  For a few moments he thought he would pass out.  To lose consciousness.  To escape the hurt.  As he throbbed, his mind tried to regain control, to ease the tension within.  The severe spasms of his chest slowly eased.  The shooting sensations of pain withered to a dull ache.  He breathed deeper and slower.  His dizzying mind aimed and focused.  With every inhalation the episode of intercostal constraint shrunk.  His ribs felt looser, his breathing steadier.  His legs pounded and pulsated in various degrees of intensity.  His left side of the chest felt sprained.  All the while his legs tightened and constricted around his knee caps.  The chest stiffness and leg pains made him want to remain lay on his back.  The sofa beneath him soaked full of sweat.  Anxiety, worry, concern and a nervousness to move.  The previous debilitation was not something he wanted to repeat.


After four minutes, and what seemed like an eternity the leg muscles loosened but not without the odd jolt of thunderous pain.  The legs reminded him, he should fear their power.  With apprehension he twisted around slowly, occasionally writhing in agony.  How had this happened?  How could anything be so painful?  When could he move freely again?  Had he done too much?  His body has limits and he hadn’t listened to the limits.  After some time ice and a cold compress met his thighs, ribs and kness.  The coolness smoothening the affected areas in a way only a mother can comfort a crying child.  With limited stretches, he eventually turned his body, and lowered his feet to the ground, taking every motion with absolute care and attentiveness.  The bulge above his right knee relaxed, slackening to taut but not overly tense muscle.


Now it was time to recover.  From his knowledge of muscle recovery, he needed water.  He opened the fridge door to find a two litre bottle of cold water.  He opened the lid with ease.  A desperate want for water.  He upended the bottle and took two fast glugs before slowing the intake of the drench.  Instinct told him to down the bottle fast.  His mind battled against this taking only a little, but by bit.  After consuming half a litre, he looked in his kitchen cupboard.  He needed potassium and calcium.  No such joy.  Not one banana.  He ambled back to the fridge, all the while gaining confidence that the episode of multiple cramps was over.  Here in the fridge, one litre of milk stood.  He opened it carefully and took gentle swigs.


The next day, with the cramp in mind, he looked up stretches in a library to help alleviate the possibility of such a cramp bout.  He would incorporate them into his fitness regimen.  Armed with callisthenics such as the behind-the-head chest stretch, elbows-back exercise, chest stretch on a stability ball, chest-expansion stretch and the doorway chest stretch he would try to beat this type of cramp.  The prospect of visitors spying him raising his arms to shoulder height, keeping them straight and rigid before quickly spreading his arms outward as far as he could and then back to the starting position, did not bother him.  This exaggerated clap could be taken as a welcoming applause.  However, repetitions of up to ten stints may seem slightly silly to a new spectator.


Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,


This week I have used talking in the third person as a fun way to tell a story about your day.  Using him, her, his, hers, she, its, they, them, their, theirs and it can make a student think sharper and see the difference between the first (I, we, mine, our, ours, us)/second (you, your, yours) involves stopping, slowing down and thinking how to change the structure of a sentence.  Thow in possessive, objective and subjective cases and flip a few tenses over and it al is jolly good fun.  The students also correct each other and work as a team.  Next week, I’ll print out some of the new words I’ll teach and ask the students to make fun sentences that make sense but sound silly.


Tomorrow is the Mid Autumn Festival, 中秋節 (Zhōngqiū Jié).  It is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month to coincide with a full moon.  Amongst the moon gazing, stuffing the faces full of mooncakes (月饼; yuè bĭng) and drinking of cassia wines there are many stories being told and other traditions being observed.  Like many Chinese festivals families come together, and where not geographically possible then friends group as one.  There is a thanksgiving of sorts for the harvest of crops and praying for babies, a new husband or wife, self beauty, self longevity, or for a good future.  Folk tales revolve around the legend of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality.  There are lanterns on poles, some with riddles (灯谜,dēng mí), the sky lanterns (tiān dēng 天燈).  The movie Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂; Dà Hóng Dēnglong Gāogāo Guà) amongst other favourites are being screened locally in squares and cinemas.  There is also another story Jade Rabbit Blasts Off to the Moon!


Local shops have copious amounts of pomelos (shaped like a moon), oranges (lunar shaped), grapes (mini moons), pears (here they are shaped like the moon – Nancy in 603 gave me one the other day and it was the best pear I have ever eaten) and other such fruits.  Dao Ming Foreign Language School gifted two tins of mooncakes to each teacher.  They often are made of pastry (lard/oils in the crust) and filled with a red bean, lotus seed paste and other ingredients.  Some taste sweet, others sour and sweet, others fatty and filling, whilst some are light and soft in texture.  There are even solid chocolate mooncakes out there (made by the Swiss).


In school this week the air temperatures has exceeded 36°C, and feeling around 44°C with the humidity factor.  The grade six classes 603-608 are all located on the fifth floor of the main primary school building.  The roof is flat.  The classes are ovens.  The teachers don’t seem to grasp that closing windows and turning on the air conditioner with fans spinning away will cool the room, after a while.  They instead find it too hot early on, open all the doors and windows wit said air conditioner pissing into the wind.  It hasn’t got a chance.  Not a possibility of wintriness or coolness to be felt.  The fans act against the air, wafting down hot blasts of heat into the drooping wiltering students.  Their patience tested by the heat and the teacher before them.  Two afternoon classes in particular, observed by Joanna and April from my company, tested my resolve but were great fun.  As I poured with water, and sapped the dregs of energy I had the classes on so much edge, one girl cried as her team lost and one boy on an opposition team became consumed by anger at his team losing.  The other five teams, especially the one that were victors seemed considerably happier.  The problem of balancing around 36+ students is there are varying abilities.  Apple, the girl you cried, has far higher confidence and vocabulary usage than all of the other students in the entire grade.  This week she’ll enter an English language competition with Daniel form grade 5 (who has by far one of the best vocabulary uses in the entire school and gets angry when he is told to drink hot water).  They both have to read words and pronounce them correctly for about one minute each.  The second part involves a speech about Dongguan (Apple has opted for a start with a song) and in particular the uniqueness of Dongguan.  Cherry, head of grade five teachers, drafted the speeches, I edited them and corrected a few points.  I did suggest Apple’s song is a little unusual but Cherry chose it – and will stick by it.  The last leg involves making speech using three words inside the space of thirty seconds.  So if the words are flabbergasted, mischievous and otorhinolaryngologist then the judges are merciless, just like my cramp on Wednesday night.  Class 704 on the ground floor gave me the intellectual equivalent of cramp.  Three of the smallest students are Gremlins reborn.


In local, national and international news, I didn’t even know that George Osbourne was here.  I guess that is down to the subject of human rights which leads me to my favourite quote of him, “”We raise human rights, but we do it in the context of talking about issues like economic development.”  So make money, not lives?  Other news on national TV has covered a called for death sentence for Panda poaching… and eating.  My favourite news spotted is this sickening love letter of a video.  Proper gander at that!  One of the regions, I want to visit, Xīnjiāng (新疆), is under deep news scrutiny and that could affect any travel plans that way!  George Osbourne went there too, hope he never upset anyone.  And now, how do I plan to waste my Saturday?  Well, I got up in reasonable time, lazed a little and later I will do summat…


Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Ideas, Turkish delights and more about… Tángxià, Shātián, Hénglì, Qiáotóu, Dàlǎng & Dōngkēng

28th September 2015

Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,





noun: idea; plural noun: ideas; noun: the idea

  1. 1.

a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action.

“recently, the idea of linking pay to performance has caught on”

synonyms: plan, design, scheme, project, proposal, proposition, suggestion, recommendation, aim, intention, objective, object, purpose, end, goal, target

“our idea is to open a new shop”

  • a mental impression.

“our menu list will give you some idea of how interesting a low-fat diet can be”

synonyms: concept, notion, conception, conceptualization, thought, image, mental picture, visualization, abstraction, perception; More

hypothesis, postulation

“the idea of death scares her”

  • an opinion or belief.

“nineteenth-century ideas about drinking”

synonyms: thought, theory, view, viewpoint, opinion, feeling, outlook, belief, judgement, conclusion

“Elizabeth had other ideas on the subject”

  1. 2.

the aim or purpose.

“I took a job with the idea of getting some money together”

synonyms: purpose, point, aim, object, objective, goal, intention, end, end in view, design, reason, use, utility, sense, motive; More

value, advantage

“the idea of the letter was to get patients to protest”

  1. 3.


(in Platonic thought) an eternally existing pattern of which individual things in any class are imperfect copies.

  • (in Kantian thought) a concept of pure reason, not empirically based in experience.



late Middle English (in sense 3): via Latin from Greek idea ‘form, pattern’, from the base of idein ‘to see’.


  • So, I have an idea.  An idea that I want to write.  To mix in with a hatful of ideas all dotted around, scribbled, some typed.  So, this will be an idea that shall develop over the week off from October the 1st to 7th.  I’ll try to escape from all around me and sit down and turn the idea into an end product.  I have ten works in progress that I want to fine tune.  The dream is there, the will is there and the strength to follow through on my ideas has long been there.  I am a lion.  That is something I tell my students, “You are lions.  Be confident.”  The pre-class pep talk either gives verve in heated conditions or floats by a few with potency leaving others saying they don’t understand it.
  • Today, in class 804 they went wild and some beat their chests, they had awoken and wanted to go to battle with a tough English subject.  In class 802, it fell on them like a damp drop of rain.  I don’t think they were in the least bit interested from the off and the class was a struggle.  Their form teacher tells me they were sleepy all morning and massively controlled by three leaders of their teams to the absolute point of full restraint.  To get any emotion or response that day would be a major victory in a battle firmly marked as unwinnable.  A tad like Manchester City’s sorry showing this last weekend at White Hart Lane.  Fight to the end? #FloppedOverByTheEnd #TypicalCity. I still think we’ll come good… With 5 home games in Manchester and 1 away game at Old Trafford in the coming month of October, we should be aiming to more than bounce back!


  • Sunday was spent at the pleasant KeYuan Gardens (after the L1 bus arrived there in good time) in Guǎnchéng before a wander to meet Jojo for Turkish tea… and Turkish coffee… before having… can you guess… Turkish lunch… and then a walk.  Back in China, Chinese China and not the Ottaman–infused Turkish China.  The day was swelteringly hot, remaining above 35°C for long periods of time.  In direct sunlight you probably could have cooked an egg on my shimmering head had it not been for the sunblock, sunhat and absence of an egg.  I opted for a climb up HuangQi settling for one peak I hadn’t visited before, not by choice, more by accident.  A left turn after a windy bendy snake-like path should have been a right turn.  Bus number 26 and then the L1 returned me to Houjie.


  • I’m told today will be cooler.  It isn’t as humid but that said it is only 31°C with patchy clouds making good viewing for the blood moon-supermoon-eclipse (last seen in 1982 – I don’t remember it, I may not have been born, next visible in 2033) treble whammy of moons tonight.  I want to see the 7-8% increase in moon size appearance.  The scattered blue light from our Earth’s surface will allow the red light to shine on the moon for a while, it should appear grey, red or orange.  Either way a rusty crappy colour, inferior to blue.  The moon is grey-white-blue usually.  The moon should sit in front of the stars of the constellation Pisces.


After six key link page summaries of Dàojiào, Guǎnchéng, Nánchéng, Dōngchéng, Hǔmén & Zhāngmùtou… here are six more:

Area best reached from Hòujiē Zhèn (厚街镇) by bus(es) (Houjie): Reasons to visit/Places to eat or drink/Landmarks etc

Dōngkēng Zhèn


If you start from Dongguan Bus Station, take bus No. L3 get off at Fuzhu shan stop and transfer to bus No. 76 at Xingdu stop.
If you start from Dongguan Nancheng Bus Station, take bus No. 16 to Dongguan East Bus Station and transfer to bus No. 76.
If you start from Dongguan East Bus Station, take bus No. 76.
Dōngkēng is something of a cement magnet but for one day a year it becomes a huge water fight and most of the year it remains very much standard.  A good guide is located here.  The name of the town comes from the words east and puddle.  The town is also famed for Tangbu shuai, or sweet sticky rice balls.  Read about the water fight to end all battles in puddles at HubHao.

Dàlǎng Zhèn

Bus L4, which goes through downtown, can take you there, too. The journey time will be about two hours. Dàlǎng could be anywhere, in any city.  The government website shows the usual city suburb skyline.  It is geographically sandwiched between the Shenzhen to Dongguan expressway and the Dongguan to Huizhou highway.  The Changping to Humen expressway adds extra weight to a place surrounded by buys roads.  The Tianyu Opera House and Yongzheng Lecture Hall add to a rich culture, famous also for wool and lychees.  HereDG added a guide.  This is a town famous for basketball too, the Shenzhen Leopards once lived here.  An older area called Dajing Tou Village is worthy of a gander.  Look up the Fu De Tang temple based in CaiBian.  There is mountain biking too.

Qiáotóu Zhèn

There are bus lines that go directly to Qiaotou from Dongguan main bus stations.  A taxi may cost 120RMB. Qiáotóu has a really pretty lake.  It is named after the end of a bridge.  It is kind of like Bridgend in Wales (or loosely Pen-y-Bont) but not as crap.  Close to Huizhou and far from the centre of Dongguan, here you can find the central lake full of lotus or rape seed fields.  Between the crops it is just water and people tending to the needs of either plant.  There is a nice park and old stadium sat behind the lake beneath a hill with an octaganol podium stood on it.  Song Wuzhou or Song Wu Delta.  A good link can be found here and there.  Or via this hotel!

Hénglì Zhèn


From Dongguan East Bus Station you can take the 116. From Dongguan Wanjiang Bus Station take the K18, 70 or 76. Hénglì means horizontal ditch.  Here you can drink at Winners Bar and have a kip in a ditch, carefully.  Expect to see cattle and the famous cattle markets.  The local football team is called HengLi Buffalos.  In late October to early November there is a cattle festival.  What a load of bull?  Xinbuzheng Street is a beautiful old street with many world styles of architecture.  There’s more info here and there.

Shātián Zhèn

Bus 217路空调; 沙田1路; go close. Shātián sounds bad.  There isn’t much there to be fair.  A great rowing boat sculpture is out there, somewhere, unfound.  There is a port of sorts and plenty of construction.  Many things happen here, mostly on water.  Islands, rivers, inlets and lakes make up a huge district.  A useful link.

Tángxià Zhèn

Tángxià is famous for international golf courses forming part of the world famous Mission HillsFootgolf (it opens to the public on October the 9th) is present alongside mountain biking and more.  The Dapingzhang Forest Park sits to the southwest.  In the centre the petite Lulu Bar is known as a place for for foreigners to frequent.

For more info look here.


Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

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