Wonderful Randomness

I can’t quite find the words to describe China. As a travel writer, that’s kind of embarrassing.

China is just too big, too varied and weird to be summed up in any real way. Instead, the experience of being in China is made up of hundreds of tiny, incoherent details that make up a strange and unique whole.

So I think today I will go ahead and believe that a picture IS worth a whole bunch of words. When I see something that’s too weird to ignore, I try to snap a picture. None of these things are fleshed out to make an entire post, but they are each kind of awesome in their own right.

Here’s a handful:


Performance on Nanjing Road. I think it's supposed to say "Welcome to Shanghai"

Soviet style architecture, and a spaceship, in Shanghai

Mahjong in the park (I'm actually quite good!)

Chain store I see all over China. I giggle every time.

Super communist statue in Tienanmen Square

ObamaMao t-shirts

It's inescapable.

Beautiful shopping center in Xi'an

Exactly what it says

Ubiquitous old men playing Chinese Chess

hanging lettuce out to dry on a street in Beijing

Freaking adorable Chinese tourists outside of the Forbidden City.

That’s the really great thing about China (apart from the food), the thing that keeps visitors enthralled. You never know what kind of scene  you’re going to stumble across. It could be something awesome, or funny or gross, you just can’t predict. China is a constant surprise, and that’s what I love about it.


18 Responses to Wonderful Randomness

  1. adriana May 24, 2011 at 9:19 AM #

    I have been trying to write about China too. And I find even difficult to describe a city. China is different everywhere, every moment changes, every day you have a different view on china. Im in love.

  2. Fabrizio May 24, 2011 at 9:34 AM #

    Okay, first off let me say that those Obama Shirts are fantastic. It is true, China only appears to be coherent in its seemingly widespread lack of continuity. I think it is why I love the place so much; I simply cannot understand the place as a whole, with each region, and sometimes each city, being so different from anything else that you have ever seen. Things like the poorly planned ‘Welcome to Shanghai’ seen that you saw. The Chinese is correct, but the English is obviously….not so much. My first time in China I thought that I would be able to make a fortune offering an English sign translation and grammar checking service, until I realized that most Chinese are not particularly concerned with the translation itself, rather that the sign simply contains English. Go figure.

    • Steph May 24, 2011 at 9:39 AM #

      That’s so true- everywhere I go I think “Why don’t they just hire a student to translate their signs/menus/whatever?” But that’s not really what they care about. Living here is just endlessly fascinating.

  3. Jaime May 24, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

    DO they really play Mahjong with actual things like that? Like in the computer game do they stack them on top of each other and you have to unstack them as the become free???? Did this make sense? I just had never thought about playing Mahjong like in real life…

    • alexis May 25, 2011 at 2:37 PM #

      I think that might be solitaire mah jong. Kinda like how playing cards can be played both by yourself and also with other people?

      I’m not sure about china, but my Filipino family play mah jong with 4 people, and it’s a gambling game. It’s super addicting! I love it!

    • Steph June 1, 2011 at 9:45 AM #

      It’s just like the computer game! but you know, 3-d.

  4. Roman May 24, 2011 at 9:34 PM #

    After 13 months in China nothing about this place surprises me anymore. I love it all! The culture, the strangeness, the Chinglish. China is not just another place, it is another world! Great pictures!

  5. Jillian May 24, 2011 at 10:00 PM #

    Those kids are so cute!

  6. Odysseus May 25, 2011 at 12:24 AM #

    Yeah, I could hardly write any posts about China after I visited. It’s just too . . . big! Haha.

  7. Sasha May 25, 2011 at 1:56 AM #

    Haha I loved that “polite language and no noising” sign at the expo, hilarious!!! One of the many reasons I fell in love with China was for it’s randomness, it really is quite unique! 🙂

  8. Sarah May 25, 2011 at 7:45 AM #

    Steph, this post is fantastic!

    Like other readers have said, I had such a hard time writing about Beijing after my extremely short stay there. But I did write about it on my old blog ( and it sounds like we had a pretty similar experiences.
    Very reassuring! 🙂

  9. ehalvey May 25, 2011 at 10:17 AM #

    Hahaha! Chinglish for the win! And why are those kids so adorable?

    • Steph June 1, 2011 at 9:50 AM #

      I swear, china has the most adorable of all babies. It’s redonk.

  10. Sabrina May 25, 2011 at 12:15 PM #

    A Teenie Weenie store? Awesome 🙂 And I love that the “Welcome to Shanghai” is backwards. I wonder if they had the Chinese signs backwards too…

    I always wonder as well why they don’t just hire a foreign student to go over their huge signs and posters in English as well. It’s the same in Egypt! I’ve seen so many menus in English/German there that were just wrong and funny. Many people have offered to re-do them for free. The answer of the owner was always no. Weird, right?!

    • Steph June 1, 2011 at 10:01 AM #

      Someone below said that the chinese is correct- just the english is out of wack!

      I do find that so weird, yet i beleive it based on the complete lack of english menus around here.

  11. Global Basecamps Ali May 25, 2011 at 6:22 PM #

    The signs all over China crack me up!! But like you said, the weird and unpredictable things are kind of what make it great. Love the pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Elle May 27, 2011 at 9:44 AM #

    How adorable are those kids? Visiting China would definitely take me out of my comfort zone, perhaps that’s what I need right about now…

  13. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ May 27, 2011 at 3:02 PM #

    HAHA OMG. this is absolutely amazing. I have made it my goal to get pics of hilarious signs and such on my next trip.

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