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  • Myra Yatco

Ten Things That Make You Go Hmmmm - China Edition

Have you ever had jet lag so severe that it altered your mental state? It has already been 2 weeks since I returned from my unforgettable China trip, and I have yet to recover from crossing the International Date Line. I've tried an amalgam of melatonin and other sleep aids, but those repeatedly failed to restore my circadian rhythms. So my post-trip schedule now consists of breakfast at 2am, 3-hour midday naps, and zombie-like strolls throughout the night.

Triple boo.

There is one thing that lulls me to sleep as soon as I start doing it, and the answer may surprise you. Blog writing. Yes, I see the irony. My own writing puts me to sleep.

When I sit in front of the computer, my eyes glaze over, and I head back to bed. Once inside my cozy nest, I can't fall asleep. And so this tormented cycle repeats itself. Sleepless in bed. Sleep apnea in my home office. What's an extremely exhausted girl to do?

Since I can't overcome this sleep/wake ping pong battle, I am capitalizing on my altered state of consciousness by summarizing several WTF moments that gave me pause during my 12-day trip. Bare with me since it's difficult to get through this latest blog post given the intermittent stops and starts.

My initial blog, China through the Eyes of an Amateur Photographer, paid homage to this stunning country through a series of snapshots showcasing its colorful topography. If the last set of blog photos made you ooh and ah, then at least 2 photos in this contrasting post will provoke some definitive eeewwws. One snapshot definitely makes my skin crawl. Can you guess which one?

Without further ado, here are my Top 10 SAY WHAT? moments beginning with the least perplexing and ending with the greatest oddity of them all.

#10: Chinese Supermen

I'm currently taking a Body Pump class, where I repeatedly lift barbells to tone and strengthen my muscles. I thought I was bad ass until I saw these men assembling bamboo poles with luggage strapped to both ends. Chongqing locals hoist these 150 to 200+ lb. makeshift barbells onto their shoulders and teeter down steep inclines on their way to the Yangtze Gold 8 cruise ship. Did you notice the thin pedestrian bridge strip below? Not only do these guys have superhuman strength, but they also have incredible trapeze-like balance. If I had to use bamboo to transport my belongings, I would likely trip and fall into the Yangtze river with clothing/toiletries in tow. Is this Chonqing's version of Tough Mudder?

# 9: Chinese Moonshine

A fellow traveler and I purchased a local beverage containing 52% alcohol and a splash of corn. Since this drink was so "special", we decided to share the experience with fellow tour group members. Each took a swig of this highly potent moonshine and immediately grimaced once the burning liquid trickled down their throats. What did it taste like? I liken this to drinking nail polish remover or even paint thinner.

Despite my high tolerance, 3 sips of this concoction sidelined me for several hours. In fact, I could have used some to curtail my current jet lag, but TSA would have confiscated what could potentially be classified as Asian contraband.

#8: Selfie Stick Limbo

Climbing the Great Wall is already a difficult endeavor, but when you add dozens of selfie stick- toting tourists to the mix, it can quickly turn into an Olympian feat. Dodging protruding metal contraptions while navigating steep steps is not exactly safe. As with limbo, you must contort your body to pass underneath these sticks, which can easily send you toppling backwards.

Can you imagine inadvertently bulldozing hundreds of unsuspecting wall-climbing visitors?

Thank goodness my temporary agility prevented potential sightseeing catastrophe.

#7 Ear-piercing Locks

Cruising down the Yangtze river is one of the most memorable activities I have ever done. So when we passed through several lock chambers, I couldn't be more pleased. Except it was 3am, and the high-pitched screeching noise bolted me out of bed to identify the cacophony. First thought: "What the hell is that? Please make it stop!!!!!!"

#6: Lost in Translation

Buffets were all the rage during our 12-day tour. Thankfully, there were placards next to each dish so we could quickly decipher what we were about to pile onto our plates. Bottom line: I ate "bacteria" and it was delicious.

#5: Hanging Coffins

During our Three Gorges boat tour, we passed by several "hanging coffins" embedded within rock beds. Apparently, this is an ancient tribal ritual designed to protect bodies from "being taken by beasts". Craned my neck to finally spot one within the main crevice. Do you see it? Bonus balls if you do (see #4).

#4: Raw balls, anyone?

I just have one question. Do you prefer your sheep balls cooked or raw? Can you see the capillaries on each one of these delicacies. I would have bolted if these started to throb and pulsate in front of me. Balls tartare, anyone? Mmmmmmm.

#3: Tarantulas on a Stick

Roughly 2 decades ago, I took a shower in the Philippines with an active tarantula. I swore I would never ever get close to one again until I arrived at the Beijing Street Food Market. At least these critters were cooked and unable to crawl all over me. They were adjacent to snakes, silk worms, and scorpions but I barely noticed them since I immediately beelined to a traditional dim sum kiosk once I captured this closeup. This arachnophobe can barely look at this photo without cringing.

#2: Those who travel together, pee together.

China is home to many 4-star public toilets. I'm not kidding, they are seriously called that. These consist of squatty potties designed to strengthen and sculpt your quads. I was just getting used to them until I walked into a restroom without doors or walls. Peeing next to fellow gal pals was not part of the itinerary, but when you're desperate, you must go with the flow (literally) and hope there isn't an audience. Don't mind the local peering at your genitals. Cultural norm or morbid curiosity?

This question segues perfectly into my top OMG moment of this entire 12-day visit...Drumroll please.

#1: Penis envy?

The last place you would expect to see a selfie stick is in the the men's bathroom. I can't offer a firsthand account so I will share this story on behalf of my fellow tour group traveler, Peter. While Peter was relieving himself, the Asian man next to him boldly positioned his selfie stick underneath Peter's...(fill in the blank).

This guy had the audacity to take photos in rapid-fire succession, which meant dozens of shots were permanently captured. How did Peter know? The flash flickered repeatedly along with the photo-clicking accompaniment. Are there fellow Duran Duran fans out there? This reminds me of the introductory sound clip for "Girls on Film".

I'm surprised Peter took it all in stride and didn't hurl that selfie-stick across the room and into a toilet. That would have been epic.

All in all, this trip was definitely fraught with "things that make you go hmmmmmm". I thought of a few more honorable mentions last night, but felt these top 10 will have to do...for now.

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