Legend Unleashed Chapter 7

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Ah! Another Wednesday release! Hope you are all still following along!

Again, in anticipation of the release of Unbroken Ties (Keeping Secrets, 2), we’re releasing some new chapters of Legend Unleashed (Keeping Secrets, 1) every Wednesday (next release 13th Aug!)!!

Synopsis:

“Temperance is satisfied with her ordinary life. Dealing with her eccentric, childlike parents is all the excitement she needs. That changes when Alastair Byron returns home.
After a failed matchmaking attempt by her father, sparks fly between her and Alastair-just not the good kind.
They are forced together though, when they are implicated in a grisly murder. Their search for the truth leads them to a secret world beneath Carwick, filled with werewolves, wizards and other magical faey.
However, uncovering the truth is far more dangerous than they’d ever imagined.
There are secrets within secrets.
Even Alastair may be more than he seems…”

Catch up from the beginning here: Legend Unleashed Prologue to Chapter 4, Legend Unleashed Chapter 5 and Legend Unleashed Chapter 6 and get the newest chapter here: Legend Unleashed Chapter 7

Please share if you can!

And look forward to the August 2014 release of Unbroken Ties!

Unbroken_Ties_DEVIANTART

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Top 5 Villains

Latimer musing over her Top 5's (kawaii artwork inspired by Miss Wah)

Latimer musing over her Top 5’s (kawaii artwork inspired by Miss Wah)

Latimer: Another one of the Top 5 posts! This time, dangerous villainous villains!

The series comes from the archive of the ‘Top 5 Wednesday’ Tag. This Tag was started by Lainey on Goodreads; here’s the link if you want to check it out: Lainey!

This is a complete list of everyone partaking in the Tag if you want to check them out.

1. The Joker by DC comics

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DC’s the Joker has to be a top villain. No one knows his origin story, he never tells the truth. He’s absolutely crazy, but he’s also incredibly intelligent. He has no loyalties and yet can somehow manipulate those around him to do anything he wants. But the Joker is completely bananas, and as interesting and mysterious as I find him, he’s a villain I’d never want to meet!

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker

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I couldn’t stomach the original Dracula from Bram Stoker. He made me want to hit him with a shovel; the way he manipulated Mina and basically killed Lucy. It really annoys me now when I look at the screen versions of Dracula; he wasn’t sexy, or a fallen hero, he was an absolute narcissistic, megalomaniac. No tears shed when he died… and now I can’t really look at Dracula the same way anymore.

3. Hannibal Lector by Thomas Harris

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Hannibal Lector is a strange one. I always feel like I’m on his side in a way, which it not a comforting thought. I want him to get away, escape and survive (which is bad). He’s an amazing villain, I have a weird soft spot for him; I like him, but he’s a cannibal and a murder, and he’s scary. I’d never want to be in the same room as him. I haven’t watched the TV show, but I’ve seen the finale of season 2; Mad’s Mikkelsen is an amazing Hannibal. I’m still amazed by the vicious intelligence of the character. He worm’s his way inside people’s heads then destroys them.

4. Mr Wickham by Jane Austen

What an absolute arse...

What an absolute arse…

I’ve said it before; I’m a massive Pride and Prejudice fan.

Mr Wickham is the quintessential ‘arsehole villain’. He’s not scary and he’s not powerful, he’s just such an unbelievable jackass. He’s a Jane Austen villain. He’s the sort of guy that if you met him you’d punch him in the nose. Of course, I wouldn’t be afraid to be alone with him, because in a lot of ways, I’d love the opportunity to punch him in the nose.

5. King Joffrery Barathon the First of his Name by GRR Martin

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What a little pain in the ass this guy is. Brilliantly portrayed by Jack Gleeson (he’s an amazing actor, and he’s Irish, by default I’m almost programmed to love him as an actor!).

Joffrery has killed too many people I loved. He’s  malicious, vindictive and stupid – the issue here is when a villain is stupid and has power, his acts of violence are like a bull in a china shop, it’s impossible to predict who will suffer. What a fecker!

Legend Unleashed Chapter 6

LU_NEW_deviant

Ah! Another Wednesday release!

Again, in anticipation of the release of Unbroken Ties (Keeping Secrets, 2), we’re releasing some new chapters of Legend Unleashed (Keeping Secrets, 1) every Wednesday (next release 6th Aug!)!!

Synopsis:

“Temperance is satisfied with her ordinary life. Dealing with her eccentric, childlike parents is all the excitement she needs. That changes when Alastair Byron returns home.
After a failed matchmaking attempt by her father, sparks fly between her and Alastair-just not the good kind.
They are forced together though, when they are implicated in a grisly murder. Their search for the truth leads them to a secret world beneath Carwick, filled with werewolves, wizards and other magical faey.
However, uncovering the truth is far more dangerous than they’d ever imagined.
There are secrets within secrets.
Even Alastair may be more than he seems…”

Catch up from the beginning here: Legend Unleashed Prologue to Chapter 4 and get the newest chapter release here: Legend Unleashed Chapter 6

Please share if you can!

And look forward to the August 2014 release of Unbroken Ties!

Unbroken_Ties_DEVIANTART

Top 5 You’d Like to See Be Movies/TV shows

Latimer musing over her Top 5's (kawaii artwork inspired by Miss Wah)

Latimer musing over her Top 5’s (kawaii artwork inspired by Miss Wah)

Latimer: There are some fantastic BookTubers on YouTube.

One of them is The Readables. She does this great Tag every Wednesday, called Top 5 Wednesday. This Tag was started by Lainey on Goodreads; and it’s basically a weekly prompt of ‘Top 5’s’. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: Lainey!

And this is a complete list of everyone partaking in the Tag if you want to check them out! 

I’m taking some inspiration for posts from this Tag, though I won’t be doing it in any particular order (and it will be on a Sunday!). It’s just for fun, because some of the prompts are quite interesting and force you to think a bit, plus maybe it will inspire me to read a bit more!

For this Tag, I also won’t necessarily be using books as my main basis; I’m going to include characters and situations in graphic novels, comic series, books, TV shows and movies!

So! On to the first Top 5:

Top Books/Comics You’d Like to See Be Movies/TV shows

This is a hard one! But well, let’s see how ole Latimer gets on!

1. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman – TV SERIES

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To this day I have lots of mixed feeling about the series. There were things I loved and things I didn’t, as with all experiences! But I do think it would make a very interesting TV Show. There does seem to be some whispers again that something might be happening with The Sandman in the future, but we’ll wait and see.

Anyways, I think HBO could do amazing things with this material. The Endless as a character set would be pretty interesting to see in the flesh; the unstable Delirium; wise Destiny, who has a book called the Cosmic Log chained to his hand; bitchy Desire, who is neither man nor a woman (called Sister-Brother by the others) and lives in Threshold, a giant flesh and blood replica of itself; Despair (twin of Desire, nice touch!), who wears no clothes and is always in pain; Death a Goth girl who once a year, for one day, lives and dies as a moral; and the protagonist Dream, the Sandman.

The series spans all of space and time, there’s lots of stories to tell along with the main story arc. There are plenty of crazy out-there concepts that could only come from the mind of Neil Gaiman; and they are very cinematic! It could be a great TV show.

2. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett – MOVIE

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I love this book! These two writers are a perfect complement to one another – you can tell they must have had fun plotting this story out.

The story is about the coming apocalypse which is supposed to happen at the hands of Adam Young, the son of the Devil, who doesn’t know who he really is and doesn’t behave as the Anti-Christ should.

There are four horsepeople (Pestilence is now Pollution because Pestilence had to retire due to the discovery of penicillin; and War is a woman); the unlikely team up of an angel and demon;; and the descendant of Angus Nutter, a witch who predicted all of this happening, all racing to find the Anti-Christ.

This would be such a funny, quirky movie – they could make it in a British film style. I think it would be great.

3. Discworld series by Terry Pratchett – TV SERIES

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Okay, so technically there have been a few TV specials of various different Discworld novels, but I think it would make a great ongoing TV show, with new stories; or even a totally new group of characters set in the Discworld. There could be a new/original main story arc, with the new characters interacting with various classic Discworld characters.

It could be made in the same style as Doctor Who, quirky and off-beat, serious but not serious. It would definitely need Terry Pratchett to develop the new story line though.

4. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier – STOP-MOTION MOVIE

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This would be a get stop-motion movie; made by Laika. It’s the story of the 12 dancing princesses, or a take on that idea.

It’s set in maybe 1600’s Romania. The book follows these five sisters who every night go dancing in the fairy realm with lots of magical creatures, then return home before the gates close between the two worlds. The main character Jaina has a pet frog (more a friend) that she found in the woods; they have a telepathic link to one another.

Trouble starts when her older sister falls in love with a vampire from the fairy world. It would make an amazing stop-motion movie. I just made myself sad now because I’ll never get to see it – *sigh*

5. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – TV SERIES

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This was a really amazing book. It’s full of information and it was a damn struggle to read, but so worth it in the end. I actually need to re-read it, there’s so much in it that you start to forget it almost straightaway.

It covers geology, physics, chemistry and biology and how all the various major discovers in each field were developed; it also has lots of stories about all the quirky and down-right strange people who made all these discoveries and how they did.

It would be an amazing TV series.

Do you guys have any thoughts on what you’d like to see as a movie or TV show?

If you want to start using this Tag, check out the link to Lainey’s thread on Goodreads – anyone can use it!

Good Morning Vietnam

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Latimer: What else could I call a blog post about Vietnam? It’s a phrase I overused so very much while in Vietnam. I said it basically every morning, and if I forgot, I’d say it mid-way through the day.

This post is a continuation of my trip around South East Asia, as it’s getting to the end of summer now; I find myself reminiscing more and more about my adventures in the past. They were so good; they make me consider what the next adventure will be!

But well, back to my South East Asian adventures! I had made it through Thailand and Laos, with lots of fond memories and exciting adventures, onward to Vietnam, a place that I was expecting to love, though I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting to love about it…

I was right about the loving part; it’s a gorgeous, bustling fun place, full of amazing places to see and history to learn about, all inter-spaced with yummy food, cool art and random livestock on bikes (the motorbike is everything in Vietnam!)

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Beer corner, Hanoi where local people sell beer and we all watch the crazy traffic go by, as we sit on the street and drink. Yup. I randomly met up with some of my China-travel buddies here too, so the world is a very small place guys!

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Bun Cha, Vietnamese delicacy, Hanoi

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Crash site of Senator John McCain’s plane, shot down by the Viet Con during the Vietnam war (it is still there in Hanoi where it fell)

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They are super happy about having shot down this plane, so it’s very well sign posted – I think it’s because Senator John McCain is a Senator now

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This is the Hilton Prison, Hanoi. Hilton was a nickname placed on the prison, by the prisoners, who were American POWs

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Motorbikes on the streets of Hanoi

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More yummy Vietnamese food!

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Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh) propaganda artwork for sale in Hanoi

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Artwork, Hanoi

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Chinese monument in Hanoi – there is a heavy Chinese influence in Vietnam, as the country was part of/occupied by the Chinese during it’s history (Vietnam feels like it has more Chinese influence than, Laos, Thailand or Cambodia)

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Halong Bay

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Sunset, kite-flying off the back of our boat in Halong Bay

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Yes, that is a cow on the back of a motorbike… yeah

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Food wraps and kawaii fingers, Hue

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Vietnamese dragon and my Chinese Travelling Buddha, in the Vietnamese ‘forbidden city’, Hue

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Just on the road in Vietnam, amazing

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Blurry Buddha and me in an old American war bunker, on the road

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The Mighty Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City (kinda)

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Fresh coconuts on the Mekong Delta

Travelling Buddha gets around, here he's at the Chu-Chi Tunnels

Travelling Buddha gets around, here he’s at the Cu-Chi Tunnels

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Tofu, noodles and veggies, yum!

I saw a lot of amazing places, but my favourite had to be the laid-back beautiful Hoi An, I could have spent a long time there, it was a small, but very lovely town?

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Beautiful wedding couple. As in Chinese tradition, red is the colour for the bride in Vietnam, not white

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Laid back streets of Hoi An

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Hoi An streets

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A bridge across the river, Hoi An

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Lanterns, beautiful Vietnamese lanterns

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Sunsets on its way over Hoi An!

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A cool eatery Hoi Ah, though it looks very Spanish or something!

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Super fresh noodles and yummy avocado smoothie (delicious!), Hoi An

Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An

Lanterns and more lovely Lanterns, Hoi An

Hoi An has a lovely river running through it. I went on a boat ride during the sunset and cast some lanterns out on the water, sending my wishes with it!

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It’s where people get clothes made lots of the time, but it has some cool art shops also, and also, the best tea shop I have ever been in in my whole life. It’s called Reaching Out Teahouse and it’s run by deaf and mute staff, so everything is done by indicating via the menu and also these little notes where you can ask for a re-fill of water etc. It is a Fairtrade shop and it works with people with disabilities in the community to find employment and live an independent life, so it’s well worth supporting. They also sell these amazing crafts in the shop – and all the tea cups and cutlery (metal and ceramic) are made by the Reaching Out artisans.

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Used to communicate with staff

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Iced coffee, with coffee ice… haha

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Crafts from the shop

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Traditional seating

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The tea tasting menu (3 types) – soooo good, plus you get three interesting treats with it! Like, eg., a sweet potato swirl, or green tea biscuit

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A platter of very interesting treats!

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The famous Vietnamese coffee (iced) – three type tasting menu here! It was so good!

It was really serene and it was nice to sit in this traditional style teahouse and look out of the open shutters at the front at the people passing by in the street. Some Chinese tourists randomly stopped in front of the windows and took photos with us Westerns in the background, which was… well, hilarious and random, but I had noticed this happened a lot in China also, so I was kind of used to it, in a very weird way!

Vietnam was a brilliant place, I would definitely go back. Maybe one day I will, but from there it was onward to the place I had wanted to visit the most, Cambodia (and the stunning Angkor Wat… what)!

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Stop-motion love

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Latimer: There are some interesting movies on the horizon. Just the other day I saw a trailer for The Boxtrolls, a beautiful-looking stop-motion movie made by the Laika group.

It’s been a while since I saw one of their movies (Paranorman) but I always look forward to them – because I love me some stop-motion.The Nightmare before Christmas is one of my favourite movies (and also, strangely, one of the movies that creeps me out most… not sure what that says about me!).

Paranorman was preceded by Coraline (one of Neil Gaiman’s books), which was on the TV recently and made me fall in love, all over again, with lovely Laika stop-motion.

What a beautiful art-form stop-motion it is. These movies are so detailed and so lovingly made. You can see how much time and effort went into crafting them. I love the wacky character designs, the seamless movement and yes, I love the eerie feeling that niggles at the back of my mind, because stop-motion, in a lot of ways, boarders on the very, very creepy.

They take years to make and I guess that’s the price we pay for the quality – the time. But, YES, time to look forward to The Boxtrolls!  

Lovely Laos

20140502_091324Latimer: I continued my adventure through South East Asia by crossing from Thailand into Laos. I have to say it’s one of the loveliest, most laid back countries I’ve ever visited. I’ll put my hand up and say I really didn’t know anything about Laos before I went there. So, here’s a quick list of facts/interesting info, about Laos!

  • Laos is actually called; Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Hello is pronounced – SAA-BAI-DEE
  • Thank you is pronounced – KUP-JAI; Thank you very much – KUP JAI LAI LAI
  • Currency is called ‘kip’
  • Biggest export is coffee
  • New Year occurs in Mid-April
  • It’s the most bombed country; due to its proximity to Vietnam and Cambodia
  • 75% people are farmers
  • 67% Buddhist; 32% Phii (a jungle religion); 1% Christian

First stop on the journey through Laos was a trip down the might Mekong River. Which gave me some time to catch up on my note-taking from my trip, eat some traditional Laotian food and have my first taste of lychee! 20140502_092012 20140502_102145 20140502_112257 20140502_161101 20140502_17410520140502_103556 20140503_115759

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Thai Buddha art catch up on the Mekong River!

We then went to the lovely town of Luang Prabang. Where I found myself up at 5AM to go and offer alms to the Buddhist monks, along with a lot of other visitors. This was a pretty special moment. My offering was some sticky rice; but… it’s very sticky (go figure!) and it was really hard to dish the stuff out without being overwhelmed by the sea of orange clad monks descending upon the streets of Luang Prabang! In Luang Prabang, I met some elephants and had a misadventure kyakking in a boat that had a hole in it and ended up capsizing, with me onboard, in a river full of elephants and their poo… yeah. That’s happened. The elephants were pretty cool about it though, looking on nonchalant as I resurfaced full of rage.

5AM in Luang Prabang

5AM in Luang Prabang

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Monks collecting alms

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Poor children from the mountains come into town and the monks toss some of their food into the children’s baskets. The children then take these baskets home to their families.

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Sticky rice offering

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Elephant rider

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Beautiful elephants having a snack

The RIVER... yesh.... hmmm, I have mixed feeling about you river...

The RIVER… yesh…. hmmm, I have mixed feeling about you river…

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Views of Luang Prabang

No trip of mine would be complete without me waxing lyrical on the food! I had some good food in Laos… We managed to stop off at a local families house in Luang Prabang for some traditional food, that was so good. We were also given a Buddhist blessing by the family for luck on our travels. Then it was on to the next stop on our journey! Vang Vieng and the capital of Laos; Vientiane! But that’s another blog post!

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Food, home cooked foooooood

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Yummy fresh mango and….. a traditional dessert, kind of tasted like coconut…. sorta!

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Blessings and welcomes; I would loose these along with my Buddhist blessing from Thailand when I fell in the river… damnable RIVER!!

For other posts about South-East Asia check out: Laotian Living and Trekking through Thailand

What’s for Dinner?

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Latimer: I’ve said this before (a lot!!), but honestly one of the best things about going to a different country is getting to eat their food! And I’m the sort of person who takes photos of the food they eat and Instagrams them – hence this post is photo heavy!

I love Asia food but I wouldn’t have ever said I particularly liked Chinese food. As with most countries, we have Chinese takeaways in Ireland and they’re fine. But having been in China, I don’t think they are making proper Chinese food (I think it’s Westernized to suit our palettes). But, I wish they weren’t, because as it turns out, proper Chinese food is so freckin’ good!

I was asked a lot about the food when I came home – people would grimace, ‘what did you eat?!’ Well, okay, to be honest in Chinese food, they use everything and the food is always fresh (i.e. the fish is alive in the tank then cooked and put on your plate). It’s harsh to look at, but you have to respect that Chinese people know where their food is coming from; we eat the steak and the pork and we don’t think about how it got there.

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Weighing the fish

And here the fish is cooked moments later (it's called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)

And here the fish is cooked moments later (it’s called Beer Fish a dish from Yangshuo)

And they have some amazing food markets! The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an was one pretty cool food spot…

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Muslim Quarter Xi’an

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The yellow stuff is rice cake

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They are making this sticky bar type stuff from peanuts and honey… beating the crap out of it with mallets!

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A prune, fungus drink… wasn’t nice! 😦

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Roasted walnuts

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Kitchen in the Muslim Quarter

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A kitchen in the Muslim Quarter

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Making fried wraps

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Yummy fried wraps

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Squid on a stick!

From hotpots to noodles, to taro chips… I ate well in China!

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Meet in a bun… sooo good… and spicy cauliflower

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Noodles in Xi’an (they’re known for their noodles – this was the only time I had noodles actually! wow)

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Spicy beef

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Yummy spicy cabbage

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Sweet and sour fish in Beijing

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Dumplings in Xi’an

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Some seriously spicy hotpot in Chengdu (they have the best hotpots apparently!)

Do you see the brains? Yup... I did not try that! ah... ha... nooo...

Do you see the brains? Yup… I did not try that! ah… ha… nooo…

Spicy potato... Love me some spuds!

Spicy potato… Love me some spuds!

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We stopped off at a local woman’s house for lunch in Yangshuo. This green stuff (a type of lettuce I think?!) was soooo tasty… I could have ate the whole plate!

These were homegrown in the above woman's garden... yummy!

These were homegrown in the above woman’s garden… yummy!

Taro chips.... They could give potatoes a run for their money!!

Taro chips…. They could give potatoes a run for their money!!

I went to a cooking class and this was my end result.... not too bad?!

I went to a cooking class and this was my end result…. not too bad?!

If you ever go to China know that you are going to eat well!

And to round things off you’ll find some nice drinks too!!

This beers quite nice... and bloody massive - I could hardly hold it for this photo!

This beers quite nice… and bloody massive – I could hardly hold it for this photo!

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Strawberry soda

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coffee art… how can you drink it now!!

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More coffee art… so cute!!

 

Monkey Madness

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Latimer: Who knew walking up a Chinese mountain to stay the night in a monastery could lead to close encounters of the wild monkey kind? I sure as hell didn’t, but it happened!

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Our Chinese guide said the monkeys of Mt Emei Shan were well-known for jumping onto people’s backs, opening their bags and stealing food (and anything else they could get their hands on). Sometimes they mistook phones and cameras for food and on realising that they couldn’t eat the precious electronics and priceless memories, they’d toss them over the edge of the cliffs.

Nice!

The monkeys had adapted to the influx of people climbing the mountain to see all the temples and monasteries. They were being opportunists – ‘okay cousin humans, you can traipse around our home, but be aware, we are going to steal your crap!’ And, because the monkey’s had no fear of human’s anymore, the human’s had turned them into a tourist attraction (but of course!).

You can buy nuts to feed the monkeys so that they’ll jump up on your back and you can get a photo with them. Wooden bridges have been built along the mountain to allow people the chance of a close encounter… and there are even people called ‘Monkey Police’ (who scare the monkeys away for you if you are about to be robbed).

The monkeys are so unafraid of humans that they get mad when you try and stop them stealing and they get pretty aggressive. So, we were warned to be careful. We were given bamboo sticks to scare them away (not hit them, just smack the ground and scare them). The sticks were cool because walking along a mountain is not the same without a stick!

I didn’t want a monkey to jump on me, but I did want to see them…

On the walk up the mountain the only monkeys I saw were on the ‘encounter bridges’.

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A few people from my group went out – brave souls. One had a monkey jump up onto his back and the rest of us started shouting – “He’s trying to open your bag! He’s trying to open your bag!”

Seriously the monkey was pulling at the zippers; he knew exactly what to do. He didn’t have any luck though, our group member sauntered back, indicating his double-zipped super bag and in a cool American accent, smiled; “This isn’t my first rodeo!” 🙂

I was half-disappointed and half-relieved not to have had more of a monkey encounter. We all made it safely to the monastery on the mountain – the walk to which nearly ended me! I thought, ‘they’ll have to leave me here, I’ll learn Chinese and live off the land!’ – it was rough!

There’s a small kitchen/café near the monastery – the oddest most remote place – and they had the best pancakes, and half the world thinks so too judging by all the messages people had left on the wall – all talking about the pancakes.

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I found some Irish one’s, so that made me smile – these girls, they have v.good Irish!

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It’s a husband and wife duo that run this kitchen (and live above it); I got some photos of the kitchen, xie xie (thank you :-)) to the woman for letting me! Isn’t it an amazing place?

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And this was the monastery we stayed overnight in…

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We stayed one night then headed back down the mountain in the wee hours of the morning – I thought that was the end of my potential monkey encounters… but OH no… they’d only just begun.

The monkeys are very active in the morning as it turns out. There were big groups of them. By the time I’d realised that we were surrounded I was at the back of the group with the tour guide and local guide, when holy crap this big angry male monkey appeared (he was massive!).

I fear feeling fear in front of animals, because I’m always thinking; ‘they can smell my fear!’

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All I could think was the warnings we’d been given; if they jump on you don’t scream (yeah right!) and don’t show them your teeth (that’s an act of aggression in monkey speak).

The tour guide tried to scare the monkey off with the bamboo sticks, and you know what this monkey did? He paused, took one measured look at the stick, and the man to which it was attached, and seemed to say; ‘I’ll have you!’ and charged back at the man, swiping his hand at the stick, trying to whip it away from the guide!

The guide managed to ‘scare’ the monkey away in the end and I scuttled off down the path. It was pretty scary!

Monkeys (and apes) are so intelligent; there’s a new series on the BBC called Monkey Planet and it highlights some really interesting traits that monkeys and apes have! When I watched it I kept getting flashbacks to the smart, scary, monkeys on the mountain!!

Middle Kingdom Musings

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Latimer: I’m back! For reals, not from a place of scheduled posts! Yup, my epic trip around China has ended and I’m now suffering from a major case of ‘holiday hangover’. You know the feeling; ‘It hurts so bad! It’s over!’

I think the only cure is to go on holiday again… *cue sneaky smile* well, maybe you never know!

Basically this can be applied to holidays too o_O

Basically this can be applied to holidays too o_O

But for now let me rewind my memories – do you want to come with me on a trip to the Middle Kingdom? Sure you do! Let’s head back in the way-way-back machine! This will either be cathartic or depressing for me. If you look to your side at any point and see a smiling Latimer, good times, if she’s weeping, please take a moment to comfort her J

So, this trip was a reward for me finally finishing college. Yes, I was still in college; institutionalised possibly (definitely). Thankfully, the ending was a good one (i.e. piece of paper, awarded – just need to dot the i’s etc) and so, I was off I went to CHYY-NA (or ‘wild CHYY-NA’ as I kept calling it) with a travel group.

First the long-haul flight… okay so, I don’t sweat them much anymore, but they are still annoying. I’ve been on a lot of them, so I know my pattern pretty well at this stage; a) I can’t sleep very well and b) I can’t eat the plane food (can’t even stomach the smell of it). I literately recoil when the steward/ess trusts it under my nose – “no! No I don’t want it! Please don’t make me…”  

So, knowing this at the airport I’ll stock up on essentials (food and water), like someone planning for the zombie apocalypse (where we’ll only be able to get crap, ‘it’s bad for you but who cares there are zombies’, food). This time, in the wonderful Terminal 2 of Dublin Airport (this is our really fancy new (ish) terminal), I found a nice shop to buy sandwiches in, which may not sound like much, but when you are contemplating your fear of airplane food it does mean a lot!

Oh and by a nice sandwich, I mean, one that doesn’t contain mayonnaise (for some reason this type of sandwich is hard to find). In this shop I found a plain cheese sandwich (I almost wept for joy). Then I nipped around for some water, Hula Hoops crisps and a chocolate bar (these bad boys will pop up again in China). 

On the flight I stayed away from the plane food and scoffed down my sandwich and water. Then when I got to my layover in Dubai (that’s a new, semi-novel stop for me; what a nice airport it is), I got some food (a stir-fry, easing myself into the Chinese food) while I watched my gate for my Beijing connecting flight.

I gulped down my food getting a bit nervous about when my flight would start to board. Then I had to fight the rush of Chinese people trying to board the plane. It was a bit of a free-for-all; even though the airline was calling out the rows that would board first, it seemed like people were having none of that. I had to push my way up through the crowd to board (as my row had been called, not because I’d turned into the Hulk and just decided it was ‘my time’ to board, people be damned).

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After a bit of a wait, we were off to Beijing!

When we were close to landing, I started thinking about transportation from the airport (like I always do). I start to… not worry, but overthink it? This is the part of my holiday I research and research and print out very piece of information before I leave my house (unless Ridley is travelling with me, then I use her like a GPS and guidance system; she is basically a map that you can interact with and befriend, haha. Seriously though she knows she’s part map)!

So touching down in Beijing, without Ridley, I was armed with all the information and warnings internet could provide me on – a) fake Chinese money (and how to detect it; it’s all in your Mao’s ladies and gentlemen; run your nail over Mao’s hair, if it’s ridged your note be real, if not your note be fake and no Chinese person will take that bad boy off you – tip, always check your Mao’s!); and b) getting a taxi from the airport.

Ah, one thing about getting a taxi in China; don’t get the black taxis. These are fake and they’ll over charge you.

Okay, fair enough I thought, I’ll not fall into their trap, oh no, I am an informed Westerner!

“Stay in the queue for the taxi” – the internet warns you, “don’t let someone lead you out of the queue! Look at the locals!”.

So, what happens when I get to the top of the queue and the people directing Chinese people to their taxis carefully ignore me?

Oh yeah, some man comes up and takes my little piece of paper with the hotel’s name on it and reads it; “I can take you there!” he says in English with a smile, trying to lead me to his black car.

Oh hells no!

I smile, laugh, take back my paper; “No thanks, I’ll wait here” (inside growling Wolverine style: back off bub!)

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The thing is, the people directing people to the taxis, they backed off and let him try and lead me off; after he didn’t manage it they were still half-ignoring me. It was very strange. Basically they know what’s going on, but it’s like, “oh well let him have a go”. Not cool ladies.

Later I found out that one of our travel group did get one of the black taxis and ended up paying 100 USD for the trip that cost me 12 euro in my registered taxi (12 euro = approx. 16 USD – a BIG rip off!).

My first taste of a taxi ride in China was strange – my taxi driver hacked and spat out the window three times (as we were driving, amazing dexterity). I was staring, then cringing in amazement – where was I?!

Then I started to notice other odd things. He had an empty glass jar of coffee resting next to his gear stick (phrasing!). There was liquid the colour of pond water in the jar, and what looked like twigs and leaves gently tapping against the glass; like something you’d find in a science museum from the 1800s. Me staring stupefied at the jar as he gulped down the contents and zig-zagged through traffic (there are no rules of the road), kept me occupied for the whole trip. I’d come to see this empty glass jar and strange contents again and again and again over my trip (it’s tea, or something, but it looked really weird straight off the bat!).

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Another top tip from the internet was to always have your hotel address written in Chinese and also to have the phone number of the hotel. Thank you great and noble inter-web, you saved me there too!

My taxi driver had to call the hotel to find out where it was. And even though I don’t speak Chinese, I could tell he was saying; “Where the hell are you? I’m out here on the street and you’re not here – haha, what the hell? Where? Oh… hmm”

He ended up dropping me off on the side of the street, gesticulating and shouting in Chinese at some building hidden behind a row of other buildings. I stared at it.

“Yeah, I got yah.” I said nodding and pointing at the hidden building (my hotel’s name emblazoned on the very top of the building). The taxi driver watched me as I walked across the street; then started shouting at me in Chinese and pointing at the building again.

“I know!” I called back, nodding again and struggling to find a way through the row of buildings that blocked my hotel. Why was it hidden behind a fortress of other buildings? How did one get inside? Did I have to walk through the small convenience shop in front of it, was there a way through it or what the hell was going on? I felt like Pacman caught in a corner!

The taxi driver was driving away by now, slowly passing me as I walked up and down the street trying to figure out a way through the buildings to my hotel. Would I have to tunnel through, like Andy Dufresne from Shawshank?

The taxi driver starts shouting at me again and I just know by the tone and his actions what he’s saying – “Hey! Idiot, your hotel’s there! It’s right there you foolish girl!”

And I reply laughing (but frustrated); “I know! I know! Thanks!” Then I watch him shake his head and drive off. I stare at the guys outside the convenience shop (who are staring at me too). I make for the door, dragging my wheelie bag with me. They talk to me in Chinese and point down the street and make the universal ‘around the corner’ sign.

I nod. “Thanks lads!” and walk off towards a car park barrier. I stare down the lane; it looks like an office car park or something. Shrugging I walk down and turn the corner, finding my hotel nestled in an odd little courtyard, hidden from the rest of Beijing (and mankind).

The combination of jetlag and culture shock has me buzzing by this point. I meet up with my group and our Chinese tour guide (and I am only semi-conscious) and we go out for Peking duck. My mind is racing from lack of sleep at this point; “god it’s colder here than I thought; why is it called Peking duck… I really want to go to bed but I have to have a shower when I get back… plane rides make my hair greasy… I really want to go to bed!”

Yup, and so ended my first day in China! The adventure continues 🙂

Next post: Walking Along a Wall