Category Archives: Smell

China – Under The Hood: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment?

It’s 0.32 hrs, early Wednesday morning, on rattler K8427 and we’re rolling along towards Hangzhou East Station, having just pulled out of characterless SongJiang (I guess everywhere is inexpressive when its pitch black outside).

Two more stops to endure: Like time without end in this oppressively hot sardine can, stuffed to the gills with wilting, almost comatose, travellers.  In any manner whatever dishevelled bodies covered with sweat, are crushed, wedged, packed, and squeezed into seats and each other. Faces, compressed into table tops and plastic bags crammed full with life possessions, compete for space with those two standard trappings for such idle moments: melon seeds and screw-top jars.

Great China Railway Journey: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment Packed Train Shanghai Hangzhou

Great China Railway Journey: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment Packed Train Shanghai Hangzhou

To rise above the tedium of the travel, passengers, those that are still of sound mind, delight in picking, cracking open and chewing melon seeds (now I know what the long pointed nails are for, working much more effectively than teeth), while another infallible remedy are the jars filled to the brim with tea, the fuel that drives China’s blue-collar classes.

The carriage is unventilated and airless, while the railway car attendant is swabbing the floor under my feet with a filthy black mop, the same one she has just used to clean the toilet.

The commuter across the way has his shirt rolled halfway up his chest, a nauseating waft of cigarette smoke permeates the space between us, and I find myself envisioning two very smelly French delicacies:

  • Vieux Boulogne, the foul-smelling ‘chou dofu’ of cheeses, the smelliest cheese known to man, is said to smell like a product from a cow’s ass, rather than its udders, which adequately describes the stench originating from the toilet.
  • Pont l’Eveque, the Durian of cheeses, is one of the world’s oldest cheeses and dating back a couple of hundred years actually smells that old, its pong bearing a very strong resemblance to the overpowering odour emanating from this gentleman’s sweat soaked, decaying socks.

“…foul smelling French cheese…”

Durian

Durian

Chou Dofu

And for all this entertainment only RMB 25 (Euro 2.60), the price of the ticket from Shanghai South Station.

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Filed under China, Culture, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Smell, Train, Travel

An urban elephant, a street dog, a hawker, minorities, buses, durians, lottery (huay), monarchy, motosai, phuangmalai, Gucci, pollution, sanuk (fun), nana, sky train, sounds, street food, tam boon (merit making), taxis, touts, uniforms, traffic..

The Bangkok of the typical mind’s eye is a sleazy, illegal, exotic, out of the ordinary place that never sleeps. Most foreign accounts of Bangkok play to this image, or on the contrary, to an ornamented description of the city as spectacularly dazzling as the gilded mosaics of the Grand Palace, which forms the ideal Land of Smiles postcard.

In truth, Bangkok doesn’t require such seedy embellishments or historical imagery when its reality is already so uniquely remarkable.

So, how to sum up the energy that this city radiates? Rather than focusing on the must-visit attractions and monuments, maybe a few photos of the people and dynamics that make Bangkok tick will really convey a sense of what Krung-thep-maha-nakorn-boworn-ratana-kosin-mahintar- ayudhya-amaha-dilok-pop-nopa-ratana-rajthani-burirom-udom-rajniwes-mahasat-arn-amorn-pimarn- avatar-satit- sakattiya-visanukam is all about.

So what do an urban elephant, a street dog, a hawker, minorities, Africans, Arabs, buses, durians, the huay (lottery), the monarchy, motosai (motorbike taxis), phuangmalai (flower garland), pollution, sanuk (fun), Soi Nana, the Sky Train, Gucci, street food, tam boon (merit making), taxis, touts, uniforms and traffic all have in common? Well they reflect through Niall’s eyes an attempt to echo the madness, enthusiasm, sounds, smells, tastes and creative energy that shines from this incredible city.

The elephant…. An eccentric sight …. Enjoying a cool beer on the sidewalk when one of these huge animals appears from around the corner. It’s depressing to see this highly intelligent and self aware mammal being led around noisy, polluted streets by a mahout handing out bananas for money, Thais seeing the feeding of elephants as a form of merit making, with extra money coming from photographs taken for thoughtless tourists.  Of course, uncontrolled logging in the mountainous Thai border areas has meant less work for the elephants, less food supplies, with owners claiming they have no choice but to roam the streets of Bangkok begging with bananas.

The street-wise (soi) dog, or mad dog, is almost always to be found lazing way in the burning midday sun outside a 7 – Eleven, or a temple. With looks only a mother could love they are not certainly not pretty, invariably have a dreadful skin disease, and have almost zero hair. But this is part of their allure… By night they roam Bangkok’s polluted streets, relying on food from ‘merit making’ locals.

Whether its balloons, squeaky toys, floor mops, silly masks, fruit, food, coffee, ice cream, or cold drinks, just about everything under the sun, the hawkers provide sound and smell to the commotion that is Bangkok.

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Filed under Bangkok, Beauty, Dog, Flowers, Food, Inspirational, Smell, Thailand, Travel