Twitter is blocked, so I'm posting here: I'm in China, and s**t is CRAZY
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Greetings from China! I'm currently on vacation here with my wife and son. Saw a little bit of Beijing and Shijiazhuang, but spending most of my time in Chengdu.

As you probably already know, the government here blocks access to some Websites -- this is known as the Great Firewall of China -- and Twitter is one of them. I had had hopes of tweeting random observations during my trip. BoardGameGeek is not blocked, however, so I shall type down my random observations here, in geeklist form! (With no character limit, either!)

I will try to update this list with more observations as I have them.
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26. Board Game: Turbo Taxi [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:2713]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Let's talk traffic. Everything you have heard about Chinese drivers (at least IN China) is true. Coming from a country that has an expectation that everyone will follow the rules, and breaking the rules (even with no accident) is severely punished, I felt like by comparison China has no traffic laws whatsoever.

That's half-true. They have laws, but the amount of traffic far exceeds the amount that can be policed sufficiently. So people do whatever they want, and generally will only get in trouble if their actions lead to an accident that gets the police involved.

I've seen cars make three-point turns in the middle of busy multi-lane roads, backing up traffic while they finish their U-turn. I've seen cars zip between lanes, I've seen cars slowly push their way through a crosswalk with dozens and dozens of people, and I've even seen cars drive on the sidewalk. All that's needed is a car horn to warn people: "I'm here, and I'm doing some crazy shit, so get out of my way."

However, there are surprisingly few accidents, considering how reckless drivers at first appear. I'd argue that drivers here are "better" in the sense that they are more aware of their surroundings, and can drive skillfully when there's a lot of traffic, whether auto, cycle or pedestrian. They are very skillful drivers, though of course this doesn't mean they're necessarily SAFE drivers...
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27. Board Game: Keep Safe In Traffic [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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My favourite shit was at one particular crosswalk. When the light changes and the walking-man appears, cars on only ONE side of the crosswalk have a red light. The other side has no light whatsoever, so cars would still stream across the crosswalk and through crossing pedestrians. If people were in their way, they'd just honk their horn, but they'd keep moving (albeit slowly).

It's best when dealing with traffic in China is to remind yourself: this is an evolution of a bicycle culture. People drive autos the way they drive bicycles: they drive slowly and they go pretty much wherever they want. As a pedestrian you must be aware that a bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, car or bus can come from any direction, and you NEVER have the right of way. No one does.
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28. Board Game: Smile Squad [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Yesterday I ate lunch in a small restaurant that proudly displayed a sign that they have been inspected and have been found to have "OK" cleanliness. The symbol for this is a face without a smile:

:|

I can't make this shit up.
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29. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:66]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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OK, well, this is a board game site, so I should probably talk about the games I brought to China with me:

Ra: The Dice Game
Sticheln
6 nimmt!
Pickomino
Tichu
Chicken Cha Cha Cha
Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (enough to play two players)

What got played? Not a lot, actually. Ra Dice got two plays, Chicken Cha Cha Cha maybe twice as well, and I've played Roll Through The Ages several times solo. My wife keeps falling asleep when I try to explain it.

We played Tichu once, and it ended with a disagreement between partners on Tichu strategy, as all good Tichu games should.
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30. Board Game: Mahjong [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:441]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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We have played a tonne of Mah Jongg, however, as it's pretty much the only game played around here. My parents-in-law's set (not pictured) was constantly set up. The dining table was big and round, and they would eat their meal, clean up, remove the round top and reveal a small square table which they would dump mah jongg tiles onto and just leave there for anyone to play.

Their set is absolutely filthy, and is probably the source of my pink eye. I'm told I rubbed my eyes during a game the night before.
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31. Board Game: The Gardens of the Alhambra [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:2205]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Before our trip we were looking for gifts to bring for my wife's extended family. Her cousin is into computers and used to be a big computer game player, so I got it in my head to buy him a board game that he could play with his family. We had a few restrictions, though:

- Had to be good with 2, 3 or 4 players
- Had to be made in Germany
- Had to be a reasonably small size
- Had to have pretty simple rules but can definitely be a "thinky" game

We settled on Gardens of the Alhambra. I know ratings here are fairly mediocre but we enjoy the game quite a bit.

We were able to play a single game with him -- there are no rules in Chinese so we really wanted to teach him in person -- and he won, which hopefully is a good sign.
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32. Board Game: Let's Do Lunch! [Average Rating:5.35 Overall Rank:9234]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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I just got back from dinner, so let's talk about food. I actually don't much like Chinese food, but when eating in Vancouver I can always find something on the menu I like. (Even if it's not genuinely Chinese, like sweet and sour pork...) Chengdu, being in Sichuan province, also has a lot of food that is much too spicy for me. I expected to lose some weight in China because I wouldn't be eating too much.

What I didn't expect was how hard a time my wife's family would give me. Because of the size of the group eating out, we'd always sit at a huge table with a turntable in the middle. They would order dozens of dishes to be brought out gradually. Every time a new dish is brought out, they forcefully insist that I try it. This causes embarrassment for them and for me if I decline. I understand this is the Chinese way, and they think they are just being polite, but I'd really much prefer to be left alone. I can sample by myself -- if I don't sample a dish, it means I already know I don't like it... Bringing attention to my eating habits and trying to change them makes me feel, well, like I'm being treated like a child...

They also order far, FAR more food than people can possible eat -- each dish probably has only 1/3 eaten by the end. I know they like variety, but I suspect it's also a display of wealth: "Look at me, I can throw all this money away on food that I'll barely eat."
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33. Board Game: Bulls-Eye Ball [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:6451]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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The highlight (for the resulting story, anyway) was one meal at a rural restaurant. They brought out so many dishes that they had to stack the plates, and the edges extended past the turntable. My bottle of pop got knocked down into a glass of peanut milk, spilling it all over my pants.

A new dish is brought out:
"You must try this dish!"
"...What is it?"
"I have no idea! But you MUST try it."
"No thanks, I have a fairly strict 'only eat things that I know what they are' policy, and it's served me fairly well so far."

My wife did try it. We found out later that it was bull penises.
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34. Board Game: Pizza Paletti [Average Rating:4.01 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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I invited the whole extended family for lunch at Pizza Hut, my treat. It was fun to watch them try the pizza, and not like it, and try to weasel out of finishing the whole slice. "No, you MUST also try a slice of this Stuffed Crust Hawaiian! I INSIST!"

Revenge is a dish best served warm, with melted cheese.
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35. Board Game: Tomb [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1677]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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We visited my wife's paternal grandmother's tomb. She was a huge part of my wife's life, and she passed away since the last time my wife visited. Her tomb is on the side of a mountain, with a beautiful view -- good for feng shui, naturally. The drive up the mountain was a one-car-wide dirt road, with a complete drop-off on one side. I had my heart in my throat while we traversed it.

The family burned many piles of yellow paper "money". It is believed that burning this paper at her tomb site will send her money in her afterlife so she can be comfortable. I've been in stores in Vancouver that have all sorts of paper things to burn. You can buy a paper suit and tie so they have something nice to wear in the afterlife.

Seeing the grandmother's tombstone was very special. They had all her descendants and their spouses engraved on it -- including mine. Seeing my name, the only Latin characters on the stone, engraved on a stone half a world away from my home, where it could last for an eternity, was incredibly moving.
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36. Board Game: Cities and Eggs [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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My wife's grandmother was a very interesting person. I wish I could have met her. She was from a very rural area, and never fully adjusted to city life.

My wife would watch cartoons as a kid (like Astroboy! Something we have in common) and her grandmother would tell her, "You are fooled! That is not real!"

When someone suggested to buy something, she would figure out how many eggs that would buy. "That is too expensive! I could buy 50 eggs for that!"

A very special woman who was a huge part of my wife's childhood. I wish I could have met her and played mah jongg with her.
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37. Board Game: Broken English [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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There is a surprisingly large amount of English here. You would have no problem finding a toilet wherever you go, the signs to direct you are in Chinese and English.

I didn't find many examples of poor/funny English translations for the first little while here, but we recently went to a park here in Chengdu and found a couple of examples:

FALL INTO WATER CAREFULLY

DO NOT FEED THE FISH WITH YOUR PRIVATE
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38. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:400]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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I was told before coming to China: Always take a wad of toilet paper with you, because public toilets don't have any public toilet paper.

I haven't really needed to test this... I've been pretty good so far in taking care of business while at home base. But I noticed quite a few washrooms I've been in do have a single toilet dispenser outside the stalls. Take a bunch with you before you go into your stall. Still, take some with you before you leave home base, just in case -- I haven't been in enough washrooms to make general sweeping statements about the state of toilet paper in China, so play it safe.

I will say that most of the hotel rooms I've been in offered only about half a roll of toilet paper. When we inevitably needed more, my wife would call the front desk (asking for spares as well), and someone would come up with only another half-roll.

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39. Board Game: King Me! The Toilet [Average Rating:6.61 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.61 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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In public washrooms, or washrooms that are accessible to the public like in restaurants, the toilet is recessed into the floor. If you have to make a deposit, you'll need to squat.

Toilets in peoples' homes and hotels are like Western toilets. Although the flushing mechanism involves two unlabelled buttons that as far as I can tell both do the same thing. I've been told that one is a weak flush and one is a strong flush, but I'll be damned if I could tell any difference in any of the toilets I've used.
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40. Board Game: Zooloretto [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:437] [Average Rating:6.90 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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We went to Chengdu zoo today, after checking out the Buddhist temple next door. The highlight always are the pandas. Last week we went to the Panda reserve and that was just as special.

I have to say, the giant pandas get all the attention. At the reserve they had an area with like four baby giant pandas wrestling with each other, and it was so crowded with onlookers melting from the cuteness.

By comparison, the red panda exhibits at both the reserve and zoo were practically empty. But I love these guys! They're small, their shape and tail look like that of a raccoon, but their markings and colour are incredible, and they were so active. I could watch those guys all day.

My son was quite happy to see the red pandas as well, but kept asking afterwards over and over to see the blue pandas next.
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41. Board Game: Happy Landing [Average Rating:4.42 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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I was warned by my wife before our trip: If a woman comes up to me on the street and offers a massage, turn it down. Some of them will try to... how should I put it... "upsell".

So far the only woman to offer me a massage was sixty years old. I must admit to being a tad disappointed. At least I'd like the opportunity to decline an attractive young woman.
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42. Board Game: The Damned Die Hard: Philippines '41 [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:7979]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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One person told me I looked like Bruce Willis. I guess it's the short hair. If anything, I'd say I look like a giant-sized version of Bruce Willis as a baby.
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43. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:195]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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I've seen many auto companies represented on the roads in China. For example, the most popular auto for taxicabs are Volkswagons. There are many auto manufacturers I've never heard of, presumably they are Chinese companies building for the Chinese market and don't export.

It's humourous, actually: Many of the autos on the road here have logos very, very similar to BMW's: A black circle with lettering, and inside a white and blue disc. I guess the idea is that at-a-glance, from a distance, you would assume it is a BMW.

I've seen several near-BMW logos on the road. One of them (I am told one of the worst ones, quality-wise) is SMA, which has a white disc and blue maple leaf. I'm a little annoyed that they may be giving Canada a bad name. Unless they're just giving Toronto hockey fans a bad name, then that's OK.
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44. Board Game: Wolf & Sheep Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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The most popular cartoon in China is "Pleasant Goat and Big Bad Wolf". I am told it was created by a Chinese after learning the trade in Canada. The plot is fairly Smurf-like: There's a community of sheep and this wolf comes up with schemes to try to capture them and cook them. The wolf also has an abusive wife who hits him with a frying pan when he fails -- I think giving Gargamel such a wife would have improved the Smurfs a bit.

Merchandising is everywhere. You can buy all sorts of t-shirts, balloons, toys, etc. with the sheep and wolf on it. Just today I saw a sheep-themed Let's Go Fishin' motorised game. I guess players are the wolf and are trying to catch the sheep... with a fishing pole. Or something.

Even though my son can't understand Chinese, he enjoys this show quite a bit. The animation is very colourful and punchy.
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45. Board Game: Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends: Cargo Fun! [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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We went to an upscale chain bookstore, basically China's version of Borders or Chapters, and saw a pack of a hundred episodes of Pleasant Goat and Big Bad Wolf on DVD. We would have bought it, but with no English, it probably would have been a waste. Instead we bought the first 100 episodes/stories of Thomas the Tank Engine, which does have English. Now all I have to do is convince the Canadian customs officer that they aren't pirated. (They aren't.)
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46. Board Game: Food Fight [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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I can't believe I haven't yet mentioned the fights about money!

I've seen this happen over gifts and restaurant bills: People will almost literally fight (argue loudly and animatedly) to be the one who gives money (or at least refuses to accept money). This is pretty famous, I bet a lot of you know of this already. My wife is very good at it, relatives have tried to give her money and she will literally run away from them and keep her distance until they give up... but they don't give up easily.

My own experience to share was a time when we were in the outskirts of Chengdu visiting relatives. This was shortly after the incident at the rural restaurant involving peanut milk; this meal was paid for by these relatives. They ordered too much food in order to treat us well, but they are not rich, and the meal was probably very expensive for them.

When we returned we said our goodbyes and piled into the van we rented, all except my brother-in-law. While we waited, he went into their house, left a big pile of money on their table, and RAN out of the house. It was hilarious to see him running out of the house as fast as he could with the rural relatives right behind him, trying to give him the money back.

Unfortunately he didn't realise that we had turned the van around, and he ran to the wrong side. While he tried to run back around, my wife yelled, "Roll up the windows!", but it was too late. The relatives had pushed the money through the open crack.

We didn't leave right away. We struck up a final conversation to distract them, while my brother-in-law's wife went back into the house, supposedly to use the washroom. She found the relative's young son and gave him the money, and told him not to tell anyone about it until after we left.
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47. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1562]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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One thing that was important to me was to not pack my days too tightly. There's a tendency when one is visiting a new city to see absolutely as much as possible in your short stay. To me that makes for a stressful time, and I don't want my holiday to be more stressful than my regular life. I ended up turning down some offers of overnight stays to semi-distant areas because I know, if we're in a new city for one night only, that time is going to be PACKED.

Obviously my days were super-packed during the Beijing tour (0700 to 2200), but when we finally got to Chengdu, I did have downtime. One thing I had time to do was make notes for some prototypes I have floating around in my head. Before my trip I bought a nice Moleskine notebook, and during the flight and any quiet period I had, I would jot down some notes and work out some problems. I don't have much time during my regular life to work on these, so weirdly, this was one of my favourite things about this holiday -- that I actually had quiet downtime to do something I enjoy, by myself.
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48. Board Game: Xiangqi [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:692]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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This will probably be my last post from China. I'm not leaving for a couple more days but my last time here will mostly be spent just chilling with the family at home base, so I probably won't have many stories to tell.

I had a pretty amazing time in China. You'll note the first several posts were pretty negative, but those was from our tour in Beijing, which really was a pretty negative experience. But after getting to Chengdu, I can't really complain about practically anything. (Well, maybe the giant cockroach I saw once. )

I'm really happy that so many people enjoyed this geeklist. Sorry there was some negativity, I know that put off some people who thought I was being "whiny". But they're my experiences, and good or bad, they make for some great stories when I'm older.

I'll try to post again when I get home. We didn't snap a whole lot of photos, but hopefully I'll have one or two I can share.

I never thought this Geeklist would become as popular as it did, but it means a lot to me that so many people enjoyed reading my experiences. Thank you so much, everyone! See you in a few days, from sunny Canada!
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