A Fat Purple Fig

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Land of Ice and Snow

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Heilongjiang Province, if you aren’t a bird-watcher or a fisherman, is known for its frozen tourism, with annual attractions that have titles like ‘Ice and Snow World’, ‘Ice Lantern Fair’ and ‘Polarland’ (technically all part of the Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, but you get the idea). This morning, we were treated to an attraction all of our own, when we awoke to find a Jiamusi turned white.

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Hanging, Jiamusi Style

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I really enjoy Jiamusi taxis, the huge fleet of beeping, swerving, blue-and-white VW Jettas, hell bent on getting where they want to go in as short a time as possible, pedestrians be damned. The combination of no-tipping and no-chatting, often combined with a loud radio and a brusque, no-nonsense attitude really suits me. I think I would catch them everywhere if I lived here, to try and make up for the fact that they are so cheap, their prices don’t seem to be in proportion with anything else.

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The Universal Language of Food

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Mr Huang is a name I have heard regularly throughout Kitty’s exchange, most often when she is feeling outraged and/or resistant, developing him into a sympathetic and enduring figure in my mind.

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Dasvidaniya (See You Tomorrow)

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Since before we arrived, Katherine and her friend, Bonny, an exchange student from Costa Rica, wanted to visit Harbin. And, after doing a bit of reading, I decided I was pretty keen to visit Harbin too, although not for the Subway and Starbucks they were intending to beeline, but for its unique history and architecture.

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Wrapped

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Today was about living like locals, which meant a quick breakfast of vegetables, black beans, eggs, unidentified pickles and I’m-going-to-call-it-bread, hailing down a racket of a cab and heading for the nearby shopping mall, Xinmate (sounds like Shin-mah-teur). We arrived a couple of minutes before opening to find a small crowd had gathered, awaiting entry.

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Exhibit F

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In Jiamusi, we are foreigners, with a capital F. Cars slow down so their occupants can get a better look at us and pedestrians crane to get a glimpse from the opposite side of the road. There isn’t ever a time where I don’t feel many sets of eyes upon me. The elderly citizens of Jiamusi don’t even attempt to hide their amazement; they just stop dead and stare, with furrowed brows and open mouths.

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Everything is as it Appears

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Well, we made it. At times it felt as though we wouldn’t, which may have been more about tiredness than anything else. It really does start to feel as though you’re participating in a quest, and must pass many obstacles before you reach your destination. I have a sense of déjà vu as I type this, so I’m pretty sure I have described it this way before. It’s just the way it goes.

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The Never-Ending Story

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Last stop: Edinburgh. My taxi driver was Scots-entertaining.

What would you see if you were only here for 24 hours?‘ I asked.
Ah’d get pissed!‘ he replied, ‘Ah’d come home covered in sick, with a donor kebab in my hand.

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Take Me Home, Country Roads

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Because of my decision to pop back down and see Uncle Jimmy on my way to Edinburgh (note: not on the way), Dundee became little more than a stopover. It seems really unfair to relegate a city to stopover status…to arrive late and tired, and leave as soon as you open your eyes. So, I at least went for a late night walk, both to honour Dundee, and because there was no chance I was missing seeing Kengo Kuma’s V&A Museum.

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Living on the Edges

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The day started later than I would have liked. So late, in fact, that when I told Jane my plans over another foodie’s breakfast, she looked momentarily surprised, then said, ‘you’d better be on your way!’. Hangovers are not pleasant travel companions.

(I regret nothing.)

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