Harbin (哈尔滨)

With my illness I have not really been in the right frame of mind for posting. Harbin was the last place where I was travelling on my own. It was a place where my use of Singaporean English again clashed with Australian English on Flickr and elsewhere. I had to laugh. In a way, it was also where the little honeymoon with the Chinese came to an end.
To start with, the subject of spitting. When travelling in China in 1992/1993, I always felt that, while the Chinese spit in every day life, that some forms of spitting were meant to be hostile. I think in Harbin I confirmed this. Of all the cities I have visited so far, Harbin was by far the most old world Chinese city. I had at least two rounds of hostile spitting. (Hostile in that they disapprove.)

In Harbin I also felt like I was in Victorian England. Why? Because the three levels of the Chinese economy were in full force at the same time. I can imagine that in Victorian England, the upper class, middle class and lower class structure was like this.

When in the hotel, I received several phone calls. I could head the phone ringing in the other rooms. Clearly these people were calling around every room, soliciting their business. As I could not hold a conversation with them, I could only guess the nature of the business they were soliciting.

Finally, I was sick. It was cold in Harbin, and in sympathy, I caught a cold. Luckily my room had ADSL Internet access. I was unable to set it up with the instructions from the front desk and in the end a man came to help me set it up. Between us we got it to work, but it was like the blind leading the blind.


  1. I was speaking to Ann last night about being in Harbin. Ann has been going there to teach recently. In this post I spoke of how people in Harbin tread foreigners. But I had forgotten. In Harbin, they do not automatically assume you are from the west like they do else where. They assume you are from Russia. I was asked so many times Russ? So was Ann. So maybe the hostility is probably the hostility felt towards Russians.

  2. K was talking of a man who walks around looking up, goes to strange places and spends time eating scorpions and spiders.

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