Painted Veil

Going from Shanghai to Guilin(22 hours) was pure luxury: we finally managed to acquire some hard-sleeper tickets. Being able to lie down whilst sleeping, thus allowing yourself to actually stretch your legs, cannot be praised enough! Time always seems to pass by quickly on the train. I belie it is because you always leave a lot of “stuff” for the train ride, so as to avoid boredom, but then one never ends up being able to do all of it (reading, writing travel-diary, etc.) It can also be difficult to have a continuous sleep as the train rattle and bustle, and such difficulties are increased when you get bunk beds right next to the sink area where Chinese men unfortunately like to practice their spitting skills.

The Painted Veil (2006). A British medical doctor fights a cholera outbreak in a small Chinese village, while also being trapped at home in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful wife. [IMDB]. The 20 Yuan note looks like this:

The final destination of our Chinese backpacking adventure was Yangshuo, best known from the movie ‘The Painted Veil’ (though I am yet to watch it) or the 20 Yuan bill. And what a way to end the journey!!! Situated right by the Li River, and surrounded by stunning peaks this was without a doubt the most beautiful stretch of our travels. It is really difficult to do the nature justice –I promise you, even if you visit it, you will be speechless. We stayed at the best hostel ever –No Kidd Inn– I must really promote and recommend this hostel. Not only was it a cosy interior, but the staff was so friendly and interacted with their guests as if everyone were best friends. Also, their rooftop overlooking the river was not too shabby. Drifting down Li River in a bamboo raft was probably the most serene activity on this trip. It was hard to take it all in. There you are, drifting at the slowest pace possible, having all the time in the world to take in the moment. The peaks are everywhere you turn, and looks like something straight out of a postcard. It is the perfect place to get away from fast-paced modernity. Whilst such a cliché statement is often used in connection with the country-side, these limestone mountains bring about a magical aurora that embraces you and make you forget about the nuisances of everyday life. The different shapes and forms make this an idyllic journey, which you don’t want to miss. We rented bikes from our hostel and had them with us the whole day, and also as we had to cross the river (where Mette had a hard time haggling; the woman clearly had monopoly on that stretch of the river, and there was no other choice but to cross). As most Danes know, biking becomes an everyday activity, especially if you live in Copenhagen: a way of transport, a taken-for-granted endeavor. However, being surrounded by the Yangshuo peaks while biking is absolutely magical. My neck was in severe pain that evening. I had simply been so busy taking in everything during the bike trip. We also stopped at Moon Hill, in order to climb the top and get some amazing views. There is probably no need to say, but we were drenched from sweat that day. A journey was also made to the rice terraces of this Chinese province, an almost 4-hour bus ride away. Unfortunately, we somehow got pressured into first going to a smaller village at the foot of the terraces, where the women are known for having excessively long hair. It was very Disneyland-inspired, but not worth the extra money. But I suppose I now have some very commercial pictures of women combing their hair on a stage. The views of the rice terraces were nonetheless stunning, and made up for the tourist trap. It was definitely disappointing that the trip had already come to an end. Nothing compares to travelling for longer periods at a time. You feel alive and humble as your senses are working in overdrive to take everything in. But as we were heading towards Hong Kong, excitement caught up with me. I will continue elaborating on my adventures whilst I am on exchange at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and I hope continue following my journey. :)


Concrete Jungle

Shanghai is real China, but perhaps just not the real China you had in mind.

Such begins the chapter in the ever faithful ‘Lonely Planet’, the backpackers Bible.

When I reminisce and think back to the very beginning of my journey, the contrasts are undeniable. There are no similarities between the Mongolian steppes and this concrete jungle I finally reached: Shanghai. Walking the famous Shanghai pedestrian street of Nanjing Road and strolling along the pier at The Bund, I almost feel like I entered a different country. Modernity screams at you wherever you wander, and you quickly come to realise that this is the future of this region – not the dusty imperial palaces I left behind in Beijing.

Architectural wonders
Architectural wonders

Also, the obsessive picture-requests and the obligatory peace-signs whilst taking such are no longer part of my everyday life. The city is veiled in annoying Western civility. That said, Shanghai has an addictive charm. The city is vibrant and vivacious. The skyscrapers are architectural wonders, and your neck is bent to its limits as you try to take snap-shots of the reflections of the clouds in these wondrous buildings. And lets face it, the glamorous life will always draw humanity in. A year or two in this city would not conjure up much protest from me; nor will my closet object, as it will be replenished by the many shopping opportunities.

An example of the beautifully intricate Chinese Calligraphy. via China the Beautiful.

Shanghai has a really cool art scene, with a few, free delights. We managed to find Shanghai Art Gallery down by The Bund, which had a really fascinating display of modern photography (and other funky installations). The space had a rustic downtown NYC-apartment-feel to it, with a world-class view over Shanghai skyline. However, a thin brown linen was rightfully covering the windows so as not to detract from the art. Shanghai Museum (a museum of ancient Chinese art) was also visited, but because we have seen more potteries, snuff-bottles and bronze figures than my heart can possibly contain (apologies to my archeology roomie back in Denmark!), we skipped most of it and just enjoyed the calligraphy exhibition.

Have a click or 8 on the Google map. Each placemark includes a little info of the site it represents. :)

The Chinese charm can also be found in Old Town, built in the 11th century, where we sloped around in the humid weather. Generally, Shanghai is full of lovely neighborhoods and small quarters, if the skyscrapers and modernity get too much for you.

Shanghai Old Town

Due to the French Concession until 1946, a lot of typical European architectural styles can be easily detected. In fact, many of the streets in this city bring forth many childhood memories, as I spent five or six summers straight in France. Most Shanghai side streets have a row of trees on each side, and this leafy effect, along with the little light that seeps through the canopy makes me feel like I am back in Aix en Provence.

France or China

The Urban Planning Exhibition is also highly recommendable. If you are just the slightest interested in architecture, this is the place for you; one can easily use an entire day here. It will also appeal to the kid inside of you, with a panorama-3D visual video, which takes you through the city. Also, the many after-and-before pictures of Shanghai will evidently shock you. The city sure did not look the same in the 1980s.

The highlight of my stay in Shanghai was definitely the very lovely dinner Mette and I got to enjoy at couch-surfer-Nicole’s beautiful apartment, along with her boyfriend Daniel. I must once again praise this concept. As I entered the apartment, I met two strangers, and after 5 lovely hours, I left the building socially enriched (and also with a stomach full of mouth-watering food). We got around important life-topics, everything from schooling systems, politics and Chinese history and hope I can one day show them around Copenhagen.

And here’s delightful footage of the Bund, taken from The Guardian:




To readers who were hoping for another travel post from Krissy, I apologize, but I do hope that I disappoint no further. I’m here to explain what it is I’ll be writing about– most likely, I’ll share a rant in between Krissy’s adventures in the East.

This is TurtleTalk and I’d like to share my interests and my thoughts to the world! Now I don’t consider myself a good writer, like Krissy is. Whether my words are beautifully structured or hilariously incoherent (as some thoughts can be), I nonetheless hope to provide some quality content to any curious reader out there.

What is art?

I’ve always found myself to be more in tune with visual arts, such as drawing, design, painting and photography. I’ve always had a feel for these sort of things. Ever since I was young, I’ve had the knack for creating art through my hands and through my eyes. Now I emphasize the word because really, what is art? When we were young, many of us drew stick men sketches of our family – certainly without any knowledge or concept of what art was. But to our parents, those doodles were hung up on the fridge as real works of art. How about those holiday snapshots we took with our disposable cameras? Back then, I took the shots without any real idea of why I was taking them, beyond the desire to hold on to a memory. If the purpose of the photograph is to capture what already is, is it art? Is it really art when all it does is imitate? Think of actors on a stage, imitating Shakespearean characters; of paint on a canvas, imitating a sunset; of a set of words on a page, imitating life. Are these then considered as works of art?

Is art synonymous with beauty or does it encompass the ugly, the unpleasant? We’re all familiar with the proverb, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Here, we get into aesthetics and the philosophy of art. What creates an aesthetic experience? Why are we drawn to some things and repelled by others? I suppose all art is beautiful, depending on how we look at it, depending on our understanding of it.

Take a look at this painting called “The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Bruegel.

The Triumph of Death via Wikipedia

The painting depicts a bleak landscape, pervaded with death and destruction.

How about this photograph of a young Libyan, revolting against the rule of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

A young Libyan shows off the gun he has taken from the Gaddafi family compound, in Tripoli, on 23 September. Via World Press Photo.

Both images revolve around war. To me, war is not beautiful but I can see and appreciate the beauty behind the two pieces. In the photograph, for example, there’s beauty in the way that it was captured. The contrasting themes become apparent as you examine the picture. Oppression vs freedom. A regime that is withering away in flames vs a country that will arise in the new dawn. There is art in the execution.

So then what is art and what is non-art? Well, at the end of the day, I would argue: that which has no artistic intention, no ambition to evoke attentiveness, is non-art. However, I find it’s more meaningful to try and describe what art is, rather than try to define what it is not. That it’s more pertinent to try and describe what art means to us, for a satisfactory definition is yet to be found. Art is so many things to so many people. And that’s just the beauty of it. I also believe that art forms an emotional connection between artist and audience.

I kind of touched upon a lot of topics here. Originally, I just wanted to show some photographs I’ve taken on my iPhone 4. But I also wanted to share some thoughts and questions that have flowed through my mind. Thoughts and questions about art, and what art means to me. But without further ado, I present to you my first art post. There will surely be many more to come, and I’ll get more into the artistic journey I’m about to embark on. More on that later.

For these photos, I used several apps for the post-processing, hence them not looking so natural. I find it interesting to go beyond the natural, to see where I can go with the image. With photography, I like to capture moments. I like simplicity. I like contrast. And damn, I love scenery. Sometimes I like to take a photo of something that, to me, is simply fun.

Instagram – Click on an image for a direct link to its Instagram page, or go to my Instacanvas gallery, where you’ll find more of my pictures.

I want to share this quote, which resonates deeply with me:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

Ansel Adams

What I love about art, in all of its forms, is all the passion that it brings forth from within the artist. I find it truly inspiring to experience art. To have your emotions be aroused. Whether it is to the flow of movement to music, to brushstrokes against a canvas, or to a web of carefully spun words that form syntax and meaning. It is a wonderful thing to witness the vision of the artist, and to absorb the essence of the piece. Every detail, minute or big, all the inspiration within the melting pot that coalesce and form the final piece of art. To experience that, and be moved by it, is a beautiful thing. If we cast away all conceptual baggage of theories and definitions of what art is, then perhaps we are rewarded with the ability to approach art with fresh “eyes”, and experience it in a more profound and authentic manner.

So are my photos works of art? I don’t know, you tell me. I just know I want to share them to the world, and whenever I create, I always feel inspired. Most importantly, I have fun! :)

Wonton trivia! Number of ?’s in this post: 14. Haha, I think I asked more questions than I answered!

That’s all for now.

Gideon out.

Oh, wait! But what about comparing art forms? Okay, maybe we shouldn’t go there. It would be like asking, “Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?” Apples and oranges, I say.