Beijing for New Year!

It’s clear I’m way behind on being up to date with this blog. So it’s time for a bit of back-tracking. After having been here for just a couple of months it was time to go check out the Chinese capital. So on New Years Eve, having just finished may last shift of 2012, myself and Dane (check out his blog here) went straight to the train station on our way to Beijing 🙂

This is where the quickest game of “Where’s Wally?”, of all time, must have occurred! I had arrived 20 minutes before Dane, and soon received a call from him

Dane: “Where are you bud?”

Joe (Standing): “I’m…”

Dane: “Ah I see you”

This was from about 50 metres, across a huge waiting room filled with what must have been at least 1,000 people. Being the only pale, white Brit among them seems to make things easier when being looked for. I’m screwed if we ever play hide and seek!

Soon after though, we were on our way, and eager to get there. If any of you have been on a train in China, you’ll know that it can be awful! Crowded trains, 3 people to an already small bench (if you’ve booked a seat), many others standing, and terribly slow. Luckily (or not) we’d both previously experienced this and booked the much speedier D train.

So, at 10.30 on January 31st we arrived in Beijing and jumped on the underground heading for our hostel. Being much older than Shenyang’s Metro, it had more of a London Underground feel to it, ah the smell!

We made it to the Happy Dragon Hostel, ditched our bags, and headed out at 11.30pm in search of a bar. New Year isn’t big in China so we weren’t expecting much, but what would New Year be without a drink in your hand? Desperate for a taxi we befriended some Russians who knew where to go. In all honesty we kind of hijacked their taxi as there wasn’t enough space for them and us, sorry guys! But Dane and I made it, and with plenty of time to spar… Oh, no wait! It’s 12.08! Damn!

So we arrived in 2013 in a taxi! I’ve heard it said that you’ll end the year the way you started it… I started 2013, driving to a bar! Could do a lot worse!

We drank in a Reggae bar, talked with some people, and watched some impromptu salsa before heading back to the hostel. Which it turns out is FREEZING! Now I’ve slept on many tents on various camping trips throughout the year, I’ve been lost in freezing fog on the top of Scaffell Pike, I’ve even swum in an iceberg filled lake in Iceland… But I have never been this cold for this long when I’m tucked up in bed! For those of you travelling to Beijing, think twice about the Happy Dragon if you’re there in winter. After waking up (for the 4th and final time), we made our way out to enjoy the wonders of Beijing.

So, here they are:

There are very few tree's in Shenyang, so I took a picture of some bark

There are very few tree’s in Shenyang, so I brought took a picture of some bark

Jingshan Park 景山公园

Jingshan Park 景山公园

Wenjin Street 文津街

Wenjin Street 文津街

Not a place for the camera shy

Not a place for the camera shy

Chairman Mao and the entrance to the Forbidden Palace

Chairman Mao and the entrance to the Forbidden Palace

Forbidden Palace guard

Forbidden Palace guard

Olympic Park 奥林匹克公园

Olympic Park 奥林匹克公园

A bicycle

A bicycle

A big cauldron in the Forbidden City

A big cauldron in the Forbidden City

Gardens in the Forbidden Palace

Gardens in the Forbidden Palace

Gardens in the Forbidden Palace

Gardens in the Forbidden Palace

Only 4 years late

Only 4 years late

The Birds Nest 鸟巢/Beijing National Stadium 北京国家体育场

The Birds Nest 鸟巢/Beijing National Stadium 北京国家体育场

Beijing was fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough!

So that brings me one step closer to catching you all up. More to come soon!



Slow Sunday

As I sit in my flat with a horrendous hangover, I’m trying to bring myself to write something interesting and exciting for everyone in the west to wake up to. However, after having written and rewritten that first sentence (and this one) 5 times now, it seems my typing skills are directly related to my sobriety! Who could have guessed!?

So instead I’ve decided to give you all a photosummary of China so far. No, not an entire history, just my time here of course. So what have I been up to?


I arrived.


First street I walked through

First street I walked through




Hey, Optimus!

Hey, Optimus!


Watched football (Soccer).

Go 辽小虎!

Go 辽小虎!


Visited Beijing.

Only 4 and a half years late!

Only 4 and a half years late!


Visited Dalian.

Copyright? What's that?

Copyright? What’s that?


Visited Shanghai.




Climbed a mountain.





The Restaurant-Bacon Pie. No bacon, no pie!




Considering a spray-on tan...

Considering a spray-on tan…




Really need that tan!

Really need that tan!


Wore a hat.

Yer Baby!

Yer Baby!


Clearly there’s a lot more to be said. What was it like in Shanghai?  Who won the football (soccer) match? Am I still wearing the hat? And how many Transformers are hiding in China? All this will be answered shortly!

But for now 再见!

Enjoy a relaxing Sunday!



The Lantern Festival

This saturday I went to a lantern festival at Movie Set City (a city built for films), just outside Shenyang. Despite  it being horrendously cold, it was fantastic; one of those events where you have to see it to believe it. So here are some pictures!

P1070109   P1070112





Boom! Shake, shake, shake the room!

As night sets in on a cold Sunday evening in Shenyang, a young man faces the biggest challenge of his weekend. With only 8 hours and 2o short minutes until his alarm brings the start of another week, Joe must attempt… to get some sleep!

Ok, so this isn’t the start of an epic novel or a Hollywood blockbuster. I’m sure you are all in fact disappointed at the sheer mundaneness of  this posts opening paragraphs. After all, where is the challenge in getting some sleep in before work? Well, for those of you outside of a big Chinese city, you may not be aware of the plague that has infested Shenyang today.


Yes that’s right! Those exciting colourful explosions in the sky that most Brits see once a year at an organised event far from any residential area. China is different!

Since the Chinese New year festivals began, there’s been a number of fantastic individual displays of all sizes, all over the country. A particular moment had me in hysterics when some fireworks on a street corner in Nanjing sent my friend jumping 3 feet in the air in shock. But this evening the whole city decided to let loose and set off every firework in China (there are a lot).

It’s been a tremendous sight to behold. Lights flashing across the cityscape, followed shortly by thunderous crashes and a sharp jolt to your body. The city’s lights extended into the dark night sky mingling with the few visible stars. Bursts of lightning reflecting off buildings left right and centre, urging you to find the source. It is quite a spectacle!

However, as pretty and exciting as they are, they immediately lose their awe when set off 20 floors below, exploding “conveniently” 15 feet from my bedroom window!

Good Night!

Get On It!

After months of absence, in which tumbleweed has bounced clumsily across the barren wasteland I once published my whimsical worldly views on, I’m back. You may ask; “Where have you been Joe? We’ve missed you!” or perhaps more likely; “Oh, you were missing? I didn’t realise!” Either way the reasons for my lack of posts are not as you’d expect. It’s not because I have been far to busy to keep up to date with this, nor that I have had little or nothing to post about.

On the contrary, I have so much free time and I’ve had plenty to talk about. I’ve visited fantastic places, Beijing, Shanghai & Nanjing. I’ve enjoyed good company at football matches, KTVs (Karaoke clubs), bars & restaurants. I’ve had new experiences and even gotten a tattoo! Am I posting about any of this today? No! (More posts to follow) Today’s post isn’t about the abundance of adventures, it’s all about a lack of motivation!

Ironically, just now writers block set in, and I was halfway through reading another blog post  before I realised I was actually just being lazy and procrastinating. So what is it that keeps us motivated? What gives us drive? What pushes us to be better, work harder, or write something from time to time?

Is it this guy?


Mr Motivator. Still going strong at 60!

If only, truth is it’s all on you. Or in my case, me! (I have absolutely no credentials in this area whatsoever, and any advice should be taken as complete B******t! Unless it works! In which case, right on! 🙂)

So what lessons in motivation have I learnt lately. Well, here they are:

  1. Know what you want – Slowly ambling by with not a care in the world can be great fun, but you never get anything done. I’ve learnt this with running in the past. Figure out what you want or want to achieve before you start thinking of how to get there. It’s a lot easier to stay motivated if you have a set target. – Joes targets: running-10k, 1/2 & full marathon distances; writing-get freshly pressed (please help); money (I’m greedy)-own income generating assets offsetting all outgoings. – You can see some of these are long-term goals (I’m not likely to offset all my outgoings without a job in the next 5 years) and some short-term. So the way you deal with them should be different.
  2. Develop a plan – I’ll use running as an example. Any avid runners out there will most likely have a training plan, and this is different for each one. My Dad is a triathlete and Ironman (Go Dad!) and his training plan differs greatly from mine as a runner, as I don’t currently swim or cycle. A plan is there to keep you guided down the right path. The wrong sort of training could mean you are not ready for the race you are preparing for; in just the same way, the wrong kind of plan can ruin your chances of achieving your goal. This is very demotivating, and brings me neatly onto my next point…
  3. Get educated – Education stops when you leave school, college or uni right? I’ve found out recently this is untrue! Who knew?! Probably a fair few of you, but how many of you actively seek education you may need? I have the kind of personality where if I’m into something I get really into it! Despite having only been running for a few years, I’ve read all sorts on the subject. Subscribing to magazines, going on websites, reading books, watching programmes… All this has accumulated into a healthy knowledge of the sport. Enough so that I’ve managed to help at least one friend out on a few occasions (He’s now outrunning me. Damn you Carl!). All this research has only made me enjoy it more, and knowing what I am doing helps keep me from making mistakes and losing motivation. Putting this research into other aspects (money) has shown me how f****d I am if I don’t start to develop a plan. So education can save you as well as motivate you.
  4. Get out of bed – Sometimes, despite all this, you just want to curl up and go back to sleep. In fact…


















Just kidding! I’ve had far too many wasted mornings, and these come back to haunt you. Wether it’s an essay that you’re 2000 words short on all for the sake of an extra few hours in bed, or bonking (hitting the wall) at mile 20 of your first marathon because you missed you last long training run a few weeks before. Sometimes you just have to ‘bite the bullet’ and get on with it! More often than not, once you’re actually getting on with things there can be no stopping you!

Time to get on it!

West End Boys and East End Girls!

Disclaimer: all names and places (ok just names, you know I’m in China) in this blog post have been changed.

I would like to start by saying that this post has the potential to make me seem like a complete arse. I hope this is not the case, but here goes… (Mum stop reading now please)

It’s no secret that many western men, and I’m sure some western women, have the same fantasy view of exotic Asian women (East End Girls). I won’t lie… I’ve had the same thoughts myself, and coming to China opened a world (country) of opportunities to experience relationships with something other than the delightful British girls that I’m used to (few as there have been).

The Asian dream

East End Girl

In my 2 months and 1 week in China I have had experiences (don’t be rude now) with 3 women. Here are those tales.


Jolene is a lovely woman I got chatting to whilst drunk at a bar (how else does it start?). She had a friend, as did I, so we continued to talk and continued to drink until we decided that dancing was much-needed. So we left Buddha Bar (Exit A, Qing Nian Gong Yuan subway station, good Expat bar) and headed to Pure Color, a club with a huge number of Russians. Jolene’s friend did not join us, and Dane soon decided to head home. After some more dancing we did the same.

Waking up the next morning in a strange place is never fun. Less so when you are horrendously hung over. But wake I did, and hung over I really was. Nothing had happened the night before (of which I am glad now), and after I had showered we talked a bit. She was 32.

Age differences are becoming less of an issue, but I only recently turned 24 and consider myself to be quite childish. So this was an awkward situation for me. It wasn’t helped when she started offering medication for the cold I clearly had. There is an unwritten rule in China that I have learned quickly… If someone offers you something, be it umbrella, food or indeed medication, you accept it. You don’t have to use, eat or take it; but your life will be a lot easier if you just say thanks and be on your way.

Safe to say the medication helped (I’m not stupid, there was an English translation on the insert)!

This is where the trouble with Jolene really started. I received a phone call early that evening…


Jolene “Where are you?”

Me “Just at home… Who is this?” (never give your number when drunk)

Jolene “It’s Jolene. You come to Buddha Bar tonight?”

Me “Erm, maybe!”

Jolene “Ok, you call me!”


2 hours later…


Jolene “Baby!” (This shocked me to say the least) “Where are you?”

Me “I’m at home”

Jolene “When do you come Buddha?”

Me “I’m not sure, it’s only 7”

Jolene “Ok. Call me!”


I didn’t call her. I know that’s not very nice, but there she was waiting for me when Dane and I arrived at Buddha Bar. Talking to another guy… Thank God!

I later found out she was talking about me… AHHHHHHHHHHH!

The Jolene situation was handled badly of course. I received many calls at the weekends, and resorted to giving vague answers to any and all questions of my current and future whereabouts.

I’ll let you know how that pans out…


Amy is a teacher at my Kindergarten. She teaches a level 1 class (my second class of the day), who are noisy but otherwise a great group of children. Amy seemed like a nice, friendly girl, and I was happy to make new friends. When she offered to cook a meal for myself and Dane I was more than happy to accept. Who would say no to home Chinese cooking? So we ate, we talked, and were having an ok time until I offered to pay for the food! She threw a hissy fit/strop/tantrum whatever you like to call it, I can imagine her 4 year old students acting similar (as I said earlier… Just accept what you’re given).

This was my first view of Crazy Amy.

She continued to text me, and I her, thinking we were just friends. In all honesty after that meal very little was said between us aside from Hello’s, what are you doings? etc. This is where I started getting worried.

During my trip to Dalian to sort out my work permits, my return to Shenyang was postponed. After receiving the standard Where are you? and replying with a brief In Dalian, I was shocked when she returned with Ok, this weekend I come see you!

Now, think back… Are you thinking? Can you recall a time when someone you’ve known for all of 1 month, have spoken to only briefly, and given no indication that you are interested in a relationship, will travel 5 1/2 hours on a packed uncomfortable train, at a moments notice, just to see you?

I didn’t think so. Clearly I was out of my depth!

After diffusing the situation and returning to Shenyang, alone, I received another text, Lately why you not contact me?

No credit! I lied.

Oh ok, I have something to tell you

Oh no!

What is it?

I seem to fall in love with you

Uh oh! I decided to man up and not shy away from this situation, and after asking If she’d ever been in love before, and telling her that she was perhaps using too strong a word, I made it clear that I did not feel the same and that we should perhaps not be friends if she does. My british friends seemed shocked at how “well” I’d supposedly handled this, who knows why!?

I still get texts telling me to wrap up warm on cold days…


Leanne is someone I met very recently, and so there is not much of a story here. Only to say that 2 days without contact seem to worry her and she misses me after only a few days without seeing her.


It seem’s I am not learning any lessons here. So please heed my warnings, learn from my errors, and lose you asian fantasies!

East End Girls are for life, not just for Christmas!


If you haven’t already, check out my flatmates blog Dane vs Life. I don’t think he’s winning!

Shenyang Imperial Palace

When you mention the Imperial Palace to most people (most people with some level of world knowledge at least), the first place to pop into their heads would be the palace at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Up until I came here I was among these people. However, this is not the only Imperial Palace in China. The Mukden Palace (盛京宫殿) is the only other Imperial Palace, and housed the first 3 Qing Emperors from its beginning in 1625 until 1644, and despite its brief use in history, it is a beautiful place well deserved of its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Anyway… Enough of the “Wikipedia” babble (thanks Wikipedia), here are some photo’s I took on my last visit.


Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions.

Bowen out!