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Bungy Jump in Queenstown

Kawarau Bridge
Bungy jumping was always one of those once in a lifetime things I had wanted to do for years, but never really got around to actually do it. Whether the queue at the event was too long, or, probably more often, I just didn't feel like paying eighty Euros for jumping off a platform at the top of a ghastly crane next to a home city square. But once I went to New Zealand, the very home of modern bungy jumping, there was absolutely no way I would not have a go.

We went near Queenstown, to Kawarau Bridge, which crosses a river with the same name. Although there are many other, way higher bungy sites in and around Queenstown, the 43 metre jump from above the Kawarau River seemed the most appropriate - after all, this is the world's first commercial bungy jumping site. Here it all began.

Some people might recognise the river from Lord of the Rings films. The gorge nearby the bungy bridge represented River Anduin, where the Fellowship of the Ring paddled past Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings. The place was made to look much bigger and wider during the post production and the statues themselves were, of course, computer generated images.

The bungy jumping site itself was very well organised operation. There is a big dome built on the rock by the 100-year-old  bridge where you can buy your jump. You can watch ongoing jumps inside on big screens or go outside on a platform with a perfect view to the bridge and the jumpers. There is a tour called The Secrets of Bungy you can take, and a café to rest your feet. For jumpers, everything goes really smoothly. Enter the desk, fill in a form, decide if you also want to buy a DVD or photos of your leap, pay for your jump, have yourself weighed and go to the bridge to wait for your turn. It all happens so easily and effortlessly that before you know, you're falling down.

Kawarau Bridge Bungy Centre also offers various types of bungy jumps. You can decide between an ordinary 'dry' jump and dips of various types in the river. I definitely wanted to do a head splash.


Beijing Birds - Great Food and Really Nice Girls

Summer 2010. I walked with my father on a crowded pedestrian street in eventide Beijing. This was an area in the very center of the city with lots of malls and huge department stores filled with western products like Adidas, Armani, Guess, Gucci and Nike. Lots of modern tiled walls, new paving under our feet, broad and wide passages with bright generous illumination. Not a single hutong anywhere. I guess this area was constructed or fully renovated for the Olympics, because I don't remember seeing all this back in 2004 when I last walked the same quarters. Except maybe for the wide distribution of Asian looking people in the crowd, a place looking like this can be found in any mediocre-sized city anywhere in the world. Booooring.

A genuine, Beijing Duck serving Chinese restaurant
Well, at least the restaurant we just visited seemed to be something genuinely Chinese. At the time we were the only western-looking customers in the very busy establishment. The noise was overwhelming and the air was thick with exotic aromas and cigarette smoke. Huge carps were swimming in poky aquariums waiting to become someone's dinner. Menu had fortunately more pictures of food than text, and Beijing Duck was easy to spot. And damn if it wasn't delicious! I was a bit afraid beforehand that having Beijing Duck (in Beijing) for dinner would only be a common faceless thing to tick off my ToDo-list, but I'll definitely have to have it once or twice more sometimes.

Back to the mind-numbing generic shopping mall infested pedestrian street. Two young Chinese women spot us in the distance and set their walking direction on a collision course. Our evasive maneuver is intercepted by the shopwindow on the tiled mall wall. The ladies are beautiful and nicely dressed. The more talkative one is wearing a flowery yellow dress and the taciturn girl has blue jeans and red piqué shirt. They start with the usual small talk phrases and very quickly deduce we're father and son. They tell us that they study English in the university and they would very much like to practise their English skills with someone. We're not very excited about the idea, but the girls just keep pushing it:

- We're not naughty girls. You want tea? Let's go have a cup of tea!
- No, no thank you, we really don't have time. 
- Let's walk then. Hey, they sell water there, you want some water? Let's go have some water, we're really nice girls.

And similar insisting, very persistently ad nauseam, or for at least ten minutes. Even though some travel guides indeed claim that Chinese people sometimes want to speak English with tourists for speaking's sake, this particular situation reeks like a dirty scam from kilometres away. But what kind of a scam? Or are these young ladies prostitutes, 'tea' being just a euphemism? Do they think a father and son would like to go tag team on them? When we politely refuse their invitation enough (Yes, you seem really nice girls, but...) their niceness grows into new spheres:

- Fuck you then! Fuck you! Fuck you!

Even the silent one stresses:

- Shit!

I still regret that I was too flabbergasted by the sudden change of their attitude that I didn't just laugh in their pretty faces. The ladies disappear, still cursing us. Later on I find internet stories or variations of Pekingese so called tea room or art gallery scams. They usually end up the victim having to pay an insanely multisized (hundreds of $ or €) bill for his or her tea or such. These particular really nice girls practically shot themselves in the foot, though. First off by losing their face by yelling and cursing in a public street, and secondly by ending up in stories like this travel blog. The more people are aware of the possible scam patterns, the better. But did I mention the Beijing Duck was marvellous?