KTV True Life

On June 26, 2012, in China Attractions, Cool Places, Nightlife, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

Back in the States I’ve always been a big fan on karaoke, and this past semester I was graced without Wednesday classes so every Tuesday night my friends and I would go to karaoke at our local haunt.  When I decided to travel to Beijing I was delighted to find that karaoke is extremely popular […]

Back in the States I’ve always been a big fan on karaoke, and this past semester I was graced without Wednesday classes so every Tuesday night my friends and I would go to karaoke at our local haunt.  When I decided to travel to Beijing I was delighted to find that karaoke is extremely popular here.  The first thing I did after I got off my Beijing flights after I unpacked my apartment was to check out some local Karaoke.

A bar with karaoke in The US is usually set up like an open-mic night, with a stage where anyone can sign up to sing in front of the entire bar.  This is a lot of fun, but has two major drawbacks: you have to sing in front of strangers, and strangers have to sing in front of you.  Sometimes this is great and leads to new friends and seeing amazing talent.  More often however, it’s like being forced to watch a string of rejects from American Idol.

Conversely, in China karaoke is a very intimate experience.  With KTV (Karaoke Television) you rent out private rooms for you and your friends that can range for a small room for 6-12 people, to a massive two story hall.  You are given a few microphones, and a computer terminal to the side of the room controls what songs are played.  There is a huge selection of popular Western and Eastern music to choose from.  The songs play in whatever order you choose on the screen.  In my experience everyone who wants to sing crowds around the microphones, and they are passed from person to person.  You’re all singing to each other rather than singing to an audience.

KTV is a great way to spend an evening, and to see a different approach to an international trend.  When I go to KTV I get to sing my heart out with my friends just like I would back home, but with a Chinese twist.  Karaoke is much more mainstream and popular here than it is back home where I usually found myself dragging my friends to the bar and pushing them on stage.  In China, karaoke is a small and intimate experience where everyone gets excited and  everyone participates.  As part of your China travel check out a KTV venue near you, and if you’re staying for a long time like I am invite your Chinese friends!  Nothing brings people together quite like drinks, songs, and laughter.

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Insert Michael Bay Pun Here

On June 21, 2012, in Beijing, Cultural Experience, Entertainment, by Jack Li

There is a lot of advice on this blog, but if you are going to just do one thing when you travel to Beijing you need to see the Beijing Acrobats.  Need to.  You should be required to see it by law.  In all reality you should see the Great Wall and countless other things […]

There is a lot of advice on this blog, but if you are going to just do one thing when you travel to Beijing you need to see the Beijing Acrobats.  Need to.  You should be required to see it by law.  In all reality you should see the Great Wall and countless other things in Beijing, but seriously see the acrobats.  They will blow your mind and when you think that your mind is thoroughly blown they will put it back together only to blow it a second time to the point where the first mind blowing seems like nothing more than a whistle in the wind.  Seriously.  Book your Beijing Flights to come see the acrobats.  I’ll wait.  Okay ready?  Let’s get into it.

I saw the acrobats last night, and I’m still absurdly excited about it.  Now coming up to the show all of my friends who had already seen it would make outlandish statements about it, but the most popular was always “the Beijing Acrobats put Cirque du Soleil to shame.”  Now I love Cirque du Soleil and have seen it in many of its different iterations on different parts of the globe.  I found these claims hard to believe, smiled politely, and said “we’ll see.”  And I saw.  Oh I saw.

The show started with standard acrobatic tricks, impressive handstands, juggling, feats of strength, and the same sorts of things that are “normal” at an acrobatics show.  The performers were extremely talented, but I sat in my seat smiling smugly.  Yes, the show was enjoyable, but in my head I was already coming up with ways that Cirque du Soleil was better.  The production value wasn’t the same, the soundtrack wasn’t from a live orchestra, my mind was flowing with pretentious little ways that my slice of the West was better than what they had here.

The show continued, and got more and more impressive.  Once I saw an acrobat climb down a stair on one hand, while another acrobat stood on his back with one hand I started to reconsider.  The production value was not as extravagant here, but the pure physical ability and stunts performed were definitely more impressive.  I was starting to be proven wrong, but could still find ways justify my opinions.  With the finale, that  all changed.

For the final act a huge spherical metal cage was brought to center stage and a performer drove out in a motorcycle.  He then proceeded to enter the cage, and drive around in circles.  Then upside down.  Driving upside down.  My mind was blown.  The Beijing acrobats had won.  As soon as this thought crossed my mind, another driver came by and entered the cage.  Now there were two motorcycles  driving in tandem, upside down.  My mind was reassembled for the sole purpose of reblowing it.  Then a third motorcyclist came out.  Then a fourth drove out.  And when it didn’t even seem like there was room, a fifth joined.  Five motorcycles were driving around with feet between them, and I don’t even have words to describe my emotions at the time.  Just then 3 MORE DRIVERS came out and joined the cage.  I’d say my mind was blown, but honestly, I’m sure at this point my mind had left town for better weather.  When you travel to Beijing see the acrobats, you won’t be sorry.

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The Best of the West in the East

On June 12, 2012, in Beijing, Cool Places, Cultural Experience, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

When I told my friends and family about my plans to Travel to Beijing, the first question I was asked was always how I was going to deal with being in a new city on the other side of the world with no concrete plans outside of my Beijing Flights.  I usually responded with one […]

When I told my friends and family about my plans to Travel to Beijing, the first question I was asked was always how I was going to deal with being in a new city on the other side of the world with no concrete plans outside of my Beijing Flights.  I usually responded with one snarky remark or another, but then I realized that it wasn’t the first time a guy from New York made a new life on the other side of the world.  Stephon Marbury, like me, was born in Brooklyn and, like me, now lives on the other side of the world in Beijing, China.  However, unlike me, Stephon Marbury is a basketball champion on two continents.  Even so, he still serves as an inspiration to a kid from Brooklyn far away from home.

Marbury riding the Beijing subway

Riding tall on the Beijing subway

Back in 2000 when I was only ten my father took me to see Stephon Marbury and the New Jersey Nets play the Milwaukie Bucks.  Both teams were having comically bad years, and neither had any player whose name I still remember except for Marbury.  He had joined the NBA a few years earlier, and was just starting to come into his own.  After the game I waited for Marbury to try to get his autograph, and when he finally came out I was so excited I could barely stand still.  I handed him my pen and my Marbury Basketball Card, and with shaking hands dropped the pen I was trying to hand him.  The pen shattered along with my little heart.  Marbury saw what happened, ran off to the locker room, came back with a new pen, and signed my card.  From that point on I was a Nets fan for life.  Marbury went on to become an All-Star.

Fast forward twelve years, and the more things change the more they stay the same.  I had just arrived in Beijing and was

going to see the Forbidden City and who else do I see adorning the walls of the subways but Stephon Marbury.  Stephon was another kid from Brooklyn trying to make it on the other side of the world, and boy has he succeeded.  Now he plays on the Beijing Ducks, and he has turned the team around to become a major force in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).  The ducks went on to win the 2011-2012 championship, and to honor Marbury a statue was built in his honor outside of the MasterCard Center (formally known as The Beijing Wukesong Culture & Sports Center) where the basketball events were held in the 2008 Olympics.

Marbury's statue in Beijing

Imitating his own statue

When you travel to Beijing I highly recommend you make time to see a Beijing Ducks game.  You’ll be able to see one of Basketballs greatest players once more, meet some locals, and enjoy a little bit of home on the other side of the world.  And be sure to take a triumphant picture next to his statue because like Marbury, you can make it anywhere in the world.

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