Tacky is as tacky does…

I swear, if you have even a wishbone of tacky-cool-craving inside you, Beijng is the place to be. From the scenic to the souvenir, there is something for anyone who finds mirth in a well placed tongue-in-cheek…

As Exhibit A, I give you Pickled Mao. Seriously. These people taxidermied their “Father”. If those aren’t some Oedipus/Elektra (not sure which, my psychoanalysis was never awesome) issues right there, then knock me down with a feather and dress me in cute faux nylon touristy communist pyjamas, easily available at your local hawker for 250RMB.

The entire exerience is a treasure trove of tacky. From making you line up to drop off your handbag at the Left Luggage across the road from Tianamen Square (which, by the way, has a shorter line and more customer service than Mao’s Musical – aka his final recasting place – yet the line here takes MUCH longer…) and the scary barking lady who obviously has tyrant issues, through to the recycled flowers being sold to patriotic Chinese saps who willingly buy white carnations which are obviously being collected at the end of every day and sold to the next days’ bus load of knee-bending country Chinese. It’s beautiful Tack-o-Rama. And I loved it.

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You line up to go into the memorial. You line up to go through the security. You line up outside the mausoleum. You line up in the waiting hall, being watch Ed over by a 4 meter high stone Mao, who surprisingly has been given a sofa chair to sit on immemorial – not a tough guy stool or wicker chair. Soft…

Finally – although I shouldn’t complain because there’s no other city in the world that could move thousands of people through a building with such speed and precision like the Chinese do, in Melbourne I’d still be at the baggage check – we make it to Mao’s Final Resting Place. A hush falls, the Chinese Daytrippers get teary, and Ee and I marvel at the grotesqueness that is Stuffed and Pickled Mao. Actually in all truth, we’d read earlier in the day that his ear fell off during the taxidermy process, so we were both pretty much ogling his ear for the majority f the minute and a half we were allowed to shuffle past him in all his neon lit, shrine bedecked glory.

I loved the whole oddness of the experience I bought a souvenir to commemorate The Day I Saw a Dead Guy In a Glass Box. I truly recommend it as an experience!

Moving on..

Exhibit B of tackiness, by the way, is one of my favourite souvenirs EVER. It’s me. On a mug. The photo of me was taken in front of a public toilet in a dingy noisy lane way somewhere near the local tourist attraction that is a replica of an old Chinese street, but filled with Gap, Starbucks and Zara, rather than anything remotely resembling Chinese retail. The photo was then cropped and I got to choose my photo edited location. I chose the Forbidden City – which is literally 5 minutes walk from where I’m standing. So rather than go get my photo taken in front of the real thing, I can instead come to a back alley, line up outside a urinal, pose for a mugshot Amanda Bynes style, then wait the 5 minutes it takes to heat press onto a mug. And voila. Proof that I am willing to pay 20RMB for the best souvenir ever, but not proof that I did anything cultural in Beijing.

As a side note, the other fun part of the souvenir cup was carrying it through crowds for the next 10 minutes. When it’s handed to you the lady makes hissing, blowy sounds to indicate the mug is still hot. OBVIOUSLY I have to check for myself, and yes, indeed, it’s like sticking your hand inside a pot belly stove after it’s been burning for 5 hours and gripping onto a log for a good few seconds. Ouch. So how did I negotiate myself with a burning mug held in front of me through one of the most crowded and chaotic cities in the world, you ask? With much fun, and memorably…

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