A China away from China.

by

So from today begins the year of Metal Tiger, and here’s hoping that some of that monetary luck is coming my way. We went into Box Hill which was thriving with masses of Chinese – Box Hill being home to a massive Chinese population. While Melbourne has its own Chinatown, which is effectively just a very Chinesey street, Box Hill in many ways is close to the real deal. So many Chinese have made this particular suburb of Melbourne (and surrounding areas) their home that it is starting to reflect the culture they have come from.

Last night was no different. The spring festival had begun, the first day of the new Chinese lunar year ticked over. While the weather was patchy, with a few brief (and thankfully light) showers, it didn’t deter the multitude of Chinese who headed into the town centre to do what Chinese do best; eat and shop.

Unlike many western festivals – and I noticed lots of this in China, the rows of tents were not so much novelty, but commercial. While there was the occasional face painting, calligraphy and various others selling holiday related goods – most were promotional offerings from banks, religious groups and pirate DVD sellers – the latter having DVD’s playing at such high volume that I was positive I actually was back in China.

Part of the main road had been closed down and a long row of food tents were set up. We set out searching for particular Chinese treats – and found them. We have spoken many times of the fabled skewered meat which we ate across China which involved pieces of random beef skewered and dusted in chilli powder – absolutely delicious. There were no shortage of these and we bee-lined for the store, ordering 7 – 4 for me, 3 for Courtney. Handing over a $20 we got a mere $2.50 change!
“How much are they each?” Courtney asked the girl.

“$2.50,” she replied, looking somewhat bored.

$2.50 each! In China, you would pick them up for 1 rmb a pop. For $17.50 (or 106 Chinese Yuan) we get 7 – back in China, we could have gotten around 80+!! Likewise, the old strawberries on a stick – which I have since found out are called tang hu lu – $5.00 each! While there are things I definitely don’t miss, the cheap street food is definite in my top 5 of things I do miss.

We walked around for a while, enjoying the atmosphere, while the Chinese excitedly looking at displays of pillows for sale, bought masks, and generally ate the whole time. We decided to go home for an hour or two and return to catch the fireworks/firecrackers/dancing lions/dragons etc – and while we did this, were horribly disappointed to find that beyond a very small set of crackers and a brief dragon dance show, the night didn’t eventuate into much else.

It was an enjoyable night, and one we’re glad we made the effort to participate in. There was a casual, family atmosphere which underpinned everything, which is largely due to the fact that the majority of people present were Chinese. Had you replaced everyone with your typical Australian’s, then it would have been infested with bogan’s and drunks.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Tang hu lu, hao chi!

Festival related goodies for sale

A plethora of people and things to see

Seeing the dragon over the wall of onlookers was a feat

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