Thursday, May 21, 2015

From ‘Full Circle’ by Michael Palin

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the world’s surface and around it lives one-third of the world’s population.

The spontaneity, the music and the infectious need to share feelings is very Russian. Its what makes them great huggers, great embracers, great celebrants of either joy or gloom. Mood-swings are part of the national character and I know of few countries where they are so unconcealed.

……..sixty-seven per cent of Japan remains either forest or woodland

Korean is a central Asian tongue, which has more in common with Hungarian and Finnish than anything oriental.

Korea…. Intense commercial competitiveness (Japanese cars, films and music are banned in Korea) and an almost manic drive to modernize in the international way. (As of last week it became official government policy to convert all Korea’s toilets from squat to Western style.)

….a joke which sums up the national stereotypes.
The scene is a restaurant.
‘Excuse me,’ says the waiter, ‘there is no more beef.’
The North Korean replies, ‘What’s “beef”?’
The Japanese, ‘What’s “no more”?’
And the South Korean ‘What’s “excuse me”?’

As the coach moves off some of the Japanese are already asleep (I’ve never come across a nation which falls asleep so easily)

China …. We are treated to an official banquet tonight. The banquet here, as in Korea and to a certain extent Japan, is a vital part of any business relationship. Unless you can drink a lot in the company of other men who drink a lot you are not really to be trusted.
Our host is the vice-head of the local Foreign Relations Department, which keeps an eye on overseas guests to make sure they have everything they want, except what you don’t want them to have.

The Chinese may tolerate bad surroundings but they won’t tolerate bad food.

Birds are pretty rare in China – outside soup and cages.

John, who’s particularly partial to a bit of stomach, admits that the Chinese will eat most things if they’re cooked properly..

The famous observation on Philippine history: ‘Three hundred years in the convent, fifty years in Hollywood’ …. The Spanish took a firm hold of the islands in 1565. The Americans bought them from the Spanish in 1898. The Filipinos had to wait until 1946 to run their own affairs. Culture, traditions and social attitudes reflect Europe and America. Not the East.

….Manila … a city of ten million, forty-four per cent of whom are officially homeless.

…..the owner…a jolly Filipino (not that I’ve met a Filipino who isn’t jolly)

….Malaysia ….a country run politically by Muslims and economically by the Chinese.

….the famously smelly delicacy durian which, as they say here, ‘smells like him, tastes like her.’

In Java there were eight hundred and fifty people for every square kilometer of land, in Australia, just two.

While its near neighbor Java is one of the newest, least stable and most fertile lands in the world, Australia is one of the oldest, driest, and the most inhospitable.

New Zealand …They [Maoris] called the place Aotearoa – ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ (which has been adapted by some Maori activists to ‘Land of the Wrong White Crowd’).

As the early European settlers flourished on the rich, well-watered grasslands, Maori numbers fell – by the end of the nineteenth century, from over a hundred thousand to less than forty thousand. Since then they have grown to half a million, and the Europeans to around three million

…Auckland (where almost one in three New Zealanders live)

Chile is not a densely populated country, its just that everyone wants to live in the middle. Santiago and its surrounding heartland are home to seventy per cent of a population of thirteen and a half million. The capital itself has five million people……

The Chuquicamata mine …..Copper production is a hugely wasteful process. Five hundred and fifty thousand tons of rock are extracted every day, of which only 160,000 tons are processed, and only one per cent will contain copper.

….I remember reading in Charles Nicholl’s fine novel, The Fruit Palace: ‘Fifteen million people live in Mexico City and it smells as if they all farted at once’

You’re never alone in Mexico. Never.

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