This is the result of not blogging for too long -- you end up forgetting what you want to write.
In Paris, I stayed with 4 couchsurfing hosts. The last one was rather memorable. Arthur and his best friend Patrick, both in their early 20s, one studying and one just started working. They live in a flat in the Chinatown of Paris, on the 17th floor. Its huge by Parisian standards, and also conveniently located near the metro. I’d say Chinatown and in general, the outskirts of the city near the Peripherique highway that runs around it is the best place to live in Paris if you want to keep rent in check and not have to squeeze into the size of a shoebox like the flat of my third couchsurfing host, Charly.
Chinatown in Paris is not what I expected at all. I thought I’d see a jumble of bright neon signs with moving lights of all colours, signboards lining the streets, buildings squeezed against one another and lots of Chinese words. But Chinatown in Paris defies conventional stereotypes. For one, it has a large population of Vietnamese. A really significant proportion of East Asians in Paris are Vietnamese, and this is reflected in the type of food sold in the restaurants. Arthur and I had lunch twice in Chinatown, and we had pho on the first time and bo bun (a kind of dried noodle with sauce; tasty) on the second time.
Interesting things I learnt about France:
(from Arthur and Patrick) Everyone pees everywhere. They don’t care if its public or private property. When you’ve been drinking and the floodgates are loose, anywhere is a loo. The result is that Paris, while still beautiful, can sometimes smell like a gigantic cesspool of urine.
(from Patrick) French people feel a deep resentment towards the police. Its definitely not a sense of respect as in Japan, nor nonchalance or security or a misplaced sense of guilt. In Patrick’s words (and this view was concurred by Arthur), they think the policemen have ‘small balls at home’ and make up for that by throwing their weight around in public.
Going out and drinking in bars/clubbing is too expensive. Most people have parties at home (each guest brings some alcohol) or just gather in the park (they officially close at sunset, but typically French: just climb over the gates, like how they blatantly climb over the turnstiles in the metro stations in front of the staff manning the information counter), sit on the grass, enjoy the classic River Seine view and drink and smoke marijuana and smoke cigarettes.
In Europe, almost all young people smoke cigarettes. They either do it regularly or have tried it before. Its a much higher percentage than in Singapore. And the number of people who smoke marijuana is astonishing too. When the police catches you smoking marijuana, they simply throw the joint away and warn you not to do it again.
[to be continued]