Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wuhan, A City of Eight Million People (That's More Than New York, By the Way)

My professional duties over, it was time to hao wanr (have fun). My incredibly gracious hosts (yet again!) made sure to take me around to all of Wuhan's A-list attractions, like...

Hubei Province Museum (湖北省博物馆). There's apparently a template for museums in China. No need to show you any pictures, as architecturally the building closely resembles the Shanghai Bowuguan. And the exhibits themselves looked familiar. It's all about chronology. Start five thousand or more years ago, and work to the present, from dynasty to dynasty to dynasty.

Mao's Villa. The two most interesting facts I learned about the Chairman? (Aside from the fact that he had a car given to him by Stalin.) (1) He lived a very simple lifestyle, always wearing the same suit. (2) He once ate a meal that featured one hundred dishes...while touching the hair of two beautiful girls. (Hey, I don't make this stuff up!)

Huang He Lou. Climbing up to the top of Yellow Crane Pavilion, I was rewarded with my first-ever glimpse of the Yangtze River (China's Mississippi...or as I told one of my handlers..."the Mississippi is America's Yangtze"...). I didn't care if it was loud all around me or hazy all around the city. I was going to get a nice long look at the river, the barges, the buildings on both sides. (I get like that sometimes at tourist sites...)

Kongming Deng. Now, this is a really cool, distinctively Chinese thing to do. You take this paper lantern (you buy it from a street hawker). It comes with this flammable little piece of...well, I don't actually know what it matter. Eventually, the hot air lifts the lantern off into the sky and it flies away into the night. There's apparently a festival where these lanterns are released en masse. Now that's something I've gotta see...

Local cuisine...and more. Before leaving Beijing, I asked my students what foods I should eat while in Wuhan. What are the local specialties? Re gan mian (hot dry noodles) was one answer. And what a good answer that was! This is the kind of food best eaten out on the street. I think it cost three kuai an order. Now the search will commence for this dish in Beijing (knowing that it can't possibly be as good as in its hometown).

Then there was ya bozi (duck neck). Deliciously seasoned, but too much bone and not enough meat for my taste. And dou pi. It's, I think, the skin of soy beans, with pastry wrapped around them. (More good stuff!) At one meal, pig tongue made an appearance. (I can't tell how good this was. Think lean bacon...)

All of this food (remember, I was only in Wuhan for like sixty hours). And I wasn't even done yet...



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