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Across China with the vermin


Peter Green
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Day 13 – Interlude - Music For Airports

Some airports are just shells.  No character, no real feel.  Others have – perhaps – a little too much character, like Cairo and its general squalor, or Dubai when the sub Saharan flights are coming through.

But I liked the character of Chengdu Airport.

As we arrived at the airport, brought in by the garrulous Mr. Yang and his driver, Mr. Li, we passed a great sign.

“Collecting the distillates of the whole world”

Now there’s a motto for dipsophiles everywhere.

Once we were inside and Mr. Yang had delivered us safely to the China Southern desk, we found that the airport floor had a farmers’ market.  None of this packaged nonsense, they had fresh fruit to buy by the sack, and lots of good looking berries and mushrooms.

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In particular, they had some flats of what looked like raspberries (but black, and elongated) that I decided we needed for snacks.  They tasted a little like raspberries in the texture, but were far sweeter and really tasty (anybody want to jump in and identify these?).

Next: Guilin

I believe those are mulberries. Thanks for the great travelogue!

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I found it.  Just past Zhong Shan road I found a high-class spot for the family.

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In Chinese, the banner said "self-selected quick meal". It gives a whole new meaning to the term "fast food"! :laugh:

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And then I found the star anise.  I figure I can always use this for something.  There was another round thing of what looked like seaweed behind it, so I bought that, too.  Yoonhi stopped me from buying the dried pod-things beside the anise, as she challenged me to give a purpose for it.  I hate it when she goes all practical.

The name of it escaped me. This round thing can be broken up (or chopped open with a cleaver) and cooked for Sichuan style dishes, such as the "water-boiled pork" that you made. Or use it to in braising lamb/muttons.

I think that round thing is called a cao guo, or grass fruit. I think it's dark cardamom?

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Day 13 – continued – Wild Thing

What does a man do when confronted publicly with the fact that he’s been lost?

Pretend that this was your plan all along, of course.

Boldly I pointed at the restaurant and said, “This is where I wanted to eat all along!”

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Scud congratulated me on my strategy. “This is a lot like how you shoot pool, isn’t it?”

We were seated readily enough, seeing as how the place was empty. I used my fluent Mandarin, which consists only of “Give me a beer”, and came up with a bottle of Liquan (which I have found out is part of the Yanjing group).

Now, when you find yourself in an attractive, empty Chinese restaurant, you know that what you want to see as an assurance of excellence? You want all of your table setting to arrive in a shrink-wrapped package.

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This is the first (but not last) time I saw this on the trip. I suppose it’s meant to settle your fears about hygiene, but when you travel in the company of klutzes as I do (okay, there are only two klutzes – Serena and I) it can be embarrassing asking for replacements.

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The Liquan came in an attractive bottle, with just a bit of curvature to wrap your hands around (if they’re beefy enough). The beer, however, is undistinguished. Cold and refreshing, which is what I wanted for the heat, but not notable for head or bubbles.

We perused the menu with the greatest of interest.

When I had asked people in Chengdu and Xi’an about food in Guilin, everyone immediately popped up with “wild food”. And when I’d queried Pam on this, he’d said that “wild” ethnic food was what the town was best known for in other provinces (as well as for the green tea, which I find to be excellent, although I do prefer Yunnan pu’ers). So, as this was my first real menu, I wanted to see what they had.

The menu would make Fergus Henderson salivate.

Soft fried bee pupae

Bear’s sexual organ with spicy salt

Fried bamboo rat

Fried mashed civet

Fried bull’s sexual organ with gingko

Given gingko’s perputed affect on muting Alzheimer’s, the last dish would be particularly memorable.

Meanwhile, Yoonhi was babbling on something about SARS or some other acronym, and wouldn’t let me order any of the above. (Yes, I am a spineless cur of a man) What we ended up going for was a mixed bag.

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We made a safe choice with the cooked water chestnut in melted sugar. This came out as hard, sticky candy balls, with wonderfully fresh, crispy water chestnuts resting inside. This was a bit of a challenge, trying to pry one of them away from its cohorts, the sugar cooling quickly. And when you did get one, the water chestnut had been shielded well enough that it still retained a temperature close to what you’d experience on the surface of the sun.

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I’d liked the look of the snails in the market, and the ones in Chengdu had been excellent, so I went for an order of these. This didn’t work out to our liking. The snails were gritty to the extreme. Now, was this due to their not having been properly purged, or was it the result of their being “with child”? I can’t tell. Perhaps its preferred to have them with their young?

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For Serena we went extremely safe, and ordered a boiled chicken. She didn’t like this at all, and even though the hot sauce was very much like a Thai salsa, I couldn’t generate much enthusiasm for the dish.

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But we did have a lot of fun with the head.

But what saved the meal was the snake. We got to pick out our own snake. This was cool. The staff were excited too, as this was probably their major income for the night. Snake isn’t cheap.

We went through the restaurant (which now had two other tables) and into the cage room. Kind of like going into the basement of the pawn shop in Pulp Fiction. Cages with things. Things I recognized.

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So, these were bamboo rats. I remember being up in the Plain of Jars a decade or more ago, and my guide and his driver found a couple of these things in the market in Phonsavan. They got really excited, bought them, suffed them in a bamboo cage, and then they got loose in our vehicle. That resulted in about an hour of dead time while the lads tried to secure the vermin. Then they got loose again on the aircraft coming back. That was loads of fun. These things have teeth on them that’ll gnaw through most anything.

Back to our snake. We were having Long Nosed Pit Viper. We had a problem. It wasn’t a problem with eating the snake, but rather with how much of it we were going to eat. I didn’t realize snakes weighed this much.

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What we had here was about a 3kg snake. Meanwhile, the prices they’d been quoting were for 1/2 kg increments. Three kg is a lot of snake meat, and (I hate to say it) more money than I wanted to spend. We then (I suspect to the dismay of the snake) started haggling.

This could’ve been done easier if either party had shared a common language, but as was, we came out of it with a portion of snake, hacked apart for our dining pleasure. I suspect there was an immediate round made of the other tables announcing a special tonight on Long Nosed Pit vipers.

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This wasn’t bad (and no, it didn’t taste like chicken). It came in a brown gravy, with lots of fresh water chestnuts. Scud and I ate it happily, as, along with the other water chestnuts, it was the best thing on our table. Plus, it had a little carved flower on the plate, so you knew it was fancy.

I suggested that we could try the bee pupae, but Yoonhi seriously questioned our ability to eat anything more. Normally, I’d take this as a challenge, but she had a good point (she usually does). It hadn’t been that long ago that we were eating at the little hole in the wall, and after that we’d been snacking on stuff in the market. I acquiesced, but made secret plans for the next night.

Although disappointed in the chicken (my own fault for caring about Serena eating something, I should’ve made her order the bee pupae) and unhappy with the grittiness in the snails, the food overall in Guilin was very satisfying. It wasn’t exciting, not like the chili laced dishes of Chengdu, but it was satisfying, with a good backdrop of spices and flavours.

Now that I knew where I was, we made our way back in the direction of the Bravo. This took us past the entrance to an interesting street. Interesting means there was food in it. The front of the street was blocked off by some lads in cowboy hats manning an open trench of grilling meat, and the rest of the street was filled up with the tents, woks, grills, and other stuff of a Chinese food street.

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Stuff on sticks, as usual, plus other stuff that had to be held down onto the grill with a trowel. I hadn’t thought of cooking with a trowel before.

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The stuff in this pot looked good. No idea what they were, but they looked good. They kind of remind me of fishballs. Any guesses?

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And I want that wok for my backyard! This was a great crab soup (I think). Little crabs that we’d been seeing penned in stalags all over the streets.

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Yoonhi gave in to her arborial desires and bought a bag of chestnuts. They just looked to good to leave alone (but do I get to buy a rat or some bee pupae??? Noooooooooo…..)

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And, as a grand finale, little umbrellas. Beautiful black glutinous rice steaming away packed inside of pineapples. You’ve gotta love anything that comes in a pineapple with little umbrellas!

Suddenly, I have the urge to watch Tiki Bar TV.

Next: I :wub: Guilin (no, really!)

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Shame you didn't get to try the bee pupae. They are pretty tasteless in themselves, but fried with a bit of chili they take on the texture of popcorn. So chili popcorn.

 

Bamboo rat isn't bad either.

 

For good snails you should have hopped on a bus and come to Liuzhou for the day! They are the local speciality (And are never served gritty!). Our most famous dish is 螺蛳粉 (luosifen) which is spicy rice noodles in a snail soup. Served everywhere for next to nothing.

 

Snake isn't cheap but it is my favourite. A friend who is a restaurateur invites me about once a year to a snake feast near Guilin. Snake soup, various fried snakes and the best, smoked snake.

 

Liquan do a few different beers. I'm not keen on that one. But, yes it's cold and wet in the heat.

Thanks again for a great read.

 

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Peter - reading about your snake meal has reminded when I went to China on a business trip for a medical internet company. I was pregnant with our youngest and the doctors that I met in Xiamen insisted that I eat fried cave mountain snake. I have used my pregnancy to deter them from plying me with too much liquor/alcohol (common business practice to get an upper hand with bargaining with business deals). But my pregnant state did not save me from a plate of wild mountain snake. The doctors told me "Good for the BABY! Give lots of energy and vitality!", beaming as I tentatively took a bite of the crispy, succulent fried snake meat.

I was hooked. IT was FREAKIN' GOOD! I was afraid I actually hogged the platter in front of me and ate most of it while my fellow dining mates subsisted with the razor clams, chili crab and other seafood platters on the table. I still dream about that dish until today. Needless to say, my youngest son is a very energetic, frenetic 6-year action-machine. :biggrin:

Edited by Domestic Goddess (log)

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Wow, this makes me rethink my GuiLin trip idea.

I'm not that into impregnated snails and bamboo rats. I love the snails in Chili oil but to eat them with a "crunch"....ummm...not for me.

The snake sounds good though. Did you get to eat it's beating heart in some rice wine???

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Wow, this makes me rethink my GuiLin trip idea.

I'm not that into impregnated snails and bamboo rats.  I love the snails in Chili oil but to eat them with a "crunch"....ummm...not for me.

The snake sounds good though.  Did you get to eat it's beating heart in some rice wine???

Alas, no beating hearts. I think I probably missed out on some opportunities by getting into the bargaining thing for a portion of the snake. They started by explaining that a whole feast could be done out of the 3kg, but, like I said, that would've been a lot of snake.

No bile soup, either. I remember that from Taipei years ago, when they would hook the snake up, stretch it out, and milk it's venom out and make soup......

Tasty meat, though. This is something I'll be doing when I get back to China (with an expense account).

Cheers,

peter

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the black berries with the little green stem look exactly like the mulberries that are beggining to ripen on our trees here in texas. I remember climbing the trees to get at the berries when I was a kid and wish I could climb so well today. Love the postings. I have been fortunate enough to visit China and really want to go again and bring my wife. I live vicariously through you.

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Knowing my penchant for snake soup in HK a doc. friend there advised me against giving the beating heart/blood a go in China due parasites therein :blink:

Hey, I've already got two parasites - Scud and Serena. What's a few more? :biggrin:

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Knowing my penchant for snake soup in HK a doc. friend there advised me against giving the beating heart/blood a go in China due parasites therein :blink:

Hey, I've already got two parasites - Scud and Serena. What's a few more? :biggrin:

hehehe looking forward to a time of reverse symbiosis with my children in a few yrs time when I'm a pensioner and they are wage earners :smile:

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Day 14 – Strolling

It’s nice to wake up at your own pace. Not to have an appointment or anything that needs to be done or seen. That’s when I really appreciate a town. Yoonhi and Serena can sleep happily until ten or eleven.

Me, I get up at six.

So I can write, go for a stroll, read a bit, wish I’d gone to sleep earlier in the evening instead of dropping into the Golden Lake Bar for a bottle or five of Liquan……

But that’s one of the many things I liked in this town. Close by us there were probably two or three little “bars” with outside tables, no hassles, and cold beer. I found these gave me a great chance to catch up on organizing photos and writing up some notes.

I just wish they had more variety in their beers.

Anyways, it was a morning of belligerent clouds. Still warm….sweaty warm, but something was brewing.

After a breakfast that was just plain bad (oh, I will always miss the Dong Jiao Min Xiang in Beijing), we found out there was a Chinese breakfast in the other restaurant. We asked about changing, but were told “No!” We took it at that. Pity, as, among other things, they had a mountain formed out of roasted walnuts.

Oh, and in the elevator the menu had changed again. For today it was

Curry World

Chicken Curry

Lamb Curry

Shrimp Pakoras

Vegetables Curry

Blanc-Manger

Blanc-Manger?

Outside, we tried to put aright our footsteps from the day before. We weren’t getting lost this time. Not with landmarks like the two pagodas to guide us. We tripped along beside the lake, taking in the overcast day with hundreds of others out for this Sunday noon. In one of the pavilions in the lake a church service was underway.

One old fellow cheerfully came up and advised me on what pictures to take from what angles. I smiled and he bobbed off. Then four older women came by and told us he was crazy. I didn’t mind. At least he was happy.

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Nope, we weren’t getting lost, said I.

We got lost.

I was aiming for Solitary Beauty, one of the peaks in town, and we found ourselves at Elephant Hill. That’s okay, I meant for us to go there all along. Serena believed me.

Of course, when I contested the fact that we might not be where we were, it was Scud that piped up, “Isn’t that the restaurant where we ate last night?”

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I probably mentioned in the last Day’s Notes that this was a pretty town. I reaffirm that: this is a pretty town. Confusing, but pretty.

And it has a nice feel to it. Not quite as laid back as Xi’an, but almost so, and with a very sumptious feel.

Elephant Hill juts out at the confluence of Peach Blossom River and the Li River, with one big hole running through part of it at the water line which earns it the name “Elephant”. There’s a small Buddhist shrine at the base, and the usual spectacular view from up top.

This kept us occupied, draining the kids of some excess energy, and building our appetite back up. From here we walked back up the riverside, looking for some place good. I, of course, suggested we return to the restaurant of last night and have some rat, but this didn’t go over well.

We passed a Korean place, but it looked questionable. There are so many Koreans on tour in China that you can run into the problem of Western menus, that is, really poor Korean food done up for busloads of tourists. I’ve had some really good Korean food in China (there’s a place by the Kempinski in Beijing that does a great kopjang), but Yoonhi didn’t like the looks of this.

Further up the river I came across this great statue. I tried to describe it to Pam later, and we think it’s a statue of the poet who described Guangxi’s scenery as the first under Heaven (or something along those lines) but we could well be wrong.

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Amazingly, we weren’t lost. We were on Walking Street.

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An interesting place. Lots of shops with nothing I had any interest in. We were looking for a restaurant.

Mind you, they did have bowling.

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I wasn’t too clear on this bowling thing. King David Bowling gave me a Weird Al impression of Hassidic pin boys. Maybe we should’ve looked inside after all?

One thing that Walking Street has in abundance was the “instant friend”. The first one latched onto us as soon as we came onto the street. Normally, I figure that once you move out of their territory, they’ll lose track of you. I didn’t want to go into his shop, or buy anything in any of the other shops he was trying to get us to go into. Finally, he suggested we eat in this one place. All things being equal, I figured this was as good as any I’d choose, so we entered.

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The food was actually quite good.

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We had a “fried pork chop with salt and chili, which was actuall more of deep fried thinly sliced pork. This was good with the beer, and the kids appreciated it.

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And we ordered the stir-fry noodles with chili, which were wheat noodles topped with sauce, peanuts, and slivers of cucumber. Like Jya Jang Mian you (or rather Yoonhi) stirs it all together. It had a surprisingly good bite to it, as I’d been getting used to milder flavours in Guilin.

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We ordered some fried meat dumplings, just because we could. These were a very bread like bun that had been steamed and then fried.

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These were all good, but the highlight was the “steamed pork chop with lotus”. What arrived wasn’t like anything I’d expected.

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This was a big steamer basket of glutinous rice, with a layer of pork and lotus down inside, and what appeared to be a layering of yellow lentils on top (with some spring onion. You gotta have spring onion). There was a layer of banana leaf on the bottom to trap in the drippings. Our guess is that they separately cooked the pork, rice, and lotus, and then assembled the whole and steamed it. But we could be wrong. It wouldn’t matter, as it was an incredibly rich, and incredibly good, thing to have for lunch. Filling, but it was worth it.

Oh, and lest I forget, chicken soup. Serena needed her chicken soup.

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A good lunch. But when we came out, our “friend” was just around the corner. This was getting creepy. We made our way up the street with him in tow, found the old part of town, and debated going in. Then we decided the kids were getting too hot and tied, so we decided to go home and dump them. So our “friend” insisted on getting us in a cab. I wish I’d known another hotel name, but I told the cabbie to take us to the Bravo. I’m paranoid, I know, and I worry about people thinking that.

We returned the kids to the room and left them with the laptop. They were content. Yoonhi and I were now free to wander about on our own.

Next: Climb Every Mountain

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Knowing my penchant for snake soup in HK a doc. friend there advised me against giving the beating heart/blood a go in China due parasites therein :blink:

but...but....but....doesn't the alcohol kill the parasites?? :huh::sad:

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The noodles and the fried meat dumplings look like breakfast in Wuhan! :biggrin:

The fried pork chops looks different from the ones I usually get in China or even in the US. Yours seems a lot thinner and leaner. Usually the ones I get has bones attached and a good proportion of fat. :wub: It's one of my favorite dishes! Always a safe bet. How can you not love fried pork and pork fat??? :laugh: I'm beginning to sound like Emeril. :hmmm:

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Knowing my penchant for snake soup in HK a doc. friend there advised me against giving the beating heart/blood a go in China due parasites therein :blink:

but...but....but....doesn't the alcohol kill the parasites?? :huh::sad:

oh, I'm sure the alcohol does kill the parasites but my friend was advising me not to take the raw blood etc by itself,..... not that I had to be persuaded :blink:

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Knowing my penchant for snake soup in HK a doc. friend there advised me against giving the beating heart/blood a go in China due parasites therein :blink:

but...but....but....doesn't the alcohol kill the parasites?? :huh::sad:

It doesn't seem to have done much to Scud. Serena's a little young.....

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Knowing my penchant for snake soup in HK a doc. friend there advised me against giving the beating heart/blood a go in China due parasites therein :blink:

but...but....but....doesn't the alcohol kill the parasites?? :huh::sad:

It doesn't seem to have done much to Scud. Serena's a little young.....

hmmm Peter, now you mention it, my daughter should by rights be dead ....whereas my son tells me it kills the palate :huh: and to extrapolate, I believe I'm in trouble :laugh:

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Wait a minute.... :hmmm:...I remember my parents giving me alcohol when I was 5 and every year after that during holidays!  :shock:  Isn't it illegal to start aborting your child at the 18th trimester???  :blink:

Xiaoling, you are my sort of girl :smile:

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Peter, I have thoroughly enjoyed skivving off any meaningful work this afternoon by reading your wonderful account. I love your dry, wry writing style! Thanks for sharing!

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Day 14 – Part 2 – How Much Is That Puppy In The Window?

Unencumbered with children (and hangers-on), Yoonhi and I grabbed a cab back to Solitary Beauty.

This is the first (but not last) time on the trip that I realized just how touristic things could become (and how lucky we were to have avoided most of it). As we arrived at the site we had to fight past the usual congregation of tourist buses. But we’d seen worse. The TerraCotta Warriors had had more visitors. But there everything was on a scale that the crowds were swallowed. But at traditional spots, like this, the bottlenecks and constrictions make you realize how few people it takes to jam things up.

At first it was fine. We made our way through the spacious grounds, stopping in at the confusing multi-media exhibits they’d set up in the old buildings. I say confusing, as they were geared for groups (very loud groups) and would only turn on the lights when it was appropriate for the group to move on. This had Yoonhi and I wandering off into darkened displays that weren’t actually open to the public. Embarrassing, perhaps, but Yoonhi’s used to being around me.

But when we arrived at the hill itself, this was when we found out about crowded.

Folded Brocade, the day before, really hadn’t had any groups, per se. A few scattered chain-smokers getting dragged up the hill, but no traffic jams. Here we were waddling our way up the hill, with visions of a mass of humanity jambling down the staircase as soon as someone slips in one of the puddles of sweat I was leaving behind…..

Oh, the humanity.

But, it worked out okay. We got to the top. We took our pictures. We admired the view. We tried to look at the spot where Sun Yat Sen had his picture taken, but there was no way on Earth we were getting close to the center of that scrum, and then we waddled back down in a single file.

Down below was a lot more fun.

First, we could ditch the tours or work around them.

Second, they had the examination hall.

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We’ve all grown up with stories about young scholars going off to take their exams for the government. This was a chance to see what things were like.

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Little cloistered cells was the answer. Just the size to sit in, with a writing table blocking you, your pen, and your ink in. Cool! This was better than when we sat our exams. Looking at it, all it really needs for my comfort is a power outlet and a beer coaster (and someone to sell me cold beers as I write).

And then, on the other side of the gate, we came across the music school.

This wasn’t a tourist thing. It was segregated off from the “park” with separate access. There were two long, narrow buildings. Each was partitioned into little rooms just big enough for a piano, at least the one building whose windows we could peer into. From this building rose a cacophony of key tinkling. In the background we could hear the wind section.

At the time, it seemed an idyllic existence, to sit in the small, well lit room, the sound of birds and water outside, cut off from the noise of traffic and the busy life outside the ancient walls.

Now think of this idyllic existence when the summer temperature climbs into the mid-30s centigrade, and the humidity approaches 99%. Then you’ll think about your mother that forced you to take piano lessons because she said it would make a man of you…….

Yoonhi whacked me over the side of the head and we moved on.

We exited from the backside of Solitary Beauty (as I read this, it does have an odd imagery), which afforded us the opportunity to check out the third of the peaks; Wave Subduing Hill. Oddly, the approach to this (for us) was a street of beauty parlours. I shouldn’t think about such things too much.

From there, a turn down the river side, and we were back on Walking Street.

We didn’t see our friend from earlier, but there were plenty of others who wanted to be our boon companions. I ignored them, and feigned interest in the showing of Ice Age that was up on the giant screen in the middle of town. At first I thought maybe it was coming attractions snippets, but, no, they were showing complete movies up on the there.

The Golden Arches had set up shop here, but not as I was used to it. This was the first time I’d noticed a McDonalds kiosk. They seemed to be doing drinks and ice cream. China has an insatiable lust for ice cream (doesn’t everyone), as I thought back to the snowdrifts of ice cream wrappers on the streets of Xi’an at night.

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My target, though, was the Paulaner Brauhaus. I figured it was time for a different beer. Paulaner isn’t my favourite, it’s something of a McDonalds of on-site brewery beers. That is, you get exactly what you expect. No less, and definitely no more. But, a crisp dark beer pulled from a tap is what I wanted.

Paulaner’s on Walking Street in Guilin doesn’t have beer on tap. At least not when I asked for it.

I was out of there. I put the menu down. I made my apologies. And I was gone.

We walked a bit more, cut up through Central Park, and then meandered back home, stopping in at the Bon Bon Café beside the lake for a quiet, cold, inexpensive beer (or four).

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In the hotel we found the children still alive and happy. I told Scud that I should have translated the sign saying “Kidnap us” into Chinese before putting it on their door. He was amused. Yoonhi whacked me again.

So, obviously, it was time for dinner. I suggested rat. Everyone else suggested the street we’d walked through the night before. I lost.

We had grand intentions of working our way up the street. We also had a number of beers under our belt. We made it to the first good looking place, and settled in….for just one or two dishes.

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It was a great place. The plastic table cloth had cigarette burns here, there, and everywhere. There was a tank by the door with some dour looking fish floating about. And there were three mystery pots cooking by our table.

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I tried translating the sign with the menu based upon my limited knowledge of characters, and a guidebook that had some food items. I believe, given enough time (like five years) I could have managed to order an appropriate meal. (Anybody that’s interested, please let me know what they’re offering!)

I began to prepare my old fall-back. Draw pictures of animals and hope for the best. I started to draw a picture of a duck, but Scud, the art critic, pointed out that it looked more like a pheasant.

Then, Serena, the bright one, chimed up, “If it’s a cross between a pheasant and a duck, that would make it a….”

We congratulated her on this, and told her never to use that word again. At least not until she started dating Tony Bourdain.

My artistic skills belittled, we asked for a menu. The bemused looks we got when we sat down did not bode well. Nor did the looks of incomprehension (on both sides), but then everything became all right.

They had an English menu.

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This is probably my favourite menu. I know, I know, there are plenty more of these hand written menus around, but this one had good stuff in it. And there’s something just comforting about being in a place where they’ve taken the time to hand-transcribe their dishes.

We ordered a mushroom soup for the girl. This came packed with fresh fungus with a very nice, very delicate broth, contrasted with the sharpness of the green onions they were using.

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Also on the wet side, we ordered a hot pot of pork, vegetables, and bean curd. It was really the bean curd that Yoonhi was after. This came with a dipping sauce that was really heavy on the soy. I’d pull the pork and bean curd out, and let it rest for a minute or so to soak up the salt. One thing I had not done was pack salt for the trip. I suppose I could’ve managed a small zip-loc of the pink Himalayan I like, but I risked untold wrath if I was caught by Yoonhi. She was already making fun of me for having packed some metal chopsticks to bring along.

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When we were in Beijing, we’d managed to get in one bottle of wine, the pleasant Dragon Seal Reserve Chardonnay that we’d had at Fangshan. Their menu offered the interesting-sounding Guilin 3 Flowers Wine. It wasn’t clear exactly if this was a red, or a white, or what grapes they were using, but I figured at the price it was worth trying.

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I don’t think grapes had anything to do with this.

Yoonhi was kind in comparing it, perhaps, to a sake. Soju maybe. After one cup, I suggested that it would probably do a good job of cleaning the paint off of our driveway. This was a fairly aggressive proof (but not Everclear), with a cheeky brutality (which means it was brutal to your cheeks).

The mou tai afficionadoes will probably be out for me with drawn knives for this. I’ve had a lot of Chinese spirits over the years. Every business meal I’ve done over here has revolved around shot after shot of this. Luckily, volume lends capacity, and I can usually make it through these bouts still ambulatory. But I am wary of it. I made a mistake once with some of the Beijingerr stuff, and laughed while drinking. I was clearing blood out of my sinuses for a week after…..

It’s not really all that bad. It kind of grows on you after a few cups….half a bottle…..I made certain we had some beer to wash it down.

There was one taboo to be broken on this menu (the Chinese wine helped).

Dog. They had dog in a hot pot, and fried dog. We were worried that it was going to be too much fluid, so we ordered the fried dish.

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It wasn’t bad. A little greasy, but it’s hard to tell if that’s just from the frying or not. I did not get a big rush of heat from it…..but that could have just been me, seeing as I was pretty much in water-cooled mode from the humidity (although it wasn’t too hot out, the weather was turning).

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Scud and I munched away happily on this. We tried to get Serena to try some, but it probably didn’t help that we were making puppy noises as we ate and singing “I do hope that puppy’s for me” as we chewed down.

I’d mentioned earlier the mystery pots. There were three of them (overtones of Triads), and they were right beside us. We watched as the man of the shop slid a new yontan (charcoal – what’s the Mandarin for this?) into the form fitting tin. Yoonhi, emboldened by some of the turpentine she’d been drinking, had a look inside.

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Looking inside didn’t help much, so I did a Monty Hall and ordered what was behind door number 1. It looked interesting.

The table behind us had just been taken over by a group of young ladies from Hong Kong who were happily taking pictures of their food. From this I deduced that they must be a good sort. We asked them what was in the pots.

The one closer to us was duck cooked with plums, ginko and medicines. The one a little further back was another chicken, but this one had been stuffed inside a pig’s belly and slow cooked for hours.

Of course I had to order it.

The staff were happy. That was one pot they’d invested in that had paid off this night.

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Although I shouldn’t worry. All the tables outside (four) were full now, and there was plenty of activity on the street.

When the soup came out, I was a very happy man. Not only did we have very tender strips of stomach, and comforting chicken chunks to gnaw on, but the broth was some of the best I’ve had.

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The mushroom soup, that I’d been admiring to this point as a very nice soup, faded away, her fragile beauty cast aside for this buxom fleshpot.

Hey, somebody finished off a third of the bottle of wine.

As we were slowing down, we offered bowls of the soup to the ladies’ table behind us. They were quite happy to take our offer, and immediately had their cameras out taking more shots of the food. My kind of women, indeed.

We were full. Our tabearuite (walking about and eating) was a lost cause (what’s the Mandarin word to walk around and snack on things?). Still, there were things to do, so we pushed back from the table and I reeled out into the street. I was growing to like that 3 Flowers Wine.

I had a destination. As we’d gone down the street the night before, we’d noticed an interesting sign.

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I dragged a protesting Scud in by his collar, while Yoonhi and Serena went off in search of a massage and a shampoo.

Upstairs, we found a fine, fine pool establishment.

It was a little confusing at first. I was trying to find out if they charged by the game, or by the hour. Finally, I pulled out 200 Yuan, and the folks behind the counter perked right up and handed me a rectangular, gold coloured card, about the size of my hand. I made point signs at a table, and everyone smiled.

Reasonably good quality cues (in the interest of domestic harmony, I didn’t pack Scud’s and mine for this trip. After only using ours twice on the last trip, I knew better than to make Yoonhi try and fit them into the suitcases this trip). Cigarette burns on the floors, but not on the felt. Good quality chalk and some talcum powder. And old monster video arcade quality games littered around the place.

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And a bunch of very serious players.

Scud said later, “You know, I was a little uncomfortable. All of these guys would come around to watch us play. But after a little while it was okay. They saw we stank and they went away.”

We shot for around an hour and a half, Scud had a couple of cokes, I had a couple of beers, and when I went to pay, I was given change on the order of 170 RMB or so. I blinked. Obviously this place was not charging tourist prices. I contemplated staying longer, but Scud kicked me in the shin.

From the pool hall it was just a hop, skip, and a stumble back to the Bravo. I dropped Scud in the room, left a note for Yoonhi, and headed back to the Golden Lake Bar to enjoy the evening.

Enjoying the evening was going to be tough. The angry skies were now getting really upset, and there was a hard wind blowing through, the kind that has water behind it somewhere.

Yoonhi met me at the bar soon enough, we enjoyed a Liquan sheltered from the wind, and then headed back up into town, regardless of the weather.

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The lakeside was quiet, the usual crowds blown away. But when we arrive at the far side of Banyan Lake we found the street lined up with crimson tents selling odds and ends. We window-shopped (stall-hopped?) through their wares, picking up some buffalo spoons (you can never have enough serving spoons) and some odd scrolls with tales from the Three Kingdoms (Guan Yu escorting Liu Bei’s wives to Cao Cao).

I suggested we check out the night clubs over on Walking Street. Yoonhi suggested we check out the insides of our eyelids, seeing as we had to get up tomorrow and get on a boat.

She always wins.

That’s probably a good thing.

Next: Mucking About In Boats

P.S. – it’s hard to describe, but I felt very comfortable in Guilin. There are things I liked everywhere we went, but this town had a very nice feel to it. Even with its famous tourist sites, it didn’t feel like a tourist town. I’ll have to think on this more.

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I tried translating the sign with the menu based upon my limited knowledge of characters, and a guidebook that had some food items. I believe, given enough time (like five years) I could have managed to order an appropriate meal. (Anybody that’s interested, please let me know what they’re offering!)

It is a Hot Pot menu

Column one.

Fragrant Dog

Dry Fried Donkey

Boiled Donkey

Dry Fried Mutton

Boiled Mutton

Yellow Braised Chicken

Boiled Chicken

Sizzling Plate (Doesn't specify what is on the plate!)

Column 2

Beer Duck

Chestnut Duck

Chestnut Chicken

Snails and Chicken

Beer Fish

Delicious Tofu and Fish

Hot and Sour Fish Head

Hot and Sour "Hehua" Fish (sorry, I don't know the English for "Hehua".

There is then a list of Li River Fish, most of which I don't know the English for. I'm not a fish linguist! :wacko:

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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gallery_22892_4411_25740.jpg

I tried translating the sign with the menu based upon my limited knowledge of characters, and a guidebook that had some food items. I believe, given enough time (like five years) I could have managed to order an appropriate meal. (Anybody that’s interested, please let me know what they’re offering!)

It is a Hot Pot menu

Column one.

Fragrant Dog

Dry Fried Donkey

Boiled Donkey

Dry Fried Mutton

Boiled Mutton

Yellow Braised Chicken

Boiled Chicken

Sizzling Plate (Doesn't specify what is on the plate!)

Column 2

Beer Duck

Chestnut Duck

Chestnut Chicken

Snails and Chicken

Beer Fish

Delicious Tofu and Fish

Hot and Sour Fish Head

Hot and Sour "Hehua" Fish (sorry, I don't know the English for "Hehua".

There is then a list of Li River Fish, most of which I don't know the English for. I'm not a fish linguist! :wacko:

Thanks, Liuzhou!

Now I'm suffering from thinking about what I could've been eating (but what we had was pretty good, too).

The chestnut duck sounds really good. And what's a yellow braised chicken?

Cheers,

Peter

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