Monday, July 6, 2009

BBQ Heaven in Fenghuang, Hunan Province

We decided to move on from Guizhou to Hunan Province (birthplace of Mau himself) which is further East. This was done by train for about 6 hours (hard seat which was fortunately not hard, and surprisingly pleasant on a brand new train) and a further three hour bus ride... for which we did not actually have seats. It was fine though, we were the last to get there and were grateful just to get on the bus (which seemed to be driven and manned by five teenagers!)... In fact there was quite a teenage theme as it seemed as I sat on my tiny stool in the bus alleyway that everyone around me on the bus seemed to be teenage sweethearts intermittently making out whilst the Chinese version of High School Musical played on the telly. Nice!

Fenghuang was awesome! It is a funny little riverside town, old parts and new parts... The old parts are made up of lots of wooden buildings sitting literally on the riverside (think wooden Venice) and it is a fairly big Chinese tourist destination... I hadn't really heard of it until sifting through the guidebook so it felt like a hidden gem. With about 10,000 Chinese tourists in it! When we arrived it seemed amazingly busy, and it was a struggle to get through the streets with our backpacks on. Realising it was Saturday night and therefore really busy, we managed to eventually find a little hostel to stay in and ventured out.

It is typically Chinese in its blend of authenticity and crassness. Neon lights spring up when darkness falls, which lend it a bizarre charm which would be impossible in Europe. Street vendors set up BBQ grills all over the streets where you can choose from what seems like hundreds of items to have grilled up for you... it was delicious! My favourite being bbq's eggplant with chilli and garlic, soft shell crab and squid, and bizarrely... black pudding!

We spent our evening having tasters from various vendors intermixed with grabbing beers from the many small bars that litter the side roads. Bars (as in obvious bars selling booze) are quite rare in China (well in comparison to England of course!) so it was nice for us Alcies to wander about indulging ourselves in pub fashion.

The next morning we had one of those panics that you can only get in a foreign country... we realised we had hardly any money left. China for the most part is right now a cash society, indeed in many places we had had to get money out on our credit cards as they don't accept our bank cards, so not having any money is a problem which needs to be fixed asap! It was one of those morning which really is quite ridiculous in that we literally spent two hours walking what we thought was all of Fenghuang town, to find no bank machine which would accept our cards! Slight problem of course.

It was perilously hot and of course this wandering around aimlessly was making us a bit fractious... we decided we would have to get a taxi to the next town and try and get money out from there, all of which seemed like it was going to cost us quite a lot of money, never mind taking up a whole day. We were not happy! Striking up a deal with a cabby we headed out of town, only to end up in a part we had not set eyes on- which was really busy and had loads of banks... doh. We managed to get some cash and fortunately this cabbie was a much nicer bloke than our friend from Guiyang, so after three hours pissing about we managed to spend the afternoon taking in the sights of Fenghuang, from a Buddhist temple to various ancient houses and such things. Plus a delightful lunch on the river, which inadvertently was where we were first asked to have our picture taken? Fortunately one of the side effects of modernisation/opening up/Olympics is that a lot more laowei (ie foreigners) travel to china, so in comparison to last time we had been asked a lot less... it is one of those bizarre things which I don't really understand, and feel quite embarrassed about, but at the same time if that's what people wish to do.. fair enough!

Dinner was once more the stupendous bbq from street stalls (sorry I know this blog is turning into a bit of a food odyssey but I can't help it! It is one of my favourite things in life after all!) plus more drinks in bars and various karaoke dens along the river...

1 comment:

  1. At first the picture with the food on sticks made me laugh, hahahahahahahaha i went. then i clicked on it and it was HUGE on my computer screen. I giant face ith it with crabs on sticks and half in your mouth. SCARY not FUNNY after all. I am eatign twiglets for my lunch, and marmite on toast for breaki, not so exciting but i bet you are jealous.