Wuhan Update — June 2011, part 1

Arrived in Wuhan on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago after a comfortable soft sleeper train from Beijing. On our nifty private TVs in the sleeper car they played the Karate Kid remake with Jacky Chan and Jaden Smith. The Beijing portrayed in this movie is ridiculous — the temperature is never remains mild through month after month of training; it rains all the time; the streets are narrow and the buildings rarely more than two or three stories tall; the city is lush with trees and greenery; repair guys speak fluent English; parents can call their kids, find out where they are, drive to pick them up, then take them to the  music conservatory — all in 20 minutes; and, best of all, and groups of 12-year-old Chinese mini-hoodlums roam the streets and beat up smaller foreign kids in public parks with impunity.

We arrived at the “new” Wuchang train station, which, besides being a lot bigger and having a Dicos greeting me as I exited the platform, is still pretty crappy. Apparently 800 million RMB was not enough to provide more than a dim light in the main hall or unclod the drains that prevent the taxi stand from being submerged under a giant puddle of water.

There’s a bigger shopping area inside the station, though most of the shops were for Zhou Hei Ya and or one of the many copycat brands attempting to pass itself off as Zhou Hei Ya. Surely duck’s neck is number one gift for visitors on their way home.

In the taxi over to Hankou I noticed that the flagfall has jumped from 3 to 6 RMB. Still a lot cheaper than most other cities, though. First stop was the unnamed alley between Zhongshan Dadao and Tongyi Lu for my preferred reganmian and mianwo. Then walked through a misty Wuhan rain to our normal hotel on Jianghan Lu. The entire southwest corner of Zhongshan Dadao and Jianghan Lu has been wiped out to make way for a stop on the the Number 2 metro line, due to open sometime in 2012.

This spot is already jam packed with people on most days; a subway line right in the middle is going to make it easier for thousands more to come in. Should be fun.

The headlines in all the papers were about Hu Jintao, who had just passed through the day before to stare intently at dry dirt with groups of old men. This ritual, which I think is approximately 5000 years old and invented by China, was all it took to bring the months-long drought to an end. The heavy rains started the night before, and though we only felt light rain during our two days here, it was the beginning of several weeks of major floods in and around Wuhan. On the bright side, we were spared Wuhan’s normally oppressive June heat.

Most of the afternoon was spent walking around and enjoying some of our favorite snacks, such as the spicy chicken wings at BT Wings and the bubble teas at Di Kou Le. We also went to a more recent find, Chen’s Zhajiangmian.

I hesitated the first time we passed this place, thinking that zhajiangmian was a Beijing specialty that I never really liked. But this place was packed, and the signature dish was way better than anything I’d ever eaten in Beijing. Highly recommended.

Will save the evening’s adventures for my next post.

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