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.
Text I just received from ODB, who’s at the Beijing airport getting ready to fly to Shenzhen:
7:10pm: Sitting on the plane for over an hour now. Pilot’s last message: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally been cleared for takeoff. However, the car that was supposed to push us back has disappeared. I will try to contact the tower.”
Last message: “Ladies and gentlemen, the tow truck arrived and disappeared again. This is not an organized airport. I apologize.”
All announcements are in very good English. Chinese versions are toned down… Last message was English only.
We are finally moving. I guess they found the missing truck. Just one hour late…
UPDATE FROM SZ: The flight was almost two hours delayed. I spent 5 hours on the plane, only 3 hours of which in the air… It is July and the weather in SZ is better than Beijing…
The owner of Bed Bar opens a hutong hotel with four rooms, charges US$200 and up per night, and gets a gushing review in the New York Times. Really?
I’m not really bothered by the gentrification of “Old Beijing”, and I don’t know how hotels get chosen for reviews in the NYT Travel section, but this seems like an odd choice.
Here’s a sample picture of the iPod-inspired design:
Read the rest of this entry »
Air France Flight 447 crashed over the Atlantic about 24 hours ago. God rest their souls.
A jetliner crashes less than 24 hours ago and the lets-move-on news story is "flying safer than ever"
From Xinhuanet: China hopes Mexico understands its necessary precautions against influenza A/H1N1 include uncerremoniously booting a bunch of Mexicans out of the country.
From Ma Zhaoxu, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman: “The measures concerned are not targeted at Mexican citizens and there is no discrimination”
From Truth From Facts: Happy Cinco de Mayo! Are the tequilla specials still on tonight?
Just added this informative blog on Beijing’s subway system, Beijing A to B, to our blogroll. Enjoy!
There is a sister site devoted to Beijing’s roads. That one seems much less interesting. What can they say besides “They’re all jammed”? I’d recommend Beijing’s traffic station instead.
Both sites are related to the folks at Beijingology.
I’m a big fan of David Cross, mostly from his work in Mr. Show, and was surprised to find several videos of his travels through China for VBS.tv. The series is called “The Vice Guide to Travel – China”, and Cross is joined by Gavin McInnes. I found three episodes: China, Day in Shanghai, and All American Pies. All are worth checking out. In one episode they watch part of Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seahawks, which would mean the trip was filmed in early 2006.
It’s always interesting to see well-known personalities reacting to things the rest of us notice here in China. (I remember seeing a short video of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone on a similar trip a few years back but can’t find any clips online.)
Home Inn has become my budget hotel of choice when traveling around China. I own a Home Inn member card (40 RMB), which gets me a discount of about 7.5% at any of their hotels. They have an excellent reservation system: When I call from my mobile, they have my name and other reservation information already pulled up on the computer. As soon as I hang up the phone, I get a text message with the price, reservation dates and hotel address.
The Jiaodaokou Branch in Beijing is also the place I recommend to visiting friends and family who are paying their own way and just need a clean, quiet room and nothing fancy. I’m signed up there for a company discount of 10% – anyone I make the reservation for simply shows the front desk my business card and gets the discount.
Occasionally the staff will walk over to our office and hand deliver a brochure with special offers. Today they brought me one with special “discounts” for the Olympics. Below are the various prices for a standard room (with two beds, each one somewhere between a twin and a double in size):
- Normal price: 239 RMB
- With member card: 221 RMB
- With company discount: 215 RMB
And here are the “company discount” prices around the Olympics:
- August 1-4: 448 RMB
- August 5-25: 640 RMB
- August 26-31: 448 RMB
When I asked why the “discount” prices were so much higher than the regular prices, I was told that the normal price during this period is 900 RMB.
One reason I like Home Inn is that, unlike almost all other Chinese hotels, they don’t artificially inflate their prices and force every single guest to bargain. But it looks like Olympic fever has led them to succumb to temptation and jack up their rates–then turn around and immediately offer half off to their regular customers.
I wasn’t surprised when the stories started coming out a few months back about how Beijing’s hotels weren’t filling up as quickly as expected. But Home Inns often fill up during normal times, I assumed that they would have no problems in August 2008. It was therefore was a bit surprising to get a flyer offering discounts for the entire month and for several different room types. The opening ceremonies are just three weeks away! Makes one wonder about the hordes of Chinese tourists that are expected to descend upon Beijing. Maybe they’re all going to crowd into friends’ and relatives’ apartments–or maybe they, like many foreign tourists, are simply going to stay home.
I haven’t taken to twitter yet. Anyway, I’m sitting in the “Axis” Lounge & Bar in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore. The girl who greeted me at the entrance is Japanese, so I’m slightly wondering what’s up with the name of this place. But more interesting than that are Singapore’s F-15 fighters that are flying outside the window over the Singapore Harbour at this moment. Damn those things are fast, loud and amazing. And they’re pretty good assurances that the Malaysians and Indonesians won’t get any funny ideas.
On April 6 the South China Morning Post offered the most solid confirmation to date (subscription required) of the recent rumors that China visas are going to be harder to obtain until after the Olympics:
Beijing has stopped issuing multiple-entry visas, risking major inconvenience to foreigners who travel to the mainland regularly, especially on business. Hong Kong travel agents say the ban will stay in place until after the Olympic Games.
Travellers are now restricted to single- or double-entry visas valid for 30 days. Multiple-entry visas that have not expired are still valid. . . . Read the rest of this entry »
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