China’s Hunan Province
Like us, the Chinese read from left to right. But they used to read from top to bottom.
They say that’s why they nod their heads a lot and we shake ours!
China is a huge Country about the same size as the USA. But since 1949 it’s only had one time-zone, which means it’s the same time over 3,000 miles away.
We had a 10 hour flight to Beijing. It’s the biggest airport I’ve ever seen. It was designed by an English architect with Foster & Partners for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Luckily arrangements had been made for us to spend a few hours in a hotel before we carried on with our journey to Changsha.
I had a bowl of noodle soup for my breakfast as the Chinese do. And I had a bowl every morning after that. I loved it!
The flight to Changsha, in Hunan Province, took about 2 1/2 hours.
I sat near the window and the Chinaman next to me was one of the loudest eaters I’d ever heard!
More on that later.
Then he took out his car keys and smiled at me. A bit soon, I thought, we’ve got a long way to go yet!
But oh no, it wasn’t for his car. He cleared out his ears, carefully examining whatever emerged on the end of his key!
Hunan Province means The Yellow Flower Province.
Everywhere has beautiful names in China.
There are five civil airports in the Province.
In the evening, we had a lovely buffet meal in the hotel.
I was looking for the wine, but they rarely drink it. They’re great beer drinkers.
After dinner we were taken to Qindao on Piano Island, where the Chinese X-Factor, Strictly, etc are held.
There were tables with chairs round them, and long plastic hands on the table!
Apparently the Chinese don’t applaud, so they shake the hands in the air and they make a clapping noise!
Luckily at first it was mainly a visual show as it was all in Chinese of course.
A famous calligrapher came on to great applause and bowed. Two girls carefully uncurled a long piece of paper and the man scrawled on it with a huge felt-tip pen for a couple of seconds, it seemed.
The girls held up his work to more applause while he bowed again, and people in the audience began to hold up their hands and excitedly shout out.
Afterwards I managed to get an explanation. He wrote Good Luck in old Chinese script and it was auctioned for £1,200 in aid of a children’s foundation, to help build a school for rural children.
Then a circular metal cage was pushed in. A man on a small motorcycle went inside it and drove round and round and up and down at high speed. Then a 2nd motorcyclist appeared and went inside. And a 3rd, and then a 4th. Unbelievable! They whizzed around in all directions so fast that you could hardly see them. It’s got to be the maddest, most dangerous act I’ve ever seen!
After that, two comedians or something came on, so we left.
The streets were packed full of people. Some were sitting in the street beside the road, playing mah jong on tiny tables.
Other groups were slowly and elegantly practising tai chi on street corners.
It was heaving with traffic. I call them jigsaw drivers. They just seem to whizz across a junction and nudge into a gap. How they miss each other I don’t know!
In the morning, after my noodle soup breakfast, we went to visit the Changsha University, crawling along through the traffic jams. There was a lot of beeping. Motor scooters all rode along the pavements. Pedestrians, often with umbrellas, didn’t seem bothered. They just stepped aside as the scooters wove in between them.
The main road was originally a river until 1971. All the town was burnt down by the Japanese and completely rebuilt.
Six men on their knees were painting a bridge side by side. There was only room for them to paint up and down.
A lorry packed with pigs from floor to ceiling overtook us. I’ll never forget the expression of the pig at the bottom. It didn’t look in pain. It just looked totally fed up as it supported the weight of the pigs on top.
Hunan University dates from AD976. It was ahead of its time as boys and girls learnt together.
It’s a beautiful restful place, with small green gardens and ponds everywhere, and it’s how I’d always pictured life in China.
Driving away, the huge concrete area in front of the modern part was full of students in different-coloured Combat gear, parading around. For their first month, they have to do army training, and buy their own uniforms. What a good idea!
After lunch – and more noodle soup – at the hotel, we drove for nearly four hours to Zhangjiajie , which means Zhang family territory.
We passed six men side by side plastering a wall.
I’ve heard of Siamese Twins, but not Chinese Sextuplets!
The hotel was fantastic and high-quality, but surprisingly the drinks at the bar were very cheap.
That evening we drove halfway up Tianmen Mountain to watch a Cultural show called The Fox Fairy Show, about a Fox Fairy and a Woodman.
We were the only foreigners there.
The mountainside is the backdrop and scenery and there are over 300 performers, all from in and around the village.
The word Chorus is Greek, and means dance as the singers used to dance while they sang. And this is what these singers in National Costume do, moving while they sing.
It was absolutely stunning, with fountains appearing, video additions, lighting, and even snow falling.
I can’t do it justice by trying to describe it.
Look at www.tianmenfox.com for a taster.
Unfortunately a man behind was yelling on his phone for the first 10 minutes, then he loudly cleared out his throat and nostrils. After that someone a couple of rows in front loudly let off wind and the smell wafted back to us. We were in fits! Nobody else seemed to notice.
To the left of the stage there is a translation of the show, in terrible English. And when we read The young prince got up for a p*ss, we collapsed in fits again!
The show is held every night, and I thought it was absolutely magical. I’ll never forget it!
This is my version, and as near as I could get to the original recipes.
Chop & fry a large onion in a drop of olive oil.
Add about 1-2 pints water.
Now add a chicken carcass and some seasoning.
Boil for several hours until the bones are falling apart. Turn the heat off.
Meanwhile, set out a selection of chopped ingredients in small bowls, eg, chives, spring onions, cooked beef, parsley, chillies, celery leaves, soy sauce.
After another hour or two, or when the bones are cool enough to handle, remove them and pick off any chicken flesh, putting it aside in a bowl with the other ingredients.
Discard the bones.
Strain the liquid and put it back in the saucepan. Bring to the boil.
Cook fresh noodles for about a minute in the soup liquid. Lift out and place in a bowl.
Ladle some of the soup liquid on top of the noodles.
Add extra ingredients of your choice.
It’s that simple!
While the soup is still absolutely boiling, you can also crack a raw egg into your bowl and stir it rapidly. It will cook in the hot liquid.