Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Dumb Phone – Failed

As usual, with everyone bored to death by the third day of the Spring Festival, they are resorting to their “smart” phones to pass the time. As usual, this has led to the system overloading and failing as often as not.

I’m with China Mobile, although I suspect it’s not with me. All weekend, service has been sporadic, often dropping out all together. Their e-mail service has been severely curtailed. I can receive little and cannot send any message with an attachment over around 100Kb. Normally, I can send up to 10Mb.

It will pass, I know, but will they admit to their system failing or offer refunds on the service fees? Don’t be silly.

Meanwhile, China Telecom’s internet service is functioning fine. So, I am sending and getting my emails – just not when I want to.



This sign has just appeared very near my home.

It is an advertisement for a leech shop. Not a medically qualified clinic or anything. Just a leech cure quackery.

The “medicinal” use of leeches, which usually did more harm than good, all but died out in the west in the 19th century. It was revived in the 1980s on a very limited basis for a few highly specialised applications. Here they are offering it as panacea.

China’s health care practice and legislation is an unhealthy mess.

Still, it doesn’t compare to this lunacy.

Just keep saying that ‘I’ll never have the flu. I’ll never have the flu. Inoculate yourself with the word of God. Flu, I bind you off the people in the name of Jesus. Jesus himself gave us the flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of flu.

Gloria Copeland, Adviser to the so-called President of the USA

Funeral Blues

Just over a week ago, here in Liuzhou, someone I considered my sister suddenly died, just 41. It transpired she was suffering from diabetes, but was in denial and not taking the prescribed advice or medication. This was compounded by the few people who knew about her condition steering her towards nonsensical folk “medicines” instead. I saw her just two weeks ago and had no idea she was ill.

She was also taking care of her mother who suffers from early onset dementia, leaving mama totally lost, but she doesn’t know she is.

She took care of me and helped me out many times. She took care of everyone except herself.

Life is cruel.

Her sister flew back from the UK where she has lived for over 15 years and her brother also came back from where he works in Guangdong – of course.

It has been a shitty week.

But what surprised me most was something I didn’t know. I’ve been to countless weddings in China over the years; I’ve been to 100 day old baby parties (it is considered bad luck to celebrate the birth until the child lasts 100 days); I’ve even been to a divorce party!

But never to a funeral. And I still haven’t. I learned that local custom dictates that no one older than the departed’s generation may attend the funeral. This comes from the whole elder worship thing. The young must pay respect to their elders, but an elder should never reciprocate.

In practice, this meant not only that I couldn’t go, but only her siblings and one close friend of her sister could go. Her mother couldn’t (not that she possibly knew what was happening, but that is irrelevant).

As my lost friend’s sister said to me, if she had been born during the “one child policy” years, it would have meant that no one could have gone.

I have to accept the local culture, but I do think it is very cruel.

Goodbye sister. I will miss you. A good person and the best cook in China! I will never cook Chinese again without thinking of you.

Phở-less in Liuzhou

It has always surprised me in one way and not at all in another that there are so few Vietnamese restaurants here in town. After all, we are very near.  But what surprises me even more is that the three such places I know all do the same one dish and ignore the wide cuisine that Vietnam offers. They don’t even do Phở., the most well known dish, if not always the best.

I saw this place from a taxi about a week ago and went by today.

Like the others it only offers bánh cuốn – rice pasta rolls. They are fine, but hey, there is more!

bánh cuốn

I suspect this is a Chinese operation rather than Vietnamese – they get the Vietnamese slightly wrong on their sign – and they are going for something easy and recognisable. Not that phở would confuse the locals.

This place is at the northern end of 北站路.


This is ridiculous! I didn’t decide to live in Guangxi to freeze to death!

This of you reading this who are currently in Liuzhou will know that yesterday the temperatures plummeted to almost freezing point. They are forecast to stay that way for most of next week before slowly rising to something more sensible.

Those of you who are not in Liuzhou and thinking 1ºC isn’t that cold, please turn off all your heating devices, open the windows and leave them open for at least 48 hours, then tell me 1ºC isn’t cold!

I’m off to sit in the fridge until Thursday. It’s the warmest place in the house.


LuoSiFen Museum Humbug

This saddens me beyond words.

Xinhua, China’s official news agency has announced the opening of a Luosifen (螺蛳粉) Museum last weekend. In the last couple of years around thirty “museums” chronicling everything from a Deer Museum to a Tooth Paste Museum have popped up. These inevitably turn out to merely promotional outlets for some Liuzhou company or other. The Toothpaste Museum is “coincidentally” owned by LiangMianzhen (两面针) toothpaste factory, for example.

And so with the Luosifen Museum.

The museum was set up by a local manufacturer… …Visitors can see an automated production line. Every day, around 100,000 packets of river snail rice noodles are made there.

Despite the story press release describing the dish as street food, the museum is, in fact merely promoting packets of instant noodles, a pale, insipid, industrial version of the real thing.

I don’t know if the brand shown above is the one which has set up the museum and have no desire to find out. There are now 79 companies making the things and nearly 9000 online vendors selling the stuff.

After the dish featured in the first episode of the award winning “A Bite of China” back in 2016, Liuzhou Government sank millions into subsidies and tax breaks for these manufacturers.

Me, I’m sticking with the real thing.

The Xinhua story is here. (In English). Luosifen has it’s own Facebook group here.

China Holidays 2018

I know it’s still 2017, but if you are like me you’ll already be thinking about next year’s holidays. Here, courtesy of Josh Summers of, is a full list of China’s national public holidays for 2018 along with any relevant “make-up” days.

In addition to these, Guangxi also has a holiday for the San-Yue-San (三月三)festival, which, in 2018, falls on April 18th. Full details of that holiday have not yet been published.

I will update as soon as possible.

Christmas Cacophony

Things are bad. My local supermarket has taken to playing the deliberately awful version of “Love is All Around” sung by Bill Nighy as the character Billy Mack in the movie “Love, Actually“. I’m boycotting the place until they realise Christmas is over, which may be around next August, if things go as usual.

Just so I don’t have to suffer alone, here is what I mean for those who don’t know it. Play at your own peril. (VPN required in China. Perhaps this is why China has blocked YouTube.)

I’m looking forward to going back to saccharine Canto-pop while I pick up my supplies.

Friday Food 186 – Insect Shit Tea

chopsticksFriday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, we are getting shitty.

A recent trip to the Dong ethnic minority (侗族) lands in Sanjiang Autonomous County (三江侗族自治縣) in the far north of Liuzhou prefecture, where Guangxi, Guizhou and Hunan meet. turned up this curiosity.

虫宝茶 chóng bǎo chá (literally ‘insect treasure tea’) is the excrement of a type of moth caterpillar which eats tea leaves. When the tea exits at the other end, it is collected and dried.

The insect tea is added to regular tea and is considered to have medicinal properties, particularly for stomach ailments. It tastes vaguely fungal to me, like mushrooms.

Tea Field in Buyang Village (布央村), Sanjiang

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