Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Green Grow The Rushes, Oh.

Stefano Boeri is an Italian architect and urban planner on a mission to fight pollution by building high rise buildings covered with plants. The “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in his home city of Milan was one of his first.

Bosco Verticale, Milan, Italy

He has now set his sights on China and plans eventually to green up Shijiazhuang in northern China, one of the most polluted cities in the world. He is also working on a project in Nanjing.

However, the first of his “forest cities” is to be trialled here in Liuzhou. Two images, described as artist’s impressions have been released. They may be impressions but I fail to see any art!

“Artist’s” impression of buildings in Liuzhou Forest City

“Artist’s” impression of Liuzhou Forest City

It has been pointed out by critics that, while his efforts are worthy, they merely deal with the symptoms but not the causes of the pollution.

More information here.

Friday Food 176 – Five Spice Powder

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 doing some arithmetic.

Is there anything more typically Chinese than five spice powder (五香粉)? Well, yes.

Many years ago, I worked in an office overlooking London’s China town. By around 11 am, the restaurants started getting lunch ready and the smell of FSP blanketed the area for the rest of the day.

When I moved to China, I didn’t smell that. Only when I visited Hong Kong, did I find that smell again.

In fact, FSP is relatively uncommon in most of Chinese cuisine. And if I ever see another internet recipe called “Chinese” whatever, which is actually any random food, but the genius behind it has added FSP, supposedly rendering it Chinese, I’ll scream.

But what is it anyway? Which five spices?

Today, I bought four samples in four Liuzhou supermarkets. I would have would have preferred five, but couldn’t find any more.

First thing to say: none of them had five spices. All had more. That is common. Numbers in Chinese can be vague. Every time you hear a number, silently added the word ‘about’ or ‘approximately’. 100 km means “far”, 10,000 means “many”.

Second, while there are some common factors, ingredients can vary quite a bit. Here are my four.


Ingredients – 7

Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, Sand Ginger, Dried Ginger,Sichuan Peppercorns.


Ingredients – 6

Cassia Bark, Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Coriander, Sichuan Peppercorn, Licorice Root.


Ingredients – 15

Fennel Seeds, Sichuan Peppercorns, Coriander, Tangerine Peel, Star Anise, Chinese Haw, Cassia Bark, Lesser Galangal, Dahurian Angelica, Nutmeg, Dried Ginger, Black Pepper, Amomum Villosum, Cumin Seeds, Cloves.


Ingredients – 6

Pepper (unspecified – probably black pepper), Sichuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Nutmeg, Cassia.

So, take your pick. They all taste overwhelmingly of the star anise and cassia, although there are subtle differences in taste in the various mixes.

But don’t expect to find it in many dishes in local restaurants or homes. A quick, unscientific poll of friends today revealed that not one has any at home, nor have they ever used the stuff!

Water Sports Again

I’m not really sure what to make of this. It may just be an early April Fool’s Joke. Check the proposed date. But then I’ve never understood sport.

According to this report, Liuzhou is going to host some sort of competition.

The Ironman 70.3 triathlon race will take place on April 1 in Liuzhou, a city in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is the first of five Ironman 70.3 races to be held on the Chinese mainland this year.

Encircled by green mountains and embraced by the Liu River, Liuzhou is known as “The World’s Best Natural Bonsai.”

The Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou race will begin with a 1.9-kilometer swim in the Liu River, cutting right through the center of the ctiy. Athletes will exit the water to transition next to beautiful Broom Hill Park.

The 90-kilometer bike course takes riders north out of the city following the river for 35 kilometers before crossing west though the city to begin the second loop, and the 21.1-kilometer run course offers athletes a chance to see the scenes of the city as they complete two loops through downtown Liuzhou, along both banks of the Liu River.

Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou will have 30 qualifying slots for the 2017 Ironman World Championship and 50 qualifying slots for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship available. In addition to Liuzhou, the race will also be held in Qujing, Chongqing, Hefei and Xiamen this year.

Now, for a start, I wouldn’t swim in that river under any circumstances other than imminent death. Which is what you might find if you do. It is filthy. I’ve seen too many bodies float past. Rats. dogs, pigs and people.

I am however delighted that they manage to repeat every cliché about Liuzhou from the stock party-approved phrase book

Encircled by green mountains and embraced by the Liu River, Liuzhou is known as “The World’s Best Natural Bonsai.”

No. it isn’t!


Athletes will exit the water to transition …

drives me into a stuttering rage.

But I guess some people might be interested.

Friday Food No. 175 – Ox Whip

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 looking at, hmmm, ox whips.

Back in Friday Food 85, I featured Ox Treasures, the euphemism for calves testicles. This is not, by far, the only genitalia to grace local tables. Most supermarkets will sell you 牛鞭,literally, ox whips.

Again they are being euphemistic. They are calves’ penises.

They are mainly used in soups and are supposed to be some sort of natural viagra, restoring power to the past it.

Menu from Jingdu Hotel, Liuzhou (very old – you’ll pay a lot more today!)

Pig pizzles are also sometimes available, more usually in markets rather than supermarkets. Dried deer dicks are highly prized, to the point that there are places selling fakes. If you really want to know where to get them, just send me a message. Tiger todger is, by far, the most desirable, but highly illegal. In 2014, a man was sentenced in Guangxi to 13 years imprisonment for eating and dealing in tiger parts. There is still however an underground supply chain. These are also often faked.

Here is Fuchsia Dunlop on how to cook penises.

Many year ago, I had dinner with some friends (a mix of foreigners and Chinese) in a Liuzhou restaurant. Some of the English friends present gave me a Tupperware type box of uncooked, cow’s vaginal labia as a birthday gift. Thanks guys.

Later, I gave them to a friend’s mother who was delighted and rushed off to her kitchen to fry them up. I’ve never seen them in the market, that I’m aware of, although there is one stall that sells all sorts of dubious looking bits and pieces. I know that those friends had to find a Chinese friend to help them specially order my lips.

And finally

Stairway to Hell

Miraculously, for the first time in living memory all four escalators on 五星街, the offshoot from the main pedestrian street, have been functional over the holiday.

So you are now able to rise to the second floor in comfort when you really have an overwhelming desire to examine abandoned shops, cafés and restaurants. The place is a run down slum.

Most of the escalators on the underground shopping mall are, as usual, out of service. They pretend to be undergoing maintenance, but actually the management company is just trying to save money by switching them off.

Spring Fever

While I am not complaining about the unusually warm weather we have had over the last week, there is one thing that does concern me.

I was walking towards the down town area today when I spotted this lying on the side walk.

I picked it up just to be sure.

Yes, it’s a flower from a 紫荆花 tree or Cercis Chinensis, the trees which are all over Liuzhou and flower in May. The poor things are highly confused. Of course, it can’t be anything to do with global warming because that doesn’t exist. Lunatic-in Chief, Mr. Trump says so.

For those who don’t know, Liuzhou is full of these trees and May is a stunning time to stroll the streets and parks.

Year of the Rooster

Friday Food 174 – Alligator


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

The Chinese alligator (alligator sinensis), 短吻鳄 or, more colloquially, 鳄鱼,  although not common, is farmed for food. I’ve eaten it in street night markets and in restaurants, but you rarely see it in markets and even less rarely supermarkets. Recently Bubugao have been offering it.

It doesn’t come cheap. Alligator steaks are 69.80/500g, where as the tail or palms are 99.80/500g. The head is cheapest at 49.80 /500.

When I went past, someone had just requested the head so the beast was being decapitated.

Last Night Early This Morning

There was no way I was going to watch Turd being inaugurated, so I poured myself a large one (well two, maybe three) and listened to some music instead.

I had selected Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks (just to cheer me up) and it got to Idiot Wind. Damn if I didn’t hear Turd speaking!

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out but when they will I can only guess

Then Dylan comes back talking about Turd.

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads headin’ south
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done, in the final end he won the wars
After losin’ every battle

You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle

Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom

I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind

Well, actually I didn’t notice because I didn’t watch the ceremony, but it still seems to fit.

Spooky though!

(Selected lyrics from Bob Dylan’s Idiot Wind recorded 1974.)

Friday Food No. 173 – Yuzu Tea


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

This is not Chinese, but I bought it in Liuzhou so, by my rules, it can go here.

It is Korean yujucha (유자차), or yuzu tea. The Chinese name is 柚子茶, although that is technically a mistranslation. 柚子 is ‘pomelo’, a totally different citrus fruit.

Whatever you call it, it is used to make ‘teas’ or cold drinks etc, by diluting it with water. However, as the instructions for use make clear, it also makes an excellent marmalade variation.

At first, I thought it was going to be too sweet for my tastes. The ingredients list says 28% sugar, but then the combined percentages in that list come to 117%. However, the acidity of the citrus cuts through the sweetness and leaves it well balanced. In other words, I like it.

Toast (home made bread) and marmalade for breakfast. Hooray!

I bought a 580g jar for around ¥29.90, but they also do a 1 kg jar for ¥45.90. From Bubugao, although I guess other supermarkets will have it. Probably cheaper!

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