Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 184 – Buckwheat Noodles

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 bucking trends.

Recently, a new arrival in Liuzhou asked me where she might find buckwheat noodles in town, as she is gluten intolerant. I was, happily, able to tell her and thought I should share here.

The noodles are, surprisingly, more easily available than one might imagine. Almost every largish supermarket has them. What you have to look for is the Chinese name. Few are labelled in English. The Chinese is 荞麦挂面 for the dried variety and 荞麦面 for the dried. (As ever, hover your mouse pointer over the Chinese for an enlargement and the Pinyin)

The dried are by far the most common. This bag containing 1kg dry weight costs between ¥7 and ¥10 depending on which supermarket.

Dried buckwheat noodles

‘Fresh’, as opposed to dried, are less easily available, though Bubugao has them in their chill cabinets. Around ¥4 for 200g. However, if you do have any gluten intolerance, then beware. These noodles contain more regular wheat than buckwheat.

Fresh “buckwheat” noodles

Just typical. The only ones to be labelled in English and the label is totally misleading.

NB (Ass-covering disclaimer): As anywhere on this blog, please remember I am not in any way medically qualified and accept no responsibility for any consequences of readers eating anything I mention. If you have dietary issues or allergies, please double check everything, then check again.

Random Photograph No 93 – 五星 (Five Star)

Random Picture No. 93 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.


Here they go again, thinking slow again. The Chinese Communist Party  is holding its 5-yearly National Congress  (NCCPC) 中国共产党全国代表大. This is an utterly pointless meeting to rubber stamp decisions that have already been taken in private. No one ever, ever votes against anything. Some of the oldest guys will be sidelined and some of the new guys will be promoted (by themselves) and nothing will change at all. The self-appointed demi-gods will still control everything.

In order to keep total control and stage manage every aspect of the meeting (and Chinese life), as they always do, they  are, once again, screwing around with the internet. The usual sites remain blocked, but they also slow down access to any sites which they don’t control – i.e. most.

All across China, for the rest of the month, websites will take painfully long to load, if they load at all and VPNs will time out, and go for a cup of tea to think about something more interesting.

I am baffled as to what they think this achieves other than pissing off their population at large, but then they have never given a shit for what the people think. Self-interest and self-preservation are their only policies.

A government terrified of its own people.

Industrial Museum

Over the National Day week-long holiday, a couple of dear, old friends (one from Nanning and one from Guangdong) visited me here in Liuzhou. Among their requests for amusement was a trip to Liuzhou Industrial Museum.

It’s not a place I’d ever been, although about a year or more ago, shortly after they opened it, someone contacted me asking to me do some work to help promote it. When I raised the topic of recompense, they insisted that I was morally duty-bound to do it for free. That’s when I was glad I had learned the Chinese for “Piss off!”

Anyway, I now felt duty-bound to humour my friends so off we went. I wasn’t expecting much, but I actually ended up quite enjoying it. The museum was larger than I expected – two large floors.

It shows the development of Liuzhou’s industry from prehistory up to last week, laid out in chronological order. Real exhibits include both products and the machinery used in their manufacture. Older technology is shown through recreations.

Here are a few pictures.

Exterior. There are trains and the like to explore.

Boat Building


Arrival of Electric Lighting

Of course we need a few tractors.

Fly me outa here!

Top of the Pops

Radio Gaga

I’m sure I’ve been in that apartment!

Wuling Van 1988. No! General Motors didn’t invent them!

The museum (柳州工业博物馆) is situated on the east side of Wenchang Bridge (文昌大桥) , just south of the Citizens’ Square (市民广场)  and Liuzhou Government HQ. It is open every day except Monday. Opening times 9.00am to 5pm, but last admission is at 4pm (not 4:30 as mentioned on many websites).

Admission is free.

Depending on your curiosity level, you need at least an hour to get round, but you could easily spend half a day there if you are so minded.

Blue Sky; Bluer Water

Today in my perambulations around the city, I saw something rarely seen in Liuzhou.

Yes, astonishingly, that is blue sky behind the Bubugao Tower. I had been in Liuzhou several years before I saw blue sky. In the early 2000s the government moved most of the factories out of the city centre and closed down the worst polluters. The air cleared up rapidly.

However, about five or so years ago, the insane desire for everyone in China to buy a car ended that and pollution levels are back to where they were.

I also spotted this. The sunken area in the People’s Square (behind the museum and in front of Bubugao) has once again been turned into a huge paddling pool to amuse the kids during next weeks National Day holiday. The blue effect is achieved by lining the entire depression with blue coloured plastic.

This year, the aka Mid-Autumn Festival falls in the middle of the National Day holiday – on Wednesday 4th. Happy Mooncakes!

Brexit Cushion

As if Brexit wasn’t confusing enough (thanks largely to the Maybot and her staggeringly incompetent government), my local supermarket is adding to the chaos. I’ve always found Chinese students very geographically challenged. God knows what they are taught in school. I was gave some university students a blank outline map of China and asked them to mark the locations Shanghai, Xi’an, Beijing, Hong Kong and yes, Liuzhou. They hadn’t a clue.

Yesterday, in my local supermarket, I spotted this cushion, obviously designed by a Chinese high school geography teacher.

A lovely collection of typical British scenes. Just as I remember it! But hold on! Sacré bleu! Zut Alors! Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça? As we say in England.

The caption on the images reads

Paris the capital of Britain! And it looks like the school’s English teacher helped out, too. They kindly pointed out Britain’s capital, Paris is a Mecca for tourists seeking “cluture”. I’m going to have to go back and check it out!

Did I buy the cushion? At ¥11.90 how could I refuse?

Hucking Fell!

Twenty years ago, I was living in west Hunan province. A very nice place. On day, shortly after I arrived, one young man asked me in English.

“How to you like Fulan?”

I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about and mumbled some pathetic response.

Later, I discovered that what he had asked was how I liked Hunan. The local dialects have a tendency to change Mandarin’s /h/ into an /f/ sound and an /n/ at the start of a syllable to an /l/. This is quite a common feature of many languages and dialects.Sometimes the changes are in the opposite direction.

Anyway, I got used to it.

Guangxi, on the whole, does not have this habit. Or so I have thought for many years. Yesterday I was chatting with a close Chinese friend in Nanning on QQ and at one point in the conversation, she sent me this.

As usual I was baffled. Although I know every character, it seemed to make no sense.

“蓝瘦香菇在这里这里* literally translates as ‘blue thin mushroom here’, which of course is nonsensical. Of course, I queried it.

My friend informed me of a story about a young man of the Zhuang ethnic minority who was a disappointed in love and posted a video on social media lamenting his sorry state. In the video he attempted to say, “难受想哭” which does make sense. It means “It’s painful and I want to cry”.

Because of his Zhuang mother tongue interference he mispronounced nán as lán, kū as gū and got the wrong tone on xiang.

His post went slightly viral in Guangxi and people mocked his bad Chinese. The ‘wrong’ expression became a thing and was widely copied.

How are people like me able to fathom meanings when people start speaking deliberate nonsense?!

* As ever, hovering your mouse pointer over any Chinese characters will show the corresponding pinyin.

Give Me Your Chefs

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

…and your chefs.

A mere ten years after it was first proposed, Liuzhou has this month arranged for a local chef to make an “exchange” visit to its twin city of Cincinnati – or, rather, Cincinnati has managed to find a restaurant willing to accept him,

Executive chef of Liuzhou’s Jingdu Hotel, “Andy” Huang has arrived in the so-called Queen City as the guest of the owners of Cincinnati’s Oriental Wok restaurant, Guy Burgess* and Susanna Wong. A program of cheffy activities has been arranged.

Mr. Huang has been in the catering/cheffing business for 32 years and now leads the hotel’s catering side.

“Andy Huang (R) with Oriental Wok co-owner, Guy Burgess”

Cincinnati’s local news media describe the hotel as “including Chinese fine dining and a high-end international buffet”. Having eaten in all its restaurants I can happily confirm it is far from fine dining. The Chinese restaurants, like all hotel restaurants, mainly provide mass catering for wedding parties and the “high-end international buffet” wouldn’t rate a second glance anywhere but China.

Twenty years ago, the Jingdu was the hotel of choice for foreigners visiting or working short-term in the city. I knew one couple who lived there for a couple of years. But it has long been eclipsed by the international hotels sprouting up all over town such as the Radisson and the Ramada.

Still, it will be  a refreshing change to have a chef in Liuzhou who has actually seen western food rather than just copying dishes by sight from photographs.

The Cincinnati-Liuzhou Sister City relationship was set up in 1988 and has conducted various “exchange” visits, mainly for Chinese teachers of English to spend time in an English speaking environment. Around 75 teachers from Liuzhou have taken part over the years. The association has also had “exchanges” with parks, tree planting activities and with Liuzhou library.

I have put “exchange” in inverted commas throughout because the “exchanges” are overwhelmingly one-way.

* No relation to the British cold war spy of the same name – I hope.

Friday Food 183 – Lentils

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 lovin’ some lentils.

You are probably thinking there is nothing ‘unusual’ about lentils, but there is round here. A few days ago, I came across the red ones being sold loose in Liuzhou for the first time. (Many years ago, we could occasionally find canned green lentils.

I have previously bought red lentils online, although none of my Chinese acquaintances had any idea what they were.

Bubugao supermarket is now selling them for their usual inflated prices – a whopping ¥58.80/kilo, compared to the usual ¥20-¥25 you can find for online. They are known as 马粟红扁豆 and are being sold as a “health food”.

I do like me a lentil soup, especially with a bit of Hunan cured pork. Or, an Indian style dahl as a side dish with a curry.

Civilised Survey

I was sitting in my downtown Liuzhou home last night, pondering on the nature of nothingness, when there was a knock on my door. I opened it to find two women clutching reams of paper. They tried to look round me to see if there was anyone else in the room – like perhaps a human being instead of a foreigner.  Failing to find any evidence of occupants other than me, they gave me one of their sheets of paper and went on their way to annoy the rest of my neighbours.

I examined the sheet of paper. It turned out to be some sort of survey gathering the populace’s opinion on matters related to the “civilised city assessment process which runs each year. Lucky winners get to be officially known as “Civilised Cities”. It apparently hasn’t occurred to the authorities that what they are, in effect, doing is admitting that most Chinese cities are uncivilised.

Anyway, here is my rough translation of the form.

2017 National Civilized City Assessment Questionnaire

Citizen friends, hello!
We are in your city for the civilized city evaluation questionnaire. Your opinion will be sent to the civilized city organisation.
Government departments’ work improvement plays an important reference role. Please fill in the following questionnaire content, thank you!


In order to ensure the authenticity of the questionnaire basic information please click “✓” the appropriate box so that we may verify the sample:

Sampling Verification:
Your gender:    ⃞ Male      ⃞ Female
Your age:     ⃞ 18-35 years old     ⃞ 36-55 years old    ⃞ 56-65 years old


We guarantee that your personal information is only used for this city of civilized city evaluation, and not leaked or improperly used.
Please click “✓” for the option you select.

1. What do you think the of city (county) integral construction effect?
⃞ A, the effect is very good        ⃞ B, there is a great effect     ⃞ C, little effect    ⃞ D, no effect / not clear

2. Are you satisfied with the effect of the city (county) on the creation of a civilized city?
⃞  A, Satisfied    ⃞ B, Relatively Satisfied    ⃞ C, dissatisfied    ⃞ D, very satisfied    ⃞ E, do not know / do not know

3. How do you evaluate the care of minors in the city (county)?
⃞ A, very good    ⃞ B, good     ⃞ C general    ⃞ D, do not know / do not know

4. What do you think of the “gambling” phenomenon of the city (county)?

⃞ A, very serious   ⃞ B, more serious   ⃞C, not serious        ⃞D, do not know / unclear

5. What do you know of the public awareness of the city (county) administrative organs and staff services?
⃞A, strong sense of service      ⃞B, general sense of service   ⃞C, poor sense of service   ⃞D, poor sense of service

6. What do you think of the city (county) legal publicity and education atmosphere?

⃞A, not strong / unclear   ⃞B, relatively strong   ⃞C, strong   ⃞D,  very strong

7. How do you evaluate teachers and teachers in primary and secondary schools?

⃞A, very good   ⃞B, good   ⃞C, general   ⃞D,  do not know / unclear

8. Do you understand the expression “24 socialist core values”?

⃞A, do not know   ⃞B, know a little   ⃞C, know   ⃞D,  all know (to recite)

9. Do you feel that you are surrounded by moral education and civilization?

⃞ A, not strong / unclear    ⃞ B, relatively strong    ⃞C, strong   ⃞D,  very strong

10. Do you know whether your community has organized minors to participate in activities that reflect the moral practice (public service, the environment, hygiene and study tour)?

⃞ A, organized    ⃞B, often organized    ⃞C, unclear

11. Do you feel safe in our city (county)?

⃞ A, unsafe / can not tell    ⃞ B, not safe   ⃞C, more secure   ⃞D,  very safe

12. Are you satisfied with the effectiveness of this year’s work style and anti-corruption work?
(Calculated by their respective proportions, not included in the system score)

⃞ A, very satisfied     ⃞ B, more satisfied    ⃞ C, general   ⃞ D,  not satisfied   ⃞E,  hard to say


Thanks for asking!

Like the good citizen I am, I have answered all the questions including the ones which make no sense to me and am awaiting their return to collect my valueless invaluable contribution.

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