Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Liuzhou Wets Itself Again

Once again, Liuzhou is holding its annual celebration of all things wet. The International Water Carnival runs from October 1st to 5th, with the usual aquatic sports events for rich kids with expensive toys.


The events kicked off yesterday, somewhat ahead of schedule, with dragon boat races on the river near the Liujiang Bridge.

dragon boats

Meanwhile preparations for the week long holiday are continuing. The recessed space in the People’s Square has been turned into a pool, over-imaginatively dubbed 沙滩水世界, “Sandy Beach Water World”.





沙滩水世界, “Sandy Beach Water World”


Later in the month, we are promised a River Regatta – someone has learned a new world. Different rich kids with different toys.


As ever, no tickets are on sale for these events. Guanxi is what you need.

Seedy Sidewalks

Back in the days when I lived in London, public coin-operated telephone boxes were decorated top to bottom, east to west with what were named “tart cards”. These were small advertisements for prostitution services, usually featuring a photograph (not necessarily of the person offering the service), a phone number and sometimes indications of ‘specialist’ services. In 2001, posting these in telephone boxes was made illegal, but I’m told it continues.

Tart Cards in UK Phone Box

Tart Cards in UK Phone Box

Of course, no such thing happens in China. Because they don’t have phone boxes.

Just recently, in my perambulations, I have noticed a rash of ‘tart stickers’ stuck to the sidewalks around town. There are three of four on the street where I live, but I’ve also seen them further afield. Here is one:

Tart Sticker - Liuzhou sidewalk September 26, 2014

Tart Sticker – Liuzhou sidewalk September 26, 2014

It reads “包小姐“. 包, in this context means “hire” and, although 小姐’s literal meaning is simply “young woman”, it has become a colloquial name for a prostitute. So the sticker is saying “Hire Prostitute”. It includes a cell phone number which I have pixellated. I ain’t no pimp.

It is highly likely that the women pictured have no connection with this trade. I’m told the stickers often portray Japanese or Korean models.

While prostitution is widely practised, the authorities do have frequent crackdowns and raids. Foreigners involved are likely to be deported.

Comments on this post have been disabled due to the huge number of idiots barraging me with juvenile or obscene comments. Sorry, if your comment was non-idiotic, but believe me, you were in the minority.

Friday Food 137 – Radishes

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week Radishes/Daikon/Mooli etc.

Nothing particularly unusual about radishes, I hear you think. I’m not so sure. The Chinese for radish – 萝卜 covers a multitude of vegetation.

Even the humble carrot is a radish in Chinese thinking – 红萝卜, literally ‘red radish’ or 胡萝卜, literally ‘foreign radish’.

Many years ago, I conned my young son into eating parsnips, which he claimed to hate, by telling him that they were Chinese white carrots, a rare vegetable which he turned out to love. Sadly, Chinese etymology disagrees and has no radish or carrot connection. They are 欧防风, meaning European Saposhnikovia via divaricata, a similar looking root used in Chinese medicine. I’ve never come across parsnips here.

But I digress.

The small round peppery radishes with red skin and white flesh commonly found in the west are rarely available (Bubugao Hypermarket sometimes has them.)

radishes (1)

In China, the mention of radish automatically associates itself with the large white elongated objects known by their Japanese name daikon (ダイコン) in most places, although also by the Indian name mooli (मूली) in the UK.

This variety doesn’t have the peppery taste of the small ones. In fact, it is very low on flavour, at all. But it does add a crispness to salads and to hotpots and soups.

Daikon  ダイコン

Daikon ダイコン

But what prompted me to include this in Friday Food was the appearance of this in the markets. It’s a Chinese heirloom variety of radish, Wikipedia (fount of all knowledge errors) claims that the Chinese name is 心里美萝卜 or Beautiful Heart Radish, but the locals are more prosaic and simply call it 青萝卜 or Green Radish. In English they are often referred to as Watermelon Radishes, for obvious reasons. The exterior is a white to light green, whereas the interior is red. They are round but much larger than the small radishes pictured above. This one is 10cm / 4 inches in diameter.

waternelon radish

The texture is as the small radishes, but they are less peppery in taste.

Liuzhou Bridges 8 – Hedong Bridge


North of the Hudong Bridge (downstream) is the similarly  (to non-Chinese ears)  named  Hedong Bridge (河东大桥), or in the slightly more prosaic English, “River East Bridge”. This was the second road bridge to be built so, is referred to by the locals and the bus company as No.2 bridge.


The 776.6 metre bridge opened in the Orwellian year of 1984 and links the mainly residential area of the northern part of east Liuzhou with the centre and roads to the north of the prefecture, including the ethnic minority areas of 融水 (Miao minority) , 融安 (mostly Miao)  and 三江 (Dong minority), then on to Hunan or Guizhou provinces.

It also handy for foreign teachers in Liuzhou High School which lies on the eastern bank of the river. It links (eventually)  to Shengli Road (胜利路) home to 雀山公园 my favourite Liuzhou park, and to the northern branch of 大润发 or RT Mart, Liuzhou’s best supermarket by a mile.

This is the most northern bridge in the peninsular area of Liuzhou. Unlike the other east-west bridges it does not have a partner on the other side.

Road sign

Road sign


Hedong Bridge

Hedong Bridge

I’ve read that this is the longest (or the heaviest, depending on which version you read) bridge of this type in Mainland China. Don’t ask me what kind of bridge it is. What do you think I am? A bridge engineer? I’m just a Liuzhou bridge blogger.)

Hedong Bridge looking east

Hedong Bridge looking east

Looking west

Looking west

Like most bridges in Liuzhou this one carries water level meters.



I may be over-imaginative, but this shot reminds me of a troop of elephants.

Another sign

Another sign

As far as I am aware, no one has died on this bridge. It is the Hu bridges which are cursed.

Liuzhou Bridges 7 – Huxi Bridge


Directly across the peninsula from Hudong Bridge is its sister bridge, Huxi Bridge (壶西大桥) or “west of the pot bridge”, pot being the city centre peninsular area. Built in 1994, this 700 metre long bridge is somewhat utilitarian in design. It is often referred to as No 4 bridge by locals.

The bridge again links the residential areas on either side of the peninsula. Huxi bridge is the furthest north on the western side of the peninsula.


Like its sister bridge, it too has seen its share of tragedy.  On the morning of January 24, 1998 part of the sidewalk and the guardrail collapsed into the river. Four people were killed and three injured. Two passing boats were also sunk.

A few weeks ago (August 29th) a man climbed to the top of the bridges central part and threatened to jump. After seven hours, in which the entire city’s traffic was gridlocked due to the bridge’s closure, he was arrested. More here.

Huxi Bridge looking east

Huxi Bridge looking east

Huxi Bridge

Huxi Bridge

Huxi Bridge from underneath

Huxi Bridge from underneath

Huxi Bridge

Huxi Bridge

The western bank of the bridge is a good place to see the city’s flood defence wall and floodgates up close.

Flood gate in the flood prevention wall next to Huxi Bridge

Flood gate in the flood prevention wall next to Huxi Bridge

Hello, Goodbye

A thing of beauty. "No" votes in red; "Yes" in green

A thing of beauty. “No” votes in red; “Yes” in green

It has been a roller-coaster few days. I’ve gone from anxiety, through trepidation to elation. Then to loss and sadness.

Thursday-Friday night I couldn’t sleep for worrying that my home country was about to commit suicide.

I haven’t lived there for decades, but I still care.

All day Friday, I was on Twitter and the BBC, mapping each result as they came in, electoral district by district. By the time 26 of the 32 had declared it looked highly unlikely the the independence voters would win. By the 31st declaration it became impossible for them to win, even if the last district voted 100% for independence, which was never going to happen – they voted “No”

Only four districts voted “Yes”. One was Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city where 75% of the population is permanently drunk. Of that 75%, one third thought they were voting for their favourite football team, another third thought the question was “Would you like another pint, Jimmy” and the remainder were just anti-English bigots.

To be fair, some of the “No” voters weren’t entirely sure what they were voting for either or what question they were answering. A substantial number thought they were entering pleas. Do you plead “Guilty”?


Two other districts voted “Yes” because they secretly think they are part of Glasgow anyway.

The city of Dundee also voted “Yes”, but Dundee isn’t just another city; it’s another planet, so forget about them.

So Friday night I slept better, but not perfectly.

I have known for months that, at noon on Saturday, I had to have lunch with my best friend in Liuzhou. That is usually a very good thing, but this time it was a farewell lunch. She is off to the USA to study and I’m going to miss her so much. I’m happy she has the opportunity to go and I’m proud of her, but…

Bizarrely, for a Chinese girl woman, she chose Japanese as her last lunch (for a while). So we hit the nearest conveyor belt, but when she wasn’t paying attention (she was on her phone) I ordered a big plate load of sashimi.

sashimi 2


At 12 o’clock we have raw Scallops, then moving clockwise, Surf Clam (Hokkigai), Herring*, Salmon, Octopus, and Shrimp. In the lower centre is Mackerel and above it Crab Roe served in a half lemon shell. All raw.

We also had small plates of raw tuna sashimi, baby squid in a gingery sauce, red snapper sushi, crab sushi, goose liver sushi and unidentified frying object sushi from the conveyor belt. And pickled ginger as a between item taste cleanser. Oh, and tea.

We then said a sad goodbye. Tears were shed.

One thing expatriates get used to is saying “goodbye’. People come and go. But until recently, Chinese friends mostly stayed. Not so much now. I’ve had three friends leave this month. Was it something I said?

*The company website describes this as ‘herring’, but I’m far from sure. The Chinese (希鲮鱼 ) translates as ‘rare dace’, but I don’t think it’s that either. It was good whatever it was.

Friday Food 136 – “Sauce Cucumber”


Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week “Sauce Cucumber”.

I was minding my own business in one of the local supermarkets last Saturday morning when I noticed that they had taken to selling dog turds. Nothing would surprise me.

sauce cucumber

Closer inspection revealed them to be cucumbers pickled in soy sauce, salt and sweet bean paste. The Chinese is 酱黄瓜 which literally translates as “sauce cucumber”.

Mr Google seems to know nothing about them in English, so this post should be a first. However, a search in Chinese reveals several recipes. The taste is mostly salt and soy sauce, but the texture remains somewhat crunchy. They weren’t at all unpleasant, but I doubt I’ll be rushing back for more.

The lot in the picture cost me ¥3.20.

Ex-NBA In Liuzhou

Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady

It means next to nothing to me, but I thought I’d let you know.

It has been announced that a bunch of retired basketball players (former NBA stars) led by seven-time NBA all-star Tracy McGrady, and with other players such as Ater Majok and Brandon Robinson will be touring China for “all-star” games against local clubs.

The tour starts off in Liuzhou on October 6th, then moves on to ten other cities including Hohhot, Guangzhou and Kunming.

No venue or ticket arrangements have yet been announced, although I’m guessing on the Li Ning Sports Arena.

If I learn more, I’ll update.

Dancing Girls

I want you to imagine for a moment that you are in a meeting of government and police discussing how to improve the city’s deplorable driving standards.

A  delegate suggests getting the lazy traffic cops to actually implement the laws they are meant to and actually punish violators. You know things like driving through red lights or just being complete selfish assholes.


Another  delegate suggests that the best way is to get a bunch of reasonably pretty girls to dress up in white dresses, attach some fake police insignia and get them to dance.  In a pedestrian street far removed from any actual drivers.

Which would you choose?

Of course, the dancing girls in the pedestrian street. As they did this morning.

Now, let me make it clear. I have nothing against pretty dancing girls. The more the merrier. If you know of any going spare, point them in my direction.

But seriously. What medication are these guys on? Or failing to be on?

Friday Food 135 – Water Shield


Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week Water Shield.

Water shield (莼菜Brasenia schreberi is widely distributed around the world from North America and the Northern parts of South America, eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea), Australia, the Indian Subcontinent, and parts of Africa. It should not be confused with ‘Carolina water-shield’, a different plant.

In China (and Japan) it is cultivated as a vegetable.

Here in Liuzhou, I’ve only ever knowingly seen it sold preserved in bottles such as this:

Water Shield Bottle

The bottle contains the chopped vegetable preserved in a spring water and acetic acid solution. In order to reduce the acidity of the preservatives, the instructions advise rinsing the vegetable 2 to 3 times before use. They note it is usually used in soups. Hangzhou’s “West Lake Water Shield Soup” (西湖莼菜汤) is a classic of Chinese cuisine. It can also be served cold with a dressing (凉拌) as a side dish or starter.

The vegetable has a slimy texture, though not unpleasantly so, and a sweet, grassy, mildly acidic flavour. The acidity isi partly from the acetic acid used in its preservation, but also partly because it prefers to grow in slightly acidic waters.

Strained and Rinsed Water Shield

Strained and Rinsed Water Shield

Water shield is available in 500g bottles (60% vegetable minimum) for ¥22 from here.

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