Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Another Tale From The Riverbank

Today is 三月三, or the third day of the third month by the traditional Chinese lunar-solar calendar. For many of the ethnic minorities in China, particularly in the south, this is one of the most important days of the year and is marked by huge meetings, games, fireworks, matchmaking rites and eating on a grand scale. It is also known as Shangsi Festival (上巳节)

This year, for the first time, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous Region declared a two day public holiday in the festival’s honour. THis runs straight into Qing Ming, an ancestor worship festival which is celebrated nationally and is one of China’s public holidays. So while the rest of China will enjoy a one day holiday (which they convince themselves is three days by counting the weekend, Guangxi will have three which they reckon to be five, or in some cases six.

Anyway my point is that today is the first day of that extra Guangxi holiday. Despite it being a grey and drizzly day, the streets and shops were fairly busy, although I was surprised to see that restaurants weren’t pulling the usual crowds.

Just before lunch, I found myself walking across Wenhui bridge (the red one) heading north. Near the northern end of the bridge I spotted the 东门 (East Gate) river bus stop and this time there were people waiting.

IMG_2990

Waiting

As you can see there are nineteen people waiting for a twelve seater bus. These river buses are not like regular city buses which seldom understand the concept of full and always manage to squeeze on at least three times the official capacity.

I decided to hang around to see how things developed. After about ten months river bus pulled up. By that time there were about

"Let us on!"

“Let us on!”

By this time there were about 36 people waiting on the ‘bus stop’ platform and about another dozen hanging around the riverbank path either just watching or waiting to see if they had any chance. They didn’t. The boat berthed fairly quickly and it immediately became apparent that, not only was it already carrying its full complement of a dozen passengers but none them were getting off in the middle of nowhere.

So the bus headed off again upriver having picked up no one. Still, there will be another along in another half hour when the same thing will happen again.

Bye!

Bye!

The whole service is a complete joke. A shambles. And people are not happy. The local newspapers will, however,  no doubt flaunt it as a total success. The party never mistakes, do they?

In a similar vein is this unrelated and somewhat off-topic post of wonderful stupidity. I haven’t laughed so much since some lunatic in the high reaches of the party declared that China has the most open internet in the world. Rather amusingly, the website which reports his statement is er, blocked in China!

[af#Google ADsense]

Liuzhou Airport Re-opens

Flight from Kunming lands at Liuzhou Airport 30th March 2014

Flight from Kunming lands at Liuzhou Airport 30th March 2014

Liuzhou’s Bailian Airport re-opened yesterday (March 30th, 2014) after a five month closure to rebuild and upgrade the runway. Flights have resumed to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as 13 other Chinese cities.

Passengers from Kunming arrive in Liuzhou Airport - 30th March 2014

Passengers from Kunming arrive in Liuzhou Airport – 30th March 2014

Navigational Knobs – A River Bus Sequel

 

This morning, I took a stroll down to the riverside to examine these rumoured bus boats for myself. At 东门 (East Gate), under the shadow of Wenhui Bridge (the red one), I found this river bus stop.

river bus stop

river bus stop2

As you can see, it was teeming with people anxious to hand over their three pictures of Chairman Mao and be taken somewhere they didn’t really want to go.  Well, no. The place was deserted.

I hung around a while, but got bored and started slowly ambling down the riverside walk towards the next stop which is just to the east of Liujiang (No1) bridge. It was equally deserted. It was about then that I realised something odd. I’d now been watching the river for almost an hour and there was one thing I hadn’t seen – a river bus. Whatever happened to the half-hourly service?

Then I discovered what had happened. All the river buses are hopelessly lost somewhere at sea. You see, the the river bus company’s navigational skills are on a similar skill level as their financial planning – i.e clueless.

Right beside the bus stop I was now standing at was a proudly displayed map of the river bus system. It has a sign pointing north to orientate yourself by.

river bus map

The only problem I can see is that the arrow pointing north is actually pointing directly to the west. North is to the right of the picture, not the top. I am no maritime navigator but I would guess that a 90º error in your bearings might get you a bit lost. Hence the lack of buses. The are all probably half way to Australia by now. They might even find that place.

Oh well.

A slight update since yesterday.

Had the buses  not all gone AWOL, you could have gone on on of the two lines. A loop taking in all nine stations for ¥3, or a point to point river crossing for ¥2. They seem to think that people are going to wait 30 minutes then pay ¥2 to cross the river by boat rather than cross it by the many regular buses doing the same trip for ¥1 and which actually stop outside the shops etc, rather on a deserted river bank. Or walk. I do so regularly. It takes about five minutes.

Here is a list of the stops on line

river bus route1

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River Boat Fare Shock

rb3

Just yesterday, I mentioned that the river bus company had not announced the fares for their new service which started this morning in pouring rain. Now I know why.

After confidently predicting for weeks that the fare would be between 1元 and 2元, the cowards waited until the last minute to announce that the fare is in fact 3元, making it the highest bus fare in the city for one of the shortest journeys.

They are now making feeble, whining excuses as to why the fare is so high. The capital costs, fuel prices, the need for two members of staff per bus, that each bus only has 12 seats. Something they apparently didn’t think about before. Who chose 12 seater buses?

Really, what they are saying minutes before opening the service is that it isn’t now and never was economically viable. Overpriced buses that go nowhere near anywhere 99% of the people want to go is a bit of a non-starter.

 

Random Picture No 73 – Tall Tales

Random Picture No. 73 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.

Firestation and Diwang

The white building in the foreground is Liuzhou Fire Department’s HQ and fire station. It was built in the 1960s and was, at the time, by far the tallest building in the city. Designed as a look-out station, it was possible for anyone on the top floor to survey the whole city, looking out for fires.

Today, it is dwarfed by several nearby buildings, but particularly by the new Diwang Tower being built just behind it. This is now not only the tallest building in Liuzhou, but the tallest in Guangxi (until they build the next one).

River Bus Tests Map

Liuzhou’s new river bus service is due to open tomorrow morning at 7 am.  All week they have been testing the buses (and presumably testing that the drivers know where they are going, etc.)

5464338

5464350

At the same time, they have released a map showing the nine* ‘bus stops’ involved.

*No, I can’t make them add up to 9, either.

riverboat map

Although there may be no traffic jams, traffic lights etc on the river, and so the journey should in theory be quicker, sceptics realists point out that the docking time for a boat is somewhat longer than that of a bus dropping off passengers, and that donning or removing of life jackets and the various associated safety procedures add more delays.

And, to be honest, the river bus doesn’t really go where most people want to go. They are claiming that a new regular non-river bus service will tie the river bus together with the city centre and places beyond, rather defeating the point. This undefined bus service (route 100) is not expected to be fully in place until May. They also promise green rental bike stations at all river bus stops.

No announcement has been made regarding the river bus fare, that I can see.

I’m thinking this is just a publicity gimmick. It may be attractive to a few tourists, but as a viable contribution to the city’s public transport, it’s going nowhere.

When I arrived in Liuzhou there was a (just) active water taxi system ferrying people up, down or across the river.  I used it twice. It died soon after.

In other transport related news, the city’s so-called BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system has claimed its first fatality. A BRT bus went through some disabled traffic lights and smacked into this car. The woman passenger in the front of the car died from her injuries. The car driver was also injured, but not seriously. No one was injured on the bus.

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Friday Food 117 – Saintly Women Fruit

Friday food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we are looking at saintly women.

Most of the trouble in my sad life has been caused by my addiction to not-so-saintly women and my attempts to convince the truly saintly women I’ve known to lower their standards. So, it comes to me as no surprise to have become totally addicted to these beauties.

You can buy them in shiny presentation packs prepared in remote factories. These are not what you want. They are usually shrivelled, over made-up, dusted with sweeteners and preservatives and past their prime.

What you need are fresh, newly plucked from the vine saintly women, carefully prepared and sold loose. Loose saintly women. Oh yes!

Actually they are “dried saintly women”, but don’t let that put you off. The drying process is only partial and intensifies their allure and flavour. They retain a rich juiciness.

You are probably wondering what the hell I am on about. Or what I’m on.

干圣女果, dried saintly women fruit are quite simply semi-dried cherry tomatoes. And they are totally wonderful and highly addictive. A bit like sun-dried tomatoes, but without the oil in which they are often presented. These are just the tomatoes, intended to be eaten as a snack.

Dried Saintly Women - 干圣女果

Dried Saintly Women – 干圣女果

Fresh cherry tomatoes are also widely available but you have to look on the fruit shelves or the fruit shops. They are not usually thought of as a vegetable here but as fruit. (Yes, I know all tomatoes are technically fruit, thank you.)

Cherry Tomatoes - 圣女果

Cherry Tomatoes – 圣女果

The saintly women will only cost you 37.60元/kg from Bubugao. Nanchang Supermarkets often have them, too.

Weeping for Willows

willow

liu2The first Chinese character in Liuzhou’s name (柳州) has the literal meaning “willow”. You can see the tree radical () on the left of the character. This appears in many tree names.

The second character () refers to an ancient administrative division, similar to the modern ‘prefecture’.

So you could roughly translate Liuzhou as “Willow Prefecture”

The odd thing about this is that Liuzhou’s climate is not ideal for willows. They prefer a colder more temperate climate.

Undaunted by this, Liuzhou City Bureau of Parks planted a number of willow trees in various locations in the city, but particularly along the north side of the river on the walkway beside 滨江西路 (Riverbank Road West).

Unfortunately, of the 260 trees planted, a mere 50 have survived.

willow death

Dead Willow, Liuzhou

Causes of death range from the trees being ravaged by termites and other insects, the annual floods and the hostile (to willows) climate.

Some trees were found to be essentially hollow and excavation uncovered a large number of termites found beneath the roots and many beetles in the trunks. The lower half of the trees are black, like a hornet’s nest.

The annual flooding almost covers the trees, weakening their root system  and causing decay. The relatively warm semi-tropical climate also shortens their life spans.

The Parks people have come up with a cunning plan. They are going to replace the willows with, wait for it – more willows!

The local press are asking “What the point?” One report asks directly:

“Is here suitable for planting willow? How can we avoid the tragic death of willows? These issues must be given more thought by the relevant departments.”

My suggestion is to forget the willows and revert to the city’s old, pre-1736, name – 龙城 (Dragon City) – which I have always preferred.

 

Two-Child Policy

two

Liuzhou couple with newly issued two child permit.

Liuzhou has started issuing “two children” permits to qualified couples. 134 such permits have been issued so far.

This is part of a general loosening up of the so-called ‘one child policy’, which is taking place across China.

In fact, the policy always had several loopholes and exceptions and was only supposed to apply to the Han ethnic group.

Under the policy, couples who were both only-children themselves could have two.  That policy has been changed to allow two children to couples only one of which is an only child.

More than half of Liuzhou’s population are from ethnic minorities – particularly Zhuang who should be exempt from the policy – although some ‘birth controllers’ have been over-zealous in their ‘control’ methods. Additionally, the policy was more relaxed when it came to rural peasants, again a large part of Guangxi’s population. They could have a second child if the first was female.

Whether or not it is too late to reverse China’s imbalance in male/female births and the rise of the spoilt brat, only-children syndrome (Little Emperors)  remains to be seen.

No 3 Drunks

Today, I’m at home. Working at home, trying to deal with some theological and vinicultural issues. Someone has to do it.

But I’m only trying, because I largely gave up. I can’t concentrate. There comes a time when battling against the odds just doesn’t add up.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have the miserable misfortune to live next door to Liuzhou’s No 3 Middle School. Today, for some reason they started blaring out their PA messages at around 6 am and  kept them up until around 12 noon. I’d tell you what they were about, but their PA system is so distorted; no one has any idea. But it’s loud. It resonates in all its distortion all over a fair lump of the city.

By noon, they had run out of garbage propaganda to propagate, so they went to get drunk. This they managed pretty quickly. I guess they may have started earlier. Like 6 am. So they yelled and caterwauled all through the sacred afternoon nap time.  The height of bad manners.

All afternoon they have been using their PA system as a giant karaoke machine, blaring sonic pollution over the extensive neighbourhood. I’m surprised you can’t hear it.

Supposedly one of the better middle schools in Liuzhou.

It’s now just after 4 pm and they are still at it. Tortured, out of tune, drunken singing at top volume. The crazy thing is that school is still in. Students are supposedly still learning through this cacophony.

Hope they are impressed by their teachers. And I hope the teachers are proud to demonstrate to their students how to be idiotic, selfish, drunken assholes. Well done.


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