Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Liuzhou “Bird Flu” Victim


“The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (December 1) received notification of an additional human case of avian influenza A(H5N6) in Guangxi from the National Health and Family Planning Commission, and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.”

The case involves a 30-year-old woman in Liuzhou, described as a farmer. The report is unspecific about location, but the implication is that the victim is in the countryside of Liuzhou prefecture rather than the city. Not that this is any comfort to the woman or her family.

The woman, who is said to have had contact with dead poultry before falling ill, apparently developed symptoms on November 8 and was hospitalised on November 18. She is now in a serious condition.

The authorities make the following recommendations, most of which are common sense or normal practice:

  • Avoid contact with poultry, birds and their droppings;
  • If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap;
  • Avoid entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered and contact with surfaces which might be contaminated by droppings of poultry or other animals;
  • Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating;
  • Wash hands frequently with soap, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, handling food or eating; after going to the toilet or touching public installations or equipment (including escalator handrails, elevator control panels and door knobs); and when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing;
  • Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, hold the spit with a tissue and put it into a covered dustbin;
  • Avoid crowded places and contact with fever patients;
  • Wear masks when respiratory symptoms develop or when taking care of fever patients;
  • Stay clear of KFC

OK. I made up the last one, but good advice, anyway!

Information courtesy of 7th Space which has more details.



Yahoo Weather – Click on image for more info

Liuzhou weather forecasting and health authorities have issued warnings regarding the weather over the next few days.

They are forecasting a dramatic drop in temperatures in the next day or two. Falls of 10ºC are likely. It will also be wet.

Sadly, there are no indications that this will be short lived. It looks like winter has finally decided to visit for a while.

The authorities are doling out the usual advice and misinformation – particularly advising people to “wear more clothes”, that Chinese mantra.

What is it in the Chinese psyche that they are utterly convinced that the common cold is caused by being cold, despite almost everyone having suffered summer colds at some time? The common cold is caused by a variety of viruses, which actually like warmer conditions. Drinking warm water does absolutely nothing to prevent colds. Yet all my otherwise intelligent friends amaze me by rushing off to the hospital demanding antibiotic drips. Antibiotics do not kill viruses. End of story. They are worse than useless against the common cold. Yet the doctors go along with this. The Chinese  health service is notoriously corrupt and cash is king. But the overuse and misapplication of antibiotics is a major health problem. Bacteria build up resistance to the over-prescribed drips, rendering them ineffective when really needed.


By all means try to keep warm, but be sensible.

The End is Nigh

This has been a historic week with colossal implications for the future of mankind. Tragic, too.

Yes, after 18 years I have lost my cell phone number to vagaries of chance, thereby causing an international crisis. It’s a long story.

The day after the USA “elected” a deluded, offensive, egotistical, narcissistic, misogynist, racist, lying, fascist baboon to be the next president, I noticed that my phone was no longer functional as a communications device. Coincidence? I think not! Be afraid – very afraid.


The phone is only five months old and was rather expensive, so off I trot to the vendor and demand to know what they are going to do about it.

They examine my useless ex-phone and finally come back to inform me that there is nothing wrong with the phone at all. It is the SIM card which has died. I never heard of a SIM card dying before.

simFortunately, Mr. China Mobile has a shop immediately across the road, so I head there and wave the SIM card at them demanding to know what they are going to do about it. The young girl in charge of such matters plays with my phone and her own for a while then announces that the SIM card is broken.

“Excuse me,” I remonstrate, “I told you that fifteen minutes ago.”

“What’s the number?” she wants to know. This I supply and she starts pressing keys on her computer. She may be playing Pacman for all I know.

She then demands to see my ID card. I point out that, as a foreigner, I do not possess such a document as a Chinese ID card. On account of not being Chinese – that being what “foreigner” means, you idiot.

“I can’t replace the card without the ID card under which the original was registered.”

18 years ago, getting a cell phone connection as a foreigner was complicated, so I “borrowed” a friend’s ID. No problem then. Big problem now.

a) She is no longer in China

b) She is now an American citizen and therefore has no current Chinese ID card.

“Nothing can be done” Ms Mobile informs me.

Reluctantly, I scoot home, grab my passport, return and apply for a new number. No problem. She asks me to choose a number from a list and I tell her the first one is fine – I’m not superstitious. Within minutes I am the possessor of a functional phone again, but ¥100 lighter in the pocket. Only problem is that, apart from Ms Mobile, I am the only person who knows the number.

So, I spend the afternoon sending text messages and emails around the world informing friends and family that my number has changed. I also spend an hour in the bank to get them to change the number on their files so that my on-line banking works again.  I post the new number (to friends only) on QQ, Facebook, WeChat etc.

But I shall miss the old number.

If I missed you out on the update information, then please contact me through e-mail (see “Contact Me” above), QQ, etc or ask a mutual friend. If you didn’t have the old number, there is probably no reason why you should have the new one, but if you think you are the exception, again use the “Contact Me” button above.

Chaos in the East

Eastern Liuzhou, home of the middle classes and the nouveau riche is about to get less comfortable. Wengchang Road (文昌路), the main artery to the rest of the world is to be seriously disrupted by road works as of next week.

It seems that the crossroads/intersection with the E-W Wenchang Road and the N-S Donghuan Avenue (东环大道) is too busy and the idiots who are too important to stop at red lights can’t jump them because, outrageously, there are other vehicles in front of them who do irrational things like stop at red lights.

So, to mollify the victimised, it has been decided to modify the junction by diverting the E-W traffic into an underpass, thereby no longer requiring the drivers to over-exercise their brains by having to drive with two feet at the same time.

Artist's Depression

Artist’s Depression

The work involves digging a big hole then re-routing all the sewage, water, electric, gas, telecommunications etc pipes already down there. But it will save Mr and Mrs Important five minutes on their way to wherever these people go – which is precisely where I don’t want to go.

The disruption to re-route the relevant utilities is scheduled to take two months. That is the only time scale they are trumpeting. In fact, the whole project is expected to take two years.

Friday Food No 172 – Wax Apples


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 getting waxing apples.

No, I’m not trying to sell you fake apples made from wax; wax apples are a type of fruit, but they aren’t apples and no wax is involved. Their unpronounceable scientific name, or rather that of the plant on which they grow is Syzygium samarangense. Not surprisingly they are more usually referred to as wax apples although Java apple, Semarang rose-apple and wax jambu are also sometimes used in English.


They are native to Malaysia and nearby islands, but are now found across the tropics. Those found here in Liuzhou tend to come from Hainan, but Taiwan wax apples are renowned.

They are about the size of smallish apples and roughly the same shape, but more pointed. The taste and scent, though, are nothing like apples. They range in colour from a light greenish-white to almost black, but the majority are red – like red apples. Inside is a thread-like core containing a seed.

Before serving, this is normally removed from below, while leaving the fruit otherwise intact. They taste very mild (almost like unripe pears) and some people say the texture is like that of watermelon. Not my view. In general I think them pretty, but flavourless, although not offensive.

I have halved one for illustrative purposes.

They are available from around ¥13/kilo, unless you shop at Bubugao Hyper-Thieves Market where they will set you back ¥21.60/kg.

Wooden Characters

Among other calligraphy and scenic paintings in a recent temporary exhibition in Liuzhou Museum were these “found” Chinese characters. They are bits of plant roots – trees, bushes etc. which are thought to resemble characters. The tenuousness of some of these is demonstrated by the the fact that the museum still had to label each one with handwritten signs indicating which characters they were mean to be.

The roots are all traditional Chinese – of course.


Traditional: Simplified: meaning: Dragon

Traditional: 吉祥 Simplified: 吉祥; meaning: Lucky

Traditional: 吉祥 Simplified: 吉祥  Meaning: Lucky


Traditional: 貝江風光 Simplified: 贝江风光 Meaning Beijiang Scenery (The Beijiang is a river is in northern Liuzhou, near Rongshui.


Traditional: 龍馬精神 Simplified: 龙马精神 Meaning: Dragon Horse Vigour Note: The roots are “written” right to left.

Hmmm. It seems like the names for all the “mountains” in Guangxi and elsewhere which are said to resemble this,that or the other. I can seldom see it. Still. it’s interesting and some of them look quite wonderful, even if undecipherable.

Luosifen at Large

luosifenAccording to the state news agency Xinhua, Liuzhou’s favourite noodle dish is hitting the taste buds of the world.

The instant noodle makers have worked out how to make an instant version of  螺蛳粉, or snail noodles and, with government help, are starting to export them. The original non-instant version consists of rice noodles with pickled bamboo shoots, dried turnip, fresh vegetables and peanuts, served over spicy noodle broth flavoured with river-snails.

On Thursday, Guangxi Luobawang Food Co. Ltd. became the first company authorized to export large quantities of the speciality.

The noodles became popular throughout China following their appearance in the first episode of the 2012 hit television series ‘A Bite of China’. In 2014, there was one company making an instant version. There are now over 60 and the market is believed to have been worth some 500 million yuan (74 million U.S. dollars) last year, with daily sales averaging more than 100,000 packets.

In my opinion, the instant variety are but a pale shadow of the real thing made in dozens of small restaurants across the city. I’d tell you my favourite, but it’s busy enough already!

Friday Food No. 171 – Dongbei Wild Rice Stems


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 getting wild about rice.

I’m not sure what to call this. A number of resources label it as “Manchurian wild rice”, but Manchuria as a name is anathema to most Chinese as it refers to the puppet state set up by the Japanese invaders in the 1930s. The area is known to the Chinese as 东北 (literally “east-north”), so I’m going with Dongbei Wild Rice Stems.


In Chinese, they go by many names, but the most common seems to be 胶笋 or 胶白 or even 胶白笋. They look a lot like bamboo shoots and have been called “water bamboo” in older English texts, but are totally unrelated to bamboo – despite the Chinese name including , which usually refers to bamboo shoots.

They are the stems of a wild rice plant, Zizania latiflora, once an important grain in China. Today the plant is virtually extinct in the wild and the grain is no longer eaten, but the stems are still cultivated as a vegetable.

The stems are infected by a fungus, Ustilago esculenta which causes the stems to swell into juicy tubers. These are peeled, sliced and usually stir fried, although it can be eaten raw. The vegetable retains a certain crispness when stir fried, a desirable quality in Chinese cuisine.

The importation of the stems to the USA is illegal as there are fears the fungus would spread to native wild rice varieties. It is classified as an invasive species in New Zealand.

Around ¥3.00/500g from markets. I’ve only once seen it in a supermarket, and that was only for one day.

Random Ringo

For the last month or so, this pair of young gentlemen have been entertaining the passing citizenry by busking, mainly outside the Lianhua Century Supermarket in the city centre.


They bill themselves as 天空樂隊 which means “Sky Band” and advertise their phone number in case of any passing Chinese Brian Epsteins.

The chap on guitar and vocals manages to hold down a tune and, on a busker level, is competent, although I can’t see Tamla Motown rushing to sign him.

The percussionist, who is no doubt a very pleasant chap, is best described as enthusiastic. He has a collection of buckets and paint tins which he bashes energetically and loudly. Unfortunately, rhythm and timing are not in his repertoire. I wonder if he can count to four. I’m sure he wouldn’t know a backbeat from his backside. To my ears it is just random thumping.

Still, they draw a crowd on weekends, although I noticed most people today were laughing and few donating.

But good luck to them. They are 100 times better than the young blind beggar down the road a bit who “sings” without any sense of what music might be.



All of this holiday week, my internet connection here in Liuzhou has ground to a near halt at around 12:20pm and remaining slow until around 2:20 pm. Baffling.

I mean serious slowness to the point that I am getting timeout problems even with local sites. As for the VPN, forget it!

Although, astonishingly, Twitter was unblocked for about half an hour during this period today.

Anyway, the holiday ends today. With luck, we’ll be back to what passes for normal around here.

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