Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Beware of Beards

These crude, racist anti-terrorism posters have appeared in town. They show stereotypical images of wild-eyed, bushy-bearded males in the role of the terrorists – as they all surely are. There have never been any clean-shaven terrorists or female terrorists. And of course, they are too stupid to think of disguising themselves as non-terrorists by having a shave.

"Terrorism is all mankind's enemy"

“Terrorism is all mankind’s enemy ©2014 Liuzhou Laowai”

terror1

“Helping terrorists flee the country is a crime. ©2014 Liuzhou Laowai”

While there have been a number of horrific terrorist incidents recently, this is just stupid, nasty scare-mongering, and sadly typical of the idiotic double thinking of the party. Xinjiang people are most definitely Chinese, they insist, while simultaneously demonising all of the ethnic minorities as terrorists.

Talking of racism, I can’t even begin to understand this. It is an image being used to sell mosquito coils and repellents etc. WTF?

Beats me

As found yesterday in Zhongbai Hualian Supermarket on Beizhan Lu.

Noise Noise Noise

I’ve often marvelled at the remarkable noise tolerance level of the average citizen here. Car horns blare for no obvious reason, people shout rather than speak, children run around restaurants and supermarkets screaming at the tops of their voices while their parents don’t even seem to register it. I could go on.

But I’m beginning to see signs of a backlash.

Nanning recently introduced a local by-law outlawing those old women dancing to loud music, with the threat of a ¥500 fine for violators. I’m looking forward to them introducing that in Liuhou park where you get those groups of (mainly) women blaring out their dance music about two metres away from another group doing the same. Then add three more groups all playing different music within one tiny area. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a quiet stroll in the park enjoying nature?

Here in Liuzhou, residents of one housing block have staged a protest against a neighbouring construction site which has been banging away 24 hours a day. They hung large banners from the upper floors, reading 吵 吵 吵, meaning “Noise Noise Noise”. .

quiet

Of course, it’s possible that I have misinterpreted their intention. Maybe they think it’s too quiet and are demanding more noise. Wouldn’t surprise me.

Around Midnight – Watermelon Moan

It seems the Liuzhou authorities are getting their knickers in a twist again over the highly popular night markets. The media have been full of complaints about “chaos” and dirt.

Chaos

Chaos

One of the main complaints is the usual one about illegal hawkers and the number of vans blocking roads while selling fruit – mainly watermelons

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Fruit

Nor are they happy about the mess the vendors leave behind.

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Mess

But they save the better part of their scorn and derision for the hugely popular food stalls, claiming they are unhygienic (some may be; not all), that they block the sidewalks forcing people to walk in the roads (true, but people tend to walk on the roads in Liuzhou, anyway. The sidewalks are too full of cars and e-bikes) and that they are also messy (look around yourselves guys – life is messy).

Supper

Supper

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Look out!

Take a seat

Take a seat

Yummy!

Yummy!

Of course, what the authorities don’t like is their own inability to control everything under the sun. Why they can’t set up a properly licensed and regulated night market system is beyond me. Other cities can do it, but Liuzhou has repeatedly tried and failed. Largely, because they put the new markets far from the  places the locals want to be in the evenings. Of course, the party leaders never go out onto the actual streets, so they wouldn’t know that.

There are a number of unofficial night markets around town. They tend to get going around 11pm to 12 midnight.

Man Doesn’t Fall Down Hole

I saw this a few days back, was briefly amused, but preoccupied with other things so I didn’t mention it. It’s the sort of thing that can happen to anyone. But the story has been taken up by foreign media, so I guess I should mention it.

You know how it is.

You go out for a tipple or three with your mates and, while staggering home, decide to strip to your rather embarrassing underpants then lose your clothes, your valuables and your telephone. Then of course, you do the sensible thing. You have a nap. Happens all the time.

Although to be fair, we don’t all take naps on narrow ledges next to 30-feet-drops to the street below.

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However, I’m sure we all recognise the confusion felt when waking to find yourself being tied up in ropes by the local fire-fighters.  A regular occurrence in some households, I’ve heard. Then wondering where your clothes are. Wondering where you are. Wondering who you are. Been there – done that.

Sleeping Man Puzzled Over Lost Clothes And Fireman Rescue

Sleeping Man Puzzled Over Lost Clothes And Fireman Rescue

Sleeping Man Puzzled Over Lost Clothes And Fireman Rescue

Sleeping Man Puzzled Over Lost Clothes And Fireman Rescue

The gentleman concerned has since apologised to and thanked the fire authorities and police and sworn off drink until he is next thirsty. He has to live with the shame of betraying local customs by not falling down. No charges have been brought although he received a stiff warning for displaying a hideous tattoo in a public place.

Friday Food 132 – Brown Rice Porridge

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we investigate we are turning into hippies with brown rice porridge.

Without a shadow of doubt, the worst food I ever ate was while staying for about a month with some acquaintances of an acquaintance sometime in the early 1970s. It’s a long and deeply uninteresting tale. The people we were with  were acolytes of some lunatic mystic who was later jailed for a string of offences ranging from extortion through to rape. The murder charges were never proved.

The only sustenance they allowed themselves (or the guru decreed) was boiled unseasoned brown rice and steamed cabbage. All unseasoned. Served with boiled, lukewarm water. Grim wasn’t the word. When they weren’t looking, I would sneak out for a steak sandwich at a nearby deli. No doubt guru himself was getting down and dirty with some prime steak and lobster and Pol Roget.

The very idea of eating brown rice is my food Room 101.

So, imagine my disgust at finding this.

Brown Rice Porridge

It is clearly labelled as being 糙米粥 or brown rice porridge.

Two things strike me. It is clearly not porridge. And a lot of that brown rice isn’t brown. Or rice.

In fact it’s the makings for a mixed grain porridge. This lot will be boiled until it turns into a sort of gruel that would fit perfectly in a Dickens’ novel, were Dickens Chinese.

I’m not sure what’s all in there. I think I’m seeing millet, barley and mung beans. I think I can see the face of Jesus! I think I’ll give it a miss.

As you may have guessed, I’m also not a big porridge fan. Probably an adolescent revolt against my Scottish heritage.

If it’s the sort of thing that rocks your boat (sink it more likely) it’s about 10-12元 / kg from any supermarket. They also have cabbages.

Gimme Shelter

Today is July 7th (7-7) 2014 and the 77th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident which triggered the full scale invasion of China by Japan and led to the horrors of the Nanjing massacre and, incidentally, the near full scale destruction of Liuzhou.

Every newspaper in China has been ordered to carry the People’s  Daily leader on the anniversary and the People’s Daily itself is today full of anti-Japanese stories. President Xi Jinping has made a blistering anti-Japanese speech and then tomorrow they will all go back to playing on their Sony play stations and eating sushi.

To my surprise, they didn’t set off the air-raid sirens as they have done in previous years, but some people have taken to the anti-aircraft bomb shelters just the same. Not that they are fearing another immediate invasion, but because the local authorities have once again opened them up to allow free access to shelter from the blistering heat we are experiencing (at least when it isn’t raining).

The shelters are inside caves in Ma’an Shan (马鞍山 – Horse Saddle Hill on the south side of the Liujiang Bridge. One of the two mountains in the park with the cable cars), Panlong Shan (蟠龙山, the one with two pagodas) and Ban Shan (半山 – no idea where that is, but as it means “half a mountain” it probably doesn’t matter. Update: See comments.)

Ma'an Shan

Ma’an Shan

PanLong Shan

Panlong Shan

Ban Shan

Ban Shan

The caves are at a constant low temperature (which is what caves do) and offer some respite from the sauna like conditions outside.

Inside Ma'an Shan

Inside Ma’an Shan

Inside Ma'an Shan

Inside Ma’an Shan

And should, any passing Japanese get aggressive, you are in the right place.

The weather forecast for the rest of the week is for the heat to continue, but with a 40-50% chance of rain.

Terror Toys

In their latest display of cunning plans to prevent terrorism and mayhem on the pedestrian street in Liuzhou city centre, local police have bought themselves some very silly new toys. The electric self-balancing playground equipment will be used to save the poor cops’ shoe leather on daily patrols in the pedestrian area and on Longcheng Road.

Presumably any would-be terrorists will be too busy laughing to carry out their evil intent.

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….

Rumours that they have also been issued with water pistols have been denied. Probably a state secret.

Friday Food 131 – Salt

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we investigate the strange world of salt.

Not since 2011 and the Insane Salt Rush in response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, has salt featured as a headline item here on the blog.

But something strange is going on with Liuzhou’s salt.

About nine months ago, the salt I had been buying for years disappeared from the supermarkets and corner shops. It was a low sodium salt (低钠盐) and was pretty much the only salt available. Although packed and distributed by a Nanning company, it is produced in Zigong (自贡) in Sichuan. Ziging is one of China’s oldest and best known salt producing cities.

Refined Low Sodium Salt (低钠盐)

Refined Low Sodium Salt (低钠盐)

In its place this appeared. And it became the only salt available.

sea salt2

Sea Salt (自然晶盐)

sea salt 3

Sea Salt (自然晶盐)

It is crystal sea salt from Beihai (北海市) on Guangxi’s south coast. Splendid stuff. And local.

But a couple of weeks it disappeared overnight in every shop and supermarket. Not a drop is to be found.

Instead we get these:

iodised salt

and

Low Sodium Salt 低钠盐

Low Sodium Salt 低钠盐

 

The first is a refined salt supplemented with iodine extracted from sea weed. This is produced in Xiaogan city (孝感市) in Hubei province (thousands of miles from the sea).

The second is a low sodium version of the Beihai salt above. That’ll do me.

The more eagle eyed among you may have noticed that all the salts above bear the same logo. Salt is a state controlled monopoly in China (has been for centuries). Gui Shan is the Nanning branch. They decree what salt can be sold and fix the price.

 

 

 

Some Places are Slower?

I read on the Wall Street Journal’s website that India has the slowest internet in Asia. What does it do – go backwards?

internet speedI don’t know where or how these people do their research, but I’m struggling to understand how any internet connection could get slower than Liuzhou’s over the last few days. Sluggish would suggest an alacrity it doesn’t possess. And I don’t just mean access to those websites the paranoid drunks who run the place feel threatened by. Super popular and open things like WeChat have been crippled on cell phones.

Odd how Hong Kong is ten times faster than China (mainland)? Not really.

(I was also amused/saddened by an article here pointing out that capitalist Hong Kong has a socialist health system while ‘socialist’ China has a capitalist system – something I’ve been saying for years.)

Restaurant Revenge

sushi lunch

You’ve probably read that China is laying claim to islands left right and centre and generally annoying everyone around them. Here in China, it’s the other other guys that who are seen as being annoying – I mean, clearly everything is Chinese. Recently, Vietnam has been the focus of the spitting, foot-stamping and other adolescent temper tantrums, but deep down the real enemy is and will remain Japan. This seems to be part of the Chinese DNA.

So, I’ve developed a theory that they have developed a way to punish the Japanese for being, well for being Japanese, really.

Some bright spark said, “Let’s eat all their food!”

At least that’s the only reason I can think for the astonishing number of new Japanese restaurants leaping up all over Liuzhou recently. You can hardly move downtown for conveyor belts. But what makes me suspicious is that not one of them is really Japanese. They are, so far as I can detect, all Chinese except one, and it’s Thai.

The first Japanese restaurant in Liuzhou opened a full ten years ago. It was on the then newly opened pedestrian street (on the second floor opposite the small stand-alone McDonald’s ice cream kiosk, under the clock). It didn’t last long there but limped on in new premises beside the Liujiang Bridge. The building there is still a ‘Japanese’ place, but a different company.

Daiwo Sushi - Liuzhou's first

Daiwo Sushi – Liuzhou’s first

Since then one or two opened over the next few years.

IMG_5222 (Medium)

Sen Sushi (Medium)

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IMG_5131 (Medium)

 Nogitaro Sushi Bubugao (Medium)

Shabushi (Medium)

This is the Thai owned one.

IMG_5119 (Medium)

The latest addition

They range from large to small. This tiny one on the second floor of the pedestrian street offshoot has no conveyor, but is a simple and cheap sushi café.

Sushi Cafe

Sushi Café

This one, in the building on Longcheng Lu housing Pizza Hut, but on the first (ground) floor, doesn’t even have a proper dining room, but just a tiny kitchen and some chairs in a communal corridor.

IMG_5133 (Medium)

Not being shy, the various restaurants are using every trick to sell the stuff off before the Japanese notice and save themselves from starvation. Apparently, there is some football event going on. And everyone knows the traditional way to watch football is with a pie and a pint sushi – football shaped sushi.

football sushi

And that is only those in the city centre, peninsular area. About one square whatnot. There are more. And I haven’t even mentioned the Japanese ‘ramen’ places.

Some of the supermarkets have got in on the act, too. RT Mart were first. For some reason the selection at the original store in the north of the city has a fine selection, whereas the newer store on the south side isn’t nearly so good. I strongly recommend that you buy your sushi selection here in the morning only. By afternoon they have dried out and aren’t so nice.

sushi selection

RT Mart Sushi Selection

I even more strongly suggest not buying sushi from Bubugao Hypermarket. It is low quality and usually stale.

Not to be outdone, the book stores are telling us how to make the stuff.

sushi cookbook

Now, I a very partial to a bit of sushi or even better, sashimi. But I am going off these places rapidly. For some reason, recently, they have all taken to slathering all their food with Kewpie Sweet Mayonnaise. Disgusting.

 


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