Wuhan 武汉 1990

While Wuhan 武汉 is on everyone’s lips due to the coronavirus 新型冠状病毒, it is important to realize that it is also a pleasant, vibrant city on the banks of the Yangzi river. Here is our diary entry from 30/12 / 1990 when we first visited the city. Wuhan 武汉 has changed a lot since then.

 Wuhan Museum 武汉博物馆1
Modern Wuhan has changed a lot since 1990/ Wuhan Museum 武汉博物馆1

Click here for our article Funky Wuhan 2009武汉好玩儿

Wuhan 武汉 1990 was an entirely different city than the one you will discover today. Below is the account of our visit in the winter of 1990 just before New Year’s Eve. Above is the accont of a more recent visit before Covid 19.

Wuhan 武汉 1990 Arriving from Shanghai by Boat

Around 9.30 we arrive in Wuhan where our boat docks alongside a modernist building in the shape of a ship, or perhaps waves? After a very long walk through crowded, bustling streets, we arrive at the Aiguo hotel 爱国宾馆, where the three-person dorms are mixed, but very cold: our breath comes out in clouds.

Wuhan 武汉 ferry on the Yangzi river
Wuhan 武汉 ferry on the Yangzi river

We wash our clothes, hang them up inside the room and aim a fan at them; all to no avail, as we will soon find out.

Road and rail bridge over the Yangzi River
Road and rail bridge over the Yangzi River

The search for Food

Then we go out and snack on cakes and something called doupi 豆皮: bean curd stuffed with rice and deep-fried. We find them a bit greasy, but they apparently were Mao’s favourite snack, so who are we to complain?

Wuhan 武汉 1990
Colonial Wuhan

The search for Chinese Priced Boat tickets

We spend the hours between 13.00 and 17.00 marching up and down Wuhan’s main street: from our hotel to the boats, to the Bank of China, back to the boats, etc., desperately searching for a Chinese person who A. can speak English, and B. is willing to buy Chinese-price boat tickets for us. None of the money changers are interested, none of the other, boarding passengers seem to understand what we want and the two American teachers we bump into claim they have no time … They do urge, almost beg us, to come to their flat in the evening for a little party, as they haven’t spoken to any other Westerners for ages; they seem pretty desperate but, our minds on more important matters, we won’t commit ourselves.

Boat Tickets shanghai to Wuhan 1990
Chinese Priced ticket from Shanghai to Wuhan

We Give Up

We waste almost the entire day in Wuhan trying to getting those elusive tickets to Chongqing, Adam and I are happy to give up the ghost by early afternoon, much to the disappointment of Mike, our temporary travelling companion, whose sole purpose in China seems to consist of trying to avoid paying foreigner’s price for anything; so we keep on trying.

Boat tickets Wuhan to Chongqing 1990
Foreigner’s ticket Wuhan to Chongqing

Alas, just before closing time we are forced to give up and buy foreigners’ tickets for over 200 Yuan. We take a deep breath and hand over the cash. Done.

Foreigner tickets 1990

Now we just need to get some new supplies: instant noodles, instant coffee, chilli, biscuits and fruit; the usual. Of course, this is when we come across the only English speaking Chinese person in Wuhan, who knows exactly what we were after… What a bummer!

Old Wuhan
Colonial Wuhan

Wuhan 武汉 1990 Good Greasy Food

To make up for our financial set-back, we have an exceedingly cheap dinner – greasy fried rice and mapu dofu (spicy bean curd) for Y 2,50 each – washed down with even cheaper beer at Y 0, 80.

Old Wuhan
Washing Wuhan

Our Hotel Room is Arctic and No Hot Water!

When we get back to our freezing hotel room, it turns out that all the floor attendants have just washed their hair in our adjacent bathroom and used up all the hot water. Fuming, Adam storms downstairs, armed with a dictionary and shouting the magical words: “hot water! Now!” The flustered staff decide to open up two other rooms for us, so that Adam and I can squeeze ourselves into a tiny bath tub together, while Mike is forced to take his shower right next to a foul-smelling, blocked toilet.

Shoe fashion on the Wuhan Ferry
Shoe fashion on the Wuhan Ferry

Wuhan 武汉 1990 our experience

And that was our Wuhan experience. In spite of the day’s difficulties, it didn’t seem an unpleasant city; we saw some stately, European-style buildings, many tree-lined streets and avenues, lots of well-stocked shops and excellent food markets with a wide variety of vegetables on display. Pity we didn’t have the time to explore a bit more.

Wuhan Famous Yangtse Bridge
Wuhan at Sunset
武汉博物馆 Wuhan Museum  in better times
武汉博物馆 Wuhan Museum in better times

Travelling the Yangtse River, 1990-1991 (From our Diary)


Between December 1990 and January 1991, Adam and I travelled the Yangztse River from Shanghai to Chongqing; a journey that took us 9 days then. At that time, tourism along the Yangtse was in its infancy and we, as poor backpackers, couldn’t have afforded a cruise ship anyway. So we travelled on Chinese passenger boats that made very few concessions to either comfort or tourists. There were no sightseeing stops or side excursions; we even managed to miss one Gorge altogether, as the boat went through it at night.

Suzhou Creek 1990

In those days, foreign visitors were charged much higher prices for transport, hotels, sights, etc., than Chinese people and had to pay in Foreign Exchange Certificates (a special currency only for foreigners or foreign transactions), rather than Renminbi (the People’s money), which is why many backpackers resorted to black- marketeers. To get his hands on a couple of discounted, Chinese-price tickets for the first leg of the journey, Adam had to follow a Chinese man into the toilets of the Seaman’s Club at the Pujiang Hotel (known as Astor House Hotel after recent makeovers) in an action reminiscent of an old spy movie.

Nanjing Lu 1990

It was winter and the weather was cold and wet; the river often shrouded in impenetrable mist. Continue reading “Travelling the Yangtse River, 1990-1991 (From our Diary)”

Funky Wuhan 武汉好玩儿

Wuhan 武汉– September 2009



We first visited Wuhan on a grey, wet December day in 1990. Yet, despite the weather, the city’s colonial architecture, lively streets and abundant markets left quite a favourable impression. Unfortunately, at the time we were far too obsessed with our search (unsuccessful) for Chinese-price boat tickets to Chongqing, to have a proper look around.

Foreigner Price Ticket Wuhan to Chongqing 1990

However, from our chance meeting with two American teachers who were absolutely desperate for any Westerners to communicate with in English, we gathered that it was hardly a cultural hot spot.

This time, on our second visit, we noticed many changes: the city had become huge and, in parts, totally modern. Just like Chongqing. Yet, while we hadn’t really liked revisiting Chongqing, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Wuhan.  This was mostly thanks to the attractive, Continue reading “Funky Wuhan 武汉好玩儿”

Climbing Wudang Shan

Wudang Shan 武当山

Text by Margie.  Photos include some of the best murals from Wudang Shan taken with the permission of the monks and nuns.

Climbing Wudang Shan

Climbing Wudang Shan should be on veryone’s bucket list if you are travelling the backwaters of China’s hinterland. This revered Taoist mountain, birthplace of Taichi and Unesco Heritage Site is more or less equidistant from Yichang and Wuhan. This is why, after disembarking from our Yangzi cruise in Yichang, we decided to make our way to the mountain from there.

Climbing Wudang Shan

Getting there

An early-morning bus from Yichang’s modern bus station takes us to Wudang town in about five-and-a-half hours, lunch stop included. We are amazed by the brand-new and virtually deserted motorways on which we are travelling, through a pretty landscape of green fields, with a backdrop of distant mountains. Apart from the Continue reading “Climbing Wudang Shan”