Binu And The Great wall

Binu And The Great Wall is a wonderful myth retold in the words of Su Tong, the author of ‘Rice’. The myth of Binu and how her tears washed away the Great Wall have been passed down through the ages. It is a tale of hardship, brutality and undying love. Su Tong’s version of the myth, brings to the reader the harshness and brutality that led to the constuction of the wall and the terrible effects it had on the common people.

After reading Binu and The Great Wall it will be difficult to feel indifferent when you next stand on this immense monument to human suffering.

Taxi Talk 2

The Opium War revisited (Camelia Hotel to the Kunming Bus Station)

Not all Chinese have a positive impression of the British (See previous posting) . This cab driver, on our short ride to Kunming’s Bus Satation, angrily reminded us that China had not forgotten the Opium war and that the time was soon approaching when those countries responsible would be held to account.

His monologue mirrored Chinese history teaching on the Opium War that paints a very black and white picture of villains, the British, and Victims, the Chinese. “You humiliated China and now China is strong again” were his parting words.

I did my thesis on the Opium War at university and know that the issue is far from black and white. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to get a word in before we were dumped at the bus station. Never mind, it was eye opening ride.

Taxi Talk

Taxi Talk

If you want to get a fragment of what today’s China is thinking then speak to your taxi driver. Whether it is in Beijing, Shanghai or anyone of those forgettable towns you pass through our get stuck in on your travels in China, you’ll find, like their counterparts in New York, London or Madrid, China’s cabbies have plenty to say. That is once you get them talking!

Below are just a few recollections of some of the more thought provoking conversations.

The Beijing Warmonger

(Wangfujing to Guijie 2003)

  • “Blair is very good” the driver said immediately after I had told him I was a yingguo ren (English). This came as somewhat of a surprise, given that most Chinese I had spoken to previously, had associated him with the Iraq War. But this turned out to be precisely what he liked about Blair. “Go on” I asked inquisitively, “why?” “The English army is very good, they have a lot of experience”. I am quite aware that many Chinese are pretty nationalistic and hold their army in high esteem, so I returned the compliment with a vague reference to the increasing professionalism of the Chinese Liberation Army (The PLA). With a disdainful wave of his hand the taxi driver told me “they don’t have experience, not like the English army, the Chinese haven’t had a war and so the army is useless and needs experience.” Provocatively, I ask where they might get that experience. “We must invade Taiwan” was the answer. Having quite a few friends in Taiwan I suggested that Japan would be a more suitable target given the current state of relations. “No, it must be Taiwan, we have to invade Taiwan to get the experience so the army will be prepared and then we can have a war with Japan and revenge Nanjing”. I asked what would happen if the Americans tried to help Taiwan, but he nonchalantly laughed this off and claimed they wouldn’t. We arrived at our destination and said our goodbyes.


Next: The Opium War revisited in Kunming:



Huo Guo, the fiery hot pot from Sichuan and Chongqing, is undoubtedly one of those great culinary experiences you should try when you visit China. It’s not a meal to have on your own, but something to share and savour in the company of friends. I’ve found that between 4 – 6 diners is about the perfect number, but on many occasions it’s simply a case of ‘the more the merrier’.

What exactly is a Huoguo?

A Huoguo is a giant pot of boiling broth….

For more got to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China


The Great Firewall of China cannot stop freedom of speech

[Via Boing Boing] Oliver August, a freelance investigative journalist living in China, describes the incompetence and bungling of the bureaucrats who run China’s storied — and expensive — Great Firewall of China. In the fight between Chinese people and the Firewall, the people are winning. There’s even a group of active entrepreneurs who’ll give you Firewall-busting lessons.

Chinese Vegetarian Food

It may look like Pork, taste like Pork, but it sure isn’t! In a country where nearly every part of an animal is eaten and where nearly any animal is seen as edible, it comes as a surprise to find so much good quality vegetarian food.

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China


Shaoxing & Huangjiu

The smell of the wine hung heavy in the bar and impregnated the old wooden tables, chairs, floor and beams. Old and young took large gulps and slurped the wine from ceramic bowls. Mah-jong blocks crashed on the table, and chopsticks raced with each other to pick up the last piece of stinky tofu. The owner smiled and exposed his blackened teeth, more bowls of wine were ordered as new customers replaced departing ones. Welcome to Shaoxing and it’s wine….


For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China

Guiyang-Chishui-Zigong-Bamboo Sea


This triangle linking the south of Sichuan province with the north of Guizhou is a great combination of lush subtropical scenery, traditional villages and impressive architectural monuments. Yet, in spite of its attractions, the area has not been put on the tourist map, which only contributes to its charm.

This route is equally feasible from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, or from Guiyang, capital of Guizhou, given that the bus connections are good both ways. If you start from Guiyang, like we did, you may find the first part between Guiyang and Chishui, a bit long and tiring, though you could always break up the journey in the historical city of Zunyi….

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China



This small town, with a big history, is situated on the banks of the Jialing River, some 225 kilometres from Chengdu. It is all at once the burial place of the Three Kingdoms general, Zhang Fei, birthplace of the Han dynasty inventor of the Chinese Calendar, Luo Xiahong, and home to a wealth of traditional Sichuan architecture. In short, Langzhong has plenty of things to see and do to keep a visitor busy for two days.

Your first priority on arrival, is to find accommodation in one of the many traditional family mansions that…..

For more go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China


Finding Fenghuang


It was one of those early evenings in small-town China in 2001; we’d already eaten and the after dinner entertainment options were conspicuous by their absence. The only fall-back was to retire to our room with a few beers and watch CCTV9, the mildly interesting English Language Channel. We tuned in to “Around China”, a cultural and travel programme dedicated to the promotion of traditional and/or exotic aspects of Chinese culture. On the programme, they were discussing a type of opera that was only found in a remote town in Hunan Province whose name I hadn’t caught. We were immediately drawn to the screen, wondering: “where is this stunning place with covered bridges, ancient houses on stilts and pagodas?” At the end of the clip I managed to catch its name, ‘Fenghuang’. Grabbing the guidebook I tried to find it, but there was no such town. We decided to look for more information about this elusive Fenghuang, so that if one day the opportunity arose, we could visit it.

This opportunity eventually came in 2003……

For More go to: HolaChina: Your Gateway to China