Strangers in a strange land

Saturday started cold and crisp. This is the first day we’ve felt cold since leaving the UK so we wrapped up with extra layers and decided to go walking to try to get a better feel for Jiangmen.

The first thing we discovered is that they have their own local city bike program – Hellobike. We have no idea how it works as instructions are all in Chinese and there doesn’t seem to be an English language web page for it, so we won’t be using the system despite there being thousands of bicycles scattered throughout the city.

After consultation with Google Maps, we decided to walk down to Donghu Park, which is the other side of the WuYi University campus. I need to remember to check the scale on Google Maps when making these decisions. I think we have in our heads a basic assumption of how big a city block will be, based on long experience of wandering through cities. Blocks here are bigger. The primary roads are much wider than we get in UK or US cities and the distances between them are also proportionally larger, so we walked a little farther than we expected – about 3.5 miles each way.

Despite the distance walked, we didn’t spot another Western face. What we did encounter was the reaction of locals to our Western faces, which ranged from curiosity through amusement all the way up to bewilderment. We encountered the occasional frank stare but also a good number of smiles and hellos, which I suspect is the one English word many of the people here know. (I’ve worked out that thank you is “xie xie”, but that’s it so far so I’m in no position to take the linguistic moral high ground.)

It is apparent that this is not a city that gets many foreign tourists but Donghu Park was billed as a tourist destination so we were keen to see it. The map at the start of the park advised that there was a watchtower located at the top of a hill so we climbed up there to take a look.

DSC_0108┬áThen we climbed back down again. The park was very quiet in general but that’s only to be expected in the middle of winter. There are a couple of amusement parks with rides which are mothballed for the season but it’s no doubt a livelier place in warmer weather.

We were interested to see some graffiti in a place where we wouldn’t expect it.

DSC_0136A section of the park was dedicated to bamboo in its many different forms and a number of the old woody stems had Chinese characters carved into them.

After exhausting the possibilities of Donghu, we decided to head back to the hotel. We took a different route on the way back just for the variety, and passed an area of older buildings. There’s a vast quantity of recent construction and ongoing development here so this was a bit of a novelty. Also something of a novelty was this sight:

IMG_1066Someone was taking the opportunity to air dry some meat and fish from their windows.

We carried on to the hotel and, once again, got out the instruments and practised for a while. Afterwards, we headed out for dinner. There’s a recently developed street of restaurants just around the corner from us so we walked along there to see what took our fancy. The problem with them was that the restaurants were all quite shallow, so all the tables were near the door and it had grown really quite cold by now. We decided to keep walking till we reached the mall and picked a restaurant in there at random.

So we ate at a place called Three Thousand Mountain (I think) and had some very nice food there. Also, we had a conversation with the gentleman at the next table to us who could speak some English. He asked us where we came from and what we were doing in Jiangmen. It turns out he’s an anaesthetist at a local hospital and when he heard we were just visiting as tourists, he offered to arrange a tour of his hospital for us. This was wonderfully kind of him, but hospital visits aren’t really high on my list of leisure activities. We thanked him profusely but declined the offer. Again, I don’t think they get many tourists here.

After dinner we grabbed a beer to take back to the room and I watched Rangers vs Celtic on a poor quality stream. Not as poor quality as Celtic’s performance though. Oh well, we had to lose to Rangers some time, I suppose.

The challenge now is to construct some leisure time activities to keep us going here in Jiangmen. I’ll keep you all informed how that goes.