I am on a quick trip to North America to do some practical stuff that cannot be ignored any longer, as well as get to a friend’s wedding, woot!
I found the cheapest flight ever with China Southern airlines. ($450 round trip- what?) They are often overnight layovers and you have to leave the airport. So I got a hotel and in the morning, I went to explore. I liked Wuhan. Somehow I found myself a hotel room in the historical district, which I’m sure was prettier than the area around the airport would have been.
The back alleys are everything. Light filters through and people gather whatever chairs they can find, sit around and chat. I was surprised by how chilled out things were. Laundry hangs from the power lines that cross the alley.
It is not an automatic smile country, though I did startle a laugh out of one older lady, after she stared at me for five minutes, trying to figure out what I was. I actually loved her verdict. She clearly couldn’t come up with a category or definition, so her conclusion was just to say heh heh heh and walk away.
Her work seemed to be fishing used chopsticks out of the trash. She was very old and had a hard time walking. It looked like the hardest, dirtiest, least rewarding work.
People seem relaxed and not as aware of convention as in Thailand. In Thailand you do a lot to reassure people around you. I see you, I’m for you, I’m glad you’re here. This is communicated all the time. In Wuhan it seemed like people just stared if they wanted to stare, or ignored if they wanted to ignore. But none of it felt like it impinged on the relaxed feeling.
People seemed self contained.
I ate black bean noodles on the side of the road, sitting on a plastic stool with other people doing the same thing. The noodles were okay. Kind of weird, more fermented than a similar food that I’ve had in Korea (it originated in China, but Korea is famous for their black bean noodles now.)
However disappointing the road noodles were, though, I ate hand pulled noodles at the airport and they were a noodle lover’s dream. Handmade noodles! At the airport!
I couldn't communicate with anyone. Anyone. The language is completely opaque to me. I remember when Thai was like that. It seems like a long time ago. I liked how we kept trying. I would something in English and people spoke to me in Mandarin and no one could understand each other, but even though we were pointing and gesturing, we had to talk while we did so.
The frisking at the airport was rather thorough.
There were cameras everywhere. Everywhere. Everything is recorded and they have been using some wild new facial recognition software. It is a wild new world.
I found a park and wandered through it, making my way down to the Yangstze River. The river is the whole reason I bothered to get a hotel in the city center. It was worth it, this wide, old river, though of course I found it in the middle of this city, and no one was punting any sampans along it.
One of my favorite things about travel is to truly enter into the anonymous observer space. Not talking or understanding makes the whole thing feel kind of dreamy.
My taxi driver was using some kind of app where he voiced messaged friends the whole time we were driving. Just voice recording after voice recording in a big group. That was intriguing.
I think it would be hard to do this jaunt with kids, or if you have any special dietary needs. I have been eating by simply pointing at the menu. There are no options for vegetarian things, and I cannot speak!
By myself, though, it is an unexpected little gem.
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