The China Food Trail 中國食跡 – 絲綢之路
– May–June 2012 Gansu, Xinjiang / Hangzhou. Itinerary
Barge at the first lock on Grand Canal.
Barge, stern, next to on board veg. garden.
Hangzhou style meal
Left to right: 'Cat ear' pasta soup, thick fish soup, fried beans, Longjin shrimp, and vegetarian (wheat gluten, wood ear, bok choy).
Yellow wine in barrels maturing
Today I visited the Pagoda yellow wine company in Ke Qiao, near Shaoxing. Yellow wine is a tipple, and the great cooking alcohol of China. The process of making it has more in common with brewing than wine making or distillation. Of the 60 plus yellow wine plants around the district, Pagoda is the third largest. There is no production of wine except in early winter, but I had an interesting talk with the deputy general manager. Yes, he told me a lot about how yellow wine is made, but what was really interesting was his theory on human evolution. The impetus for much of the human animal's development came from alcohol. It expanded our minds, see, much like LSD did, according to its advocates. We got pissed, had startling new ideas, and started to make simple tools and such, and began to righteously rule the planet.
To get to the factory from the bus station is fifteen km. I took a 'moto taxi.' With his yellow, strapless construction helmet, the driver was better protected than I … from small, hard objects falling from the sky.
Gongcheng Bridge, Grand Canal
My first impression of the West Lake was, "It's got nothing on Lake Weerona." But then I realised hadn't reached the lake yet, just a pond. By the time I walked around that pond, and reached the lakeshore, I was running late for an appointment and had to leave.
Just in to Hangzhou & guess what, the first restaurants I encounter are, a Xinjiang place, and a Taiwanese joint, which I had lunch in. The Taiwanese place, Mrs Fang's, did a good 鐵板豆腐, sizzle plate tofu. Bit more tomatoey than it would be in Taiwan.
Tomorrow I am going to see how the chef of a local restaurant concocts some Hangzhou specialities.
Arrived in Hangzhou tonight after a 57 hour train trip from Urumqi. I was ripping through The Emperor's River, but realising it was going to come to end well before Hangzhou, I started to ration my reading.
Went to four hotels before I could find a room. This place is hopping with tourists. Like to sleep all day tomorrow, but have to deal with two problems: no cash, phone has stopped working.
Kashgar to Urumqi Train
Have to admit (no surprise), the desert is getting a bit monotonous. You lay down to read, and when you pop up to see what is happening outside, it's the same as two hours before, which is the same as 10 hours or two weeks ago – nothing. Still, you have see it for yourself, if only to make sure all those who say big deserts get monotonous, aren't lying. Right?
Train attendants, of which there are many, brook no nonsense from passengers, especially the women in uniform. Stern, schoolmarms. They are all efficient workers, but a few of them, I am sure, are thinking how much easier it would be too run the carriages, and keep them clean, if there weren't, 'all these blasted passengers!"
Train staff must be sleepy. Lights just went off. No staying up late on China Rail. I'm going to be naughty and read anyway. I have a headlamp, which many other passengers remarked on.
SE of Wuwei, we went thru a tunnel. The train was in there so long (20+ minutes), I forgot it was daytime.
Travelling through western China by train, hours go by between stations, days go by between major destinations.
Chinese bus stations x-ray all luggage. Likewise train stations, and you have to show ID & ticket to get in, & when boarding – two checks at least. None of this of course prevents someone bringing aboard stinky tofu, stinky feet, (mine, for example), the only person not wearing socks.
Train reading: The Emperor's River, Liam D'Arcy-Brown's account of his trip tracing the Grand Canal from Hangzhou to Beijing. Terrific book. In the world of writing, particular on China, he should be much better known than he is.
Back to my diet of instant noodles, flatbread, bananas + date biscuits (tasty). Instant noodles in a bowl, always spicy, (in Xinjiang) come w folded plastic spoon inside.
It seems like a rule of thumb that the best mountain views, seen from rail or road, are constantly interrupted by tunnels.
Looking forward to Hangzhou. I'm going to have fun exploring by bike. In any case, can't walk. Feet are covered in blisters.
Beautiful morning at Heaven Lake. Breakfast of doughnutty things & milk teas. Just the thing before a 4.5 hr hike around the lake.
Normally if see a chicken foot on the road I think, car hit chicken, body carried further on by car. In China, I just know someone has been gnawing on a cooked chicken foot, & chucked out the car window.
Gnawed & discarded.
According to google maps live, our train just derailed NE of Aksu. We are 200 metres from tracks, (and stupid me, I didn't feel a thing). Hang on … back on the rails.
Reached Urumqi. 25 hrs by train.
Liang fen, pungent salad mix. Killer stuff.
On bus to heaven lake in mountains. it'll be 2 taxies, 2 buses, by the time I get there. Hope my eardrums holdup - Honnnk, Honnnk, honnk.
Not a bad view, hey? Heaven Lake at sunset yesterday. At nearly 2,000 m. In winter lake freezes, temp: –30º.
Was going to camp with a tent fly & a summer sleeping bag. Crikey, I was only warm in a yurt w. fire, and quilt over my sleeping bag.
At the lake when I arrived, a 50 piece orchestra was filming a TV show lakeside. 15 spectators. That, my friends, was a one off.
At Heaven Lake there was an orchrestra playing.
Trying for the train to Urumqi again today. Hopefully no major snafus on the line today.
All five urinals at Kashgar station out of order. Luckily they have a tree out the back.
What's the difference between a tourist & a traveller? Nothing, except self-styled travellers are snobs; they think they are superior.
I have have enjoyed the lively, bazaar atmosphere of Kashgar, especially the biscuity Old City, (which is being town down everywhere you look). Leaving today.
Cool, windy and wet; I good day to be travelling on a train.
Train cancelled! Spent over an hour in queue at the station organising a ticket for Tuesday. That means I lose a day, and mucks up my two day camping trip to Heaven Lake near Urumqi. I will only have one day there now. Seems I have lugged tent fly, a sleeping bag, and cooking pot around China all for nought. Perhaps I can pitch the tent on the train?
Kashgar livestock market. Cattle. Also horses, donkeys, sheep of all colours, goats. But no camels. I really wanted to see camels for sale and ask the price for one.
… Your silly animal pun here …
Snake oil salesman. Really. He was selling (purportedly) snake oil. Live scorpions too.
Snake oil salesman.
When I travel, weight usually drops off. This trip, I have spent so much time on trains and buses, IT is still sitting there. Need a long walk.
Donut twist. RMB1.Try ignoring that!
On a ferris wheel over Kashgar – where else? Not completely uncool I'd say.
The old city from the ferris wheel.
Clutzy moment: Cooking demo yesterday in a Muslim woman's home & I kept saying 'pork' when I meant 'beef' – I mean 'mutton.'
My Uighur guide calls Chinese food, "Food for hen-pecked men. It's not good for a man. Makes you weak."
Several people here have told me that Uighurs, not Chinese, invented hand-pulled noodles, la mian, 1,100 years ago …?
Hand-pulled noodles in the making.
After walking around Kashgar yesterday I was so hungry I could've eaten a horse. So I ate a horse, at least part of one. This was in a Chinese restaurant. The man at the next table, warned me off. You should never eat that except in winter. "That's 'heating' food. If you eat it in warm weather like this you'll get a nosebleed." I could not finish all the strong-flavoured meat that was on my plate. It was too much. The meat is cooked simply; boiled in water and eaten with slices of green and red chillies, and onions. So far my nose has not bled a single drop.
Boiled horse flesh.
Train northeast tomorrow, to Urumqi, Xinjiang's biggest city. From there, a three hour bus trip up to Heaven Lake for some hiking, and a short vacation from the desert before I head east to Hangzhou.
The first thing you notice about the Silk Road is it not made of silk. This is in contrast to the Yellow Brick Road, which is actually made of yellow bricks. This according to Lonely Planet's newest publication; The Wizard of Oz guide.
The Seman Hotel, Kashgar, one of the more interesting places I have stayed in. Kind of Turkish art deco. Old, rundown, and rambling, I got lost the first two times I tried to find my room.
I have rediscovered the joys of lamb in Xinjiang: this morning, in a bazaar, four out of five dishes I tried were lamb-based. Mutton was the cheap, staple meat in Australia when I was kid. It is not cheap now. Apart from that, having lived in Taiwan for years where mutton is pretty hard to come by (if you don't count the odd pack in supermarket freezers which can look like it has been there since the last ice age). Lamb, lamb, lamb (or is it mutton?). Love it.
Spent the morning a fly on the wall of a local vocational school scooking class. Today's class, Uighur staple: Pilaff. Two hours to make, it fed 120 students. And me.
Pilaff: Stirring yellow carrots in hot oil
The Kashgari cooking teacher.
Street in old Kashgar, where (as everyone will tell you), parts of the movie the Kite Runner filmed.
And that is no Kabul.
In the afternoon, we were on the way to have a cooking lesson in a house in the old city of Kashgar. On a corner in one of the many dusty labyrinthian lane ways, a group of men had a steer tied down on its side. There were a bunch of school kids gawking, but from a safe distance. One man was digging a hole in the dirt just in front of the animal's neck, a receptacle for the bovine's warm blood when it gushed a minute later. It was in aid of a wedding banquet I was told. Later in the evening, guests would arrive, and queue up in a snaking line for slices of barbecued beef.
Went for a cooking lesson in a house in the old city. It turned out to be more a demo than a lesson – as a non-Muslim I was not permitted to touch the food until it was cooked – but I got to eat three great home cooked dishes: noodles, dumplings & a beaut lamb fried pie. My klutzy moment came when – in Muslim woman's home – I kept saying pork when I meant beef – I mean mutton.
Fried lamb pie.
"The environment in Xinjiang is not good. The Uighur and the Han don't get along well together. Han people go there for business or work only." –Shanghai taxi driver.
This far west it doesn't get dark till after 10 pm (there is no time zone variation in China dispite a massive distance between the eastern and western border. For that reason, everything happens two hours later. People get up later and go to bed later. Hotel breakfasts start at 8 am, and end at 10. On several occasions on my trip here, the first bus headed west (often the only bus), at 10 am. Locals set there clocks two hours earlier, but official time is Beijing time, and that is what time trains/buses are set to run. It can get confusing.
Skewered: mutton kebabs are ubiquitous.
Where there's smoke, there are kebabs. Mutton kebab stands are everywhere in Xinjiang. Skewers of fatty mutton are cooked over charcoal fires, and hand fanned until perfectly barbecued. Seasoned with chilli, and cumin powder, you rip them off metal skewers with your teeth, eat them with flatbread, or by themselves. I had sheep liver, and sheep heart kebabs in Turpan.
Charkhlik – Khotan – Kashgar May 16
Arrived this evening in Kashgar after a nine hour bus trip. Kashgar, the name has a ring to it, as do many Central Asian, or north-west Asian place names: think of Kashmir, Samarkand, Punjab, Kandahar. Of course these days, if you only go by what you see on the TV news, most of these places are shitholes.
Lots of all-day bus journeys, and bugger all joy from the internet means I have not written much here on the blog and even less on Twitter or Facebook, and now my laptop, may have a problem. There is not much chance of catching up, so I will just scribble what I can and post some photos. Maybe I'll even add bits and pieces to what I have already done.
It does feel good to arrive after – how many? – days on the road. Kashgar, the western most city in the whole of China. And it is not even Chinese; well politically it is, but in most other regards it is Uighur. I have been in minority areas before, but this is another world.
Snack food: boiled goose & chicken eggs.
Watermelon icy pole (popsicle). What
else from the land of grape and melon–
In Xinjiang ('New Territory'), the faces you see are all over the Eurasian map. I see faces that could be Turkish, I see faces that could be European, I see faces that I am not sure are Chinese or Uighur or something in between. Faces with a nose bridge, faces without. I watched a stout woman in a night market. As she pinched off small pieces of dough into a pot of water, with her pale skin and broad face, she could have been any babushka from Russia.
The southern route of the Silk Road is new, well-made, smooth two-lane highway, with nary a pothole. It is a bit incongruous, not that I was expecting a camel path. Half of me is disappointed that it is not rougher, wilder (this is the idiot side), the other half, of course, is glad that the road is easy. In fact my only hardship (as a person who drinks several litres of water a day even in winter, and makes commensurate visits to the toilet) is restricting myself to as little as half a litre of water for up to eight hours. Better a parched throat than a boiling, fit to burst bladder. Why? Typically the buses execute toilet stops only every three hours or so.
Xinjiang, land of grapes and melons.
Bottle of bai jiu (clear liquor)
I partnered up with in Charkhlik,
regretfully. As always, bloody awful.
One of the first things you notice about the Silk Road is that it is not made of silk. This is in contrast to the Yellow Brick Road, which is actually made of yellow bricks; that, at least is according to Lonely Planet's, new Wizard of Oz guide.
Did I mention I took a sleeper bus earlier from Dunhuang to Turpan? Seventeen hour trip. The breakdowns were an extra freebie.The only time I took one these before, it was dark when I got on and dark when I got off – that it turned out, was a blessing. This time I got a good look.
Sleeper bus, ''Crematorium on wheels'
Chaos as passengers get on. 41 berths, plus babies. Three rows double banks the length of the bus. Two small, thin people cannot even pass in the aisle. At first I avoid thinking the word, 'claustrophobic,' lest I dwell on it. But black humour gets you through every time, and 'Crematorium on wheels,' soon came to mind.
Turpan – Korla – Charkhlik May 11 It was a six hour trip by bus from Turpan to Korla. Before we left the bus jockey laid down the law, "No taking your shoes off. No eating guazi, (melon or other unshelled seeds)." It worked. There was not a smelly foot to be smelt, and the bus remained quite clean, and no one smoked, except the driver.
Tian Shan Mountains.
After 90 minutes we began climbing over the lesser reaches of the Tian Shan Mountains. Craggy, deeply lined with gullies the mountains were spectacular as we wound upwards through a long ravine. It occurred to me that there was no traffic coming the other way on this two-laned highway (the other directional 'lane' takes a completely different route). We crossed the pass at 1,600 metres, where we glided on a gradual decent. Once flattening out, we have been on an elevated plain of about 900 meters for two days, all the way to Charkhlik, where I am writing from.
The driver drove by the horn, that is, using ear-shattering blasts (always to excess) instead of brakes or common sense. That said, time after time on the ascent we were stuck behind two trucks going 30 kph, one in the fast lane the other in the slow.
Lunch stop at roadside eatery. For all passengers except two it is just a toilet stop. Fellow on bus: "Nobody eats at these places with their inflated prices and lousy food." Once back on board everyone broke out their bags of takeaway snacks. Me, nan bread, a banana, and Turpan sultanas.
Overnighting in Charkhlik. Small, quiet, attractive oasis town, but there is building – mainly hotels – all over the place. I find it hard imagine them ever being filled up, but I was told that Charkhlik zaozi, Chinese date (or jujube) have become very famous in recent times and the Charkhlik Jujube festive in in mid-September brings in crowds of tourists.
This morning on to Cherchen, and maybe further, perhaps Khotan.
Dried Chinese dates in Turpan market.
Turpan, Xinjiang May 12
Sultanas from Turpan, walnuts from Khotan.
May 11 Touring the sights today. Read about them here. Just a quick story: asked my Uighur tour guide to find a place to eat pilaf, a Uighur standard. We rolled up to a big restaurant for lunch, and sure enough they had pilaf, (which turned out to be under par – pre cooked, dry – but apart from two or three other dishes, every item on the menu was Chinese. I mentioned this in passing to Anwar, my guide, but he insisted that it was a Uighur restaurant. What about the soup (we'd ordered the Chinese staple, egg drop soup), I asked? "Uighur … I think," the seed of doubt was growing. I have just arrived here, so I need to be careful, but it seems that like in any multicultural place, there is left, and there is right, and there is also the hazy, indistinct area where left and right mingle and overlap, and a person having grown up in this environment does not always have the benefit of detachment to see what is what. Take my night market dinner tonight: wonton soup. How Chinese is that? Or is it, it is just dumplings in soup after all – I doubt China has a monopoly on it. But these were shaped just like Chinese wonton – and called wontons – yet the soup had a distinct Xinjiang/Uighur tinge; some cumin powder in the stock perhaps? I don't know what, but it worked, it was at once both Chinese (primarily), and Uighur.
Pilaf, a Uighur standard.
Turpan is run over with grape vines. Most are dried into sultanas. Some are turned into wine. I just had to buy a bottle. At US$12.50 it is quite expensive by local prices (seems to be pitched at the tourist market as few regular shops seem to sell it). The ladies who sold it to me assured me it had a twist-out cork – no corkscrew necessary. Here I employ the sarcastic, 'of course' they were wrong, and I have had to resort to a metal chopstick to manipulate the cork inside the bottle. It is white wine, quite sweet and thick; a dessert wine really. I was told not to chill it (not that I have an option). I'm progressing through the bottle right now, all in the name of research.
Turpan white wine.
Tomorrow I leave for Korla, the first stop on my trip along the southern arm of the Silk Road to Kashgar. Everybody tells me that this route will be long and boring, and I don't doubt that; at least the 'long' part. Some people even doubt it is possible to go this way. There are at least two quicker, shorter routes from Turpan, but I have it in my mind that this is the way I should go, and that is what I will do. I'm unsure of how many days it will take, which is why I am not lingering in Turpan, which is not an unpleasant place.
Breakfast (and lunch); nan bread.
Dinner. Not what I thought. Kebabs, not BBQed, deep-fried.
Not so wonderful.
Just arrived in Turpan. A lot has happened in the last week. On the move much of the time, and often with no internet connection, and when there is one it is unreliable or slow. Also my plans to do updates on Twitter and Facebook (which are blocked in China) have been thwarted. The service I paid to get around the block is crap.
Anyway … Seven days since I left and I have only spent two nights in proper beds. First there was two nights on the sleeper train from Shanghai to Liuyuan. Then two nights camping in the Gobi Desert on a 60 km camel trek I did from Dunhuang. Last night was a 17-1/2 hour sleeper bus trip from Dunhuang to Turfan. I am in the comfortable Transport Hotel right now, and I don't intend to spend much time away from it till morning. A bit of privacy, and comfort at last, though I will have to get someone to fix the bed – the legs are so uneven, it rocks from front to back like a seesaw. Oh, and the lights don't work properly (um, yes they do, I just couldn't find the switch).
Dunghuang, Gansu Province
Singing Sands, Gobi Desert, near Dunhuang
Camel trip was great. The camels (Lian Lian and Fang Fang) were much better behaved and better smelling than I expected. Also surprisingly comfortable to ride. Did I feel like Silk Road trader, or a desert explorer. No, more like I was an extra in a film portraying one. The camels were starting to moult. They'll drop all their thick hair soon to reveal a new, short coat for the fire-breathing summer.
It was a terrific experience; one that has inspired me to want to do something more ambitious involving camels: perhaps London to New York – are camels good swimmers? I know inspiration is easy, (and fleeting), so we'll see how long this one lasts.
Final night in the on camel trip:
I settle down with a book on the groundsheet beside Li, the camel driver. One by one, winged insects flutter and crawl onto the pages, like actors projected onto a screen by my headlamp. All were desert-hued – fawn, grey or grey. Who knew there were so many insects in the desert? It was a good 3D show for 10 minutes but unseen insects began to explore my ears and under my sleeves. They vanished the instant I turned off the lamp. When my eyes adjusted to the night I was looking at a vast ceiling of stars.
Me atop Lian Lian.
Dunhuang, a major stop on the Silk Road and home to Mogao Caves, the great repository of Buddhist art, is a nice, easily manageable town with a colourful night market serving Uighur and Chinese food. Chinese vastly outnumber the Uighur folks.
They like their food quite spicy in the northwest.
Gan ban mian, typical, delicious noodle style.
Most of the in this oasis comes from underground water fed by the melting snow on the Qilian Mountains. But Dunhuang is headed for a water crisis. A must-do attraction, Crescent Lake, in the sand dunes near the city has all but dried up (I did not even bother to go to see it), and the desert is encroaching.
Mogao Caves definitely are all they are cracked up to be, just don't go there kidding yourself that you don't need a guide – you do! The history of the spread of Buddhism from India, through Central Asia, and China, is in these caves, portrayed in statues, and cave wall art. An extraordinary in situ museum.
Dunhuang is a dusty old town. The slightest breeze spreads conjunctivitis. And they get much more than 'slight breezes' around here. It does not matter how clean looking, push a glass, a book, or your laptop, across a table, and you will hear a scratchy sound.
On my last afternoon in Dunhuang; pitter-patter, it started to rain. Such a thing is uncommon enough that shopkeepers came out of their shops to watch. It drizzled for 20 minutes – drizzle? – weakly drizzled. It wasn't even enough to keep the dust down.
Train trip to Liuyuan turned out to be about 37 hours. All in all it was quite comfortable. Two nights on board a hard sleeper. 'Hard' makes it sound worse than it is. The facilities are spartan, but the beds are reasonably comfortable. Certainly a Chinese hard sleeper is a better way to pass the night than squeezed into an economy plane seat. Much better.
6 bunks to an open-fronted compartment.
Lots of feet to trip over.
Heading west, after the city of Zhengzhou in Henan, most of the stations are spread hours apart (timetable). For example, the next station after Zhengzhou is Xian, six hours down the track (for us it was nearly eight hours as we were delayed at Zhengzhou station for nearly two hours, most of which, thankfully, I slept through). After Xian the country get progressively drier.
Two of my bunk mates.
Shanghai, China May 4 2012
Thirty-four hour train trip to Liuyuan in Gansu province. Luiyaun is the nearest station to Dunhuang, and the Mogao Caves. Wish I could leave now. I am tired of cafe culture already.
Killing time in a cafe waiting for my train west this evening. Half the expat population of Jing An district seem to be doing the same. Well-dressed, all teched out, and lazing on a Friday afternoon. God, what do they do for a living?
The Razor Blade that Toured China There is an old story, from the Seventies, about a foreign businessman visiting China. When he checked out of his hotel he left behind in the bathroom, a blunt razor blade, used and unwanted. He moved on to the next place on his multi-city tour of China and had no reason to give that discarded razor another thought. The staff at the hotel had other ideas. They assumed he had left it behind accidentally, and mailed it on to his next destination. Unfortunately, it arrived just after the guest had moved on, and so it was mailed on again. And so it went, again and again the blunt razor is mailed, always arriving too late, and effectively following this man on his trip around China. Finally at his last Chinese destination, the razor arrives in time and is received by the bemused man. Whether the story is a real foreigner's anecdote or one concocted by the Chinese, it served to illustrate the humble and honest lives of Chinese under Mao Zedong, I don't know.
I realise China has changed massively since the Seventies (it has changed since last year!), but I wondered whether there was even the slightest chance this happening today. Was there such a selfless, caring individual in China, or more to the point; working in my hotel? So for fun as much as anything else, I left a blunt razor beside the bathroom basin in my Shanghai hotel. Under the razor, on a slip of paper I wrote, "Going to Dunhuang." Could a miracle happen? I await my old razor blade as I head to the most western reaches of China tonight.
May 3 2012
Rocket-taxi from Pudong Airport to city but still took ages before got sight of Shanghai proper late last night.
Residual smell from past smoker guests has given me scratchy throat today. Task today: open a bank acc, get mobile card. Shouldn't be hard … 3 1/2 hours later, I have a phone, a bank account. So much for the digital age; I'm carrying a bag-full of paperwork to prove it.
Taichung, Taiwan Apr 26 2012 Big sandstorm in Xinjiang, China a couple of days ago. Winds up to 115 km/h caused car accidents, and fires, swept away topsoil, and doubtlessly left a lot of people with respiratory problems, and conjunctivitis. Some of the dust from that storm is expected to hit Taiwan this weekend. Hope the rain we are getting continues so to bring the dust to the ground. As I am going to Xinjiang next week – note to self: Pack swimming goggles.
Delay. China trip delayed for a week as I was unable to book a train from Shanghai to Liuyuan (the nearest station to Dunhuang and the famous Buddhist Mogao Caves). I was after a Hard Sleeper for the 34 hour trip, but there was nothing available for the day of my intended departure, not a Soft Sleeper, not even a Hard Seat. The Chinese have been building a web of freeways across their broad country for years, but they have not neglected rail. They expand and improve the network (the Qinghai–Tibet line, for example), add high-speed trains, but it is never enough to keep up with demand, and I, simply did not book early enough. I'm an egit.
Apr 21 2012 The China Food Trail Project: Trip 2
I leave for China on Thursday, April 26 [new date is May 3] on my second trip to China exploring the history of Chinese food. From Shanghai I'll to take a train to Turpan in Xinjiang province, and from there I'll work my along the southern Silk Road to Kashgar. I am allowing a month in Xinjiang, before catching another train back to Hangzhou, where I will spend two weeks along the southern reaches of the Grand Canal. That, at least, is the plan.
Theme: The Silk Road: the trade of goods and ideas with Central Asia, India, and Europe – Uighur cuisine.
Period: Sui and Tang Dynasties (581–907).
Places: The Chinese Silk Road.
Theme: The Grand Canal, the world's longest manmade waterway, allowed the verdant South to help feed the much drier, overcrowded North.
Period: Song Dynasty (960–1279).
Places: The Grand Canal: Hangzhou to the Yangzi River.
Itinerary Hangzhou to the Yangzi River along the Grand Canal.
Can you help?
I welcome suggestions from anyone: Where should I go? What should I eat? Who should I talk to? Must sees, must dos? Do you have any contacts (locals or expats) in any of the places I will be going to? Please get in touch with me: stephen.jack at me.com
An enormous amount of rice is grown and consumed in China, but to characterise Chinese as rice eaters, or call China a "rice-based" society, as the Asia Rice Foundation does, (an organisation that should know better), is quite misleading … more