Monday, February 14, 2011

Chinese New Year

Another Chinese New Year in the mainland! Larger cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou are absolutely deserted because everyone's gone back to their home villages for the holiday. Shops and restaurants are closed and the streets are empty except for lonely tumbleweeds comprised of used toothpicks, feathers, and chicken bones, and packs of wolves stalking the feral cat population. So we headed to Si Hui, which was pure madness last year, and which didn't disappoint this one - fireworks, food vendors, throngs of people in the streets... a big party.

Also in Si Hui, we found this - a lawn farm:

If you've ever wondered where the turf on your front lawn comes from, there's a possibility it came from the excellent little town of Si Hui! Probably not, but you never know...

But our stop in Si Hui was brief, and we caught an overnight train up to Changsha in Hunan Province. On the train, first tea:

Then beer (drinking it in our sleeper car, as we were boycotting the restaurant car after a nasty altercation with the waitress - which we won, of course. Or rather, Cecilie did.):

It was such a good trip, in fact, that much of it is a complete blur to me. For example, I woke up the morning after CNY to find my shoes filled with dried sweet potatoes. Not exactly sure what happened there:

Yes, we drank many beers and made many new friends. Cards in the alley with old guys:

And two guys that were my very best friends one night. I don't remember their names:

These guys were my best friends some other night. I don't remember their names either:

Yes, Hunan was definitely the place to be. From the naked woman starting a fire on the street, to being preceded by children yelling "Foreigners are coming! Foreigners are coming!" to having our photo taken at every opportunity:

We were rock stars. Dear god, I love being stared at. Is that wrong?

From Changsha we caught a train to Chenzhou. The very communist-looking train station there:

And me waiting among the throngs of people to get a train ticket:

Urban exploration is good fun. (Until you surprise a man having a huge bowel movement in an abandoned building. But I'm sure it was more traumatizing for him than it was for me. I suspect that he'll be plagued by lifelong constipation - unable to shake the idea that a strange gweilo is about to pop up from nowhere and interrupt him.) In Changsha we traipsed around some beautiful abandoned factories, construction sites, and train tracks:

And did some filming for another upcoming masterpiece from the Happy Jellyfish People's Democratic Language Bureau:

And spent some time at the local police station (long story), where the officers gave us cookies, offered to share their dinner, and watched fireworks with us outside the station. Yes, those Red Police are just terrifying*:

And a few bonus photos from the trip - a chicken claw that waved to me from the ground in Si Hui:

A man selling cotton candy from his bicycle:

A man selling slices of the biggest fruitcake I've ever seen, also from his bike:

And lastly, the wonderful, ubiquitous signage:

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

* Of course, they're not demolishing my homestead of 60 years because the government has decided to build a new 20-lane highway. I imagine they can be a bit off-putting then.

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