Anyone Know Where Wuhan Is?

In the past few weeks I've had the following conversation over and over again:

Friend/Colleague/Person X: So where in China will you be based?
Me: Wuhan.
Friend/Colleague/Person X: Never heard of it.
Me: Small city, only about 10 million plus inhabitants.
Friend/Colleague/Person X: Oh. [lengthy pause in which my conversational partner is wondering whether I'm deliberately being sarcastic or dead serious] So where is it?
Me: Central China. Hubei Province.
Friend/Colleague/Person X: [looks none the wiser]
Me: Not too far from Shanghai.
Friend/Colleague/Person X: Oh, OK. Cool.

Actually Wuhan isn't anywhere remotely near Shanghai. Google Maps tells me that it's roughly 900km in the car but knowing China we best add another 100km just for good measure. If you have had the pleasure to drive from Shanghai to Wuhan and have more concrete data, I welcome it. What I can tell you though is that the train from Shanghai to Wuhan takes about six hours. Nevertheless, it seems everyone I talk to can name precisely three cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. A few people have managed to surprise me when they mentioned Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

On a side note, throughout the last eight years here in Ireland I've had the same experience every time somebody asks me where in Germany I'm from. My home town is called Koblenz situated on both banks of the river Rhine and the river Moselle. We affectionately refer to both rivers as father Rhine and mother Moselle. Most Germans know the city and even people from neighbouring countries have heard of it. Anyone I meet in Ireland insists they have their German geography down to a T but when I mention the name of my home town I only ever get a blank stare. "About an hour's drive from Frankfurt or Cologne," is what I usually end up saying, people know these two cities. Only you can't compare an hour's drive from Koblenz to Frankfurt with 900km plus between Shanghai and Wuhan.

Swiftly moving on...

The purpose of tonight's blog post isn't a lengthy rant about Germany's and China's geography. Sorry to disappoint.

Instead, I have a question for you.

Does anyone still vaguely remember that I spent the month of February in China, celebrating China's New Year?

I wrote a couple of blog posts about it and then went awfully quiet. There were a lot of stories I'd planned to pen but then writer's block sort of happened and other things did too and then I just decided it was simply too late.

I'm going back in time now and since it's only a little over two weeks until my big move halfway across the globe, from island to mainland, I decided to post a bunch of pictures from trip to China in February 2013. So without further ado, enjoy:

Oh look! A Chinese hotel room where the bathroom doesn't actually resemble a glass cell, blissful privacy to shower while the fish conversed with his two XiongDi

The absolutely stunning view from our hotel room in Shanghai's I-Don't-Know-What-District-Except-That-It's-The-Middle-Of-Nowhere

Seefood Hotpot -- I burned myself on the pot about a million times. It was not a pleasant experience.

Dried fish, somewhere in the heart of Shanghai, because that's how they roll the Chinese

The joys of travelling during the Spring Festival. Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station was a little busy...

Here's a free Chinese lesson for you. Guess what we ate!

Two train tickets from Shanghai to Wuhan -- I still have mine! Sentimental value.

Dumplings, because a gal can't possibly embark on a six hour train journey and not have dumplings

A random street somewhere in Wuhan -- to sum up Wuhan during the spring festival I only need three words: perpetual traffic jam

A yummy fish, served in a restaurant somewhere in Wuhan

The novelty of having my Chinese supermarket cherry popped needed to be photographically documented

More heavy traffic and tasty China air

Chinese motorway usage rules, I was bored so I translated the card and took a picture

This is actually Tianmen, a smallish city about an hour's drive west of Wuhan City. As you can see, the traffic is distinctively Chinese, the pollution so bad you can't even read the license plates of the cars right in front of us and the air is just generally very tasty. Welcome!

A Chinese TV remote control that left me none the wiser about how to use it, so I didn't which gave a certain fish full control over the television programmes we watched. In hindsight, giving a man that much control was a bad idea.

Street food. Tianmen pizza as it's called. It's the yummiest, crunchiest, tastiest pizza you'll ever eat. It's made out of a little piece of dough that's pulled apart, then the cook adds some spicy chilli paste, folds the whole thing together again, pulls it apart once more and sprinkles some oil on top to make the sesame stick to the dough. Then the pizza is stuck to the inside of an old-fashioned oven and after a couple of minutes in the head you get this lovely, tasty Chinese baguette. Eat it when it's fresh and warm, have it with some soup or leave it to dry for a couple of days (for this choose the kind of pizza without filling), chop it up and fry it with a bunch of Chinese herbs.

Another trip to a Chinese supermarket...

Shopping at Guanggu (Optic Valley) in Wuchang, Wuhan and more tasty China air. But hey look, traffic's kinda light this afternoon!

The leftover Christmas decoration. Because a Chinese Christmas runs past mid-February.

Wuhan Happy Valley. Full of roller-coasters I refused to board and scary "haunted" houses I also refused to enter. For the most part I just wandered around or waited outside some attraction or other. That roller-coaster monstrosity you see right in the centre of the picture was the fish's choice of entertainment. I just joined all the other girlfriends at the exit, who were dutifully holding their boyfriend's manbag and other personal belongings. 

The things that grow on Chinese trees...

Art. I'm sure this is supposed to express something but the connection between what this piece of art is supposed to express and an amusement park is entirely lost on me. I'm just not Chinese enough. Maybe it's some sort of ancient punishment for naughty children?

Tropical fish at Wuhan seaquarium near Donghu Lake

This is the Spanish shopping street near Optic Valley Shopping centre and yes this traditional British telephone booth felt a bit sick, you'd feel the same if you had to walk in manky rain that leaves your hair full of dirt and your clothes full of brown stains.

Behind that tree there is a poster of the handsome Mr Wang Leehom (the Nikon camera ad to the right of the Acer laptop ad) but my driver didn't give me the opportunity to take a proper picture so you'll have to take my word for it.

Welcome to Wuhan Zoo. Ten points of you can guess which flowers are real and which are fake.

The bleakest place I've ever seen, the lake at the entrance to Wuhan Zoo. If I was one of these Chinese geese I'd be depressed too. On top of that I'd be in psychological care.

One of the somewhat bigger enclosures. Mr bear was enjoying the attention while I was having a hissy fit because all the visitors around us where throwing food at him. In the end I just stalked off. Try that in Germany and you won't only get a hefty fine but you will also be escorted out of the zoo.

At Wuhan zoo I had my panda cherry popped. This is the first live panda I've ever seen. Not a stuffed, cuddly toy and definitely not 2D in a book or a Google search result or a YouTube video from the Sichuan breeding centre. A real life, living, breathing panda, snoring away in his/her bedroom. Note not only Chinese hotel bathrooms have glass walls, no, in China a panda's bedroom also has glass walls. Privacy? What privacy man! You're in China!

Her/his companion was not asleep. The second 3D panda, a novelty for me. I spent more than 20 minutes just standing in front of the enclosure, just looking at one of my favourite animals and firmly ignoring the pestering male voice asking if we could go now. While the enclosure is one of the biggest the zoo offers it's still kind of bleak and boring. I imagine the pandas at Wuhan Zoo aren't too happy which is kind of sad. Still that panda there is a cutie, even if he looks somewhat sad. I so wanted to cuddle him!!!

The lion king. 10 points if you can spot his wife!

Irish clovers in China! Another novelty, I had to photographically document that of course.

The handsome masseur who massaged my feet for a solid hour and transported me from a comfortable sofa straight to heaven. He gave me new feet like! I was floating on air... A foot massage is the best thing ever.

Did you really think two visits to a Chinese supermarket would be enough? Haha! Here're the contents of our shopping trolley, yes, very interesting I know. Note, I don't know what half of the stuff is. Well I sort of do because I asked.

The parking permission for the visitor's car park at the Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼)

Walking up to the Yellow Crane Tower. See that lady in yellow? She was excitedly telling her boyfriend all about the approaching female Laowai holding hands with a handsome Chinese boy.

The famed Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼), one of my favourite spots in Wuhan

The view from the top floor of the tower, you can see something but most of Wuhan is shrouded in tasty China air. Happy Spring Festival!

This is a lovely small pond near the Yellow Crane Tower. While it's near the road you can't really hear much traffic and by traffic I mean continuous honking, so it's quite peaceful. I betcha it looks much nicer now that everything is green. 

There's a lovely little pagoda at the other end of the pond, a little stone bridge leads across the pond to it and you can sit down, rest and just enjoy tranquillity for a while.

No Chinese pond/lake would be complete without the signature koi fish / gold fish

Corn juice. I did not try it, couldn't bring myself to do so.

Wuhan train station in Hankou

If, as a foreigner, you want to blend in while travelling on a Chinese train, you definitely have to eat instant noodles.

In addition to instant noodles you should also bring bottled water, some sweets and a crunchy snack on board the train with you. If all fails and the horrible child two rows behind you simply won't stop playing the same game on her mother's iPad over and over again with the volume turned up to max you can always stuff the snacks in your ears and pretend you're deaf. Do note that I did not try that.

You can't really see it but the night that I departed the air was extremely tasty in Shanghai. Half an hour after this photo was taken I couldn't even see the cars on the other side of the road any more, well not clearly anyway.

Sunrise (I think!) somewhere over the desert (UAE), eight hours away from China.