» China: By Journalists Eyes VI: Around The Chinese-Covered Table
China: By Journalists Eyes VI: Around The Chinese-Covered Table
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
and we, tired after a long flight by empty stomachs looked forward to eat the first Chinese delicacy, we are disappointed after a while staring at a plate of French fries and fried fish. No bowls, chopsticks and spiral, round tables, European common dining room. I strongly doubted whether one of the essential experiences of travel - traditional local cuisine - is left unfulfilled.
To my great joy of culinary and eater so really didn’t happen. First food should protect us against possible health complications from changes in diet. After all, we were guests of the government. That night, after the heavy themed program we had the perfect Chinese board, at the same hotel. Huge round tables were decorated with flowers, each of us found a sign with his name - by the way, very thoughtfully and artfully placed to "fun" could go while we were under the scrutiny of ministerial our Chinese hosts.
The process of serving wasn’t different from what we've used - in the first place then drink. I, ordered my favourite beer, unlike most of my colleagues. How about the Chinese one tastes? Will I have something to tell my friends from Pilsen? Well, unfortunately, yes. When he appeared before me the golden fluid, I rejoiced. But when I picked up a glass, the joy was gone. I saw something of the air temperature in the room, brrrrr! So I tried to remedy the waitress and asked whether I did not bring cold beer - with a gentle smile and wonder at the same time told me in broken English that they do not serve anything chilled. Okay, I'll have water and then we go to eat.
Our table is slowly beginning to fill by a variety of delicacies all sorts of colours and finishes, I feel wonderful aroma of ginger, garlic and coriander. Watching a sweet crispy duck slices, garnished with beans, chicken in a few adjustments, a bowl of fried noodles, vegetarian dishes, including dishes, which at first sight can´t be identified. I know I had a taste of everything - it's one of morality and the host is honoured. Saliva converge, but there must be a kind of prologue to hear - dinners with us several representatives of Ministry of foreign affair - so grateful for our home to visit and wonderful praises relations with the Czech Republic, which now thanks to us "will be better and better." Phew, we're behind, hosts the instruction and the table begins to turn.
Unlike journalistic colleagues from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Poland for the first time I was in China. At home I was always led to a perfect dining French style, here but I intend to keep the traditional ways and scornfully relegate prepared cutlery. Most messmate wielding chopsticks in hand - by the way of a beautiful lacquered wood with silver decoration - and skillful movements that look quite simply, gaining of the table on their plates. And I proudly take chopsticks and surreptitiously watching neighbour of Hungary, as is actually held. Noticing and instruct me.
Lower wand does not move - it is as a prop, the wand floating thumb, index and middle fingers. It's something like tweezers. I train to dry and try to see a nice piece that I will get, when it goes around me. Approaching the beef slices in honey sauce, I got my first aim. But whoops. Get the slippery little thing in the tweezers is more difficult than I thought. Hunt, hunt, grabs, frantically trying to control the wand, but as soon as I catch meat, slips. The table turns, turns, beef is long out of reach and my plate remained empty. The company is starting to have fun and I'm pretty rumbling in the abdomen.
Second time I will focus on the noodles - watching guests, as brilliantly gaining on a decent pile of "raid". It looks promising. Noodles is coming, start, try to pick up bunch - in my chopsticks stuck really bulky bunch, but the path to the plate is long, so most of my game ends on the table and I zobnu about five noodles. Entertainment at our table because of my skills and really starts getting me no matter what you will do, I have a tremendous hunger, taste great and I feel like the goose that has to feed from a bottle.
Chattering constantly idle chopsticks, try the right grip, my colleagues advise one another and glory! On my plate lands something big, brownish, transparent. I know that it's yak ear - delicacy from the western counties. I can only to let the goodies. Chew solid mass of tasteless and collected me at the sight of angry style click around the poles, which brilliantly gaining uptake meat bites, vegetables, nuts and rice. Table begins to empty, colleagues enjoying it, and from the Chinese side you can hear satisfied burp.
Taught by literature, I know that the Chinese table is inappropriate to take the last piece of the bowl. I am sadly watching that I have so many chances left. Hunt a little bit of noodles, two pieces of meat, clean my wand in a napkin and surreptitiously shove them into handbags. Order your wine. Hunger is still thirsty and had dressed for the personal time off and around the hotel are plenty food shops, where I´ll buy proper baguette.
Text/photo: Andrea Fantová
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
Exploring the China is join with infinite variety of impressions, perceptions, experiences and surprises for Europeans often shrouded under a veil of mystery, many time but just ignorance. I did get out of this country dominating feeling - China is incredibly colourful. Colourful from drab uniform gray to a beautiful rainbow combination.
To leave the province of Qinghai and thus few days of life in the past, sometimes the century before, it was the more sensitive nature really hard. Local on many places the virgin nature, proud mountain ranges, deep green valleys, vast dry plains, miniature boxes, herds of yaks and colourful mix of nationalities, often pristine civilizations us captivated, amazed, left imprint on the hearts.
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
We have all this Christmas martyrdom behind us, more or less. New Year’s eve after-effects are the past now and everyday life came back again. Far in the east of our planet the holiday season is getting to its peak.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
We are still in the far northwest of China, in the region, which is interwoven with Tibetan culture and history. After dense doses our Beijing hosts are served us bait to persuade Europeans ignorant about the interest of the central government in the development of local underdeveloped economy, improving people's living standards while maintaining support all the attributes of the original culture
Again our bus is going on the new highway, which I'd read that it was probably built for only one reason - to make available the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Ta'er. And really, this time not waiting for us any boneshaker dirt road and conveniently parked outside the gates of a large complex at the foot of greenish mountains.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
Beijing is for us concentration of paradoxes. Endless skyscrapers, luxury living residences, shops of all tech brands on one side and then thousands of artifacts, ancient Chinese culture. We are interested in both of it, but the traditional one is but much more interesting.
Visit of Beijing food market and edibles of all kinds, shapes, smells, often of unknown origin and a long life even more dangerously we were really stunned for a moment and quietly wandering Chinese traders staring at the blonde, which move at a rate of marathon runners. Phew. We are off and miraculously in front of us pleasantly familiar signs shucks "Starbucks Coffee".
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.
The third day we devoured spell of western China and the knowledge that we have somewhere "behind" Tibet is our "ugly," said attractive. There, under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, certainly can´t go, but Tibetan culture we meet at every step.
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
Our bus goes on the perfectly smooth highway, where we ones a time meet some man in a hat, with a scarf over his face and a broom in his hand - he is alone, far from him you can´t see anything of civilization, the high mountains on both sides, and he sweeps the shoulder.
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský