Thursday 1 September 2011

Snakes Blood Anyone?

In 2005 we took a months journey through China. Russell had been there in '86 with his high school orchestra and things had changed significantly since those days where everyone wore the standard blue Mao workers uniform and rode push bikes. Signs were posted everywhere for the benefit and instruction of the ignorant tourists - usually in English, like the sign above, that would have said tourists in fits of laughter. One such sign in our bathroom stated that floor drainage had been installed for the benefit of air pollution.  Beijing was a riot of vehicular and pedestrian confusion. 
It had been a lifetime wish fulfilled to see the Great Wall of China and I was incredibly excited to see and touch it in real life. We were given strict instructions to be down from the wall by a specified time or we would be left there, so off we scuttled. The children asked if they could go off aways along the wall and because Russell had a devious plan in place (see Four Weddings, No Funeral post) he shooed them off quickly enough. They took off at a great rate, racing along the wall. After he had proposed in front of the Chinese audience and I finally said yes, we realised that we only a few minutes to get back down to the nearest town and the kids were no where in sight! Russell dumped his backpack with me and started sprinting along the wall. Fifteen minutes later a very puffed family arrived back - the twins and second daughter had just thought they would keep going as far as they could - and you know how far that would be - until Russell had managed to sabotage this plan by catching up to them.

 After Beijing we travelled via Xi'an where the terracotta warriors are to Chongching where we started a seven day cruise down the Yangtze to Shanghai. I had read Simon Winchesters River at the Centre of the World in which he travels from Shanghai up river toward Tibet and recounts the history of China through the events that happened in each place he comes to. The children were fascinated by the fact that unwanted girl babies were often thrown into the river (even still today) and would lean over the rails for endless hours in the hope of spotting a bloated and floating body. The best the river could manage was a rotten pig carcass.
Cruising through the Three Gorges was spectacular, the water an emerald green, and many people were still living a very basic rural life by the banks of the river, washing clothes in the river, using the old sampans and junks, but the damming of the Three Gorges would soon threaten their lives with the rising water levels that was set to swallow entire towns.

 In Guilin we  had lunch in a local restaurant, handpicked to have no other tourist in it. The waitress asked for our order and as it was local we actually didn't have a clue what was on offer, so gave her the 'I don't know' look and shrug of the shoulders. She enlisted the help of a male assistant and gestured for us to follow her. Around the side and attached to the restaurant was a small room that contained our lunch choices - all alive. We could choose from chickens, ducks, various other smaller birds, cats, and various snakes. Oooo! I'd always wanted to try snake since watching a film set in the Amazon where a plane crash survivor lives on roasted snake. I'd heard it tasted a bit like chicken so that was what I was having. I cajoled Russell and young son into trying it with me but the girls weren't having a bar of it. We then had to select which snake we wanted and as we didn't think we could eat a big fat snake we chose a smaller one.
 Back in the restaurant the very thoughtful waitress brought the skin of the snake which the cook had prepared into a 'snakeskin salad' - crunchy. She then brought out glasses of the snakes blood mixed with pure alcohol and indicated it would make us strong. Young son who will try anything drank his happily. I took mine a bit reluctantly and you can see in the following photos Russells experience.

 First daughter screamed at the appearance of the snakes blood and ran from the table with her two younger sisters in hot squealing pursuit. They weren't having a bar of it!
 As if this wasn't enough to entice us with the green gall bladder juice was then offered to us - ok that was enough! Finally the roasted snaked itself appeared but we really should of chosen a fatter snake - it was full of bones and not nearly as succulent as I had dreamed it would be.

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