Finding Mao -by Sukriti
Trip Start Mar 29, 2010
21Trip End Ongoing
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Although we knew we were nearing our end of our teaching term, we didn't quite know when we were leaving and so as soon as we found out, we printed out a map of China and marked out our trail on it. This was going to be the start of real freedom with no commitments.
Our first stop was Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, about 4hours south of Lixian. Changsha is a big town offering a choice of McDz and KFC's round every corner and even a Pizza Hut! Food aside, we decided to stay a couple of nights here as our students raved on about how Mao Zedong's hometown, Shaoshan, is in this province, definitely a must see! So we went in search for a bed and found this hostel which is pretty well hidden even if you do have the address to the place. So there it was, a bed for £5 a night. Obviously with such a good price it's hard to put stars on the place, but it sufficed for two nights. Our first night in Changsha, like most new towns we enter, was spent mapping out the area in our head as we walk down endless amount of streets until our feet gave in. The next morning, after a night on the springs, we decided to go in search for Mao's village, and what a search it was going to be.
Waiting in the queue for our train tickets to Shaoshan, contemplating our communication disaster with the ticket clerk, a lady turned to us and asked us if we were Mexican! With a huge smile on our faces we said no, but a definite yes to her offer of helping us buy our tickets. Nicole was kind enough to let us know that the last train to Shaoshan was at 6.30am and our next best option would be to get the bus there. A university student, Nicole was very excited about running into some foreigners in distress and was more than happy to show us to the bus station and help us buy our tickets to set us on the way to Mao land. The bus however didn't go all the way there, it stopped midway at another town and now we were lost, but not for long. Our confusion was somehow heard by another university student who came up and said "Please follow me" and without any questions we did. We got onto another bus, and then another bus and then another, until we finally reached the house where Chairman Mao was born, and it was nice. A typical farmer's house with a pig pen next to one of the bedrooms and a wide lake in front. There is also a museum two minutes from the residence, which has a huge statue of Mao smoking a cigarette, some animal sculptures and a man-made cave maze to add a little excitement to Shaoshan. There are obviously many souvenir stands offering Mao statues of various sizes and poses, Mao hats, Mao badges, Mao mirrors, Mao fans and other little trinkets, a fun place to try out your bargaining skills! After a good look around the village and the journey back we were pretty tired and hungry and all we could think about was finding that cheesy hut!
The following day was our last day in Changsha, so we got up early and paid a visit to the Martyr's park about 10mins from our hostel. It's a pretty grand park accommodating quite a bit. It has a small zoo, a couple of rides and a play area for kids, a camping site, and a pretty huge lake to boat around in. Since it was morning in China, people were out in their hundreds exercising, dancing and training their vocal chords. I even tried to hang off a tree branch like the locals but it was quite painful. Next door to the park, lies the Hunan Provincial Museum, which displays findings from an archaeological dig in the province. They found a huge tomb which had about three layers and deep inside the tomb lay a well preserved body, the highlight of the museum. Even though the museum was free admittance, the ticket office asks for identification, which we weren't carrying with us at the time. Luckily due to the language barrier we were able to talk our way into the museum!
Unfortunately we had to vacate our hostel at midday even though our train was not until 9pm that night, so instead of paying another fiver at the hostel we decided to lug our suitcases and our backpacks with us for the next 9hours as we lay on the street benches and fed ourselves lunch and dinner. We also had an interesting afternoon tea as an elderly gentleman was fascinated by us and kept offering us more and more fruit for a good hour or so. We thought the novelty of being a foreigner would wear off in a big city, but i guess it didn't!
So here we are in Hong Kong, exploring and loving our new surroundings, but I shall leave the details out for the next update!
Lots of love,
Sukriti and Prabhjyot xxxxxx