Published: October 4th 2006September 1st 2006
Just a short trip from Sapa to the Chinese border town of Hekou we experienced a less than warm welcome from the People's Republic of China... The not so friendly customs guy must have checked every page of my passport at least two times before asking a series of questions about places I had been and why I wanted to come into China...
Eventually we passed through only to meet another grumpy official who wanted to check our bags. He found our 'Rough Guide to China' book and opened the first page took one look at the map and said "The People's Republic of China does not allow this material because the book does not recognise Taiwan as part of the People's Republic'' Despite our best efforts the official would not let us keep the book and he informed us he had no choice but to confiscate it and put it in a locked room which was full of such material.
We had 8 hours to kill before our bus to Kumning and decided to have a wander around the town. With the exception of the custom guys nobody spoke a word of english. Feeling fortunate as we finally found a restaurant which had a menu with pictures of the various dishes available. Trying to look for something familiar we ordered what looked like a beef and a chicken stir fry with some rice. Twenty minutes later we were completely shocked when we were presented with a bowl of chicken's feet (yes just the feet) and a bowl of oil containing chunks of animal fat and mushrooms!!
We both sat looking at the food in disbelief. All around us people were eating; we watched as they chewed on their chicken feet and spat the knuckles out onto the floor. Naive I know but I love a good Chinese back home and was expecting/hoping for something similar. Not giving up on the prospect of a good meal yet, dodging the spit on the floor I made my way to the huge fully stocked fridge. Hoping to see something normal my eyes were drawn to a huge chicken. After a closer look, it became obvious that it was too big to be a chicken. Curious now to what it was we both studied it and found the truth. It was a giant upside down rat. I did not think it possible to get rats this big. (later we learnt it was a bamboo rat - the largest of the rat family and considered an expensive delicacy!)
After the unsuccessful hunt for normal food we decided to kill some time in an internet cafe where I found the media firewall protecting China blocked controversial sites such as www.bbb.co.uk www.skysports.com and www.hotmail.com! Welcome to communist China!