Wuhan #3: and Yellow Crane Tower

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November 27th 2018
Published: December 18th 2018
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Another day, another breakfast. My friend had wanted to take me for a soupy noodle dish that is popular here, but I nixed the idea as I am not a fan of soup noodles and had just eaten it the day before. Instead we returned to the hot dry noodles place and had another very filling and tasty bowl of those. We also got some shuijianbao, which are another type of dumpling and are a style that I really like. They are similar to xiaolongbao in that they have soup inside as well as meat, but the wrapper is thicker and breadier, more like a baozi. The way they are cooked is a combination of steaming and frying, which makes the tops fluffy and the bottoms crispy. Total yum! I think I have been spoilt with good shuijianbao as these ones were good but didn't live up to my lofty expectations.

Our first stop of the day was Guiyuan Temple, which was a short metro ride away. The temple has been on this site since the 17th century. the temple's name originates from a sutra and means to surpass the circumscription of existence to return to purity and tranquility. The entrance fee to the temple is only 10 RMB, which is pretty cheap for China. As we headed into the entrance, there was a small group of monks chanting and praying with some of their followers, so we watched them for a bit, which was nice. There were quite a few other people visiting the temple and I was a bit surprised at how popular it was. We entered into the main temple area and saw a small pond. In the pond, there were two lotus leaves and we had a little snigger after what learnt at the sex museum, so immature! We wandered around the different halls of the temple. This part of the temple is pretty compact and I thought that this was all there was, I was later to be proven wrong. The Skanda Hall, which was built in 1644 AD, houses the Sangharama Bodhisativa in the image of Guan Yun-chang. He has been a hero of the Chinese people for thousands of years as he played an important role in the establishment of Lui Bei's state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. We also took a look around the Great Buddha's Hall before making our way to the hall that housed all the Lohans. When I was reading the instructions of what to do, I didn't really get it, as I didn't know what a 'Lohan' was. I figured it out once we got inside though. A Lohan is basically a little Buddha type statue or to give them the correct meaning a deity or Buddhist who has attained nirvana. There is a kind of good luck thing that citizens of Wuhan have been doing for over 100 year, where you can pick one of three ways to find 'your Lohan', who will guide you for the coming year. It sounded like fun, but I wasn't in the mood to do it, so we just wandered around the hall looking at all the different Lohans on display. I thought that this was the end of all there was to see in the temple, but I was wrong. We made our way outside and the temple complex opened up out the back where there was a large Buddha statue. The double-headed Avalokitesvara is 18.8 metres high and weighs 20 tonnes. Avalokitesvara is meant to look dignified while compassionate, with one hand formed into an upward mudra, signifying the infinite powers of the Buddhist dharma, while the other is holding a sacred vase, which is pointed down to sprinkle divine nectar onto the world. After taking a walk around Avalokitesvara, we headed to a rather large new building. We had a good snigger at its name, the Universal Penetration Hall, our minds were still on the sex museum. This part of the temple was completed in 2013, so it is really still quite new. We could only wander around the ground floor level, but it would have been nice to climb to the higher levels as I would have liked to have taken in the view. When we came out of the back of the building we came across a Buddhist statue, that was a fertility charm, there were quite a few offerings at its feet and women touch it to increase their fertility. We wandered around a few of the other smaller halls before making our way out.

For lunch, my friend wanted to take me to a place nearby that served another type of Chinese food I had never had. I don't know if this dish is local to Wuhan or available everywhere as I had never heard of it. The meal is called 'fry fry' and is basically just a load of fried stuff. In my mind, I was thinking that it would be similar to kushi-katsu, the deep fried breaded sticks of meat and vegetables that I'd tried in Osaka. They had been okay, but a bit too samey for me, so I wasn't really looking forward to this meal. The restaurant that we were going to had moved, so we spent ages wandering around the neighbourhood trying to find its new location, which wasn't too far from its original spot. The restaurant was pretty small with many tables crammed inside, most of which were full, which is a good sign. We headed to the large refrigerator to choose what we wanted to go into our fry fry. This reminded me of some of the hotpot places I have been to. When our basket was loaded up, we headed to the till and the woman rang or order through, we paid and were given a dish of sauce each and a token to hand in when it was ready. Our food was soon ready and went it came it looked deliciously unhealthy. Fry fry basically means everything is deep fried. It was different to the kushi-katsu as it didn't have any batter on it. My friend had raved about the dipping sauce, but I wasn't a big fan. It reminded me of a generic curry sauce but with more cumin and chili. I think I would have preferred a hotpot style dipping sauce as that stuff is like crack to me. However, I did love the fry fry, it is just good junk food.

We headed to the bus stop nearby and took the bus across the Yangtze River to reach our next destination, Yellow Crane Tower. We paid the entrance fee, which wasn't too bad (I think it was about 50-80 RMB) and made our way up the steps. Wuhan seems to be fond of steps. I have trodden up many so far. The tower is not the original structure. Over the years, it had been destroyed and rebuilt many times and this replica was built in the 1980s. The original structure was built in during the Three Kingdom period in around 223, and was located on a different site, about a kilometre away. It had been a watchtower for the military due to its location. Now it is located on Snake Hill, I don't know how the hill got is name, but I'm glad I didn't see any snakes. There was a really nice pond in front of the tower that had some statues of cranes in it. While we were taking some photos, the pond started to become filled with fog/mist, I forget the technical name for this. It made the pond look even prettier and a little bit mystical. The statute in the pond is called 'The Yellow Crane Returns' and is based on a legend, that in ancient times the Jade Emperor in Heaven was moved by the Great Yu's fight against the great flood, that he sent two generals, the turtle and the snake to assist him. The turtle and the snake became two hills standing on both sides of the Yangtze River in order to control the flooding. When the flooding subsided the city's residents began to lead a prosperous life. The two cranes then came down from heaven to celebrate with the people. Such a cute story.

We headed into the Yellow Crane Tower, where we had to scan our entrance tickets to gain entrance. There was a gorgeous tiled picture inside, on the ground floor, which showed the tower and a deity or god, flying above on a crane's back. We climbed the stairs for each of the five levels of the tower. Each level had an indoor and outdoor section. Inside, there were different exhibits such as paintings of the tower and the surrounding area, calligraphy, and furniture. The balconies also provided us with great opportunities to take in the views of the surrounding area. On one side we could see the Yangtze River and the skyscrapers shrouded in the fog on the other side of it. The other view was of the park surrounding the Yellow Crane Tower. the views were nice, but I would have loved to have seen them smog free, especially the one across the Yangtze River. After exiting the tower, we made our way around the back of the tower and to see the Ancient Bronze Top and the bell that people ring for good luck. We then headed into the other smaller building that we had seen. It had an exhibition inside that was about how the tower was reconstructed and also some beautiful artworks of the Yellow Crane Tower. There was also a phone recharging station, so we made use of that and rested our legs for a bit. I headed over to the statue of Yue Fei, who looked very fierce. He was a famous national hero during the Song Dynasty. He had mainly been based in present day Ezhou and from there launched four successful campaigns against the Jin Dynasty. As we made our way out of the park, we came across a couple more places. The Yellow Crane Tower scenic area is quite deceptive as it looks quite small, but we kept finding things to see. We came across a small waterfall, which I think was probably manmade. Also, right at the exit, there was a pretty pond, which is called Goose Pond. Legend has it that Wang Xizhi, the saint of calligraphy, used to heard geese under Yellow Crane Tower. While he was walking there with another scholar, he told of how the goose is a hero among birds. The pond and stele were built to commemorate this tale. I was surprised to find that the pond was only built in 1986, I felt it seemed much older. China, you fooled me again!

We headed to the Snack Street/Breakfast Street for a look around and to try some more food. I got a bit annoyed with my mate, as he kept saying how crappy and expensive everything was, it pissed me off a bit and I did ask why we bothered to come if we weren't going to eat anything. He did try to find a doughnut thing that he wanted me to try, but nowhere sold it. I did have some deep fried rice cakes balls, that were sweet and delicious. I also got to try Hutangfen (糊汤粉), which translates to paste powder soup. Not the most appealing name, but it tasted pretty good. It was a noodle soup but the broth was thicker and quite gloopy. It is made with fish or fish stock (I can't remember which), and was pretty peppery. Our next stop was for more food, we headed to some kind of old street, but it was pretty quiet and not many of the businesses appeared to be open. We came to a stall that my friend had raved about. He was gutted that the owner wasn't there, but the woman running it seemed really nice. I have no idea of the name of what we got, so a description will have to do. The woman just had a big pot filled with various things on sticks that you could choose to eat. In the bottom of the pot was a mixture, which I think my friend said was medicinal herbs. Anyway, we got an assortment of eggs, meat, and vegetables. All of it was very yummy and afterwards we drank the leftover broth.

We weren't super hungry, so we headed to a cafe on the third floor of an older looking shopping centre. We mainly just wanted to chill, but decided we should get some food, too. The menu was a mix of Asian and Western cuisine. When I saw that they served smoked salmon and avocado sandwiches, I knew what I was having. The service in the place was pretty terrible. We waited ages for our food and I had practically finished my meal by the time my friend's arrived. My dish was good and I enjoyed it. My friend was pretty unimpressed with his Japanese style curry though. After dinner, we headed down to the square opposite the cafe to see the performances that we had seen the crowds at. Nothing really caught our eye, so we decided to head down to the Yangtze River and take a walk along that. The riverbank has been developed into a park, which looked pretty nice, but I think that you really need to be there in the daytime to appreciate it more. I was surprised that you could go right down to the water and even step in it. There were no barriers, but I don't think it was deep here. After our stroll through only a small section of the park (we walked pretty far but the park is massive), and I headed back to my hostel. Wuhan surprised me as there was a lot more to the city than I expected. The old architecture is really beautiful and there are lots of things to see and do. The only downside of the place was the ever present smog. Also having a local to how me around definitely meant that I got try some good dishes and restaurants that I would never have found on my own.

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