Shaoshan #1: Home Style Cooking and an Evening Wander

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June 10th 2019
Published: December 5th 2019
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A long train ride from Beijing deposited us in Shaoshan in the late afternoon. We walked out of the train station and straight into the rain. We called a taxi to take us to our guesthouse. However, there was a problem as he didn't have the right number plate to enter the village (only residents can enter for free, I guess), so he dropped us close by and the guesthouse owner came and picked us up for the final leg. The small village we were staying in was cute and quiet, such a contrast to Beijing. We were the first ever foreigners to stay at the guesthouse and they'd roped in their eldest daughter to translate. She was so sweet and had excellent English. We were staying at the Mao Jiaxuan Chong Hotel (毛家韶山冲饭店), which was at the end of a small strip of restaurants/guesthouses. The rooms were really nice and I loved the view I had out over the allotments in front of the guesthouse. After taking some time to get sorted, we headed out.

We had a quick walk around the village, before heading to a restaurant for dinner. I was ravenous as I hadn't eaten since breakfast. The high speed rail may be fast, but it has, judging by my past experiences, crappy and expensive food options. Shaoshan is Chairman Mao's hometown and his old house is quite close to the village, we were staying in. We walked through a small park, which had small plaques with his face on, I don't know what the writing said. There were also photos outside of various stores and restaurants to show which party officials and leaders had been there. Since Mao was born/had spent his early life here, it is a kind pilgrimage/tourist site, so not only Chinese people have been there, but also lots of high ranking officials. As we wandered through the village, we came to lots of murals about fire safety. These were not only informative, but cute, too. There was one of an old woman, whose face we had seen a couple of times before in photos as we'd walked around the village. We had decided to eat at one of the village's most famous restaurants, Mao Jia (毛家). It is run by a woman, Tang Ruiren, who used to live opposite Chairman Mao. When Chairman Mao returned to his hometown in 1959, she cooked for him. I think this was the start of her business empire. She began cooking meals for tourists and now has a restaurant chain and food production company. The restaurant was really quiet when we entered and we were shown to a table in the dining room. Tang Ruiren came over to introduce herself. It was awesome to meet her. We ordered quite the feast. Of course, we had to try the Hong Shao Rou and we ordered a few other dishes too. We had army chicken, a potato dish, a soup, and I think another vegetable dish. All the food was really, really good. I really liked the Hong Shao Rou. It is one of my favourite dishes normally, but I don't eat it too often as it is quite fatty. This one seemed to be different to others I have had. Maybe it is a regional variation or just Madame Tang's own take on the dish, but it was really good and not too fatty. The army chicken was really tasty, too. The owner kept checking on us while we were eating and gave an extra egg soup dish and some apples, which we were able to take away for later. As we were leaving, we posed for some photos with her. She is so old, but still in her restaurant most days, chatting with the customers. She was such a nice person. In the reception area of the restaurant, there were some pictures of her at different stges in her life. There is the picture on her business card that shows her as a young woman in her 20s welcoming Chairman Mao. It was nice to see her life documented and I really liked the picture of her with some cattle. Her life must have changed so much.

After dinner, we headed over to the Mao Zedong Bronze Statue Square. I don't know if it was because of the rain or if this place is normally so quiet, but we were the only people there. The sky had started to grow dark and the statue was illuminated. I wondered if they left the lights on all night or if they turned them off at a certain time. I felt like it would be disrespectful to turn them off, so maybe they stay until the sun rises. The statue and the square reminded me a bit of North Korea, only a lot more relaxing, no enforced bowing. As we got closer to the statue, another few people came along and some of them did bow at the statue.

It was still early, so we decided to take a taxi into thd main city for a bit of a look around. We headed to the Comrade Mao Zedong Youth Statue Park (毛泽东同志青年塑像公园). The statue was perched on a hill in the park. We had a quick look around, but since it was dark, there wasn't much to see. We took the steps down the other side of the hill and followed the street along until we came to Shaoshan Train Station, this is the old station and not the new one that we had arrived into. The station definitely had a retro feel to it and the portrait of Chairman Mao that hung on the front of the station added to that feeling. The station looked closed and we wondered if it had shut down. A quick search of the internet told us that the station was still in use, but only for a few local routes.

We continued walking the streets of Shaoshan, there were a few people about, but it was pretty quiet. We wandered through another park like area, before coming to another, very Communist looking park. The entrance was really cool looking, unfortunately my photos didn't turn out too great. After heading through the gate, we could see a tower at the top of the hill. There were quite a few steps involved in reaching the top and I was determined to make it to the top. I definitely regretted eating so much for dinner during my ascent. I was a big sweaty mess by the time I reached the top. At the top of the hill was the Martyrs' Memorial Tower. That was interesting to take a look around, all the carvings on the stone were really good. Also, from the top, there was a great view over Shaoshan. Although it would have probably been better during the day. After making our way back down, it was time to catch a Didi back to our guesthouse. I was ready to chill under the air con for the rest of the evening. Since moving north, I definitely have not missed the high levels of humidity that Southern China experiences.

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