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Published: March 23rd 2011
This weekend (well, our weekend so Monday/Tuesday) we went to Yiwu. Rach and Tarik had been before, but I was studying for my GMAT so missed out. Tarik has been dreaming about the kebabs ever since so we decided to go back to put him out of his misery!
Yiwu is about two hours away and is very famous for markets and trading. It's one of the richest cities in China but the powers that be don't really invest in infrastructure, just take the money and run! It's also interesting because it's got a strong Muslim presence and lots and lots of foreigners (particularly black and asian people), coming to trade. We went to a Muslim restaurant to eat and had the fabled kebabs. I'm not a massive fan, but thought they were okay, if a bit dry. Naan bread was lovely though. I found it odd that the kitchen was outside, but perhaps it's something to do with the fact that everything was barbecued. It was raining anyway, so I felt sorry for the chefs!
I loved the drive through to Yiwu. We took a car rather than bus and it was wonderful. A smooth journey and the scenery was outstanding. High mountains on either side covered with the darkest green trees, with occasional flickers of Japanese blossom peeoping through. I wish I'd asked the driver to stop so I could take photos, and if we go back I definitely will. The journey back wasn't so good. I'd eaten too much pizza, and the bus driver was awful. It felt like a 2 hour rollercoaster and the seat in front was so close I got really claustrophobic. I get travel sick at the best of times, but this was terrible and I ended up having to use a couple of the wee plastic bags that luckily were provided.
Anyway, back to Yiwu. As it was raining we headed to the cinema, but the only English film was an aliens one which Rach didn't fancy and Tarik and I weren't fussed about, so instead we ended up sitting in Starbucks for a few hours, just chatting and people watching. It was a really lovely afternoon actually, really nice to spend time together like that.
The girls in starbucks had recommended a bar (MBox) for the evening, but it turned out there were two bars with similar names. We started off at the wrong one. It was fine, but there was supposed to be a pool table and live band, and in the end all we got was a DJ with some random singers, but it was a good place to start. Not too smoky and nice and busy (but we still got a seat 😊) The was a deal on alcohol but in common with a lot of these places it was really expensive to get mixers. A can of coke was more than ten times the price in a shop. So, needless to say, our drinks were a bit stronger than we'd normally like and because I don't like vodka and orange, the others kindly left most of the vodka and coke for me...seemed like a good idea until we went to leave and I suddenly felt a little worse for wear. We went back to the kebab place for a late dinner. Because we were drinking they led us across the road to a little room up some stairs - being a Muslim restaurant they don't want you drinking inside (but they're happy to take your money and allow you to get sloshed out of sight!) By this time I was really sleepy so just went back to the hotel while the others went on to the real MBox (which did have a pool table, live band and replica world cup trophy!)
The real excitement was the next morning. Normally in China you have to show your passport to check into hotels, but they didn't ask for ours. It was a good job really, because we are getting our visas renewed so don't have them. In fact, we thought we'd try our luck at the hotel but envisioned having to head home if we couldn't get in. However, they didn't ask, we checked in, seemed fine. The next morning there was a mad knocking at the door and when I opened it one of the staff was gesturing to come out. I assumed she meant we had to check out, although it was before 10am which struck me as being early. As soon as I closed the door to go and get changed the knocking started again. It was a bit comedic, but being tired and a tad hungover I didn't fully appreciate that at the time. Anyway, Tarik then came running through, saying that the police were there and we had to hide!! So we all got shuffled along the corridor to one of the staff bedrooms (absolutely filthy by the way) and stayed their for 20 minutes while the police did their rounds. Actually, Tarik had a passport so he had no problem, and we wouldn't really have been in too much trouble, becuase we do have them, it's just the visa thing. And as we weren't asked we assumed it was ok. The hotel, however, would have been in massive trouble because it turns out their foreigner licence has been temporarily suspended because they are having building work done. So they shouldn't have let us check in at all, passports or not. After all that, we didn't even get a discount! Tut tut.
After the excitement we were all famished so went to Papa Johns where I ate my body weight in pizza. Gorgeous. Photos will be on facebook soon.
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