The Tower in the Detroit of China

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This blog entry about the events of Saturday, September 04, 2004 was originally posted on September 09, 2004.

DAY 322:  Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province, is another big “generic” modern Chinese metropolis, an inevitable stopping point for anyone traveling through the region; it is not only a place of industry but a major transportation hub.  Although it has historical significance of being one of the meeting points of Sun Yatsen’s anti-Imperialist society of the early 20th century, generally speaking, it is not a particularly attractive city to tour around; Blogreader F. Levente once called it the “Detroit of China,” and I’m sure he meant that in a negative way with no intended offense to you readers out there from Detroit.  (Then again, I don’t know, maybe he hates your Detroitian guts and wishes both cities a plague of rabid beavers.)  In any case, I found myself in this “Detroit of China” with others from the Yangzi River cruise when our bus arrived at a confusing bus station around eight in the morning.

Before arriving to Wuhan, everyone had a different plan of attack:  Wayne would take a pre-booked train to Xi’an, Mandy and Sean would try to get to Shanghai, Nicole and Sabine would find a place to stay for the night, and I would try and get a train to Guilin.  Executing the plan was the hard part because Wuhan wasn’t exactly a foreign tourist-friendly place; no one spoke English and everything was written in Chinese with no Pinyin backup — we couldn’t even figure out the name of the bus station we were in so that we could locate it on a map. 

Fortunately for us, Nicole and Sabine had been approached by the one woman in the entire area that knew some English when they decided that Wuhan wasn’t nice enough to spend even a night and would take a bus to Guilin instead, en route to Nanning.  The woman, whose Western name was Shaninan was a godsend; she got Wayne on a bus to Xi’an after he found out his pre-booked train ticket had been botched.  She directed the Aussies to a bus that would take them to the train station with departures to Shanghai.  I was still undecided on what to do — take a train soft sleeper to Guilin or join the Swiss to go to Guilin via bus.  In the end, I figured it was just easier (and cheaper) to take the bus, since I’d probably be confused all to hell if I tried to get a train ticket without Shaninan’s help. 

My time with my Yangzi ship cabinmates Nicole and Sabine was extended another day since we were all booked on the same bus to depart that evening.  We had the whole day to explore the “Detroit of China,” which wasn’t exactly on the top of our lists when arriving in China, but Shaninan suggested it might not be all that bad; she directed us to the No. 10 bus that would take us to one of the few nice-looking cultural places in town, the Yellow Crane Tower.


YELLOW CRANE TOWER, “the greatest of the Yangzi’s many riverside pavilions” (according to Rough Guide), was just that.  Its center point was the actual Yellow Crane Tower building itself (picture above), built in the Qing dynasty-style to replace the destroyed original that burned down in 1884.  Although surrounded by the smog of air pollution generated by industry, the pretty tower atop She Shan (Snake Hill) flanked a pretty scenic park below with little pavilions, gardens, shops and swan ponds — all of which paid homage to the legend of a Taoist Immortal who would summon a giant yellow crane to fly over and bring good fortune to the villagers (and perhaps to keep away any rabid beavers wished upon them since I didn’t see any).

Nicole, Sabine and I wandered the tower and its surrounding grounds, from the big bell repurposed for Chinese tourists to ring (for a fee) to the “Street in Ancient Style,” also repurposed for the sake of tourism — and why not if the whole pavilion was the only thing really tour-worthy in a city like Wuhan?  The three of us made the best of the rainy day afterwards — despite the begging children grabbing our shirts and not letting go until other guys would yell at them to leave us alone — and grabbed lunch at a non-foreigner-friendly restaurant after being “saved” by another godsend:  a lone Chinese guy at a nearby table who helped us order. 


THE CITY OF WUHAN CONFUSED US AGAIN when we tried to find an internet cafe back near the bus station.  We went on foot but I got us lost, not knowing that the bus station on my map wasn’t the same one in my book.  In the end we just took a cab and found out that we were way off, but we had the time to spare though, so it didn’t really matter.  We even had time to sit in a coffeehouse and chill out before the upcoming overnight bus journey ahead.

We stocked up on supplies for the night trip — I bought the mini-river crabs-in-a-bag snack which were actually quite spicy — and then boarded the bus, thinking it’d be another uncomfortable night like the one before.  However, the bus was a “sleeper bus,” a big double decker bus where every “seat” was actually a bed with a fluffy comforters and video monitors at every vantage point.  Playing was a VCD of the music videos of Chinese dance/pop Sony recording artist Coco Lee, who sang catchy upbeat tracks that filled the bus with music.

“This is the party bus!” I said, excited that we wouldn’t have to sleep in chairs that may or may not recline. 

“Yeah!” Sabine said.  The two of them were pretty excited as well and couldn’t stop smiling either. 

And so, with my packs of peanut butter and chocolate-filled Oreos and my little crab snacks (not a recommended combination), we rode southbound to Guilin in our little bus beds to the groovy tunes of Coco Lee (4.2 MB MP3 file).  Our day in the “Detroit of China” had ended, thankfully before the sight of any of those rabid beavers.






Next entry: Mistaken Identities

Previous entry: Gorgeous Gorges




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Comments for “The Tower in the Detroit of China”

  • PLAYSTATION USERS that aren’t ashamed to admit they’ve played “Parappa The Rapper”:  Listen to this other Coco Lee MP3:

    http://www.eeyartee.com/theglobaltrip/socrazy.mp3

    Is it me, or is the MC in the bridge none other than Parappa himself?  (Coco and Parappa are both on the Sony label.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  10:27 AM


  • LOVEPENNY:  9/10/2004… Can you believe it?  It was three years ago we were in the World Trade Center, just nine hours before the first plane hit…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  10:29 AM


  • most gweilous call Wuhan the “Detroit of China” cause it’s the country’s center for car manufacturing (for the local market)Wuhan is equal distance from all major regions, so it’s easy to transport the cars…
    did you see the small, really crappy looking fake Mercedes Benz-es? they are also made there so are the bootleg Volvos,
    BTW Wuhan makes Detroit look like a French resort town on the Riviera

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  01:23 PM


  • As far as Detroit goes, ask Rose her thoughts!  She looks at the Detroit skyline everyday from across the river!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  04:40 PM


  • Markyt: what were you doing in the towers that late at night?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  04:52 PM


  • Hmm, Erik’s got Crabs ....

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  05:23 PM


  • Eww…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  06:21 PM


  • Guess What!  Detroit actually looks much better than this place!  At least Detroit has beautiful river running beside it with pristine blue water….I would take Detroit anyday over this place.  I can see why you did not stay long Erik.  Love the sleeper buses…never seen anything like that before!  Too cool!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  06:35 PM


  • TDOT - wasn’t at the towers 3 years ago…i was still in philly….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  06:42 PM


  • I like it when you include little songs in your entries.  It gives us the “feel” of the party bus!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  07:15 PM


  • Sorry… I mean to ask Eirk why he was in the tower at midnight.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  07:47 PM


  • Erik and I were working late on some hush hush project.

    Erik: btw, that ‘project’ we learned a few months back that actv/open tv beat disney. lol @ the irony of it all!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  08:34 PM


  • Just got my postcard from Siberia! It’s actually quite beautiful. Thanks!!! I’m adding it to my collection on the front of my office door. I’m about 4 days behind on the BLOG, hopefully I’ll catch up this weekend.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  09:15 PM


  • Erik: Yeah the floods were the worst in Brooklyn. I don’t know about the typhoons though in Japan though.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  10:47 PM


  • ERIK - got LG india/nepal, SE asia, and thailand.

    Thanks SHEA!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  11:48 PM


  • i mean Let’s Go…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/09  at  11:51 PM


  • Are you in HK yet? Try to get over to Macau, it’s really worth the ferry ride!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  04:54 AM


  • someone has a gmail account…

    I’ll try and invite you ERIK…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  07:10 AM


  • TD0T:  Actually, I was on the subway that morning and was walking up the stairs when the second plane hit… didn’t have a clue as to what was going on… I actually found out when MARKYT called me from Philly…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  01:28 PM


  • TD0T:  I was just getting off the subway when the second plane hit… didn’t hear it… MARKYT had to call me from Philly to tell me what had happened…

    Get this, after both towers came down, LOVEPENNY and I were still asked to continue working!  (We left anyway.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  01:30 PM


  • EL ZEE:  I’m at your sister’s and brother-in-law’s apartment in HK now…  Pictures to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  01:35 PM


  • So, in the “ancient style,” did they have umbrellas over the street in fun colors?
    Glad you didn’t have to stay too long - that would have been crazy. And, that bus - my long legs would LOVE it!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  11:36 PM


  • Oh - ALL CAUGHT UP!! YEAY!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/10  at  11:37 PM


  • GREETINGS FROM HONG KONG!  So far, HK was definitely the better choice in the HK/Shanghai debate.  My hosts Aviva and Moe are great; they are showing me that HK isn’t all big business and high fashion like I previously thought.

    Yes, I’m still behind on The Blog (five days now!), but I promise to be all caught up this week, hopefully by the Monday morning rush…

    F.LEVENTE:  Might head out to Macau on Thursday…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/11  at  05:00 AM


  • it feels great to be back in the real world, right? doesn’t (mainland) China feels like you were on the Neptune?

    just a thought: if you go to the Giant Buddha on Lantau, you can walk all the way down from there to Tung Cheung, it’s a nice walk in the woods and there are some really cool monasteries en route…

    in Macau: to get a feel sit on bus number 3 (it goes around the city for only 2.5 Patacas) btw that place looks amazing on slide, if you are still taking slides…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/11  at  06:04 AM


  • F.LEVENTE:  Actually, I agree with what most travelers I met in (mainland) China said; China is actually pretty easy (or rather, more easy than expected).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/11  at  07:04 PM


  • erik, got your postcard from lake baikal!  thanks man!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/12  at  05:15 AM


  • easy?
    probably, if you go off the tourist trail, you’ll find some shit
    easier than India, though

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/12  at  05:35 AM


  • rabid beavers? Is this some crack about the hygene of prostitutes?

    Street in Ancient Style? Amazingly advanced for an ancient street.

    Dig that bus tho, looks like a better deal than the last train & boat you were on.

    9/11 memorials were about what you’ld expect again this year. depressing. I’m not sure I ever need to see all that video footage again, so I just left the TV off all day. But there’s a whole NEW set of US Flags on Rt. 80 in Denville to commemorate the occasion.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/13  at  02:44 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Mistaken Identities

Previous entry:
Gorgeous Gorges




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