Some of you may have noticed this week has been awfully quite both here and on FOODragon’s Facebook Page. That’s because I have been away on a class trip to Guizhou in the south of China. This field trip is called 实习 (shí xí) which means ‘actual training’ or ‘practice’ and it’s an essential part of the second semester of the third year in BLCU bachelor program I am doing. I didn’t go there alone, we were about 80 students divided into two groups – those who major in economics and trade, and those who major in language and culture. I belonged of the latter group which (if you ask me) had a much better itinerary, focusing more people and scenery and less on business and factories. In the next series of posts I will do my best to share this fun experience with you. Naturally I will focus on food, but I hope the series will also capture the whole atmosphere.
Guizhou is 26 hours train ride a way from Beijing. Quite a few people from our class were actually so discouraged by that fact they chose not go on this trip. The brave of us convened at the school at 13:30 Sunday afternoon and from there a bus took us to Beijing West Train Station. When we arrived at the station eight of us (me among them) had a very pleasant surprise. Since there were not enough hard sleeper seats available we got to spend the ride in a soft sleeper seat, seen here with all the long train ride necessities:
As comfortable as soft sleeper seats are, we all spent a lot of time at the hard sleepers section where the atmosphere was much more lively:
As a matter of fact, this train ride was my first real opportunity to get to know some of the people I see everyday at the hallway but never actually get a chance to engage in conversation.
Our destination was the city of Kaili, which is the heart Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture. Miao and Dong are the two main ethnic minority groups of the region and Kaili is the largest city and the cultural center of the area. We arrived there just before sunset.
After we settled in the hotel we were taken for dinner in one of the restaurants located in Kaili’s pedestrian street. We were all so hungry I didn’t even have enough time to take proper pictures of all the dishes we had or write down their Chinese name before we had to leave. I can tell you we had Fried Rice with Egg (dàn chǎo fàn), spicy Cucumber Salad (pài huáng guā), Tofu Stir-fried with Meat and Vegetables (jiā cháng dòu fu) and other veggie stir-fries.
I did pay close attention to one dish in particular – Fish in Sour Soup (suān tāng yú) which is considered to be a Guizhou specialty. This dish has many varieties but the classic one is of carp in a spicy-sour soup which contains tomatoes and peppers. As you can see it has an intense reddish hue.
After dinner we were given some free time. While most people chose to go straight back to the hotel to take a shower and freshen up, me and Shieiri, a Japanese classmate of mine decided to explore the city a little. We were tired and dirty but we knew taking a shower meant not leaving the hotel for the rest of the night, and since we had only one night in Kaili, we wanted to make the best of it.
We went down on West Beijing Road and we found ourselves in the local night market (商场街夜市 – shāngchǎng jiē yè shì). Like most night markets in China, this market was actually a food market. And like any other markets in China this one also had a lot of the same. In this case it was stand after stand displaying mostly raw pig intestines ready to be cooked in a spicy broth and served with cold beer.
Since we just had dinner we decided to skip the main course and go straight to the dessert. We went back to the entrance of the market where there was a stand selling 糯米粑 (nuò mǐ bā) – little doughy balls made from glutinous rice. We decided to try the 冰甜酒 (bīng tián jiǔ) version in which the nuò mǐ bā balls are served in a bowl of chilled sweet wine.
I didn’t like it so much, mainly because how the wine taste and the soft texture of the rice grains floating in it. Shieiri (which you might recognize from this post) however could not get enough of it and said they had a very similar snack in Japan.
After almost forgetting to pay the 5 yuan, we left and went back to the hotel to get a good night rest. We needed it for the first actual day of our shíxí experience – a trip to a Miao Village and a visit to the Kaili Folk Museum of Qiandongnan Autonomous Prefecture. All that in more in Part 2.
Here’s the map of the area in Kaili we had our short evening walk. All the places I mentioned were a few minutes walk from our hotel. We stayed at the Tian Lai Zhi Du hotel.
View Guizhou Trip 2013 in a larger map