I can’t remember exactly where in China I was at the time, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. My seven weeks travelling through the country had become a bit of a blur anyway. I was on a train, my ass parked on an unforgiving bench with a cup of salty noodles for lunch (again) and a bottle of 2.5% beer to wash it down.
Travelling along the Trans-Mongolian railway was never a dream of mine. But then I stopped and thought about the enormity of it all for a minute.
It’s a funny thing, but there’s really no such thing as Chinese cuisine. Oh there’s Cantonese, Sichuan, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan and Anhui cuisine, but you can’t point to one plate of food and say, ‘Yep, that’s Chinese that is.’
A few years ago I was invited to a friend’s Chinese New Year dinner. I showed up nice and early, hair brushed, stretchy pants on, ready to consume my body weight in spring rolls and Peking duck. When I opened the door, my friend and her parents looked at me in horror.
What is it that’s so irresistible about a dumpling? Putting aside the fact they’ve got the cutest name of all the food groups, dumplings seem to be inherently delicious on a molecular level.
Shakespeare once said, ‘The sauce to meat is ceremony; meeting were bare without it.’ Basically this translates to, ‘Festivals, they’re pretty cool, eh?’ And those Elizabethans really knew how to party, so I’m inclined to agree with his opinion. Ceremonies and festivals are the cultural glue that binds us as people.
What is it about Asia that throws up strange and unusual places to rest your head? It’s as if there’s some inaudible signal being broadcast causing architects and hoteliers to try and one-up each other in a race towards the weird and wonderful. Hey, I know, let’s make them sleep in a giant elephant! No, why not in tiny cubicles stacked like sardine tins! It’s like Lewis Carol and Gaudi decided to get together and start a small interior design business.
If I was to give you one tip about travelling in Central Asia, it would be expect the unexpected.
Everything about the region is surprising; the extraordinary landscapes, fascinating history, intriguing culture and the warm welcome you’ll receive from friendly locals.
North and Central Asia is weird, wonderful and quirky on steroids, as I think you can see in my photo album of things you can wear on your head…