24 April 2017

Wuhan: Hankou's Calling!

Hankou was calling, trading a weekend on the booze to be cultured. Me and my best one, Fiona decided to meet in the middle one beautiful Sunday afternoon. Checking a revamped boulevard it set us to go off the beaten track during that Sunday discovery. Our time in Wuhan may be over the half way point but we've got this! Oh Hankou, take us to the riverside! Preach!

Hankou's main shopping street, Jianghan Road had been hiding an historic avenue for the best part of my first year and a half in Wuhan. Zhongshan Avenue had been under an intensive restoration and modernisation project, removing the scaffolding and the barriers allowed myself and Fiona to be fronted by a spacious and bright colonised Wuhan boulevard. Meeting at Jianghan Road metro station we had a lovely stroll down the brand new looking Zhongshan Avenue, we were very impressed by the wide walking space and the familiar European style architecture. Our weekends are usually a time for us to get boozy but that Saturday was a sober affair to allow for such a sightseeing Sunday to occur. I'm not sure about Fiona but it was nice to get out of the expected weekend hangovers, generally speaking we had left a certain negative energy behind us. Being as fierce as we are, Hankou had no place to judge us!

At this point I had definitely slacked on my Wuhan sightseeing compared to the first year, before that hiatus I would be out most weekends during the day to explore new and undiscovered places with little planning but with work getting too much sometimes it became easier to have a bottle or two of wine and spend the day in my own space, falling into a trap that became a vicious circle. For both me and Fiona it was a welcomed change to see the shiny new Zhongshan Avenue instead of nursing a hangover, not that having a hangover is a problem because its not! We didn't have a fixed plan for that afternoon, but for certain we agreed it would be OK to admire the Wuhan Art Museum from the outside without feeling guilty, we just aren't museum or gallery types! Moving onto the next phase of our Hankou day out it was time to step back in time further. Thanks Zhongshan Avenue for revealing yourself after all the chaos that would over-spill during your beautification! Work HAN!

I had discovered a side street that I had managed to track down online with the help of some parents from my kindergarten and friends on WeChat, armed with my then brand new iPhone 6s, I was hopeful to guide us from our Zhongshan Avenue location to a quieter side of Hankou's historic core. After weaving in and out of different street corners we even went to great lengths by asking unsuspecting members of the public, they also didn't have a clue. We came to the conclusion that the corner was cordoned off for restoration like much of the oldest parts were to. We hadn't gone far from Zhongshan Avenue to then find ourselves in what felt like another world, steeped in history the tenement like buildings of Hankou's Jianghan District sure impressed us much with the decaying brickwork between the sense of a simpler time. It reminded Fiona of a project she did about the tenements in Glasgow.

Even though we didn't find the street that I wanted it was an eye-opener for sure, the narrow historic paths that presented themselves to us looking amazing. It was mind-blowing to think that people still got on fine in those colonial style red-bricked flats, Hankou was serving big time for a Sunday afternoon. Before we settled on our find it was decided that Tianjin Street would lead us to an afternoon beer, that beverage stop was well needed because either my Baidu Maps App was lying or something mysterious had happened to the whereabouts of that street!? It hadn't been a boozy weekend and it was almost Monday so it was just the one! Wuhan has become normal to me, Hankou more so because each time I visit this part of the city I am reminded about the moment when I arrived, it seems like a world away. Spotting such rustic gems in the rough of Hankou's historic corner confirmed to me I'm where I should be for now. No H, I won't ask this again, take us to the riverside!

Content with our historical find it was down Nanjing Road for some Hui Chinese food, grabbing a can of lager for good measure we headed over to Hankou's Beach Park. Finding a vacant bench we chowed down on our eggs and tomato with rice, standing out from the crowd we attracted a lot of attention from the public. It seemed like a swarm of newlyweds were enjoying the sunnier climbs of the Yangtze Riverside like we were trying to do, we posed for at least six selfies that had to be from the perfect angle for the Chinese couples. We even had an overjoyed family who's daughter sung 'You Are My Sunshine' especially for us, it was a tad bizarre but being foreigners in a developing city like Wuhan it doesn't take a lot to stand out from the crowd. Believe me when I say that we didn't ask for any of that mild hysteria, we just wanted our food and to enjoy the view. Another beer, I know but it was our last! That's not fair!

The growing Wuchang skyline had never looked better, the sun had been so kind to make an appearance. Pollution was low that day for once, breathing air that wasn't as bad as usually with a blue sky to gaze at helped, its been amazing to see the transformation that Wuhan's section of the Yangzte River has gone under since my arrival in July 2015. The river containers chugged past us as we ate our lunch, with Shanghai to the left and Chongqing to the right-hand sides it was an amazing sight. Hankou had came up trumps that sunny seventh day, ditching our usually hungover states for a sober outing was a winner for certain! Whatever crossed our path that day was equally as fantastic as previously envisaged, there are no mistakes so it was all good! Those alley ways and tenement-like flats impressed us much with all of their understated glory. We know a repeat lunch day on the river banks of the Yangtze is called for, but we'll triple the one beer we had that day! Thanks for slaying! Go!

Round Two Soon?

Joseph Harrison 

No comments: