So we made a trip to the nearest major town, that of Changde. Its about an hour and a half to two hours away from us, just depends on traffic. The actual capital of the province we are in is Changsha, which is about four hours away. We’ve been told there is a Papa Johns there that does pizza correctly, so its on our to-do list. But for now, the story of the trip to Changde.
The first bit of fun was finding out where to go for our bus. Seems there are are several buses and figuring out which was ours took the help of more than one group of people. The buses also don’t leave at any scheduled time. Once the bus is full, it goes. So you could end up sitting for a while, waiting for the bus to fill. Or get to the bus only to see it drive off because it just filled up.
The round trip ticket was 52 kuai per person, just under 9 dollars American. The ride itself was bumpy, and hard to sleep because folks love to smoke and talk on their cell phones. The Chinese, however, seem used to this, I’ve seen folks sleep just about anywhere. After an hour and a half, we finally got to the bus station in Changde.
We weren’t aware of just how big the town was. Lixian has 8 bus routes, Changde has at least 42. We knew the bus route by the station would take us to the pedestrian street, what we didn’t count on was the fact that there were multiple bus routes outside the station. We took the wrong bus, ended up going to the wrong direction, and didn’t realize it either till we were heading outside of the town itself. We exited the bus, and found a nice local lady who spoke enough English to explain to us we wanted bus number 3.
After boarded bus number 3, we drew us a crude map of where we’d be going, and let us know which stop to get off on. Finally in the right place we spotted the McDonalds and went to go have some food. Although expensive, it was good, and the milkshake was the first time since coming to China that it really tasted like a milkshake should. Previous milkshakes had been either too watery rather than frozen, or make with ice rather than milk. I ended up causing myself some nasty brain freezes.
After that we headed down the pedestrian street. Its rather big, and we were stopped twice by students who were doing some type of survey for a class project. Sadly, we couldn’t read Chinese and they couldn’t explain it all in English. But they still took pictures of us so they could show their teacher.
Then Amanda found this guy:
And older gentleman was sitting on a bench with this little tiny dog. Vash, who we had taken with us, was not happy that Mom went nuts over this dog, but it was short lived and we moved on. On the street corner I found a vendor selling balloons.
He’d made turkeys out of animal balloons, and also had the apple style balloons as well. So I know they can be found in ChangDe somewhere, I’ve just no idea where to even start looking for them. As we went along you’d find other street performers, such as this guy:
He had this stick in his mouth, and would catch the basketball on the end of the stick, then flick his head to toss the ball back up, and catch it again. It was neat to watch, and like elsewhere, anything the foreigners decide to stop and look at tends to draw a crowd.
Wait? What? No not the pagoda! Stupid pagoda blocking the shot. Its behind the pagoda.
The choir of angels decended from the sky, there was much rejoicing as we had found our goal. Yes, the whole reason I’d been lugging around a carry-on travel bag the entire time was within our sights. We wandered around the square for a bit (finding another KFC and McD’s) before learning that the Walmart wasn’t any of the buildings here, but in fact was underground.
So we took the escalator down underground to get to the Walmart.
So here is the Walmart. Clean, bright, and boy was it huge. Most of the folks who work here are of college age, and as such know some english. Helps when trying to ask things like “Where is the dog food?” Most Supermarts we’ve been too have a to-go meal section, however the Walmart has a pizza section. That is if you like your pizza with corn, green beans, and peas.
There is also a “Make your noodle dish” section. I’ve no idea how the pricing works, people would just line up, take a bowl and start dumping what they wanted into it.
Here is the Christmas section. Its a pallet on the floor, and yes the entire Christmas section is in this one shot. I suppose we could have moved around to get a picture of the other side to try to make it look bigger…
The meat section of Walmart. This would be the biggest difference between Chinese Walmart and American Walmart. In China you can get your meat fresh off the hog. Amanda decided to wait until after they were done cutting to take the picture.
So just before we got to the bus station in LiXian there was a large crowd gathered outside the Better Life Supermart. So we got off the bus there to see what was going on.
There was a family wearing bright red clothes/jumpsuits. The two boys were going around with these bowls and people were dipping their fingers into it and rubbing the liquid onto their skin, joints, and hair. Over on the table in the middle were a pile of snakes.
The woman was the leader of the show and she was selling vials of the liquid. This is when we realized that this family was a group of Snake Oil salesman. The fat from the Chinese Water Snake is used as an old Chinese cure all. When the Chinese came over in the mid-1800s they brought the oil with them. When they tried to make it using American snakes, the snakes didn’t have the same kind of fat, so the oil didn’t work. This is where the term Snake Oil came from. Amanda was so amused to see that Snake Oil Salesmen were still around in these modern days that she bought a vial. Which when opened smells pretty vile, lemme tell you whut.