Asia blog 37

25 August, China – ‘All Over The Place – Asia’

Leapt out of bed at 4.20am full of vim and vigour (I’m being sarcastic) and piled onto the bus for our 45 min journey to the city of Shiyan to film early risers practising their morning exercises in the People’s Park.

There is apparently a saying in China that you should rise at sunrise and sleep at sunset, and the older generation of Chinese people take this literally. Throughout parks and public spaces up and down the land hordes of people (virtually all 60+) gather in groups to practice tai chi, perform fan dances, line dance, spin yo-yos and all other manner of aerobic exercise. I stood gazing at them all in awe, wishing I had the strength of character to get out of bed that early every morning and start the day in such a life affirming way, and knowing that I’m far too lazy to ever attempt it.

We zipped round, standing on the fringes of various groups occupying the “park” (the section we had chosen was more like a large concrete city square) and joining in with their activities, although we gave the sword wielding pensioners a miss due to CBBC guidelines (imagine a large group of pensioners wielding samurai swords in Trafalgar Square and think how quickly they’d be bundled into police vans!).

It was all over by 7am because these people have stuff to do, apart from a slightly crazed guy painting calligraphy on the floor in water, so we joined him for the remainder of our item and then, like the corrupted Westerners we are, retired to McDonalds to cool off.

Once Naomi and I had made ourselves look presentable again we all made our way to a local restaurant to shoot an item on the differences between Chinese and British cuisine. Basically – they eat anything. Our waiter presented us with various raw brains, intestines, stomach linings and feet, and Naomi and her waiter cooked them at the table in boiling oil (a traditional Shiyan “hot pot”), while I dressed up as French food critic Rene Mange Tout and shouted at them. Whilst filming in Japan and China I’ve realised that an awful lot of the humour on our show involves shouting at various volumes, and it seems to unnerve both nationalities. They just don’t shout in public or in private, but are polite enough to let us carry on whilst telling our fixer afterwards how unnerving the whole experience was…

In between pulling lots of faces and struggling to eat any of what was put in front of us (in the end I did eat some pig brain. It was quite nice, bit like warm pate!) we made a point of mentioning a couple of times how we are in fact a nation of fussy eaters and the Chinese have the right idea. It’s incredibly wasteful to throw away perfectly edible and nutritious parts of an animal once it’s been killed. But then again, I guess that’s what sausages are for!

Tonight is the last night in our huge and virtually deserted hotel on the outskirts of Wudang Chan. If you want an idea of how big the lobby is, it’s over three storeys tall and tonight there were 2 bats flying around inside it! Our fixer Jasmine said that a couple of years ago it would have been more busy, but the government had a big crackdown on corruption and now the economy is suffering because dodgy geezers aren’t flashing the cash anymore!

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