East Lake larks

Nicholas Quirke was excited to be in Wuhan, but disappointed that they could not get tickets to the COVID19 exhibition which was supposed to be a moving tribute to the victims and hero’s of the city’s fight against the pandemic. But the alternative was an enticing trip around the vast East Lake scenic area. After a breakfast of hot and dry noodles which, on the cold day that it was were needed to ignite the internal heating system, they set off on bikes to tour the wetland. The rain was what the Chinese poetically call MaoMao; fine hair, and we term drizzle. Within minutes of arriving in the park the scenery of the lake in the mist had a haunting eerie feel to it and everything they stopped to investigate, from the monument to nine heroines of the Tienping Rebels, to the Chutian Tower and its fortress was swathed in this mystical light. The inclement weather meant that there were only a smattering of visitors and it sometimes felt that they had the land to themselves as they cycled the boulevards and avenues of the scenic area. They had planned a route and once they were on it and found themselves in a very rural setting the rain had started to be a little more persistent and cold felt remote and they decided to head back to a more populated area. Naturally it seemed to involve a multitude of steps but the view from the summit was worth the effort., The day was drifting into the afternoon and they had not eaten and they decided to move on to the city and to indulge a whim that Nicholas should wear a traditional Tang Dynasty style jacket on his birthday. Peng had sourced a mall where it might be possible to find something to wear and something to eat. After a search they were disappointed on both counts and made their way to another distant market place. This turned out to be a much more rundown area and reminded him of the old Rag Market next to Birmingham’s old Bull Ring Centre. They did of course find the jackets though the only one that fitted him was fur lined and the shop owners said if they waited 10 minutes they could get alternative stock. The 10 minutes turned into 40 and as a result Peng bargained them down to a mere 120 yuan. This made up for being ripped off for the silk Jacket he had been ripped of over in 2018, when he thought he was paying 280 yuan but they added a zero to the bill and he was charged 2800 yuan, £300! His caprice though was satisfied and they could leave their tawdry surroundings and find something to eat. The contrast couldn’t have been more dramatic. With the low Wuhan Wanshangbaima market behind them they were faced with a high class Mall where they were lured into a Luis Vuitton exhibition before finally finding a Vegan restaurant where they could eat. The food was delicious and they agreed to return the next day to celebrate his Birthday. On another mission Peng was in search of a Vegan birthday cake for him and before heading to the Yangtze River Bridge to view the night riverside light show they went to the time honoured Wang Yu Xia cake shop where a whole array of sweet comestibles were purchased to celebrate his diamond jubilee. The walk along the river bank to Chang Jiang Bridge was characterised by amazing illuminations lighting up the entire embankment, seemingly for miles and the dual purpose bridge was an impressive feat of engineering. The day had been crammed with activity and it was time to return to the hotel. They had agreed to wait till midnight to toast the advent of his new decade and with a small wine, some mung bean cake and good cheer they celebrated his threescore years.

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