Ah the mellifluous morning sounds of every driver in the area making sure the car/truck/scooter horn still works, interspersed with the more car-less gentlemen giving their throats a jolly good clearing. This is saving me a fortune on alarm clocks. This Monday I was roused bright and early by the cheery sounds of the neighbourhood and decided to walk up the road to Optics Valley Square to see what the fuss was all about.
But before we get there, I have to question the translation of this name. For whatever reason, the Chinese have opted to translate the name of this place to Optics Valley Square, which, as any foreigner trying to catch a taxi can tell you, is perfectly useless. Every other stop on Metro line two has the Chinese place name followed by Street, Road, Square, Temple or whatever—at least there’s a bit of Chinese in there to hold on to. Walk up to anyone in this town and say you want to go to Optics Valley Square and see how well you get on. And they aren’t even consistent. Some street signs say Guanggu, which is the romanised version of the Chinese. They’ll also slip in plaza instead of square as the mood takes them just as they occasionally run with Optical instead of Optics. Which brings me to a further point and I don’t want to be lecturing anyone on a language that I don’t even speak but the Chinese characters for Guangu are 光谷. My meagre Japanese tells me that the first character means light and the second one is valley. So given the opportunity to call the place the Valley of Light, they chose to run with a name that sounds like it’s full of spectacles and microscope factories. Anyway, I went there the other day. It was quite nice.
The weather has been quite pleasant lately. I don’t think the poor visibility in some of my previous photos of Wuhan is all due to pollution. It’s pretty warm here and the city area seems to be as much lake and river as it is land* so there’s plenty of humidity to also cloud up the air. However, the weather cooled down a bit and we had some wind so now I can actually see to the other side of the nearest lake.
*No, I’m not going to give you a map. You’ve got Google maps on your phone—show some initiative.
On the way up the road, I had to get some breakfast. Before coming here, I had forgotten the joys of not speaking the language and trying to negotiate some food out of someone. Also I realise living in Japan has made me very timid in this regard. The Japanese can often freeze up in the face of uncertainty. In buying food, I like to just answer ‘yes’ to every question and hope for the best. You can’t really go wrong—it’s just food and I’ll eat anything. But what happens when I get asked if I want mayonnaise or brown sauce and I reply yes? This leaves the Japanese in a quandary. What if he gives me mayonnaise but I don’t really like mayonnaise? It rapidly descends into a nightmare of figuring out how to explain I really don’t care what he puts on top of my deep-fried octopus, I’m really hungry and I’m sure it will all taste lovely and here’s my money—please could I have some food? Luckily for me, the Chinese are not nearly so responsible in their serving of food. My strategy is to go to the street markets, wait until someone else has ordered and then just point at what they have and smile. They are not fussed about the niceties: ‘Do you want this? Too late. I’ve put it in. What are you going to do about it?’ This is the sort of strategy I like. It’s making me quite bold in my food choices.
I walked up to Optics Valley Square Metro Station the other Saturday and the place was chock full. The lines for the ticket machines were 10-15 people deep. The whole place was crowded. This Monday morning was a much more civilised time to visit. Here’s the outside of one of the big shopping buildings there:
And here’s the view in the other direction:
I headed up the World City Optical Valley Walking Street, where “on festivals, millions of visitors come in flood, enjoying the happiness of shopping.” Alas, I was not there at night “when the special designed lights turn on, forming a piece of sparkling sliver river”. I knew I was getting nearer to the Spanish street because there was a little old lady taking a selfie with a model of a man running away from a bull. I soon came to Italy:
Where there were not one, not two but three fashion shoots going on at the same time.
The church even made a fair effort on the inside:
I was a bit hungry by now but luckily I found a shop selling my favourite dwsserts.
As I proceeded down the street, the buildings were looking newer and emptier until there were more builders than shops. Finally, I came to the end of the German street and could go no further.
And on the walk back I found some girls with wings.
So I headed back and stopped to stare at my telephone on one of the pews in the church when the next thing I knew, there was a girl sitting next to me telling me to look at a camera that one of her friends was pointing at us. When she was done, her next friend had a go and then a third one after that. I felt like the man in the Mickey Mouse costume at Disneyland. I’m glad there weren’t a lot of people about or they might have made a queue and I’d still be there. I decided to get in on the action and get a selfie of me and the last girl.
I got stopped again by a bunch of kids when I got back to the main square area. After they had all lined up for individual shots, I made them take a group photo with me.
I decided I’d had enough of busy shopping areas and decided to seek some serenity by having what turned out to be quite a long walk up the road to the Wuhan Botanical Gardens where I took some time to enjoy the nature.