Mao’s Alarm Clock

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: Consumer Fireworks, Travel, Weblogs

On the Ground in Hunan Province

Signs here are often in Chinese and English.  That can be a good thing.  Especially, like me, if you don’t understand the language and are cursed with an innate fear of abandonment at all airports.  (Hey, it’s happened to me!)

For instance, as I entered the Shenzhen airport yesterday, I was immediately put at ease by this reassuring brass sign posted right over the front door.Chinese civilized airport

Even the Chinese have their problems with terrorists.  So, it’s good to know that the Shenzhen airport was not one where you have to worry about such things.

There was, of course, a little glitch with the plane, but they managed to put me and about 120 of my Chinese friends on a spare one they had lying around out on the pavement.  Bused us all to it.  I got on, and because the flight from Shenzhen to Changsha is only an hour, the flight attendants scrambled to get us all something to munch on.  I was happy to receive a drink of something claimed to be tea, and a pack prominently labeled in big-lettered, easy-to-read English:  “Aviation Food.”

Again, that was comforting to me.  I was definitely glad they didn’t send any of the other kinds of food along on my flight.  I want the real stuff.  Good, wholesome aviation food—manna in heaven (although some call it rice cake).

Landed late in the day in Changsha.  Weather was cool, but not really cold, and for the first time in three trips in as many years, I actually saw the sun for the first time.  What strikes one immediately here, is the amount of air-pollution.  I have never seen blue skies in China.  Not once in a total of six weeks of travel. 

So, seeing the sun setting in Changsha was an event.

As usual, too much to take in on my ride through town.  I did however, appreciate the big neon sign archway over the entrance to “Business Street” so I would know what they do on that particular street. 

Got to the hotel, a stupendous place.  My absolutely luxurious 18th floor room cost about what some Super 8s in the US do.  Had yet another great Chinese dinner Desert_changsha (check out the desert rice/sugar/spice thingy) and headed up to my room early.  Around 9, the doorbell rang, and two pretty girls were there to wish me good night with a complementary basket of fruit and cocktail tomatoes.  Wonderful hotel.  About 80 bucks.  Back home, it’d run you $300-$500 in any big American city.

Caught up some email and did some real work before turning in.  Around 3 AM, the clock radio went off.  I reached for it, but there wasn’t any clock radio.  But Chinese flute music was playing.  Loud.  From outside! 

At 3 AM.  In the street…moving down the street.  From a loudspeaker on a car or truck.  Weird, Chinese flute music being played on the street, while everything else was quiet as a church mouse.  Well, thank God it was heading down the street, and fading.  What the hell was THAT about?  Tried to drift back to sleep.

Zzzzzz…. That FLUTE again!  Coming back.  What IS this?  At 3 o’clock in the morning.  This went on for 10 minutes, back and forth up the street, then finally stopped.

Zzzzzz…. Took two hours to finally get back to sleep. I never did figure out what it was about.  Maybe a holdover from the days when Mao figured out a way to keep people from sleeping in too late for work.

You know what?  It works!  I was fully awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, pecking away writing this post at 3:15 AM.  That Mao.  He knew.  He knew.

3 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Paul says:

    That noise would have been from street-cleaning trucks. Why on earth they play music is something I can’t answer, other than everything here has to make or have some sort of noise associated with it (if it is not noisy enough on its own, that is).

  2. Jerry says:

    Very interesting blog. about time someone tells us about the chinese fireworks factories. I sell fireworks an always wondered about there manufacture. carry on Harry

  3. Jim Biersach says:

    Keep on BLOGGING. Sounds like a fun time. Why didn’t you take me along?
    Jim Biersach

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