China's War on Drugs

Trip Start Dec 22, 2006
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Trip End Dec 31, 2006


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Where I stayed
Jinjiang Inn - Dongguang

Flag of China  ,
Sunday, December 24, 2006

The weather was sunny today, but I am suffering from a bad cold, probably caused by a change in the weather a week ago in Hong Kong. I've been having sneezing fits and a runny nose, which puts a bit of a dampener on our holiday. I get enough stares already from people who rarely see Westerners without needing a sneezing fit to catch their attention.

Given my condition we decided to sleep in this morning and stay another night at this comfortable hotel. One line of the sketchy internet notes we have on Dongguang mentions a Museum of the Opium War in Humen, about a Y40 - Y60 taxi ride from Houjie, another city under the Houggang umbrella. We decided to spend the afternoon checking this out, stopping in Houjie on the way back if time permitted. (We did not realise until later that this museum was written up in Lonely Planet.)

When the local bus (107) turned out to be Y7 each we realised we were in for a long ride. After a couple of hours riding through various towns merging into each other in one vast urban area we eventually arrived in Humen, where the bus conductress directed us to another bus to the museum. This bus (No. 3) took us on a pleasant ride out of town at last to the coast.

We could see immediately this was a popular spot for local tourists. We couldn't see anything that suggested an Opium War museum, but there was a big battery - a concrete fort with cannons and remains of barracks. There were signs saying they were used in the Opium War so we thought this must be the museum. The entrance fee was cheap at Y8, but we got free admission because of our age. We just had to flash our passports at the guard.

There were boat trips out to an island where there were more forts and various touristy things but we decided to walk along the road behind the fort. This led to a big enclosure with a modern building, labelled "Sea Battle Museum." Once again we avoided the Y20 entrance fee and entered. It turned out to be the museum we were looking for.

Several exhibition rooms used photos, posters, paintings and dioramas to illustrate the history of the opium war, with special emphasis on the brave Chinese heroes who died gloriously defending the motherland against the invading English barbarians. The last room brings the battle up to date with an exhibition detailing the modern-day fight against drugs, where China claims to remain drug-free by sending offenders to re-education camps. They proudly boast of the use of propaganda as a weapon in the war on drugs.

One room had a sound and light show illustrating parts of an enormous painting and diorama showing the invading British ships and the Chinese heroes defying them. It was all in Mandarin but we could tell what was going on. It was all very interesting and an important part of the history of this area.

We got bus 3 back to where we could pick up the 107 and went back as far as Houjie, where we had a look at the Sheraton Hotel. Their Christmas Eve buffet was about Y330, but we didn't think it could be any better than last night's meal so we explored the back streets across the road, where our notes told us we would find plenty of good food. We sampled some of the street offerings - fried dumplings, 6 for Y1 (quite delicious and filled with green vegetables), a Muslim pancake for half a yuan (okay but rather doughy) and a Y3 basket of steamed dumplings in a small restaurant - nice, but not as good as the fried ones we had earlier. At last we found a shop with "things on sticks" which appealed to both of us. Outside was a barbecue, where we ordered a whole fish and an aubergine, and inside we selected various sticks of mushrooms, tofu, greens, potato slices and a bowl of flat noodles. These were cooked in a hotpot and served in a bowl of spicy soup. The fish came blackened with spices and the aubergine served opened up and flattened out. Both were very tasty - beautifully flavoured from the charcoal grill. A bottle of Kingway beer went very well with it and the whole meal came to Y19. We enjoyed it as much as the excellent buffet last night.

There doesn't seem to be much else to explore in Dongguan so we will make our way to Shunde in the morning. Who knows what awaits us there on Christmas Day?

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