Look up the city of Yongzhou in Hunan province, go on I dare you! You shall find very little information on this tier 4 city. Need a guide for what to do in Yongzhou? I’ll be that guide. Yongzhou looks like it just came out of a zombie apocalypse, it rains a lot, the roads haven’t been finished and there’s nothing to do here. That is the travel guide to Yongzhou.
But, if like myself you a penchant for shitty small Asian cities, or like my friend and the reason I came here are asked to judge an English competition there are a few “scratch beneath the surface” street food gems, and you will pretty much be the only foreigners here.
Yongzhou is an hours fast train from the genuine metropolis of Guilin and is the first city you reach in Hunan the birthplace of the big bald fella on Chinese banknotes. Tourism-wise apparently there’s a river with an island in it that’s nice, but not nice enough for Wikitravel to have an article.
Hotel wise one of the best things about visiting small cities like Yongzhou is that they are cheap, so for $50 a night we went all pimp daddy and got the suite in the Vienna Hotel, a semi-famous hotel brand in China.
Our first night in search of the street food of Yongzhou went badly, as with any small Chinese city it’s all about knowing someone on the inside. Flying solo has its risks, and for us, that meant we ended up trying “Wallace Fried Chicken”. The politics of Chinese cities are thus Tier 1 EVERY FAST FOOD RESTAURANT Tier 2 McDonald’s, and KFC Tier 3 Dicos (the Chinese KFC), but Tier 4 locally made crap. Wallace delivered everything I expected from a shit KFC rip-off, and I felt guilty for cheating on the Colonel. We ended with a retreat to what we knew best Kao Rou or street BBQ. I ate a songbird.
On night two we took things up a gear with our local contacts inviting us to try the local specialty Snake! This particular region is apparently famous for its snake meat, and snake liquor, which you guessed it is “good for the man”. But man cannot live on snake alone, so we had rice, beef, egg, oh and the cock of a pig. Less meaty than I would have expected, not awful, but I won’t be asking for more penis at dinner.
So, how about the snake? Watching a live snake being cut up is a lot more brutal than it sounds, but it seems to amuse the locals and gave us a sense of something to look forward to.
The dish itself, and snake, in general, is, in my opinion, a bit bland as a meat, a bit like fish, but not quite, with the main thing you eat being the skin. Chinese dishes can be spicy, but this was on a whole other level of arse battering hot, which washing down with snake bai jiu unsurprisingly didn’t help.
We knocked back 6 beers in quick succession before it was decided that we should leave, all slightly drunk. The guy who was most drunk went to get on his motorbike but was told not to by his friend. I’m 90% sure it was done for our benefit, but who cares I ate and drank snake and tried pig penis.
Yongzhou street food delivered the goods!