Two months after a first trip in Henan province, to discover Chinese top players, I decided to continue my quest. But this time I’m leaving solo; destination Wuhan, Hubei province capital. Indeed, by dint of Web searches, I discovered that people also play gyro in this province. I even found some addresses where, with a bit of luck, I can meet players. But nothing is sure; articles mentioning these places dating back a few years, it is not said that they are still some people playing there. Unless they don’t have been simply wiped off the map to make place for a large real estate project, as is often the case in major Chinese cities.
Zhanjiang-Wuhan, it’s a twenty hours train journey; departure at 7 o’clock in the evening, arriving the next day around four o’clock in the afternoon. (It’s a long trip, but ultimately more enjoyable than a Paris-Avignon, in a crowded TGV.) And that is how I landed at the central station of this 10 million inhabitants city, without my favorite translator and guide. Fortunately, in all the major chinese train stations, there is some indication in English that allow to find your way, and the taxi station is part of these. Then just show taxi driver the address of the hotel (Jishasha City Hotel Wuhan – 28 Dazhi Road) you have printed prior to departure, and voila. In principle, at least, because my driver is not very clever and should ask for explanations to the head of the taxi station. He does not take the shortest way, but say that it is to avoid the trafic jams. In short, half an hour later he drops me in front of the hotel which he shows the large sign and ask 40 Yuan (6 euros), the meter price. Perfect. Except that I can’t find the entrance. It sounds stupid, but I walk along twice the length of the building without seeing anything that looks like the entrance to a hotel. Finally, I get information in a nearby stall and employee escorts me to hotel entrance hidden in the back of a sort of coffee-shop that sells fruit juices: a reception desk, a lift and that’s it.
I fear the worst. Which is confirmed when the manager accompanies me on the floors and shows me the room. A comfortable room but with a tiny screen window overlooking the rear of the hotel, the vents and emergency stairwells. If you speak Chinese, you will calmly explains that the room is not fit to you and you would like to have a room on the street side, equipped with a real window that opens. When you annone Chinese as I do, you won’t make detail. You say in Chinese that ‘bedroom not OK’ and you want to change rooms. You speak louder than necessary and threaten (in English) to leave illico. But finally the manager asks me to wait and came back a few minutes later with another room key. I follow her upstairs to discover a room with a window, and even if it does not open completely, I decided to stay, left my luggages and moved outside to discover the aera.
At first glance, the neighborhood is not very exciting, there are essentially mobile shops Oppo, Xiaomi, Samsung… and even a few (authorized) Apple resellers. But not any restaurant except a KFC which sign makes me the eye across the avenue. Bad impression so that makes me think I made a casting error. As you cannot have everything at once, I continue my way towards the nearby square – Tianjin road Green Plaza, Kat Hing Street – which, according to my information, is a meeting place for tops players. I am not deceived; 300 meters from the place, I began to hear the characteristic snapping of the whip. But surprise, approaching I notice that this is not tops players but people who play whip; tops players are a little further away and as I discover a few moments later, they don’t use the whip but 1,5 meters long sticks (or longer), with a strap of the same length, and makes the same noise as the whip.
Coming with my whip and my 3 pounds gyro I look like tourist. Twice a tourist, because they will never take me for an Asian! But square players don’t care, and they are also curious; just need to show them what you are able to do to be accepted by this small community. Five minute later, I therefore find myself with one of these sticks the hands and I try to do well. Las, as I’ve always preferred the whip rather than the stick, my performance is not so good; but I just discovered another way to practice the gyro that deserves to be deepened. After a short training for half an hour, we do a break and start to discuss. Finally, we try to. Since my arrival, I didn’t make dazzling progress in Chinese and I try hard to understand what I am told. I ask a few questions (which are understood) and I learn that not very far from here, there is Pintiang Park, a large park where many tops players meet. I ask them to repeat ten times the name in order to be sure to understand and I left to go to dinner.