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China’s army of tourists fight for the right to bring their own instant noodles

AP Photo / Andy Wong
A Chinese man eats instant noodle at a store set up inside Forbidden City in Beijing, China Thursday, April 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
By Lily Kuo
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

When Chinese tourists hit the road, they bring their instant noodles with them—a habit that foreign hotels mess with at their own perilA report accusing a resort in the Maldives of removing kettles from the rooms of Chinese tourists to prevent them from cooking instant noodles—and, presumably, encourage them spend more cash at the hotel restaurant—has drawn a torrent of criticism from Chinese bloggers.

According to the article written by a former manager at the upscale Beach House Iruveli, staff was ordered to treat Chinese guests differently and referred to them as “CN” for “cup noodle.” The hotel has denied the claims and said that it did remove some kettles from hotel rooms that had been damaged, but it has never discriminated against Chinese guests.

Instant noodles, or fangbian mian in Chinese, are deeply ingrained in the country’s culinary culture; domestic airports and most train cars are equipped with hot water dispensers. In 2011, China consumed 42.5 billion packages of instant noodles, dwarfing the next largest ramen-eating nations, Indonesia which consumed 14.5 billion units of the food and Japan which ate a paltry 5.5 billion.

The tale of instant noodle discrimination has been reposted about 20,000 times on China’s microblogging site Sina Weibo. “China is a superpower and respected,” one blogger wrote. ”Chinese people eat instant noodles not because they’re cheap, but because your food sucks!” Another, calling for a boycott of the hotel, wrote, “Everyone remember this, and vote with your feet.” Instant noodles are a contentious topic in China: Master Kong, the world’s biggest instant noodle maker, lost some $2.4 billion in market capitalization after false rumors about its ownership circulated during Japan and China’s showdown over islands in the East China Sea.

Sina Weibo
One blogger posted a photo of the kind of makeshift meals, centered around instant noodles, that he and his friends eat while on vacation.

Since the boom of Chinese tourism, the government has worried about how to minimize friction between Chinese travelers and their hosts. In 2006, the Chinese government launched a “civilized tourism” campaign that included advising Chinese tourists not to cut in line, spit, or talk loudly when visiting other countries. Asking them not to eat instant noodles, however, is an apparent dealbreaker.

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