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All they knew of Scotland was the blockbuster – if not entirely historically accurate – movie Braveheart.
Oh…and Scottie dogs.
Beyond that, fashion blogger Qui Qui (approximately pronounced ‘achoo’) and Ya Shu, who runs a popular lifestyle blog, were completely in the dark about our country.
But it is fair to say that they were mightily impressed with what they saw, smelled and tasted while in Argyll recently.
As part of a visit organised by Visit Britain, the pair, accompanied by their photographer Wu Yu Lin and guided by Edinburgh-based driver and interpreter Daniel Ho, called on Loch Fyne Oysters at Cairndow to sample their wares.
Showing the bloggers round Loch Fyne Oysters was Richard Hunt-Smith, the company’s e-commerce and sales support manager. The Shanghai visitors were enthralled by the salmon cutting, curing and smoking process, every step seemingly captured on film – except, of course, the mixing of the company’s secret salmon curing recipe. ‘It’s based on salt and sugar’ was as much as Richard would reveal.
There was a little puzzlement at the oyster sheds when it was explained that the variety cultivated are from the Pacific, but the sheer scale and emphasis on quality impressed them hugely. And the method of knocking oyster shells together to check for freshness is one that is certain to be deployed in the Shanghai fish markets.
Lifestyle guru Ya Shu said: ‘The system here is incredible. I have never seen anything like it.’
It was back across to the restaurant to sample a mouth-watering selection of seafood dishes prepared by a team led by Calum Hall, Loch Fyne Oysters’ head chef.
Before any food could be sampled, it had to be photographed. And filmed by mobile phone. And photographed some more.
Plate after plate of food was served – from langoustines to chilli and cheddar oysters, and from scallops to whisky-infused smoked salmon.
The visitors thoroughly enjoyed it. ‘The food is very different from what we are used to,’ said Qui Qui. ‘But it is very good.’
Ya Shu went from oyster sceptic in Shanghai to Loch Fyne Oyster lover. ‘I had a plate full of oysters, which I never liked before coming here, he said.
‘I also liked very much the smoked salmon, langoustines and scallops.’
Well fed and watered, the group left Cairndow bound for Edinburgh while as the next leg of their 10-day UK tour, six of which were spent in Scotland and the rest in London.
Chinese followers of fashion clearly like what Qui Qui does. A following of 566,000 people testifies to her popularity. And with his words of wisdom on areas such as food, drink (he loves malt whisky) and world travel, Ya Shu attracts no fewer than three quarters of a million followers to his blog.
If just a fraction of these 1.3 million blog fans are intrigued enough to visit the UK, it will be money well spent for Visit Britain.
These Chinese visitors fell in love with Scotland – and not a blue-painted Australian in sight.