Friday, May 3, 2013

Wuyuan, Canola Flower Trip (江西婺源。油菜花) (3)

Life in the village starts super early.  We thought we were early when we woke up around 530am, only to find most of the villagers are already up and working!  

6 am at LiKeng (李坑)
The only time I will wake up early...

so peaceful and quiet in the morning
so peaceful and quiet in the morning
Life in the village starts early in the morning.  Tourists started showing up around 7am!!!
I highly recommend this guesthouse.
It's ranked #2 in the Chinese backpackers' forum
(after the 5 star hotel in town)
Depending on the time of the year, a night's accomodation is ranging from CNY100-300
(for double occupancy)
and the chef is the BEST in the village.
(you normally eat at the guesthouse you stayed for dinner
so it's crucial you find one who can cook!)
our hostels in the morning
Our guesthouse in the morning
She is our awesome chef!
Traditional Huizhou-style Architecture.
I am pretty sure these hangers are handmade...
Haven't seen wooden hangers for a long time
I wouldn't be surprise if these were hand made.
fungi casually growing on the logs on the roof top of the hostel
chicken can't get better than these... real organic free ranged chicken...
The village way of selling chicken
I guess these chickens must be free of H5N1
This area is famous for their green tea
Nothing fancy and I wouldn't pay a lot for the tea.
It's not dragon well (but a lot of dragon well are fake these days)
most commoners like us can't even tell the difference
A local actually said "We drink tea everyday.
Do you think we can afford to spend a few hunderd dollars on tea?"
so true! just like I won't drink Fuji water everyday!!!

We begin our day with a hearty breakfast.  Breakfast is exciting business as the food is simple but fresh and tasty.  It has been a long time since I had a fresh fried dough (油條)!

I was so excited when I saw this!
Wuyuan specialty snack - RMB$5 for 3
The breakfast place laughed when we told them how much we paid -.-|||
Apparently, our understanding of wontons are two different things.  I am thinking the meaty Shanghainese wontons and they gave me this... wrapping with barely any meat inside :(
Apparently, our understanding of wontons are two different things.  I am thinking the meaty Shanghainese wontons and they gave me this... wrapping with barely any meat inside

There are quite a few popular destinations along the north route:  most of them are famous for their natural beauty.  Our first stop of the day is the beautiful Moon Bay (月亮灣).  We thought we were pretty early arriving at 7 a.m. but we were told that we were late.  Most enthusiasts are usually there before 6 a.m. for the sunrise :S  It wasn't until later in the afternoon on our way back to Li Keng when we finally found the spot for good pictures~  It was quite a walk to go up there but the view is worth it!

7 am in the morning and these guys are already working (and told us we are late)
we came back for a raft ride in the afternoon
our "driver" told us the "perfect" spot for pictures
he also told us flowers is April, oil is June, and peaches is August!
The path is steep!
(That's tea if you are wondering)
That's it!!!
Some people come here during sunrise
We were not that hardcore

The other thing Wuyuan is famous for is the villages, built in the typical Huizhou-style.  I later read about this style of architecture in the in-flight magazine on the return flight, which helped increased my appreciation of the villages.  Who knew there is such a story behind these seemingly old houses!
"Huizhou-style architecture is one of the major schools of Chinese traditional residential architecture.  After the mid-Ming Dynasty, a great number of Anhui merchants amassed considerable wealth.  To gain prestige, uphold local reputations, and honor their ancestors, many of them purchased land and lavished money on the construction of residences, gardens, academies, and memorial temples.  Since the area is abounded in timber, the locals maintained the tradition of painting and engraving.  All these helped shaped the distinctive Huizhou architectural style.    
Huizhou architectural style was also subject to the influence of clanism.  In ancient Huizhou, arranged in a radiating fashion, with the ancestral temple at the center, residential houses were used as not only dwellings, but also defense fortresses against foreign invasion.  Gradually, the local houses became largely identical to exterior appearance.  Meanwhile, given the mountainous terrain of Huizhou, the principles of Chinese feng shui were also considered an important factor for the architectural layout.  Hence today, when traveling around Huizhou you can always find a pleasant harmony between architecture and nature every step you move."
OMG bamboo shoots!
HUGE bamboo shoots!
Maybe it's too early but I am glad there aren't many tourists
this town (思溪) must be famous for accountants... why else would you display a huge abacus (算盤)?
this town (思溪) must be famous for accountants...
 how else can you explain this huge abacus (算盤)?
The map for Si Xiyuan Village
Tourists need to purchase a pass to go inside
It's so typical in China these days.
If you have a valid student (up to university) discount, they will accept it.
You get 50% off!
We saw a lot of kids helping out their family selling produce,
giving tours, etc.
Old house build by valuable timber
we overheard the guide saying that the government had banned
the use of timber to build house and this house worth a fortune.
well, it belong to the government anyways
they bought it from the descendants some years ago
seems like there is something like this everywhere in the world
we overheard the other tour (kids at the villages serve as tour guides too... they earn about RMB20 per tour) that this building is round so thieves can't climb the structure.
Can you guess what this is?
It's the Treasury!
It's build in a circular shape to make it more difficult for thieves to climb
again, we overheard that there were like an X number of the character “壽” (life) in different forms
all the characters here are different fonts of the character "life"
I think there are 90+ of them
i remembered my toy camera back then was a real toy... :/
photographer to-be
he's got suave
tombstones to lay roads!?!?  I hope they did some ceremonies...
tombstones for roads!?!?

We visited many places that day but I am most impressed by the Rainbow Bridge (彩虹橋).  Built in the Southern Song Dynasty (1129), it's China's oldest and longest covered bridge and considered one of China's most beautiful.  Rainbow Bridge charm lies not only in the bridge with the perfect combination of mountains, clear water, the old village post road, and more importantly, reflected in the construction of vitality.  I don't know much about bridge building but the design is said to be simple but sturdy, beautiful and practical.  It is an inheritance for the generations to come.  It's simple design ensured  even a novice can repair and maintain the bridge and sure enough, the bridge has now stood for over 800 years and looks as good as new.  (I wish I am a better translator but I found the Chinese version of the Rainbow Bridge intro very well-written.  Click here if you are interested.)

Rainbow Bridge (彩虹橋)
the water is so still here it's like a mirror
good to see standard pricing here - less chance to be ripped off!
not too bad for a tourist attraction
the ride is short though
See the wooden log?
It's what they used to catch fish!
RMB$50 for a bamboo shoot!!!
this is where the pretty canola flowers are :(
the water is so calm and clean

We had a quick lunch at a local restaurant just off the road.  It's the first time we heard a restaurant in China said that they don't have table to accommodate us (the restaurant is empty at that moment) and we had to negotiate that we will eat fast and leave as soon as we are done!  True enough, moments later, 2 large tourist buses showed up and filled the place completely.  No wonder they don't care about losing our business!

apparently the restaurant name is funny (there is an inside joke from a TV show or something)
apparently the restaurant name is funny
(there is an inside joke from a TV show or something)
There is no menu here. 
You go in their kitchen and order what you want! 
Loved it!  Everything was so fresh!
The best part: they use wood-stove!!!
I found Chinese food cooked in wood stove the best!
The hygiene looks acceptable here
Dishes prepared for the tour
the 粉蒸肉 is the best i had during this trip!
We agreed to eat simple for lunch and indulge during dinner
Yet, the 粉蒸肉 is the best I had during this trip!

We also visited the Crouching Dragon Valley (卧龍谷).  I was slightly disappointed because the water levels are low and this place is famous for it's rivers and waterfalls.  Nevertheless, it's still a beautiful place and the water there is tasty!

It reads "Crouching Dragon Valley 'cheap' supermarket"
We all smiled - coz you know it's not cheap!

The is the "fall" on the advertising pamphlet.
I have never felt so cheater ever since Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone Park.
I am pretty surprised they have EV charging spot here!

I am glad they didn't cut the tree.
The translation is horrible but if you ask me.
But Chinese is a difficult language to translate.
We tried the water (just a bit)
it's sweet and very refreshing!
A bar that sells no liquor
We didn't walk all the way.
But we were pretty tired already.
We were pretty tired when we returned to Li Keng after a full day of sightseeing but we were shocked to find how bad the crowd is at the village.  If we didn't spend a few nights there, I probably would agree with the other tourists who said this village is too commercialized.  Thank goodness we stayed in the village so we experienced what the village is really like when the crowd is gone.

Snack  time!
Axe candy

The night's dinner at the guesthouse.  So yummy!!!  Sometimes, travel is not about luxury and it's not all about the scenery.  Travel to me is an experience, a journey.  The same place will invoke different moods and feelings when you are with different people under different weather.  These positive experiences I had traveling alone and with strangers definitely reinforced my desire to do more of these trips in the future!  Sometimes, your best friends may not be your best travel buddies.  Some people may say I am bold and fearless but I say use your common sense and step out of your comfort zone.  :)

We were actually expected to drink the soup too.
But it was too oily for us... (#firstworldproblems)
Egg and Chives
How is it even possible that something so simple is so delicious!
Steamed Pork in Sauce
It's good but the one we had during lunch is even better
let's drink~


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