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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Saturday, June 02, 2012 17:53:20

CHINA 2012: 3 - Shanghai to Huangshan

Friday, June 1, 2012

The nice thing about arriving in the evening after a long flight is that it is easy to sleep on local time, a big help in getting over jet lag.  In the morning we enjoyed the extensive western and Chinese breakfast buffet and went for a walk around the hotel grounds.  Marilynn wasn't feeling great, so she lay down while I went for a swim.  The hotel indoor pool is huge, heated to the perfect temperature, and very clean.

The hotel organized a taxi to the hotel at noon, and we found out we had been ripped off big time the night before - this time the cab used the meter and it was 23 Yuan rather than the 100 we were charged last night.  Check in was quick and security courteous and efficient.  They use the European rather than US model, so shoes don't need to come off and the whole procedure is much easier.

In the waiting lounge we enjoyed the Chinese buffet, salad bar and desert bar while I made good use of the selection of Chinese and international beers.  We used the internet to catch up on emails and send out updates.  The one hour flight to Huangshan was comfortable.  A light lunch accompanied by a couple of beer was provided.  Huangshan means "Yellow Mountain," a famous mountain we will visit in this part of China.

On arrival we were met by the guide who will be with us for the next few days.  His English name was Mike, however we opted to use his Chinese name which sounded like Lian.  He picked his English name as at university he was a karaoke master and always asking for the microphone. 

We were checked into a beautiful, well appointed room at the International Hotel.  This is a beautiful area with mountains where a large variety of teas are grown and the valleys are filled with rice paddies.  We were driven the short distance to Tunxi Old Street, which winds for about a mile through the 2,000 year old ancient city.  Wood buildings here date back 400 years, and the architecture is amazing.  Marilynn went from shop to shop wanting to buy everything from gorgeous gigantic carvings in Sandalwood to very inexpensive handmade silk clothing.  There were various shops specializing in ornate ink containers for calligraphy carved from rock in sizes from small to giant ones that must have weight tons.  Famous people come from all over China to purchase art and select from the hundreds of types of brushes on sale.  We passed shop after shop of carvings, paintings, handmade shoes and cloths.  The light rain didn't dampen our enthusiasm a bit!

Lian took us to a restaurant frequented by the local people for dinner where one selects from a buffet of uncooked raw material in pots.  We were delighted that he agreed to join us for a dinner of pigs feet (here called pigs hands), port ribs, greens, rice, dumplings and a type of sweet, moist ball for desert accompanied by local beer and a bottle of the quite good local red wine.  Grapes are grown here for local wineries.  After dinner there were photos and hugs from the lady who owns the restaurant.

Lian is 31 years old and married with a two year old daughter - we had expected him to want to go home, as our agreement was that we were on our own for dinner and he'll be on the road for the next few days.  He walked us back to the hotel where we weren't long climbing into the rock hard king sized bed.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lian picked us up at 9 AM.  Our excellent driver headed into the mountains where we drove past rice paddies in the low, narrow valleys and through tea plantations on the hills.  The winding road followed an ever narrowing clear stream into higher mountains through forests of bamboo, camphor, and sandalwood trees.  There was little habitation and the scenery was beautiful.  The air is pure and the rivers crystal clear.

We eventually arrived at the UNESCO world heritage site Honcun Village.  The large parking area was filled with tour busses for Chinese tour groups, but we saw only a couple of Caucasians.  The village has wood buildings up to 650 years old, and each street has water running between the walking area and buildings.  This water was used for all purposes originally, but now is used for washing as tap water has been installed.  The streets are only wide enough for three people shoulder to shoulder.  The village is extensive enough to absorb the large number of visitors, so it was not unusual to have no one else was in sight.  The reflection of ancient buildings and bridges in the large ponds had photo shutters clicking like a swarm of crickets.

Like all the ancient villages we visited in the area it is a working village.  While some people made their living selling to tourists, most were farmers whose houses had been passed down in the family for centuries.  It was amazing to see how well the old, unpainted wood buildings lasted for the hundreds of years since they were built - including wood pillars and beams, generally made from sandalwood.  One shop was a wine merchant, who sold from waist high urns of different wines.  There were small disposable sampling cups and a dipper to portion out the wines, so we tried a few.  Some were close to straight alcohol - I had a bit of a buzz on by the time we left.  We bought a desert wine, which was ladled into a section of bamboo with a stopper in the top and a carrying strap attached to each side.

Lian's chosen lunch restaurant was packed, so we drove to a hotel in another village where we were served in a private dining room.  Driving further through the mountains, we arrived at Xidi Village, also a world heritage site.  There were less people, but the setting on a small lake was beautiful.  Once again there was admission to pay before entering through a huge ornate stone gate to get to our hotel, a renovated complex of buildings some 400 years old.  The appearance had been changed very little - only electricity, water and modern bathrooms had been installed. 

Our \room was a considerable walk from reception, along flag a flag stone path past a number of other buildings.  The room was originally larger, but glass partitions to make room for bathroom & shower reduced it to fairly tight quarters.  Modern conveniences such as air conditioning, cable internet, TV and so on had been added.

We walked through the village, popping in and out of shops.  My knees were starting to give serious problems, as I've put a few miles on them today, so we headed back to the room to rest for a bit.  Any doubts I've had about suffering through a knee replacement are gone - I'm going to get it done as soon as possible.

At dinner we had a table to ourselves in the entrance area to the hotel restaurant, were the loyal Lian arrived to ensure we could communicate well enough to order.  As it turned out the menus were in English and Chinese, and the hotel owner had decided to look after us personally.  He is from Hong Kong where he started his career as a receptionist in some of the finest hotels, eventually owning a couple of his own.  His English was fluent - it was very interesting to talk with him.

After a good feed we went for a short walk through part of the village where a type of line dance was going on to music at the side of the lake.  It was truly magical with colourful dancers, the music, and reflection of the lights & full moon in the lake with towering mountains above.  We then retired to climb into a bed even harder than the last one.  These people do take firm mattresses to the extreme!