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.
|Tuesday, June 05, 2012 19:41:44|
CHINA 2012: 4 - Huangshan to Jingdezhen
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Breakfast was served at the same table as last night, again by the owner, who we talked to at length. He certainly went out of his way to ensure we wanted for nothing. At 9 AM we headed for Yellow Mountain, for which the whole area is named (Huangshan), stopping along the way for scenic photos. We stopped for permits to drive our van to the lift through many switchbacks up the mountain. High peaks were visible all around. In spite of being Sunday there was no line, we had a six seat enclosed gondola to ourselves. The fifteen minute ride up the mountain was spectacular. This area is represented in many traditional Chinese paintings of cloud shrouded bare peaks. Walking trails could be seen along platforms build out of the sides of sheer cliffs. Once out of the gondola we faced a walk of about a mile to the hotel by the short route, which we took out of respect for my bum knees, however the path was paved and there were concrete steps when it was necessary to ascend or descend. The long route is about 2 miles and covers more area. We paused at the frequent platforms for photos and to look at the stunning scenery. Sheer cliffs drop down the mountains, with pine trees poking out of every crevice large enough to support the roots, waterfalls cascade into pools far below and dogwood trees with their white (and sometimes pink) blooms were offset by vivid red azalea plants. Pinnacles shoot hundreds of feet in the air, some topped by precariously balanced boulders. The Bei Hai (Notthsea) Hotel looked great, nestled among towering peaks. We were given a room in the new section, which requires taking an elevator to the 5th floor, walking through a long passage to another building and then climbing two flights of stairs. The room looked nice, but had a violent stink of sewage. After a nice lunch Liamg arranged for another room. Most of the staff in the hotel did not appear anxious to assist with anything - it is a government owned hotel and staff attitude reminded me of the old Soviet hotels. The replacement room was in the old section, but although a little more worn was large and comfortable. Liamg and Marilynn headed off on one of the scenic walks while I stayed to do some writing in deference to my knees. Once on my own I checked out the service items and was amazed to find one small bar of soap, a shampoo dispenser in the shower and half a roll of toilet paper - that was it. Due to the long walk we brought only bare essentials in a backpack, and didn't include toothbrushes and toothpaste as they have always been provided in Chinese hotels. The rooms were cold, and there was neither heat nor air conditioning available. Surprisingly, in room wifi worked. Liamg says this hotel is the best on the mountain. Rooms start at over $300 per night and go up from there. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd put value at less than 2. The area is truly worth seeing, but I would recommend staying elsewhere, driving to the gondola lift, spending the day on the mountain and returning in the evening.
Monday, June 4, 2012
It was a cold, bleak, rainy day, with everything obscured by fog. Once we finished breakfast the rain stopped, but we purchased disposable rain capes in case it started again. On the way back I counted the steps - there were just over 800, but my knees held up far better than I thought they would. Our driver was ready and waiting for the run back to Tunxi, where we checked back into the International Hotel. We sent some laundry off to be done, then went for good lunch at a small restaurant at the entrance to Tunxi Old Town. A visit to the cultural museum and a tea tasting was laid on for the afternoon, but I had seen a book on the Haushau Mysterious Cave in the hotel, so Liamg quickly made arrangements for our program to be changed. The caves are in low hills about 30 km from Tunxi, accessed by a long suspension foot bridge across a wide river. These caves were man made some 1,700 years ago, but no record of why they were made or by whom has ever been uncovered. The many tons of sandstone extracted from the 36 caves has never been found either. Only 3 caves are open to the public, and we explored two of them, which involved a fair walk up and down stairs within the caves. One had 12,000 M2 (about 3 acres) of floor space and the other was slightly smaller. Ceilings averaged around 8 meters (26 feet) high and were supported by a maze of huge rough columns left when the caves were carved out. There were also pools of water, as much of the area is below river level. It was quite a feat of engineering for the time. Back to the hotel we told Liamg to spend the rest of the day with his family, however he wanted to come back to pick us up for dinner. He said Lifeng had phoned from Beijing to make sure he was looking after us. We assured him we would be fine, so eventually he wrote out his cell phone number and told us to call at any hour if we needed anything. The laundry was ready when we returned to the room, with even my T shirt packaged with cardboard backing in a crisp container as used for new shirts, but it was necessary to pay cash on the delivery. In this area almost no one accepts credit cards - it is a cash society. After a rest we made the considerable walk to Tunxi Old Street where we had spotted a tiny bar just inside the old quarter. Here we gratefully collapsed into chairs and had a couple of leisurely drinks while watching people pass by. Once rested we walked into the old section until we came to a cross street filled with bars and restaurants, where we selected a tiny one with a couple of cloth covered tables on the street among potted plants. We tried some local wines and several Chinese beers while making a dinner of popcorn and peanuts. We have been eating huge meals three times a day, and this was perfect. Chinese and Korean tour groups with flag carrying leader marching along in front seemed to take us for a tourist attraction. Our photos were taken many times, sometimes surreptitiously and at other times quite openly. We just laughed and waved. The old town is beautiful when lit up at night, and we were reluctant to leave, but tiredness was taking over so we walked down the side street to the main street where we hired a pedal cab to take us back to the hotel. The route along the river was lined by gaily coloured lights on both sides. The reflections from the far side were beautiful. Once in our river view room a fireworks display across the river capped a great evening.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Our first stop today was the cultural museum we missed yesterday, where we were shown both historic and current art work from the area. One of the professors showed us around, and explained that it was more than a museum - they held classes to teach the traditional art forms. They sell some of the wonderful works produced by both teachers and students to help support the school. Some of the items were fabulous, but well out of our budget range. We left Huangshan on a toll highway that tunnelled through mountains and bridged river valleys and villages. The construction cost must have been enormous, as it was tunnel, bridge, tunnel, bridge for many miles. After turning down a side road we stopped at the ancient Village of Xiao Qui in Wui Uan area. It is surrounded by forests of camphor trees, but is very dependent on tourism. Most shops sold camphor chests and furniture or tourist souvenirs but there were very few tourists. The village's claim to fame is a huge 1,000 year old camphor tree and twin wells dating back to when it was founded. The next stop was the Village of Wang Kou, situated on the bank of a good sized river with clear, green water. It was an important river port when the network of rivers and canals were China's principal shipping routes. There were had few tourist shops, so we were able to see inside stores, doctor and dentist offices and homes. The day was warm, and doors opened directly onto the narrow street. Today's lunch was very local - pig intestine, local wild greens, tiny fried fish (minnows), bamboo with pork and monkey pekoe tea. Today's destination was Jingdezhen, where we checked into a beautiful balcony room overlooking the river in the Zijing Hotel. We told Limang we were fine on our own for dinner, as we were too tired to leave the hotel. Few staff spoke any English, but we managed to get 2 beer onto the counter but when there was no sign of any intention to open them I used one against the other to pop the top. That got a laugh out of the staff and they kept us well provided with open beer after that. A young English speaking employee named Dennis assisted us in selecting a great dinner of duck, beef, greens and a vat of won ton soup that was over a foot across. All this and half a dozen large beer came to a surprisingly low $US40. Because of the fancy hotel we thought it would be much higher. This city is famous for its porcelain - we will see more of that tomorrow.