A Travellerspoint blog

November 2017

Yancun and the MBA grad

overcast 16 °C
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[map=1074430 lat= lon= zoom=]It was my last trip to Wuyuan this weekend. I stopped in Yancun and secured my drafty guest house for the night. The tour groups were annoying, but it was still a nice visit. There is a 500 year old bridge, shaped like a boat.
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And I got some amazing deep fried snacks. Can't tell you what was in them, maybe carrots, corn and tofu. So creamy inside and crunchy on the outside. Delicious. I should've bought more, but I could feel just one of them clogging my arteries already.

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I got lost in the Qing dynasty era buildings, as you do.
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The view from my guest house was great, and I could understand why many film crews come here to capture life in the olden days. There are bazillions of Chinese historical dramas on TV every day. This place must be crazy in the summertime.

I took a nap in my little bed and then went down for dinner. I was pleasantly surprised to meet an endoscopy salesman who spoke perfect English. He had gotten his MBA at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He was there with a cute secretary from his office who spoke no English.

He ordered me some random food and it turned out to be thick chunks of pork fat in "preserved vegetables" with fried lettuce. Ok, great. Thanks. I was just hungry for anything, so I ate it. He also ordered me two large glasses of home brewed baijiu and a can of beer. We were having fun and laughing until the topic of American politics came up... as it does so often nowadays. The Drumpf had just finished his tour of Asia, so I guess the afterglow was still wearing off on this Chinese businessman. He couldn't shut up about how proud he is of this great president! But he's disrespectful to women? I said... well I'm not a feminist, are you? My new friend Tom replied. I didn't answer, but suddenly, I was a little worried for his secretary friend. I started to wonder what on earth a non-feminist was doing bringing his secretary to this romantic place on the weekend. Tom had perhaps noticed, because I turned to her and translated "can I help you?" on my google translate app. He got up quickly and paid for everything. I said thank you and they were gone. Yeesh, was it something I said? Oops.

In the morning, I was awoken at 6 a.m. by screaming old men and crying babies.

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I got up slowly and walked all the way back to Sikou where I could catch the bus back to Wuyuan.

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I walked over the Wuyuan bridge for the last time... goodbye Wuyuan...

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Posted by baixing 19:42 Archived in China Tagged wuyuan yancun sixicun Comments (1)

Ancient postal roads in Wuyuan


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[map=1074430 lat= lon= zoom=]I wanted to do the ancient postal road hike from Guankeng to Lijiao this weekend, but I wasn't sure when. If I went on Saturday, it might get dark, but if I went on Sunday morning, it would be raining. All the way to the trailhead, I was worrying. Would I get there too late to do it today or not? As the mini bus rounded yet another hairpin turn around yet another mountainside, I worried more. Finally, I made a bargain with myself. if we arrived before 3 p.m., I was going to attempt the trek to Lijiao before sunset, if not, I'd stay in Guankeng.

We arrived in Guankeng at 2:40 p.m. I guessed I was doing this thing that night. The trail was a medium challenge, so I cinched my lumpy, untechnologically sound backpack tighter onto my shoulders and headed up the stairs. The way up was gentle, alternating between very shallow stairs with flat grassland and humble gardens.
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Hiking by myself always makes my mind wander into strange territories, imagining all the worst case scenarios like falling off a cliff while taking a pee, or being followed by petty thieves, raped and robbed in the twilight. I remembered every single hiker story that ended in tragedy. It seems my brain has an endless capacity for retaining these narratives for moments just like these.

In between enjoying the sound of the fall leaves crunching under my feet, and the birds chirping as they went to bed, I kept one ear open for murderers watching me from the bushes. There were none of course, only a few foresters chopping down a few trees, hoisting their harvest on their shoulders, portaging their bounty downwards on the gruelling descent home. The farmers smiled and waved, toothlessly pointing straight up, laughing at a single woman trekking alone... or were they signalling to their gangster friend to attack me at the top? I couldn't decide.

Finally, I made it to the summit, and as I inched down, I could tell the sun would set in about an hour. It took at least that long to carefully pick my way in between the broken rocks that served as stairs. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a postman, making this agonisingly delicate commute every day, delivering the vauable mail to waiting villagers. Those stairs went straight down, with no flat stretches at alll. I was glad I had started in Guankeng and not Lijiao.
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Just as the sun disappeared behind the hills, I found myself in the town.
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I saw a group of artists and some of them spoke English. They got me a room at their hotel, but I was given a peasant's meal for dinner, and not allowed the luxurious seafood chowder and roasted pumpkin the rest of the group got. I sat at a table alone with my egg/tomato, corn on the cob and cabbage. I tried not to take it personally. I was just glad I had found a room, and these kind people had offered to drive me back to Wuyuan in the morning on top of that.

Breakfast was at 7 a.m. and a nice couple from Shanghai drove me back to Wuyuan. It was so kind of them that I didn't mention that it was way too early for my regular 2 p.m. bus home.
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I shut my mouth and said thank you, and wandered around Wuyuan again. I met a nice elementary school teacher and we happened upon some singles day sales. I got a new wallet and she bought me some Chinese books for children that I was looking at. Hilarious.

My new friend also brought me to her beautiful home. She cooked lunch for me and her family. She even convinced her husband to drive me back to the bus station. It was another really great weekend in Wuyuan county.

Posted by baixing 03:49 Archived in China Tagged wuyuan jiangxi guankeng lijiao Comments (1)

Village number two, Xiaoqi


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[map=1074430 lat= lon= zoom=]The traffic getting out of the city was horrendous. They always take some obscure city street instead of the highway, which goes the same way, and flows freely. I don't know why. Anyway, I arrived in Xiaoqi in the early afternoon and went straight to "upper" Xiaoqi, because it doesn't have any stupid tourist shops.

I asked the man at the local general store if there was a hotel and he let me stay upstairs for 80 yuan. A few hours later, I also had dinner of pig's tail, spinach and radish, with a delicious bottomless cup of jujube (the fruit not the candy) baijiu. Pig's tail is not so good, but there was some tofu in the sauce that tasted like heaven.
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The store was really a great place to be for the evening, because random people kept coming into the place to buy stuff and they would stay because they were curious about me. It ended up like a big party in there, it seemed like half the village came out that night. I went to bed super early after three cups of baijiu, and didn't get out of it until 8 a.m.

I took a leisurely shower and had a leisurely coffee in my room. i set off to wander around for the rest of the morning.

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Luckily, I met a nice Australian woman who was also wandering and we wandered together. She went back to her hotel to find her husband and driver, and I went back to wandering. As I was walking, I realized that she might need my ticket into the village. She mentioned that her husband had lost his, so I went back to her hotel and they were there, still looking for their driver.

They had spent quite a while in Wuyuan, going around to different villages. They said that they woudn't need my ticket, but offered me a ride in their car back to town. Oh hurray, thanks. So I enjoyed more English chatter all the way back.

They dropped me off at the north bus station and I walked back to the bus station because it was so early. Imagine my surprise when I came across an "international" food festival. Most of the stuff was Chinese or strange interpretations of foreign food, but I got some pineapple sticky rice in a pineapple bowl. I don't remember that in Thailand, but maybe I forgot.
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A little girl followed me back to the bus station, practising her English on me and giggling to her brother, who had joined us on his bike.

Posted by baixing 03:31 Archived in China Tagged wuyuan jiangxi xiaoqi Comments (1)

The French Concession


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I was getting ready to go, at the same time as Toshi, a Japanese construction worker from Tokyo. He had been at a job interview the day before and had no plans for the day. I just wanted to see the French Concession that day, so we went down there. Our first stop was the arts and crafts museum, where people were supposed to be demonstrating their craft, but it was more of a fancy store than anything else.
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Then, we walked all the way down to the site of the first Communist Party meeting. The streets were really pleasant to walk down, so we spent most of the day just walking and walking and walking. It was great.
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At the museum, you could see the table Mao and his friends sat at to discuss the founding of the new China. Not sure it was authentic, it looked a little new to me.

This is not it, no photos allowed of the "real" table.
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Then, there was another museum next door, showing a typicaly Shikumen home. The interesting part was the small room in between the first and second floors which was often rented out to starving students and artists. Therefore a lot of famous Chinese writing was written in apartments such as these.
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We had a lunch of fruit salad in the park and then went to Tianzifang, which was an absolute nightmare.
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We left quickly for Jing' An Temple, which glitters with gold amidst the sky scrapers.
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We had dinner at a Hong Kong style place and then went back on foot to have a small party in the hostel.

Posted by baixing 02:23 Archived in China Tagged shanghai Comments (1)

All around Shanghai


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I got up early to see the Bund history museum and Yuyuan Gardens. The museum had a cool design which was underground and went in a continuous circle, but it was a lot of predictable propaganda again as well.
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Just after that, I went to Yuyuan Gardens as it opened. It wasn't early enough to beat the crowds though. While it was a nice example of a Ming Dynasty garden, it was way too crowded to enjoy properly. It wasn't peaceful at all. I did however, enjoy the ceramic instrumental group, which I had seen a few years ago in Jingdezhen.
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I watched their robotic performance and then headed back to the Rockbund art gallery which had some coo modern art. I especially enjoyedthe scientific style exhibit about Singapore. The building housed the former Shanghai Museum in the past, so it seemed appropriate to have an exhibit with old fashioned curios like that.
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There was a really nice mosaic in one of the banks depicting different trading partners of China,
90_IMG_2524.jpgso I went to see that before heading off to the "Old Town", which is gaudy and full of cheap trinkets. I saw the Temple of the Town God and the Chenxiangge Monastery. In reaity, a nunnery with an extra fee to see the golden Guanyin on the top floor.
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All the rest of the museums were closing, so I went to the Power Station of Art. You guessed it, a former power station has been turned into a huge warehouse for giant art installations.
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They had a specia exhibit by a famous Chinese pop artist. He got involved in "bio art" and became obsessed with genetics, drawing hybrid human dragon flies over and over again. This guy did some weird experiments combining the genes of corn, pumpkins and rice. The museum had actually put a field of rice and corn on display. It was pretty funny. He wanted to allow the plants to choose their own traits so he took out some genes and when they reproduced, they came out all wonky, with less chlorophyll and growing sideways etc.
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There was also another cool exhibit about a design company that builds paper homes in places devastated by disaster. There was a paper cathedral from Christchurch, a paper school from Sichuan andother small homes from other obliterated areas.
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Before going back, I stopped at a famous restaurant in the French Concession for delicious ribs and eggplant.
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Posted by baixing 02:11 Archived in China Tagged shanghai Comments (0)

A couple of museums


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After completely ruining my Wednesday, I had a new mission to see as much as possible in the time left. So, I delved into the Shanghai Museum and the Urban Planning Museum, which was full of futuristic propaganda leftover from some expo they had done a few years ago.

The other museum was massive, but very familiar to me, as it had the same layout and contents as every other provincial capital museum, except this one was much larger. I especially enjoyed the minority exhibit on the top floor. I should've started at the top instead.

I was famished, so I got me some real Shanghai dumplings at Yang's nearby. I stil had a little energy left, so I went down to see the "Coo Docks" described as a "backwater" in the guide book.

After being sent the wrong way by some sort of security guard, I got extremely lost around a subway construction site. Finally, I found it, walked around for a few minutes and then went home, predictably unimpressed.

Posted by baixing 02:04 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai Happy Hour International Hostel is violent!


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I was informed at the last minute, of course, about a five day vacation which resulted from the school's sports week. I made a quick decision to go to Shanghai and check off two of Lonely Planet's top 30 things in China. The Bund and the French Concession.

So, after class on Tuesday, I went down to the train station with my expired passport and hoped to get a ticket. My passport was still in Beijing, on its way to me, hopefully to arrive in the evening. I surprisingly got a ticket for 10 p.m. and went back home where my passport was just arriving. How lucky! I went straight back to the train station and slept all the way to Shanghai.

As soon as I woke up, a woman selling noodles was walking by. How lucky again!

I was not looking forward to tromping all the way to my hostel when I arrived at rush hour. They had already tricked me into booking with them by listing a really cheap price, however, the fine print stated that I could only have that price on my birthday. Since it was not my birthday, I called booking.com's customer service and they changed my reservation to a more regular price of 55 yuan, which is fine, but I don't like being tricked. Just goes to show, if it's too good to be true, it probably is!

Here's the email I sent to Booking.com to which they responded with a very feeble apology and did not remove the hostel from their website.

First off I booked this hostel's very cheap "birthday rate" not knowing what it was. When I read the fine print I realized I could only get the discount if it was my birthday. Since it was not my birthday, I realized I needed to change the booking. It was non-refundable, so I talked to "Mehdi" at the "Genius" customer service number. He changed my booking to a single bed in a dormitory and changed the price to 55 CNY per night and I was happy with that. I had read the reviews and clarified with him that this was indeed a bed and NOT a sofa bed. Which I would not accept. He assured me it was not a sofa bed and then told me to call back if there's a problem.

When I got there, of course, they told me I had to sleep on the sofa bed at this rate. I refused and asked to borrow the phone so I could call booking.com again. I was on hold for a very long time and the receptionist became angry and demanded his phone back. My phone didn't have much money on it, so I needed to use the hostel's phone to resolve this issue. Twice I refused to give him the phone and twice he violently pulled and grabbed at my arm to try and rip the phone back from me. He screamed that it was his phone.

At this point I needed to find another hotel but my iPod's battery was about to die. I plugged it in and then used their wifi. This man began to push and hit me out of the way and then ripped my plug out of the socket. It was at this point that I started screaming and hitting back. I needed to use the wifi to find a new place.

He took my bag which I had left on the floor and threw it out into the hallway. Then he shoved me into the door, which I resisted and shoved back. Eventually he shoved me out into the hallway and turned off the wifi so that I was completely screwed out of even finding a new hostel.

I reported everything to the police. They told me this hostel is illegal and I hope they will press charges.

Here's the sofa bed that I refused to sleep on
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Luckily, I had the address of the new place the woman at booking.com told me about. Thank God they were there. I put my stuff down and went to the police station.

It took them forever to take my statement, but at that point I didn't care anymore, I just wanted this guy to get fired or for the police to shut them down.

When I finally got back to the new hostel, I decided it was time for a trip to the Bund to have a fancy dinner. I needed to revive the day. Hakkasan was a highly rated place right on the river and they had a simple tasting menu which was awesome, because I wasn't in the mood to think anymore at that point.

So I took a well deserved shower, got dressed up and went down there. I was seated at a small window table facing the river.

Here's my review of the restaurant;
I had a terrible day so I went to hakkasan to try and revive my evening. It helped a bit for sure, but there were some elements of disappointment. I was seated at a nice window table beside an obnoxious family who gave their toddler a spoon to play drums with. I politely asked them to stop their son, but they didn't. I requested to move to another table, which caused me to lose my place at the window. It would've been nicer if staff had respectfully asked the parents to control their child. But fine. Chinese saving face yadda yadda.

(I forgot to ask his name) A kind manager reseated me and I told him about my day. He made me a complimentary mojito for my troubles and that was very appreciated. I didn't think the food was that amazing, maybe I ordered the wrong thing. I had the duck salad and cod from the tasting menu. I didn't realize the cod was all the way from Alaska, I mentioned that I regretted ordering it to the manager because id rather have local food, but he didn't offer to change the order. Fine I guess, again. It was good, but I've had better in Macau of course. The lemon pot for dessert was a lot better than expected i really enjoyed all the different tastes in the pot, sweet sour crunchy chewy, perfect.

I want to give it 4.5 stars but I can't so I'm giving this only 4 stars because of the women's uniform. I thought the dresses the more "attractive" women had to wear were sexist. I noticed only the more "Chinese" looking women wore them. The darker skinned, shorter women dressed all in black t shirts and pants as the men did. And they were given less "glamorous" jobs. Please correct me if my assumption on this is wrong, but from my perspective it looked really bad.

After dinner, I walked around for a couple hours then came back to the hostel exhausted and ready to do it all again the next day.

Posted by baixing 01:47 Archived in China Tagged shanghai Comments (1)

Wangkou, the first of many quiet villages in Wuyuan


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The teachers' shuttle bus got me to Qingshan bus station after work. I was pretty sure there wouldn't be a bus leaving until tomorrow, but I tried anyway. A retired international business professor sat down beside me and she spoke quite fluent English. It was surprising, I can't say I've met any older women speaking any English ever, in three years in China. My enthusiasm for meeting her was extinguished however, when she said that having twin boys is preferable to girls. (We were taking about another foreign teacher who had brought his twin baby boys to China).

Like I suspected, there were no buses leaving for Wuyuan until Saturday morning at 9, so I bought a ticket and went home.

The next day, I finally got to Wuyuan by lunchtime, and I went straight to Wangkou, hoping I could find the hostel I saw on Ctrip. I won't be using Booking.com ever again, and you'll see why in subsequent blog posts from Shanghai. The way they dealt with a violent situation, was less than satisfying.

I didn't book the hostel because I try not to use my credit card when I can pay in the local currency. Unfortunately Ctrip doesn't operate the same way as Booking.com, so I will be taking my chances again, just showing up and paying in cash. Of course, the hostel was full, so I lumbered back down to the road to find another one. They made me lunch of bamboo and weird leafy things. They laughed when I ordered two beers, and then brought me to a super cute room on the river. We ran there, and I was confused until I realized we were hiding from the guards that charge 60 yuan to get into the village. I went to bed early, enjoying the warm sunset from my twee window.

I woke up super early, took a shower, and strolled around with a warm tea, as the village was waking up. I lost all my photos because either my camera or my SD card is broken. I got a new one, as you shall see in the future.

Across the bridge, through the mist, there was a riverside hike that ended abruptly under a collapsed tree. That was also really peaceful.

I watched a couple of women do laundry in the freezing river, and then went home. It turns out the Lonely Planet was wrong again. I even had the 2017 version this time. I got back to Wuyuan in time for the so-called 10 a.m. bus to Nanchang, but found out it didn't leave until 2 p.m. I made the best of it and took a nap in the park by the river. Also enjoyable, although not ideal.

Posted by baixing 20:37 Archived in China Tagged wangkou Comments (0)

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