Entries Tagged as 'Travel'

Qikou Kezhan (Inn) 碛口客站: One of China’s most Charismatic Hotels

 Qikou Inn 碛口客站

Qikou kezhan

This must be one of China’s most charismatic hotels! It may not win any prizes for luxury, but its location and ambience are unbeatable.

The Inn or hotel, reportedly built some 300 years ago, is set right on the banks of the Yellow River 黄河, just before one of the river’s huge, sweeping bends. On the other side, the dry and barren hills of Shaanxi 陕西省 province stretch as far as the eye can see.

Qikou Kezhan

For centuries, Qikou town 碛口古城was an isolated but significant outpost as, for kilometer after kilometer, along either bank of the Yellow River, there were no other towns in sight.  In its heyday, it served as an important trading port between the provinces of Shanxi 山西省 and Shaanxi 陕西省, with hundreds of boats docking at its wharf. Today, standing on the few remaining, rickety wooden boards and overlooking the placid brown waters, all this activity is hard to imagine.

Qikou kezhan

The Inn has had an equally colorful history, first as home to the various merchants who plied their wares along the Yellow River and later as a base for the Red Army during the War of Resistance against Japan.

Qikou Kezhan

It’s a handsome, two storey, grey-brick building with two courtyards, a small tower and a lovely, covered terrace overlooking the river. Rooms are cave- like, with huge, rounded, latticed windows and bamboo screens hanging in front of the sturdy wooden doors. The beds are [Read more →]

Changing Times in WutaiShan 五台山

Even Wutaishan is Changing 五台山

photo of the week

Twenty years ago Wutaishan was a remote and spiritual destination that felt a million miles away from the modern world. On our recent visit we could see that times had changed as the picture below shows.

Changing times in Wutaishan 五台山

Cizhong 茨中 Yunnan: From our Diary

Cizhong 茨中

Village of Wine

 And is it still there?

Cizhong Church

Cizhong Church

Having just read a devastating  article about the future of Cizhong due to the Damming of the Mekong River (No Recourse: Upper Mekong Dam Spells End for Tibetan Village), we decided to publish this review from our diary that we had never previously put up on the blog.

The Journey

31/8/2007

The Road from Feilai Si near Deqin winds its way to the bottom of the Langcang Valley (Mekong River Valley) in a series of dramatic hairpin bends. On the right the mystical mountain of Meili Xueshan teases and torments the traveller with rare glimpses of its summit and glaciers in a game of hide and seek in the monsoon summer months.

Meili Shan hidding its peak

Meili Shan hidding its peak

For one second it’s there in all its majestic glory and then the next it’s gone, hidden behind swirling clouds or an impenetrable mist.

Road to Cizhong

Road to Cizhong

As the road reaches the river at the bottom of the valley, the barren rock faces on the left that threatened to come crashing down on our puny vehicle give way to fertile green fields dotted by white villages and prayer flags.

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Welcome to one of the most romantic places in China; the tiny village of Cizhong in China’s South West Yunnan province.

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The Village

While there are many other beautiful villages in the area, Cizhong stands out because of the lovely Catholic church that dominates the centre of the village and its surrounding vineyards.

Cizhong's amazing Tibetan style church

Cizhong’s amazing Tibetan style church

The church was built by French missionaries nearly [Read more →]

Faces of Xiding Market 西定市场 Yunnan

Faces of Xiding Market Yunnan

西定市场

Bulang Women Xiding Market

Bulang Women Xiding Market

Xiding Market 西定市场 in Yunnan`s Xishuangbanna Region is one of the best. In the previous post we put up we hadn’t got the photos ready. So here is a second post with the photos. Some things will have changed. But travellers still report that it continues to be an authentic rural market that attracts a number of different minorities including Bulang, Hani, and Dai.

Hani Women

Hani Women

              We abandoned our driver, his car buried deep in the mud, and mounted a motorbike. Ironically, the previously treacherous mud bath soon became a reasonably smooth, semi-asphalted road. The drive was stunning:

Our Taxi van being towed away

Our Taxi van being towed away

we passed Dai villages with their traditional raised wooden houses, thick jungle and vistas of mist-covered hills and valleys flashed by, and just when it seemed that the scenery couldn’t get better, we arrived in Xiding, looking like an island floating above the clouds. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, the town revealed itself as a bit of a dump.

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              The small, grubby market town of Xiding may seem a strange destination, especially if you have to spend so much time and effort trying to get there, but its Thursday market is one of the most authentic ethnic markets in Xishuangbanna.

Hani Women

Hani Women

A hive of activity from dawn to midday, the market attracts nearby Dai, Hani (Aini or Akha), and Bulang minorities. It is said that Lahu also drop in, but we didn’t see or recognize any. The only real sign of Han-Chinese presence are the huge military barracks overlooking the town, a reminder that the Myanmar border is only a few kilometres away.

Bulang women

Bulang women

                The market occupies a large square, just up the road from the bus station, as well as some of the adjacent streets. There is nothing touristy about this market, [Read more →]

Shanxi Province 山西省: A journey through the cradle of Chinese culture

Shanxi Province 山西省

Yungang Caves nearDatong

Yungang Caves 云冈石窟 near Datong大同

 

Our last two trips to China have taken us to the North-Western province of Shanxi. We’ll be posting a series of articles that look at some of the most spectacular sites Shanxi has to offer.

Temple  Land at Wutai Shan

Temple Land at Wutai Shan 五台山

We’ll be recommending what to see and do in places that range from the amazing cave art of the Yungang Grottoes云冈石窟 near Datong 大同 and the temple- studded mountains of Wutai Shan 五台山 to more remote places like Qikou 碛口, a Ming dynasty village on the Yellow river, the cave houses of Lijiashan 李家山, or the castles near the bustling city of Jincheng 晋城.

Grilled Squid at Taiyuan-s wonderful night market

Grilled Squid and lamb at Taiyuan-s wonderful night market

Pingyao 平遥 won’t be forgotten. We’ve now visited this wonderful city 3 times since 2001. There will be a comprehensive review of all the incredible things to see and do in and around this unique historical city.

Shanxi Opera in Pingyao

Shanxi Opera in Pingyao 平遥

For now, here are a few photos to whet you appetite. [Read more →]

Yuci Ancient City 榆次古城: Taiyuan Shanxi Province

Yuci 榆次古城Ancient Town

God Temple Yuci

God Temple Yuci

It’s a tedious ride on a local bus from Taiyuan passing through an endless sprawl of residential tower blocks that blur the distinction between the ending of one town and the beginning of another. The apartments are interspersed with companies, ranging from small and medium-sized to large, all set back from the road in their own compounds. The traffic is relentless and the ride seems to go on and on.

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Yuci 榆次

Then, suddenly, you are dropped in Yuci榆次Ancient Town and immediately the urban horrors of modern China recede and give way to striking temples, imposing ancestor halls and magnificent but austere Confucian buildings. Add to this some exquisite vernacular buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasty and you can enjoy a superb day trip from Taiyuan.

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Yuci Street

On a beautiful winter’s day in early January with temperatures below 10 and an azure sky, we were incredulous to find the town devoid of tourists, finding ourselves more often than not the only visitors at the various sights.

Yuci Blue Skys

Yuci Blue Skys

Visiting the Ancient Town

Start by paying 60 Yuan for a Tong Piao 通票 (through ticket), which allows you to visit all the numerous sights; you can wander around the town itself without a ticket.  The first on your list, and close to the entrance, should be the magnificent God Temple 隍庙, where you’ll find [Read more →]

Zhaoqing 肇庆: The City with Everything

Zhaoqing 肇庆

The City with Everything

Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing

Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing

Within an hour from Guangzhou, Zhaoqing is a fantastic place to spend a few days exploring. It’s a lively city with its own miniature version of Guilin’s famous karst scenery smack- bang in the centre in the form of the Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone; a massive park and lake area.

Not bad for the city centre

Not bad for the city centre

Moreover, Zhaoqing still preserves some interesting, old downtown areas to wander around and explore the traditional shop-houses, the tiny dwellings built onto the city walls and the occasional riverside pagoda.

Zhaoqing River Scene

Zhaoqing River Scene

Nearby, China’s first Biosphere Reserve, Dinghushan 鼎湖山, lies on the outskirts of the city. Just an hour away by local bus are the time-forgotten, completely un-spoilt ancient Bagua Villages of Licha Cun and Xianggang Cun. Add to all this a great night market with restaurants spilling out into the street, serving excellent Cantonese food and you couldn’t really ask for more. Incidentally, though the city is popular with Chinese visitors, you are unlikely to see another foreigner during your stay.

Zhaoqing Street Scene

Zhaoqing Street Scene

Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone

In Zhaoqing city, the undisputed main attraction is the [Read more →]

Dinghushan 鼎湖山; a Tropical Paradise on the Edge of Urbanization

Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Zhaoqing / Guangdong Province

Dinghu Shan

Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Dinghushan 鼎湖山, just an hour away from the centre of Zhaoqing, was China’s first National Park, established in 1956. Nowadays it’s also a UNESCO “Man and Natural Biosphere Reserve” for the research of ecosystems in tropical and subtropical forests.

Another Waterfall in Dinghu Shan

鼎湖山

It’s a beautiful place of towering green hills, gushing waterfalls and clear streams, laced with a sprinkling of peaceful Buddhist temples and home to numerous plant and animal species. However, apart from the awe-inspiring, lush, tropical scenery, one memory will always stick in our minds: that of pigging out on tasty, deep- purple potatoes…

The Purple Potato

The Purple Potato

We got to the park by local bus, leaving from downtown Zhaoqing. Though the park’s only 18 km away, the ride took quite a while, as the bus meandered from one densely populated suburb to the next. Even when it finally dropped us off in a quiet, dead-end street, lined with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, we still found it hard to believe there could be an important natural reserve near here.

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Map of Dinghushan

Our first impressions of China’s “green gem on the Tropic of Cancer” weren’t [Read more →]

Luocheng 罗城镇 Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture: Travel Update

Luocheng 罗城镇

Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture

罗城镇 Luocheng

罗城镇 Luocheng

We’ve just received a travel update on the amazing teahouse village Luocheng 罗城镇  in Sichuan province. Many years ago we had a long and bumpy ride to Luocheng from Leshan. It now seems the trip can be done in around 3 ½ hours by bus directly from Chengdu along a good road. We’ve had a detailed comment from Wayne on our previous post.  The bus timetables are below but click here to read the rest of the comment and more about Luocheng.

Buses to Luocheng leave from Chengdu’s Shiyangchang Bus Station 石羊场汽车客运站 at 8.20 / 9.20 and 12.20 and return to Chengdu at 12.30/ 13.30 and 14.30. Tickets cost 67 Yuan. Bus number 28 goes to Shiyangchang Bus Station from downtown Chengdu.

Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇

Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇

Bagua Village 八卦村 of Licha Cun 黎槎村 Guangdong Province

Bagua Village of Licha Cun 黎槎村

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Licha Cun Bagua Village

One of Guangdong’s hidden gems is found only 200 meters from some of the drabbest scenery you are ever likely to see in China.

Licha Cun Bagua Village

The road between the attractive town of Zhaoqing and the fascinating Bagua village of Licha Cun 黎槎村 has got to be one of the ugliest in China. Dusty, dirty and lined, almost uninterruptedly, with small ceramic factories, many of them specialize in manufacturing toilet bowls of all shapes and sizes. These thrones, destined for backsides of China’s growing urbanized middle class, are haphazardly displayed along the side of the road making the traveler wonder if the world is just one big toilet.

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Yet, the ugliness is deceptive. Turn 200 meters down any small road leading off the highway and you enter a rural world of bucolic charm that has hardly changed for centuries. The turn off to the Bagua Village of Licha Cun is just one such example.

Bagua 八卦 The Octagonal Shape of Licha Cun

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“The bagua: 八卦; literally: “eight symbols”) are eight trigrams used in Taoist Cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each line either “broken” or “unbroken,” representing Yin or Yang, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as “trigrams” in English.” WikiPedia

Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village

Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village

With a history tracing back more than 700 years, the Village of [Read more →]