Xingcheng 兴城 Part One: Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Taken straight from our diary. Part One of our visit to Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城.
Part two will be about Xingcheng Beach兴城海滨浴场 and Juhua Dao.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老城

Shanhaiguan 山海关 10/09/2016: Margie’s Diary

We get up ready and packed, and march to the train station with our bags, feeling quite fit and ready. Shanhaiguan 山海关 has really grown on me; I can even appreciate the beauty of the park to my left, with its secluded pavilions and stone seats and tables. Pity we never got to drink a cold beer at any of them.

Fishing fleet at Xingcheng Beach兴城海滨浴场

We wait for our train, together with quite a few other people and get on. A man exchanges seats with me, so Adam and I can sit on a two-seater together, the train is not full anyway.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

This is called hard-seat 硬座, but isn’t anything like the hard-seaters of old. In fact, seats are padded and covered in blue cloth, with little white head rests. We’re on a two seater, while across the aisle there’s a three seater. Most of the passengers are sprawled over the seats and most are asleep.

Getting Married at Xingcheng Beach兴城海滨浴场 Next Article

I try to use my time well by writing in my diary in order to catch up.

The train stops in a number of places in one of them, a group of extremely noisy old-age pensioners get on. This must be the Chinese version of the Imerso (the Spanish discount travel agency for oldies). The oldies don’t stop chattering and joking and going around offering each other sweets and snacks.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

All too soon, after 1½ hours, we are at Xingcheng 兴城. We exit the train station and find ourselves on a dusty road, not quite sure how far we are from the centre and /or our intended hotel. So we hail a cab which is cheap.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

The Jin Zhong zi Binguan 金钟子宾馆 looks somewhat aged from the outside, making me a bit weary. After Shanhaiguan, I would really appreciate somewhere clean ….. The receptionist – a very efficient young lady with glasses and a bun who reminds us of our Chinese friend living in Spain, Anny – sends me to the fifth floor to inspect a couple of rooms.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

The floor Fuwuyuan 服务员 (the person responsible of cleaning the rooms on a particular floor) is waiting for me – there is evidence of a lot of cleaning being done (dirty laundry everywhere- as well as an enourmous hoover) and the place looks clean.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

 We can either have a clean , tidy but small room for 198 Yuan or a humongous suite of uncomfortable wooden furniture and a glass-fronted bathroom with a real tub for 298 Yuan, ..It’s obvious that Adam went for the small one ….pity.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Anyway it’s hot and steamy so we clean ourselves up and then go out.  We are looking for a bite to eat and then visit the old city for sightseeing.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Adam quite likes the look of the main drag, says it reminds of the China of old. The clothes shops – displaying the uniquely Chinese fashions of a provincial town in the 1970s- blaring music, bridal boutiques show garish green and purple dresses, complete with feathers and artificial flowers and such; and there are street stalls everywhere, selling anything from grilled squid kebabs to jeans to tools or fruit.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We tried to find something to eat in the Happy Family Mall 大家庭 but to no avail as the food  court mentioned in our guide book had ceased to exist. In a second Happy Family Mall a bit further along the road there were some Baobing 刨冰 counters (Shaved Ice with fruit and syrups) and that was about all.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We decided to postpone lunch until we got to the Old Town (an excellent decision). We did however, spy a train ticket booking office in the second Mall where it was easy to book high speed trains back to Beijing 北京. Xingcheng 兴城 has its own High Speed station about 40 Kilometers away at Huludaobei 葫芦岛北站 (See coming and going).

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We keep heading straight as the receptionist had told us but somehow miss the signpost indicating the entrance to the old city. Adam tries to ask several people, but they don’t seemed to understand his Chinese. Even a couple of white coated pharmasists – who we took to be more or less intelligent – cannot understand “Gucheng” or “Laocheng” Chinese for old city.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

When we eventually get there, we can see that the main drag has already been spruced up for tourism with many of the shops selling the typical tacky souvenirs that are ubiquitous at Chinese tourist sites.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

However, there were a few attractive folk inspired clothes shops, one of them called grandma’s, and a lot of men were pounding ‘nougat’ with huge hammers and shouting and calling out; much in the same way to what we had seen in Xian’s Muslim quarter.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

There are also a couple of handsome carved stone ‘Pailou 牌楼’ ( Stone Archways) across the street, but we are more pre-occupied with finding somewhere to eat at that moment…….

Pailou 牌楼 Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We quickly spy a clean looking and attractive restaurant that has a few people in it. It proves to be an excellent choice and we enjoy some of the freshest and tastiest prawns and squid on this trip.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Other customers are wolfing down seafood dumplings another of the restaurant’s specialties.  Judging by the photos on the wall this place is either quite famous or part of a larger chain. The beer is also very cold.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We really enjoyed the food and beer, but have lingered a bit too long. It’s about 15.20 and most sites _ for which we have bought the expensive through ticket – close at 17.30, so we have to get a move on.

Confucius temple 文庙

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We soon realize there isn’t that much of rush, as the sites aren’t great. We decide to do the Confucius temple first. It is the oldest in northeast China. It’s true that it is well maintained and the gardens are lovely, with little stone bridges and old trees and so on, but the halls are mostly empty.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We peek into another old residence / museum, but it seems an entirely re-built construction so we don’t linger.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

General Gao’s House 将军府

More interesting is the handsome residence of General Gao Rulian, which dates from the 1920s. It has some beautiful brick carving, spacious and luxuriously furnished rooms that combine sleeping – sitting and studying areas and a large peaceful garden complete with rockery.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

The general and his wife apparently lived here after his retirement and dedicated themselves to study and cultivating their inner life. I think I could get into that if I had such a lovely, spacious house!

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

The general must have been an enlightened chap, because he was in favor of women’s education and set up a kind of collage for them!

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

On the way out we admire the exquisitely carved-brick screen that stands in front of the entrance.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

In the far corner of the old city and practically in the countryside is the City God Temple, a ramshackle affair where meet a young girl studying to be a nun who badgers us during our visit to help pronounce English phonetic sounds. And that is about it for sights.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城 a tomb or a flower garden at the City God Temple

The old town is very dilapidated, scruffy and semi-abandoned apart from the aforementioned parts that have been rather tackily done up. All a little bit underwhelming and certainly not anything to rival Pingyao; what on earth was Lonely Planet thinking?

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

We climb up onto the restored city wall and walk round almost the entire old city. It is from here where you can really appreciate the abandonment.  There are crumbling old houses that are still inhabited, right next to other that have caved in- with bushes and trees growing through what was once the roof or completely collapsed.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Whole pieces of land have reverted to nature or been turned into vegetable plots. We see a couple of men herding sheep and goats….  Xingcheng Old Town is a melancholy place, a poor place, though not without charm and certainly potential. All these plots of land inside a walled city- surely they must be prime property? How long before a new-old city will rise on this spot and attract tourists from all over China.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

For the time being, the bits of the town we like the best are around the city gates, where some of the real life goes on. Towards dusk vendors start setting up stalls, selling fruit and veg, or preparing food, kebabs and grilled meats were the most popular.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Around the gates there are also some real businesses such as funeral parlous, bike shops or bird cage sellers.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

Accomodation:

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

The Jin Zhong Zi Binguan 金钟子: a good option; friendly staff, comfortable rooms and a decent restaurant. What more could you ask for?

Food:

Food is good in Xingcheng 兴城. It might just be worth coming here just to stuff your face on fish and seafood.  The town has a huge fishing fleet and fresh sea produce is everywhere.

Fishing Fleet at Xingcheng Beach兴城海滨浴场

There are three good areas:

The old Town 老城 has one or two very good atmospheric restaurants and lots of stalls at night outside the city gates. Unfortunately we didn’t take down the name of the one we ate in. It is on the main street  as you enter from the main entrance to the left before the first crossroad.

素菜饺子 Seafood Dumplings Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

A second option is by the beach where seafood restaurants with buckets of live food line the street. Huge portions of fresh prawns go for about 100 yuan.

Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

The third option is in or around the Jin Zhong Zi 金钟子 Binguan. The hotel’s restaurant cooks some pretty good seafood and spicy dishes. Opposite the hotel is an excellent Muslim restaurant (pictures above and below) that we tried on our last evening: they serve up great veggie dumplings, fantastic eggplants and an unusual soup of sea snail and Chinese turnips.

兴城 snowpeas 荷兰豆 Xingcheng Old City 兴城老成城

They also serve my favourite vegetable; snowpeas 荷兰豆.

Getting there and away

We arrived in Xingcheng 兴城 from Shanhaiguan 山海关 on a slow train that took less than two hours. The train takes a pretty rural route stopping at a number of places along the way.

We returned to Beijing 北京 from the new high speed station at Huludaobei 葫芦岛北站 (40 minutes away in a taxi). It is a brand new station in the middle of nowhere. The train leaves on time at 10.50 and we arrive in Beijing sometime after 14.00.

We bought our tickets to Beijing 北京 from a ticket office in the Happy Family Shopping mall. Very easy and very convenient.

Juhua Dao 菊花岛: The Island of Fishing Nets

Fishing nets Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao

The one thing you notice when you visit Juhua Island 菊花岛, 9 kilometers off the Liaoning Coast near the walled town of Xingcheng 兴城, are the fishing nets.

Mending nets Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao

They are everywhere; and it seems that the entire population of Juhua Dao 菊花岛 dediate their time to fixing them.

Mending nets Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao

Walking around the island You’ll find yourself tripping over the nets and any photo you take, the nets will find a way of appearing in your photo. Here are just a few of the ones we took.

Fishing nets Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao

In the coming weeks we’ll be adding some more photos of the island’s other attraction. The political slogans painted on the walls of the fishermen’s houses like the ones you see at the back of the photo above.

Mending nets Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao
Mending nets Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao
Colourful Chinese Fishing Boats Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao
Mending nets Juhua Island 菊花岛 Juhua Dao

The Great Wall on Water: Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Photo of the week presents the Great Wall at Jiumenkou 九门口长城 in Liaoning Province. One of the only parts of the Great Wall to be have been built over a river.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

The Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城 is a majestic sight, one of only a few parts of the Great Wall 长城 to have been  built across a river. It stands on the isolated border between the northern provinces of Liaoning 辽宁省 and Hebei 河北省 and close to the ancient garrison town of Shanhaiguan 山海关.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

For history buffs Jiumenkou Great Wall is a must. Don’t be put off by the tourist facilities that have been set up to accommodate Chinese tour groups. Hang around a while and any crowds will disappear. We recommend going for a walk up either side of the valley to explore some fascinating unrestored remnants of the wall and wait for the groups to go; you’ll soon have the place to yourself.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Here is the account of our visit taken from the dairy Margie Keeps:

On our previous day at Shanhaiguan we agreed with a lady taxi driver on 150 yuan for the two sites; the Great Wall at Jiumenkou, and the Great Wall at the edge of the sea.

Abandoned Watchtowers Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Though supposedly only 15 kilometers from Shanhaiguan, it takes us almost 45 minutes to reach the site, along a narrow, winding and climbing road. Above us are the remote and abandoned watchtowers perched dramatically on the jagged mountains.

Abandoned Watchtowers Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

These lonely towers were once the most important defense positions of the Chinese empire. It was in this area where the marauding northern tribes would try to break through and enter the Middle Kingdom. And it is where the Manchus pored over the wall and into China to overthrow the Ming Dynasty and start the Qing Dynasty.

Abandoned Wall Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Now, the watchtowers stand abandoned, their purpose for existing rendered obsolete. However, for the visitor, they are a majestic sight.

Abandoned Watchtowers Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

When we get to Jiumenkou, we find a parking lot, visitors’ reception area and other bits and bobs. Of course, visiting a ‘bridge’ is never just that in China, of course they have developed the site.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Well, this time I can only say that they have done a great job! The restored bridge section near the river is stunning and beautifully reflected in the clear water of the river.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

To the left, there is quite a long stretch of restored wall, winding its way up the forested hillside, up to two or three watchtowers, while on the right we can see a glorious unrestored section; its crumbling walls and fading watchtowers stretching as far as the eye can see.

Unrestored Great wall at Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

It`s really interesting to be able to see both versions, restored and un restored, at the same time.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

We get our tickets and climb on to the bridge first and walk across it: it’s a curious, angular or pointy structure, with interior courtyards and tunnels as well.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Looking down from the wall, you can see straight into a small farmers’ village, dedicated almost exclusively to apple orchards all around the wall, with many of the apples individually wrapped in brown paper bags. Can you imagine how time consuming that must be?

There are ladies with baskets, hawking apples all over the place. The village of one story white-tile houses looks messy – as they all do- but not poor. The apples must sell well. And what a glorious location: imagine having the Great Wall running past your back garden …..

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

On the right at the far end the wall is blocked, so you can’t clamber up the unrestored bit. We therefore turn left and start climbing: it’s very steep at times, but the wall is broad And well maintained; unscary.

With each turn, or ascent of a watchtower, the views change and we can make out yet another watchtower, or stretch of wall in the distance! It really is a magnificent sight and we have gorgeous blue skies to go with it as well.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Halfway-up, a peasant lady has actually set up an apple and refreshments stall in her orchard, right by the wall and she is doing a brisk trade, flogging apples and bottles of water over the wall.

Apple seller on Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Closer to the top I notice a young couple stuffing pieces of handkerchief down the back of their little daughter’s shoes.

Everone is taking Photos Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

The poor thing obviously has blisters, so I offer them some plasters. They then take pictures with me. It’s all quite companionable.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Round about watchtower 3 the restored wall becomes less and less restored and eventually peters out. A sign tells people to stop, though a couple of Chinese men have ignored this and climbed up the mountain to very end of the wall anyway; leaving their rather annoyed companions to wait for them.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

We head back and obtain a couple of beers from a little stand down below, which we drink on a shady bench, looking over the bridge and the crumbling wall.

It would be total bliss if it were not for the blaring music and tourists dressing up in emperor and empress costumes and/ or taking selfies. However, the setting is beautiful and nothing can spoil that!

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

As our driver had predicted we have spent over two hours here, having a very good look around, and are now ready to move on.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

There are other things here, such as an aviary with ‘rare foul’, but we don’t want to waste time trying to find it. It time for our next destination: Old Dragon Head, this is where the Great Wall once met the sea.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城