Matang Gejia Minority Village

Hurry Up! Matang Village

Matang

Matang Gejia Minority Village

Matang Gejia Minority Village is a leisurely two kilometre stroll from the turn off from the main road that leads to the lively, friendly and prosperous town of Kaili 凯里市 Guizhou Province .

Gejia Ladies returning home to Matang

On the way you’ll pass plenty of colourfully dressed Gejia ladies working in the fields, or dangling live chickens over their shoulders on their way back from the market.

Gejia  Women from Matang Guizhou China
Gerjia Matang

The Gejia, a sub group of the Miao nationality

The Gejia, a sub group of the Miao nationality, wear distinctive clothes and are renowned for their batiks. Especially striking are the women’s multi-coloured striped hats, as well as their elaborately embroidered aprons.

Matang Gejia Minority Village

At first sight Matang looks like any other minority village in the Kaili area. Large wooden houses ramble up and over a hill, green rice fields and terraces surround the houses on all sides.

Gejia House Matang

It’s only as you approach the entrance that you notice something different about the place.

Gejia Trninket seller Matang

We weren’t the first foreigners to visit

First of all, you quickly realise that you are not the first tourist to pass by, as you are greeted by a scrum of ladies trying to flog you anything from batik cloth, local lace and embroidery to ethnic silver jewellery.

Laughing Gejia Girl Matang

The negotiating is pretty good- humoured and you are soon left alone, once you make it clear you aren’t buying anything. The second thing you note is that Matang has been earmarked for special development.

Gerjia Lady

Matang Gejia Minority Village: A Model Village

In Matang you won’t find the usual broken and scruffy paths, found in most Guizhou villages. In this model village you will come across well- laid cobbled paths with neat concrete gutters running alongside and little night-lights built in.

Matang Village

The houses, like the streets, show a cleanliness and order unusual in minority villages, as well as obvious signs of prosperity, such as TV aerials and satellite dishes.

Matang Gejia Minority Village

The Gejia seemed friendly and pretty unfazed by a couple of foreign devils strolling around and poking their curious noses into homes.

Witing for the French tourists in Matang

Bedlam only ensued with the arrival of a French tour group that found itself besieged by souvenir sellers on the brand-new and partly covered village square.

Matang Gejia Minority Village
Matang Gejia Minority Village

In the commotion, we slipped away  behind the village, where numerous paths wind their way into the pretty countryside, offering good hiking opportunities.

Beautiful Bucolic Landscape Matang

Chinese Bullfighting

The day we visited Matang was a big day for the village. It was the culmination of the five-day annual bullfighting festival, an event held to commemorate the day that rebel leader Zhang Xiumei. He met his end at the hands of the Imperial troops in August 1873.

Going to the Bull Fighting Matang

Luckily, bullfighting in China isn’t as bloody as in Spain. Basically, two buffalo are incited to fight each other by crashing their heads together, until one decides he has had enough and runs away.

Going to the Bull fight Matang

Getting there

There are loads of daily buses from Kaili that pass the turn off for Matang so getting there and back in a day is very easy. The village can be explored in an hour, but as I mentioned above, hiking opportunities abound in every direction.

Matang Just been shopping

Kaili has excellent accommodation and food.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

With the 2021 Harbin Ice and Snow festival underway. Here is a look back to our visit in 2015

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015: Memories

Harbin Ice Skyscrapers
Harbin Ice Skyscrapers

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is a must! At last we made it to Harbin. We had wanted to go to Harbin for its Ice Festival for years and at last everything fell into place.

What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin's favorite brew?
What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin’s favorite brew?

Here is the rundown for this year’s Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Later we’ll be putting up a more personal account. In this post we’ll give you the info you need if you are planning to go this year 2015.

hb5s

The Festival has 3 parts:

  • Harbin Ice and Snow World
  • Harbin Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo
  • Harbin Ice Lantern Fair

The Harbin Ice and Snow World

hb9s

This is the big one. It’s out on Sun Island, and it’s where you’ll find the Continue reading “Harbin Ice and Snow Festival”

Tonghai’s Xiushan Park

One of China’s hidden gems – Xiushan park is a verdant paradice in an otherwise rather grey city.

Bonsais in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Tonghai Xiushan Park 通海秀山历史文化公园

Tonghai’s Xiushan Park is one of Chna’s hidden gems. It’s very easy to reach from Kunming and well off the- beaten-track

Bonsais in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园
Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Part of a route from Kunming: Tonghai 通海-Jianshui-Yuanyang- Vietnam

This town to the south of Kunming makes for great stopover on the way to the stunning rice terraces of Yuanyang (Click here) and its rich minority culture, or Hekou, the border crossing for Vietnam.

秀山公园 Xiushan park

Getting to Tonghai 通海

The journey from Kunming to Tonghai  takes less than three hours, a straight bus-ride down the motorway with very little in the way of visual distractions. Tonghai itself is a small agricultural town, a few kilometres from the Qilu lake, on whose shores a village inhabited by descendants of soldiers from the Mongol armies survives to this day.

通海 古城 Tonghai Old town

Tonghai Today

The town, which is currently undergoing a beautification campaign, like so many others in China, is nothing to write home about. Unfortunately, many interesting old buildings, mostly dating from the Qing dynasty, have already fallen prey to the sledge hammer, while others are undergoing dubious reforms.

通海 古城 Tonghai Old town

However, Tonghai’s saving grace is its interesting population mix and, most of all, the wonderfully atmospheric Xiushan park.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Tonghai’s Xiushan park

Xiushan park is a large temple park in the style of China’s famous Holy Mountains, set on Xiushan mountain, overlooking Tonghai city and Qilu lake. Its total lack of cable cars, souvenir stalls and tourists make this park easily one of the most pleasant and laid- back in China.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Those relatively few monks and pilgrims there are, earnestly pray and leave offerings for the gods, simple yet beautiful gifts of flowers, rice, candles and incense. Meanwhile, the locals sip tea and play Mah-jong, Chinese chess and cards in the courtyards of the temples.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Minimalist Bonsai gardens and ancient, gnarled trees of a variety of species, such as camellias, cypresses or firs, many of them held up by metal bars, add beauty and a kind of timeless charm to the place.

Dragons in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Besides trees, dragons are the protagonists of the park, either wrapping their bodies around pillars, cavorting above doorways, or splashing in fountains. All in all, it’s a lush and peaceful place.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Entrance to the park is 15 Yuan and foreigner visitors still attract the curiosity of the locals in these parts.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Practicalities:

Places to Stay and Eat:

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

We stayed at the Tongyin hotel, supposedly the poshest and most expensive one in town, for 145 Yuan, including breakfast. You can’t miss it, it’s the tallest building in town, two minutes away from the bus station, on a main road. There is no shortage of  cheaper hotels, most of them new, near the bus station and on the road into town from Kunming.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Food options in Tonghai are not great. There are a number of small hole-in-the-wall type restaurants near the bus station with lots of meat and hanging carcesses, or the entrance to Xiushan Park, as well as at least one smart restaurant inside the Tongyin hotel. A couple of decent supermarkets provide for self caterers.

meat and hanging carcesses

Coming and Going

Buses to Tonghai leave from Kunming’s main long-distance bus station regularly throughout the day. There are plenty of buses in the other direction as well. Regular buses leave for Jianshui,  every two and half hours.

Hell scene in a temple Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Siberian Tigers in Harbin 哈尔滨. More than just the Ice Festival

With winter arriving, the Harbin Ice festival will begin again.
What can you do during the day before the lights come on?
Visit the Siberian Tiger Park 哈尔滨 东北虎林园

Siberian tigers having lunch in Harbin 东北虎林园
Siberian tigers having lunch in Harbin

Siberian Tigers in the Siberian Tiger Park 东北虎林园

If you get the chance to visit Harbin in Heilongjiang Province this winter (that’s a big if!), remember that during the day light hours before the ice festival is lit up, you can visit the amazing Siberian Tiger Park 东北虎林园 just outside town; best reached by Taxi from central Harbin 哈尔滨. This park has successfully bred more than 1000 of these spectacular cats

Siberian tigers surrounding a bus Harbin 东北虎林园
Siberian tigers surrounding a bus Harbin

Seeing these powerful beasts up so close is quite an extraordinary experience. You’ll be glad you are in a protected bus and just hope that the engine doesn’t stall. The tigers seem well-looked after and especially well-feed. However, that brings us to the controversial part about visitng the park.

Siberian tigers having lunch in Harbin. 东北虎林园
Siberian tigers having lunch in Harbin

Feeding live animals to the tigers

Visitors have the option to buy a variety of live animals to feed to the tigers; an option very popular with domestic tourists who love to see the ravenous tigers pounce on the cow that is made to slide out the back of a truck, the chickens that are hung for the tigers to torn out of people’s hands, and the goats that are just pushed through the wire gates to be mauled and ripped apart in a matter of seconds.

Tigers surrounding a tourist bus in Harbin's siberian tiger park. 东北虎林园
Tigers surrounding a tourist bus in Harbin’s siberian tiger park

The price of the live animal rises according to its size. Chickens are the cheapest and a mature cow the most expensive. Prices are listed at the ticket booth. It is not a spectacle for the squeamish and hyper-sensitive.

Siberian tiger having lunch in Harbin.
东北虎林园
Siberian tigers having lunch in Harbin

While tigers may never be vegetarians, we don’t recommend participating in this type macabre gimmick: It is totally unnecessary. The tigers can easily be feed slaughtered meat and the idea of laughing and getting pleasure from watching another animal meet its end is rather distasteful. This apart, seeing the Siberian tigers in such close proximity is truly memorable.

The Quaintest village In China? Hongcun

“Bu kaifa, bu kaifa 不开发” it hasn’t been developed for tourism. That was our driver’s favourite motto.
So he took us to the “bu kaifa” village of Hongcun 洪村

Ancient villages of Wuyuan,,One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)
洪村婺源

Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province).

The quaintest Village in China might be Hongcun 洪村. Hongcun, is surrounded by drop-dead gorgeous sub-tropical scenery. It is home to some wonderful Huizhou architecture and when we visited; no tourists

From the diary

Is this the quaintest village in China? After a copious and excellent lunch, which was at a restaurant opposite a huge ancient tree and seemed to be a favourite with tourist drivers, our man ( the driver) then took us to a remote and completely ‘undeveloped (bu kaifa 不开发)’ village called Hongcun  (not to be confused with its more famous namesake in Anhui near Huangshan), where there wasn’t an entrance ticket or single other tourist in sight.

Ancient villages of Wuyuan,,One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

The place was extremely pretty and peaceful: on the outside, a line of elegantly greying houses stood beside a clear river winding its way through the rice fields.

Ancient villages of Wuyuan, one of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

Stunning Hongcun Village Wuyuan

Contented-looking ducks floated on the water, bamboo poles loaded with washing swayed gently in the wind, while farmers in conical hats tended to their fields.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

In the narrow, shady streets towards the centre, local residents sat outside their doorways chatting, playing cards and cutting vegetables.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

We found some people busy restoring a spacious wooden community hall. In fact, in spite of its lack of (tourist) development,  the buildings in Hongcun were in remarkable shape and had some of the most intricate wooden carvings we’d come across.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

A Relaxing Afternoon in Stunning Hongcun village

We sat down on a stone bench in the shade of a drapping tree to enjoy a lukewarm beer, bought from a hole-in-the wall shop without a fridge, and let ourselves drift into the unhurried pace of village life.

Ancient villages of Wuyuan, One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

The locals, obviously not used to having foreigners in the village, eyed us up with friendly curiosity, often directing questions to our driver about who we were and what we were doing there.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,

With the hearty lunch now weighing heavy on our stomachs, making us feel both comatose and soporific, we just let our driver exaggerate our importance to the villagers.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,

We were now distinguished professors from a great overseas university and not merely humble English teachers from a university in Madrid; the locals seemed impressed and nodded approvingly at his every Word. Our driver was lapping it up!

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,
Pity about the pipe ruining the photo

Normally, we would have underplayed our importance and protested our driver’s flattery, but we let it rest and everyone seemed contented. It was a perfect day and even the warm beer went down well!

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province) Ancient villages of Wuyuan,

Update: Hongcun has changed

As with everything in China in this century nothing withstands the changes of time and Hongcun is no exception. The village is now defiantly very Kaifa 不开发 (developed) for tourists. However, it is still beautiful and I am sure that on an off-peak day it can still be a lovely place to visit.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

Some of the buildings have undergone tasteful restoration and the ancestor halls and guild halls that were being used for weaving and chili drying are now housing museums and teahouses.

One of China's Most Stunning Villages: Hongcun 洪村 (Wuyuan 婺源, Jiangxi 江西省 Province)

Getting there and away:

Difficult when we visited. A hired car was the best option. Hongcun is located between Dazhang Mountain and Sixi and not too far from the famous Rainbow Bridge.

For more photos click on read more:

Continue reading “The Quaintest village In China? Hongcun”

China’s Most Beautiful City Zhaoqing 肇庆

While the rapid modernization of China’s cities has made many of them very same same. Zhaoqing in Guangdong stands out.

Seven Star Crags in the middle of Zhaoqing 肇庆. The land of king kong
The land of King Kong in the heart of Zhaoqing

China’s Most Beautiful City Zhaoqing 肇庆 is possibly one place in China where I could quite comfortable live. It has almost everythng one wants from a city.

Zhaoqing is quite a surprising city for these parts of China. Not only does it have an interesting old town, but it also has the most incredible landscape right in the heart of the city. Here are a few photos to intice you to read the whole article.

Click here to read about Zhaoqing 肇庆: https://holachina.com/?p=6715

Amazing trees in Zhaoqing china's most beautiful city 肇庆
Amazing trees in Zhaoqing
Sanpan in Zhaoqing china`s most beautiful city 肇庆
China’s Most Beautiful City Zhaoqing 肇庆 Sanpan in Zhaoqing

Tea Drinking Wenshu Temple

Strawberries and cream, a pint of beer and a packet of crisps, pescaito frito and a glass of cold dry sherry. And then there is Chengdu and it’s teahouses. There are just somethings that are marriages made in heaven.

pouring tea at the Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都
Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都

Life is good: Drinking Tea

Tea drinking in the Wenshu Temple 文殊院 is a ‘Must‘ for any visitor to Chengdu 成都.

Not so long ago; depends what you mean by long; 1989, when we first visited Chengdu, the city’s downtown streets were lined with rickety teahouses jam-packed with locals lounging on wicker chairs, chatting, playing mahjong and drinking tea. Above them hung their caged birds, brought along for extra company in the same way a dog is taken for a walk.

People drinking tea and relaxing at the Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都
Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都

Unfortunatetly, as Chengdu rapidily modernised, most of roadside teahouses fell victims to the wrecking ball and disappeared, especially from downtown Chengdu. But scratch beneath the suface and many remnants of Chengdu’s teahouse culture can still be found alive and flourishing.

Old teapots Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都
Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都

Chengdu’s Wenshu temple 文殊院

Welcome to Chengdu’s Wenshu temple 文殊院 one of the best getaways from an ever more frenetic, burgeoning mega-city. It’s a place to forget the city noise and choking fumes, and instead catch up on local gossip or just chill for a few hours.

People drinking tea and relaxing at the Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都
Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都

Having your ears cleaned or nails treated comes part and parcel with the whole experience; Covid 19 permitting!

A cup of tea at Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都
Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都

Other recommended places in Chengdu to share a similar experience are the He Ming Teahouse 鹤鸣茶馆 in Renmin Park人民公园 and the peaceful Qingyang Taoist Temple 青羊宫

People drinking tea and relaxing at the Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都
Wenshu temple 文殊院, Chengdu 成都

These photos were taken on barmy August afternoon in the Wenshu Temple, Chengdu.

Are you looking for small traditional villages not far from Chengdu where Sichuan teahouse culture still survives: I would recommend the village below Luocheng. However, it is easier to reach Luocheng from Leshan rather than Chengdu.

Click below:

For a more an authentic teahouse town try Luocheng in Sichuan

Luocheng Map

Yancun Village: Wuyuan

Yancun Village Wuyuan Beautiful old Huizhou style houses
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Yancun 延村 village Wuyuan 婺源 Jiangxi Province

Yancun village Wuyuan is remnant of an age of prosperity in this part of hidden China. Rich merchants who made fortunes in the big cities sent their money back to their ancestral villages to build stately homes in a style known as Huizhou Architecture. Yancun is one one of those villages.

A kilometre away from Cixi lies the village of Yancun, even less kaifa (developed) than Cixi, and with an equally impressive collection of buildings.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Walking in Wuyuan

It’s a pleasant walk between the two villages (500 meters), either along the quiet road or through the rice fields. Interestingly, both villages have marked a walking route to allow the visitor to explore the best examples of Huizhou architecture.

Yancun Village Wuyuan Beautiful old Huizhou style houses
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

If you don’t wish to follow the routes it doesn’t really matter, as every turn of a corner and every side- alley provide a new voyage into time.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Huizhou Style Architecture

Yancun is a compact village of Huizhou style architecture, a style that originated in neighbouring Anhui Province.

Yancun Village Wuyuan Beautiful old Huizhou style houses
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

The style and is characterized by two, sometimes three story buildings; depending on the wealth and ostentatiousness of the person who built them.  On the outside, the walls are white and the roofs black tiled with eaves.

Wicker basket making Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 weaving

Inside the buildings there is a hall /patio that usually has elaborately carved wooden frames hanging above it. Sometimes there is are more than one hall /patio.

Old streets Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 street scene

Life in Yancun

Yancun’s streets are a rabbit warren of narrow alleyways and passageways that entice the curious vistor to poke their noses around every corner.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 interior

Local residents didn’t seem fazed if you politely asked look around a private house and take a few snaps ( might have something to the money they receive from the entrance ticket to the Sixi 思系and Yancun 延村 scenic area).

Old Chinese kitchen
延村婺源江西省 old Kitchen

Yancun also offers the opportunity to come across still-in-use, ages old farm implements. These can be seen casually lying around on kitchen floors or hanging off living room walls. In the west, they would be expensive antiques sold in flea markets and rastros around Europe.

old chinese farm tools
延村婺源江西省 Farmer’s hat

Every available space on the streets is used for drying something, especially chilies, which are laid out in large flat wicker baskests while and huge gourds dangle everywhere above your head.

chilis and gourds  Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 drying Chilis

Besides the Huizhou houses, there are a least three famous ancestral halls in Yancun; the Congting Hall, Mingxun Hall and Yuqing Hall.

transporting beer in a cart
延村婺源江西省 Transporting beer

All of them were originally built in the 18th century. What you see now may not be the original structure, as they are reported to have undergone restoration and some rebuilding since then.

old baskets Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 Hanging Baskets

When we visited, some these ancestral halls were still being used as spaces for basket weaving and other farming related activities. Nowadays, the halls are a ‘must see’ for passing Chinese tour groups.

drying chilis Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 Drying chilis Yancun

The Mingxun hall has become a teahouse (not surprising given it was originally built by a tea merchant) and the Yuqing hall, has become a museum for antique furniture.

Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

However, the real charm in Yancun as mentioned at the beginning, is its idyll rural setting. Yancun is a village set up for gentle strolling and imbibing a fast disappearing way of life.

Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province
Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province
Yancun Village Wuyuan
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

Accomodation:

We stayed at a small family hotel on the edge of Cixi 思系, the only brick and white tile building around. At the front, there was an open-fronted grocery shop and a restaurant. The clean and simple rooms with bathroom and hot water (no towels or toiletries though, so be prepared) were in a new building at the back and cost 80 Yuan for a large double.

Beautiful old Huizhou style houses in the Villages of Wuyaun 婺源: Yancun 延村
延村婺源江西省 Yancun village Wuyuan Jiangxi Province

There were plenty of cheaper options in private houses in the village, and you can expect the offer to increase in the future. It is probably only a matter of time before some of those beautiful mansions will be converted into real hotels.

Photo of the Week: Wuyuan and around

In 2003 while killing time between classes, I lazily typed into Google “the most beautiful village in China” and up came a few entries, one of which was written by a local girl from a place called Wuyuan. In poor English she raved about the beautiful scenery in this remote area of Jiangxi province. The few photos that accompanied her article showed picturesque white villages of superb Huizhou Architecture and rolling green fields brightened by the stunning yellow of ripening rape seed.

Ancient Villages of Wuyuan
The undeveloped Village of Hongcun 洪村

In the next few weeks we will be uploading our photos of the villages in the Wuyuan area. We based ourselves in the bucolic and sleepy village of Sixi 思溪村 and spent several days hiking between villages and occasionally hiring a car to those village further afield.

Ancient Villages of Wuyuan
Basket Weavers at work in Yancun 延村

Among the villages we visited were the undiscovered gems of Yancun 延村 and Hongcun 洪村 (now both very much discovered) as well as more Kaifa 开发 / developed places such as Likeng 李坑 and Upper上 and Lower下 Xiaoqi 晓起.

Sixi ancient village wuyuan jiangxi China
The Yin Yang bridge in Sixi思溪村

Shunan Bamboo Sea: Taking a Chinese organised tour

At the Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海 we took our first organized Chinese tour since 1989. At first skeptical, we ended up having a marvelous day being led on long walks, carried over the forest on a cable car, rafting on a lake and being wined and dined on 16 different courses of bamboo food products. All led by a wonderful and enthusiastic guide.

Yibin Sichuan

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

To go on a tour or not

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海: taking a Chinese organised tour or should I go it alone ? There is really only one reason to stop at Yibin and that is to use it as a base to visit the fabulous Bamboo Sea some 70 kms away.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

To take a tour or not to take a tour

The first thing you have to decide is: do I visit the Bamboo Sea independently or do I join a tour. We doubted, wrung our hands, fretted and then the heavens opened and a twenty four hour torrential downpour insued; the matter was decided for us. We took a Chinese organsed tour for the first time and It was the best decision we could have taken.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Yibin 宜宾

Yibin is a modern city on the confluence of the Jinsha River 金沙江 and Min Rivers 岷江 where they combine to officially start the beginning of the Yangzi River 长江. There really isn’t anything to see, apart from the intense river traffic perhaps. Tourists tend to use Yibin as a base for a visit to the spectacular Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海 (or Forest as it is also known), about 70 kilometres away and the nearby historic riverside town of Lizhuang Ancient Town 李庄古镇.

Lizhuang Ancient town 李庄古镇
Lizhuang Ancient Town 李庄古镇 (not my photo)

Yibin also has the unenviable reputation of being the largest city in China with the least sunny days every year (we didn’t see the sun). Remember, this is where the Chinese idiom, 蜀犬吠日 (Shu quan fei ri) the Sichuan dog barks at the sun, originates; becuase it is something so unusual.

Yibin Gaoliang Baijiu wulianye
Wuliangye Baijiu Click here for webpage:https://www.wuliangye.be/history-of-wuliangye/

On the plus side it produces one of China’s best Baijiu 白酒 ( rice wine) Wuliangye 五粮液.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Shunan zhuhai 蜀南竹海, or the Bamboo Sea covers over 40 square kilometres of mountains and valleys. The landscape is absolutely incredible: narrow paths will take you deep into a dense sea of vegetation, dominated by many different species of bamboo, some of which reaching heights of over 10 metres.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

The dense fog that often descends upon the forest contributes to the magic and enchanted atmosphere. Besides the bamboo, there are many waterfalls, temples, sculptures and reliefs in the rock walls to entertain the visitors.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

The cable Car

A ride in the cable car is a must; it’s a 30 minute ride during which you follow the side of the mountain up and down, at times almost touching the tree tops, at times sailing high above the undulating sea of bamboo. When the cabin reaches a peak, a valley completely covered in bamboo stretches out in front of you, for as far as the eye can see.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

It’s the typical landscape immortalised in famous martial arts films such as ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ or ‘The House of the Flying Daggers’, many scenes of which were shot around here. The famous fighting scene in the ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ where the protagonists fight on the tops of bamboo trees was filmed here.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Organising a Chinese tour

Normally, we are not really into guided tours, but in the case of the Bamboo Sea we had a great time. You can try and hire a taxi to get there, but the distances are quite large, both getting there and back and inside the park, plus it isn’t that easy to find your way around and visit the best places.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Our tour was organised by the travel agency inside our hotel, the Xufu Binguan. At first they were a bit reluctant to take us, but when they realised we could speak Chinese, our money was happily accepted. We were in good company, a group of young enthusiastic engineering students from Panzhihua 攀枝花 on the Sichuan – Yunnan border, led by a lively and dynamic female guide. She took us to different areas of the park, by bus, on foot, by cable car and finally rafting.

Sichuan dialect rap
Sichuan Dialect Rap and Hip Hop

The bus driver, a young and jolly chap, played Sichuan dialect Hip Hop and Rap that had our fellow companions falling on the floor with laughter. The driver later helped us buy the DVD in on arrival back in Yibin.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

The Food

We also had the opportunity to taste 16 different dishes made of/with bamboo, including the famous and expensive bamboo eggs (which are really rounded wild mushrooms that grow underneath the bamboo trees). It was really delicious. The meal wasn’t included in the tour. We got together with members of the group, negociated a price for 16 dishes, and then split the bill.

Bamboo dishes Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Yibin 宜宾 practicalities:

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Where to Stay and Eat:

The Xufu Binguan 叙府宾馆 in the centre of town is a good option. Spotless modern doubles with a good breakfast are 200 Yuan. There is a wide variety of decent restaurants and supermarkets near the hotel.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Coming and Going:

Update:

New high speed trains from Chengdu take just one and a half hours to arrive in Yibin and pass through Leshan. The line opend on 2019 and also connects Yibin to Guiyang in Guizhou province.

Chinese high speed trains
China’s high speed trains

Bus:

From the chaotic main bus station, Beimen北门, there are regular departures to almost all import destinations in the region, though most buses will go through Zigong first.

Update

Nowadays, a network of highways links all the major cities making travel much easier than when we were there in 2005.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Boat services to Leshan appeared to have been discontinued. Some services to Chongqing still seemed to run, though we were unable to confirm this.

Visiting the Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海 if not taking a tour:

Rock carvings Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

Nan’an station, 15 minutes from the centre on the other side of the river, offers irregular services to Shunnan 蜀南竹海 / the Bamboo Sea, most of them with a changeover in Changning 长宁.

Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海

The two main villages inside the park are called Wanling 万岭 and Wanli 万里. Both villages, as well as some other strategic locations inside the park, offer accommodation – with a typical double room costing around 100 Yuan – as well as food for those visitors who wish to stay the night.

Traditional Sichuan houses Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海
Shunan Bamboo Sea 蜀南竹海 Traditional Sicuan buildings near Yibin 宜宾

Guiyang贵阳 – Chishui 赤水-Zigong自贡 – Yibin 宜宾 –Leshan 乐山– Chengdu 成都: 2005 Route.

In 2005 our visit to the Bamboo Sea was part of a facinating trip from Guiyang to Chengdu via Chishui.

Giant ferns Chishui
Giant Ferns Chishui 赤水

To get to Leshan 乐山 we first had to backtrack to Zigong; all in all quite a tiring ride of over 6 hours, due to the fact that the motorway has not reached this part of Sichuan yet. This has all changed now see above.

Zigong guild hall
Guildhall Zigong 子宫