Enjoying time in a Chinese city off the tourist radar...

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November 2nd 2014
Published: November 20th 2014
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I don't think Mao would approve....I don't think Mao would approve....I don't think Mao would approve....

Check out the picture for sale below the poster of Mao
The morning we left Shanghai we were woken by the sound of beating drums and shouting right outside our window. Thinking that it may be a demonstration we looked out to see thousands of runners beneath our window. It was the Shanghai Marathon, which began at the Bund, and then proceeded down East Nanjing Street towards Peoples Square and then away from the city area. Thankfully they had long gone by the time we left to go to the train station. A long train trip - seven and half hour hours - followed. The scenery became more interesting the closer we got to our destination of Quanzhou in Fujian Province. We passed by (and sometimes through via long tunnels) continuos low mountains densely covered with bamboo. We were travelling on a high speed train (260 klms an hour) though it made quite frequent stops.

We were going to spend two nights in Quanzhou, a port city about an hour north of Xiamen which was our departure point from China. From Xiamen we were also going to visit the tulou houses, which were a four hour bus trip inland from Xiamen. We loved the city and ended up extending our stay there by another night. We had prebooked another hotel in the Jin Jiang group which was situated close to the historical sites and opposite a large park. We arrived after dark and had trouble finding somewhere nearby to eat. We were surrounded by liquor shops (specialising in high end spirits and wines), pharmacies and tea shops. The Chinese version of the 7/11 store rescued us in the end....

Next morning, after finding a staff member who spoke English, we were directed in the direction of the cafes and shops - the opposite direction to the one we chose the night before! Breakfast at our favourite cafe chain - 85* - great coffee and cheap pastries before we set off in search of the sights. We planned to visit the Puppet Museum but it was closed, and remained closed, the entire time we were in the city. We found the mosque nearby, surrounded by dozens of shops selling antiques and curios. The Qingjing Mosque is China's only surviving mosque from the Song dynasty, built by the Arabs in 1009 and restored in 1309. All that remains today are the towering front arch and the very thick walls, plus some of the carved stonework slabs which were leaning against the walls. There was a small modern building within the walls in which some men were praying. Next door was a large green painted rather ugly modern mosque which appeared to be unused.

The most popular temple in Quanzhou is the Guandi Temple which was literally a stones throw from the mosque. As the city is a port and has built it's wealth on sea faring trades, Guandi, the God of war and the commander of wealth and the weather, means this temple is always busy. We visited a couple of times whilst we were there - it was an enjoyable experience. The temple is enormous, very colourful and very smoky! It is a Taoism temple so is full of demons and ugly statues (I do prefer the Buddhist temples as the artwork is much less threatening!) throngs of people were there, plus a lot of beggars outside and thousands of incense sticks must be burnt every hour judging by the thick smoke inside. The fumes made us leave the temple faster than we would have liked each time we visited. Outside the temple we saw many women in bamboo conical hats which were covered in bright floral fabrics. I found out later they were wearing the modern day version of their traditional dress which was a triangular brightly patterned scarf, worn tied around their long black plaits, then knotted under the chin over which they wear a plain bamboo conical hat. The next day I took a photo of a lady wearing the correct traditional outfit. We spent some time in a temple shop watching an old man make brass temple gongs. After fashioning the tiny gong on a little machine on the footpath he weaves the bamboo and fishing line holder and then forms the gong beater out of tightly rolled paper and bamboo. I bought one of course - all that work for virtually no money...

That afternoon we caught a bus to the Kaiyuan Temple, which is the oldest in the city, dating back to AD 686. The bus drove through some fascinating and very narrow streets - stallholders virtually had to remove items to let it pass. We decided to walk back and explore the alleys after our temple visit. It was a lovely temple with many trees and pavilions. It is renowned for two stone pagodas which date from the 13th century. They lie in opposite corners of the site and are impressive, their five stories are heavily carved with figures and are made from rust coloured stone. Later we had a long, though interesting walk back through the narrow streets. We chatted to many of the friendly stallholders and checked out the interesting structure used in the brickwork of the early houses. Check out the photo in the blog - we've not seen similar anywhere before. That evening we ate Aussie steak at a steak house down the road from the hotel.

Decided to have an off day in lazy Quanzhou so spent the morning with our books and coffees at the 85* cafe before strolling around the park across the road from the hotel late in the day. Lovely surroundings with lots of little private alcoves, which were being well used by the local young couples. We did something totally bizarre there though. One of the ponds was full very large carp and a lady was selling fish food which you fed to the fish from a baby bottle and teat on a stick! I couldn't resist wasting a dollar and having a go - much to Jerry's amusement. Those fish could really suck and literally attacked the pole, nearly pulling me in! Jerry couldn't resist having a go as well! It was a bit of silly fun which made us laugh....

We continued walking away from the park and ended up with a glass of Aussie white wine (first in two months) and a big tossed green salad at Pizza Hut.... A push bike taxi ride through the crazy traffic back to the hotel added a bit of spice to the day. Since we had been in the city we had found out by doing a bit of internet research that we didn't need to go into Xiamen to find transport to the tulou area so next morning we were back at the railway station and soon had purchased train tickets for later that morning to Longyan where we hoped to find a bus connection to the tulou area. I have been using a web page called

We were really pleased that we made a last minute decision to break our journey in Quanzhou. It is not on the tourist radar and though it was a large city it had a much less frenetic feel than other Chinese cities we had been in. There is also a very distinct and attractive old town where we found the local people very welcoming and as interested in us as we were them. One thing we really liked about the city were the fact that all the locals were very casually dressed (like Queenslanders) in rubber thongs and shorts! Also all the motorbikes were electric and therefore the streets were pollution free and very quiet.

Additional photos below
Photos: 35, Displayed: 27


An air filled cylinder outside the Guandi temple entranceAn air filled cylinder outside the Guandi temple entrance
An air filled cylinder outside the Guandi temple entrance

These are used all the time in China. Always red and used to celebrate openings of shops, special days, promotions etc..
I think these are banyon tree seedsI think these are banyon tree seeds
I think these are banyon tree seeds

Everywhere we went in China we saw these being polished, carved or threaded and then sold as prayer beads etc.
Old street alley and arch in QuanzhouOld street alley and arch in Quanzhou
Old street alley and arch in Quanzhou

Note the faded red star above the arch

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