back in fo the wilds after round houses, chicken heads and car crashs...

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Asia » China » Fujian » Yongding
December 28th 2009
Published: December 28th 2009
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So... honestly where do I start, at the beginning I suppose! When last I left you I was sunning myself on Christmas day on a truly magical isle.

The “former” God know to all as Lonely Planet says in its 10 things you have to do in China “you haven’t been to China if you didn’t wake by the sound of a cockerel in a Tolou.” These are enclosed villages, were a whole community effectively live in one rather large house, please Google them for the history as I have neither the knowledge nor the skill to tell you properly. What I will tell you that in 1985 the Yanks spotted these with a reconissense satellite (KH22) and thought they were nuclear launchers and sent a spy to check it out (Howard H Beck) I don’t know how he got on but here is my story!

After getting the ferry back from Piano Island, the now usual hassle of getting a cab and sorting out the bus tickets, we are sat in the Travel Distribution Centre... Waiting as I usually do, sat on my bag watching people go by, I eye all these posh buses pulling up thinking yeah this 4 hour drive out of the urban sprawl into rural China should be a pleasure, foolish boy I am!!!

Our ramshackle, battered and bruised bus arrives, ah well me thinks with a bit of luck the horn doesn’t work, wrong again Mr McClemens! As we fly down, on what in any other country would be a motorway but in China just about counts as a main road, we dodge dogs, cyclists and people. The manic horning begins in earnest and my hope of a nice kip on the drive goes out the window! The urban sprawl carries on for a good 2 hours, then gives way almost suddenly to huge green mountains, it’s as if they have drawn a line and said right no more building (not at all like the Chinese.) Farming is taking place on every inch that isn’t vertical and not the type any Jersey resident is used to seeing. I am talking farming in the manner of tools that haven’t changed in a 1000 years, hunched backs and people working the field who don’t look a day under 90, the jury is still out on whether these people are actually 35 and have a hard time of it (it certainly doesn’t look like a laugh a minute!)

The road has narrowed now to your average 2 lane country lane, our driver careers around blind corners on the wrong side of the road mere inches from cliff faces but don’t worry he is using the horn to its full extent and scatters everything and anything in his path. I catch a first glance at one of these amazing buildings, these have been tarted up a bit and look a bit out of place, as we decided to “go basic” for the “full experience” I doubt these have anything to do with us, I turn out to be right as the bus flashes past them. About 1hr30 after that we pull up in a village with about 4 shops, we stop, the driver turns round and gestures madly in a manner that suggests it’s time for us to get off and off we get!
A guy comes running out of his front room / restaurant / shop and indicates he is here to meet us, we explain in gestures and random bits of Chinese, that we want to stay in a Tolou (cue the barely disguised sniggering from said Mr Chinese) don’t get me wrong Andrew and Janet have become reasonably proficient in Chinese by now but they hardly recognise a word the accent is so strong. After the sniggering abates he leads us across the road to his villages home / Tolou, this is the first time I get to have a decent look at one of these rather imposing buildings, as I am no longer in fear of not only our lives but anyone / anything that is unfortunate enough to be coming the other way! These Tolou’s were built by the Hakka some 500 years ago out of mud and bamboo, a truly amazing feat, we are shown in past pigs, chickens, ducks and Chinese women who look no less than 90, to our “rooms.”

Basic does not even begin to describe these rooms and don’t get me wrong, I have travelled on and off around this globe of ours since I was 17 and am quite happy to rough it a bit! I have read a fantastic book while I have been here about Chinese culture, pottery, compasses and silk were all in daily use in China some 1000 years before anyone in the west even thought of them however to this day they have yet to master the art of making a mattress. The people of Yongding seem to have given up altogether and have settled upon sleeping on a piece of wood held off the ground by stools and anything else they can find! Mr Chinese keeps pointing at the “hotel,” see Toxteth flats (after the riots.) We insist unabashed that this 500 piece of history is the place from us, again he points at the “hotel” but beginning to realise that we are determined. It is starting to get dark, now I haven’t seen true darkness since leaving jersey, it never seems to go dark in the cities of china just as the sun never seems to shine it just gets light, the smog that hangs makes sure of that! He gestures that it’s time for dinner, we blindly follow him back across the road to his restaurant / front room. We have brought supplies of fruit, peanuts and crackers but I decide to risk the fried rice, Andrew galvanized by my decision goes whole nine yards and orders the chicken, fried potato and a host of other “goodies,” the rice arrives and let me tell you it’s the best fried rice I have had so far! The chicken arrives cooked in lemon grass and a number of other fragrant spices I could never identify, this chicken is roughly chopped and looks like KFC without the coating.... until you spot that it’s looking back at you!!! I spot the beak first then the eyes, turn it over and yep this the whole head brains and all!! Those of you that know me well will know that chicken brains are not really my scene and this puts me off the idea of food and those of you know me better will know that my only reaction to a situation like this is... where is the beer??!!!!!

Two litres down and with two to take away, we wander on back to the gaff torch in hand dodging the dead mice along the way! Now when I last wrote to you guys I was sat on a beach in the sun however the 4 hour drive deep into the mountains make sure any idea that it “wouldn’t be that cold” is well and truly lashed out the window, oh sorry, is it still a window if it’s just a whole in the wall? Well whatever it’s called consider the idea lashed out of it! The huge, heavy doors of the Tolou are locked at 20.00 and being that it essentially a fortress, it hardly has a happening nightlife, we settle in Andrew and Janet’s room in 7 layers to watch a DVD on his laptop, along with getting lashed into some homemade cognac, sent from one of the Wllis’s friends in Jersey (god bless him!) Even the laptop gives up after half an hour and refuses to play anymore; I think it senses our treachery, in watching a DVD in the place of unbelievable history!!

We decide to give up and mum and I head back to our room, after a quick wee in a bucket outside, less quick for mumsy, I think it was the threat that I would photograph her and post the pictures that may have put her off! What follows is the closest experience I have had to “sleeping “rough. Again those of you who know me well know, I am a bit of a night owl and struggle to sleep at the best of times, so I read by touch light till about 01.00 when I finish my book (gutted) and decide to give sleep a crack my fussing about getting my 7 layers in order wakes up my mum and the following I believe is verbatim -:

Mum: “are you still awake?”
Me: “yep”
Mum: “are you going to switch that bloody torch off?”
Me: “yep don’t have a choice, I have finished my book.”
Mum: “well it’s about time, what time is it?”
Me: “01.00”
Mum: “oh for fucks sake!! It feels like I have been here all night! I am all bruised from rolling round on this fucking door! Can’t believe it’s only 01.00!”

Cue much sniggering from me but she did have a point, I would have been more comfortable on the floor, if it hadn’t been for the fear of god only knows what scurrying around underneath me! Four hours spent rolling around my door and the cockerels start up, there you go Lonely Planet done... (Again does it count as “waking” if you didn’t sleep?)

We meet outside the Willis’s room for comparisons of kips and much laughter, then head over to maties gaff for fried rice and tea for breakfast. Seeing the map on the wall and knowing that the bus isn’t till midday we begin the challenge of trying to get someone to drive us round the local area, this again involves much gesturing, laughter and pointing by both parties and culminates in a from call from Andrew to a Chinese mate who did used to work with, to get him to explain to matey what we are after (a lesson for Jersey Telecoms here, if both Andrew and I can get a signal in the middle of a mountain range in China, why can’t I get a signal in deepest darkest St Aubin?)

20 minutes later we are in a minibus on our way to see more of the area, and what a wonderful area it is! Mountains, streams and villages mingle together to create an amazing atmosphere, honestly it felt like something out of gorillas in the mist! The drive back as atypical in as far as the liberal use of the horn however as the young man found to his deep distress is that unlike chickens, dogs and people... concrete posts don’t react all that well to mass horning and do not scatter all that effectively! BANG, SMASH, WALLOP!!!! And there we go but in the posts defence we would have been in the river otherwise, so it’s duly forgiven!

So after a sleepless night, many laughs and a car crash we catch an equally run down bus back to civilization... So after going to bed at 22.00 I am sat in reception of our Home Inn (the Chinese equivalent to a Travel Inn) at 5 in the morning wide awake writing this with a crap cup of coffee feeling like I am in the lap of luxury! I glance at a shop we got badly ripped off at before we left for Yongding and can’t believe it was only yesterday, its feels like a lifetime ago!!! Well Lonely Planet, an experience it was, good or bad I am yet to decide but when writing this I have laughed out loud many times (causing many a dodgy look at me) so I feel I must promote you back to your former title of God!

Hope you have all enjoyed this tale of misery, laughter and bewilderment as much s I have enjoyed writing it....

Much love



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28th December 2009

That made me laugh........having spent many a holiday with your mum I know how bitchy she gets at bedtime!! Enjoy the rest of your holiday!!
28th December 2009

Oh Paul - that was so good to read and very funny in parts - i almost pissed my pants!!!! I can just hear your Mum ...... soooo fuuny. There is a few people in my work keeping up with your travels so they should have a good laugh too. Wot you doing New Yes luvs ? Moose x
29th December 2009

hey moose, yeah was a very strange 24 hours! not sure about new year yet we are in shanghai now so something here but god only knows what! pmc x
29th December 2009

Hi Paul and Barbs, Briggsy pointed me in the direction of blog and so pleased she did. Bringing back lots of memories of when I was in China and the thought of Barb slumming it - well put a big smile on my face. Keep on enjoying the experience and love to Willis Family.

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