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Published: February 23rd 2023
I must have still been in work mode, as I woke up early. I was glad though as I wanted to explore the old town early, as I wasn't sure if hordes of visitors would descend on the place with it being a public holiday. The ancient city was built in the late 14th century and it served as a naval base to counter pirates coming from the South China Sea. It's weird that the old town is so close to the beach as it doesn't feel like it is, I think it's because I can't see the coast from the old town only the mountains making it feel more rural than coastal. I left my guesthouse and then had to immediately return as I had forgotten a mask. Take two, I headed out again. It was really quiet as I had expected, just a few workers going about their business.
I wandered up the street taking pictures of the beautiful old red doors which were decorated with red banners and 福 (good luck) symbols. I liked the mix of vibrancy and tattiness. Some of the buildings had information plaques in Chinese and English in front of them, so it
was nice to learn a little history about some of the buildings. One building on Shizi Street was the mansion of General Lai, which was built in the late Qing period. It was owned by Lai Enjin, who was the third brother of General Lai Enjue. Another was the Liang family residence, which was also built in the late Qing period. The sign wasn't clear but I think they had some relation to an imperial bodyguard. The signs above the doors generally tell you about the dwelling, but I don't understand the Chinese. I passed another cute building that had lots of little paintings hanging on the wall, it looked nice. Then I came out onto a little kind of square on the street, which housed an ancestral hall and some food places. I liked the ancestral hall as it stood out from the other buildings around it. It looked to have been built more recently and was in a modern style of red tile. It made a nice contrast to the old stone buildings. Further up the street I came across a Buddha and more old, crusty doors, these ones were green this time.
The street opened up
and I could head down the main street or keep going, I decided to keep going and came across a beautiful old entrance way. It was surrounded by lots of lush greenery and some bright pinky-purple flowers were creeping over the wall. It looked gorgeous. I could also see the mountains in the background, which were shrouded in mist and looked pretty atmospheric. My feet took me to some kind of garden, I think it might have been attached to the Dapeng Museum (closed of course, no doubt due to Covid), there were a few different statues in the garden, which I liked. I especially liked the one of two men playing mah-jong. There was also a well, which wasn't that interesting. I came across some barns that I had seen the night before that looked interesting. I think that they used to be used for grain storage, but now are part of the museum. They were all closed so I didn't get a look inside.
There is a kind of square at the top of the hill, which I think must be used for outdoor performances. There were some nice views of the surrounding countryside and also a
few more people up here. I headed down into the other side of the town. I hadn't looked around here at all the night before. I loved exploring the little laneways. Some were filled with people's plants, laundry hanging out to dry, ebikes, and other signs of daily life, others were completely empty. I also came across some rather dilapidated buildings, I wonder if they'll be restore or just left. At a pagoda perched on a hill, I saw the biggest snail I have ever saw in my life, it was a beast. My pictures don't show how big it was as there was nothing there for scale/comparison. There was also some kind of waterway running through the streets, I don't know if it was for waste water (hopefully in the past only) or potable water. Someone had build a little cage/home on part of it and were keeping a few ducks. They did look very cute. I also caught a glimpse of what life was like for one family, as I saw an old man getting water from the well to take back to his wife and grandson. It is such a contrast to the main city of Shenzhen,
which is so modern and technologically progressive.
I continued to wander the streets. They were so quiet. Most of the houses were all built in the same style, but occasionally I came across one that was a bit different. I came across Matsu Palace, which was a temple that had been built during the reign of Emperor Yonghe of the Ming period. According to old records the navy and fishermen went there to pray for protection before taking to the sea. The current structure is a reconstruction. I would have loved a look inside, but the gate was locked. I loved the vibrancy of the flags and lanterns adorning the temple as they made it stand out from the surroundings. Also the dragon mural on the tiles opposite was bright and colorful. My walk took me to the main street and out through the old gates that marked the start of the old town.
I was getting rather hungry by this point so I stopped at one of the restaurants located just outside of the main gate for some breakfast. There were quite a few choices on the menu and I ordered some fried noodles as I really
enjoy them and don't eat them too often. I also ordered a hot soy milk, while I enjoyed whilst waiting for my noodles to appear. Even with the fans going, it was hot inside the restaurant. I wished they'd had the air con cranked. My giant plate of noodles soon arrived and I happily dug in. The noodles had egg and some veggies in them. So simple, yet so tasty. I was set for the day now. The only thing I needed now was a coffee, so I got one at the convenience store next to the restaurant. Once that was consumed I was ready to look around some more.
I headed back to the main street. I think I prefer it like this when most of the shops are shut and it is quieter as I can get a better look at the old buildings. I wandered some of the backstreets and came across a cute kitty that was having a walkabout and a few cafés and restaurants that weren't open yet. I love how pretty and quaint this place is. Peeking in the window of one small building, showed me that it looked like it had been
a small shop selling water and cigarettes. It had old fashioned cigarette posters on the walls and counter. I wish I could have been able to go inside for a better look. I continued to wander the streets, taking the main paths, but delving off them when I saw the opportunity to. It was nice to see little glimpses of life beyond the more manicured main streets. One place had a giant mural of the Chinese flag and soldiers. Another place had a mural of some kind of goddess. I saw an abandoned looking Japanese restaurant, which had newspaper style pictures and menus on the outside wall. It was fun to look at them for a while.
I came to Zhaogong Ancestral Hall and then to the Mansion of General Liu Qilong, who had served in the Fujian Navy. I had expected the mansion to be like those I had visited in Pingyao, but this one was rather disappointing and I felt like there wasn't really anything to see inside. After some more walking, I came to the HOU Public Images Gallery. It was a small museum/art gallery and I had a quick look inside but there wasn't too
much of interest to see. By this point, my coffee was starting to wear off, it was getting a lot hotter and I was ready for a sit down and an iced coffee. I spent a while wandering the streets before I found a suitable coffee shop. One I went into was empty, I could see someone working there, but they couldn't see me, others were closed, another one that was open had very little indoor seating and it was full. I finally found a cafe/bar that was open and had some nice comfy sofas. I relaxed there with an ice Americano, reading and watching people pass by. I had thought that the old town would have been bigger and would have took me all day to look around, but it wasn't so. After my coffee it was time for a siesta.
I felt like I had pretty seen all of the old town on my morning's explorations, so decided to head back to the beach for a little while, mindful that my 24 hour code ran out 5:30 pm, so I needed to make sure I was back before then. This is why I hate getting tested in
the morning, much better to get tested in the evening and get your code in the wee hours so that I'm fast asleep when the code is running out. I had a couple of hours and I didn't think I would be gone that long. I made my way over to the beach. I decided to head in the opposite direction to that I walked the day before. This section of beach was shorter, but I was hoping that I could continue along the coast a bit. I walked along the path. There were a few restaurants and hotels/guesthouses but nothing spectacular. There was also what looked like a big hotel/resort with some statues in front of it. It was blocked off with a barbwire topped fence. I didn't know if it had been shut down or it was just to keep the riff raff out. It did have a bit of an abandoned air about it. The beach in front of the hotel also felt like it was past its prime. There were a few people on this stretch of sand, but not too many. It was also a bit scruffy with lots of trashy looking bags buried in
the sand. I had wanted to follow the curve around the coast, but I could only get so far as there was a river that was flowing out to sea, and the water looked a bit too deep to wade through. Bit of a bugger. The other side looked quite interesting as I could see a plane parked up obscured by some bushes. There were a few more people here and some were fishing in the river if I remember correctly. The hotel that I thought was abandoned didn't appear to be as some of the rooms looked occupied as people had their clothes hanging out on their balconies.
I headed back to my guesthouse and sought refuge under the air conditioning as it was still hot, hot, hot. I had some snacks, which left me feeling rather full and not in the mood for any dinner. I decided to go out for a walk around the old town at night to see how it looked as I'd only had a brief look around the previous evening, after doing my daily Covid test. The test centre was located near the main gate and was probably the busiest place in
the old town, however the queue wasn't too bad and moved quickly. Away from the main strip, the ancient city was pretty much dead. I only passed one or two souls. It looked really pretty all lit up with lanterns style lights outside of the buildings. There were lots of small bars and a few restaurants, but they all looked dead. I wondered how they survived, did people come later or were they part of guesthouses, so had other forms of income. After an hour or so wandering the streets, I had all the photos I wanted and had explored pretty much everywhere so returned to my cosy room.
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