A Song Dynasty City That Got a Little Bigger

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October 4th 2009
Published: October 14th 2009
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Today was off to quite a start: up at 5am, out the door by 6am, on the train by 7am, arriving in the small city of Zhaoqing shortly after 9am. How small you ask? Size is relative. 3.9 million people makes for a nice small city in China with the same feeling as a small town in the US. Really.

Our hotel is just just a block from the lake. It is possible to take tours of the crags surrounding the lakes, but we've opted not to. LP says it's beautiful but not worth the steep cost. Besides, seeing the rest of the city has a much nicer price tag: zero.

After taking much needed naps (none of us slept well last night) we went in search of food. We found a very crowded Cantonese place near the lakes. It's one of those restaurants where they seat you at tables with strangers to save space. We each ordered a different dish and got 2 dim sums to share; one was sweet potato cakes and the other dish was a spring onion bread. We got hooked on the tea, going through a few pots in the course of the hour;
A FountainA FountainA Fountain

There is PBR everywhere in this town. And it's delicious.
its taste was unique. We sat at our little corner of table chatting long after we were finished eating.

Our first order of business was to purchase our return bus tickets to SZ for Tuesday. With all the people traveling, and not knowing how many buses there were daily, we wanted to be sure we got seats at a time that we liked. We shouldn't have worried. There were about 10 buses on Tuesday and each ticket costs a little over Y100. I liked my Y17 train ticket better. But this way should be faster, for no other reason than not having to wait while switching trains in Guangzhou.

Our second order of business was to find the local bus station to inquire about tickets to Dinghu Mountain 鼎湖山. We wanted to go the next day, and again, weren't sure about how often buses ran. It turns out buses run so frequently that you can just show up and get on the next one. It's part of the city bus system.

We stopped to view the fountains and the lake. The fountains put on a show, just like in Vegas, but on a much smaller scale.
Song Dynasty DoorsSong Dynasty DoorsSong Dynasty Doors

Within the Song Dynasty wall. Too bad the inside wasn't all Song Dynasty.
It was hot and sunny so we stopped to buy ice cream. Off to our left we noticed a tourist-trap market and decided to have a look.

Toni needed a new string for her jade necklace (they use strings here, not chains) and she found one at the first stall. The woman there kept showing us things but managed to do it without being pushy. Perhaps she's not used to foreigners. All the other tables were a bit pushier and would keep showing us things to the point of there being too much to look at. There were lots of necklaces, bracelets, fans, a Mao plate (what a great gift idea!), swords, brass knuckles (well, fake brass), and more ink stones than I have ever seen in my life. (I found out later that the area is known for its ink stones. Apparently not known enough.) As beautiful as they were, my character writing is far from being artistic (perhaps only in a Picasso sense) and I couldn't bring myself to purchase what would inevitability become a very black paperweight.
We ended back at the first stall so Toni could buy a goldfish necklace she'd been debating over for the better part of an hour. Abby bought the same fish as a cell phone charm. I fell in love with a jade green disc necklace. We all bargained to our best abilities. I think all of us purchasing something brought the prices down further... especially for me, since I went last. I have no idea if my necklace is real, but I really just bought it because I like the way it looks.

We then set out to find the old city wall. We found it, climbed it, and took photos with it. We were able to see the Cloud Draped Tower but couldn't figure out how to get in. By this point it was 5pm, hot and sunny. We decided to call it a day, leaving the pagoda and another tower for Tuesday morning.

Back at our hotel we opted to visit the spa and relax with foot washes. We'd walked a lot in the past few days and had all been a bit more stressed with school in the days leading up to our break. A foot wash (which comes with a massage) sounded like the perfect thing. And it was.

For dinner we headed out with no direction in mind. We found a little hole-in-the wall place and ordered Chinese eggplant with fish, a spicy tofu dish, and the heavily "suggested" lotus dish. It was exactly what we wanted. Abby saw a vendor selling watermelon outside so after dinner we each bought a huge slice for Y1 each. Then we continued with our evening plan.

We stopped at McDonald's for hot fudge sundaes. Because there is nothing more vacationy than eating a hot fudge sundae by the lake. Unless, of course, you manage to find PBR in China and drink that by the lake. I did both. I was on vacation.

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


The Park GateThe Park Gate
The Park Gate

Reflection courtesy of smooth tiles

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