Jianshui, pretty tourist town enroute to Kunming

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January 14th 2013
Published: January 21st 2013
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We left the terraces the same one we had arrived - dragging our cases through the heavy fog along the slippery paths and over the haystack in the car park to the waiting taxi. Costs this time were shared with another couple however. Our driver (the same one we had used for our market trip) left us with a hug at the bus station in Nansha where we purchased a ticket (60yuan) to Jianshui, 5 hours away. Another long day of travelling (with the over two hours just to arrive at the bus station in Nansha added on) saw us arrive in Jianshui late in the afternoon. The city was once a key trading point during the Qing dynasty and has now developed into a low key tourist town for the Chinese. The old town is full of charming old buildings, mostly unrestored, which local business people have tastefully converted into shops. And surprisingly done a great job of it as well. It was quite busy with Chinese tourists enjoying wandering the streets, clutching shopping bags stuffed with clothes from the dozens of mainly shoe and clothes stores. In the evening the streets were lit with large pretty red traditional silk lanterns.
We found a wonderful hotel to stay in - the Linan Inn - an antique courtyard house with stone gateway and brightly painted woodwork. No English was spoken but the rooms were lovely - modern, clean and well thought out. Highly recommended at 160 yuan. (No breakfast included). We spent the evening wandering the streets - it was cool but much warmer than Yuanyang. Jerry found a tailor who made him a silk bag for our walking poles before we went to a restaurant, down a laneway near our hotel, for dinner. We chose it because they had a big refrigerated display of vegetables and meat so we could point at what we wanted. No English seemed to be spoken in the city at all. The food was really delicious - crispy veges and ginger pork. All for $11. We woke next morning to blue skies and after breakfast of fruit and egg custard tarts (1 had forgotten you could buy these in China - flaky pastry with sweet thick custard filling - I love them! Four for 10 yuan $1.50) we headed off to spend the morning at the Confucian Temple. The temple, one of the largest of similar temples in China, was built in 1285 (though today it is largely restored) and must once have been a very large complex before city redevelopment took most of its land. However it's still impressive as you need to pass a large statue of Confucius, circle a long lotus pond, before entering the main temple area through a brightly coloured ornamental gateway. In the centre of the complex is the main hall, fronted by 22 gilded screen doors, with sparkling gilded red, blue and green roof decoration, which housed the main statue of the great man himself, fronted by three white animals statues - a pig, bull and a ram, all gaily attired with enormous red bows around their necks. Confucius was more soberly dressed! Every year before major exams parents bring their children to the temple bow before the statue and ask for good exam results. The whole site was an oasis of greenery and calm and we were the only other people there during our visit. Next we went to the Zhu Family Gardens, a privately series of courtyard houses, linked together with halls and ponds. They were sensitively restored in 1998 after falling into neglect after the Cultural Revolution. It was very interesting to wander around them, admiring the many glorious bonsai plants (some really amazing old trees) and room after room of the traditional ornate heavy (most uncomfortable) wooden furniture. It is used as a hotel, very expensive of course, but seemed to have no guests or tourists other than us there. Lots of staff though, and all actively working - most unusual for China! It was immaculately kept. Jerry was thrilled when we came across a group of elderly people playing traditional music in the gardens. They made us both very welcome - laying out newspaper over the cold cement seats for us to sit on, pushing their oddly written music in front of us and encouraging us to sing along. They were thrilled when Jerry played a piece of Chinese music on one of their flutes. One of the traditional instruments they played is made from a gourd. A combined ticket to both attractions was 90yuan.We decided to lunch at the little eating house from the previous evening but our choice this time wasn't as successful. The plate of vegetables were lovely but what we thought was to be grilled chicken turned out to be a traditional chicken casserole from the region. Black skinned chicken pieces, gristle, bones, everything... cooked in an earthen ware pot with medicinal herbs. Tasty broth but neither of us could face the meat. Late in the afternoon we caught a taxi out of the city to the Twin Dragon Bridge, a 148 meter long stone multi arched bridge. The original bridge was built during the Quing Dynasty with only three arches but when the river changed course in 1839 another fourteen arches were added. It is one of the 10th oldest bridges in China and is considered a masterpiece in Chinese bridge construction. It certainly was pretty in the late afternoon sunshine. The rural areas around, all paddy fields and vegetable plots, reminded us of Guangshui. And no entry fee...A lot of the local people in Jianshui were Hui (Muslims) as many of the women were wearing headscarves. We saw nomen wearing skullcaps however. The women were all dressed, despite the scarves, in the typical Chinese winter attire of skin tight trousers, boots, fluffy padded jackets, knitted hats and all manner of bling! Bling is very big here - all the women's clothes are sparkly somewhere. Interestingly the term 'Hui' meant 'cross worshippers' in the ancient language, therefore incorporating Christians, Jews and Muslims.Next morning we left the city for the much larger one of Kunming, capitol city of the province.

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22nd January 2013

Interesting place
Sounds absolutely wonderful Linese. As I tell everyone, if it moves, they eat it. Indo China cuisine will be interesting. I can just imagine the excited reaction when Jerry played flute with them - a one off I would imagine. Cheryl

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