Priceless Experience...Off the Beaten Path


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Asia » China » Zhejiang » Wenzhou
June 17th 2012
Published: June 19th 2012
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Elyse and I were invited to the home of one of our favorite students in nearbyWenzhou. (Sounds like: when joe) We knew relatively little aboutWenzhouother than where it is located and that the people there have a lot of money. The latter is according to our students although we still have yet to pinpoint what industries are located there to allow for such wealth.



We were accompanied by two of our students Tibby and Louise when we took the 3 hr and 45 min high speed train from Hangzhou Station to Wenzhou South Station. From there we took a 30 mins cab ride to our hotel in the center of Wenzhou city. We were met by our student Chain and Bree who was also a student at our school. It was Chain that invited us to Wenzhou to meet her family and she booked our room. Our hotel was actually very nice and only cost 228 rmb per night ($36 USD). This same room in Shanghai would have cost upwards to $136 USD, so it was a great value.



That night we went out to dinner to a local food stall and walked around an old shopping street where we ate some famous ice cream. It was somewhat similar to He Feng Jie in Hangzhou but not as big and touristy. In fact nothing in Wenzhou is very touristy; we didn’t see many westerners at all. We took a cab to a place that replicated an Italian plaza. This was a famous place for parents to take their kids to play during the summer evenings.



We returned to our hotel a little after 10:30 pm. We were told that we would be climbing a mountain the next day so it was best to get some rest. Most Chinese students never learn the word for hiking and simply call it climbing a mountain. It makes sense to say climb a mountain in China since most trails contain stone steps or steps that are chiseled into the mountain face. So if you are going up a trail there are likely hundreds of steps to climb your way to the top of the mountain.



The next day, we went to Starbucks for some breakfast. We were picked up by Chain’s 29 year old brother, Robert, in a brand new Lexus ES350. He sells eco friendly consumer electronics to the US and European markets, he speaks English very well. The girls were running late and arrived shortly after we did. We waited a few more minutes for one of Chain’s friends, Alex, who drove a brand new Range Rover. He didn’t speak English very well. Later, we found out that Alex dropped out of college after one year to work in his families men’s clothing boutique. So the rumors that everyone in Wenzhou has money are evidently true for these girls. I think a better explanation was that everyone they knew in Wenzhou had money.



*Wenzhou is the richest city in Zhejiang province and some colleges are trying to start a class on Wenzhou Business Practices.



After a 90 minutes drive, we arrived at the base of the mountain area. It is better to allow the pictures to do the talking. This is not a famous spot for foreign tourists, but it should be. The air was clean, it was considerably cooler, and even for a weekend it didn’t seem that packed. Keep in mind that we have lived here for nearly three years and our definition has changed. When there are only 7 or fewer tour groups consisting of 30 Chinese guests with one tour shouting though their portable microphone all while holding an identifying group flag it isn’t so crowded.



*Note that Elyse didn’t have any sinus or throat issues the whole time we were in Wenzhou, she has suffered badly since March from the bad air quality in Hanghzou.



The first park cost 40 rmb to enter, but only 20 rmb with a student/teacher discount and offers visitors to view a little waterfall and some caves. Chain and the others were excited since we could get a free tour by following one of the many guides to hear all of the interesting facts. After some convincing they realized it didn’t benefit Elyse or me since we couldn’t understand. Plus nearly a quarter of the men in the groups were smoking cigarettes which the girls didn’t really like. We chose a trail that seemed less traveled and climbed for about an hour before reaching a small village about 1,200 feet from the trail head. The trail just stopped and you could continue no further. At the end of the trail was a nice outdoor farmer’s toilet, which clearly marked the end of the trail.



With no other options we descended in about 30 minutes. We sat a restaurant and ordered soft drinks and fresh fruit. In China, you cannot just go to wait or sit at a hotel or tourist area restaurant without paying. This fee was $5 USD and included a soft drink, whether you wanted anything or not you had to pay. This practice drives me crazy but Robert paid before I had anything to say about it, as he did most of the weekend.



There was a cable that hung some 900 feet above our heads which stretched form one peak to another. Every day at 2 and 4 pm a performer would slide across the wire and flip and do other things to impress the crowds below. It sounded pretty cool but it was rather disappointing. My legs were pretty tired but we were going to check out the waterfall and cave area. Luckily, there was a giant elevator to the top of this area. Not so luckily you had to walk on wood and metal planks bolted
see the red dot? see the red dot? see the red dot?

that is a man repelling down the 250 meter face of the cliff
to the cliff face before you got back on solid ground. The planks were about 15 stories above the ground and you could peer between the boards and see the ground below. There were many planks that seemed to need replacing. It was a little scary for Elyse and I.



It is funny at times how there is so much entrepreneurial spirit in some areas it is a bad thing. For example, a giant bear pit and luge ride at theGreat Wall of China. Yandang was no exception. Elyse and I made an agreement that at every opportunity we could we would spend the additional money to partake in the added features. We rode a little zip line that lasted 12 seconds for 15 rmb, we rode on a bamboo raft in a pond for 5 rmb, we shot a bow and arrow for 1 rmb per arrow, and finally shot rubber balls out of a high powered air gun for 2 rmb per ball. Normally, we avoided this as we hate how it ruins the natural beauty of the parks. I am sort of glad we did it since it makes up laugh at the experiences as our time inChinais coming to an end.



We left the park and headed to a very late lunch / early dinner at 4 pm. From there I thought we were done. Nope. We went to another park that had China’s tallest waterfall. The peaks and natural geography were amazing. I couldn’t believe that we had lived in this area for so long and had never heard of Yandang. I decided to go into the pool and take a shower in the waterfall. We got enough looks being the only foreigners in the park but people thought I was mad when I got into the pool and took a shower in the waterfall. Everyone started clapping and taking my picture. You would have thought I was tight rope walking 900 feet above to get this sort of reaction. It felt amazing but I couldn’t convince Elyse to join in. Oh by the way, this park had its own cable about 900 feet above the ground from one peek to the other where a man would ride a bicycle across the cable. Unfortunately there were no more shows that day.



It was becoming late and the sun was setting so we headed to the parking area. Clearly now we would be headed home since it was getting dark. Of course, I would be mistaken. There was one more activity left for our Yandang experience. We traveled from the big waterfall area to some night time activity. Alex bought everyone glow in the dark devil horns so we could easily identify each other. The problem was that nearly 70% of the people were wearing them as well.



There were a few trails you could walk on and the giant rock formation’s silhouettes in the night sky made them look like a variety of items. One looked like a rabbit, the other a loving couple embracing, and even an elephant. My favorite was “elderly foreign grandmother”. Clearly the rock didn’t look like a Chinese grandmother. I indicated that the rock was more likely reminiscent an Italian grandmother. Also let it be known sarcasm isn’t really understood here but Elyse and I got a good laugh from my remarks. Chain, who regularly acted as our assistant, has become more used to our sarcastic comments and laughed. After eating a pound of bugs we finally got into the car and headed back toWenzhoucity. We got back to our hotel around 10:30 and were both asleep by 11:30. I think Elyse feel asleep less than 2 minutes after her head hit the pillow.



The next day, we went back to Starbucks for breakfast (only 1 in the whole city) then to some little tourist island in Wenzhou and finished our time in Wenzhou by meeting Chain’s parents for lunch. It was fun to visit with her Chinese speaking parents who raised 2 amazing kids, Chain our student 22 and Robert 29. We had the 4 pm train back toHangzhouand were lucky enough to have purchased tickets on a train that had sleeper seats. Elyse and I took a nap for a few hours and had a very nice ride back toHangzhou.



From Elyse: It was a great time to be the guest of Chain and to experienceChina from a little different point of view. I wish Chain, Tibby, Bree and Louise the best of luck in their lives. Chain and Tibby pasted the University entrance exam and will continue their education and get their Bachelors degrees by attending 2 more years of college. Bree scored 1% below the acceptance level so she can’t attend University in the Fall, she starts working at Starbucks this week for 12 rmb ($1.90) per hour/40 hrs a week. Doesn’t seems fair as she has no chance to retake this exam and Starbucks is more expensive in China than the US, so the owners are making loads of rmb. Louise is looking for a job as of now. I enjoyed our weekend as I can count on one hand how many foreigners we saw and only heard waiguoren (foreigner) once all weekend.


Additional photos below
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19th June 2012

weekend with students
You would not have caught me on those planks! Brave Pete and ELyse! Great memories! Neat experience!
19th June 2012

Looks like a great time!
The photos are so pretty. Glad you guys got to experience a less touristy place before you left :)

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