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Published: July 20th 2011
Yeah, we decided that Thailand didn't really count as a holiday. It was a birthday party, so we treated ourselves to another trip. We went local this time, and with absolutely no agenda (the first time since 2007), we headed off to Zhejiang, China's smallest province.
First stop - Hanging in Hangzhou. Not literally. We think pitchi pitchi still prefers firing squad over rope. Our backpacking quest to find a cheap hotel was a complete failure. Wandering from Lamborghini to BMW to Mitsuoka (a Batmobile crossed with Peter Griffin's Penismobile sports car), cheap places were hard to come by. We thought we finally found a bargain (at nearly 8 ducks!!!!) until we tried to get to sleep. Only then did we realise that we were on top of a karaoke bar. Bugger.
We hired a driver for some tea and temple tourism. We had a glorious, personal tour of a small tea farm, with probably the best long jing in China. Sof's written about it at http://stickypikelet.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/龙井茶-long-jǐng-green-tea/. Following our friend's suggestion, we then visited Lingyin Temple. It was a forest full of Buddhist statues carved into caves and rocks. The temple was beautiful, but the highlight was a smaller
Note the feathery tail.
temple off to the side. The corridors were shaped into the Buddhist swastika and were filled with hundreds and hundreds of massive bronze statues. We're still unsure of who they are, but the text implied they were 'brothers'. Does anyone know?
Not sure of where to go to next, we approached the tourism desk at the hotel. We'd heard about some pretty mountains in an autonomous region, Jingning, in the south and thought we'd ask about it. Our 8-year-old Lonely Planet referred to a town called Hexi, but no one seemed to know it. The tourism "expert" looked at us blankly. Then she had a moment of clarity and called over a blue-overalled technician who worked for the hotel. The conversation went something like this (A-tourism expert, B-technician):
A: You're from Lishui, right?
A: There are mountains there, right?
A: How do you get to jingning?
B: Don't know. But you can take a bus to Lishui. And then ask someone.
Us: Where's Hexi?
B: Don't know.
A: There's a bus to Jingning tomorrow, but I can't book it for you.
Off we went to bus stop. After ticket purchase, we
stumbled into a small crappy looking restaurant with floor that had been cleaned only twice since Deng started his open door policy. Appropriately, their door was open. Devotees will remember the elation upon finding that chicken in Lagos, Portugal. Possibly the same level of excitement was had when consuming this small restaurant's 'Tu dou bing', little potato cake fried goodness with so much salt and crack that we were left drooling for more. Mmm. So much so that we took 2 more serves with us take away. Hmm. Less blog more potatoes.
Anyway, tomorrow we ended up in Jingning. Wherever the hell that was. It turned out to be a great little place. We spent a day in a She minority village that had been done up for hoards of tourists that clearly hadn't turned up yet. To the north of the city was the massive She museum, which unfortunately didn't match the rustic feel of the rest of the place. And now we reckon Hexi and Jingning are actually the same place; one name for the locals, one for pitchi.
Some other highlights of Jingning were:
1. Our stalker who continually plied us with cigarettes and tried to
book into our hotel so he wouldn't lose us.
2. A game of pool on the side of the street. We introduced the town to 9-ball.
3. The coolest pear peelers ever for 1/76th of a duck.
4. A long walk through local farms and villages (which was meant to be a walk up a mountain, but we couldn't find the mountain).
5. The amazing friendliness and helpfulness of the family-run hotel where we stayed. At least, we think they were. We had a lot of trouble understanding people - such is rural China.
On another bus to Wenzhou. Note to the population of China: If you get motion sick, do not eat before getting on a bus. If you're travelling with children, nappies are an amazing invention that will change your life. Enough said.
3 vomitous buses later, we ended up near a ferry terminal to take us to Nanji Island. Unfortunately, the final ferry left at 11am, so we found a "5-star" hotel for the night. We didn't realise that 5-star included mould in the bathroom and cigarette burns on the carpet. But it wasn't 5-star hotel prices either, so the winner was us.
The height of fashion in Hangzhou. They can be long, they can be short, but mainly they're just bad.
vomitous ferry later. We're not kidding - 2/3 of the people on the boat were constantly chundering for 1.5 hours in the 1 metre swell. It's amazing that we kept our breakfast down having to listen and smell them all. But vomiting was forgotten when the beach came into view. We avoided the mainstream hotels and asked a local girl and ended up staying at her family's house just up the hill from the beach. They'd just built some little private rooms that were basic but comfy, with a great view. We spent our days swimming (where the lifeguards and police allowed us to swim - after a few fights), playing scrabble, playing cards and eating the freshest seafood. We could get a plate of fresh oysters for only 1/2 a duck a dozen. We ate fish, oysters, crab, mussels, scallops, prawn-related things, cockles and the best home-grown eggplants ever.
After one amazing island, we decided to head to another. Our lonely planet told us to catch a bus to ningbo, and a ferry to putuoshan. We instead found a bus the whole way to the putuoshan ferry terminal, which in fact was on it's own island. It was
weird day. Half the time we didn't know if we were on the mainland or an island, and a short bus trip turned into a full day's trip. Weird. We bought our ferry ticket, and jumped on. Lucky the swell was smaller, and there was much less vomiting. We arrived on the island and panicked. It seemed that about 5000 other people had decided to come too. A quick enquiry told us that we wouldn't find a hotel for less than 26 ducks (and that would be a shit hotel) as it was one of the island's birthdays or something this week. It seemed that our only choice was to pay 9 ducks entry ticket to the island and quickly jump back on the last ferry back. Bugger that. We ran back down the gangway to the ferry (just as well we can't read Chinese telling us not to go that way) and started panicking uncontrollably in broken Chinese when the security guard tried to stop us. We got back on the last ferry and in the end didn't have to buy a ticket. AND no one vomited. A win-win for us.
To be continued...
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