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Published: July 21st 2011
So, where were we? Ah yes, a vomit free ferry trip back to the big island, away from the little island. Confusing, we know. The lack of stomach contents racing out of the mouth was an even bigger surprise, since we'd been forced to eat KFC earlier in the afternoon. We're not proud of this at all. For Zac, 3rd time of his life. In the almost 10 years we've been together, there has to still be first times for some things, and, well, this was one. But 8 hours of straight travelling in a high pressure situation with absolutely nothing else on hand meant KFC it was. It feels like betrayal to the western stereotype that we'd been trying to avoid the entire time in Zhejiang. Maybe that's why, in the ensuing 15 minutes, 57 people yelled "Hello!" at us, and had baseball bats been on hand, it all would have headed for a turn for the worse and we would have been laid with many an assault charge. Never mind.
Our stay on the big island involved the most expensive hotel we've ever paid for, ever. Including the one we had in Paris. But this was possibly the
Shitty, expensive hotel room
We haven't messed with the white balance... the lighting really was this bad.
least value for money. Seems that catching syphilis from the bedsheets is expensive. Only kidding. The only positive was the electronic majiang table in the room, which built the "wall" for you at the press of a button. It didn't shout 'Hello!" either. Definite bonus.
I think you're probably getting the vibe that we didn't like this place. It's called Putuo, or Zhoushan, or maybe both. Don't try and stay there. We got the hell out of there as soon as we could the next morning, and set our sights for Shaoxing.
Shaoxing wasn't originally on our plans, but looking at a map, it seemed like a logical place to go. And quite frankly, any place was better than Zhoushan. Shaoxing is famous for it's yellow wine, which is what the locals drink, but in Australia it's used as cooking wine. Aussies get some things bang on the money. Shaoxing is a water town, which basically means there are canals running through bits of the old parts of the city, and many old houses back onto them. Surprisingly, unlike most water towns in China, it's overrun with tourists and souvenir shops. Or tackiness. We only saw 2 other
foreigners the whole time in Shaoxing (making 3 for the trip!), and both of them were in starbucks. They probably live there, or are paid by starbucks to make it seem more international, or something. And tour groups with flags and hats, while present (let's face it, they're everywhere these days: a chinese town is not complete without a few megaphones and poofy caps), didn't dominate even the most famous of attractions.
Most of our time in Shaoxing has been spent wandering. We checked out Luxun's old digs, wikipedia him if you want more info. Basically, he's Stalin's doppleganger (visually only, he was actually a writer). We also checked out Zhou Enlai's ancestral home. Zhou is Zac's favourite CCP man, while obviously a ruthless, self-centred, power-driven politician, he single handedly saved relics such as the Forbidden City and Desheng Gate in Beijing during the cultural revolution. He was also Mao's right hand man, but opposed a lot of the more extreme policies. And his house was gorgeous.
In the drizzling rain one morning, we headed out of town to the "Orchid Pavillion", only give it a .31 on the orchidage scale (not much in bloom) but it was
Couldn't get inside. Damn locked gates.
full of pavillions and calligraphy. Well, I guess they got the name of the place half right. However, the highlight of the trip, and perhaps of ever, was the afternoon visit to Hou Shan. Oh. Your. God. Imagine the foggy haze and eerie afternoon silence in a deserted park where cannibals would consume your limbs but they too fear to tread. Imagine empty temples and pavillions, incense pits that have long since been used, and creaking stairs that may give way at any second. Then out of nowhere, sheer rock faces that defy gravity and spiral so high into the sky that no photo could possibly ever capture. Rock archways towering from rock pools with water streaming down.
Neither of us have any idea how this place could have been formed. We can't imagine any amount of earthquakes or landslides creating the formations that we saw. The land around in 360 degrees was flat as a pancake, yet on this one hill lay the most spectacular scenery that we've ever seen. And not a soul shared the experience with us. (We guess not being on the '140 kuai all-you-can-visit-in-shaoxing' pass helped!).
Then to tea. Because it's ten to
three. But The Old Vicarage and Rupert Brooke aside, tea was calling, it's always calling us. In the town of Shaoxing we were unable to find any tea shops, links, info, or anything really, despite asking a lot of questions. So we jumped online, and did some searching. The result: a quick trip out of town to what we thought was a modest tea plantation. The actual result: a quick trip out of town to a massive, multinational tea corporation, with our own private tour of both the lab and the surrounding tea bushes. It was unlike any tea experience we've ever had. We'd like to think that we're a little more the wiser on 6 different types of green tea than we were before.
Where to now? Beijing we guess. Seeya next time.
Boris and Doris
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