Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chaozhou, China - Part 4 - Long Hu Town

Jan 3, 2006:   Note: This entry has lots of photos from our visit to Long Hu village – an old, square, walled village near Chaozhou. Long Hu is large, one square kilometer in size, and is what I like to call authentic: no admission fee, no touts, no “guides”, no souvenir stands. It is a combination of old China, Communist China, and new China. Thanks for reading these 4 entries on our trip to Chaozhou. -john 

Another busy day in Chaozhou. Up at 8:30. Walked back to Tong Yi Life House restaurant where I anticipated having a freshly brewed coffee with some American-styled breakfast items on the menu. However, they did not actually  have any of the breakfast items on the menu, so we went out and bought some bing and whole wheat mantou from a stand just down the street, brought them back to the restaurant. Then after much discussion, we ordered a cappuccino and a hazelnut coffee which arrived at our table 15 minutes later. Oh well; it was a so-so breakfast, not the treat that I had anticipated. 

The outside of the Tong Yi Lifehouse Restaurant. Cool logo. "Yi" is "one" in Chinese. Also note the Pete Townshend connection.
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Next, we walked down to the Confucian school that we had not been able to find 2 days before. Very nice. The wings are a museum with some interesting photos.

The Haiyang County Confucius School Palace - last rebuilt in 1369.
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A painting of “Masters” inside the Confucian Temple.
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The City Gate near the Confucian school - The Archway of Ordinal Administration of Changli.
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Bananas with a mysterious red mark. We saw them all over Chaozhou. Turns out to be the mark of the banana tree owner. Kind of like the tag on a cow’s ear. You can also see starfruit at lower left, apricots (?) at upper right and a Chinese scale at lower right: weighing pan, counter weight, and balance stick with markings.
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And then back to the hotel. Called the driver and asked him to pick us up at 3PM for a stop at Long Hu village and then on to the airport to catch our 7:30 flight back to Shanghai. City Wall So at about noon, we walked over to the City Wall, and walked north on the wall on a brilliant sunny day with a slight breeze and temps in the low 70’s. Then back to the temple by the main gate. The opera company was finally gone. Took some photos of the temple. Headed back to temple square. On the way, Sun-Ling bought 8 60ml glass jars with stoppers for 30 Y. She will use them as spice jars.

This old building near the bike shop is the Waijiang Li Yuan Guild Hall for theatrical troupes and musicians to assemble.
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View of City Wall and new bridge.
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Temple by Main Gate. 
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Bottle shop . Sun-Ling bought some small bottles to use as spice jars.
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Can you guess what type of business this is?
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Had Lunch at Lian Hua restaurant for 33 RMB. Walked back to the hotel and bought an electric H2O bottle for 18 Y. Checked out of the hotel. Total bill was 380 Y which included an additional 30 Y discount for the Hot Water Incident. 

Long Hu Village:   Set out driving to Long Hu village, a walled village that is one square kilometer in size. We entered the north gate (no admission fee), walked south along the main drag taking photos of the doorways, some of which still have faint traces of revolutionary slogans and images of Mao. We passed several family chapels (for ancestor worship) including the Lin and Chen family chapels. On the way back north, I stepped through a thin stone block covered the sewer ditch and was in deep shit up to my calf. Luckily we were next to the Lin Family Chapel which had a tub, bucker and running water, and I was able to clean up a bit while Sun-Ling hurried back to car for a change of dirty but dry socks, rain pants, and Teva sandals which I would wear all the way back to Shanghai. Took more photos of the town, left about 5:15 PM and made it to the airport about 5:45 PM. Had a quick bowl of noodle soup at the airport coffee shop for 30Y, boarded the airplane at 7PM and reached Shanghai on time. 

Interestingly, on the fronts of the some of the buildings in Long Hu village, you could still see the faint outlines of revolutionary paintings and slogans. Here’s one where you can clearly see a bust of Chairman Mao on the front wall of this school.
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Here’s a close-up of the lanterns by the door.
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More Chairman Mao – double! 
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This slogan says "Long Live Chairman Mao"
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This doorway has a ying-yang design on the privacy screen.
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One of the many interesting doorways in Long Hu village.
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A close up of one of the lanterns.
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Another doorway of a public temple. Notice the modern cans of peanut milk attached as a decoration. Chaozhou China 246 

Close-up of same doorway and peanut milk cans.
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Woman carrying a baby.
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Doorway of the new renovated Lin Family Chapel. Sun-Ling’s father is a Lin.
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The Chen Family Temple has not been renovated. Note the revolutionary slogans to the right and left of the doorway. The one on the right says
“The driving force of our legacy is the Chinese Communist Party”. 
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A doorway painted to ward off evil.
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A back street in Long Hu town. Notice the lantern in most doorways – they are not just for tourists. Also note that I am wearing rain pants and Tevas after accidentally stepping into a sewage ditch. I’m carrying my dirty clothes in that plastic bag. CZ 267_z.jpg 

Finally, an incense maker lines his wares outside to dry.
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Monday, January 02, 2006

Chaozhou, China - Part 3 - The Fortified Cities of Guangdong

Chaozhou, China: January 2, 2006: The Fortified Cities of Guangdong. 

Up @ 9:15. Out and around about 10:00. Ate breakfast across the street at the same stand as yesterday. We only ate 3 RMB’s worth of fried stuff today. Had kungfu tea and conversation with the proprietor’s husband. We shared our bag snatching story. The owner has been to San Rao, our destination for the day and says it’s less than 80 km away and that we should be able to hire a car for the whole day for about 200 RMB.

Back at the hotel, the reception dug through a pile of business cards and called the number of a car for hire. We negotiated the price down to 200 from 300 over the phone and agreed on a pickup time of 11AM. We headed back up to the room, brushed our teeth, and then walked down the stairs. By the second day at the Feng Cheng Hotel I have become suspicious of the elevator which sometimes jerks, sometimes does not open when reaching the first floor, and has a sticker that says the next inspection is due on July 8, 2004.

The car arrived on time at 11:00. We highly recommend the driver. His contact number is 13903091737. A former soldier, he does not speak English, but we found him tall, gregarious, reliable and hired him again for the next day.

The first order of business was to stop by a book store so we could try to replace the book and map we lost the day before. We bought an English picture book of places around Chaozhou and book on the small towns of Chaozhou area (not as nice as the one we lost) for 53 Y total. We crossed the bridge, drove through some road construction, gassed up at 4.2 Y per liter (that’s about $2/gal), and headed north to DaoYun, an octagonal fortified city near San Rao. About 12 noon we stopped for lunch at small restaurant suggested by the driver, and had a nice vegetarian meal for 30 RMB total including feeding the driver who, in the usual way, ate with us.

Three on a motorbike on the way to San Rao.
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It’s an interesting drive north. While Chaozhou is just about at sea level, the area to the north has small hills that give way to small mountains and gorgeous valleys filled with terraced tea groves and orchards. Mid way up the hills we saw banana fields and corn fields that had been more than just nipped by a December cold spell. The terrain here is similar to that in Vietnam.

The traffic thinned dramatically after out lunch stop and at one point we saw some grain or small fruit that had been placed on the side of the road to dry in the sun.

View of the terraces and valley.
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Finally, we arrive in San Rao, and after driving around the roundabout, we take a sharp right, go about 500 meters and arrive at Daoyun Storied Building which is an octagonal, fortified village built in 1587. The admission is 10 Y each for a no hassle visit/tour of the village. First we saw a brief video over some kungfu tea. The tour was given by pleasant young lady who, at then end of the tour, left us to stroll by ourselves on the third floor balcony overlooking the town. Coming back town we chatted with a very old man whose photo was in our ‘new” book. He then invited us into his house for a chat and some kungfu tea. I took his photo. Sun-Ling is indeed a giant. He is the only one left in Daoyun from his family. The others are all over the world he told us. He lived in Saigon, Vietnam during the 1940’s. He is 85 years old.

The historic roadside marker for DaoYun.
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The north side of DaoYun Building. Conveniently, a small pond is right by the front gate for firefighting and duck farming I suppose.
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The North gate. Note the Communist Party star above the door.
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Children chasing geese inside the walled town. Notice the phone booth at right
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The houses face the center. That’s a well to the right.
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Our guide shows us an old hand mill (lower right).
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The old man from Daoyun town who invited us in for tea.
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Even though the town appears to be circular in this photo, it is actually octagonal. This view is from the 3rd story balcony.
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The dwellings face the center and extended back to the city walls in a pie shape. The front room is one story high. The back room is 3 stories with several courtyards and rooms between. See below.
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Some of the wood grillwork on the 3rd story balcony.
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And another.
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And one more.
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Finally, a panoramic view of DaoYun town.
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After leaving DaoYun town, we headed back to Chaozhou, stoppingat a round, fortified village, Zhang Mei Lou town, where they now make mung bean thread noodles and sheets. There is no admission and no signs. We walked inside the village and were invited in for tea and were able to watch the women of the household make mung bean thread noodles. Sun-Ling took some photos form the 3rd floor window while the driver and I drank tea with the husband.

Drying mung bean noodles outside the walls.
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Drying mung bean sheets outside the city walls.
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View from the 3rd floor. Notice the mung bean sheets drying in the center.
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Sun-Ling and the driver inside Zhang Mei Lou town. The single entrance is behind Sun-Ling.
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View of town.
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Here you can see the north entrance, the curve of the circular wall, and firewood stacked outside.
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A last view of the walled town. Note the pond.
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Then back to town arriving about 4PM, paid the drive 200 Y, and got dropped of near the bookstore. We then walked back and forth among the lanes south of Temple Square, admiring the old houses, and taking many photos of doorways. After eating some local snacks – fried of course – we walked all the way up to the lake. SL’s theory is that is the in old Chaozhou, the north/south streets are for commerce, and the east west streets are for dwellings.

The best doorway photo of the bunch.
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We walked around West Lake and the are dinner at Tong Yi Life House Restaurant, an upscale modern restaurant sometimes frequented by Pete Townshend, where one orders and eats individual meals, not family style meals, and a glass of warm water and a glass of iced tea is served with every meal. I had a tofu dish and Sun-Ling had a Korean-style stone bowl. With a cold Heineken, the total was 49 RMB.

Walked back to the hotel, arriving at 8 PM, showered, and crashed.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Chaozhou, China - Part 2 - Good and Bad

Jan 1, 2006.

A good and bad start to the New Year. Slept in to 10:00 AM. Had a late breakfast at a small shop across Taiping Lu from the hotel. 6 Y for deep fried dough (yo bing). fried taro, and complementary kungfu tea from the friendly proprietor. Back to hotel to inquire about hiring a car for tomorrow’s excursion to San Rao town, home to Danyun Village, the famous octagonal fortified city. Then to the nearby bike rental. We tried out a tandem but it was too small for both captain and stoker so we opted for 2 very rickety and almost too small singles. The rate is 4 RMB (50 cents US) for both bikes per hour. We left a 200 RMB deposit and headed off to Xiang Pu Zai, a small, square, walled city that is 1000 years old.

The tandem that was too small.
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We left the bike shop about 12 noon and arrived at Xiang Pu Zai about 1:10 after several stops for directions and butt relief.

Map checking near West Lake. Note the 3 boys who have just hired a “taxi”. Also check out the headgear on the driver. Many Motorbike drivers wear these “yellow helmets” that look just like a construction worker’s hardhat.
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We did not wear our bike shorts under our pants as we have sometimes done in the past and my butt got pretty sore after and hour. As we left the old town for the new town, the streets became wider and smooth as they were recently paved. Heading west out of the new town, the roads became progressively narrower, more crowded, and noisier.

After a ride of about one hour, we finally arrived at Ziang Pu Zai. The last section of the ride we were led by some friendly locals on a motorbike.

The town of Xiang Pu Zai was very, very interesting to us since we had never been inside a small, walled, Chinese village before. It is square, laid out on a north-south grid, with 18 sections, 72 wells, and so forth. Sun-Ling’s guide book had a very accurate description of it. We parked our bikes outside the North Gate (below) and walked inside.

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This is the view down the main drag.
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There is no admission, no signs, no souvenirs, no salesmen, no touts, and no beggars. Just a small sleepy town with loads of character. We walked south down the main drag, crossing a few lanes, and past a women doing some outside sewing to the ancestor worship chapel at the far end. The chapel has 3 sections, 2 of which are restored. It is loosely “guarded” by an older man and his wife. No admission. No hassle.

The inside of the newly renovated chapel.
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The doors of the chapel are painted with figures that guard against “evil”.
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Another view of the narrow streets
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After a self-guided walking tour of the town, including a chat with an old man cutting bamboo into small pieces of firewood, we tried to walk up the stairs to the tower above the North Gate but the stairs were locked. Two ladies sitting in the entrance told us that women for forbidden to go up in the tower. Another man told us that the town leader had a key and he was over at the town hall just across the square. So we headed over to the Town Hall, where under the watchful eye of a Chairman Mao poster, there were 3 tables of men gambling, playing a version of “big 2” for small stakes of several quai per hand. We were invited to sit and watch the game until the man with key showed up, but after several hands there was no man, no key. So we left. The children of the town were excited to see a foreigner. I guess they do not get many tourists here.

A second ancestor chapel not restored as well as the first.
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Old man cutting bamboo.
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Beans and peanuts in inner courtyard.
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Children running out through an unofficial exit in the town wall.

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View inside the main gate.
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So at about 2 PM we started pedaling back to town. Lots of honking from the motorbike traffic. Lots of motorbikes. Many interesting loads being hauled by bike, truck, and motorbike: porcelain Buddha statues, styrofoam, wood, people, etc. This area is famous for its porcelain factories. Across the river, archaeologists have excavated a series of 7trh century kilns.

Porcelain Buddhas.
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On the way out to Xiang Pu Zai, I had noticed an odd sight. Three water buffalo were tethered in front of a small shop and another one was inside and some men were inspecting its feet. “That’s odd” I thought. However, on the way back there were only 2 water buffalo tethered outside the shop, and chunks of skinned water buffalo meat were hanging from hooks inside and a river of blood flowing was out in to the street. The shop was a slaughterhouse. “Don’t look” I shouted to Sun-Ling as we rode by.

As we arrived back in town, we decided to ride to Peoples Square, which turned out to be a disaster. As we were circumnavigating the square, Sun-Ling’s day pack was snatched from the front basket of my bicycle by 2 men on a motorbike. We reported the theft immediately to the police but of course all was lost. We felt like idiots. We know you always keep a hand on your pack in a 3rd world country. First we reported the theft to the People’s Square security guards. After asking us many questions, they called the police and a pair of policeman came, asked us basically the same questions, and took photos of us at of the crime scene with a digital camera. We then followed their car, on our bikes, back to the station, where we gave our report to another policeman behind a desk who wrote out in longhand all the same details we gave to the security guards and policemen.

A view of People’s Square before the robbery.
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By now it was almost 5pm and the pedal back to hotel was chilly as the temps get down to 55 or so at night. That’s why we had brought our now stolen rain jackets. Sigh. We returned the bikes, paid the 20 RMB rental fee, got our PolarTec jackets from the hotel, walked back to Temple Square, trudged through the beggars gauntlet, and ate dinner at Pu Ti vegetarian restaurant where we had a set menu for two plus 2 Tsing Taos for a total of 62 RMB. I was feeling better already. The Lian Hua vegetarian restaurant is very strict and does not serve alcohol, nor allow any alcohol or meat on its premises. So if you want a cold beer with your vegetarian meal, choose the Pu Ti over Lian Hua. Walked back to hotel, took showers, and crashed at 9PM. What a day!

Luckily no money was lost and our spirits were only lowered for several hours. Other than the bag itself, which will not be easy to replace, we lost a nifty LED flashlight, 2 rain jackets, my new cell phone, our city map, a nice book on the small villages of Guangdong, a lip balm, tissue paper, and bottled water. By the way, the Chaozhou People’s Square has a spectacular water fountain which we saw while waiting for the police to come but were not able to enjoy.

A few night scenes from Day 2 in Chaozhou.
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View across river.
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View of market near East gate
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