rt2k6 - Korea to Britain the hard way

2006-03-19 14:58

Wuyishan Scenic Spot

Showered and all, we went in search of a bank and lunch before heading out to the Wuyishan Scenic Spot. The main entrance found us in a topiaried garden surrounded by craggy peaks and forest, with a clear green river alongside. It drizzled all day but wasn't cold - subtropical bush pretty similar to the stuff you find in NZ - lush and green and smelling sweet like moist earth and flowers. Fed fish in the river; little ones at the top, big ones down below, while people coming down the river on rafts called out to us. We're going to do that tomorrow. The rafting, not the calling out. Got lost and stumbled upon a nunnery trying to find a particular peak - Ossie got attacked by guard dogs, we got heckled by construction workers taking the piss out of my appalling mandarin, and found a huge colony of green tree frogs in a bamboo stand in the middle of a pool. A little girl taught me the Chinese word - qing wa. Qing means green!

Ate red bean paste ice creams, then off to the other part of the Scenic Spot, where to find the Water Curtain Cave - not the same one of Monkey legend, his was on an island apparently east of Japan.The cave wasn't apparent to us, but there was a locked temple of Three Sages - one Confucian, one Taoist and one Buddhist, so the temple may have been built onto the cave. The light was fading, so we headed down towards the river to Eagle Beak Rock and the Great Red Robe Tea trees. The place was empty, and the high, high cliffs and tea terraces and wild bush and birds and clear stream was like ancient times. High up in the cliffs are 'Ancient Dwellings', which must have been reached by ladders or ropes or something - deep, low horizontal fissures in the limestone walls on the South side of the valley above the river. It was getting properly dark by the time we reached Huiyuan Temple - another temple housing the great three faiths of China, but this one is active, and unlike most temples, this is a castle-like medieval structure of stone, with arch windows and crenellations and all. The odd mix of chanting monks, chirping bats a diesel generator; and the smell of fermenting oolong tea filled the valley as we retraced our steps in the dark.

The Scenic Spot shuts at 1830, and we got back to the gate in pitch darkness at about 1900 - nobody was there, just angry dogs tied to guard the hawkers' wares. As we considered a 6km walk back to town, a family in a ute drove by, and stopped to give a ride to the woman ahead of us, so we jumped in the back as well, and sped off through the sweet-smelling rain and bush like dogs with heads out the window. He wouldn't take any kuai; just a handshake and tsai chien.

Time for Ronery Pranet to earn its keep - a restaurant called Bamboo Palace is recommended for frogs and bamboo shoots, and the food we ate there was the best we've had in China; the best food I've had in years, even. The son spoke a bit of english, and we sat outside under a bamboo gazebo, next to a hedge of bamboo, with the river running alongside, drinking bamboo beer. We ended up with stir-fried bamboo shoots and bacon-like pork; noodles with a mountain herb which tasted a bit like (but wasn't) tea; a whole steamed fish caught from the pond next to our table and, after some linguistic wrangling which culminated in the boy bringing out a sack of big mottled live bullfrogs, said bullfrogs quartered and boiled in water with two slices of raw ginger as the only seasoning. This was very un-Chinese food to me; almost everything we've had so far has been richly spiced, usually fatty, and served in heavy sauces; the fish was taken out of the water, cleaned, and steamed so briefly that it was served in a pink mixture of its own blood and steam, with spring onions and absolutely nothing else. Likewise; frogs and the tiniest hint of ginger. Quality ingredients treated with respect and care, and the result in both cases was nothing short of sensational.


2006-03-19 03:16

Hualong Towers

Train from Nanjing was two hours early, resulting in a mad dash for the door. Bought tix for Xiamen tomorrow night and checked into the Hualong Hotel across the road, which, while once a snazzy executive-type joint with a conference centre and all, is now a complete fucking dive. The whole place seems to be run by a timid and utterly ineffectual guy about 30 and a couple of tarty women in their 20s. Despite the fact that we appear to be the only guests, we had to wait while they cleaned our room. When we found out the shower in our room had no hot water, it took ten minutes of wandering the stairs and passageways of this huge place to find him, and then he showed us into the room across the hall (also not cleaned), where there appeared to be a functional shower. It turned out there was only about three minutes hot water, so I went downstairs and shouted at him, at which point he turned to one of the tarts, who sorted us out yet another room for a shower. The toilet in our room also appears to be blocked. The whole place is musty and shabby and stained, and in the typically Chinese state which is between reconstruction and deconstruction. Despite the fact that we've had one meal in the past 24 hours and three in the last 48, nothing will induce me to eat at the restaurant, where "high-grade chiefs cook all kinds of pastries and delicacies of chinese styles". Not confident about the state of the sauna, either.