Peace and Solitude at Feixia

When I first moved to China, my teaching center gave me a guidebook for the country. One of the entries was about a place called Feixia in central Guangdong. I read the entry but never really thought I would actually go there; it’s not the typical tourist spot for foreigners. I mentioned this place to Jun one day and he said he could plan a weekend trip if we wanted. I said sure if he was game, which he was. He went and planned an amazing trip.

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We left Guangzhou for Qingyuan in the late afternoon. When we arrived we checked into our hotel and then went exploring around the central area. We walked through a park and across the bridge and found a really neat restaurant for dinner. They cooked the food at the table using wood fire. It was a nice dinner and a wonderful start to our trip.

 

The next day we left early for Feixia. It was a quick drive there and we soon bought our tickets. We then took the ferry across the river to start exploring the area. Feixia has a lot of Taoist temples along the mountain paths. We noticed that most of the other visitors were taking the bus up to the main temples. Jun and I decided to hike along the path up the mountain to explore the area.

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Because we were essentially the only ones on the trail we had it to ourselves. It was really nice to go along the trail in silence and explore the area without anyone else. We passed many gateways and saw a temple nestled next to a spring. It was quite magical how the temples and gates were a part of the forest.

 

 

We soon made it to the first temple palace. These are a combination of temples and living quarters that are grouped together to create a palace like structure. They are really interesting and in the Feixia area there are two of these palaces. The first is better kept, but the second one has more character. Large parts of the second palace is unoccupied. These unoccupied areas are rustic. They give a nice glimpse into the craftsmanship that went into building this palace and maintaining it over time.

 

At the top of Feixia was a temple and a pagoda that offered spectacular views of the valley. It was an exhausting hike up to it, but the view was amazing.

 

 

Jun and I decided to take the bus back down and start our journey back to Shenzhen. Jun booked tickets on a train leaving from a nearby village, so we made our way to that village. It was interesting to see this place: Yuantan. A lot of the buildings in the village are quite old and interspersed in alleyways surrounded by newer buildings that are next to the main roads. In these alleyways you can see people preparing traditional medicine as they have for centuries. It was a nice experience to see that part of China.

 

Soon we were on the train and back to Shenzhen; Jun and I had a really nice weekend in Qingyuan and seeing Feixia.

Keyuan Garden

On a whim Jun decided that we were going to visit Keyuan Garden in Dongguan. It’s one of the Four Renowned Gardens of Guangdong from the Qing dynasty. Each of the gardens represent the Lingnan garden culture that tied architecture, art, and nature together in a delicate balance.

Keyuan was the last of the four gardens I had to visit. I had previously visited the other three in the last four years. It was nice to finally get to cross this off my list as I rarely have a reason to be in Dongguan.

This garden has its own unique feel compared with the other gardens. Keyuan feels much more intimate than the other three with the how close the buildings are to each other. Adding to this feeling are the different corridors that meander around the structures. The buildings are tightly linked to each other; it creates that intimate feeling as you walk around the different structures. Tied with how lush the gardens are and how intermingled they are to the buildings leads to a wondrous feeling to the place.

From the main structure the gardens go to a surrounding park centered with a pond. The park has a nice museum with a variety of art and examples of Lingnan architecture. In one of the courtyards there are examples of different building features to examine.

The gardens are beautiful and shows another side to the Lingnan gardens other than the other three gardens in Guangdong: Yuyin in Panyu, Liangyuan in Foshan, and Qinghui in Shunde.

It was definitely a nice visit.

Zhongshan

At the end to my New Year vacation, Jun and I decided for one last quick trip around the Pearl River Delta. We chose to visit Zhongshan, a small city southwest of Guangzhou.

The first thing we did in Zhongshan was to walk along Sunwen West Road. It’s a pedestrian street with a lot of buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The sheer number of them in one area was staggering when compared with the small pockets in Guangzhou and other cities. Here they seem to go on for blocks.

Afterwards we walked to Shi Qi Lao, a restaurant known for roasted pigeon. I ate pigeon once before in Egypt, but I wasn’t impressed with it then. Surprisingly the way the chef prepared the pigeons here was pretty good; the roasted nature of the pigeon gave it a nice taste. The other dishes, like the fish dumpling soup and pineapple buns, were quite tasty as well.

Afterwards we went to see  Fufeng Wen Tower at Zhongshan Park. The park had great views of the immediate area. The tower itself was nicely preserved as well. It was a nice to walk around the park and see the different style of buildings from centuries past to the present. It puts into perspective the contradictory nature of modern China: the tension between tradition and modernity.

The last thing we did in Zhongshan was to visit Zimaling Park. It’s a big park with some nice vistas, but it’s a typical park in China. Jun and I were tired by then and decided to head back to Guangzhou.

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One thing I have learned about Zhongshan is that I may be allergic to something in it. The moment I stepped off the train I started to develop a terrible headache. It stayed with me during my entire stay in Zhongshan, but the moment I left on the train back to Guangzhou it went away quickly.

Shunde

Having read about Shunde a few months back, I thought this New Year’s break would be a great opportunity to finally visit the place. The hardest part about getting to Shunde is navigating the public transport system to get to it. It’s about 50 minutes by Guangzhou metro to get to Guangzhou South Railway station, then a mere eight minutes on the train to get to Shunde, and finally a 20 minute bus to get to the central part of Shunde. Once traversing through that process it was worth it to see Shunde.

The first thing we did once we got there was to visit the commercial pedestrian street where we ate lunch at Minxin Laopu. Well, it was more like we ate dessert and had other snacks for lunch. Sunde is known for its double-skin milk desserts (双皮奶 shuangpinai); a Cantonese dessert originating from here. It tastes a lot like custard, and fruit can be added to give it a sweet flavor. We decided to try the mango one. That was genius!

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After having savored the shuangpinai, we ventured to see Qing Hui Garden. It is considered to be one of the Four Great Gardens of Guangdong. Qing Hui is really beautiful and does live up to its reputation. The garden is a series of smaller gardens that harmoniously coexist together to create a unique whole. As a result, each section, while unique, flows into the next garden seamlessly.

Walking around Qing Hui you notice the importance of water and aquatic life as central aspects to the garden. The fish here are some of the largest I’ve seen in mainland China. Each smaller garden also seems to have a water component to it as well.

The park was great, and we were ready to see the next wonder in Shunde. Walking north of the park we headed to Xi Shan Temple. It’s built next to a hilly park, so it is built vertically. The temple is dedicated to Guan Yu, a general from the Three Kingdoms Period. Unlike Qing Hui, the temple had less people and was more peaceful. It was a nice counterpoint to the garden.

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The last thing we wanted to see in Shunde was Shunfengshan Park. The park is quite large and surrounds a lake at the foot of Taiping Mountain. The park is known for its paifang, or Chinese architectural arch, as it is one of the largest in the world. Walking around the park was nice. We noticed that a lot of families brought tents to the park; they were not staying overnight but it appeared to be a thing for families to do. There were tents for adults and kids.

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As we walked around the park we noticed that there were a number of gardens just off the main path. As we walked towards one of them we noticed a number of vendors running away and hiding inside the gardens. Apparently they were not licensed to sell things inside the park and were running away from the security guards who were doing their rounds.

The park was really nice and it was a nice way to experience the late afternoon. But by early evening we were tired and ready to go back home. Not that we were excited about how we had to get back. Going back now required an additional bus. We decided before we went all the way back to Guangzhou, we would stop back at Minxin Laopu to get another shuangpinai. This time we would each get one and not share. It was a great idea and the trip back was uneventful.

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