Fun in Foshan

After having traveled outside the province for the last few holidays, Jun and I decided to stay in Guangdong for the Dragon Boat Festival. After talking a bit about where we could go, we decided to visit Foshan. Located next to the western side of Guangzhou, Foshan is an old city that is known for its cultural and culinary contributions to Chinese heritage. Cantonese opera is regarded as originating in Foshan, as well as lion dancing and high-quality ceramics.

Day 1

Our trip started by leaving Futian Station in Shenzhen a little after noon. The train ride to Foshan West Station went smoothly. When we got to the station, we learned that we would have to endure a winding line of health code monitoring and COVID-19 testing. After about 40 minutes of waiting in multiple lines, we were finally able to leave the station. We first needed to figure out how to do that. It turned out that the ride-hailing pick-up area of the station was on the opposite side of the station from where the health checking was happening. After walking an additional 10 minutes across the station, we got in the car and went to our hotel in the Qiandeng Lake area of Foshan.

Checking in at the hotel went smoothly; they even upgraded our room. When we got up to our room, we decided to rest a bit and decide what we wanted to do that afternoon. After thinking about it, we chose to stay close to the hotel and explore the area around Qiandeng Lake.

We started our walk on the eastern bank of the lake next to the hotel and walked southward. A lot of people were there to enjoy the long holiday weekend. As we walked, we saw some interesting artworks and gardens around Qiandeng Lake and in the adjoining Leigang Park. Jun and I particularly like the more abstract and fantastical artwork.

After a while, Jun and I realized that we were ready for an early dinner since we only had brunch that day. We decided to go to a local restaurant—Shuihuo Zuoyong—that served food in clay pots. The food was amazing. We tried a variety of dishes including scallop fried rice, vegetables, and over-baked pork. We then topped it off with some ginger and sesame ice cream.

After having eaten a lot for dinner, Jun and I went for a walk around Leigang Park and visited the southern section so we could see the Kuixing Pavilion and then walk northward back to the hotel. The pavilion, unfortunately, was closed, but we could walk around it a bit. As we got closer to the hotel, we did see some nice murals under some of the bridges and on some of the buildings.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was getting late. Jun and I decided to relax for the rest of the evening and call it a day.

Day 2

Our second day started with us beginning the day in the Zumiao area of Foshan. Jun wanted to have a late breakfast at the Nanshan Snack Shop, which sold a variety of rice rolls and noodles. The meal was delicious and a great way to start a day of exploration. The street the restaurant was located on was also nice as the trees along the street were blooming.

From the restaurant, we next walked up towards Liang’s Garden. This garden is one of four famous Qing Dynasty gardens in Guangdong. I first visited here in 2013 when I first moved to Guangzhou. I found it interesting to see how much of it has changed, as there are more buildings open than I remembered from my last visit. Jun and I enjoyed walking around the garden and visiting some of the buildings. One thing I found particularly nice was that there were examples of contemporary arts and crafts by local artists and artisans that were displayed in the gardens.

From Liang’s Garden, Jun and I then walked along the historic streets toward the center of Zumiao. We both found some of the side streets more interesting than the main streets as they encapsulated the lived experience of the people and the changes in the city.

When we got to the Zumiao area, we decided to first visit Lingnan Tiandi, which is a city block of traditional buildings that have been renovated and repurposed into an arcade for restaurants and shops. While there we did some shopping and had a snack at one of the restaurants.

From Lingnan Tiandi, we then visited the Foshan Ancestral Temple. First built during the Song Dynasty (1078 – 1085 AD), the temple serves as a central node for the people in Foshan. Technically a Daoist temple, many people of different beliefs visit it for a variety of reasons. As it was a holiday when we visited, the temple staff had planned a few cultural activities and performances, such as a Cantonese Opera performance and lion dances.

Then we took the metro to Shiwan so we could visit Nanfeng Ancient Kiln and walk around Shiwan Park. Nanfeng Ancient Kiln is where the ceramic and pottery art of Foshan originated. Beginning around the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), it is the oldest known kiln in China and is still in operation. Nanfeng is a working historic site. Jun and I both found it fascinating as you could see people working, explore different parts of the history of the area, and enjoy just walking around the different alleys within the site.

Afterward, Jun and I walked around the surrounding area and did some shopping. We ended up buying two ceramic lions to remember our trip. Then we walked a bit around Shiwan Park before heading back to Zumiao for dinner.

When we got there, we found a restaurant located on the second floor—Shangyan Boutique Guangzhou Cuisine—and sat on the balcony. The view allowed us to look at the square around the bell tower. After dinner, we took a walk around Lingnan Tiandi and had dessert at Minxin Old Store before taking a car back to the hotel.

Day 3

On our last day in Foshan, we decided to have dim sum at Renshan Renhai Yueshi Dim Sum near our hotel. It was a nice walk in the mid-morning that helped us build our appetite. The dim sum was inexpensive and delicious.

From the restaurant, we next took a car southward towards the Shunde district of Foshan so we could visit Fengjian Village. The village is known for its water canals and has existed for over a thousand years. Many of the structures were originally constructed during the Song Dynasty. Nestled within the alleys and streets of the village are many temples and bridges that created a whimsical atmosphere. We enjoyed spending the early afternoon here.

Afterward, we decided to head northward to Beijiao and visit Lingnan He Garden. The garden first opened in 2018 and has a variety of architectural and garden styles from the Ming Dynasty to the present. It was interesting to visit the different sections and see how the styles both continued from one period to the next but maintained a unique character to them.

After our visit, we then had dinner at the restaurant within the gardens—Guoranju—that allowed us to sample Shunde cuisine. Most of the dishes were great, but there was an interesting dish of curdled milk with eggs that has a mix of savory and sweet flavors. This dish was a delicacy of this restaurant, but both Jun and I thought it was a bit too rich for us. The rest of the food, though, was great.

From the restaurant, we walked to the metro and took it to Guangzhou South Railway Station. Everything went smoothly at the station, and we were back in Shenzhen in a little over an hour. The trip to Foshan was a nice sojourn for us. We got to see some wonderful sites, as well as eat some amazing food.

Qingming in Kaiping

Spring finally arrived in Guangdong! Jun and I decided we needed to get out of Shenzhen. During the Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, we decided to visit Kaiping on the other side of the Pearl River Delta. We had last visited there for a day trip in 2015. During that trip, however, we felt rushed as traveling to and from Kaiping took a lot of time. We ended up only seeing some of the many sights in the area. This time we planned on staying the night so we could see more. Additionally, one of our friends would be joining us on the trip.

Day 1

The trip started early on Monday morning. We had to catch the 7:35 train to Guangzhou, where we would transfer for the train to Kaiping. Everything went smoothly, but all three of us were tired.

When we got to Kaiping we negotiated with a driver to take us around all day for a reasonable price.

We first ventured to Jijiangli Village. There we walked around the small village and went up two of the towers there. Kaiping is known for watchtowers (diaolous) that were built in the early 1900s as residences and watchtowers. Chinese immigrants in South Asia, Australasia, and North America would send money back to their families in Kaiping—and in some cases would travel back and forth between China and their foreign homes—to build these towers. Along with the money that was sent, many would also send postcards of the places where they lived, traveled to, or simply famous buildings they liked. Their families back in Kaiping would use these images to inspire them to build the towers in a hybrid architectural style of Chinese and foreign decorative forms.

The intricateness of the designs on these buildings served as a reflection of the wealth of the family. In Jijiangli, the Ruishi building is an example of an ornate and richly decorated building. Unfortunately, it’s privately owned; we were unable to visit the interior. But the outside of the building is quite a sight.

After walking around Jijiangli the driver took us to a local restaurant for lunch. We ended up on a street known for selling dumplings, which we ate and enjoyed. The food was quite good and helped us wake up a bit for our next stop: Majianglong.

This next stop is the largest site of watchtowers in Kaiping. It is comprised of a series of hamlets connected via a bamboo-covered path. The walk itself was nice as it shaded us from the afternoon sun. The towers here were scattered throughout the hamlets and from the top of them, you could look over the bamboo to see some of the other towers. We enjoyed walking around and visiting the different towers. I think, however, we were more interested in the gardens, orchards, and fields as they were teeming with new vegetation. It was nice being out in nature after having been cooped up in Shenzhen for almost two months.

From the village, the driver took us to look at the Chikan Ancient Town which is part of a revitalization and renovation project. The entire village is one large construction zone. It’s a shame we weren’t able to see what the village looked like before the project.

The driver then took us to rest a bit where we could get a drink. Afterward, he took us to our hotel. We thanked him for his help and said goodbye to him.

Our hotel—the Pantower International—was quite nice. The room was comfortable and offered us views of the city and river. After resting a bit we went out to dinner at a local restaurant. My exhaustion from the early start caught up with me as my patience with people ended when we got to the restaurant. They had us move three times before we could sit down and order. At one point they wanted to sit us in a room that was having a party! I told Jun to order whatever he want as I tried to collect myself. The food was great! It helped put me back in a better mood. The service at the restaurant could have been better, but at least the food was delicious.

After we finished, we took a car back to the hotel and went to bed.

Day 2

After an amazing night of rest, Jun and I woke up feeling refreshed and revitalized. After going down for breakfast, we met up with our friend to plan the day.

Our first stop was to visit the village of Zili. Jun and I visited here in 2015. There were several differences between the visits. The last time we had come it was overcast and the lotuses were in full bloom. During this visit, it was sunny. The lotuses also were only starting to bloom.

Walking around Zili was enjoyable as the watchtowers are more exposed than they were at Majianglong. And they are more concentrated in one area. Walking through the different towers you could see the wealth of some of these families with the items they had in possession and the ornateness of the decorations they used.

From Zili we next went to Li Garden. Xie Weili built this complex based on the design of Daguan Garden described in the novel A Dream in Red Mansions. The different buildings in the compound were built for different family members. The ornateness of the buildings shows a mix of Chinese, European, and North American designs. The richness of the decorations also exudes that this family was wealthy. The place is impressive and a great place for us to end our visit to the diaolous and villages of Kaiping.

Before heading to the train station and heading back to Shenzhen, we stopped at Mountains Café and Bar. We got some drinks and desserts that were quite lovely and fortified us for the trip back to Shenzhen.

The journey back to Shenzhen was unremarkable until we got to Shenzhen and had to wait in a slow line to get a COVID-19 test. We ended up near the end of the line and had to wait almost an hour. When we were done, we were ready to go home and have dinner.

The trip was a nice excursion. It was great spending time with our friend outside of Shenzhen, as well as for us to visit and explore more of Kaiping.

Escape to Guangzhou

Jun and I decided we needed an escape from Shenzhen for at least one weekend. After thinking about it, we thought it would be nice to visit Guangzhou. I hadn’t been there for over two years, and Jun only had gone there in that time for work.

We booked a hotel for the night and then bought our train tickets. We were ready to go!

Day 1

We woke up and got ready for the train ride to Guangzhou. We left Luohu and soon were on our way. As an early morning weekend train, there weren’t a lot of people on board. It was relaxing and I caught up on some of my reading.

When we arrived in Guangzhou, we bought some snacks for the urban hike we had planned for the afternoon. We then took a taxi to Baiyun Mountain. From there we had lunch at a noodle restaurant—Shahe—and got ready for our hike.

The first thing we had to determine was where the entrance was. After asking a security guard, he informed us that the actual entrance was at Luhu Lake inside Jufang Park. The walk to the entrance was nice. The day was beautiful for a hike in the southern Chinese winter.

When we got there, we explored the park a bit before going on the hike. The trail winds around some of the main tourist areas of old Guangzhou. It was an opportunity for us to see different parts of the city. We passed around Luhu Lake and then went into Sculpture Park.

There were some nice sculptures in the park. It had been a few years since I had last been there and it was nice to visit the park once more. From there we walked towards Yuexiu Park. Jun and I had been here several times and decided to just walk through it to the end. We finally reached our destination at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Overall, the hike was nice. We got to see some different parts of Guangzhou we hadn’t seen before this visit.

Afterward, Jun and I went to visit the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. It was built in 587 AD as a Buddhist temple. It is considered one of the most important temples in the city. While small by the standards of many other temples, it is immaculately maintained. On the day we were visiting, there were flowers all over the place. It was a nice place to relax after our hike.

After we had rested, Jun and I decided to get a late afternoon snack of sweet dumplings at Sesame Hushijia. They were so good! They were a wonderful reminder of how Guangzhou is a foodie city.

When we finished, we went to check-in at the W Hotel and rest before dinner. The room was nice and spacious. While we relaxed, I took the time to edit some of the photos from that day.

In the early evening, we walked down to have dinner at Bingsheng. The food there was amazing, and it was nicely set up in small rooms without large crowds. After dinner, we went around Zhujiang New Town and did some shopping. By the time we were done, it was late. We decided to head back to the hotel to call it a night.

Day 2

The next day we woke up early to get to Liwan Lake to have dim sum with two of Jun’s friends. They had selected Panxi, one of the older restaurants in the city. I had visited here once before and had been impressed. The restaurant is built to resemble a Chinese courtyard manor. There were water features and different buildings in Lingnan style. The food there was amazing, and I think I was even more impressed this time than on my first visit.

From there we walked a bit around the lake and meandered our way towards Yongqingfang. In the last few years, the Guangzhou government has built up this area into a cultural heritage zone. It recently won a preservation award. The place has a lot of alleyways with stores, food kiosks, museums, and restaurants for visitors to enjoy.

As we walked, we stumbled upon a museum exhibit to celebrate the renewal of the area. The exhibit was small, but it was wonderfully curated. The exhibit—Something Begets Something More: New Tales of Saikwan—was a celebration of renewal. It was a nice mix of traditional and modern art.

From the museum, we then walked to LeLe Cha to get some drinks before Jun and I had to head to the train station. It was nice just to sit and enjoy our drinks.

Then we were on the metro heading towards the train station. Everything went smoothly. Jun and I soon found ourselves back in Shenzhen and ready to start another week at work.

We both enjoyed our time in Guangzhou and were delighted at seeing some old friends and eating amazing food. We definitely had needed the escape!

A Weekend in Shaoguan

Jun and I decided to go to Shaoguan in northern Guangdong for a long weekend to celebrate his birthday. With the recent COVID-19 cases in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, we didn’t want to venture out of the province in case other provincial governments placed travel restrictions. Thus, we chose to see this situation as an opportunity to travel within the province and explore Shaoguan.

Day 1

On the day of our trip, we woke early so we could catch the high-speed train from Futian. After grabbing some breakfast at McDonald’s and going through security, we soon found ourselves waiting in line to get on the train. When we got on the train, we ate our breakfast and then rested until we got to Shaoguan.

When we arrived, we took a Didi to the Holiday Inn. Check-in at the hotel went quickly; we were able to get into our room and freshen up a bit before we ventured out into the city.

We first visited Nanhua Temple, a Chan Buddhist monastery founded in 502 AD. The grounds of the temple cover an area of 42.5 hectares in beautiful terrain surrounded by mountains and near a river. The main area of the complex houses the main prayer halls and is popular with tourists. Outside this core area, though, are more serene areas where you could walk without meeting anyone. Jun and I enjoyed this part of the monastery.

When we left the temple, we decided to have a quick lunch nearby at a dumpling and noodle restaurant. We also bought some ice cream since it was hot that day. We then walked around the plaza in front of the temple. This area was a bit more modern with more abstract interpretations of Buddhist art. I appreciated the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary art and architectural styles.

The temperature by then was quite hot and we decided to go back to the hotel to rest. When we got back to the hotel, we took some time to relax. Then in the later afternoon, we decided to visit the area around Fengcai Tower.

The tower is located in the center of Shaoguan. It was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1497. It’s the oldest structure within central Shaoguan, which is located on a peninsula. From there we bought some drinks and walked around the area. As we walked through some of the alleys of this part of the city, we got to see smaller shops selling traditional foodstuff and wares. I enjoyed wandering around these meandering alleys. Eventually, we ended up next to the river and walked alongside it towards the tip of the peninsula where the Qu and Zhen rivers meet to form the North River. Located here is an island with Tongtian Tower built on top. You can see this tower from many different angles in this part of the city.

By this time Jun and I decided it was time for dinner and we went to a local restaurant, Meijixian, that Jun found. Jun and I enjoyed our meal and left happy. After dinner, we took a walk back to see Tongtian Tower lit up and ended our day there. We soon took a Didi back to the hotel and went to bed.

Day 2

We woke up early and went down for breakfast to fuel ourselves for the day ahead. On this day we visited Danxia Mountain World Geopark, a UNESCO World Heritage site. About an hour’s drive north of Shaoguan, we both were excited to get there.

Jun ordered a Didi and soon we were on our way to the park. When we got there the driver was unsure where we should alight. We ended up near the cable car station where we wanted to be, but we still needed to walk a bit from where the driver left us.

When we did get to the cable car station, we bought our tickets and soon found ourselves heading up to the top of the Zhanglaofeng area. This part of the park was not busy, and it was easy traversing the area. Going around Zhanglaofeng was nice. From different vantage points, you get to see the surrounding land and the beauty of this place.

After going around this area, we decided to go down the mountain and explore the Xianglonghu area of the park. This area was focused around Xianglong Lake, which was quite serene. There was a really neat bridge made of rock that was fun to traverse. Unfortunately, much of the area is under renovation and we were unable to explore this area in its entirety.

From here we decided to take a boat to the entrance of this area so we could take a bus to visit the Yangyuanshi area. Fortunately, we caught the bus before it left and found ourselves in Yangyuanshi. As we were walking through the village of Duanshi we decided to stop and have lunch at one of the restaurants there, Xiangyue. The food was great and helped us recharge for the rest of the afternoon.

When we finished, we hiked through the Yangyuanshi area. We took it slow here since it was quite hot in the afternoon sun. Happily, there were vendors throughout the park who sold cold water. This part of the park was focused on the rock formation that is reminiscent of a penis, but the rest of it was more of a hike around the central rock formation of Ximeizhai. When we got halfway up it, we decided we had no desire to climb the rest of it in the heat. We then went back down and explored the forested area around Tongtai Bridge. This area was cooler because of the dense tree canopy. The bridge itself was interesting. It’s a natural rock formation, and you can see across from it Ximeizhai. By the time we circled Tongtai Bridge, it was late in the afternoon. We decided we were too exhausted to continue. We soon got a Didi back to the hotel and enjoyed the air conditioning.

When we got back to the hotel, Jun and I decided we were too tired to go anywhere else and ordered room service from the hotel’s Cantonese restaurant, Jiang Shang Lou. Not expecting anything great, we were pleasantly surprised at how delicious the meal was. It ended up being a nice way to end the day.

Day 3

On our last day in Shaoguan, we decided we would keep things simple and visit Shaoguan National Forest Park. It’s a mix of a city and a nature park. We went there so we could see the views of the city from Shaoyang Tower. The walk up to the tower was nice and easy. The views of the city from the top were impressive. It helped us appreciate the beauty of the area and why people settled here.

The best part about reaching the tower was the moderate wind blowing. It helped keep things cool and felt refreshing. Soon, though, we had to go back down and check out of the hotel. After getting back to the hotel we packed our things, checked out, and went to the train station. While there we had a quick lunch and soon found ourselves back on the train heading for Shenzhen.

The entire trip was nice, and it was a great way to spend a few days celebrating Jun’s birthday. It left us recharged and ready for our next adventure!

The Temple Trek

Wanting to do something different during one of our weekends, I asked Jun if he was interested in visiting the National Forest Park of Mount Guanyin in Dongguan. He said he was and asked if we could invite his cousin to come with us. I was okay with it. We then decided that we would go visit on a Sunday morning.

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On the day of our excursion, everything was going fairly well. We woke up early and took the metro to the train station. We soon got our train tickets and were on the short ride north of Shenzhen to the town of Zhangmutou. As soon as we got off the train it started to pour. We were a bit worried that the rain would negatively affect whether we could go around the national forest. Fortunately, the rain started to lighten and we took a taxi to the entrance of the forest park.

We decided that we would be adventurous and hike up to the Guanyin Temple. To begin we had to climb up a series of stairs; from the top of the stairs we could start the winding journey around the forest towards the temple.

Along the walk we saw some cute topiaries of different animals, such as panda bears. The view from the path allowed us to see how far we would have to go to reach the temple. To get to it we had to cross different mountains as we went up towards the top.

As we were making progress on the trail, it started to rain. At first it was light, but then it got to be torrential and we were all soaked. We were lucky that we were able to find a place to shelter and wait out the rain. That would be the last of the heavy rains while we were there. As soon as the rain became a drizzle, we continued on to the temple.

After going up the steepest part of the mountain, we finally made it to the top. The view from up there was beautiful. The dissipating cloud cover allowed us to see the surrounding area. The temple complex itself was quite nice. At the center of the complex stood the Statue of Saint Guanyin, a bodhisattva of the Mahayana Buddhist School.

As we walked around the complex, we saw these colorful pigeons flying in one area of the temple grounds. It was quite a sight.

By the time we had walked around the temple, we were ready to go find something to eat besides the snacks we had brought. So we were soon on our way back to the entrance and off to eat.

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Besides the rain, it was a nice hike and we got to experience a new part of the region. Overall, a lovely place to visit.

Spring Festival with Family

Lunar New Year arrived at the beginning of February. After discussing possibilities, Jun voiced his desire to return to Dexing to spend the holiday with his dad and stepmom. Since it had been awhile since we visited, we thought it was a great time to go there.

By the time we had come to that decision, the options to getting to Dexing during the holiday became limited and expensive. It ended up that to get there we would have to fly from the airport in the city next to Shenzhen and then take a shared car to Jun’s hometown.

Day 1

The start of our holiday began on a Friday when we had to take the bus from Shenzhen to Huizhou. Since we had an early flight the next morning, we decided to go the day before and spend the night there. Once we settled into our hotel, it was time for dinner. Jun and I ended up going to a nice Cantonese restaurant that overlooked Huizhou’s West Lake. After dinner we decided to take a stroll around the lake. As it was the holiday we discovered that there was a free lantern festival going on around the lake. We decided to see what it was like. It was quite impressive. And the abundance of people who were there with us thought so too.

Once we had walked around the lantern festival, we headed back to the hotel and called it an early night so we could wake up early for our flight.

Day 2

We woke up early the next morning and took a taxi to the airport. We got there just as the check-in counters for our flight opened and we were soon in the waiting area for our flight. The airport was tiny and everything went quickly. We were soon in the air to Shangrao in Jiangxi Province. We actually got there almost an hour early. Jun’s stepmom had found a shared car for us to take to Dexing, but it wasn’t supposed to leave for another hour. Jun and I ended up spending that hour in the airport. Once the car arrived we were soon on our way to Dexing.

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Once we arrived we met with Jun’s stepmom who made us lunch; we then went and took a nap. Later that day we walked around the city a bit before having dinner with Jun’s family. After dinner we went for a walk around the city and then called it an early night.

Day 3

The time spent in Dexing was mainly a time to relax and for Jun to spend time with his family. I took the time to relax and catch up on my reading. We would go for walks around the city and try different foods there. As I was reading Leah Franqui’s America For Beginners, I began to crave Indian food. Jun “kindly” told me that I was out of luck in Dexing and would have to wait until we got back to Shenzhen.

On this day we took a trip to Phoenix Lake. It was a nice walk around the area and a great place to enjoy the warm weather. After spending a few hours there we went back to have dinner—typical Jiangxi cuisine—and a relaxing evening.

Day 4

New Year’s Eve! Today was spent mainly in preparation for the holiday. Jun and I put up the Chun Lian in front of the door to express the family’s good wishes for the new year. Afterwards we just ate and relaxed for the day.

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In the evening we had a wonderful meal and spent a nice time enjoying being together.

Day 5

A rainy day in Dexing, as well as our last one. Jun and I just spent the day inside. After dinner Jun, his dad, stepmom, a friend of Jun’s dad, and I went up to Juyuan Tower. After the rain it was magically foggy. The area around the tower felt separated from the rest of the world and it was fun to be there.

After going around the tower and enjoying the views from there we went back and called it a night.

Day 6

It was our last day in Dexing. Jun and I had decided to spend the second part of the holiday in southeastern Anhui to explore some villages there and to go up Huangshan. We first had to take a bus from the city to the Dexing train station, which wasn’t actually in the city itself. It really wasn’t even on the outskirts of the city either. It felt as if it was in the middle of nowhere. When we go there we arrived in time to take the high-speed train to Huangshan city. From there we had to take a bus to get to Hongcun.

When we got there we quickly got our tickets to get into the village and then went straight to our hotel.

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Hongcun is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s considered to be a fine example of village architecture from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The village is arranged in the shape of an ox if you look at it from an aerial view. The village was even used in scenes from the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

We spent the day going around the village and enjoying the environment. Late in the afternoon we took a walk towards another village—Lucun—that was smaller than Hongcun but equally interesting. There were some beautiful areas of this village.

Once we had returned to Hongcun, Jun and I went in search of dinner and had some noodles at a small restaurant next to Moon Pond.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

Day 7

On this day we went to another UNESCO village: Xidi. Xidi is smaller than Hongcun. Established in the Song Dynasty, Xidi as a site is managed by the village itself. As such it is much less commercialized than Hongcun, which we were told was managed by a Beijing company. Jun and I agreed that while Hongcun was nice, Xidi felt more authentic. When we got there we first went to a wonderful family owned restaurant that had some really nice food. Once we were full we went and journeyed around the village.

There were different houses and temples to explore, as well as farm fields to enjoy. In the late afternoon we found a nice café to have some hot chocolate and waffle cakes and relaxed.

Soon our time in Xidi came to an end and we went back to Hongcun for the night. The next day Jun and I had to get up early for our trip to Huangshan. Before calling it a day we went to this nice restaurant—Guanlaotai—where I finally got to try stinky tofu. I ended up enjoying it a lot.

Day 8

The day we went up to Huangshan. It started at 4:00 in the morning so we could get to the entrance gate of the mountain at 6:00 when it opened. It was an early start; we did avoid having to wait in standstill lines. We still had to wait in lines, but they were constantly moving so it didn’t feel as if we weren’t getting anywhere.

Huangshan is another UNESCO site. Huangshan—Yellow Mountains—are well known in China. They are famous throughout the country for their natural beauty. Many renowned Chinese paintings and texts have been inspired from these mountains.

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Unfortunately, when we arrived it was a terribly foggy day. Our ability to enjoy the natural beauty was limited by the visibility afforded to us through the fog. Still, the fog added an ethereal feel to the place and we were able to experience parts of the different areas of Huangshan to ourselves. There were occasional moments when we got to see some beautiful sights as the clouds moved around the mountain peaks.

By early afternoon Jun and I were ready to go back to Hongcun and just relax for the remainder of the day. We spent a wonderful time at Zenlotus; we had some nice green tea and an amazing chocolate waffle with cream for afternoon tea.

The rest of the day we went around and did some shopping and just enjoyed being together.

Day 9

The last day of the trip. Our flight to Shenzhen didn’t leave until 11:00 in the evening, so we had an entire day to get to the airport in Huangshan city.

Since we had an early morning the previous day, we decided to have a late morning on this day. When we finally were ready to start the day it was near noon. We first went for a hike around Leigang Mountain at the northernmost part of the village before having lunch at a really nice restaurant near Chengzhi Hall.

After lunch we went for a long, winding walk back to the hotel to collect our luggage before heading to catch the bus to Huangshan city.

The bus ride was uneventful and we were soon in the Tunxi District of Huangshan. We decided that we would go to see Laojie before heading to the airport. The old street itself was quite interesting with different types of stores that sold different snack foods, handicrafts, and jewelry. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.