Yuen Yuen Taoist Temple

At the start of 2017, I wanted one day where I could avoid thinking about all that I needed to do—find a new apartment in Shenzhen, move to Shenzhen, get all the paperwork I need from my last job, fill and collect all the paperwork for my new job, getting ready for my trip to Harbin, planning a vacation for the Spring Festival, writing term papers. There’s a lot that needs to be done, but I needed one day just to do something fun.

As a result Jun and I decided to go to Huadu district in northern Guangzhou and visit a Taoist temple there that I had read about a few months back. It’s an easy trip to get there, but it’s a long trip. Once we got there we decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants nearby. It was a wonderful lunch and we were ready to visit the temple.

15800216_10104575735760660_14100992215409692_oThe temple’s name is Yuen Yuen and it is the central Taoist temple in Guangdong province. It’s a relatively new temple, having only been built in 1998. It’s built on the principles of feng shui and the layout of the complex does create a harmonious environment. Some of the buildings resemble more famous examples of other Chinese buildings, such as how Sangquing Hall in the center of the complex imitates the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

When walking into the temple you start to see how well maintained it is. The gardens are gorgeous, and you can actually see where they work and grow the plants that make up the complex’s gardens.

The first thing you see is Sangquing Hall. It takes center stage, but once you walk behind it you realize that the complex is much bigger than first expected. Behind this first area you walk to a number of halls where people may pray and leave offerings.

From there you are able to go and view the central platform dominated by a statue of Lao Zhi, the founder of Taoism. It’s an amazing site to see in person. From there you can see a large hall that is inaccessible to the public but has a commanding position behind the statue.

As we wandered around the temple complex, I felt more relax and at peace. Jun and I were quite content with our time there. I left feeling recharged and ready for this new year.

Baishui Fairy Waterfall

The Dragon Boat Festival this year gave Jun and I an opportunity to spend the rare day off together. We decided to go to a waterfall in northeastern Guangzhou for the day to see it. Our friends Brianne and Walt also decided to go with us, which made the trip even more fun.

The waterfall we went to is known as Baishui Fairy Waterfall. There is an associated nature park that goes with it, which makes it a nice day trip from the city part of Guangzhou. When we got there we were struck by how green everything looked and how clean and clear the water was. Since it’s been raining here a lot, the water from the waterfall winded down the mountain at a rapid pace.

At the base of the park is a sort of fairy land where rocks and artificial trees are painted in whimsical scenes. They change the theme of the rocks and trees every now and then because right now they are painted with a Zootopia theme. The children really enjoyed it. To be honest I really enjoyed it too!

The start of the walk goes along a wooden plank path. It was rustic and quaint walking on the older planks. The walk up to the source lake at the top of the mountain requires climbing 4,999 steps. At around 2,000 steps you get to the last viewing platform to see the waterfall. We got to around 2,299 steps before we decided to go back down the waterfall. Everyone told us that it wasn’t that interesting up at the top.

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I’m glad we didn’t go all the way up because we ended up having a nice lunch at the entrance to the park and talked until we went back to the city center of Guangzhou. For a hard to reach waterfall park, it was definitely worth the effort to see it and experience a greener side to Guangzhou.

Langtou Village

The start of April brought spring rains and Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping Day. It’s a traditional Chinese holiday to remember and honor ancestors. For this year’s holiday, Jun and I decided to visit a village in northwestern Guangzhou called Langtou. The village is renowned for its ancient buildings and surrounding greenery. The village was founded during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), but most of the current buildings were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties in the last 300 years.

Getting to the village isn’t difficult—that’s if you know how to get there. Jun and I researched on both English and Chinese websites on how to get there; they said to take a bus that would go to Xinhua town and then to take another bus to the village. What we didn’t know was that there was a bus that went directly to the area we wanted to go. So what happened was that the bus we took dropped us in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately we had cell coverage and was able to get a car on Uber.

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Once we got to Langtou we started randomly to walk around the village. The first thing that struck me was that the majority of the buildings were made out of brick. In most of the more modern areas of China they build using concrete and tiles, and the buildings have a distinct, twenty-first century look to them. The buildings in the village looked like they were from the nineteenth century. Many of them had plants growing out of the structures. It was nice to see more traditional architecture in Guangzhou.

Another striking thing about the village was the lack of people that we saw. It might have been because of the holiday and/or the rain, but there were many places where buildings were locked up and alleys were empty. Combined with the rain and fog it had the feel of a ghost town.

One thing the village is known for are the buildings related to schools and bookshops. Education was important there. Many ancient villagers passed the imperial exams that were taken during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The accomplishments of these villagers are commemorated through the placement of markers in front of the different schools and bookshops in the village.

After having explored the main area, Jun and I started to look for a place to eat. We saw on a map that there was a restaurant along the greenway, but when we walked over there we saw it was closed. We then walked in a circle back to where the schools and bookshops were and found a restaurant. Getting there required us to walk through these side alleys. Once we got back to the restaurant, a little girl came to us and told us that we could go in and eat. We ordered three dishes that could have fed five people. The vegetables were grown locally in the village and the meat likely came from the same area. It was quite good and filling.

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After lunch Jun and I went to visit some of the ancient alleys and to look inside some of the houses that have been turned into museums. Because of the rain the lighting inside some of the buildings were poor. And with few to no people there some places were eerily quiet. It added a creepy but appropriate feel to the day.

Once we had seen all we could we went to the tourist office to ask what the quickest way back to central Guangzhou was. At this point we learned of how easy it was to get here. So we walked from the village to Tanbu Town—about a 15 minute walk from the village—and took the bus back to Guangzhou. Much easier than when we left.

Langtou is a beautiful village. Jun and I enjoyed exploring it and seeing a different, more quiet, part of Guangzhou.

Nansha Wetland Park

After a hectic few weeks on my return from Indonesia, I decided I needed to escape the hustle and bustle of central Guangzhou and go somewhere quieter. After thinking about it, I chose to go to the Nansha Wetland Park at the southernmost area of Guangzhou.

Jun and I knew that getting there would require some patience—two metro lines and two buses. The journey, however, was actually peaceful. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit on the train or bus and enjoy the passing scenery. When we got to Xinken we were going to wait for the bus to take us to the park, but it was taking forever. After some nudging on his part, we decided to take a motorcycle to the park. It was both an exhilarating and nerve-racking experience.

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We finally got to the park and started exploring it. The first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. After walking around the lotus pond we went to get the complimentary bike. We went around the park in the bike. It was fun to see the park from that perspective.

When we got to the tower we went to park our bike and go up to the tower to see the surrounding area. When we were coming down we saw that these two men were taking our bike. We ran after him and I had to use my “teacher” voice to get them to stop. When we caught up to them they started making excuses after I gave them a look. We sorted it out without any issue; Jun and I then went on our way. We found this neat little creek surrounded by dense vegetation. It was a beautiful sight. While not quite the right season for the bird migration, there were quite a number of them at the park.

After returning the bike to the park we relaxed and had a snack before heading back to the village. When we got there we decided to explore it and also get our hair cut there. The village had the same feel to it that my home in Oklahoma has. It was nice to experience that feeling here.

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The daytrip to Nansha was what I needed to feel centered again. It was a nice day getting to explore a new area and to spend some time with Jun.

 

Xiaozhou

After having had an eventful 2015, I needed a quiet break to start 2016. Taking some time of work, catching up on sleep, cooking up some delicious food, and of course wondering around Guangzhou was what I needed.

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On the first day of the year, Jun and I ventured to the village of Xiaozhou. Guangzhou is a bit strange because it has largely in part grown by annexing large parts of communities historically independent of it. Xiaozhou has been annexed by bigger cities over the course of its history, and Guangzhou was the last to do so. It is now a part of Guangzhou, but has a completely different vibe to it than the city.

We left Liede and took the bus down to the village. Quite easy as it goes straight from our apartment to the village. Once we got there we started to go around and see what the village had to offer. The first thing we noticed was that the buildings were covered in art. It was neat to see the different styles used. Some were animated and others more traditional.

The village seems to be in a state of construction. Various areas were covered with scaffolding for new buildings. Old temples were being reworked. And dust covered everything. It felt as if we had swallowed a lot of dust. Besides all the construction, it was fun getting lost in the side streets and coming up to new finds.

We ventured down one street and found a Buddhist temple. Walking down another street we came across a canal with wooden boats. Crossing a bridge we found a variety of houses and guest houses inside old buildings.

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After having explored the village for a few hours we came across a building made out of sea shells. A traditional building technique in southern China, it was a cool sight to see. It also was kind of creepy to look at as well.

Afterwards we walked a bit more and tried to find a place to have dessert, but we had no luck in that regard. We decided to walk back to the bus stop and head back to Liede to find dessert.