A Travellerspoint blog

March 2007

The Bumpy Road to the Ancient Town of Heping

Hey Hey and a Huge G'Day to ya Remember a couple of entries ago when I wrote how difficult it is to find a Chinese girl that loves to travel to small villages, walk, ride etc....well...maybe...I dunno...we'll see...but she loves travelling and does so mostly alone, riding alone and walking alone. She doesn't like cities much, travels to little towns and villages on weekends...why...for no reason!

Pretty much most of the things I love doing. Why alone? Most times because you get to do it your own way and at your own pace. You get to think, enjoy the silence, change your plans at will, spend an extra night, leave early. Other times it's because no one wants to ride for six hours in the humidity. No one wants to go to a small village for no reason. No one wants to climb that hill over there for no reason. No one wants to walk around town for a few hours just for exercise, half an hour maybe.

No one wants to walk and ride through endless rice fields for no reason. At the end of this day we were walking in the fields out of Heping Town and I asked her if she was tired and if she wanted to head back into town and catch the bus back. Her reply was; No I want to climb that hill over there. A little stunned I asked her why. Do you know what her reply was? For no reason. It is there! Needless to say she is a Silly Bugger just like me and has invited me to her tiny town next weekend. Anyhow, to the entry...I met Mary awhile ago through a friend. She lives in a small town two hours bus ride away. She is a Chinese English Teacher and her speaking and comprehension are well above normal for an area such as thing. We've sent a few text mails to each other as she has been trying to find the time to come and watch one of my classes. She even made it to Shaowu once but her bus was late and she missed it. We got to meet each other so there was a new friendship gained. I have been hearing about an ancient town about an hour away from Shaowu called Heping. I've been planning to grab a bus and go visit it but the school has said several times, no we will organise an outing and all go together. So far it hasn't happened due to other plans and rain etc. I got a call from Mary last week asking if I would like to visit a small town with her. A small town and a beautiful girl! Just try and hold me back! She arrived in Shaowu around ten and we grabbed the next bus to 'the small town'. The 'small town' ended up being Heping, the ancient town I've been dying to visit. The bus ride there was fantastic. Well, really it was bumpy and the local bus was pretty much buggered. But the ride gave us time to get to know one another a little more. It was a strange experience because the answers she gave made it kind of like interviewing myself. We warmed to each other pretty much straight away which made the day so much more beautiful.

We talked a lot about little villages, walking and our teaching and how they made us feel. An hour or so after leaving Shaowu we arrived in Heping. The town itself is one of the oldest communities in northern Fujian. While other towns its age or old her been partially restored this town has pretty much retained is uniqueness. The town dates from the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) when it was a simple rice farming town. The name Heping is made up of two Chinese characters which mean 'Rice Plain'. The village itself dates well beyond that. Moss covered cobblestone alleyways allow you to zigg zagg your way around town and visit some of the 300 or so buildings. These buildings were built during the Ming (AD1368-1644) and Qing (AD1644-1911) Dynasties. On both the inside and the outside of many of the buildings you can find beautiful stone carvings.

Heping town is actually regarded as a rarity in modern China. The town has a famous history when it comes to education. One of Chinas oldest Classical Learning Academy's was first opened in Heping in AD926 during the Tang Dynasty by government official named Huang Qiao. He retired from his position in the capital of Luoyang and moved to Heping town. Now many people who share the same name from surrounding provinces travel to Heping to pay their respects. Many scholars, officials and members of the elite were graduates of the academy. It was such a beautiful and peaceful place to visit.

A lady attached herself to Mary and took us from place to place giving Mary the run down as we went. As for English signs etc. I did notice there were several that all said the same thing 'Tourist site this way' with an arrow pointing up an alleyway. Without our guide or Mary for that matter I doubt I would have been able to locate which building was the one to see. All buildings you can enter for free and some homes you will be invited into. They are so beautiful. For lunch we sat for Won Ton soup. It was a hard choice between that and Joutsa for lunch. I haven't had Won Tons since leaving Tianyang so they won out in the end.

Seriously, visiting a place such as this or many simple villages that have been around for several hundred years or like this one well over a thousand, is like finding a lost world. From the moment you enter you are forced back in time. I seem to lose the will to talk and just walk around in amazement of the beauty.

It really is like walking through a real life movie set. It's hard to explain how it makes you feel but I guess the one feeling I can explain is the feeling of being lucky to live such a wonderful life. To experience the places I am lucky enough to visit is such a precious gift. I am a very lucky boy! After spending nearing two hours walking the little alleyways we headed out of town happily chatting as we walked. Soon we found ourselves out fields of green. To the left of us was a field of purple and to the right was a field of pink. I have no idea what they were but Mary said they were used for cooking.

Soon we were climbing a small hill coved by a tea plantation. The farmer and his wife were picking the tea tips and we stopped for a short chat. The view below was beautiful. We looked down on a patchwork of purple, pink, yellow and green. There was a gentle breeze keeping us cool on such a warm day and there was also complete silence. In China, that is a beautiful thing to have! We stopped and stared in our own silence for a time before heading back down to catch the bus back to Shaowu. Luckily for us a rickety old bucket of bolts came our way and after flagging it down we spent the next hour happily bouncing around in our seat whilst chatting about anything and everything. Sadly Mary had another two hour bus journey ahead of her and we said a very excited good bye until the following weekend when I get to visit her town for the first time. A new adventure awaits! Many exciting Beers N Noodles to ya...shane The soundtrack to this entry was by Daft Punk and the album 'Discovery' A nice groovin album for such beautiful memories!

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

MMMmmm Those Great Northern Noodles

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to ya After a Big night at Ting Tings Bar drinking Corona Beer we all stumble to what we've now dubbed 'That Pub Noodles Place'. Mate, the noodles are easily the best in town and I'd rank them in the top five list of my best noodles in China. Every noodle is hand made right before your very eyes. The family is from Lanzhou in Gansu which is an hour from Baiyin City where I lived. Many Chinese consider the lamb noodles in Lanzhou to be some of the best in China and to be serious, I'm going to join them and add my vote.

How happy was I when not long after arriving in Shaowu I walked past a little noodle bar and spotted the young guy with his white hat on. The white hat not only spells a man from the north west of China but also a man who knows his beef. From memory in one of my Yangshuo entries I wrote about the bbq guys with the white hats and how they are usually the most popular. Same thing here!

Not only in Gansu can you see this beautiful happening but also along the Sichuan/Tibetan Highway and I'd say all the way across to Kashgar. It's such a treat to sit and watch the Noodle Man throwing a ball of dough around and then by way of magic turn it into many long noodles that you will soon be slurping away on. Add some lamb, lemongrass and other special spices and you have some of the best noodles I've ever tasted. Beers & Northern Lamb Noodles to ya...shane

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

My Daily Village N Temple Bike Ride

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Dining With Chickens at My Feet in a Small Village

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to ya Smitten mate! Totally smitten! I've had a friend here in Shaowu since I first arrived at the school. We have always got along really well. She's a heap of fun and very fiesty, always trying to beat me or throw me off a balcony or the other way round. Though we've always had a heap of fun when we have been around each other it's never been anything more. Last week we met her and her friends in the street and she joined us for dinner. It would have been one of the first times we got through the night without throwing playful punches at each other. It was a great evening and very comfortable. Though I've known her for many months it's seriously like I'd never seen her face before as she always wears her long hair down which covers most of her face. The following afternoon she dropped by my place to say G'Day and punch me a few times and mate, I seriously didn't know who she was until I heard her voice. She had her hair up and no glasses on and that was it... Smitten, totally smitten! She invited Daniel, Alexa and I to her village where her family still live farming rice and tobacco. Yes! A village, how I really do miss villages. Anyone who reads my blog will know how much I love villages. Can't get enough of them after living in Tianyang and having many friends who lived in them. No concrete, dirt floors, chickens running in and out of the house, children running around chasing the chickens, single low wattage globes, pigs, piglets, roosters, rice fields, anything living being green, trees, woks the size of a table, big old tables the size of two woks, old people full of huge smiles, puddles, mud, small creeks, rivers, primitive farm machinery, wells, bugs, oxen's, goats, sounds, silence, smells, good smells, bad smells, unspeakable huge feasts, too much beer, too much rice wine... Villages, for some reason I love being in them. I've had so many great times in them. I used to love the huge feasts I shared with Mandy's family or Yang Yang's. The endless drunken 'Village Crawls' where a group of us would go from village to village drinking during the summer months. To get between the villages we had to all jump on the back of someone's three wheeler tractor thingymabob. My best buddy Hersher's girlfriend sometimes ringing and other times chasing him from village to village trying to get him to help out at the families 'Wok Em Up' where I used to eat each evening. There were so many villages that she rarely found us. Villages mate, an unbelievable amount of great memories from villages. We all met mid morning Sunday morning and grabbed a taxi 'type thing' and headed out into the country. We passed the little village where I spent a happy Spring Festival feasting with a friend's family and headed further out. We arrived nearing an hour later. The village was tiny and full of 'Tobacco' houses made of earth and wood. These are used to dry the tobacco after the tobacco harvest each year. Joyce's family's house was typical of this area from what I have seen of Fujian village houses. Made from stone bricks, two story with a balcony, a wok the size of a table, earth floors, big rooms with lots of people and chickens and a huge table to hold all the plates and bowls during huge family feasts. Not much more and not much more needed. After meeting Joyce's family and what seemed like the rest of the village we headed out for a tour around the village. About thirty seconds later we were back out front of Joyce's house again. We were then introduced to the pigs. Mumma pig had about eleven piglets and Alexa fell in love with them straight away. Poor Mumma pig hadn't slept for along time and didn't seem to be in a good mood at all. The piglets were only about three or four days old and continually hounded her for milk. On the wall in the hallway of the house was a rain jacket made from what seemed was horse hair. I don't think it was but it felt like it. It's used during the cold winter months out in the fields. Joyce quickly had me strapped into it and then it was outside for photos. We then headed out into the fields for a short time before it was 'Feast Time'. The food was more than plentiful and it was delicious! The duck was the most awesome. I wish I had seen this duck before it was cooked as there was so much meat! It must have been the fattest duck in all of China. There were so many bowls full of so many different types of meat and vegetables. Soon the local 'Joutsa' was brought out. Much larger in size than the normal joutsa and with a different filling. Also being green it is a different colour. So I guess the only thing it has on common with Joutsa is the shape. Spending time in villages really is such an amazing experience. The more time you spend in them the more normal things become. At the top of the strange differences list would be; usually back home when you eat dinner and your pet circles the table going from person to person staring up with big sad 'unfed' eyes, usually it's a dog or sometimes maybe a cat. Here in the villages it's chickens that circle your legs and the table staring up at you with little beady 'unfed' chicken eyes. Well I guess you must keep them well fed so they can keep you well fed. Here chic chic, have an entire joutsa! After lunch we were going to head out into the fields and climb one of the mountains but it began raining so instead we ventured into the kitchen and the 'ladies' taught us how to make the big green 'Joutsa'. I had made normal joutsa with Mandy and Yang Yang several times and thought my small joutsa were pretty cool. My efforts making the big green joutsa? Well Joyce was grading all of ours and my highest was a four. Oh well, no matter what my score was it was a privilege to be part of the kitchen tribe as these 'Joutsa' are special ones and are only made once a year. After our Big Green Joutsa Kitchen Adventure we grabbed a deck of cards and spent a few hours playing cards by the front door where on a warm day a elderly ladies would sit for hours eating seeds and staring out at the world. Around mid afternoon we abanded any thought of the rain stopping and called the 'cab type thing' and headed back to Shaowu. Once home Joyce and I decided to spend the afternoon together. We made our way up Temple Mountain and spent the afternoon chatting our way between the pagodas on Temple Mountain. As darkness began its war with the light we headed back to her side of our little city and filled what empty spaces were left in our bellies with Joutsa Soup. A very beautiful day indeed. Beers N Noodles to you...shane Oh yeah...I got an email from a friend asking me if I have found a girlfriend yet.

The answer to that goes pretty much like this. Maybe I get smitten sometimes. Meet a beautiful girl who I get along with really well but the chance of having a real girlfriend in a tiny city such as Shaowu is pretty much a 'No Chance' situation. I mean the hold hands when on walk about type girlfriend. Think about it, she would be the only girl in the tiny city with a foreign boyfriend. As close as Mandy, Yang Yang and I were and for such a long time, neither would have dinner alone with me at the market place. If they were together it was fine but after several times alone it became a no no. Why? Because everyone and I mean EVERYONE who walks past stares and most times it's not a quick stare but a long stare, like an Oh My God Moment type stare. They turn their children towards me and sometimes and even if the child is crying will push it towards me trying to get me to shake the child's hand. People nudge each other, call out to their friends and run to the front of the store to watch me walk past. The words 'Wai Gwor' and 'Lai Wai' are constantly heard everywhere I walk and to the million 'Hellows' I hear I usually try to reply to them. Even when Joyce and I walk around together she is amazed at how people stare. Others I walk with have the same amazement. They constantly ask, who's that? Do you know that person? Why does everyone stare at you? Does it bother me? No it doesn't. Honestly it never really has. Some foreign teachers end up hating it so much they leave China and go home. To me it's so normal that most of the time I don't notice it anymore. Plus I also love saying 'Hellow' to all the amazed kids. Here in Shaowu there is one other person who gets stared at more and when we walk together I can notice the difference between when I walk alone and with her and her boyfriend. All eyes are focused on Alexa, so Daniel and I can have a chance to be normal for a short time. So could you imagine being the only girl in a tiny city with a foreign boyfriend. Sure you say. Nah, it would be a total pain in the butt. Imagine the questions she would constantly get. I know the questions Mandy used to get and some of the things people used to say about her. I guess its fun for a short time but then it becomes too much. Sure I've tried it in the past but it's easier to simply be friends in public. In a big city, no worries mate. Minds and thoughts are different but not in a place so small. It takes a pretty tough cookie not to crumble!

On top of that it's very hard to meet a girl who can I can travel with. A lot of females if they are single wouldn't dream of travelling with a foreign guy alone or are simply told not to by friends and family. Remember, these are country families and not city families. There really is a big difference.

It would be nice though...the future holds what the future holds!

So for now, where do I sit in the world at this moment?

I sit rather comfortably. Infact, I am in the same world I would create if I was on a planet in a galaxy far far away dreaming of being somewhere other than on than planet in a galaxy far far away. My life is exactly as I want it to be. I have my children, there is my bike, I am surrounded by lush green fields where silence reigns, I am surrounded by happy smiling farmers, I have many friends, I'm communicating with my family so much more than before, my father is finally going to live his dream and travel and fish his way around Australia, I have my iPod (still with a working menu), I have my mobile phone/camera to capture the beauty of China (and some hearts!), Ting Tings Bar stocks Corona Beer, I have my beautiful school and its awesome staff, I have my computer (even though I threaten to throw it through the window every five minutes..Damn Snail!), I have Mizone for my rides, I have a normal washing machine and not a twin tub, right now I have REM on the iPod but most of all I have myself and my beautiful life.

Right now I am so grateful just to be me! Right now being me is an awesome thing to be! The soundtrack to this entry: REM's 'Monster'

Lunch at Joyces Village

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Second Great Aussie Care Package

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to ya Maaaate, it finally arrived. My second Aussie Care Package! Aussie Santaroo finally found his fatass way to China with my Christmas present! What more does a man need than four tubes of vegemite, a pair of good Aussie 'thin' thermals and a new Mandarin phrase book. The vegemite tubes need no explanation but the thermals, well to be honest the thermals here in China are really thick and horrible. You can spend more but they are still too thick. When I say thick I mean thick. The pair I used in Gansu was so think that I had to seriously wash the top separate to the bottom as if they were together in the same wash they would unbalance the machine in spin dry. That's how much water they would hold. They were so uncomfortable. Before moving to China I only purchased one thin pair from the travel shop and they are perfect for pakkin around. Easy to wash and dry over night. Now I have two pair and won't have to be warm for a period of time and then freeze for a day whilst they dry. The Mandarin phrase book is to replace my old one that is over two years old and has been my main way to converse since I arrived. In Tianyang it spent every night being thrown around and fought over at the open air market by my 'Family' and friends. It's been covered in beer and all types of sauce. Each page is being held in by tape and to be serious, it is the same edition as my new one but it is actually twice as thick due to the tape and the well worn pages. As you can tell I'm pretty excited. I can't believe Santaroo sent over exactly what I needed. I have a sneakin suspicion that my parents had something to do with it. Beers N Noodles to ya Mar N Par Kettle

The soundtrack to this entry is an album that totally blew me away one afternoon as I was waiting for a bus. The band ended up being one of my favourite bands ever. Chased them all over the shop. Sydney's DEF FX and the album 'Light Speed Collision'.

The Great Aussie Care Package II

The Great Aussie Care Package II


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The Great Aussie Care Package II (2)

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)