Category Archives: China 中国

SPRING SERIES // Yuanyang, China (中国, 元阳)

The Yuanyang Hani Terrace scenic spot, about 370km away from its provincial capital Kunming is located in Yuanyang County with a low altitude at 144 meters rising to 2,939.60 meters. The scenic spot is divided into four landscape regions: Laohuzui (老虎嘴), Bada (坝达), Duoyishu (多依树) and Qingkou (箐口) terraced landscape.  To enter these 4 spots to view the terraced landscape, you need to purchase a tourist pass which cost 100 yuan. Well, it is actually just a platform built to have a better view of the terraces. There are other places to view them as well, that is if you have the time to go search for it.

Our 1st full day in Yuanyang, we got our guesthouse to arrange a mini van with driver for a day trip to major scenic spot for 350 yuan.

Ai village (爱村) –> Azheke village (阿者科古村落) –> Laoyingzui (老鹰嘴) –> Shengcun village (胜村) for lunch –> Bada scenic spot (坝达景观) –> Quanfuzhuang (全福庄) –> Qingkou (箐口) –> Laohuzui (老虎嘴) for sunset.

 

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Close-up of the terraces @ Ai Village (爱村)

 

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Floating red duckweed (红浮萍)
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Horses carrying construction materials to a village
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Traditional houses that look like mushrooms at Azheke village (阿者科)

My favourite place to enjoy the view of the rice terraces had to be Laoyingzui (老鹰嘴).  A narrow road in and not frequent by tour buses meaning you can sit at the edge of the cliff and enjoy the view peacefully, but please be careful to not fall.

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From a cliff overlooking the terraces is Laoyingzui (老鹰嘴).

We did not buy the tourist pass but somehow managed to enter into the Bada scenic spot (坝达景观). Bada is a direct translation from the Hani language which means the nearest place to the sky. Known to be the best place to view the sunset. Bada terrace is huge! Starting from the 800 meters above sea level at the Masu river and climbs up along the mountains, the steep terraces extended to more than 2000 meters above sea level.

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Bada scenic spot

Ended the day at Laohuzui (老虎嘴) for sunset. Well, no pass means we cannot enter the scenic spot to view the sun set over the rice terraces.  We had wanted to just stand along the road to see but it got crowded and dangerous as more cars and buses came and soon became a jam. We found an opening where a narrow and steep path leads us to a small open area with full and unblock view of the terraces. Bravo!

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Sunset at Laohuzui (老虎嘴)

Guesthouse – Cliffhouse (悬崖居)

This is the ONE! The guesthouse to stay in Yuanyang! The guesthouse sits right on the terrace field in Duoyishu village. A very cozy guesthouse run by Mr Greg Chen. He is very chatty and will recommend you the best way to explore Yuanyang, advise you on transports alternative, etc. He has been a great host to us in Yuanyang. A coffee lover himself, he will serve you his best coffee while you mesmerise at the sunrise but do not ask him for sugar or milk, he only serves coffee black. All rooms face the east, thus perfect for sunrise views. He must have wanted all his customer to appreciate the beauty of nature, all windows are without a curtain. Enjoy the warming sunrise, amazing cloud sea and sparkling night sky right from the room.

We allocated 3 nights in Yuanyang, thus decided to stay in their best room — Dragon room on the 4th level with our very own balcony. There are only 3 rooms with balcony, the rest are standard rooms. For rooms without balcony, one can go to the rooftop for the views. As it is his most prized room, he requested us to put 500yuan deposit via Alipay. Thanks to dear friend Cat Sum who currently is working in Shanghai who helped us to put in the deposit. (Hover over the pics to see the captions!)

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Basic room but cozy. One bad thing is that you have to walk out of the room, past the balcony to reach the bathroom/toilet.
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The balcony… Guess the bathtub is only for the summer.
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View from our room: waiting for sunrise
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View from our room: Sunrise with the occasional clouds
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View from our room: The sun finally pop out from the mountains
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View from our room: Amazing golden hues from the glow of the sun casting onto the water filled terraces
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Could not get enough of the sunrise view… took using handphone.

It’s a pity that on our 2nd day stay, there’s a sudden change in the weather, it drizzled a bit, and the clouds started to come in and the whole place was engulfed in clouds. Greg had wanted to bring us trekking but had to abort it. Nevertheless, we took this chance to relax in the guesthouse sipping red wine, trekked a little at the rice terraces near the guesthouse and walk around Duoyishu town.

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View from our room – late afternoon which the cloud sea engulfed the rice terraces
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No worries, we Ohave wine while watching the cloud sea

On the day we left Yuanyang for Kunming, coincidentally was also the market day (赶集) at Shengcun village (胜村). Shengcun is located in between Bada and Duoyishu. During the market day, the Yi and Hani minorities come from the whole region to sell, exchange or buy various kinds of fresh produces, animals and trifles. On our way to Xinjiezhen (old town) (新街镇) to catch the bus to Kunming, our driver brought us to Shengcun to attend their market day. There’s this festive atmosphere around as the minority women wore their traditional clothing to the market making the place very colourful. The locals were doing their buying and selling, animals like the pigs and chicken were in the cage or tie at the trees while the humans auction them off. Do drop by their market day if you got the opportunity.

Getting to Yuanyang & Our Ordeal

The best way to go to Yuanyang is via Kunming South bus station where there is a direct bus to Xinjiezhen. Else you may take a bus to Gejiu (个旧) from Kunming East bus station and from Gejiu transfer to another bus to Xinjiezhen. The road condition is good and is a more comfortable journey.

Our journey to Yuanyang started from Jianshui.  We missed the direct bus from Jianshui to Xinjiezhen, so we had to take the bus to Nansha (南沙) aka Yuanyang new town first, change to another bus to Xinjiezhen and take a minibus or taxi to our accommodation which is near to the Duoyishu scenic spot.

If you can, please avoid this route. It was quite a terrible 3 hours journey. A mountainous route from Jianshui to Nansha. Not recommended for people who have motion sickness. It was a mini bus thus making the journey worst. It was hot and stuffy made worse by people smoking on the bus. I wish to get out of the bus fast. 

When we reached Nansha, we wanted to find a bus that can take us to Xinjiezhen. We saw a bus that state the destination — Duoyishu. So we asked if this bus goes directly there if so we need not go to Xinjiezhen and change to another minibus. The bus conductor informed that it was a tour bus. It will take you to Laohuzui (老虎嘴) to see the sunset and return to Duoyishu thereafter. We were not interested to take this but the bus conductor kept urging us to take this bus. When we hopped onto another bus which was supposed to go to Xinjiezhen, the bus conductor called us to go to another bus and said that the bus will stop at Xinjiezhen before going to Laohuzui. Well, we had no choice but had to change bus since the bus we were on was still empty after sitting there for quite awhile, I believe there were conspiracies behind to get everyone onto that tour bus. The bus departed from Nansha bus station and stopped whenever whoever requested to take a photo of a particular view, flowers, etc. As the bus traveled, our phone GPS showed that Xinjiezhen was getting further away and was on its way to some other places. Kenn immediately went to check with the bus driver. Alas, we were conned by the bus conductor! The bus driver did not know that we were supposed to go Xinjiezhen.

They made a stop at the visitor centre, and asked all to alight to buy the entrance pass (100 yuan).  We did not want to buy the pass now, so the driver told us to wait at the visitor centre first, he will try to call a taxi for us. When all the other tourists went up the bus, he decided to call us up the bus again. The bus came to a stop at Qingkou (箐口) scenic spot. The tourists alighted and had their first view of the terraced landscape. The driver again assured us that he will try to get a taxi for us.

Finally, he managed to flag down a mini van. The van was from Xinjiezhen ferrying passenger to the various area in Yuanyang. Well, there were already like 6 people in the van, the 2 of us have to squeeze ourselves in, I am so glad I had brought a small backpack for this trip.

Turn out that the driver knew the boss of Cliffhouse and she kindly called Greg to come fetch us.  Finally… the ordeal is over. What a day.. by the time we reach Cliffhouse, it was almost 6 pm. What a day…

 

 

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Spring Series // Jianshui, China (中国,建水)

Jianshui (建水) is an ancient town in the Honghe Prefecture of Yunnan province. An old town where cobblestone streets are lined with mansions built during the Ming and Qing dynasty. It is, however, occupied with many new and fashionable stores that you thought you are in a big shopping mall. Some scenic spots in Jianshui old town include the Zhu Family Gardens, Jianshui Confucius Temple, Chaoyang Tower, etc. You may also venture further out of the old town to the swallow cave or Zhang Family Garden. Jianshui is easily reached from Kunming South Bus Station with buses every 20 – 30 minutes. The journey is about 3 – 4 hours.

Jianshui was meant to be a stopover place for our journey from Luoping (罗平) to Yuanyang (元阳). There’s no direct bus from Luoping to Jianshui. The only way is to do a transfer at Kaiyuan (开远). Once we reached Luoping bus station, we went to buy the earliest timing bus ticket to Kaiyuan. There are not many buses a day to Kaiyuan, probably about 3 – 4 times a day. From Kaiyuan, take the mini bus to Jianshui new town and from there take a cab or their “Tuk-tuk” into the old town. The whole journey took us about 7 hours.

It was almost 3 pm when we check-in to our hostel. Decided to visit the Confucius Temple since it is just a 1-minute walk from our hostel. The Confucius Temple in Jianshui was originally constructed in 1285 with over 40 times of renovation and extension, thus making it one of the most well-preserved temples in China. It is free for locals thus you see many elders sitting around the gardens, the ponds chatting and playing chess. The temple is also frequent by students, especially during the exam period. The entrance fee for tourist is 60 yuan.

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Entrance of the Confusion Temple

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Students praying for good results

There are many water wells in Jianshui and they are still well-utilised by the locals for their daily needs. The biggest one is at the West gate out of the old town opposite the Chaoyang Tower (朝阳楼). After you crossed the road from Chaoyang Tower, walk further down on your left and find the signage for the tofu factory. The West well is just beside the tofu factory.

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Chaoyang Tower (朝阳楼)
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Signage for direction to tofu factory – 曾记板井豆腐坊
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The West well in Jianshui for tofu making
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Next to the water well is 曾记板井豆腐坊

Visit the tofu making shop — 曾记板井豆腐坊 to savour on freshly made soy food and witness the tofu making process! At 5 yuan per person, you can drink all the soy milk and eat all the soy beancurd and soy fritters you can.

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Yummy soy fritters!
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Take all you want soy beancurd. Sweet or savoury, you decide!
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Tofu making in progress (Photo credit: Kenneth Boey)

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Tofu is Jianshui’s specialty and has been featured in the famous foodie show — “舌尖上的中国” (A Bite of China). The local way of eating it is barbecued (临安烧豆腐). Dip it in soy sauce, pepper powder, crushed garlic, etc for added flavour. Sit around the fire and wait for the tofu to be barbecued till crispy. Actually, I don’t quite like the taste of the tofu here, I much prefer the ones at Yuanyang (元阳) thou.

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Waiting for our BBQ tofu (Photo credit: Kenneth Boey)
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Crispy tofu

The locals really love barbecue! There’s one whole street lined with barbecue stalls. Other than the usual barbecue stuff, I saw various kind of insects and some unknown stuff on display.

Following the recommendation on Lonely Planet, we found this no-name BBQ stall (seems to be just operating outside their house). At 6 pm, the main BBQ area was already crowded, we settled ourselves at the corner. After finding out how to order, we took the tray and picked the items we want and passed it to the BBQ auntie.  The food was really yummy but they like to sprinkle chili powder onto the food, very flavourful but a bit too spicy for me.

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Photo credit: Kenneth Boey
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BBQ garlic was divine! The chicken backside was really yummy!
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BBQ brinjals and mushrooms
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Chives and chicken wing tips
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Some small fishes, rice cake and pork

Jianshui has not been high on my places to visit but this BBQ food stall ended my short visit in Jianshui on a good note and make for some good memories.

Spring Series // Luoping, China (中国,罗平)

It’s raining yellow flowers everywhere in Luoping, China! Every year in February and March, the rapeseed flowers in Luoping are in full bloom. Luoping County is home to the largest plantations of rapeseed flowers in Southwest China. The golden rape stretches for as far as the eyes can see and together with the karst landscape among the mountain ranges, it is no wonder it attracted many photography enthusiasts there. Yes, never have I seen so many people with the longest or biggest lens they can find, the most expensive camera, the most high-end tripod all decked out at any possible places they can to get a good angle of the scenery.

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Luoping is easily accessible from Kunming. There are 4 daily train services from Kunming railway station to Luoping railway station and the train fare is about CNY 16-38 per person per way dependant on the class of seats you buy. The journey took between 3+hrs to 6+hrs depending whether it is a high-speed train or slow train.

As our flight only reach Kunming airport at around 12 noon, we decided to take the bus instead. The bus departs every 40 minutes from Kunming East Bus Terminal and it takes about 4.5 hours to reach Luoping. The fare is about CNY 72. It’s a more luxury tourist bus so the whole journey was quite comfortable.

We reached Luoping bus station at around 4+ in the afternoon. When the bus reached Quqing city, we saw the rapeseed flowers, almost anywhere which allows them to grow. Luoping town, however, is a yawn. Nothing interesting and there’s construction everywhere. I was quite surprised to see many high-rise buildings. The overall impression I had of the town is that it’s grey, no greenery and rundown despite the many high rise buildings around. We could not find any hostel in the town and interesting boutique hotels were either too expensive (prices usually tripled during this period), sold out (do book early, the influx of visitors can be quite terrible during this period) or very far out from town (better for self-drive). So we settled with a normal tourist hotel.

Jin Ji Ling aka Golden Rooster Hill (金鸡岭)

The place to see the sun rises from the mountain range and the golden light shines on the sea of rapeseed flowers till it sparkles and blinds your eyes. Go early, real early else you will be like us to be really put off by the so call photography enthusiasts. The scene reminded me of the time when we went up Mt Bromo where it was equally crowded, just to see the sunrise. Something different here was other than fighting with the photographers for a good place to take a decent, unblock photo, you will be fighting with their big and heavy tripod, the big camera with a humongous telephoto lens as well.

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The hill where we see the sunrise

We were also not quite sure if we went to the “official” area or not, as the scenery from where we saw seem different from what we saw in the guidebook. Our driver also seem not sure where to go and this random lady just open the car door sit inside and direct our driver to this place to park the car and lead us to an entrance to a rundown temple (have to pay CNY 20 per person), walked up several steep stairs to reach a platform with many paparazzi. You can climb further up for a better view of sunrise. Seeing that her job is done, she requested like CNY 30 from us. *Duh*

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Sunrise

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Jiulong Waterfall aka Nine Dragons Waterfall (九龙瀑布)

Yunnan2017-0048Listed as one of China’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls, Jiulong Waterfall scenic area is about an hour drive from Luoping town. Entrance fee is CNY 95. Due to the terrain and the effects of many years of erosion, ten waterfalls of various sizes have formed at nine different levels. The biggest waterfall is about 56 meters high and 112 meters wide. Do hike up to a platform near the peak to get a bird eye view of the waterfalls and the surrounding mountain scenery.

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@ Jiu Long Waterfall Scenic Area
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Majestic waterfall
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Amazing view from the top
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@ Jiu Long Waterfall Scenic Area

Luo Si Tian (螺丝田)

This is another popular area to see the rapeseed flowers. Carved out of a shallow valley of gentle slopes, follow the road on the opposite slope and view from a higher viewpoint. You will see that the flowers are grown in circular ring which follows the contours of the slopes and the fields look like the rings of a snail’s shell, thus the name I guess. I much prefer the view here than that of Jing Ji Ling.

It can be view anywhere along the road path. Just don’t go to those elevated make-shift type viewing platform, you will need to pay CNY 5 just to walk up the platform and the view is not necessarily good. Walking into the rapeseed flower fields also requires you to pay $$.

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@ Luo Si Tian
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@ Luo Si Tian

The rapeseed flower season is really the time to visit Luoping. The landscape and the scenery is a feast for the eyes.

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Loving the sun rays
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Rapeseed flowers everywhere
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Loving the clouds too!

我们在云南风花雪月 之 在大理飞檐走壁

大理算是我们这次云南行的最后一站了。 从丽江到大理车程大约3小时。丽江的客栈接待建议我们搭巴士,可直接带我们到大理古城。 由铁路进的话是在大理市的下关下车, 还得转个车才能到古城,很麻烦。 我们都ok,所以就买了巴士车票。  可是呢, 原本3小时的车程却因为在山区, 就快要到大理时遇上了大阻塞, 巴士前进不得。 而这时也开始下起了雨。 唉。。So near yet so far。。 我们在车里被困了大约2小时, 雨也越来越大。 气人的是巴士并没有直接把我们载到大理古城前。还得冒着雨走上一段路才到城门。

Dali old town

来到城门让我想起了金庸先生的<>里的大理王子 — 段誉, 在城门前耍起了六脉神剑。。

Dali old town

我们进了城门, 撑着伞沿街寻找住宿。 原本属意的听说客满, 便在一间看似不错价格合理的四季客栈住下了。

其实旅程来到了这个时候,大家身心也开始有点疲惫了。。 我想是年纪大了 (*Sigh*)。。所以我们也没到任何大理名胜参观。 大理古城里有着不错的小店, 小书局, 小卖部,咖啡馆。。其实很精彩的哟。而我们在大理古城里悠闲地逛逛街, 吃吃喝喝, 按摩。。就这样在大理过个懒洋洋地一天。  

A zi char store.  They serve quite nice food here in Dali.

最后我们便从大理搭夜班列车回到了昆明。



p/s: 不知是跟中国有仇, 上一回在阳朔的最后一晚拉肚子, 这次在昆明也如此。 唉。。

~~ 完 ~~

我们在云南风花雪月 之 一个始于厕所的文化震荡

从中国回来后, 最为我津津乐道的便是中国的厕所。真的,是震撼的咯! 其实感受到最大震撼的应该是茵与伟贞吧。

那天我们乘列车抵达丽江火车站。 想是到了火车站上个厕所。当时认为火车站内的厕所应该是Ok的。丽江火车站的厕所并不在站内,必须走段路经过一个临时停车场才会看到看似临时的厕所。 因为背着背包, 于是我便先在外看着包包, 她俩就先上。两人进去没多久便回来了。 “这么快?” 我问。 “我们没上。。。没办法。。。” 茵回说。 啊?? 什么? “不行, 不行! 没间隔, 没门。 大家就面对面地, 各自为政地do business。。。” 伟贞摇着头说着。我听得傻眼。

我的厕所际遇其实没那么惨吧。 在古城狮子山公园时, 当我走靠近厕所时,一阵阵尿味扑鼻而来。。太恶心了, 最后我没上。

在拉市海, 厕所是个简陋茅草屋。有心人是能从外往里面看的。 里面有三个间隔, 没门。。 当你一蹲下, 便看不到人。 所以进来厕所后就得来回走一回看看是否有人。。 唉。。而蹲在间隔内do business 的人就犹如动物园里的动物般被看咯。。。我们也只能匆匆地解决, 赶快出来。

时间一久, 我们也就习惯了。。。

Gents: Looks eerie. One side for small biz, the other for big biz?? 

Ladies: One of the “nicer” ones with flush.. of cos no doors.

p/s: 现在我知道了。 偶尔在厕所遇到不锁门, 不关门的人。。 现在知道他们是从那里来的了。。。

~~ 待续 ~~

我们在云南风花雪月 之 白水台

“自上而下天然组成银珠翻花,明镜映天,仙人遗田,神女显灵,银水游龙”

白水台的形成是由溶解于泉水中的碳酸氧钙经光合作用, 历时千年沉积而成。

这天我们一大早便启程。离开香格里拉, 返回丽江。 沿途将绕到白水台。我想白水台是最不像在中国的旅游胜地了。 白水台入门费仅人民币30元, 是众多旅游圣地中最便宜了。 在我认为也是最值得一游的地方。 没有做作的设施, 一切尽量自然。 除了马匹。

当我们抵达时, 几位妇女们便蜂拥而来问要不要骑马。人民币10元, 就人民币10元, 带你到白水台上头。 我们都没理会。。除了Chris。 “嘿, 骑leh。。10元而已,酱便宜。。。”

~~ 待续 ~~

我们在云南风花雪月 之 松赞林寺

松赞林寺是云南最大的藏传佛教寺院, 也有小布达拉宫的美称。我没到过西藏的布达拉宫, 想必是雄伟壮观吧。

松赞林寺全票85人民币, 包车与解说员。抵达时部分寺院正进行整修。 对于松赞林寺并没有让我叹为观止但它挂上的藏文与图倒是挺有意思的。 松赞林寺外的公园是让我留连忘返的地方, 尤其看着夕阳西下, 好漂亮啊!

The mountain is for sky burial (天葬)
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Likes the art

The park outside 松赞林寺
~~ 待续 ~~