Tonghai 通海 Xiushan Park秀山公园: Yunnan China, Photo of the Week

One of China’s hidden gems – Xiushan park is a verdant paradice in an otherwise rather grey city.

Bonsais in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

通海秀山历史文化公园

Bonsais in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园
Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Tonghai 通海

This town to the south of Kunming makes for great stopover on the way to the stunning rice terraces of Yuanyang (Click here) and its rich minority culture, or Hekou, the border crossing for Vietnam.

秀山公园 Xiushan park

Tonghai 通海

The journey from Kunming to Tonghai  takes less than three hours, a straight bus-ride down the motorway with very little in the way of visual distractions. Tonghai itself is a small agricultural town, a few kilometres from the Qilu lake, on whose shores a village inhabited by descendants of soldiers from the Mongol armies survives to this day.

通海 古城 Tonghai Old town

The town, which is currently undergoing a beautification campaign, like so many others in China, is nothing to write home about. Unfortunately, many interesting old buildings, mostly dating from the Qing dynasty, have already fallen prey to the sledge hammer, while others are undergoing dubious reforms.

通海 古城 Tonghai Old town

However, Tonghai’s saving grace is its interesting population mix and, most of all, the wonderfully atmospheric Xiushan park.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Xiushan park is a large temple park in the style of China’s famous Holy Mountains, set on Xiushan mountain, overlooking Tonghai city and Qilu lake. Its total lack of cable cars, souvenir stalls and tourists make this park easily one of the most pleasant and laid- back in China.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Those relatively few monks and pilgrims there are, earnestly pray and leave offerings for the gods, simple yet beautiful gifts of flowers, rice, candles and incense. Meanwhile, the locals sip tea and play Mah-jong, Chinese chess and cards in the courtyards of the temples.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Minimalist Bonsai gardens and ancient, gnarled trees of a variety of species, such as camellias, cypresses or firs, many of them held up by metal bars, add beauty and a kind of timeless charm to the place.

Dragons in Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Besides trees, dragons are the protagonists of the park, either wrapping their bodies around pillars, cavorting above doorways, or splashing in fountains. All in all, it’s a lush and peaceful place.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Entrance to the park is 15 Yuan and foreigner visitors still attract the curiosity of the locals in these parts.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Practicalities:

Places to Stay and Eat:

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

We stayed at the Tongyin hotel, supposedly the poshest and most expensive one in town, for 145 Yuan, including breakfast. You can’t miss it, it’s the tallest building in town, two minutes away from the bus station, on a main road. There is no shortage of  cheaper hotels, most of them new, near the bus station and on the road into town from Kunming.

Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Food options in Tonghai are not great. There are a number of small hole-in-the-wall type restaurants near the bus station with lots of meat and hanging carcesses, or the entrance to Xiushan Park, as well as at least one smart restaurant inside the Tongyin hotel. A couple of decent supermarkets provide for self caterers.

meat and hanging carcesses

Coming and Going:

Buses to Tonghai leave from Kunming’s main long-distance bus station regularly throughout the day. There are plenty of buses in the other direction as well. Regular buses leave for Jianshui,  every two and half hours.

Hell scene in a temple Xiushan Park Tonghai, Yunnan province 秀山公园

Sani Musicians at the Stone Forest: Photo of the week

The photos are from the Stone Forest in Yunnan 2007. Local Sani minority dancers from nearby Lunan and surrounding villages perform local folk dances. The Sani are a branch of the Yi nationality.

Sani musicans in action
Sani Musician tuning up
Admiring Sani ladies watching the performance
Sani minority singing and dancing at the Stone forest Yunnan 2007

Pingyao 平遥 2001

About the Photos: these pictures were taken on an old cheap instamatic camera using a very cheap Chinese black and white film. The rain in Pingyao was torrential. That is why everything looks so grainy.

PINGYAO (RE) VISITED

We first visited Pingyao 平遥in the late summer of 2001, on our second attempt. On the 18th of August we found ourselves in Taiyuan太原, looking for a bus to Pingyao. However, it was raining so heavily that we had a drastic change of heart and caught an afternoon train to sunny and warm Chengdu 成都 instead (Same day hard sleeper tickets!).

Precisely one month later, on the 18th of September, we were back for a second try … unfortunately, it was raining just as much!

It’s a long time ago and it’s hard to remember all the details, but we do remember the rain, which was incessant.

Ticket to Visit the City Wall Pingyao 2001

We also remember the main street, which was more commercial and tacky than I’d expected, awash with the sound of blaring loudspeakers and crowded with Chinese tour groups, shopping, snacking and posing for photos, dressed- up in period costumes.

Old hole in the wall restaurant Pingyao: not many exist these days

As it happened, our visit coincided with the first edition of the Pingyao International Photography Festival!

During this increasingly popular annual event (19 -25 September), which brings together professional and amateur photographers from over 50 countries around the world, the whole of Pingyao is turned into one great, open-air photo gallery, with many exhibits and activities taking place all over town. No wonder we felt a bit crushed!

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A busy Pingyao street 2001

We trudged down the narrow streets, pushed our way through the crowds, popped into the Rishengchang Financial House Museum and had a little look around.

There were very few visitors inside the actual sights, but it was hard to take pictures because of the rain.

Pingyao main drag 2001

One thing we really enjoyed, but which unfortunately isn’t allowed any more, was climbing the City Tower, the tallest building in the old city, from where there were great views over the gracefully sloping, tiled roofs.

A rainy Pingyao 2001

Eventually, we donned our rain capes and set off on a long walk along the City Walls, leaving the crowds behind. The rain kept lashing at us and there was soot and dirt in the air; tangible reminders of Shanxi’s over 3,000 coal mines!

Old courtyard houses Pingyao 2001

From the height of the Walls we got a good view of the city’s backstreets and alleys, the humble, run-down little houses and messy backyards, the vegetable plots… all covered in coal dust.

We could see people carrying pails down the street, vendors peddling their wares, old men on wobbly bicycles; in short, ordinary people, going about their business.

On the other side of the Wall, we noticed a kind of farmers’ market, with farmers selling vegetables and other produce from the back of hand carts, and several stalls with clothes and household goods.

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Impromtu market outside Pingyao walls

You won’t find these impromtu markets outside Pingyao’s walls now.

The moat was still filled with water; there was no park, nothing remotely touristy on the other side yet.

We stayed in one of those atmospheric, romantic courtyard hotels; it was authentic alright, but also rather cold and damp!

Adam on his kang 2001

We remember being given two stamp-sized towels and a tiny bar of soap, by way of toiletries. Fortunately, accommodation options have come a long way since then!

Old unrestored Pingyao courtyards

The Qiao Family Compound (Qiao Jia Dayuan)

Qiao Family Compound (Qiao Jia Dayuan)location of  the film ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ (大红灯笼高高挂; 1991) With a new colour film

The next day, on the way back to Taiyuan, we stopped at the Qiao Family Compound (Qiao Jia Dayuan), the 18th century home of a wealthy merchants’ family, but perhaps most famous for being the chief location of  the film ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ (大红灯笼高高挂; 1991), directed by Zhang Yimou and starring the gorgeous Gongli. 

Qiao Family Compound (Qiao Jia Dayuan)location of  the film ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ (大红灯笼高高挂; 1991)

As this was the first really large mansion we’d visited and as we’d loved the film, we were very taken by the place. Of course, the over 300- room compound is bedecked with romantic red lanterns, but it also houses many interesting exhibits of Ming and Qing furniture, as well as Shanxi opera costumes.

About the photos. These pictures were taken on a cheap instamatic camera with a very cheap Chinese black and white film. The rain in Pingyao was torrential and that is why they look a little grainy or older than they should.
Qiao Family Compound (Qiao Jia Dayuan)location of  the film ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ (大红灯笼高高挂; 1991) My last black and white photo.

Unfortunately,in recent years, the site has become massively popular with Chinese tour groups, which is probably why it has been dropped from many guide books such as Lonely Planet, or the Rough Guide.   

Practicalities:

Pingyao Ally 2001

If you have your own transport, the Qiao Family Compound makes a good stopover between Pingyao and Taiyuan. Otherwise, you can get there by bus; you can catch any bus going to Qíxiàn (祁县; ¥25, 1½ hours) from Taiyuan’s Jiànnán bus station and ask to be dropped off at the site.

You can also take a bus from Pingyao (¥15, 45 minutes, every 30 minutes to 6.40pm).

Extra Photos Below and more info below

Pingyao Introduction 平遥

This is the introduction to a series of articles about our 3 visits to Pingyao, the historic city in China’s Shanxi Province.

PINGYAO SPECIAL

WHY VISIT PINGYAO?

Pingyao, a World Heritage Site since 1997, is renowned for being one of the best- preserved ancient walled cities in China, as well as its earliest banking centre.

The wonderful City Wall spans the entire old city: it’s a 6- kilometre long, 10- metre high, crenellated structure with 72 watch towers, set at fifty- metre intervals. The construction has a brick and stone exterior, with many of the bricks still showing the distinctive stamps of their makers, with rammed earth inside.

Already a thriving merchant city in the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644), Pingyao reached its hey-day during the Qing dynasty (1644 y 1912), when merchants created the first banks in the country.

Old Banks In Pingyao

These so-called piaohao (票号), ‘draft banks’ or ‘remittance shops’, provided remittance services and bank drafts to move money from one city to another, in order to finance trade. In 1823, the Rishengchang, or ‘Sunrise Prosperity’, became the first such draft bank to open its doors in Pingyao.

Old Banks in Pingya0

Later on, it established 43 branches in key cities around China and abroad, in countries like Japan, Singapore, and Russia. As a result, Pingyao became the center of China’s banking industry, with over half of the country’s piaohao -about 22 banking firms in charge of a further network of 404 branches – headquartered inside Pingyao’s City Walls.

The original Rishengchang survived for 108 years, before finally collapsing in 1932.

Since then, the Rishengchang, as well as a number of other piaohao and merchants’ residences have been restored and opened to the public, alongside a whole string of other sights, such as temples, halls and museums.

Moreover, Pingyao makes a great base for excursions to some out-of-the-way places, such as the village of  Zhangbi Cun.

Zhangbi Cun

Even today, as you stroll the cobblestoned streets of the perfectly preserved old city, you won’t find any high-rises, or ugly white-tiled buildings. Just don’t expect to have the place to yourself: Pingyao is firmly on the – mainly Chinese – tourist track and connected to Beijing by high speed trains! But don’t despair; the tour groups mostly stick to the ‘big sites’ and, as there are so many places to visit, you can easily get away from the crowds.

Quiet street in Pingyao

The best way to enjoy Pingyao is to dive into the back alleys and explore. And make sure to book yourself into one of those atmospheric courtyard hotels that Pingyao does so well.

Jingdezhen; the Land of Porcelain: Photo of the week

A worker meticulously paints a porcelain vase in Jingdezhen; the city known for producing the world’s finest porcelain

A painter in Jingdezhen meticulously paints a porcelain vase.

Click here for more on Jingdezhen

A painter in Jingdezhen meticulously paints a porcelain vase.
Recently glazed Porcelain bowls waiting for a new owner in Jingdezhen

The Original Yushu Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall before the 2009 Earthquake: New photos

New and re-done photos of the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall near Yushu, Qinghai Province, China; before the 2010 earthquake that destroyed it.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The Earthquake

On the 14th of April 2010 in a remote area of China’s remote province of Qinghai, a huge aerthquake struck the town of Yushu and the surrounding areas.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The earthquake resulted in a terrible loss of human life and a vast amount of cultural damage was done to Tibetan monasteries and temples. The greatest cultural loss was the destruction of the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, the longest in the world and one of the most sacred for the Tibetans.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

A mani wall is a wall that has been built up over time using rocks, stones and pebbles that have prayers written on them. The most common mantra is Om Mane Padme Hum, but ather mantras are also written or engraved on the rocks.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

Tibetan pilgrims often pay to have the rocks placed on the ever expanding walls. The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani wall, just a few kilometers outside Yushu was, and still is, the longest Mani wall in the world. The wall was re-built after the earthquake.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

We were fortunate enough to have visted Yushu in the summer of 2009; eight months before the eathquake.Here are some of our photos that I have re-done and some new ones that I didn’t post the first time. The photos still don’t do justice to mind-blowing exerience of visiting the wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

Click here to read the original travel article and the subsequent article that we posted after the earthquake.

Original travel article: https://holachina.com/?p=1363
After the earthquake: https://holachina.com/?p=1854
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

Mani Walls

As previously mentioned above: Mani Walls are rows of piled-up stones, engraved or painted with orations. The size of such Mani Wallscan vary from the humblest pile to a circuit of several hundred meters. Pilgrims walk round these walls of holy stones in a clockwise direction, uttering prayers and twirling prayer wheels.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall was truly enormous; a sign by its side proudly proclaimed that it is 283 metres long, 74 metres wide, 2,5 metres high and consists of 2 billion stones!

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

What’s more, the Wall, before the earthquake, was still growing, as we witnessed with our own eyes: devout pilgrims contributed new stones everyday, which were hoisted up on to the pile carefully.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The billions of beautifully carved stones carry the Buddhist prayers “Om Mani Padme Hum” or, “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus”, and other orations.

Building the Mani wall

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China The whole team

I never really sussed out how the system worked. But it seemed that wealthier pilgrims paid more money for bigger stones or rocks to be placed on top of the Mani wall in order to get more merit (I could be wrong here).

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China The whole team

As you can see from this series of photos; a pilgrim, a monk and rock carriers were all involved in the process of heaving the rocks to the top of the wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China The rock carrier

Hoisting the rocks and stones up onto the top of the Mani-wall was done by muscle power alone and not only was the toil unceasing, but it was also back-breaking. You could read the expressions of pain and agony on the faces of the carriers as they struggled with the larger rocks.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. the rock carriers

The muscle and stamina of these guys puts anyone doing exercise in a gym to shame.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The rock carriers

I can’t imagine how they must of felt having to put the wall back together again after its collapse in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The rock bearer
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The pilgrim watches his rocks being place on top of the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall

The pilgrims

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

The other fascinating part of a visit to the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall is to observe the thousands of Tibetan pilgrims who come every day to place rocks and circumambulate the wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

Tibetan pilgrims from all over the Kham region and further afield descend on this huge Mani Wall from dusk to dawn.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China.Pilgrims circumambulating the wall with great determination and devotion.
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

Dressed in their finest, they circumambulate the sacred stones in a constantly rising and ebbing flow. The early morning sees a high tide, while the crowds ebb during the afternoon, only to return again in the early evening.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims and Margie
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

The Awesome Hats

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats

The Hats! We had never seen anything like them before. Huge, pancake-flat, wide-brimmed, and elaborately-embroidered; these stunning hats seemed to be all the rage in and around the Yushu and Serxu areas of Qinghai and Sichuan Tibetan areas.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats.

These photos we taken at the Sang-ze Gyanak Mani-wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats.

Elsewhere, we had never laid eyes on them, not even in Lhasa or around Ganzi, Litang or Dege.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats.

The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

The best way to take in the ambience was, and probably still is, to join in with the pilgrims and accompany them on their walk around the Wall.

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The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

The more times you circle the Wall, the more fascinating it becomes.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

Numerous dark chapels and prayer-wheel halls, lit up by thousands of flickering yak-butter lamps, provided a diversion from the routine.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

If anybody reading this has been to Yushu recently, please lets us know what it is like now.

Buy some fungas at the wall.

Taiwanese 60s Music for the Lockdown: Weng Qianyu (翁倩玉)/ Judy Ongg & Yao Su Yong and the Telstars Combo

Taiwanese 60s music to survive the lockdown in Madrid

Weng Qianyu (翁倩玉) / Judy Ongg

As I sit in front of my computer writing texts and sorting photos during the coronavirus lockdown in Madrid I find myself drifting off to another time and place listening to this gem by Taiwanese 1960s star Weng Qianyu (翁倩玉).

Weng Qianyu (翁倩玉) was a popular actress in the 60s and used the name Judy Ongg in her films.

Yao Su Yong (Rong) and the Telstars Combo

If after listening to the above album, you, like me, crave more: give this album by Yao Su Yong & The Telstars Combo a go. Yao Su Yong seems to have had many stage names. Her real name was Yao Su Rong 姚蘇蓉.

Many of Yao Su Yong’s songs, which are mostly about love and romance, were banned by the Taiwanese government in the late sixties and early seventies for being morally unhealthy for the country’s youth.

How times have changed!

China Travel in Times of Coronavirus

In these times of Coronavirus, travelling around China in the way we used to, has become virtually impossible. Although the situation in China is gradually improving, it’s still far from stable. At any moment, a new outbreak could take everything back to square one and put the country back into lockdown mode. It’s hard to say when we’ll be able to go back and resume our travels. However, that won’t stop us from continuing to post at holachina.com!

Coming next: Datong: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Datong: the Good; Dragon Screen; Datong

Our next article will be a quick look at China’s coal town, Datong, a rapidly transforming city trying to give itself an image makeover; from soot city to tourist city with varying degrees of aesthetic success.

Datong: the bad, overrun Yungang Cave Grottoes
Datong: the Ugly; the destruction of the old historical old town

The best of Guangzhou: still to come

The great Dimsum Restaurants of Guangzhou

We still have loads of unpublished material, as well as updates and great photos to upload. Maybe this quarantine we are undergoing at the moment in Madrid will enable us to be more productive!

Coming Next / Now Posted

Wuyang River Scenic area near Zhenyuan

舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州:

Now posted

Wuyang River Scenic area near Zhenyuan 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州:

Coming next is the scenically located

Guizhou town of Zhenyuan镇远 Now Posted

Zhenyuan Guizhou Province

Here’s to virtual travels!

Still to come

Here are a few examples of what we still have to post.

Exquisite Figurines at the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall 陈家 Guangzhou广州
Lingnan Style Gardens Foshan Guangdong
Pingyao from the second of our three visits
Taiyuan Museum

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州:

From our Diary August 2005

Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

The disappointed Brit

The only other foreigner on the tour was a pale, spotty Brit with his Chinese girlfriend /wife. The evasive gaze in his eyes could do nothing to hide the bitter disappointment on his contorted face, that he was going to have to share this tour with two other foreigners, and worst of all, one them another Brit. Zhenyuan in 2005 was still supposed to be undiscovered. We never uttered a word to each other or exchanged glances during the entire trip.

Zhenyuan and the Wuyang River

The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

Most Chinese tourists come to Zhenyuan to take a trip along the Wuyang River, Guizhou’s rival to the Li River scenery around Guilin and Yangshuo.

Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

Travel agencies in Zhenyuan arrange these trips for around 35 Yuan a person (in 2005). This includes transport to the river, an entry fee to the scenic area, plus a one- and- a- half-hour cruise on a tourist boat.

Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

The Inevitable Delay

The trip began with a delay. Usually, delays on Chinese organised tours are caused by some tourists turning up late, or by the travel agency frantically trying to find one or two more people to join the tour last minute.

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Our hold up was caused by another frequent reason for delays in China: an over-turned coal truck on a mountainous bend in the road.

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The overturned lorry and the hapless driver

Eventually, after a lot of loitering, and with the help of other drivers, enough spilt coal was removed for our bus and other traffic to pass. We left to the hapless truck driver to fend for himself. I have always wondered what becomes of these poor fellows, abandoned by all and sundry in the middle of nowhere with an overturned lorry.

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Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

The scenery is lovely, and yes, very similar to Guilin and Yangshuo, though not quite as spectacular in our humble opinion. During entire the trip this was the hottest topic among the Chinese tourists: Yanshuo scenery or Wuyang River Scenery; which was the most beautiful. 

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A few came down on the side of the Wuyang River, while most remained coy. I suspect everybody was trying to be polite in order to please our overly-keen local guide.

The boat trip

The trip takes place mainly on a huge reservoir surrounded by sugar candy Karst Mountains and weirdly shaped rocks jutting straight out of the water.

The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

Cascading  waterfalls and local fishermen in sampans casting their nets add to the sense of rural tranquillity. A pleasant surprise was that even in August 2005 there was still only one boat a day with capacity for about 30 people.

The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

It being a Chinese tour, there was the obligatory guide, a friendly, bubbly, local chap who explained in great detail why every nook and cranny along the river had been given a poetical name. Even Adam was baffled by the lyrical expressions he was using.

The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

When the Chinese tourists got bored of his explanations and had taken their obligitory ‘I’ve been there’ snaps, they went downstairs to watch T.V, smoke, play cards and (WAN’R 玩儿 ) to have fun.

Snacking

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On disembarking from the boat you have to run the gauntlet past a gaggle of overly-pushy and entrepreneurial fishermen who have set up small benches and oil spitting woks. For the hungry; you can try the spicy fried fish, fried river prawns or the potato and vegetable kebabs. I must admit, everything is extremely tasty and cheap; but negotiate the price first or see what the Chinese tourists are paying.

Getting to the Wuyang River Scenic Area

Getting there: there are tour agencies in the center of Zhenyuan who organise the river trips. I suppose you could take private transport to the scenic area and rent a sampan. However, we found the Chinese tour quite fun (barring the sulky Brit). See Zhenyuan for accommodation and food.