Friday, August 27, 2010

My Shanghai trip - part 3 Hangzhou and Huangshan

After the water village of Xitang that I described last time, our next stop was to Hangzhou, an hour's drive away. The city was founded 2,200 years ago, is called "Heaven on Earth", and was also praised by Marco Polo. Hangzhou has the famous West Lake and Dragon Well ('long jing') green tea, and was the Imperial Capital for the southern Song dynasty (1123-1276).

It was a cultural centre and very prosperous, even today it has one of the highest per capita GDPs in China (USD 11,000). We could see all the famous top brand cars had showrooms in the city.

The airport had the usual shops, with famous and some not so famous brands - not quite sure now to pronounce some of them, hope they're easier in Chinese.

And how do you like the latest in bedroom furniture for the nouveau riche?

There is still some work to be done on improving English. I couldn't understand this sign in a bookstore, can you.....?

you have to look on the other side of the sign! (i.e. first sign should have read "Our Choice"!)

After Hangzhou, we went to Huangshan, a 3-hr coach ride away. It's a double World heritage site (cultural and natural).
It is said that after visiting this area with 72 peaks, you won't want to visit any other mountain, since they can't compare. "Peak, rock, pine, everything here is marvelous; cloud, water, mountain all seem to be living." The scenery changes with the weather, and we were lucky to have a good mix of sun and cloud. We had talked about getting up at 4 in the morning to see the sunrise, but it was only empty talk in the end. Even with cable cars up and down, we were ready for a long night's sleep.

Nearby villages of Hongcun and Xidi are worth seeing. They are like Chinese paintings, and one famous Chinese film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" directed by Ang Lee was partly filmed here. For fengshui reasons, Hongcun was designed in the shape of a cow, so it's fun to try to identify in the village different parts such as the horns, stomach, legs etc.

I also took my clients to Datong to see the Yungang Grottoes and Hanging Monastery, before finally returning to Beijing.

I was so glad to get home, I think the T-shirt says it all, I just love BJ. Don't you?

Well that's all for this trip, perhaps we can get back to the Ancient Silk Road next time!

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Trip to Shanghai - part 2 Xitang

Around Shanghai, there are now many old 'water villages' developed for tourism (e.g. Zhouzhuang, Zhujiajiao, Tongli, Wuzhen), and they are particularly busy these days due to Expo visitors. I think they are very similar and all rather commercialised. We chose Xitang, location for some scenes in Mission Impossible 3.

It is very pretty, but the narrow streets along the river were not designed for so many people! And there's plenty of water falling from the sky as well, so we were more than happy to have a tricycle as our baggage cart to help us to our rooms in a traditional old riverside inn.

Xitang has a romantic atmosphere, and at night, couples could be seen floating off their 'love candles' as a sign of true love. I hope they didn't see the bargeman clearing up the candles out of the water a hundred yards downstream.

It was a pity that disco music could be heard coming out of a riverside bar, but that's modernisation for you! Some traditional arts continue, such as playing the 'erhu' (2-stringed instrument) by the river, woodblock printing handmade by an old master in his fine family courtyard house, as well as frying stinky beancurd and making wonton.