The Australia-China Friendship Society, Tamanian Branch,
Visit To Fujian Province
20th March-6th April
Diary by Garry Richardson
Members of the group: John Houghton (leader), Maureen Ling (secretary of the society), David and Rosemary Andrews, John and Sue Briginshaw, Maggie Mc Kerracher, Garry and Mary Richardson
It all started in Oct 2007 when Mary and I were having dinner with John and Sue Briginshaw and at one time during the evening they mentioned that they were going to China the following March and were we interested. We most certainly were.
John sent us a copy of an email from John Houghton, so I emailed John H to express our interest and asked for more information. After John H. sent more information I said we were interested if we could be home before April 8th as we had other commitments then. It turned out that it would fit in and so we were away! Many emails were exchanged and a lunch meeting at the Me Wah restaurant, Sandy Bay, was held on the 9th Feb where we met the other members of the party. The lunch and talkfest lasted 3 hours and we headed home with a list of things to do.
All was eventually organised and we picked up John and Sue at 1015 on Thursday 20th March for our 2 hour drive to Launceston airport. Check in was uneventful and after a quick, expensive lunch we boarded with a strong westerly wind blowing misty rain across the airport. Fifty minutes later we were in Melbourne where it was also blowing but there was no rain but it was a bumpy ride as we were coming in to land.
Now we are at the airport filling in time until we can hand our luggage over to Cathay Pacific at 2230 tonight for a 0120 takeoff. I have purchased a book to read, Mary and Sue have gone for a walk and John is sorting out his phone.
We had tea at a noodle restaurant and then just sat around. John B. went and rounded up David and Rosemary when they arrived from Hobart. We moved from the noodle place when they started to close up and found hard seats near the book in area and sat and watched humanity walk by, Mary and Sue reading and John and David have the wanders. The check in eventually opened at 10.15 so we lined up and apart from being asked where the toddler was everything went smoothly. We went through customs and up to gate 5 where we sat around some more. John H finally caught up with us as he had been into Melbourne for a show. We boarded the plane and had seats with plenty of leg room next to the toilets thanks to the toddler! We had a nice feed, put the aircraft socks on, blew up our air pillows and slept on and off until we woke up for breakfast.
Friday 21st –Fuzhou with the totally cherishable Christina
Had a wander around the cabin before breakfast, John, John and Sue awake. Writing the diary as the sun comes up over the South China Sea, changed my watch back 3 hours and had another wander. One hour to go. Landed at Hong Kong with no problems, low cloud, an airport on the edge of the sea. Had a long slow walk to catch the Dragon Air flight to Fuzhou, nice clean airport, lots of local ceramics and orchids as well as wonderful bonsai.
Boarded Dragon Air on time but a mix up with people so we left an hour late. We had a feed on the plane, hot dog and egg in a sweet roll, which went down well. Then into a quiet Fuzhou airport, bags turned up OK and no problem with customs. Our guide and driver were waiting for us as well as Foreign Affairs. Very low cloud with rain and visibility was very bad. We had an hour drive to the hotel. Saw lots of half finished buildings along the way, cars everywhere which drive on the RHS of the road. Still misty in the afternoon.
We had a ¼ of an hour to go to our room and get back down to go to the white house for lunch. Plenty of different food, beer and green tea. Food included a squid dish, clam soup, fish soup, beef, yam, chicken, potato straws, rice, prawns and fried fish. All were good. Lots of fish on show for patrons to pick from.
Now on bus back to the hotel (1500). Into John’s room at 1715 to sort gifts. Have to get dressed up and ready to go out to dinner with Foreign Affairs at Lakeside Hotel (1745). Three hours til we eat again, nothing but eat since we left home, some sleep would be OK!
The car park was full and our driver had a problem getting our bus to the door as there was a Suzuki convention on at the hotel. The driving seemed like chaos with cars, trucks, scooters, pushbikes and pedestrians going everywhere but few marks on the cars. All the problems with the room bed have been sorted. Our luggage was finally delivered so we went straight to bed for a nap (set thumper in case). Into the shower at 1630, washed shirt and undies as well as self. We all turned up at John’s room at 1730 with our gifts. I was in a tie for the first time since Liana’s wedding!
Down to the lobby at 1745 and onto the bus for the short drive around to another 5 star hotel (Lakeside) for dinner with Foreign Affairs. All very formal, seats had our names in front of them, then a speech from the head man which John answered with a speech in Mandarin, and then we were given gifts. John was given a piece of very special gold laquerware and special tea (tieguanyin) for the rest of us. We then gave gifts to each of the FA representatives.
Then up to the table, place names again, but Mr Luo could not speak English and my Chinese is nonexistent but we managed. Food was very nice, seven courses with olive juice to drink and a good Chinese cabernet merlot from a vineyard that started in 1998. The merlot was only given in small mouthfuls for toasting but it was continually topped up. When the meal was finished a bit more chatting and back to the hotel around 2000. West Lakes all lit up wonderfully and not so much traffic about. Lights out at 2100.
Saturday 22nd -Fuzhou
I woke up at around 0500(around 0800 at home) and lay awake until 0600 when Mary woke up and then made a cup of tea. Writing this while I drink it. Moved the camera ASA up to 400, need to buy a small tripod for the night shots but they look OK so far. Had a shower and down to brekkie, John and Sue already there and the others not long after, lots of interesting things to choose from. It is going to take the stay here to try it all. Juice or iced tea for the cold drinks and Mary had coffee with carnation milk. We both love the food. Meeting again at 0915 to go to the department store.
We had an interesting walk with Rosemary leading the way with confidence. Give way to everything that is not on legs and if in doubt follow the locals. Lots of electric scooters around and you can’t hear them coming up behind you. The department store was full of expensive things and the best bit of the excursion was getting there. John kept getting accosted by students, all very friendly and one showed us the way to the store. Caught a taxi back to freshen up before lunch. Visibility still poor.
Had lunch at Yung Ding Hotel (Cloud Villa) a wonderful spread, beautifully presented (Garry photographed). After lunch off to Drum Mountain, ½ hour drive through industrial area, couldn’t see very far as so misty and hazy. We saw the mountain looming when we got close. It was 8km drive up a windy road to a Buddhist temple, a wonderful place on many levels with huge incense sticks burning and lots of smoke, gold Buddha’s and sutras written in monks blood.
Then down to the museum gift shop, high pressure selling, price on earrings per earring not the pair but bought a pair anyway, silver and jade and I’m happy with them as they match my top perfectly. Bought some horn combs as they don’t get electric.
There was a bit of rain after we left the temple for the rest of the day, but not too much of an inconvenience with the bus being able to come for us. Photography was interesting in the afternoon with very limited visibility. Next our 1st tea ceremony at which we tried 3 varieties made with elaborate ceremony, washing and warming the pot and cups, pouring water on the leaves from a height and pouring into the cups in 3 special ways. You must drink in little sips; ladies hold the pinkie out to show gentility.
We had another banquet for dinner after which we went to a concert in the People’s Hall. There was loads of colour, spectacle, grace and beautiful slender girls doing an acrobatic dance. They finished with bangs and streamers. We were also given a show bag with all sorts of goodies in it.
Sunday 23rd March
Woke up just before thumper went off, visibility a lot better, we can see the hills from the window. Having a cup of tea and down to breakfast at 0800 with the rest to organise the day. Rosemary counted 59 dishes at breakfast but we only had a few. John gave us a briefing on today and tomorrow. We were all at the foyer at 0900 and Christina and the bus was waiting for us. Drove around the lake to the museum but it was shut for 2 weeks for renovations, so after some discussion some of us went to the panda park and the other 3 walked around West Lakes. Saw some pandas, the oldest was 27(x4 for human years) and watched the red panda show. The park had volunteer students working there and after talking to them and the manager we all posed for photos.
Then it was up to Yu Mountain which was very pleasant and away from the bustle of the city. Because it was Sunday there were groups of people singing and playing musical instruments and the gardens and buildings on the top of the mountain! were a pleasure to be in. Then it was down to Wuyi Square for a wander around. It was a nice day, sun shining and quiet in the square with kids playing etc. Next stop was to the Brilliant Hotel for yet another banquet, lots of food left over.
Next stop was Xichan Temple, lots of walking and very speccy. It was a mixture of old and new and heaps of photos were taken. The different Buddas, the roofs with their upturned corners and the wonderful stonework as well as the ever burning incense. Maggie’s cardigan was missing so it was back to the lunch hotel to get it and an electronics shop for another card for JB’s camera as he used all his memory up on movies at the concert. JB got his 2GB card and next stop was the hotel where we had a brief freshen up and then down to buy Mary a stone dragon teapot for her birthday and then a tea ceremony with J and S. Back to the room for a while and on the bus at 1800 to a very flash dinner with JH’s friend and her husband, her younger sister (who was interpreter) and another friend who managed a bakery. They owned the Fumao chain of bakeries. After the giving and receiving of gifts another sumptuous dinner. Each course was bought out separately and put on the lazy susan to show us and then it taken away and divided into individual serves. Peking duck and a few smaller dishes were the only help yourself. The fruit drink was cucumber juice with honey stirred through it and red wine or beer.
Small serves of wine but the glass was always quickly topped up when empty, a few toasts and the host and hostess went around the table to meet everyone and have a personal toast. When it was all finished we were into the bus and around to the bakery where pandemonium broke out, cameras everywhere, staff excited, when we tried to buy something it was given. A cake was ordered for Mary’s birthday tomorrow by the hostess and then we all walked back to the hotel, the traffic was stopped by our host so we could all cross the road safely and we continued to party in the lobby until John H. came down with presents for the interpreter and Sue did the same. We were asked out to a tea house but it was bedtime, so we declined and went to our room for a drink and then into bed, early start tomorrow.
Monday 24th March-Mary’s Birthday (Oh what a day)
We were up about 0620 before Thumper went off and the wake up call from the hotel that was organised by Christina, into the shower and down for breakfast soon. I have just deleted a heap of photos and am busy charging camera batteries, a good job I have three. Breakfast was up to its usual standard and soon after we were on the bus to No 8 Middle School for a meeting with teachers and the headmaster. After the talks there was the gift giving and receiving and then up to one of the English speaking classes where we answered questions and mixed with the students. To help break the ice I showed the students a small album of photos we put together and the first photo was Josh (new grandson) who brought out a big ahhhh from the students. Mary borrowed the album after I had been through it and I knew when Josh’s photo was shown. The kids are very enthusiastic and want to do well as only 25% of them get to university, it is a very hard entrance exam and only the top go, and they realise to obtain a good job they have to get to university.
The N0 8 Middle School is 155 years old and was once owned by a church and was taken over by the Government in 1952. It is the oldest school in Fuzhou with a modern educational system. From the 1960’s on it has had a lot of students in the top bracket in the university entrance exam.
Then back on the bus to the Fujian Provincial Education Department where we were entertained on the top floor (very flash) where there was green tea ready in mugs with lids on which was kept topped up with hot water. More discussions and gift giving and receiving and then off to the White House for another banquet (ho hum) that was very nice and we had different dishes from the last time we were there. The beer this time was made from wheat with an alcohol content of just over 3% and our ration for the group was three bottles plus a bottle of Sprite and plenty of tea. Mary was given a birthday present from the group which was a set of paper cuts of the different zodiac signs.
After lunch we were driven down to a park on the edge of the Min Jiang River which passes through Fuzhou. The park was very pleasant and there was a long stone wall called the Hero’s Wall that had events from Fuzhou’s past carved in it. On the other side of the wall across the highway were new blocks of flats that towered above us. They were very good designs and pleasing on the eye for what they were.
Back on the bus and off to the Fujian Normal University where we talked, gave and received gifts, more green tea and then a tour of the university in our bus. It has 30,000 live in students and is only seven years old and will be finished by the end of this year. We toured the university in the bus as it was too big to walk.
Then to another banquet with the director and some of his staff, another very good one. We handed out presents and when it was known that it was Mary’s birthday a cake appeared as well with happy birthday sung in Chinese. It was a nice light cake, sponge and egg white with amazing piped flowers on top.
Then back to the hotel for another party as the cake promised by Fumao bakery had been delivered. Mr Chen (driver), Christina and Caroline came too, so we all had cake, beer (the champagne was too expensive at 500y a bottle) and a sing song. We gave our guests some of the cake from the night before as we had done a lot of eating and didn’t need any more. 1/3 of the cake was left so we gave it to the musicians who were entertaining us. At times we had lots of onlookers, leaning over the balconies and they joined in when Christina, Caroline, and Mr Chen sang a revolutionary song. It was a really enjoyable day and Mary’s best ever birthday. John H is happier as most of the formal stuff is over for the trip. It is now 2210 and time for bed!
Tuesday 25th March – Fuzhou
Had a good nights sleep, the air conditioning wasn’t quite so noisy now we have found out where to switch off all the lights and not just pull the plug. They’ve locked the sliding door again so no fresh air! We were up about 0620 before our alarm and the hotel reminder. Pre breakfast drinks, Mary oolong tea and me olive juice (an interesting taste). Down to what is becoming a normal breakfast and then back down again to meet Christina at 0800. All in the bus and a 2 hour drive to the primary school in Luoyan County. Most of the drive on a toll road with lots of building going on and a new rail system under construction. The largest tunnel on the toll road was 4056 metres long. A very hazy day so visibility not much. Beside the road to the school were stone cutting factories and sheds. It was very dusty (not much OH&S) as they were cutting large pieces of limestone into slabs for facing buildings. The stone was carted by funny little trucks.
We were escorted in by the local foreign affairs, a quick trip with no time for photos; they had lights flashing and put on the siren when the traffic was too much. It was very broken country with not many paddy fields and some tea plantation.
The school (200 children) was interesting and after the introduction, again only healthy food offered (bowls of mandarins, loquats and dragon’s eyes) and gifts we went into 2 classrooms where we had a very good reception and some interaction with the kids. The children were beautiful and all very trendy in dress, looked cute. There was not a fat person in sight. Sue got quite carried away and excited doing number work with the children and letting them write on the blackboard. We had a fast trip back through the village to the main centre for another sumptuous banquet, lots and lots of courses and all the beer we wanted, we couldn’t eat it all but the courses just kept coming. After more gifts back on the bus to Fuzhou. One pit stop on the way back was the only chance for photos.
Now back in our room with shoes and socks off! Pick up for dinner at 1800. Time for a walk so went to Fuzhou Plaza and as long as we gave way to anything on wheels we were fine. Generally tried crossing the roads with the locals. Nice plaza with gardens, ponds fountain, grass and trees. On the way back we checked out tea sets in a tea house but didn’t buy one.
Out to dinner with the English teachers from the no.8 middle school, Chinese hot pot, should be good. Turned out to be the peony restaurant and most of the senior staff turned up as well and they paid for all of us. Mr Chen, Christina and Caroline came too. Another wonderful banquet with dishes to share and personal dishes as well. Drinks were beer and walnut juice. After the banquet we went to a street market for ½ an hour and lo and behold a 2 yuan shop. Lots of people around but Maureen was the only person who bought anything and she bought 23 Olympic figures from the 2 yuan shop for her class. We crossed a bridge in the middle of the market and it smelled like a sewer.
Back to the hotel where had a presentation for Christina and Caroline as we were farewelling them. We sorted out the gifts John had been given so we could all help carry them. Now we are about to have a jasmine tea and then into bed. Pick up time 11.00 tomorrow as we have lots of packing to do.
We were on the 9th floor in the hotel but there was no 4th or 14th floors as 4 is considered unlucky in China.
Up around 0700 and down for a leisurely breakfast, plenty of guests at breakfast and we ended up in the smoking area. We are now back in the unit packing, or I should say Mary is packing and she did a wonderful job as everything fitted. When we were ready to leave we still had some time so we went for a walk around the block and ran into the Briginshaws who were doing the same thing. It is very interesting in the back streets with all the little shops. We called into a tea shop as Mary and Sue were obsessed with tea pots and we were looking for a tea set. While we were looking the girl in the shop made us tea and did not want payment. I insisted on giving her 10 yuan which embarrassed her and she gave us a small packet of tea each. There were lots of tea shops and nice tea sets but we did not buy anything and it was time to go back to the hotel as we had to leave at 1100.
The bus was loaded and the next stop was the Post Office to post some of the tea back home that we had been given as it was taking up valuable case space. It cost 240 yuan for the 30 day mail and it was extremely well packaged. Our next stop was our second visit to the Cloud Mountain Restaurant. Another great banquet which ended up with a sing song to the great amusement of the staff. A young fellow with a flash haircut received a ribbing from us much to the amusement of his female workmates. In most of the restaurants we ate in in Fuzhou we had our own room with its own toilet, with most of the toilets being the squat down type. On the way back to the bus I had a look at the live fish and poultry that was kept at the side of the building. Most of the restaurants had live fish on display. Our next stop was the railway station where we said our farewells to Chen and Christina.
The railway station was a big place and we eventually found our way to the correct waiting area. We were not there long and it was time to go down to the platform and board the train. The train was long and our carriage was near the end so we had a long hurried walk with all our cases. I did not even have time to photograph the train. The remains of other people’s suitcases were scattered along the platform. Our ticket said soft seats and they turned out to be bunks in the sleeper section of the train, mine was the middle bunk and Mary’s was the bottom one so we put our luggage on my bunk and spread ourselves on the bottom one. Sue had the other bottom bunk and a Chinaman had the other middle bunk and he is currently asleep and snoring. The train ride is to take between 4-6 hours and we left the station at 1359 which was on time, why 1359 and not 1400 I have no idea.
The railway line is following the valley of the Min Jiang River and there are good views of the river and countryside, lots of steep cuttings and tunnels but the windows are very dirty so any photos will be a bit ordinary. The train ride is very relaxing and smooth. The river is running quite fast but there are still dredges here and there to keep the channel open. I have lost count of the tunnels. We are just passing a eucalypt plantation and a fir or pine plantation and it looks like bamboo is the main weed species? The coupes are small and are clearfelled when the trees are not very big. We passed a sawmill in a town but could not see what they were cutting out of the logs. There are lots of market gardens around Jianou and soon after Jianou darkness settled in and so no more scenery. The train arrived ay Wyishan at 1930, five and a half hour train trip, well worth it, better than flying. We seemed to be a bit slower than the locals vacating the train and we had to battle people getting on. Our next guide Jenny was waiting at the station and we eventually loaded our cases on the small bus which looked new and had a TV. A twenty minute drive to our hotel (Wyishan Yuanhua International Hotel) and Jenny sang to us along the way, one of many sing songs over the next few days. First impressions are good, lots of marvellous wood work out of root boles etc. There was a bit of a hoo ha about the beds as we were given twin bed rooms, when we looked the single beds were big enough for the two of us, but they pushed them together anyway, the mattresses were harder than Fuzhou. We met in the lobby and went up to the first floor for dinner, as it was late we were the only ones there. Another good banquet with different dishes, but only tea to drink tonight. Maggie has decided to have a change in her life and has become a vegetarian, that now makes two as Rosemary is as well (who is next?).
After tea we checked out the shop and bought some water and then up to bed. We are on the second floor, so no need to use the lift. The hotel only has five floors and I noticed a 4th floor on the lift numbers when we travelled in it earlier, so not quite the amount of superstition here. Looking forward to tomorrow, we are being picked up at 0730, also plenty of shops nearby with the local woodwork for sale.
Up one minute before Thumper went off, made Mary a cup of tea and into the shower. Breakfast was good but different to the last hotel. There were only two milky drinks available and some of the dishes were spicy hot but we had plenty to eat and had a drink back in our room. The group has turned out well and we all get on, David is the joker, everyone is on time and not a grump among us.
We were all on the bus at 0740 and a short ride to where we boarded the Tschu Tschu Train at the Tianyu shuttle mounting area for the ride up to the start of the Heavenly Peak walk. A very imposing area with sheer cliffs and the Nine Bend River full of fish and rafts. Fishing is prohibited in the River in the World Heritage Area. We started the walk up Heavenly Peak but there are a few people feeling the steps and we had not really started, the weather is hotting up as well, it is a lovely day. After a group discussion Mary, the two Johns and I headed up Heavenly Peak with half an hour to get as far as we could and be back, so we were off. John B. dropped off the pace early and John H. a bit later. I took the pack off Mary and we went a bit further and a bit further and nearly reached the top just after turn around time. We copped a bit of abuse coming down against the flow as it was very narrow in places where the steps were cut out of the stone and there was wall to wall people coming up, so I sent Mary first. We were five minutes late getting back so we were not in to much trouble.
So then we all wandered back towards the shuttle area and on the way stopped at a monument for Zhu Xi a scholar who followed the teachings of Confucius. Then back on the train, then the bus and then lunch. The meals are a bit down market from Fuzhou but they are still OK, I think we were spoilt.
After lunch and a couple of different buses we ended up at wharf No 3 for the rafting trip down the Nine Bend River. The rafts were made of bamboo with seats tied on and then there were two polers and we were given life jackets and plastic over shoes to put on which I did not need as I had my sandals on and the water was a lovely temperature. The trip took one and a half hours and the scenery was spectacular. Our polers were racing the other rafts and I think they were showing us off as there were no other white people about. Going down the rapids the water would spray up through the bamboo and John and Sue got a little wet as they were in the front seats. Very friendly lot of fellow rafters, lots of hellos etc and lots of rafts, there is 600 rafts used on the river and each poler does two trips a day. We paid the polers a 10 yuan tip and we bought a photo of us taken on the way down the river for 10 yuan. While we were in China the exchange rate was around 6 yuan to the $A. When we reached the end we had a bit of a wait for the others and a Chinaman gave David a bamboo water pistol and they had a water fight and put on a show for everybody. When the others arrived we had a bit of a walk to catch the bus and it was very hot and Maureen was especially feeling the heat. On the bus and into town to a tea shop for another tea ceremony where we purchased 50g of Oolong Tea. After that it was back to the hotel for some R&R and back on the bus and off for dinner at 1640. Jenny brought along her daughter and some friends from Victoria called the Browns who were spending two years in Wuyishan teaching at the university and we were the first white people they had seen in six months. The meal was OK with a specialty of starlings or some small bird cooked whole, I did not try it. A whole chicken was also produced and we asked for it to be taken away and cut up, we also had fruit juice and four bottles of beer which we had to pay for.
After a chat it was back to the hotel where we bought some water and then went for a walk with John and Sue, most of the shops are open until at least 2200. We purchased a set of coasters with tea pots on them and an icecream each. Then it was back to the hotel and into bed, another early start tomorrow.
Woke up by Thumper at 0600 and down for breakfast at 0645 but the dining room not open until 0700 so we took our washing down to reception. We did most of our washing in the shower but it took explorer socks three days to dry so they went to the laundry along with jeans etc. A window table for breakfast this morning and a nice selection but some of the dishes to hot for me. It is nearly 0740 so time to catch the bus to Tiger Roaring Peak. We are having a different bus and driver every day at Wuyishan and this morning it was a bit late but it was only a short run up to the staging area where we caught another bus to the commencement of the Roaring Peak track. The rafts were already on the river so they must start around 0700.
John H. and I headed up over the top and the rest, with Maureen in a sedan chair went around the mountain. John and I were over the top before we knew it (there were icecream vendors there) and did not realise until we were well down the other side. It was nice scenery on an overcast day. John and I had a wander around the area where the female Budda was until Jenny came looking for us (we nicknamed her Kelpie) as someone said they were worried about where we were (tongue in cheek). It did not take long to catch the others along a wonderful track through bush with a small stream and small patches of tea plantation. Maureen tipped the bearers but they did not want to take it so they carried her a bit further, apparently they had plenty of rests on the way around the mountain.
The next stop was Thread of the Sky where it is said if you can walk through it you have a perfect figure. The Thread of the Sky is a narrow fissure in the rock up endless steps (Wuyishan the land of steps) and it is very narrow. I stopped to take a couple of pictures and when someone yelled out why we had stopped the Chinese person behind me told them it was a photo stop and there were no more complaints. After that a short walk to the bus.
When we were on the bus Jenny asked us if we would like a free foot massage and the answer was a resounding yes, so off to the foot massage parlour. We all sat around in a room and the staff brought in plastic basins of very hot water with some herbs in it for us to soak our feet. Then the masseurs came in. Mine started on my left foot and only after a couple of minutes she told me in sign language that I had a sore shoulder (which I have) and then another woman entered the room and gave us samples of Snake Oil to put on our sore spots and it worked a bit like Deep Heat. Then came the Doctor? And looked us over and because everything had to be translated we all know each others problems, so no more on that, what is said in the massage room stays in the massage room. Some of us bought things and I mine was a container of Snake Oil, so I have been conned by a Snake Oil Salesperson.
We all bounced out of the massage room rejuvenated and went off to lunch at a hotel where Jenny knew the manager and we had a nice banquet, probably the best one so far in Wuyishan. It began to rain while we were in the restaurant and the other thing to mention is that David has turned teetotal, this trip is a time for change! Back to our hotel for raincoats and then up to where the old tea is. Only light rain for a while but it got heaver and we sheltered in a café type place near the 350 year old tea bushes. While we were here Jenny purchased hard boiled eggs cooked in tea for us to try and they were pretty good. I had seen them at breakfast but had not tried them. The first pick of leaves from the old bushes is sold at auction in Hong Kong and raises lots of money for charity. The rain was getting heavier so it was back to the bus and back to the hotel to dry out.
Dinner was at 1800 and was a nice meal. At most meals we were served whole fish that we did not take to to well as we are spoilt in Tasmania for fish and the meals nearly always finished with a bowl of fruit which included tomatoes as they are considered a fruit in China. Nearly all the meat dishes are bony and the use of fingers as well as chopsticks is required. After dinner some of the group went to the English corner at the local university but we stayed behind and borrowed a brolly as it was still raining to check out the local woodwork again, but we did not buy anything. Then back to the hotel for tea and chocolates. We offered a tip to the doorman for the use of the umbrella but he refused it.
All our wet clothes are hanging everywhere in the room, coats hanging in the bathroom, clothes over light shades to get the heat from the globe and the never ending undies on the clothes line in the bathroom, the place looks like a Chinese laundry. The laundry we put in before we left this morning still was not back at dinner time so Jenny helped us sort it and then there was a circus to change a 100 yuan note to smaller stuff to pay for it.
There are 16 tour guides in Jenny’s company and 500 guides in Wuyishan. All the buses are owned by the same company and we never saw the same driver twice, Jenny just rang when we needed picking up.
Saturday 29th-Wuyishan to Xiamen
“The greenest energy is energy saved”
Woke up by Thumper but stayed in bed for a while, no rush this morning as we do not have to be ready until 0830. TV on for the first time. Breakfast was at 0700 with another nice array and then it was back up to the room and pack up as we are flying out later in the day. It rained most of the night and we heard the rafting trips are cancelled due to the amount of water in the river, so we have been lucky. We are going to an old village this morning via the post office as people have more goods to send home. It was interesting standing outside the post office waiting for the others. It is the ordinary part of Wuyishan near the CITS travel office. Seeing the motorbikes and trishaws with all their different waterproof covers and one girl stopped for a chat.
Back on the bus and off to the village, it is still raining and it was a twenty minute drive. Mary and I sat up the back of the bus; it was a bit bumpy but a much better view. This side trip was not part of the tour and cost us 100 yuan each and we also had a local village guide as well as Jenny. The tour was interesting, an old village with lots of old people, some in their 90’s. The village was dissected by a stream and it was not unusual to see vegetables being washed one side and rubbish being swept into it the other. Because it was a Saturday lots of villagers in their club room watching TV and playing card games and Majong. We actually were shown through some of the houses and each of them had their own shop and tea maker, Mary purchased two tea pots. The population of the village was around 2000. There were quite a few healthy dogs about but no old ones! There was one toilet available for us and it was 1 yuan each to use it.
Back at the hotel for lunch where we gave Jenny her gifts, card and tip and she brought along a bottle of her mother’s rice wine. The wine was very nice but powerful, but we still drank it between us. We brought our luggage down from our rooms and left them in a pile near reception and then down to the local branch of the China Bank for more money and a wander around the town in the rain, Mary tried on a jacket that was nice but it was to big.
On the bus again and off to the Spring Garden where the bonsai were magnificent and the hills in the mist only made it more so. The camera has had a workout today. We purchased lightweight coats and an umbrella this morning and the umbrella is worth its weight in gold for photography, especially with an able person to hold it. We stopped in at the Famous Person Museum on the way back to the bus and a fellow told us about the Yellow Mountain area being much better than Wuyishan, he kept David and I amused for a while.
Back on the bus and off to dinner at 1645. A very nice banquet with plenty of mushroom dishes, beef in ginger, vegetable dishes and plenty of tea. Jenny ate with us again which was good, she helps eat the whole fish which we do not like much. Back to the hotel after dinner to load our luggage and the next stop was the airport. Jenny organised all the tickets and there was no problems until we went through the X-ray machine, we had water in our back pack and John B. had his Snake Oil and pocket knife. They were good enough to wrap them and chase his bags to put them in, they would have been confiscated in Australia, we lost our water. After that it was into the café and gift shop where we ordered coffees, thought it was going to be 2 yuan but it turned out to be 40, so the rest did not have any. Time to stop writing and be sociable and talk to the others the plane should not be long. While we were waiting we all signed Maureen’s card as it is her birthday tomorrow, we had plenty of time as the plane was 30 minutes late boarding.
It was a quick flight and we were given water and a sweet bread roll with a sausage in it for a snack. After picking up our luggage we were met by Linda and Shun (driver). The Xiamen airport is very modern. Our new bus is a big comfortable one and it took no time to get to the five star hotel. The Xiamen skyline at night is wonderful and we drove past a new terminal for cruise ships and a hotel that has 1500 rooms. The rooms were sorted, no trouble with single beds this time, passports photocopied and off to our rooms. It is 2200 so time for a cup of tea and chocolates and into bed. We are only staying one night but are coming back here in two days time so we can leave a case behind.
Sunday 30th, Xiamen-Huken
“The meat comes from our own bones”
Thumper went off at 0630, so up and at’ em, the best bed but the worst nights sleep I have had so far, must have been that expensive coffee. Breakfast was very smick, rosemary counted 150 food items to choose from. We gave Maureen a hug and a kiss for her birthday and then into the food. I had pork schnitzel, sole fillets, omelette, potato bacon and onion, orange juice and then back for a waffle, Danish pastry, water melon, pineapple and more orange juice. John H. and Mary had a cup of tea but it was ordinary European tea and they both turned up their noses, we are being Chinesed. A girl on the front desk said the weather where we are going is much the same as Xiamen as she comes from the area. John H. is currently organising a cake for Maureen for tonight. After we packed our single case and left the other one with the concierge I photographed Maureen on the stairs with pink and purple balloons, she has a fetish for purple. It was then on our more comfortable bus and heading out of Xiamen in the fog. We have just been passed by a long distance sleeper bus, the first one I have seen. One new white goods factory we passed was three kilometres long and employed 10,000 people. Hills disappear to make room for factories and there are lots of mushroom houses. It took us two hours to drive out of the built up area. Every vacant piece of ground was taken up by banana trees. We stopped at a garage for a rest stop and had a banana and watched a woman making hats and I seriously wanted a photo of a long nose truck that looked like a large rotary hoe with a truck on the back.
When we started on the new concrete road into the mountains that was only opened two months ago there was some eucalypt plantations on the steeper country. We stopped for lunch at Shuyang, very nice, a market going on in the main street and Mary and Sue also bought jeans and trousers respectively. Further up the road there were lots of terraces with tea and grapefruit trees growing. We stopped to photograph our first Hakka house from among the grapefruit trees and David found one on the ground and proceeded to peel it but it was very dry. The next stop was a viewing point over Sungban village which has 100 families and 500 people. This viewing point was a commercial operation and we had to pay (Linda paid for us). The next stop was below the village for photographs.
We then visited a series of villages where we were taken to various houses where we were allowed inside. The Hakka houses were from 3-4 storeys high, the first floor was living, the second for storage and the third for sleeping; the fourth if there was one was also for sleeping. There were no windows in the first two floors and at the base the walls were 1.5 metres thick. The walls were made of sticky rice and clay and were reinforced with bamboo. All of the houses had at least one well and most of them more than one. We also walked through some villages including one that had a high school of 2000 children. We chatted to a few of the children and David gave the good English speaker one of our badges, also advice that girls do not like kissing blokes who smoked, so he threw away the cigarettes he had in his pocket. There was also an old lady plucking a duck.
Even though the road was new it was still very narrow, especially when another four wheeled vehicle comes along, all of the villages are in the bottom of steep little valleys and there is the occasional small hydro station. Our next stop was at a hotel in Hukeng for dinner, we arrived there at 1730 and had tea and peanuts until dinner was ready at 1800. Another nice banquet (becoming monotonous isn’t it) with pork, beef, snow peas, green veg, small fish, rice, beer etc. When we finished they cleared the table and brought in Maureen’s birthday cake, she had no idea at all. Between us, our guide and driver we nearly ate it all. We arrived at the Overseas Guest House five minutes after we left the hotel. It was up a back lane that the bus could hardly get through; we also bought water off our driver (three bottles for 10 yuan). We were handed our keys and we are on the bottom floor, all rooms are twins but the beds are pretty big, they are also hard so we have a doona on the bottom as well as the top. The rooms are clean, good shower, air conditioning and no traffic noise. We are cleaning our teeth and will go to bed and read, it is only 2000 but it has been a long day and we are all tired, breakfast is at 0730.
Monday 31st, Huken
Thunder and lightning rattled the place earlier in the night and as well it rained all night. Mary’s phone alarm went off at 0400, fixed that and back to sleep until 0630. The shower was ok and we turned up for breakfast at 0730, a bit different to yesterday morning. Linda supplied the breakfast which was fruit bread and strawberry jam, tea or coffee and an omelette. It was amazing how many never heard the thunder. After breakfast Mary and I went for a walk around the town, meat hanging on a hook, white goods shops, motor bike shops and we were offered a ride on a motor bike which we both declined, plenty of rubbish in the waterways. Now on the road again heading out of town and driving past terrace after terrace of tobacco plants. A bit of a hold up as Shun (driver) has forgotten his mobile phone, so back into town, but not up to the guest house as the road is very narrow and a bit of a struggle. On the road again and every square inch where something could be grown has something growing. Some of the crops we saw apart from tobacco were corn, beans, bananas, green vegetables, fruit trees and taro. Up in the mountains they can only grow one crop a year where on the coast they can grow two. We drove past a kiln making roof tiles and another making bricks, a small sawmill where the average log size was 15cm in diameter. Past streams where dredges are removing the sand for building materials and there has also been the occasional bush fire on the hills.
A good slow trip to Chuxi, 15kms of good road and 15kms a bit rougher but they were all concrete. We were able to stop almost anywhere for photos, the country is very steep, the road narrow and it has plenty of sharp corners. Every time we came to a sharp blind corner Shun would blow the horn to let anyone around the corner know we were coming as most of the traffic was on foot or on motorbikes and there were no rails to stop one going over the bank. The hillsides were strewn with tombs that the families maintained in the spring. The Central Govt. has banned tombs as they take up to much space but in the Hakka area not much notice has been taken.
We stopped at Chuxi and walked up a steep track to the lookout which gives an excellent view of the village. The second round house on the right is not lived in and is kept as a museum. At the lookout was a small temple built by a donation from one of the ex villagers that made good. After the lookout we had lunch at a local place that had dogs and cats running around. We were given a teapot full of warm sticky rice wine, which was pretty good and a selection of dishes including the small fish, but they were not as crispy as we liked, also chicken, vegies etc plus beer and tea.
After lunch it was over to the Hakka houses and a look through one that is still lived in and the museum which had lots of info. I purchased a book in a small shop where Maureen was keeping everyone amused with her bargaining. Light rain is falling and it is very cold, I am wearing shorts and have received lots of interesting looks and comments from the locals. There were a few other Asian tourists through the houses while we were here.
Back on the bus and back to Huken, when Shun was asked for some heat to warm the bus he said that big buses did not have heaters, only small ones. He had to stop to fill up with diesel and it was 5.6 yuan (about $1), he was only supposed to get 100 yuan but talked them into 200. The petrol stations are all owned by the Central Govt. and the price is the same all over China. The diesel is in short supply as we have seen trucks lined up at petrol stations in many places patiently waiting. We asked to go to a tea house when we arrived in Huken but there isn’t one so we are having a cup of tea at the guesthouse. The tea went down well as did the peanuts and the main topic of discussion was on restaurants and accommodation around Tasmania, between us we had seen a lot. I also changed into long pants and shoes and socks. After the cup of tea we went back to our room, put the air conditioner on and jumped under the doona and read until 1755 when it was time to meet and walk to the restaurant in light rain for dinner.
The restaurant was full of people, there was a wedding breakfast in progress that started at lunchtime and was about to finish at dinnertime. There were plates stacked up everywhere and looking at the tables we do not make much mess at all. The staff cleaned our table by wrapping up the mess in the plastic cover that was over the tablecloth and then put another one on. Began with a cup of tea and then three bottles of wheat beer (3.1%0 that tasted ok, then the dishes started coming, pork, chicken, beef, dried bamboo shoots, chicken kebabs (some discussion on what the meat was as it seemed to tough for chicken, so we asked) and a dumpling with meat and vegetables inside. Finished off with a little purple cake that Maggie gave Maureen (cut into 9 pieces), and plenty of tea. Walked back to the guest house in very light rain and John and Linda chased up tea bags for us. Now having a cup of tea and into bed soon.
Tuesday 1st, Huken-Xiamen
It has rained most of the night and we were woken up by a rooster crowing and two lots of crackers going off, we finally arose when Thumper went off. We had tea bags this morning so Mary was given her cup of tea in bed. Breakfast was at 0730 and consisted of the same as yesterday with rice porridge thrown in.
David and Linda played an April Fool’s Day joke on us by ringing in on Linda’s mobile saying he was from the Aussie embassy offering four days free in Xiamen for us to go to an art exhibition put on by an Aussie university as they wanted more Aussies to be there. We were all taken in and John and Sue were definite starters, we couldn’t and John H. was thinking about it. David owned up very quickly to avoid further disappointment and we then went off to pack our bags for an 0830 start. On the road again and it is a new one, some of the cuttings are very high and with all the rain there are rock falls all over the place. Now at Nanjjing for a comfort stop, it is still raining. Just after our rest stop there was a large funeral procession with mourners, musicians, large tributes and fire crackers. Out of the town there was hectare after hectare of plastic greenhouses and in the misty rain it looked like a large lake. We also passed a large duck farm. We arrived in Pinghe which is a large town at 1100 and were met by the Deputy County Chief for lunch at a very swish restaurant, another great banquet with porcupine and very nice wine. During lunch the Deputy talked about the problems with erosion because of all the pomelo plantations that were being established and in the afternoon after we left Pinghe we saw the extent of them, kilometre after kilometre of pomelo trees on both sides of the road and planted on terraces to the tops of the hills. It must have been a pain to do the picking and carrying.
We were going to another small primary school in the country and once again we had a black car in front with lights flashing. A reception with umbrellas at the school as it was still raining and ushered into a room for the speeches and gift giving. On the table was tea, loquats and bananas. After the speeches some students came into the room for a while and then we went into some of the classrooms and created a riot, Mary teaching numbers and me showing photos, kids were going everywhere. At the end we had a large group photo in front of the school and then back on the bus. The school did not appear to have much in the way of sports facilities and only had one computer. The toilet we used was in a private house behind the school. Lots of the kids wore the red bandanna around their neck which showed they were junior members of the Communist Party and were called Pioneers.
We were escorted back to Pinghe but that did not stop us stopping for a photo. A long trip back to Xiamen, mostly in the rain, arriving at around 1830 for dinner at the Bigong Hotel. When we arrived on the 4th floor restaurant Linda borrowed our photo album to show the blokes looking after the fish stand the lobster photos I had. Another lovely banquet, sweet and sour pork, very hot eggplant dish, very hot beef dish, potato and chicken, nice celery dish, chinese cabbage, whole fish, tofu, mustardy type dish, fruit, rice and the obligatory three bottles of beer which seemed to disappear very quickly. After a joke from Maureen about three ministers and one from David about a hitchhiker it was back on the bus for the five minute drive to the Millennium Hotel where we booked in, picked up our left luggage, washed a few things, charged a camera battery and went to bed. We are in an internal room so there is no road noise.
Wednesday 2nd, Xiamen
No thunder, no roosters and no crackers so an excellent nights sleep and up and at em at around 0630. Catching the bus at 0900. Breakfast was another gourmet delight, everything you could think of and a choice of four 100% fruit juices; I had missed my fruit juice in the morning. Five star hotels are wonderful; we had better make the most of it. Plenty of staff around and they all have some English. There are that many dishes it is very easy to keep going back, I have had to let my belt out one notch. Everyone ready at 0900 and a short ride in the light rain to the ferry terminal for Gulangyu Island. The ferry was full and it is very foggy as well, Linda thought they might stop the ferries because of the fog. We wandered around the Island which is pedestrian traffic only and looked at the old European buildings. It was where the Europeans had their embassies in the early days and now all the embassies are private houses or museums. Plenty of restaurants, dried fish shops little touristy shops but no T shirts, postcards or caps. We were shown through a piano museum where all the pianos were donated and the money for the building by a Chinaman living in Australia. The light rain had stopped but it was still foggy and on our wanders we had an icecream and visited a free museum to a famous Chinese lady doctor. Back on the ferry and we went upstairs, we were supposed to pay 1 yuan but we were let off. I took a few photos of boats in the mist but it was only a five minute ferry ride. We then had a bit of a walk along to the bus stop and all piled on our bus. We had not gone far and we could smell something burning, just as Linda was telling us about a local hero on the microphone. When we looked around we could see smoke coming out of the bus (oh bugger) so we stopped on a freeway that was out over the water. Our resident engineer (Biggles) looked over Shun’s shoulder and declared the starter motor cactus. We are now standing around waiting! These little interludes do give me a chance to catch up on my diary. The tile of this dramatic interlude was around 1300. The latest news is that there is another bus on the way; we will have a late lunch. Further excitement! We were all on the bus out of the wind when the battery caught alight, so off the bus again but Shun fixed that with the fire extinguisher, but the battery was now also cactus. A couple of minutes later another bus turned up and so we all piled on that, including Shun, the other driver was left dissolute with our old bus.
This banquet was also up to scratch (Maggie approves) with different dishes being battered eel, fried dumpling things, the prawns had a flower on the plate made out of meringue that looks a bit ordinary now after all the chopsticks and fingers had been in it. The duck was the best we had had so far. Now sitting back very replete.
Still foggy and on the bus again and out to the silk shop. We were shown how doonas were made and each sheet which helped make up the doona was made of sixty cacoons. After the show it was into the selling area where the credit card had a workout. On the way back we stopped at a fishing village where the tide was out but we saw women selling fish and a boat in the process of being built. We were also going to see a temple and the fish market but they have been cancelled as it is 1645 and people have had enough. There will be a better temple tomorrow. On the median strip on the way back to their was at least 30+ figures cast in bronze in different poses running a marathon (a marathon is run in Xiamen every year), including drink stops and photographers at the finish line, they were very well done but there was no photo opportunity. The amount of new skyscraper office buildings and resorts etc. along the waterfront is mind boggling. All we have seen in China is new building after new building (except in the Hakka area). They transplant trees up to five metres tall by the thousands and lots of larger trees, we still have the see fog. A lot of the money invested in Xiamen is from Taiwan. The fishermen are doing less and less fishing as the Government is buying up their villages for development. A tunnel from Xiamen to the airport is also being built. Xiamen is only about 15 square kilometres and Linda can remember when it was a nice quiet city and the only people allowed along the foreshore facing Taiwan was the military. On a clear day you can see the islands that belong to Taiwan. It does have some nice beaches.
Back at the hotel we are having a cup of the tea we were given yesterday and going on the amount we have to use we have been given enough tea on this trip to last the rest of our lives. Back on the very large bus to go to the Quaujiang restaurant, many of the dishes the same as other places, I had a few prawns tonight which were good, the whole fish was excellent and a couple of the fungus dishes as well. We were supposed to go to a Sichuan restaurant but the food is very hot and only a couple of the party would have liked it. Back on the bus and back to the hotel (40 minutes each way) in the heavy traffic.
A quick freshen up and then a walk up to Walking Street where there are heaps of shops and no traffic. Saw one fellow told off for riding his bike in Walking Street. I bought a meat cleaver and Mary bought cushion covers and a tea box with accessories, also a dragon for Tim. We walked back to the hotel and as we were about to get in the lift I asked Mary if she would like a piece of cake from the hotel’s wonderful cake shop, so we chose a piece and took it back to our room to have with a cup of tea.
Thursday 3rd, Xiamen-Quanzhou
Up at 0620 before Thumper went off, breakfast soon and then pack up to catch our old repaired bus to Quanzhou at 0900. On the road again and raining again, bumper to bumper traffic out of Xiamen, at present driving on one of the bridges next to the causeway that was built in 1957, another new bridge is being built next to it and then the causeway will be pulled up as the causeway stops the current around the Island and the Government spend heaps on dredging the wharf area and channel. We are now on the tollway and travelling well, lots of new buildings, roads, railways etc being built. The weather is clearing and the hills to the west can be seen. Driving into the outskirts of Quanzhou there was km after km of stone cutting factories cutting marble and granite and these are interspersed with buildings and market gardens. It is raining again and we are about to visit an old village (Cai) built in 1867 by a man for his ten sons, four brothers and himself. The buildings are built of stone and have beautiful wood and stone carvings. All paved with granite blocks, granite block fences, lovely brick walls and people are still living in them. Some of the buildings were damaged when the Red Guard came through. We crossed the Jinjiang River and we were in Quanzhou, next stop was lunch at the Golden Business Hotel, another banquet, a couple of new dishes, sliced spring rolls and noodles with oysters along with the usual, very nice, food was nice but the service was a bit ordinary, my stomach is getting used to three big meals a day. We are having a bit of a problem trying to get hot tea. What we have received so far has only been warm, after a bit of discussion with one of the staff a hot tea pot turned up but when it was poured it was only hot water. We only ate half our whole fish so David took the rest over to Linda and Shun who we eating nearby and they laid there ears back to it. Biggles and Mary have been playing with the mobile phones; Mary has finally sent a text message with only three days to go.
Back on the bus and onto the Chinese Museum which opened in 2005 where the Director showed us around. The museum consisted of four separate exhibitions on Chinese history in the Quanzhou area since pre-historic times. We then had a tea ceremony with the Director and then a look around their shop where we purchased a small tea set with dragons on it. The last thing was the obligatory group photo on the museum steps. It was then back to the hotel for a rest before dinner and the puppet show. We walked to the restaurant and dare I say it, another great feed, a different bony fish dish that was hardly touched, a dish of whole small squid that was good, the chicken and vegetable dish was nice and the suckling pig dish was excellent, although a bit fatty for some. The committee sorted out all the current conundrums and the restaurant we are in has people at all the tables, it has ambience, even if there is cigarette smoke hanging around. To get to the toilet we had to walk past the kitchen and there were at least three chefs in their gumboots going flat out over the woks and burners, I saw painted cray of a reasonable size in one wok. Out the back of where we were eating there were more separate rooms and all I saw had people in them, no wonder the chefs were flat out.
After dinner we walked around to the Puppet Museum which is privately owned. A fellow with a British accent called David welcomed us and after a bit of a look through their shop he gave us a brief introduction to the history of puppetry in Quanzhou which has been going for 1300 years and was introduced from Central China. Quanzhou specialises in string puppets but they do the finger puppets as well. The troop is visiting Melbourne soon and work is going on behind the scenes to get them to Tasmania. After the introduction we were sat down and puppeteer Mr Ling gave us a show of three acts with three different puppets, a drunken soldier, a lazy priest and a very energetic monkey, who among other things can ride a push bike. There were strings going everywhere and the puppeteer was perspiring heavily at the end of it but he really looked like he was enjoying his work. After the show a bit more shopping and then back to the hotel. After a bit of card signing it was up to our room where I deleted a few images as I am running out of card space. After the deleting I still have only 25 left on the current card and sixteen on a smaller card.
Friday 4th, Quanzhou
“It didn’t stay with me”
Our second last day and it started off the same as most others, up at 0630, Mary a cup of tea and then into the shower. Our room is overlooking the street and the city, it is foggy again. The breakfast room was full and the array of food was up to scratch, there was also a man playing the piano. The orange juice has gone back to the manufactured stuff, but anyway I am still as full as a tick.
On the bus at 0900 for the Maritime Museum which turned out to be the Kaiyuan Temple as rain is forecast this afternoon. A great temple that is supposed to be the best in Southern China and it was built in 686AD and has a 1300 year old Mulberry tree, but the Mulberry tree was fenced and very hard to photograph. The temple was very busy as it was a to commemorate the dead and kilos and kilos of paper money was going into the incinerator. I took a photo inside one of the temples and was growled at, there was supposed to be no photography inside the temple but I cannot read Chinese. When the Red Guard came through this area the local people shut the gates to the temple and told them it was a small factory, so no damage was done. As we left the temple to get back on the bus there were beggars, but they did not do any good, one of the beggars propositioned Linda to get money of us for him and he would share the proceeds.
Lunch was at the same place as yesterday, the tea was hot this time, food still great, two new dishes, one beef and snow peas that did not last long and a pork and tofu dish. We are now sitting around chatting. We never ate all the food that was put in front of us and the question was asked what happened to the scraps? Fed to the pigs was the reply. Our next stop was the Maritime Museum, well set out and the models of the different boats over the centuries were extremely good. Admiral Zhen He was mentioned and his trips were marked on a map, up the Arabian Gulf, down to Indonesia, up to Japan and Korea and into parts of Africa. A shame there was not a booklet on his journeys. To finish off the visit Shun was making tea for us and we sat around and talked and tried different samples of the food the museum shop was selling. Mary purchased another four cups to go with the tea set we purchased yesterday.
On the way back to the hotel some were dropped off at an old Mosque but we stayed on as Mary and Sue had the responsibility of purchasing the cake for tonight. On the way to buy the cake we wandered a few streets and checked out a second hand market and bought some Chinese cigarettes for Mathew to try. It was a hard decision on what cake to buy as they all looked so nice and within the budget, but between the four of us we managed it. On the way back to the hotel we had our shoes cleaned to get rid of the Fujian mud. It was quite an occasion and we drew quite a crowd and I am sure we were ripped off but it was all good fun. After that it was up to the Briginshaw room for a cup of tea and then prepare for dinner which was at 1800 tonight.
Our final evening banquet was delicious, two new dishes, one of frog that was very nice and another one of pink fatty meat. John H. and Linda purchased two bottles of Chinese wine in a supermarket for 45 yuan each and they were good, as well as two bottles of beer. Presentations were made to Linda, Shun and John H. and after the cake, which was enjoyed by all, the Lost Manuscript of Biggles was played out as a radio play to the enjoyment of everybody. It was written by John H. and we each had two pages to read and it had quite suttle overtones. After dinner it was back to the hotel where Mary and Linda collected our washing and then Mary, John H. and I escorted Maggie to the ATM. On the way back from there I photographed some of the lighted buildings and then inside the hotel we looked at an art exhibition and ended up buying one. Now we are packing the purchase and still packing things for tomorrow, soon time for bed, it has been a great last night in China.
There was a phone call late in the evening with the inference that we may want a lady for the night, Mary answered the second night and they hung up immediately. She knocked on David and Rosemary’s door both nights, she disappeared quickly when she saw Rosemary, but David did get the finger movements on what was for sale and the price, 200 yuan. John H. was tormented by phone calls late into the night.
I must mention the traffic. The blending of push bikes, scooters, motor bikes, cars, trucks and buses is amazing, not to mention the pedestrians. If you are a pedestrian you pick when there is not much traffic and wander across, all the vehicles go around you. Looking from inside the bus everything seems to be winding in and out, horns are blown to tell someone you are there, vehicles do U turns in the main streets and the other vehicles just wait, no one gets aggro and often vehicles will be in the middle of the road seeing which way they can go, vehicles stop in lanes to let people out and everything is bumper to bumper, no spaces are left between vehicles in the heavy traffic. We saw one accident since we have been here and that was a person knocked off their motor bike. It always seems to be close, but never touch. The Chinese have the patience of Job, I have not seen one hurry or rush since we have been here. China is definitely on the move, everywhere we travelled there were new roads, railways, office blocks, apartment blocks, road and railway tunnels, land being reclaimed, hills being removed for factories. It makes me wonder where all the skilled staff such as architects, engineers etc come from, but I suppose with 60,000 students at the university we visited as well as the 100’s of others spread throughout the country they are churning them out. The students themselves are also looking ahead with the middle school students trying their hardest to pass the exams to get into university. Also when you retire from the armed forces you are nearly guaranteed a job in the public service, even if there were no jobs there.
Here seemed to be mobile phone reception everywhere we went, even in the mountains was good for the Chinese, our phones were intermittent in the ability to text and talk. We saw people riding scooters and motorbikes and talking on mobiles, it dies not seem to be illegal in China. Only a few people were wearing helmets on the motor bikes and scooters. We were told by one official that it was going to take China 30 years to get their environmental problems into shape.
Saturday 5th, Quanzhou-Xiamen-Hong Kong-Melboune
Our last day in China started with trying to get as much of our heavy stuff into our small case so as to even the weight out and even using the spare space in the camera bag. The back pack was also choc a block. After that another good breakfast with plenty to choose from and the piano player tickling the ivories. After booking out while we were waiting to load the bus Maureen, Maggie and Sue purchased paintings from the art exhibition and super shopper Maureen beat the price down quite a bit.
Finally on the bus and our next stop was the Tianhou Temple (Sea God Temple) that was built in 1196 and is the oldest in Fujian. It is still in good condition as it was also protected from the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. It is very foggy today with very poor visibility. Our next stop was the Jimei School Village that was built by Chen Jia Gen for the community. It is a huge complex and has a high school, middle school and primary school. He made his money from rubber, banking and farming.
Then into Xiamen over the causeway with the new bridge that is being built on our right and it is a huge project. The causeway also has a railway line. Lunch was the next stop and it was at the restaurant where we had our first meal in Xiamen. Our last banquet was delicious, nice duck, crispy little fish (15cm), battered fish, sweet and sour pork, squid and green ginger, prawns, a soupy dish, chinese cabbage and a cold mushroom dish. Farewells at the restaurant with Maureen and Maggie driving off in a purple taxi (especially ordered by Linda) back to the Millennium for the night and then off for a boat trip up the Yangtze. And then there were seven.
It was only a short drive to the airport and then farewells to Linda and Shun and then into the sterile atmosphere of the airport, what a change from the hustle and bustle of the Xiamen streets. Now sitting in the departure lounge apart from David having Rosemary’s good scissors in his bag that were confiscated. Having a discussion on how many different dishes we have eaten. It was a quick flight down to Hong Kong and this time we were given a hot roast beef roll, a small cake, orange juice and jasmine tea. Said goodbye to David and Rosemary at Hong Kong, as they were going to stay an extra few days to check out old haunts. And then there were five. I bought a T shirt and a book on The Long March and John H. caught up with us (The East Coasters) while we were having a mango smoothie and he bought me an icecream. We are now sitting around waiting to board. We can actually see Hong Kong city today and the sky is relatively clear. Hong Kong airport is built on reclaimed ground out into the sea and is a very clean new complex.
The plane left on time and it was an uneventful flight with very little legroom, and that was for a shorty like me! Food was normal, a let down after the last fortnight and we dozed on and off. Now in Melbourne lining up at customs. We have our duty free booze and it is taking ages as they are X-raying everybody’s bags. Our wooden goods were given the all clear but my Tiva sandals were dirty from the Hakka villages and they are getting a treatment. The treatment is free because I declared I had dirty footwear. It took a while for the treatment so we sat in customs watching the world go by. They were eventually done and we caught up with the others who were wondering what had happened to us. We said our goodbyes to John H. as he was catching an earlier flight to Hobart (and then there were four). We had a coffee and then obtained our boarding passes to Launceston, it is only 0900 and we fly out at 1115. Through another lot of screening and they showed John why his boots beeped and then Sue set it off as well. The area was quiet so we had a good chat to the security staff. Now in the departure lounge, Biggles having a sleep and the rest of us reading. Virgin Blue on time, Simon on time and we dropped the Briginshaws at Binalong Bay at 1510 (and then there were two) and us finally home at 1520, tired out after nearly 24 hours travelling.