AN HUI PROVINCE: Apr 2009
Hooray, Spring Vacation! With brother Richard and friend Aggie, we spend a week touring ancient villages, climbing mountains, eating great food and discussing cultures, traditions, governments, economies, families and anything else that makes the world go round!
Ann’s brother Richard arrives in Nanjing from New York, USA ready to do some traveling and have an adventure. After a couple of days of wandering around Nanjing, along with our firend, Aggie, we board an overnight train and head down to the An Hui Province.
It’s our first journey on an overnight train in China - we have a snug little compartment with 2 sets of bunks and a tiny table in between. It’s only a 6 hour journey and it’s already late at night, so we bed down and try to catch a few winks before we have to disembark. The bunks are actually quite comfortable and before we know it, it’s 5:00 AM and time to get off. We alight to a thick fog and the sun not quite ready to rise yet. We taxi to the hotel but it’s way to early to check in and too early to find any restaurant open to serve us breakfast. So starts our first food adventure by having a street-food breakfast of huge fried dough sticks and rice porridge. It’s a great blessing to have Aggie, a teacher at our school and a native Chinese speaker, along to do all the talking!
So, it’s off to tour some ancient caves. The fog is still so thick that we can’t see from one end of the walking bridge to the other, but it gives a surreal effect to our journey. This region of China is peppered with many huge caves - some above ground, some under water. All the caves have been excavated by humans but the reason for their construction has been lost to history. There are no evidence of fires that would mean habitation, and no evidence of the gazillions of tons of rock that was removed, and the smooth walls, support pillars and overall construction indicate some pretty sophisticated engineering. Were they excavated for the rock that was taken from them, were they to be some emperor’s tomb, were they to hide an enormous army, or did aliens have some plan for them? Even the experts don’t know, and they keep finding more of these caves that are half submerged under water. By mid morning the fog has cleared and the sun is casting sparkling rays on spider webs and water droplets on plants.
That evening we eat at the “Number 1 Great Restaurant” (how is that for the confidence of the owner) and all agree that it will be a favorite for life! Yummy, yummy, yummy!
The next day we taxi out to a small mountain - cable car up, wander around the village, eat lunch and hike down (probably not a good decision as we wreck our calf muscles before we even tackle the big mountains!) The rape fields are in full bloom and make a carpet of yellow all over the valley. Tea plants cover the slopes and everywhere, everyone claims to have the “best” tea for sale. We get a foot massage that evening, but we all scream with pain and some laughter when they try to massage our sore calf muscles.
The next couple of days we are off to tour some ancient villages and bonsai gardens. The villages are a photographer’s dream - contours, doorways, textures, angles, reflected water, archways, tiled roofs, carvings... It’s cold and dark throughout the village - narrow pathways between buildings, massive walls, few windows, concrete everywhere - even the brilliant sun can’t find much to warm up except for the large common areas - life was not easy in ancient days. We see the village where the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was filmed and then have to watch it again when we get home. It’s fun to say “yes, we were there!”
Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) awaits us. The Chinese say that once you have seen Huang Shan, you don’t need to see any other mountain. We hired a driver to take us to the foot of the mountain and then catch a magnificent cable car up the remainder of the way. A short hike brings us to our hotel for the next couple of days. Huang Shan is magnificent and is a popular tourist destination. As we look at the number of people around, Richard wonders what the special occasion is - but there is no special occasion - if fact it is not a national holiday and it is in the middle of the week - it’s just China with more and more people having the income to be able to travel. In spite of the numbers of people, we hike and hike and enjoy our time there. The days are warm and sunny, but there is still a big chill as soon as the sun goes down. There are lots of good discussions in the hotel rooms - wrapped up in blankets and jackets provided by the hotel. The heat gets turned off on a certain date in China- doesn’t matter what the weather!
Back to our day 1 hotel and eating at “Number 1 Great Restaurant” once again! Richie buys a fan for Mom and the artist composes and writes a poem on it - he signs it in Chinese with translation “The Drunken Calligrapher”
Back on our little train cabin for the trip back to Nanjing, we pass the time (a day trip this time) with napping, reading, eating...
While we go back to work, Richie has a couple of days to fly up to Beijing - explore the subway system, stay at a hostel, walk the Great Wall, watch the amazing Acrobats and wander around the Forbidden City. He’s ready to come back again next year!