Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ancient town of Huanglongxi

25 October: A day trip to the ancient town of Huanglongxi. Today we took a taxi (100 RMB) with Fiona to the ancient town of Huanglongxi. The local buses were booked until noon and we didn't want to wait that long. We negotiated with a taxi driver, which Fiona said the 100 RMB was a fair price - $15 USD.I had read about this small town in my research. Not many Americans have visited this place, but I wanted to because I had read part of the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was filmed here. I wanted to visit a town that still had the feel of old China. It did in a way. The buildings still stand, although much of it has been renovated. Most of the buildings are two stories with ceramic rooftops and large pillars at the entrances. I would have loved to see the rooftops from above! Many buildings also had red lanterns hanging, as well as assorted flags written in Chinese characters.

This was a popular tourist destination site based on the crowds. We wandered the smaller streets, shopped a little, and just took in the area walking down the smaller streets. There were many vendors, which make it less than authentic. Still, we enjoyed our time here. I took many photos including those of the old folks. They all enjoyed the attention. Unlike yesterday with the many, many children asking for autographs, we had several that came up to us with their "hello!" One woman was holding her baby, a beautiful girl, so I took their photo. It's a keeper.

Near the river, to cross from one part to the next, is a short “walkway” that consisted of large stepping-stones. Reenie would have none of it and walked the long way around.

Along the way were old women with shallow baskets filled with baby rabbits for sell, but not to eat! One basket included a shivering and scared puppy. A pair of rabbits in another basket was nibbling on one lettuce leaf. I watched as they ate it quickly, almost kissing at the end when the reached the last piece of lettuce at the same time.

I saw three old women playing cards, which one had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. It was definitely a “kodak moment” that I captured.

There were lots of tables and chairs along side the river. A few people were having shoulder massages while others were having their ears cleaned with long metal prongs. I had seen this on the Anthony Bourdain show. No thank you! A few ‘cleaners’ approached me with prong in hand, and I politely said I don’t want it, “bú yào,” a phrase Reenie and I learned quickly for our shopping. Many people would repeat “bú yào” back to us, laughing, probably because they were surprised we knew this phrase.

While walking along, a young woman stopped Fiona (Reenie was off taking photos of the river area) and they chatted a few minutes. Next Fiona tells me the woman is in college and is doing a project and would I agree to being interviewed? Sure, which not! With a small video camera, she asked me a few questions, which Fiona translated. The main question was "How did you come to find this town?" I explained about my research for this trip, the movie I saw and that I wanted to visit a place that was relatively unknown to Americans. It was a short interview but it was fun. There were lots of people standing around watching the scene. I tell you, this trip has been a great experience and I have had fun interacting with the Chinese. They are wonderful, friendly people, especially the young ones.

Another time, two young girls came up to me and asked for my photo with them. This happened a few times on the trip. I had Reenie take my photo with them too with my camera. Thinking back, when waiting for Violet to buy our tickets for the Temple of heaven, I spotted two cameras in our direction. This also happened in Yangshou along the Li River where one man just walked up and stood beside me and posed for his friend.

Lunch was in a tiny hole-in-the-wall. I think we were eating tripe, which I have had before, but not my favorite food item. I asked Fiona a few times if it was tripe, but she didn’t know this word and kept saying it was part of the pig. Another dish we had, and I ate, was a sliced pork dish in a very spicy sauce, and soft tofu. This lunch was probably the one I didn’t care for the most.

We visited the small temple in town for just an RMB. I liked this one especially because of the gardens. There was also an old theatre stage, located on the second floor of one of the buildings.

Back in town, we took a taxi to a Thai restaurant for dinner, which was very good: Spring rolls, pad thai, and a curry chicken dish with green beans and mushrooms. We were served tea as well (129 RMB for the three of us).

Back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes to Fiona. She was really disappointed that she had other plans the next day and would have preferred visiting with us instead. Reenie and I really enjoyed her company. She told us a lot about Chengdu, China, and her own life. We enjoyed getting to know her and always felt comfortable with her. We both told her she had a place to stay if she ever came to the USA. If anyone needs a reliable, friendly guide, I will be more than happy to pass her information to you via email: mjpileggi

I have to say, despite the crowds and touristy feel of Huanglongxi, I did enjoy our time there and would recommend it as a place to visit. It was a very nice change from the cities we had already visited. Now I need to go watch Crouching Tiger and see what part of the town was filmed!

No comments: