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Hangzhou/ Shanghai, Day 14

Hangzhou, China

It was a tight day, there was a lot to squeeze in.
We started by hiking up Phoenix Mtn. and see herbs there. This was the last hike, so naturally we had to get separated as a group in order to keep with the tradition. It was a nice day out and the trail was lined with new slate tiles all the way. Robert grabbed a couple of samples to show us on the trail and later on the bus.

During lunch we all decided that while Hangzhou is a niced city, we were ready to move on to Shanghai earlier and wanted to all have a formal, final dinner together.
So we revised the schedule a bit.

Next we visited the West lake tea farm. Along the drive you could see all the tea growing on the hill side. Here we met some of the local farmers who pick the green tea leaves and pan-dry it for 8 hours each day by hand. It's an arduous task and explained why the tea is expensive to produce. Then we met "Dr. Tea" who then explained all the benefits of green tea as well as the various grades there of. He was a total salesman with animated demonstrations. The teas though, tasted nice. Of course, we had to buy some, since it is hard to find good quality tea in the US.

We then had to hurry to catch our boat ride on west lake. The day started off beautifully and continued that way while we were out on the water, the weather was perfect. The ride offered nice views of the surrounded hills which were dotted with pagodas and temples. In the distance you could see the modern city, a drastic contemporary contrast to the ancient buildings. It was a perfect snapshot of modern China.

After the lake, we had about an hour to squeeze in any last minute shopping at the promenade in town. there were lots of paintings, textiles, handcrafts and snacks to be had. So much to buy, so little time.

Then it was our last 3 hour bus ride to our final destination: Shanghai.
The city was all lit up. Shanghai is a city with the height of NYC, the width of LA and the electric light overload of LV. Our hotel was located right on the end of the "Bund," an area along the river where on one bank there are all old European colonial buildings and the other all skyscrapers made during the last 10 years. It was a great drive and a perfect introduction to the chaotic city.

We quickly checked into our hotel, which was all Art Deco and made in the 30's. Then it was nice final dinner together. We were all able to fit at one large table this time. After many toasts and thanks to one another we called it a night. it was great to wrap up the trip together this way. So much had happened in the past weeks, you could barely remember all the events. At this point, the traveling had taken a toll and most of us were exhausted. We had to prepare for the next day, check out and leave Shanghai at noon. A few brave souls walked around the Bund and checked out Shanghai's night life.

permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 28, 2005 from Hangzhou, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged Food, China, Herbs, Medicine, Nanjing, TeaHouse, Mountain, Hangzhou, TeaFarm, Phoenix, PhoenixMountain, Herbal, Tea, Boat, BoatRide, Lake, ArtDeco and Bund

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Tiger Leaping Gorge! Or, the near perfect day

Qiaotou, China

So much to catch up on...

Day One: Just about ideal. 9am bus, not too early, came right to our hostel so no sloshing to the long distance bus station and all for only 5rmb [81 cents] more than the public bus.

Bumpy ride to be expected in this part of the world. Mei ban fa [nothing I can do about it.]

Short walk from drop off point [that doubles as a bag storage service] to local restaurant for very good meal with two as yet unknown to me vegetables. [In this part of Yunnan, menus are rare. A refridgerated display case holds tubs of veggies that you point to then discuss how it is to be cooked. I do not understand all the cooking methods. When I don't, that's the one I pick!]

Hike started in perfect weather with sunny skies and fluffy clouds. Mountains visible from the start. We make the Naxi Family Guesthouse in 2 hours, the posted time.

Naxi family almost ignores us but does serve us Yunnan tea with a fresh mint leaf for a very nice flavor. They are in the process of giving a baby a bath. That involves heating the water over a fire, putting out interlocking foam pads on the concrete courtyard floor, and having clean blankets & clothes nearby. After rub down [what the pads & blanket were for] baby gets dressed and wrapped in a Naxi back carrier. It looks like a quilted blanket but there is a head rest sticking up from the center of the top and two very long straps off each of the top corners. It takes two adults to get the baby in place. Baby is wrapped in the quilt then the straps, that are now crossing infront of the baby, are draped over an adult's shoulders, then crisscrossed over the adult's chest making a big letter X. The straps are now at the adult's waist level where they are wrapped at the adult's waist to the back becoming a seat for the baby. One adult needs to hold the baby in place while all this wrapping is done. When done the adult walks the baby to sleep, the little baby butt sticking out over the waist wrap. Very clever!

permalink written by  prrrrl on March 8, 2012 from Qiaotou, China
from the travel blog: Yunnan, China
tagged Bus, Tea, Hike, Naxi, Baby, Menu, Local, Vegetable, Mint and Carrier

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TLG III Or, the not so perfect day starts

Qiaotou, China

Day two in the gorge seems so long ago... Today is Thursday, Day two was Tuesday. The plan was to hike to the second guest House away, a 4.5 hour hike that we had all day to do. No rush. Noodle soup for breakfast [I've stopped ordering noodles here as they really are a northern specialty, the noodles down here are just packaged pasta - not the homemade yumminess that they serve in Beijing.] Now for the most challenging part of the hike: 28 Bends, two dozen plus four switch backs [I did not count to confirm] with significant elevation gain. They were not the most fun for me, mostly because I had brought a chest cold with me and the air in my inhalations, under extra pressure of high elevation and under the weight of a backpack, were not finding the membranes of my aveoli as usual. Cough, cough, hack...

I was a bit dismayed to find that when we had accomplished this infamously toughest portion of the trail we immediately descended in altitude. All that gain in elevation was for naught? The rest of the hike was much easier. We made the first guest House [Tea Horse GH] hoping to stop for the hour Thai massage. It was closed! They served us complementary tea and we pressed on.

permalink written by  prrrrl on March 8, 2012 from Qiaotou, China
from the travel blog: Yunnan, China
tagged Tea, Cold, Massage, Elevation, Congestion, Cough, Bends and 28

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Tea party!

Dali, China

The poster in the room suggesting visiting a tea plantation as part of a custom tour where you hire a car for a day. Can I get there on public transit?

"Four kilometer walk from the bus stop."

"No problem, I can walk that far."

"The way is not marked; it will be hard to find."

"I speak enough Chinese and you've written down the location in characters. I can ask for directions long the way."

Short walk to the bus station. Inquired around for my destination and the first minivan was going my way. 3rmb [48 cents.]

The driver stops to let me out. I ask at the corner convenience store for the 'tea factory.' Straight up the road. Easy.

I found the tea factory but nothing of note was happening except renovations. "I want to see tea bushes." "Up the road to and to the left."

I did have to guess as when to go left. My first instinct was correct. Easy.

I did have to pass a gate guard house* where I wrote down my name. They also wanted my company and phone number. I suppose I could have made something up but I just said I don't have one for the first and that I forgot for the second. One asked about smoking. I thought maybe he was asking for a bribe. The other guard did not want me to pass. The first let me.

On I walked. I passed an electric grid substation and a nice but uninhabited compound. The stone road wound its way up the mountainside.

As last I saw rows and rows of short green bushes. Tea! I crunched up a leaf. No aroma. At the factory I was told that it was the wrong season. Further on many bushes were pruned of all leaves, just many gray stumps in a clump. Didn't matter - I've now been to a tea plantation in Yunnan. I walked on.

I passed a few rough and simple homes*, laundry & corn drying in the courtyard. I passed several graves* scattered about the tea bushes, all facing somewhat to the east.

Below me were towns, villages, factories and farmlands stretching to the lake, beyond which were low hills barely visible in the haze. Above me were snow-sprinkled mountain tops. Let's keep walking!

After some time I was passed on a motor bike by a local. I soon came to his destination. Not to many people on this road [I saw some power company people at the substation and no one since] and far fewer big noses, if any. He greated me and asked if I'd like some water or tea. I'm in Yunnan, the home of some of the finest teas in the world and I've just made a pilgramage to a tea plantation even though it's out of season... "Tea, please!!!" There was a small building consisting of open courtyard on the east and three small rooms across the west. The only entrance was from the south. Wanted and conduct posters told me it was a work station of some sort, not a home. The 10 people, 2 women and 8 men, were finishing up lunch, one dish still sizzling in the wok. They invited me eat! A huge pot of steamed rice sat on the table, enough for 20 more people. One gentleman took a thermos of hot water and rinced a bowl and pair of chopsticks. He wiped the rim of the bowl with his probably rarely washed fingers. I ate. I drank tea a few feet from where it's grown. I listened to them laugh hartily, probably at me some of the times. They seemed a happy lot.

Three started singing in turns, each turn being lengthy. I assume it was a tradition Chinese ditty but there must have been some improvisation as one line was sung directly to one gentleman and everyone but me roared in laughter.

But I must return to civilization and end my lovely walk and visit at the foot of the mountain*. Sigh...

Twas super easy day. I walked many more than four kilometers just because it was such a beautiful day with the blue-est skies* I've ever seen in China. It was quiet and wooded - perfect recipe for a walk. When I returned to the hostel I drew a map of my route so the next tea aficionado can make the same trek. So if you're ever in Dali and want to see the tea plantation just go to the Jade Emu and ask for Jan't map. I signed it.

  • Photos coming soon.

  • permalink written by  prrrrl on March 13, 2012 from Dali, China
    from the travel blog: Yunnan, China
    tagged Mountain, Tea, Blue, Easy, Walk and Invite

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    Hygiene disaster averted!

    Dali, China

    During my lovely visit amongst the tea bushes where I was enjoying a local brew I almost had too much hospitality. My cup had cooled a bit so I decided to pour it into my almost empty water bottle. One of the gents saw this and that my water bottle was still not refilled. He took his tea bottle and with out asking started to pour his tea into my bottle. "Enough, enough!" I have have enough tea, thank you. Not a drop of his made it into mine. If you've ever been to China you'll understand...

    permalink written by  prrrrl on March 13, 2012 from Dali, China
    from the travel blog: Yunnan, China
    tagged Tea, Hygiene, Germs, Gent and Hospitality

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    In no particular order... Today's events

    Beijing, China

    Why do we take pictures? To remember an event? To document atrocities? To sustain awe of beauty? Why did the fluent English-speaking Chinese gentleman clandestinely take mine after helping me decipher which subway stop would bring me close to the wholesale tea market? Surely with his language skills he had talked to foreigners before. If only he had silenced his smart phone I would have never known.

    permalink written by  prrrrl on September 25, 2013 from Beijing, China
    from the travel blog: Liaoning, 2013
    tagged Tea, Pictures, Photo, English, Documentation and Clandestine

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    I'll take the one at the back, please.

    Beijing, China

    I was once surrounded by a dozen water vendors. The ones that pressed in close were animated and loud, waving the bottles in our faces. The ones at the back were quiet. I chose a vender at the back. Succumbing to the pushy tactics breeds more pushiness. It's like rewarding a puppy when they are well behaved rather than punishing them when they are naughty. On a similar note, I like to find the shop that is out of the way and not on the main drag. Those back shops appreciate their customers, are friendlier and tend to give better prices.

    Yesterday I learned there was a wholesale tea market. How did I not already know that?? Even with a time crunch of having to get my buddy to the airport, I made a side trip to the tea market. The shop I selected was the last one behind down a short alley and not even visable from the street. The two women were very friendly and poured me lots of tea. I bought $100 worth of tea! It's enough to last me a while, though. It's definitely a neighborhood & shop I'll be returning to.

    permalink written by  prrrrl on September 25, 2013 from Beijing, China
    from the travel blog: Liaoning, 2013
    tagged Tea, Wholesale, Vendors, Friendly, Pushy and Reward

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