Daily Archives: October 5, 2014

the seven star tea plantation and return to yangshuo

Sunday, October 5: After Vivian and I finally leave her brother’s house, we zoom down a dirt road along a steep drop-off at what I think is a perilous speed.  No matter.  Vivian is an excellent motorbike driver at any speed.  She tells me that when her husband rides on the back of her motorbike, he’s always chastising her for going too fast.  When she rides in his van with him, she’s always haranguing him about his speed. We both agree that when we’re not in the driver’s seat, we always think the driver is going too fast, no matter the situation.  That being said, I don’t get too nervous with Vivian even when she does go fast, except on the one little stretch as we leave her brother’s house, where it’s a downhill bumpy dirt road with that vertical drop-off.

We’re heading back the way we came because Vivian had earlier pointed out a tea plantation on a distant mountain and I asked if we could go there.  We head toward Yangshuo but take a side road to get to the plantation entrance.

Before we get to this detour, Vivian stops on a short stretch of road and asks if I’d like to drive the motorbike.  I’d liken it to learning to ride a bike for the first time.  I start in fits, not accelerating enough, and then accelerating too much. I don’t topple over, but I don’t feel comfortable either, especially not enough to drive on these mountain roads with Vivian on the back.  I hand over the handlebars to Vivian and we continue on our happy way.

According to the Yangshuo Insider, Seven Star Tea Plantation is about 12 km north of Yangshuo “on the scenic and hilly village road to Husband Mountain and ancient Stone Village with views across the Li River Valley, rice fields, and kumquat orchards and lots of fresh air.”

Finally, the mystery of the small oranges with edible peels is solved.  The orchards all over the mountains north of Yangshuo are covered not in orange orchards but in kumquat orchards.  I’m so glad I stumbled upon this piece of information in Yangshuo Insider, because I was quite perplexed about the fruit that Vivian was describing.

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

The Seven Star Tea Plantation offers a tour and the opportunity to pick and dry the tea in the traditional way followed by a tea tasting and introduction to the Chinese tea ceremony.  I’m not really interested in all of that today.  I just want to walk around the plantation.  There’s a huge tasting room filled with Chinese families, but I just buy the ticket to the plantation and we hop on Vivian’s motorbike to go up to the top of the mountain by dirt road.

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation outside of the tasting room

We hop off the motorbike and head up a stepped walkway to the top of the hill.  Vivian makes herself comfortable on one of the steps and tells me to take my time.  I walk around looking for good vantage points.  The views are marvelous.  The tea bushes are lined up in neatly trimmed rows on the mountainsides and, down below, I can see farmland, mountains and the karst landscape in every direction.

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Some people have donned the conical hats offered by the plantation and are picking tea.  Vivian has shown me that only the most tender shoots are the ones to be picked.

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

I come upon a gazebo that has seen better days.  At the top of the decrepit steps is a hole in the floor, and the structure is leaning like the Tower of Pisa.  I wouldn’t make the mistake of climbing in for a view, although it’s tempting.

the leaning gazebo at Seven Star Tea Plantation

the leaning gazebo at Seven Star Tea Plantation

I pass whole families picking tea in their cute little hats.

Tea pickers in conical hats at the tea plantation

Tea pickers in conical hats at the tea plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation with karst landscape in the distance

Seven Star Tea Plantation with karst landscape in the distance

I love tea plantations.  They’re so picturesque.  This is the first plantation I’ve seen in China, but I visited the Boseong Tea Plantation in Korea two times:

digging deep: edgy korean bus culture, tea bushes & wetlands, & the surrendered

alex in jeollanam-do: suncheon bay, tea plantations,& songgwang-sa

Finally, Vivian and I make our way back to Yangshuo and the hotel.  At the end of our tour, she tells me her odometer measured our trip at 80 km.  My behind and my back are feeling every bit of those 80 kilometers, so I’m happy to get off that bike.  It was great fun all around though.  Though I was a little annoyed by the stop at her brother’s house, it was an experience to see how rural Chinese families live.  And on top of that, I got to watch some Chinese daytime drama on TV. 🙂

After our tour, I return for an early and quiet dinner to Rock-n-Grill, where Audrey and her friend Sarah took me on Friday night.  The food doesn’t seem nearly as good as it was that night; without the wine and the great company, it paled by comparison.

Tomorrow evening, I have to head back to Nanning.  Before I go though, in the morning, I’m planning to take a bamboo raft down the Yulong River.

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Categories: Asia, China, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Li River, Motorbike tour, Rock-n-Grill, Seven Star Tea Plantation, Travel, Yangshuo | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

a motorbike ride through orange groves to xianggong hill

Sunday, October 5: I hop on the back of Vivian’s motorbike at 10:30 a.m. for our tour of the countryside north of Yangshuo.  It takes us a while to make our way out of town, but we’re soon out in the midst of rolling mountains covered in orange groves.

Life on the back of a motorbike

Life on the back of a motorbike

Farmland north of Yangshuo

Farmland north of Yangshuo

view from a mountain road

view from a mountain road

Orange groves on the mountains

Orange groves on the mountains

orange groves

orange groves

Vivian tells me these are small green oranges that you eat without peeling them, but I can’t think of what kind of oranges those might be.  She tries to think of the English word and comes up with clementines, but I know clementines to be orange and they have to be peeled.  I’ve seen green oranges here in China; the peel is green but the insides are orange, and they’re a little more sour than your typical orange.  But they have to be peeled and they’re not that small.  When I look up Yangshuo fruits online, I do find Mandarin oranges.  Maybe that’s what she means, although Mandarin oranges I’ve seen have orange peel which must be removed.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for these “small green oranges that you don’t have to peel.”  I’m not sure if this is simply a communication problem; maybe she doesn’t know the words to say what she means, or maybe there really are oranges such as these.  Look hard and you can see the oranges on the trees below.

green oranges

green oranges

neat rows of orange trees

neat rows of orange trees

mountain views

mountain views

more farmland

more farmland

The mountains in this area north of Yangshuo are not quite as jagged as the karst peaks that are ubiquitous throughout Guilin.  Nonetheless, the karst landscape is always in the distance.

I have so much fun riding on the back of the motorbike, feeling the breeze in my hair.  Most of the time I hang on to the bar behind my seat, but Vivian tells me it’s okay to hang on to her waist sometime.  She’s so tiny, I feel more secure hanging on to that bar.

Vivian stops the bike at a pretty valley for some amazing views.  Another young Chinese couple on another motorbike stops to chat with Vivian.  They offer us both drinks and cookies, a welcome snack.

a pretty little valley

a pretty little valley

I love the neat little road that hugs the bottom of one of the mountains.

the winding road into the valley

the winding road into the valley

We continue on zipping along the curvy and hilly road.  Luckily out here in the countryside there aren’t many people.  It seems we’ve escaped the crowds for the second day in a row!  I love being out in the middle of nowhere.

Vivian stops at yet another scenic spot for pictures.  Here is a stunning view of the Li River and the surrounding karst landscape south of Xingping.  Studying the map after our ride, I can see the general area where we were, but I don’t know the exact names of the viewpoints.  I wish I did.

a glimpse of the Li River south of Xingping

a glimpse of the Li River south of Xingping

Li River view

Li River view

me the motorbiker!  haha!

me the motorbiker! haha!

Li River

Li River

We hop back on the motorbike again.  It’s so strange on this holiday how I feel no fear.  I love this feeling of freedom, of the wind rushing over my skin, through my hair.  I don’t have a helmet on and I don’t care.  I’m actually glad to just feel the air on my face without the burden of a helmet.  I don’t even know Vivian, but I’ve put my life in her hands.  I feel like I’m 20 years old and I’m wild, like Easy Rider.  Ha!

crazy rock formations

crazy rock formations

We come to yet another scenic view.  It might be Dalingtou, it might not.  I don’t know but it’s gorgeous.  Every time we get back on the bike I think I can’t possibly see a better view than the one we’re leaving, yet, we find another one around the next corner.  If I made Vivian stop the bike every time we saw a view, I’d still be making my way through the mountains weeks from today.

Dalingtou, or not!

Dalingtou, or not!

another stunning view

another stunning view

peaks as far as the eye can see

peaks as far as the eye can see

another stunning view

another stunning view

Finally, we arrive at our destination, Xianggong Hill.  We pay a fee to get in.  I can’t remember how much it is but for sure it’s more for me than it is for Vivian, I think around 40 yuan.  Vivian decides she’ll accompany me to the top of the hill.  Maybe it’s a mountain.  I’m not sure; I’ve seen it called both.  There are hundreds of stone steps to the top, and as it’s now afternoon, we get pretty heated up as we make the climb.

According to YangshuoChina.com: Xianggong Hill: “Xianggong Hill is located on the west bank of the Lijiang River between Huangbu Shoal and Nine-Horse Mural Hill. An ascent of the hill is rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the Lijiang River winding through countless peaks.”

The brochure says: “Xianggong Mountain is named because it looks like a xianggong who wears official costume.”  I’m not exactly sure what a xianggong is, but I can imagine some officious looking Chinese character.

At the top, we can see a fabulous view of the Li River as it makes its way from Yangdi (north of us) toward Xingping, to the south.

Below is the view to the north and east.  To the north and across the river is the Nine Horse Fresco Hill, which I think is a cluster of nine peaks.  Maybe it can be identified better from the boat.

Scenery to die for

Scenery to die for

Looking north and west from the hill are peaks with legendary names such as Lion Hill, Chicken Cage Hill, Grandpa Watching Apple, Pen Holder Peak, Carp Wall.  Across the river to the east and north are hills such as Lad Worships Goddess and Wave Stone View.  All of these fanciful hills are between Yangdi and Xingping, where I went on my raft trip on my second day here.  I think if I had gone on the English-speaking cruise, I might have learned these names, but since I had only a Chinese-speaking boatman and Chinese boat mates, I was left clueless.

looking south from Xianggong Hill

looking north and west from Xianggong Hill

view north from Xianggong Hil

view north from Xianggong Hil

Looking south down the Li River from Xianggong Hill is what the map calls the “CNY 20 Banknote View,” which you can see in my previous post about my raft ride down the Li River: a raft trip down the li river: yangdi to xingping.

view south toward Xingping

view south toward Xingping

We can see the busy boat traffic on the river below.

Looking across the river to the village of Mashan

Looking across the river to the village of Mashan

northerly view again

northerly view again

Mashan view again

Mashan view again

last view toward Xingping

last view toward Xingping

Vivian and me on Xianggong Hill

Vivian and me on Xianggong Hill

We enjoy the breeze at the top of the hill.  I must take nearly a fifty photos that end up all looking alike.  Finally we walk back down the hundreds of steps to the bottom where we find a huge rock which must be some identifier for the hill.

Xianggong Hill marker??

Xianggong Hill marker??

Vivian has been telling me about her family as we’ve been riding.  Her hometown is in this area.  She grew up here and walked an hour each way to school every day.  She and her husband made the choice to live in Yangshuo because the job opportunities are better in town.  Her brothers, however, have remained in the countryside.  Because it’s so much cheaper to live outside of town, her brothers can afford to build new houses.  Vivian wants to take me to the newly built home of one of her brothers, which isn’t totally completed.  Below is Vivian in front of her brother’s house.

Vivian's brother's house

Vivian’s brother’s house

I thought we were just dropping by the house briefly, but apparently Vivian has plans to eat lunch here.  I don’t know this is part of the deal.  We have a seat around a table in a big open-air room, sort of like a garage, where her sister-in-law, some neighbors, and some children are gobbling down what Vivian calls soy beans but what I know as edamame, as well as peanuts, pomegranates and oranges.  They’re tossing the shells and peelings all over the floor.  I follow suit and do the same, tossing my shells on the floor.  The soy beans are quite good but hot, so I burn my fingers a bit.

I can’t help but think of the saying, When in China, do as the Chinese do.

snack time :-)

snack time 🙂

Everyone is engrossed in a dramatic Chinese daytime drama on a big screen TV.   There’s a lot of moaning and groaning and crying in the show, as well as overly dramatic gestures.  Of course I don’t understand a thing that’s going on.  It’s taking place in a hospital and someone seems to be in a coma.  Many of the characters are wearing hospital gowns but some are in street clothes.  One of the women keeps getting on her knees and pleading with an older woman who might be her mother.

I get a little break from the daytime drama when Vivian gives me a tour of the new part of the house.  The walls aren’t painted yet, but the floors are all marble and seem lovely.  However, there are food peelings and rubbish strewn all over the house, which people are living in while it’s being constructed.  I don’t want be rude by taking pictures inside the house, but I do take an outdoor shot overlooking the brother’s farmland and the village.

Vivian's brother's property and their village

Vivian’s brother’s property and their village

Back in the open room, the daytime drama is my only entertainment as Vivian and the others are chatting with each other and bustling about.  No one speaks any English and of course I speak no Chinese.  My fingers are rather raw from the hot edamame, so I’m sitting in the midst of all the shells and peelings.  The folks are laughing and talking around me in Chinese, and I smile at them when they look at me. I feel like some idiot child in their midst.

Chinese daytime drama on a big screen TV

Chinese daytime drama on a big screen TV

After we sit for what seems like an interminable time, Vivian tells me we’re going to have lunch here.  Warily, I ask what they’re having.  She says seafood.  I usually like seafood, but not calamari or octopus or anything chewy.  After a bit, I ask if I can use the bathroom, and I walk through what looks like a big open room with pots and pans and squat stools placed around two huge cauldrons of boiling stew.  I get a glimpse of the stew and realize as soon as I see it that I won’t be able to eat it.  I have no idea what kinds of meat or seafood are in that stew, but it looks and smells like something I won’t like.  I’m very picky about my meat and seafood.  I always want every bit of fat, skin, or gristle cut off, and I want the meat removed from the bones.  Some of the seafood I’ve accidentally eaten in Asian countries, such as Korea or China, has been like rubber; I’ve spit it out after gagging on it.  I think there is some of that rubbery stuff in the stew.  I have to make an excuse to get out of the meal, so I tell Vivian I’m sorry I can’t eat the stew because I’m a vegetarian.  I’m not really, not as a matter or principle anyway, but I do eat a lot of vegetarian meals in China just because of the quality of the meat.

I’m sure Vivian must wonder if I’m telling the truth, because I didn’t mention my “vegetarianism” when she first mentioned the lunch of fish.  I feel bad but I simply cannot sit around that cauldron with people spooning that soup into a bowl and expecting me to eat it.  So I sit quietly with the children in the big room while the adults eat around the cauldron of stew in the other room.  I watch the daytime drama and wait.  And wait.

sitting with the children while the adults enjoy their cauldron of fish stew

sitting with the children while the adults enjoy their cauldron of fish stew

Finally, the lunch is finished and Vivian says it’s time to go.  Thank goodness!  I take a farewell shot of the brother’s property and his rooster, and we’re on our way.

cock-a-doodle-doo!

cock-a-doodle-doo!

I happy to be back on the motorbike again.  Next stop, the Seven Star Tea Plantation. 🙂

 

 

Categories: Asia, China, CNY 20 Banknote View, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Li River, Motorbike tour, Nine Horse Fresco Hill, Travel, Xianggong Hill, Xingping, Yangdi, Yangshuo | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

a morning walk & breakfast in yangshuo

Sunday, October 5:  I’m supposed to meet Vivian at the hotel at 10:30 this morning to go on a private motorbike tour of the countryside north of Yangshuo.  Before our meeting, I walk into town to find some breakfast.  I’m pleasantly surprised to find the town is just waking up and the streets are practically deserted.

on Xianqian Jie

on Xianqian Jie: The Yangshuo Climbing Festival

Deserted Xianqian Jie

Deserted Xianqian Jie

the cute little coffee shop with a gecko server

the cute little coffee shop with a gecko server

Even Xi Jie, better known as West Street, normally packed with people, has just been washed down and is practically empty, except for a few early birds like me.

Xi Jie, or West Street.

Xi Jie, or West Street.

I decide to indulge in the breakfast buffet at Rosewood Cafe.

Rosewood Cafe

Rosewood Cafe

Breakfast buffet at Rosewood Cafe

Breakfast buffet at Rosewood Cafe

Still life over the buffet

Still life over the buffet

little pond in the center of town

little pond in the center of town

pretty little bridge

pretty little bridge

I continue to stroll through the town, enjoying the peace and quiet.  I even find some people walking around in their pajamas.

Click on any of the photos below to see a full-sized slide show.

Heading back toward the hotel, I pause along the Li River’s edge to see what’s happening.

waterfall

waterfall

the bamboo boat man

the bamboo boat man

The Li River on a Sunday morning

The Li River on a Sunday morning

over the moon

over the moon

Li River

Li River

stepping stones

stepping stones

Li River & karst landscape

Li River & karst landscape

I’m excited about my motorbike tour.  When I get back to the hotel, I gather up my camera and my bag, and meet Vivian for a full-day of exploring.

Categories: Asia, China, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Li River, National Holiday, Rosewood Cafe, Travel, West Street, Xi Jie, Yangshuo | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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