Seven Star Tea Plantation

mike’s reflections on china

In late January, my husband Mike traveled from Virginia to visit me here in China.  We went to Hunan province, where we visited Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie, and to Guangxi, where we visited Guilin and Yangshuo.  I was disappointed for him because we had horrible weather for nearly the whole time he was here.  His one and only experience of China was a rainy, fog-enshrouded, cold and gloomy one.  In his reflections below, you can see that despite our hardships, he managed to see the experience as a positive one.  This was more than I could say for myself, but then I’ve seen better days in China.

Mike eats dumplings at the Red Sign

Mike eats dumplings at the Red Sign

Here are Mike’s reflections, along with some of the photos he took.

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After Cathy decided to go to China to teach this year she suggested that I should plan on visiting and traveling with her on one of her breaks. My initial reaction was less than enthusiastic. My first inclination is to plan relaxing, stress-free, outdoorsy vacations away from crowds and the fast-paced life I deal with in the DC suburbs. After giving the idea some thought and talking more with Cathy, I committed, leaving the planning to her, providing feedback on trip options when asked. I am an avid reader, like Cathy, and have an interest in cultural anthropology and world history, which I get from a fictional and non-fictional perspective. In addition to having the opportunity to spend some time with my nomad wife, I would see firsthand how one in five people on our planet live.

a wedding in the streets of Fenghuang

a wedding in the streets of Fenghuang

I knew from the outset that this trip would be a challenge, starting and ending with the long time-zone crossing flights halfway around the globe. From Cathy’s early travel experiences in China I knew that our in-country travels would not be easy. Neither of us are much on tour groups, preferring the freedom to move about at our own pace, surrounded by local folks, being forced to figure things out on our own. That‘s half the adventure. The apprehension we felt every time we ventured out to our next destination was rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and relief upon arrival. I came with no expectations other than to relish the uniqueness of China. Cathy put a lot of time and energy into our itinerary, hoping to show me the picturesque and historic side of Guangxi and Hunan provinces. You seasoned travelers understand the tenuous balance between trying to visit as many places as possible within a tight time window and allowing oneself the time to soak in the essence of each layover, and recharge, before diving in to the next adventure. I felt like we achieved that balance.

Fenghuang

Fenghuang

Cathy was very honest on her blog in describing her disappointment with the cool damp weather during my visit. Besides yielding a series of fog shrouded photos for her blog, she was sad for me. I am sure that many travel bloggers portray only the positive aspects of their trips, which is not reality. You have to accept and learn to deal with weather and other circumstances that don’t go your way. I like how Cathy freely shares her personal frustrations in her blogs.

Yes, I would have enjoyed some clear sunny days, but I was so alert to the sights, sounds, smells and the way of life wherever we went that the weather had much less of an impact on me than Cathy. The mist encased quartz-sandstone pillars of Zhangjiajie and the limestone karsts of Yangshuo looked whimsical and mysterious. The one rainy day where we didn’t go trekking was spent lounging in bed reading and treating ourselves to a muscle relaxing massage. That was just what we needed, some down time to recover.

Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie

I was constantly fascinated by assorted modes of transportation, the unified flow of scooters, bikes and buses on the crowded streets and dusty rural roads, the lack of heat throughout, the family way of life in the shops, service bays, and eateries, the variety of critters and body parts offered on the menus, the placid acceptance of a quality of life that few westerners could imagine, the third world toilets, the often derelict trains and train stations, the rural communal hamlets we cycled through, the villagers laboring in the never-ending fields, and the general friendliness of the people we encountered.

I wanted to see where Cathy lived, where she worked, the students she taught, where she shopped and ate, how she traveled, the soul and spirit of the bustling cities, the steady march of the rural farms, so I could get a sense for the environment she moved about in during her life in Guangxi. Thankfully those impressions will now be with me for the rest of her stay in Nanning, sensory impressions catalogued and brought to mind as she shares with me her weekly recap on Skype. Instead of her face and the stories she tells in words, I will see much more.

The Yangshuo countryside during a rainy bike ride

The Yangshuo countryside during a rainy bike ride

There are so many memories and images that come to mind from our two-week excursion, all fascinating to me, many of which Cathy has already shared in her blog. Some of these memories can’t be captured by pictures and words. They were moments of interaction, on some level, with others, in a land where one feels so isolated, despite being surrounded by 1.3 billion people. The thirteen hour plane ride seated next to a mother and her young son from Mongolia on their return trip from studying at the international school in Miami, Florida, the respectful sharing of a small train compartment for twelve hours with two young strangers, the prideful smile on the face of our dumpling lady in Fenghuang who was thrilled to see us show up for breakfast three mornings in a row, the conversation with a young woman, employed in international sales, on our boat ride on Baofang Lake, the engaging conversation with Duco, the young Dutch backpacker, on our bus ride to Yangshuo, the family we traveled with on our Li river bamboo raft, and the many challenging interactions arising from the language barrier at every twist and turn.

the town of Yangshuo

the town of Yangshuo

In one of Cathy’s blogs about Alex’s time in China she mentions a tension-filled afternoon. This is to be expected, in less than ideal travel situations and close quarters, as individual expectations collide with circumstances and each other. I suppose the key to traveling with someone else, successfully, is to recognize that this will happen and what to do when it does happen. I think in Alex and Cathy’s case, space and time was all they needed, and by the evening they were fine. It was surprising to me given all of the traveling we did and the inclement weather we encountered that we didn’t really encounter any moments of tension. Perhaps I’ll chalk that up to my laid back nature; HA! Just joking Cathy, I know it takes two to make this happen.

In looking back on my two weeks in China, followed by Alex’s two weeks, followed by Cathy’s trip to Myanmar, I am amazed at Cathy’s stamina, especially in light of the cough she came down with on our trip. Both Alex and I were exhausted after our short journeys. I can’t even begin to imagine doing that for six weeks. Cathy is like the Energizer Bunny, she keeps going and going and going!!!

the Yangshuo countryside on the way back to Guilin

the Yangshuo countryside on the way back to Guilin

As I left China I realized that this was truly a once-in-a-life experience. It is an experience that for myself, and for Alex, will resurface in years to come as we put global events into perspective, as a result of having the opportunity to glimpse a way of life so different from our own. I am thankful for that opportunity.

Categories: Airplane, Asia, Baofeng Lake Scenic Spot, Bicycle tour, Bus, Changsha, China, Fenghuang, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Holidays, Hunan, Jishou, Li River, Nanning, Nanning Wuxu International Airport, Seven Star Tea Plantation, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Spring Festival, Train, Transportation, Travel, West Street, Wulingyuan Scenic Reserve, Xi Jie, Xianggong Hill, Yangshuo, Yangshuo River View Hotel, Zhangjiajie, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

heading to guilin: kumquat orchards & the seven star tea plantation

Friday, January 30: Our original plan was to take bicycle rides in the Yangshuo countryside, to take a bamboo raft ride down the Yulong River, and to rent an electric bike to explore the mountains and kumquat orchards north of Yangshuo.  The bicycle ride we did take was short and rainy.  The Yulong River rafts were closed for the season and weren’t due to open until Chinese New Year, or February 18.  And the rain prevented us from renting e-bikes to explore the countryside north of Yangshuo.

Weighing our remaining options, we arrange with Vivian at our hotel to have her husband drive us through the countryside north of Yangshuo on our way to Guilin.  We tell her we’re checking out a day early, and she reminds us we’ll lose our money for the hotel room tonight.  We don’t care.  Her husband will meet us at 10:00 a.m. to drive us through the countryside, with our suitcases in the van, and he will take us directly to our hotel in Guilin when the drive is over.

We eat our breakfast and take a walk around the hotel before we leave.  Across the street, we enjoy our last gray view of the Li River.

The Li River view across the street from our hotel

The Li River view across the street from our hotel

Behind our hotel, we find this pretty little courtyard.

the pretty little courtyard behind the hotel (Photo by Mike)

the pretty little courtyard behind the hotel (Photo by Mike)

And we take a parting shot of the Yangshuo River View Hotel.

Yangshuo River View Hotel (Photo by Mike)

Yangshuo River View Hotel (Photo by Mike)

Outside of town, we come to rolling hills covered in kumquat orchards.  At this time of year, they’re all covered in plastic sheeting to protect them from the rain.  In October when I was here, Vivian herself took me on a motorbike ride through this same countryside.  It was so much fun riding on the back of her e-bike with the wind in my hair!  The weather was lovely then.  You can see the differences in the countryside in this post: a motorbike ride through orange groves to xianggong hill

the drive through the countryside north of Yangshuo

the drive through the countryside north of Yangshuo

kumquat orchards protected with plastic sheeting from the rain

kumquat orchards protected with plastic sheeting from the rain

kumquat orchards north of Yangshuo

kumquat orchards north of Yangshuo

mountains and kumquat orchards north of Yangshuo

mountains and kumquat orchards north of Yangshuo

Our first stop on today’s drive is the Seven Star Green Tea Plantation.  In Chinese, it’s called Qi Xian Feng tea plantation and it’s about 14 km from the center of Yangshuo  According to a brochure from the plantation: It is about 600 meters above sea level.  Cloud and mist surround it perennially. Specially when it rains, the whole plantation looks like a charming beauty in white. 

I just love Chinese descriptions of places!

We walk around the tea plantation.  Luckily today it’s not raining, just awfully cloudy.

Entrance to the Seven Star Tea Plantation

Entrance to the Seven Star Tea Plantation

The green tea plants aren’t covered up.  In the distance, the covered kumquat orchards stretch as far as the eye can see.

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Views of the kumquat orchards from the Seven Star Tea Plantation

Views of the kumquat orchards from the Seven Star Tea Plantation

kumquat orchards

kumquat orchards

The plantation is a lot browner than when I was here in October.  If you’d like to see what the plantation looked like in sunnier weather, you can check out: the seven star tea plantation and return to yangshuo

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

view of orchards from Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

view from Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation

Seven Star Tea Plantation (Photo by Mike)

Seven Star Tea Plantation (Photo by Mike)

Seven Star Tea Plantation (Photo by Mike)

Seven Star Tea Plantation (Photo by Mike)

Chicken at Seven Star Tea Plantation (Photo by Mike)

Chicken at Seven Star Tea Plantation (Photo by Mike)

After we walk around the tea plantation, a young lady performs a tea ceremony for us.  I’m not a big fan of tea, especially green tea, but today it’s a warm and welcome treat.

a little tea ceremony

a little tea ceremony

After the tea plantation, we continue on our drive through the countryside, heading for Xianggong Hill, where we get marvelous views of Xingping and the Li River.

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Motorbike tour, Seven Star Tea Plantation, Travel, Yangshuo | Tags: , , , , | 22 Comments

twenty-fourteen

In twenty-fourteen, I: Got waylaid in Denver after snow and de-icing delays on a flight from Washington to Burbank, California.  Shared Sunset Rolls and Fire Dragon Rolls, Sapporo and warm saké, with my little sister Stephanie, and then met The Invisible Woman in LA.  On foggy Venice Beach, wandered past muscle men, tattoo parlors, surfboards and funnel cakes, and contemplated the medical marijuana advertised for sale.  Caught glimpses of adorable houses, with secret patios and lazy cats, on a stroll through the Venice Walk-Streets.  Went window shopping on Abbott Kinney Boulevard.  Drove six hours to San Francisco from LA through a parched California landscape to meet my friend Jayne. Laughed at the antics of harbor seals at Fisherman’s Wharf and met Monarch butterflies that looked like clusters of densely packed brown leaves at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Monterey. Drove 17-Mile-Drive at Pebble Beach.  Sampled some wine on the Silverado Trail.  Saw the iconic cloud-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from the deck of the Sausalito Ferry. Laughed at the antics of sea lions at Pier 39.  On the way back to LA, vicariously lived the high life at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.  Dropped by Old Mission Santa Barbara, walked through fan palms and California chaparral at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and ate fish tacos on Stearns Wharf.  Visited the garden at Mission Buenaventura in Ventura.  Met Rosie of wandering rose and listened to the reverberations of classic rock at Bob’s Big Boy‘s classic car show.  Was inspired by a Poets & Writers LIVE! event in Los Angeles, where I embarrassed myself in front of Chinese writer Da Chen (My Last Empress) when he asked me the for the title of my book and a business card (I had neither).  Had cocktails at the Brig and ate dinner out of a food truck on Abbott Kinney.  Took a hike with Rosie around Corral Canyon in Malibu and ate more fish tacos at Malibu Seafood.  Left behind sunny California to head back to icy Virginia (nomad, interrupted).

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

Saw tundra swans and parchment-like leaves dangling like wind-chimes on American beeches at Mason Neck State Park. Was inspired by National Geographic’s 2013 Travelers of the Year.  Saw seagulls walking on water at ice-encased Annapolis Harbor.  Learned 20 things about Storytelling Photography from National Geographic photographers Ami Vitale and Melissa Farlow.  Chased freight trains and photos along the CSX Main Line at Henryton, Maryland.  Suffered through snowstorm after snowstorm in Northern Virginia, and then searched for spring at Green Spring Gardens.  Heard the thundering roar of Great Falls while strolling with Alex, Bailey and Mike along the Patowmack Canal.  Took a photowalk through the hardscrabble part of Baltimore.  Found the gravesite of the patentee of the Ouija Board at Green Mount Cemetery.  Walked Richmond’s Monument Avenue 10k in the rain with my daughter Sarah.  Drifted with cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin in D.C.  Said “ahoy, matey!” to pirates at the Privateer Festival in Baltimore.  crisscrossed flowing streams & waterfalls at White Oak Canyon.  Stayed overnight at a sleep clinic to test for sleep apnea. Wandered through flowering trees at the Virginia Arboretum.  Was charmed by wisteria at Dumbarton Oaks.  Finally found spring, after a long and grueling winter, at Meadowlark Gardens.  Celebrated Sarah’s 30th birthday in Richmond by sipping wine with the whole family amidst Chihuly’s Red Reeds at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, topped off by a feast at Bacchus.  Cloistered myself at the Franciscan Monastery. Sampled wine and cheese with the family at Doukenie Winery.  Won prizes in photography competitions through Vienna Photographic Society and had my Hot air balloons over Cappadocia photo featured by National Geographic on Instagram.  Finished the third draft of my novel, Scattering Dreams of Stars, but never got around to sending out query letters.  Applied for 40 jobs stateside and didn’t get anything.  Applied for jobs in China and got an offer from Sino-Canadian International College of Guangxi University in Nanning.  Went on safari with sculptures of metal animals in the “American Metal” exhibit at the Corcoran in its last days.  Was awed by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Opened my heart to water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.  Worked on joining hearts with Mike at Eastern Market in D.C. Saw “Words & Letters” made into art at the Athenaeum.  Felt general malaise at a Civil War Encampment at Sully Plantation. (nomad, interrupted).

Searched in vain for a happy 4th of July, as both my mother-in-law and my father were admitted to the hospital; my father’s problem was corrected without complications, but my 88-year-old mother-in-law’s health went into decline and she went into hospice care in early July.  Went with Alex on a road trip to New Hampshire, where we stayed in a cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee, seeking a reprieve from Shirley’s illness and our sadness.  Drove the Kancamagus Highway through New Hampshire’s White Mountains, topped by a hike at the Flume Gorge. Stopped to buy a bird nest ornament in a garden shop in charming Woodstock, Vermont, where I was mistaken for Alex’s girlfriend (ha!). Admired painted “meeses” and mountain lions in Bennington, and scrambled over rocks at Kaaterskill Falls in New York.  Returned home to watch helplessly as my mother-in-law continued to decline; she passed away on July 17.  Went in search of light-crazed sunflowers in memory of Shirley, who loved gardening.  Visited the George Washington Masonic National Memorial as we waited for Shirley’s memorial service, which was on Thursday, July 25.   Took our 12 1/2-year-old border collie, Bailey, to the vet when he got sick the day after Shirley’s memorial service; he died the next day, sadly, at the human age of 88.  Searched for summer, and solace, at Solomons, Maryland, where empty boats conversed in a language of their own, groaning, clanking, lamenting and whining.  Hiked at Calvert Cliffs State Park where a kid told me: “My dad says your name is Stranger.”  Dropped off my passport at the Chinese embassy to get my work visa, and while in D.C., stopped in unannounced at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral for a brief tour in darkness. Came full circle and revisited summer at Meadowlark Gardens, as I did when I first arrived back in Virginia from Oman (nomad, interrupted).

Shirley and Bailey: both left us in July

Shirley and Bailey: both left us in July

Sampled rum & grapefruit juice with Mike at Mango’s upon our arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Was coated like a sugar cookie by a maelstrom of sand at Ocean Park.  Savored every bite of mofongo — mashed plantains — at Raices in Old San Juan.  Had a close encounter with the Baño Nazi on Paseo de la Princessa.  Took a self-guided walking tour through colorful Old San Juan, admiring views of Bahia de San Juan along the periphery of El Morro.  Came face-to-face with an iguana at Castillo de San Cristobal and together we enjoyed views of the Atlantic.  Climbed into a cloud forest on the Mt. Britton Trail at El Yunque rain forest.  Ate fabulous Caribbean Benedicts at El Convento.  Sought shelter from the rain at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.  Visited the “ghost town” of Aguirre in the south of the island.  Was disappointed at Hacienda Buena Vista to see only the historical buildings and not any actual coffee plants.  Got roared at by painted lions at Ponce and took pictures of the historic firehouse and famous landmark, Parque de Bombas.  Looked in vain for 007 (“Bond, James Bond”) and Jodi Foster at the Arecibo Observatory, the setting for Goldeneye & Contact.  Enjoyed a day at the Ocean Park Beach and gorgeous sunset at El Morro before returning home to Washington. Continued to work with Mike on our reconciliation after our seven-year separation and felt good enough about it to go abroad again.  Spent the next two weeks getting ready to move to China.  Left the U.S. on August 30 (notes from north america).

Arrived in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on September 1 and was installed in a gritty apartment with a view over a lotus pond.  Spent the first couple of weeks in Nanning getting a phone, internet, a medical exam, and the visa.  Took a walk with another new teacher, Caleb, on Qing Xiu Shan in dreadful heat & humidity, where we saw koi in Sky Pond and a 1350-year-old Cycas King in the Cycad Garden.  Climbed to the top of Longing Tower where we saw views of Nanning and the Yongjiang River.  Encountered communication problems when haggling in a Chinese market.  Experienced the fringes of Typhoon Kalmaegi as it brushed past Nanning. Spent a frustrating day trying to figure out how to buy train tickets to Guilin.  Finally acquired a bicycle after much rigmarole and rode to Nanning Zoo, where I watched Chinese visitors feeding junk food to the animals.  Began fall semester on September 22.  Encountered students with funny English names: Maleah, Kitty, Yuki, Albert, Hebe, Lancy, Shally, Amber, Azura, Nyako, Spring, and best of all: Yoyo, Echo, Coco, Smoothies and Evita.  Heard tell of other teachers’ students: Biscuit, Yogurt and Potato.  Was flummoxed when trying to find simple household products such as shampoo, conditioner and floor cleaner at Nan Bai Supermarket.  Learned how to say Xièxiè (thank you), Ní hǎo (hello), and Wǒ yào yīgè daizi (I want one bag).

Overcame numerous communication problems and made it to Yangshuo for the National Holiday.  Took a motorized bamboo raft with hundreds of other Chinese tourists down the Li River to Xingping, the scene of the picture on China’s 20 yuan bill.  Strolled around Yangshuo and Green Lotus Hill, where I was surrounded by magical karst formations.  Met Audrey, the niece of an elementary school classmate of mine, at Demo Tiki Bar and then ate Thai food together, accompanied by lots of wine, at Rock-n-Grill.  Bicycled with Audrey through the Yangshuo countryside, where we took an almost-skinny-dip in the Yulong River.  Ate a late lunch at a Passion Fruit Leisure Farm.  Went on a motorbike tour through kumquat orchards to Xianggang Hill, where we saw karst formations with names like Nine Horse Fresco Hill, Lad Worships Goddess, and Grandpa Watching Apple.  Traipsed through the Seven Star Tea Plantation.  Took my own private bamboo boat ride down the Yulong River.  Returned to Nanning, where I began teaching an English Interest Course on Storytelling Photography.  Got hooked on Mad Men and watched all the seasons.  Walked through artistic trellises at the Guangxi Medicinal Plant Garden.  Encountered crazy communication problems on a trip to see Detian Waterfall on the Sino-Vietnamese border.  Straddled the border of China and Vietnam in a bamboo boat and was sprayed by the Ban Gioc-Detian Waterfall on my 59th birthday.  Received a cake for my birthday from the Student Union; I happily shared it with some of my colleagues, cherry tomato toppings and all.

Went to a student-teacher Halloween party on a sweltering night where everyone was sweating in their costumes.  Visited the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, where I saw excellent exhibits on Guangxi’s twelve indigenous ethnic groups.  Ventured to Nanning People’s Park where hordes of Chinese people were dancing, singing, and playing traditional instruments. Watched all 8 episodes of True Detective and began to watch Breaking Bad.  Took a trip to Ping’An, where a Zhuang guide led me on a hike to see Nine Dragons and Five Tigers and a Yao long-haired woman.  Posed in traditional costume at Seven Stars with Moon.  Took a 5-hour hike alone to the Longji Rice Terraces, where I got lost numerous times.  Spent an afternoon of disillusionment at Elephant Hill Park in Guilin.  Treated myself to a whole body massage, a foot massage and pedicure in Guilin to try to alleviate my four days of sickness while traveling.

Encountered a styrofoam lady on the way to Wal-Mart.  Watched a Chinese love story with English subtitles, Fleet of Time, that shed some light on the lives of my college students. Watched all 10 episodes of Fargo Survived another challenging Chinese bus ride to Yangmei Ancient Village. Spent Christmas day alone wandering downtown Nanning, sipping a Toffee Nut Latte at Starbucks, watching The Taking of Tiger Mountain at Wanda Cinema, and finally Skyping with my family in Virginia.  Went to a Christmas party arranged by my students, where I attempted to make proper dumplings, played and won a REAL game of Chinese checkers, and sang karaoke.  Went to a free acrobatics show in Nanning.

Happy New Year!  May all your dreams come true in twenty-fifteen. 🙂

Related posts:
twenty-thirteen
weekly photo challenge: my 2012 in pictures

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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.

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

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