25 March 2017

Mostly a travel day. I get the feeling there are going to be lots of these in China. We are going to Jianshui. This is an old town on the way to the UNESCO rice paddies. We picked it as we could get there by rail, and was about half way. It is also supposed to be a beautiful old town.

Bus to the railway station (1 hour) then going through into the station. You have to go through the equivalent of airport security to enter the station, but it didn’t take too long. Then the process of getting a ticket. Automated machines? Yes! English? No! Also they were not the machines we wanted. I have no idea where these tickets would get you, but it is not to where we want to go apparently. We did end up finding a human ticket booth and get a couple of tickets (Again, you need passports for nearly everything in China). Then another checkpoint to make sure you haven’t used someone else’s tickets, up some escalators and another security checkpoint then you are into the station proper. The place is massive. A large central corridor with shops off to each side and waiting rooms for each platform behind them, as well as another large open area at the far end. Finding your train is fairly easy, then it is lining up to wait for the gates to open. We were a bit early, so went for a look around the shops. Nothing outstanding, just the usual fair at a station. When the gates did open about half an hour before the train is to depart there is a mad dash (but fairly well organised) to the gate. Another ticket check and we could descend to the platform.

The train itself is a sleeper train with three bunk beds to a side (six to a compartment with no doors) and fold down chairs along the corridor. I think the seat is actually harder than the beds! Serviceable, not too cramped but still very full.

After a lot of tunnels, some mountain scenery and one gigantic construction site (the entire country) we arrived at Jianshui Train station. This is a good twenty minutes by bus from the town. We thought we would get a bus to the bus station, then one to the old city, but there was nothing to indicate to our eyes in advance that we had reached the bus station (a few buses parked in an alleyway to the side that we saw after we went past). However this little bus we were on went to the main east gate. We were planning on staying west of the gate and pushed our luck on the bus. However it went around the old city. Getting off at the North Gate, then walking through the city to where we were staying.

The city (Well, the old part where we would spend most of our time) is quite attractive, with a lot of older style buildings. However these are somewhat detracted by the massive advertising signs hanging from the second story, or the massive open shop fronts on ground level, where they have removed everything to put in big glass windows to sell mobile phones or tablets.

It will be nice to walk around the city without having to drag our bags behind us.

Arriving at Typha International Youth Hostel, we checked into a nice room on the central courtyard (3rd floor, but at least china counts the ground floor as 1). A much better room, nice layout, ensuite without glass walls, and most importantly, fantastic staff.

As we were a bit exhausted from the trip, we thought we would just take it easy and have a quick walk around then dinner. As usual, this was not the case… Well, it was sort of.

Walking around the old town is almost like stepping back in time. No, it isn’t. It is like stepping into a re-purposed film set, where the new buildings are made to look old, and have been converted to high end clothing stores, restaurants, mobile phone shops and every space is used as advertising. It is pretty though.

Wandering around a few different streets we made it to Zhu’s Family Garden, an AAAA listed Chinese Cultural Site. (I know, 3 A’s were not enough for them, so they added an extra one. “Go big or go home” is an expression that sums up a lot of things in China.) After sitting for a bit, and having a surprisingly nice pineapple beer from a can, we headed in. The entry was only 50 yuan a person….

It was worth it. The complex is quite large and is a clan gathering place for an important, rich family. Their downfall was backing the wrong leader in a successful uprising, loosing the property to the government, which then used it for a few different purposes including a military hospital until turning it into a, well, museum of sorts. At least it was not torn down and built on.

It was very peaceful wandering through the different rooms in the complex. The details in the carving and paintings were beautiful to behold. The paintings did vary quite a bit from the professional to “its my grandson so I will keep it” level, but still well worth seeing. On top all of this were the intricate doors and the occasional insight into life back in the day.

Dinner was a massive bowl of noodles that was half the price of Kunming. Food is going to be good in this country (at least in places!) Sitting there slurping away with the West Gate as our backdrop was a perfect end to a long day. This was to the amusement of every passing local. We are not sure if it was us eating at a street side store, or just Andrews hair. People were less than subtle in taking photos of us, to the extent that we thought we were the tourist attraction. A few people even came up to ask if they could take a photo of us with them!

Back to a hard bed…. Very. Hard. Bed….Mattress, who needs a mattress?

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