30 May 2017

Kaifeng Fujian

We checked out of our broom closet. Well, it was. The room attached to ours was used for the storage of all the sheets and blankets. It also had the washing machine for the hotel, so we asked if we could use it. No problem.

It would take some time to be able to check into this “better room”, so we went for a walk looking for coffee.

Kaifeng is a working town. The streets we walked were not prosperous. There were ordinary streets with ordinary people. Not the upmarket stores and chains. There were shops that upholstered your scooter to pretty floral patterns. Shops that took your bike and built frames for it. Bike repair shops and bike recharging shops. Yes, it was very bike orientated. But there were also food shops, wedding shops on every corner and plenty of others. Just no coffee shops.

We walked past the new “old city walls” and into the old down town. The shops picked up a bit in quality (price), and phone shops started to become popular. We finally stumbled onto a coffee shop masquerading as a juice shop. The coffee was fantastic, and the people were great. At some point we had a series of selfies taken with us that culminated in the owner (?) getting out his monkey suit and having his photo taken with us at the front of the store. Even passers by got into the fun, and the monkey had a lot more photos taken. We know where we are going tomorrow!

On leaving, we walked further into old down town, knowing that the hotel could wait, and if there were no rooms available when we got back, there are plenty of other places to stay in town (if they will have us). We followed a few brown tourist signs to something. Not sure what and ended up at Kaifeng Fujian.

This is a rebuilt complex that is just a simple tourist trap. 65 yuan, and in we went. It is perfect. It is a rebuild of an old Song Dynasty complex. It is trying to be a rebuild of a song dynasty administrative complex. None of this “built then and done up then, restored then” but built in the 80’s or 90’s. This was “There is nothing left, so we built this. We think it is fairly close to what was here, so enjoy”. Rather refreshing.

The complex is basically built in three parts with a pagoda.

On the left is the Taoist temple and military grounds. The military grounds are basically just an open space for drill and parades. If they hold any special events here is the spot. There is a building in front for the officers to observe.

The temple is a couple of halls on either side for Ancestor worship with the main temple in the centre. The buildings are well done, and the details on the roof are different from everywhere else.

The centre section is the main administrative complex with prisons to the front. The prisons were where all people were held, and then there were separate cells for those with the death penalty (The well here only had a small opening. Apparently so you couldn’t commit suicide first. On seeing the depictions of the ways people were put to death, we could understand why you would want to. People were pretty gruesome back then!) Then there were the judgement halls where court was held and another hall for sentencing. There was an ongoing theme in the place. From what we could work out, it was about a girl that had been unjustly sentenced and put to death, but nothing was in English.

Then the main administrative hall where all the court business for the region was carried out. Again with descriptive statues, and some fine examples of art on the walls.

Behind this was a small complex dedicated to Confucius and the imperial examinations. This was a bit funny as there were 4 sequences. An empty desk for you to get your selfies. One with a student that had fallen asleep, another with a student doodling, and the final one of a student diligently filling in the exam. No guesses on who passed the test.

The final side was the hidden dragon rooms. We were not sure what these rooms were for, but the legend was in English. Some emperor wanted to build a well, and was sure that a dragon was under it. He turned over the last stone and the dragon popped up. Ok, so not that inspiring. We don’t know if the dragon wreaked havoc or was benevolent and looked after the emperor. Just that it appeared out of the well.

Behind this was an eight story pagoda that you can climb up. Each story had a different series of exhibits from calligraphy to clothing. The view from the top was pretty good too.

Then there is a fake mountain that has a few paths in it. These take you up to a small pavilion, through the rocks and down underneath. Most surprising here is going around a corner in a cave to come across a tourist stall. Yes. IT is china, there were souvenir stalls everywhere. Each unoccupied room was used as storage or to sell you stuff. But somehow the whole thing works. Better than a lot of other places.

Having gone through that, and all of the stalls that line the outside walls we headed back to the hotel. Some much needed laundry and then back out to Gulou Square.

Gulou Square is supposed to have a lively night market. What isn’t mentioned is that it is the old town centre and as such has a big archway gate now to accommodate traffic, but back in the day it would have been a drum or bell tower to mark the passage of time. Food stalls surround it at night, and the ones closest to the road face the road. We are not sure if this is because there is no room for pedestrians on the pavement now, or if it is for passing cars to stop and get dinner. It could be both.

There are two walking streets so we went north. This was food stalls for a bit then turns into a proper night market. You can get your bras and boxers here, or toys or even your mat for the living room. It was a very diverse range of products. Again, it felt like a living city rather than a tourist strip.

Back around the main streets, now with your high end brands and computer / phone shops to enter the square from the west and we took in all the food stalls on this side. There were bulls balls, squid and a lot of other seafood. Some type of large beetle on a stick, scorpions, centipedes and even something that looked like witchetty grubs.

This time we went south. The Northern path had been called the booksellers road, as back in the day there had been a street devoted to the craft of writing. This has been built in the Song Style. The south road was built in the European style, and as such had European style shops. No street market on this side.

Taking a side street could have been a mistake, as within a few metres, the road ended. Not the street. Just the road. We were now on a dirt track. There was no lights, other than that put off by a work crew still working to build the road, and a few businesses that were still open. A few people were wandering around, and if we had been in a different country, we would have been slightly worried. Not here though. China may have its share of pickpockets and scoundrels, but we have never felt unsafe. Even here, wandering in the dark on a street that we really shouldn’t have been on, we didn’t have a qualm. Having said that, we made our way back to the lit streets as quickly as possible so we didn’t break a leg in the open sewer drains.

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