Posts Tagged ‘china’

Golden Buddha Mountain (Jinfo Shan 金佛山)

We caught the first bus from Nan Chuan (南川) up the precarious switchbacks to Jinfo mountain north side cable car. We were the only tourists in the bus, the other four were locals returning home.

More tourists are not too far away: villas and apartments are in the process of being constructed alongside the river and the northern freeway exit/entry is also being constructed.

P1150296

The cable car runs only once there are enough people to fill all three gondalas.

My suggestion: if you take public transport, buy a one way cable car ticket. There’s a cable car on the southern side, and you can then have a different bus ride back to town. Or if you have more time than we did, stay at the mountain top hotel and really take in what the area has to offer.

Once up top, we perused the map, and then walked over to the eagle view lookout:

P1150186

Spectacular. We spent at least 30 minutes here just reveling in the view, the fact that we were above the smog and drinking tea out of a flask. There may have been cake.

P1150195

Most tourists turn around at this point but we continued along the path minor marked path.

You take the high road and I’ll take the low:

P1150206

I didn’t dare to scramble along the upper path, but the footprints indicate that plenty of others have.

The cliff part, 800m above the ground is an amazing feat of engineering:

P1150250

Underneath this cliff path was the original one at ground level. How on earth did they construct this one so high up on the face of the cliff? This was built in 2012. At first I thought it was a bit weird, I think the concrete handrails fashioned in the guise of wooden branches are growing on me. It just works.

About a third of the way along, we came upon the Yangkou cave (羊口洞). At first we only walked about halfway through the long dark cave, with the path lit up using bollard lights. We turned back to keep going along the cliff path, but then we met some cable car mates who convinced us that it was worthwhile to keep going to the other side.

I spend some time trying to capture a long exposure low light photo of the Yangkou cave entrance:

P1150233

We continued through the cave, right down to the lowest point, and then eye spied a cave heading off to the right. I had a head torch so we mosied down a little of Ling guan cave (灵官洞), which is named after the swallows that live in it. About 50m down the path, we bumped into a bunch of scientists taking water samples from the cave floor. Bizarre.

If I had more time in the mountains, another headtorch and more food. I would have kept exploring Ling Guan cave for the ‘because it’s there’ factor. We returned to the Yangkou cave, and climbed up a steep set of steps out of the gorge.

Now we found ourselves in the Shilin forest (Shilin 石林, meaning stone forest), with lots of fantastic arrangements of bamboo, moss, trees reaching for the sky, rooted through granite boulders.

P1150247

There were lots of artistic names and descriptions like “dragon foot on rock” (yes, I could kind of see it), or “white horse” (nope). From this spot you could head to the road and catch a minibus ride to either end of this park at the top of the plateau for the princely some of 10RMB per head.

However, we kept walking through the stone forest and the azalea garden, and returned to the cliff path. At one point I shared some of my teethcracking nut toffee with a path sweeper, who urged us to hurry up and catch the cable car when we asked about the last bus. It was interesting to see how the light had changed during the day.

We hurried past the main Yan Kou cave entrance, then a bit further on past the caved in entrance of the Ling guan cave. We did see the swallows after which it was named. More cliff path, and then a viewing platform, so that you could see the

Golden Tortoise:

P1150273

The point does indeed look like a tortoise, bowing in front of the sun. We had walked all that way, alongside the ‘body’ of the tortoise.

Neat.

The main road is about 10 minutes away, past the ‘ski’ lodge and the (kids sized) skiing/grass skiing area.

We managed to flag a bus down, and caught it to the cable car where we had started our journey this morning. I was a little bit concerned because I didn’t see a bus waiting. After riding the gondola down, we asked the stallholder when the last bus would be leaving. The response in the mountain dialect was that “the buses had finished”.

We checked with the gondola operators and “they called someone”.

The last bus leaves from the northern cableway at 4pm. Don’t forget that.

Our saviour arrived about 20 minutes later. After some negotiation, we got a ride down to Nanchaun for 100RMB. Compared to a 20RMB bus ride, it was a little a bit expensive, but we got back to our hotel room.

Golden Buddha Mountain (Jinfo Shan 金佛山)
Nanchuan, Chongqing, China (南川, 重庆).

75 RMB entry fee, 70 return cable car, 25 RMB public bus ride one way, 100 RMB private car back.

270RMB total for the day’s excursion. (60AUD, 44USD at the Mar 2015 exchange rate).

Advertisements

Wulong Karst area: Dragon River Gorge (龙水峡)

Longshui xia (龙水峡), or Dragon River Gorge was our next stop after the Three Natural Bridges. You can *just* fit this in after visiting the Three Natural Bridges, but it is a slight rush to make it back in time for the return minibus back to Wulong city.

The ticket is an eyewatering 115 RMB – available at either the Wulong Karst Tourist Centre, or at the conclusion of your walk through the Three Natural Bridges. Yes, this was a very expensive day trip.

The heavenly ladder:

Heavenly Ladder

There is are toilet facilities at the top of the gorge. Despite this, and the warning signs at the start that : “There are no toilet facilities below, go now”, at the first dark spot at the base of the lift, there is a strong smell of urine. Lovely, Jubly.

Underground Cave:

Underground River

This is the source of where the water comes from upstream, from the three natural bridges area. It was a luminescent jade green colour, winding its way through the gorge.

Galaxy Waterfall:

Galaxy Waterfall

There were a lot of poetic names describing the natural features along the way.

This could possibly be the jade tortoise:

Dragon River Gorge

The small natural bridge:

Small Natural Bridge

Although it kind of looks man made to me, it does suit the area’s ambiance.

Pretty!

Dragon River Gorge

At the end of the walk, there were some stalls selling trinkets, fruit and vegetables and things with a bit of a price premium. You had to catch the bus back up to the tourist centre, before transferring to the public bus down the hill. We were treated to the latest in Chinese pop music as entertainment, including what does the fox say. I swear, before I looked up video on youtube, I thought it was Canto-pop!

Dragon River Gorge (Longshui xia 龙水峡)
Wulong Karst Tourist area (武隆喀斯特)
Wulong, Chongqing (重庆), China.
115 RMB entry fee, 8 RMB public bus ride one way.

250RMB total for the day’s excursion. (52AUD, 40USD at the current exchange rate) I told you it was expensive!

Wulong Karst Area: Three Natural Bridges (天生三桥)

So our guide to this region was the Lonely Planet’s China’s Southwest guidebook, edition 2007, but first published in 1998. It is getting a bit long in the tooth. This book now seems to be out of print, certainly it doesn’t seem to be advertised on Lonely Planet’s website anymore.

For some odd reason, the guidebook recommends you that you see the Wulong Karst area as a set of ‘daytrips’ from Chongqing. WTF? What is the aversion to staying in a small town? I would recommend that you stay in Wulong city itself rather than the “Wulong Karst” tourist area, you are only a short 1 hour bus ride away from the tourist destination, and you are not held hostage to the expensive hotel or food prices.

The buses heading up to the tourist area leave ‘when full’. The last bus to return is about 430-5pm. It is 8 RMB one way for the trip, which is about 1.65 AUD.

We caught a bus around 9am, and were deposited at the Wulong Karst Tourist Centre:

Tourist Centre

If you wanted to continue onto the Fairy Maiden Mountain (仙女山 ), you can transfer here to another minibus that continues up the mountain. From here, we were funneled into the tourist centre, where it cost a cool 135RMB for a ticket to the Three Natural Bridges (up from 40RMB in 2007, that’s inflation of over 300% in 7 years, or nearly 50% pa. Ouch. I guess they need to fund the hideous surrounding apartment blocks from something).

You catch a coach (included in your ticket price) to the start of the Three Natural Bridges – Tian Sheng San Qiao 天生三桥. Since the fourth installment of the transformers movie Juggernaut was filmed here, you too can have your picture taken with Bumblebee at the top of the scenic area.

The option to fully hike down to the bottom of the gorge has been removed. I expect that maintenance of a lift is much cheaper than maintaining a switchbacked path down the side of a gorge, added to the cleaning fee for the thousands of Chinese tourists who like to throw rubbish by the side of the path, because ‘someone else will clean it up’.

Enough ranting, onto the tourist stuff.

At the base of the elevator, you still have perhaps 100 stairs to walk down to get to the base of the gorge. You could take the gucci option and have a bamboo sedan chair ride – there is a list of official prices to help you travel certain sections; with an end-to-end ride trip of the gorge costing 3000 RMB. Pricey, but if you’re less mobile, not too scared of heights and confident in the quality of the sedan chairs (and the carriers!), it is certainly an option. I didn’t see anybody giving it a go.

It is so difficult from a photo to get an impression of the scale of these things. Each rock arch bridge was immense – something like 200m high with an arch of up to 95m, spans of 130m, and the thickness of the arches approximately 30m.

The descent:
Fascinating Cave

It is marked on the tourist maps as 迷魂洞 Mihun dong, or the Fascinating cave.

One of the signs at the start of the walk indicates that this gorge location was known as Longqiao, described as a winding dragon as a hollow below, with the name of Wulong Mountain in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) reunification records. However the original courtyard style post office in the gorge below dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

There are lots of neat carvings in the stone walls of the Three bridges area, and lots of locals who have taken it upon themselves to offer services for the tourists. You can spot the wooden platform used for the tourist photos, above.

A courtyard style house/post office:

Courtyard

This had originally been built in the Tang dynasty, but had recently been rebuilt for a movie “The curse of the Golden Flower”. You can buy postcards here for 7 RMB, and the post office will post them for you. I point this out, because it is so very hard to get postcards in China, in anywhere except for the major tourist attractions. It is also very difficult to get postage stamps.

The first natural bridge you can see is to your left as you descend: Tian Long Qiao (天龙桥, Flying Dragon Bridge), and it is the rock bridge overlooking the courtyard in the photo above. On the maps it looks like you can walk out this way, but the area is blocked off due to rockfall.

Immediately to your right is Qian Long Qiao (青龙桥, Azure Dragon Bridge), underneath which is the courtyard post office.

Azure Dragon Bridge:

Qian Long Qiao2

Here and there are dotted carvings of dragons:

the first dragon
You get a nice walk through the gorge, past a bit of a bubbling stream, before you reach another relic from the transformers movie:

Grimlock

Grimlock is still going.

And then you arrive at the third natural bridge, Hei Long Qiao (黑龙桥, Black Dragon Bridge).

Heilong Qiao

Black Dragon Spring:

Longquan Dong

or 龙泉洞 (Longquandong). There were quite a few springs dotted throughout the gorge, with their poetic names carved into the rock next to the spring.

Dotted here and there are stories carved in stone:

The third chapter

This is the third chapter of the story of the Black Dragon. I’m pretty sure that this was carved with the aid of a power tool, rather than hand carved.

There are quite a lot of very serious explanatory signs in FOUR languages about how this limestone area was formed. Can you guess the languages in use, dear reader?

The way out:

the walk out

At the end you have the option of catching diesel powered cart out of the gorge for 30RMB; or hiking out which takes about 15 minutes of solid effort. There are actually locals who still live in the surrounding hills which you can spot on your way out. We talked to one stall holder who said it took her two hours to get home to her village.

Village outlook:

Village outlook

So in Summary:
I would recommend the “three natural bridges: as a tourist destination, allow yourself at least half a day. It is also possible (albeit expensive), to get around if you are not fully mobile.

If you’re not of Chinese origin, you can expect to become a tourist attraction yourself!

tourist attraction

New steps, new steps, new steps!

Remember that scene from Strictly Ballroom where Paul Mercurio’s character Scott Hastings lets slip that he dances the Pasa Doble and he’s challenged to dance and he’s all flailing arms and rooster strut and all of Fran’s family fall about laughing?

Scott is then taught not to dance with the head, but with the heart. Da-thump. Da da thump. Well I couldn’t help cackling when I saw this bunch of Chinese dancing ladies in Nan Chuan (南川):

New steps

Amazing how music takes you back.

Kunming, China

So I’ve hinted at various times about my travels. But I’ve never actually told you about them.

So I’ll tell you about my most recent trip to China.

Kunming is the Capital City in Yunnan province, in the south west of China. Yunnan is considered by the Chinese as the hicksville of the country, the rural backwater, where people are sent “to be re-educated”.

Going to Kunming this year almost felt like going home. Our hotel is near the river, and there is a small plaza nearby. In the early morning, the Chinese come out to play badminton or practice dancing; at dusk there are hordes.

It is at 1900m (5700 feet) altitude, so it stays nice and cool during summer.

A new airport has just opened in the last year, and it is a giant glittery ribbon inspired structure:

Kunming Changshui Airport

This is the eighth airport in china to be built to this design. It is a huge improvement on the old airport, which was a in 1920s small white tiled rabbit warren of a thing. During the National Day (week) celebrations, there were bus loads of locals visiting and admiring the new airport. All were wandering around like it was a tourist attraction: look at those modern toilets!

This is an interior shot of the entry hall:

Kunming Changshui Airport

From here, you can get international flights to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

The biggest attraction in town is Green Lake Park. A series of four lakes which were originally drinking water resevoirs. There are now pleasant paths amongst the trees and water lillies. In one part, you can hire a pedal boat in various amusing shapes and paddle around.

There is a statue commemorating the sister city status with the Australian city of Wagga Wagga:

Kunming-Wagga Wagga Sister city memorial

Kunming, population 6.4 Million.
Wagga Wagga, population 50 thousand.

Go figure.

Hmm. 0.48% of the Chinese population versus 0.24% of the Australian population. Both are pipsqueaks. I guess that works.

Yunnan has a famous dish called “guo chao mi xian” (过桥米线); crossing the bridge noodles, which is eaten mainly for breakfast, but also as a snack. In its simplest form it is a bowl of skinny rice vermicilli noodles. Then the consumer would add the various flavourings to the bowl. This can include herbs such as spring onion and coriander, chilli minced pork, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, sugar and msg.

I took a photo here of my half eaten breakfast:

Guo Chao Mi Xian

I ate this dish almost every morning, and it was a warming way to start the morning.

Magic Fish Dish

This is my new favourite way to cook fish. Marinade it, then wrap it up in foil and grill over coals. Failing that, grill in your frypan.

Pluses: yummy fish that cooks quickly with little mess and not too much smell. The downside is the waste of one time use foil. If I could get some banana leaves instead, I would use them and compost them afterwards.

The inspiration?

A roadside stall in Gasa, near Jinhong China. Entrepreneurs had set up shop near a roundabout. You picked your choice of food, and the stall holder would grill it over coals for you.

I have tried this recipe with salmon, monkfish, tuna, barramundi and leatherjacket.

The only one it didn’t work for was tuna. Mainly because if I don’t sear tuna in a very hot pan, it tastes to me like it came out of a tin.

This serves two.

Ingredients
1-2 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemon, bashed with the pestle and thinly sliced
1 spring onion (scallion), eschallot or small onion, sliced finely
Fresh ginger
3 birds eye chillies, to taste
Salt
Pepper
Lemon juice
Olive oil

Fish – even thickness throughout

Bash together all ingredients in your mortar and pestle except for the lemon juice, olive oil and fish. Add the lemon juice and olive oil to the marinade, enough to make a thick paste.

Spike the fish all over with a fork, leaving it in the bag you got them in. Tip the marinade into the bag, and rub all over from the outside of the bag. Look ma – no grubby fingers.

Leave to stew a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably overnight. I have even left this to stew for three days, had it for breakfast and it was FAB.

Seal up each piece of fish in a piece of foil: you want to make an air tight packet as much as you can.

Heat up your frypan to medium hot.

Cook fish, turning once. If it is a fillet or cutlet, this will take about seven minutes. Take off the heat if you are otherwise distracted before serving.

My fish:

Foil grilled fish

Look! The bag has steamed the fish in the marinade, yet it has yummy burnt crunchy bits from the frypan.

Serve hot accompanied with the juice from the bag.

I dare you not to gobble it all up and declare it delicious.

What dish have you been inspired to recreate from your travels?