Spent the morning wandering around and walked from our hotel alllll the way around the (huge) lake, and back via the shopping streets. I walked until my legs were so sore!! Great bum & thigh work out, I guess ;)
It was a blissfully perfect day with sunny skies and not too many people around, which meant I could just walk around and enjoy the sights of Yixing. No one bumping or pushing me, no one calling out at me, no one hustling me to buy stuff. So refreshing :) Yixing’s a really lovely city – nice and small and the people are very friendly. A lot more laid back than in Shanghai and a wonderful way to spend the weekend!
Wandering down some local street in Yixing
Okay so it looks quite busy, but the other streets were so empty!
We were also taken sightseeing to the Bamboo Sea in Yixing. It’s located in the boundary of Su, Zhe and Wan Province, so took us almost an hour to get there. The place is so beautiful, such a far cry from the crazy dusty city of Shanghai. The air was a LOT cleaner and clearer, and the weather was just perfect. We climbed up and up and up – the peak is about 30 mins away so we didn’t go all the way up to the top (though others did), but rested mid-way and just enjoyed the scenery and fresh air.
The area is considered a “natural oxygen bar”, since the air is so crisp and fresh. A very nice and much needed breath of fresh air – literally!
By the mini lake outside the Bamboo Sea forest
TEEMING with fishes!
That’s the mountain we climbed
OK we cheated, the buggy took us about 1/3 of the way up there ;)
A coach was arranged for a day-trip to Shan Juan Caves, one of the famous caves in Yixing. Stretching across an area of about 5,000 square metres, it’s also pretty big so we were excited about exploring it. But first, whilst walking there, we were treated to a “Wild man show”, at least that’s what it was called. It was downright HILARIOUS!!! Completely random and out of place, but entertaining. It was basically Chinese folk, dressed up as ‘wild people’ (leopard print skins, messy hair, etc), and… errrr… dancing around. The dancing was basically to rock music and they were jumping and lurching around and shaking their heads – honestly, it looked like they were in a disco. Chris and I were like “What’s going on?!?!?”, in complete disbelief, ROFL!!! But they did some fire-tricks and at least those were cool. But it was just VERY strange to have some wild-man-disco-performance outside the caves?? Perhaps there’s some beautiful history behind it that we weren’t privvy too… hmmmm….
And so we carried on to the actual cave. It’s divided into 3 levels – the main entrance is at the middle level and is a huge cavern of a cave, with poems painted on the walls (painted back in the Liang and Tang Dynasties – a very long time ago!). What I found odd was that the cave was lit up with RAINBOW NEON LIGHTS. In Australia, when we went to Jenolan Caves, it was serene and felt very outdoorsy/adventurous. But here, the cave is like a tourist attraction – with flashing lights and steps.. people were there in full suit-and-jackets and carrying laptop bags. That’s how un-outdoorsy it is ;) I know it’s done that way because it appeals to locals – I think they’d find Australian caves really dull and difficult to navigate – so to each their own! I have to admit though, the running and flashing neon lights did kinda surprise us…
The top level is the Warm Cave, which is a strange 23ºC all year round.. and no one really knows why. This one featured lots of stalactites and actually felt so strange because it was wet and warm in there. This one wasn’t as neon flashing, and was much quieter, which was really nice.
The bottom level is the Waterfall Cave, which features, um, a waterfall. You can only get there by boat.. which was the best part. These rickety wooden boats come up and around 8-10 people pile in and squish in (no idea why because the place wasn’t crowded and there were tons of empty boats!). Then you enter this small hole in the cave and through a tunnel in the cave. It’s really really low so you have to duck your heads and be careful – it was super fun and the most adventurous part of the cave, so we liked it best. Only thing was that the entrance to it was lit up by TONS of neon crazy lights again, like we were in an amusement park instead of out in good ‘ol nature.
It was really interesting though, and so nice to get out and see Yixing. They have other caves around, and wish we had had more time to go exploring around those – as they’re less touristy so may have presented a more authentic natural caving experience :P
Oh, yeah. I know I look weirdly-clothed in the photos. I was wearing my pajamas. Because stupid me brought 1 dress and 1 jeans to Yixing… and ummm, forgot to bring my tops!!! So it was either 1) Go topless, or 2) Wear my PJ top. I decided I’d better go for the 2nd ;) Hence my super-baggy, worn to death, sloppy McDonalds tee. One of the guys in our group said “Oh, you’re dressed quite strangely today.” Heh.
The flowers all around Yixing were so gorgeous!
At the entrance
Me in my PJS, lol
Some contraption that brings water from the lake into the little pond at the top
We were treated to lunch and dinner banquets whilst in Yixing, the most impressive being the 1st dinner banquet the night that we arrived. It was huge with tons of people, loads of food, and performances and speeches up on stage. I was especially eager to see what a traditional banquet would be like in Yixing, and we were really pleased to be able to try out lots of new food at each meal and make some new friends. We were especially delighted with the French wine that they served at our table.. so much so we insisted a bottle was left at our table, hah!
I do wish that we’d had a change to go to the hole-in-the-wall type places, but it was impossible since a government sponsored event would never have their guests eat at such low-brow places :P So our meals were all at fancy restaurants and hotel restaurants. It also meant that we ate Chinese food for every meal, which was really good… but the first chance we got, we ran out to KFC and stuffed our faces with fried chicken. Heh!
The banquet hall
Hurray for great French wine!
Taking pics cos the food took ages to come out
Selection of cold appetizers
Soup with unidentified stuff inside (I think it was intestines)
which I avoided, but the soup itself was fantastic!
Someone told me it was “like a small wild chicken” so I just ate it.
It was really good.. kinda like KFC :P
Dark purple Japanese sweet potatoes. Man these were gooooooood!
Bamboo shoots, I think? Didn’t have any
Tofu and mushrooms – tasted way better than it looked
Some sort of veg with mince pork
Thin beef slices in Sichuan sauce. The best dish of the night!
Pumpkin rice/congee. Really didn’t like this….
Something called “white carrot”. I have no idea what that is,
but it tasted great – full of flavour and all tender
Since we were sponsored by the Yixing Economic Development Zone to go to Yixing, we were also invited to attend the official events and opening ceremonies there. It’s their 2009 Golden Autumn Festival Economy & Trade Fair and boy, they really went all out for it! A launch in Australia is a fairly simple stage, an official or two getting up to make a speech, and then an unveiling. In China, it’s all the bells and whistles, the works. The city was adorned with flowers GALORE.. hundreds and thousands of brilliantly coloured flowers! They had a huge stage seating about 20 Chinese officials, streamers and balloons, fireworks/poppers.. everything. They even had hundreds of people all dressed up and dancing as we walked in. Imagine the number of hours it would’ve taken both in rehearsals and also setting everything up – it was such a big scale event(s)! Totally impressive.
The Opening Ceremony was a seriously impressive affair. Thankfully, all the speeches were translated into English. It was exciting meeting high-level government officials. I’m easily impressed :P They had great charisma and were very lovely and friendly! But best of all, we were seated in the very front row – directly behind the government officials table. It meant we got a great view of the stage, and I could also take great photos with not too many people (except for the official photographers) in my way. On the other hand, we were also photographed/videographed constantly so had to make sure I didn’t do anything strange ;)
Our photos will appear in some magazines/newspapers I presume, and the video footage was shown on TV.. but it’s all in local Chinese so I don’t even know when/where it’s being shown! Oh well. At least it gave us a really fun experience of walking down the “red carpet” with camera crew running in front of us to take photos/videos! They obviously loved Chris because 1) he looks like a real foreigner (unlike me), and 2) he’s dead sexy :)
The foreigner bus, which shuttled us to and from events
This was at 8AM in the morning… zzzz…zzz..z.zzzzz…
The entrance to the huge park
One very awkward-looking photo of us
Flowers galore.. it was incredible!
A fabulous pass that gets you everywhere :P
Walking the red carpet, with some very sexy ladies in qipaos (traditional Chinese dress)