YongTai 永泰 and WuYiShan 武夷山.
For those of you who don’t know, Callum and I have recently applied for, interviewed for, and received promotions within our company. Like every promotion it means a slight pay increase, and a large admin increase, but we have both embraced it with open arms and we are both thoroughly enjoying it.
One of our ‘responsibilities’ is to take care of our fellow teachers. So what better way of doing that than organising trips for our two branches to go away somewhere local.
Trip number one was to Yong Tai. Avid readers of this blog will have heard of YongTai 永泰; once in Spring Festival 2017 and once more recently on our work trip to the mountains.
This time there was a select few of us, 13 to be exact, heading out on an early morning train to the beautiful mountain range. From Fuzhou North train station 福州北火车站，the train takes about half an hour and after a morning McDonalds we were happy travellers. We alighted and headed in a handful of taxis to our destination – a spa hotel at the top of a mountain.
Callum and I had planned to do two small walks on day one, so we dropped the bags at the hotel, had a quick lay down, and gathered what troops we could before heading out to White Horse Gorge 白马峡谷. It was a great walk, everyone chatting and joking around. When we got to the end, we rang the big buddhist bell and enjoyed the peace and quiet. We were the only ones on this path. It was beautiful.
If any of you women have ever been walking with men, you know there is a large difference between the walking speed of men and women. So bringing up the rear we met the boys at the end of walk number one. They had made a new friend, affectionately nicknamed Shouty Brian.
Shouty Brian was a Chinese guy who was hanging around at the gate of the park. The chaps had walked to the gate and waited for us women, making them am easy target for Shouty Brian. Over he walked, talking loudly in Chinese at six blokes who don’t speak a word of Chinese. This only encouraged him, waving his arms about, pointing at his motorbike (god knows how he would fit 13 of us on there!) and shouting loudly and slowly in the same arrogant way English speakers do when abroad. We girls met Shouty Brian five minutes later. Speaking a little Chinese, I managed to clear up any miscommunication – Shouty Brian owned a local restaurant and wanted us all to come. We explained that we weren’t hungry but we’d come later. Thanks Brian.
Walk 2 was East Guardian Waterfalls 青龙瀑布. We met some more of our group there – a few people had stopped to have a nap in the morning – and we headed up the trail. Again, it’s a beautiful trail, so here are some photos.
After this a few people wanted to head on in to the spa, but a handful of us were hungry so we took a bus halfway and stopped at a local restaurant. Guess whose restaurant it happened to be! Shouty Brian was thrilled to see us at his home (it was literally his living room) and berated us for not calling him so he could drive us there on his bike. We ate a lovely Chinese dinner and enjoyed the company of Brian’s two small children who were playing a small distance away.
By the time we finished eating we all headed back to the hotel to relax in the spa. We spent the evening looking at the sun setting over the beautiful mountains, whilst sat in a lovely warm communal bath. What a great way to end a day.
Day two brought us fresh surprises.
Callum and another of our group woke early, wanting to squeeze in as many walks as possible. They headed down to walk number three 石走廊，Stone Pathway, only to be turned away at the gate. Why? they asked. The guard told them it was flooded. Heavy rains had completely wiped out the path. Not believing the guard, they asked if he could show them. They walked a little way in with the guard and stopped before they got too far, the path was indeed a raging river. There was no way we could walk on that today. They instead stopped and drank tea with a local man in a small temple.
Meanwhile, at the hotel, we had all roused to news of a closed walk (and therefore wasted day). Not wanting the bad(ish) weather to dampen our spirits I asked at the front desk where would be open. There was a walk further down the road, but we’d need a bus to reach it. The bus from the hotel would be ¥300. Extortion!
We managed to find a guy who could drive us all there for ¥150, but we’d have to catch the local bus back. So off we set, picking Callum up on the way. Our other tea drinking friend had decided to head back to the train station, vowing to return in a less rainy season, to complete the flooded walk.
We ended up about a 15 minute drive away from the hotel at a walk that I don’t know the name of. We headed in, excited about what we’d find.
It was another beautiful walk, that was made more lovely by the storm that happened around us whilst we walked. Callum and I love the rain, yet some of our group didn’t, rushing to the end and having to wait for a while for us to finish. Here are some photos.
Heading back to the hotel (it was now way past lunchtime) a few people were ready to leave and catch their train. A few more of us, however, had heard about Shouty Brian’s restaurant and were curious. I walked a few of us back down and we ate a delicious late lunch, pleasing Shouty Brian and his wife because we had come back for a second day.
The end of our second day was spent in the spa. A few of us had booked another evening at the hotel and spent our time in the water.
Trip number two was the most recent – a weekend getaway to WuYiShan 武夷山 known for it’s tea plantations.
We set out on a hot Sunday after school, heading to the station and munching McFlurries as we waited for the train. It came without a hitch and we climbed aboard.
To make the journey more interesting we decided to play Bingo, between us settling on a handful of things that we were to look out for. Our bingo included ‘people offering you chicken feet’, ‘falling over on the squat toilet’, ‘someone eating smelly food’, ‘screaming children’, and ‘listening to music without headphones’. I don’t know who won.
We jumped on the last bus to our hotel (number 9) and alighted an hour later all ready for bed. The receptionist at the hostel checked us all in together, gave us 5 keys and let us sort the rooms between ourselves.
We ended up in a wonderful room with two huge single beds and an ensuite. Our fellow travellers weren’t so lucky – two lads ended up with a double bed to themselves so we traded rooms to give them a bit of privacy.
From here we all went straight to bed, setting what we thought were early alarms to meet and get going tomorrow.
Tomorrow arrived and we struggled finding breakfast, even though the streets were busy. WuYiShan being more rural than Fuzhou, we ended up in KFC eating chicken wraps and fries for breakfast.
From here we figured out the bus and all hopped on, bubbling with excitement about what was to come.
Buying the tickets was easy, and Callum and I led everyone to the internal bus to stop number 1, 天游峰， or SkyRiver Mountain.
What a walk. A long, steep, upwards climb to a beautiful temple and some pretty good dumplings. Along the way we made friends with a Chinese couple who helped us out with umbrellas in a passing shower.
At the top, us slowpokes met the rest of the team, sat down enjoying pea ice creams under an incredibly tall pagoda. The trees were full of red and gold ribbon, as if they’d got bored of growing green leaves and decided to change. The sun was out, the people were happy, and a stray puppy enjoyed nipping at Callum’s legs. We sat here for a while, taking in the atmosphere and enjoying eating the local dumplings. It was peaceful but with a buzz, like a home away from home.
From here we asked directions to the fields of tea from a Chinese man who looked like a cowboy. He pointed us down the mountain and halfway down this path we found a fork. To the left was the regular path ‘to the tea fields’. To the right was a path for local people and the tea farmers ‘no visitors’, it said. So we took that.
We walked through beautiful countryside, taking in the thousands of terraces we were walking through. Every so often we could hear women chatting in the terraces, but we could only see the very tops of their conical hats and a slight rustle of the leaves around them. We met many thin men carrying gigantic wicker baskets full of tea, none of whom batted an eyelid that we were there. The path in places was a little difficult, and lacked appropriate passing places for meetings with such men, but soon we were led back to the main drag. That was no less busy, and we soon met a troupe of men taking a rest from their intensive manual labour. Of course, Callum asked of he could try to lift these baskets. Although he could, they were awfully heavy and he doubted that he could walk very far with it on the rough stone paths along which we were exploring. With a respectful nod we carried on, walking down through incredible countryside and past teems and teems of Chinese tourists.
By the end of this path we were all exhausted. We’d been walking solidly for 6 or 7 hours so we decided to head back. We tried to find a restaurant for dinner and ended up in a Chinese Chain restaurant. We ate to our hearts content, with free rice and soda refills we were more than happy.
An early night was on the cards and we woke with an early start the next day. We started with ‘a narrow stretch of sky’, a cave style path through an eroded crack in the mountainside. The path gets stupidly thin, most of us were scraping the sides as we were walking. The appeal of this cave, though, are the bats. Where you walk it’s pitch black. When you look up you can see the sky, quite literally in a narrow stretch, and when the bats fly overhead the sun shines through their wings. They look like tiny demons, crawling straight out of a Dante novel and landing within spitting distance. It really is an incredible experience.
From here our senses of humour took over as we headed to ‘Screw Cave’, yes, we’re all still children. Screw cave is a tiny hole in the back of a larger cave that you can climb through. Most of us tried it, Callum helping people through and me looking after bags at the cave entrance. It was a little slippy and a couple of us fell feet first into the stream running though, but it was a warm day so soggy feet weren’t the end of the world.
We had to hurry back because our friends had all bought tickets for the bamboo rafts that would take them down the river. We dropped them off at the quay and headed in a bus to a restaurant downstream. When Callum and I had come the previous year we had stopped here for food and tea in the sun. This year was no exception. We ordered pizza, took off our shoes and relaxed, reading in the sun. Soon a happy gent came over and introduced himself to us. He was the manager and had, in fact, met us the year before! He whipped out his phone and found the photos he’d taken with us and our friends a year previous. We haven’t changed one bit! We took more photos with him and he kept us topped up with the local tea all afternoon.
Our friends alighted the rafts a couple of hours later, happy and hungry.
We wiled away our last few hours in the park here, sitting down by the river, chatting nonsense, and reading books.
p.s. at the train station Callum bravely and selflessly saved a humongous moth from the platform before anyone stood on it.