February 3-7, 2001
Zhaoqing - Hua Qiao Hotel Saturday, Feb 3 - Wednesday, Feb 7
Saturday: We got up late again. Packed our bags, checked out of the hotel, and stored our bags with them until the evening. When we got back to the hotel, we were pleased to find the taxi driver there. At first, though, we wondered if we really recognised him. It had been dark the night before and now he was wearing reading glasses. We must have seemed a bit daft to him, as we asked him if he was there because we asked hime to come, but he just nodded and said yes. Like everyone else we come across, he was a bit overwhelmed by how much luggage we had, but it all fit and we were off. Jan noticed that he had not put the meter on and mentioned it, but he said no, the charge would be Y10. We felt a bit guilty about this. Someone was obviously being cheated as the driver was planning to put the Y10 in his pocket and not declare it either to the owner of the cab or to the government or something. But we can’t reform the whole of China, so we let it pass.
At the Hua Qiao hotel, they remembered us and checked us into room 1718, on the seventh floor with a very nice view of the lakes and crags of the park. The room, though not heated, was much warmer than our previous room, had carpets and most important, 24-hour hot water.
After check-in we set off to go for a walk and find some supper, but got waylaid on the second floor western restaurant that had a dinner buffet for Y43 each. We couldn’t pass it up and enjoyed some freshly made boiled dumplings, soup, and some decent seafood (clams, mussels, crab). Back to the room to watch the news which we had been deprived of for two days.
Sunday Song Dynasty City Wall (Gu Chengqiang)
We watched some of ABC news then got ready and walked down to the second floor for a buffet breakfast (Y18 each). Back in the room, we settled down to write diary, work with photos and write postcards and email. When we were good and hungry we walked around the corner to the Texas Cowboy fast food restaurant. It seems to be a Chinese answer to McDonald’s and KFC offering hamburgers, chicken, and simple Chinese fare (rice, soup, veg, and meat). The decor and atmosphere were nice but the food wasn’t that good.
After food we walked across to the main plaza and from there onto the causeway that leads to Qi Xing Yan. We were curious to know how far we could walk without being asked to buy a ticket to the park. It turned out to be about half way. The causeway obviously served as a park for the locals and was filled with people enjoying the fresh air. The afternoon was still overcast but dry and warmed up by walking it felt pleasant. On the way to and from the causeway, we noticed the #21 bus terminus went to Ding Hu Shan and determined to take it the next day.
After leaving the causeway, we walked west from the hotel and ended up finding and walking on the Song Dynasty city wall. The ancient city was much smaller than the present-day version, so the wall is not very big. We walked on an unrestored section that we came on by chance and later found and briefly mounted the restored portion that figures in most ads of Zhaoqing (see Gerry’s photos). From there we walked back to the hotel and munched yoghurt and stuff in the room in lieu of dinner.
Monday Ding Hu Shan
We got up bright and early and went down to the Western restaurant for breakfast only to find that the buffet we had eaten the morning before, was a weekend only thing. So instead we walked across the street to McDonald’s for a sausage and egg burger. After that we walked across the street to the #21 bus, paid our Y3 and took our seats for the 25-minute ride. Gerry was a bit surprised to learn where the bus let us off, which was more or less in the park rather than in the adjacent town. Just before we got to the terminus two clerks got on the bus and sold us park tickets for Y50 each. As soon as we got off the bus, we were surrounded by people trying to sell us rides in minivans. They acted horrified when we said we were going to walk. Of course most people do walk, but it probably works sometimes as a sales tactic!
We ended up walking of course and headed first up the valley towards the Qing Yun Temple (Bright Cloud Temple?). The path led alongside a stream, passing souvenir stalls and then through a kind of holiday village with restaurants, hotels, and more shops and stuff until finally finding the peace and tranquility of a path under high trees. The trail to the temple soon split off and headed uphill. We spent an hour maybe wandering around the rather extensive, but obviously recently restored temple, that climbed the hillside.
We had a planned itinerary and so left the temple by the path we came in on and chose a path to the next site, the fei shui tan, a waterfall and pool, that followed the contours some 50 meters above the streambed and finally climbed up a little before dropping down to the foot of the fall. After stopping to admire the falls and munch an apple, we crossed the stream and climbed up the hillside on the other side until we had climbed above the top of the fall and came out onto a road near Ding Hu (Ding Lake — a ding is an ancient bronze ritual vessel with three legs).
From there the plan was to walk on to Tian Hu (Heaven Lake) then back to where a connector path took us over a saddlepoint to the second big loop road that according to the map also had a cluster of sights to see. Alas, we never found the path to Tian Hu and when we came back down couldn’t find the connector path either. After asking several people, we finally talked to a security guard and showed him our map. He told us what we had been beginning to suspect, namely that those parts of the park that we couldn’t find didn’t yet exist! The guard claimed that they would be open in two or three months time. What a disappointment.
By this time, having munched on tea eggs and Zhengzong (a sticky rice parcel that is a Zhaoqing specialty), we decided to walk back down through the Qingyun temple, back to the waterfall and then back down the valley via the path on the floor of the valley. Once at the bus terminus, we decided to walk on as far as the town and pick up the bus there. En route we passed a post office and so Jan finally posted the postcards we had written to Phil Capstick in lieu of his 50th birthday card as well as a note to return the electronic key to the Xin Ya hotel in Guangzhou.
Just as we crossed under the railroad tracks, the #21 bus passed us and honked. We waved at the driver and he kindly stopped a little further on to pick us up and carry us comfortably back to town and another buffet supper at the Hua Qiao hotel.
Tuesday Day at home
We snacked in the room and Gerry worked on making his photo-CD P July-September. The time went by very quickly and so we didn’t get out of the room until 2p.m. The day was warm and we set off to the river front hoping to find somewhere nice to eat, but to no avail. On the way back to Duanzhou Lu, we passed by a restaurant and decided to take pot luck. With the help of Berlitz, we ordered mixed vegetables and Szechuan shrimp which turned out to be delicious.
After lunch we walked along to the bus station and bought bus tickets to Wuzhou for the next morning at 9:30, then back along Duanzhou for an hour or so before coming back to the hotel to snack for dinner and pack.