Tuesday April 15, 2014
I was very excited to go away to Wuyishan not just to see a new place and get away with friends, I also love my Chinese Tea. And as any reader of my blog and site know, I often try to seek out tea-related travel. Tea is just one of those quintessential things that can't be teased out of Chinese culture - it's intrinsic. And while that's lost on travelers who spend all their time in big cities, get out to rural China and it becomes quite apparent just how much tea means to folks.
Looking forward to my trip to Wuyishan, I wanted to see the famous Da Hong Pao tea bushes that supposedly date back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). I wanted to drink the famous oolong teas that come from Wuyishan, especially my favorite, Rou Gui. I wanted to walk among the tea plants and fondle their leaves. I wanted to buy a lot of tea.
I didn't get to do everything on my list but we did manage to see some tea bushes and drink a lot of tea. As we walked on our first day to Tian You Peak to do a hike, we passed a lovely little garden off to the side. My friend pointed out that it used to be the honored tea garden of the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty. "Kublai Khan?" I asked. The very same, I was told. Well, I didn't reckon on walking by Mr. Khan's very own tea bushes and this was quite exciting indeed. I didn't have much time to play amongst the bushes as the rest of the group, including my kids, was moving along to the trail head.
Another highlight was the tea drinking we did. At the peak of an afternoon hike up to an old temple, we were invited into the temple keeper's room to have tea. He had a little gongfu cha set and it seemed like maybe he didn't get many visitors. He served us red tea collected from wild bushes around the temple and we savored it inside his little room while the kids played outside.
Equally enjoyable was our visit to the tea manufacturers of Jiu Ye or "Nine Leaves" (九叶). Here we got to sample extensively from their tea collection including oolongs such as Rou Gui, Tieluohan and Shui Xian. Our hostess tried to explain a lot of the differences between the varieties and words like "rock tea", Da Hong Pao blends and "Qing Cha" were thrown around but my Mandarin is not quite good enough to understand all the meanings. This is an area I'm going to have to research further.
In the end I didn't get to see the ancient Da Hong Pao bushes, nor did I end up with time to shop for any tea. We filled the rest of our time up with amazing hikes through the gorgeous scenery in Wuyishan, a fun raft-ride down the Jiuqu River and lots of meals of local specialties.
Photos: above - Kublai Khan's tea garden, middle - temple keeper pours red tea, bottom - oolong teas from Jiu Ye. All photos by Sara Naumann. All rights reserved.
Monday April 14, 2014
We were in Wuyishan, Fujian Province, for the three-day Qing Ming holiday at the beginning of the month and I'm only now recovered. It was one of the busiest three days of "vacation" I've had in a while. Typically when I'm on the road with the kids I choose one activity, two at most and we always end up back at the hotel for a rest and play.
This time we were traveling with a few families, all with kids, and we just kept busy and going. The kids loved it - even when we adults were taking our time over a large meal, the kids busied themselves playing in the restaurant or the parking lot! But eating aside, we did plenty: hiking, walking, rafting, seeing waterfalls and monkeys, playing in the river and watching the Impression Da Hong Pao show.
I had my doubts: after a full day of touring, I thought if we all sit down to an 8pm show, the kids will be asleep in minutes. But one doesn't fall asleep in a Zhang Yimou show. The kids and adults were mesmerized.
Da Hong Pao is the most famous tea variety coming out of Wuyishan so the whole show celebrates the area's tea and tea culture. Even though I couldn't understand every word, I certainly got the meaning and at the end, even a sip of Da Hong Pao.
Quicklink: Impression Da Hong Pao
Photos: from the show Impression Da Hong Pao, performed nightly in Wuyishan. Photos by Sara Naumann. All rights reserved.
Monday March 31, 2014
There's a long weekend coming up and if you haven't figured out what you're doing yet, I might suggest taking the opportunity to go see some of Suzhou's gardens. Yes, it will be crowded, but you can manage to go at times that there will be less people. I advise staying over in Suzhou and then hitting the gardens early in the morning. Leave when it begins to get crowded, take an early lunch and then go to another garden during lunchtime when most groups and tours will be eating.
It would be a shame to miss spring in the gardens as the flowering trees are in their full glory and it won't last long. Hmm, maybe I'll go today.
Monday March 31, 2014
I've been trying to take advantage of the decent air quality in Shanghai recently to do some running outside. I usually go to Shanghai Jiao Tong University track for an early morning run but today I got sidetracked and didn't make it there for my usual 5K so I decided to head to the Xuhui Riverside Open Space, the clunkily-named park that stretches alongside the Huang Pu River across from the Expo Site.
It was mostly delightful - there were almost no other people there and the only gathering I passed at mid-morning was a clump of dog-owners who had their large pets leashed in closely so I didn't have to dodge them. The downside was the rather stinky river water at one place on the southern end of the run. The upside was a very clean public bathroom facility.
Weekends see a little more action but not much. The Xuhui Riverside Open Space is, as of yet, a relatively unknown area and therefore, uncrowded and very enjoyable.