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.
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.
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.
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.
Each year, China's Qing Ming (called "Tomb Sweeping Day" in English) holiday heralds spring. It's a day off for people to care for the tombs of their ancestors, cleaning them, bringing flowers and remembering them.
This year, workers and students† have Monday, April 7, 2014 off. This translates into a real 3-day weekend as I haven't heard that anyone is requiring a make-up day on the following weekend for that Monday off. Let's see...(I'll update the post if that changes.)
Many folks will take this opportunity to go to their ancestors' graves. Many will simply take a little holiday. Either way, this means trains, planes and roads will be clogged. Last year I tried to book train tickets to Ningbo the week before the holiday only to find they were completely sold out. So book now. I've booked early this year so will be reporting to you from Wuyi Shan in Fujian Province.
Read more about the Qing Ming holiday.
From mid-March to mid-April, Sheila Greenspan is once again returning to Shanghai and offering her popular interactive group visits looking at contemporary art.
The course involves her method of interactive facilitated visits to galleries and contemporary museums which allows participants to develop their own skills in looking at art and discussing it with others. The method is designed to help viewers actively engaged with contemporary art through a series of practical and simple visual curating exercises that encourages responses and discussion among the group.
- Place - Selected galleries and museums in Shanghai
- Wednesday course from March 12 to April 16, 10:30 am - 1 pm
- Sunday course starting from March 16 to April 6, 3 pm - 5:30 pm
- Registration & Inquiries - contact email@example.com
Photo: an installation at Shanghart Gallery, Shanghai. Photo by Sara Naumann.
The weekend saw a hideous attack on innocent civilians in a train station in Kunming. Chinese news sources say some of the knife-wielding attackers were killed by police, others have been arrested. The attack left nearly 30 dead and 140 wounded. Government officials blame separatists from Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
China, a country of relatively low violent crime, has been left reeling from the attack and tourists are left wondering, is it safe to travel in China?
Airports, bus stations and train stations are already bulking up security. Generally, the biggest problem travelers needed to worry about is petty thievery and pickpockets. But individual acts of terror, while abominable, are not reason to change travel plans to China. Overall, China is an extremely safe place to travel.
I send my sincere condolences to the victims and their families who were affected by the senseless act of terror.
- Shanghai Daily: Kunming in Shock After Deadly Terror Attack
Hey everybody, it's been TEN years! That's right. Ten years in China. We came to Shanghai during Chinese New Year as it became a monkey in 2004 and so in another two, I'll have made a full zodiac cycle! But back to ten years, I can hardly believe it. It has gone fast. We came for a year, stayed for three and that turned into ten. And we're not planning to leave. Is Shanghai my new home? Well, it certainly is for now.
It has been an unbelievable ten years. There have been so many changes to Shanghai I can hardly enumerate them all. I've seen the Bund transform. I've seen the highest hotel in the world become the second highest (to its next-door neighbor in Pudong). I've changed. I've had babies, I can speak decent Chinese, and now my kids speak better Chinese than I do.
And while in ten years I haven't met my goal of visiting every province, autonomous region and municipality in China, I'm getting there. So much more travel to do, I probably need another twenty years to hit my target.
But as I reminisce about an amazing ten years, let me share with you ten reasons to come to China. Come and have an incredible adventure of your own.
Photo: Life really is a highway - the Shanghai elevated highway illuminated at night. By Sara Naumann. All rights reserved.
While I, of course, never ever purchase pirated DVDs, ahem, I have friends who do... It really used to be the only way to see a good movie in China. But now, more and more big hits are entering the Chinese market and you can see them in theaters. More and more theaters are opening, including many IMAX screens, making movie-going increasingly delightful.
But are movies dubbed? Can you see Chinese movies in English? I have the answers for you here. And while those Hollywood hits do make it to China (and through the censors) a bit on the late side, I'm glad I saw Gravity on the screen and not in my living room.
Read: Watching Movies in China
The annual Shanghai Literary Festival hosted by M-on-the-Bund begins next month on March 5. There are all kinds of great sessions: literary lunches, writing workshops, evening with authors and, as always, weekends with sessions all day Saturday and Sunday. The festival goes on until March 21.
See the full program here: 2014 Shanghai Literary Festival Program
Buy tickets here: Mypiao.com