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Entries about china

Stop 10 - Workaway near Yiwu

View Overland adventures - UK to Ho Chi Minh City and back without getting on a plane! on Chloemillen92's travel map.

Another short bullet train later we were in Yiwu, the 'small commodities capital of the world', to join a Workaway host school for the week. Workaway works on the exchange of a few hours work each day (speaking English to the kids in this case) for food and accommodation. Our host was in a small village about half an hour from the city.

The school was listed as a 'home school', and advertised itself as being very different from mainstream education. When we arrived there were a few adults around who left about ten minutes later and didn't return for two days. We were told by the kids that one of the boys (who was only 12) was the 'leader' when the teachers went away...

The kids organised themselves; holding exercise sessions, meetings, fulfilling cleaning duties and studying under the supervision of 12 year old leader boy. The situation resembled Lord of the Flies a little too closely for our liking and the first night we went to bed feeling unsure if we should make a run for it. However as time went on we did settle in.


Some mornings we woke up at about 6am to join the kids for an exercise session and learned some Tai Chi and Chinese boxing. One big positive of our week was learning lots about Chinese culture. Over the time we were there we spoke to the children and various parents about food, Chinese medicine, schools and more.


The school was actually very beautiful both inside and out, with lots of covered courtyards and nice decorations. It was perched on the side of a lake which was often full of tourists on pedalos and surrounded by mountains. Above is a picture of the building from the opposite side of the lake.


One evening, one of the parents took us to the local attraction, the Lavender Park. It was very neon and the lavender was rather sparse; it hadn't quite been the serene fields of purple we had been expecting, but it was quite hilarious.

As well as our confusion at the lack of teachers for the first few days of our stay, we experienced a bit of a culture shock due to the focus on rote memorisation and some of the odd punishments she used on her return. However after some Googling of education here it turns out that these are probably much more accepted ideas than we had realised.

Obviously being a home school with a big focus on self study, these children were getting a different style of teaching (which didn't involve much teaching, but more getting on with work at their own pace) than an average Chinese student but to be fair they all seemed happy and full of energy. On reflection we both agreed it had been a very interesting experience and a good opportunity to leave the tourist trail.

Posted by Chloemillen92 20:06 Archived in China Tagged china zhejiang workaway yiwu Comments (0)

Stop 9 - Likeng and Wuyuan

View Overland adventures - UK to Ho Chi Minh City and back without getting on a plane! on Chloemillen92's travel map.

After a very short bullet train to Wuyuan, we headed straight to our guesthouse in the old village of Likeng. The Wuyuan area is famous for its ancient villages and beautiful surroundings, and it did a pretty good job of living up to its reputation.


Likeng was a very tiny place with streams running through the whole village, useful for fishing, plucking chickens and washing your clothes in if you're a local! There were plenty of small shops and well-preserved buildings to explore. The old buildings were used for a variety of things, some were lived in, some were for worshipping ancestors and one we especially liked which was 'the place for 'villagers to advise and to encourage others as well as persuade people to be good and learn manners'. We got pretty good at catching local buses/ lifts from locals for a few yuan to visit the nearby villages. The landscape was pretty spectacular, with green hills everywhere you look apart from the odd high speed rail track. Most of the villages were also surrounded by farmland and rice paddies.


Lots of the buildings have these great 'moon doors', AKA hobbit doors...


We spent a couple of days exploring these villages, before sharing a taxi for the day with a friendly Chinese couple, that took us to an area called Wolong Valley. The drive there was slightly interrupted by a queue as a landslide was cleared from the road, but the views were worth it. It was a beautiful, lush valley with a little cable car and plenty of steps to see the waterfall at the end.

On the way back we stopped for a pretty great lunch (it helps when you have Chinese people to do the ordering for you) and a trip to a huge cave (beats Wookey Hole hands down) that felt suspiciously like the Mines of Moria. After you walked through the maze of passages and steps, you caught a boat out to the daylight again.


The final stop was a trip to the 'Rainbow Bridge's which was beautiful, but not massively rainbow-coloured.

Posted by Chloemillen92 18:31 Archived in China Tagged china wuyuan jiangxi Comments (0)

Stop 8 - Huangshan and around

View Overland adventures - UK to Ho Chi Minh City and back without getting on a plane! on Chloemillen92's travel map.

Our next stop was the city of Huangshan, an area famous for beautiful mountains and ancient villages. We were staying in a hostel in Huangshan city (also known as Tunxi) which was a nice city with an attractive old town, lots of yummy food and souvenir shops. On our first day we took a bus to the village of Nanping where lots of films seem to have been filmed including some scenes from 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'. The village was quieter than we had been expecting and very much a real working village with a couple of buildings you could look into along with the odd food stall and information sign. It was a great peak into village life and the history of the area at the same time.



Unfortunately we missed the last bus home from this rather isolated village - either that or there never were buses home in the first place - we were not quite sure which. We somehow ended up taking a motorbike ride from a fruit stall man to what we thought was the nearest bus station but whilst we were clinging onto the one person bike for dear life he proceeded to take us to a village even further away... He didn't charge us a penny and was a very kind and friendly person which did make us very happy but we still needed to get home. Luckily this village was more touristy and a guy who spoke perfect English appeared out of nowhere and negotiated a taxi ride for us for a good price. Basically Chinese public transport is hard but people are great.





The next day we headed to Hongcun, this village was more touristy than Nanping so you could not see so much 'real life' happening but the old buildings had been well preserved and there was lots of information. We learned that in these villages the boys were sent away to be merchants at age thirteen but often sent back the money they had made to construct amazing buildings. Therefore the villages were wealthy and beautiful but often the wives of the men were lonely. We also learned that in this area, people place a clock, a mirror and a vase on their mantelpiece to bring them harmony and peace in the house. Since we found this out we have been noticing it everywhere.



We spent out final two days in the area at the summit of Huangshan mountain which we reached via cable car. This mountain is meant to have crazy views and is one of the most recommended things to see in China. However on the day we had booked to go up and spend the night at the top, the rain was torrential and the view from the top was of thick, white fog. Our clothes and boots were soaked and we had to sleep in separate dorms as there were only male and female and no mixed. As much as we tried to be positive it was really not that fun and we ended up going to bed around 8pm. We woke up the next day at 4am to see the (nonexistent) sunrise and although there was still a lot of fog we were in much better spirits. We managed to see some pretty cool views and walk up and down plenty of steps. Some of these were just bolted into the side of the cliff which was a little worrying...

Our next stop was a short half-hour bullet train ride away near Wuyuan!

Posted by Chloemillen92 03:32 Archived in China Tagged china huangshan anhui hongcun tunxi nanping Comments (0)

Stop 7 - Beijing and the Great Wall

View Overland adventures - UK to Ho Chi Minh City and back without getting on a plane! on Chloemillen92's travel map.

After a 2 night train journey across Mongolia and the Gobi Desert into China (the mountains in the last Chinese section were incredible) we arrived into a very hot Beijing. The city seemed less chaotic than we had been expecting and the easy, cheap metro was incredibly useful and beautifully air conditioned. Our AirBnB was in a friendly, local neighbourhood so the first afternoon we explored the local parks and shops, followed with the most incredible Peking duck (we got given the duck carcass at the end as a nice bonus...).


The next day we headed down to explore some of the hutongs - the traditional alleys that residential Beijing was made from - and to the Temple of Heaven Park. This huge park full of ancient cypress trees was a great place to wander and get lost, but also full of temples like the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests below. The series of temples/altars were perfectly aligned and were used in various ways in the ancient worship of the Heavens by the Emporers. The decorations and tiles were beautiful.


Exploring more of the hutongs we headed for the Drum and Bell Tower square for a couple of beers and were again struck by how relaxed the city was, with Chinese families playing and scooting around until after dark. The Drum and Bell Towers were used to keep time across the city back in the day.


The next day we set off to a small village north of Beijing, Zhuangdaokou, via a couple of buses and lots of sign language at bus stops. The second part of the bus journey took us through mountains to the village, where we found a small guesthouse with a great dog. We got up early the next day to try and avoid the 35 °C heat to hike up the hill to the Great Wall! After getting a little lost in the undergrowth we made it onto one of the "wild" unrestored sections of the wall. The heat of the day had very much caught up with us but the handy watchtowers along the wall make for great viewpoints and shelters from the sun. We hiked along to a restored section and clambered up and down some ridiculously steep steps. The area to the north was beautiful, with nothing but mountains and trees in sight and only a few other people on the wall.

Heading back to Beijing, we went to explore the Temple of Earth Park and found it full of locals playing Chinese chess and cards, practising their singing, playing instruments, doing Tai Chi and brushing up on their calligraphy with huge brushes and water on the pavement slabs.

Posted by Chloemillen92 06:00 Archived in China Tagged china beijing great_wall Comments (0)

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