Monday, June 26, 2006

Taking Wuyi Mountain (By Strategy), Pt. 2

Continuing on with my trip to Wuyi Mountain, probably the highlight was taking a raft down the Nine Twists River. The river is very shallow as it winds its way through the mountains. The mode of transportation was small rafts made of bamboo tied together, with two men with poles who guide our way through. It's a popular tourist attraction and people line up for it like it was Disneyland.

You can notice the umbrellas and plastic rainjackets, it was raining really hard when the ride first started, but quickly got better. In a way that was for the best. It made the river a little rougher, at times it almost resembled white water rafting. What more to say? I'll just link up a few pictures, I hope it comes across how amazingly beautiful the whole ride was.

At the end of all of this was some ancient colleges, smallish compounds where the old-school version of graduate students would prepare for the incredibly demanding Imperial Examinations. Some of the associated scholars are very famous to the people I was with, and there were even calligraphy examples about a thousand years old from masters!

A side note: almost every Chinese person will tell you that the place where they were born has both the most beautiful scenery and the most delicious food. I'm no exception, so perhaps this extends beyond Chinese people...anyway while Wuyi Mountain may have a claim at the most beautiful, from what I ate there's no way it could stake a claim to the most delicious food. The lunch & dinners I had, at four different restaurants in total, were all very similar and vaguely inedible, despite the immense appetite I had worked up. My favorite was the spicy bamboo shoots and Oolong-tea flavored Tofu, local specialties. I also thought this pork dish was OK, until I lifted up a piece and saw one side was covered in fur! The people I was with told me that's how country-area restaurants go. There was no convenience store pre-prepared food or fast food to get as an alternative. Normally that wouldn't really be a problem, but I was really looking around for something.

Moving on, I hiked the also transcendant Heavenly Tour Peak. It was really very impressive, although many of the views resembled the views I showed in Pt. 1, so I won't go on too much about it. There were some impressive views of the Nine Twists River, showing through the fog:

Wuyi Mountain City is small, a lot of the city housing looked like what is shown to the left. Most of the town seems to revolve around selling things to the tourists. Our tour guide led us to a few group buying sessions. That might sound like a rip-off, but they were actually extremely entertaining. At the one pictured below, the company's chief salesman and the seller engaged in some incredibly heated group bargaining for a variety of local products. Some people ended up getting bags and bags of stuff, but I only ended up getting a single bag of Oolong tea. Very high quality, but not well-packaged like you would want for a gift. It was sold at about $7 for half a pound. To me it seems like a lifetime supply, but other people were buying multiple bags, in addition to the more well-packaged teas.

All around town they sold alcohol with snakes in it. I tried a little bit and found the taste surprisingly mellow. I'm guessing it comes from all the herbs, and that the snake has almost no influence on the taste of the alcohol.

I really enjoyed this trip and would definitely recommend it to anyone in Shanghai with a free weekend. On the other hand, a lot of people told me Yellow Mountain, inland from Shanghai, is much the same but even more beautiful. I'll have to give it a look!

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