Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fujian's Hakka Countryside

This update is about perhaps the most impressive area of China I've ever been to: the rural interior of Fujian province, a four-hour bus ride from Xiamen. I mean, Shanghai is a lot of fun, but the stepped slopes around Yongding can be breathtaking:

The part to notice is the large structures in the bottom left of the photograph. They're crazy! Gigantic earthen buildings that housed an entire clan, they were built by Hakka tribes trying to steer clear of bandits:

The insides are mostly wood structures, with some stone, and a shrine (and perhaps smaller buildings) located to the inside:

However it doesn't really seem like a pleasant place to live: the rooms are stacked against each other tightly, and there's no modern conveniences like electricity or water. I also imagine that fire is a constant danger. Here are the insides of another tulou:

It's possible to rent a room in a tulou for a few dollars per night, but I opted for a place with an electric light and a shower, nearby. I was still located right nearby to all of this, walking around it was surrealistically beautiful:

That's actually a classic shot of Yongding, and here's another one, which shows how extremely beautiful the surrounding areas can be:

It's all farmland, I heard that the wood used in chopsticks is a big local crop. It's very interesting, the villages are populated almost entirely by the very young and the very old - people of normal working age have almost all left to Xiamen, or to other big coastal cities. Really it's just an eerie feeling. It also leads to surprisingly old people, out working the fields. My friends told me I should have gone out and helped, rather than just snapping a picture:

These houses recently got added to UNESCO's list of the world's top tourist destinations. But when I went, a few months ago, there were basically no other tourists there, and it was obvious people weren't used to tourists - I was constantly asked if I was French, maybe the French equivalent to Lonely Planet highlights the area? I was also told I was tall constantly. On the other hand, people were very polite, and didn't even stare or yell "hello" at me.

But there's definite inconveniences: basically nobody speaks any English, and there's no English menus (or even proper restaurants). So while I would definitely recommend a tour of the area, it's probably best to arrange the tour through a travel agency, unless your Chinese is pretty good.

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