The last couple of days have been busy, emotional and fun. Luckily they’ve been heavy on the fun, and I think that Elspeth will have really good memories of her visit to her hometown.
After the visit to the orphanage yesterday morning we went to the suburb of Shangrao where Elspeth is from called YanShan. This is a place that you can really see the old China and the new China merging. We started by having an amazing lunch in a very small local restaurant, then fortified with food, and me with not a small amount of water, set off to see the sights. First a small village on the edge of town is really rustic with the government trying to promote it, unsuccessfully so far, The girls bought some fans made by a grandma out of old rice bags and bamboo, and we looked at the old style houses and architecture. At the edge of the village was an amazing little gift shop run by a wonderful woman with a great sense of design. There were too many things that the girls liked and too little space to pack them all. As well this shop has a heritage designation for selling a special kind of local hand made paper only available in this location. Artists from around China purchase this paper for calligraphy and traditional painting. We of course had to buy some for Elspeth, as well as a small amount of the local red tea. Then a ride through the old town on rick-shaws was called for, something that is fast disappearing from Chinese cities. Finally popsicles were on the menu for some much needed cooling before heading back to the hotel for some much needed downtime.
This morning we were up and ready to go for a drive out to GuiFeng, a world natural heritage site. It was a beautiful clear day but the heat was back so we didn’t see as much of the park as we would have wanted to. Still the blue skies, green trees and red rock formations that we saw were simply amazing. We took a boat tour for some different views, but at the end we only saw 1/4 of the park if that. It will definitely be on the list of things to do when we return. We then went to a local “farm” restaurant where we attempted to play mahajong (very badly) and ate another wonderful meal. Besides the excellent food, I must mention the rice that was grown, harvested and processed locally. This white rice was anything but bland and had a subtle sweet and nutty flavour that was wonderful. Then back to the hotel for a little lie down and some pre-packing.
This evening we were invited by our driver to join him and his family at their house for a meal. His wife is a teacher, and his mother used to be a foster mother at an orphanage. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me as sitting down to dinner with people in their house really gives you the feeling of the place you are in. The food again was amazing, but not spicy enough for our hosts, or Heather and I, but was a hit with the girls, with Elspeth eating more in one sitting than I’ve seen her do in some time. The drivers wife was late to her dance practice but invited us to watch. Of course she was joined on her scooter by Katrine and Elspeth on a ride I’m sure they will not soon forget. It was quite interesting watching the dance troop, who are currently ranked #4 in this city as they prepare for an upcomming competition, but it was soon time to head back for packing and bed.
Tomorrow morning we have a short train ride to Nanchang for a 1 day visit before heading off to Nanning to begin the 2nd half of our trip.