So we started the second semester at school which was bit of a shock to the system but there was light at the end of the tunnel because in a few weeks time the school was taking all the staff on a trip, something to look forward to. I asked where we were going only to be told some unpronounceable provinces and that we would see some flowers. What flowers I asked and the local teachers said “Rape Flowers.” At first I thought it was just an error in the translation of the Chinese name but I remembered our gardener in Zimbabwe used to grow Rape as a type of spinach and it is also known as Canola. So it has a very unsavoury name but a beautiful bright yellow flower which is what we were planning to see.
I say planning to see because the weather forecast wasn’t great and temperatures were still in the single figures, not conducive for blooming, as we left school on the Friday afternoon. We climbed onto one of the three buses only to discover that children were allowed too. The whole tour group totalled 160 people with lots of young kids hyped up on sugar and a 3.5 hour bus ride ahead, it wasn’t looking good.The bus ride was long and the canteen where we stopped for dinner didn’t satisfy our Western palates but the trip was all paid for so who were we to complain. The hotel on the first night was decent and did provide some humour with the following Chinglish on the information cards in the room.
The following morning was a break down in communication as we thought we understood that we would get a wake up call at 6:30am and breakfast was at 7:30am. However at 7:20am one of the local teachers came looking for us and said we must hurry as the bus was leaving in 10 minutes. So not much time for breakfast which wasn’t very good anyway. The Chinese just cannot compete with a Western Breakfast, I mean who’s ever heard of someone leaving a buffet meal hungry? After driving for another 1.5 hours, seeing some patches of flowers on the surrounding hills we stopped to buy tickets for the scenic area and pick up a Chinese tour guide who was no help to us. Someone did translate some of what she said which was along the lines of you may be disappointed as the weather is cold and wet so no many flowers. We reached the tour spot and had to walk up the hill with thousands of other tourists and into the terraced plantations of the flowers.
After an hour wandering up and down the terraces we piled back onto the buses to go for lunch but first we had to go and register our finger prints at was translated as an “interesting place” so we could get a free lunch at this restaurant (which was terrible) and then back to the interesting place.It wasn’t a museum, just a village with a famous wooden temple building and tacky shops selling wood carvings, the area is famous for Camphor trees and other touristy junk. Here is a photo of the wooden temple that didn’t do anything for me, it’s cause not helped by the layers of dust everywhere.
Next up we went to visit a small river village which is famous because all the families there have the same family name Li meaning water or something like that. However there were so many people we had to park on the side of the road and walk 15 minutes to get to the entrance gate and once in the village trying to walk up the one and only pavement with so many people and not fall in the river was just frustrating. Just look at the photo below to get a sense of the overcrowding.
And to top it all off, after breakfast on the last morning we were waiting around in the hotel lobby for our buses and the 6 hour journey home when I noticed that several of the fish in the fountain were dead and had been for a while. While the ones that were still alive were gasping for air at the surface, just another scene that makes one wander about the society as a whole. Can you believe this.
So it wasn’t a great trip. Lots of time spent in an uncomfortable bus with noisy kids that were fed too much candy and disappointing flowers. The food was average to bad and the hotels were clean but I just couldn’t believe the dead fish thing. Having said that, it didn’t cost us anything and I’m glad I got to see some flowers. The Wuyuan region itself is probably the most beautiful I’ve seen in China, so far untouched by the massive development I’ve seen in the cities and the scenery was pretty even though it was overcast. And the water in the rivers was clean, which is hard to imagine after what we see in the cities everyday.
So it’s worth a visit however try to plan you weather better, stay away from the hotels, large canteens and interesting places as well as avoiding peak tourist times.