4 days in total
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Miss. Jan Hu
My wife Wendy and I decided to take a tour through your company. Both of us are artist, and have been wanting to visit China for some time, so we thought we would go to Huangshan Mountain, not only for inspiration, but also because we were curious to see how Chinese traditional art supplies are made. We both have experimented with the Chinese style of ink painting, so we thought it would be a lot of fun to see the little factories that produce the art supplies. Kill two birds with one stone if you will.
On our first day, we arrived in Huangshan city. Our guide Tammy met us at the airport and took us to our hotel. We told our travel consultant that we didn't want to take a leisurely tour, but wanted to keep on the move, so immediately after lunch, we were driven to visit two ancient villages. We first went to Xidi village. The two villages are pretty close to each other. The villages were magnificent! Everywhere we looked, everything was covered with carvings of some sort. I'd love to live in that area. Everything was so beautiful. I especially loved the little children. My wife loves to paint children, and so she had fun trying to take photos of the local kids. They seemed really curious to see us and would peek at us from around corners. Whenever we would turn to look at them, or Wendy attempted to take their photos, they would scream and run away, only to reappear a second later. They were really a hoot! We stopped at a little shop that sold some snacks, and we were finally able to coax them out with lollipops. I think what blew our minds the most was the way people seemed to live as they always have. The farm tools and instruments seemed like things I had seen in museums in the US. The people here really seemed to live a fairly laid back life. Hongcun village was great also. Tammy said that the entire village was designed by a fengshui master. She said that the village was built to resemble an ox, with the four bridges being the legs, and a pair of trees being the horns. I have a pretty good imagination, but found it hard to see. I wish we could have spent more than just an afternoon in these villages. They were really something. Thankfully we took hundreds of photos. Tammy said that many people say that the villages look like living Chinese ink paintings, and I have to say I agree with her completely. I can't wait to try to recreate them on canvas when I get back to Wisconsin. After the villages, we were driven back to Huangshan city. For dinner, Tammy took us to a local restaurant. The local cuisine of Huangshan is famous throughout China. It was good, a bit spicy, but really good. Wendy loves spicy food, and she said she thought it was heavenly. After dinner, we just went back to our hotel to crash. We were worn out after all of the photograph taking and walking.
Tammy told us that we needed to get up early this morning because we were going to Huangshan mountain, so we did. We got up at 6:00 and went down to breakfast in the hotel. The hotel has a buffet, and it is quite a spread. They had a lot of Chinese and western food. I hate to admit it, but I ate mostly western food for breakfast. I love breakfast, and the stacks of pancakes and sausages and bacon just couldn't be resisted. Wendy gave me a lot of grief for it, but hey, it's my breakfast, and I'll eat it any way I want. After breakfast, we met Tammy in the lobby, and she took us out to the car to go to Huangshan mountain. It only took about an hour and a half to get there. I thought it was a lot farther, so that was nice. When we got to the foot of the mountain, Tammy took us to a cablecar. We told her we wanted to attempt climbing to the top of the mountain. She said it takes about six hours, so we decided to take the cablecar. I guess she knows what she's doing. The cablecar took us right up to the top of the mountain where our hotel was located. We have the most fantastic view from our room. If I can find time, I want to try to do some sketches from the hotel. We ate a nice lunch in the hotel, and then set off again on another adventure. We first headed to Brush Pen Peak. What a view! I've always had a thing for mountains, and this one was magnificent. I was so busy trying to catch everything, that I was afraid I was gonna fall off the mountain. I did get a lot of magnificent photos. We then went to the Xihai grand canyon. What a place! You follow a path, a very thin path that follows the contours of the mountain. It is a sheer drop off. There is a railing there, but at first it was pretty scary. After a while, the beauty of the place took over, and I forgot my fear. It was really cool. When I was there, there were clouds that looked like they had gotten snagged on the mountain peaks, and made the place look surreal. Sadly my photos don't come close to doing the place justice. My photos are beautiful, but nowhere near as beautiful as the canyon itself. After wandering around the mountain, we had dinner at our hotel, which was very good. It wasn't as spicy, and I loved it. Of course, Wendy complained it wasn't spicy enough. Some people are just never happy. We all watched the sunset from the Cloud Dispelling pavilion. That was spectacular! The clouds were still hanging around on the tops of the peaks, and when the sun started to go down, they were all lit up with color. It was truly breathtaking. I think it was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen! We went to bed soon after. We were tired, but it was so worth it!
This morning Tammy woke me up by knocking on our door. She suggested we catch the sunrise. I was game, but Wendy wanted to sleep in. Tammy and I found a good spot to sit and waited for the sun to come up. I kinda envy her her job. I can't imagine how cool it would be to get paid to see sites like these. The sunrise was not quite as nice as the sunset yesterday, but it was still worth getting up early for. We then went in to wake up Wendy and have breakfast. After breakfast, we went to the Begin To Believe peak. Tammy said that it is named that because visitors here will begin to believe why the Chinese say that once visiting Huangshan, you'll never want to see another mountain. I think it just might be true. The trees here were really cool! I took some photos because I want to try to paint them when I get back home. They are really old and have been twisted by the wind and weather. Sadly, after visiting the peak, we headed back down the mountain. I was sad. I probably could have spent a whole week there. It was really magnificent! Our driver was waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain. I wonder what he was doing the whole time we were climbing around on the mountain? I doubt he'd be sitting there the whole time. Oh well, I guess I'll never know. We then headed back to Huangshan city to visit the Tunxi ancient street and the Hu Kaiwen inkstick factory, which I was pretty excited to see. The Tunxi ancient street was really cool! It is a shopping street and all of the buildings are from the Qing Dynasty. Tammy said some of the shops have been in operation of hundreds of years. Wendy and I bought a lot of stuff here. The street sells local arts and crafts, and traditional medicines. I bought a lot of art supplies here. In China they have what they call the four treasures of the study which is the paint brush, inksticks, inkstones to grind the inksticks on, and paper. This area has been making the finest art supplies in china for centuries, and being artists we picked up a ton of stuff. The inksticks are sticks of hardened ink that needs to be ground on an inkstone with water to produce ink. The inksticks and inkstones were really beautiful! I picked up a couple each, because I don't know if I will ever come back to China and don't want to regret not getting some. Wendy bought a lot of spicy local snacks on the road, and I had wontons. A little guy was carrying a pole over his shoulder, and hanging from each end was a box. One box had a fire in it and a wok filled with boiling water on it. The other box had the wontons prepared, and all the supplies he needed to sell them. It was really cool to see how he fit all of his stuff in these two little boxes. The wontons had pork and vegetables in them. They were wonderful! I ordered two bowls of them (without pepper). After visiting the street, we went to the inkstick factory. It was really cool. The factory had been making ink for hundreds of years, and the place smelled wonderful. I bought more inksticks here. I had to after watching them make them. The inksticks are still made mostly by hand. They are made from soot and a lot of other “secret” ingredients. The guide said that since one of the main ingredients was pig lard, they could go bad, so the secret ingredients were used to keep them from going bad, and also gave them a wonderful smell. I found out that only good inksticks have this smell, while the untraditional ones do not. Good to know huh? I wanted to see if I could make an inkstick for myself, but Tammy said they had to dry for a year, so I couldn't. It was a really neat place. After the trip to the inkstick factory, we went back to our hotel. Wendy and I wandered around a bit after Tammy left. We were a little bit nervous at first because we can't speak a word of Chinese. No, I take that back, we learned to say “hi” and “thank you”. I'm not sure if we said it right because every time we did, people laughed about it. We shouldn't have been nervous it turned out. It is amazing how much communications can be done with just body language. We bought some snacks and Wendy bought some silk pillows. Tammy offered to come with us, but we thought it would be nice to do a bit of exploring on our own to get a better idea of how local people live. It was worth it. We went back to our hotel afterwards and crashed.
We got up early again to hit the breakfast buffet. I ate more pancakes and sausage and Wendy gave me more grief about eating western food in China. She really loved the food here. She ate a lot and kept asking Tammy questions about what stuff was, and what to call them. I also really enjoyed the food here, but not the spiciness. After breakfast, we went to visit another village. I was excited because I had so much fun at the other villages our first day. The place we went was called Tangyue village, which was home to memorial arches. They were like huge stone gates. Tammy said that this village used to have over 200 at one time. They were magnificent. When coming up to the village, you need to walk under seven of them in a row. Each one is very intricately carved, and each one is different. They were all carved for members of one family. There were really cool not just for their beauty, but also because they didn't use any kind of fasteners to hold them together. They were built so that the weight of the arches held them together. Nearby there were two temples. One was for men and the other for the women of the family. Inside the village there were many more arches. Tammy said that each one had to have the emperor's permission to be built, so to find so many in one little village is incredibly rare. I liked them. I actually took the time to make a couple of sketches. I particularly liked the animals carved on them. The style of the carvings are similar to my style of painting, so I want to do some oil paintings of them when I get back. I loved this village. The kids here were not so shy as the two villages we visited the first day, but they were still beautiful, and Wendy spent half the day chasing after them trying to get their photographs. I had as much fun in the villages as I did on Huangshan mountain. I liked to just wander around them because each lane disappeared around corners and I never knew what I'd find when I turned the corner. History was everywhere and living in a country with only a couple hundred years of history, it was pretty humbling to see buildings twice as old as my own country still being inhabited by the ancestors of the people who originally created them. After the tour we were taken to the airport to fly back to the US. We were both sad to go, but I have a funny feeling we will return. There is still so much left to explore.
Wendy and I wanted to thank you guys at China Odyssey Tours for the amazing trip. Your travel consultant Jan was fantastic. She answered what must have been hundreds of stupid questions right away. Our tour guide Tammy was simply wonderful. We had such a ball with her. She really seemed to love her job and care about us. I don't think we could have had a better time. We will tell our friends about how great you guys were and please feel free to use this on your website if you would like.
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