(Part 2 of my China trip, only 6 months late!)
The part of this trip I was looking forward to was our ‘homestay’ in the rural village of Hong Keng in Yongding county.
We caught another high speed train to Longyan station and then were expecting to catch a public bus to out guesthouse in the village. However, as we were walking to the bus stop, our guide was accosted by 2 men who seemed to get quite physical with him and were yelling things at him in Mandarin. We were all wondering what was going on and in the end we worked out that they were drivers that wanted to take us the village themselves. Long story short, the bus wasn’t for another few hours and it seemed the most time efficient way of getting to the village was going with these drivers. So after getting the okay from the tour company, we piled into 2 mini vans and embarked on what was the most harrowing drive of my life. Part of it had to do with the language barrier and part of it was that our driver was a maniac! The driver got us all in (plus his young son!!) and we had no idea if he knew where he was going. He then dropped off his son and then proceeded to stop every now and again and yell to passers by (we later found out he was an uber driver and was looking for passengers to take to the village to make some extra cash- he found a passenger, a lovely little man who seemed to be just as confused as we were). It was the most surreal experience, to add to it all it started to pour with rain and the driving was absolutely terrifying!
In the end, we made it to the village and it was a welcome relief. There were no crowds, it was a lot less touristy and it was slightly cooler thanks to the rain.
Dinner was a traditional communal meal followed by a tea ceremony where we were able to taste test a variety of teas that they grow in the local area.
The next day we went for a guided tour around the village with one of the women living in the roundhouse we were staying in. Some of the roundhouses had been built over a hundred years ago with several families living together. The heat and humidity made it difficult to concentrate on the beautiful surroundings but the change of scenery brought on a change in pace and it was certainly much more relaxed.
After taking some time out from the midday heat, we regrouped later in the afternoon to explore the village on our own. We came across the most spectacular rice fields with some beautiful mountains in the background. This was what I had hoped to see and experience on my trip to China, the extraordinary beauty of the nature and the sweet and friendly local people (that sounds a little condescending, though I don’t mean it to be!)
These statues mark the 12 animals in the zodiac calendar!
The next few days, unfortunately, are a bit of a blur as I did not keep up with my travel diary and a few months have passed since my trip! This is what I can remember. After the village stay we had a bit of an in between day where we traveled to Shenzen (the grey zone between China and Hong Kong). On this bullet train ride, I was seated next to a young mother and her two adorable little babies. She had only purchased one ticket for the three of them, so she had her baby strapped to her in a baby carrier and her toddler was squished in next to her. At times, it was too squishy, so the mother (who had come very well prepared) sat on the ground on a little stool she had brought with her. It seemed terribly uncomfortable but she seemed to make it work and the two little ones were simply adorable.
After our day in Shenzen, we crossed the border early in the morning over to Hong Kong. The change in the atmosphere was instantly apparent. More things were written in English and there were noticeably more non-Chinese people.
The end of the tour in Hong Kong
It was the last day of the tour so we made the most of it and went out exploring in the excruciating heat! We crossed the harbour from the Kowloon side (where our hotel was) to Hong Kong Island (after stopped for a dim sum lunch) and walked around the streets visiting Man Mo temple along the way.
Getting caught in a peaceful protest along the way!
We wanted to end our day at Victoria’s Peak for the sunset (and many other people had the same idea!) but the crowds were well worth it and the view simply out of this world!
Gotta love a good mascot!
We then made our way back to Kowloon and to the night market for a final group dinner.
I was really lucky that the people on this tour were so lovely, friendly and laid back which made travelling (which is chaotic enough, let alone in China!) all the more fun.
Some of us who were not immediately traveling back home decided to check out a different part of Hong Kong – we visited the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. I didn’t realise that the monastery was located on top of a hill, with the only way up being a few hundred steps (not the easiest when it is super hot and humid). But the view from the top was worth it, and being able to explore the temple in relative peace and quiet was great.
My final day I was on my own so I decided to get out and about early and visit the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island. It was a bit of a trek to get to but the cable car trip up the Buddha was well worth it for the view.
The rest of the day I spent doing what I do best – shopping! And Hong Kong is a shoppers paradise! So many shopping centres and markets dotted around all the islands. My flight out was close to midnight and I had heard that a typhoon was approaching and was about to hit Hong Kong the next day. Luckily my flight was able to take off without any issues and I made it back to Tokyo before the typhoon arrived.
It was a whirlwind trip, but amazing nonetheless. I feel like I got just enough of a taste of China to come back for more. I will definitely be back again!