After showing the taxi driver the bus tickets we were on our way to the station to catch the bus to the yellow mountains.
Navigating the station was fun, every sign in Chinese and our tickets, purchased using our translator app at the post office were also in Chinese.
We stood aimlessly staring at the screens for the bus number and time. 15 mins before departure time John got confirmation the bus left from gate 14.
Finally a few minutes before departure the magic number appeared on the screen. Soon we were on our way on a brand new coach. We texted Steven our host to tell him we were on our way. The journey was uneventful and we arrived 3 hrs later in Tunxi. Steven was there to greeted us and take us by taxi to his home.
As we reached to a very local housing estate I was ready to apologise to John for my choice of homestay…but how wrong could I be! Steven and his family were so welcoming, our room was like a hotel room. Most importantly it was brand new and spotless.
We drank tea and Steven gave us the low down about the mountains and local area, using his paper and pencil. He invited two other guests to join the information session, Danielle and Sarah. The girls were teaching in the British school in Shanghai. We hit it off straight away and had great evening sharing stories and planning our trek to the mountains together over yummy food cooked by Steven’s wife.
After a few beers Steven sent us all to bed for an early night before our 5.30am rise. Unfortunately we woke to a storm and torrential rain. The guru Steven suggested we all go back to bed and go the following day instead as we would not see anything due to the mist.
After a few hours more sleep we enjoyed breakfast and had a chat with Steven and the girls. We decided to take a day tour to the surrounding villages.
The villages in question are collectively known as the Northern Villages and have cheekily got themselves included on the UNESCO list!
Chéngkân is a real working village and this was apparent as soon as we parted with our entrance fee. Farmers were walking through town with hoes draped over their shoulders and leading cattle to the fields, tea traders with large sacks trying to sell the precious leaves on the street corners, ducks quacking and walking around the town like mafioso. This combined with mist and the smell of smoke was very Ang Lee!
The big draw was the largest Chinese Ancestral Temple, Luó Dōngshū Cí. This was a veritable mish-mash of Graeco-Roman Columns to Persian decorations (in China!!).
The second village was called Tángmó. This was stretched along a canal and was just as rustic. We didn’t see as much if this as a huge rainstorm swept down and drenched us as we ran through the village. What we did see was as impressive as Chéngkân. The only thing that snapped us back to modern day living was the café that played Will.I.Am and Usher while providing beer from wine glasses.
Soaked to the skin the four of us arrived back at Steve’s and after a quick turnaround we ventured out down to the old town of Tunxi for some dinner.
Ordering dinner was hilarious. You got a number for your table and then a clipboard. You then had to go down to the kitchen area and fill in what you wanted based on what was on show. Like some judges at Chelsea Flower show, we ‘walked the line’ and picked what looked familiar. We made some mistakes :-$
, ordering rice for the village and some mystery dumplings. At least it was somewhat tasty.