Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Round Houses

In October of 2016 J had to go to Xiamen, China for work. We decided that Little O and I should join J for the weekend to do some sightseeing. J was particularly excited to be in this area because he has wanted to visit the Chinese round houses since before we moved to China.
Round houses are large multi-family communal living structures. This style is unique to the Hakka people from Southern China. The round walled villages were designed for defense, there is only one entrance and no windows on the ground level. Typically the structures were three to four stories tall with one meter thick walls. Each level had a different function - 1st for livestock and the well; 2nd for food storage and the 3rd/4th were for living.
To get to this village we had to get up early for a long/curvy/high speed drive from the city of Xiamen out to the hills. The drive is especially memorable because Little O got carsick...twice! The village was interesting, but overall it wasn't a great day. He also go threw up in one of the round houses, you know the 600 year old UNESCO World Heritage site! Thankfully the drive back to Xiamen was less eventful.
At the village that we visited there was one round house that was a museum (in the first picture it is the largest round building just to the left of the square house) and the others were still being used as family homes.
We didn't have much time to spend in this area of China. I know that J would have liked to visit a couple of the other villages. I believe that there is even a round house that is now a guest house. It would have been fun to stay for a night. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Guilin, China

Last July we spent a long weekend in Guilin, China. This area of China has beautiful scenery that is very different to other areas that we have visited. There were many hills and there is a river that goes through the city.
While we were there we got to see a elephant rock, a temple a night cruise on a canal on a day cruise on a boat to another city called Yangshuo. The picture above shows the elephant rock, the elephants trunk is above my head. We climbed many steps to get to the top of this little hill. There was a very nice view of the river and the city below.
One evening we went on a night cruise on a canal that went through the city. It was really nice. There were so many things with bright lights. Little O really enjoyed it!
A highlight of the trip was going to see the rice terraces. Getting there took much longer than Little O wanted, although he really enjoyed walked through the rice fields. It was a beautiful day. We walked through rice terraces, and a tiny town that is only accessed by foot. We ate lunch outside with an amazing view.
We took a long cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. It was not the best idea to do with a very active toddler. It was not a hug boat and all Little O wanted to do was run around. There were many pretty spots to look at along the way. It was neat to see the scene that is on the back of the 20Yuan note. Our cruise ended in Yangshuo. It looked like a cute little town, unfortunately we only had a short time to visit.
Little O's favorite part of our vacation was swimming in the hotel pool. He liked to jump in, get out, jump in and repeat as many time as I would let him.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dragon Boat Festival

On the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, in China it is called  端午节(duan wu jie), the west we call it Dragon Boat Festival.  Every year in Suzhou there is a dragon boat race on Jinji Lake which is very near to our house. Last year we went to watch a few of the races.
 We got a decent spot at the starting line. Unfortunately we only got to watch a couple of minutes then our view of the race was obstructed by a building. Little O didn't mind at all. He enjoyed watching all the people and the next group of racers getting ready.
 Just before the first race a group of paragliders when flying past. Everyone was excited to see them go whizzing past.
 The boats were brightly colored. There were many different groups. There were even a few boats that had all foreigners rowing.
 The traditional food of Dragon Boat Festival is 粽子(zong zi), or stick rice dumplings. I had not had one of these before so we stopped to get one on our way back to the subway. These dumplings are made from glutinous rice and stuffed with different fillings, then wrapped in a bamboo leaf before being boiled. I am glad that I gave them a try, but this is one of the many Chinese food items that is not for me.

This years Dragon Boat Festival is just a week away. I don't plan on trying the traditional food, but I do hope that we can make it over to the lake to see a few of the races.