December 1, 2017


Experiencing a beautiful Chinese ancient town in an appealing, hilly surrounding.

After my visit of the nearby placed Yellow Mountain, I spent two nights in Hongcun. Arriving by a bus in the afternoon, my plan was to take it slowly to recover from the millions of stairs I walked over the past few days. However, as soon as I got through the gate, I had some doubts whether I will achieve such thing. It was like time traveling..

..suddenly surrounding me with pretty, narrow and crooked streets to admire. Right, the rest is not happening. So I tossed my backpack in a room I've had booked, and started to browse the village corner by corner. As there were many to catch my eye...

...the remaining hours of a daylight were gone in a moment. No complaints, there were still doses of visual goodness, and instead of the architecture, I focused on the people around.

And tried some of local street food. Namely the local version of the Chinese flat bread was tasty. This sort of cookies, thin crust of dough with sesame seeds and a poppy seed filling, also.

The fruit wasn't overpriced, and the green tea delicious. Good times.

Eventually I made it back to my accommodation, some sleep was needed.

I started my next day early, visiting some of the local ancient halls before they got cramped with crowds.

Once that happened, it seemed like a good opportunity to get out and explore some of the surroundings. I wanted to see the jungle behind the town. To reach it, I crossed a new part of the village. Also an experience.

Getting there.

Aye, here we go.

My map displayed that there should be a road. Indeed, something like that was in place, so I entered the woods. It was apparent tho, the road didn't get any maintenance for some time. The further into the forest, the less of the road. The road is dead, long live the jungle. Or something like that.

Soon, the path disappeared completely, leaving thick layers of vegetation all around. While I tried to wade through for a little, the progress was slow and considering the life around me, like dragonflies bigger than the palm of my hand, an in inch long ants, an earthworm thick as an arm, roughly a yard long.. I was about to move away a tree branch in front of me, which suddenly jumped away.. "What the.."

Usually I'm not very keen on cancelling my plans, but considering my preparedness for this environment, that's what I did. I Maybe if I had a better knowledge of the possibly poisonous stuff that live here - and a machete, it could work. (the aspect of getting poisoned had an ironical twist later, but let's not skip ahead.) But now I felt like turning around is the best I can do. So I was making my way back to civilization, when I stumbled across a different road. It wasn't on a map, but looked maintained. "Well, that would do." curious about what's behind the bend, I was getting deeper into the wilderness once again. As a kid, I used to dream about experiencing a jungle (probably the "Indiana Jones syndrome"), and here I had it. That felt warm on the heart.
What was also rather warm was the surrounding air. With the humidity around, pfff. Good I had a water on me. The road led to some sort of a farm at the shore of the Qishu Reservoir. fishes, ducks and chickens.

As I quenched the desire regarding the jungle, I went back to the village.

Meanwhile, the sky cleared and the direct sunshine brought the temperature even higher. So I planned to get inside for an hour or two, let the highest heat pass. But before getting home, l stopped for a lunch. That was; however, a moment when the luck wasn't with me. By the time I got back home, my head hurt as if there'd be a glass splinter inside. Soon I realized that the food I had was some seriously nasty junk. Dammit! It took good 5 hours (but thankfully no longer) to put myself together. And when I did, a storm came. As I had still vivid memories on the insane downpour I experienced in the Yellow Mountain, I had no appetite to get soaked again - I waited a bit. But as the rain shown no hints of quitting, I grabbed my jacket and went out anyway. I just couldn't justify staying indoors when being in the middle of China.

I left the village and walked north towards the mountains, with anticipation of some good views. The rain stopped and I felt better. Between the village and the slopes are a few small settlements, but mostly, there are arrays of rice fields.

These, together with the peaks in the background created a picturesque scenery. Once the terrain started to incline, sky was playing with many colors and the rice fields changed to tea gardens. Eventually, when tea got replaced with a bamboo forest, the paved road converted to a narrow (and a tad suspicious) foot path. Nevermind that, I kept my direction.

Good that I did! It didn't turn into impenetrable terrain this time; instead, it revealed this:

While enjoying the landscapes, I got on a local highway.

This led to more neat views, and before long it was a solid darkness. "Time to return," I thought. At this point, I was some 8km / 5miles from my accommodation. The past events of the day caused that I didn't have energy to waste, but I was confident that I'd make it back on my own.

Lights on the right are the village.

However, there was an option I wanted to try instead: hitchhike my way back to the village.
Hitchhiking in China was on my secret wishlist, and now was the best chance to do so. Thing is, hitchhiking here is not a common practice, so while I had hope, my honest expectations weren't any big. It was a pitch-black night after all. However, it took only rough 10 minutes and I, even with my crappy Chinese skills, was all set, sitting in a car heading to Hongcun. Gosh, the level of excitement went through the roof. What a way to turn a potentially miserable day into a massive victory.
And it didn't end there. Once back in the town, I got some (sterile) food from a supermarket, ate an ice-cream while listening to local musicians, and then as I walked to home I stumbled upon an unattended fancy swimming pool to relax by. Happiness and gratitude, that is what I was full of.

The following morning I repeated an early stroll through the streets, but I went out earlier than yesterday. This offered a chance to see many locals using the canals that follow the streets to wash their clothes and dishes. This sight was visually interesting, but disturbing too, as the same water is being used to a dump all sorts of junk into and to wash things and even food for local restaurants.

This is a standard street of the village. Stone path lined with canals of water. On one corner, a guy cleans his motorcycle in it, and a block away some lady prepares a duck - in the same water.

Ah, I wish I saw this before I ate that meal yesterday.. Oh well.

The weather was beautiful, shaping the ancient walls in a lovely light.

And when the place filled with tourists, I bought some of the local flat bread and went to catch a bus towards Xidi and Hangzhou...

See my previous articles about China, follow me on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for upcoming posts. Thanks for reading.

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories