Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Xinchang Field Trip (5/21/2011)

Saturday, May 21, 2011
Our first Grand Gateway-sponsored outing is to Xinchang. We get to relax on a tour bus that takes us directly to our destination, rather than to the nearest Metro or train station!
After a detour to pick up a group of Chinese who doubled our group size, we headed south to cross the Lupu Bridge:
Very hazy today.
Once on Hunan Highway, it was like those old US highways that are now miles of commercial properties like furniture warehouses and auto dealerships. Passed a rock dealership:
With both carved stone and Taihu-type rockery rocks. (Want to pick one out, Mike?)
Well, maybe those are from cement molds...

Once in Xinchang, we mobile-phone communicated with the guide in a Volvo, and he led us to the public parking lot. We went through a visitors center to enter the "ancient town." At this time they are still not charging an admission fee.
Walked through alleyways, past an ancient bicyle rickshaw:
Peeking into houses where people live in the homes of their ancestors.
A Crested Mynah:
It was lunch time and the folks were sitting down to eat.
Some of the homes were also places of business. This woman was working her sewing machine from one end:
One landmark the guide pointed out that was translated into English was this thousand-year old cement, I mean stone, post.
The architecture is supposed to be 55-60% Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasty, with some Republic of China (ROC, 1912-1949) plaster and timber.
Supposedly improved techniques in wood carving, paneling and joining has resulted in wood features that have lasted longer.
We turned a corner into a commercial and perhaps touristy street. The shops had photos of the proprietor with his wares posing with tourists. Since we were just hanging around, we bought a sticky cake at the shop with the old sticky cake molds:
Kent buying a sticky cake like those eaten on New Year's Day. Made of rice flower, they are more glutinous than cakey and are topped with caramelized brown sugar:
We headed over an arched bridge. We were passed by this youngster in a bicycle rickshaw cum pickup truck, sitting with a bowl of snails:
Watermelons for sale:
We left the ancient town to go to lunch at an "organic restaurant:"
Motorized kiddie ride:
Our lunch included 27 dishes, many of which were local specialties. It was difficult to find out with any certainty, what all the dishes contained.
The mystery meat platter:
Clockwise from the top right: Sliced liver (whose?), sliced chicken (or duck?), sliced pork, pork or beef nuggets, and prawns. In the center is what they said was shredded dried pork, but it tasted sweet like a sugar. Under the sweet  shredded pork, there were slices of boiled egg in gelatin.
I did not take pictures of all the dishes; we were too busy eating. We sat at a table with three Japanese couples and they were impressed that Kent ate with chopsticks.
A sweet pickle dish with black fungi:
The green stuff tasted like cucumbers, but the color is unnatural!
What's left of the West Lake grass carp fish in vinegar (sort of a BBQ sauce):
These dishes sat on a lazy-susan in the middle of the round table, and you used your chopsticks to grab what you wanted.
Other local specialties included Pork Dongpo (the dish we had in Hangzhou that was 50% fat in a thick teriyaki-type sauce), Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish (the skin is cross-hatched so that when steamed, the meat sticks out in little bumps, the fish mouth opens, and the tail sticks up in the air), Emperor Hongwu's Bean Curd (very soft sweet and sour tofu), Spinach Flavored with Shrimp Sauce, and Smelly Tofu (tastes better than it smells).
Other notable dishes included a seafood custard (a very smooth custard topped with prawns over clams) and steamed bamboo shoots.
After lunch, back to the ancient town after passing these ancient trucks:
Hope the fan belt doesn't fly off!
We walked along the canal, looking back at the arch bridge we had crossed earlier:
Look at all that ancient wood:
A wooden bridge:
You can't miss the businesses!
Here there was Scherenschnitten:
Why is everyone looking up?
A Husky, the number one favorite pet dog in China:
Canal scene:
I think there is only one canal in town, and it has nine bridges. Crossed a thousand-year old bridge:
The steel railings are not as ancient, but take a closer look at the stone carving of a dragon:
After crossing this bridge, we were really in the touristy part of town, with women in traditional dress:
The sitting women are making rice dumplings.
Hulusi (gourd flutes):
Decorated eggs:
Alley to the canal:
Roof tiles:
Bamboo folk art:
Stone-carved doorway:
Or plaster?
Dancing with bamboo poles:
Carved wood lintel:
Gourd art:
Teahouse from the bridge:
View towards the wooden bridge:
Time for the boat ride!
Here we go:
The rest of the group board the second boat:
Passed under the arch bridge:
The oarsman:
Canal scene:
Passed the thousand-year old bridge:
The Bridge of A Thousand Autumns:
Which means it is at least a thousand years old.
Passing the other boat:
It's quite an oar:
Panning for snails:
We actually had three groups to take the boat ride on two boats, so we waited in a restaurant to sample rice soaked in rice wine and toasted wheat tea. The ladies there made rice dumplings:
Form a cone with the bamboo leaves and fill with, in this case pork and rice:
Fold the bamboo leaf and tie it so that it forms an elongated pyramid.
Steam and then enjoy!
We were given 30 minutes of free time. One of 13 gates, built in 1986:
Elaborately decorated cakes:
Some more ancient buildings:
Ancient woodwork:
Another bridge:
Ancient postal box:
Back at the canal:
The teahouse we were looking for:
Carved wooden screen in the teahouse:
Interior of the teahouse:
Movie director Ang Lee rented the whole town to film the movie "Lust and Caution" and many scenes took place at the teahouse.
The restaurant at the bridge:
An original stone on the bridge?
It was starting to sprinkle rain when we left for the bus ride back to Shanghai.

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