China, Day 13: Ancient Water Town Hongcun

Blue water and sky in the ancient water town of Hongcun

Blue water and sky in the ancient water town of Hongcun

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 – Hongcun

Early morning:

Ah, refreshed by the shower! Getting used to the combination of shower/toilet/sink and everything just being wet. Must remember to set the trash can outside the door when I shower! The hostel usually provides rubber slippers, but most of the time I forget to put them on and I track water everywhere.

Had disturbing dreams of trying to save talking, crying pandas from death.


Now waiting at the station closer to the city. We are taking another bus, to an ancient town, Hongcun.

Of course loud music booms through the cavernous space with soaring ceilings, causing it to echo and ring. We have about a 40-minute wait. A woman just came by to sweep. Someone is always sweeping. Chris is right, many places in China are cleaner than Buenos Aires. Being cleaner than South America is actually not too difficult, but I’m still very impressed by the overall cleanliness of public places.

The public toilets may not always be clean, but they are ubiquitous. The thing about the hole in the floor toilets is that even quite dirty ones are really not that bad. I’m even getting used to the trenches, which are relatively rare.

A little kid came up to us, but then got shy and ran away. Even though this is a touristy place, I guess we are still on unusual trio.


We finally got to Hongcun after a very bumpy 90-minute bus ride. The weather today started out mild and cloudy, but it’s now clear and sunny. Perfect for strolling the ancient town. It was quite large, larger than I though from outside initially. All around are hordes of art students working in every imaginable medium. There were vendors and hotel rooms for rent, but it was not like the loud frenzy of Xitang.

Water outside the old village in Hongcun

Water outside the old village in Hongcun

Keyhole door in Hongcun village

Keyhole door in Hongcun village

We did some impromptu tea tasting. We tried three kinds of green tea and two kinds of black. Oolong, darjeeling, “monkey” tea, tea for coughs, any kind you can imagine. We bought 50 grams of a green and a black for 126 RMB (22 USD). Frank says tea is not cheap in China and distinguishing between the tastes is akin to wine for them. The lady in any case was very friendly and eager to have us all taste test.

Tea tasting

Tea tasting

Chris decided to stop and taste rice wine, much to my surprise. We ended up buying the “weak” wine and the liquor, which is clear and tastes like moonshine.

We stopped and had a coffee at a little cafe around 14:00. Frank is right about the coffee here: either it’s the crappy regular instant powdered stuff or it’s very good. We were all happy to have a little taste of home. I’ll never love tea like I love coffee.

Late afternoon:

This bus ride. The constant honking! You feel every bump. Used tissues and empty plastic bottles are everywhere. The area around here does look a little like the Willamette Valley.


We had dinner as soon as we got back to Tunxi. The first place we tried was altogether too chaotic. The lady wanted us to go upstairs, I think, but then she wanted us to pick out our food then and there from the glass case in front. We ended up leaving, I just couldn’t think in that place. We went next door to a smaller, quieter place. We choose fresh bamboo shoots with some kind of chive herb, what we believe was fried eggplant although we’re not sure, cauliflower (we picked out the bacon), tomato and egg (which nobody recalled ordering, but we ate anyway), and a mountain of rice. Chris said there was no way we would finish it, but we did.

Afterward, we went across the street from the Sweet Time Coffee place and had some Tsingtao beers. The crazy lady taxi driver came bustling down the street, yelling at some Chinese woman. At least we now know she harasses everyone. What a beautiful evening to sit out and drink.

Tunxi at night

Tunxi at night

Tomorrow we get up early to begin the journey up Mt. Huangshan. I am more than a little scared. We are climbing almost 9 miles, all uphill, tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.