On January 31, 2012 we took the Business Class Eva Air flight at 1245 to Taipeh arriving thereto at around 1450.
We checked in at the Hyatt Hotel. Around 1900 we were fetched by Breezy Santiago to see her friend Julie who would again as in the past would be treating to a full course meal together with the other amenities such as gifts. It is unfortunate that this boundless generosity over the years has never been reciprocated as she never comes to Manila.
Breezy claims that the few dried mangoes which Breezy gave her this time would already suffice. We therefore took in strides once more the generosity she is giving us relying on Breezy’s friendship hoping that one of these days it would be reciprocated.
We went to a HAKKA restaurant where she ordered full course dinner of all important delicacies, except pork delicacy which would take four(4) hours to cook. In keeping with her character to please beyond expectation, Julie said in an apologetic tone it would not be good for my health to be eating the pork delicacy.
Notwithstanding the modest appearance of the Hakka restaurant, Julie claimed that we were lucky to have a booking this time as it is hard to be accommodated at this specialty restaurant because it is frequently filled to capacity.
As mentioned, together with this full blown dinner she would also give gifts. Preconditioned by the presumptive reminder of Breezy that I am fond of going to the museum and interested in cultural things, I was given on top of the other gifts a ticket to witness selected artifacts from the Sanxingdui Museum to be displayed this time at Building 109 of Taipeh.
This ticket is heaven sent as it was my intense desire to include this as part of my travel itinerary for this trip as I failed to see the Sanxingdui Museum which housed mysterious looking artifacts likened to extra-terrestrial beings during my visit last month in Chengdu.
The presence of Julie during our visit to the display proved indispensable as she translated the explanation of the Chinese guide who could not speak English. There could even be a possibility that if I would go to the Sanxingdui Museum, I would not be assured of an English translator.
The choice of the Hakka restaurant by Julie is also meaningful and anticipatory as we would be going to the Hakka territory in Yongding County (without having mentioned it to her). I am truly overwhelmed by this turn of events as if Julie was informed through telepathy that we should have orientation on the type of food delicacy as we would be eating the same food during our next leg of our trip after Taipeh.
I learned also that Hakka people refers to those people who migrated from the North of China and settled at Yongding County, Guangxi and elsewhere because of the unfavourable condition during the Ming Dynasty. They are known to put the tuluos or house predominantly made of earth.
On February 4,2012 we were fetched at around 0500 from the Hotel to proceed to the airport. We clearly told the driver that we were going to be dropped at Terminal 2 to which he affirmed. Notwithstanding the reminder, he dropped us at Terminal 1.
It was a panicky situation considering the language barrier in a wrong Terminal. I could not locate my companion who suddenly left without notice. Her cellphone was disconnected. I had with me two big baggages and two small luggages. I learned from the information desk that it would take thirty (30) minutes to reach Terminal 2.
What would happen if something untoward would befall my companion who did not have any cell phone communication? How about the big amount of money invested for the projected tour trip which could not be refunded? The wasted time and opportunity and the like?
To release the tension arising from the frustration I shouted aloud invectives which luckily could not have been heard by people nearby.
Luckily, my companion resurfaced explaining that there was an urgent call of nature as we thereafter proceeded our way to Terminal 2.
We finally took the Xiamen Airline flight (AE 991) 0815 arriving thereto at 1000. We met travel guide Peifi whose English name is Helen.
Upon arrival we were brought to the five (5) star Millenium Hotel where it provided us with the needed sleep and rest in preparation for the three(3) hour journey on the following day at 0900 for the Yongding County.
The route was scenic and we saw rows of Mulung teas planted in between substantial space per row. Our first stop after securing tickets was the Tianluocheng Tuluo Cluster which is roughly one hundred sixty kilometers(160) from Xiamen.
We then visited Yuchanglou which is a grand tuluo where the centerpiece of the altar is the Goddess of Mercy. We were not allowed to climb.
We thereafter visited another tuluo to eat our lunch. This time we were allowed to climb the three floors. Our food is comprised of beef and vegetable including mushrooms and a sweet local delicacy. It was observed also that the center of the open space is a crescent dugout for decorative purposes.
We then walked through the Taxia Village. One of the items displayed along the street are the black Mulung teas covered with pomelo skins.
When we reach the center we saw folk dances being rendered. We realized through the bulletin announcement in the center headquarter of the successes of the Hakka people in the nearby countries like Thailand, Singapore and other Asean Countries. We did not see any representation in the Philippines.
We saw also ancient poles symbolizing positions of honor of Hakka people born or residing in the Village. As in the previous tuluos we saw a body of water accommodated in a pool in crescent form.
We then proceeded to the HongkengTulou Cluster where I bought some souvenirs which include a pair of taxidermed young ducks at the Entrance Office. Instead of taking the battery-operated car, we decided to walk the one-kilometer route leading to the Cluster.
We stopped at a rectangular tuluo where we saw a vendor selling a CD featuring among others himself when the National Geographic conducted a survey to produce a TV footage of the place.
The Cluster boasts of over forty (40) buildings of different shapes be it circular, square, rectangular, crescent and with variations.
All the tulou buildings were built by the descendants of the Lin Clan during the later part of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and early Ming Dynasty(1368-1644). Incidentally. each house has a name. The most outstanding in this cluster are named Zhengchenglou. Kuijulou and Rushenglou.
We continued to walk until we reached the Fuyu Tulou Building (Changdi Inn) where we were booked for the night. The architecture of the Inn is different as it looks like a castle in Disneyland.
For dinner we ate the rabbit stew, egg omelette and sipped the bamboo shoot soup. I drank also the local wine. Thereafter we played in between where I lost eight (8) yuan. Before we left the Inn, I was able to buy some Hakka antiques which are reasonably priced.
On February 6, 2012 we proceeded to the Chuxi Tulou Cluster which is situated on a hillside and is about forty(40) kilometers southwest of Yongding County and two hundred thirty (230) kilometers southwest of Xiamen City.
In the course of the travel, I noticed uniquely shaped graveyards embedded in the mountains likened to the opening of a female organ.
In the Chuxi Cluster, there are five(5) circular tulou buildings and over a dozen(12) rectangular in shape.
We visited the JiqinlouTulou Building which was built in 1419 during the reign of Emperor Yongle in the Ming Dynasty.
This Tulou is ideal in size not too small not too big. It has two (2) layers which are considered the prince of the buildings. It has seventy two (72) steps.
It houses in several rooms all the known artifacts of the Hakka people. With this presentation, I prematurely decided for myself that this is the best Hakka building presentation for me.
We then proceeded to the Gaobei Tuluo Cluster which includes the Chenggilou which is considered the king of tuluos according to Helen. Chengggilou tuluo stands four (4) kilometer east of HongkingTuluo Cluster and fifteen (15) kilometer west of Nanjing Tuluo Cluster. It has four (4) layers thus it is considered the longest.
Its construction started in the later Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) and completed in the early Qing Dynasty(1644-1911) involving three(3) generations of the Jiang family to build this large tuluo. We thereafter proceeded back to Xiamen and arriving thereto at 1900. We checked in at the same Millenium Hotel.
We learned from our guide that the hotel was not doing economically well before and as per suggestion the frontage of the building was redesigned using the feature of a ficio whose mouth is wide open to encourage the entry of money thus explaining the upsurge of business until now.
On February 7, 2012 we took the early morning flight (MF 8083 0715-0805) to Wuyishan City. Upon arrival we checked in at a five (5) star hotel. After the lapse of thirty(30) minutes, we proceeded to the Tianyou Mountain Scenic Area which is 15 kilometers south of the Wuyishan City. We passed by gardens and bodies of water before climbing the two thousand (2000) steps leading to the Heavenly Peak.
I was told that the Wuyimountains are in the same category as Mt. Emei ,Mt. Taishan which I have already visited and another mountain which I have not yet visited. These four (4) mountains are holy Buddhist mountains.
I contracted the services of two(2) individuals who would carry a chair where I would be seated. Thinking that I could make it I got out of the support chair and climb myself around two thirds(2/3) of the steps. Indeed the peak is heavenly likened to a Chinese painting.
The same scenario happened while going down. We took lunch. We then rode the bamboo raft with life jackets to traverse the Nine Bend Stream through the aid of two drivers situated at the front and back using long poles which lasted for two(2) hours. The view of the different rock formations especially the Prince and King mountains is something to behold were it not for the extreme coldness.
We witnessed the place of the hanging coffins. After the cruise we visited the Wuyi Palace, the oldest structure in the area, the museum which provides explanations of the hanging coffins in Sagada, Philippines, Sichuan and elsewhere. On display is a big coffin taken from the cliff.
Our last activity was to walk through the Song Dynasty Street.
On February 8,2012 we visited the Xiamei Ancient Village. Before visiting the Village proper we passed by makeshift dental office. I presumed tooth extraction or related activity was done without anaesthesia.
At the Village proper I saw many stallholders playing mahjong or cards during business hours. I learned girls were not allowed to go outside their house until they reached the age of eighteen(18).
I was told that the seats paralled to the stream are called beautiful seats as the young ladies would seat thereto to see bags of teas being transported through barges during the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing(1644-1911) Dynasties. Many of the buildings survived the test of time.
It was observed that among the desired aspirations the ability to earn money played a primary role followed by long life, etc. which could explain why there are many wealthy Chinese.
During lunch we ate mushroom soup, black deer and egg omelette.
After lunch we visited the Da Hong Pao(Big Red Robe) and the Water Curtain scenic area which is part of the Wuyishan Mountain Range. I realize that tea plants would last for thousand (1000) of years to produce the best tea.
Considering that our flight would still be 2115 we had first a body and foot massage which had different touch technique compared to the usual Thai massage.
We thereafter had dinner where we ate wild pig, egg omelette, mushroom soup etc.
After arriving at Xiamen, we checked in once more at the Millenium Hotel. We requested Helen for us to be picked up at 1100 to have a prolonged sleep and rest before resuming with the tour to the Gulangyu Island, which is about two(2) square kilometers in area. It is comprised of many villas placed thereto as the island was not owned by any country during that time.
We visited the Hi Heaven, where we saw south musical performance and the traditional puppet show. We learned that they belong to oversea Chinese who went to the Philippines and enriched himself through agricultural products.
I even saw another grand villa which used to be owned by an oversea Chinese who became wealthy through his business in the Philippines but eventually lost the same to another through gambling.
I learned that Xiamen was used to be called Amoy because of the difficulty of
pronouncing Xiamen by the foreigners. Now the Amoy name is no longer used.
As the last stop, we visited the Shuzuang Garden, a beautiful seaside garden and the famous Piano Museum.
Due to exhaustion, I paid fines for the excess baggage. At the customs area,I failed to check in the liquefied bottles and Swiss knife thus these items were confiscated. When we were looking for the departure gate we inadvertently went to the area prompting the airport police to hold us in custody.
Panicky situation again arose as we could be left behind because the time of the impending flight is about to take place. Luckily, when the final deciding authority confronted us my companion who is not wanting in appearance easily persuaded the former thus facilitating our release.
How could I claim to the world that I have visited two hundred eighty nine (289) countries in the World’s Most Travelled Persons Listing and two hundred three (203) in the Traveller’s Century Club (TCC) Listing?
Thank you, Lord, for allowing me once more to visit other new destinations.