Nothing Rhymes with ‘Pagoda’

Gonna be a bit photo heavy today. You know what they say, a picture absolves you from the responsibility of writing roughly a thousand words.

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The little village of Quanzhou, population around 1,000,000 people, was my first ‘proper’ trip since I got here. After the initial honeymoon period started to wane I was pretty eager to get out of Fuzhou and see some of the rest of the area.

This was also my first experience of the trains here, which are absolutely brilliant. Clean, fast and dirt cheap they’re completely the opposite of what I’m used to back in the UK. The journey was interesting too. I don’t know if it was from exhausted hysteria or not but two of us ended up pissing ourselves laughing at a piece of what was blatant Chinese propaganda on the TV. The problem was the programme was clearly designed to be moving in quite a different way so I’m pretty sure we were offending almost everyone on the train. It was a programme about a couple who are both in the army and haven’t seen their child for ages for whatever reason. It was astonishingly heavy handed, various shots of the child crying next to photos of their parents and then some kind of bizarre reality TV show involving getting the parents up on stage in uniform then making them watch videos of their child before presenting them with the kid in front of various celebrities. I’m guessing they were trying to make a show of appreciating the sacrifices the armed forces make but my god it was outrageous, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Anyway, the trip was a couple of hours, not bad for 50RMB. First noticable thing upon arrival was how much cleaner the air was. Now this is still China clean, not everywhere else clean, but it was a relief. The cough I’ve had ever since I’ve been here even subsided for a while! Second biggest change was the lack of high rise buildings. All the buildings are small and feel very ‘oriental’. More what you’d expect from a smaller Chinese town, less like the Fuzhouian pseudo-modern monstrosities I’ve been getting used to.

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The hostel was also absolutely gorgeous. Once again, much more in line with what you visualise a ‘picturesque’ China to look like. Image

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The design, small courtyard with surrounding rooms, is pretty traditional, especially up north, and lends itself really well to a hostel. Very social. Or I imagine it is if other people are there, it was very quiet as we weren’t in a national holiday. Just what I wanted though, a bit of peace and quiet.

So the first day we went off to have a bit of an explore. Plenty of stuff to do. Old stuff.

First among the old stuff was Qingjing Mosque. It was pretty mosque-y and pretty old. Built in 1009 apparently, the oldest ‘of its type’ according to wikipedia. Not sure what type that is exactly. Is a surviving mosque a type of mosque?

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Then to the park. Most cities here have a ‘West Lake’ park. Pretty much carbon copied from place to place, but this one was pretty nice.

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After all this we decided we were obliged, as lǎowài on tour, to go out drinking. Had a few drinks in the hostel, pretty sober. Head out to the bar street and I see the most inexplicable thing I have ever seen in China.

There’s a couple with their child. Bear in the mind this is the bar street at about 9-10 at night.

But wait there’s more. The child is on a drip. The mother has the saline bag tied to the end of a wooden stick and is casually carrying it above the childs head like an umbrella.

WHAT.

Believe me I was sober as hell after that. Lucky, then, that we decided to play a drinking game I’ve never played before. Irish Poker. It doesn’t resemble Poker at all, and is only Irish in so far as it involves drinking. It does, however, get you completely and utterly shitted

Normally I find drinking games often actually slow your drinking as you have to wait to fail at whatever ridiculous task has been assigned to the group of people. This one is not one of those. We entered the bar, bought a long island iced tea each and 24 beers, pretty much dead sober. Around 7-8 minutes later we had to stumble embarrassingly towards the bar to buy another 48 beers. Ridiculous scenes.

Fast forward 12 hours. We require food. We lurch, with some great effort, towards a stunning Italian restaurant we had heard about. That was us for about 6 hours of spaghetti coffee aided recovery. And it was bliss!

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Reversion to a standard biological state brought with that horrible guilt ‘We better go and do shit’. So off we went to Kaiyuan Temple. The biggest Buddhist temple in the whole province, the place was a great area to end the trip. It was built in around 600AD originally and felt very well preserved. The grounds complimented the architecture in a way other temples I have seen haven’t really managed, would thoroughly recommend if you happen to be nearby. For whatever reason. It could happen!

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A great place anyway.

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