A little stroll in Taxia village and a night in a Tulou, Fujian (part 2)

During the Winter. everywhere in the area, you can see huge basked of powder drying. They are sweet potato and other roots floor drying in the sun and later they will make  pasta out of them (cf. picture below), they are way more chewy than regular pasta, a bit like marshmallows…not sure if we like it or not.

White powder

White powder drying on the street

Breakfast made from beet root powder

Breakfast made from root powder

Taxia village

Taxia village

Start the day with the visit of Chenqilou, the biggest tulou, the “tulou king” as it is called.
It is definitively touristy and the tourist center is almost as big as the tulou itself, yet it’s worth seeing it. It’s really big and it has a second circle inside where you can get lost like in a maze. You can imagine how the life was in such a structure.

King Tulou

King Tulou

 

Inside the King Tulou

Inside the King Tulou

Persimmons seller

Persimmons seller

Afterwards, we went to“龙潭楼”Longtan tulou, also called the Tulou Museum. The village is far away from the crowds, you’re almost by yourself and the museum is relatively interesting.
Another tulou not far away we stopped by was Yanxiang Lou.

You could imagine someone would one day repair one of the crumbling house and build a charming hotel along the river, but maybe give it a few more years.

Serene place

Serene place

There is even a square tulou (Liben Lou) devastated by a bomb in the 30s and left wild, it looks like a temple lost in the jungle.

Liben Lou

Liben Lou

Finally we arrived at Chuxi village. A superb village with only traditional houses and tulous, almost no modern building destroying the harmony. After 5pm, the village is for yourself. You can take a little stroll behind the village and arrive quickly (20mn) to another village, more remote, a bit more desolated. If you have time you can hike  into the woods. A good hiking, some fresh air… you can walk to the summit of the mountain, in 1-2 hours, you will enjoy the alpine air and view.

Drying clothes and leaves

Drying clothes and leaves

 

Tulou posters

Tulou posters

Playing cards in a tulou

Playing cards in a tulou

Spent the night at the “余庆楼” Yuqing tulou, we highly recommend it: not only you’re in the tulou but the rooms are comfortable: they have heating system when it’s a bit cold (though they might stop it in the middle of the night…) and they are made of wood which gives them style. The only sound you can hear is the river steam behind the room.

Tulou at night

Tulou at night

The day after, on your way to Xiamen, stop in the tea plantation. It is not very much used any more and most of the tea leaves were sent to a bigger tea factory but we could still see the machines used for processing the leaves, they have a 50′s-space area style.

TeaTea plantations

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A tour in Fujian: Nanjing County and its round houses (part 1)

Fly to Xiamen and already feel the south atmosphere: green green green.                          You are in a tropical zone, palm trees and banana trees all around which makes you much happier (especially in Winter).

Once you’ve left Xiamen behind you, you will progressively see tea plants around you: they are very neat shrubs decorating the road. You see them on every piece of land, a bit like rice paddy fields.

Fujian tea plantations

Fujian tea plantations

For the coming 2 days, it will be tulous and tulous and more tulous. More than the tulous themselves, you will enjoy the scenery around them, the villages and the landscape.

First stop at the tulou tourist center. A huge fake tulou (ugly and scary), where you have to buy your tickets to visit the valley, we can hope the money is used to maintain the villages… There are 3 itineraries, poetically named A, B and C. We chose A and C .

The first tulou clusters we’ve seen, after 2 hours drive from Xiamen, was the Tianluokeng cluster A group of 4 round tulous and a square one. They are quite touristy, too much to my taste. Still the location is very nice and the view from the top or from below is worth getting there. It’s a good introduction to the tulou world, don’t be surprised if you see the tulous packed with sellers inside.

Tulous dishes

Tulous dishes

Tianluokeng cluster

Tianluokeng cluster

A short introduction to the tulous: they have been built by Hakka, who are Han Chinese who flew the center of China during trouble times, they have flown to the South of China and further in South Asia. In Fujian, they have developed the tulou style, in other regions, like Guangdong you can find similar house styles (like the Weilongwu).

Tulou are fortresses, they have a clear defense purpose, very important in the troubled time they were built in, the first floor has no window. The eldest ones are from the Ming Dynasty but tulous are still being built: you can visit tulous from the 1960s sitting next to tulous from the 18th century.

They are made of thick wall of lime, sand and clay with some wood beams to reenforce the structure. Some walls are 2 meters wide and have withstand centuries of natural and human aggression.

Tulou

Tulou

The most famous ones have a round shape, most of them are square (the stopped building square ones as the bad spirits were hidden in the corners) but you can find all kind of shapes: half moon, losange etc.

A tulou is most of the time made of 3 floors: the ground floor is used for the kitchen, and it’s still often the case when it’s not invaded by the temple merchants. The second floor is the storage unit and the third floor is for the housing.

Inside of a tulou

Inside of a tulou

It’s a bit like a castle fort or a defensive council estate… everyone lives together, in clans, and it seems there is no privacy at all.

Back to our trip. Then we moved to the C itinerary and I highly recommend it. That’s the poor man’ tulou. The one a bit further, most tourists don’t go there. Therefore, it’s the most pleasant one, the most genuine one. There are no shops, you can see a “naked” tulou for the first time. On the ground floor, you see clothes drying, chicken running free and not so many people. We will understand progressively, that most people living in the tulous are the old people or the children. The young and the young adults have mostly left to the big cities.

Inhabitated tulou

Inhabitated tulou

Hakka inhabitant

Hakka inhabitan

We finished the day at the village of Taxia. It’s a great place to spend the night. A traditional village with a river going through it. We stayed in a charming little hotel. In November it starts being cold and at night we stayed inside. But in Spring, Summer or Autumn, it is very pleasant to wander around or to eat in a cafe watching the river. Life is the same as decades ago.

On the bridge, on the street, mustard leaves are left to dry.

Taxia village

Taxia village

There is also a Hakka temple dedicated to illustrious ancestors who achieved a great career as imperial civil servants.

Temple in Taxia

Temple in Taxia

Warrior

Warrior

 

 

 

 

 

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Pingyao old town, a destination for a weekend not to be missed!


Pingyao is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city, founded in the 14th century.
Covering an area of 225 hectares, the Ancient City of Pingyao is a complete building complex including ancient walls, streets and lanes, shops, dwellings and temples.

The area of the old town in entirely surrounding by its wall, and the wooden buildings, unchanged since 6 centuries which gives you the feeling to be out of time.

Pingyao is known for its vinegar and its baijiu (traditional alcohol in China).   Make a stop to taste a lot of different homemade baijiu. But dont drink too much, or you will not find your hotel in all those little narrow streets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s around:                                                                                                                                                  The surroundings of Pingyao have also a lot to see. The Mianshan mountain is a superb cultural and natural Buddhist site. Out of the wall, there are also a couple of  ancient rich Chinese family compound, as the Qiao family compound,  where Zhang Yimou’s popular film, Raise the Red Lantern, was filmed. You can also stop at Jinci Temple on your way to Taiyuan.

Where to stay:                                                                                                                            You have plenty of choice to find a nice place to sleep. There are the guest houses of Tianyuankui or Yide and more fancy the nice Jing Residence.
Most of the hotels are constructed and decorated in a Ming and Qing style, comfortable and easy for visitors to appreciate the authentic flavour of old times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When to go:                                                                                                                           Pingyao is a nice place whatever the season. You will enjoy it in summer as in winter, when the old town smells charcoal and is under the snow.

From Beijing or Xi’An, it only takes around 3 hours by high speed train. It’s a perfect getaway for the weekend!

 

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We wish you great holiday and a fabulous year 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2015

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The first Baijiu bar in Beijing

If you live in China you definitely know what Baijiu is, for the others…well this is the favourite alcohol of our fellow Chinese. Wanna try?

The Capital Spirits bar located in a Beijing’s old hutongs made this alcohol its speciality. This small cosy bar  with intimate atmosphere will welcome you to taste the China flavour.

baijiu bar

baijiu bar

You have different formulas, but we recommend you to try the “baijiu tasting”: 4 variety of baijiu to develop your taste buds. Quite strong but I am sure you will make it through! Personally after the 3rd one, couldn’t taste the difference when sipping them but definitely a great experience.

Baijiu testing

Baijiu testing

 

If the tasting is not what you are into, they also have a wide range of cocktails based with Baijiu. I tried the Baijiu sour and it’s a good one :-)

Baijiu testing

Baijiu testing

We also organize tours to discover all the secrets of the Baijiu. This tour, will take you on a private session and walk you through Baijiu’s 2,000+ year history in China.  You’ll learn about the different fermentation and distillation techniques and be able to discern the distinctive tastes of various Baijiu from the many regional specialities in China. You will also get a live demonstration on how to distill spirits and show you how you can make tasty Baijiu cocktails. You’ll finish the session by preparing you own Baijiu cocktail.

Contact us if you are interested (minimum of 4 persons ).

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Leaks and cabbages invade Beijing

November is not only announcing the arrival of winter, when you start to wear boots, scarf and coat but also the season where for two weeks leaks (大葱) and cabbages (白菜) will flourish on the sidewalks of Beijing.

Stack of cabbages and leaks

Stack of cabbages and leaks

Piles in every corners of the city (mostly in the hutongs area). It’s quite impressive and hopefully this tradition will continue over the years.

In the district of Dongcheng

In the district of Dongcheng

An individual bought a good reserve of leaks

An individual bought a good reserve of leaks

Leaks & cabbages piles

Leaks & cabbages piles

A bike emprisonned by cabbages

A bike imprisoned by cabbages

Cabbages and leaks boardwalk empires

Cabbages and leaks on the  sidewalk

 

Piles of leaksCabbages being loaded

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A small vinyl shop in Beijing’s hutongs

If you are travelling in Beijing and you are a vinyl collector, you should go at The Fruityshop.

Here’s an address where you might find some treasure and sounds from the East.           Located at the end of a hutong in Dongsi, this hidden place deserves a stop. A good choice of vinyls, a DJ set once a month, a cosy terrasse on the rooftop or even some chairs outside the shop to enjoy the hutong life. Everything is there to make you feel comfortable. So even if you don’t go for the vinyls it’s a great place to chill out.

Fruityshop

fruityshop

Japanese Music selection

Japanese music selection

DJ set at Fruityshop

DJ set at fruityshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owner will be more than happy to give you some advices, so do not hesitate to ask.

The Fruityshop opens every day at 2pm.

Address: 北京东城区东四头条十七号 (Dongsi toutiao hutong No17)                                           From the Dongsi subway station, take the exit North East, it is the hutong just at that exit.

Fruityshop

Fruityshop

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Expat Show Shanghai 2014

Like every year we welcomed the new comers to Shanghai at our booth (15b) and introduced them all the travel possibilities that offers Asia.

Thank you to you all who stopped at our booth for a chat.

Expat Show 2014 Travel-Stone booth

Expat Show 2014 Travel-Stone booth


 
Expat Show 2014 Travel-Stone booth

Expat Show 2014 Travel-Stone booth

TS team at Expat Show 2014, Emilie, Jessica, Clement, Serge

TS team at Expat Show 2014, Emilie, Jessica, Clement, Serge

We will be there again for the edition 2015. Don’t hesitate to come and meet us.

 

Design of the booth and t-shirt made by Isabelle Gavalda (isabelle@lightsondesign.com)

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Visa on arrival in Mongolia

It is easier to go to Mongolia since 2014, June 3rd, the Mongol visa is delivered on arrival to the tourists from the following countries, so don’t hesitate!

1 Luxembourg
2 Norway
3 Switzerland
4 Austria
5 Netherlands
6 Ireland
7 Sweden
8 Iceland
9 Belgium
10 Denmark
11 Finland
12 France
13 Italy
14 Malta
15 Slovenia
16 Czech Republic
17 Slovakia
18 Estonia
19 Greece
20 Spain
21 Portugal
22 Lithuania
23 Poland
24 Hungary
25 Latvia
26 Bulgaria
27 Romania
28 Lichtenstein
29 Monaco
30 Andorra
31 Gibraltar
32 Vatican
33 Bahamas
34 Barbados
35 Trinidad Tobago
36 Argentina
37 Uruguay
38 Panama
39 Chile
40 Grenada
41 Costa Rica
42 Seychelles

Contact us to organize your trip: www.travel-stone.com

Mongolia

Mongolia

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Nepal : a hidden gem and an adventurer’s paradise

It is actually not the first destination that comes to your mind when planning your coming holidays but that’s a mistake ! Because traveling in Nepal never leaves you indifferent.

Small land country locked between two giants of Asia; China and India, Nepal has always fascinated travelers. Well known for its trekking opportunities in the foothills of the Himalayas mountain, it was one of my best trips. I plan to go back again and again.

Traditional clothes style

I actually spent 8 days there. It was enough to give me a good overview of what I can basically expect from this wonderful country.

Kathmandu and its valley contain many treasures such as the temples of Bhaktapur. Further north west, Pokhara is surrounded by all the highest peak of the world.

Now let’s hit the road together!

My itinerary :

Arrival in Kathmandu by land from the Tibetan border. I stayed one day there.

Following day, going to Pokhara for one day (by flight)

Then heading to the mountain for a four day trekking.

From Pokhara, going back to Kathmandu (by flight) during two more days. Flying back to Shanghai.

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Kathmandu valley – UNESCO World Heritage Centre

The cultural heritage of Kathmandu is internationally renowned for its historic and artistic accomplishments. Among the most famous monuments of this city you have: the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Bauddhanath and the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan.

The first impression this city gave me, made me think that the capital of Nepal was noisy, crowded, and dirty. Indeed, when I took a taxi from the airport to my hotel, which was located in the touristy area of Thamel, I could feel the same atmosphere than in all the Indian cities. Here we are, no traffic rules, wild animals crossing the street, and the annoyance of horn noise.

Finally I reached my hotel, The Holy Himalaya where I enjoyed on arrival a cup of Masala tea. A nice and comfortable place, well located, with a reasonable price (35 dollars per night) – suitable for families.

Then, I immediately explored Thamel by foot where you will be able to see a huge concentration of touristic shops of any kind of souvenirs. The streets are colorful with a lot of Indian influences. But you don’t need to stay too long, you’d rather save your time for the rest.

Thamel district

Undeniably, the other part of Kathmandu with its large range of  old temples really well persevered will create better memories in your mind. For example Bhaktapur, which is about 25 minutes by taxi from Thamel, is one of the three royal cities. Such a rich area in architectural beauty, where you will enjoy a lot of ancient Hindu and Buddhist religious sites, and palaces and courtyards. You can easily spend half day.

Bhaktapur

I also visited the Monkey Temple, a Buddhist temple in a park on a hill. It is actually inhabited by hundreds of monkeys. After climbing hundreds of steps you earn the right to admire the peaceful atmosphere of this quiet place, with prayer flags floating, fountains, old trees and the panoramic view of Kathmandu.

Monkey Temple

Then I went to the Bodhnath, the biggest stupa in the Valley.
Traditionally, this place was a significant staging post on the trade route between Lhasa and Kathmandu where Tibetan traders would pray for a safe trip before heading with their yaks on to the high road of the Himalaya.

The best time to visit Bodhnath is during the late afternoon, when all the group tours leaves, all the light butter lamps are lit up, you will watch the performance of people doing a ritual clockwise circuit of the monument. If you are lucky try also to go there on the evening of the full moon, when the plaza surrounding the stupa is lit up by thousands of butter lamps.

Bodhnath

Finally my last attraction before heading to Pokhara was the Kathmandu Durbar Square. This massive complex is one of the most famous touristy spot of the city; palaces, temples and courtyards has been built in this original center of Kathmandu often named as Basantapur. It has various historical royal and governmental institutions mixed with religious monuments of different styles and ages.

Durbar Square

Pokhara – Remarkable place of natural beauty

Such a magic place! Even though I didn’t see the magnificence of the Himalayas mountains rising behind the lakes; the serenity of the lake created enough peaceful ambiance to make me happy.

The city is actually now the starting point for most of the popular treks and rafting destinations. It is also a place to relax and enjoy the beauty of the scenery.

Pokhara’s Lake

You will get a lot of different options for your accommodation. I can recommend you mine which was the Hotel Dream Pokhara:  nice view, good breakfast and comfortable bed for 35 dollars per night – suitable for families.

4 day Trekking to Poon hill 

As a traveler in Nepal you can not miss going on a trek! Besides the physical effort that you have to make to climb and your accommodation which certainly won’t be the best ever, your experience will be still unforgettable. Indeed, the scenery is just unbelievable.

Actually the Poon hill Ghorepani trek is an extremely popular short trek to the Annapurnas (a trek permit is needed). The breathtaking mountain scenery of the full Annapurna range and the lovely ethnic Gurung villages explain the popularity of Ghorepani Poon hill trekking.

Pretty easy trek that has short walks along streams and forests which does not involve high altitude. So you don’t have to be afraid of the altitude sickness on the road. I recommend this trek – with a guide – for everyone who loves nature. Indeed for security reasons and also because only local people really know the roads, a guide would be a wise decision.
Ghorepani trekking can be done at anytime during the year although in monsoon ( July – August) even it is not the good season. I did it in July and only got half day rain.

Trek

I started my journey with a 2 hour drive by bus to reach Nayapul where I crossed the suspension bridge over Modhi Khola river. I climbed through different villages, local farms, and terraces rice fields to reach Tikhedhunga at 1525m where I use a random mountain lodges called the tea houses for my food and accommodation.

Trek

On the second day (the hardest one) we climbed a lot of stairs for the first 4 hours trek. That was actually pretty intense. Then my guide and I mostly walked trough woods before reaching Ghorepani Village base camp at 2850m.

Trek

Next morning we woke up really early (4.30 AM) to be at Poon hill for the sunrise. And the spectacular view of the Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Nilgiri, Fishtail and other famous mountains of the west region was waiting for us. The panorama was breathtaking ! Speechless just look at the picture:

Trek

And then for the 2 days remaining we went down through Tadapani and Ghandruk. On our way we cross the beautiful Gurung village, known for its traditional houses, rich culture and the great landscape. Finally after these numerous steps we made a loop at Birethanti and did catch our bus for Pokhara.

Trek

Contact us for the organization of your trip!

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