Friday, November 10, 2017

Last Day In Xixinan and a Visit to Hongcun Village

On my last day at Villa Lotus in Xixinan we drove about 1 hour through beautiful landscapes to visit the historic Hongcun Village.
We stopped on the way to take some photos of the beautiful Chrysanthemum fields, tea plantations and bamboo forests creeping up the mountainsides.

Hongcun Village has been well-restored and has become a popular tourist attraction, even more so than Tangmo Village, which we visited earlier in the week. Xixinan, where I am staying, is still a "sleeping beauty" and not nearly as commercialized - who knows how long that's going to last? I am so happy I got to experience it in it's authentic form.

Hongcun is surrounded by a lake, and the water is an intricate part of the design of the village. It attracts lots of young art students, who were sitting along the banks of the lake, sketching the beautiful old buildings and their reflections in the water.

We found a place where we could try some tea tasting, since the area is well-known for growing very high quality teas, and we had a very pleasant day enjoying the sights, the tea and some street food.

We drove back to the hotel so I could finish packing, and enjoy a last delicious meal at Villa Lotus, before it was time for me to catch my flight back to Beijing. I will look forward to returning in the Spring with my watercolor workshop group!

Huangshan, Yellow Mountain - Awe-inspiring Views!

Next on our agenda was a visit to Yellow Mountain - Huangshan National Park. Our driver picked us up at 9 am, and after about 30 minutes he dropped us off where we would pick up the bus to the gondola that would bring us to the entrance of Yellow Mountain. The lines were very long, but after about 1 hour we made it onto the bus. It's only possible to get to the gondolas via bus, and our bus-driver certainly took the curves at neck-braking speed! We had to wait in line again, to get on to the gondola. Obviously this is a very, very popular tourist attraction, it being a Sunday probably made it even busier. However, once on the gondola the views were incredible!


Ying and I started our walk to the hotel where we were going to spend the night. Up and down many, many stairs, with lots of scenic stops to photograph and catch our breath. It was a stunningly beautiful scenery, no wonder it has attracted artists for millennia! 

After a couple of hours we reached our hotel, checked in and went up to our room to rest a bit, before heading out again, to hike up to a good spot to see the sunset. We had been very lucky with the weather, sunny and warm, and the sunset was beautiful. 

 After an early dinner at the hotel restaurant we went to bed, to get a good night's sleep so we could get up early to hopefully catch the sunrise the next morning. By 5:45 am we were outside, heading up many more stairs to get to a good spot for a view of the sun rising. 

As we walked the sky got lighter and we could see the first glow in the clouds from the rising sun. We spent some time at a spot with good views, before we decided to tackle another set of stairs to get up even further, and made it in time to see the first bit of the sun rising over the horizon. A truly magnificent sight! We stayed up there for some time to really take it all in and enjoy the moment.

We headed back down to our hotel to check out, get some breakfast, and hike all the way over to the other gondola. It took us most of the day, hiking up and down steep stairs, taking lots of breaks to enjoy the sights and rest our wary legs, not to mention knees! We were both quite happy to finally see our destination ahead, and soon we were on the gondola down the mountain to catch the bus. 
This time our bus-driver took the curves quite a bit slower than when we went up. I preferred the slower pace!! 

 We were both tired and ready for a shower when the driver dropped us off outside the alley to Lotus Villa. 

However, the experience and the beauty of Yellow Mountain made it all worth it! It's an experience I will never forget, and I look forward to sharing it with my workshop participants next March! We plan on making it a one-day tour, taking the same gondola both up and down, so people can decide how many stairs they are willing and able to climb!

A Visit to Tangmo Village

After a delicious freshly prepared lunch at Villa Lotus Ying had arranged for a driver to pick us up just outside the old part of the village to take us to a nearby historic old village called Tangmo.

 We spent the aftenoon strolling through the picturesque village, and I had a stamp carved with The Chinese sign for "woman" since there were no Chinese sign for Eva. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.