Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hukeng earth house cluster, Fujian

Excerpts from my 'offline blog'

7th April 2010

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Our first stop after lunch was the Hukeng tulou cluster. We were told business was very busy the previous few days, as Hong Kongers were having their public holidays. If that’s really the case then it’s a really big contrast! There was no other tourist the whole time we were there. The entrance fee for us was RMB 40, a ‘discounted price’ from the original RMB 50, and it covers all the Hukeng earth houses. The first two or three were quite interesting, but after that it felt a bit repetitive, as most of those earth houses are more or less the same. Of course, some (and the most famous ones) are all circular, while there are also rectangular ones.

I actually felt quite bad while visiting the Hukeng tulou cluster. It’s a comparatively less touristy cluster, and a lot of people are still living in the houses. When we were visiting I felt like a voyeur who’s disturbing those people’s lives. Most of the residents were expressionless when they saw us, and they were not particularly friendly, which is totally understandable, and that made me feel worse. I think we might be paying to see these places which are homes of these people who have no say about who can visit. They might not have received any benefits at all. A lot of these people are really living their lives there, many of them cooking and preserving bamboo shoots, which I guess is for sale elsewhere (Xiamen perhaps?). They were not performing for tourists, which is the case in a lot of ‘cultural villages’.

We ended up not going into all of the Hukeng earth houses, as some didn’t seem too interesting. It did take us quite some time (about two hours) to visit the Hukeng cluster. Then we headed back to the guesthouse booked with the agent, which was really worse than what I expected. It’s not a proper place to stay in terms of basic amenities and cleanliness, though it cost only RMB 120 with an en-suite bathroom. The agent we had contacted before the trip turned out to be a pretty cunning man, which is not surprising, and his staff (all his relatives) only had money in their eyes. They tried to charge us RMB 120 for a chicken (think about where we were!). Do we really look that dumb? We eventually had dinner outside, near the ‘Tulou King’ Chengqi Lou, at RMB 32 for two. @_@ Then, with the help of the agent’s sister, we went inside the ‘Tulou King’ to take some night shots. The atmosphere’s quite nice and she’s quite nice in taking us inside for free.

We were worried that we would have to eat with them the next day, so we bought some apples and biscuits. I also bought some Hakka-style dried cabbage (mui choy) for my parents, as they kept on reminding me before the trip to get ‘as much as possible’. The Hakka-style dried cabbage cannot be found in Hong Kong, as the preserved cabbage found in Hong Kong is an altogether different kind and it’s no match to the Hakka ones!!!

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