Fujian travel diary
The following is about my trip around Fujian Province from 23-28 March 2003. The trip began in Xiamen (a coastal city in Southern Fujian) and I then went to Wuyi Shan in the northwest of the province. From Wuyi Shan I travelled by bus back to Xiamen, stopping off at a few places along the way.
Places mentioned in this report: Xiamen (廈門), Wuyi Shan (武夷山), Xiamei Village (下梅村), Nanping (南平), Min River (閩江), Minqing (閩清), Fuzhou (福州) Yongtai (永泰), Qingyun Shan (青雲山), Putian (莆田) Hui'an (惠安) Chongwu (崇武), Quanzhou (泉州)
23 March 2003 -- Wuyi Shan
I took the overnight express train from Xiamen (廈門) to Wuyi Shan (武夷山). The train K592 leaves Xiamen at 18:59 and arrives in Wuyi Shan the next morning at about 08:30. I travelled in hard sleeper class which is comfortable and economical. A ticket costs 144 yuan compared with about 500 yuan to fly. Touts for hotels in Wuyi Shan boarded the train in the latter part of the journey. I agreed to go with one as they offered a hotel room for 100 yuan and also a ride from the train station to the hotel. They said that if I didn't take the room I would have to pay 2 yuan for the ride, but if I took the room it was free. I went to the Tianbao Hotel (天寶酒店) and it was very good value for 100 yuan. My only complaint was that the hot water was barely hot. The Lonely Planet Guide to China (7th edn.) gives the impression that there is not much budget accommodation in Wuyi Shan, but there are so many hotels here that there is bound to be a lot of discounting, at least in the off-peak times. The area looks like it has seen a lot of new construction of hotels over the last few years and obviously has a lot of Chinese tourists visiting.
The first thing I did when in Wuyi Shan was go on one of the rubber raft trips (referred to in Chinese as 漂流="float and flow") that leave from near the main bridge. It cost 98 yuan. I actually thought it would go through some of the scenic areas, but was disappointed. It just goes through some fairly tame rapids and you barely catch a glimpse of the scenery Wuyi Shan is famous for. It would probably be great fun on a hot summer's day with a few friends when it would be possible to have water fights and go swimming. But when I was there it was too cold to even think about getting wet (although I got splashed a bit going through some of the rapids).
In the evening I had a quite surreal experience when I visited the Huaxia Ethnic Minorities City (華夏民族城). It cost 200 yuan for an entry ticket to see the show. Held in a large modern concert hall the show went for more than 2 hours and featured singing, dancing, magic and comedy. Believe it or not the stars of the show were half a dozen Thai lady-boys!!! The show was quite entertaining, but it is not the sort of thing I ever expected to see in China!!!
24 March 2003 -- Wuyi Shan
The next day as well as visiting a few of Wuyi Shan's famous scenic spots I took a trip to Xiamei Village (下梅村). It is about 8 kms south of Wuyi Shan and I went there by motor bike taxi for 30 yuan (return). It is a village which still preserves its historic architecture and hasn't succumbed to the Chinese concrete box building syndrome although the buildings are falling into disrepair. Like everywhere in Wuyi Shan there is a 22 yuan entrance fee. I had a guide to show me around. (It is worth getting a guide to take your around even if you can't speak Chinese (you won't find an English speaking guide!). The guide will be able to show you all sorts of interesting things inside various buildings and houses that you probably wouldn't be able to find on your own).
25 March 2003 -- Wuyi Shan to Minqing
After a couple of days I left Wuyi Shan to head for Yongtai (永泰). I first took a bus from Wuyi Shan to Nanping (南平), a journey of a bit over three hours on a good road. Nanping is the city where several rivers join together to form the Min River (閩江). At Nanping I changed buses to get to Minqing (閩清). The distance did not look great on the map, but the trip took over four hours. This was due to the fact that the road went through some surprisingly mountainous terrain and there were a number of long stops for road works. It was about 3:30pm by the time I arrived in Minqing and I went straight to the bus station only to find there were no more buses to Yongtai that day. I could have gone on to Fuzhou and caught a bus from there, but I thought I would stop in Minqing for the night and catch a bus to Yongtai in the morning. (Actually in retrospect the easiest way to get from Wuyi Shan to Yongtai would have been a train to Fuzhou (福州) and then a bus to Yongtai). Minqing was a fairly typical drab small Chinese city. I stayed in the Minyun Hotel (閩運旅館), right next to the bus station. It was 60 yuan a night for a basic but comfortable room with a bathroom.
At 7:30 the next morning I caught the bus to Yongtai. The bus trip took about three hours and passed through some interesting places. Around Bandong there were some interesting old buildings that were still in good condition. The bus climbed up into the mountains and the scenery was quite nice. I was really surprised by the extent of the mountains I had seen on my trip and the fact that the mountainous areas were sparsely populated.
When I arrived in Yongtai I found a room at the Anhua Hotel (安華大旅館), again near the bus station. It was similar to the place where I stayed the night before and the price was also 60 yuan. After dropping off my bags at the hotel I went to the bus station to catch a bus to Qingyun Shan (青雲山). Getting to Qingyun Shan was quite easy. It was just a matter of getting on board a Putian bound bus and there were buses leaving every half an hour.
The bus travelled on a fairly narrow mountain road with some beautiful mountain scenery. It took about half and hour to arrive at Qingyun Shan. Actually in the Qingyun Shan area there are five different scenic areas spread over about five kilometres. The first one I went to was the Qingyun Shan Gorge Waterfall Scenic Area (青雲山峽谷瀑布景區). There was an entry fee of 20 yuan. It took about three hours to explore the area, walking up past many beautiful waterfalls. Being mid-week there was hardly another person around, although I imagine there would be more people there on weekends or in mid-summer. The scenery was spectacular--at least equal to that of Wuyi Shan. Also it had a feeling of being more wild.
After I finished my explorations and exited the main gate of the scenic area there was a man who offered to take me to his restaurant for lunch. I jumped on the back of his motor bike and we headed about a kilometre down the hill to his restaurant - the Nongjia Caiguan (農家菜館). As well as eating lunch I chatted to the owner of the restaurant and he told me that he had a room upstairs for 30 yuan per night. I had already paid for a room in Yongtai that night so I had to head back there. I caught the bus back to Yongtai where I spent the night. Yongtai was much like Minqing were I had stayed the night before. There is a remarkable sameness about most small Chinese cities.
27 March 2003 -- Yongtai to Qingyun Shan
The next morning I caught the bus back to Qingyun Shan, with my bags this time as I planned to stay the night up in the mountains. Much better than staying in some drab, gray, concrete Chinese town. I jumped off the bus at the Nongjia Caiguan, where I had eaten lunch the day before. The owner then took me to the entrance of the of the Stone Corridor Scenic Area (石廊峽谷景區) on his motor bike. The entry fee was again 20 yuan. Shortly after entering the area you climb through a narrow gorge with some nice waterfalls. At one point the some huge boulders have fallen over the roof of the gorge. I guess this is the "stone corridor". After that the path left the river and climbed into the mountains.
There were very few people around and the area was much less developed for tourists. There were some massive cliffs and great views. I got right up to the top of the mountain, but I could feel a storm brewing and it looked like it was going to rain so I headed back down a lot quicker than I went up. About half an hour after I got back to the restaurant and was eating lunch it started pouring rain. Later in the afternoon, when there was a break in the rain, I headed up the road to the Baima Gorge (白馬峽谷). There was a three-star hotel (Baima Villa or 白馬山莊) there in a beautiful setting at the convergence of two small streams. (There are also a few other places to stay in Qingyun Shan, so it is really unnecessary to stay in Yongtai). I didn't go into the Baima Gorge Scenic Area and my decision was justified when shortly after I arrived back at the restaurant when it again started pouring rain. It was nice to fall asleep that night with the sound of rain falling and the water rushing down the river.
28 March 2003 -- Qingyun Shan to Xiamen via Chongwu
The next morning I caught a bus going past to Putian (莆田). Once the bus got out of the mountains there was a lot more traffic on the road and many buses which were racing each other. Thankfully the driver of my bus didn't seem to want in on the action. In Putian I caught another bus to Hui'an (惠安) and from there a bus on to Chongwu (崇武). Along the road to Chongwu there were many factories with yards full of stone carvings for which the area is famous. In addition to the many statues of Guan Yin and other Chinese gods I was surprised to see a huge bust of Nelson Mandela.
When the bus arrived in Chongwu it was cold and raining. Armed with my umbrella I set off to the Chongwu Historical City (崇武古城). There was an entry fee of 25 yuan. The Chongwu Historical City was built in 1387 and today the entire 2.5 km city wall is beautifully preserved. It also occupies a beautiful setting along the coast. It would be a fascinating place to spend a few hours exploring, but today was not the day with the weather so appalling. After walking around the entire length of the city wall I caught the bus from Chongwu to Quanzhou (泉州). It travelled through some interesting villages. All the houses in the area are made from bricks of solid granite. In Quanzhou I caught another bus onto Xiamen where my travels came to an end.
Note: US$1 = 8.3 yuan, AU$1 = 5.5 yuan (as of July 2003). Yuan is the Chinese unit of currency and is also known as the Renminbi (RMB).
David's Guide to Fujian & China
© 2003 David Reid