Emei Shan, China, Day 12
The day started in steamy subtropical temperatures, nothing to do with the weather outside which was still damp from last nights spectacular thunderstorm, rather because we’d turned the living room into a makeshift drying area for all of our laundry, which was now wonderfully done.
After another mystery tray of delights for breakfast including a glutinous rice ball filled with pork and with our raincoats on, we were soon walking up to Patricks restaurant to meet the others and set off on our days adventure. I hadn’t really been missing them but it was nice to see their faces and hear how their yesterday had been nonetheless. It’s a funny thing this group tour travel, a bunch of strangers who you spend almost every waking hour with, sleep next to in public trains and share daily meals with but do not really know at all. There is no obligation to like anyone of course, although that does make for the odd awkward moment as the days pass. For sure I want everyone to like me, who doesn’t! But why should they and I won’t like everyone anyway. You could drive yourself crazy trying to please everyone or figure out their motives, neither of which you’ll ever be able to achieve. Whether we ever end up doing a group tour again, we are a small group and it would be far nicer to look back on this trip, for all of its shortcomings, with fondness instead of relief that it is over, which today went a long way towards ensuring, the fondness part…
We set off in two groups, one in a minibus and the other in Patricks car to our first stop, a local rice wine distillery. Two swallows who’ve set up home in one of the store rooms were swooping around us as we walked in, the most extraordinary smell enveloping us as we entered the building, piles of millet, corn and rice were gently steaming midway through the distillation process next to concrete bins of the individual ingredients. After being walked through the not so arduous process we were poured a healthy amount of the clear finished product, only 60% proof! It being only about 10am and me being a lightweight I gave it a miss ☺️ the reactions from the others ranged from wanting more to cringing horror, ha! a bottle of this local firewater could be purchased for the princely sum of 20 Yuan, about £2.
About 20 minutes later we arrived at a local market which we meandered through asking about local vegetables we hadn’t seen before and drooling at the incredible looking water buffalo meat, until we realised it was water buffalo of course. We are fast and reluctantly heading towards becoming fowlatarians, who oh why do animals have to be so tasty and so cute! Why can’t they be one or the other! Anyway, we also stopped at the local kindergarten to say hi to the mostly amused and incredibly cute children, one little boy tried to karate chop me before his teacher caught him and sent him speedily back to his chair. Having left the school we wandered some more, a few of us picking up fruit and delicious fluffy rice flour cakes steamed in what looked like corn husks. We passed an ancient withered old man hand rolling cigars, a barber shop set up in an alleyway before winding our way into the back streets and stopping in at one of the remaining ancient Ching Dynasty courtyard houses and visiting its diminutive 83 year old owner who lives in this wonderful wooden building alone, her children and grandchildren favouring the city. It’s these glimpses into other worlds that really make travelling so enjoyable for me.
Next we headed to a pick your own strawberry farm, something I have fond memories of doing as a child but haven’t done in decades, we picked for a while ending up with a huge perfect bag that as soon as we washed turned into tasty mush, so naturally we had to eat as many as we could before they ruined 😜
Our final stop for the day was for lunch at a tea plantation, I would say the lunch was wonderful but the only three dishes I could eat were bacon, cabbage and white carrot as the many others were all drenched in chilli, the bacon was however superb. After seeing the tea leaves in various stages and trying the green, jasmine and black tea they produced we walked a little way down the street before crossing a tiny stream and walking along a foot wide path into the tea hedges. Not quite the Cameron Highlands and its magnificent rolling hills covered in wiggly rows of tea, but wonderful all the same, after laughing a lot while we tried and failed picking the correct delicate nibs of tea with one of the amused workers and then two of our group falling on the slick soil we gingerly made our way back to the bus. Pleasantly tired we headed back to Emei Shan and were dropped at our lovely warm guesthouse while the others continued to their dorms at the Temple.
The day with Patrick is a new addition to the G Adventures tour and one of the most enjoyable ones we’ve spent outside of the major attractions like the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors Xx