green hills and terraced tea fields

I visited the outskirts of the city of Hangzhou these past few days, because I heard there were forested hills there. I wanted an escape from the big city. Sure enough, I found lush green hills, old temples, refurbished pagodas, terraced tea fields, and plenty of fresh air. I hiked a bunch.

Eventually I found my way to the local tea museum, sat through a free tea tasting, and bought some of that yummy green stuff…the dried kind, of course. Tea from this area is called Longjing, which means “Dragon Well.”

I slept in a cozy hostel and enjoyed the quiet serenity all night and in the morning as well. Hangzhou is only an hour away by high speed train, which reaches a top speed of about 200 mph and feels smoother than a normal train. Because it’s so close and offers a wide expanse of near-natural setting, I will likely visit there again on future days off.

green hills and terraced tea fields

six harmonies pagoda, sadly without its bells

Taoist temple at "The Cloud Flying Over Jade Emporer Hill"

The other day I tried a fruit called Liu lian, or “Durian” in the U.S. It looks somewhat like a big spiky football, although a little bigger. The meat inside is a yellow-white color which smells awful: combine rancid cheese with stinky socks and you come close. But the flavor is…well…interesting. Much better than the smell. The texture is very buttery and smooth. I don’t think I’ll be eating very much Liu lian. I’ve seen a few other unusual looking fruits as their season begins, fruits I’ve never seen anywhere else. Stay tuned…

stinky fruit called Liu lian

Last week Roma took me to the Wu Shu Museum at the Shanghai University of Sport. I had no idea how many different martial art styles China had. Way beyond the five animal styles popularized by Kung Fu Panda plus Wing Chun from Bruce Lee.

They even have one that is similar to the UFC mixed martial arts, called Sanda, which combines Chinese kickboxing and Chinese wrestling–I find it to be much more sport-like and less brutal than UFC. Chinese kickboxing is similar to Thai kickboxing except the Chinese do not use knees or elbows.

Another Chinese martial art style, called Xing Yi (pronounced Sheeng Yee), has forms which are named and patterned after the Chinese five elements. It is usually taught along with Ba Gua. For those of you familiar with the cartoon series Aang the Last Airbender, Aang’s martial art style is Ba Gua.

After that we went to a Chinese Xiao Kao (bbq) restaurant. WIth an all-you-can-eat-for-one-price entry (about $5 US), we stuffed ourselves till we could barely walk. It is similar to Korean bbq restaurant where you sit at a table with a bbq device and they bring raw food for you to cook yourself.

I’ve also seen a few western movies since my last post, Sucker Punch and Thor. Would have been a perfect experience except for the fact that Chinese don’t eat regular popcorn…they only eat the sweetened “kettle” style. Blegh. I miss butter-and-salt popcorn!