China, such a mysterious country, may seem crowded and a little bit chaotic at first sight, but you soon realize everything is there for a reason. A completely different world, unique culture, rice on every corner, spicy food, tea plantations, Tai Chi – these were my first impressions. All this and much more is the real China 🙂 There are Chinese characters everywhere and, to be honest, a chance of finding an English speaking person is the same as winning a lottery. This kind of travel inspires you, changes your perception of the world and has positive effects on your personal growth.
My backpack “mission” and Chinese adventure started with the Yellow Mountains (named after the Yellow Emperor) in the south of the Anhui province. It is believed that the Yellow Emperor refined precious medicines in this magical place. A cable car took us to the top of these amazing mountains where you can find luxury hotels. I was wondering how they had been built and how all the necessary construction materials had been transported. After one month of staying in hot Shanghai I enjoyed fresh air and beautiful nature.
Friends of mine who have already been to the Yellow Mountains told me that these mountains were not only an oasis of peace, but also home to monkeys. It was rainy and foggy, so instead of enjoying nice views I hoped to see the monkeys. My wish came true since I experienced an unforgettable meeting with a monkey’s family. One of the monkeys decided to be a model. The camera loves her, doesn’t it? 🙂
After hundreds and hundreds of stairs, yes stairs, you’ve read it correctly, there are stairs in mountainous Chinese areas, I was a little bit tired and enthusiastic at the same time. The next day started with a day trip to Guilin to discover tea and rice history. I took the bus full of locals and sat near a Chinese family of five members which is rarity in China due to one-child policy. When I came to Guilin, a small city by Chinese standards with cca.700.000 inhabitants, I realized that tea couldn’t be far away. The smell of tea was in the air.
Do you want to challenge your heart rate and make it rise above 120 beats per minute? Then just rent a motorbike in China and test your driving skills. No one observe traffic rules so it is better to get accustomed to the local customs as soon as possible. Trust me – it is worth it in the end.
As a tea lover I was curious about how tea plantations looked like and was committed to find a way to visit them. My Slovenian friend Anja and my humble self took a bus to Yangshou where we rented a motorbike. It was my fist motorbike tour so I was really happy when we drove away from the city centre traffic jam. A winding road with the lack of signposts was a real challenge but we had maps, positive attitude, knowledge of some Chinese words and hands, of course 🙂
On our way to the tea plantation we met a local lady in front of her house working with chilli peppers. China is well-known for spices and extremely spicy food. Many Chinese enjoy spicy food believing that hot peppers are good for their health. Even though I am used to spicy food according to European standards, many of Chinese dishes were too spicy for me. The sun drying chilli peppers method requests warm weather and direct sunlight so the Chinese climate is more than suitable for it. As you can see in the background of the photography, you can also find peanuts there.
After arriving at the tea plantations we got a friendly guide, a young Chinese woman, who lives and works there. Tea property was huge and as a tourist you can only see a small part of it which is more than enough to fall in love with tea. There are many different activities in which you can take part such as picking up tea leaves, tea tasting at a tea ceremony, eating fresh tea leaves or just walking through tea terraces and feeling the fresh air.
We decided to take a walk through the plantation with our talkative guide. She was a real treasure of knowledge. Among other things she taught us that black tea is made only of new shoots of tea leaves which are wilted, rolled, fermented and dried which is the reason for its higher price. During the walk we suddenly heard some strange voice. The plants were bending under the weight of someone and soon after we saw a familiar woman’s face with a tuft of herbs in her hands. She slipped in the direction of precipice and the situation was quite alarming so our guide lent her a hand and pulled her out of danger. To our surprise she wasn’t upset at all and as you can see in the photo her straw hat was on the ground.
I was really shocked and needed a few minutes before I realized this woman was actually the same hardworking and a little bit shy woman who was busy with chilli peppers and peanuts that we had already met. She climbed up from the valley while we were driving to the plantations by motorbike which took us approximately 60 minutes. This incredible woman was as fast as we were. I still can’t believe it, can you?
After this event we reached the endless tea terraced fields with a breath-taking view where we tasted different types of fresh and healthy tea leaves.
Tea ceremony reflects the history and traditional values of Chinese culture. When you get up in the morning there are seven things you should think about: oil, salt, wood, rice, soy sauce, vinegar and last but not least – tea! A traditional Chinese tea ceremony is a synonym for peace, silence, enjoyment and truth. Many of us are familiar with green, black and maybe red tea, but there are many more varieties of Chinese tea such as Wulong tea, white tea, yellow tea and reprocessed tea. One of useful tea drinking tips was about the best time to drink it which is between the meals. I really didn’t know that drinking tea on empty stomach can quench appetite or cause indigestion in case of consuming it soon after the meal. As you can see on the photo below the tea cups are really small so you can only take a few sips of tea. An old Chinese habit is that a woman should let her little fingers stick out slightly when holding a tea cup. It is believed that her hand looks like a flower. Of course, there are also some rules of tea consuming for a man. It is considered that a man should keep his fingers in when holding a tea cup to show his strong fists.
From my point of view China is full of unique traveler corners and stories. Are you interested in what was going on my adventure through Longji’s terraced rice fields? Coming soon 🙂