Monday, October 19, 2009

China Holiday

This annual holiday was spent in China with my extended family. We went to Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuzhen, Nanjing, Wuxi and Shanghai. These areas are famous for their picturesque scenery & beautifully landscaped gardens, the holiday destination of ancient times.

The above picture is of the famous view from Jichang Garden, Wuxi. Emperor Qianlong is said to have built a similar garden at his palace after visiting this place. The hills and pagoda in the background makes this garden look bigger than it actually is and enhances the overall scenery.

This was primarily a walking trip. We visited 4 gardens, 3 temples, 2 bridges and 1 film site. Sat on 3 cruises, watched 2 shows and ascended the tallest tower in China.

All the gardens have pebbles set into patterns on the ground (see above). If you walk barefoot on it, it supposedly massages your soles to improve blood circulation. Either way, it is very pretty. Can you imagine the amount of effort to pebblerize an entire estate?!

Wuzhen Water Town, a traditional housing development in 1700s-1800s that is in the process of being preserved. Towns were built near rivers with canals and bridges linking the many waterways.

The film site of the epic TV production Romance of the Three Kingdoms is turned into a modern day theme park resembling Universal Studios.

Meijiawu Tea Village where the famous and expensive Longjing Tea is grown. Said to be drunk by China's emperors. Longjing is the only alkaline tea I know of, with the addition of beneficial effects. I guess that's why it costs what it costs.

Then the food. Each region brews it's own beer so there are many brands to choose from. However, with only 3% alcohol content, it can be drunk during lunch as well.

You have to try the XiaoLongBao in Shanghai. Their famous soup dumpling (tang bao), where a straw in inserted for you to drink. It can be found almost anywhere.

A well known must try dish is Dongpo Pork. Named after Su Dongpo, the famous Chinese scholar/diplomat. The 5 layer pork (fat alternating with meat) is gently stewed to create a quivering mound of meat and fat that melts in the mouth. Unhealthy as it sounds, you have to try it at least once in a lifetime. The amazing feature is the fat that has been cooked to be in state in between liquefying into oil.

Of course, we also had the hairy crab feast. This being the season after all and Taiho lake being so close by. It was soo good that our tour guide brought back 60 hairy crabs for her family to feast on.

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