Panny and I were on an all day tour of the Earthen Buildings in the Fujian Province of China. After going inside the highly impressive “King of Tulou” (Chengqi Building), we decided to walk up the hill behind it to get a view of the town.
We didn’t realise the actual town was so big at first. To be honest the name of the town is confusing. My book listed it as ONLY a village called Gaotou Village in the Jiaotang County, another leaflet claimed it was in Yongding County. What is certain is that the main Tulou/Earthen Building is called the Chengqi Building, nicknamed “King of Tulou” and that building sits in a “hamlet” known as Gaobei Hamlet. However in these photos, I do not know whether that hamlet is the entire “town” you can see, as surely a hamlet should be a very small place.
On the way up I had grabbed a Coca Cola. The ultimate non-Chinese drink. Capitalism v. Communism. I also had my water and was having a beer next. It was hot and I picked up a bit of sunburn. The walk to the top wasn’t long or challenging but enjoyable.
Panny and I overlooking the Chengqi Building (definitely), the Gaobei Hamlet (all of it), the Gaotou Village (possibly some of it). Whether we are in Jiao Tang County or Yong Ding County is anyone’s guess.
Those who know China will know that China doesn’t do clear skies. Smog and smoke normally fill the air, if it’s not cloudy. Here then was a surprise to have a decent view and some fresh air, dare I say it.
There was a ledge and wall at the very top of the hill to view down to the village. The flag got another airing there as we baked in the early afternoon sunshine. Fujian Province is certainly scenic.
Gaobei Hamlet from above. Not an advert, airport or electricity pylon in sight. A back to basics existence.
On the level below I hung the flag from a tree and flew it high over Gaobei Hamlet.
A couple of great shots taken from above with the shining traditional Fujian hamlet of Gaobei in behind.
Panny Yu against Gaobei Hamlet. We were there in March 2012. It was the first time in Fujian Province for Panny and I. In fact it was my first time in China away from an airport in 5 years. I don’t count Taiwan and Hong Kong as China, despite the fact that some people do.
You can see the modern buildings and the roads have been built. They wouldn’t have been around during the Ming Dynasty when the Chengqi Building was completed. That was in the year 1709.
I zoomed in a bit. The charm of square and rectangular buildings to live in is modern China in an architectural nutshell. No adverts, no need for fancy colours or sloped rooves. However in behind all of this there is another old style Earthen Building. We didn’t go into that one.
Panny Yu posing in the heartland of Fujian.
You get an idea of the steps from this photo – not a tricky walk by any means, just the heat on the back of your neck. As it was late March it was also nice that we didn’t get hassled by mosquitos.
Another close up shot.
Sometimes pictures are louder than words, and especially with the amount of travelling I’ve done in the last 3 years, it’s hard to keep up, so there’s a few photos which need no write up! Am I getting lazy? No, I’m just trying to get more reports done!
I don’t know what the Chinese says there but this was a dirty small pond outside the Chengqi Building. Just before we turned onto the steps to head up top.
Round the side of the Chengqi Building as we decided to hike right up to the top.
The start of the path. We were right in the middle of countryside and there was this elaborate looking entrance to the walk up. There were not many tourists taking the walk up to the top.
Luckily for me, the walk up was under the shade of the trees. I’m not exactly a fan of the hot sun. Panny Yu however has Asian skin and doesn’t seem to suffer too much under this style of weather. I bought a Coke and drank my water on my way up, and then we came to a restaurant which had local food and beer.
The wee restaurant had no customers and was near the top. While Panny checked out the food menu, I had a look at the beers and found this unusual “coffee stout” written in English. I had never seen it before.
And there was this large bottle of Sedrin Beer. So I was certain I wanted to eat here and Panny was too. But oddly, the lady asked us for a 20 Yuan deposit! It wasn’t busy! Why did they want a deposit, I was convinced it was part of a scam and let Panny get on with it. We told them we would hike to the top and be back down in 20 – 25 minutes.
The restaurant doubled up as a shop.
Eggs fresh from the chicken walking around us. There are chickens walking everywhere in parts of Taiwan and China, such an easy source of food for the Chinese.
Panny checks out the menu and pays our deposit.
So we went up to the top and enjoyed the view, took our photos and relaxed. It had only taken about 30 minutes to get all the way to the top from the bottom, including our stop in the restaurant.
Another couple of photos. There are a lot of photos from this China trip. The reason being, Panny and I travelled a lot before we met each other and always took photos and carried cameras. Now that we are together travelling, it makes no sense to limit ourselves to one camera. We both agree on that of course. I mean a camera could break, get lost, get stolen, run out of battery, run out of memory space. To travel with two is much better, even if it means much more photos to sift through at the end of it all…
Panny rarely does silly photos so I got a few of her here. One of her back with the t-shirt message “you can enjoy so much”, another with her hands up for no reason!
And the sensible Panny Yu enjoys the view, except she’s looking at me rather than at the view, but you know what I mean.
I did the same.
This photo is an odd one out. Rather than look down at the main attraction in the Gaobei Hamlet, I gazed down at this touristy part which has been very recently built, and actually is not even finished yet. The two snake like buildings are entry gates, when they start charging for entry into the Hamlet itself. The reason for this could be that many people turn up and don’t pay a penny. You only have to pay to get INSIDE the Chengqi Building. The walk to the top was free, and to walk around the Chengqi Building was also free. Maybe the Chinese just to that to say they’ve been there. The semi circular building in the picture above is funny in that its shape and style is undoubtedly modelled on the Fujian Earthen Buildings style! Yet it is completely modern, even having glass windows in it!
One photo to demonstrate how busy it was – this was the peak time at the top. Everyone was Chinese of course.
Commercialism/Capitalism v. Communism/Socialism? Well not quite that simple, but sometimes a Coca Cola can be the most refreshing drink you needed!
Chengqi Building – as detailed in my book. I bought the book in the Yuchang Earthen Building earlier that day and took time to read it as much as I could. It had English translations in it.
You could kind of tell the path had been renovated recently. These trees and the stones certainly looked new. It’s not a popular tourist attraction at all, especially for people who are not Chinese. But someday you know, this will be. For there is nowhere else on the planet with dwelling buildings quite like the Fujian Earthen Buildings.
The men’s toilet was open air allowing anyone to see you piss. Mind you at least there was a toilet, and a modern clean one. Places in China, Africa and South America I have been don’t even have toilets.
All the photos from the top were taken before lunch, just after this we headed back to the restaurant for lunch.
The only two places you can go. Seriously! It’s either the Chengqi Building or the Tourist Information Centre.
The painting I got for my Dad – it was of the 4 dishes and one soup buildings in the mountain hamlet at Tian Luo Keng.
Close up of the painting.
This guy was drilling and banging as we took our sets at the restaurant we booked for lunch. It was at this point that I remembered that restaurants in China and Taiwan are not really restaurants. They are just places to sit and eat. Here next to loud drills and walking dogs and chickens would hardly meet restaurant standards. But I’m not one to moan about these things!! Though Panny and I did ask the guy to turn the drill off while we were eating!
The drill guy took a 20 minute break while we ate. While this was all happening, our driver Sau Jan (who was a wanker incidentally) waits around for you. Panny and I were angry with him so for that reason we spent longer here and didn’t rush things. We both ordered chicken, vegetables and rice meals. Plus I had to order the Hi Cool Coffee Stout to curb my curiosity!
The chicken, rice and vegetables comes in a bamboo shoot. Another novelty and reminders of some of the unusual food traits of Taiwan came rushing back here. Unfortunately there were lots of bones in the chicken and some mushrooms. I hate mushrooms and I’m not a fan of biting through food to find the bones and spit them out. These bones were small and it was a tough task.
We also ordered an egg, onion, pepper and chive side dish to share. I actually preferred this more, that part of the meal wasn’t very Chinese of course. And the beer lived up to expectations, tasting like a mix of coffee and stout beer. Not quite the standard of a Guinness but here in the magic of Fujian province, this was a sufficient thirst quencher and a drink to help digest the Chinese meal.
Panny had a Ribena with her meal. The Coke was mine.
Panny and I at lunch. The only 2 customers in the restaurant as it happened and yet they made us book a table!
Coffee Stout Beer (Hi Cool) and my Chinese Chicken in Bamboo.
Chinese chicken, mushroom, rice, carrots served in a bamboo cane.
It was filling enough though none of us could actually finish it. Not just the heat but the appetite after walking round all day. We headed back down towards the other side of Gaobei Hamlet, where the Tourist Information Office is.
Another Northern Ireland flag moment. Again, how many times has a Northern Ireland flag been flown at Gaobei Hamlet?
Panny almost back at the bottom. We went down the opposite side from we came up.
The modern gate entrance and the tourist information office.
The section by the gates is very new, and still not fully operational, at least when we were there in March 2012. There is a posh shop there, some toilets, tourist information and retails outlets where shops and restaurants will open.
A model of the Chengqi Building in the new entrance gate section.
China’s latest Leader visited the area in 2010. On the same day as my brother and sister’s birthday as it happens. 13th February 2010.
The new building. The tourist information centre is here. The top two floors don’t seem to be in use now. This place was so new. This is on the other side of the hike from where the Chengqi Building is.
More buildings in this area are under construction, possibly hotels, restaurants and outlet stores of the future. Part of me likes this idea as it brings in jobs and money to people of the area whose lives are relatively basic and poor. Another part of me thinks it ruins the entire appearance of the area. With all these amazing old style buildings around, they should surely be left the way they are. This is a unique part of the world. If I had the choice, I would build these modern buildings and hotels miles away from the tourist attraction itself, so as not to take away the appeal and appearance of this wonderful little World Heritage Site. The day this area gets a Starbucks, Hilton or McDonalds is the day it ceases to be interesting. Communism remains a good thing in my eyes in this part of China.
The Gaotou Village which this area most probably is, is under development. At least this is a main road and away from the actual main Fujian Earthen Buildings on the other side of the gate. It would be interesting to see what this place looks like in ten years time. Almost certainly advertising and hotels will grace these once old, communist streets. Have a look at the above photo. It’s wonderful isn’t it? Even a lonely dog enjoys the basic lifestyle here.
Panny in the middle of the streets in Gaotou Village. There was a strange moment walking up to this whereby the guy on the gate was very rude to us both claiming we couldn’t go through because we didn’t have a ticket. This guy became the second wanker of the day, as we both had tickets and showed them to him. He then looked at the hole punched in our tickets and claimed they had already been used! I did a silly dance walking past the wanker as Panny and I headed back towards the Chengqi Building where Sau Jan, the first wanker waited for us. In fact having had hassle from these two people and having seen this area in all its beauty, I have absolutely NO desire whatsoever to ever go there again. Yes I enjoyed it immensely and it is worth seeing, but Panny and I have seen it. No need to go there again…
The quiet streets of Gaotou Village, slightly more modern but still quintessentially Chinese.
And don’t forget we are at yet another UNESCO World Heritage Spot here. This stone is outside the Chengqi Building (“King of Tulou”) in Gaobei Hamlet. A few people asked me where to stay when touring Fujian, but while we stayed in a family run place, it’s not hard to find an affordable hotel in the province.
A final exterior photo of the Chengqi Building in Gaobei Hamlet. The funny thing was after our tour and we had lunch and came back to where we started, the place was quiet! The tourists had gone, It was now late afternoon and we had expected about 2 more hours of touring. But our driver was a wanker and definitely skipped a few things out on the tour. We paid him the basic amount. No chance of getting a tip of even a smile from either of us! Panny and I had enjoyed this part of the Fujian tour immensely however and our driver Sau Jan couldn’t take that away from us.
He had left us waiting in the end and Panny had to phone him to get him to come back and pick us up. It was hot so we waited here in the shade. Next stop was the Daxia Village, also called Ta Pa Tsune. We were staying there in one of the Fujian Earthen Buildings called the Qingde Building. The day tour will have two more parts to come, no thanks to our driver. Panny and I got him to drop us back at our building and would do our own walking tour of the village from there. If you’re planning to make a proper journey out of it, base yourself somewhere in and around the city of Yongding and you can easily explore the entire region from there.
Where – Gaobei Hamlet, Gaotou Village, Jiaotang County, Fujian Province, CHINA.
What We Did – Visited the Chengqi Building, Walked to the top of the hill, Had lunch, Visited the Tourist Information, Walked round the Gaotou Village.
A Few decent links for the area and the Fujian Tour –
Key Song –
KEANE – SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW:
My Videos –
CHENGQI BUILDING IN GAOBEI HAMLET, GAOTOU VILLAGE:
THE VIEW DOWN ON THE CHENGQI BUILDING FROM THE TOP: