Monday, November 9, 2009
Wandering the streets of old China
My school gives us weeklong breaks every month. I know, it's a bit ridiculous. It's an awful schedule for learning but an awesome one for making quick trips within the province, which is what I did last weekend.
Feng Huang -- which means phoenix -- has retained much of the feeling of ancient China, especially in its architecture. Overlapping rounded shingles, curved rooftop eaves, carvings of fish and animals, a Red Wall now faded to a muddied crimson. If you can ignore the Las Vegas neon lights at night, the village is quaint and quite charming.
Feng Huang is home to the Miao ethnic minority group. Tiny old women in turban-like hats hawk colorful woken mats and scarves and silver trinkets. It's easy to get lost (which we did the first night) in the narrow side streets and alleys lined with shops that sell more woken scarves, more silver trinkets, rice wine and candied kiwi slices (highly addictive).
Along the river, tourists can pay 3 RMB (the equivalent to about 50 cents) to don the attire of the ancients. OK, probably not even close to the attire of the ancients since these costumes were made of polyester, but I still felt like a princess for 30 minutes. (Yes, that's me in hot pink and sneaks.)
Maybe it's residual Maoist militarism -- it was also popular for women to dress up in olive military uniforms adorned with red Commy stars and pose with plastic machine guns. (Peek through the bushes like you're about to ambush the Japs!)
My favorite part of this trip (and probably my favorite part of life) was eating. At night the streets line up with outdoor grills with a sizable display of skewered vegetables, meats and tofu, noodles and rice, whole fish. Without the grill, it would look just like an outdoor market. The great thing about this type of ordering is you don't have to say a word, just place the skewers in a plastic basket and the man behind the grill will prepare to perfection with some sauces and spices.
The village is ideal for being lazy. Eat late, sleep in and walk around aimlessly. Click below for more photos from the trip.