Fanling Cow Garden
DAY 4 – RECONNECTING WITH THE PAST OF HONG KONGWith an image of a global financial hub with skyscraper studded skyline, it’s hard to imagine Hong Kong could still be hiding over 800 years old walled villages in its countryside. There are 5 walled villages in Hong Kong – Kat Hing Wai, Fanling Wai, Tsang Tai Uk, Sheung Shui Wai and Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen. These villages were built in a rectangular style and were surrounded by thick walls to hide from the pirates and Chinese dynastic attacks. Though over time the walled villages have mostly demolished and modern structures have come in their place but it was interesting to see how old Chinese people used to live in a community and how the walled village customs were passed down through generations and adapted to a more modern way of life.
Beijing Zoo was planned as a "side dish" rather than a "main dish". The main reason we went to Beijing Zoo was the Panda House. The entrance to Beijing Zoo + Panda House + Boat trip = CNY40 If you want to visit the aquarium, you can add some money. Young bamboo shoots were planted surrounding the area. Whereas the pandas were locked in their cages and play area. The part that excites me was the boat trip. There are 2 boat trips: Round Trip to Purple Bamboo Garden (returning to the Zoo) Single Trip to Summer Palace (not returning to the Zoo) Went into the boat. A guide were explaining the history of the waterways. The waterways that were using were also used by the Empress Dowager Cixi. The bridge on top were low in height. During rainy days, the boat would not be able to pass through.It was interesting.At the end she announced that we have arrived at the Purple Bamboo Garden. Excited. I was ready to get off the boat.
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
Later I took a quick trip Shanghai Ocean Aquarium that has longest underwater tunnel in the world. What paradox just an hour ago I was on the heights of the world and now felt in the deepest of the seas when a shark just swam above me head as this thought ran across! It was time to bid bye bye to Shanghai and make my way to Beijing. I chose to take an overnight train to Beijing from Shanghai. The train journeys I believe are the best way to get to know the people from the land and take a quick peep in their local lives. As I did last minute train tickets only option I had was to travel on “hard seats” in a second class comportment. The air-conditioned journey turned out to be comfortably interesting with bunch of young Chinese wagering on card games and the usual hustle and bustle of a train. As I was catching up on few episodes of Modern Family to pass time on my fifteen hour long ride the guy sitting across me jumped on his seat seeing his familiar characters of Mitch and Cam in their never ending sweet fights. And I was zapped to know the series was so popular in China too! I wonder if global media companies have really found out mantra to catch fancies of millions of TV viewers spread across globe?Day 05: Trailing Duck TongueAs I continued reading Liar’s Poker where Solomon Brothers was building mortgage trading empire in 1980s knowing little that it would drag the whole world in perennial debt crisis later in 2000s the train reached Beijing in late morning. Knowing train tickets get sold out very fast (shame it still can’t be booked online) I straight headed to tickets bookings office to get my return ticket to Shanghai from Beijing. Carry ample cash with you as no plastic money is accepted at these booking offices. Had my lunch at KFC near Shanghai station and was surprised to see how localized the menu can be. For seafood lovers imagine a burger with shrimp patty! Again my favorite part of getting-lost-while-looking for my hostel from the subway station. Didn’t expect it’s going to be so difficult in broad day’s sunlight. Here was the best example of helping nature of Chinese, a gentlemen eating at a hotel who spoke little English came to my rescue. He was kind enough to take the number of hotel from me, call up the reception desk, get the exact location and direct me there. I was bit tired of the long train journey and had to save energy to climb the wall next day so decided to stay at hotel for rest of the day. The hostel arranged daily excursions to the tourist attractions in and around Beijing including Great Wall. Most people visit to Badaling section of the wall near Beijing so it can get crowded. I was advised to do Mutianyu section which is further ahead of Badaling. I booked the tour with the hostel which was offered at reasonable rate of ¥260 including entrance fees, breakfast and lunch covering almost full day. As I was surfing on WiFi at the hostel got to know about this restaurant close by that served duck tongues. I always wanted to try out this bizarre preparation ever since I read about it first on the net. Decided in the evening to hit the restaurant for the dinner. As I was ordering the delicacy, the waiter actually pulled out his tongue and confirmed are you sure this is what you want to eat? After the dish was on my table seeing me bit struggled and hesitant to eat it the waiter offered to get some drink that would wash it down my throat and showed me how to suck the flash of bone of the tongue. Now that’s being attentive. Anyways the food adventure was great but the taste of tongue of the duck was yuck (oouch it rhymes too)!Day 06: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.”