Qiandao Hu (1000 island lake) was my only must make destination on this trip. The next stage of my roughly planned trip is to retrace my ride to Jiande, then head east for a day or so, then sweep back north to Hangzhou.
I don’t know much about this route apart from a brochure I have picked up with some names of Ancient towns in the area and I read about the Zhuji area, located about 80km south of Hangzhou in a blog in the month before leaving for this trip. Zhuji was about 200 km away if I looped east before heading north. I was not sure if I would be able to cycle all the way but I thought it was worth heading that way to see what happened.
I headed out early and knowing the way to Jiande made the 50 km ride seem quicker and easier. I passed by many beautiful farms and villages.
I have never seen so much building development as what I saw in China. Even these small two bit river valley towns have massive developments. This flashy partly build development is only one of many in this town.
I reached Jiande in time for an early lunch but for some reason found it difficult to find a restaurant, so I decided to use my supplies. I usually buy or ask for a couple of hard boiled eggs each morning, I buy some fruit, grapes or bananas and I was also carrying some tins of tuna I had bought from Australia. (Note: I never bring tins of tuna anymore, instead I bring dark chocolate, this is also good as a present for locals).
While sitting in a lovely park in the middle of Jiande, quietly eating my snacks, a few locals were being inquisitive, one lady was chatting away on her phone and looking in my direction a lot.
Suddenly a young Chinese lady walked up to me and asked me in English if I was OK, what was wrong, since me being in the park by myself must somehow be a problem, was I lost? Her mother was the person looking in my direction a lot and had called her to tell her about me sitting in the park. She also spoke French, I think I had found the only Mandarin, English, French speaking person in Jiande.
I assured her I was OK, and managed to assure her I was able to look after myself, even if I was about to head off into the unknown.
Out of town was a monastery on a hill and an ancient town somewhere further along. I had marked where I thought they were on my mapping application maps.me and hoped I would be ok to find my way.
Not far out of Jiande, I found the entrance to Daciyan Temple. The temple is high up the hill, there was a cable car and a hike I assume. I was in a dilemma, I did not feel confident leaving my bicycle and pannier bags and also as I was not sure of where I was going to sleep that night, and so I was not keen to spend time visiting the temple unfortunately.
I stopped briefly thinking it looked very pretty and worth a visit one day without the bicycle.
After a snack and a rest, I continued east. I was searching for an Ancient town Xin ye, about 20 km further along. The town looked nice in a brochure, but I had no other information and just an approximate location. The town was about 5 km off the main road, so if I was not able to find accommodation, it would be a 10 km diversion , plus whatever km to keep looking for a new town.
Finding the intersection I thought would lead me to Xin ye, I turned left and happened to be riding next to a young man who seemed to be riding in the same direction.
Fang Yu Long was heading home to Xin Ye and spoke no English. So I tried to use my limited Mandarin, as I started trying to chat, two wonderful things happened, he asked me the most simple question in Mandarin, “qu na”, go where? Even I understood that one, a good start, secondarily Fang Yu Long’s enthusiasm to help, show me around and persist communicating was amazing.
I was able to tell him I was just going to “Kan kan” Look Look and I was looking for a place to sleep. Fang took me directly to the best hotel, well it was more of a home stay with a couple of lovely extra bedrooms with full ensuite and a restaurant, right in the middle of town and only costing $20 AU. I was so happy. We had a lovely ride into town and even buzzed a large group photo while on our bicycles.
Fang Yu Long left me to shower and explore after exchanging WeChat details and a promise to get together for dinner. After a shower and change I explored the town on foot and discovered an ancient town mostly untouched by modern developments even though it had appeared in a TV show and as I found is still used for filming. My wife thought I had come to a town where people reenacted old styles of farming and dressed up in old clothes, but I assure you it was just people going about their normal lives, a wonderful experience. Many of the old and family clan buildings had guides and I think entry fees, but I was welcomed without being asked for a fee.
During my walk through town I met one tourist, a young chinese lady who spoke excellent English. She was being given a guided tour by a couple of local children for free and offered to translate for me.
I noticed the brochure of the town Xin Ye I had picked up days before included pictures of the children, our guides. When I showed the children their pictures they became excited and wanted the brochure and soon after rushed off excitedly to show their family.
Annie and I had a friendly conversation before she left for her hometown, she was heading home after her first independent holiday. We exchanged WeChat details and Annie said I should visit one day, she would love to show me around her hometown.
Fang and I met up for dinner, afterwards he gave me a guided night tour of the town, including a nearby hill where we could look over the town. The next day was Saturday and we agreed to meet up after breakfast for a morning of sightseeing the towns attractions, something locals do not always do.
See the bottom of this page for a gallery of photos from my flickr account of this day, it is a beautiful town and I highly recommend visiting.