After a good sleep for our fist day Jianshui,we woke a little late and went looking for breakfast. Next door to the restaurant we ate at the night before were a number of local eateries, which had a few locals eating. The first place had a menu in English so I ordered fried rice each with egg and choy sum and it was pretty good and only ¥12. The one thing which had us shaking our heads was a local bloke with a fag in one hand alternating drags between sipping a cup of pig blood soup.
Zhu Gardens was just down the road and pretty deserted. The admission was ¥50 each, that’s probably why there were no crowds. Zhu gardens is actually the old Zhu family mansion, a sprawling collection of buildings, ponds and gardens. The Zhu family made a lot of money at the end of the Qing dynasty but ended up on the wrong side of history, after supporting Sun Yates Sen and the overthrow of the Qing, then supporting the restoration of the monarchy. The communists didn’t take too kindly to this and the mansion became state property, being used as a school and other official buildings for a while. Eventually it became a museum with lovely grounds a quiet place in the middle of the hustle of the town. We ordered a coffee and it was one of the worst Michele had tasted, luckily mine didn’t turn up. It was an unpleasant surprise when we realised that the price of it was ¥40 about $7.30. We sat in the tearoom overlooking the pond longer than we should have just to ensure we got our money’s worth. The gardeners were busy replacing floral displays dragging carts filled with big pots of Daisy’s, then manhandling them into position. I went to pay and couldn’t find a soul, so we left and went for a stroll around the large pond in near the tearooms. The pond had a pagoda at one end, with a square hole in the middle over the pond. There were two other platforms over the pond which was filled with carp, some of them monstrous, which the locals were busy feeding. The lady from the tearooms finally tracked us down and made that universal gesture made by police throughout Asia, yep thumb and forefinger.
We wandered through the various buildings, little courtyards and there were some lovely floral displays, although some of the bonsai’s needed a bit more attention. There was one room with a bed and minimal furniture, and at different parts there were reproduction chairs, but nothing really linked the former family apart from some story boards and photos in one building.
The buildings were beautifully restored, some rooms were available for rent and there was the usual take your photos in costume and other tourist traps. Overall the gardens were very nice, but charging ¥100 for a pot of tea or ¥40 for a cup of awful coffee is highway robbery as for the rest of the buildings we’d describe them as beautifully vacant.
After Zhu Gardens we headed towards the Confucius Temple about ten minutes walk away. On the way we passed a few temples with eager ticket sellers trying to relieve us of our hard earned but we kept going. The Confucius temple was exactly where we were told it was, but we decided to have lunch before we entered expecting that inside they’d charge like a wounded bull. A Muslim noodle shop was nearby and we had a group of schoolgirls giggling like….. Schoolgirls then we said hello. They said hello and were all chattering amongst each other trying to pluck up courage to start talking.
The ladies cooking the noodles, looked at us then looked at each other then looked at the girls before telling them to translate for them. I checked out what the schoolgirls were eating and it looked pretty good so ordered two bowls of beef and mutton noodle soup which cost about ¥12 all up, $2. A few other girls drifted in, it was obvious they were the cool kids as they sat at the back of the restaurant whispering behind hands and looking at the girls on the other table….. It was like a scene out of heartbreak high. They were whispering about Michele when they saw her picking all her meat out of her soup and putting it into my bowl. Like teenagers the world over.
After lunch we headed into the Confucius temple. The first thing we noticed, apart from a Confucius statue, was a massive lake. Once inside the gate the rest of the town was blocked out, no noise just a tree lined lake with a pagoda and bridge in the distance. It was really nice and serene. The temple was divided up into separate areas with each area blocked by high walls and gates. It was interesting exploring each different area. There were huge stone tablets with Confucian wisdoms, temples worshiping Confucius and his disciples, old school areas, but like the Zhu garden it was just another museum to a time pre-communist cultural revolution. The only real connection to current day China is the exit via the gift shop.
The gardens are massive and it was heartening to see lots of old people sitting around chatting, eating lunch, walking with grand kids, playing checkers or cards, cursing their luck or revelling their good fortune. We spotted a bridal couple with photographers in tow heading for the pagoda for a photo session so collared them for a few photos. They held up a banner with little flags which read “Just Married”. It was so cool. We said hello to a mother with two children and after we sat she came over and started talking to us. She was a school teacher teaching English at the local school and was pleased to meet some English speakers and wished her students could get the opportunity to speak to some real English speakers too.
We returned to our new favourite breakfast bar for tea, with fresh dumplings and wonton soup for ¥16, about $2.70. It was great food and this was the place that turned our China food experience around..
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