September 17, 2017: On the fifth day of the trip, it was an early morning once again to have a continental breakfast in the dining room of this hotel (the same dining room where we had dinner last night). Before going down for breakfast though, I made sure to go onto the balcony to soak up the sights and sounds of the local vicinity once more. It was really nice out there.
There were so many people in this hotel having breakfast at the same time as us too! Literally the entire dining room was full of large tables of people eating. The continental breakfast was buffet style and you could grab your food at the hot tables lined up at the sides of the room and then choose any seat of your choosing.
The food here was all right with a few varieties of vegetables and sausage and also rice (my much needed sustenance) as well as a noodle station and fried eggs.
By 8 a.m., we were off to the first stop of the day which was to see a museum of sandstone paintings. These were paintings where the artist used sand from the mountain to create their artwork and then painted over them. Since they were all landscapes based on China, the paintings had a 3D-like quality to them from the rocks and pebbles that were actually used in the paintings.
There were actually three levels of all these paintings in the museum. The prices for them were actually quite reasonable but thinking of the hassle to bring back one of these paintings all the way back to Canada was a definite deterrent to actually getting any.
After this by 9 a.m., the tour group was split up for a brief stint. The next item on the itinerary was to a ferry boat ride through Baofeng Lake that was an optional element in the tour. Thus, those that didn’t partake in it went to stroll through local shops instead. For us, we boarded the bus which brought us to a small harbour and dock.
It was so scenic and beautiful here! It looked like one of those typical mountainous and lake views that you see in movies. This place really exists.
We lined up to board the ferry. There was a short demonstration on the life jackets on the ferry and there was a lady who introduced all the views and mountainous views on the boat ride as we passed them. It was all in Mandarin.
Apparently a lot of the mountains looks like certain animals which was what she spoke about. Sometimes we passed by the other ferry boats too. When we passed by ancient houses on Baofeng Lake, there was an actor that came out to sing for us.
After the ferry ride, we boarded the shuttle back to the original street where we had boarded our tour bus. We visited the small waterfall that was there as well as the giant salamander.
I felt bad for the salamander having to be trapped and enslaved there for tourists all his life. You could also buy food for him/her to eat. Some people threw coins into the pool as it was a sign of luck.
It was then lunch time! This meal was my favourite one of the whole trip. As we approached the restaurant on Xibu Old Street, the staff of the restaurant came out to greet us. They were wearing traditional Chinese clothes and were singing for us! There were also staff that offered small bowls of sweet rice wine to us. Not everyone tried it, but I did. It was a really good sweet rice wine.
There were already some items on the table when we arrived. I really liked the look of this restaurant. It was all wooden and had lanterns hanging from the ceilings. The look of it was so authentic.
As we sat down and more items were brought to the table, I was so excited to try everything! So many of the dishes were authentic and traditional ones that I had never had before! There was a scrambled egg dish with soybeans in it, two kinds of fatty pork belly that were so, so delicious! It was probably the best fatty pork belly that I’ve ever had. There were also soups on our table too that were very tasty.
There were so many items that we struggled to have space on our space. It was elbow to elbow at the small square table.
In the middle of the meal, the staff came around and brought the sweet rice wine for us to drink. The custom was to choose someone from the table to drink and have everyone else watch. This wasn’t just a simple act of drinking the wine! Once the person was chosen to drink, the rest of the staff members lined up and filtered the wine bowls one on top of another like in a cascading waterfall and sang a song. It was a never-ending stream of rice wine! It was so funny to watch.
After watching it being done at another table, we also watched one of our tablemates complete the challenge too. 😀
The dessert was fruits and a jelly made with tea wrapped in leaves. It was so gooey and delicious. Also, we had received a bowl with what looked like rice krispies. Just as I was about to stab my chopstick in it to see what it was, the server came around to tell us that it was for after-dinner and that tea would be poured into it. It was like a rice tea!
After this, we headed towards another optional item on the itinerary. It was to the Yellow Dragon Cave.
We passed through some local shops that sold snacks before getting to the entrance. We took a small van to get there.
I’ve seen stalagmites before (such as when I went to Cozumel, Mexico) and thus while viewing this one, I was quite skeptical that everything in the cave was actually real. We were led in as a big group. A female tour guide led us through the cave and spoke Mandarin to explain the views. I was skeptical because the Yellow Dragon Cave was so big and filled with stalagmites at almost every turn.
The most incredible thing (and distinguishing) was that at clusters of stalagmites, there were different coloured lights shining on them. While it was beautiful and very pretty, I doubted the legitimacy of the stalagmites. What I remember about stalagmites is that they constantly leak water in a cave; that’s kind of how they form. The area around them is very delicate and precious. I remember on a previous trip we were told not to touch them because by touching them, the acid and oil on our fingers could ruin or change the acidity of the environment… or something like that. Anyway, not only only were there barely any signs in this cave warning tourists not to touch the signs but the fact that there were electrical wires everywhere connecting the lights to shine colours on the stalagmites made me think it was impossible for the facts to add up. If these were all real, why were there 1) so many of them, 2) so much electricity in a usually watery place — that’s not safe, 3) lack of warning signs, and 4) the boat ride we took was a complete circle; how likely is it that natural caves allow a perfect route like that? Anyway, those are my speculations and I’m not an expert in stalagmites. If anyone reading this is one, feel free to leave me a comment to educate me more about these elements!
It was all very pretty to look at but it definitely didn’t seem like real stalagmites. (Maybe some of them were real but definitely not all of them.)
(Also, another big problem that I had was that there was a total lack of warning or precaution given to us as guests. This Yellow Dragon Cave was an optional part of the tour [meaning that we had to pay extra for it]. The tour didn’t disclose that walking through the Yellow Dragon Cave would actually include a lot of walking on stairs — steep and narrow stairs at that!
There were certain parts of the cave where we had to walk in single file in order to go up a long winding flight of stairs and then at the very end when we exited, we also had to walk back down a very narrow and steep flight of stairs to get down. Why wasn’t this disclosed to us at the very beginning? I couldn’t see how an elderly person could have completed the entire route. There were just so many stairs!
I’m glad that everyone on our tour that opted to go on this optional part of the tour managed to walk it all successfully and safely, but it was really irresponsible [nevermind greedy] of the tour to just accept the money for the participants of the cave without disclosing its safety features. If we had an elderly person in our family who didn’t know about all the steps, it could have posed a serious safety and health issue. Shame on you, tour company.)
After this, we boarded the tour bus at 3ish p.m. and rode the long way back to Changsha and the first hotel that we stayed at on this trip. The ride back was four hours and we were stuck in traffic for a bit.
The night’s dinner wasn’t included in the itinerary so after we had checked in, a small group of us scouted the area around the hotel for fitting dinner places. We went around the block and although we had seen a noodle and hot pot place, they seemed either filthy (that’s China for you) or too spicy for our tastes, so we headed back to the hotel area to see what else we could find. There were some workers loitering in front of the hotel and they recommended us to go to a noodle place close to the hotel.
It was ironic that we had scoured the area all around the hotel only to finally end up at a restaurant that was literally right next to the hotel. It was called Mr. Grains and was a franchise rice and noodle restaurant. Yay! We were very lucky that the staff there were accommodating because we actually stayed way past their business hours.
We got rice noodles. It was all right.
Tomorrow is the last day of our trip!