Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Visit To The Big Dipper ..Day 4

Still drowsy from the drinking session the night before, I had to push myself to rise from the bed. Today will be a special day for us as we will be leaving Guangzhou city. Our mission of the day is to visit a city that is approximately 3 hours away from Guangzhou.

From our hostel, we took Metro to Fangcun Bus Station to catch a ride to our destination.
Upon reaching the station, we proceeded to buy our tickets.

Step 1 : Buy ticket over the counter.

You don't have to find which counter to purchase the tickets because one counter serves all . Basically, you can buy the tickets to any destination at any of the multiple counters here. There are more than twenty counters here, so there was no long queue.

Step 2 : Check in your luggage

After purchasing, you will need to check in your luggage prior to entering boarding room. Checking in is simple. Just put your luggage through the scanning machine (like those found at airports). And to think that this is just a bus station, I must admit that I was impressed.

Step 3 : Proceed to boarding room

Lush, spacious, bright and clean boarding room with plenty of seats. The environment is clean too. Basically, its a total opposite of what you find in the infamous Puduraya. Jalan Duta's Bus Terminal doesn't come close either.

Step 4 : Proceed to departure gate

When the LED screen above the gate shows that you can board in, you may proceed to the gate. A lady will guide check your ticket, and upon passing by the gate, the bus driver will wait eagerly for you. He will help you to put your luggage in the luggage compartment. Luggage will be tagged with a sticker and this contains an unique number. So, no chance of people stealing your luggage as one has to show the same sticker before collecting it when arrives at the destination. Oh, they serve mineral water too, even our journey is just three hours journey. Free of charge, of course athough you may argue that the price is already included in the bus fare.

Three hours later, and we reached our destination - Zhaoqing.
As it was already 2pm, we had a quick lunch - The ever famous Zhaoqing "chung" (dumpling).

It contains mostly glutonious rice, and doesn't contain much ingredients in it (unlike those available in Malaysia). It tasted quite pale, in my opinion. Malaysian chung would beat this one hands down.

Well, you must be thinking that we came all the way to try out the dumpling. It would be crazy to spend hours on the journey just to eat that, isn't it? I would rather put my money to good use...

... on something like this..

An island, you say?
Wrong. Zhaoqing is in the mainland, and it is not surrounded by sea.

Look closely, and you will notice some weird hill formation overlooking the water. Those are actually limestone hill. Due to the nature of the limestone, it is easily eroded by wind and rain. As time passes by, Mother Nature has created a work of art, a masterpiece that is so beautiful that still stand grand after centuries. Words can't explain how marvelous the craft is.

Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourself for the stunning Seven Stars Crag (七星岩).

As the name implies, there are seven crags, surrounded by waters on all sides. The crag are naturally formed like the arrangement of the seven stars in the Big Dipper constellation, hence the name.

Zhaoqing was actually not part of our original trip plan. I found this place by mere luck while doing my earlier research on Guangzhou. I came across certain blogs and websites which recommended this place, which is 2.5 hours away from Guangzhou. The star attraction in this city is Seven Star Crag, a site famous for rock formation.

I have always been fascinated with rock formation, as I have been an avid rock climber. God, it has been almost one year plus since my last climbing. How I miss the old days. Screw this Lumut place!

According to our reliable source, this place used to be a farming village. Many families lived here and made their livings by planting vegetables. The villagers did not put much attention on the rock formation as they have been here for a long long time, since their ancestors set foot here centuries ago. After all, living life was difficult (China was a very poor country and it still is, today) so the people were more concerned on getting food on the table rather than spending time enjoying the scenery. However, news of this unique rock formation started spreading around. In the 1970's, the Chinese government decided to take over the place and turned it into a tourism area. The land were taken over and the villagers were compensated. We were informed that the compensation was very low as the money had to be distributed from the upper echelon in the village down to the lower people. So, by the time the money reached the villagers, they received very small amount.

However, the government decided to build embankment on this area, and engaged the villagers for this task. My guess was that they wanted to flood the area, for reasons that they only knew themselves. No machineries (tractors, excavators, etc) utilized in this task. All were done by manual labour. As the embankment were completed, they started to be filled with waters. Eventually, the seven crags were surrounded by lakes, separated only by human-made embankment.

As time passes by, more facilities and attractions were added in. Small hut were built on strategic places. One was built on the highest point among the seven crags, and the view here was magnifique!

Pathway for people to walk were also built. A perfect place to take a stroll on the park, with awesome view of the lake and the crag.

They even built a Buddhist Statue garden.

Small jetty were build at a few locations around the lake, so one can choose to take a boat ride if he wishes to.

We opted to engaged a lady "tuk-tuk" driver after bargaining with her earlier at the main jetty. As we were her only client of the day, she offered to bring us around for only RMB 40 per ride (Normal price is RMB 50 per ride). The lady was kind enough to explain to us about this area throughout the 4 hours plus journey. And the explanation was in Cantonese too! What a relief! I would have suffocated to death if she explains in Mandarin! (But not Jye though)

If you read the background of the Seven Star Crag above, the "reliable source" mentioned above was actually from this lady driver. I was not able to verify the information on Seven Stars Crag she given as I could not find any of these in the internet. Perhaps some one can correct me if the above are not right.

Plum flower, majestic bridge with the crag behind the background.

Plum flower garden.
Up close and personal with pulm flower! Very beautiful, isn't it? I finally able to see a real one with my own eyes!

White plum flower

View from the highest point of the seven crags :-

The man-made embankment separating the lake

The Chinese National Canoeing Team actually conducted their training here. The best rower selected from all over the country were sent here to undergo rigorous training.

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the lake.....

Overall, we spent about 4 hours here. As the lady was kind enough, we gave her tips. She did keep us company and well informed throughout the trip, so we tipped her generously. She dropped us at the waterfront after our dinner at a restaurant nearby. We were fortunate enough as we arrived at the waterfront just before the clock ticked eight. Every night, at 8pm sharp, there will be a water fountain musical show. I did not post much of the photos here as the photos were not clear enough.

The show lasted 15 mins. Very nice, I must say.
After that, we headed for a brisk walk around the town area. Nothing much interesting, just shop lots around. As it was just after Chinese New Year celebration, the decorations can still be seen around the city. So, its a little consolation for us.

As time were rather limited, we headed back to the hotel for a good night rest. We need to head on to the next city the following day.


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