In my last post I wrote a little bit about tulou. These circular and square earthen community houses are a big draw card for tourists in the Fujian province, and there were plenty of tour buses shipping Chinese tourists along the roads we cycled.
There is an enormous amount of information about the tulou online, and writing a detailed description of them here would be like writing another detailed description of Angkor Wat – a pebble flung into a lake. What I will put in this post is a lot of photos, and in the captions I’ll describe a few basic facts and some of the history of these interesting, crumbling doughnuts.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we unwittingly stayed at the Fujian Tulou Kejia Folk Culture Village, which was a manicured, gated village that required an entry fee. The guesthouse we stayed at was inside the compound (which was news to us when we showed up in the pouring rain and learned we had to pay to get into the compound, even though we’d already paid online for the guesthouse) and it was run by a very friendly family:
The mother was a no-nonsense woman of few words. She cooked a mean egg noodle soup at breakfast time and let more and more smiles slip the longer we stayed. She spoke no English.
The father was always grinning, and split his time between brewing rice wine, fishing in the river that ran through the village, pouring and selling tea, and cooking wonderful food in the evenings. He spoke no English.
The son ran around performing guesthouse errands. He cleaned the rooms, did a little bit of fishing, and used a translation app to convince us to cycle to Xiamen on a route that we hadn’t considered. At the same time poured us cups of tea. He spoke no English.
The daughter wasn’t around much, but she could occasionally be seen tending the little store out front that sold cigarettes and packets of tea. She had the peculiar fashion sense of a certain breed of Chinese person which I will not be elaborating on here. She may or may not have spoken any English, but my money would be on the fact that she did not.
The crazy uncle just seemed to laugh and drink tea. He spoke no English.
There were two floors in the guesthouse with about four rooms on each. The rooms bordered a common area with comfy chairs, a shelf of books, a large tea setup, and a kitchen. We paid the absolute rock bottom price of 44 yuan per night and took the smallest room, but with the common area it felt like we really should have paid more. We were the only people staying on our floor for three nights. The guesthouse was called ‘Mengtian Inn’, and we booked it from here.
The cultural village was a happy, safe-feeling place. Structures that were hundreds of years old had been well maintained – presumably because of the entry fee paid by the daily influx of tour groups being led by guides screeching through tinny microphones – and the people living in the village carried on with their lives as though the barrier arms and ticket counters didn’t exist. Nothing about the way the villagers lived was done for show, and the tourists who arrived daily weren’t here to observe people anyway – they were here to be ferried around the old buildings before getting back on the bus and going to the next attraction. In spite of what it was, the place still managed to keep a feeling of authenticity in between the trinket stands.
On our last night at the guesthouse we ordered yet another fantastic meal which was cooked by Mister Dad, then we took a stroll through the dark village to walk it off. The last of the tour groups had piled on to buses hours ago, and the people who lived in the compound relaxed by chatting, eating in groups, and forming little synchronised dance ensembles. On a particularly dark path, we found ourselves walking among fireflies with a soundtrack of frogs and the bubbling river. We didn’t want to leave.
Okay. Now I’m hungry.