By: Sebastian | OKdeal Travel
Sebastian, Colombian expat in Shanghai, has joined in one of our 2016 Chinese New Year trips in Shangougou. He had a lot of fun exploring a Chinese rural village, experiencing a countryside style Chinese New Year and sharing the trip with us in his travel blog.
As it is well known, the main celebration for New Year in China is not on December 31st-January 1st as it is in the West, it's not like that guys! Here in China December 31st is just another working day, more like August 5th or September 24th... Although the Gregorian calendar ("western" calendar) is used here for daily life and business matters and today is exactly the same day, month and year as it is in the West, the "real", magnificent, colorful and powerful celebration for New Year in China is based on the traditional Chinese Lunar calendar.
In this calendar, Year 4714 has started and one of its distinctive features is that each year is ruled by an animal (12 in total), that is also our zodiacal sign (this interesting topic will be covered in a further post).
Preview of the Chinese New Year Celebration
Last Monday February 8th 2016 the year of the intrepid and playful Monkey has started, sign that is characterized by its craftiness, creativity, spontaneity, charm and inventiveness. Because of that we had to celebrate the start of the Year of the Monkey with style! with an adventurous, exciting and of course, very Chinese experience.
Thanks to Ella, Donatella, Cathy, King Kong and the team of amazing people of OK Deal, I was able to take a bus on Sunday February 7th at 8 a.m with destination to Shangougou (山沟沟), Zhejiang Province (浙江), a rural and remote village located 70 Kms from Hangzhou (杭州), in a frenetic journey with amazing landscapes, ups and downs and even a car crash with no consequences but with the respective confusion that generally happens in this cases and that actually was pretty useful to learn some non-formal but “daily life” Mandarin (and with the consideration that it wasn’t our drivers fault, who drove responsible during the whole trip).
It was a good stop to rest, stretch our legs and to smoke for the ones that enjoy it. After everything was sorted out and 4 hours since our departure from Shanghai, we finally arrived to Shangougou.
We enjoyed a succulent and tasty lunch with different types of pork, chicken, fish and vegetables with a very Chinese style, that prepared us for a very particular experience and related to the New Year of the Monkey: an intense hiking in a snowy Bamboo forest.
It was intense as the forest is steep and was a bit slippery so it pushed us to the limit, there were slips and falls, actually some of them pretty “funny” (as far as it is not you, right?) and probably caused by the fact that some of the people didn’t bring appropriate shoes for this type of adventure even though we were warned that this would be an intense hike, but in general there was a total connection with the forest and the bamboos as well as within the group because we required to help each other in order to overcome the natural obstacles and literally looked like monkeys going from one tree to another so, Is there any better preparation for the New Year of the Monkey than this?
Undoubtedly, a renovating and unforgettable experience, both the ascent and the descent were demanding and at the end, there was a general feeling of satisfaction within the group even though we were all exhausted after this intense activity.
After coming back to the village, most of the attendants proceeded to rest, to take a shower and start preparations for what was coming and the main reason we were in Shangougou: The New Year celebration!
We prepared dumplings, interacted with the locals (very friendly and smiley people) and had dinner like kings as we had to say goodbye to the Year of the Goat with full tummy and happy hearts.
By the way, something that has surprised me about rural China is how good and abundant they eat. Outside China it is thought that Chinese rural areas are damn poor with lots of unsatisfied basic needs, but after going to Shangougou and Anhui province and having exchanged opinions with other people that have traveled to rural areas in different Chinese provinces, the general impression is that they are plenty of food as well as alcohol, the good life! They have a high index of longevity, are very healthy, self-sufficient with their food production, living without the concerns of the “corporate race” or bank debts, without the boring routine of the “9 to 5s” or the deadly competition of big cities…
However, most youngsters of these villages emigrate to big cities and take part of the “corporate race” as they don’t want the rural life of their ancestors, so a very high percentage of the population is composed by elders. Anyway, if we are talking about “quality of life” it can be said that these villages might rank very high as far as you enjoy a slow paced lifestyle and don’t care too much about money or the idea of “success” we have been sold since they have everything that is necessary to live (for sure there might be regions in which rural life is not like this, but as a whole it can be said that Chinese rural areas have better living standards compared to rural areas in Latin America and other regions).
The moment of truth has come: 12:00 of February 8th 2016, Happy New Year of the Monkey!!!
Back to the topic we have been covering (New Year’s celebration), the previous hours went by with music, beers, laughter, noise, firecrackers... not in the same way you would expect in Latin America where I come from but at the end having a lot of fun and entertainment, especially considering that we were in a small rural village rather than in a big capital.
The last thirty minutes of the Year of the Goat were full of expectation, with not a lot of firecrackers, people coming and going, beers, baijius (a Chinese white liquor not suitable for weak drinkers since it has 40+ degrees of alcohol), music and looking constantly to our watches as we weren’t listening any radio station with the exciting countdown that is common in other places until the moment finally arrived, after waiting for a long time it’s 12:00 guys!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR OF THE MONKEY!!! XIN NIAN KUAI LE! 新年快乐!
Fireworks lasted for a long time and with high intensity for the first 10-15 minutes of February 8th, lots of hugs and good wishes between the group members and one beer coming after another. After a while people starts going to bed, there was no party until 8 a.m. as would have been desirable for some but it was an amazing experience, no drunk people in the streets nor people burned by firecrackers. As a whole, a calm but at the same time fun celebration with very good energy and amazing people!
The day after Chinese New Year Celebration
As it usually happens in the next day after New Year’s celebration almost everywhere, everything looks calm, silent and with almost nobody in the streets. We were one of those rare exceptions as by 9 a.m. were already taking breakfast and willing to continue exploring this fascinating Chinese region by having a walk through Shangougou and drinking some teas with friendly locals that opened the doors of their home for these uncommon guests.
After the teas, a desire for some spiritual renovation came to us in order to collect good energies for this New Year of the Monkey so, why not going to a Buddhist temple surrounded by a big green tea field?
This was an unforgettable experience, full of fresh air, warm weather and peace... lunch time was coming and we started feeling a bit hungry, so we got ready for our first lunch of the Year of the Monkey, full of duck, pork and other wonders of Chinese gastronomy.
During lunch I was able to see something very particular that captured my attention. Is a kind of local liquor with a big snake inside, apparently pretty useful to enhance gentleman’s performances when looking to give the ladies a very happy experience, I am sure you know what I am talking about ... :)
I didn’t try it so can’t give an opinion about its flavor or effectiveness, we were told by locals that it is a quite strong alcohol and that apparently the ones who drink it before “the moment of truth” with the ladies get pretty satisfying results, so if somebody reading this text requires more information please enquire and we will see how we can help getting it!
After lunch we went hiking again. Basically, Shangougou and some other Chinese rural areas are amazing places for ecotourism and adventure tourism, and as these places are not very famous nor touristy there are no big tourist crowds so are great places for a getaway and a relaxing time with fresh air and the sounds of nature.
One of the most interesting places we visited is “Ten Thousand Horses”, a place that has lots of rocks (literally there can be 10.000 as its name) in which you can do an exciting hiking from the beginning to the top. I would say it is an easy hike, although if you feel that are not fit enough or are not carrying proper shoes you can also get to top of the Ten Thousand Horses using the stairs trail that is just next to the bamboos on the left side.]
At night, beers and bonfire to close the day after New Year’s, the equivalent to the western January 1st.
Last Day In Shangougou
We started to feel a bit nostalgic about leaving Shangougou, so before returning to Shanghai we got ready to explore one of the hidden gems of the region, Tangkeng.
Tangkeng is one of those natural paradises on Earth that can still be found nowadays, great for nature lovers with waterfalls, abundant flora, streams, fresh air, rocks with particular forms and a lot of colors the whole way until you reach the top. It is a very special place, the walking trail takes about an hour although you may not go so fast since it is worth it to enjoy nature and connect yourself with the environment.
After hiking in this wonderful place we returned to the town, where we had a very Chinese lunch (again) full of pork, rice and vegetables. Then, after some rest we took the bus back to Shanghai.
Special thanks to the amazing people of OK Dealfor this wonderful experience, with unforgettable moments and new friendships that will last for a lifetime. I really recommend this trip to anybody that comes to China!
If you also want to share your interesting travel blogs for okdeal trips, please contact us with our public wechat okdealclub or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and win a free trip!
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