Sign up your free travel blog today!
Email: Password:
My Blog My Photos My Diary My Movies My Map Message Board

Buy Gift Voucher

Export to China, Mianyang
24th Feb 2016 - 26th Feb 2016
Langzhong - old vinegar town

Chinese cities frequently have more than one inter-city bus station. Fortunately the day before intended departure, I went to the main one in Mianyang that I knew of, to find that the bus to Langzhong went from a third station across the river that I hadn’t previously known existed. It was only a short bus ride from one to the other and I got a ticket for the next day. Incidentally a city bus stop is a gonggongqichezhan (pinyin), or chezhan for short. Translating each character individually, that means, public altogether steam vehicle station. The inter-city bus station is for some reason just a qichezhan, though the long distance bus is a changtu (long-distance) che. A qiche, without the gong or zhan, is of course a car. If you say qiche with a rising instead of a falling tone (the written character is different) it means ride vehicle, i.e. cycle, but a bicycle is a zixingche – one’s own self-travel vehicle.

Langzhong is quite close to Mianyang, a mere three hours on the changtuche. It’s a pleasant way to travel though a little more expensive than an equivalent train (huoche – fire vehicle) journey. One goes to Langzhong because of the old town with its black-tile roofs, courtyard-style homes and flagstone car-less lanes. Or to load up with vinegar, for which it is famed or just enjoy the vinegar-flavoured food. True old parts of towns are a rarity in China and to step from the bustling built for cars new town into the old town is very calming. At least it is if you avoid a public holiday time. Unlike Lijiang Old Town in Yunnan, full of music bars (visited the previous winter), Langzhong Old Town has restricted its nightlife to one end of town, so it really is quiet at night.

That afternoon I took the ferry across the river from the old town to view it from the hill on the other side and of course was happy to come across the memorial to LuoXiaHong, an ancient astronomer (Western Han Dynasty 206BC-24AD) from Langzhong who initiated the precursor to the calendar I talked about in the last blog.

Wechat is sometimes very useful. I had posted some pictures of Langzhong on it and two former students got in touch to say I was in their hometown. One advised me not to delay in going back to the bus station to get a bus ticket for the following day. Normally one can roll up and get a seat shortly before departure, but this is not the case, of course, at the end of a student holiday. Wise advice: I secured a ticket on the last bus of the day. The other student berated me: ‘you should tell me you will come to Langzhong ahead of time’. Sadly I hadn’t remembered being told two years ago. She wasn’t free to be my guide that afternoon but could tell me which bus to catch across the river to visit DaFoSi (big Buddha Temple) and which stop to get off at. Silly me – I had expected the DaFoSi stop to be recognisable and didn’t listen sufficiently to the bus announcement. Of course I sat on the bus until it became obvious it wasn’t about to take a turn toward the river which the Buddha was bound to be overlooking. ‘I am now at the Agricultural Market bus stop’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yes’ ‘there is not this stop - you have sat too far’ ‘I am on the bus back now’ ‘I think you will spend hours to get to dafo’. The upshot was that I abandoned seeing Dafo that afternoon, went and got a haircut instead and met up with my guide for dinner.

I had a final busy day in Langzhong. I couldn’t of course resist the previous evening’s suggestion of a pre-breakfast bus trip to the end of town to climb the thousand steps of Yutai Mountain. It provided perfect exercise but no views – the mist started lifting as I started descending. But I appreciated, all the more, the spicy breakfast of zhangfei niurou (preserved water buffalo beef in spicy noodles) named after General Zhang Fei of Three Kingdoms Period fame, when I got back into town. Afterwards I caught the right bus and got off at the right stop for Dafo, only to find that my guide wasn’t exaggerating by a lot: it was still quite a hike. Of course, in comparison to the Leshan Dafo, Langzhong’s Dafo is small. It's nonetheless impressive and certainly less swamped by tourists. Anyway, having now seen a fair share of Buddhas in my time in China, I think that might be the last one I feel the need to go out of my way to visit.

Next: Flexible birthdays and other Chinese flexibility
Previous: Chinese New Year and Spring Festival

Diary Photos

Ferryboat across the river at Langzhong

English speakers are told, French speakers are asked

Street to the ferry to Langzhong, Sichuan

Langzhong Old Town surrounded by modern Langzhong

LuoXiaHong, ancient astronomer honoured at Langzhong

Langzhong is famous for vinegar

City Wall in Langzhong, a 2010 reconstruction job.

Black tile roofs of Langzhong Ancient Town

Breakfast rice porridge, baozi (stuffed steamed buns) and pickled veg.

Through to the kitchen at breakfast time, Langzhong

Bus stop remembering the relaxed old days

Park at the foot of Yutai Mountain, Langzhong

Beginning the 1000 steps to Yutai Mountain top

Mist obscured the view from Yutai Mountain after the stair climb

The mist cleared as I descended the steps of Yutai Mtn.

Zhang Fei, Three Kingdoms period General

Yutai Mountain at Langzhong

Langzhong People's Hospital

Zhang Fei Beef Noodles in beefy gloop for breakfast in Langzhong

Big Buddha Temple across the river from Langzhong

Making and hanging noodles in Langzhong

909 Words | This page has been read 33 timesView Printable Version