From the Arch to the Great Wall

17. Heaven Hanzhou

By this time, most everybody had gotten used to the usual morning routine on days that we traveled from place to place. The wake up call was scheduled around 6:30, luggage had to be outside the door at 7:00 (for the bellhop), and we usually left around 8:00. Today was no different; aside from a slight luggage mishap, we got out on time and were on the highway headed towards Hanzhou by 8:30. This morning I had some coffee so I did not sleep on the bus and got an ice cream bar at the rest stop to help me last through the back half of the 3 hour ride. We stopped to pick up our new female guide named Lancie who would be with us until we left China.

After lunch, Lancie took us to the Ling Ying Temple. She asked if we wanted a tour or free time for pictures and we all picked free time so she let us walk around for about half an hour. The feature of this temple was the giant stone carving of Buddha and the specialty of this temple was that many Chinese believed that worshipping inside the Ling Ying temple brought more blessings than worshipping in other temples. Therefore, I saw much more people worshipping and burning incense here than I normally saw at other temples.

The next stop was the tea plantation. Since I'm fond of tea, I really looked forward to having a great experience here and I certainly was not let down. On the way there, Lancie gave a short presentation about different tea plantations and the cool things you could do with tea like washing your eyes - placing a cup of hot tea under your eyes and letting the vapors refresh them after a long period of reading or being in front of the computer. When we got there, a guide led us to a small shack to watch workers preparing leaves to be dried and processed. Then he took us over to a field and let us practice picking leaves. Next, we went on a tour of the plantation and gathered together in a small room.

The head guide walked in and introduced himself as Shining. He spent four years in college mastering in tea and everything that comes with it. First, he taught us how to determine quality leaves from bad leaves: the stronger the smell and the lighter the color, the better. Next, he told us about the history of the word tea and showed off his Spanish and French skills. Then, assistants came in with cups, leaves, and hot water. We learned to use just a pinch of leaves and not to use boiling water, but rather boiled water that has cooled a bit. The first cup is just leaves and a small amount of water. This cup is meant to be swirled around (to open up the flavor of the leaves) and smelled to fully appreciate the aroma and taste of the leaves. After more water is added, we could drink the tea and even eat the leaves since that specific tea plantation does not use pesticides. Assistants then brought in different grades of leaves that varied in price and we could buy cans for family or friends. I bought a can of grade "A" (the best) and had him sign it for me. He wrote down his Chinese name, his English name, and his nickname: Dr. Tea. After a most educational presentation on tea, I had no question as to why he is nicknamed so.

Tonight's dinner was another culinary highlight that was held at a fancy restaurant. We started off with the usual dishes such as tofu and beef and then the feature, beggar's chicken, was brought out. It was presented first as a whole chicken and then the waitress took it away to have it cut and served.

The origin of beggar's chicken came from Hanzou so it is not only a culinary highlight but a regional specialty. Back in the ages of the dynasties, the government imposed heavy taxes on civilians. Families were not common and most everyone strayed around as beggars. One day, a beggar in Changsu (Jiangsu Province) walked around cold and hungry and found it was hard for him to stand up. Soon after, he fainted while his beggar companions tried to help him. Everyone collected firewood and tried to warm him up. One benevolent beggar offered the single remaining chicken but did not know how to cook it. Another beggar suggested that they slather mud around the chicken and place it in the fire to cook. They did so and when the chicken was done, they knocked off the mud piece by piece. They were extremely happy to find that the feathers were coming off along with the mud and that the chicken smelled very good.

Today's beggar's chicken is prepared almost the same way but with a modern twist. First, a chicken is killed, cleaned, and prepared with spices and stuffing. Then, a dough substance consisting of wine, salt, flour, and water is wrapped around the chicken and the whole thing is then wrapped again with a lotus leaf or foil. After baking, the dough is broken open and the chicken is served whole or cut into pieces. Since the chicken is wrapped before cooking, the original taste is kept while the flavor and aroma of the wine is allowed to soak into the chicken. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the dough shell being broken but the chicken tasted wonderful and it was amazing to know that it was made almost the same way as it was 300 years ago.

After dinner everyone got free time and Jason and I went to the mall adjacent to our hotel to shop around. On the way back I stopped at a Starbuck's to get a mocha frappucino. I usually get one before work here in the States and it was very cool and somewhat amazing that I could walk into a Starbuck's in China and say "one tall mocha frap, please" and five minutes later be enjoying the same treat that I do at home.

第十七章 下有蘇杭




午餐後,蘭西帶我們到靈隱寺(Ling Yin Temple)參觀,有半個小時的自由參觀時間。靈隱寺有尊巨大的佛像,而且據說這個寺廟很靈驗,有求必應,所以來這裡參拜的香客很多。








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