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Xinmi and more...

After Guilin, next stop on this year's journey was Xinmi, in Henan province. That meant, first, a flight from Guilin to Zhengzhou. I'd been to the Zhengzhou area before, when I visited Luoyang, Cangyanshan and the Guoliang Tunnel in April, 2013, and I had reason to return.

I arrived at Zhengzhou airport from Guilin ready to meet up with Sky Han, my Luoyang/Zhengzhou area guide from 2013. This, however, was a visit as a friend now, not a customer as it had been before. The terms between us had happily changed when I had planned to visit Zhengzhou again last trip and had booked Sky's services, but couldn't make it and went to Shanghai instead. I'd paid Sky for the booked time anyways because it was the right -- and fun -- thing to do, and Sky said that if I was going to be *that* way about it, then from here on in, no more business. Friends now :) I'd had a great time with Sky and his driver, Haisong, last visit. And I'd met Sky's father, too.

So we'd kept in contact over the two years since we last met, becoming better friends as time passed. I'd been invited to spend some time with Sky and his family while having a relaxed few days in Xinmi, and I'd also asked for Sky's help to complete, if possible, a quest of sorts. <--- Yes, that's a tease.



It was just getting dark when I landed. Sky and his brother picked me up. As planned, we drove about an hour directly from Zhengzhou to the nearby but much smaller Xinmi, Sky's home city. Xinmi's population is only 750,000 while Zengzhou has 4,867,388 people in its metro area. First stop on arrival in Xinmi and after booking into the very comfortable and economical ($15/night) Qing Ping Hotel, downtown, was a short walk a street over to a western style ice cream parlour How cool is that? It was humid and comfortably warm out, and a perfect end to the day.





Then sleep, followed by a great street breakfast with Sky and some local folks...



...followed by the adventures of the next few days, not all in chrono order

1) Fu Xi Mountain Canyon

During my time in Xinmi, Sky and his wife, brother, parents and I headed to Fu Xi Mountain Canyon, which is a fairly new scenic/tourist development in the Xinmi area, taking advantage of the very scenic nearby mountains and ravines. Somewhat near the summit area of the development, on our way to the development entrance, we spotted a few buildings under construction that were taking the form of huge downed tree trunks, so we stopped to take a look, which was a lucky choice, as it turned out. I think this will be a tourist shops complex featuring the tree trunk compartments and the "Great wall" construction you'll see in the background that affords a beautiful view of some of the the surrounding valleys, but whatever it is (and anyone who can read the sign, please fill me in), it looks like it's gonna be really well done, and the wall/fortress behind is *huge*.















Within a couple of minutes of getting out of the car to take a look, we were greeted by a Mr. Zhao Haodong, who happened to be by the development, and who, Sky explained after Mr. Zhao had introduced himself, was one of the local government officials overseeing the area's development. Somehow he could tell I wasn't from the neighbourhood, and he immediately and very kindly offered to guide us all to and through the park area, and also very generously promised us a good meal following the hiking. (Yet another very kind example of Chinese generosity and hospitality to visitors. I'm constantly astonished, and always grateful.)





Mr. Zhao was a wonderful host. After leaving the log motel/shops(?) development, we followed his car for a few rural miles, past the main parking areas, waved through through to a much smaller parking lot a couple of miles hike closer to the direct entrance to the ravines.





The following photos are from the hike, guided by Mr. Zhao with his friends, with Sky and his family, and which was fairly arduous, but beautiful. First down, deep, into the ravines a couple of hundred feet lower, then up and down and up and down and around, along the flowing water for some time, then...up, again and steadily back up to a terrain level higher than the parking area where we started. Took about 3-4 hours of fairly steady walking, and worth every step. It's gorgeous down there, and after only a few minutes of walking through, I understood the number of people doing the hike.





Sky's parents :)





















































Following the hike/tour, Mr. Zhao called for a car to return us to the parking lot. From there, we followed Mr. Zhao down the mountain to a small restaurant where explained he had phoned ahead to provide us with the delicious meal he'd promised. I can't say enough about his generosity to us all as we were a party of 5 people. We talked and visited for about an hour, eating wonderful food until we said our goodbyes and many thanks, and returned to town.






Now, this next shot is rediculously poor but it's all I've got of the very large, covered but open air, "food court" where Sky and I ate later that night. I was amazed at the place, probably twenty or thirty sellers of deliciously aromatic food surrounding a central seating area, and I was hungry for a big feed of chuan er/串儿, my appetite for authentic Chinese food having been whetted, yet again by the earlier delicious meal, so I pretty much forgot about shooting :). That's a reason, not an excuse. I'm sure Hawk understands.



2) Scenes around Xinmi's Hanzhuangcun district...

One thing I noticed again in Xinmi, but notice everywhere I go in China, is that there's amusement stuff for kids all over the place, ranging from small single rides in front of stores, through sandboxes on streetcorners and mini-rides along the street, to somewhat larger areas where there might be good-sized collection of big inflatables as well as larger mechanical rides, and food stalls. It's great to see, and here is no exception. Here's some examples, just Hanzhuangcun neighbourhood stuff:













There rest in this section is just me (and sometimes Sky and me) wandering over the next days, still in the Hanzhuangcun district, all within an easy hour or so walk from my hotel. The first place here, with the blue entrance cell phone accessories. I wanted a charger for my S4 batteries because my old spare-battery charger broke, and I hadn't found one in Guilin. With the aid of the Baidu Translate app (excellent, I think the best for Chinese phone translation), I found one here...and stayed an extra 10 minutes while various staff and their co-workers, including the supervisors, took photos of "the foreigner."





















































Here's a shot with (from Sky clockwise) Sky, his wife, a family member(?), Sky's Aunt ( think), Sky's mother, Sky's father, and another family member(?) having...a nice evening snack of chuan er, and ...something good...and very good local beer, followed by a photo of the sign of the place we were eating, and then more Xinmi street scenes.


















Oh yeah...if you're ever gonna be in China, get to know this sign. A.Liren is a chain of restaurants that specializes in tomato based recipes, and it's a treat, every single time. All sorts of good choices, really cheap, and I'd say way more than acceptable to even the pickiest Western palate. Visit the website.





Note: This enormous emergency shelter...



...is under this (next three photos...and where Sky and I met these kids who wanted to practice English for a while):







3) Nearby village improvements

One morning, Sky was attending to some business, and took me along to a nearby village. I only took a few photos but they serve to illustrate the improvement in living conditions for, it appears, many Chinese people over the past decades. Sky informed me that the low buildings in the left (stage right) of both of the next two photos was housing for the families that lived here.





I'm presuming these abandoned building are older farm buildings.



Well, things change. Here's the newer village housing, still under some construction...



...and an apartment of a local young family...





...and a view from the apartment window, overloooking some of the village farmland.



4) An older section of Xinmi

Sky also took me to an older section of Xinmi, reminding me that areas like this are becoming less and less common as cities develop and modernize...

























There are times I think this is the best photo I've ever taken in all my trips to China. I call it "On guard." The little guy is already earning his keep :)



...And a few more scenes of old Xinmi...







And, while in the older section of Xinmi, we visited this local Buddhist temple, clearly not lavish, nor busy, but with a wonderfully friendly resident monk.



























So, there's Part III of these posts, and Part I of Xinmi. With more to Xinmi/Luoyang to come. Ah, yes...the teaser photos...

Next installment of the 2015 AMCHPR China tour, a quest is completed, and here's the hints, one of which is very "quest-direct", if you look in the right place...





 

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Thanks for sharing such wonderful photos with us Ron. This is a side of China rarely seen by the Western world and is certainly what I have experienced during my many trips to the mainland. Very friendly people, a mix of new and old and a lot of fascinating facets of Chinese culture.

When I met Ron in Shenzhen he didn't want to go to the newest places in town and we ended up having dinner in a small family-owned restaurant bustling with locals. Prior to this we spent some time wandering around back alleys and side streets. I guess that's how he ends up with such cool photos of local life :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Thanks for sharing such wonderful photos with us Ron. This is a side of China rarely seen by the Western world and is certainly what I have experienced during my many trips to the mainland. Very friendly people, a mix of new and old and a lot of fascinating facets of Chinese culture.

When I met Ron in Shenzhen...we spent some time wandering around back alleys and side streets. I guess that's how he ends up with such cool photos of local life :)
Thank you for the kind words, Ed. The traditional tourist sites are a wonder to see, and worth seeing, but I want to see past that when I visit China, so the only way for me to do that is...go deeper, past that :), just like you describe...and keep a smile on my face. I do my best to be approachable. Just today, I finally managed to get Mr. Zhao's WeChat info (thanks, Sky!), which I'd misplaced, and contacted him to show him this post.

I got these back from Mr. Zhao by WeChat :). Photos from his phone, I expect.





So now, if I am fortunate enough to return, I have another few real friends in Xinmi. :) . It's fun going deeper. I recommend it.

Another breathtaking visit report, Ron. Bravo!Ric
Ric, thank you for such a generous comment. The breathtaking part, to me, is how welcome I'm always made to feel.
 

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This is a wonderful thread! Great pictures too!

As for the sign, it doesn't actually say anything about the wall.

It just says:

"National AAAA-grade tourist attraction"
"Fu Xi Grand Canyon welcomes you"

Once again, thanks for sharing, I felt happy just reading your post!
 
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