Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chaozhou 1-day Trip

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Guangji Bridge and the old city wall

On the second day of my 4-day Chaoshan trip, we left for Chaozhou which is an hour's drive from Shantou.

Chaoshan's most famous historical and cultural city was a rich arts hub known for its prowess in opera, music, tea drinking, lion dance and cuisine.

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We had half an hour to take pictures of Han river and Guangji Bridge (广济桥). Next to the river, some locals were playing badminton in a park while an elderly man was reeling in fish from the river. Although I had little time to spare, I made an effort to chat with them.

When the locals found out that I can converse fluently in Teochew, their level of camaraderie goes up and they happily chat with me about life in Chaozhou and overseas.

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I quickly snapped some pictures of the beautiful scenery before me.

Built in 1171, the picturesque Guangji bridge is considered one of China's four famous ancient bridges.  Spanning 500m across the Han river, it has 24 pretty pavilions and the centre of the bridge consists of 18 boats linked by chains, which can be unlinked to allow large vessels to pass through.

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We had a group photo outside Chaozhou's old city walls before entering Chaozhou old town for a tour.

Although we have already eaten our breakfast, seeing the traditional Chaozhou snacks on sale, we couldn't resist stopping to take pictures and buy some..... despite the constant assurance that we would be given time to enjoy these street side food.  hahaha.....

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We watched a kung-fu tea demonstration, visit a museum and the Chaozhou Kaiyuan Zhenguo Temple (开元寺) within the old walls.

We left for lunch at a restaurant and visited factories after that before returning to the old town for dinner at our own expenses.

The walls of Chaozhou city were beautifully lit up at night when we departed for Shantou later that night.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Teochew Culture @ Chaoshan - PhotoHunt

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Teochew kung-fu tea demonstration 潮州工夫茶

Photohunt theme : Funny/Work tools

I had a glimpse of our fascinating Teochew culture during a trip to Chaozhou Ancient City (潮州古城).

Teochew kung-fu tea is unique to the Chaoshan area, I was served kung-fu tea in every house or shop I visited. Even my hotel room has a tea set for me to use. :)

I watched a Teochew kung-fu tea demonstration by a master craftsman and was awed by the elaborate steps required to prepare a cup of tea. I noted down the traditional technique of brewing tea including instructions on water type, temperature, infusion and grading of tea leaves.

To ensure the tea in every cup is the same temperature and strength, the tea is not poured one cup at a time. Without pausing, it is poured evenly over the cups in a circular motion. The brewing, serving and drinking of kung-fu tea is a fine art which I would love to learn more.

Notice the setup of a clay stove and kettle. Some older folks in Chaoshan still boil water like this. What's really interesting is the fuel they use for the stove - charcoal made from olive pits!

Inside the olive pits are nuts which carry oil substance that give out a unique light aroma when burnt. The master craftsman invited us to have a whiff of the aroma from the olive coal.

The shop sells a variety of tea leaves and basic sets of tea ware for those who want to enjoy a good brew. I already own a tea set and lots of good-grade tea leaves at home so I didn't buy any.

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Teochew Hand-pulled teapot  潮州手拉壶

Next we visited a small factory to see the production of Teochew "shou-la" teapot..... i.e. hand pull method on spinning wheel.

Some members bought hand-pulled teapots which were made by a master craftsman and also come with certificates. A hand-pulled small teapot costs RMB 1250 while a medium one costs RMB 8000+.

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Teochew Hand Hammered beef balls  手捶牛肉丸

One amusing scene that early morning was this hawker who was hammering away at the beef on a huge chopping board. From afar, I thought he was hitting a drum. I was thinking to myself : How funny! His drum didn't produce a sound.

When I saw what he was doing, I couldn't help laughing out loud. He offered a brief introduction without stopping what he was doing.

Hand hammered beef balls are the most common and popular of Teochew snacks. Beef mixed with some tendon is turned into a meat paste as he hammered the mixture using a pair of special wooden round sticks that resemble drumsticks.

The meat paste is then shaped into beef balls and cooked in beef bone soup. I didn't get to taste these beef balls as we were being herded to our next destination .... the downside of a guided group tour. :P



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shantou Trip : Day 1

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After years of talking about visiting my ancestral homeland in China, I finally made the trip. I went on a 4-day Chaoshan (潮汕四天游) trip in mid-October.

We left Singapore at 13:40 hours and reached Shantou around 6 in the evening. The sky was pitch black when we landed on Shantou’s tiny Waisha International Airport (汕头外砂机场), a former military airport. After clearing the customs, we boarded a coach to a famous restaurant chain in China for dinner.

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On the coach, the tour guide gave each of us a tiny green bean biscuit(绿豆饼) to snack on. It was tasty so I placed an order for them  - 20 pieces for RMB25.

Until the 19th century, Shantou was only a small fishing village. It has a total population of over 5 million residents, is one of five special economic zones in China, and its commercial activities include it being the communication hub of south-east China. It is very rich in natural scenery, cultural relics, and folk customs.

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We had a 14-course dinner. *burrrp*

It is usual to serve many dishes for a homecoming feast. I sampled every dish. I thought Teochew dishes are bland, these dishes were greasy and/or salty. I only like the braised goose liver, ginger chicken and Puning savoury noodles.

第一天晚宴 :
白灼活沙虾   飘香蚝仔烙   香煎韭菜粿    雀巢双珍宝   普宁炸豆腐
潮汕卤鹅肉   梅园沙姜鸡   清蒸多宝鱼    蒜蓉炒青菜   洋参炖珠鲍
普宁咸面线   潮汕卤鹅肝(全粉)

Desserts were overly sweet!
甜品 :  金玉满堂(糕烧番薯)
            白果芋泥

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                                            orh luak (oyster omelette)

The oyster omelette (orh luak) is a famous Teochew dish but I wasn't impressed with the one served in this restaurant.

After dinner, we checked-in to our hotel. After my bath, I went across the street to buy bottled mineral water. Temperature that night was around 28 degree Celsius, I bought thick clothings which I didn't get to wear throughout this trip.


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