Showing posts with label Fujian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fujian. Show all posts

Monday, October 30, 2006

China: Last day in Fuzhou

It’s our last day in Fuzhou. The program officially ended yesterday and the delegates will be heading home today. Our breakfast call time was 5:30 a.m. since the group had to leave by 6:10 a.m. to catch the flight back to Guangzhou.

I was tired and sleepy from the previous night. After the farewell dinner, our Fujian hosts took the national leaders out for supper (meaning more food and drinks) at a hotel owned by one of the sponsors. And to think I was still stuffed from the lavish banquet prepared for us just two hours earlier.

During supper, I had several shots of Chivas Regal since in China, it is rude to refuse a toast, more so from the hosts. And it is customary to reciprocate by offering a toast as well. When I got back to the hotel, I still did not go to bed since I joined the Singapore contingent at the KTV in the mezzanine for more drinks and some singing. Hehe! When the KTV closed at 2 a.m., I was still up since we were still chatting with other delegates in the room. I just remember that I could no longer keep my eyes open since we had been up late the previous nights, so I just excused myself and went straight to bed.

Although I did not have to wake up early since three of us were staying to catch an evening train to Beijing, I did anyway to say goodbye to everyone. It reminded me so much of SSEAYP since I also stayed behind in Singapore then since each participating country left a representative to attend the World Youth Meeting with delegates of the Ship for World Youth (SWY). It was funny watching everyone board the buses and waving as the buses left since it was as if we were just home and saying goodbye to our guests.

Anyway, I went straight to bed right after. Next thing I knew it was time for lunch so I packed my stuff and met up with the others at the restaurant below. We were planning to go to around in the afternoon. But shock hit us when we asked our guide Justin what time we would arrive in Beijing.

Fuzhou is closer to Beijing than Guangzhou. We knew that the train from Guangzhou would take about 22 hours. And we were told that it would thus be shorter if we left from Fuzhou. So when Justin told us it was 34 hours, we just stood there in disbelief. It turns out, trains from this part of China had to navigate through mountains and thus, it took longer. Sigh! I just told the other two that the good thing about the situation was that instead of arriving in Beijing in the evening and having to spend for a hotel, we were going to arrive at 6 a.m. and thus, after freshening up, could already go around since we would have had enough sleep.

With that settled, we decided to shop for food for the 34 hour trip. But we decided to visit West Lake Park first which was just beside the hotel. The main attraction of the park is the two islands in the middle of the lake connected by old bridges. On one island was the sprawling villa of some rich person who lived several hundred years back.

While walking around, we noticed some people in Chinese costumes from the imperial court. It turns out, the costumes were for rent. And excited to try them out, we went straight to the shop to find out that the rental fee was just RMB5 or roughly PHP35! Just great!

Although wearing the attire of the emperor would have been nice, I decided to wear a red robe because of the hat which accompanied it. It was the one with those propeller-like things sticking out of them. Hehe! I remember seeing them when I was a small kid watching those Chinese movies they played on local television long before. Turns out, it was worn by a member of the court who had topped the examination. We were kidding that when everyone else who had gone home found out about the costume shop, they would feel bad since it was right at the door step of the hotel.

After the fun photo shoot, we rushed to the supermarket to get our food supplies. I got myself some bread with shredded pork, cup noodles, canned pork and 4 liters of water. I planned my menu in such a way that the heavy stuff was for when we were nearing Beijing so that I didn’t have to use the squat toilets while on the train. Haha!

We went back to the hotel for dinner, still courtesy of our hosts, and to get our luggage. A vehicle was also arranged for us to take us to the train station. But as soon as we get on the train, we are on our own.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

China: Fuzhou, the City of Banyan Trees

Today, we had a chance to go around Fuzhou, which is referred to as Rongcheng or the City of Banyan Trees which were planted in the city at the time of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). First on our itinerary today was a visit to the Xichan Temple. Finally, after our close to a week's stay in China, we get to visit a centuries-old cultural structure. Good news for a heritage buff! Hehe! The temple was said to have been built in 867 A.D.

According to sources, the temple is in the west of Fuzhou, on the foot of Mount Yi. An ancient temple of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Xichan is one of five Buddhist temples in the city. The most visible structure is its tall pagoda. Another feature of the temple is the many Litchi trees, planted in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The visit to the temple was a good opportunity for many of us to relax and enjoy Chinese heritage, and for some of us, to retreat and reflect.

After the short tour, we then visited some enterprises based in Fuzhou such as the Fujian Jindeli Holdings Corporation which produces jewelry, as well as the Fujian Star-net Communications Company. Lunch was at the Rongquiao Riverview Hotel were a huge buffet awaited us. There was just too much food from the usual Chinese food, to sushi, shabu-shabu, and grilled meats. I really had to control my appetite since I didn't want to gain weight during the trip. Hehe!

This was followed by a visit to the Ninghua Youth Civilization Community to observe volunteer work being done by the group in a community composed mostly of senior citizens. Again, the main discussion point of the camp was volunteerism and I do hope we could strengthen that here.

Our last stop was a few minutes at the Fuzhou Riverside Park. There are just so many parks and open spaces in China. Really great for the standard of living. In Metro Manila, we only have a few open spaces left and some mayor is even attempting to chop down the last urban forest in his jurisdiction. I wonder what runs in his mind when he gets all these crazy ideas. I think mayors here should have the political will to reclaim open spaces such as old plazas and parks that used to be a highlight of Manila at the turn of the past century.

We then trooped back to the hotel to prepare for a very formal courtesy call to the leaders of Fujian province. And just to let you know, Chinese provinces are as big as countries! In fact, the Philippines is just slightly larger than Guangxi. Mainland China, with its land area of 9.5 million square kilometers just has 22 provinces, five autonomous regions and four independent municipalities. In fact, many Chinese cities are bigger than our provinces which I why I wonder where some people in Davao City got the idea that they are the biggest city in the world in terms of land area. Shanghai, China's biggest city, is a little over two times the size of Davao City at 6,340.5 square kilometers.

Compare the China figures to the 79 provinces of the Philippines in just 300,000 square kilometers! I feel the Philippines is just too fragmented, where a few small municipalities can constitute a province. As a result, there is no coordinated development effort with each governor having his own preferences, whims and caprices and the result is a chopsuey urban landscape. In fact, as I speak, votes are being counted for the creation of the new province of Shariff Kabunsuan, the 80th province, which is almost sure of approval by Maguindanao voters. Obviously, this creates more positions up for grabs for our politicians. I feel that this practice has to be stopped and that we should be doing the opposite which is fusing together small political units to halt the chopsuey development. Oh well!

Enough with the digression. So going back, we met up with Mr. Chen Shaoyong, the Secretary-General of the Fujian Provincial Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, the no. 2 man in Fujian.

A dinner banquet followed at another five-star hotel. I feel this banquet was the most lavish of them all since they brought out some exotic-looking dishes. Wasn't able to note down all the dishes since the menu was in Chinese.

This was the last activity of the China-ASEAN Youth Camp 2006 so it served as a farewell party as well. More toasts were exchanged as a tribute to the strong cooperation among nations. To end the evening, the entire ballroom sang the Chinese and original versions of Auld Lang Syne. This song gives me the goosebumps since it was always played for our emotional farewells in the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program which I participated in way back in 2002.

According to sources, the words Auld Lang Syne literally translates from the old Scottish dialect meaning Old Long Ago and is about love and friendship in times past. The part of the song which goes "We'll take a Cup of Kindness yet" relates to a drink shared by men and women to symbolise friendship. So there, a fitting finale to a week of cultural exchange between neighbors.

Our great China adventure begins tomorrow. While the other delegates go back home to their own countries, three of us decided to make the most of our China trip by visiting Beijing.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

China: Fujian, the link between the Philippines and China

Our next destination was Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province. To me, it was a sentimental trip for the Philippine delegation since the Chinese ancestors of most Filipinos, myself included, hail from Fujian province. So it was like a coming home of sorts.

The group left Nanning shortly before lunch. We had to attend the opening of a China-ASEAN art exhibit before trooping to the airport. Our plane was a Xiamen Airlines flight to Fuzhou via Shenzen. Lunch was served on board.

The flight was delayed so we arrived in Fuzhou behind schedule. Since our delegation head had to return to the Philippines, I took over as delegation head having been appointed deputy delegation head by the NYC. So my ceremonial duties began as soon as we arrived at the airport, receiving the floral token of our hosts as the delegation entered the terminal.

The city proper was about an hour away from the airport. We were billeted at the 5-star Lakeside Hotel. Since we were already behind schedule, we barely had enough time to get dressed for the visit to Fujian Normal University. Ergo, no time to rest. Sigh!

As we arrived, we were welcomed at the library building by a marching band. First on our list of things to do was a group photograph at the lobby. After that, it was off for a library tour. This was our second university visit and they always tour us around the library more than any other place. It just shows how important libraries are in Chinese student life.

The banquet hosted by the Fujian Youth Federation followed so we boarded the buses to move to the next building. And just like always, there were the usual welcome speeches and exchange of tokens and toasts. It was my turn to exchange tokens with our hosts in behalf of the delegation. In the photo is myself with the chairman of the Fujian Youth Federation, Mr. Wu Li Guan. I had to sit at the presidential table too, away from the rest of the delegation. So it was quite lonely there but a different experience which I enjoyed as well.

Unlike the rest of the tables where the food is served on large dishes, each of us on the presidential table got individual small portions of every dish. I didn't keep count but I heard there were maybe fifteen dishes served.

We then moved buildings again this time for the cultural night with the students of the university. But before that, we were treated to a demonstration of the Chinese tea ceremony and its precise and intricate movements. I've uploaded a video of the ceremony courtesy of the Fujian Normal University.

The cultural night followed. We presented a shortened version of our original presentation but got more cheers this time since our repeat performance was very much anticipated. Haha! Again, let's leave it at that! I was impressed with the different cultural numbers rendered by the students which included traditional dances and a wushu demonstration.

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