With our fifth trip to China imminent, it seems an appropriate moment to write a paragraph or two about Huizhou, the city that started it all. Huizhou is pronounced 'way-jo'; pedants and scholars might care that the first syllable is second (rising) tone while the 'jo' is third (falling-rising). My inability to cope with tones doubtless accounts for the incomprehension that greets any attempt to deploy my very limited Mandarin vocabulary.
|The Xiapu district of Huizhou.|
Siân & James lived on the nth floor of one of these blocks
Huizhou has less than a handful of sites to attract tourists. Although it is hardly remote, 160 km east of Guangzhou and 60 km north east of Hong Kong, few foreigners ever visit; perhaps that is the best reason for going there. If you want to watch the Chinese going about their business undistorted by the mirror of mass tourism, then Huizhou is the place to go. If you want to see the Chinese economic miracle in a small city on the edge of the Special Economic Zone, then there is no better place than Huizhou. If you want to relax somewhere inexpensive surrounded by lakes and parks, then I recommend Huizhou.
|Ren Ren Le, Huizhou's main supermarket|
|Choreographed swordplay by South Lake, Huizhou|
The area surrounding the larger lake, Xi Hu (West Lake, no expense was spared in the naming) was laid out as a park during the Song dynasty (10th and 11th centuries). For a few Yuan you may stroll among the gardens, see a statue of the poet/administrator Su Dongpo and climb a wooden pagoda. From the top there is a fine view over the lake and the five-hundred-metre causeway that crosses it. The numerous right angle turns deny demons access to the central pavilion, while the small, marble humpback bridge was built by Su Dongpo in 1096.
|West Lake, Huizhou|
|Keeping Huizhou tidy|
In Huizhou, under Siân’s tutelage, we learned how to survive as foreigners in China. We learned about buses and the etiquette of taxis and discovered that you can walk into the most basic restaurant, or occupy a table outside what seems only a hole in the wall and not only will you not be poisoned, but you will be served a meal that is skilfully cooked, full of flavour and extraordinarily cheap.
|Frog cooked in a big leaf, Huizhou|
The climate in August is far from ideal. It is certainly warm enough, the temperature reaching the low thirties, but it is usually overcast and often raining. Occasionally there is a storm, sometimes a typhoon. Even on sunny days the air is laden with moisture and to avoid being bathed in sweat you learn to walk slowly. Most things in Huizhou happen slowly, even the traffic.
|West Lake, the pagoda from the middle of the lake, Huizhou|