Last weekend, I was invited to a town not far from Jinhua (15 mins by high-speed train and 30mins by normal train) called Longyou [swimming dragon or maybe dragon swims, dragons swimming, smt like that!]. It’s a small town.
The moment I stepped off the train, I felt like I was in the countryside, lots of fields were nearby, chickens running around and the air smelt so fresh and clean…or maybe that was just because I’d spent 15mins on a hot and stuffy train.
A friend of a dean at my university invited me there to be a judge at his school’s English reading competition. The competitors were all children aged 9-12 and they had to give a short self-introduction, then read a dialogue that they had prepared before the competition, then read a dialogue that they had not prepared.
The competition was a lot of fun, with 27 young boys and girls in total. Some were funny, others more serious but they were all so brave to stand up on the stage and give a performance in a different language. I don’t know many British 10 year olds who would be willing to do that!
After the competition, the school’s director invited me and the teachers out for some food. I’d been told that Longyou is famous for it’s duck heads, but when I arrived, they told me that it’s speciality dish is 3 heads – duck head, fish head and rabbit head. They asked me which one I wanted to try, and I’m much braver with Chinese food now, so decided on the rabbit head after I refused the fish head and a lady told me duck head tastes horrible.
The heads arrived, along with chicken feet, tofu and small steamed buns. It was a bit gross when I came across the teeth, but I continued to finish the head and even summed up the courage to eat the tongue! That night, I didn’t know what would haunt my nightmares, the rabbit I just ate, the chicken feet or the ghostly picture on the wall.
The next day, I went to the Longyou Grottoes, a place only recently discovered and claims to be the 9th wonder of the world, alongside the Sphinx, Terracotta Warriors etc. They are underground grottoes, that were found empty in the 90s. There’s no historical record of them ever being built and it’s still a mystery, what were they used for, who built them, why, why are the ceilings decorated with perfect lines? As Longyou is a small city off the tourist trail and it was a drizzly November Sunday, the place was really quiet, and it was nice to be able to peacefully look around the place, rather than have Chinese people taking pictures of me.
There was also a very nice Buddhist temple at the back of the attraction, where different houses held different coloured and shaped Buddhist statues. The smell of incense was nice and it was very peaceful, but also a little eerie, I felt like I was trespassing.
Should you visit Longyou? Well it was a nice getaway trip for me, as it was really close by. The grottoes were historically interesting and mysterious, but at the end of the day, were still just underground spaces with nothing inside [nothing much to see]. I loved the experience of being a judge at the speech competition, I was very harsh and didn’t give anybody 100% (there’s always room for improvement). I may or may not go back to Longyou, but it was a great experience and a lovely trip to escape from the manic life I have on campus.