We allocated one day to visit Fujian Tulou (福建土楼) in the county of Nanjing (南靖县), which is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was 2.5 hours drive one way from Xiamen. We hired a private car with a driver who happened to have a friend who lived in the Tulou. How lucky we were!
It was a 2.5 hours easy drive from Xiamen. Once we exited the highway, we were greeted by unique scenic views.
Tulou is a large, enclosed and fortified earthen structured building, between 3 and 5 storeys high and housing up to 80 families. The fortified outer structures are formed by compacting earth, mixed with stone, bamboo, wood and other readily available materials, to form walls up to 6 feet (1.8m) thick. Branches, strips of wood and bamboo chips are often laid in the wall as additional reinforcement. The result is a well lit, well ventilated, windproof and earthquake-proof building that is warm in winter and cool in summer. Tulou usually has only one main gate, guarded with thick wooden door. The top level of these earth buildings has gun holes for defensive purposes.
The four dishes and a soup tulou.
The tulou we visited is Tianluokang Tulou Cluster (田螺坑土楼群), which is one of the better known Fujian Tulou. The cluster consists of a square earth building at the center, surrounded by 3 round earth buildings and one oval shape earth building. It's therefore nicknamed as "four dishes with a soup" (四菜一汤).
The view of the tulou from afar, it's surrounded by the greens.
Upon arrival, our host, Mr. Huang (the friend of our driver) came to lead us the way to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were there in early November and the temperature was around 24 degree Celsius, which made it a perfect time to visit. We were still able to dress light and enjoyed the mild cool weather! The air was so fresh at the mountainous area and it wasn't too crowded with tourists yet.
The air was so fresh and we were thrilled.
We were led to the photo station, took some 'iconic' photos. Some 'local vendors' were taking our photos as well, and within minutes they came with our 8R size photo, tried to sell to us at RMB20 per piece. We were amazed at their efficiency! LOL We did buy from them, as they looked kind, humble and hopeful to close the sale. They were definitely not pushy! To us, it was like we were helping the locals to earn some extra bucks.
The walkway to go to Mr. Huang's house. The locals were looking at us curiously as we dressed too lightly for the weather. LOL
Mr. Huang took us to his home, which is located in the largest tulou building in that area. He served us Chinese tea and some titbits, like some dried persimmons, prunes and dates. Papa Bear sat down to have a chat with them, while the kids and I busy exploring the area. Our city kids were very curious to observe how the locals live. They blended in very quickly that soon we saw them playing with the local kids who lived there.
The largest tulou in the 4 dishes and a soup tulous, Mr Huang's home is just right inside this building.
This is how it looks like inside.
They have the common area for everyone and guests.
They were very hospitable and our kids blended in naturally.
One of the eateries in the tulou, who is Mr. Huang's neighbour. :)
We had one of the best meals in China at Mr. Huang's home. His wife was an excellent cook. We noticed that they ate very simple food, some vegetables and a bowl of rice. Chicken and other 'luxury food' were kept to serve the guests like us or for their major occasions like Winter Solstice and Chinese New Near. This really brought tears to our eyes. Mr Huang charged us very reasonably too for the food he served us. He volunteered as our tour guide free of charge to bring us around other tulou buildings. We now understood why our driver from Xiamen had only all the good things to speak about him. He is such a humble, hospitable and hardworking guy.
Mr. Huang's lovely wife.
Stir fried mushrooms.
Crispy yam balls, these were Baby Bear's favourite.
Yummy chicken soup.
We bought some souvenirs and local produces like Chinese tea, biscuits, art and craft items from the locals. All items were reasonably priced. It brought tears again to our eyes to see the eagerness on their face to close sale just to earn a dollar or two. If you have the opportunity to visit the tulou, do spend with them. You are helping them to live a better lifestyle.
The granny was picking only the best tea leaves for sale.
Some rare youngsters who stayed back.
Listening to radio was one of their favourite entertainment.
Dried persimmon in the process. We tasted some and it was nice.
After lunch, Mr. Huang and Mr. Guo brought us around other tulous to have a look. The tulous were more or less the same. As we had spent a few hours at Mr. Huang's, so we didn't spend much time at other tulous. We walked around the other part of the village to enjoy more peaceful and scenic views, then we left for Xiamen at around 4.30pm. It was a wonderful day and we marked it as the highlight of our whole trip. :)
The more than 700 years old leaning tulou.
The structures and layouts are more or less the same for all tulous. :)
The peaceful view in the village.
I love snapping picture of how the locals live. :)
The last picture of the local aunty before we left. :)
Some contact information for your reference:
Mr Huang (the local host) - +86 13328713518 (for meals, accommodation, tour guide service and purchase of local produce) NOTE: we had lunch at his humble home in one of the tulou, he charged us only for lunch and FOC tour guide service. Highly recommended. Speak only Chinese.
Mr Guo (our driver based in Xiamen) - +86 13062435537 (the car rental and driver fee was RMB1200 to the tulou, excluding tip) NOTE: It was a common practice in China to tip the driver or tour guide and to invite them to join us for meals. Mr Guo is OK, he is patient and good with kids and he is always early by at least half an hour for all his appointments. Yes, he speaks only Chinese too. :)