My final trip in China was a short fall holiday journey through the Fujian countryside to see the tulou (土楼) — earth buildings of the Hakka people, some of which date back about 800 years. The tulou clusters are unique to the area and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was the October national holiday, and my companion and I decided to fly into Xiamen and take a bus to a village outside Taxia. Remembering my previous bus trips, I wasn’t thrilled about the option, but there was no other affordable option. Fortunately, it was only a few hours on the overcrowded bus that blasted its horn (which I believe was louder than Spinal Tap’s amps) every couple minutes to ensure that I was wide awake.
Upon stopping in the village — it was just one enormous intersection with no obvious traffic pattern — I was greeted by a group of motorcycle taxi drivers who crowded the door of the bus and pushed against me. I swung my bag rather violently to get some space and ran for the nearest store, which happened to also be the entrance to my hotel (a term I’ll use loosely in this case).
The first day was spent walking around the village — through the fields to view the tulou that weren’t set up as tourist sites. Dinner was an adventure in the town as the restaurant had no menu — just choose your dead animal and vegetables from the cooler and tell them how to cook it.
The next day, we hired a driver to take us around the touristy tulou. For the most part, because we started the day early, we avoided the crowds. There was also the possibility that the driver knew where to go before the tour buses from Xiamen headed in.
These buildings were fascinating. They are extended-family homes that were constructed for defensive purposes. The ground floor is the kitchen, second floor storage, and third floor and above are living areas — each family has a vertical dwelling. The structures are all similar, but there were a few that were larger, older, or had some unique feature in the interior courtyard.
After viewing quite a few of the tulou and villages, I found it more interesting to stare at the mountains and fields surrounding the area. Since this area is a relatively new tourist destination, even for domestic tourists, there isn’t much information for visitors. At the time, they were just starting to build hotels in the area — there were just a few guesthouses then. I managed to pick up a Chinglish book on the history of the tulou, but it was somehow lost in the move to the US.