When asked by a teacher by one of our partner schools, to enhance the biking component of our Fujian trip, we jumped at the opportunity. And so we ran our inaugural Fujian Bike Journey for a school group, which had a group of 24 high schoolers biking from tulou cluster to tulou cluster, on beautiful backcountry roads. As an ode to our Journey, we’ve listed out two rhetorical questions which outline our biking philosophy, along with six reasons why we love Fujian.
Why the Bicycle? The Hutong chooses to use the bicycle as an ideal means of getting you from point A to point B and as a way to enjoy what is in between. The experience of being on a bicycle, taking in new sights is quite special. The bicycle allows you to travel at the perfect speed to see and connect with the surroundings you are passing through.
Unlike traveling by car, a bicycle allows you to fully appreciate the the wind in your face, the drop or increase in temperature, the chirp of birds in the trees and greet the local farmers as they pick and harvest their crops. The ride allows us to appreciate a place more fully after the fun and the work of cycling to the destination.
Why Do We Like Hills? Hills let you fully savour a downhill, and let you appreciate how a view constantly changes while descending from the top to the lower slopes. Students may not always appreciate the ascents, but the sense of achievement that a challenge surpassed can bring makes the gratifying descent that lies beyond the hill, a priceless experience. We aim to go beyond what is comfortable, convenient or familiar. While on the road, encourage students to go beyond their perceived limitations and improve their confidence.
Here’s a teacher testimonial which sums up the Bike Journey:
We thought we were getting a biking trip to Fujian, but we got so much more. The storytelling, tea picking, delicious food, new friendships, time for reflection, the Tulou’s, the sense of adventure and achievement made this one of the best trips I have been involved in.
Our Fujian Favorites:
1. Fresh Air
Yes, there are some factories along the coast, but back in the forest swathed mountains of the Yongding and Nanjing plateau, it’s the sweet smell of Tie Guanyin from small scale tea plantations that scent the air.
2. Oolong Tea
The Minnan – Fujianese people traditionally living South of the Min River- are the master growers and processors of these complex, fragrant roasted teas. The Oolong is served with casual ceremony, Gongfu style (tiny pots, tiny cups and lots of water splashing) in every home, business and street side tea shop.
3. Fujian Hospitality
Pao cha (lets brew tea) is the Fujian greeting, at least in the countryside. This is particularly true in the architecturally splendid Fujian Tulou, where The Hutong has staged excursions for both weekender cycling tours and week-long educational tours.
4. The Fujian Tulou
Giant rammed earth fortresses, designed under fengshui principles – often circular like in the spirit of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table – to best promote equality in communal living – 1200 years before the communists attempted the same thing nationwide.
5. Chairman Mao Frescos
Mao portraits, poetry and red guard slogans decorate many of the Fujian tulou, arguably another layer of protection to the already defensive architecture. This palimpsest of 1960’s art is just a blip in the many historical skirmishes the tulou have survived.
6. Back Roads and Bicycles
Back road and bicycles get us out into the fresh air to experience the tulou, the tea fields and the wafting scent of roasting Oolongs. Casually, we stop for the welcoming cup of tea, in remote, authentic tulous (away from the mega tour buses). On bikes we stop wherever: at small local festivals, a roadside opera or an exquisite tea garden down a tiny back road.
Come join The Hutong on our next Fujian Journey.