My pickled feet

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
Trip End Aug 15, 2008

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, February 24, 2008

I had been intending to come out to Langzhong, an ancient town to the north east of Chengdu, for the past few months, but for some reason hadn't made it here, despite it only being 5 hours distant. My imminent departure from Chengdu forced me to actually make the effort and jump on a bus. Conveniently, the bus station was right next to Sim's (which means I have even less excuse for not visiting until now).

The town seems very much aimed at the domestic tourist; from the reactions I received (one old lady almost fell over, she was so shocked), I guess not too many laowei make it up here. Langzhong seems to be famous for two things - a famous general, Zhang Fei, from the 3 Kingdoms period (they employed someone to dress up as him and stalk about town), and vinegar. Walking about, the smell of it assaults you once in a while, and there are several 'vinegar bars'. I didn't indulge. However, given that the entire place seems to shut down at 8, the only thing to do in the evening is get a vinegar foot massage. This involves pickling your feet in a bucket of scalding hot vinegar for half an hour, then let some bored looking woman knead and pound them rather painfully for a while, followed by a leg pummelling (for good measure). I wouldn't recommend it.

Having wanted to come here for quite some time, I wasn't ever so impressed with the town. I had heard it mentioned in comparison with both Lijiang and Pingyao, and quite rightly so, though it lacks the appeal of either. Like both other towns, the historic center is surrounded by typically bland, modern development, and not ever so easy to find from the bus station unless you know where you're going. The old town street layout and general style of the buildings is very similar to that of Pingyao; a vaguely grid-like layout, gate and central towers, and streets lined with Ming and Qing dynasty architecture, though constructed mainly with wood and plaster. This is part of the problem - these materials haven't lasted well, and much reconstruction has taken place in recent years, but (in contrast to Lijiang) quite poorly done. Also, it's been a rather half-hearted attempt. Step off the main streets (which are, in true Lijiang style, lined with shops selling the same old crap you find everywhere else), and suddenly any pretense of an old town disappears, and you're walking around more of the same blandness you find outside the city gates. The town wasn't all bad, it just lacked the authenticity of Pingyao or the extensive restoration efforts of Lijiang. One thing I will say in it's favour - it has some really good hotels. Old family courtyard buildings, these have been spared the poor attempts at reconstruction, and still retain a considerable amount of character. What with the lack of anything happening in the evening and the peaceful surroundings, I got a damn good nights' sleep. So the trip here wasn't entirely a loss!
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pigletruth on

cool blog mate
Fancy a nice pickled foot meself

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