Category Archives: Travels

The Gao Family Mansion, Xi’an

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Xi’an has much to offer besides the main sites such as the Terracotta Warriors, the Small and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Beiyuanmen “Muslim Street” with the Great Mosque and numerous burial sites. Not every attraction is suitable for everyone so you got to choose what you really would like to see in case of a short visit as usually two or three days are just not enough to see much. And believe me, there is so much to see that it takes months just to visit all the places advertised in city guides and other sources.

During all my visits in Xi’an I have probably visited all major tourist spots and multiple locations which are more known to the locals. This resulted during my last visit that I felt kind of empty. I wanted to see more of the city but my wife had no motivation to just go through the streets, she wanted to visit only spots she hasn’t seen before. So I started my research on search engines for some place we haven’t visited yet and after a long day I found it; something called the Gao Family Mansion located in Beiyuanmen. Wait, what? Located at the Muslim street? I had been several times and never ever saw anything like this Mansion nor did my wife or her parents have any idea about it.

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One of the many rooms

Next day we headed to Beiyuanmen (just 5min walk from my parents-in-law’s home) in search of that building. We walked about and down there for around 30min with no luck until we saw a little tourist group going through an entrance between food vendors. We followed them and there it was, the place we had been searching for: The Gao Family Mansion

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As you can see, he did well with in his exams!

Now first some basic information about the Gao Family Mansion:

  • Built over 400 years ago during Ming Dynasty
  • stretched over 2.500sqm (~26,910square feet)
  • 86 rooms of which 56 or so are opened for public
  • Due to a Project of Sino-Norway Historical Districts Protection in 1999 it was completely repaired (Thanks Norway!)
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Lovely Myna Birds

I don’t remember the entrance fee anymore but it was very cheap. Inside the mansion you can spend some more money on a tea ceremony and a shadow puppetry show but we skipped those. I guess we walked around for nearly two hours there, going through the several rooms and floors (my wife loved the talking myna birds because of their compliments to her beauty and I was fascinated by the turtles).

I can only recommend a visit there, it is pretty much in the middle of Beiyuanmen, there is much to see for little money and most importantly it is very quiet there. As long as you don’t look up to the neighbouring buildings you can’t believe that you are actually in the center of bustling city with over 8 million inhabitants.

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Do you have found any wonderful places which are not heavily advertised in other cities?

Some more information of the Gao Family Mansion:

The China Guide

Horticultural Expo 2011

China Highlights

Sino Impressions

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Visiting Kammi-Kylä

Last year summer my parents in law were visiting us for the first time in Finland. The main reason behind it was that they could attend our “big” wedding in Finland and see where we currently live. As we had a whole month with them we tried to show them as much as possible without straining our financial situation too much. In a previous post I wrote about their first visit on a strawberry farm, well now I will write about their first visit in a truly weird place.

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Welcome to Finland

This place is located near our summer cottage in Nummijärvi which is near the city of Kauhajoki. I guess these names mean nothing to you but anyways I wrote them down  just as some reference if you ever get interested and want to visit there. So as I mentioned this site is near the cottage my parents own and we were there for a few days prior to our wedding. We wanted to show my parents in law more than just the beautiful nature there and the idea of visiting that weird place came just at the right time. We only had a 20 min car ride through forests and swamps till we arrived.

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One of the many Saunas

First of all the whole place is located within a swamp and the owner of this particular place had some years back the idea to build on his own several buildings in this swamp. I think all materials except the windows and some water drains are natural materials found all over his property.

After many years of building he had created a little village for himself, including several sauna buildings, a building for parties and dances and a little swamp spa. Swamp Spa? Oh yes, it is hard to describe but I have uploaded a picture with a part of it. Basically it is a circular trench with a little island in the middle on which can be found a few benches and a fireplace. The trench itself can be used to swim around. Did I mention already this whole thing is located in the middle of a swamp? This means that you swim in the swamp when you feel like it.  You got to remember that there are some fancy spa’s worldwide where you have to pay a hefty sum to take a swamp mud bath so this “free” version has its own positive aspects.

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The Swamp Spa

Sadly I just don’t have the words to describe this place in its entire beauty and weirdness. It is just one of these places you have to visit to get to know its value.

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look at that craftsmanship

My parents in law were also fairly impressed by this place but they said they would never go to swim there, fair enough, I don’t know if I would do it either without the sauna being on!

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View from the 2nd floor

 

 

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Fine details everywhere

 

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What wonderful and weird buildings here are

 

Here are some picture and a very short description in English and hereyoucan find everything more described in Finnish. Also here the official website of the Lake and, yet again, a Finnish description.

You can overdo it sometimes (Mount Hua)

Most people say that you can never be prepared enough for a task ahead. I found out the hard way that you can be over-prepared.

Last year we were once again for a few weeks in China, visiting my wife’s family. As usual we had some plans regarding which places we would love to visit. Number one location was Jiuzhaigou 九寨沟 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiuzhaigou. This changed after we arrived as my wife got too lazy (it is just too tempting for her just to hang out on the sofa, watch TV and eat snacks whole day). So in order to not disappoint me too much we agreed at least to go to Mount Hua 华山as it is just an hour or so away from Xi’an, my wife’s “hometown”.

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Foggy Mountain

The Planning begins

I had watched some information about Mount Hua before so I was excited to go there. My parents in law were shocked. How could we visit such a dangerous place (as if crossing a street in Xi’an is any safer than climbing the mountain…)

It took some time convincing mom in law but we were “allowed” to go there in the end. Dad in law wasn’t so happy about it. He said it is too dangerous. After some time we got to know he had been there several times. Even using the infamous Plank Walk before any security measurements have been installed (Check out http://www.wherecoolthingshappen.com/huashan-crazy-plank-walk/ to see more about the nice little path). Him using that path strikes me as fairly unusual as he is more the safety first type. Actually he is more the type not to do anything remotely dangerous. But then again, he was just 20 back in the days, trying to proof the world something.

The day prior to our climbing adventure arrived. With is also the preparation started. I received some huge backpack from some friend of the family. This backpack was filled with food, much food and a huge vacuum flask. I estimated that the weight exceeded 30 kg easily. Sure, you need some things when climbing a mountain. But that much? The whole duration on the mountain would never exceed 5 hours in our planning and yet we had food and drink for a whole week. Yet, I agreed to it, to make parents in law happy.

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The heroes of the mountain

We left next morning and went to a village nearby the mountain. The in-laws got themselves a little hotel room, because they had to wait for us (they didn’t want to join us). In the little hotel we had some food which was enough to sustain me for two or three days. They said that I would burn much calories on the mountain and I need all the food. They also advised us to eat something every 30-45min, or we would be too weak. Mom in law also wanted us to wear thick jackets, as she was afraid we would get sick due to the low temperatures in autumn. Low temperatures are in her opinion everything under 28 degrees Celsius so the 25 degrees in the morning were life threatening. I didn’t complain and after that we set out to the entrance where we said our goodbyes.

Chinese really like it red
Chinese really like it red

Up the mountain and the suffering

The view was great, you could see the smog layer covering the countryside around the mountain. And fresh air, so wonderful, finally being able to breathe normally again. Basically I was happy, my wife not so much.

Another Peak
Another Peak

Now I don’t want to tell you all about the great mountain, as you should go there better yourselves. But in my opinion it was worth the high entrance fee + cable car fee. Cable car as we didn’t want to climb up the whole mountain and back again, due to our limited time and my wife’s fear of getting big leg muscles….

The climb to the different peaks on the mountain were manageable (we only went to two peaks). The main problem for me was the backpack which was getting heavier and heavier each hour. My in-laws said that we needed all the food and drink so we tried to use it. We really tried to eat and drink much, seriously but there is just so much a body can fit. In the end I still had roughly 9/10 of the stuff left when arrived at the base of the mountain in the evening again. I still wonder why we had so much mantou and meat with us. With all the food I could have fed probably half the tourists on the mountain.

The whole trip was a struggle for me to take the next step and the weight was dragging me down. Remember the jackets mom in law wanted us to wear? Oh, I was so glad we didn’t take them. It was so damn hot going up with all the weight that I might have melted with some jacket. The worst part was the way down. Due to the high weight I had to carry up my legs were a mess when we arrived the south peak. They were just shaking. Each step on the way down again I was afraid to just collapse.

Those stairs are no joke, perfect for getting nice leg muscles
Those stairs are no joke, perfect for getting nice leg muscles

All preparation was not for naught

Yes indeed, all the stuff prepared found still a use. Nah, we didn’t sell it or gave it away but we actually used it. Mind you, not the very same day but two days later we went to some zoological park. It was useful because mom in law didnt had to prepare new food and terrible because I ended up carrying everything once again. Another surprise, we didnt manage to eat everything this time either so mom in law gave it to her friends who came with us. In the end I was carrying supplies, meant for one mountain climbing adventure, over two days just to give it all away.

And before I forget, I got my revenge. When they came to visit us, I made sure that they have enough food to carry :=)

P.S. I must excuse the poor pictures, but back then I only had my Nokia N8, resulting in pictures with rather much noise.