Dazed and drained from the ride, we arrived in Qikou. It was well worth it though, sometimes you stumble across places that were really important in the past, but have now ceased to be so. But the feeling of importance lingers on in the architecture, it’s really cool to soak that in.
Qikou is a really interesting place and it was worth the hassle in the end, we stayed in a hotel that was the base of the People’s Liberation Army during World War Two, or as the Chinese call it, the ‘Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression’ war. Interestingly they actually started their war officially in 1937 although there had been fighting since 1931.
Situated at a bend in the Yellow River – Huanghe in Chinese, Qikou has been an important port town for hundreds of years owing to the rapids just after the town where the river narrows.
Ships didn’t want to navigate these rapids with their cargo so they’d unload in what became Qikou and the cargo would continue overland by horse, donkey, or camel.
We saw that camel in the town, much of it hasn’t changed although there was a lot of building going on so if you’re going to go I’d make it soon. It’s a big Chinese tourist destination which is kind of surreal after the nightmare bus.
Life is kind of slow here, it’s a shame we couldn’t have stayed longer but we were conscious that we only had a 30 day visa.
We spent the evening eating on the terrace of the hotel, watching the sunset and the river meander past.
It is moments like that that you just can’t explain so we felt that our long journey had been worth it. We also nursed our anxieties with lots of Yanjing beer.
The next morning we woke up and wandered around the town. It is an amazingly ancient place with old warehouses which were owned by certain families, they had extensive courtyards so you could really tell the wealth that must have been present when the town was booming.
Unfortunately for them, with the introduction of the railway system in China, river transportation became non existent and the town fell into decline.
Now it’s almost solely geared towards the Chinese tourists that arrive in their bus loads from Taiyuan.
There were sellers like this guy everywhere, unlike this guy they weren’t all sleeping with a cigarette in their mouth. Legend.
At the top of the hill, overlooking the huddled buildings and fast flowing, muddy river, is the Black Dragon Temple. It has an amazing stage for opera, it’s said that you can hear opera 10km away if it is performed in the temple.
This is because the stage narrows at the back and then opens out into a second room and this amplifies the sound. The old proverb is that an opera performed in shanxi can be heard in shaanxi, which is the next province over the river.
There was a nice view from the top overlooking the whole town.
We found a really great musician sitting in the temple, playing Chinese folk songs. There’s a recording of that on the soundcheck page. He was actually blind as well.