We went shopping and then ate noodles on our balcony at Riverview Hotel when the rain came down but by far the highlight of the day was the Pavilion Restaurant. Our tour guide made all the arrangements. The owner of the Magnolia runs this restaurant too.
Here's the way Ruth described it:
"Tonight, we had another special treat....it just goes on and on. We made arrangements to take a boat with just our little group to a remote 400-year-old village. The people have lived the same way for centuries, using cormorants to catch fish and washing their clothes by beating them with a stick at the river edge. An entrepreneurial Australian/Timoruan has rented a few old buildings on the river bank and has converted it into a restaurant and eventually a hotel. He wants to maintain the old style charm and only has four tables in the restaurant. We were privileged to make the arrangements to have dinner there tonight. The view was spectacular (the beautiful gumdrop type mountains in the distance and the glassy river with water buffalo in the foreground) and the meal was definitely five star. I have never in my life eaten such classy Asian cuisine, but I would guess you would pay maybe $100 or more for this meal in America. I lost count, but perhaps we had eight courses, each dish sumptuous and artistically arranged. I could go on and on, but as usual, Dad will have pics and a little write up about the place, so you will hear more later."
The only thing I'd add is that the dishes were like nothing we've ever seen. Here are the courses as we remember them:
1) River prawns in sauce
2) Sweet/Sour Duck with pineapple
3) Pork stuffed eggplant
4) Lightly fried and stuffed Lotus root (my favorite)
5) Chopped chicken in sauce
6) Crispy deep friend Tofu with orange sauce
7) Fresh pea pods in garlic
8) Chinese cabbage (similar to Bokchoi)
And of course coffee, freshly ground coffee served with chocolates. (Lynn brought the chocolates.) Wow.
It's true we had to take a 45 minute trip up the river in a fishing boat to get there but that was half the fun. It was beautiful. This could have been the highlight of the day in of itself. We had the boat all to ourselves and climbed out on the deck to snap pictures when the rain let up. The boat trip cost us about $22 total for all five. There wasn't anyone else out on the river at 5:30 p.m. save a few fisherman on their bamboo rafts. When we got to the place there was still some light so we snapped a few pictures of the 300 year old buildings. The brickwork was interesting. It looks strange to Westerners but it's stood these hundreds of years.
As we sat and let our meal settle, the sun set and left the sky inky black. We watched the cormorant fisherman use his light to locate his prey. Even from our second story balcony we could hear the swish of the bird coming up out of the water, presumably with a fish in it's beak. Frogs croaked off in the distance.
After dinner we had to catch a bus back to town. To get to the bus we walked about 10 minutes over a concrete road that oxen used an hour before. There was evidence. We used a single light that Ruth carries on her key chain. This wasn't adiquate and we located some ox pies using our shoes. What a mess.
A waiting bus took us back home. The only interesting thing about the bus ride was the missing road. It seems that the road has been under construction and like everywhere else in China piles of dirt three feet high have been left behind. No one is currently working on the road so the bus had to dodge and swerve in the darkness to avoid hitting them. He did manage to hit some mud holes and when the bus bottomed out the kids in the back thought it was great fun. I was only thinking about the three foot drop on the side. In one place we passed another motorcycle that I thought we'd knock off the road into the ditch below. The only thing that comforted me was that I knew the bus had to come this way to pick us up so he surly could get back through. Right?
The rain stopped by the time we got back to our hotel. The streets were damp and it was the first time I realized that just outside our hotel were lighted pillars. When I took this picture they were purple. They turn red, blue, yellow, and purple in unison. It seemed so strange to me that we had just come from the "outback" of the country where our bus had to negotiate around piles of dirt to this hotel where the light pillars dance in color. China is a country of dichotomy.
Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still. -Chinese proverb