Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Another museum or two…

First of all, here is the hall rug from our hotel……

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One problem that I had yesterday on my trip to the museum was that my purse started splitting in two places.   I had bought it right before we left and was enjoying how easily it was working, but alas it was not to continue!!  So, on Wednesday I made a quick trip to a local mall. 

One of Michael’s colleagues instructed me to travel by metro to one particular station and that it exited into the mall.  I got off of the train and was horrified to find out that there were SIX exits out of the station!!!  Fortunately, I had taken a photo on my phone of the name of the mall (in Chinese) so I was able to show this to a station employee and he pointed me in the right direction.

The mall was huge with a basement and six floors of stores…..

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Fortunately, the exit that I had taken dumped me out at a Department store with purses the first thing that I saw, AND they were on sale too.   I ended up buying one there but decided to explore the mall a bit as well.

Each type of store was in a separate area of the mall so you had all of the electronics stores together and all of the sports apparel stores in another area, etc. 

I passed a HUGE arcade area and loved watching this group of Dads and Sons enjoying a leisurely game of video fishing…..

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On the main floor, the decorations were hosting a circus theme…..

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…..with brightly color tents and streamers.

There were cartoon character statues all over  the area and the cell phone cameras were being well used as parents took photos of kids and young women and men took photos of themselves with these colorful creations.

The best part of the scene for me was a little girl (maybe 3 years old) who was posing for her mother.  I watched as she carefully and determinedly set her two fingers to the required “V” formation before smiling for the photo.

I passed a large grocery store and went in to pick up a few needed items.  I loved the checking out process as the checker bowed to me before they started scanning items and again as they handed me my change!!  Maybe Publix should adopt this as well!!

In the evening, we were taken to dinner by two of Michael’s students…..

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The food was fairly normal, but I did like this plate of chicken……DSC08665

…complete with the head AND the feet!!!

On Thursday morning, I headed to the Guangdong Museum of Art.  I had been impressed by the website and was anxious to see the exhibits in person…. I was NOT disappointed.

Once again, a driver’s license was all that was required to enter and I happily began my tour.   The entire second floor was devoted to a Retrospective of work by Choong Kam Kow, a Malaysian Contemporary senior artist.  He was born in 1934 and completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1961 in Taiwan.  He then moved thru various degree programs, including training in the US as a Fulbright scholar.

I watched an interview with him and appreciated several of his comments.   He said that Contemporary art must reflect traditional value. or at least the traditional value and form must be reinterpreted in contemporary art so that there is continuity in our culture from old to new.  He also felt that traditional Chinese culture needed to be reflected in art and not just follow Western norms.

He prefers to call his retrospective an “Evolving, Creative Journey”, and believe me, it did fit that description…..this man did NOT work himself into a rut!!!

He preferred to work in a series format and the first ones that I saw were watercolors in his Taipei Street Scene series…..IMG_7666

I apologize for the photos not being straight on.   The lighting was such that I had to photograph from an angle to avoid the glare!!

Next were a series of abstract expressionist ink paintings that did not tickle my fancy at all…..

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Then came “Creative Interpretative Figure Drawing”…..

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I particularly appreciated the few very bold lines that accentuated the shapes and the details that were left to the imagination.  The style was very effective.

These pieces had been displayed in one of the hallway areas and I now entered one of the main galleries……IMG_7688

It was breathtaking!!!

This gallery contained work from 1985 thru 1994 and his art was based on an expedition into the ENdao Rompin rain forest.   The first series was entitled “Rockscape and Earthscape” and the paintings were astounding.

Many of them were painted on thick handmade paper, using Acrylic paint…..

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The paper was thick, knobbled and rough and I wondered how he was able to get the paint down into the crevices of the paper.

In some of the paintings, he actually carved into the paper to give yet another dimension to the art……

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In this gallery he also had a series of oil paintings of rock formations that were amazing…..

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There was a guard in each gallery and the one in this exhibition motioned for me to wait for a minute as he left his post and returned with a booklet describing all of the exhibits in English…..it was a thoughtful gesture!!

The next gallery contained “The Dragon Tradition Series”.  These were all brightly colored pieces with the dragons’ being hard to find…..

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I couldn’t even see the dragons in this piece……IMG_7695

…but when Michael returned with me the next day, he immediately pointed out the two “kissing” dragons in the bottom third of the painting.

The exhibition continued with “The Kungfu Series” which explored the classical body positions of the Kungfu fighter….IMG_7699

The things that stood out to me in these paintings were the fact that although the foreground figures and the backgrounds are basically the same color, the figures are very distinct from the background.  I also appreciated the “pointillist” approach to the backgrounds.

Finally, I noticed the almost imperceptible borders that were included in the painting….. IMG_7709

So, are you singing “Kungfu Fighting” yet?   I am!!!

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Dr. Choong was in New York and was exposed to and influenced by the contemporary art movements, especially Geometric Abstraction and Minimalism.

In “The New York Series” he leaned toward abstraction….

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…whereas “The Shaped Canvas Series” was a completely different art form…..IMG_7716

Finally, “The See Thru Series” made use of three dimensional pieces with acrylic overlays allowing the viewer to see thru (and sometimes down into) the art……IMG_7718

This is the (paraphrased) introduction to his “Festival Series”….1970’s saw institutions, art historians and artists actively engaged in discussions with an aim to finding ways to develop the Malaysian identity in modern art.   Dr. Choong was very much impacted and inspired by this movement.  Consequently, he departed from dealing with international modernism and retuned to his own land to search for local identity.  The notions of cultural identity were discovered, transformed and expressed in his “Festival Series”….

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This artwork was mostly three dimensional and contained a lot of hand made paper and molded paper, embellished with types of embossing .   The colors were vibrant and exciting!!!

My favorites were these three, especially the  two on the right and left side.  They had a very “quilt-y” feel to them…..

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I took a panoramic photo in this gallery and love the results……DSC08672

 

The final series was called “The Rhythm of Growth” where he explored the growth of mushrooms.  That sounds fairly boring, but his paintings were certainly not!!!

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This last painting didn’t really seem to fit in any category but it caught my eye.  It was titled “The Fate”

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….with fish happily swimming in the middle section, lying dead on the ocean floor at the bottom and on ice at the fish market at the top!!!

The top floor of the museum was devoted to the photographic works of Li Chan.  These were amazing works where the artist was able to show light…..IMG_7736

…and such amazing detail (look at the water droplets  on her eyelashes)…..

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I returned to the first floor to find a mixture of galleries from local artists.  There was an entire room of busts but this one stood out to me…..

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….probably because of his kind, gentle expression, as opposed to the bold, haughty expressions on the others!!!

There were a series of black and white scroll paintings on paper which were interesting…..

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However, I was more interested as to why the pieces all contained one or more red seal marks, often in places that seemed to detract from the picture…..IMG_7746

I put Google to the test and found out that these seals (or “Chops”) can indicate either who executed the painting or who owned it.  The seals are set in Vermillion red and use an ancient script type that was used during the Zhou and Qin dynasties.  Over the years these seals have been used to authenticate paintings, but as they can be readily copied or forged, they may prove to be less than reliable evidence.  The design of the seal has turned into an art form in itself, the challenge being to find ways to fit the relatively predictable characters into an interesting composition.”

I wandered outside to the sculpture gallery and had a fun time(in between rain showers)  with the artwork displayed there.  I loved this metal tree…..

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…especially with the green wall and Canton tower in the background!!

I also liked this very TALL and SKINNY woman…..

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…and this crowd of interesting pillars……

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As I exited the building, I found these two sculptures that I liked as well…..

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There were several concert halls sharing the courtyard and I loved these two additional sculptures.   When I look at the first one, I see a conductor encouraging the orchestra to give it all you’ve got……

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….and this stylized pianist is magnificent……

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There was another museum on the same property and I showed my license and walked in.  I went thru the entire museum before I ever figured out what it was for!!!!   In passing I saw interesting Chinese dominoes…..

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….a fun piece of beaded art…..

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….and some really cool chairs that were actually NOT part of the exhibit…..IMG_7785

In the end I discovered the following information……

“Guangdong province has always been China’s gateway to the outside world.  Since antiquity, the people of Guangdong journeyed overseas on land and by sea, transforming themselves into ethnic Chinese outside of China.  They worked to improve the lives and values of their ancestral home towns as well as their new homes”

And that was the purpose of this museum…..to show where and how far the Chinese people had migrated!!!

As I sat in the taxi heading back to the hotel, I realized that I prefer art museums to history museums.  I think that is because in an art museum, you don’t have to know what is going on, you can just enjoy the art!!!!

I also witnessed a sweet interaction from the back of my taxi.   There was a bicycle being pushed by a young man and it had SEVEN automobile tires balanced on it.  He lost control of the bike and it turned over on its side  Although he made several attempts to right the bike, he couldn’t lift it with the added weight.  Two men were eating lunch a short distance away and, when they saw his distress, ran over to help him put the bike aright again!!!

On Friday, Michael had the day off so we decided to spend a bit of time sight seeing and a bit of time resting.  The sight seeing took us back to the art museum because I knew that he would enjoy the Retrospective work. 

We also headed to a small museum that we had visited briefly on our last trip, the  Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King.  This tomb is 2,000 years old and was discovered in downtown  Guangzhou in 1988.  The museum showcases the tomb and its trove of artifacts.  The tomb yielded more than 1,000 burial artifacts, along with the bones of fifteen courtiers  who were buried alive with him to serve him in death..

This silk-jade garment made up of 2,291 pieces of jade is the spotlight of the mausoleum……

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The museum hosts some interesting items, but the lighting is poor and the extreme humidity was causing many of the exhibit cases to fog up.  consequently, we didn’t spend too long there.

A typhoon had moved thru the day before and today was extremely hot, muggy and sticky, but at least there was no smog!!

We were free for our last night’s meal so we journeyed again to So & Co for a very enjoyable meal.  Michael ordered a double espresso at the start of the meal and then ordered a second one at the end.   Our waitress was hilarious as she couldn’t believe that he wanted more caffeine.  Later, he ordered a glass of wine and she said  “as long as it isn’t more espresso” Obviously he had been cut off!!!!

So tomorrow we head for India!!!

 

Finally, as we leave Guangzhou, I have to talk about the hotel and the bathrooms.  There was no actual bath ROOM, but a series of 2 rooms (toilet and shower) and an alcove with the sink.   The only problem with this arrangement is that there were full length mirrors in front of the glass shower AND in front of the glass door for the toilet area so you could watch yourself as you did your business.IMG_7810

I kept hanging towels on the door bars to provide a modicum of privacy but the maids kept moving them!! 

Ahhhh the fun of hotel life!!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Solo sight seeing

On Monday I had work to do so stayed at the hotel for most of the day although I did make a quick foray down the street to find a few snacks for the room.

However, on Tuesday I hopped back on the train and made my way to the Guangdong Provincial Museum.  We had briefly visited this museum when we were here in 2012 but had two students with us so hadn’t been able to linger and enjoy the exhibits. 

As I approached the museum, I was tickled by this lady carefully scrubbing the
OUTDOOR courtyard floor….

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I had seen her out yesterday working in another part of the walkway so I guess that she does a little section each day!!!

I got in line to purchase my ticket but realized that most people were showing their Chinese Government ID and getting a free ticket.  When I approached the window, the woman asked if I had a passport or other ID.   I showed her my Georgia drivers license and she handed me a ticket!!

As I remembered, the museum is beautiful with magnificent exhibits and lots of English subtitles.   I purchased an English guide but could have easily done the museum without it!!  At each exhibit there is an Introduction board and at the end of the exhibit, there is a Conclusion board.   It really made the exhibits feel complete.

The first exhibit was a Religious Diversity temporary exhibit.  In the conclusion board it states that Guangdong is an open and  inclusive province for religious coexistence and growth and plays a significant role in China’s religious development.   I liked the entry mural….

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…but in all honesty there wasn’t much else to the exhibit.

I did enjoy looking up into the ceiling of the building….

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The next exhibit was the one that I remembered well from our first trip…..the Duan Inkstones. 

In China, the inks used in the calligraphy process come in sticks (like a paint stick)   Water has to be added to them to produce the ink. Per Wikipedia, the process is this…..”The water is added first and then  the bottom end of the inkstick is placed on the grinding surface and then gradually ground to produce the ink. More water is gradually added during the grinding process to increase the amount of ink produced, the excess flowing down into the reservoir of the inkstone where it will not evaporate as quickly as on the flat grinding surface, until enough ink has been produced for the purpose in question. The Chinese grind their ink in a circular motion with the end flat on the surface whilst the Japanese push one edge of the end of the inkstick back and forth.”

The Inkstones that are produced in the Duanzhou area are famous because they are made from a deep purple (almost black) stone that is famous for its smooth texture.  They are known as Duan Inkstones.

The first one that I saw was a modern one that was made in the shape of the Olympic stadium in Beijing……a birds nest….IMG_7545.

I laughed at this one as it was labeled as an Inkstone in the form of a brick….IMG_7548

It reminded me of a favorite scene from the MASH series where Frank and Margaret are talking to a Korean wood carver about making a statue for them.   He holds up a board to show them the quality of his work.   Frank says “It looks like a 2 by 4”.  The carver replies “Thank you…..used to be round”.

Many of the stones have intricate carvings on the back, like this fish……IMG_7557

The stamp on the right shows the carving.

I particularly enjoyed the ones that had recognizable designs in them, especially this happy crab……IMG_7551

One sign indicated that, in order to attain effective art, the shape and decoration of the inkstone should be determined according to the special characteristics of the stone such as color, and vein marks.   Isn’t that the truth with any kind of art….it must take the materials into account.

When we were here in 2012, we purchased a beautiful inkstone (supposedly old but who knows if that means 2 years or 50 years)……

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…and seeing this exhibit reminded me just how much I like it!!

Next was a wood carving gallery which had some beautiful pieces, but most of them were covered with a gold lacquer which  ruins my enjoyment of them (I would much rather see the beautiful wood grain)…. 

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….although I did enjoy the geometric design of this one.

I took a photo of this “Happy Crab” piece last time and, as I looked at it today, I was even more amazed at the carving……

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It is carved out of a single piece of Camphor wood and I cant figure out exactly how the crab was carved INSIDE of the cage!!

The notes around the room told me that Camphor is the most prized of the carving woods but Rose Wood and China Berry are used as well.

The museum has several displays that use statues to show the details of life in Gunagdong with this one showing the carving and gilding process…..

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….starting with tracing the design on the wood, doing a rough out of the design, putting the details in place and finally gilding the wood.

The displays in the museum were very professionally done and made for an enjoyable viewing experience….

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Signs are posted in each gallery calling for silence and the guards were hard on screaming kids and others that were ducking under the barriers, but, for the most part, the  parents didn’t seem to care.   I saw one Mom smiling broadly as she and her son were being escorted out of the gallery!!

Speaking of kids, it is fun to watch their reaction to seeing me….a round eye….  in their midst.  Some look shyly at me, but some openly gawk.  I just try to smile at them and go on.

There were lots of photo ops happening and I managed to catch a couple…..IMG_7572

This girl’s pose was my favorite…..IMG_7603

The next gallery contained pottery and porcelain.  I particularly like this gourd shaped pitcher……

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….and was fascinated by these Porcelain Pillows…..

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Personally, I think that they look supremely uncomfortable, but they certainly make interesting pieces of art!!!  

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Michael’s comment about them was that “James Bond noted that they were very comfortable (“You Only Live Twice”)”, so who am I to argue with the great 007.

I enjoyed the thoughtful look on this gentleman’s face…..

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….and the thought “Happy as a Clam” came to mind when I saw this one……

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I really liked this skewed house and was reminded of some of my favorite Picasso paintings…..

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There was information about one glaze that is used on much of the pottery….because it is “white as sugar” it is called a “Sweet White Glaze”.

As I listened to the audio guide in this section it moved from dynasty to dynasty (Qin, Han, Sui, Tang) and I finally lost track of which was which.   As I left the gallery I was bombarded with a large shopping area where you could buy your own Chinese treasures and I wondered what dynasty these came from…..

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I followed the crowds around the corner and came to the Dragon Boat display…IMG_7593

This boat is 48 meters (157 feet) long and only 6 feet wide, and it can hold EIGHTY people.  I would imagine that it would be fairly unstable from side to side so would have to be well balanced!!!

I particularly enjoyed these two vignettes of daily life…..

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There was a large glass case that held small ceramic figures which portrayed all of the various ceremonies in everyday life.

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These included weddings, births, birthdays, etc.  But, my all-time favorite one was “The ceremony of resuming a meat diet”!!!

There was a gallery that was touted as a kids gallery with animal art.  There were a few Lego animals shown, but most items were fairly serious art, but art about animals.  I particularly liked this “Save Can”…..

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…ie…piggy bank, and this sulky metal frog…..

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At the end of this exhibit, they had a bulletin board of art work done by kids.  I first appreciated the artwork itself but then was intrigued by the use of clip boards to allow the display to change…..

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I hurried thru the Natural History area as I have seen SO many of these types of exhibits before.   The taxidermy was rough and some of the presentation was weird, but the attention to detail in the ambiance of the exhibit hall was amazing.  All of the paths were either made of rough rock or wooden boards and the lighting was perfect for the exhibitions.  One of the exhibits was about caves and the walls were very cave-like.

The animal exhibit moved into the plant exhibit and I remembered the beautiful silhouette displays of the leaf patterns…..

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….sigh…..SO many quilting designs, SO little time!!!

The ocean and fossil display was interesting, but I was pooping out by now.  I did really like the use of paper tiles in the ceilings and as separators between the exhibits…..

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I had said earlier that kids were asked to be quiet in the main galleries, but there was no such requirement in these last few animal galleries.  Consequently, the noise level grew greatly as I moved thru these areas but it was just because the kids were having so much fun!!

I reluctantly returned left the museum and took another walk around the beautiful square.   I spent some time looking at this stadium…..

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…which was built for the 2010 Pan Asian games.  It is a stunning structure but I can’t figure out exactly what would have been played here.  The “field” is not very big and is concrete, however that may have been changed after the games.   Whatever the case, it was a cool looking structure set on the banks of the Pearl River.

I walked over to the Opera House, enjoying the interesting architecture of the building…..

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As I walked around the complex I enjoyed the art displayed there, including this casting of Rodin’s “The Thinker”…..

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I also enjoyed the face on this rather strange winged man…..

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But my all time favorite was this sculpture that looked like it was falling from above…..

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I was hungry so decided to find Starbucks for a quick bite to eat, opting for a ham and cheese croissant and a bottle of orange juice.   The first bite and swig of orange juice immediately put me back in High School, sitting with Michael in his car and eating the lunch that his Mama had packed for us.  It was always Ham and Cheese Sandwiches, Nacho Doritos and a big container of orange juice.    I just needed Nacho Doritos…..and Michael!!!

One final comment about eating in China.  The tables in restaurants are not considered to be clean (even when covered with spotless cloths) and nothing should ever be laid on them or picked up and eaten once it hits the table.  So, while I was waiting for my food in the Starbucks, I accidently dropped my knife and it landed on one of the tables.  One of the servers hurried over to take the dirty utensil from me and replace it with a clean one.

I found the metro and contentedly made my way back to the hotel.

Michael returned “home” shortly after and we were picked up by Xue-Jun and his wife and taken out for dinner.   The restaurant was located on the outside edge of a mall type area and, just outside the window, there were a group of women in their aerobic exercise class.  My attention, however, was stolen by a small girl (maybe 3 years old) who was following along with the class and executing the moves perfectly along with her Grandmother.   It was SO cute!!!

Pulling my attention back to the task at hand….the table was unique in that there were drawers under each section and the table was “furnished” from these drawers.   If you needed a glass, you just opened the drawer and pulled one out!!!

There was a hot pot with boiling water at each table and this was used to fill the teapot which contained a flower tea of some sort….

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I (mistakenly) thought that this was for drinking, but it was actually for washing out the dishes before we ate!!  This, apparently, is a local custom and Xue-Jun’s wife took her duty very seriously…..

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…who knew that you had to pre-wash your dishes!!!

Once the dishes were clean the food started to arrive.  Once again we had very simple, fresh dishes, including these delicious dry rice noodles…..

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…and this very tasty chicken….

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Dessert were these buns that had a coconut cream filling in them…..

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A very yummy way to finish off a busy day!!!

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