On this brand new tour designed with the free-spirited types in mind, take a free and easy road trip to discover the unique architecture of the Hakka walled villages and experience the history and culture of the ethnic Hakka people. Forget a fixed schedule and planned programmes and embrace the spontaneity and personal pace to visit, eat and stop over at places where the heart takes one.
Who are the Hakka people?
Hakka, Chinese (Pinyin) Kejia or (Wade-Giles romanization) K’o-chia, is an ethnic group of China. Originally from the north of China, they migrated to the south during the fall of the Nan Song dynasty in the 1270s. Settling in the Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangxi provinces of the south, there are about 80 million Hakkas today but a considerably lower number speak the language.
The proposed starting point for this roadtrip is the city of Huizhou.
(Note: Huizhou is 2.5 hrs from Hong Kong, 1.5 hrs from Shenzhen and 2 hrs from Guangzhou by land.)
The city of Huizhou has a long history dating back to over 2000 years. Comprising of a large Hakka community, the city is full of parks boasting of greenery with a large and serene West Lake. Small and big Hakka houses are peppered all around the city and in the outskirts of Huizhou. With some exploration, one can even find some big fortresses. While most of them are not in great condition and few still have people living in them, the temples located in the centre of these houses are still utilised, especially during festivities and celebrations. To top it off, Huizhou has a few small old streets perfect for a morning and afternoon walk.
After exploring Huizhou, take a lesser-known route to Heyuan via small provincial roads. These roads reward with beautiful countryside sceneries of bamboo forests for a perfect relaxing drive. Feel free to stop as many times to explore anything that catches the eye. Each village have their very own history and livelihoods that showcase varied stories of the past and present. From deserted houses with overgrown trees where old portraits of Mao still hang; to recently vacated ones where signs of daily life such as plates and tools from the former owner can still be seen – there isn’t a sight that will disappoint.
- Huizhou – Xingning/Meizhou
End the day either in Xingning or Meizhou depending on the city of preference for a more in-depth discovery. While they both have similar-style houses, the cities differ in landscape and development – both equally worthy of a visit.
The stay at Xingning is rustic, basic and authentic to the small city locals life. Breakfast is a simple fair but this can be supplemented with a trip to the supermarket for coffee, tea and snacks.
Meizhou is a further 50 km away from Xinging and is more touristically developed. There is a lovely small boutique hotel that is comfortable and with better amenities. Meizhou is also a more hilly area and just behind the hotel is an old Hakka house juxtaposed against modern buildings. While there’s no one living there anymore, it is definitely worth a visit. With some luck, the owner may be around offering genuine hospitality in terms of snacks and food. See many houses driving around the old or new part of Meizhou but the best way to discover them is definitely through a walking tour.
Spend the next day exploring the houses around Xingning or Meizhou. While the front of these houses are similar to the ones in Huizhou (long, flat and white and facing a half round water pump), the back of these houses are different. The exterior back wall of the complex is made up of a half round construction forming a unique oval shape for the entire complex. These were built with Fengshui in mind – with a water element in the front and a nature element at the back – most of the time a hill or a small bamboo forest.
The best part is that the houses in this area are often in a good condition with people still living in them, some with one family others with many more. Stop for a chat with the friendly locals who are more than happy to answer your curious questions.
Just a few minutes from the city centre of Meizhou, there is a rich and large complex of houses of varying sizes and shapes. Many of them are still inhabited, perfect for a discovery walk between fields and houses.
- Meizhou – Yongding
After exploring the area, get back on the road and travel from Meizhou to Yongding which is also filled with many houses. Enroute, get the novel experience of driving by a city where the remnants of China’s cultural revolution past are seen and felt. See impressive old factories and buildings from the communist period, now desolated and abandoned.
Then, enter an entirely new scenery and atmosphere of hilly roads and lush forests. Observe how the architecture of these Hakka houses differ here. Called Tulou, the buildings here are either square or round in shape and built to around 4 – 5 floors. These buildings were designed to resist against attacks. They are closed on the outside and self-sustaining and thriving on the inside with the capacity to house more than 100 families with water and food stocks that could sustain them during long-periods of siege.
In Yongding, choose to visit the popular tourist sites – a Hakka house that has been refurbished into a tourist park, or better yet, discover the authentic houses where the locals still live in. Experience the warm hospitality of the locals who are selling some souvenirs or fruits and will often offer or invite you for some food. Distinct to this area are the ‘new’ Hakka houses built during the Cultural Revolution. The officials felt that the Hakka-style houses will promote community living for people sent to the countryside for work. These new houses have decorated front doors from this period and thinner walls with poorer construction quality but nonetheless a construction with a story.
- Yongding – Xiamen
Have the option to extend the trip to Xiamen, a gateway to other parts of China, or to travel back to the starting point of this trip.
(Note: This roadtrip is easy and flexible and can be arranged from as short as one day to five days or more! Fully up to the traveller to fix the pace of the trip. The distances per day are not important and there is a chance to stop anywhere and anytime. This is great for families, with friendly and curious locals still untouched by tourism. The accommodations and meals are rustic and basic but acceptable and provide an authentic local experience. There is also an option to buy extra supplements in shops to ensure that meals are more adapted to the visitor’s taste.)
Road Trip Samples
Sample 1: One day tour around Huizhou.
Sample 2: Day 1 Huizhou / Day 2 Huizhou – Xingning / Day 3 Xingning Meizhou / Day 4 Meizhou and return
Sample 3: Day 1 Huizhou / Day 2 Huizhou – Xingning / Day 3 Xingning Meizhou / Day 4 Meizhou – Yongding / Day 5 Yongding and return
Option 1: Extend 1 day in Yongding
Option 2: After Yongding drive to Xiamen.
Option 3: Stop in Heyuan (between Huizhou and Xingning) and spend a night there
Option 4: End your trip in Yongding in a Luxury way with a 3 days / 2 nights stay in Tsingpu Hotel
Contact us for Inquiry Email: Inspire@viral-impact.com
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