Travelling with Owen means trying our best to be in a decent hotel room before 8 o’clock every night. To us, meeting this goal means we are good parents for the day. We have pretty low standards. But even by our own pathetic measure, during the first week we were good parents on two out of seven days. Thus, with a long train journey coming and unable to look at ourselves in a mirror, we instead looked at a map and picked a mid-way town for a 24hr layover.
The town we picked was Ji’an in central Jiangxi. We’d get off the train at 6:30PM and continue the next day on a sleeper leaving at 5PM. None of our guidebooks had anything about the area, and the information on Chinese travel websites was limited to the site of the former Jiangxi soviet in the mountains two hours west. So we just went, figuring we’d find something.
And we did. Upon exiting the train station, we found a hotel (before 8PM!) and asked the desk clerks what we ought to go see in the morning. As it turns out, in a 3,000-year-old country, there’s bound to be some local history wherever you are. With recommendations for some nearby “ancient villages,” we then found a cab driver back by the train station and negotiated price and a timeline. He also threw in some recommendations. And with that, we had ourselves a day.
Ji’an’s location along the Gan River, historically a key route linking northern China with the far-off province of Guang in the south, means that we certainly weren’t the first to come through here. We saw old Song Dynasty trading towns in various states of crumbling, the site of the famous Southern Song Dynasty general Jiang Wentian’s last stand against the unstoppable Mongols, and the house where Mao camped out in the 1920’s before retreating with his small force to the mountains on the Hunan border. All with a great lunch at a local favorite along the way.
Makes me think that we ought to be reading a good parenting book instead of that lousy guidebook.