Not the easiest destination to get to on your own, but it was well worth it. A local bus from Xiamen got us to Nanjing (南靖) bus station in about 3 hours. Then another 1 hour bus from Nanjing bus station took us to the bus station closest to Tianluokeng Tulou. Not to be mistaken with the city Nanjing (南京), the former is a really tiny village with nothing to see apart from its amazing traditional tulou building.
We had it easy though. I’ve been in touch with this guy who is a local at Tianluokeng Tulou for about 3 months before we came to China. He picked us up at the tourist information centre and took us to Tianluokeng. The rooms that we rented belong to his family’s. In fact, my room was his old room, and had pictures of his baby boy hanging on the wall.
He speaks English, sort-of. He is currently learning, so in the future I’m sure he will be more fluent. He also offers car rental plus the driver, so if you’re traveling in a big group it will be worth it.
Staying at the tulou costs 100 RMB for one room (two people). Toilets at the tulou are communal, meaning that we had to walk down 3 flights of stairs and some 30 metres to get to the toilet. Shower is also located outside the tulou, but we skipped shower as the weather was not exactly summer. Message me if you want his number.
What I loved most about our stay at Tianluokeng is this feeling I got at night after all the tourists are gone. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, so please bear with me.
There are many tourists walking around Tianluokeng during day time, but none of them spent the night there. So during the day, the whole place is just another old heritage spot filled with tourists. There are locals living there, but when the tourists are around, they become mere merchants, trying to sell off their tea or dried bamboo shoots to anyone who comes along. At night, when there’s nothing to sell and no roles to play, they return to being the simple residents of Tianluokeng. They played cards, drank tea, took turns saying hello at one another at the courtyard. Everyone knew each other. I love the fact that such an ancient building with hundreds of years of history could still maintain its original function, that is, one tulou functioning as one community.
In this day and time when we hardly know our next-door neighbours, let alone those living a block down from us, it is amazing that some of the Hakka community still choose to remain with their traditional way of living. I can never live like that because I am used to having my privacy, but nevertheless I think it’s beautiful. I just re-read what I wrote and damn, I’m blabbing too much. But for what it’s worth, do spend a night there.
There are other more touristy tulou in other parts of Fujian, but we only had time for one. So our pick went to Tianluokeng. Would I return to Tuanluokeng? Probably not. Would I visit other tulous? Definitely yes!