Hakka Roots – part 1


As you know, I went to visit my Grandparent’s hometown in rural China.  I spent about 4 days in Dabu and another 4 in Meizhou where a lot of Hakka people live.  My mother’s side are Hakka people and a large number of her family (distant) still live there today.  I decided to document this in a “Dear Diary” format as it was quite personal and intimate for me.  

September 24th, 2012

Dear Diary,

Today we went from Guangzhou to Dabu (大埔) by bus.  I’ve never been on a sleeper bus before so it was an interesting 6-7 hour ride.

Guangzhou to Dabu sleeper bus China

Front of the bus

Guangzhou to Dabu sleeper bus China

Me at the bottom bed. It’s small but long enough for my whole body to lie down.

Upon entering the bus, you are assigned a bed and you have to take of your shoes and put it in a red plastic bag.  The beds are tight and so getting comfortable took a while.  There was a lot of arguing about allocated beds.  A woman yelled at Eric in Hakka telling him to move.  I didn’t understand myself but Grandma just told us to ignore anyone who tells us to move.  After the arguing died down and everyone settled, an officer hopped on board and did a quick inspection.  After that we were off for a short while and the bus picked up more people 2-3 times!  Now there was even more arguing as the bus is now over crowded!

I asked my mother what was happening, she told me this is normal.  Remember the inspector before?  He was to make sure they weren’t sneaking in more people keeping the bus safe and not crowded.  Well, what the driver has done is picked up more people away from the station.  They do this to earn more money.  Those other passengers have to sleep on the floors.  I felt bad because a lot of them are elderlies but forgot about it as I dozed off.  To my surprise, it was quite comfortable.  It had air-conditioning and a clean squat toilet that flushes!  My mother didn’t have a pleasant ride though haha.  Her bed is next to the toilet and bins and when someone does number two’s she could smell it.  What’s worse is that Chinese people from all directions spitting in the bins next to her.  There was like 4 bins!!  Poor her..  I saw a kid pee in one of them.. eww.  I think I was lucky and if it wasn’t for the air-conditioning, I would’ve been smelling feet!  Eric didn’t seem to fit his bed and didn’t sleep at all.  He’s legs were too long..  Eric and my mother never want to go on a sleeper bus ever again after that.

When we arrived, my relatives picked us up and drove us to my Grandma’s adopted brother’s house.  I had no idea what to expect because I was told they are poor and mum brought luggages of old clothes for them.  When we arrived, we were greeted by more relatives and drank tea.

Dabu tea at relative's house

They don’t use tea pots here. Just a cup with a lot of tea leaves.. it makes really strong tea.

The house wasn’t too bad.  It was quite big in my opinion and we got our own rooms.  Mum said families would send them money and they used it to build this home.  Anyway, we didn’t spend too much time there as we wanted to see my cousin before she gives birth.

Dabu rice fields

Dabu is surrounded by many rice fields and crops.

Dabu river

A river and if you look closely to the left, there’s a worker!

My cousin Emily is heavily pregnant.  Time flies so quickly.  Two years ago she was in Australia studying and now she’s married and having her first child.  Oh, she’s not poor as my other family by the way.  She was kind enough to show us her new apartment she shares with her brother.  It’s very beautiful.

New apartments… I swear that is Singapore’s Merlion haha

From one of my cousin’s apartment balcony (yup she’s got 2 balconies!).

It was really bit inside with 3 bathrooms, a huge kitchen, 3 bedrooms, a study room and a really big lounge room.

Kettle for tea

In China, I noticed a lot of modern kettle’s where it comes with a connected water tap and keeps the water hot all time.

After catching up and eating moon cakes, we went out for dinner.

Drinking tea at the restaurant before eating!

At the restaurant, it was common to get your own private room.  One side of the room there would be couches and a coffee table with tea and on the other side the dining table.  Mum said usually people sit down on the couch, socialise and have tea first before going to the other table to eat.  Hmm. Interesting.  I think it’s a great idea.  We even had our own washroom and air-conditioner!

Hakka Dinner

My first Hakka dinner.. it was very yummy!!

At first I was afraid to eat here because it’s not the city and that the food might be not “clean”.. but to my surprise I had no tummy problems and the food was amazingly delicious!  A lot of the dishes I’ve never tried before especially the soup……… scorpion soup!!

Dabu hakka scorpion soup

I thought I had some vegetable in my soup and almost had a heart attack!!

Dabu hakka scorpion soup

I found 6 full grown cooked scorpion in my soup!!

Dabu hakka scorpion soup

I thought about eating it.. but didn’t have the guts to.. auntie said there’s no flavour anyway.

I was actually scared to drink it at first but I didn’t want to let my family down so I drank it and it was OK.  Sometimes it makes me tingle thinking about the scorpions.  When I touched them, I was surprised they are still hard and crispy.  I dared myself to eat it.. but I chickened out and just played with it all night..

To be continued.. here in Hakka Roots part 2..

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