Xi'an to ChonQing to Yangtze River to YiChang to Wudang Shan to Wuhan to Shenszhen to Hong Kong... all in a week!
10.08.2007 - 10.15.2007
Seriously, the subheading was all done in a week. Talk about eeee-xhausting! We flew from Beijing to Xi'an and spent 3 full nights in Xi'an (Teracotta Soldiers. I know I talked about it, but once again, amazing because there are no records that exist of it and it was just discovered in 1974. They were built to guard emperor Qin Shi Huang's tomb, and believe to be built around 274BC). From Xi'an we took at overnight train to ChonQing, a city of 10 million people with big o skyscrapers mixed in with small and ancient pagoda's. Interestingly enough (we were impressed by the skyline), the mayor supposedly claims that it has the same layout as Manhatten and is trying to build the city to be similar to Manhattan. The hot pot originated there, and basically that is a big bowl of stew with stuff in it, mostly intestines (yes, really), veggies, meat, etc. Of course with the language barrier we had to take a gamble. Lauren went to the fridge to pick something out and 1st thing she saw was brain (seriously!). She picked something that looked somewhat edible, and it was, but who knows what it was? (I learned that eating here, I try not to think about what and where the food has been. Otherwise, I may be sick!).
Anyhoo, from Chonqing we took a taxi to a bus station, then a 3-hour bus ride to Wanghao, then a 10 min bus ride... somwhere (why the 1st bus couldn't go an extra 10 min, I just don't know and don't ask anymore), to finally get to the hydrofoil to take us on the Yangtze River. The river is famous because it is virtually the only route into the Sichuan province and is a major link between Sichuan and east China. Its the 3rd largest river flow in the world. Its also known for the 3 gorges, and the 3 Gorges Dam - a big mess that has a lot of controversy about it. Basically, the Chinese gov't spent billions of dollars to build this huge dam to provide electricity for China, mainly big cities like Shanghai. What they didn't think about were the consequences affecting the surrounding environment, and the people. They flooded the river a few years ago and I guess every couple of years they flood it some more. So all these people, millions of people, have to be relocated to different areas because the river is submerging the cities. Supposedly the gov't is compensating them for this move, but can you imagine having to start your life all over again? Some just move higher into the hills, but then again, they will eventually have to be relocated. Its a biiiig mess. And supposedly, the gov't is just pocketing soooo much money from this and its the people that are suffering the consequnces. It was, no surprise, another polluted and hazy day, so it was just somewhat enjoyable. The gorges were pretty cool, and someone we met said they went before they flooded it, and it was really amazing. I can only imagine. I htink its now at 156m, and they flooded it 50 m recently and will again next year. Max I think is 175m. Here is a pict of it with the hydrofoil on the side:
Somehow, and I don't know if it was the fast hydrofoil and breathing in the super polluted air so quickly, but I REALLY felt like my I had smoked 0293480239 packets of cigarretes a day. My lungs kinda hurt a little (or maybe I'm just going crazy from being in mega pollution for so long?).
Anyhoo, that was the hydrofoil experience (basically, a super fast boat). We disembarked and took another cramped bus to YiChang. We had to spend the night there and the next day took an 8-hour bus ride to Wudang Shan, also known as a military mountain, which I don't know why because there is nothing military about it. This mountain is pretty cool because of the Taoist temples, the word is that Tai Chi was invented there, and the story of the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was set there, but it really wasn't (of course). It was constructed in the 13th century but during the Ming dynasty there was this anti-religious revolt and they destroyed many of the temples. It has sense taken 3 hundred thousand men and 10 years to restore (considering all that, thats pretty good!). We got situated in the mountain to spend 2 nights there. Of course, yet again, the 1st day it rained the whole day and was pretty darn chilly (maybe in the 30's?). Kinda miserable. So we just played cards, hung out in our heated room, watched re-runs of the Arnold Schwarznegger movie Comando 02394823904 times (seriously, why did it repeat so much?) and went for a mini hike with our umbrellas and raincoats to the Purple Cloud Temple. THAT was really neat because the temple was almost hiding in the mist and was really pretty. This is kinda what I imagined China to be like (boy, was I wrong! ha ha!). I was seriuosly expecting to see floating ninjas (like from the movie Crouching Tiger) to come out and start jumping from roof to roof. That didn't happen, but it was really neat anyway. Here is a pict:
The next day, WOW! It actually looked like it cleared up a bit! We could see more than 50 ft in front of us! So we headed to hike up the mountain, what was said to be a 2-3 hour hike. 5 hours later, we were back at the hotel. The 'hike' was basically climbing thousands of stairs (probably 3 of the 5 hours) and then climbing down the stairs into the mist:
At first it was pretty darn cool. Amazing vast mountains, fresh air, and listening to this cool Chinese opera music through speakers. And exercise! Cardio exercise - yea! I've been going through major withdrawl of that here! Very... almost spiritual at this point. Ahhhh..... how nice! So we were taking our time and climbing and climbing.
Then it starting raining. Okayy... still, not so bad. Good to be amongst nature, right? Then as we approached the top, it started raining harder, got very windy, and the temperature seemed to drop like 20 degrees. But then again we were sweating like pigs climbing these stairs and the minute we stopped, we got cold again. Then it was... how should I put it nicely, not so nice. The top was this "Forbidden City" old temple, which was pretty cool because it was TOTALLY misty, but there were like 902348239048239048 Chinese tourists pushing and shoving, and we just couldn't go anywhere, nor see anything. No joke, you really couldn't see more than 3 feet in front of you. It was soooooo misty and cloudy. So back down we went. It cleared up a bit and stopped rainy, and then I was okay again. And here we were just hiking with nothing on our backs and we see these hard working locals carrying heavy loads all on wooden beams on their backs.... and still smoking (which by the way, they smoke sooo much here and the no-smoking thing that we are used to is NOT applicable here AT ALL. They still smoke in enclosed spaces, which sucks too):
So after all that, I was tiiiiiiired (5 hours of non-stop climbing stairs will do that do ya!). Was it worth it? I guess, now that it is done with! Its just too bad with the weather but at least we still did the hike and it was nice to also get a little rest.
We then had our last meal at our favorite hotel restaurant, and then off we went to catch an evening train to Wuhan, the next destination.
Wuhan was yet another veeeeeeery dirty and veeerrrrry polluted city. Dirtier and mudier and definitely nothing to see at all. We went to a Wal-Mart as our action for the day, if that says anything. The next day we took an overnight train to Shenszhen, which is a little hub to get to Hong Kong. We walked across the border to Hong Kong, and here we are!!! Clean! Sun! Civilization! People look and dress nice! People speak English!! It seriously feels like a whole new world over here, and it is! We had a $5USD cappuccino at a nice hotel (just because we felt like we deserved it after the rough week). Soooo much easier! Soo beautiful to see water again. And the sun! We haven't seen sun since the 2nd day we were in Beijing, almost 3 weeks ago. Seriously. And people don't even look twice at us like we are freak-shows! And again, the sun!!!! Its also soo nice not to be around the disgusting spitting and hawking and what not. Ewww! Oh, another plus - Cantonese is a much softer language and easier on the ears than Mandarin.
All and all, it was a VERY VERY tough week o traveling. Very busy and very hectic. The good thing that came out of it is that I have lived and traveled as the Chinese do. We were the ONLY Westerners at a lot of places, and it was kinda funny when you get people taking not-so-obvious pictures of you. I definitely felt like I experienced China as it is. As a local, NOT as a tourist. We ate at small local shops, and had to get by with gestures and pointing, you name it.
This whole time we have been having discussions between ourselves and others about the way things work here, and we basically decided that is socialist with a capitalist umbrella. Socialist in a way that every shop sells the same stuff, all right next to each other. Example is in Wudang Shan - every single restaurant had the exact same menu. Can you believe that? I guess that takes out the competition, but its sooo repressive!! Capitalist in the goods that they buy and sell. Its very interesting and I'm curious to whats going to happen because things are changing sooooooo quickly here!!!
Generally, the people have been pretty nice and we have had mostly good experiences. The people that don't want to help don't, they just ignore you and move on. Which is fine. But the people that do go waaay above the call of duty and it is sooo appreciated when they help.
Here is a map of our week of traveling: