Sunday, November 28, 2004
Customs were no a problem, and more stamps have been added to the passport. It's hot and humid, and traffic was horrendous getting into town (Siem Reap).
Our taxi driver: born in '74. His father was taken and killed (Khmer Rouge) when he (the driver) was 4. Soon after he was sent to a boarding school and after high school was drafted into the military. Had to serve. When the civil war was over, he came back here (he'd been in Phnom Pen) and has been studying english, japanese, and thai. Very impressive. I think we're going to hear a lot of stories like that here. Fresh wounds. We may end up staying here longer than planned.
There is a flyer in our hotel lobby (we are changing loc's tomorrow. We'll be paying $8 a night for the 3 of us) from smoe Aussie group wanting people to teach computer stuff here. My sis is trying to find me some short teaching stuff in China so I can earn some cash, and maybe that'll provide me the 'experience' they are wanting here. Could be very interesting.
It's hotter than hell though.
Bought 4 new books this morning. I found the best ever bookstore in Bangkok and ran around jittery and giggling before settling on only 4. But there were so many! I had started Ulysses, but I think I will read my Camus and Vonnegut first (thinner, so I can send a box home). My pack, though half the size of R's, weighs a couple kilos more. Oops.
Ok, since I seem to be coming down with a cold (son of a...in 95 degree heat?) and we are getting out of here by 5:20AM to see sunrise at Angkor Wat, I am off to beddy by. Peace out
p.s.-internet here is way cheaper (and all over the place) than we thought it'd be, so I will be able to continue blogging. I think
Had awesome curry for dinner
Saturday, November 27, 2004
neck, right forarm, back of my right knee, both calves, sides of both feet, bottom of my left foot (that's a blighter), thought i had on smack middle of the forehead but it was just a zit, stomach, left shoulder blade.
I really don'ty hate much, but them wee peckars could cease to exist and I'm not sure anyone'd care. If fact, the Big Guy'd probably be the only one, as I am sure they are one of his big 'jokes' (funny sense of humor has he. Just ask Kevin Smith). I'm sure it's a riot to watch us tearing our skin off in irritation, applying stinky gunk to ward off the buggars, and chasing them around in futile attempts and falling asleep 'sure' that they've all been gotten only to wake and discover dozens new swellings.
Maybe getting back into the cold won't be so bad. But wait: yesterday when we got on the bus it was over 95 (how's the snow back there? Hehe!!) and it was tolerable. This morning it was a tiche over 80 at 6am and I had to move out from under the fan making me cold. Now that I've adjusted to the heat I have to go right into sub-freezing temps (in January). Oof. Don't you feel bad for me? Maybe it won't be so bad since I'm not flying and the transition will be a little more gradual? Yeah right
Time to edit the pix
So, how you doin'?
Can you believe how freakin' fast this trip o' ours is flying? Already we're thru 2 countries and heading thru 2 more in the next week to 2. Amazing. I wonder though, maybe my fate is not to be trampled by an elephant, but maybe playfully tossed by one (trunk's are amazing instruments) onto a landmine in Cambodia? Hm. That's quite the twist you've thrown in there, Jim. Something to chew the spud over.
Our bags are stored right now so that we can internet and then walk around this area (big backpacker/shopper area) for a couple hours before catching the shuttle bus to the airport and then our 50-minute flight to Siem Reap. Angkor Wat here we come!
Question is, will Michelle face the same dilemma that Kristine did in attempting to fly out of Krabi (cancelled flight thanks to raging monsoon) or will all work flawlessly and we meet her at the airie today? I'll let you know. Sit there and wait, it shouldn't be long now....
wait for it.....
It's a go.
This afternoon we catch a bus front out front of our hotel (3:30PM) which is going to whisk (slowly) us up to Bangkok by 6AM tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon around 3:30P a plane will lift off frmo the Bangkok airport with us on it (hopefully) eventually (50 minutes later) dropping us in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After a couple days wandering Angkor Wat, Michelle leaves to go home and we head to Vietnam. Crazy times! This trip is flying by!
Kristine left us a couple days ago, and after some travails (cancelled flights thanks to monsoons) made it to Bangkok and should now be on a plane somewhere between here and the States. Or at home, I am not sure. I don't think I scared her too badly. To my ex-coworkers-don't believe anything she says until you verify it with me. She has a raging imagination and makes stuff up. Trust me on this.
What else...more pics have been added, some thanks to Michelle and her dig camera.
I'm sweating my balls off right now. It's that hot! At least the sun shoots right thru all your clothes and sets your skin ablaze in an instant.
On that note, mom told me that Chicago is all snow and ice. Hehe. How's Denver? Oh yeah,you can go skiing ya dirty bastards.
Isnae true wot shae sid thae ither nayt? Boot thim thar skivvies and hoers oot on the boolivaird? Nit suer, says aye. Bin settin' round ayn mah ain pad.
We continue to be amazed at the fellow westerners we meet, who have no qualms about asking rude and obnoxious questions. or example, a Canadiander Michelle kayaked with decided to ask her why all Americans are fat. She based this assumption (Michelle asked very courteous and logical questions and comments to make this girl see her idiocy) on a short layover she had in Philly. Yup, that's all. And we continue to get these q's (though I don't. Only the girls seem to get them) that we would never think to ask (Michelle could have retorted in kind, with something like: "Do all inhabitants of America Jr [thank you, Homer Simpson] like living in igloos and riding dogsleds to work?") because they are rude and insulting. Yet we continue to hear them. And they only come from westerners. Odd, and annoying. I kinda wish I'd get hit up with a q like that. Because I am sure my sarcasm (honed to scorching speedy wit, thanks to decades of practice) would do wonders for cross-border relations. Arseholes.
Ok, I gotta scoot. The pics are downloaded and I need to stop at the grocery to make sure I don't starve on this bus ride. Or thirst to death. That'd be bad as well. Maybe I should hit the USED book store, since I am 1/2 way thru Porno.
A bit more
I read the Alchemist in one night. It seemed familiar, so maybe I've read it before, I'm not sure. Very good, though the message is one that I am already in tune with and try to follow. Check it out. Seriously.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
I know, there are too many pix of us on those beastly elephants. Eventually we'll sort thru those and get rid of some of them. We gave the camera to one of the other girls (obviously) and she went a bit bonkers. Be glad I took out the pics she snapped of her beau, and of their feet (don't ask. I didn't).
Tetris was left behind
No thoughts or comments are coming to mind, and I am very frustrated. A mental writing thinking block has transpired to frustrate and irk me into flabbergasted wordless animistic frustration. Maybe in the next day or two I'll sit here and force myself to write to try and get something moving.
Britney Spears is singing in the background, and I am sitting next to a guy who looks like Bob Felsburg. How's that for strange? He hasn't said word one about Big Ten football (thank god because I might start sobbing) nor anything about an upcoming traffic study.
Full moon festival is tomorrow. What are we going to do (most people get funky crazy wild and party hearty and cause a ruckus)? No idea. Probably walk around feeling old and run down (I will be a year away from 30 in less than 2 months!!), drooling into our cups of...whatever it is that old people drink to stay...old.
Thailand fun. Cheapest place we've been yet, but somehow I am spending more money here than I did in China (ya know, them Thaiwaner hooks don't come cheap. And the opium, while mildly satisfying and robust, is overpriced and lacking the necessary 'oomph' to make the risk of jail worthwhile.
Speaking of Thai jails, our friend Kristin (from the trek from MI. Not Kristine from CO) told us about a book she read about some dude trying to traffik (commandante my pal o) heroin in Thailand and ending up in jail for many years. The passage she relayed to us was about the large blister type thing that formed on the side of his neck. Long story short, they cut it open and maggots spilled out. Tasty, eh? Green beans anyone?
I've been communicado with some organic farms in Hawaii. 2 have already made their email skill known to me and have responded. Sounds goody...
People keep telling me that while my blogs/adventure accounts are entertaining, they are seen as Michael Moore films should be seen, not as the more factual accounts that Rachelle sends out. Hm. What do I make of that? Am I being called a liar, fanciful (but not fancy) storyteller with a vivid (though now devoid and lacking and MIA) imagination, or blowhard? No matter. I get my kicks the old fashioned way, if the olden days had computers and blogs.
Only another month and some until I hit winter again. Since I'm getting used to 90+ degree (F) heat, going back into subfreezing temps may be a bit tough. Especially with insufficient clothes. Don't worry, Mama mia, I hear that freezing to death could be worse. After (Britney is now singing a tune with Bobby Brown in the background. Somebody's career is in the squatter....) the excruciating pain of cold, you start to feel warm and you become almost euphoric. Could be worse. AFterall, I survived the elephants, so I need a new prophecy of doom, don't I?
Speaking of, I made some mention on our trek in the presence of the MI girls about my hopes that I'll see at least my 35th bday. They thought that comment a bit odd. I didn't take the time to explain to them the ongoing contest I have with Sizzle (you are SO going to lose! Baby on the way and all...). My competetiveness, while stifled as of late, can not forget the game begun over a decade ago (anyone fo to the 10-year reunion? I miss anything except overpriced apps?)!!
10 years I've been outta HS. Whattya think of me now? What would the 28-year old version of me think of the slightly less mature (or more mature?) 18-year old me? I'm not back down to what I weighed then (not yet. Since I am spending so much now, wait until R leaves for Australia and I head back into China. I'm guessing more weight may get shed), but I am closer than I've been in a long long while. Can you believe, my last semester of college I hit 180 (or more, I forget)?
Why the shite am I talking about weight? Not a chick am I. Or am I....
Who remembers us tossing the couch off the 4th floor when we finally moved out of the Littleton (219) apartment? I do. That was fun.
I'm a grinnin'! Desperately needing to do something silly and inane and senseless and 'embarrassing' to break thru the plunk. Something will break soon, I hope.
A cd is being made right now with more pics. Those should be online tonight or tomorrow.
Seriously, the Cubs didn't even make the playoffs??
I think a thorn is still stuck in the ball of my foot. Everynow and then it flares and I yelp a bit. Ifty.
They turned the fire hose on me today. No good reason, just turned away from the inferno'd bldg and hit me square on in the mug. Then giggled a bit and returned to work. I had recently showered so I've no idea the reason.
Soap would help
Enough of that. I don't have the energy to rant (or do I...). Paul-meet me in Fiji and we'll set this world straight!
How did we celebrate this festive occasion? By snorkling! Our boat (a long boat, which is a long wooden crat with a diesel smoke belching engine whose propeller is mounted on the end of a 20 foot pole. Different...) left the beach around 9ish and took us past 4 island type places where we were let off and floated around. It was great! The water was warm, the air hot, and I only got burnt on the backs of my calves (my back was fine. I reapplied. I guess I forgot that my legs also face sunward). In all we probably snork'ed for 2-3 hours, checking out some beautiful coral and fishies, some torn up coral, and sand. Fun times. If you ain't done it, try it. It's good stuff.
Our water logged selves then returned to our bungalow for showers and I got to read more of my newest book, Porno (sequal to Trainspotting, and rottingly raucaus and good). Dinner was et for seafood and now we're emailing. Euchre may follow. It's our last chance because Kristine flies back to Bangkok tomorrow morning to begin her journey back to CO (poor sap).
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Went sea kayaking yesterday. I thought a funny anecdote made an appearance but I can't anymore remember what I thought was blog worthy. It was fun and relaxing and we saw monkeys. But not the kind with the bulbous red asses. I like those guys
Tomorrow (thanksgiving, I'm told) we may be snorkling all day. Not a bad way to spend the day. A departure from the last 4 years debaucheries up in Breck. Warmer too with less skiing.
Life here is good. No $0.25 pad thai tonight (vendors are taking a break today. The bastards!) but that's ok. Michelle has rejoined us (she flew in earlier tonight) and she is back on top of her game and that is great. Who wants to fly 1/2 way around the world to deal with the flu in a Thai hotel? Not me. I'd prefer a Fijian hotel (I think).
Hair's gettin' long. Ears are about covered and if the top/sides were cut I'd have a good start on a mullet.
I know it's not until tomorrow but here we go anyway: Happy Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 22, 2004
OK, here it is: compared to China, this place is as easy as taking a sucker from a baby (if said baby doesn't know kung-fu or have a very large indignant parent or loved one or concerned stranger standing nearby....ok, as easy as falling down?). Not only that, but the people here are very very friendly and most people know english. It's great. So far, I'm loving it. The strange part is, I kind of miss the difficulties of China and I am very thrown off by all the westerners wandering around everywhere. Don't worry, I'll get over it.
Massages are very cheap here. I've had 2 already, and plan on getting another tomorrow (we are going on a canoe trip tomorrow morning [I think] so I'll deserve one, you know?)(the first was a 2-hour, kinda hurty Thai massage. The second an oil massage. I think they used up a pallete of oil and went thru an even dozen masseuses in the process. Stupid hair soaks up that stuff)(which reminds me. The guide on our bamboo boat rafting experience told me [upon seeing me with my shirt off] that I looked like a monkey b/c of my hair! I offered it to him, but he looked scared and turned away. (The guide also decided to marry Kristine. He called our raft the Titanic [aptly named], himself 'Fred' [or whatever the hell they called Leo DiCraprio in that damn movie] and Kristine 'Rose'. I tried to promote the idea [I told him that I could act as her dad and gave my consent]. She wasn't amused, though she laughed/snorted quite a bit)
Dinner tonight cost me about $1US-and I had 2 servings of Pad Thai (fatty faty boom batty).
Have I mentioned that the people here are ridiculously nice?
Rachelle got her nose pierced about an hour ago. Don't ask me! I tried to use all my common sensical practical wisdom to talk her out of it but she insisted on disrespecting her body by forcing a piece of metal where a piece of metal was not supposed to go. I'm appalled, really. (but then again, the guy said [I think] that tattoos are about 1000 baht an hour ($1US ~= 40 baht)...which is pretty cheap.... Dragons are cool, ya know? Hm....
Know what song I'd like to hear right now? "Save a horse ride a cowboy". I wonder how the rest of that album is?
I downloaded some more pics just now. Check them all out at:
Since I have no good warm weather clothes, last week I bought a pair over very light white (not quite transparent. Good thing I have fun colorful boxers. Though I've thought of getting a pair of bright red bikini briefs to flava things up...) pants, and a very light, not quite stitched together (on purpose) long sleeve shirt.
Then we get down here last night. ALL my clothes (except the above) are filthy. Just nast-ass dust covered sweat and oil and grease and muck stained and sole moldy from being wet-bagged for a couple days. My last t-shirt which I wore back to bangkok and then to here was horrendous. So last night I bought a new t-shirt and a pair of swimming trunks. I hate shopping for clothes!
That should be all until I make it to China and then maybe I can trade something for the warm clothes I'm gonna need.
We survived the trek thru the Thailandian jungled mountains without significant damage. Riding elephants did not result in my trampling, though the little guy did try to toss us a couple times. Actually, I am not sure he felt our insignificant weight at all. Sucker! The hiking was beautiful, the villages we stayed in filled with very warm and hospitable people more than willing to sit around and call out to us in order to get us to see view and hopefully buy some of their wares. Which we all did (the right thing to do). I ended up coming away with 2 bracelets and 2 necklaces (all very manly though approaching hippyish...) and a couple other unnamable things. There were 12 of us following our Thai guide around. A great group comprised of us 4 (me, R, Michelle and Kristine), 3 American chicks (a U of M grad? God help me! All newly grad'ed from college. Old jokes were made at my expense which was an amusing twist of irony), a Danish couple, a guy from the UK and one from Austria and an Australian girl (post HS, pre-college). Fun times.
What? That is all I have to say? You are probably wondering if some humorous story can be found from amongst my brain droppings to retell (in slight hyperbolic fashion, as far as you know). Ok fine, I'll indulge you.
The final phase of this trek was a 1.5 hour ride down a river on a bamboo boat. Cool enough. A guide up front poling, 3 sitters, and another one of us in back poling. I decided to be a poller, and joined R, M, and Kristine on the raft. As soon as my feet hit the rearward part of the ship, it began to sink. Not too much, but enough to sink me up to mid-shin and send R, M and K running off shrieking at getting wet (they needed it. They were dirty and stinkeriffic. I wasn't. Clean and fresh smelling as a newly cleaned baby's butt). In the process of fleeing they almost capsized the boat (still at the dock) but we righted it and sat them back down.
I also noticed that these thick bamboo poles were not tied together (as far as I could tell) in the back, where I was attempting to be useful with my 10 foot bamboo pole. It was tough to maintain balance on the shifting poles and effectively pole w/o hitting K or R in the head (only hit R once. Oops), but I did ok. It was fun. The guides splashed everyone, we rammed boats, and at one point M boarded one of the other boats, and the guy poling that boat jumped on ours.
So, with 3 people propelling the craft, we should have made great time, right? Wrong. Our new poler smacked our guide in the head (hard) with his pole which put us a man down for a bit. And the raft began to break up. Before long I was perched with a foot on either side of a 2 foot gap in the poles; that was the only place to set my feet and still manage to be useful. My feet cramped up now and then from gripping on, and half my time was spent pulling my leg back up from under the boat (slipping thru the cracks...) or trying not to fall off. Finally a rhythm was found and it was relaxing. A guy on the bank saw my tattoo and tossed me a thumbs up. I satisfied him with a "kob koon kop" and we went on. Finally, our guide told us that we had 3 minutes left. I was relieved because my feet ached and I was tired of trying to balance and all that shebang.
R decided that this was a good time for K to try some polling (R had taken over a short time previous to try it out). So they switched places, and it was all over. The boat feel apart completely. Thomas was left sitting chest deep in water on a couple rods, R and the guide were bent over in laughter on the more together right side (starboard way overcharges for a latte) and Kristine and I (it took some swimming on my part. Not easy while holding a 10-foot pole) knelt on 3 poles hanging together drifting off while I tried to steer us. It was like this that we came around the bend and into view of everyone (and all the other tour groups gathered). Our raft in shambles, all of us now in the water, the guide and I trying to drag the pieces to shore (I would have been more help, but my now bare feet were having issues with me trying to fight the current on the rocky bottom). It was damn funny and no one died.
That night we caught an overnight bus (comfy, but I didn't sleep. Oops) back to Bangkok, took a canal cruise tour (I slept a little there) and at 5 we grabbed a plane to Krabi where we are now (actually, we are in the next town over, but close enough). Unfortunately, M fell sick on the bus and stayed behind in Bangkok for a day or two to get better. That sucked. We got here last night and today has been nice and relaxing. For the first time in a week, we'll be spending the night in the same place 2 nights in a row! Very exciting.
It's hot here, the water is very warm and I am happy. Today was: reading on the beach, floating in the water, another massage (about $5 for an hour!), email, and soon some dinner. Good times.
I may be able to download more pics at this place (I hope). I'll let you know. If you missed the post I did get a bunch on line so check it out (see old posts for the URL).
Najima-good work cheating the system. I'll have to chat with you when I get back into China to find out how you managed.
I also have a new plan (for now) as to how I'm getting to west China in January. I think I am heading back to Chiang Mai (north Thailand where our trek was) and then boating into Laos and then up into China from there. Should be fun and interesting to say the least. We'll see how that goes. The place we stayed up there was amazing-the owner (?) got all our travel tickets and our Vietnam visas for us, and she said that if I go back there she can get my the ones for Laos and China. Makes life much easier.
That is all for now. I am sweating like a mutha in here so I am going to go off and...do something else.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
RIght now it's almost 10PM, raining (warmly) and over 80 I'd guess. I like it! We're in Thailand, in case you were confused as to why Beijing was suddenly so warm.
Getting here was fine, and I am liking it mucho already. We are in the town of Chiang Mai right now. Tomorrow morning we are hedaing out on a 3 day trek-walking, bamboo boat ride, 2 nights in 2 different hill villages (very very cool) and get this....we will be riding elephants for almost 2 hours!! My prophesy may come true. If it does, mabye R ca post the results for me. Either way, it should be awesome.
Meeting up with Kristine was no problem and I am being nice to her!! Naysayers...
Sunday we are heading down to the south part of the country to get some beach time in. I can't wait! The hotel we are in right now rocks-she is setting all our travel stuff up (to get down south), she's getting our Vietnamese visas taken care of, AND, when we are back here at the end of December, I've decided I will (maybe) return here. And let her get me Laos and China visas. And I'll take a boat into Laos and make my way into China and then out to Kuytun to see my sis. It's going to be awesome!
Stepped on a scale today. I think I need to start eating again. I left home weighing about 165ish. Today, about 30 minutes after eating a medium sized meal? About 155. Oops. That's good though. I want to be sure to look my best in my bikini on the beach in a couple of days.
Peace out, and be prepared for more silly/senseless updates (if internet is esay to find). It's so exciting to be back on here!
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
We are in Thailand today. The meeting with Kristine went fine, and after a day in Bangkok we are moving on. A night train is whisking us up to Chang Mai where we will do....something...and go on a trek for a couple of days. Then we are heading down south to sit on a beach for a while. Sounds fun, eh?
Notes-it's in the 90s and humid here. Nice! No wearing shoes indoors (I wish that were no shoes everywhere...), and mostly wearing pants. And shirts. Dang!
And the beard is gone. Yup, we got in here last night and I spent...at least 30 minutes hacking the stupid thing off. Ever seen The Fly? I felt like my whiskers were the same toughness as the fly hair that dude grew. Maybe it's because my Leatherman's scissors are a bit lacking? And then 2 razors. It was a ton of work, and now I look likeI am 12 (no goat, it's all gone). Cooler though.
That's all for now. Gotta run and get some food to take on the train (12 hour ride or so).
Monday, November 15, 2004
We are now out of China (not really, but let's pretend, ok?). We are in the Hong Kong airport right now on a layover (2.5 hours worth) and they have free internet, so here I am! Aren't you lucky?
Why do I say tetris? Because one of the stores here has a little portable tetris machine for about $10 that we are going to buy (only 2 AAA's needed and included!). Very exciting! I talked R out of the portable dvd player. That was a silly (though intriguing) notion.
What to say? China Part I is now over. A bit saddish, but I'll wait to cry my tears into a tropical drink (or beer) on a beach in a couple days. I'll send my ending (for now) impressions later. We ended up spending a bunch of our last couple of days with Jason and Kitty(sp?), which was great. We got an insider's opinion (Kitty is Chinese) and an outsider's inside opinion on things. Very interesting. But that is for later. 3 hours of sleep bodes better for nonsensical ramblings and hyperbolic story telling. Let's get it on!
Beijing. Here's what we did:
Forbidden City (old home of the dynastic emperors, forbidden to outsiders [non-fancy types] until not that long ago)
The Summer Palace-peaceful playtime place for the emperors
The Great Wall (impressive as hell; good story)
Lama Temple (damn big buddha. won the world record for 'biggest buddha carved out of one big damn tree'. Not sure how stiff the competition was for that one, but impressive. and a peaceful respite from the city[the temple area, not the large wooden buddha])
Peking Duck-darn good fare. Not much meat (the skin is the tasty delicacied part. the meat is made into a soup) but tasty tasty tasty!
Squid on a stick. Pics were taken and will arrive eventually. Also to be found on a stick in the area that was et: scorpions, dung beetles, fish (whole), whole baby quails, and more. Good pics. Made a new friend and we swapped hats and shoulder grabbed for posterity
Cheese. Found some decent french cheese (first cheese since leaving home)
Jason and Kitty. Thanks for taking the time to show us around. You guys are great, and I hope we weren't too big a dead weight for you. Jason-midwest farmer hick type speaking Chinese; very impressive
Michelle arrived and hasn't tired of us yet. Fun times; I think she's getting used to my abuse. No worries, I am sure most of that will shift to Kristine tonight.
Dvds and cds. Sent a box home yesterday (slow mail. 2-3 months, heads up parents). Included in the box were 12 dvds and a cd. Cheap cheap cheap. (any maybe not too legally obtained). Whoompah!
That's the bulk of it. What? What happened at the Great Wall? ok.....(fade out wavy like to dream remembering sequence)....
At breakfast (omelet and 4 pieces of toast and juice) we met 2 Aussies and a UK girl. They had the same plan as us (ride out to one section of wall, hike 10K to another section then bus it home) so we joined forces, rented a van-ish thing and off we went. At the drop off point(about a 1/4 mile and many stairs down from the wall) the welcoming committee waited-about 7 or 8 vendors at the ready. Spying them, we also prepared. The doors of the van burst open and we mounted our attack on the hill/steps. They laughingly kept pace with us, as they walk all this daily. We tried. Gaining the top of the wall, we took some pics and I started talking with one of the vendors, a very nice'farmer' (she said) lady from down in the valley (we were off in no-man's land). She was my friend the next couple hours. She didn't pester at all, but supplied info and acted as guide and friend. Even taught me some Chinese words that I have since forgotten. The wall is very impressive. Got some good pics and was wowed. I highly recommend checking it out. The crowds were very small, our 'tails' not aggressive and in fact friendly and pleasant to hang out with. Halfway thru my friend said that she had to turn around to head back to where we started off, but that if I made it back there (no chance) that I could buy one of her GW pic books. Instead I bought it there.Overpriced I am sure, but very beautiful pix. Besides, I did like her and had no issue paying more than necessary for the book. Who has the money (even unemployed)? Oh yeah, me. My good deed for the day, if you will. She even gave me a prayer bead bracelet for 'free'. Nice lady,we took a pic and off she went. A short time later we stopped and ate lunch on the Wall overlooking beautific sights. Awesome.
Trouble began. As we neared the end, we ran into 3 guys hanging out at one of the 'guard stands' (or whatever they are called. look it up) collecting a fee for the upcoming portion of the GW. Well, we'd paid 30 Yuen ($1US ~= 8Yuen) at the beginning, and had had no intimation of this added charge. Skepticism ran rampant amongst us (esp. after we paid and saw the date on the official looking tix-2002). One of theAussie guys got all fired up, calling the men thieves and maybe tryingto push past (before we paid). Not good, an uncalled for response (over about $3.50 US), but it was the principle, you know? Whatever. On we went. And 5 minutes later happened upon a suspension bridge witha 5 Yuen charge. Again, less than $1US, but this time there was lots of yelling and the Aussie tried a couple of times to shove his way past. Overblown and unnecessary in my opinion. Again, who has money? I paid the 5Y, ran across the bridge and up the next set of stairs (oof. too much work!) to check out the exit to appease minds that no further charges awaited us. None did. And I talked to a few westerners, all of whom knew about that second charge (2 comanies working either end of the hike). Oops.
That was all. Not too exciting, but it left a tiny sourness in my mouth. Not so much from being 'cheated' (we were not), but the quibbling over minute amounts of $. Call me a sucker, but it ain't worth the effort or brain damage.
More on that topic later (maybe).
I think I have gone beyond my free 30 minutes here. Besides, tetris awaits. An hour 20 until our flight. But we are already back in the warmth! So nice!
All of you take care (or whatever it is that you do) and I'll be chatting at you from Thailand. HOPEFULLY, internet will be easy to find and cheap, and maybe I'll be able to access my own blog and stop harassing my poor mom.
Added notes I've forgotten along the way:
Early last week I was in the shower washing my hair, and noticed that it was all tangled and knotted. Hm. That's new. I started thinking; I haven't combed my hair since high school (I think), and haven't brushed it since September (it's a bit longer now). So I got out and used the cheap plastic small comb the hotel provided, and combed my hair! Very exciting. I even kept the comb for future use! I am sure my hair looks good under my hat.
I have been shampooing my beard. Yes, it's that long. Last night I combed it as well. Don't fret. I am buying a razor when we get there and it's gone by tomorrow night at the latest. For now
In the box sent home I included a pair of pants, my suntype hat, some undies (teehee!) and I forget what else. We're slimming down the pack!There was a book in there (or 3).
The Idiot, Dostoevsky. Very very good book. I have about 40 pages left, so I won't have to read any depressing Russian authors on the beach (happy, Craig?).
I am the grand master flash champion of double solitaire in China!!! I beat up on R last night and she went to bed all depressed that she lost (on a related note: CH-R was going to buy and send you a pack of cards with a note telling you to practice DS. I talked her out of it). Way to go me!
Too much babbling. Need foody treats.
This is one fancy airport! There are perfumeries all over. It's weird-not much of that (at all?) seems to be worn in China, so it's only the random overindulging French types that have exposed us to good smelling things the last 7 weeks. Maybe I should go stand in a shop for a while so as not to suffocate my neighbor in the next flight (though I do smell like roses....)
Sunday, November 14, 2004
You wanted pics? Here are some. Thanks to Jason, I was able to get some downloaded last night. The link to the album (which will be updated with more when I can find an internet place that'll let me put a cd in) is below.
We leave from the Beijing airport in about 8.5 hours and will be in nice hot Bangkok tomorrow around 4:30pm. it's gonna be great! No moreChina (until January), but warmth sounds good!
I will post some updates when I can. Internet has been hard to come by
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
We are in Beijing right now. Got here last....something, no problem, and have enjoyed our time here. Our first couple days were very low key as we were waiting for R's friend Michelle to arrive (Monday? OrSunday, I forget). And we didn't want to double up on sights (overculture is as bad as underculture, you know). So we sat around. Nothing to report on that except:
Saturday, we were sitting in the common room of our hostel in an attempt to write in our journals. We ended up talking to a Canadian family for a couple of hours (he is yet another ex-engineer whose path we have crossed. We can't get away from engineers!!), which was very nice. For the most part. The conversation took a brief foray into politics. Basically, I mentioned that the one english speaking station here barely talked about the US elections, though all the Chinese ones seemed to have constant coverage. This was the wife's opportunity (very nice woman) to go on a rabid anti-US bashing session. Here's the thing-it was personal. Her comments were 'examples' of how fat, lazy, ignorant, self-centered, gullible, and not truly-free or happy everyone in the US is. Mind you, she knew where we came from. It was insulting, and I simply looked at the floor and thought about jell-o. Rachelle finally had enough and did an excellent job of letting her know...that she was wrong. Nice work, R. Her and her husband were very much into conspiracy theories (and were very adamant that they were truths the US public is too stupid to realize) and name calling. And guess where most of her 'info' came from? Yupper-Michael Moore. She said so. Hm, so Moore, an American citizen who made his millions FROM Americans, is leading the rest of the world to form the above mentioned opinions about us. Forget the accuracies of his 'documentaries' (he is one hell of an entertainer who knows how to capture an audience, I will not deny him that compliment) and his hypocrisies. Do you really want to support someone that gives the international community (I am talking to rabid Moore fans) that opinion of you? It was ridiculous.
Back to fun stuff. Later that night we ended up chatting the night away with a bunch of blokes from the UK, a couple Denmarkians, French-folk, an Aussie, and had a rabbling good time. Swapped moree mails, hooked R up with a connection in Aussie-stralia, and misbehaved a bit. Good fun.
Next day we walked across Beijing looking for a hotel closer to the action (the hostel I think was located in Siberia). Walked acrossTiananmen Square (so surreal to picture the square and the immense roadway in front rumbling and crumbling with tanks and military might and blood and protests...crazy stuff. The area was filled with cops and army dudes and undercover policioso. Neat stuff.
Michelle arrived and met us at our fancy hotel (more on that in a second). We sat around that night and talked, and she was telling us about advice she'd gotten from people and basic words to say, etc. It was thru her that we found out that if you mispronounce 'thank you' (in the Chinese vernacular), you might be mistaken as saying:"die-horr-ee-a". Early in our trip, occasionally people would laugh when we'd say thank you. We figured it was because they thought it was cute for the funny white foreigners to be speaking Chinese. Turns out, it may have been because they found it funny that we'd break out in'poop talk' when getting our change. Ooops.
The hotel-shitnchiggers this place is nice! It's not as cheap as would be better (though it's still not bad), and I doubt we'll stay anywhere as nice again (though you never know). Why is it so nice? Here's why.We are used to small rooms, 2 twin beds (it'd be like returning to college only for 3 years I slept on a unpulled out shorter than me futon and not a twin bed), not all that nice and unheated. This place has 2 bedrooms (and 4 twin beds), a parlor type thing with a couch(!!!) and 2 nice-ass chairs, a kitchen sink, random tables and heat.It's very nice. And to cap it off, the shower. Oh mama! It's got the detachable shower head on a cord (standard here), but you can swap the spray out to an almost 1' diameter shower thing in the ceiling, there are 8 little nozzles that will spray straight out, and what I think is a foot washer thing (I don't know. It pulls out of the wall [it's a boxy thing] and sprays a couple streams and there are rolls of pokey make yur foot feel gud rollers on both sides). It's amazing!! We feel so fancy (for now). Aren't you jealous?
What else has been going on...not much. It's cold as balls here right now. Tomorrow we are planning on heading out to hike a section of the Great Wall. Should be colder since it's further north and higher up. Hold on!
Last night we met up with my buddy's (Nate) bro Jason. A redneck been living in Beijing for at least 4 years. Met he and his woman for dinner. Great time. It's always impressive to see a westerner speaking Chinese, but when it's a guy from down on the farm in a town with 3 houses and a silo, even more so. Great guy, great girl, we had a great time. It's been a while since I've seen Jason, so it was cool to hang out. And it was nice to get a meal ordered for us so that we could eliminate the "point and pray something good comes out" process we usually go thru. It was a 'hot pot' meal, similar to fondue in the States. And FYI-if you boil hot peppers in oil for a long period, it gets spicier. Late in the meal I pulled out a large leaf of lettuce.Pushed it into my mouth and bit down. What happened? 30 gallons of scorchingly hot liquid burst forth and filled my mouth (hot hot and spicy hot), torching my taste buds into oblivion. Owie. It was a greatmeal though.
Dang, I thought I had a lot more to say! Yup, here it comes....
There are many hutongs here. A hutong is a narrow alley with courtyards in places. They are all over China and are very dilapidated and miserable to live in looking, but have lots of character? LonelyPlanet makes sure to tell people to go see them because in Beijing most are being torn down and replaced with big buildings. At first I agreed with LP that this is bad and a 'cultural icon' is being destroyed. But wait, I walk thru them and get to go elsewhere. There are public toilets all over (no such thing in the houses in these hutongs). The buildings are in horrible shape, leak, don't keep out the wind (trust me, it gets very cold here), and are not nice places to live. So who am I to be disgusted with their destruction.
Supposedly the govt provides money to the displaced and at times gives them places to stay in the new bldgs. But there is corruption (of course), between the govt and builders and amongst themselves. So many of the displaced basically have to move out of the city because they can no longer afford the area in which they are living (Beijing reallyIS being westernized! The 'kick the poor out of our city' phenomenon so popular in the States is catching on here). So it can be either a bum deal or a huge step up. Regardless, I'm done griping about such an 'icon' being destroyed. I wouldn't want to live there either. Unfortunately, these are the places that help us to realize that we are in Asia, and not in a big city in the states. That, and they are great places to get great (unwesternized) cheap food.
What else....walked thru the Forbidden City (old home of the emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties, in which none of the public was ever allowed. Now it's a tourist place). Very cool. Very interesting to hear the history (as recited into our audio tour earpieces by RogerMoore himself) and see the incredible structures. Me likey.
Sorry for the infrequent posting. As far as we can tell there is no internet site close to our hotel. I'll try to be better! Maybe
Monday morning we leave for Thailand. It'll be nice to get out of the cold (I won't think about returning to even colder weather), though I am sad to be leaving China. I've really liked it here, and am excited to come back and see more (and very different?) parts of it.
Spinklety spinklery doo, my foo has turned to goo.
Be good y'all. Or not. Up to you
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Like I said early on in this post (and promptly ignored in said post and the last 2 days), political talk can be dangerous and bad. After this one goes (back) out, I am done, for the most part. I hope. Time to edit and get back to the hotel before Rachelle eats my dinner.
> I've got Kid Rock rockin' the party in my ears, so I figure now is as> good a time as any to blog out. Agree? Good
> I'm sore today. My elbow feels much better and has lost some> swollenness, which is good. But today my quads and calves are aching> pretty good, and it takes no time at all to stiffen up (my back/legs).> Fun stuff! It's too bad, because I thought about going for a long run> today along the almost water having river that courses (in the only> way a dried up river can course-poorly) thru town here. Instead we sat> in the park across the street and soaked up the sun while writing in> our journals/ trying not to fall asleep. Nice stuff.
> Now we're emailing (do we email excessively? Dude, it's cheap as hell> here and the high we get in anticipation of new email right before our> accounts open up to scantily clad accounts is unbeatable!). And we are> reading the news accounts of the election coverage. Looks like Big Bad> Bush may win? And the popular vote may agree with the electoral> college? That's a new concept. Did I vote? No. I'm in China, fool!> Polling stations are hard to come by. Yes, I could have gotten an> absentee ballot, but I didn't. On purpose, you ask? Yupper. Why (I> hope you don't mind me assuming what your response[s] will be. Sue> me), you ask? Here's why: (editor's note: don't look any further for reasons. They have been removed and destroyed)>
I will leave one question out there that I would like some feedback on at some point in life (and not from my disillusioned atheistic friends). Why does the nature/ preserving the land get ignored by the Christian (Not just Catholic? I think?) folk? I understand the anti-abortion and stuff, hence liking Bush. But Bush is also pro-death penalty (can man act as executioner, according to the Bible? The nuns in my high school didn't think so) and not so much environment friendly (aren't we the protectors of the earth?). How do 2 issues get superseded by one? Is it more complicated than that? Wouldn't siding with the Dems make more sense? I really know very little about this but am very curious. Any thoughts out there for me? Make me smarter so that I don't run off at the mouth so badly!>
> More fun stuff>
> Remember when I asked for help in whittling down the contents of my> backpack? I just counted the fun books I have, and they now number 5> (fortunately R is reading/ carrying one of them). I'm an idiot>
> After reading the blogs I wrote last night, R mentioned that I sounded> pretty tired of the Chinese people. Time for me to clarify. (But first> a disclaimer-I almost never re-read these things after I type them up,> so I know I miss some things and don't always express myself as well> as I might.) I am not sick of these people. Last night when I wrote> those posts I was still really tired from the hike, and was pretty fed> up with the shit we got all along the way (it wasn't all that bad, it> just accumulates). Mistake me not, it's not everyone. In fact, I think> it's a fairly small number. Most people, when they say hello, do so as> they approach us making eye contact and smiling big happy to know at> least one word and being able to communicate with people so different> than them. It's actually very nice and I get a really big kick out of> them. Also, we've met many people who are incredibly helpful and nice> and have assisted us in doing things like eating and sleeping. So what> I am saying, is overall I like the people here. Tibet is an issue I> know very little about right now (Sis, that's a conversation for when> I get out there), but I think that is more the govt than the people?> By the way, Dali Lama, I'm glad your stomach issue was no big deal and> that you are doing just fine. Kudos, happy dude!>
> What else. My toesies are cold again (shoulda worn socks with my> sandals!). I am very much looking forward to Thailand and the beaches.> I think I've slimmed down enough so that I will look like a beached> underfed walrus in my bikini as opposed to a grounded whale.>
> Hungry again....I wish I had a kitchen! So much good food down the way> to clean prepare and cook but I can't! Brenda (my sis), when I get out> there we are going to have some cooking parties, I don't care what you> say! Just please don't invite the girls you've threatened to offer my> love to. They will only distract me, and I can't let anyone get in the> way of my cooking. Besides, neither R nor I will like that. Eh?>
> What a pitiful Halloween. One Dove bar. And split between the 2 of us. So sad.>
> If anyone wants a postcard, send me your address and I'll see what I> can do. Or a self-addressed stamped envelope. That might be the> easiest.>
> If you can't tell, I am pretty much out of things to say, but I've now> moved on and I have Offspring motivated finger tips.>
> PBR in a can in China tastes the same as PBR in the US only a bit> better because it's an unexpected treat here.>
> I gotta go. I'll be back if I come up with anything better to say> (maybe nothing better, just more)>
That is better. Sorry again for any offence taken.
Rachelle bought a vest to fit in with the general populace here. It's a nice powder pink number (without sleeves, in case you are unfamiliar with the term 'vest'). Here's the kicker-what size is it? XXL. Smaller sizes didn't fit (we think it was the only one in stock kept around for rich foreign tourists). Let me explain-women's clothes here are the size of kids' clothes in the US and men's clothes are the size of American women. This is why I have yet to buy a new pair of pants(don't ask). I have yet to find a pair that will accommodate more than my bulging calves. And I'm very cheap (I can't fathom paying more for a pair of pants in China than I did for my last pair in the US [$5])
I have discovered a way to garner more attention from the Chinese as an American tourist than we have thus far. Find a day like today, a bit cool but nice and partly sunny. A day that sees everyone in the streets in jackets (though in all fairness and deference most Chinese men wear jackets [suit variety] everyday)(heeeeyy, it must be the money!) and warmish clothes. Then go outside, all pale and hairy,wearing shorts and sandals (no socks of course. That's gauche). It's awesome. The frequency of walking stoppage, laughs pointing confusion consternation and all those other great descriptors I don't feel like typing because this keyboard sucks skyrocket. I love it. Maybe a partof it (they are always checking out our feet, regardless of the worn gear. But like I told R, better your feet than chest, right?) is that since they are so blessedly hairless they are not sure how to fathom hairy feet. Once more let me offer them all my excess hair, free of charge.
I have another thought in addition to the one that is about to follow but it's disappeared like Kerry's projected lead in the polls (ouch! Don't worry, pseudo-political talk will follow shortly. I will say this-when you see no advantage to either party, and remain unconcerned about who wins, it makes the results quite easy to swallow).
My big break transpired this morning. During our walk to the train station to purchase our tickets to Beijing (leaving tomorrow AM at 7)we stopped at ATM after ATM, trying vainly to find one that would chuck some cash our way. Finally, a large outlet store for the Bank of China loomed large above us and we passed thru it's golden glassy doors into the quiet bank-like atmosphere in search of desired ATM. Immediately I was greeted by a nice looking Chinese working-there woman. Since I had already spotted the ATM, and still don't understand a lick of Chinese, I doubled gunned towards the ATM and jigged alittle for victory and pranced away. I noticed, out of the corner of my pollution tearing eye, that R slowed to a stop as 2 cats with cameras jumped around yelping excitedly and pointing in my direction. I puffed my chest, flared my leg hairs, and confidently strode to the ATM. By now they were set up, filming my every move and making encouraging hand motions. Time to ham it up I guess. My card withdrew from my jacket chest pocket (with the help of my hand); I turned to face the camera, a light breeze ruffling my flowing locks (took a shower recently, so there was not enough grease to hold it in place), and flashed my cheesiest (sexiest?) toothful grin at the camera, and winked (Heaven is a half-pipe! Is Jesus RE-ally packing my bong?) one of my baby blues at it. One of the dudes was so overcome with elation that he passed out! My card slid in, I pressed the appropriate buttons, entered how much I wanted withdrawn....and the damn machine told me that I'd entered the wrong pin. Being the consummate professional, I remained calm (though my face took on a wind-burntlook) and tried again. Success!! The money popped out, I tossed it into the air and danced around as if in a shower yelling: "I loveChina!!!!" Then I walked off as random people scooped up my money.Once off camera, I realized the idiocy of what I'd done then dove back in and tossed some elbows and knees and got most of my money back. It was then relayed to me that I would be prominently featured in a commercial for the Bank of China. I signed something (a release?) and we walked on. Aahh! I can handle this being famous thing! I am thinking though, that next time I should wait until someone asks for my autograph before giving it out. As we left the bank, I wrote my name on some guy's newspaper. He looked mighty confused.
Ok, time for a non-rant, in regards to politics. My post yesterday was the result of bad T, cramps, too much sleep (yes, that really is a negative for me) and not enough caffeine. I've corrected these things. No T today, much coffee, and I wandered the quiet streets of Tai'an until 3am this morning, singing aloud to various artists I won't mention here.
Bush has been elected. Things will happen now, things will also not happen. I feel no need to get into any specifics here, because after 2-3 days of talking politics (though I vowed not to. R just read my post from yesterday at laughed at me proclaiming to not talk P's andthen ranting for too long) I'm worn out. Kind of. Here's how I see it. Many people are happy, many are upset. During our talks in the last couple of days R has tried to get me to understand the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that pervades the thoughts of many (?). I don't see it that way. Sure, he'll probably do something to piss everyone off and maybe make even the staunchest Repub hope for the best in 2008. That happens. To me it's not hopeless. The country has had everything from terrible leaders to great leaders. Guess what? We're still around and not doing too badly. It's not hopeless. Maybe the dearth of truly competent choices this go-around will bring some better folks to the forefront next time? I've struggled in the past couple years to work at being more understanding of other people, and of opinions that are completely opposite of mine. It's tough, but what I do is remind myself that as strongly as I may feel about something, there is someone who feels just as strongly but in opposition to me. Who's right? To me, there is no 'right'. Only what is best for me and what is best for you. We need both sides of the coin, that's the way it works. Maybe for one Pres it works for you, and the next it doesn't. What am I getting at? I'm not too sure. Just that, it's in no way hopeless. Chalk it up as a time for your opposite to enjoy life and prep up for the next fight. Again, call me naive if you want, that is fine. I like being happy, and negativity don't mesh well with that. Realize that life ain't going to end because W got re-elected (though I know there are many who will disagree completely with that). LikeBobby Farrin (sp? What ever happened to that dude? Didn't RobinWilliams help him with the video? It was awesome) said: Don't worry,be gdamn happy.
That's enough/too much. I hate politics. A waste of my time (a statement that applies to me and me alone. You love it? Great. Someone has to, right?)
I remembered my lost thought. I think I've already thrown this one out there, but I'll do it again because it makes me giggle (and I love to giggle!)
I have no career path, no ideas at a possible career, am a lost ship sinking at sea with one broken paddle going upstream and uphill barefoot in 5 feet of snow. What do I want to be when I grow up? A doc, lawyer, engineer (ah!)? Nah, an emotional drain on society (think broadly) sounds fun to me. Do what I want, flying in the face of what's 'proper' when necessary, making others question their lot in life (start that g.damn bar! write one of those freakin' screen plays or go lead kayak tours in NZ!). Too short, too precious, too much out there to waste.
Too much talking from me right now. Gotta get back to the babblerabble stiggimy wraithness lost in th depths of voided out checks.
Haven't done nothin' today. Et, got train tix, email, journal soon,provided amusement to many here (catch the viibes. ooh! 'cause it's lucas with the lid off!)
Legs feeling better today, the soredness from holy mountain stair steppin' is wearing off
Today's horoscope has this to say about me:
"You should be looking especially attractive today, dear Aquarius. In addition, your communications skills are operating at a high level"
What do you think? Am I dead sexy or what? Who doesn't like a rambling overgrown unkempt beard?
Energy level is returning and paranoid schizo thoughts are back where they belong. I'm telling you it's the overgarnering of sleep that is seriously screwing with me. Give me 4, 5 hours and I reach what I consider my peak. This 9-10 hour gig is killing me softly.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Here's the stats on the hike: 7.5 kilometers one direction. Ending elev about a mile. Gain? No idea. I do know that the real climb starts the second half of the hike-about 1,800 feet over not enough distance.The half way point is at ~850 meters. Base? Can't find it. And it is all stairs. 6,660 to be exact (or semi-exact. Way too much of the first 1/2 of the trail has been ripped up for repair, so a large number of steps have been reduced to muddy embankment)
Back to the story. We did the first half of the hike almost entirely by moonlight which was very cool (and romantic. Hubba hubba). No clouds, big ole moon, and one other guy hiking (we let him get a big lead on us.) Unfortunately, this guy let us know that sunrise would be around 6:30 (oops. If it takes 4 hours, that puts us on top around 4:30am. Not good. "Fortunately", this holy mountain has been built up and the 'peak'abounds with restaurants and hotels, so refuge would be available). We climbed on. At the half way point (accessible by bus) the crowds swelled, the noise rapidly increased (a mix of yelling, singing, hacking, and one girl even had a freakin' radio cranked). We passed Chinese group after Chinese group stopped for smoke breaks, man after woman stopped bent over on the steps making noises of pain from exertion that I have never heard while hiking (though I don't hike around many chain smoking people hiking in nice shoes and clothes. For shite's sake we passed a couple of men wearing suits!). We, meanwhile, sweated profusely in the increasingly frigid night air. And for the record-I had on a wicking shirt, Rachelle did not! I win!
We made it to the top (the last section has a ridiculous amount of steps and is quite painful.) at about 3:30am (3 hours after leaving the trailhead). Oops. It was very windy, very cold, dark, and our shirts were soaked. So we went into the nearest restaurant/diner thing, paid an extortionists price for a cup of 'tea' (barely flavored water, really) and settled in. I changed into a dry shirt, but R didn't have one so she was hurtin' pretty good. I loaned her my extr fleece and sat around in my long sleeve (wicking!) shirt and rainjacket (my heavy fleece was draped over the back of my chair to dry (not an easy task in 40 degree temps). Our food assortment included peanuts, great bread from the local market and ramen type bowls (SO yummy!) which helped warm us some. Groups followed us in, many went to sleep heads down at their tables, many shivering despite the heavy army type jackets that were available for rent on the way up. Fortunately, they had karaoke tv on. And the girl playing the radio onthe way up? She showed up and had her crap blasting over the top of the loud tv. Nice.
6am showed and groups started moving out. We followed. Seems our hike was not done, and we raced another 20 minutes or so (up more steps,our stiffened and already sore bodies protesting vigorously) to a lookout point. It was beautiful. The lowlands were misty, and mountain ridges were poking their heads up, the sky was lighting up...and we were surrounded by throngs of yelling, screaming, talking, shoving, running Chinese (my naive dream of a quiet peaceful sunrise atop China's holiest mountain [most people making this hike held no value in this mountain, except for the photo op.] would not be realized). Trying in vain to find a stop sheltered from the blasting wind, we waited. And waited. The sign finally came (as we knew too well that it would) that the sun was making its appearance-a very loud dim arose from the masses. And there it was, sneaking up thru the mist/clouds(/smog?), an orange slice of the sun. And it was beautiful.It slowly made its way heavenward (the myth tells that the suns begins its journey westward from this mountain) revealing more and more of its glowing (and heat withholding) self. It really was beautiful and I am very glad we made the call to go up there for sunrise. I took a few pics and then sat there, trying to ignore the noise and the shovin frantic Chinese shedding their outerwear trying to strike the perfect pose for the multitude of cameras about (I saw only a couple of people other than R and me make any effort to actually enjoy the beauty. The rest, all 45 million of them, were only concerned with getting thei pics taken. Too bad...), and I was able to have a few moments peace in my head and enjoy it all ("'Cesca, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy sends his hello and love and missing you." No bfly showing, but what flying fluttery delicate critter would make an appearance in sub-freezing temps and gale winds? Peaceful feeling though.....).
Then the chills set in again. My toes decided to disappear into our discussions of the beaches in Thailand we'll be on in a couple weeks and we raced off. But not quickly enough. Approached by 2 girls, we had 2 pics taken with each (wide angle and up and down angle). Famous we now are! I really need to shave this beard. Maybe I'll draw less attention.
If you couldn't figure this out on your own, ~7,000 steps is a lot (most short, too short to accommodate the full length of our feet).Going up may hurt the muscles, but going down is hell on your knees, especially if they are less than stellar. No matter, on we went. It could have been worse, but tired sore cold in pain we trudged down, moods taking a downward turn as we went. At least almost every other asshole on the mountain took great pleasure in letting us pass and then shouting "hello" and laughing in an attempt to make us turn and provide more amusement. On the way up? Conversations amongst resting C's on the interim platforms would cease, nudges given, and mocking looks directed at us (I have to admit that in a couple of cases, I did turn a bit competitive with some of the more vocal ones who happened to be trudging close by. Bury them? Hell yes, and challenges welled behind my lips on many occasion. I coulda taken most of them and had their smoke/pollution clogged lungs overwork and beset them with wracking coughing....but I didn't. That would not have been nice.). It got very old, especially after a day of it. It's too bad they don't understand the more 'delicate' epithets and names that wafted from ourlips in increasing frequency. They can mock, so can we. Yes, we were cranky.
We made it down fine (all the torn up parts were being worked on. Stone cutting sans goggles or ear protects or anything, done on the path. Large rocks being hauled on backs on sticks, sacks of concrete carried on shoulders and backs by men and women), got to our hotel about 11am, stretched briefly and went to sleep. Sleeping until 2:30 was easy, getting up was not. Now we are internetting while they finally clean our room (sorry for the stank-ass socks and clothing). A short dinner will follow and early to bed.
Tomorrow is our Sunday (why not? We have no concept of time anymore), a day of rest. Hopefully it'll be nice and we can sit in the park again. Friday we leave for Beijing.
I think that is all. I'm tired, my toes are cold (I'm wearing sandals) and I need food.
Oh wait, there's more! Yesterday R bought a small backpack, and I got one of those bags that goes across your shoulder with a hip belt. Our fanny packs were not cutting it. One of R's zippers broke off before we got to the trailhead. I broke my hip belt 5-minutes after paying the gatekeeper. (No, not with bulging fat!).
On the summit, I was playing with the dig, trying to find the "take black and white" pics setting. I found something that said format. I figured that was the way to change the cameras format. Made sense to me. I went down that path. Turns out that meant reformat the camera. Half way back down I saw how many pics were on the pic card. If you've ever reformatted a floppy disc, you know what happens to the data on it. It all goes bye-bye. Reformat a dig, and apparently the same happens to the pic card. Shit shit shit shit shit. Fortunately we downloaded a bunch of pics a couple weeks ago. But I lost some really good ones. From the beautiful hike in Siguniang Shan, Shanghai, and me drinking a PBR in China! Fortunately we both have been using our film cameras. I only hope I used mine more than I think. Argh! So don't hold your breath for too many pics when I finally find somewhere to download them. Sucks, but what are you gonna do? On the bright side, the card was getting full (I still had a bunch of the previously downloaded pics still on there) and now there's plenty of room to take more pics!
I am going home. I'm going to nurse my swollen elbow, sore knees/ankles, and stroke my luxurious beard.
After this home town wandering, we walked the kilometer up to C'sgrave-which also happens to be where all his descendants have been and continue to be buried. What does this mean? A ~2,500 year old graveyard littered with dead people and their marking stones (or big burial mounds). Did I mention that the day we were there was Halloween? We saw the dead Big Guy. What can I say? It's a mound with him 'in it', a marker stone column and stuff. What else can I say? The guy has a twisted sense of humor. There is a little hut off to the side of his mound where his followers lived for 3 years after his death (and another nut for 3 after that) keeping watch on his grave? Like it was going to run away? Don't ask. Anyway, it was a few steps raised and as I was coming back down (dig camera in hand) the old fart shoved my feet off the very very slick rocky steps and I came down hard, my right elbow taking most of the impact (in fact, I think I may have landed only on my elbow, the rest of me hitting the ground several seconds later). Don't worry the camera was ok. My arm, however, swelled impressively and I continue to bang it on whatever is handy to remind myself how freakin' painful it is. Also sustained mild whiplash and a hip bruise. Way to go me! Here's the most impressive part: there were 2 Chinese guys off to the side. The one watching me (they always are) laughed, of course. BUT, he turned away and was making his best effort to discreetly laugh! Unheard of! I was very impressed.
On we went. The place is huge and very cool. Most graves are marked with tombstone type things about 5 foot high by 6" thick by 2-3 footwide. They are randomly scattered, slightly rolling hills, tree upon tree covered with shrink-wrap looking spider web type goo (even the leaves), it was foggy and misty the air unmoving no noise (except the not far enough off constant honking) and very Halloween-esque, which was appropriate because according to my watch it was Oct 31. Cool stuff. We cruised the back dirt trails there a bit, my using my jacket pocket as a sling, and then we left.
Day is done/gone the sun/from the lakes from the hills from the sky/all is well/ safely rest/god is nigh.
Not much to speak about yesterday. A Monday morning, a relaxing day, mostly spent in the park across the street from our hotel. It was a sunny warm day and we could see Tai Shan (the holy mountain we were leaving to climb that night at 2am), and we sat around writing postcards and journaling. Then our celebrity status kicked in. 2 Chinese girls came over and asked if they could take their pics with us. Ok,why not? The Talker (the other, the Mute, had better english comprehension though she barely spoke to us) had this to say: "You are beautiful" (to Rachelle, obviously). "You need to shave" (not to R). Hm. Then we sat around for about an hour, the girls trying to talk to us while rifling thru our postcards and journals and stuff, a small crowd gathering to watch oblivious to the fact that we don'tspeak/understand Chinese (but they blathered on anyway). Fun times.
We were in bed by 4:30PM and were up at 9PM. Due to paranoia abou thiking all night and missing sunrise atop Tai Shan, we walked away from our hotel at midnight instead of 2am (Lonely Planet claims it's a4-hour hike from the trailhead. Our hotel is about a 20-minute walk from there)
The rest is yet to come.....