Trip Start Dec 13, 2009
25Trip End Jan 22, 2010
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The bus ride there was over two hours, and during that time, we talked or slept or played on iPods. We arrived in the town of the caves, a big Texan-style sign saying 'Welcome to Jackson Hole' greeting us. That seemed odd- we're hours out of the city, so we were expecting a traditional Chinese village
We rugged up and made our way up to the caves. They were made thousands of years ago, and was later used for an army base because of its position. The rigid mountains surrounding them made it hard for enemy armies to attack,and easy for them to defend. The caves looked from the outside like holes in the rock of the mountain; and it became clear how hard it must have been to create them all those years ago. The few caves that were low to the ground, we were able to go in. They typically had three rooms, and a low ceiling. The description told us that they had kitchens, bedrooms and heated beds. They were architecturally brilliant- everything was very well planned, from the wooden facades that there used to be to the stairs that led to the higher caves. It was great to see all of these. The place where they were was the most peaceful place that I have ever been to. We were the only tourists that I could see, and the air was clear
We were hiking around the caves for about an hour and a half, which was enough time to see everything. We got back on the bus and had lunch at the typical tour lunch place- a jade factory and shop with a restaurant on top. This type of place is to a tour guide what jam is bread- they need each other. The jade factory gives the tour guide commission for taking their tour group there, and in return they hope that we buy up big in the jade store. The lunch is included in our tour, and is Chinese food, with an obvious Western spin, because most of the people who eat there are western. We didn't buy anything there, as we had been to this place countless times before (I'd estimate 7), so we instead gawked at the ludicrously high prices and hypothesized how you would take home a 2.2million RMB jade boat (two meters high and three meters long) back to your home if you really wanted to. My guess was that it was in parts, because otherwise it wouldn't even fir through the door to get out of the factory.
We took the bus back to the hotel, and Hayley and Dad went to the market to buy a suitcase.
The taxi there was awhile, but it was worth it once we got there. Faye, Sammy's husband, met us and took us up to the apartment. Everyone was in the baby's room, including Sammy and Rebecca's friend Vivienne, her boyfriend and another friend Clarke. Clarke and Vivienne both studied in Australia with Rebecca and Sammy. The baby boy was gorgeous- though currently without a name, so he is nicknamed An An (meaning peaceful) until he does. He must be named within 31 days of his birth, and then a party will take place. He was so tiny; and for someone only a week old, he was very aware. He was looking around at everyone, well aware that the focus of everyone's attention was on him. We were introduced to him as 'sister' amy, laura, hayley, elyse, uncle andrew and aunty sharon. I love that.
Once we had gazed at him for long enough, and taken what would have been a full roll of pictures, Rebecca took us back to her place for dinner. Some neighbours of theirs also came to join us; we had never met them, but they gave us the most beautiful gift of a set of hand crafted masks that are worn in the Beijing opera. They are small masks, and are presented in a frame. We were so grateful to them for that. Rebecca's mum cooked us the most delicious feast- pork, salmon, chicken and vegetables filled our table. We ate and ate until we were stuffed, and us kids excused ourselves to watch glee off my computer in my room until the adults were ready to call it a night. I waved my family good-bye as they went into the taxis. They would be going home tomorrow, and I was not going to go to the airport, as it is too far away. I said my goodbyes, which were actually surprisingly hard, but I knew that I would enjoy my remaining three weeks with Rebecca, as her whole family spoil me!