Mountain Trippin - Part 2
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Lets get started where we left off.
After sleeping for 12 hours at the Chang Bai Shan hotel, I awoke to find that it was still raining. As I would come to realize this rain was not just a temporary drizzle - it was to be our constant companion throughout the rest of the trip.
Going downstairs we ate breakfast and - you guessed it - it was another normal meal. Getting quite handy with the chopsticks I picked apart my food in short order, though my appetite over here is a pale comparison to what it is in the US. Probably has to do with hormones and the time change or something. Going back up to our rooms, we donned our raincoats and headed out!
Whereas on the first day we traveled to many of the tour destinations, the second day was more of a free day where you could explore. About a 10 minute walk away from the hotel (moving farther up) was a waterfall. Along the way to this sight we stopped and took pictures of the mountain side, of each other and of course of the funny Chinese signs.
And speaking of signs - we found one depicting the contents of the local hot springs. This is where you should click on the video next to this sentence.
We got to a square about 2 minutes away from the waterfall and found a bunch of food vendors. Using the heat from the springs they were able to cook corn and egg... though bringing the eggs to only a soft boil, as I found out. Upon receiving my egg I, not being one that heads hard-boiled eggs ever, asked for instructions on how to break the shell (we were just standing there in the middle of the square). Being told simply "just break it", I proceeded to place the tip of my thumbnail against the top of the egg and curl my hand around it. Then I pressed with my thumb down hard so that I could crack the egg.
Right - then it exploded everywhere.
That's when I found out that the eggs were only a little boiled.
So, finding myself covered in egg, we pressed onward to the waterfall. What a beautiful sight! We unfortunately couldn't go right up to it like Dad and I did in Maui but it was still wonderful. You can see in the picture there is some kind of wall snaking its way around the mountain. I have no idea what that's about.
Being ever the adventurer I wanted to trek through the forest but everything seemed to be closed off because of rain or whatever. Except for... yes... except for this one spot. I sauntered over to get a better look at the crossroads with 3 signs. Apparently my wanderings elicited a motherly response from Amy who didn't know what I was doing. She came over, read the signs, and then exclaimed for me to follow her! Not knowing where we were going, I decided it was best to follow the Chinese while in China.
I kept with this decision right up until she led me to the bathroom, pointed and said "you go."
Right! So one of the signs said "Toilet" on it and since I am of course a baby, the only reason I would be looking over there was to see the refuge of the porcelain throne!
Exclaiming that I am, in fact, a big boy (wo shi da hai za!), I proceeded back to the crossroads and led the group into the forest. And what a forest! I'm sure Pilar would have been doubly interested because beyond the beauty there was the opportunity to look at plants on the other side of the world. We went the whole way, following a wood planked path, for probably over an hour. At one point we came upon a small hot spring and dipped our feet in - which you can see in the video here.
Agh! Steve just told me that the story I was about to impart here actually happened on the FIRST day. Since we never took any pictures of it I misplaced it in my memory. Here's the story anyway.
The moral of this story is that it is always worth it to travel with women in China. I can remember a few examples from the trip (besides the constant translating and smoothing out negotiations of course) like when Amy and Sarah randomly got these two guys to leave their seats on the train to Chang Bai Shan. After calling Steve and I over to the seats that were vacated, I asked "Amy - why did they leave their seats?" She replied, point to her face, "beautiful face!". Of course, after discovering that their seats were only used to provide seating for two foreign men, they guys came back and took them again ;)
Anyway - back to my story! So there we were with our tour guide, in the rain, wanting to head back up to our hotel and sleep but loathing to cram our way into a bus and then a van at the van motor pool. We were along side a road and caught a Jeep who would bring us to the bus motor pool. Myself, being concerned about proper etiquette for raincoats in vehicles, was watching Amy closely as we entered the vehicle. By the way - everything in China concerning vehicles is rush rush rush; there is no relaxed attitude here. In any case, I saw that Amy did not remove her raincoat and just got into the car. So I jumped into the car and got into the back seat. That's when I realized Amy had not removed her raincoat... initially. It was the driver's glare through the rear view mirror that brought me to this realization. By then the damage had been done and I was in a cramped back seat so Steve and I left our coats on, deciding to suffer the driver's wrath.
Or... lack of wrath apparently because somehow, in someway, Amy and Sarah sweet talked him. I couldn't make out what was said exactly but I could figure out enough through body language that the conversation went like this:
Sarah: Oh hey big boy, you sure look like a strong, competent driver!
Driver (mean): yeah yeah, I'm competent.
Amy: Are you competent and strong enough to take us straight back to the hotel instead of dropping us off at the motor pools?
Driver (dodgedly): Well I mean, I'm competent enough but I'm not supposed to do it.
Sarah: What! A strong man like you has to follow the rules?
Driver (laughing): well, I mean, haha, of course I might be able to make an exception.
Sarah and Amy: PLLLEEEEEAAAASSSSSEEEE?
Driver: Let's do this! I am now completely forgetting I have two idiots in the back wearing raincoats in my vehicle!
So instead of dropping us off at the bus loop, the spoke with some official and then ran us up to the motor pool. But unfortunately the motor pool guy was having HUGE difficult with the swathes of Chinese people running back and forth trying to get into vehicles and had to direct us into the pool. That's when the driver directed us to his "buddy" in a nearby Van. We hopped in and went straight to the hotel. This time we took off our raincoats. Yep - and that's how we got to the hotel at the end of the first day.
Okay! Now back to the 2nd day. As I said earlier, we had discovered a hot spring and dipped our feet in. We continued onward and split up at a fork in the planks. Steve and I went left while Amy and Sarah went right. Turns out that the left was a dead end - but what a cool dead end it was! I kind of wish there wasn't any fog, though then I suppose the whole scene would have lost its effect. As you can see in the pictures, we stood at the food of some huge hill that was littered with land slid rocks and debris. At the base was a beautiful little meadow. It was just me, Steve, and the Rolling Stones. Yes.
We caught back up with Amy and Sarah on a bridge. That's where Amy found this really cool purple flower that hung its petals upside down. I have no idea what it is, but I took pictures. Sarah was very upset at the death of the flower (initially blaming me!)
Coming out of the forest we came to another small spring. There was a food vendor there and we got some boiled corn. I couldn't tell if it was just over cooked or if was another species entirely. We exited the forest to find ourselves on a road. We crossed it and went back into the forest which dumped us back at the spring which was just above the van motor pool. From there we took a van back to the hotel and grabbed our stuff. Then we went back down to the van motor pool and played the "how many Chinese can fit on one bus?" game with what seemed like half of China. It was made worse by the fact that only one bus showed up at a time. It was also Sunday, the 17th, at this point and everyone was leaving Chang Bai Shan anyway. Oh and by the way - on the bus we didn't take off the coats! Whatever.
Long and uneventful story short, we made it down the mountain and back out through the gates to meet our tour-taxi guy who drove us into a down at the base of the mountain. This is where we stopped to have - what - lunch? A late lunch maybe? Perhaps dinner? I didn't bring my watch to China and of course my sense of time is all screwed up. I suppose it was late afternoon and qualified as dinner.
We ate fish that was cooked in a large skillet in the middle of the table which was heated via a wood stove under our table. The waitresses there were simply infatuated with me for whatever reason, much to the amusement of my companions. Ohh yeah - still got it with the 17-yr-old Asian crowd.
Oh - I suppose I should say the rules. Ahem. We played 21 (black jack). The winner of 21 was the person closest to 21 without going over. The "loser" was the person the farthest difference from 21. So even if you got 23, if some guy got 18 then he still lost though he didn't go "over". Lets just say Sarah lost a lot and Steve and I won every time. We had fun being creative. Definitely a work of art.
That's how we ended the night. Woke up the next day in time to catch the train by 6:50am. We then traveled the next 13 hours back to Shen Yang. Yes yes, this time we had sleeper cars but... it was more infuriating I think because it was the day time! So the car would get hot from lack of air conditioning and for whatever reason we weren't allowed to crack open the windows. Sleep came and went but there just isn't a lot to do. We got back and planned on doing Karaoke but that sort of fell through - I ended up passed out on the couch because Amy and Sarah didn't even call till 11 to go... because I think they passed out too.
And to bring myself current...
The day after the trip was uneventful. I spent most (all) of my day reading and dealing with medical school forms which my mom graciously filled out for me on the USA end of things. Amy was nice enough to buy me some wonderful Korean gifts and even got something for Pilar (and no you won't know till I get back)!
I caught you guys up on yesterday in my last entry, so here's today:
Hung out with Steve's co-workers after cleaning up and getting ready to leave for Tianjin tomorrow. We again went to a "hot-pot" style restaurant. I think in one of my first entries I talked about going to THE hot-pot restaurant for Steve's birthday. This was a misunderstanding - it is a type of restaurant and not the name. I had, uh, gotten myself swindled on an A/C adapter that I bought from a Chinese computer store. We probably overpaid by 240 rmb ($35). And then at the end of the day it wasn't even exactly what I wanted, though it was usable. This time I asked Ian to come with Steve and I to the computer store.
By the way (and I should have taken pictures) when I say computer store I mean computer MEGATROPOLIS. There are literally buildings with 7 or 8 floors and each one is filled with computer technology and booths from companies. And there isn't just one of these buildings - there was 4 on the street we were on alone! Talk about a kid in a candy store! When I finally visited booths that weren't taking advantage of my foreignness, talk about deals! I bought a headset worth $40-50 US dollars for 6 bucks. I also got the RIGHT power adapter for $20 (the US retails it between 90-120 so even with the rip off on the other I still made out all right). Just... just wonderful. Next time I come here I need to bring $100 to dedicate just to the electronics store.
After that we went home, I put my laundry through the wash in preparation for packing and we went back out to a North Korean restaurant. Very nice. They put on a show about 8:30pm where the waitresses (who were all beautiful, could sing and could dance) got up and performed. I have a feeling that North Korea is exporting only their best and brightest haha. Unfortunately after the initial performances some drunk Chinese guy went up and for whatever reason they let him dance and sing with the performers. Then it just... well it just went downhill from there. I guess people were leaving the restaurant for the evening anyway and it turned into a one man karaoke experience. A drunk one man karaoke experience. Before I leave this train of thought, I should also mention it was proper etiquette to present the ladies with huge bouquets of flowers. So the other waitresses would distribute these bouquets and then encourage you to go give it to the singer. Not at the end of the song, mind you - right in the middle of it. They gave me flowers and Steve/Ian egged me to do it in the middle. Agh! Goes against every musical instinct I have! Oh N. Koreans....
So now I'm back at Steve's apartment and drying out my clothes. It occurs to me that I might start a blog about being in med school. We'll see - I don't want to get myself kicked out of medical school over some blogging faux pas.
Until Tianjin, Zai Jian!