Oh My God

Trip Start Jan 22, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hon Yon Hotel

Flag of China  , Shanxi,
Thursday, April 8, 2010

We boarded the bus to Wutai Shan at 6.30am as Mr Wang suggested we should, in order to "get the best seats". The bus drove around town for well over an hour picking up passengers. An old bloke, with formidable garlic breath, sat behind us and changed into Buddhist robes and a yellow padded hat. The driver sat under the no smoking sign and took it in turns with the passenger opposite us to chain smoke his way across China. Occasionally, he spat noisily onto the floor to relieve the boredom. The woman on the front row vomited neatly into a plastic bag.

The route as far as the Hanging Temple is fairly flat and dusty. After that and the welcome toilet stop, it climbs up into the mountains, before crossing another plain with the longest queue of lorries I have ever seen. We must have been driving past them for over half an hour.

Finally, six hours into the journey, we started to climb the really big mountains. The Wutai Shan mountains rise to over 2700m. We went up on hairpin bends with precipitous drops on one side and the remains of 8ft snow drifts on the other. At one point we passed a snow plough trying to break up the pack-ice on the road. I clutched the seat in front and prayed that I wouldn't die on a Chinese mountain.

We stopped at the checkpoint where everyone had to buy three day passes to the Wutai Shan Scenic Spot. The cost bore no relation to the advertised price on the outside of the checkpoint. It was unsurprisingly significantly more expensive. I think we were done for about a tenner there.

On arrival in the village, we were immediately pounced on by the local family and dragged into their compound with the promise of a cheap room. To be fair, it was cheap, at just 3 pounds per person, per night. There were three beds in a small room. At the back was a smaller room, with a sink, toilet and shower. The owner said the shower was only cold water, but we reckoned we could handle that for a couple of nights if we had to.

Once we had paid, however, we discovered the bathroom had no running water at all. In addition, the toilet didn't drain, let alone flush, rendering it unusable. We had inadvertently taken a room in the Hotel from Hell, with an en suite full of dysfunctional, smelly, pointless bathroom furniture.

Some hours later, when the toilet actually over-flowed through no fault of ours, they moved us to a new room on the upper storey. This also had a toilet that didn't work and no running water. The smell from this one was so bad that it woke me up in the morning when the door accidentally drifted ajar, letting the fumes into the sleeping area.

The owners had provided incense sticks, but it did little to alleviate the pong. Mum was all for crapping into a plastic bag. We high-tailed it at dawn to a four star hotel up the road and had a shower. It was so nice to see a bathroom where the toilet had a sign on it saying "Sterilized" as opposed to the one we had just left, which should have been labelled "Unsanitary".
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