Posted on October 31, 2009 with 4 Comments
We arrived back into civilization after Reddomaine with a few days to spare before the flight home, so after the drive back to Chengdu, the girls and I did a whirlwind tourist trip to Xian and approximately 24 hours in Shanghai, just for fun. Here’s a few of my favorite shots–like this crazy Panda on a wall in Kanding. He appears to be drinking a cup of tea while blowing bubbles? Nice.
The night we arrived back at our horse guy’s house after hiking back from base camp, when we hinted at possibly being interested in rinsing off our many days of grime, they were like, “Oh, just go to the local hotsprings!” This is where his daughter took us–you pay $3 or so (we asked about towels, and they unwrapped a brand new package, dishtowel size, and sold us each one for about 50 cents) and walk into a little room with a wooden bench and this, um, tub. The tub is being filled by the two pipes on the left, one super hot, one super cold. At first, I was a little bit sketched out, I’m not gonna lie. But I WAS extra dirty and really wanted to wash my hair and clean up, so I took a deep breath, told myself that we’re all human and that just because I’m used to things a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the only way…and stripped down and climbed in! The warm water felt great, and half an hour later we all emerged from our separate rooms feeling clean and refreshed; only to see a huge line of entire families waiting to use the rooms! Apparently, what we had assumed were individual rooms are typically used by an entire family–multiple generations from grandparents to babies, for a relaxing evening out. Whoops. Our Chinese hosts were always baffled by how we could continually be so clueless as to how things worked! Silly westerners.
And the food…my gosh, the food! Pretty much every single meal we had in China was delicious (except one, involving grain alcohol and random chicken parts…I won’t go into it)–not what I was expecting after hearing lots of friends who had been there complain about it. It probably helped that we had a native son (Jimmy) with us, who had grown up eating all sorts of delicious home-cooked Chinese food, and therefore knew what he wanted and could recognize it and ask for it. Also, we kept getting good recommendations and weren’t too squeamish, always a plus. This is a dumpling–breakfast one morning when Jimmy was craving the dumplings like his mom makes–with pork and fresh herbs and greens, that you dip in a spicy soy-and-vinegar sauce and sprinkle green onions on top.
I tried not to be bothered by the fact that I didn’t have a normal camera, but at times like this I got frustrated–I couldn’t get a clear picture of this menu page, and it was priceless! This particular restaurant’s menu told you the health benefits of each dish in both Chinese and English–we didn’t try this one, but we missed out, because what it helps you with is “Strenghtening chi and increasing the slobber.”
What’s up Mao?
Old town Xian, or “Snack Street.” We learned how to ask if something was “tien” (salty), or “xien” (sweet)…and then tried lots of different things while browsing the stalls and gaping at all of the sights. Then we got an hour long foot massage from a group of blind people–it was heavenly.
About an hour from Xian is the massive archaeological site of the Terra Cotta warriors. These guys, and various other things that he commissioned to guard and amuse him in the afterlife, were built by Emperor Qin about 2000 ago. It was discovered in the late 70s, and they are still unearthing statues and relics here today. Every warrior is different, with individual facial features and postures–they are strikingly realistic, and we kept feeling their eyes following us as we stared back.
The next several pictures are from an overnight trip we did to Hua Mountain, about 2 hours from Xian. We arrived at around 5pm, and knowing that we wanted to stay on top of the mountain but not much else, started hiking right then. It got dark and the stone steps kept getting steeper and crazier, but the path was lit, the trail along the river gorge was beautiful, and we were stoked to be moving our legs again, so we kept going until we reached the top around 8:30pm. We might have shocked the proprietors of the bunkhouse at the top a bit, showing up sweaty and out of nowhere at that hour (probably 95% of the visitors to the mountain take the tram up, and it had closed hours ago)–three white girls with huge backpacks and tight pants!–but they showed us to the bunks, we ordered some food from the restaurant, and slept for awhile. Awaking before sunrise, we explored the various peaks on top for awhile (it is lauded in tourist brochures as the fifth most precipitous peak in China!!) before taking the tram down and hustling to the airport.
The place we stayed is the three rectangular roofs in the left half of the photo.
Shanghai was mind-blowing–almost too much after being in the “country” for so long, but we had a local to point us in the right direction (thanks, Amy Jo!), and after a few hours we really got into it. Someone said that 90% of the cranes in use in the world right now are in Shanghai, and I would believe it (8% of the remainder are in Dubai)–the scope of the construction that is occurring there right now is incomprehensible.
The view from the tallest building in Shanghai–the Shanghai World Financial Center, at 492m, and the highest observation deck in the world.
It’s the bottle-opener looking thing to the right of the Pearl Tower (red and silver globes on the tower).
Following Kasha and Giulia–wandering the streets of Shanghai–good times. Overall, a seriously amazing experience…already starting to seem a little bit like a dream. Thanks again…!