Monday, July 4, 2011

Off the Grid for a few days

Ok was off the Grid for a few days - well not really , there is cellular phone signal every where in China.

Something to know here is that there is mobile service everywhere, subway line in Shanghai - no problem, some tunnel going through the hills of China - no problem.  In fact one thing you notice is that everyone has a cellphone here its very inexpensive compared to Canada. Basic service is about 30-50rmb per month (thats maybe $8ca on a bad day) and Blackberry service will start at 100rmb or about $17ca/month.
Ah the benefits of having aprox 800 million mobile users in China. Consider the numbers at roughly $5 dollars a phone for low end service thats $4,000,000,000 ya thats right $4 Billion per month in Revenue.  Now you understand why our service in Canada costs so much, we just dont have the numbers to lower the costs. Now if only we could get China Telecom to offer service in Canada ???? or like everything else they make a move to buy out Rogers haha.

Ok so what and where have I been in the last week ?

Last week in Wuhan visited the Yellow Crane Tower , up on top of the Snake Hill hill in Wuhan. Built in 233AD and then rebuilt in 1981 to restore it to its former glory.

Sorry just no fighting that haze when taking pics from a distance - dang sky in China is a killer - something to figure out !!!

Inside were historical pieces dating back to forever, like this giant size wall mural done in cermic tiles

We were able to walk up to the top floor and get a view of the rest of the hill , including the big freaking bell across the court yard.
And for those that will ask , proof of life pic, up close and personal to the bell. For 50rmb you can give it a ring.

Few more pics and we were out of there.

Next stop was the local Buddhist monestary but unfortunately no pics allowed inside the grounds, but did manage a few outside when leaving.

These are kinda like ways of asking for luck in whatever part of your life that you require them, you get a red tag and can write on them and then they are hung on the wall.

And another example of the ongoing Urban Renewal here in Wuhan.

Had a thought , one evening while leaving a really great , local famous restaurant here in jiangxia District of Wuhan.
All these beautiful buildings , great architecture that have risen in China in the last 20 years, the beautiful ceramic work you see, ornamentals, just the look and feel, have one little problem. They built it all and then forgot that one day they will have to maintain them.  when you start looking closer you notice the disrepair of the cities. The water damage form a leak that has now made a repair that would require major renovations to fix, the holes, cracks, missing tiles of the sidewalks. The mold on walls - the humidity is wicked here when its 38-40c outside.  You notice the garbage off the main streets, how people just drop their waste (pop bottles, wrappers) where ever they stand. Thankfully the local street sweepers manage to stay ahead of it on the main roads, but look down an alleyway, or over a fence or into a ditch and its obvious.  There are empty buildings and office space here, sometimes i am reminded of Detroit and whats happened to that city in the last 20 yrs, another great industrial town that has been slowly decaying. 

Anywyas enough thinking out loud, would recommend to anyone to come visit here ! but you need a month to do it in in.

next on the agenda was a visit to Huangshan or Yellow Mountain. A lovely 7hr bus ride from Wuhan, back towards Shanghai.  Bus is the best option as we were part of a tour group.. If we had takent he train it would have required us making more complicated arrangements for the weekend.

So we had a small bus with 18 of us, plus the driver and his wife. Was not that bad a ride though not a luxury tour haha.  Did get to see some scenery along the way, catch some sleep and relax for the day.

Our first stop for the tour was in the foothills of the mountain range to visit a park , just to get and idea of the area.
 Then we took a walk through, out first taste of the stairs yet to come as we go higher haha.

This form what i gathered was known area for origional natives in China, living in the hills, clean water, lots of food sources. Course am guessing since the guide was giving it all in Chinese and translation was not always easy , so i got high lights along the way.
One thing noticeable was the water quality, you can see it in the color of the water, even her ein the foothills it was obviously better than any i have seen to date. Can say I wouldnt be scared to fall in or have a swim, though not sure about any standing water !!  Above this falls the water was kind of green but there were fish living in there so not all bad.

As we went higher above the small lake, the stream feeding it was noticeably cleaner and wonderful looking , woudl have had liked the time to go check it out closer, but in usual Chinese style we were running down the path.

Then our first signs of the native population of the past , though I have to wonder as am not sure how many wtaer buffalo would make it up the hill.
So we met some of the natives (actors for this part of the Disney tour) who put on a little show, some glass walking, some dancing and some Fire breathing. Though they all looked more like they were from Thailand than China.
Have to love that ball of flame spewing forth from that guy, no sign of safety gear of someone with a big hose in case of problems. Am sure performer accident rate is high.

Did I mention that it was raining the whole day, which just adds to the fun, trying not to slip on slippery paths, trying to keep the camera dry.

Then we were off to our hotel for the night, sorry no pics, just typical medium class hotel room, for a hot shower and some sleep.
Next day we were off once again hitting road just after 7:30am no fooling around here on tour.
First stop of the day was the local petting zoo to see Tigers.

Now this is where not being in North America is fun for this kind of visit.

First we drive through the park, African Lion Safari Style, so that the guys working the place can blast through in the jeep with Chicken sitting on top for some action shots., Like a Tiger Jumping about 12ft from a rock to the top of the truck for a snack !!

Then we were able to walk through the tiger pen on an overhead walkway, in the distance some workers on the safe side of the fence were repairing damage done by a fallen tree. The Tigers of course were hopeing for a quick snack and had the place well staked out.

Then the fun stuff, lets dangle live chickens out over the tigers for some show time !!  For 50rmb the lady stuck a chicken on a pole and dangled it out over the kitty's. Then for the brave you could hold the pole and tease the shit out of the cats haha.

Tiger 1 Chicken 0

then if you were not happy with that show , there was always the version with the ducks.
Drop one duck in to the middle of the pond and watch Tigers swim - fast !!  That duck figured out it could dive and get away - for a short time.
The duck thought by getting closer to shore he could get away from the cats , except for the one hanging out following on land, that duck surfaced close to shore and was Kitty Kibble in seconds.

One last shot before we leave , lucky one through the chain link fence - the Canon 17-85mm dont fit through very good.
Then we headed up the mountain, once there of course it rained and was cloudy, misty the whole time, lousy for pictures but thankfully cool.
Wish i could have captured better images.
as per out tour guide, she had only seen the sun up here 3 times in her time doing tours, so it was not just our day for this, its the usual weather up here. So any pics you see of sun filled skies or sunsets, sunrises are from someone staking out this place for days.

Here is s small video panaramic view .

First thing, you need to be in some sense of shape to come up here, it is none stop up and down on steps that are not exactly wide or deep. There were times were my size 9's felt awfully big , and seemed to coincide with how steep the section was or the potential danger.

Remember Safety is not first in China !! haha

the railings along the path are anything from nothing , to 1-2 feet tall or  waist high, so any fooling around and you could find yourself falling a few hundred feet and having a serious face plant into rock. 
Basically cement path along the mountain, can just imagine the effort taken to do this.
For my family that saw major construction up north in James Bay, we saw this type of work being done, hanging rock drillers on the side of rock and working suspended from cables. Not for the faint of heart.

Left side of this pic were some bushes and nothing, right side was nothing except big drop to rock, maybe if your lucky you can catch an bounce to knock you out before you land.
Some places there was barely a rail to hold on to , just a 1-2 foot tall guide so you dont step off into the never never, while the wind is pounding you.


Some beautiful views, when the sky cleared it made for great vista.


One neat thing up here is the idea of couples that come to the mountain to make a dedication to their love and long marriage, is the locking of a padlock up here, then throwing the keys out onto the mountain. The idea is that of you wanted to divorce or seperate you should come here and remove your lock , but of course you have no key to do so. And if you can actually find your lock , as they remove thousands every year to make room for new, though I saw some pretty heavy duty locks up here that unless you cut the cable ain't going anywhere.
that night stayed on top of the mountain in a pretty nice room, 4 star.
and glad we did as the rest of our group travelled another 40 minutes to stay at a lesser quality hotel, as next morning we were up at the crack of dawn (3:30am yeeesshhh)
And started a 40 minute climb to the top, man oh man that was a killer way  to start the day. Thankfully i was not the only one feeling the pain and followed another group up, who were sturggling, so gave me a chances to rest.

This all in an effort to catch a sunrise - if possible.
it was not raining but was still pretty misty and cloudy, so everyone stood patiently waiting.
Every view of blue sky made for big crowd noises, some even started chanting hoping for a cloud break.
there were none of any real size that let us see the sunrise.
As everyone started leaving there were some nice cloud breaks and view of blue skies.

One guy (you can see in bottom right) had a medium format camera on a tripod , hoping to catch a pic or two. He was using film so this is an expensive exercise hoping to time yourself with the cloud breaks, he was working hard and maybe took two pics. Not like us digital people that can snap away 5 or 6 highspeed shots and maybe get one.

Then it was time to start the trek down the mountain.
Going up is one thing , going down after you spent 2 days giving the burn to your calves you now start to realize what some pain is. We survived haha

No sense of this stariway going down the side of the hill - railing was molded into the rock and was very low.

here's the view from the other side so you have a sense of the steepness. click this pic to enlarge and get a better view of the people in the distance coming down.
Spent the night in town at an ok hotel, they had hot water and beds were comfortable. At this point didnt matter I was burnt !!

Next morning up at 7 and headed out to visit small ancient town. Sorry do.nt have the name , will get it later and update
Lots of old style buildings, preserved wood work and displays.

Now people still live here so thats where the fun is sometimes.
As you step into a house or area, if you look you can see living quarters.

In this case someones kitchen outside. hard living
Or as you step up to view a particular place and go inside , you notice laundry hanging outside.
Guess that makes it more authentic, drying your laundry in the sun of the open space versus in some dark walk way.  Chinese are big on hanging laundry to dry. First most homes dont have room for a dryer, second it makes extra heat they dont need in the house. On sunny day here clothes dry in no time. So even high rises have place to hang clothes outside, is just the way it is.
Was busy place, lots of people, being Sunday and now Holiday season has started for students.

Teenage girls were all over the place , drawing and painting.

Of course everything is for sale. Small nick nacks and old stuff up for grabs.

And lots of ornatments in every room we visited.
Then it was back to Wuhan
hit traffic about 50km from the city and didnt get back to the apartment here until just after 12 made for a late night.Monday was a day of rest and a meal out and laundry later in the day.

Tuesday night am taking the night train to Beijing.
Being busy time, am stuck with a top bunk in the hard sleeper, oh fun wow.
Pics to follow.
Arrive in Beijing about 7am Wed morning and then meeting up with a tour guide for and english tour of the city.

will be last few days here in China, Saturday will be back to Shanghai then fly out Sunday.
updates coming

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