Climbing the sacred Taishan
I am quite surprised in China, how many prostitutes live here. On one hand, we travel around in a communist country, where every local guide is a control-freak: they do not like if someone breaks out from the group, count us every 5 minutes, do not encourage private trips by cab in the cities (although very easy and safe), etc. So we are in this super organized and super neat country, but are constantly bothered with telephone calls in our hotel rooms at night by women offering massage and it happens a lot that we enter bars, karaoke clubs or whatever, it is obvious that not only drinks are on sale. Condoms are regular accessories in the hotel bathrooms.
We visited Nanjing, the old capital, with the country's longest bridge and then moved on to Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius. We arrived to town on this birthday, so it was absolutely full with visitors..
We then climbed onto the holiest of China's 5 holy mountains, the Taishan. We took a bus halfway up, than some people took a cable car to the summit, but I walked with some others the 3,000 steps. It was great exercise. We stayed in a guesthouse at the top, and it was freezing cold, but we all got long, warm green army coats to keep us warm..
As we walked down from mount Taishan, we visited a village. No, we did not just dropped into one, but we led to the "example-village", or the "flagship-village" carefully selected by the local agent. The mayor gave a welcome speech, we then visited the kindergarten and the elders’ home and were offered dinner at families. Even if in this organized way, it was nice to see the rural China a bit. We learnt about the one-child policy, according to which in the cities only one child is allowed, but in villages two - under special circumstances: if the first girl was a girl and she is now over 8, and the mum is over 30, then you can have a second child. Another exception is the minorities, who can have 2 or sometimes 3 children as the government intends to increase their proportion. Of course, there are still families, who have more children than allowed by rules despite all political education - these rebels have to pay extra taxes, their children do not get free education and there are all sorts of other punishments.
We moved on to Kaifeng on a night train. We took some train-rides before and it is quite an experience. While the toilets are like in the middle-ages (dirty, smelly standing up style ones), many passengers entertain themselves by watching movies on portable DVD players. Once a couple from our group left their little day-bag with passports, credit cards and hundreds of pounds on the train, but it was safely returned in the lost and found office. The Chinese really go out their way to impress foreigners. Another time a girl from the group left her cheap scarf in the hotel room, but a staff person jumped into a car and drove over 100 km to catch up with us and return the scarf. Amazing.
After visiting the village, we had a night-ride on the train. One of the girls got completely hysterical as her bed linen (as most of them) was not clean and she did not get the bunk she wanted. Of course, on a trip like this, one must bring a liner and use that when the duvet is suspicious. She asked one of the old men from the group to move in her super sweet voice, after yelling to another one and calling him “old idiot”. This group is crazy. I always thought that I am selfish and I am difficult, but now I will reconsider. I am just the most relaxed and easy person. For example, all those, who constantly complain that we go to western-style restaurants with English menus, chickened out (literally:-)) and escaped to KFC when we had no restaurant table booked and one could eat snacks on the night market.
Anyway. After the train ride, we arrived to Kaifeng, one of the old capitals and had free time. The three solo men from the group and myself rented bikes and visited all major sights in town. Cycling in China is quite an experience. You have really millions of people on the street by bike, plus many with electric motorbikes (that I saw here first) which just suddenly overtake you without any sound. At intersections, basically you have to close your eyes and just dive in. It is terrifying, but great.
Dinner at the market:
We then moved on to Shaolin Monastery, where the master of Bruce Lee is coming from:-)). We saw a kung-fu show which was absolutely stunning. I looked at my group with great hopes that they must be finally happy, but all I heard was a remark that what a shame that we saw young students instead of old masters. There is absolutely nothing on this planet which would make my travel-mates happy - I should ship them back to Explore with the first flight and request a new group.
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