Wednesday, May 30, 2007

That time I biked 50 miles to Sai Wudang (picture extravaganza!)

Last Friday I was eating lunch with Derek and he mentioned that Saturday morning he and some of the guys were going to ride bikes out to this mountain called Sai Wudang. Wudang Mountain is about 40 minutes from here and is the birthplace of Taoism and the Wudang Style of kungfu. It's also featured in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Anyhoo, Sai Wudang is a mountain that's related to Wudang somehow but is a lot closer to the city here. Past the train station there's a big sign pointing off to the right saying it's only 18km away. I told Derek that if there was an extra bike I wouldn't mind going with them. Me biking around with Chinese guys and two guys who had recently run a race on the Great Wall of China? I was planning on being the one lagging behind. But it sounded like an experience! I've included a selection of photos from the weekend. It took us from 7 until about 11 to bike from the medical school, past the train station, up the initial dirt road, and up the 18km to the gate of the park. Around 11:30 Derek and Jeremy had to head back to make sure they didn't miss their afternoon appointments, but I stuck it out to the top with the Chinese students. We reached the end of the road just before 2, but then there was a walking trail (concrete steps) that continues for a loooooong loop up to the peak, passing various sights along the way. Some caves and special trees, and probably a rock with a Chinese character carved in it. I'm not sure what, because we only went about half a kilometer up the steps before deciding we didn't want to go any further. Around 2:30 we left the top, but since it had been uphill the entire way it only took us 40 minutes to coast down the 17 kilometers to the park entrance. Keep in mind it took us almost three hours to come up from the entrance. It was nice to not have to use my legs for about 40 minutes because I'm pretty sure if we had continued going up then they would have fallen off. The scenery was great, we saw lots of clean land and water, and even caught some wildlife. Only three people yelled hello at me as they drove past on the way up the mountain, so it was a much needed break from life in the city. And now for the pictures...

Just after leaving the main road, we found ourselves on this dirt road for a while. The road up to Sai Wudang is still under a bit of construction so the first part is just dirt.

There was a nice, steep hill towards the beginning that just about killed all of us going down on the way back. Probably the closest I came to death on this trip was careening down this hill.

Check out that view. If only the mountains in the back weren't blocked by smog.

Taking a break on top of an old reservoir. Apparently this spot used to have guards to protect the dam, but now it only has a horse preserve. Random, I know. We weren't allowed to go look at the horses.

Nice view of a pagoda and a little farming village across the lake.

Jakie found this freshly killed snake in the road. It's longer than me! He kind of grossed me out by sticking it in a bag and saving it. He claimed it would make an awesome soup after we got home. I never found out.

A farmer let his goats wander around the roadside.

We found this great spot to climb down to the stream. It felt great to soak my feet for a while. Since we're above the city, the water is still clean and clear.

Just after passing the park entrance we found this old school that now is the residence of one old lady and her Taoist shrine.

She was reluctant to take a picture with the foreigners. She kept saying she was old and we were young. True, yet not a good reason to avoid taking a picture with us!

This is the bridge we had to cross to get to the old lady's abandoned school.

I would never have imagined I could be so close to Shiyan and have this nice of a view. Amazing!

A farm across the valley.

Closer to the top, we actually began to climb above the smog and see a bit of blue sky.

Distance marker from when we left the main road and started riding UP. That's 32 kilometers. UP. A MOUNTAIN. I've never ridden a bike somewhere that wasn't flat. I thought I was going to die.

Jakie suggested we walk the entire trail to the peak. I didn't really like that idea. You can see the map behind me. I think it was another 20 kilometers of stairs to the peak. Next time I'll take the bus to this point and THEN walk, that way I can get in all the sights.

Here's what we found at the end of the road. A hotel. With stairs leading up the mountain behind it. I was hoping for a temple or kungfu school or something, but this view wasn't too bad.

Henry, Jakie, and David. We conquered Sai Wudang!

Getting ready to go down. Not looking forward to that bike seat. Ouch!

Some kind of ROTC army training program. On the way down the mountain we stopped four or five times to try and buy a chicken so Jakie could make some chicken soup to go with his snake soup. This was across the street from one of the houses we were trying to buy a chicken from.

After biking back across town to get home, I biked more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) last Saturday. Not to brag, but that's impressive. For me, anyway. I couldn't really sit down for two days after, but it was a great experience. Jakie and I are planning on going back at least to the park entrance so we can give that old lady of copy of her pictures. After talking to so many villagers while trying to buy a chicken, Jakie commented on how nice and pure of heart they are compared to the people in the city. He thinks it would be so easy to plant the Seed in the countryside around town. I think it would be a great experience to try and do just that. I've still got a month before I go home for the summer, then we've all next year. We'll see what comes of it!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Holiday Aftermath

Last week I was down south in Hong Kong, but this week we're all back in action in Shiyan. I had an incredible week of food and sights. Derek, Angelyn, and I left here on Thursday and spent a great 10 days traveling, tasting, watching, hiking, shopping, gambling, talking, reading, and playing. One day we caught a turbo ferry (sounds more exciting than it actually is) over to Macau, which is only an hour from Hong Kong. Hong Kong was leased by the British for about 150 years, but Macau was leased by the Portuguese for about 450. There was some really cool Portuguese architecture throughout Macau. The most noticeable feature of Macau from where we got off the ferry was the casinos. You walk around the corner and there's a long row of casinos, including one that looks like a big volcano. Vulcania! I kind of felt like I was at Disneyland. We did make a stop at the Sands Casino, but we spent the majority of our time walking around trying to make sense of the place. There was a lot of excitement at one Baccarat table, but I don't know how to play Baccarat so I wasn't sure why it was so exciting. After getting thoroughly confused by the 20 cent slots, I went over and proved that I'm mediocre at roulette. After losing my predetermined amount, I vowed to one day return to the Sands to retrieve my money and we made our way back to Hong Kong. We spent the majority of our time in Hong Kong walking or reading. I was worried that all the food we were stuffing ourselves with was going to have a negative effect on my figure, but I think I actually came out ahead thanks to all the hiking and walking and mountain climbing we had to do to get around. HKG actually has a lot of mountains, don't go unprepared. Because I know you're all going to go sometime. I've got lots of pictures and stories to tell, but I think right now I should focus on the class I have to teach this morning. I'm actually going to put up the pictures this time, too. I am!