Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Leaving the bamboo forest for starey-town

I am chilling in a little city outside of the bamboo forest. The city is made up of more infrastructure than it is stuff. There are tons of apartments, all four stories high. There are really wide streets. But there are not that many people. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people, but compared to most of China, there is like no one. All of the buildings look fairly recently made.
The bamboo forest was somewhat like that, as an attraction its like intern wearing a three piece suit: dress for the job you want not the one that you have. As such, you come into the forest and are greeted by a massive greeting center: with no one inside. There are tons of tourist offices and a huge information desk - but no one to be seen. I think the center was built when they had some international summit here, but now it is a little much. Yesterday was a weekend during the peak season for Chinese travelers, and no one was there.
As such, my information had to rely on those who have an interest in my money (when I can I prefer to deal with the information people who work for the attraction itself, as they already got my money). That is why I ended up talking to hotel owners telling me that the people of the bamboo forest kill and drink the blood of those with white skin (that was summarized out of "there is no police protection for foreigners here").
The forest itself was cool, but it was hard to get around. The best was a long path along the mountains edge. The weather was clear enough that I could see the farms and terraces (credit: Miranda) below. They also had carvings in the cave wall. Although modern carvings, they were pretty cool, I very much enjoyed taking photos and the like.
The forest itself was peaceful but I did not spend enough time there. Although my goal was to relax, I ended up getting a cab driver to take me from place to place (which I decided would be way easier than getting a separate driver at each place). None of this altered the fact that bamboo is cool.
To answer the question Allison is thinking now, no, I did not do Tai Chi in the forest, but I did beat up some trees (man those things are hard). It was nothing worthy of Crouching Tiger, but I can say that I did it.
Now I am waiting for a bus to go to 重庆 (Chongqing) where I will try to get down to the docks to meet some nice ladies, I mean, to catch a boat. The hope is to be on a boat tonight to the three gorges, preferably a faster one so that I can go straight to the dam and the gorges themselves, rather than spending a lot of time on each of the along the way. Realistically I think I will be on a slow but tomorrow night. I am trying to a bit more like bamboo though, bendable and okay with whatever (I like the bamboo growing in weird places in weird ways, you look at it and it sort of says "Hey man, don't judge me").
One note of sweetness. When I was getting my luggage at the hotel, the very kind girl from last night who worked at the hotel ran up to me and gave me a fan. Upon recollection I remember that giving a fan is supposed to mean "get the heck out!" in Chinese superstition, but I don't think that was her intent. I think she even made part of it but it was not clear. I gave her my newly acquired QQ number (since everyone uses ICQ here), and I will ask her later. Either way, I now have two really nice fans, one of which almost definitely is made out of bamboo.

PTI: This may be one of the creepiest cities I have ever been in. First of all the staring is out of control, so you always feel like you are being watched. Its pretty easy to see why the staring would be out of control. This place is virtually featureless, as such, I can't see many foreigners coming here. I feel like the foreigner who brags about going to some bygone village where they worship him or her like a god. Except, instead of a village I am in miniature version of the generic Chinese city.

PTI: I finally asked someone where I am, its Changning. I literally have three people staring me right now, as in, that is what they are doing. Make that four. I don't mean that as in "four people have walked by and stared at me" I mean four people have taken route for the long haul. If asked what they are doing and they answered honestly, they would have to answer "I am staring at the foreigner, that is what I am doing."

PTI: I have one who just brought me tea. I had another behind me, standing behind me, for about ten minutes.

The city looks like its getting ready for something. They have a mall street, but half of the shops are not open. They have parks, but barely anyone is there. They have tons of houses, but I can't believe even half of them are filled. The people seem nice, but they are so shocked to see me its hard to gauge them naturally.
If I could understand Sichuanese this would be easier.

PTI: I now have three middle school kids "hanging out with me." Make that three middle school kids a toddler, and a n old man, and an old woman. I am very much surrounded right now. Agh, during that sentence we reached three men, thre woman, two kids, and a toddler.

I couldn't possibly imagine living here, with this as a constant. One woman just came up to me and used English to ask me if there was anything she could help me with. At first I did not understand her and a little girl said "You can use Mandarin to talk to him!" Relieved she switched to Mandarin, a thing you would never see in Taiwan.

PTI: I guess one old man and two middle school kids are in for the long haul, we are reaching a good five minutes of them chilling (the old man staring at me from about three feet away).

PTI: The coolest kid in Changning joined me. He has sort of a flock of eagles hair cut died blond, his friend has read spiked hair. We now have six or seven people within two feet of me staring. Okay, I am going to put this away and start firing photos rapid fire.

PTI: So I turned and started launching photos. Chinese people scatter away from big obvious camera. Flock of Sea Gulls was the first out of there. The rest I basically got. I always ask, sort of. I make a quick gesture of "can I?" if they hesitate, bam! Most of them realize that it would be pretty dick of them to stare at me for ten minutes and then not let me take a picture of them.

After that I started walking back to the bus station. On the way I passed a hair salon. As I passed they crowded the door and then burst out of there basically chasing me. They too were scattered by photographs, but a young girl, the cutest of them let me take a couple. It was the first time people came after me in chase.
On the way to the bus station I came upon a hospital. I thought, what the heck, I can buy medicine for my ailing stomach. At times it was really uncomfortable, and I would like to be able to eat Chinese food while in China. So I stopped by and was led to a doctor (who they noted was free).
The doctor and staff were friendly alike. They were all fascinated by me and asked a lot of questions. An unnervingly large number of people know about my digestive problems. At one point a crowd started gathering at the door, just me lifting my camera out got them to immediately flee.
The doctor was writing down a lot of names, and next to them things like "5" "3" and "1" so I figured it would be like Taiwan, they give you a bunch of little medicines to solve one problem. Oh no, turns out that meant things like "five packets" and "one box." I ended up paying before I saw the big bag, and I did not have the time to correct anything (I had to catch the bus). As such, I ended up buying a bag of medicine as big as my stomach myself. Half of the medicine I eat before a meal, half of it I eat after. In all - three days of medicine (some are one times a day, some are two, some are three). In all, I have five kinds of medicine.
I guess this is what happens when you teach western medicine to a Chinese doctor (her sign said she did "Chinese medicine" so I expected wicked weird Chinese medicine).
So when I get to the bus station a woman, a man, and a teenager come up to me. The woman says "You are on the bus to Chongqing right?" She then goes on to tell me that the aforementioned bus was broken, and there was no bus to Chongqing.
I had to go to the desk clerk where I confirmed what she said and had to get my ticket refunded. After that I was whipped onto some bus to a near by city Yibin where I will then take a bus down to Chongqing. So that is what I am now on, a bus to Yibin with no guarantee of finding a bus to Chongqing. That and I have a huge bag of medicine.

PTI: This may become a good example of Chinese travel. Turns out that the bus that took me to Yibin ended up in a place that was not a bus station going to Chongqing So I ended up getting escorted by a cute lady who wanted help the random foreigner with her language to a taxi. When I realized the taxi wanted to rip me off, I got off, ended up in a bus.

PTI: Turns out that bus was not leaving any time soon, so I was put on a different bus. So now I am taking a bus to the bus station to take a bus to Chongqing to take a taxi or a bus to the docks to take a boat - that is travel in China. A bright spot is the young lady who helped me out, she decided to take me to the bus station I guess, and she even paid my ticket. I would have gladly paid but I did not know that was what she was doing. Her English is okay, but we have to speak in Chinese. What I do know is that she is nice and she does not want anything from me except self satisfaction in helping someone, and I think there is nothing wrong with that.

PTI: I am finally on a bus towards Chongqing, and despite this driver simply hauling, I don't think we will get there until well after any boats down the Long River take off. As such, it looks like I have a day in Chongqing. Its alright, the cities bloody past as a center point for GMD (KMT) and Communist violence seems like a good place to spend a day (as my own Chinese experiences lay on a border line between the KMT's Taiwan and the CCP's China). It inspired me to read more into Chinese history as well (as I realized my Chinese history is flimsy at best, and mostly from thee last seventy years or so).

1 comment:

~allie said...

Wait, wait. You... you beat up trees?
WTF mate. Mmm, I bet they won too and you're much worse off for the beating than they are. :D