Early wake went as planned, breakfast was an all you can eat buffet type. The temperature was somewhat cold. The food was okay, nothing special. A variety of both Asian and Western food. In my opinion, the hotel was form over function – the shower gel and shampoo dispensers were dispensing minute amounts – even a hand soap dispenser at a public toilet would give you more. And the hot water was only lukewarm at best. In the morning, the water was cold again and the temperature was quite cool. We left the room pretty much on the dot as a cleaning lady came right on time.
Getting onto the cold bus, we’d have a bit of a trip to our next destination – but in the way, I saw a couple if interesting things – unusual signs, reversed and or mirrored signs, dogs crossing the road on their own, street cleaners on the highway sweeping with old fashioned brooms, street sellers with their stalls, workers smoking near machinery and smoke stacks which are apparently responsible for the fog around the city. How cold was it? Well, it was cold enough that I can still see icicles on leaky PVC drainage pipes and on our first toilet break, my pee was literally steaming! That’s a first!
[Takes a break friom blog writing to take a few photos, and before we know it, we’ve got to our destination, and spent a whole day there – then we went to eat, then to our hotel, and since I was too tired, I didn’t post it. So it’s actually now moning of day 3, on a 2.5 hour bus ride.]
On the bus ride, I saw a few memorable things – police were surrounding an area and I saw a bicycle and truck accident. The front wheel was totally wedged under the front bullbar of the truck – the rear wheel of the bike lifted into the air somewhat. The person was nowhere to be seen. I also saw open fires of people burning off vegetation, and a large amount of stalls selling vegetables and even meat. They just leave the meat on a table, unrefrigerated, under a gazebo. Hmm. I saw many 3 wheeled trucks, and more electric scooters. And heaps of cooling tower stacks – at least 12 in a day!
On the way to our main destination for the day, we would see the Yellow River. And we did exactly that, from the bus, looking down from the bridge. Very poor and unspectacular – it was nealy all dry sandy river bed with very little water. Oh well.
The main desination for the day was Yun Tai mountain. This place is a Unesco Geopark and has a waterfall and lots of beautiful water. In order to enter an exit, a RFID tourist pass with biometric fingerprint scan is required. That’s a lot of security for a tourist attraction. There were no queues at this time, since winter is more of the off season with less to look at, but apparently the area is bustling. You can tell since they had a depot filled with these special buses and a whole row of turnstiles, of which only one was manned for the day. The tourist bus has to park outside, and we had to catch their own internal buses around the different areas. First thing was lunch at the area – a banquet with chicken, rice noodles, river fish of some sort, honey coated fried apple (Pear? Turnip? Potato? Nobody could agree) and more. The fish proved to be memorable as it was loaded with bones – one of which lodged into my throat, causing me to leave the room for the toilet. I fished it out with my hands (pun intended) to find it was barely the thickness of a human hair.
There was a bit of an irony. We were riding in a green bus, in a nature reserve, when suddenly, BANG! I’ll give you all a moment to guess what happened …
We hit a bird, and probably killed it. Poor thing. If we didn’t come, the bird might still be alive. The tour guide joked that the bird hit our bus … rather than the bus hit the bird.
After lunch, we would do the waterfall tour. Standing on the tall bridge, looking at the tall mountains – so far, no big deal. Pretty, but shriuded in haze. Then comes the fun part – a long walk. Not just any walk though – a down and uphill climb over rocky stairs, some of which are quite steep! Eek! Nobody told me about this – I’m afraid of steep uneven stairs and heights! Luckily, slowly but surely, I managed to decend to the lower depths of the waterfall to be rewarded with lots of nice scenery and icicles!
The views were fantastic – highly worth it. I don’t think words could do this place justice, so instead, I better rely on pictures. I managed to expend a whole card (16Gb) and a battery shooting there. Going back up, on foot, was a little difficult. Some of the rocky steps had become slippery as they slowly get polished by shoes tha my shoes were slipping over some of the steps. There was no handrail for some sections, and I had to go at an appreciable speed to maintain my sense of balance with a camera and backpack on. This took a toll on my calves, and since I am entirely unfit, I was gasping by the time I got to the top, and the rest of the afternoon, I felt my airways slightly constricted.
From there, we caught a bus to the next stop with rhesus monkeys (or macaques, nobody seems to know). This was the most interesting part for me. I saw a monkey, up close! Not like a zoo where it’s behind bars, you can actually get up to these monkeys. I had to take out the point and shoot for better zoom, but I got a few good monkey shots. I got to see a monkey eat various things and even smash open a plastic wrapped snack!
My dad warned me about monkeys – don’t get too close – and he was right. I saw a kid go up to the monkey and he got chased and hit by the monkey. Then tend to harass you for all you food as they come down from the mountains when they’re hungry. I was chasing the monkeys with my camera, and not realizing the uneven surface, stumbled, but didn’t fall over. Close call. We went to the toilet and found a ‘Rarr’ logo’d hand dryer and had a big laugh (what, is that the sound the hand dryer makes?) and then got onto a bus to leave.
Upon leaving, I checked my GPS and it was complaining of a card error. Must have been either RFI or vibration but it was fine after a reset, losing just seven minutes of data. Speaking of RFI, those guys at China Telecom know how to cover the mountain with mobile towers – one disguised as a tree (poorly), and others looking a little fancy.
We went to dinner at a fairly famous restaurant. At that time, we were a bit early, so we got to see all the waitresses standing there, reciting lines and doing ‘training’ in a regimented, almost military style. Dinner was quite good, fairly flavoursome and relatively filling. The fish was quite spicy in a curry-like way, so that was a bit of an experience. Over dinner, we had a bit of a chat around, Benny (whose name I forgot earlier) is actually quite a humerous fella and likes to make everyone laugh. We also mentioned the hot water shenanegans – it turns out that quite a few of them just didn’t shower instead – Ruby and Benny seemed surprised that we didn’t freeze to death showering in cool water. They also seemed to feel it was very cold and put on their thick coats – for me, a jacket, a jumper, a shirt and singlet was enough. Dad had similar, but he joked that he was only enduring the cold so we didn’t have to interrupt the group to get the jackets from the bus.
Then we went off to the hotel. We stayed in room 505, nothing special to report as this hotel was rather standard. Not anywhere as pretty as the other one, felt just like the four star ones we had with Kwan Kin. At least there was hot water. But the internet was pathetic – one ADSL line was serving the whole hotel – ethernet worked but wireless didn’t. Uploads were slow, it was 22 hops to my server at home! I experienced some poor power quality too – signs of overdevelopment and insufficient infrastructure. We had a few sags and constant flicker. Lucky the switchmode supplies don’t care much about it.
The guide told us that if we wanted to shop, we could at a nearby shopping centre. We didn’t opt to do that since we were so tired and looking at the shops on the way in, we realized it was quite a long way and there wasn’t much interesting. Kuen decided to go, and bought home a steamed sweet potato – which I had a bit of.
Which brings us to the morning of day 3 – morning call was at 7am to give us 39 minutes more sleep. A harsh day apparently with more stair climbing. The day had just begun when we had to call room service to unblock the toilet. All you can eat breakfast was a bit lacklustre – stale bread, not that much worth eating.
So now, on a bus, on a long trip – most people are napping while I’m tapping away on my iPad. I’ll take a nap when I’m done. So far, having adjusted a little to the area, dogs crossing the street isn’t that unusual anymore.
[Takes a break, to be continued … Gotta catch up when I can]