This past weekend we decided to get out of town and climb the 2,100 meter Mount Hua. A two hour train ride north-east of Xi'an, Mount Hua was for centuries a Taoist holy place where sages and devotees would go to contemplate the meaning of life. Despite being told how dangerous it was by every single Chinese person we mentioned it to, we had faith that our Colorado 14'er skills would serve us well.
The Hike: HOT. Uncountable numbers of carved steps. Sheer cliffs. Thousands of feet of vertical, white granite. Lots of vegetation, shade trees, and pretty birds. Did we mention the steps? The soaring precipices are very reminiscent of Yosemite. The five hour climb to East Peak brought us to our home for the night – a smelly, crowded room shared with eight other climbers. But the sunset was sublime. The following morning was the highlight. We immortalized our love by harnessing up and descending the vertical rock, via ferrata-style, down to Xiaqi Pavilion located on a narrow granite fin with a thousand foot drop on three sides. In the local tradition we secured an engraved lock to the steel chain surrounding the pavilion, kissed the key, looked into each other's eyes, and threw the key into the abyss (no, this was not our formal wedding). Our fate is now sealed! Breath-taking.
Things we've learned about China:
1. Chinglish is everywhere. “Men between urine” translates to “Men's room”. “Be careful the safe” means “Watch out!”
2. The average annual urban salary in China is US$1,819. The average rural salary is US$545.
3. The one-child policy that used to favor male children has given way to a desire for girls among city-couples because they are less expensive and easier to raise. (There are currently about 30 million more marriage-aged men than women in China.)
4. Our lesson in Traditional Chinese Medicine taught us that the large intestine and the lungs are intimately related (Nicole, is it true?).
5. It is illegal for cars to stop at a pedestrian cross-walk in Beijing (yes, you read that correctly).
6. Half of Chinese people claim to be non-religious (the two most popular religions are Christianity and Buddhism – both at about 8% of the population).
7. Foot binding was not formally outlawed until 1949.
8. A new city the size of London shoots up in the Pearl River delta area (near Hong Kong) every year.
9. China is currently consuming 40% of the world's coal, 40% of the world's cement, and 30% of the world's steel.
10. In the run-up to the Olympics China built enough new roads to go around the world four times.
11. Every young kid with a camera phone either wants their picture taken with us or covertly snaps away when they think we're not looking.
12. We have seen exactly 5 Americans since arriving in China two weeks ago.
13. Chinese do NOT eat their rice out of a box. And we haven't seen a single fortune cookie.
We are really looking forward to the next week of being (mostly) in the same place. Guilin and Yangshuo should be a peaceful respite set amongst the karst formations along the Li River. We arrived in Guilin last night after a 27-hour train ride! It has been raining and flooding in South China for the last few weeks...but we got some sun today. Spent the day exploring the city. Tomorrow we take a bamboo raft four hours down the Li River to Yangshuo where we will spend the remainder of our time in China. We will head to Hong Kong in a week or so, then on to the next country...probably Indonesia, but we have a little research to do.
Does anyone have any suggestions for a fiction book that is set in Indonesia?Missing everyone. Hoping that when we leave China we will be able to blog more freely and openly.