Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Taking Wuyi Mountain (By Strategy), Pt. 1

I hesitated a little when first asked if I wanted to go on the company field trip to Wuyi Mountain. "I must think about it," I said. What I really meant was "I have never before heard of Wuyi Mountain, and must look it up on the Internet."

But of course I said yes, and I'm right glad that I did! Wuyi Mountain is in Fujian Province, near the coast and right across from Taiwan. Looking on the web, I learned it was also the area Hakka people are from, I thought it was somewhere west of Canton or something.

The company went there by taking the overnight 13 hour train. I've only taken the train once before in China, for the one-hour trip from Suzhou to Shanghai. Taking the overnight was very different. The train cars are real small and it's stacked three beds high. There were three dimensions of pain involved: first, as a very tall person, I was slightly longer than the bed itself. Secondly, the bed was very narrow, and certainly not wide enough for me to crouch in my sleep. I imagine if I was overweight it would be difficult just to fit! Third, there wasn't much headroom, not enough to sit up even.

The problems are worse when you have the top bunk. The bottom bunks are best, but during the day they're used as a couch by all the people in the above bunks. In the end it was no problem because I knew all the other people in the other bunks, but it would be really annoying to travel by yourself with such a set up. Anyway during the day we played this amazingly complicated card game. It was fun but even if I learned the rules, I'm still entirely lost about the strategies.

A serious bummer was that lights went out at 10, and the commotion started at 6 the next morning. I had a hard time sleeping on the train, and was unbelievably tired. Still I was stunned looking out the window of the train. I've barely been outside of Shanghai. With knowing naivite, I tell my friends that Shanghai is just another city, and China and the US are basically the same. But looking out the window it looked like a different world:

I definitely want to have a look at such an area sometime. Maybe visiting here would be something like kicking it with the Amish. Cattle were used to draw plows, and hills were terraced into irregular planes and used to harvest rice, often by hand. The best photo I got of that is a zoom from the above picture:

On arriving we first checked in to our hotel. Shanghai keeps Christmas signs up throughout winter, it's different but I think it's pretty chill, keeping the Christmas spirit going. However this hotel still had Santas up in June, and so did some of the other fancier hotels and restaurants throughout town. And it should be mentioned, the whole trip was one of the dreaded Chinese tour guided trips, hilarious! They had the flags and the whole business, they even had a small megaphone but they only used it once or twice. Anyway they were surprisingly not annoying, and they kept the whole thing orderly. To my complete shock I didn't mind it and would consider using one again, at least for a short vacation.

The first think we did was climb some mountains. When I got my first look I don't know what to say. It was so beautiful I wanted to cry. I'd have to visit the big island of Hawai'i again to really say for certain, but it may have been the most impressive nature I've ever seen in my life. Photos don't quite capture it:

The paths were well-defined, often with stairs cut into the mountainside. Some sections could be extremely steep, and it was raining real hard at times. So there'd be a line of people, one after the other, going up a single step at a time. It sounds annoying but the view was so impressive I could have cared less. In retrospect, maybe I should have been scared - if one person had fallen on the steep slippery steps, everybody behind them would have followed like Dominos!

The cliffs were stark. Walking through them evoked all the cliches as once: walking through a Chinese painting, walking through a Martian landscape, etc...

There were a few pieces of historical interest scattered throughout. This Buddha, carved out of the rock, was impressive, although it looks like a modern re-construction:

Also scattered about were tea groves. They were so scenic and small, I at first thought they were purely for decoration, until I noticed it was one scenic and small grove after the other:

I'll have more to say and more scenery to show in part two, in the next couple of days.

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