A Travellerspoint blog

Wudang Shan.... Read about it, its easier...


View Overland debacle on beatski's travel map.

Wu Dang Shang – 30th October

Wu Dang Shan is a mountain about 500km south east of Xi’an, it is known as being the home of Kung Fu and Taichi. Buried deep in these mountains there have been schools that for centuries have taught those that have dedicated their whole lives to learn about Martial Arts. The techniques of Taichi , Shaolin Boxing and Meditation are all taught in schools around this misty mountain. This is a place that I wanted to see, and I was desperate to escape this bubble of mass tourism that I had been caught up in. Few travellers had head of it so I knew that this place would be slightly off the beaten track and I would not see many other westerners, which at the time sounded like a bloody good idea. I didn’t realise that the by going on this little trip that I would be putting myself in some of the most testing situations I had been in so far.

It started from the word go really, the bus ride I thought was to Wu Dang Shan was in fact only to Shirya and from here I still had some way to go, in fact what I hadn’t realised at this point, was I still needed to take another 3 buses, one rickshaw and one taxi. Not knowing a word of Mandarin, and armed with only a lonely planet that had half the pages missing there is no way on earth that I could have managed this without the help from a guy who went completely out of his way for me. He showed me where I needed to go and how I should get there. He even paid for my 20p (20 Yuen) tickets and wouldn’t accept back from me. All he wanted was a photograph of him with the foreign guy.

After a torturous time getting to Wu Dang Shan I was completely depleted. I was dumped in a scrap yard on the high street of the town. I stood there on the street corner and took one big gulp, I looked around at the place I had just landed in, and the place took one big look at me, we didn’t get on at all. I had landed in a large scale version of peasant-ville and I, being the only guy with meat on the bones, was lunch. I went straight to the train ticket kiosk, and bought a train ticket to get out of town, and I took first class thank you, I needed it since I had been through hell to get here. The town was not how I was expecting; it was a town that had been built in a hurry, people had descended upon it in their masses and they were all spilling onto the streets with nowhere else to go. The muddy road that ran through the city was filled with trucks roaring through the town, leaving behind a cloud of dust and black poison. I had to get out of here. It was not that I had felt physically threatened; I have never once had an issue with that on my travels. I was not being harassed or abused. It was a state of mind that I had gotten in. Travelling on your own in China will do that to you. People will talk openly about you, they will point and look, joke about you with their friends. They are curious about you, about why you are travelling in their country, some of them have not seen westerners before, but they are so blazon with their curiosity. It is extremely hard work and the state of paranoia I had gotten in was the worst I had experienced.

I was encouraged to hang around only once I had bought my tickets out of this place. By chance I bumped into a Belgian guy who had been studying Taichi in Wu Dang Shang for 2 years, who had briefly brought me to my senses. By the time I had got to my hotel, which of course I had not booked in advance, only figured I would ‘wing it’, I had been travelling for over 8 hours. I was now 1500 meters above sea level in an isolated hotel on a misty mountain.

The next day, although I was still emotionally damaged from the previous day’s episode I had figured it was all worth it. The mountain was covered in a deep mist which gave it an eerie feel. Walking around the temples you could hear the hypnotic chanting and rhythmic banging of drums as Kung Fu students took part in morning meditation. I walked past the schools and saw the Kung Fu Masters walking around, probably never having left the mountain for decades. I could smell the aroma of the incense burning all around and it only added to the mystique of the mountain.

The hike was a tough one and it took me to the peak and back down again to the hotel, it took me around 6 hours.
Back at the hotel, Jackie Chan happened to be working in the hotel I was in, I watched him throw himself down flights of stairs doing flying kicks making those Kung Fu noises I only thought really happened in the films. He was a small guy but was a fierce little bastard. He reminded me of Cato, that little Chinese guy with the slick back hair who would spring up and pounce on an unsuspecting Mr Clouseau from behind a door. This guy was doing the same, springing up from every corner and finishing his workmates off with a flying roundhouse kick. Strange.

I now had to think about my next stop, I wanted to do a cruise on the Yangtzee River. My train I found out was at 09:23, there was no chance that I was going to be able to get down the mountain and to the train station in time for 09:23. I had to check out of the hotel early to stay somewhere closer to the station, but it was now 16:00. Once again I was homeless and without a train ticket, only this time I was on top of a mountain.

I found a bus, and at the bottom of the mountain I flagged a taxi…. “Lulipig”, it’s the word I knew as it was the name where the train station was, but I thought that it was not so far away. The taxi took me out of town, I began to worry, he was talking to people on his mobile, and it was to do with me I am sure. He stopped on the edge of town, I started to worry but I had spotted a “hotel” nearby, if I needed to I could take refuge in there. I was asking what is going on, he wouldn’t take me further. He was waiting for his friend. No way, I know what’s going to happen now, your mate is going to come and this is the time when I get to meet my maker, well that isn’t going to happen. My paranoia had returned with a vengeance. It was dark, the street was not lit up and I was in between towns on a dusty road. “What the fuck is going on here!!” I was genuinely shitting myself, I was physically shaking such was my state of mind, but it must have just looked like I was one angry bastard, I was shouting and waving my arms about, I gave him the fare and started off for the hotel when another taxi arrived who wanted me to get into his cab. I threw some more money at him and said forget about it, I was going elsewhere. The taxi drivers carried on trying to get me in the second cab, but they seemed genuine. “Sod it” I thought, I got in and prepared for the beasting, I will give as good as I get I thought. I was taken further away out of town and then he came to an abrupt stop by some side street. He pointed up the street to a big building which I could only assume was the train station, but the street was narrow and filled with vermin. I cautiously walked up to the street, still perturbed after the taxi ride. This was when I was at my most vulnerable. I was on my own, with plenty of cash on me, plenty of saleable assets, I had no train ticket and no place to stay and it was already dark. I was immediately accosted by an overly eager family who wanted me to sleep at their hotel for the night. They followed me to the train station, almost begging me to stay with them. They were a family of 3, a couple who looked as if they had seen better days, who had a daughter who could speak a little English, she was not more than 7 years old and was their little treasure. They all followed me to the train station, I bought my ticket and began the negotiation of how much I would pay for a room, we haggled and they conceded £2, I agreed to stay for the price of £8. The realisation that I would be staying at their hotel was overwhelming, they enthusiastically showed me to the building where they would fuss around me almost panting and out of breath, their 7 year old daughter checked me in. I did at this point feel quite relieved. The room was very basic but I didn’t care. The next step I needed to get some food. I went back down to the street which, with ticket in hand and a place to rest I could now walk with a bit more courage and swagger. I sat at a street vendor stall where I ate some spicy noodles I bought for the grand total of 60 pence. On the street I am the star of the show, but tonight people seemed friendlier and happy to see a foreigner who was casually eating in this dirty street, it allowed me to relax a little. The next day I checked out and the father came scurrying out to see me, he slept in a room behind the counter. He was wearing bright red long johns and was again fussing, I was glad that I had stayed there.

I am making my way from Wu Dang Shan to Xiangfan where I will change trains for the one bound to Yi Chang. From here I want to catch a cruise to go up river to Chongquin where I will be able to simply relax and be a tourist for a while. The options I have are to go on a Chinese cruise ship, or a tourist cruise ship. I opt for the tourist cruise ship, I would like to speak with English speaking people once again, and I want to be able to relax a bit more, being a foreigner in China is impossible.

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My £8 a night ensuite bathroom

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My £8 hotel room

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 04:06 Archived in China Tagged china kung fu shan taichi wudang Comments (0)

My Journey to Hell and Back....


View Overland debacle on beatski's travel map.

Xian to Wudang Shang - 30th October

I'm on my soap box again, but this time I am really pissed.

China has really managed to get under my skin and today I nearly cracked up. The country is nothing but a machine, and it’s out of control. If you would ask me how to describe China in a couple of sentences, I would say it was;

“A country which is polluted by its very own people and the factories they build. The country is a factory swarming with Chinese tourists, and it is on the brink of eruption”.

Using a simple analogy, if you could imagine a town being built inside a steel works, now imagine that town to be the size of China, next you need to tightly pack that country with so many Chinese people that they only have enough room to spit at the person in front and to shovel their thin fingers deep up into their bogey tunnels. Finally you need to add a several thousand large Chinese tour groups marching about in their matching coats, following their tour guide who is shrieking down a megaphone. If you are able to picture this, then just hang on before you apply for your tourist visa, I may have saved you the trouble.

I have not been able to breathe properly since I came to Beijing, and the smog is not just limited to the capital, it will follow you on a 12 hour overnight train to the ancient capital of Xi’an. Once you leave Xi’an it will get so bad you can taste it and begin to swallow it. What made today so bad is that I had decided to have a tour around an area called Wu Dang Shang which is a little off the beaten track. The journey took me by bus through many towns I wouldn’t have been able to see on a train. A town that I will never forget was called Shiyan. I had to stop off here to get another bus to Wu Dang Shang. The smell of the air in this small town of 300,000 people was nauseating, I felt sick with the smell, trying to hold my breath was pointless, I wasn’t passing through a little bottom burp, this was the air. And yet approaching the town stalls were set up selling fruit and veg by a road right near a huge factory. Behind the stalls there were pipelines which ran along a small river that cut through the town. The lagging on the pipelines had been tore away at and most of it had ended up in the stream of dirty green water below. In the town the roads were lined more with people, metal sheeting shops, and street food outlets. I would watch people throwing dirty water out onto the street, fishmongers scaling and cutting fish on the front, farmers drying their corn kernels on the road, people playing badminton. Babies here don’t wear nappies, they wear trousers that have a slit down the front and back, when they want to go poo poo then then bend back and relax, they go whenever they like and most of the time it is in the street (though I did hear that one went on the aisle in a train). In China if it doesn’t happen by the side of the road then it doesn’t happen.

Back on the bus both men and women were coughing up with so much vigour that I could feel the mucus peeling off their lungs, it was then spat on the bus floor, one woman was considerate enough to contain her disgusting bile in a plastic bag, but then she threw it out the window into the street where kids were playing. The bus driver was constantly blowing his horn, drawing people’s attention to his Carbon Monoxide Chinese road carnivore. He would dodge between people, rickshaws and oncoming traffic. And it was at this point that I nearly cracked, the relentless noise of the horn would pierce through me, I swear I was about ready to do a Michael Douglas.

But what upsets me most is that I have met some unbelievable people who have helped me out so much. At points when I am at my most vulnerable I have somehow managed to find help without asking for it, but it is the type of help that doesn’t simply extend to a point in the right direction, it’s almost unnerving how helpful these people have been. In the UK we would question the motivation behind help to such a degree where somebody has gone entirely out of his way for you, and I am guilty of having that same cynical view. But in my view their main motivation is to speak to a foreigner, they really don’t get to do that often, they want to understand where he is going, what he is doing and what are his views on China.

I will give you two examples of people I met today;

The first guy is the person I sat next to on the bus to Shiya, we communicated using only his English dictionary on his mobile phone, but we managed. Then he escorted me all the way using another two buses and helped me to the final bus that I needed. He even paid for my bus journeys, and wouldn’t accept anything at all in return. I was travelling through an area of China which was extremely poor, and the workers that packed the bus would just stare at me. He was my insurance. And why did he do this? One reason I think is that he was obviously very kind and helpful, but I think it goes deeper than that. He wanted to speak with a foreigner, he wanted to know more about how the foreigner thinks and acts and what he is doing, he wants to understand and learn. How can you deny this? One minor comment from his friend that will stick with me was said in broken English, but I understood exactly what he meant, “We cannot do as we please in China, things are very different here.”

This second guy I met whilst trying to order some food in a restaurant on top of the Mountain Wu Dang Shang.

I have with me a written Chinese sentence which says ‘I am a vegetarian, I do not eat any meat products and could they recommend something for me to eat’. Now this probably sounds ridiculous but you really don’t want to eat meat when in China, and I know so many carnivores who have gone vegetarian in China. So what tends to happen when I get this note out and give it to the staff is that they all become very animated and giggle at the silly foreigner’s expense. This is amusing the first 30 times but gets a little tiresome when you simply want to eat. I hadn’t eaten for nearly 10 hours and was completely ravenous. This guy appears from one of the onlooking tables that had become the audience in this little charade. He speaks a little English and would like to try and help. Forget Jamie Oliver, or Ainsley Harriet, this Chinese guy was my culinary saviour. He helps me order the food and then we talk for a bit. The girls are still giggling still finding the whole thing hilarious, but the audience have resumed their art of shovelling their food in their mouths. The food arrives and I take it to a table where my new friend joins me which at first I find a little disturbing. Be we continue to talk in simple English, my favourite, he tells me about his province, where he lives, where he works what he does and I reciprocate. He has no qualms about talking to me when I am eating, but I don’t mind at all. Once I have finished my food he makes sure that I get a remote for my heater in the room because the mountain can get cold on the night. He shows me how to use it and asks if he can continue to talk with me for a while. Of course, we talk and he helps me plan my route to my next stop of Yichang. He leaves promptly at 19:50 as the hot water stops at 20:00 and he would like a shower. We shake hands and leaves for his shower and Mah-jong which he will be playing with his friends later. But when I think that was it, he calls up my room, he has checked the train times for me and lets me know what times I should depart, he tells me more information about the mountain and wishes me well on my travels.

So my anger I feel is because I am helpless, helpless in every sense of the word. The only way at the moment I think that I can help these people is to give them as much time as possible, let them speak to somebody from outside of China and let them practice their English. But that for me is not enough, I can’t offer them money for fear of insulting them, they do not want my direct charity, they want to be able to succeed for themselves, it is as simple as that. They want to be given a chance and to do well on their own merits. They are no different than anybody else in any other country.

So I am really pissed off with China. I am pissed off because it is clear that the majority are living in absolute poverty, the country is no longer a true communist state, it is a Kleptocracy acting almost like a brutal colonial regime, which is enslaving its very own people for its own specific wants. The Chinese people are simply a raw material in the Chinese production line. I am pissed off and utterly disgusted in the way that the pollution can get to the level that it has done in China. Did you know that 25% of the pollution in California comes from China, and yet what about the foreign companies that purchase products from China, what are they doing about it? Turning a blind eye to keep production going I'm sure. You have heard about the working conditions at the Apple factory, and the environmental damage it is causing. You have heard the stories in the newspapers about the coal mines, the regular 6 monthly articles about the mines that have collapsed trapping all of the workers. In China production must be maintained at all costs, those cheap Chinese products need to fill the shelves.

I see these things whilst I am travelling around this country and I am stressed. I'm stressed about this machine and the damage it is doing, the lives it is destroying and the devastating effect it is having on the environment.

Not having a good time??? This trip is more about me seeing things with my own eyes and experiencing things first hand. It sounds horrific and at times it is just that, but I am seeing things first hand and to me that is important. China has been the biggest test to date; there is no doubt about that, no doubt at all. I defy anybody to come to China and not to be affected by the country and the people they meet.

45 seconds of a relentless 40 minute journey!!

A more jovial 30 seconds... less honking but you get the picture..

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Food at last!!!!

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Wu Dang Shan, what i had travelled all this way for, it didnt disappoint, it just almost killed me to get there..

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One of my new friends who helped me but insisted on having a photo with me, this is mine in return...

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More Photo takers, again, i got them with a bit of a taste of their own medicine....

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 02:17 Archived in China Tagged traffic china shan pollution horns photographs wudang Comments (1)

Beijing

Beijing 24th October 2011

Just behind the Gucci shop on Wangfujing Shopping Street there is a narrow alleyway. It is just to the left of the store as you face it. If you walk too fast you will probably miss it, you will see all the Chinese lanterns hanging above all the street vendors. It’s just over there by the tourist group with the white hats.

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Sorry, did I say white hats…. I meant yellow jackets

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Anyhow, now you have found it, if you are able to elbow your way through that bouncing black ball pool of 5ft Chinese heads as they stampede from one delicatessen to the other then just take a look at what these cohorts are munching on.
Ok, so you don’t have to go down there if you don’t want to. There are some great stores nearby that you can visit where you can buy all kinds of Primarni, Adddidas and genuine Rolex watches so its understandable that you don’t want to go.
But let me just show you what you missed anyhow…..

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You can always go back there later on if you’re a bit peckish……

Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 05:35 Archived in China Comments (0)

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