A Travellerspoint blog

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..

Food at last!!!!

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


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


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

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Excellent post, i have many similar stories from thailand regarding people going totally out of their way, its the way in the oriental countries. When you get back you will probably cry when you walk into tesco mega super store and see the vast luxury we enjoy in the west and be thankful for drinkable tap water and no mosquitos. when i came back from over 3 years in thailand i stood in tesco the first week i came back and just stared at it i felt in a daze. Big learning experience being abroad for so long, we really are at the top of the chain in the UK in many ways but we could learn a few things too about looking after each other, i feel it strongly but never really feel anyone understands.

by martin

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.