Friday: Been cruising around town doing this and that, particularly enjoying the well made parks and the various smells from the copious types of flowers
. Yesterday I spent the evening in the park behind my house with my friends Steve and Debbie. We stayed until 9 PM watching the older folks dance to the music while the three of us had a great time just hangin in the park.
Saturday, I did a bit of biking and researching ideas for a 20 day trip in the South of China which may include Vietnam and Laos in the intenterary. My bike beckons for me to take her to some extreme places. I look at the machine each day and it calls for me to take it farther and farther. I will take her up on this idea and we shall go far this summer.
Saturday evening I made a meatless veggie and mushroom soup which was quite nice in comparison to my usual pork stew curry specials, which take forever to cook and leave one full of meat.
The mushrooms do the meat substitute trick quite well and with all the potatoes I am plenty happy without all that meat.
The pic further down is that of a public restroom in Xiasha, they really amaze me
. Always spotlessly clean, in fact each one has a full time caretaker. Each public restroom or WC (old British for Water Closet), has a completely different look, manicured park like grounds, some even have western toilets for the disabled. This might be a Xiasha or Shanghai thing because the one I saw on the other side of the river in a small village was quite disgusting in comparison. But Xiasha is designed to be shown to the international business community, I doubt those people see some of the wooden stankhouse WC's that are just across the Qaintang. I love the opposite extremes one sees here. Even cultured clean coif-erred Chinese ladies never hesitate to hock a green loogie on the floor of a restaurant! People are generally meek and being uncalm is considered to be a major loss of face. But when that subway door opens it's a total free for all! Nothing here is as it seems. But it only adds to the mystery and the China-ness to the place. One thing I'm certain of: This is the best place I have been.
Sunday Chen and I met at 1 PM and headed to the river. At the time I felt like a 30 K ride to the village down river that I been to many times, but on the way we ran into another post grad Chinese student who wanted to ride with us
. He was quite an avid rider and we passed up the villiage and continued another 13 kilometers downstream to the beautiful ancient town of Yang guan. Yanguan is a nice little town and even has a large Buddhist temple. We pulled into Yanguan around 3:00 and rode around the town waving at my many admirers since I am quite a curiosity to them. Unlike other villages I've been to, Yanguan probably gets the occasional white tourist... but I am probably the largest one they ever see! This town retains quite a bit of the charm of old China, which is rare around the Xiasha metro area where I live.
Once at the temple we met the head Monk of the place (I assume he was the boss, since he was a bit more distinguished than the other monks). He showed us each room of the temple (minus the monks quarters of course). Then he had us ritualisticly splash some sort of holy water from a fountain. Monks are cool! After the tour the monk bade us goodbye and left a kind compliment regarding my "aura" which I am sure he can see. I admired his aura as well. He didn't have to take us on the tour but he did. He was teaching for "teachings" sake
. This is what the best teachers do.
We left the temple and went back to Yanguan proper: "Sonny" and I bought a pineapple (I was craving one), and shared it while sitting on rocks near the towns' main intersection. I ate half a pineapple in three minutes I was so thirsty. Meanwhile, Chen was scouting out so cheap restaurants. Chen comes back and leads us to one of those "pick out your favorite ingredients, put them in a basket, and we will cook a giant bowl of soup for you using them!" type places. I've only been to one before but they totally rock. From the refrigerated display I chose some noodles, an egg, some rat-meat on a stick (I think it was rat), some fungus, a bit of cabbage, and a stick of cubed tofu then handed the basket of goodies to the chef.. Chen and Sonny bought other stuff. Chen made the mistake in telling them to make it spicy and believe me they did. Chen and I were sweatin' bullets while Sonny stayed dry. I suspect that the chef only innoculated Chen and My bowls with whatever type of hell she was using as a spice, because I never seen Chen look so rabid.
After the soup adventure (a buck twenty per bowl), we headed back toward the west as we followed the setting sun
. Then it happened:...... The pineapple kicked in...(either that or the rat meat) and all of a sudden, I was in my top gear and peddling like an olympic athelete! For 15 kilometers I sprinted as fast as my little folding bike could take me, I felt the power of the pineapple and Chen and Sonny were amazed at the sustained pace we kept on the way back. But after 15 K we took a rest and my legs started cramping from the 45 K distance we had already rode, then we rounded a bend in the river and a chill wind was in our faces. This slowed us down considerably yet we hung in there and pushed our way back. Back at my apartment building I was beat and had to concentrate in order to carry the bike up the usual five floors of stairs. All said and done, we rode for about 4 hours straight for a total of about 65 Kilometers total. These friends of mine do not believe in breaks but the temple visit and dinner did give me one.
Now I sit at my computer as I write you this as all the positive endorphins course through my veins after a very hard days ride in China. What kind of magic will I find here tomorrow? This is assured but the details are hitherfore unknown. The "known" is the fact that there will be much more magic to experience. I cannot say enough good things about China and it's people.
Yeah, Spring has sprung. It's very apparent with the Cherry blossoms, Wisteria blossoms, Rapeseed, and many more flowers to list or recognize for an old trog like me. Lovers walking hand and hand, or the smaller one sitting side saddle on the rack of the back of the larger one's bike. So cute and innocent. I wish America had scenes like this still. But that is all gone with the car culture. China desperately craves the "car culture" as expected. Sad to see the largest bike culture in the world revert to the car. Such as selfish thing but I fully understand their aspirations to move up in society. I live in the upward mobile part of China. It is sad to witness the folly of it all. But I don't see the people as fools whatsoever. I see most of them as opportunistic entrepreneurs who aim to better they're lot in life and strive for success. I prefer the ancient places like Yanguan.