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Huangshan (Yellow Mtn) to Shanghai

Through the granite mountains and back to the cosmopolitan intrigue of Shanghai

overcast 31 °C

We are sitting on a bullet train cranking along at 305km per hour. They have apparently been slowed down as there was an accident a while ago, but they are aiming to get them back up to 450km in the near future. This is absolutely the way to travel -- much like a flight, only with no seat belts, the ability to stroll around and purchase food or drink, and scenery - albeit slightly blurry. The loos remain a full, but unfulfilling experience, especially four hours in. And there doesn't appear to be any let up on the smog, even this far from Beijing. How many kids grow up thinking that the sky is a dirty grey and visibility measured in metres?

Tony continues to win over the locals with his grace and good humour: in a tchuchkee (sp?) store the other day he loudly declared "you dlop, you blake, you paaay" (eyes squeezed into slits, chin thrust forward, long emphasis on the aaay). The shop assistant, well within hearing distance, crisply enquired, "Can I help you?" in perfect English. Way to go!

Our little page of Chinese translations is proving useless. There are so many phrases that just aren't covered, such as, "Inside voice you spoilt, fat little shit" or "Mate, you're dreaming!" Language be damned, Tony communicates readily with the locals by shouting "Boo shr" (no) at the constant hustlers, or grabbing at the motorbikes that plough through the pedestrians (made even more dangerous as they are electric and so almost silent) when the peds have the green walking man. It appears crossings are also for pushbikes and motorcycles, as well as and taxis, cars and buses and trucks.

We ate on the street last night, and were challenged to choose between the grey piles of some poor creatures finely sliced intestine, or the still struggling scorpions skewered onto sticks like toffee apples. The locals attempted to scam the pakeha as usual; items were twice the local price, even though the price was written in red above the shop, they pretended you knocked their food to the ground and declare you must pay, if you argue back, they resort to "no English, no English" etc....Fun, sorta.

The Yellow Mountains are the inspiration for many of the mountainous Chinese ink drawings you see, and they are beautifully replicated. The delicately layered trees and awe inspiring steepness are no exaggeration. Twisted trees grow from perilous positions, perched on naked granite mountains, with absolutely no soil in which to root themselves. It is a striking scene, truly a well deserved World Unesco site that gave our ageing knees a stunning workout. We drove up to the mountain gondola on a shuttle bus as is required. Tony's seat would not stay upright each time the bus accelerated, mine would not recline from its rigid exclamation mark of a position. From our respective horizontal or vertical positions, we watched as the feathery bamboo forests unfolded stunning scenery through the greasy marks of myriad previous hair stains that smeared across the window. Queuing for the gondola, signs congratulated us on our children growing taller?! WTF?

We were fortunate enough to stay in a hotel on the mountain -- apparently quite a luxury. Staying overnight enables you to watch the light change --as light is wont to do on mountain sides-- for both the dusk and the dawn. Very pretty as painted clouds roll in on cue, doing fab impersonations of the ink drawings. Yet personally, the outstanding feature of our hotel experience was without doubt, the carpet. I have never seen a carpet more in need of a clean in my life. What (we think) was once a pale lemon number, is now a poo coloured smear of mottled grey and brown, punctuated with liquid spills and cigarette burns.

Now in Shanghai and the food remains entertaining. On offer, such delights as Glutinous Rice Jujubes with Wolfberries, Braised Stong Frog and Stir Fried Fern with Harm. Menus warn that images are 'for reference only', and that the dishes would 'prevail in kind'. Cheers for the heads up. Our waiter used the translator on his phone to take our somewhat lengthy order this evening, only to come running back from the kitchen to have his phone tell us that we had ordered Bullfrog!

We spent the morning wandering around a local park (beautifully designed and built by the French during their time here). It is a meeting place for the locals, where every day folks spend time dancing, singing, playing instruments, practising caligraphy or juggling. They genuinely 'enjoy the life' as we are told. It is true that although they are loud and have a very different sense of personal space, the Chinese are very social and spend a great deal of their time in large mixed age groups, often in fits of laughter. It is quite lovely.

T-shirt of the day: 'In our darkest hour, do not fear. God is nar.'
Runner up: 'Hoops and Christ', tragically worn by a young American chap.

Posted by 2kiwisontour 06:17 Archived in China Tagged shanghai water_village huangshan zhouzhuang yellow_mountains pudong-bank Comments (0)

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