Happy Year of the Dog!
Spring Festival here passed pretty much as per normal. A big meal, plenty of jiaozi, more baijiu than is generally healthy (but not too much), fireworks, one of which blew my hand up, then in the following few days, visiting relatives, delivering gifts, receiving gifts, being roped into drinking far more baijiu than I would generally prefer, convincing the relatives involved to let me switch back to beer, etc, etc…
So my hand: The people at the corner store sold us some dodgy fireworks. Well, they’re probably fake, which is really annoying, because it’s the only time they’ve done anything bad to us. I can always take a crate of empties in, order a new one, pay for it, ask for it to be delivered, and go home. The beer always arrives about 5 in the evening without fail. That’s the kind of people they are. Now they go selling dodgy fireworks. The other night we saw an item on tv about dodgy and fake fireworks and what they can do to people: It can be pretty damn nasty. Anyway, the strings of firecrackers we bought were ok, and we’ve set off a few of them without any hassle. But we also bought some of those mortar bomb style things, you know, that shoot a small bomb up in the air which explodes somewhere just over roof-top-height. Well, that’s the theory. Ba decided these should be stuck on the end of a stick and held up in the air. So he found a suitable stick, stuck the first one on the end, and gave it to me. It worked ok, but really, the bombs are supposed to fly up in the air and explode over the roof, not tumble a short distance across the courtyard and explode on the ground by the well. A bit disappointing. The second one did a fairly similar thing. Then the third just plain backfired, exploding somewhere very close to my right hand, giving me a fairly nasty-looking but small cut at the base of my thumb surrounded with soot.
So there I was holding the stick with the firework in the end, having just lit it, holding it as far away from me as possible, like is only safe and prudent, when I hear this almighty bang, my ears start ringing, my head spinning, and I drop the stick on the ground and look at my right hand, aware that there was something wrong with it but not feeling any pain or discomfort. And I see this small cut, and I stand there looking at it grinning stupidly while Ba and lzh come over to make sure I was alright. I couldn’t really hear anything they said, but they took me inside to get my cut cleaned up and bandaged.
Anyway, it’s only a very minor cut and is mostly healed already. No big deal.
A couple of evenings ago, as we’re sitting down to dinner, one of the neighbours came over and said they had tickets to the ice lanterns and space for four more people in their cars. So Ma, lzh and I climbed into this Jeep Cherokee (which, typically, looked like it had never been off road ever), and off we went to Longqingxia.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived was these lights set up on the mountainsides, most of them strung out to look like some silly fake Great Wall. Bloody ridiculous, Longqingxia is on the northern side of the Yanqing basin. It must be a good 20 or 30 kms north, i.e. outside of, the Great Wall. And right next to that, in big, red characters covering a goodly portion of mountainside, were the characters Longqingxia, with Jiang Zemin written in slightly smaller characters next to them. Great. Jiang was here, and graffitied the hillside to make sure we all knew about it. Oh, and the crowds, of course, were huge. But we’d somehow gotten a ticket that allowed us to take our little convoy right into the innermost car park right in the gorge itself. Well, we wandered past the usual gaudy, mostly very tacky, cloth lanterns down to the ice lanterns themselves. Most of them were alright, but I was tired, my dinner and beer drinking had been disturbed, and the crowd was mostly composed of the usual selfish gits who are attracted to tourist attractions like flies to rotting meat. So I was a bit grumpy and not overly happy with the large numbers of idiots spoiling so many of my photos by getting in the way, apparently too dumb to look around and notice people were trying to take photos.
After wandering around for a bit, we went up a long series of escalators, across the dam, and down a tunnel to the 百花洞 (hundred flower cave), a ridiculous, obviously artificial, tunnel filled with canned music and a series of displays of very obviously fake flowers, trees, and animals from various parts of the country. And of course the usual idiots who had to block up the very narrow pathway taking forever to take photos of each other. I didn’t see anything worthy of a photo at all in the tunnel, but maybe that was me being grumpy. Well, when we got out of the tunnel we passed up the opportunity to take a ride on some kind of luge-type thing. Twenty kuai to slide on our arses down to the bottom of the gorge: Why bother? Then we walked back to the cars and went home. Or tried to. As it turned out, it was a very good idea to go a bit earlier in the evening, when “respectable” tourists were still having their dinner. The traffic was backed up quite some distance, and because the roads are so narrow, that meant those of us trying to leave were also caught up in the traffic. But eventually the police managed to clear a way out and we could leave.
So I finally went to Longqingxia. Actually, apart from the bus station, that’s the only tourist destination I’ve been to in Yanqing. I’ve passed through Badaling a million times, but each time I’ve very firmly and resolutely stayed on the bus. Take the bus up to Yanqing (919 from Deshengmen) during one of the three holiday rushes and you’ll see why: Passing Juyongguan and Shuiguan you can actually see the Great Wall and room to move on and around it. As you pass Badaling all you can see is a colossal swarm of tourists where the wall is supposed to be. “I went to the Great Wall and saw a huge swarm of tourists!” Now there’s a slogan for a T-shirt.
Longqingxia seems to follow the same pattern of tourist-development. So answer me this question: Why the fuck would I want to go to a stunningly beautiful gorge in the mountains to see a noisy, tacky song and dance performance? Surely if it was singing and dancing I wanted, I’d go to a theatre, right? Well, I guess that’s just one aspect of the Chinese tourism industry I will never understand.
But with all the light from the lanterns, even at night, I could see enough of the scenery at Longqingxia to think, well, it’s probably very beautiful in the day time, but I’m sure it’d be a million times better without all the development and lanterns and noise and stage for the usual silly song and dance routines and so on. Lzh tells me that when she was young, before Longqingxia had been developed, it was a million times better, in exactly the way I would prefer to have seen it. So I guess I got there about 15 years too late. Ah well, you can’t win ‘em all. And when I get a chance to update my Flickr account (not easy given the slowness of the internet up here. I hate dial-up. I love broadband), you’ll see some of the largely unspoilt, amazing scenery around here. Anyway, I have decided there is one tourist attraction in Yanqing I want to see: Yudushan (玉渡山, which I’m pretty sure what the sign on the highway says, and lzh assures me is correct, or玉都山 according to the calendar the county forest fire prevention bureau handed out). The pictures I’ve seen so far look amazing. Hopefully when we go there, lzh will let me drag her far away from whatever crowds and tourist stuff there may be and we can enjoy beautiful, natural mountains the way they’re supposed to be. So everybody stay away from Yudushan when I go there.
Eughh. The last few days of heavy baijiu consumption are starting to take their toll. I think my liver needs a break.