Journey to Jiangxi

After our adventures in Zhangjiajie, we took an overnight train to Jiangxi. Most long-distance trains in China are convenient, air-conditioned, smooth and quiet. Unfortunately for us, we were traveling between two rather random locations, and got stuck on a local clunker — hot, stuffy, loud and jerky. The train had no air-conditioning, just windows and small fans to keep the 100-degree heat at bay. To make things worse, in our compartment there was an old man who closed all the windows for fear that his young granddaughter would fall out. Then, at about 9:30 p.m., said child bought a loud whistle, and came dangerously close to being pushed out the window by me. Of course, our fan was the only one on the car that didn’t oscillate, and the woman in the top bunk decided she had the right to direct it solely at her. It was a sleepless night, as you can imagine.

But, as much as I can complain, there’s nothing like riding through the gorgeous southern countryside in China, free of stress and cares.

Zhangjiajie, Monkey Day!

The second day in Zhangjiajie we took a two-hour hike through a canyon floor, where we saw lots of monkeys! Regardless of the copious signage discouraging it, the Chinese tourists fed the monkeys, and we even saw some monkeys run down from the hills and try to steal things from the tourists.

The monkey troupes had lots of babies, which were super cute!

Since we were literally the only white people at the park, we were almost as highly sought-after as the monkeys for photographs. I got tired of that quickly. I always wonder what the Chinese tourists do with their white person photos after they go home.

At one end of the valley, there was a gigantic lock for couples photos. It was free, so we all took advantage of the opportunity to experience something truly Chinese. This is the most barf-tastic photo we took:

This bridge had a warning sign that read “limit 20 people, no rocking.” It was as if the park authorities were daring the tourists to do it.

After our morning hike we went to a small restaurant for lunch. In southern China it’s traditional to use your first pot of tea to wash all your eating utensils.

After lunch we started up the mountain. We were really tired from the day before so we took a fast tram up the mountain, but first we had to wait in line again. This time there wasn’t any karaoke, but we did try some weird Popsicles. Beth’s was corn flavor, and Kieran’s was green soy bean flavor. The unanimous decision was that corn was much better.

Up the mountain!

We trekked around on the mountaintop for the afternoon, visiting various lookout points that claimed certain mountains looked like girls, or animals or palaces. Mostly we thought they looked like rocks, and our guide posited that Americans don’t have as much imagination as the Chinese. Here’s Devin at “Cloud-Reaching Pavilion.”

After a long day we went down the mountain on the tram again. Let me tell you, losing several thousand feet of elevation in 2 minutes in a tiny tram is terrifying.

After we left the mountain, it was time to catch our train to Jianxi province, so we headed to the train station and bid our guide goodbye.

Zhangjiajie, Day 1

A few weeks ago we traveled with six other young folks to China’s first national park, Zhangjiajie, located in Hunan province. The park is huge, and it’s sort of like a forested Grand Canyon. We started our first day at the park by riding a gondola to the top of the mountain. We had to wait in a long line for an hour, but we were kept entertained by karaoke being broadcast from speakers along the path of the line. We even performed, but to a lukewarm audience. Not Backstreet Boys fans I guess.

The gondola ride was kind of scary, but also really amazing!

It’s a long way down!

Since we were far from Beijing, some Engrish was funny. But there was an Olympic kayaking event held at Zhangjiajie, so the Engrish was somewhat under control.

People put these lots up mostly on railings in the park. Different locks are for luck, health, money and keeping a love strong.

Standing in line for the bus:

From the top of the mountain, we had a long, long trek down. The weather was incredibly hot and humid, and we were all in serious pain from walking down so many steps. Partway through the journey, a sign said that you just had to run up to an extra viewpoint. Sensing a challenge to their manhood, the male half of our gang ran ahead, while the women lounged on stools below.

Was is worth it?

At the end of the day, we opted to take an extra tram instead of walking back to the entrance gate. We were pooped!

The Visitors

Since July 8 there have been a series of visitors to our little neck of the woods. Jeff’s mom, dad, brother, sister and brother-in-law all came to China for a week. We all had a packed week filled with Peking duck, tourist attractions and a very competitive photo scavenger hunt.

At the end of their time here, my brothers Devin and Kieran and their respective girlfriends Kate and Beth came to China. Then Jayna, Shane, Kieran, Beth, Devin, Kate, Jeff and I went on an adventure to southern China. A few days after we got back I began to move out of my apartment and bid goodbye to the city that’s been my home for over a year. A few tears have been shed this week over leaving good old BJ.

Today I’m getting on a plane to Japan. I’m not sure when or how I’ll be getting home. Oh boy 🙂 this should lessen the sting of leaving China!


In what I can only assume to be a response to the riots in Xinjiang, China blocked Facebook at around 7 p.m. tonight. Even during the Tian’anmen anniversary, while Youtube, Twitter and Hotmail were blocked, Facebook survived. I wonder what changed.

I guess I’ll have to start being a lot more productive now. You’ve crossed a line, China!


Today I finally found out my score on the HSK Chinese proficiency test, which I have been freaking out about for two months because I wasn’t sure I passed.

Jeff forced me to go down to the HSK office and face the music today, and he was very smug when I found out I scored a 10 out of 11. Sweet!

Oink oink, I’m in jail

So China is a little bit freaked out about swine flu, and I’m under quarantine. I don’t have a flu, or a fever, nor did I have any contact with someone who did, but just the same, I’m not supposed to leave my apartment for seven days. Apparently anyone coming from a country with swine flu faces the same inconvenience. I get called at least once a day by an official who asks if I have a fever or other symptoms. Sometimes he says he’ll come over but he hasn’t actually come over yet. I feel like a criminal, which is how I often feel here as a foreigner.

Reportedly if you sit next to someone with a fever or swine flu on the plane here, you’re whisked away to a seedy hotel and kept for seven days.

I dislike the government right now.