Just taking a breather. It’s about one thirty in the afternoon. The day as always started really early. I went to Lucy’s for breakfast. The little cafe is open early and I was there at around seven to have some breakfast. The place has decent wifi too as the hotel that we are staying at doesn’t. I got a western breakfast as climbing was starting at eight. I had just enough time to upload yesterday’s pictures. It’s a process but I do enjoy the challenge of doing it.
When I got back to the hotel I had just enough time to order another coffee and pick up my bag. I had packed the gear that I thought I needed yesterday. It’s a good thing too as my night was long. We drank lots of beers last night and visited about three different clubs. During the drinking game the “never have I ever…” category was getting to me. I guess I’ve packed quite a few things into my life so far I had to drink quite a few times. It’s a good way to get to know each other.
In the clubs they were selling us beer by the dozen. With so many of us it was worthwhile to purchase our drinks this way. The music was loud and I’ll post a snippet that I recorded later. The locals or nationals I’m not sure where they were from, kept coming close to us. Being friendly, I said hello and we did the customary cheers with many of them. I was taught a Danish drinking game that is easy to play in a loud place like this. On our way out one of the guys that kept coming around challenged me to an arm wrestling match. It didn’t end well for him but we shook hands and our group carried on to the next spot.
At this point in the night it was slim pickings and we decided upon one place. The owner or manager seemed to be happy to have us in there as he kept taking pictures of us as we were drinking. He actually gave us a discount on the drinks. The place was deserted almost and we saw one guy being carried away by his friends. He looked worse for wear. Soon we were joined by two guys who bought us a round. They were very drunk and happy to be around us. There was some dancing and a lot of cheersing. They did make the girls feel slightly uncomfortable as well as some of the guys. Talking about it today they found it kind of strange but I didn’t. I think they wanted to be around us and they expressed it. I don’t think us westerners would do something like that to make someone feel welcome in our country. I dunno just a thought that passed through my mind right now.
Our climbing guide was there promptly at eight. Since the shops in front were still closed they pulled the van up to the hotel. The three of us taking part in the activity jumped into the van. The guide who’s name escapes me now looked like a climber. He was really energetic and expressed himself as best as he could in English which was pretty good all things considering. The three of us have all had some climbing experience and since there was so few of us it made it into a good group dynamic. I wished I could have slept in longer but once we drive and hiked up to the spot I no longer felt that way.
Two routes were quickly set up with one of us belaying him as he set up the ropes for our ascent. He knew what he was doing and the refresher was good. We got our harnesses on and found the right size of shoes. It was cloudy so the weather was right for climbing. I went second and muscled my way to the top. It wasn’t the smooth climb of our instructor. I rembered why climbing fascinated me so much before. It’s a way of clearing the mind and focusing on the task at hand. It’s exciting and relaxing as well as being good excercise. The view from the top was nice too.
It rained periodically and we took care to put our bags in the shelter of a cave nearby. The second climb was longer and much harder. There were portions of the route that were difficult offering that type of challenge that I was talking about. As the last route was being set up the rain began to fall and soon it became clear that it was going to be a sustained rain shower. We huddled with our stuff into the porous cave to wait it out. We were in there for close to an hour keeping ourselves busy by lighting pieces of mosquito repellant. It was the incense that gave us a sense of purpose and occasionally I burned myself on it as I leaned on the rock with my hand. I had placed it there strategically to spread the aroma around for the benefit of my compatriots. It looked like we weren’t going to do the last climb. There was some thunder and the rain soaked the rock making it slippery and therefore dangerous to climb. We packed up when it started to slow down a little bit and made our way to the van down the muddy path.
We washed our feet and hands in the water running down from the gutter of one of the houses along the way. It was raining down on a stream and the pressure was enough to remove most of the mud that had caked onto my feet. Riding back in the van we shared some of the experiences we had in this town already. We have done a lot of things. We got to the hotel and I had enough time to shower and get a few things ready before the cooking class started.
I sat there for a while as two o’clock approached and wondered when this class was going to start. It turns out it was two thirty. I probably should have taken a nap. I was being productive though by writing about my day. It wasn’t long before we went to get into a van to have the class. There was five of us all guys surprisingly, taking the class. The first stop was the local market where you can get the freshest ingredients. All kinds of fresh vegetables grown by the locals were there. They sold he excess for some extra cash. Along with that were fish of all sorts spices, rice and the butchers selling different kinds of meat. It wasn’t the kind of standard found in the west with its clinical appearance of cleanliness but it wasn’t that bad. We were going to consume food that was already bought for us and cleaned. We got to the place where the lessons were going to take place and got a bit of a lesson in Taoism and some of the symbolism found on the front door. Then we got to the kitchen and got dressed for the occasion.
We prepared four dishes under the tutelage of our instructor. They were a vegetable dish, beer fish, Kung Pau chicken and pork dumplings. They were easy dishes to prepare and quick to cook and most importantly good tasting. I may have to invest in a good wok when I get home. The dishes turned out well for me I thought. It was a good way to spend the afternoon and the food was delicious. A lot of care is taken into preparing the food the right way. Slicing the vegetables is important and grouping them in the right way in preparation for cooking in a particular order. It was a good class to take I must say.
We finished everything in time to get driven to the last activity of the day. It was a play that is renowned in China Called “Impressions Liu Shanjie.” It is performed on water and the choreography was organized by the same guy responsible for the Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony. Every night weather permitting the performance is watched by a large amount of people. The hills serve as a backdrop to essentially a love story between a man and a woman brought together by fate. She resists the advances of a son of a local chief and falls in love with some prince and they live happily ever after. This is the backdrop that was explained to us but what we saw was different. There was strange symbolism and singing both amplified and acoustic that played out in front of us.
There were boats floating with large props that moved in and out of view illuminated at the right time. It was the scenery that was of significance. The interaction between the man and woman was not prominent. We know the background because Henry explained it to us. The lyrics were not comprehensible to us and some of the symbolism wasn’t entirely clear although some of it was visually appealing especially the marching lights at the end. These costumes had LED lighting that was controlled remotely and when the lights illuminated the people they were women dressed in local attire.
There were also periods where what I can only describe as a choir sang songs. These were not amplified and the noise of the audience drowned out some of their singing. It was kind of strange to us as some of these performers were kids singing and performing the songs. Supposedly all of the performers are locals who fill the roles and act as players in the pretty large production. There were processions of people carrying torches and choreographed motions that were a spectacle to behold. I must say that it was hard to take pictures of what was happening on stage but at the end as some people left early!? I managed to get close and take a picture of the woman playing the role of the love interest of the story.
I’m finishing writing about my day before I pass out and get some much needed rest. I feel tired I guess and should get some sleep. Tomorrow we check out and it is going to be another travel day as we go to Xi’an. It will be good to just have a day to relax before that journey begins.