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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

N. China - Day 3, Part 3 - Taishan: Halfway Gate to Heaven-Summit

"I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?" - Ronnie Shakes

***

N. China
Day 3 - 1st November - Taishan: Halfway Gate to Heaven-Summit
(Part 3)

There is a travel adage: "Better to have and not need than need and not have". This does not apply to mountains climbing, especially when there are many vendors to buy things from (for example, you can rent People's Liberation Army overcoats on the summit).


I took a break at the Halfway Gate to Heaven and looked around.

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The path on up which I was not ready to hurl myself down (or up, rather) yet

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Indications of how much further I had to go

After 15 mins of rest I set out again, at 2:14pm. I was tempted to take the cable car, but walking all the way to the top would mean I would live till 100 (if the climb didn't kill me in the first place, that is)

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"垃圾洞" ("Rubbish Hole")
I think this was a pun on "垃圾桶" ("Rubbish Bin")

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"Zenfu Temple (Blessing Increasing Temple)"


"拐杖两块 拐杖两块, 只两块" ("$2 for a walking stick, $2 for a walking stick, it's only $2")
Incessant playback: Annoying vendor loops his pitch and blasts it from speakers - annoying his staff and customers alike. In only 16 seconds we already have 4 iterations of this pitch.

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"天迎" ("Welcoming Heaven") - welcoming misery

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Cloud Cutting Sword

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Bird

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The path. I asked a vendor later if the red headbands on the trees were put there by people who'd given up. She gave me 2 answers, neither of whichI understood - but I understood enough to know that my theory was wrong!

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Rose of Hope - the Last Flower of Summer

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Chinese words of wisdom

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The main threat to Chinese Heritage is not the West - but the Chinese themselves

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"天下名山第一" - "The most famous mountain under Heaven"
Without irritating PRCs scampering over it

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The interminable road goes on...

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...and on

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More rock calligraphy

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Obviously there're no health and safety laws in China

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What can we conclude from this?

1) Notice that most (if not all) of these are photoshopped. The Chinese fetish with having oneself in a picture (what is important is not the place but you, and that you were there) is thus taken to its ultimate and logical conclusion.
2) Women are easily conned

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"Cloud Step Bridge". It's even nicer, I'm told, when there's mist.

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Looking down on "Cloud Step Bridge"

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Wudafu Pine - Qin Shihuang is said to have been grateful for the shelter he got and so gave the tree a title -_-

monkeetime comments that the plaque was not translated into English because it "was too embarrassing" (6:20) to talk about a tree getting a government position

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Taoist Acolytes playing badminton beside Wudafu Pine

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"Greeting-Guest Pine"

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The photoshop was even more brazen, but at least some of the shots are bona fide (not the one of George Bush giving a thumbs up, obviously). The one with Mao Zedong is particularly galling. Isn't there a law in China that says one should not misuse the Chairman's image in vain?

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Climbing mountains must be hard when you're carrying a huge flag

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People stealing stones from the mountain

Unlike the last mountain that I had climbed (Mt Kinabalu - as opposed to mounted - Mt Fuji), the air was dry so my sweat dried easily.

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Facing-the-Sun Cave

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Old guy with funky hair and friends

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Wrapped statuette. This is not the same as the Japanese god whose statuettes get wrapped with red clothing - but I can't find out anything.

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Wangzhang Stele

Now, the most taxing part of my climb lay ahead of me:

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This stretch was described by 3 words: 幹你娘 ("十八盘" works too)

The enormity of this stretch is not adequately expressed here. So:


(maybe he climbed onto a rock far off the path - I don't think I got this perspective; from a video on UNESCO's Youtube Channel it looks like he zoomed in from the Halfway Gate to Heaven)

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At this stage, they had conveniently-placed advertising. I didn't need this sign to remind me - I had already bought a can 2 flights below. I gulped my second can of the dayand set off.

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More steps

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Monkey dressed up as Sun Wukong (the Monkey God). The vendor would make it hold the pole behind its shoulders, mirroring one of Sun Wukong's famous poses. Obviously there're no animal cruelty laws in China - especially as the vendor shouted and threatened to hit his pet when the girl [customer] left.

I wanted to ask him "我可以拍你的猴子吗?" ("Can I snap a picture/beat your monkey?"), but I wasn't sure it would translate. He told the girl that he bought it in "南洋" ("the Southern Sea"), but it turned out he was refering to Hainan. Silly me.

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Another image of the horror ahead of me: 幹你娘. I had to stroke my staff to get some comfort.

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I was tempted to go back down and take the cable car -

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- but I persevered

Up till this stage it had been quite warm, so I only wore my coat. But with the increased altitude (and the exposure - I think the lack of rocks near 幹你娘 meant the wind chill was increased) I had to put on gloves when I was quite a bit past the halfway point of the stretch.

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"Eighteen Twistings" - 800m of Hell

Climbing this stretch at the same time as me was a group of people from Guangdong - and even they asked if I was from Guangdong -_- I asked them why and they said my Mandarin sounded like the way Guangdong people spoke it. The next time I go to China I will just tell people I am from there, and hopefully they won't quote me such inflated prices.

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The number of empty Red Bull cans increased dramatically from this point on.

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Dragon Gate

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Still a long way to go

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And an even further way down

At one vendor I bought a Shandong pear. It was 5¥, which was very expensive, but at that altitude it was perfectly chilled, which enhanced its sweet flavour (possibly because this was Shandong itself)

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I also ended up buying one of these because I didn't recognise the characters - though I did suspect what they really were (12¥ with a nice can of almond milk). It was very strange selling these here. It wasn't as nice as the pear though (they're tomatoes).

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It got harder and harder towards the end

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But finally I hit the Southern Gate to Heaven

I'd started at 10:45am and hit the end at 5:05pm.

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The temple was closed by this time (5:08pm). The locks are wishes, and Taishan is the witness to the wishes.

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Dusk on the mountain - what happens when you use one time zone for the whole country


Panorama from Southern Heavenly Gate - You see this even if you take the cable car!

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There were still a lot of sights on the peak, and not a few hotels, but the sights were closed by now so I left them for the next day

I then went to my 2 star hotel. While checking in I remarked to the guy that I hadn't seen the things on the summit, but that after 10 temples all of them looked the same - and he agreed.

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I got a double with airconditioning, kettle, TV, [green] teabags (the hotel had its own brand of Longjing, which was surprisingly insipid), towels, bathroom slippers and a bamboo plant; because I was homesick, I set the aircon to 30 degrees celsius. This was my best accommodation in China, and I felt like a Prince living in the lap of luxury. Too bad there was no one to call me that ("叫我王子!")

The only annoying things about the room were that there was a 20 minute timeout between hot water uses, the wall socket was loose so I had to charge my stuff in the toilet, the mattress was a bit thin and the light flickered a little..

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The longest damage price list I've ever seen. PRCs are wonderful - I didn't know it was possible to, or that anyone would damage or steal so many things from the room. The list of items includes the writing table, sofa, headboard, makeup area, stool, lock, toilet paper holder, glass door, pillow, carpet (by square cm), mirror and flower vase.

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"No smoking in bed please" - i.e. you can smoke out of bed

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"This Hotel specially uses High Quality Toilet Paper" - maybe by China standards

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I had to clean out the kettle

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I am always amused by "消毒" because I think of poison (it means sterilisation)

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Propaganda in the small hotel courtyard. A very rough translation:
"A strong society's '8 things to gain glory, 8 things to avoid'
1. Fervently love the Motherland, Don't hurt it
2. Serve the People, Don't abandon them
3. Seek to advance Science, Don't wallow in ignorance
4. Work hard, Avoid Evil Work
5. Help others and co-operate, Don't abandon others and be selfish
6. Be honest and keep trust, Don't forget virtue when you see gain
7. Obey the law, Don't wreak havoc
8. Work hard and strive dilligently, Don't be arrogant [and something]"

After a nap I headed out for dinner. There weren't many options.

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My Dinner: Taishan Sky Flower Mushroom Fried 5 Flower Meat, and La Mian (73¥). This was recommended by the server. Naturally it was quite expensive, and too much for me - the serving was even bigger than on the first night; maybe they thought I was very hungry (more likely: they wanted to charge me more - the beef La Mian was more expensive than rice).

One disadvantage of travelling alone is that your culinary possibilities are limited, especially in Asian places.

At the table they had sugar, salt - and MSG. Uhh.

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Tai'an from near the summit

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Off the peak. Stare hard - I did take the lens cap off

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Here's with the ISO bumped up to the maximum


Deserted village - In November the village on the summit is deserted. So much for it being "Heavenly Street" ("天街")

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The main locus of activity, such as it was. You can see a place with a self-service dinner at 30¥ per person, but it looked totally vegetarian (and spicy, and all pre-cooked)

There were quite a few people renting PLA overcoats; the hotel would've charged me 20¥ or 30¥ the next morning depending on whether I got the better or worse PLA overcoat - by renting mine outside I paid only 5¥ (from an old woman who said her stall was open 24 hours). Many PRCs climb up at night so they need them; one couple arrived when I was renting mine.

Having exhausted the possibilities of the little village (strangely enough for such a net-crazy country, there was no net access beyond what I could get on GPRS [but then teenagers and young adults don't climb mountains]), I went back to my room and watched CCTV.

All of the channels were wholesome domestic content - except for CCTV Music (in English but with Chinese subtitles). No doubt this was after removing unwholesome, counter-revolutionary content, like wardrobe malfunctions.

There was a TV show, "电视指南", which was a commentary on English war films. So they had clips from shows like "The Sea Wolves". Then they talked about War and Love, and said that War films had Love to cut the Violence (I don't quite buy that thesis).


"金鹰卡通" ("Golden Eagle Cartoon")
What looked like Tom from Tom & Jerry (who was called Fei2 Fei2 Mao1 - presumably '肥肥猫', or 'Fat Cat') was used to teach children 三十六计 (Sun Zi's 36 Strategems), and the program ended with "走为上计" ("Running away is the best strategem")

Though 百度知道 (Baidu Zhidao) points out:

"三十六计的走为上计,常常被理解成“回避、逃跑是最好的策略”,甚至理解成“逃跑是三十六计中最高明的计策”。

这是一个误会"

("Of the 36 strategems, running away is the best strategem. This is commonly understood as 'Running away and fleeing is the best strategy', or even 'Running away is the wisest of the strategies. This is a misunderstanding")

Besides sucking in taking photos, this camera sucks in taking videos also as the last few seconds get cut off (so you miss the important words the SYT ends off with). Incidentally she is wearing a T-shirt which reads "Detest You".

At the end of the show, the characters proclaimed that it was time to sleep, and they played a lullaby and showed pictures of sleeping animals. Uhh.


CCTV 12 also had "谁动了我的苹果树" ("Who moved my Apple Tree?") but it looked like Crimewatch.

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What I saw when I turned off the television - like at a wedding
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